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Under the Microscope in Ottawa

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The focus will be on a number of players in the nation's capital during the 2015-16 season, but who has the most to prove?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Being under the microscope is a different type of spotlight. The hockey world is watching, but for various reasons.

It's for the players in contract years, those who need bounce-back seasons and the ones who, after breakout performances, are determined to show they're not just a one-hit wonder.

The critics will jump at all opportunities to scrutinize and every single mistake is held under the microscope.

For some, it'll be impossible to fly under the radar.

Jared Cowen

Jared Cowen almost shouldn't be on this list. But not because he won't be receiving his fair share of criticism.

It's become obvious that the 24-year-old has a lot of wiggle room within the organization. He's been largely under performing for two seasons straight and has failed to impress time and time again, all the while Ottawa's coaching staff and upper management has has been blindly dishing out chance after chance.

But still, the Senators expect Cowen to improve and fulfill his potential. Even if they must force him to.

"Dave (Cameron) is going to let him, or he’s going to have to let him now get on the ice and be more of a role guy on the team." - Bryan Murray. NHL.com.

He may not be on his final shot in Ottawa, but it's guaranteed that the Senators' faithful won't be so lenient. Cowen has turned into the opposite of a fan favourite, and if another subpar year is to come, things will continue to go downhill.

Mike Hoffman

Now we flip to the other side of the spectrum.

Unlike Cowen, Mike Hoffman is beloved by fans, yet there's a feeling of under-appreciation when it comes to his relationship with management. What other team would downgrade their leading goal scorer to the fourth line multiple times in the midst of a crucial push for the playoffs?

His usage, or lack thereof, on the power play also cast an unusual notion, as if the Senators were somehow against the idea of putting a pure goal scorer on the man advantage. Hoffman finished the season with seven minutes less than Alex Chiasson on the power play, recording only one goal.

He was 12th in the entire league for goals per 60 minutes played. Ahead of a couple guys you might know - to name a few: John Tavares, Evgeni Malkin and Patrick Kane - averaging 14:33 minutes of ice time a night, Hoffman played the cards he was dealt and played them damn well.

He also finished seventh in even strength goals last year, but we could go on and on about his numerous impressive accomplishments.

At arbitration, the Senators were awfully good at arguing that Hoffman wasn't all he was made out to be. While Ottawa was offering $1.75M and the Hoffman camp was asking $3.4M, the final decision by the arbitrator was a one-year, $2M contract. Either Hoffman's agent did an incredibly poor job of representing his client, or the Senators had some decent arguments against the 25-year-old.

Management was very clear as to why Hoffman was demoted to the fourth line late in the season and limited to one game with more than 14 minutes of ice time in the playoffs; he was somewhat struggling defensively. And while his offensive skills clearly outweigh his apparent defensive woes, they weren't wrong. Though he managed a 52.6% Corsi rating and a Fenwick of 51.6%, Hoffman was aided by his 59.5% offensive zone start.

He doesn't have to convince the ticket holders or the fans watching at home, but there's some work to be done with the men in the press box and behind the bench.

Andrew Hammond

Speaking of possible one-hit wonders.

It only took Andrew Hammond 24 games - albeit, 24 miraculous, stupendous, amazing, unbelievable games - but he earned his first guaranteed NHL contract. Signing a three-year deal worth $3.05M, he may have been rewarded for bringing the Senators on an emotional ride to the postseason, but Hammond has a long way if he's going to prove the doubters wrong.

You can't bring up his amazing NHL numbers without talking about his horrid AHL ones as well. The 27-year-old may have hit it off with the big club, sporting an outstanding 20-1-2 record, but his .898 SV% and 3.51 GAA in the minors won't be forgotten.

With a couple bad starts at the beginning of the season, Hammond could be skating on thin ice in no time. Not to mention the surface Murray and company could be standing on if things don't go as planned.

Inking an unproven goalie to a three-year contract and having him fail immediately after would nearly cause an Ottawa-style riot.

But having him succeed? Well, they would all look like geniuses.