It isn't a good feeling when your team misses the playoffs. It's even worse when they have missed it two out of the past three seasons. The Senators season is done, and I think it's safe to say that it wasn't as fun to watch as last year. I wanted to give some positives at the end of the year though, because tomorrow I have an article that is...let's just say not so positive.
Anyways, let's get to some positive thoughts:
Erik Karlsson is Still a Senator
Despite being the best defenseman in the NHL for a while now, he doesn't get the love he deserves, even amongst Senators fans sometimes. The fact that we get to watch a point per game defenseman play every game is unbelievable. Whenever he leaves us it is going to be absolutely gut-wrenching, just because of how much this team relies on him.
The good news is that he's still here, and he's only 26---right in his prime. He should be around for a long time, and that makes building a blueline that much easier. We also get to keep watching these sorts of things next year:
Karlsson goal, 4-4 pic.twitter.com/tNxo6jcGpa— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 11, 2015
We are so lucky to have him, and we don't even realize it.
Mika Zibanejad Continues to Grow
Zibanejad quietly put up a 51 point season, with a 21 goals and 30 assists, which makes me extremely aesthetically pleased that he reached those two thresholds. It's only five more points than last year, but the feat is impressive nonetheless. He finished tied for 37th amongst centres in scoring, indicating that he's on the cusp of being a first line centre. I'm skeptical that he will become a legitimate first liner because he was always billed as a 2nd or even 3rd line centre, but he is definitely a valuable player.
Even if he does not take another leap forward, having him on the 2nd line behind Kyle Turris who can put up 60 points himself is fantastic. It's going to be hard for Ottawa to find an elite centre on the first line, but I think they will be fine if Turris is healthy and scores 60+ again, and Zibanejad repeats his 50+ output. Not many teams have two centres that can do that.
I wouldn't say that the sky is the limit for Zibanejad, but he has improved every single season he has played. Perhaps he can transform his game even more, which would be an absolute game-changer. Even at his current state though, Ottawa has two very good centres.
Zack Smith Can Adapt
Is Smith going to be a perennial 25-goal scorer? At the age of 28, probably not. But when Smith was moved to the left-wing he looked completely different and much better. His 20.7% shooting percentage will not carry over to next season, but he proved that he should at least be on the team, by putting up a whopping 25 goals.
It seemed like a lot of his goals were "right place, right time" in front of the net, but I have to give credit that he at least does have quite a good shot. He is a grinder type player, but it's not as if he doesn't have value. The trio of him with Pageau and Mark Stone was magnificent, and it was not one that I expected to work well.
I'd still like to keep him on the 4th line for next year just because when he does fall off his shooting luck, Ottawa isn't hit as hard by it. I get that he played well with Pageau and Stone, but plenty of guys do. If Smith is able to sustain some of this success, then great, that just means Ottawa has more depth. No matter how it shakes out next year, we can say that Smith had a fantastic and very unlikely season. It's always great to see some unexpected positive play.
Kyle Turris & Clarke MacArthur Returning
Besides Chris Phillips, MacArthur was the most forgotten man this season. He only played in four games and even in those ones he was already concussed. People forget how good he was for Ottawa, as in his first two seasons he averaged 53 points per 82 games. He really stabilized the rest of the lineup, as it gives Ottawa much more flexibility with line combinations. It also doesn't surprise me that without MacArthur Ottawa's possession numbers took a hit.
Having him back healthy would be a huge addition, although we can't assume that it will happen. Clarke should only come back if he is 100% good to go. People also seem to forget how good Kyle Turris is as well. Before he got injured, he had 30 points in 42 games. That's a first line centres production, and Ottawa suffered greatly after he was out, but also while he was playing severely injured.
As great as Zibanejad has been playing, I think some believe he has passed Turris on the depth chart, which would be a bit misguided. Turris put up 64 points last year, and was probably going to get around the same amount this year if he was healthy for the entire year. This is a guy who had a 307 game ironman streak until this season too, so any questions about his health should be put to bed.
MacArthur and Turris are two legitimate top-six forwards, and if they are both back and contributing, the team looks a lot better. No offense to Jean-Gabriel Pageau, but the team is much better off with a capable first line centre.
Colin White & Thomas Chabot Look Like Keepers
The Senators don't have a great farm system, but they possess one of the better top 2's with Colin White and Thomas Chabot. White amassed 42 points in 36 games with Boston College and was their leading scorer as a Freshman. After being drafted 21st overall last June, his stock has risen immensely, to the point where The Hockey News ranked him as the NHL's 15th best prospect. He most likely won't be in Ottawa next season, but he could be making a very big impact on the team in 2017-18.
Not to be outdone, Chabot is a highly regarded prospect who ranked 38th on that same list. He was just under a point per game in the QMJHL this year with 45 points in 47 games, and he was one of Team Canada's best defensemen at the World Juniors. He has on outside chance at making the team next year, but even if he doesn't make it right away he could be a key contributor at some point just like White.
The Senators need a quality defenseman, and another powerful top-six forward would certainly be a big boost. Whether they will be in Ottawa next year remains to be seen, but they are extremely important for the teams future.
The state of the Senators is not all rainbows and unicorns, but there are some very clear positives. Sometimes they get overlooked because of how other players perform or how the team is constructed, but I think we take for granted some of the individual performances on this team.
If anything, we know that there are some talented players on this team. Let's hope that we aren't talking about this same sort of ending to the season a year from now.
What are some other positives? I know I can think of a few more, but I'd love to hear in the comments.