The holiday spirit is in the air!
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas/holiday break, as it’s always my favourite time of year. However, coming back from the break can be depressing, especially if you have been following the Ottawa Senators this season.
For a few days it was nice to forget about this team, but tonight they’re back at it against the Boston Bruins. And despite playing only 34 games, this game essentially has no bearing on Ottawa’s playoff chances. At this point, I’m willing to say that the playoffs aren’t going to happen this spring.
There will always be fans amongst us who never give up hope until they are officially eliminated from playoff contention, plus the Hamburglar run from 2015 will always make people believe that anything is possible. However, we have to remember how extremely rare of a stretch that was. That doesn’t just happen twice in four seasons.
Let’s look at why things are already incredibly bleak.
During that run in 2015, Ottawa went 15-1-1 and 21-3-3, which is absolutely incredible. In those 27 games, they had a points percentage of .833, and in order to reach 96 points (which is what the 8th seed New York Islanders and New York Rangers are on pace for), they would have to play with a points percentage of .688 over the course of 48 games.
48 games is a long time to play slightly better than the Nashville Predators (record of 21-9-5), especially considering the Senators have a difficult time stringing together back-to-back wins. Expecting some sort of re-birth from this team would be misguided, although you can always hope for something like that I guess.
As of this morning, their record is 11-15-8, good for 30 points in 34 games. That puts them twelve points back of both the New York Islanders and Rangers (with two games in hand), and thirteen points back of the Boston Bruins with the same amount of games played. So best case scenario, they could be eight points out. That’s a big enough margin to be really worried, but then we also have to factor in the amount of teams in between Ottawa and the New York’s.
The Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, Florida Panthers, and Detroit Red Wings are all ahead of Ottawa, and it’s even impossible to pass any of them if we assume they win their games in hand:
So not only are they already twelve points out, from here on out, the Senators have to play significantly better than at least seven teams in front of them. As mentioned earlier, let’s assume that they need to reach 96 points to make it. That would mean a record of something like 30-12-6, while the six teams above them would need to not be nearly as good.
It’s not even like if Ottawa plays amazing, they will automatically get in. They’d need a ton of help from every other team, because PIttsburgh and Montreal should probably be playoff teams, and Carolina certainly has enough talent as well. The ball is most certainly not in their court.
The Senators underlying numbers don’t suggest a massive upswing is on the way, either. They rank 23rd in corsi, 20th in fenwick, and 27th in expected goals. Furthermore, although they have an extremely low save percentage at 5v5 (30th overall), their expected PDO (SH%+SV%) is dead last at 99.32.
In basic English, what that means is that a lot of the time we can look at low shooting and save percentages as bad luck, but in Ottawa’s case, their expected percentages (based off of shot quality) don’t suggest a ton of positive regression incoming. So while Craig Anderson and Mike Condon should be doing better, they probably won’t turn things around to become an elite duo the rest of the way. And Ottawa’s shooters simply aren’t good enough to score many more goals.
Furthermore, projection systems aren’t in love with the Senators.
Dom L. of the Athletic gives them a 1% chance of making the playoffs, Micah McCurdy gives them 9%, Hockey Reference gives them 3.6%, Sports Club Stats gives them 2.5%, and Money Puck gives them 5.9%. When 9% is extremely optimistic, you know things aren’t going well.
Besides all of the numbers to show that the odds are extremely slim, if you’ve watched enough Senators hockey this season, I don’t know how you could have much faith at this point. Some games the players have looked completely disinterested, and there just seems to be nothing going right with them.
Things can change quickly, but we’re well past the point of saying that the season is young. It’s almost half way through, and I’m already looking forward to the possibility of winning the lottery.
That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on following the team or that if you give up on the season that you’re a “bad fan,” but sometimes we need to be realistic. And let’s be honest: a top-3 pick in the draft would be a huge boost for this organization that desperately needs another high-end player.
Playoff hopes for this season might essentially be over, but there are still a lot of reasons to follow this team moving forward, as next season has the potential to be more like 2016-17.