Did yesterday’s “five reasons to be optimistic this season” get you pumped for the 2017-18 season? Good, because today it’s time to knock people back into reality.
I kid of course, but I do think a post like this is important so that we’re realistic with what this team can do. Hopefully after reading the positives and the negatives we get a clear sense of where the Senators stand.
And before you rip me in the comments, remember that I did exact opposite post of this yesterday, so I’m not simply looking to be negative. But let’s get to some reasons to be pessimistic like a typical Senators fan:
Craig Anderson showing his age
I say this every year as a reason why Ottawa may struggle, and to his credit, Anderson is a complete outlier in his aging curve. He’s 36 years old, yet he posted a .926 SV% last season, and a .922 SV% in the playoffs.
He’s only averaged 49 games a season since his first full year in Ottawa though, plus he did not become a starter until he was 28, so perhaps that’s why he is able to play at such a high level when he is healthy.
We all know how good he can be, and it’s obvious that he’s the best goaltender the franchise has ever had. But it would be foolish to think that he is invincible, as every player will age eventually. That may not be for another year or two, but it’s at least a possibility that he takes a step back.
And without total faith in Mike Condon (due to a career .908 SV%), Ottawa cannot afford Anderson to be anything but his usual self. Of course, this can be said of most teams, but with Anderson getting up there in age, it’s a bit worrisome. Here’s to hoping he can still play at a solid level.
Relying on Erik Karlsson too much
Like I said yesterday, Karlsson is a freak. I absolutely love watching him every game, but Ottawa is extremely reliant on him. With him on the ice, they can compete with any team. But without him, they don’t even look like a playoff team.
He may not be ready to go for the first week or two of the season, and it’ll be telling how the Senators do without him. Even when he comes back, there’s no guarantees that he plays up to his potential. People forget this, but Karlsson really did not have a great first half last season. If that happens again, then they’ll certainly need other players to step up.
But even if he does play like a monster, one man can only do so much. He can play up to half the game, but the other half of the game consists of players who are nowhere near as good as him. Yes, Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, and Mark Stone are high quality players, but every good team has those forwards and then some.
Craig Anderson needs to be solid in net, but in terms of skaters, the Senators will only go as far as Karlsson takes them. And that’s alarming by putting that much on one player.
Last year was their best shot
I mentioned yesterday that the team knows they can get over the hump, and that there aren’t that many teams that scare me anymore. While that is true, it’s clear that last season was the easiest path they have ever had to winning the cup since their glory days.
I’m not sure it’ll ever be that easy, either.
I can’t imagine the Tampa Bay Lightning missing the playoffs again, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be better because of experience, plus it would be hard for Ottawa to get opponents like Boston and New York who were both extremely beatable and had a plethora of injuries.
The league certainly does not have many powerhouses anymore, but it’s hard to envision a playoff scenario that works out better for the Senators in 2018. It’s sad to think, but 2017 might have been the best shot they’ll get in a long time. That just means their road to glory will be even harder.
Trouble scoring goals
While I have been skeptical of the Senators defense for about a decade, they actually finished 10th in the league in goals against, and Thomas Chabot and Freddy Claesson should hopefully be able to make that even better. However, the forwards are a bit worrisome.
Ottawa finished 22nd in the league in scoring last season, with the next lowest playoff team, the San Jose Sharks, coming in at 19th. They say that defense wins championships, but you’ll have to score a few goals on the way there as well. It seemed like the Senators scored more in the playoffs, but they actually did not: they had 2.47 goals per game, and 2.51 in the regular season.
What’s troublesome is that the only addition up front is Nate Thomspon, he of 48 career goals. He obviously was not brought in to score goals, so Ottawa will probably have to scratch and claw their way to wins once again.
I’m hopeful Colin White can have a positive impact this season, but he isn’t going to single-handedly improve the offense so they become an above average forward group. Fans will also cite Clarke MacArthur’s return and Bobby Ryan’s revival as reasons why their goal totals could go up, and those are valid reasons.
However, it’s not a given that MacArthur will be healthy for the whole season, nor is it known whether Ryan is truly back to form, or if he just caught some luck in the playoffs. Ottawa doesn’t have the firepower up front compared to other teams, and I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t bring in another scoring winger to help.
There’s still time to nab Jaromir Jagr though...
Possession numbers don’t improve
I don’t want to believe the shot attempt numbers. I really don’t. But they’re impossible to ignore, and Ottawa just did not have good underlying numbers last season. They finished 22nd in corsi at 48.57%, with only the New York Rangers having a lower percentage amongst playoff teams.
Their actual shot numbers were a bit better at 50.10% (17th), yet they still found a way to have a negative goal differential and a 48.91 GF% at 5v5. Even in the playoffs, they were sub-50% in corsi, fenwick, shots, and goals for. Now, they were never that far off from average that it was extremely noticeable from game-to-game, but we know that the teams with a higher shot share tend to have more success.
The keywords there are “tend to,” as last season was a bit odd in terms of poor possession teams actually doing well. However, if Ottawa is going to be a 48-49% possession team again, they’ll need some luck. And let’s be honest here: the Senators certainly had luck on their side. They had a -4 goal differential but ended up with 98 points...The math doesn’t really add up without involving luck somehow.
Nothing about their shooting percentage, save percentage, powerplay, or penalty kill suggests anything out of the ordinary, but I think their timing for goals was extremely good. Now, perhaps Guy Boucher’s system has some magic involved here (as many of you will say), but I do believe it will be hard for the team to repeat their success without improving their shot share.
There you have it. Some fun negativity on this fine Friday morning!