The Senators currently sit second-last in the conference, sporting an awful 15-18-9 record. They had a seven-game losing streak and a five-game losing streak separated by just a single win. They’ve been shut out six times (three times 5-0), and have allowed eight goals twice. They’re 23rd in goals per game, 29th in goals against per game, 28th on the powerplay, and 29th on the penalty kill. I think it’s safe to say this start to the season has been a massive disappointment.
However, that’s not the focus of this article. It’s time to look back on some of the positives of this horrific start to the season. Here are the three stars at the 42-game mark.
1st - Mark Stone
You knew this was coming from a mile away. Stone has been far-and-away Ottawa’s best player. He leads the team in goals (18) and points (42). He’s managed to make everyone he’s played with look good. On nights when Ottawa’s won, he’s been a huge part of the offence. On nights when Ottawa’s lost, he’s still been part of Ottawa’s only offence. On nights when Ottawa’s been blown out, he’s looked like the only guy still trying. His 50.8% of the 5v5 shot attempts is only behind Derick Brassard and Ryan Dzingel (not coincidentally, his recent linemates) among regular forwards on the Sens. In short, he’s doing everything for this team, including celebrating ostentatiously. Without him, imagine how much worse this season would be.
2nd - Ryan Dzingel
Another bright spot from the dismal start to this year is the discovery that Dzingel is actually a top-six player. Last season, he became known as the guy whose speed could create chances, but he couldn’t finish. This year, he has 13 goals, and suddenly nobody’s talking about his lack of finish. Instead we’re wondering why he’s occasionally demoted to make room for Alexandre Burrows or Nate Thompson in the top six. He also 52.0% of the 5v5 shot attempts, a rare beacon on a team that’s 23rd in the league in the share of 5v5 shot attempts. He’s become the net-front presence on the Stone line, a role I hope he doesn’t relinquish soon.
3rd - Erik Karlsson
This choice is controversial, even among S7S writers. However, I’m writing this article, so I get to put in my choice. When Karlsson came back from injury, he still looked injured. He seems to tire more easily than in past seasons. He’s still dynamic with the puck, but he doesn’t have the same speed, and he seems a little passive in the defensive zone. I think the main problem here though is that we all know Karlsson can be the best player in the world. This season, he’s only been merely the best defenceman on his team. He still has 30 points in 37 games. He’s still playing 26:22 per night. He still has 105 shots (meaning he’s shooting an unsustainable 2.9%, well below his career average of 6.8%). He’s still playing in all situations, often against opponents’ best lines. Not to mention he’s spent a bunch of the year dragging the corpse formerly known as Johnny Oduya up and down the ice. His 54.0% of 5v5 shot attempts is behind only Nick Paul’s 83 minutes for tops on the team this season. Dzingel gets the second star in part for exceeding expectations. I don’t think that means Karlsson should be docked points for being “really good” instead of “superhuman”.
- The other big name brought up by the staff was Thomas Chabot. He’s slowly coming into his own, especially as he gets more responsibility. Injuries have forced him to be EK’s partner, but he hasn’t looked completely lost doing it. He’s got 9 points in 23 games, and has looked dynamic in the offensive zone. His defensive zone play leaves something to be desired sometimes still, but he’s still quite possibly the second-best d-man on this team. He’s definitely played better with Karlsson than without (though who doesn’t?). I’m interested to see what happens with him as players return from injury in the second half. The fact that he wasn’t sent down for the bye week says they seem his an NHLer, but I don’t know if that’ll continue once Mark Borowiecki and Johnny Oduya are both back.
- Derick Brassard also received some Three Star love among our writers. Brass still has 28 points in 42 games, and 52.3% of the 5v5 shot attempts. I had a hard time picking him after one point in a 10-game streak during the losing streak, but he’s been solid outside of that. Can’t hurt to have Mark Stone on your wing regularly though.
- The rest of the top six has been decent when they get to play together too. Matt Duchene is slowly coming into his own after a rough start to his new team, now with seven points in his last four games. Mike Hoffman also went ice-cold, with a 14-game goalless streak, but put up four points against the Sharks and then entered the bye week with a goal against the Maple Leafs. Now if only Bobby Ryan could stay healthy, this team might actually have an impressive top six.
- You can’t vote for players who’ve missed so much time with injury, but both Mark Borowiecki and Chris Wideman had great starts to the year. Wideman had eight points in 16 games, and Boro had even managed four in 12 (though we know his contribution is hardly on the scoresheet), and each were pushing possession in the right direction. It’s not entirely fair since their games came before the horrendous losing streak, but at the same time, I wonder how much of the losing streak came down to those guys not holding down the third pairing.
- You also can’t vote for guys who’ve only got into a handful of games, but Nick Paul, Filip Chlapik, and Chris DiDomenico have managed to dominant possession in the few minutes they’ve played. DiDo even had six points in 13 games before inexplicably being waived to claim Gabriel Dumont, who’s done nothing but gets a guaranteed spot in the lineup. None of these guys have been first-half stars, but they did more than enough in the first half to be worth of extended second-half bottom-six looks.
Just kidding. This isn’t the place for that kind of negativity. We’ll leave that for all the other bye week content.