It was an awful season for the Senators, but that doesn’t mean it was an awful season for every individual player. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.
- Mark Stone — Who else could go here? I don’t think anyone would dispute that he was the best player on the team. He finished the year with 62 points in 58 games, including 20 goals. It’s fair to wonder if he would’ve passed his career high of 64 points if he’d been given even a couple more injury-free games. He stormed out of the gate, putting up 14 goals in his first 18 games. Everyone who got to play with him fared better than without. He was truly the most dynamic force on the Sens’ offence this year. Stone got 51.5% of the 5v5 shot attempts (all stats via Natural Stat Trick), good enough for 7th on the team, with the six players ahead of him combining for just 46 games. (In other words, he was the best player based on shot differential out of players with at least 17 games played on the year.) He was the star of the Sens nearly every week he played. It’s hard not to give him credit for his year.
- Erik Karlsson — I know this one will be more controversial, but he actually had a pretty great season statistically. He put up 62 points in 71 games, tying him for the team lead, marking the fourth consecutive season in which he led the Sens in points. His 0.87 points per game was best among defencemen with at least three games played (sorry Patrick Sieloff). For all the complaints about his lack of defence, his 50.9% of the 5v5 shot attempts was 8th on the team, with the top six hardly counting as explained above. He wasn’t as good as in past seasons, but a big part of that is because he’d set the bar so high. This year, he wasn’t far and away the best defenceman in the league, and everyone said he had an off year. We know he’s usually a little more capable of getting back on the backcheck after a missed pinch, and this year that was missing from his games. However, his hockey IQ and his hands didn’t seem off at all. Really, I think he was mostly just unlucky with the 9th-worst on-ice 5v5 save percentage on the team of 0.891. If the goalies had made a few more saves, we probably wouldn’t be talking as much about how bad his year was.
- Matt Duchene — Duchene took a little while to get going, requiring eight games to get his first point with the Sens after being traded from the Avalanche. But once he grew accustomed to this team, he exploded. The overall stats aren’t amazing (59 points in 82 games), but in 2018 he was on fire, putting up 47 points in 45 games. Also, just watching him, he oozes skill. The Sens haven’t had a centre with this much puck ability since Jason Spezza. I’m looking forward to seeing a full year of him, used to his teammates and the coach.
- Ryan Dzingel wins the award for exceeding expectations. He put up 41 points, including 23 goals, cementing his place on the NHL team. In my ideal world, he wouldn’t be in the top six, but he definitely didn’t look out of place with Duchene, Brassard, Turris, or Pageau as his centre.
- Thomas Chabot finished the year with 25 points in 63 games, finally playing well enough to convince Guy Boucher he couldn’t be sent back down. Though the offensive side of his game was nice to see, it was also good to see him starting to figure out the defensive side in the NHL as well. He hardly looked out of place at all playing alongside Erik Karlsson. Let’s remind ourselves, Karlsson put up 26 points in 60 games in his rookie season. Chabot could become something really special.
- Some of the other young players impressed, with Colin White, Filip Chlapik, and Christian Wolanin all got their first NHL goals. They should all be given a good chance to make the NHL team next year, and I look forward to seeing what they can do.
- My biggest question marks of the year, Johnny Oduya and Gabriel Dumont, are no longer on the team. Both were given long leashes by Guy Boucher while everyone else had to prove themselves. Pierre Dorion finally decided to waive them both, and I say good riddance. Hopefully next year the team actually gives its promising young players spots to play over UFAs with unearned loyalty.
- The biggest problem of the year though was the goaltending. Craig Anderson finished with an .898 save percentage and a 3.32 GAA, the worst marks of his career since his 15 games with the Blackhawks in 05-06. Mike Condon hardly did better with a .902 and 3.25, though he was mostly sunk by a .798 on the penalty kill (.921 at even strength), and at least PK save percentage is less repeatable. Don’t worry, we only have two more years of these two making a combined $6.95M. We’ll have to hope that 36-year-old Andy can bounce back to being an NHL-calibre starter, or this team could be in serious trouble.