It’s a time-honoured tradition here at Silver Seven Sens to first make predictions at the start of the year, and then to re-visit those predictions at the end of the year to see just how wrong we were. It’s a valuable exercise in checking our thought processes, but also to look back on just how much things change over a brief few months.
Today we tackle Part 1 of re-visiting our Sterling Predictions. The original articles can all be found here.
Question: In our first edition of Sterling Predictions of the season, we asked the question of how many rookies would make their way into the line-up over the course of the year. The staff was generally in consensus that between five and seven rookies would play at least 10 games, but a full eight crossed that threshold and Filip Chlapik, Alex Formenton, and Logan Brown were not among that group. Were you surprised at all surprised by how complete the roster turnover really was? Is there a chance we see this kind of influx next year as well?
Ross: I don’t think we should’ve been surprised. Between injuries and this team planning to trade all its top UFAs, there were going to be opportunities for rookies. The biggest surprises were definitely the long opportunities afforded Lajoie and Jaros. I think we just didn’t believe the Sens would actually play the rookies after decades of saying they would and then not actually doing it. Watching the Sens play more than the number of rookies they had to was refreshing.
Spencer: I would say I was surprised with the roster turnover and the amount of rookies who beat the 10 game threshold, but not by that much. I do, however, think we can all agree that the success in Belleville meant that a number of rookies who probably would have seen action at the end of the season, didn’t get a chance to. Players like Logan Brown and Filip Chlapik probably would have finished the season with a few extra NHL games had Belleville not been battling to the very end. I do think we see this type of influx next year. Maybe “hope” is a better word. The Senators are in no place to compete next year, despite what Pierre Dorion may have said in his end of season press conference. Providing young players an opportunity to play, regardless of how many of those young players exist on the roster, should be priority #1.
Brandon: I was definitely surprised by the amount of rookies that made their way into the lineup this season. While the amount of ice time given to the rookies, or lack thereof, by Guy Boucher was at times infuriating, it was nice to see many eventually get an extended look. What I was most surprised by was that, in some cases, there was almost too much patience afforded to the young players. Max Lajoie definitely spent too much time in Ottawa after a hot start, and could have benefited from an earlier trip to Belleville. If management is to be believed, and who knows if they are, we’ll see a similar pattern of young players entering the lineup next season. I personally expect Alex Formenton, Drake Batherson, and Logan Brown all to make the full-time jump, and you can probably throw Erik Brannstrom into that category too. That being said, given some negative past experiences, I wouldn’t be surprised if the organization is careful not to rush them.
B_T: Maybe a little surprised, but not much. I picked 6, so 8 isn’t a huge leap.
I definitely think it’s possible to see that kind of turnover again next season. Brown, Brannstrom, Chlapik, Formenton and Abramov all could easily see 10+ games next season. There’s 5 - probably not too hard to find 3 more.
nkb: I have to admit that I was mildly surprised by how many rookies made it into the line-up, but I was also surprised that Pierre Dorion really did trade every one of Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, and Ryan Dzingel so it shows you how much I know. When I look at the rest of the prospects in the Sens’ system, there are only a handful left that seem likely to be ready to make the leap: Logan Brown, Erik Brannstrom, Filip Chlapik, and Alex Formenton. Abramov will have a chance, but he’s not a lock at this stage. Next year will probably be less about raw rookies, and more about evaluating the progress of some of the players that are already on board.
Colin: I think I’m in agreement with everyone here -- there was some surprise, but not really. There were a lot of young players making their professional debuts, and a good chance that roster spots would open up with injuries and trades. Next season could be similar, depending on how many UFAs Dorion plans on bringing back. Nobody’s mentioned Jonathan Davidsson yet, who almost made the Blue Jackets out of camp last year. Add Brannstrom, Brown, Formenton, Chlapik and Hogberg as potential roster players to the list, and it’s clear this is going to be a very young team next year. I imagine it will also be a top requirement for the new coach that they’re comfortable with this direction.
Dewie: I’m only surprised because the Sens actually ended up trading the big three. I’m also surprised that Logan Brown didn’t get a longer look but I expect an even larger influx of youngsters next season especially if they end up getting rid of some of the deadweight. I also expect them to be keen to showcase the big names like Abramov and Brannstrom.
Question: The second topic of the year was the goalies; specifically would Craig Anderson play at least 60 games? Virtually everyone agreed that Andy wouldn’t get to 60, and he did not, but we also were sure Mike Condon would pick up the majority of the remaining starts and only Ross predicted that Marcus Hogberg would play even a single game. Were you at all surprised that the Sens traded for Anders Nilsson to help play out the string? What do you think the Sens’ goalie depth chart is going to look like next year? Will Anderson be expected to play 50+ games yet again?
Ross: I think the surprise here was how quick the Sens were to demote Condon. He had a bad game and a half, was pulled, and never made it back to the NHL despite teasers from January saying he was about ready to come back. It’s rare to see this team eat salary like that. As for Högberg, I mostly predicted that because I wanted to see him get a real NHL shot. I still think he has an important place in this team’s hierarchy, and I was worried that with the acquisition of Gustavsson he wouldn’t get an opportunity and he’d go back to Sweden in the summer. As for the Nilsson trade, it made sense once they decided to downgrade Condon. That was the biggest goaltending surprise of the year.
Spencer: Had you asked me at the beginning of the season if Ottawa would acquire an NHL goalie, I wouldn’t have believed you. But as the season progressed and Mike Condon’s injury updates became more and more confounding, it seemed inevitable. As for next year, if the Sens are smart, Marcus Hogberg will start the season as Craig Anderson’s backup and we’ll see where we go from there. There’s really no reason for Mike Condon to be ahead of him on the depth chart anymore - Hogberg was lights out in Belleville and one of the primary reasons they had a shot at playoffs until their final game. That and a tandem of Filip Gustavsson and Joey Daccord in the AHL should be a lock for next year. Goalies are voodoo, as they say, and if they don’t provide all three of our good (maybe great?) goalie prospects opportunities to continue to improve, the Sens are less likely to have a bonafide #1 on their hands. I think the Sens believe Anderson will play 50 games but with his health and the likelihood that games are meaningless for Ottawa by February of next year (again), Hogberg will play plenty in the second half of the season. It should net out to a close to even split.
Brandon: If you had told me at the beginning of the year that the Senators would trade for a goaltender, I likely wouldn’t have believed you. They seemed to show faith in Andy and Condon, and believed that the acquisition of Mike McKenna shored up their minor league netminders. Nobody anticipated Condon struggling as badly as he did, and then to get hurt, so within the context of the season it made sense to trade for Nilsson, especially considering the Senators made out like gangbusters in that trade. I think Hogberg was given an adequate look, based on the “so-so” performance he put forth on his call-up, but I wouldn’t object to a pairing of Nilsson and Hogberg in Ottawa next season. I like Nilsson as a placeholder goalie, and it gives Gustavsson and Daccord a chance to play a lot of minutes in Belleville.
B_T: At the time, I was definitely surprised by the Nilsson trade. With hindsight though, it’s not really surprising given that Condon only played a single AHL game since going out of the lineup. Definitely a case of there being more we didn’t know then.
Honestly, I’ve got no idea what the depth chart will look like next year. Management has a habit of handing out too much money and term to backups who perform well in half a season, but there actually appears to be some hesitance for that with Nilsson. No idea what they do with Condon. No idea how the prospects get spread out.
nkb: Barring a major injury, Craig Anderson seems destined to play another 50+ games next year. The question, then, is who will be his full-time back-up? In a perfect world, Hogberg would get the lion’s share of the remaining games and Gustavsson and D’Accord would split the goaltending duties in Bellevillle. But where does that leave Mike Condon? He’s on a one-way contract next year that would pay $3M in real money even if he’s in the minors. If the Sens wanted to buy him out, they could save themselves $1M in real dollars and spread the cost over two years, but I’ll believe the organization will be willing to buy someone out when I see it. What to do with Mike Condon given the sudden positional logjam in the organization is one of the more interesting questions of the off-season.
Colin: Trades are hard to predict, and I think the Nilsson trade was even more surprising because the Sens gave up a pick (albeit only a 6th rounder) and took on salary. Had that not happened, Anderson could’ve been staring down the tunnel to a much longer season. I want to believe Anderson can still be a competent starter, but he’ll be turning 38 next month. His best days are behind him, so I think the Sens will try to make sure they have someone else there, like Nilsson, to support him. Maybe that ends up being Hogberg or Nilsson, or maybe they reach into free agency. Either way, I think it’s unlikely Anderson exceeds his workload from this past season.
Dewie: Unless Andy is injured or traded I expect him to get the bulk of the work. I honestly don’t expect Nilsson to be in Ottawa next season but may open the chance for a transition period for one of Hogberg or Gustavsson to get a few games. Is Condon still a Senator?