Five Thoughts for Friday
A quintet of queries and quibbles about the week that was.
1. Is it really a tank?
Sens fans were in a panic this week about a team that's in free fall. The Senators have now lost 6 of their last 7, and 10 of their last 13. That's pretty bad. They sit four points behind the Maple Leafs for the last wild card spot, and only seven points ahead of the Blue Jackets for last in the conference. The thing is, I still have a hard time seeing the Sens being able to snag a top-three pick. Along with Columbus, the Hurricanes, Sabres, and Oilers all look like locks to finish below the Sens. Occasional guest contributor, Sareon, showed some results of his number-crunching:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Atlantic Division final ranking probabilities <a href="http://t.co/CnxpLbXa40">pic.twitter.com/CnxpLbXa40</a></p>— Kevin McAllister (@joshweissbock) <a href="https://twitter.com/joshweissbock/status/540678362277371905">December 5, 2014</a></blockquote>
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What it shows is that Ottawa is most likely to finish 6th or 7th in the division, surely not low enough for this season to be considered a tank. I said at the beginning of the year that the Sens were destined to finish 9th in the conference, and that's still about where I see them. Not a playoff team, but with too much talent and too strong goaltending to be a front-runner in the McDavid sweepstakes.
2. How about that Mark Stone?
I gotta admit, I love the look of Stone on the top line. He makes creative plays, smart plays, and seems to be exactly what Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur need as a complement. Don't get me wrong, Bobby Ryan is great on that line too, but Stone brings a different dimension and I've liked how it looks. And that assist on the MacArthur goal against the Islanders on Tuesday was beautiful:
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3. How about that Mike Hoffman?
In the completely unfair "Stone vs. Hoffman" debate, I've had a soft spot all season for Hoffman. And getting looks with Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan, he just looks great. I love his speed, his great release, and his creativity. It looks like MacLean's been agreeing with me, because he's been giving Hoff some notable ice time, including the goalie-pulled situation on Thursday vs. the Islanders. Stone and Hoffman have both shown they deserve top-six minutes, and finally it seems to be happening.
4. Injuries becoming a problem
To this point in the season, the Sens have been relatively lucky with injuries. Marc Methot's been out all season, but that's it. Suddenly, that luck seems to be running out. Ryan missed a couple games with a fractured finger. Patrick Wiercioch and Robin Lehner have both been put on IR. Erik Karlsson has been taking a couple maintenance days (though these are probably just due to playing 30 minutes per night). With the Sens playing poorly of late, it would be a bad time for the injury bug to bite.
5. Alfie! Alfie! Alfie!
In case you missed it, Daniel Alfredsson retired as a Senator yesterday. It was amazing. I loved seeing him in his uniform, seeing him in Ottawa with his kids, seeing him warm up with the team, hearing him talk about this city again. It was amazing. It's too bad the press conference had to start with Eugene Melnyk doing his best impression of the dad who decided to wing his speech at the wedding. He said "umm" too many times, seemed awkward, and didn't really seem to have any purpose to what he was saying. But after that, it was all great. I forgot how much Alfie meant to me, and I'm sure to all Sens fans. It was great to get a real chance for the franchise to say thank you.
If you missed any part of the day, Amelia has a great run-down here.