Ottawa Senators Mid-Season Grades: Defense + Goaltending

The Silver Seven staff as well as the readers grade the Senators defense and goaltending so far

Yesterday, we released the forward grades at the mid-season mark for the Ottawa Senators. Although most of the grades were similar between the Silver Seven staff and the readers, there were still some varying opinions. Today we take a look at the defense and goaltending as we patiently await the end of this long break.

Here are the report cards:

Artem Zub: B+, Readers: B+

Everyone seems to be in agreement that Zub has been good but maybe not quite as impactful as last year. A lack of games played due to injury probably isn’t helping his cause here, either — a fact that is particularly tough on a club that is already so thin on the right side. Still, he’s been good when he’s been in the line-up and a B+ is his reward.

Erik Brännström: B, Readers: B-

I’m happily surprised to see Brännström get some (relative) love here. His paltry four assists stick out like a sore thumb, but his on-ice SH% ranks 17th-worst amongst 201 defenseman with 300+ minutes of ice time. He has been on the ice for 26 goals for but his expected goals are at 38—it’s clear that he’s had some brutal puck luck. Points are a bad way to measure the effectiveness of a third-pairing defenseman though, and Brännström has been good at producing chances and limiting chances against. People might not like his size, but he’s doing better than 99% of the Senators' previous third-pairing players. Ottawa has an effective third pairing for the first time since....2007? That’s almost entirely because of Brännström.

Jacob Bernard-Docker: C+, Readers: C+

I feel like this C+ grade is just essentially everyone saying “I mean, he’s there!” JBD has played 13 games, and although he looks poised at times, the overall numbers don’t paint him in the best light. He’ll likely get more opportunities to prove himself, and because he doesn’t make many glaring mistakes, it’s hard to dock him too much. Still, there haven’t been the type of flashes of more that we’d all been hoping for.

Jake Sanderson: A, Readers: A

What else can we say about Sanderson? He almost certainly won’t win the Calder trophy due to the buzz around others such as Matty Beniers, Owen Power, or Logan Thompson, but he’d be a very worthy candidate. He is getting trusted with big minutes and has proven he can help at both ends of the ice. His 20 points in 50 games don’t “wow” you, but his offensive has been better than advertised and only improving as the year goes on.

Nick Holden: C, Readers: C+

Holden is an easy player to root for because he seems like a great guy. However, that can only take you so far, and it seems like the game is catching up to him. He’s been fine as a depth defenseman, but on a stronger team he likely wouldn’t have appeared in 45 of the first 50 games.

Nikita Zaitsev: D+, Readers: C-

You won’t find too many folks arguing over Zaitsev’s on-ice effectiveness these days. With the Sens in something of a cap crunch, Ottawa will likely have to attach a sweetener to move him before next season; a must if they want to re-sign all of their pending free agents. Although he isn’t necessarily helping the team on the ice, Zaitsev has taken the ups and downs of the year in stride. It’s not an easy situation for him to be in, and it’s worth noting that he has a 50 GF% at 5v5 since December 1st (despite worse shot metrics), so the Sens are at least treading water with him on the ice lately.

Thomas Chabot: B+, Readers: B+

Chabot has had a strange season, with some real ups and down. He wasn’t playing up to his potential in the early going, but ever since returning from a five-game absence on November 25th, he has been much better during those 31 games. He’s been an effective powerplay weapon too, as he has five goals (just three career PP goals before) and 10 assists (current career high is 15). You’d like him to be better in his own zone at times, but he’s still the most important Senators defenseman.

Travis Hamonic: C-, Readers: C+

Although the difference between a C- and a C+ isn’t that much, I’m not surprised that Hamonic is one of the most “polarizing” here. Some point to his strong mentoring ability alongside Sanderson, and others point to his negative on-ice impact (last on the team in GAR at -6.0). I think we can all recognize that while he wouldn’t be on the second pair for a stronger team, his effort, tenacity, and mentorship are always appreciated.

Anton Forsberg: B, Readers: B

Forsberg kind of is what you expect him to be: a solid 1B goalie. I wouldn’t fully trust him to be my starter in the playoffs, but he’s kind of in that James Reimer mold where he’s better than a backup and can give you 30-40 good starts. His +5.67 GSAx (goals saved above expected) is 22nd in the league, which is above average but not incredible. A “B” grade is just right.

Cam Talbot: C+, Readers: B-

I have to admit that I’m a little bit confused by the different rankings for Forsberg and Talbot. I suspect there’s some recency bias at play here, because both Forsberg and Talbot have a .905 SV%, with Talbot having one more game and win. I guess you could say he had more stinkers, but Forsberg has been very shaky at times as well. Talbot’s +2.61 GSAx is a bit lower, but not that much lower. Either way, Talbot is a UFA at the end of the season and seems unlikely to return unless he finishes the season on a hot streak.

Interestingly, the staff and the readers were very similar in these grades. 5/10 were exactly the same, and the only discrepancy larger than one level was Hamonic, where the staff gave a C- and the readers gave a C+—which is still a very similar grade. I’m quite intrigued that there was this much agreement about the defense because it’s notoriously more challenging to evaluate them compared to forwards.

As always, thanks for playing along with us and let us know what you think in the comments below!

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