Ottawa Senators Player Grades: Anton Forsberg

Health remains primary concern for veteran netminder

Ottawa Senators Player Grades: Anton Forsberg
Photo by Peter van der Meulen / Unsplash

Reader Grade: D-, Staff Grade: D+

Anton Forsberg had a bad season. His grade reflects how badly his season progressed. I guess I feel naïve in hindsight for thinking an NHL goalie could return from injuries to both MCLs and play the best hockey of his career. I don't fault Forsberg for his injury trouble and I also don't want to entirely dismiss his performance based on said injuries. It also bears mentioning that Forsberg again suffered a serious injury in 2024, this time to his groin, and we therefore have that much less data to work with.

The chicken-and-egg debate persisted around this team for the entirety of the season as the defence made no small number of egregious gaffes in front of Ottawa's netminders while the goalies also managed to watch an alarming number of beach balls sail by. I couldn't make sense of it as the 2023-24 campaign circled the drain (both before and after changes to the coaching staff) and I can't make sense of it now. The personnel on the defence and in the crease historically never put up numbers this bad and yet for whatever reason, this season, one in ten pucks ended up in the back of the Senators' net.

By most models, Ottawa's actual team save percentage fared worse than the expected goals rates suggested. Immediately we look at the goalies and justifiably assign blame. Nonetheless, the eye test, and hell knows we saw enough collectively as a fanbase, couldn't totally absolve Ottawa's skaters for all their blown coverage. For Forsberg specifically, naturalstattrick ranks him 59th out of 61 goalies (yes, worse than Joonas Korpisalo) who played over 1000 five-on-five minutes in terms of GSAA/60 at -0.47, while he ranks closer to the middle of the pack (37th) in terms of xGA/60 at 2.62 so in this case the goalie underperformed. Hockeyviz agrees.

On the penalty kill, Forsberg again ranks near the bottom of the list with -1.95 GSAA/60 per naturalstatrick (slightly ahead of Korpisalo this time) even though Ottawa's penalty kill got Forsberg closer to the middle of the pack (31st) in terms of xGA/60 (8.37), so it seems difficult to fault the defence there. Interestingly enough, hockeyviz shows Ottawa's defence playing worse in front of Forsberg at five-on-five and shorthanded.

By my count, Forsberg got the hook at least four times this past season which seems appropriately bad for a player getting a "D" grade and on a lot of nights he very visibly didn't have his "stuff" to borrow a baseballism. At the same time he posted two shutouts and had about a dozen other quality starts so I really don't know what to tell you. All the nights when Forsberg played well only serve to baffle me. I can't say he played like a "D" goalie all season because he had some competitive stretches. And then he also went and had a dozen Really Bad Starts. In aggregate the Sens fared worse than the expected goals suggested so Forsberg got the grade he deserves.

I've always loved Forsberg as a character for having gone from waiver-wire pick-up to NHL-starter, and his triumphant return from a serious injury to both knees really added to his legacy as a feel-good element to the narrative of Ottawa Senators hockey. All that being said, I don't know how much we should expect of Forsberg going forward. Next season the Sens have to navigate Korpisalo's albatross of a contract and carry Kevin Mandolese on the roster (or risk losing him on waivers)--all this with much better prospects waiting in the wings. With one year left at $2.75M and such a winding road to the NHL behind him, I have absolutely no idea what this summer holds for Forsberg and the Ottawa Senators.

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