As of this article being published, the Ottawa Senators sit second in the Atlantic Division with 17 points in 14 games. That record is good enough to put the team sixth in the conference. Only the Washington Capitals have played fewer games than the Sens in the conference, so the team's rank isn't even inflated by good teams having not played enough games to catch up. However, looking at the comments on this site, on Twitter, and on Facebook, you'd think the Sens were in big trouble. And though their record doesn't reflect it, they are.
Even if you're not a big stats person, you should be able to see what's so concerning about the team. For starters, the team sits at 7-4-3, so they're clearly being propped up by some loser points. The team has been to five shootouts and two overtime periods so far. The Sens are allowing 4.8 more shots per game than they take, better than only the Detroit Red Wings who are at a -6.9 per-game shot differential. You didn't have to watch much of the Sens taking on the Hurricanes or the Flames to realize that they were being outplayed in that game by a team that is challenging for last in the league.
The "enhanced" stats (NHL.com's wording, not mine) don't look good for Ottawa either. Via Natural Stat Trick, Ottawa ranks 27th with a 46.7% Corsi, 27th with a 46.5% Fenwick, and 29th with a 45.6% Shots percentage (all at 5v5). However, Ottawa is 8th in Goals percentage with 53.9% at 5v5, fueled by a 102.5 PDO, good enough for third-luckiest in the league. Either Ottawa has some of the best goaltending and most accurate shooters, or they are due for some heavy regression.
This scenario has played out a few times in recent memory. In 2013-14, the Maple Leafs started off the season strong in the standings. By mid-February, they were still sitting at 32-22-6, good enough for fourth in the division, fifth in the conference, and seven points clear of falling out of the playoffs. The early hot start to the season also led to the best Steve Simmons tweet ever:
Good thing the Leafs don't play in the CHL. The CORSI hockey league. They're doing just fine in NHL, though.— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) October 30, 2013
The team was being miserably out-shot and out-possessed, and would finish 6-14-2, nine points out of the playoffs. It was the biggest affirmation the analytics community could have got. It led to the hiring of Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas, and Mark Hunter among others, as well as the eventual firings of Randy Carlyle and Dave Nonis.
A similar thing took place with the Colorado Avalanche of 2013-14 who managed to win the Central Division despite some awful possession numbers. Last season, the Avs finished last in the Central, missing the playoffs by seven points. This year, they are already dead-last in their division, one point ahead of last in the entire league, and yet their un-fireable coach still dismisses shot-based metrics.
The good news for Sens fans is that there is precedent for Ottawa to be better. From last year's stretch run, the Sens have basically exchanged Andrew Hammond for Hammond + Craig Anderson (no offence to the 23 minutes of Chris Driedger), Eric Gryba for Jared Cowen, and Erik Condra for Shane Prince. The Sens were an above-average possession team under Cameron last year, and I don't think any of those personnel changes should affect the numbers this drastically. There are reasons to believe the Sens can improve off this poor-defensive-yet-goaltending-resuced start to the season.
But for now, let's be happy the Sens don't play in the CHL.
- The Sens lost on Saturday to the Hurricanes [Silver Seven recap, Rank the Performances, SensChirp]
- The B-Sens lost on Saturday to hit a five-game losing streak, but then managed to win on the back of two goals from Zack Stortini (!!) [Silver Seven - Marlies, Phantoms]
- The goalies are up, and Zack Smith is down in this week's Ups and Downs [Silver Seven]
- The second episode of bRian's Bodycheckz, every bit as off the cuff as the first [Bonk's Mullet]
- SensChirp agrees that the Sens are having big issues with Sens against [SensChirp]
- The most recent episode of TSN 1200's Advanced Chats, with Graeme Nichols of The 6th Sens [TSN 1200]
- Nichols answers the questions they ran out of time for on Advanced Chats [6th Sens]
- Kevin Lee with his latest set of Sens Thoughts [Sens Nation]
- Stuart McGinn also agrees with the fact that the Sens playing a lot of tight games isn't good [Senshot]
- Stuart with some thoughts on Ottawa's lack of secondary scoring [Senshot]
- Peter Levi's weekly set of thoughts, including thoughts on some of our thoughts here at S7S [Eye on the Sens]
- Daniel Alfredsson says current junior hockey coaching is squashing the creativity out of players [Ottawa Citizen]
- Ken Warren's notes on Zack Smith, Cody Ceci, Matt O'Connor, and Francis Perron [Ottawa Citizen]
- Erik Karlsson is trying to find positives while the team is being outshot [Ottawa Citizen]
- Travis Yost's Tuesday column is about Dave Cameron's Sens, and the results aren't pretty [TSN]
- José Bautista with a fantastic Player's Tribune article about his infamous bat-flip. His main point is that cultural differences led to some people calling his bat-flip disrespectful. [The Players' Tribune]
- If you haven't read it before, here's Bautista's article from April talking about the improvements that need to be made so Latin American MLB hopefuls can complete their education while moving into baseball academies [The Players' Tribune]
- Former NHLers Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger, and Phil Housley, American Olympian Angela Ruggiero, and builders Bill Hay and Peter Karmanos Jr. have all been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Check out the NHL's coverage [NHL]
- Ottawa's Rachel Homan and her curling rink have had quite the season so far. They are leading all curling rinks, not just women's, for earnings in the 2015-16 season [Ottawa Citizen]
- Sportsnet's weekend takeaways, including their argument that net size should be increased [Sportsnet]
- Draglikepull comes up with a suggestion for increasing NHL scoring: giving teams the long change in all three periods [Pension Plan Puppets]
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