Expectations for the 2019-2020 Ottawa Senators were as low as any other team in the league. For obvious reasons. The club made a plethora of deals to shed off hefty contracts. Included in the many moves was their best player, defenseman Erik Karlsson, overall polished winger Mark Stone, dynamic center Matt Duchene, and sniper Mike Hoffman. This team was literally gutted of all their stars. What was left was a core of mostly young, mostly inexperienced players. The season wasn’t a complete disaster, but they did finish as the second-worst team record-wise. The Senators have a huge hill to climb to getting back to being a competitor in the Atlantic Division. The road back will commence next season. Let’s review the 2019-2020 season and take a look at what’s in store for the future. Make sure to check out all of our other NHL team recaps here.
Record: 25-34-12(.437 point%) (30th)
CORSI%: 48.26% *naturalstattrick.com
What Went Right
There were definitely some exciting moments for an otherwise forgettable season. One highlight was a nice stretch in November where the Senators managed to win seven out of nine games scoring 34 goals and allowing just 23. During the hot streak, Ottawa got solid contributions from a number of players that would go on to have promising campaigns. Let’s start with Anthony Duclair (a restricted free agent in line to receive a new contract this offseason). His 23 goals in 66 games were a career-best. He finished second in team scoring behind now-former Sen, Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The 24-year-old Quebec native finally found his “A” game in Ottawa, signing him would be a great move for the organization.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored a career-high 24 goals but was promptly traded at the deadline for a very nice return. A first and a second-round pick as well as a conditional third-round selection. Despite being a fan-favorite and just having entered his prime years the Senators got a king’s ransom for a player that has scored more than 40 points just twice over the course of his career.
Other positives include the continued development of scrappy winger Brady Tkachuk and the steady play of defenseman Mark Borowiecki. Tkachuk is still just 20 years old and is only going to get better. He virtually matched his rookie season with 21 goals and 44 points. Tkachuk is an intricate part of the Senators rebuild, big things could be on the horizon in the very near future. Borowiecki has the makings of being a steady influencer in the dressing room and on the blue line. He was a plus-one while scoring seven goals in 53 games. Don’t be surprised if Ottawa designates him as team captain soon.
Also to like is where the Senators are in terms of the salary cap. Their situation is one of the best in the league. They have a ton of flexibility with just $41.9 million tied up in players’ salaries.
What Went Wrong
In terms of winning and losing, it was a trying season, no question. The Senators were ranked very low in goals for and goals against. The 3.35 goals against was a sore spot, ranking them second last in the league. Special teams are also a major concern. They converted on just 14.2% of their chances with the man advantage, last in the NHL, and killed penalties at just a 76.1% clip which slotted them all the way down to 28th.
If this is the end of the road for veteran goalie Craig Anderson it sure wasn’t an ideal finish to a very good career. He is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and is more likely to retire than try and sign a new deal. Anderson posted just 11 wins in 34 games while putting up a goals-against-average of 3.25 and a save percentage of .902. Numbers way off his career marks of 2.84 and .913.
With all due respect to veteran forward Bobby Ryan, his five goals and three assists in 24 games are not what the Senators signed up for when they signed him to an annual salary of $7.25 million per season(he is signed until 2022). Ryan missed a plethora of games this season as he went for treatment for a substance abuse issue. The 33-year-old’s best days are likely in the rearview mirror but more production and leadership will be needed going forward.
The fan base in Ottawa is no doubt anxious for the team to be winners but they will need to preach some patience with this young group. Despite this, they should be excited to follow along as the Senators will have an incredible amount of potential stars building within the organization.
The upcoming NHL entry draft will be an important part of the process. The Sens own two first-round picks including the San Jose Sharks pick from the Karlsson trade. Remember, the Sharks finished just ahead of Ottawa, so these are likely to be very high picks. General Manager Pierre Dorian has said that the team will select the two best players available despite what position the player plays. The Senators can’t go wrong here, this is a very deep class.
There are many players to have your eye on next season. Among them are Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, and former first-rounder and Golden Knight, Erik Brannstrom. The team will give them plenty of opportunities to establish themselves in the NHL.
It appears that there will also be a competition for who gets minutes in the net. Marcus Hogberg and Anders Nilsson will be getting first dibs at the crease with rookie goaltender Filip Gustavsson also likely to get looks.
If your a Senators fan, despite watching a losing team in 2019-2020, you will have lots to look forward to in the not too distant future.
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Main Image Credit:Embed from Getty Images