By Sylvain Godin | OSJ Staff | Twitter
As of this writing, the Senators sit at 11-12-1. That’s good for 7th in the Atlantic (still boggles my mind...Atlantic? NONE OF US ARE EVEN NEAR THE ATLANTIC, NHL!). We’re not at the bottom of the standings! Woo! One could then state, ‘Yeah, we’ve also only played 24 out of 82 games, or about ¼ of the season. Just wait.’ To this, I say, “Buzz off, you’re killing the mood here.” But I digress.
One has to be a bit curious to see the Sens not struggle as much as the pundits stated; the team being dead last or near last, depending on who you follow. “This team is young. It will have growing pains”, “There’s no real game breaker on the team. No real high end scorer”, “Our centre ice is incredibly suspect and there is no bonafide number 1.” But somehow, the Sens are one game below .500 and still giving it to teams when they sometimes should not be in the game.
So what exactly is the biggest change of this team versus last year? Well, for one, the room doesn’t stink of issues anymore. No more Uber situations, no more owner stating words that tend to take away from the team, no more exodus of star players at the start of the year and at the trade deadline. Heck, no more expectations, really, and that’s probably the biggest takeaway from all of this. There are no more expectations other than to go out and play hard. And honestly, that has to be such a relief for players. They can just go out there and have fun. Let’s face it; hockey is a game we grew up with to have fun. Yes, for NHL players, this is a job. But, in the end, you still need to enjoy it. Otherwise it becomes such a monotonous routine that it just…sucks the life out of you.
The problems they had last year just compounded bad play; a system that no longer works, a coach that wasn’t listened to and players who were just done being here. But I will even go further and state: The absolute turnaround of second period play from last year’s team is such a monumental difference. At first view, I feel like we are seeing a much more consistent team through all 60 minutes than we were last year.
The following was taken from hockey-reference.com and while I admit, I’m taking a full season versus a quarter of a season, I want you to focus on the consistency of this year. The Sens have not exactly been blown out of the water for any particular period but stay relatively close to the opponent’s team:
At first glance, you can argue right away “we have no idea how the next ¾ of the season will look - especially near the trade deadline, where players will get traded and how last year we had our best players traded at the deadline as well. All valid.
What I want to show you though, is that it’s a lot tighter this year than last. Let’s just go with an average and multiply everything by 4 for a rounded number:
Again, this is a guestimate; don’t take it as gospel. The point I’m trying to prove is that they seem to be tighter in the second period; far more than in 2018-19. For all the points of not being able to score, the Sens' scoring average is pushing to be higher than last season and our opponents lower in scoring against them. So what does this mean exactly?
Well, it seems to me that the Sens are actually getting better scoring and not allowing as many goals. What I want to bring to your attention is the latter; the former is highly skeptical as some players are having ridiculous seasons right now (PAGEAAAAAAAAAAU PAGEAU PAGEAU PAGEAU!) and I expect them to come down to earth. If I were to guess (and, yes, I’ll come back to this blog at some point at the end of the year, either to eat crow or to say “Ahahaha, bam!”), I do also ‘hope’, however, that the latter number does not go up. That will be the biggest advancement for this team: Effectively playing 60 minutes of hockey and minimizing chances against while maximizing the chances for.
So where to, now? Really? For now, I would say enjoy the ride while you can. I don’t think it will be sustainable and while the Sens are getting better defensively, they're still way below average in other categories to actually compete for a playoff spot, let alone even think playoffs. The power play still stinks at 9.6% (the league average is 19.42%), and the Sens still don’t really have a 1C at this time to really cement it. The jury’s still out on Brown/White, and with White on the wing, I’m starting to think that’s where he’ll be shoehorned with the Sens.
In short, the Ottawa Senators are enjoying a bit of success and actually challenging the pundits who stated that they would be last. I would surmise the following: Not only do the Sens not finish last at the end of the year, but they actually aren’t even top 3 in the draft. And that, as they say, could be a double-edged sword, depending on where you stand with the whole rebuild situation.
Let’s note the following: 1) The draft percentage for last place is 18.5%. That makes it less than 1/5 that you get the first pick. 2) This 2020 draft is ‘deep’ where some players right now going in the first round could legit challenge for a top five if the draft was not this deep. So really, whether we pick top 5 or top 15, we’re going to get a hell of a player.
So why not enjoy the bit of success they're having?