You could have stuck the Ottawa Senators in any division and they still would have been awful. But, put them in the league’s weakest, and they could have some fun with it. Attempting to play spoiler with their Canadian rivals, Ottawa had another progress year in their rebuild. Was it pretty? Absolutely not. But it gave the Senators a better idea on which players to keep, and what their bad contracts are. General Manager Pierre Dorion may need that last part in size one font, but it is the truth.
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By the Numbers
Record: 23-28-5 (51 points)
Power Play: 15.5 percent (26th)
Penalty Kill: 78.9 percent (20th)
Goals For: 157 (19th)
Goals Against: 190 (27th)
In his route to becoming the team’s next captain, a role currently vacant, Brady Tkachuk led the team in points with 36. He only scored 17 goals, but that was an unlucky number by shooting percentage. Tkachuk shot the puck 220 times. His linemate Joshua Norris also scored 17 goals, but on just 96 shots. Tkachuk also had 248 hits, two behind Florida’s Radko Gudas for the NHL lead. He was not the only bright spot on the team. In their first full seasons, Norris, Drake Batherson, and Artem Zub impressed.
There was a reason why the Penguins chose Tristan Jarry, who singlehandedly cost them their season, over Matt Murray. For one, Jarry was better in 2019-20, but also, Murray was terrible. The second-round pick-plus that Ottawa gave up for the netminder looks like a steal on Pittsburgh’s behalf. Murray has seen a sharp decline recently, and he has a case for the league’s worst goaltender in 2020-21. He had a .893 save percentage and a 3.38 GAA, which somehow does not tell the full story. Murray is signed for three more seasons. Filip Gustavsson may usurp him before that ends.
Behind the Bench Analysis
D.J. Smith is one of the tougher Head Coaches to evaluate. The former depth defenseman for the Maple Leafs and Avalanche was an assistant coach for the former before landing his role with the Senators. Two seasons in, and Smith has not led the Senators to much success. However, he was not supposed to. Ottawa knows this is a rebuilding team, and the 44-year-old Smith was hired to be a young voice for a young team. He’ll be back for 2021-22.
Front Office Analysis
Owner Eugene Melnyk’s loyalty to Dorion is overwhelmingly confusing. Dorion has made some decent draft picks recently, and Zub plus late-season waiver claim Victor Mete look like good finds. He redeemed the original Matt Duchene trade with the second Duchene deal and the Erik Karlsson heist. But the trades for Murray, Derek Stepan, Nikita Zaitsev, and the contracts to Murray and Colin White are all rough. His plan to get draft picks for salary cap space is good, but he needs to stop flipping those picks for veterans.
2021 NHL Entry Draft Picks
The Senators got better this year, which does mean that their draft capital has gotten worse. They actually may not pick in the top-10 this year, depending on how the lottery goes. Speaking of, the Sens have an under 10 percent chance to win one of the two up for grabs spots. The team should have a trio of third-round picks, but getting 20 below-average games out of Stepan cost them one. They still have their own second and San Jose’s. They also have a third, sixth, and seventh-rounder.
The two UFAs to note in Ottawa are Artem Anisimov and Ryan Dzingel, although the team probably only has an interest in retaining Dzingel. The restricted free agents will be a much bigger story. Batherson and Mete may get bridge deals, but Tkachuk should not. This is their chance to lock up a potential franchise icon. After those deals, the remaining cap space could go to a Dorion favorite. They could acquire veterans to fill lineup spots. You would hope goaltender would be one of them, but Gustavsson could have a say in that.
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