Puck Daddy’s 2016-17 NHL Preview: Ottawa Senators


Last season: 38-35-9 (85 points); 5th in Atlantic; 11th in East

In the 2014-15 season, after firing head coach Paul McLean and tapping Dave Cameron, the Ottawa Senators went on a historic run to make the playoffs. The following year, Cameron’s magic all but dried up.

Erik Karlsson picked up another Norris Trophy nomination after a season that saw him post 82 points in 82 games for tops on the Sens and tied for fourth in the NHL with Joe Thornton. Mark Stone was second on the team in scoring with 23 goals and 61 points. Mike Hoffman led all Ottawa skaters with 29 goals.

Each time the Senators took two steps forward in the standings, they’d set themselves back on small losing streaks. The team missed the playoffs, and owner Eugene Melnyk promised big changes for what he considered to be a playoff team.

Change started at the top. Pierre Dorion took over as general manager on April 10. Long time GM Bryan Murray stepped aside citing health concerns as he continues to battle cancer. Dorion did not retain Cameron. After making a push to hire Bruce Boudreau, the team went with Guy Boucher as bench boss. Boucher returns to the NHL after spending three seasons in Bern, Switzerland.

2015-16 Season, In One Picture

OTTAWA, ON - DECEMBER 3: Head coach Dave Cameron of the Ottawa Senators takes to his players during a time-out against the Chicago Blackhawks in an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on December 3, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON – DECEMBER 3: Head coach Dave Cameron of the Ottawa Senators takes to his players during a time-out against the Chicago Blackhawks in an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on December 3, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

“You’re so getting me fired…” – Dave Cameron’s inner monologue.

Did They Get Better, Worse, Or Are They About The Same?

One of the big moves made during the season was near the trade deadline last year. In a nine player deal, the Senators acquired Dion Phaneuf from the Toronto Maple Leafs. He appeared in 20 games before being shutdown for the season with a foot injury.

In the offseason, Ottawa traded Alex Chiasson to the Calgary Flames for Patrick Sieloff. Sieloff has already made his presence felt and not in a good way. In practice, Sieloff knocked out Clarke MacArthur causing a brawl. MacArthur played in only four games last season due to a concussion and was finally feeling healthy before the hit; he has not been cleared to return to the ice.

Dorion shook up the doldrums of the offseason by sending Mika Zibanejad to the New York Rangers for Derick Brassard. Last season, Zibanejad led the Sens with 7 game winning goals and was fifth on the team in goals (21) and scoring (51). With the Rangers, Brassard scored 27 goals and 58 points; 22 of his points came on the power play.

Adding Boucher will have the biggest impact on the success of the team overall.

Five Most Fascinating Players

1. Erik Karlsson. C’mon, son. It’s Erik Karlsson. The perennial Norris Trophy nominee and two-time winner is a once in a generation talent. He averaged a point-a-game for the Senators this past season. The knock against Karlsson for years has been that he doesn’t kill penalties. He did more of it this past season, doubling his PK time from 46:03 in 2014-15 to 108:58 in 2015-16.

2. Bobby Ryan. Since joining the Ottawa Senators, the winger has yet to hit the 30 goal plateau as he had done in each of his non-lockout shortened seasons in Anaheim. The good news for Sens fans is that while his goal total may be down, his point total continues to increase in each of his three seasons in Ottawa. Perhaps the voodoo comes with the jersey. Ryan has worn the No. 6 since coming to Ottawa. He went back to his well known No. 9 this offseason.

3. Dion Phaneuf. The defenseman appeared in 20 games for the Sens, collecting 8 points. He missed the final eight games of the season due to a foot injury. The big question that looms over Phaneuf is what he’s got left in the tank. Could not being under the microscope of Toronto be just what the big man needs to return to shades of his former self.

4. Mike Hoffman. There was no sophomore slump with Hoffman. He increased his point total from his breakout rookie season by 11 points and led the team with 29 goals. Hoffman is one of the players most thrilled by the Boucher hiring. The winger played two years under Boucher with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL where Hoffman scored 94 points in the second year.

5. Chris Neil. The team brought the 37-year-old pugilist back on a one-year, $1.5-million deal with a modified no trade clause. He played in 80 (!!) games last season and scored 13 points with 165 penalty minutes. Of those 165 penalty minutes, he had nine major penalties and six misconducts. Maybe he’s a good guy in the room and that’s why they brought him back?

Mascot Hijinks Video Break

Remember that time the Ottawa Senators had a spartan? They hope you don’t.

Can We Trust Them At Even Strength?

Based on last season’s numbers alone – no. Per Corsica, the Senators’ score and venue adjusted 5-on-5 Corsi For was 46.70-percent; fourth worst in the NHL. Of the players returning to the team, Karlsson lead all skaters at 50.53 CF%. Mark Stone (50.42) was the only other returning Ottawa player above fifty percent CF% in at least 300 minutes played.

At 5-on-5, the Senators were 10th best in the league scoring 150 goals-for, and gave up the 12th most goals-against (148). Mike Hoffman led the team with 20 even-strength goals.

Can We Trust Them On Special Teams?

Again, going off last season’s figures alone it would appear not. Yet, like all thing Senators coming into this year, the wild card is how Guy Boucher changes the system.

On the power play, Ottawa was 26th in the NHL at 15.8-percent completion. They were an atrocious 11.4-percent at home, yet improved to 21.3-percent on the road. Karlsson led Ottawa with 26 power play points total, and Mike Hoffman netted a team high nine power play goals. Karlsson rarely comes off the ice if the Sens are on the power play. Ottawa spent 412:07 minutes on power play last season and Karlsson was on the ice for 381:31 of it.

As for the penalty kill, the Senators were 29th in the NHL at 75.8-percent. Cody Ceci, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Marc Methot and Mark Borowiecki logged the most ice time for the PK. The saving grace for the Sens penalty kill is their ability to breakout shorthanded. The team scored a league high 17 shorthanded goals-for. Pageau netted seven and Zack Smith was second with 5.

Can We Trust Their Goaltending?

On average, the Senators allowed a league high 32.8 shots-against per game; however, they allowed nearly the same amount the previous season.

After an exemplary rookie year, Andrew Hammond had a less than stellar sophomore year. The one they call ‘The Hamburglar’ finished with a 7-11-4 record, .914 save-percentage and 2.65 GAA in 24 games played. His counterpart, Craig Anderson, shouldered most of the load in 60 games. Anderson posted a 31-23-5 record with .916-save percentage and 2.78 GAA.

Player Most Likely To Be In Vegas Next Season

Kyle Turris. Dorion has a lot of contracts he has to protect due to the no move clauses. Turris has been an up and down player. He could see himself on the way out because of it.

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)

One. New year, new coach. This team wants to play for him (for now).


Senators see a bump in the standings from Boucher and a re-inspired lineup. They’ll make the playoffs, but fall because of shaky goaltending.

2016-17 Season Preview
Anaheim Ducks
Arizona Coyotes
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Calgary Flames
Carolina Hurricanes
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche
Columbus Blue Jackets
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Edmonton Oilers
Florida Panthers
Los Angeles Kings
Minnesota Wild
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders

New York Rangers

– – – – – – –

Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter!