The Ottawa Senators wasted no time with their season wrap up and exit interviews, with "garbage bag day" coming the morning after their final game, an OT win against the Leafs on May 12th. Let’s hand out some grades of our own and give a little prediction as to what might happen next for all the players.
I will focus on players that are still here so we will give Erik Gudbranson, Braydon Coburn, Mike Reilly, Derek Stepan, Christian Wolanin, Marcus Hogberg, Ryan Dzingel and Artem Anisimov a pass. They are either gone or not expected back. I will also ignore players who didn’t play at least 10 games or nearly 20% of the season.
THE CREASE - C
Matt Murray – C-
27GP 10W 13L 1OT/SOL SV% .893
No goaltender played more than Murray this year and it really was the tale of two seasons. When he was on, he was extremely good. When he wasn’t, he was abysmal. He was playing well when he was injured and couldn’t finish the season. Perhaps you find my ranking kind. It’s easy to throw the book at him. It wasn’t all bad. Hopefully he is healthy next year and is solid right out the gate.
Gustavsson/Daccord/Forsberg – B
25GP 9W 8L 4OT/SOL SV% .906
Since none of these 3 had 10 starts, I will do a group rating for them. Gustavsson was the best of the bunch statically and record wise with his 9 starts. Daccord’s stat line isn’t as flattering but he played when the Sens were at their worst and not dressing their best lineup. Forsberg was a suitcase for most of the season but earned an extension and could be Murray’s backup next season.
If this group had not stepped up, the Sens would definitely be in line for the number 1 overall pick this year.
THE D CORPS - B
Thomas Chabot – B+
49GP 6G 25A 31PTS 36PIM -15
Easily our best defenseman and plays all situations. He is always trying to impact the outcome of the game. Plays very proactive and would play even better playing 3-5 minutes less per night. His plus/minus should be tempered with the fact that he plays against the best the other team has every night. Everyone’s plus/minus took a hit in the 1st 15 games.
Nikita Zaitsev - B
55GP 4G 13A 17PTS 26PIM -13
His contract makes him a bit of a lightning rod. However, he eats a lot of minutes and does so against the other team’s top line. That is not likely his best slot. That said, he played all but one game and showed more offense than anyone expected. If he plays out the rest of his contract like this, I will have no complaints.
Artem Zub - A
47GP 3G 11A 14 PTS 26 PIM +4
He is the jewel of our off season from a pro scouting standpoint. Thankfully, he is locked in for another 2 years. He can eat some of those defensive minutes that Zaitsev perhaps should not have. For some unknown reason, he took a backseat and didn’t play the first 8 games of the year. This likely explains his plus/minus a bit. However, it also makes you wonder what would have been had he been in the starting lineup from day 1. He has great defensive awareness and could be the Marc Methot that Thomas Chabot has been waiting for.
Erik Brannstrom – C+
30GP 2G 11A 13PTS 25PIM +3
Once the Senators jettisoned Reilly, Coburn and Gudbranson and put Brannstrom in full time, it became clear he can play and be effective at this level. He also played much better knowing he was going to be playing. The Senators took a curious developmental plan with him by using his entry level contract to send him to Belleville on a whim. His ranking is reflective of the fact that he wasn’t nearly as good before the trade deadline as after. I look for much more next season.
Victor Mete - B
14GP 1G 1A 2PTS 2PIM +5
He wasn’t with the team long. However, Mete was very effective when he was and the team’s record reflected his contribution as well. He is mobile with good defensive awareness and I think there might be more offensive potential than his numbers show. He doesn’t get power play time. He can, however, move the puck in transition. He hasn’t been extended yet but he will be and as far as waiver pick ups go, he is a positive add for sure.
Josh Brown – C-
26GP 0G 1A 1PTS 30PIM -1
Brown started the season in the Senators lineup and he struggled with the pace of the game. He became the odd man out once Zub became a regular in the lineup. Brown can play in the NHL but he is a depth player and needs to play with someone who can insulate him. Towards the end of the season when Senators played him with someone like Victor Mete whose mobility can support him, he looked much better. He has one more year left and I would expect he will be a 7. He can do that but no more. DJ Smith likes him. That doesn’t mean I have to.
FORWARDS – B-
Brady Tkachuk – A-
56GP 17G 19A 36PTS 69PIM -17
This kid has met or exceeded every expectation of him and clearly wants to be the team leader. He is physical yet surprisingly clean. He has solid offensive instincts yet is only scratching the surface. He is an absolute nuisance to everyone he plays against and he doesn’t take a night off. Clearly needs to develop in his own zone. He will. With a long-term extension, I wouldn’t mind a C on his sweater.
Connor Brown – B+
56GP 21G 14A 35PTS 12PIM +1
Brown had enough chances to win the Rocket Richard. His offensive instincts are evident at even strength, man advantage AND short-handed. He plays with intensity and pace and he appears to be a responsible player in his own zone. On effort alone, he is an A rating. He just needs to produce consistently. If he does, he is a solid 2nd line player.
Josh Norris A-
56GP 17G 18A 35PTS 13PIM -12
Following an AHL rookie of the year season, Norris continued to trend upwards with a very consistent season. In fact, he finished stronger and got better as he went along rather than starting fast and fading. He will likely get on the Calder ballot though won’t likely win. He is intelligent, plays with pace, goes to traffic areas and can finish. There is talk of him being a number 1 center. I am open to the idea. However, if he is, he will be a weaker version. Could be an excellent 2nd line center. He will need to tighten up in his own zone but he will.
Drake Batherson - B
56GP 17G 17A 34PTS 8PIM -17
His first full season with the team can be considered a success. He showed he can score and has a world class shot. Pace doesn’t appear to be a concern though he isn’t a great skater. He needs to improve his level of consistency and defensive play. There were long gaps in between goals and I think he may have doubted himself. He will be fine but that is the difference between him and Brown.
Tim Stutzle – B+
53GP 12G 17A 29PTS 14PIM -18
Don’t let my rating fool you. I am really high on this kid. He plays with pace, intensity, has a world class release and is physical. From an expectations perspective, he met or exceeded all of them with the notable exception of defensive awareness. There is talk of him being a center. However, I don’t see the awareness necessary to do that. Leave him on the wing. Let him flourish.
Evgeny Dadonov – D+
55GP13 G7 A20 PTS4 PIM-9
Dadonov looked homesick without Barkov and Huberdeau on the power play. He had 1 point on the power play for the season and found himself not playing on the power play in the 2nd half of the season or at best 2nd unit. I don’t fault his effort and perhaps next year he will rebound. This year was underwhelming to say the least.
Nick Paul – B+
56GP 5G 15A 20PTS 19PIM +5
Paul completed his second full season in the league playing the exact same number of games and delivering the exact same point total. His game goes beyond the scoresheet. His speed and forecheck was on display almost every night and he was not an easy person to play against. He is responsible at both ends of the rink and seems to have figured it out. We just need to temper our enthusiasm. On a weak team, he is a 3rd line player. On a solid team, he is a 4th line player. Let’s not give him a contract he can’t live up to.
Chris Tierney – C-
55GP 6 G 13 A 19 PTS 8 PIM -12
Though I don’t think his stat line does him justice, Tierney’s play was not what it has been since arriving in the Karlsson trade. He continues to be effective on the penalty kill and generates more than enough chances to score along with Connor Brown. There are concerns about the pace of his game. He isn’t an elite skater. He isn’t slow either. He is an intelligent player. I believe he will rebound next year. That said, we have to call the season what it was. Underwhelming.
Colin White - C
45GP 10G 8A 18PTS 16PIM -6
Once again, this kid leaves me wanting. He was not in the lineup to start the season. Once he got in, it is clear he should have been. However, his consistency and lack of durability concern me greatly with his contract. He has the pace, the intelligence and isn’t bad on the draw. He does not have golden hands and he seems reluctant to go to traffic.
Austin Waston – B+
34GP 3G 7A 10PTS 40PIM -7
Don’t confuse the rating, with the stats. I rate him this way because he did more than I expected. He is value for the money he makes and hopefully he recovers from his injuries. He brings grit and can play a 4th line roll. If you get this type of offensive output from a 4th line player who can play physical at his contract, you take it.
Shane Pinto - A
12GP 1G 6A 7PTS 10PIM +6
He only played 12 games and I need to temper my enthusiasm. However, I think this kid is the next Patrice Bergeron. He is a 3 zone player, who has offensive skills, defensive awareness, can dominate on the draw and goes to traffic. He may be that number 1 center we have been looking for. No need for Belleville next season. This kid is NHL ready.
Alex Formenton – B+
20GP 4G 2A 6PTS 6PIM +6
Formenton spent much of the season in the AHL but proved that he is NHL ready. His hands may not be NHL ready but every other aspect of him is. His speed makes everyone drool and on the forecheck, he is a nightmare who loves to finish his checks. The team’s record once he came up speaks to what he brought that we were missing.
In short, if the lineup in this article was the lineup that played 80% of our games, the Senators are a playoff team. Pierre Dorion…salvation lies within.
BY Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey