No Name Senators Staying Strong in East


Let me introduce you to the Ottawa Senators…

You may have heard of them, you may not have. The Senators hail from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The country’s capital is located between Montreal and Toronto (slightly closer to Montreal), while being right at the border of Ontario and Quebec, and not too far away from the USA border. The team plays at Scotiabank Place, the arena that was the home to the All-Star game last year. It is actually located in Kanata, Ontario down the highway from Ottawa.  Overall the Sens have been a fairly successful franchise, since joining the league in 1992.  They have yet to win the Stanley Cup but have come close as they lost to the Anahiem Ducks in 2006-07 season. Currenty the team is in 6th place in the East and is 5-2-3 in the last 10.

Right, by now you are probably smirking a bit and wondering where I am going with this…  Stay with me…

Well, do you even know who is playing on the Ottawa Senators right now? Yeah, some of you are couch GM’s who would quickly round off a few names, but I bet even you are not entirely sure who is on this team right now. There is just not as much media exposure for this team being sandwiched between Montreal and Toronto hockey worlds.

The common hockey fan can fire out some names of course; you have Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, Craig Anderson, Milan Michalek, Sergei Gonchar, and Daniel Alfredsson. Those are the big names, and while Kyle Turris could be considered a household name by hockey fans who dabble in fantasy leagues, I bet even now some might not really remember who this guy is. Oh, and while those names are all nice and dandy most of them are not playing right now as Spezza, Michalek, Anderson, and Karlsson are all out with varying degrees of long term injuries.

So just how “new” is this team right now? From a fantasy perspective we can see that 47% of fantasy leagues in yahoo have a team that owns Kyle Turris. That’s right. Less than 47% of the leagues out there contain a single team that feels the need to own the current number one center on the Sens. They quite simply are a no-name lunch bucket squad right now with all the injuries.  So how about we spend a few minutes learning this young squad?

The more common names that we may start to recognize are Guillaume Latendresse, Kyle Turris, Chris Neil, and Chris Phillips.

Guillaume Latendresse is actually a draftee of the Montreal Canadiens and has been in the league since 06-07, bounced to Minnesota Wild for three years, yet he has managed to only play 161 games in the last five years and only six this year so far. Bad luck or whatever you want to call it, the man has only had one season where he scored more than 20 goals and has failed to establish himself as a regular top six player on a consistent basis.  Stricken by the injury bug, he returned to the lineup to face the Boston Bruins last night and scored his first goal in a Senators uniform.

Chris Neil is an infamous bad boy of the NHL. He is a more effective and more “respected” Sean Avery. His smile makes ladies fall over their dropped trousers everywhere and his hands have dropped a few hockey players. Having spent his entire career as an Ottawa Senator the home grown talent has eclipsed 170 penalty minutes in every single season but two. His role has been raised a bit as of late as he even seen some PP time, but up until now Chris Neil has usually been a guy who finishes the season with more fights than goals.

credit: bridgetds via photopin cc
credit: bridgetds via photopin cc

Chris Phillips is another home grown player who has spent the last 15 years playing for Senators. The big defenseman has never been known to light up the lamp on the regular basis, but he has been a stable pivot on the back end for Ottawa for a very long time and an effective shutdown defender always playing against the other team’s top lines for the majority of his career.

Kyle Turris was a highly touted 1st round, 3rd overall pick by the Phoenix Coyotes. He held out last summer and forced the Phoenix to trade him to the Ottawa Senators. Last year Turris showed what he can do with the proper ice time as he had 29 points in 49 games. This year he has been a slight disappointment, probably, for Sens-nation. With only 13 points and 4 goals in the last 25 games.

So there are four players you may or may not of heard of, but now we have to get to the real meat and potatoes of the line up. While Erik Karlsson still leads the team in goals while having played about 10 games less than everyone else on the team and with Kyle Turris leading the team in scoring with only 14 points, we need to find out how have they kept on winning.

The team is young, and big.  The Sens lineup currently has 14 players that are 24 years old or younger on the starting roster and only five of these young guys are listed below 200 pounds.

Colin Greening is a 6’3″ 217 pound 27 year old who has become a regular for the Senators after break out last season. He has been found laying everywhere in the lineup and currently is skating with Kyle Turris. Colin is a fairly fast skater but lacks the top six offensive talent. He is over the breakout hump, as he is 27 years old and will probably end up being a solid 3rd-line player for the rest of his career.

Patrick Wiercioch is a twenty-two year old defenseman drafted by the Ottawa senators in the second round. He has about 29 games of NHL experience and is averaging 15 minutes of ice time per game currently for the Sens. He has not only been able to chip in on the power-play, but has a fairly decent defensive game as he had a minus rating only two times this season. Being 6’5″ and 205 it is probably easier to adjust to the NHL game for him than most players.  The rookie’s average ice time and role have certainly increased since the Karlsson injury.

Jakob Silfverberg is a rookie. Drafted in the 2nd round back in 2009, he has had a mere two playoff games of NHL experience before this season. He has spent the last four years playing for his home team in Sweden, Brynas in the Elitserien. He dominated the league and won the regular season MVP, playoff MVP, and led Brynas to the league championship last season. Given his campaign, Senator management and fans were eagerly anticipating his first full North American season playing for their club. The dream has come true, but like many European skaters he is still finding his way and adjusting to the smaller ice of the NHL and true elite level of competition. With only four goals and seven points, Jakob has not had a truly HUGE impact for the Sens yet, but he has not looked out of place either.  And he’s even chipped in on the Senators penalty kill. He has been fairly good in his own end and has finished the game with a minus rating only three times so far. Look for his ice time to increase as the season goes on and his production to go up and up.

photo credit: clydeorama via photopin cc
photo credit: clydeorama via photopin cc

Kaspars Daugavins is twenty-four years old and is playing in his second season in the NHL. He was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 3rd round way back in 2006. He is currently a very effective penalty killer for the Senators. Why do I say this? Well, the Senators as a team currently have the second best penalty kill in the league and Kaspars plays more than a minute per game of PK time on average.  Daugavins may be criticized for his failed shootout attempt against Boston last night, but let’s remember it took a very good save by Tuukka Rask to deny him the goal, and it was a move that has been successful for him at the AHL level in the past.

Marc Methot has turned into a beastly shutdown defender for the Senators. In the month of February he has played more than 27 minutes three times already and has become a staple on the PK. He is only 27 years old and has six years of NHL experience. While he spent the past six years playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets, this sixth round pick back in 2003 has found a real nice home on the back-end for the Ottawa Senators.  The Senators acquired him in an offseason trade of Nick Foligno.

Jim O’Brien is another PK specialist for this team. He is fairly decent in the face off circle and has proven to be an excellent penalty killer. He was drafted in the 1st round 29th overall back in 2007. While there might not be tons of offensive talent, he is only 24 years old and has yet to play 82 games in the NHL. 6’2″ and 202 pounds can take you a long way in the NHL if you can be responsible in your own zone and chip in a few goals here and there. He currently has 5 goals which puts him tied for second on the team.

Andre Benoit is an undrafted free agent that the Senators picked up last year. He has 28 games of NHL experience but is currently averaging 16 minutes of ice time for Ottawa. He has played in KHL, SEL, OHL, AHL, and is now finally playing for the big club in the NHL. He has even seen some PP time and has made some solid offensive contributions. The one thing about his play is that he plays with no chip on his shoulder and looks very hungry for the puck. The price for the fairly solid 16 minutes of ice time he has provided so far this season? A mere $650,000.

Erik Condra was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 7th round way back in 2006. He has only one full NHL season under his belt and he is another player that has made his living on the PK. Last year he had four shorthanded points and this year he continues to be a very effective fourth line grinder for Ottawa. He is a fast skater with some size and zero fear, and he has found ways to chip in offensively as he has 9 points in 25 games.

Zack Smith is an absolute speed demon that you have to see to believe. It is hard to imagine that a 6’2″ 212 pounds can move that fast and get to that high speed so quickly. Zach was drafted by Ottawa Senators in the third round in 2008 and is twenty-four years old. He has found a place with the big club for quite some time as he has four years of experience. The extra ice time, the prime rib age of 24, and last years 81 games  worth of experience are paying off. This kid already has 10 points and will continue to generate more offense as his ice time will increase.

Mika Zibanejad is the true future of the Ottawa Senators. Drafted with the 7th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, he has game breaking ability that he couples with a solid defensive game and shows promise as a complete all-around player. With only 5 goals and 8 points in his first true NHL season, Mika might not be lighting up the scoresheet, but he has impressed many with how mature his game is for a raw rookie.  He is currently playing about 12 minutes per game.  As the season goes on there is no doubt in my mind his ice time will increase as his confidence grows. Do not forget that this kid is only 19 years old and will no doubt become a fan favorite before long.

Ben Bishop is 6’7″ monster of a goalie if there ever was one. I mean how do you even find any net on a goalie that big? Well, so far most NHL teams have had trouble finding any net behind Bishop,  who is rocking a .925 SV% and 2.54 GAA.  These are no Craig Anderson numbers, but this kid is only 26 years old and has played all of 31 career NHL games. He is still fresh meat and playing some extra games right now should serve him well in the future.  He has performed admirably in Anderson’s absence and is helping the Sens club to stay afloat.

Robin Lehner is the highly touted Swede goaltender that the Senators have been stashing away for quite some time.  While Ben Bishop is taller, has more experience, and is considered to be the true number two behind Craig Anderson, this has not stopped the 21 year old Robin Lehner from coming in and playing fantastic.  Making more than 33 saves in each of his last three starts and posting 1.91 GAA and .948 SV%. He is has been able to stand tall in net for the Sens literally at 6’4″ and figuratively as the team struggles to score in bunches.

So these are the Ottawa Senators of today and of the future really. That is lots of fast highly-tuned hockey players out there. Its also a squad that is largely homegrown, as 14 players that played in last night’s game against the Boston Bruins were drafted by Ottawa. Bryan Murray and his staff should be commended for the amount of young quality depth they have put in the Senators system, and Head Coach Paul Maclean should be a contender for the Jack Adams in the way he has molded this group of no names into a highly succesful club, currently sitting ahead of big name teams like the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Standings.  We have a franchise that is truly has been built to continue to contend for a very long time, especially when they start to get their stars back in the lineup.   The Sens future looks bright with lots of valuable young assets, and plenty of cap space going forward. It really is good to be a Senators fan right now.

Check out Ben Kerr’s Top Shelf Prospects for some detailed info on the Ottawa Senators younger guns.

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photo credit: bridgetds via photopin cc