Senators’ Season Review

Ottawa Senators’ fans have finally completed the steps to recovery after another playoff loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They have been through all 4 stages: anger, denial, depression and now, finally, acceptance. It is now time to look back at all the negatives and positives during this past season. Who had a breakout year? Who was a disappointment? Who will not be back? And the regular season report cards for the Ottawa Senators’ players.The Regular Season

This past season was very inconsistent for Ottawa. There were many highs and many lows, but the Senators were not able to sustain a high level of play during the whole year. They were very streaky, playing great for 10 games but then struggling during the next 5. However, it is difficult to call the season a disappointment as the Senators finished with a record of 43-23-10-6 while amassing 102 points. They were also the highest scoring team in the league with 262 goals. Not only that, they were 8th in goals against allowing only 189 goals. Ottawa’s power play was also very impressive. They had the best power play percentage at 21.5% however the penalty kill slipped to 18th in the league at 83.5%. You do not have to look far to find the cause of this as they did not have the legendary coach Roger Nielson, who was responsible for the penalty kill during his stay in Ottawa, behind the bench. But all in all, this season was successful by other teams’ standards, but Ottawa fans never got the sense that this team was playing up to their potential.

The Playoffs

Ottawa’s result in the playoffs was disappointing, but the effort they put in certainly was not. The Senators could have easily won against Toronto, but unfortunately Ed Belfour had other things on his mind. He put on a goaltending display that Leaf fans have not witnessed since Johnie Bower was playing in between the pipes. Unfortunately, all that matters is the score at the end of the game, and Ottawa was not able to come away with a victory. Because of this, changes will be made but Ottawa fans can take solace in the fact that Ottawa was not outplayed. They showed up for the series but unfortunately they did not get the bounces. However it is now clear that Ottawa’s loss was not because Toronto was in their heads. The Senators went at the Leafs throughout the whole series. They did not back down and Ottawa fans should be proud of that.

Player Report Cards

These are report cards for the Senators’ players for the regular season and playoffs.

Daniel Alfredsson

Regular Season Grade: A

Playoff Grade: B+

Daniel Alfredsson had another outstanding season as the Senators’ captain. He was the most consistent forward, bringing his A-game every single night. He racked up 32 goals and 48 assists for 80 points in 77 games. He was also a member of the Eastern Conference all-star team. In the playoffs, he really did not miss a beat. His offensive production dropped off but he had several chances but was foiled by Belfour. Alfredsson led by example throughout the entire year and was rewarded with a new contract.

Peter Bondra

Regular Season Grade: N/A

Playoff Grade: C

Peter Bondra struggled throughout his time in Ottawa. He does not have a regular season grade because he did not play enough games, but in the playoffs he struggled. While he played well defensively he was acquired to score and he did not manage to beat Belfour.

Radek Bonk

Regular Season Grade: C–

Playoff Grade: D

Radek Bonk may have played his last game in a Senators’ uniform. He struggled all season. He may have acquired 44 points in 66 games, but his play was awfully inconsistent. There were more bad nights than good ones, and when he came back from a foot injury in March, nobody seemed to notice. Bonk was invisible during the first round and because of this, Bruce Garrioch will likely get his wish and Bonk will be shipped out of Ottawa.

Zdeno Chara

Regular Season Grade: A+

Playoff Grade: A

What can you say about the Big-Z. The Norris Trophy nominee had an outstanding season. He was his usual bone crunching self, but he also had an offensive touch. Chara had 16 goals and 41 points in 79 games along with a +33 rating. This guy’s play really didn’t change in the playoffs. He was a rock on the back-end during the first round and at only 27 years of age, Chara is developing into the one of the league’s best defensemen.

Greg de Vries

Regular Season Grade: N/A

Playoff Grade: C+

A trade deadline acquisition, Greg de Vries struggled to find his place before the playoffs. In the first round, he began to improve and was solid on the back-end. Unfortunately, he came from a very unstructured system in New York and many of his pinches were ill timed.

Mike Fisher

Regular Season Grade: N/A

Playoff Grade: A

Mike Fisher missed almost all of the regular season with an elbow injury, but in the playoffs he was one of Ottawa’s best players. Fisher was a physical force and gave 100% on every shift. He also came up with a big goal in overtime during game 6. People should take notice of this guy because he is developing into a fantastic hockey player.

Martin Havlat

Regular Season Grade: A

Playoff Grade: B

This was really a breakout year for Martin Havlat. He missed the beginning of the season with a contract dispute, but came back strong notching 31 goals and 68 points in 68 games. He also finally learned to back-check and play responsibly. In the playoffs, he played well and while he couldn’t get a goal, he did have 3 assists. Havlat is becoming one of the best and most exciting players in the league.

Marian Hossa

Regular Season Grade: A

Playoff Grade: A+

Marian Hossa had another solid offensive season. He was able to single handedly break a game open. Hossa was also Ottawa’s best player in the playoffs, as he led all players in shots on goal during the first round. He is still young, and his play should only improve.

Curtis Leschychyn

Regular Season Grade: C+

Playoff Grade: N/A

Curtis Leschychyn was a solid veteran presence on Ottawa’s back-end. He rotated as the 6th defenseman and played a consistant game. He’s not flashy, but he gets the job done. However at times, he made some bad giveaways and that hurt his grade.

Chris Neil

Regular Season Grade: B

Playoff Grade: C+

Chris Neil played his role very effectively. He was always willing to drop the gloves when he needed to, and he managed to play well defensively and chip in offensively.

Chris Phillips

Regular Season Grade: B+

Playoff Grade: A

Chris Phillips had a solid regular season, as he was the partner of Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara. He deserves a lot of credit for the way Chara’s game has developed. But like every year, Phillips raised his level of play in the playoffs as he was a physical force and one of Ottawa’s best defensemen.

Brian Pothier

Regular Season Grade: C

Playoff Grade: C

Brian Pothier had an inconsistent year but his play improved in the playoffs. He was part of the rotation for the 5th and 6th spots.

Wade Redden

Regular Season Grade: A

Playoff Grade: B

Wade Redden had another fantastic year. He was tied for the league lead in defensemen goals and he led the teams’ defensemen in points as he averaged the most ice time on the team. He makes one of the best first passes in the league and he has quietly become one of the leagues top 10 defensemen. Look for him on Canada’s World Cup team in August.

Peter Schaefer

Regular Season Grade: B+

Playoff Grade: A-

Peter Schaefer developed into a very well rounded left winger this season. He was one of the Senators’ top penalty killers and he scored some highlight real goals along the way. In the playoffs, Schaefer’s play did not drop off but his physical play was elevated. He is turning into to a great two-way player in this league.

Bryan Smolinski

Regular Season Grade: B-

Playoff Grade: C-

Bryan Smolinski had a solid regular season, scoring over 20 goals while playing all three forward positions on Ottawa’s third line. Unfortunately, his play dropped off in the playoffs.

Jason Spezza

Regular Season Grade: B+

Playoff Grade: C-

In his first full NHL season, Jason Spezza was the fourth leading scorer on the Ottawa Senators. While his scoring was streaky, he did what was expected of him. His defensive play improved and he should only get better as he gets older. Unfortunately, his last 15 games were not very good and that earned him a seat in the press box for the start of the playoffs. When he did get to play, Spezza did nothing to show Jacques Martin that he deserved a starting spot.

Shaun Van Allen

Regular Season Grade: C

Playoff Grade: N/A

Shaun Van Allen played his role as a 4th line center. His offensive production dropped off from the previous year, but he was a good role player.

Antoine Vermette

Regular Season Grade: C+

Playoff Grade: B

Antoine Vermette had a solid freshman year. He played well defensively and he raised his level of play in the playoffs. His offensive skills still need to improve before he becomes a regular.

Anton Volchenkov

Regular Season Grade: N/A

Playoff Grade: C

Volchenkov missed almost the entire year with injuries, and that was evident in the playoffs as he struggled to keep up. It was obvious that he was rusty after the long layoff.

Vaclav Varada

Regular Season Grade: C

Playoff Grade: B

Varada missed the majority of the year with a knee injury but returned as his pesky old self in the playoffs.

Patrick Lalime

Regular Season Grade: C

Playoff Grade: C+

Patrick Lalime had a very inconsistent regular season. In the playoffs he played well for the first six games, but unfortunately will be remembered for game 7. His status for next year is up in the air, but he will likely be back if no better option becomes available.

Martin Prusek

Regular Season Grade: B+

Playoff Grade: N/A

Prusek developed into a top notch back-up goalie this year, and will likely be given a shot to be the starter next year.

Changes To Be Made

While there will not be a complete overhaul, there will be some key roster moves in the offseason in the Senators’ organization.. Jacques Martin has already been let go and possible replacements include Larry Robinson, Joel Quenneville, Paul Maurice, Mike Keenan, John Paddock, Bob Francis and even Brent Sutter. Although Scotty Bowman has apparently taken his name out of the running, John Muckler has stated that he still plans on talking to the winningest coach in NHL history about the coaching vacancy. My money would go on Larry Robinson, as he is a local boy with a lot of Stanley Cup experience.

I believe the Senators main focus this offseason will be acquiring a top line center. With Radek Bonk likely being shipped out of town, John Muckler will be searching for a bonafied #1 center to take his place. No offense to Todd White, but he is a #2 at best. Ottawa will likely go after a large centerman that can stand in front of the net and score garbage goals. A prefect guy would be somebody like Keith Primeau. Money is apparently not an issue as Eugene Melnyk has stated that he will provide the funds if necessary.

A goalie change may also be discussed. Coming off a shaky regular season and horrible game 7, Patrick Lalime’s position as the starting goalie will be re-evaluated. While there may be no alternatives on the open market, there is speculation that if Ray Emery and Martin Prusek have impressive training camps, Patrick Lalime may be used in a trade and the two up and comers will lead the Senators. However, one thing is for certain, this will not be the same Senators team next year.

New Game Plan

John Muckler also stated that he wants Ottawa to play more of an attack oriented game. While he maintains that he likes solid defensive hockey, it is clear that the new coach will have a different approach and Ottawa may be playing a more exciting game in 2004-2005.

However, we must remember that all of this depends on the new CBA. The Senators will not be able to rebound if there is no hockey next year. But, let’s hope that we will be able to see a new look Senators team next spring. It should be fun.

The Coach.