We move back to the Great White North for our next team to focus on. The St. Louis Blues have lots of people in their organization with ties to Ottawa, but it hasn’t kept them from doing well in the city.
The Ottawa Senators took a big step back last season. Coming off of a playoff run in 2014-15, complete with the remarkable story of Andrew “Hamburglar” Hammond, they missed out on the second season in 2015-16.
Not only did the Senators miss the playoffs, but it was not even really close. Ottawa was 11 points out of the last wild card spot. They were also eight points away from the lowest ranked playoff team, the Detroit Red Wings.
Ottawa’s biggest problem was keeping the puck out of the net. They had five players score 20 goals or more, but they allowed 247 goals as a team.
That’s more than Toronto or Edmonton. Only the Calgary Flames allowed more goals out of any team in the NHL.
The fact that the Senators had so many guys chip in on offense was the only thing that saved them. Allowing so many goals was also a strange fact given that the Senators had Hammond and Craig Anderson, two decent goaltenders, in net.
Last season was what it was and Ottawa probably won’t end up much different this year. You never can tell though since there has been a change in leadership.
Gone is Paul MacLean. In is Guy Boucher. It’s an interesting choice.
The Ottawa Senators did next to nothing in the offseason. Doing nothing may have been a better choice.
Chris Kelly isn’t a bad player, but he has not done much lately. He has not scored double digit goals since 2011-12.
Kelly has not even had many assists of late. After that same 2011-12 season, he only had double digit assists once.
On the plus side, Kelly should be fresh. He only played in 11 games with the Boston Bruins in 2015-16.
Patrick Wiercioch was really the only player of note to depart Canada’s capital city. Like their additions, there isn’t much of a difference one way or the other.
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Wiercioch has only averaged 53 games played over the last three seasons. He was a steady presence on the ice, when given playing time. However, he never saw more than an average of 18 minutes.
Really the only reason his subtraction might be a detraction is because he is a defender. Ottawa’s defense was as leaky as a sieve. Now, they will be relying on further unproven players to replace him.
Both the additions and subtractions have been far from noteworthy.
If Ottawa makes the playoffs with their current squad, something very wrong happened. Either their entire team played beyond their normal level or much of the Eastern Conference played below theirs.
Ottawa simply has not made the kind of changes to go from an 85 point team to a playoff contender.
Boucher is not a bad coach. He hasn’t proven himself to be all that good either though.
His best record (46-25-11) was in his first season in Tampa Bay. He did get that team all the way to the conference finals, where they lost to eventual champion Boston. However, the Lightning got progressively worse each year after.
Senators fans are hoping the first part holds true this coming season and he can turn them back around. Coaches are often better in their second job than their first, but Boucher just doesn’t seem to be the immediate answer without more roster turnover.
Ottawa will likely be an entertaining team that puts goals on the board. If Anderson and company don’t keep more out, it will be another lost year.
For whatever reason, the Blues have not fared well against Ottawa in St. Louis. They have only won 40% of their games at home against the Senators.
St. Louis also has a losing record overall against the Sens. 14-15-2 is the marker.
Also for unknown reasons, the Blues play very well in Ottawa. Perhaps it is because some of their players are from surrounding areas and have family come in to support them.
Whatever the reason, it works. It has worked to a tune of 9-7 overall and not losing in Ottawa since 2014. Even before that, the last loss in the capital was 2009.
St. Louis will make it’s usual winter trek to Ottawa. Both games, actually, come after the holidays.
Ottawa travels to St. Louis first, on January 17. The return game is on Tuesday, February 7.
Ottawa is not a bad team, by any means. The Blues, if as good as we hope, should still expect to sweep both games.
You can never tell what happens in the winter portion of the season. Not claiming at least three points from those games would be disappointing though.