Thursday’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning marked the halfway point in the season of the Ottawa Senators. Expected to finish in the bottom 3, this spunky young team has used youthful exuberance and veteran bouncebacks to surprise many NHL watchers and are in the thick of the playoff race.
Here is my report card on all of the Senators players and the coach.
The grades I have issued to each player are not based on overall performance, but based on performance against expectations and the roles they play.
A. Have exceeded expectations
B. Have met expectations
C. Performance has been below expectations
D. They have been a bust
Daniel Alfredsson – The Captain has had a bounceback year, after undergoing surgery to repair a back/hip/leg injury that hampered him most of last season. The 39 year old scored his 400th goal in a Senators uniform and has two game winners in overtime. He has been the leader of a young team and has led from the front. A concussion that sidelined him for 5 games is the only black mark on his season so far. Has been clutch and the engine that drives the Senators
STATS: 35 GP, 13G, 18 A, 31PTS, +2 rating
Bobby Butler – The offense that the Senators expected when signing him to a 1 way contract in the off season has been absent. He has three goals on the year, and two of them have been game winners. Missed some time with injury.
STATS: 30 GP, 3G, 4A, 7 PTS, +3 rating
Erik Condra – Awarded with a one-way contrct in the off-season, Condra has been a solid addition to the checking lines this season. He has also been able to chip in with some unexpected offense at times and has been a good penalty killer. Leads all Senators skaters with a +10 rating.
STATS: 40 GP, 7G, 9A, 16 PTS, +10 rating
Stephane Da Costa – Had his chance to become the 2nd line centre, but in his 22 games with Ottawa, he had a hard time adjusting to the NHL game. Since he was sent to Binghamton, he has 15 points in 16 games, so perhaps when he gets a call-back he will have found some touch and confidence.
STATS: 22 GP, 3 G, 2A, 5 PTS, -9 rating
Kaspars Daugavins - Starting the season in Binghamton, Daugavins got the call to Ottawa when Niita Filatov and Peter Regin were both on the shelf. Daugavins forged himself a spot on the third line with Smith and Condra and the trio was a force. Daugavins hasn’t looked back since and although he is the only forward on the roster with a 2 way deal, injuries have given him a stay of execution (or at least demotion).
STATS: 32 GP, 3G, 4A, 7 PTS, -3 rating
Nick Foligno – The long awaited emergence of Folingo started to show itself when he was moved to his natural centre position following the injuries to Regin, and the demotion of Zibanejad and DaCosta. He had chemistry with Alfredsson, but now that he is back on the wing, must find a way to play with Turris.
STATS: 41 GP, 11 G, 12 A, 23 PTS, -2 rating
Colin Greening – After a healthy start that had some whispering “Calder” (at least around Ottawa), Greening has cooled down significantly. A player who is now bouncing around the lineup on a nightly basis, looking to re-define his role. On pace for about 37 points, which doesn’t quite live up to the first line role he is playing, even if he is slightly miscast in the role.
STATS: 41 GP, 8 G, 11 A, 18 PTS, -5 rating
Zenon Konopka – The hard-nosed centre is living up to expectations – scrap when needed and win the big faceoffs. He leads the NHL with 130 PIMs and his faceoff percentage is just under 60%. Has also chipped in offensively to the point that he should eclipse his rather modest career highs.
STATS: 34 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 PTS, -1 rating, 130 PIMS
Milan Michalek – At the 1/4 pole Michalek would have earned an A+, but an injury following a freak collision with teammate Erik Karlsson slowed down his torrid scoring pace. Has been stuck at 19 G since Dec 13th, and has one assist in the 4 games since his return.
STATS: 36 GP, 19 G, 7 A, 26 PTS, -5 rating
Chris Neil – With Konopka taking some of the pugilistic pressure off Neil, he has been able to focus on playing hockey more. He has worked hard but has also had difficulty finding his true role. Still a banger who won’t back down and is a presence in front of the net on the odd power play.
STATS: 32 GP, 5G, 7A, 12 PTS, -7 rating, 80 PIM
Zack Smith – The heir apparent to Chris Kelly‘s third line centre role, has exceeded expectations and has been my biggest surprise this season. On pace for 24 goals and over 40 points, numbers that exceed anything Kelly did and with a good second half could approach Mike Fisher levels. Adding in solid defensive ability and some ruggedness.
STATS: 41 GP,12 G, 9 A, 21 PTS, +5 rating
Jason Spezza – The often under-rated centre continues to just tease with what he could be. After dominating February and March last year, he has been streaky this season, combining periods of utter dominance with lengthy stretches of medirocty. Still, averaging a point per game and among the NHL scoring leaders. Being more consistent is the only think keeping him from the head of the class.
STATS: 41 GP, 15 G, 26 A, 41 PTS, -1 rating
Kyle Turris – After getting a late start to his season, Turris has played only 14 NHL games (8 with Ottawa) and finally got his first goal as a Senator against Tamp. He has upper level NHL skating ability and a great shot, but his play with the puck leaves something to be desired. It will be interesting to see how he plays once he gets up to full speed.
STATS (WITH OTTAWA): 8 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 PTS, +6 rating
Jesse Winchester – Winchester is what he is. A player who will be a 4th line checker, put up 10-15 points and be a force on the PK. Injuries have limited his time as has splitting the role with Konopka.
STATS: 28 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS, +3 rating
Matt Carkner – Finally got into the lineup in December after a knee injury kept him out of the first few months. Has one goal and one assist, but has a hard time staying in the lineup when all D-men are healthy.
STATS: 11 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, -1 rating,
Jared Cowen – The rookie cemented his spot in the lineup out of training camp and established himself as an emerging force while Gonchar and Kuba were out with injury. The 20 year old will have a long and stellar career in the NHL.
STATS: 41 GP, 4 G, 7 A, 11 PTS, +3 rating
Sergei Gonchar – A bounce-back season for the offensive defenseman. Left ofr dead after 2010-11, Gonchar has improved his offensive output and shored up his defensive game. A couple of injuries caused him to miss time, or his numbers would be much better.
STATS: 34 GP, 2 G, 20 A, 22 PTS, +2 rating
Erik Karlsson – A lot of Norris Trophy talk will follow Karlsson around for the remainder of the season. Currently leads all NHL defensemen in scoring and his defensive skills, although far from perfect, are adequate and improving by the day. He handles the puck so much that mistakes are inevitable and glaring, but also has the speed and ability to cover up for some if not all of his own errors.
STATS: 41 GP, 5 G, 32 A, 37 PTS, +1 rating
Filip Kuba – Like Gonchar and Phillips, Kuba had a terrible 2010-11 season. He has bounced back perhaps more than either of the other two. His steadying influence on partner Karlsson (especially 5-on-5) has allowed the youngster to move into the upper echelon of NHL defensemen. Kuba’s offense isn’t there, but his +8 (leading all Sens defensemen) is 180 degrees from last season.
STATS: 32 GP, 3G, 7A, 10 PTS, +8 rating
Brian Lee – Adequate as a fill-in and with the trade of David Rundblad continues in the 6-7 defenseman role. Getting into the lineup is the key for Lee, and he should play about 50 games this season.
STATS: 26 GP, 0 G, 5 A, 5 PTS, -6 rating
Chris Phillips – A strong first half as the veteran served as a mentor to his heir apparent, Cowen. Phillips has an even +/- rating, which is light years ahead of the struggles of last season. With 10 assists, he has also surpassed his output from last season’s “Year to Forget”
STATS: 39 GP, 0 G, 10 A, 10 PTS, 0 +/- rating
Craig Anderson – Trying to recover from a terrible start stats-wise. Anderson has been good on many nights, but has also been pulled 4 times this season. Not performing to the 2011 level on a consistent enough basis. That being said, he is singlehandedly responsible for probably half a dozen Senators wins already. He also leads all NHL goalies with 4 assists.
STATS: 36 GP (34 Starts), 19 W-12 L-3 OTL, 3.12 GAA, .901 SP
Alex Auld – Not expecting to see many starts is difficult. Auld has only one win in 6 starts, and was pulled twice. Has seen action in a total of 10 games.
STATS: 10 GP (6 Starts), 1 W- 3 L-2 OTL, 3.73 GAA, .875 SP
Paul MacLean – Credit to the new coach for changing the environment that was stagnant and bitter at the end of last season. Changes to the team may have helped, but MacLean brought a fresh start and has injected some personality into the club.
STATS: 21 W – 15 L – 5 OTL
What about you? What would you change about the grades if you were handing them out?
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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