No one seems to agree where the Ottawa Senators will finish this season. Bryan Murray has said he believes they are playoff team. Meanwhile, many people I follow on Twitter are preparing for (and expecting) the worst. I’ve seen people wanting to trade Ryan asap just to help bomb for Connor McDavid, as well as people who believe the Sens will be in the 5-10 overall pick range.
I see the team finishing slightly ahead of where they finished last year. I feel like this team is similar to their 2011-12 selves, and even their 2012-13 selves to an extent. They’re back to being the underdogs. In 2011-12, the team had finished in 25th place, and looked like they would be finishing in a similar position after having traded most of their veterans. That team surprised everyone, not only making the playoffs, but forcing the first place New York Rangers to a seventh game. The following year, the team had expectations, until everyone got injured. Jason Spezza was injured just five games into the shortened season, followed by injuries to Milan Michalek, Erik Karlsson, Craig Anderson, and Guillaume Latendresse just to name a few roster players (Jared Cowen missed nearly the entire season as well, but I’m not sure how much difference that would have made). Once the fans realized they were dealing with a team whose roster was half AHL players, they didn’t put a whole lot of pressure on the team. The team not only made the playoffs while missing their top players for most of the season, but they beat the Montreal Canadiens in five games. It was their first playoff series win since 2007.
During the summer of 2013, the team made what everyone could only consider a roster upgrade, bringing in Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur. Not only did the they look better on paper than the team that made it to the conference semi-finals, but they were (for the most part) healthy throughout the season. And what happened? They missed the playoffs by five points. Granted, Ryan missed the end of the season, and had been playing injured since November, but compared to the previous season, it was a whole lot better.
Now, they’re back to being the underdogs. In the last four seasons, they’ve made the playoffs twice, and they weren’t even in the playoff conversation at the beginning of either of those seasons. While it may seem optimistic, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this team make the playoffs.
That means I see the team having a draft pick somewhere in the 15-20 range, nowhere near McDavid. But who was picked in that range in the past few years? Karlsson and Cody Ceci were both 15th overall selections, and Curtis Lazar was picked 17th. While it isn’t too common to find players of that caliber or potential in that section of the draft, it isn’t necessarily a bad spot.
What would you do? Would you dump as many players as possible to bomb for McDavid? Or try to make the playoffs?