The Ottawa Senators have begun the 2016-2017 regular season with a respectable 8-5-0 start and are currently sitting second in the Atlantic Division after 13 games. The team has been fairly satisfied with their play so far this season, and with good reason. Although there is still plenty of hockey to play, the team has showed some encouraging signs of improvement under new head coach Guy Boucher.
The main thing that the new coaching staff promised to bring to the team was a better commitment to defence. During the past seasons under previous systems, the team’s goals against statistic has fluctuated, going from 2.94 goals against per game to 2.54 and 3.15 over the last three full seasons.
The main point of concern after the release of previous head coach Dave Cameron was that there was a lack of proper organization on the defensive side of the puck. The most glaring statistic was the number of shots they were allowing per game, ranking dead last with 32.8 shots against per game.
Since the 2010-2011 season, the Senators were one of the worst in the league in that category, allowing more than 30 shots on average per game. They would survive some seasons either due to excellent goaltending or a reliable offence that allowed them to win game with high scores.
This year, it is evident that the team has been improving. Guy Boucher has made an impact early and the players have bought into the system nicely. They currently sit near the middle of the pack with 29.9 shots against per game. Unfortunately, it seems that the improved defence has come with a price.
But Feeling Offended
Before Wednesday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Senators ranked last in the league in offensive zone time. Put that stat along with the fact that they also ranked last in the Corsi statistic, which also helps determine team possession, and there is cause for worry for the Senators’ offensive production.
For a team that during the past few seasons was among the top offensive teams in the league, ranking 25th in goals per game now puts them in unfamiliar territory. Scoring goals has been the team’s identity in recent years and such a huge paradigm shift could put the Sens in a difficult spot once the games become tougher.
Need More from the Top
They are also looking for some of their key players to step up. Ryan Dzingel has been a pleasant surprise so far, scoring five goals in 13 game and leading the forwards in scoring. After him, Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson, however, offensive production has been disappointing.
When Derrick Brassard came to the Senators, there was optimism that he would be able to fit nicely with Bobby Ryan and help him rekindle the offence that he had while with the Anaheim Ducks. In addition to Mark Stone, these three will need to provide more offence, because the team is lacking offensive depth beyond their first line.
We can’t say that it has been for a lack of trying that Ryan and Brassard are not producing as much as hoped. They are among the team’s leaders in shots for and are both producing positive Corsi results. If they can turn their chances into results, they team will be able to reestablish their offence and be one of the better teams in the division.
Yes, team defence has been steadily improving so far this season. However, they will need to be able to find their offence in order to keep up with other teams for the rest of the season.