Heading into the offseason, the Ottawa Senators have a lot of questions to ask themselves. It goes without saying that this team can’t be happy with the way they’ve played for the majority of the year. So, looking ahead to a new season, there are a handful of opportunities for them to makes changes so that the team that has the potential to bounce back in the 2016-17 season.
The questions regarding this potential change hit several spots on the map. From the top of management to some key roster players, along with issues behind the bench, Ottawa looks to have their hands full this summer.
Ottawa Senators’ On Ice Priorities
There is unquestionably one player whose future in Ottawa is currently in the most trouble, and that is Mike Hoffman.
Entering the season following a somewhat controversial settlement through arbitration, Hoffman proved many people wrong with an incredible start. After sitting amongst the top in the NHL in goals per 60, his early season fire has calmed down. Since the New Year, Hoffman has just 12 points.
But, that’s not where the focus lies. Heading into the offseason Hoffman is an RFA. There is plenty of speculation that after not being given the ice time many feels he deserves, Hoffman could be headed somewhere else. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman certainly seems to think so – as he alluded to the deepness of Hoffman’s NHL resume since last summer’s arbitration – in #9 of his “30 Thoughts” article.
Another name whose future as a Senator remains in question is Mika Zibanjead.
The 6th overall pick in 2011 had the expectations of developing into top six centre role but has dipped well below those set for him this year. Through 69 games Zibanejad has 41 points, but just 15 goals. His familiar powerful shot has been held relatively quiet while it seems his aggressiveness and speed have taken a significant hit from previous years. Rumours have started to brew in regards to a trade involving the 22-year-old in the coming offseason, who has one year remaining on his contract that will see him as an RFA following the 2017-18 season.
It will be interesting to see what Ottawa does with him after having displayed so much confidence in his development over past years. At the same time, Zibanejad could definitely provide some hefty trade value if the Senators’ are looking for a more dependable or experienced forward – as that continues to appear to be their direction of need.
Lastly – not that this comes as much of a surprise – don’t expect to see Patrick Wiercioch next year. It appears that the club has simply had enough with trying to give the 25-year-old a chance. After failing to move him at the deadline, you can easily expect that a move will be made in the offseason that will most likely see a pick coming back in return.
A Chance for Change in the System
Retirement has been on the horizon for Bryan Murray for quite some time. Although he won’t provide any answers to the media, no one would be surprised if Murray said goodbye to hockey at the end of this season. With that would come a new opportunity for the Senators’ to hire a new GM (most likely from within, Assistant General Manager Pierre Dorion is a prime candidate) and the chance to work on growing this team to give them the pieces they need to be successful in the following season.
Included in those needed pieces is a head coach. Dave Cameron’s popularity following a shocking run to the postseason in the 2014-15 has been on a swift decline. His actions have been questioned and compared to those made by Paul MacLean, especially in terms of his treatment with players like Hoffman and Mark Borowiecki. It is easy to like a head coach when a team goes on a miracle run, but sooner or later you find out what they’re really like.
Dave Cameron has consistently sent a clear message all season long: I'm in over my head.
— Graeme Nichols (@6thSens) March 6, 2016
Lately, Cameron has seemed to be at his wit’s end, referring to his team’s attitude as “stubborn” following a 6-2 blowout loss to the Florida Panthers.
The only reason you need in order to explain firing Dave Cameron is that there are too many reasons to fire Dave Cameron.
— Callum Fraser (@CallumFraser18) March 6, 2016
After a year like this one, there is nothing wrong with starting over. Maybe the best thing for the Senators’ would be to do just that. They have the pieces to be a top team, it just comes down to execution.
No matter the outcome, Ottawa’s offseason certainly looks to be full of questions.
Can’t get enough hockey? Want to talk about it with our writers, and fellow fans? Join The Hockey Writers Group on Facebook today for the best hockey conversations on the web!