Last year was the year of the Hamburglar in Ottawa, and what a bizarre story it was. Goaltending wasn't supposed to be an issue for this team last year, but injuries and inconsistency threatened to doom the team.
An unheralded goalie arrived from the AHL on Feb. 18. Andrew Hammond, who was 27 at the time, was very much a journeyman. His NHL career to that point had consisted of one game of mop-up duty a year earlier when his team was already down by six goals. That was it. His AHL numbers weren't out of this world, either. All he did was go a remarkable 20-1-2 in his first 23 NHL starts. That propelled his team from the depths of mediocrity to the seventh seed in the playoffs. Truly an incredible, totally unpredictable thing. Now Hammond has a better contract, but he will start the year backing up Craig Anderson. Can Hammond come even remotely close to recapturing that magic this year, or is he a flash in the pan? Can the team compete if it gets merely solid goaltending form the duo?
Ottawa Senators Offseason Moves
It wasn't a summer of dramatic action for several teams, and the Senators are definitely in that group. Mostly, they just shuffled a few complementary pieces around. Backup goalie Robin Lehner and center David Legwand are gone. No outside free agents of note joined. It's mostly the same team as last year.
One guy to keep an eye on is 25-year-old rookie defensive hopeful Chris Wideman. He was the AHL Defender of the Year last year, tallying 61 points after
adding 51 the previous year. He's undersized for the NHL, which has slowed his rise, but he has real game. You get the feeling the team really wants to see
him succeed, so he will be one to watch as he fights for a spot on third pairing out of training camp. Undersized is a theme this year, because rookie
forward Shane Prince isn't ideal size, either, but he had 65 points in the AHL last year and could prove useful offensively if he can break onto the big
club's roster this year.
Ottawa Senators NHL Outlook
I like how the offense is created here. There isn't one superstar who carries the load among the forwards - Bobby Ryan is paid like one but hasn't put up the numbers lately. Instead, the load is shared - five guys had 20 goals. They are like a hydra - you chop off one head and there are more to bite you. Add in the best offensive defenseman in the league in Erik Karlsson, and this team will be able to score. They won't set any records, but they will be in the top half of the league offensively. That is especially the case if a few of the young players who have impressed lately can continue to develop. Defensively they are pretty sound, too - again not world-class but tougher than many teams to play against. What it all comes down to, then, is the nets. Between Anderson and Hammond they have potential, but there is also a lot that could go wrong. How much you trust those two should have a direct bearing on how much you trust this team.
Ottawa Senators Schedule
Second and third games of the season, and on back to back nights no less, are at Toronto then home to Montreal, respectively. The two biggest rivals the team has in a row. That's a way to get the blood pumping. It's also a measuring stick - if they can't beat Toronto then they are potentially going to be in some trouble. I'll go one further - the team has four gimme games in their first eight, so if they aren't better than 4-4 over that stretch then it is time for concern.
Ottawa Senators NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
Oddsmakers are not buying into the Hammond hype. The Senators are +4000 to win the Stanley Cup, which puts them behind 21 other teams. They are the 10th choice to win the Eastern Conference at +1800 and the fifth choice in the Atlantic Division at +700.
2015-16 Ottawa Senators Predictions
This is pretty much the kind of team that the odds suggest they are. They are a squad that isn't good enough to contend with the elites. If they get some breaks and stay healthy, though, then they could easily grab a wild card spot and even potentially win a playoff round. The playoffs would be a major success, but falling short wouldn't be a disaster, either. There is still enough young talent on this team that they are building towards a slightly brighter future.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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