The Ottawa Senators are in an enviable position. At least that's how I view their situation at this point in the season. Listening to some of the radio stations in the city, I hear fans and on-air personalities saying that they hope the Sens can turn it around this year. No, no, no, a nice winning streak is one of the WORST things that could happen to the team right now. I would call that "pulling a Toronto"; being out of contention most of the year and then winning just enough games to finish ninth or tenth in the Conference. That only provides false hope and gives the team the worst possible draft position without the reward of playoff games/experience.
No, Ottawa NEEDS to finish in the bottom three, giving them a lottery pick and a great opportunity to add another excellent prospect to their growing stable of young prospects.
Currently, Ottawa sits 29th overall and only one team (New Jersey) has scored less goals per game. The Sens have also had trouble keeping the puck out of their net, sitting tied for 26th in goals-against-average.
The team has dealt Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Jarkko Ruutu and Brian Elliott. They may very well deal Chris Phillips and Chris Neil. This year needs to be a write-off in order for there to be hope for the future.
The Senators are 2-0 since acquiring 29-year-old goaltender Craig Anderson. It was quite the debut by Anderson, recording a 47 save shootout shutout and after two games in his new threads, Anderson sports a perfect 2-0 record, a gaudy 0.986 save percentage and an absolutely filthy 0.48 goals-against-average.
If the pending unrestricted free agent signs with Ottawa, they will have their undisputed number one they have been seeking for several seasons. It would allow Robin Lehner time to properly develop and permit the team to walk away from the talented, but fragile Pascal Leclaire, who is also UFA after this season.
There has to be some reservations with Anderson as he had recently been placed on the Injured Reserve list by Colorado and missed two games for "personal reasons". By his play since coming over in the trade, I'd say he's put those troubles behind him. Only time will tell if it stays that way.
Last season, Anderson was a workhorse, starting 71 games (fifth most) while posting a 38-25-7 record. His 38 victories were the seventh most in the NHL, more than Henrik Lundqvist and Miikka Kiprusoff, while his 0.917 save percentage was 11th best. Not bad considering no other goaltender faced more shots (2233) or made more saves (2047). His seven shutouts were third best in the league.
Kudos to Sens General Manager Bryan Murray for going out and getting what could be the answer to their goaltending woes. a legit number one. Sure those "personal reasons" may be cause for concern, but if he can provide stability in the crease and he has left his troubles back in Colorado, then it will be well worth the risk.
The Butler Is Doing It
Over his most recent 10 NHL games (he's only played 14), Bobby Butler has logged the vast majority (over 70 per cent) of his shifts beside Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. The Butler has responded with seven points in his last five games.
So who exactly is Bobby Butler you ask? He was playing college hockey last year for New Hampshire, where he scored 53 points in 39 games while being named Hockey East's Player of the Year. He went undrafted and signed last March with the Senators, so chalk up another nice signing by Bryan Murray.
Before his call-up this season, Butler had registered a team leading 22 goals in 47 games with Binghamton. With only 38-year-old Daniel Alfredsson and 37-year-old hired gun Alexei Kovalev ahead of him on the depth chart at right wing, pending restricted free agent Butler has a real shot to make some hay next year, assuming he re-ups with Ottawa.
Next week's article will provide the yang to my Western Conference counterpart's yin and discuss the fantasy fallout from all the recent trades.