The Boston Bruins were not the only team in the Atlantic Division that underwent changes over the summer. In fact, many of the Bruins rivals made moves to try and catch the defending Eastern Conference champions. Chief among those teams was the Ottawa Senators, who have the most ground to make up. It was a busy summer in Canada’s capitol, with a number of new players and a new coach entering the fold.
How do the Senators look now? Will they be improved in 2019-20?
Head Coach DJ Smith: Hired from Toronto, Smith comes to the Senators trying to develop a strong prospect group while improving on the defensive issues that plagued them last season. He’ll have his work cut out for him, but Smith did well with young players in Toronto. This is a tough job for a first time NHL head coach.
D Ron Hainsey: Hainsey is in Ottawa for his ability in the locker room as much as on the ice. He’ll be part of the leadership core and should handle a top-four spot on defense. He could ride shotgun with Thomas Chabot.
D Nikita Zaitsev: After three up-and-down seasons in Toronto, Zaitsev joins the Senators to handle a top-four role. Expect him to be used in more offensive situations and on the powerplay. He’s a strong rebound candidate.
C Artem Anisimov: Anisimov should settle in as a complementary center with some of Ottawa’s young skill. He’s talented enough to fill a role on the second line and improve the forward depth.
RW Connor Brown and F Tyler Ennis: Both coming from Toronto, expect Ennis to be a leader in Ottawa. Both players should help with secondary goal scoring and on the powerplay, but they won’t move the needle too much.
F Magnus Paajarvi: Paajarvi is a strong penalty killer and chipped in double-digit goals a season ago. He remains a free agent.
C Zack Smith: Sent to Chicago for Anisimov, Smith was a veteran leader who could kill penalties, win draws and chip in the occasional goal. He’ll be missed, but the Senators won this trade.
F Oscar Lindberg: Underrated depth forward headed to Switzerland late last month.
The Senators will be much better than a season ago, and they’ll catch teams off guard. It won’t be nearly enough to make the playoffs, however.
Thomas Chabot is a true star, while Brady Tkachuk exceeded all expectations in his rookie season. Other building blocks that will impact this season include forwards Drake Batherson, Colin White and Chris Tierney. Defenders Erik Brannstrom and Christian Wolanin provide excitement for the future as well.
The Senators also have a better veteran crew around their youngsters with Brown, Ennis, Zaitsev, Hainsey, and Anisimov joining the likes of Craig Anderson, Anders Nilsson and Bobby Ryan. Don’t forget a healthy J-G Pageau, who will greatly improve Ottawa’s depth.
They’ll be better and compete most nights, but they are still quite far off.
Final Point Prediction: 74