25 games through the shortened season and the Ottawa Senators are sitting at a cool 13 – 8 – 4. Good enough for 6th in the Eastern Conference. After last seasons improbable year for the Senators, this may not have been that unexpected, but after the loss of the 2012 Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson and the fourth best point producer last season, Jason Spezza, I don’t think anyone would have expected the Sens to be where they are now.
A lot of this teams success can be contributed to their core of Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Neil, Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips, but the young guns should not be forgotten. Swedish Sensations Mika Zibanejad and Jakub Silfverberg have tallied for a combined 9 goals and 15 points. Maybe not the stellar scoring abilities they can get, but they’re playing on a team that has their two best players sidelined with injury.
Because of the injuries the Sens have dropped from 4th highest scoring team in the 2011/2012 campaign, to 25th, currently sitting at 2.24 goals per game tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Luckily for the Ottawa Senators, the 3 headed monster of Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner have all played extremely well. Craig Anderson has been injured since February 23rd, but is still believed to be the front runner in for the Vezina with his 1.48 GAA and .952 Sv%, topping the league in both categories by sizable margins. Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner have been fighting for the backup spot on the Senators since February of last year, with Lehner starting in the AHL and Big Ben backing the big club. Robin Lehner was drafted by the Senators, appearing to be the goalie of the future for the org and trade rumors swirling around Bishops future with the club. It is clear that without these three goalies keeping the Sens in games night in and night out, the year would be a lot more bleak looking for the Senators.
Obviously you’re not going to win games just by having a great goalie – a Jack Adams esque coach certainly helps. Paul MacLean, or as he is affectionately called “The Paulrus”, or “The Stache”, was brought over the summer before the 2011/2012 season started after Cory Clouston was fired. He had been the assistant coach for Mike Babcock with the Anaheim Ducks, and left with Babcock to the Motor City. Coach Babcock (2007/08 Jack Adams winner) obviously taught MacLean a thing or two as MacLean was, himself, a Jack Adams finalist last year and is widely considered a front runner, along with Quenville from the 21-1-3 Blackhawks, for this years Jack Adams.
This years Ottawa Senators is one of the hardest working teams the NHL has seen in a long time, and can definitely contribute most of their success to a good coach and great goal tending.
Now, the moment I know you’ve been waiting for, my picks for the 2013 Mid-season Ottawa Senators Gladiator Awards!
Best Gladiator Defenseman
This award is for the best defenseman of the year, according to.. me! A poor mans Norris.
Marc Methot is not the point producer that Erik Karlsson is, but he’s the hardest working, and grittiest player anyone could ask for. His ability to make that well timed hip check (Click Here), or being the first man back after a Sergei Gonchar gaffe at the blueline to give the other team the puck, or going down on all fours to block a pass to the front of the net on the PK. Marc Methot always seemingly knows what to do, and that has earned him my award for top defenseman for the Senators so far this year.
Iron Man Gladiator
This award goes to the player who can take the biggest beating and still put his heart or soul into every shift.
Chris Phillips can get punched in the head, take a shot to the foot, or receive a couple slashes in front of the net; defending the goalie. He takes a beating on a nightly basis and always goes back out and does it again the next shift. In fact, he’s missed a total of 3 games in the last 6 seasons even while being one of the grittiest players on the team. This is the type of player Don Cherry loves, and for good reason.
This award is given to the leader of the team. Daniel Alfredsson is exempt from this award because, well, he’s the obvious pick.
Christ Neil is always the first player in the hallway before every game, and the last player out on the ice. You can find him in the hall, yelling obscenities, pounding fists with teammates and motivating. He’s the most vocal on the bench, and though it’s hard to tell who is the best leader, you can definitely get an idea of who the guys respect from watching Neiler on the bench. On the ice, he’ll stand up for his teammates after a dirty hit, and also fight to get the team going.
Athena was the goddess of intelligence and skill, warfare, battle strategy, handicrafts, and wisdom… Or hockey sense.
Eric Condra is where the play goes to die, Colin Greening is where it goes to flourish. This St. Johns Nerfoundland native has [arguably] the best hockey sense on the team. He always knows where to go, and where the play is headed. If his hockey sense wasn’t so damn good, we wouldn’t have the honor of seeing #14 hit the ice, but he has no touch whatsoever. This guy doesn’t have much skill, but where he lacks in skill, he makes up for in smarts. Nikita Filitov wishes he had half the sense Greening had, and Greening wishes he had half the skill Filly has.
Despite the disadvantages the Ottawa Senators have faced this season, they’re still kicking it. With Michalek having already came back last week, Anderson set to return in the next 7 days, and Jason Spezza hopefully set to come back within the next 3 weeks to a month, things are beginning to look up for the Ottawa Senators. This last half of the season will be an exciting one and whether or not the playoffs become a realization, I think that all Sens fans should be able to feel good about what their team has done so far this year.
The trade deadline is approaching and though it doesn’t look like things will be too busy for Bryan Murray and his staff, there are rumors that a certain #11 could be up for grabs. I’ll touch on that in my next post.