Dahlin Tracker: Ottawa Senators
Erik Karlsson is staying… for now. The Sens chose not to shop the franchise defenceman despite the captain coming out after the deadline and stating “he never asked to be traded” which came as a shock to the Sens community. On the other hand, Pierre Dorion’s comments after the deadline were about as positive as they could have been considering the circumstances when he stated “If Erik Karlsson is here on July 1st, he will be receiving a contract offer”. Now that all of this drama is behind us for the time being, it is time to look at how the Sens will fair in the lottery sweepstakes to have the highest percentage chance at attaining the first overall selection in this upcoming NHL draft.
Three Horse Race
Ottawa, Buffalo and Arizona are the three bottom feeders of the NHL and are poised to finish in the bottom three of the standings by season end. Ottawa currently is in 3rd last with 52 points and 20 games remaining, Buffalo resides in 2nd last with 51 points and 18 games remaining, while Arizona is at the bottom of the barrel with 46 points and 20 games remaining. Keeping this in mind, the Sens play Buffalo twice and Arizona once in the remaining 20 games which will be very important because in turn these games are 4 point games for the franchise. Although tanking is not condoned in any professional sports league, it is in the best interest for any team involved in a rebuild to get the highest probability of receiving the 1st overall pick. Consider the last 5 full seasons in the NHL where the point totals of the team finishing last in the league have been the following: 48 (Colorado), 69 (Toronto), 54 (Buffalo), 65 points (Columbus). Ottawa currently has a winning percentage of 33.87% on the season and if we apply this percentage for the rest of the season, Ottawa will only win 6-7 more games the rest of the way. Let’s now dive into the strength of schedule for each team.
Ottawa has 20 games remaining with 8 of them coming at home where they hold a much stronger record of 14-13-5, versus their abysmal 7-18-5 road record. One thing to note that in this 20 game stretch, the Sens have 6 instances of games on a back to back basis which might turn out to be a good thing for the Sens. The average record of their remaining opponents stands at 31-24-7 which bodes well for a team chasing the number one selection in the draft. Buffalo, Arizona, Edmonton and Detroit are the only teams that are not already in a playoff position or currently in playoff contention and this makes up 25% of the remaining schedule.
Buffalo is down to 18 games remaining this season but to the Sens benefit, 11 of them will be in Buffalo. Buffalo is riding high on their two game winning streak after beating Tampa Bay last night on the road where they play better, posting a 11-15-7 record versus the league’s worst home record of 9-18-4. Buffalo only has 3 games on back to back nights so the team should not have as much fatigue issues compared to Ottawa. The average record of Buffalo’s opponents down the stretch is 32-23-7 which is only one game better than the Sens and given their excess of games at home in respect to Ottawa, Buffalo can hopefully pull out 8-9 games this season with their current 48.44% chance in getting a point in a given game. Buffalo unfortunately plays non-playoff contending teams in 33% of their remaining games with games versus Ottawa, New York Rangers, Montreal, Arizona and Detroit.
The bottom of the bottom, Arizona has 20 games left and is desperate need of high level talent so let’s take a peek into the remainder of their season. 9 games come at home where the Yotes fair a better chance of winning with their 10-18-4 record as opposed to their 8-16-6 record. Similar to the Sabres, they only have 3 games in a back to back scenario which is another good thing for the Senators. Oddly enough despite being in the Western conference, Zona has the same strength of opponent of the Sens to finish the season with their opponents average record coming in at 31-24-7. Arizona faces non-playoff relevant teams in 6 of their final 20 games which works out to be 30% of their schedule down the line which is nor good or bad for the Sens.
What Needs to Happen
If Ottawa wants any shot at getting fellow Swede Rasmus Dahlin on their team, they will have to underperform to a new level which shouldn’t be too hard without a legitimate second line centre. Buffalo will have to gel better than ever after shedding the cancerous player that is Evander Kane while winning at home down the stretch. Arizona will have to finish 7 points better than the Sens in their final 20 games which means that they will have to play .500 hockey. Crazier things have happened and given Ottawa’s new look team which lacks offensive power, I wouldn’t say it is out of the question they finish the season on a 5-15-0 stretch. Buffalo has 11 out of 18 games at home and if they can get a point in 50% of their games while posting 6 wins, they can finish off on a 6-10-2 run which would move them up to 3rd last. Given the Sens only get 10 points the rest of the way, this means that the Yotes will need to get 17 points in 20 games which means a record of 8-10-2 which is not out of the question.
Rasmus Dahlin is the best defensive prospect in recent years who has been compared to both Nick Lidstrom and Erik Karlsson. At the end of the season it will be interesting to see who has the best chance at this Swedish sensation but at the end of the day, it will be determined in the same fashion as your grandma’s Tuesday bingo nights. Instead of shouting bingo, the Sens are in hopes they will be able to shout DAHLIN.