A 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders Wednesday effectively ended the season for the Ottawa Senators. So much for last year’s Cinderella team.
Technically, the Sens are still alive – Sports Club Stats has them at about one percentage point – but Ottawa would have to win its remaining six games and get some favorable scores around the league in order to pass four teams in the Eastern Conference standings.
How did it all go wrong for a young team that looked so promising a year ago? Well, injuries to key personnel didn’t help. Not having Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan for key games hurt. But every team has injury issues to some degree.
Overall, goaltending and special teams let the Senators down. Although Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson have been solid lately, they’ve been inconsistent all season. Ottawa allowed more than one goal per game this season compared to 2012-13. And even though the Sens scored a half-goal more this season, the math didn’t work out over the long haul.
Just because the Buffalo Sabres are virtually assured of finishing last overall doesn’t mean they are heavy favorites to win the draft lottery and select first overall in June.
The Sabres have just a 25 percent chance of winning the draft lottery and getting first pick. Their most likely outcome for Buffalo is to select second overall. That would happen if any of the other 13 non-playoff teams won the draft lottery and moved up to first pick.
The NHL altered the draft lottery odds last year allowing all 14 teams a chance at winning first pick. In previous seasons, only five teams had a chance at first pick, meaning the team finishing 30th had a 48.2 percent chance of gaining first pick, either by winning the lottery or having teams sixth worst to 14th worst win the lottery.
Buffalo’s magic number to finish 30th is two. Any combination of two Buffalo losses or Edmonton wins in the remaining eight games secures last overall for the Sabres.
The lottery will take place in the first couple of days after the regular season ends April 13. The 2014 draft is June 27-28 in Philadelphia. There’s a group of four prospects at the head of the class this year. They are Barrie defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Kootenay center Sam Reinhart, Kingston left winger Sam Bennett and Prince Albert center Leon Draisaitl.
Regardless of where New Jersey finishes, its first round pick will slip to the 30th spot as part of the penalty for the team trying to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a contract that circumvented the salary cap. The Ottawa pick belongs to Anaheim as part of the Bobby Ryan trade last year.
The following chart lists each team’s chances for winning first pick and most likely outcome in the lottery, as of today’s standings. We’ll update this again as the season comes to an end.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN
Many coined Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick as the “Big 3” when it comes to goaltending last summer. After all, in fantasy hockey the goaltender is the most difficult position to project, so it’s good to know there are at least three you can rely on every year to post good numbers. Do everything you can to acquire one of those three, because then you won’t have to worry about that roster spot.
Or so the theory goes.
That theory sure went out the window quickly. Rinne and Quick missed almost the entire first half, while Lundqvist probably wishes he did. This is one season in recent memory where depth goaltenders and quick thinking on the waiver wire with backup netminders saved the season for many poolies.
Let’s take a look at the biggest questions fantasy owners have about that area between the pipes for 2014-15.
Entering this season, Ottawa was considered a lock to make the playoffs. Many experts were won over by the Senators overcoming significant obstacles (including injuries to several key players) to clinch a post-season berth and upset the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round last season. Some went so far as to project them as Cup champions this year.
Now, however, the Senators playoff dreams are fading: they are eight points out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference with only 10 games left. Pundits and bloggers are not only trying to determine the reasons behind the Senators struggles, but how it will impact the futures of several of their stars.
opping the list is captain Jason Spezza, who becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. Spezza, who turns 31 in June, carries a no-trade clause in a contract paying him $4 million next season but worth an annual cap hit of $7 million. The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren notes the Anaheim Ducks had interest in the Senators captain prior to the trade deadline. Warren wonders if Spezza is growing weary over being blamed for his team’s woes. Read more
Ales Hemsky probably deferred too much to his linemates as an Edmonton Oiler, but the new Ottawa gun took it strong to the net against Tampa Bay last night and the result was magical.
Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler is expected to be a trade candidate this summer, but his recent knee injury could affect his value. Kesler sprained his right knee last Wednesday following a collision with Winnipeg Jets’ forward Jim Slater. Canucks coach John Tortorella expects Kesler will be sidelined “at least a couple of weeks.”
The Globe & Mail’s David Ebner suggests Kesler’s injury could be a big blow for the Canucks’ hopes of getting a significant return. Kesler has also undergone hip and shoulder surgeries, as well as missing 19 games last season with a broken right foot.
Kesler, one NHL’s best two-way centers, plays with a rugged style. That style, however, is exacting a physical toll. Ebner believes if teams weren’t willing to give up a lot for a healthy Kesler at the trade deadline, they’ll be less inclined to do so at the draft. By that point Kesler will also be two months shy of his 30th birthday.
CBC’s Elliotte Friedman claims Kesler was believed willing to waive his no-trade clause for the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. Of those, only the Ducks and Penguins were in the bidding.
The Montreal Canadiens took the term comeback kids and brought it to a new level tonight with an astonishing 5-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators in overtime.
Down 4-1 in the third period, the Habs scored three goals in less than four minutes to tie their opponents, including the game-tying goal with less than a second remaining on the clock.
Buffalo Sabres rookie GM Tim Murray was very busy in the days leading up to the March 5 trade deadline. His biggest move was shipping goaltender Ryan Miller and winger Steve Ott to St. Louis for a return that included goalie Jaroslav Halak and right winger Chris Stewart.
Other moves included dealing left winger Matt Moulson and center Cody McCormick to the Minnesota Wild for center Torrey Mitchell and draft picks, plus flipping Halak to the Washington Capitals for netminder Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla. And Murray intends to continue pursuing deals in the off-season.
“I’m not done,” Murray told The Buffalo News’ John Vogl following the deadline. “There’s a lot of building to do.”