James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Which Craig Anderson will show up for Senators this season?

This is part of Ottawa Senators day at PHT …

Heading into last year, some worried that the Ottawa Senators would put too much stock in Andrew Hammond‘s stunning, likely unrepeatable run (which saved their 2014-15 season).

That didn’t happen. Instead, Craig Anderson regained his role as the clear No. 1 goalie; Hammond only appeared in four games during the first two months of 2015-16.

Such a decision took courage, yet it didn’t exactly yield fantastic results.

The Senators fell short of a playoff berth with Anderson starting 60 games, going 31-23-15 with a solid-but-unspectacular .916 save percentage.

As we’ve seen for the last few seasons, the Sens often live or die based on hot-or-cold goaltending. Anderson’s shown a remarkable trend of rotating average and strong seasons himself.

Starting with the 2010-11 season in which he was traded to Ottawa, he’s been remarkably “consistent” in that way.

2010-11 with Colorado: Lousy .897 save percentage
2010-11 with Ottawa: Fantastic .939 save percentage

2011-12: .914 save percentage
2012-13: .941 save percentage
2013-14: .911 save percentage
2014-15: .923 save percentage
2015-16: .916 save percentage

Based on that pattern, you’d expect a strong 2016-17, right?

At 35 with two seasons remaining on his current deal, Anderson has some incentive to get things together. It’s also plausible that Guy Boucher may install a system that brings out the best in the veteran netminder.

As much as Erik Karlsson is on another planet as a defenseman, there’s a strong possibility that Anderson’s performance will actually make or break Ottawa’s 2016-17 campaign.

It’s Ottawa Senators day at PHT


For the second time in three seasons, the Ottawa Senators failed to make the playoffs, and that prompted some painful changes.

Guy Boucher and his cool, mysterious scar will now reside behind the bench. GM duties shift from Bryan Murray to Pierre Dorion.

Looking at the roster and the team’s overall outlook, both Boucher and Dorion still have a lot of work to do to really turn the Senators around. As bumpy as the transition might be, the toughest times may very well be ahead.


The biggest move (outside of the front office changes) came when the Senators traded younger forward Mika Zibanejad and a second-rounder for Derick Brassard and a seventh-round pick.

Dorion insists that the decision wasn’t driven by money, and that Brassard is currently the better player. He’s putting it on the line with that move, along with giving up a pick to move up in the 2016 NHL Draft to get Logan Brown.

Expectations aren’t that different compared to last season, and the roster isn’t that different, but Boucher and Dorion have a chance to start putting their own stamps on the team.

Can the Senators make the best of a strange mix of great talent (Erik Karlsson), bloated contracts (Dion Phaneuf) and other pieces after stumbling more often than not? PHT will explore the questions surrounding this team on Saturday.

Senators don’t expect Ceci negotiations to drag into regular season


Re-signing RFA defenseman Cody Ceci counts as the glaring remaining task on the Ottawa Senators’ to-do list, but still-new GM Pierre Dorion isn’t worried.

(At least not publicly.)

Dorion believes that he can get something done with Ceci’s agent J.P. Barry, as TSN’s Ian Mendes reports.

“I think JP’s trying to test me as a first time GM, even though I’ve done quite bit of contracts before,” Dorion said jokingly. “I think he’ll be playing for us October 12th. I think within the next few weeks we’ll get something done.”

Dorion reiterates the earlier word that the Senators have discussed a variety of possible deals with Ceci, from shorter “bridge” deals to longer-term agreements.

There are multiple reasonable comparisons for the 22-year-old defenseman who set career-highs in goals (10) and points (26) last season.

The Hockey Writers’ Chris Crawford makes one of the better comparisons in Mathew Dumba, a fellow 2012 first-rounder who received a bridge deal (two years, $5.1 million) in late July.

However the Ceci deal works out, Dorion noted that he’d like to add a “capable” veteran blueliner to Ottawa’s mix.

… Making him like just about every other GM in the league, but still.

What might be next for Patrick Roy?


There has been plenty of speculation regarding where the Colorado Avalanche’s sudden coaching search might lead, and with good reason. They basically were thrown a ticking time bomb when Patrick Roy abruptly resigned.

What about the future for Roy himself, though?

We’ve already discussed how the NHL’s coaching ranks will be less entertaining without the fiery Hall of Fame goalie behind a bench … but maybe he won’t be out of work that long.

ESPN’s Scott Burnside posits as much, naming three potential destinations, in particular:

  • Quebec City, if they end up getting a team.
  • Las Vegas, noting that Roy carries some name value in a place where flash matters:

Or what about the new team in Las Vegas? That team could use a coach with experience and a big profile. Roy’s profile might be more valuable than his coaching acumen, but his potential presence with an expansion franchise can’t be ignored, at least if only for discussion purposes, by new Vegas GM George McPhee.

  • Montreal, for fairly obvious reasons (embattled Michel Therrien, Roy’s fame in the area, maybe unscientific views about how Roy would work with Carey Price …)

From a trouble-making blogger’s perspective, Roy’s return would be welcome. Just imagine the weird tension in the air when he returns to Colorado.

It might not be so much fun to watch for fans of a possible Roy team, though.

High risk for what reward?

For one thing, if he really does have a thirst for control, it makes him a tougher hire. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector ranks among those mentioning as much.

What GM would want a coach who demands a weighty say in all personnel issues? And what coach, considering the tepid success Roy has had at the NHL level, would want to divide his own attention that way?

Spector used the term “radioactive” in describing Roy, and how could a team totally ignore the way he burned bridges in Colorado?

Even if you think he has the makings of a great coach – hugely debatable, but this summer’s hockey trades exposes that there remain plenty of differing opinions about the sport – Roy left town at a really inopportune time.

You can ignore the notorious Montreal blowup. This flight is harder to justify; it wasn’t in the heat of battle and it comes when the Avalanche are at a hiring disadvantage.

What happens if the chips are down in Montreal, Las Vegas or even Quebec City? A team would likely wait for the other shoe to drop with Roy.

That’s some scintillating drama, as long as it doesn’t come to your team.

Martin Hanzal could face a fascinating contract year

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This is part of Arizona Coyotes day at PHT …

The window is open for the Arizona Coyotes to sign Martin Hanzal to a contract extension, but they might just let him play out his current deal instead.

New GM John Chayka explained the thought process to Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan (if their skimpy salary structure doesn’t stand as enough of an explanation in itself).

“If there was something that made sense, we would probably take a closer look at that because Marty’s been a good player for us,” Chayka said. “But maybe it’s not a bad thing to get into the season and see how things play out.”

Hanzal, 29, is carrying an affordable $3.1 million cap hit in 2016-17. If he goes through next season with an extension, his contract year situation would be awfully intriguing.

A contract year to watch

On one hand, Hanzal is the sort of guy a lot of teams would clamor for, especially ones that gravitate toward big, rugged centers.

He’s developed into a better point-generator in recent years, too, averaging at least .62 points per contest since 2013-14.

Unfortunately, it’s crucial to discuss such rates because he can’t seem to put a healthy season together.

Buyer beware

He played 64 games in 2015-16, 37 in 2014-15 and 65 in 2013-14. He managed 81 GP in 2009-10, but aside from that, he’s missed at least eight games every season. The Coyotes probably grimace and pencil him in for about 15-20 missed games per year at this point.

The thing is, Hanzal could luck out and play at or near 82 games, enjoying a career-high scoring season and rake in the money on the free agent market.

That’s the risk the Coyotes might be willing to take. Every other NHL GM would be wise to consider the red flags if he does indeed manage a big year at the perfect time.