Tag: Mike Hoffman

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Senators and the ‘sophomore slump’


As exhilarating as it may be to nail that debut album, expectations only build for the follow-up.

Let’s take a look at key Ottawa Senators trying to avoid the sports version of one-hit wonder status.

Dave Cameron – Plenty of coaches burst onto the NHL scene only to hit a snag after that “new car smell” wears off. (Guy Boucher is sadly nodding.)

Cameron produced dramatic results after taking over in Ottawa, most notably finishing last season with a 23-4-4 run to make the playoffs. Cameron received a contract extension for his work – and his role in the turnaround cannot be denied – but now he’s being asked to make lightning strike twice.

Unless, of course, this group is for real.

Andrew Hammond – Naturally, it’s no coincidence that the Senators were red-hot at the same moment that “The Hamburglar” became a secret sauce sensation.

The 27-year-old made history and a ridiculous amount of stops, going 20-1-2 with a remarkable .941 save percentage. Hammond may be at the greatest risk of a huge dive in production, as nothing about his numbers at lower levels really predicted a breakthrough.

Actually, Craig Anderson being the probable No. 1 guy could go a long way in helping Hammond ease into life as a full-time NHL goalie.

Mark Stone – The sixth-rounder (178th overall in 2010) seemed to swap bodies with another player when 2014 turned to 2015.

In 34 contests from October through December, Stone managed 8 goals and 17 points. From January to the end of the regular season, he scored 18 goals and 47 points in 46 games.

One can expect the 23-year-old to cool off a bit, as his 16.6 shooting percentage should subside. The key question is “How much?”

Mike Hoffman – His production came more steadily than Stone’s, yet the 25-year-old’s in largely the same situation. Both saw big upswings in their numbers, each has a bit more than 100 regular season games under their belts, and they likely should enjoy space to grow under Cameron.

It’s reasonable to anticipate a moderate dip, although his more consistent production (and a more moderate 13.6 shooting percentage) imply that he could be pretty reliable.


Here’s the thing: all four Senators sophomores are vulnerable to a slump, especially in the eyes of those with sky-high expectations. On the flip side, those who give them a little room to breathe may find that the team made some lasting discoveries during that astounding run.

Ottawa Senators ’15-16 Outlook

Ottawa Senators v Vancouver Canucks
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What happens after the honeymoon period wears off?

The Ottawa Senators may be a great test run for such theories in 2015-16. After all, there was a stark difference between the team that left MacLean making sardonic jokes on his way out the door to the one that stormed its way into the postseason under Dave Cameron.

So, what happens when Cameron gets to hold a training camp with this roster? Also, what happens if their goaltending is merely average after Andrew Hammond’s stupendous, burger-earning run?

One interesting thing to consider: some credit Ottawa’s turnaround with Cameron as much as they did with “The Hamburglar.” The possession improvements from MacLean to Cameron were occasionally drastic, but the common theme is that younger players like Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone emerged while veterans faded into the background.

Perceptions change, but the personnel’s largely the same

There are exceptions (see: Robin Lehner’s exodus), yet the Senators are more or less the same team after a quiet summer. It’s interesting, then, that it’s still difficult to forecast this team’s future.

Hoffman, Stone and Mika Zibanejad saw big gains under Cameron. Kyle Turris proved that he can be a top center in the NHL. More will be expected from Bobby Ryan while Erik Karlsson is, well, Erik Karlsson.

The offense looks like a solid strength, but Ottawa’s roster faces plenty of questions. The defense sees a huge drop-off beyond their top pairing of Karlsson and Marc Methot while Hammond could easily generate a goalie controversy with probable starter Craig Anderson.

In other words, by defying expectations in 2014-15, Cameron and the Senators raised the bar awfully high for next season. Will they fall short of that mark?

Sens’ biggest question: Defensemen not named Karlsson

Jared Cowen, Robin Lehner
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Let’s face it: most teams would see a big drop-off between Erik Karlsson and the rest of their defensemen.

Even so, whether by choice or budgetary constraints, it seems like “same old, same old” for the Ottawa Senators’ blueline beyond their Swedish superstar.

(OK, that’s unfair to a very nice defenseman in Marc Methot, but the general outlook remains pretty shaky.)

Take a peek at their projected pairings, via the Ottawa Sun:

Methot – Karlsson
Patrick Wiercioch – Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki – Chris Phillips

Other options who might bump depth guys: Chris Wideman and Jared Cowen

That doesn’t exactly jump out as a group that will smother the opposition (or consistently, effectively move the puck out of the zone failing that), does it?

It’s not just a matter of looking iffy on paper, as the Senators range from middle-of-the-pack to the bottom 10 in various defensive stats. After all, we can only really speculate regarding just how much Andrew Hammond’s fast-food Cinderella streak truly covered up some own-zone blemishes in 2014-15.

Even if you make the case for the occasional piece beyond Karlsson and Methot, it’s tough to imagine an honest GM being happy staying pat with this group. The Senators seem like they’ll need to live with “Karlsson and everyone else” for another year, nonetheless.

With the emergence of Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman, Ottawa’s offense seems far more formidable, and Craig Anderson + Hammond make for an intriguing combo in net.

As brilliant as Karlsson is, you get the impression that this defense may force the Sens to outscore their problems.

Looking to make the leap: Matt Puempel

Toronto Maple Leafs v Ottawa Senators

Matt Puempel got a taste last year. Now he wants more.

Puempel, taken by Ottawa in the first round (24th overall) at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, made his big-league debut last season and looked as though he’d stick around — only to suffer a high ankle sprain after 13 games, and miss the rest of the season.

“I’m actually impressed with how strong and how good it feels,” Puempel told the Ottawa Sun in July, while attending his fifth (!!) prospect development camp. “It probably bugged me until the middle of May with all the workouts and the rehab. I’ve been working out on it. The recovery is different for everybody.

“With a high ankle sprain, the ligaments inside have to heal and I have no restrictions on it now.”

A former standout with OHL Peterborough, Puempel has shown well at the AHL level over the last couple of years. Prior to his call-up last season, he had 12 goals and 32 points in 51 games, and there is hope in Ottawa that he can transition to the NHL like other past scorers in Bingo, such as Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone, the rookie duo that carried the Sens at time last season.

It certainly seems like Ottawa’s brass thinks Puempel can produce at the NHL level.

In his brief cameo last season he skated on a line with Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan. But the way Puempel sees it, he needs to keep working, have a good camp, and make the Sens’ opening-night roster before thinking about potential linemates for this season.

“When you’re playing on a line with Mika and Bobby it’s a pretty cool thrill but at the same time it’s a job,” he explained. “You have to do your job and you can’t be wowed by anything out there.

“By that time I was more used to the lifestyle and the pace of the game and how I felt. I was confident for sure and felt good.”

Under Pressure: Bobby Ryan

Bobby Ryan

When you’re bringing home the biggest paychecks on your team, people are going to expect big results.

Most won’t demand team-best play from Bobby Ryan, as just about anyone realizes that the Ottawa Senators go as far as Erik Karlsson can take them.

That said, many are going to expect Ryan, 28, to score more than 18 goals now that his hefty contract is kicking in. Disappointing playoff results aren’t going to cut it, either.

His $7.25 million cap hit tops all Senators, and it’s a lengthy deal (the overall cost: seven years, $50.75 million). It’s a contract that could elicit some serious groans in little time, particularly if Ryan doesn’t find a way to be more than the 20-ish goal scorer we’ve seen lately.

Snipers have it tough in a lot of ways, as even the best hit cold streaks, sometimes based largely on bad luck. Even so, Ryan hasn’t exactly given himself a lot of leeway with fans who may otherwise hand him some benefit of the doubt:

It probably doesn’t help the American winger’s cause that the Senators employed cheaper players who produced similar results last season.

He only ranked sixth on the team in goals with those 18, as Mike Hoffman (27 goals, $2 million next season), Mark Stone (26 goals, $3.5M), Kyle Turris (24 goals, $3.5M), Karlsson (21 goals, $6.5M) and Mika Zibanejad (20 goals, $2.625M) all lit the lamp more often than Ryan.

As uncomfortable as that might be considering Ryan’s price tag, it could also stand as a “good problem to have” … at least if the Senators make the playoffs. (Although he’d probably be the first to admit that his 2015 postseason performance was underwhelming, too.)

If that isn’t the case, Ryan will be put under far more scrutiny, and people will again wonder about his ability to spell intensity. Ultimately, it all reads as a high-pressure situation for Ryan.