Andrew Hammond may be a great story, and he definitely has a great nickname. But the Ottawa Senators’ playoff push is about way more than a goalie coming out of nowhere to salvage a once-lost season.
As the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle writes, the Sens’ comeback is just as much a story of a new coach, Dave Cameron, “turning over ice time and responsibility to younger, skilled players and watching them flourish”:
At this point, with Chris Neil, Chris Phillips and Clarke MacArthur out of the lineup, the Sens have by far the youngest team pushing for a playoff spot (average age 25.9).
The biggest beneficiaries of the coaching change back in December, meanwhile, have been Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Mika Zibanejad, Curtis Lazar, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Patrick Wiercioch – all of whom fall in the 25-and-under category. And Phillips and David Legwand, the Senators’ two greybeards, are down the most in ice time.
And let’s not forget that Kyle Turris, the NHL’s second star of the week, is only 25 himself, while star defenseman Erik Karlsson is still just 24.
The Sens have in some ways been forced to go with a younger lineup. They’re not a big-budget franchise that’s been in the running for all the top free agents, which is actually something they’ve tried to spin in their favor. (Owner Eugene Melnyk famously said back in 2012 that “any idiot” could spend to the cap.)
Melnyk has promised that the Sens’ payroll will “skyrocket” once all the club’s young players get new contracts. We’ll see to what degree. In the meantime, all that youthful energy and enthusiasm is providing great bang for the buck.
Sens’ drafting and developing, beyond the first round
Wiercioch (42nd overall in 2008)
Hoffman (130th overall in 2009)
Stone (178th overall in 2010)
Pageau (96th overall in 2011)