The Ottawa Senators have struggled in 2023-24 in many defensive stats. Here we are focusing on the forwards defensively. Perhaps the return of centre Shane Pinto can’t come soon enough, even though the prospects of playoffs are slim. One aspect worth noting is that perhaps it has to do with the distribution of ice time. Moreover, Ridly Greig is an example where that is true. Greig has performed well and it would benefit the Senators forward as a whole with him in a higher-impact role. Another difficulty the Senators have is their centres winning faceoffs, like Tim Stutzle. As a result, wingers like Brady Tkachuk or Claude Giroux end up taking a lot of draws. Due to their importance, they tend to be in the defensive zone as well. With all this in mind, let’s take an overview of the Senators forwards defensively as a unit.
Who Are the Ottawa Senators Forwards Impacted by Defensive Stats?
Sticking with that theme, let’s take a look at % of shift starts in the defensive zone. Ideally, this is where you want your Selke Award winner. Therefore, it is not hard to tell the Senators lack in this department. Claude Giroux leads the team at 12.6%, which ranks him 112th in the NHL amongst forwards with a filter of 245 minutes plus. As a comparison, the leaders in the league are up over 20% with some close to 30%. If we focus on the Senators roster, their top three players include Joshua Norris and Brady Tkachuk. The problem here is that all three are expected to be our offensive contributors. Now, not to say great two-way forwards can’t do it both, but still, that is consuming on the offensive pot as a whole.
If that idea of where the players are starting isn’t convincing enough, let’s look at expected goal analytics. We will start with a metric for offensive efficiency. If the players, especially the offensive relied-upon ones, aren’t starting in the offensive zone, they will need to be highly efficient to compensate. Hence, the statistic to analyze is Goals Above Expected.
Comparing the Ottawa Senators With the Rest of the NHL in Defensive Stats
Artemi Panarin, a potential Hart candidate for 2023-24, leads the entire NHL at 8.7. The top Senator is Drake Batherson, who is impressively at 11th league-wide at 5.7. In contrast, there is a bit of a fall-off, but at 34th is Giroux at 3.6. For example, three Maple Leaf forwards are above Giroux including Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. That’s a high level of very efficient production. Also, the top offensive guns on the Senators are not performing well based on this metric. Brady Tkachuk is down at 1.1 and Tim Stutzle checks in at -2.7.
Now that was more so focused on offensive efficiency, but again, it is painting a picture. Next, we can explore how are these players performing offensively relative to defensive specifically. For this purpose, we will explore on-ice expected goals %, as well as expected goals against per 60 minutes. First of all, for on-ice expected goals %, this is a Connor McDavid-fueled stat. As a result, the league leader is Zach Hyman at 65.8 % (McDavid is third at 63.7%). You are probably thinking, well McDavid isn’t a defensive forward. But in the case, of the best defence being a good offence, there’s no one better at offensive generation than number 97. Furthermore, you will find more defensive-minded forwards among the leaders such as Aleksander Barkov or Jordan Staal.
Too Many Ottawa Senators Forwards With Poor Defensive Stats
Where do the Senators fall? Well the up-and-comer centre, Ridly Greig leads the squad. He falls in 80th across the entire NHL. His team-leading 54.5% is commendable, but that league-wide rank for individuals in their forward group isn’t performing up to snuff. In fact, only Tkachuk and Giroux find themselves above the standard 50%. A player like Dominik Kubalik, supposed to be a reliable third liner, with offensive upside, at 41.6% tells the story of why the Senators are where they are in the standings.
One further statistic to investigate is the on-ice expected goals against per 60 minutes. The Senators leaders do seem respectable with Mathieu Joseph (2.18) and Rourke Chartier (2.24). However, do these examples have an impact on the game the Senators need? Case in point, the problem is how the top players do in this stat. The Senators bottom three are Vladimir Tarasenko (3.29), Norris (3.21), and Tkachuk (3.01).
What Does It All Mean for the Senators?
The pieces are there for the Senators, but something is lacking at the same time. The thought of adding a professional forward seems like they need a middle-six type guy, who has a strong two-way game. In addition, Greig seems like he is ready for a bigger role. Anything to alleviate the defensive pressure placed on guys like Tkachuk or Stutzle. Let your stars fly, and it seems right now, that is one of the many problems with the Ottawa Senators.
Note: all metrics provided care of moneypuck.com
Main photo: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports