It’s great to be a fan of the Ottawa Senators right now, but the only people who don’t seem to realize that are Ottawa Senators fans.
After a busy offseason where the Senators promoted Pierre Dorion to general manager and named Guy Boucher the 11th head coach in team history, Ottawa has stormed out of the gate in 2016-17. The Sens own a 20-13-4 record and 44 points, putting them ten points behind Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Things are even looking up on the business side of the franchise, with Senators ownership close to finalizing plans for building a massive new arena complex at the LeBreton Flats in downtown Ottawa.
But despite all the reasons to love their team, Senators fans haven’t been buying in where it counts. The club is averaging less than 15,400 fans a game at the Canadian Tire Centre, leaving them 23rd in the NHL in attendance and dead last among the league’s seven Canadian teams. Ottawa hasn’t seen crowds this small since the 1996-97 season, when Alexei Yashin led the Sens in scoring and made the playoffs for the first time in team history.
There’s quite simply no reason not to go see the Senators these days. Captain Erik Karlsson is once again leading by example with 32 points as the club’s top scorer, while having yet another Norris Trophy worthy season on the blueline. Mark Stone leads all Ottawa forwards in points with 28, but the team’s overall offensive depth is one of the Sens best kept secrets. Ten players have already hit the 10 point plateau this season, including scoresheet regulars like Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman and Bobby Ryan.
That’s not to say some of the newer Senators haven’t been chipping in. Defenseman Dion Phaneuf has been doing quite well during his first full season in Ottawa, after being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs in February. With Karlsson assuming the biggest workload, Phaneuf has been able play his own game pressure free, and it’s translated into 15 points on the second defensive pairing. This, of course, is a breath of fresh air from his days as captain of the Leafs, where every mistake and loss is magnified by the fans and local media on a daily basis.
Forward Derick Brassard joined the Sens in the summer, after a hugely unpopular trade with the New York Rangers which saw budding star Mika Zibanejad move to the Big Apple. But Brassard has been converting the skeptics in his new role as the Sens third line centre, picking up 17 points on a line with Curtis Lazar and Zack Smith.
Even with Anderson taking a leave of absence to be with his wife, Ottawa’s goaltending has managed to hold down the fort. Mike Condon was picked up off waivers from Pittsburgh in October, and has responded with a 8-5-3 record and a healthy .916 save percentage. Andrew Hammond hasn’t had as much success in his three starts, but will get plenty of opportunities to improve his .855 save percentage in the coming weeks.
So if you’re a local Sens fan who’s yet to make the 45 minute trek out to Kanata, now is a great time to catch a game. Ottawa has cheap tickets, an exciting lineup and a great future; all that’s left is to get people in the seats.