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Going into every season, there are always a million different ways things can go for a team, even if they are projected to be terrible. It’s almost a guarantee that the Senators will miss the playoffs, but there are still a lot of ways that can occur. I wanted to go over what the best-case scenario season would look like for Ottawa today, then tomorrow look at the worst-case scenario. Obviously, the best-case scenario is for them to win the Cup, but I’m going to keep it within the realm of possibility.
It’s extremely unlikely that all of these things would happen, but one can dream on the 99th percentile best-case season:
Up front, it consists of a few new faces making their way onto the scene. Drake Batherson becomes a Calder candidate with 65+ points after his stellar AHL rookie campaign, making him a much-needed replacement for Mark Stone on the right side. Along with him, Logan Brown quickly plays his way into the top-six and ends up getting minutes with AHL linemate Batherson and puts up 55-60 points as the Senators new first-line centre.
Brady Tkachuk refuses to go into a sophomore slump and buries more of the plethora of opportunities he gets in front of the net. He ends up scoring 60 points and is a perfect fit with fellow youngsters Brown and Batherson on the first line. On the second line, Colin White is ready for the challenge to take the next step, and he scores 50 points while getting more comfortable during life without Stone. Anthony Duclair keeps up his hot stretch in Ottawa and scores 25 goals for the first time in his career, which makes the Ryan Dzingel trade look even better. Bobby Ryan stays on the second line and is still respectable with around 40 points.
Jonathan Davidsson becomes a DJ Smith favourite in the bottom-six and makes their forward depth much better by being a mainstay on the third line along with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and others.
On defense, Thomas Chabot tightens up his defensive play but still scores 60+ points at the same time, easily making him a top-10 defenseman in the game. On the second pairing, Christian Wolanin gains the trust of Smith, and he is able to stabilize the usually subpar play of Nikita Zaitsev. With the progression of Wolanin’s game, the Senators top-four defense becomes quite respectable. Injuries to some defensemen opens up a spot for Erik Brannstrom on the third pairing early on, and he plays so well that Ottawa can’t possibly send him back down. By Christmas time, Ottawa’s left side on defense features Chabot, Wolanin, and Brannstrom.
Ron Hainsey adds some value to the team with his leadership skills, but he is in and out of the lineup due to healthy scratches and injuries, and he ends up getting dealt before the trade deadline because of Brannstrom forcing his way onto the roster. Christian Jaros improves his play on the third pairing after being paired with Brannstrom, and he turns into a piece who the Senators can now fully trust.
In goal, Craig Anderson misses lots of time due to injury, and in his absence, Anders Nilsson plays around 40 games and puts up a .915 SV% as a semi-starter. Marcus Hogberg also gets his fair share with around 20 games in the NHL and he is around league average. With those performances, Ottawa’s goaltending ends up being about average. Due to Hogberg being in Ottawa most of the season, Filip Gustavsson and Joey Daccord are able to get a normal amount of starts in Belleville.
The team’s overall shot numbers improve, although they are still definitely not good enough for a playoff team. At the same time, they get lucky by winning many one-goal games and have a high PDO on the season. Their worst performances come from veterans such as Mikkel Boedker, Ron Hainsey, Craig Anderson, Artem Anisimov, Nikita Zaitsev, etc., so the frustrations with the team aren’t in regards to the actual future of the Senators. Furthermore, the team really responds to Smith's message and he looks like a solid coach for the team moving forward.
At the end of the season, Ottawa finishes in the 17th-21st overall range, which is a playoff bubble team. However, they end up winning the draft lottery and are able to take Alexis Lafrenière first overall. It is a slight blow having to miss the playoffs by not too much, but it is much more beneficial for the Senators to get a high draft pick than to get eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. The hope is that they can at least improve this season while also getting that high draft pick.
Just before the draft, it is announced that Eugene Melynk has sold the team to the Cirque du Soleil group, and they announce that there will be a front office overhaul that includes a new GM coming, a massive expansion of resources, and Daniel Alfredsson returning once again. The streets of Ottawa party for the entire night and faith in the organization is restored after years of apathy.
If you squint, maybe you can see this best-case scenario for 2019-20 happen.