Callum Fraser The Hockey Writers
Are the Senators Improving Under Dave Cameron?
We’re only 16 games into the Dave Cameron era in Ottawa, but the Senators are already noticeably different under their current coach.
Like most teams under a brand new head coach, the Senators look revitalized and energetic, but they also look like a well-structured team out there. All of a sudden, Cameron is looking like he’s more or less fixed the immediate problems the team was having.
Plain and simple, the Senators were getting scored on more often than they scored themselves.
What’s also promising is their possession stats as of late. Under Paul MacLean, the Senators’ season got off to a great start, but they were being severely outshot every single night which mean that in the long term, this team was bound to plummet in the standings.
Now, Cameron has them playing at an impressive rate.
The fact that the Senators have the puck more often than not implies success in the long run. It also helps that Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner seem to be facing more than five fewer shots a night with their new coach.
If there was ever one single thing that MacLean was ridiculed for, it was how he used the team in front of him. It seemed Ottawa’s former man behind the bench was more into having veteran leadership and a physical presence on the ice than the Senators’ best young talent.
When Cameron was promoted, Mike Hoffman, the team’s leading goal scorer, was a solidified second-line player. Bobby Ryan was looked upon simply to score goals and Mark Stone was finally given the playing time he deserved.
Through the past 16 games, we have seen significant improvement from each one of those players.
Once Cameron took the reins, there was no more seniority for players that had a previous leadership role or who were simply just the veterans on the team.
Chris Phillips has been a healthy scratch 6 of the past 16 games, which has given Patrick Wiercioch some much deserved playing time. David Legwand, a favourite of MacLean’s, has seen his ice time notably drop. Legwand was playing around 16:30 with MacLean, but now, Cameron has him paying under 13 minutes a game.
With Cameron, the best players truly do play.
Right Time, Right Place
Time to play devil’s advocate for a moment.
Yes, Cameron has improved the Senators and in many ways; but he’s had a few things go the right way at the precise time.
Not that anyone would ever wish an injury on a player, but it’s obvious that the Senators are a better team without the likes of Chris Neil and Zack Smith. The pair of grinders rack up the minor penalties, don’t add much offensively, and are defensively challenged at time. So, it’s fitting that only a few days into Cameron’s time as head coach with the Senators that they both are inflicted with long-term injuries.
Marc Methot is the other stroke of good luck Cameron has been afforded. While Neil and Smith were placed on the IR, Methot was just coming off it. And with a defensive corps that has obviously struggled this season, Methot has noticeably brought balance and stability in the four games he’s played since returning.
Cameron has shown he is willing to do things MacLean never had the guts to do.
Cutting down Legwand’s ice time and promoting the younger players were two things, but sending Phillips to the press box multiple times? That just shows he doesn’t play the political game and he’s here to win games no matter who he upsets. Yes, Phillips has been a beloved player for years in this franchise, but it’s been long since due that someone in the coaching staff realize he’s no longer up to par with his youthful teammates.
Maybe this team is turning over a new leaf. This year’s postseason might be out of reach, but the future is looking bright with Cameron holding the clipboard. If the team’s puck possession is truly turning a corner and the best players are actually going to play, then why not?
Welcome to the Cameron era, Ottawa.
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