In a long season, a lot can change for a hockey team but a good start always helps. The Ottawa Senators are currently sitting 22nd overall and 7th in the Atlantic division with 21 points. It’s probably a lot better than most fans and critics expected but still not good enough to be in a competitive position. Surprising starts by the Sabres and Canadiens are doing no favours for the Sens. However, this is a rebuild season and the expectation was never a playoff spot rather an exciting development season. It may be a small sample size but the first 22 games of the season have been a lot more entertaining than any of us had imagined.
- The youth movement: from Max Lajoie’s surprise start to Brady Tkachuk stealing all our hearts and most recently Drake Batherson just amazing everyone; it’s all been great to watch. The offence has not been this exciting in a long time with the Sens sitting second overall in goals for. Colin White has also been a relief as everyone was wondering if this was the season his game would finally come together and surely he has flourished. Jaros hasn’t played as much as we would’ve liked but even though his game still has flaws, I believe once given the right opportunity we will be in for a treat with him. Now with his first goal in the books, it should hopefully open up the gates for him. The rookies have contributed 42 points so far and that’s without adding the point from Alex Formenton. The two most impressive rookies would have to be Drake Batherson and Brady Tkachuk who look just in place every single game. To break it down, let’s take a look at the individual contributions from the rookies, compliments of the NHL website.
Youth Movement Stats
- The top veterans: mainly the trio of Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel who are also our three biggest UFAs coming up this summer. Mark Stone has continued to be a force on and off the ice. He is proving that he is indeed the Captain of this team whether he has the letter on the jersey or not. With 24 points on the season, Stone has become the cornerstone of this team making everyone he plays with significantly better. He’s also playing a major role in Tkachuk’s development on the team as his mentor and landlord, and the effect has been evident on Brady’s progression with the team. Matt Duchene is due for a contract extension any time now but will he stay? He’s currently 7th in the league in scoring and has been enjoying the influx of rookie offence, most recently Drake Batherson’s superb play. Ryan Dzingel has got to be one of the most underrated players in the league. He has quietly been putting up points almost every game and looking to top his 41 points performance from last year. His speed and finish are becoming a threat and if he can stay healthy, expect a huge season and probably a larger contract demand by the end of the season.
- The Karlsson return: nothing will make up for the loss of one of the best defensemen in the league, but it does help a little that Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo have been putting up impressive numbers. Tierney has been quieter on the goal scoring front but has been pivotal in the overall offence of the team with a total of 18 points in 22 games (3g, 15a). While the youth movement is exciting, we all have to remember that they are still adapting to the league and mistakes, as well as regression will happen. Having the “veterans” do their fair share is always imperative to the long term success. Playing mostly between Dzingel and Ryan, he is part of a line that is offering a lot of offensive depth for a team that needs to be high scoring every game. Dylan DeMelo is second on the team in +/- with a +10 rating and he has truly been a solid presence on a defence that has often struggled. With 7 points on the season so far, he has also been contributing offensively and fitting just right along side Thomas Chabot on the first pairing. Guy Boucher is still playing Cody Ceci major minutes and with that Lajoie has also been getting significant ice time for a rookie but DeMelo has proven that he can definitely play more than the average 18 minutes he’s been getting and time will tell if he will eventually climb up the ladder.
- Thomas Chabot: he is probably the brightest spot on the team. While the rookies have dazzled, Chabot has become one of the most important players on the team. He is speedy, smart, and offensive. His transitions have been a thing to watch and he has continued to handle the pressure of being the top defenseman on the team quite well. With 25 points on the season, he is second in defensive scoring and while it may be too early, I can see him being mentioned in Norris talks if he continues at this pace.
- Craig Anderson: at 37 years old, Andy has found new levels this season. He is currently tied for third in the league in wins while being first in games played at 20 games. The only problem? Between Condon and McKenna, Anderson doesn’t have a lot of support and signs of fatigue are slowly starting to affect his performance. Anderson is also number one in the league in shots against with 703 so far, 90 shots more than second place John Gibson. Playing behind a young and mistake prone (Cody Ceci) defence group requires him to be on his top game every night which cannot be possible if he has to play every single game. If Anderson can continue to play the way he has so far, this season may not be as frustrating as we once thought. Dorion should make it a priority to find him a decent back up, although the options are limited at this point.
- The defence: in general has been painful to watch but special honours go to Cody Ceci. I realize this is brought up in every article but his negative impact on the team has become intolerable. There doesn’t seem to be a pairing that works with him and he continues to make frustrating mistakes. While he has improved significantly offensively with four goals and seven points, defensively he hasn’t shown much improvement. I agree that fans have been tough on him but he hasn’t done much to prove anyone wrong. There are so many better replacements for him in the system and at a cheaper cost so what’s there to defend? Chris Wideman has also been quiet and not in a good way. He’s been having trouble convincing Boucher that he belongs and in 19 games he just hasn’t done that. Mark Borowiecki has been great at being the team’s official spokesperson but on the ice, he’s been as frustrating as Cody Ceci if not more at times. Not only is his performance less than average, he’s also leading the team in PIM at 43 in only 17 games played with two suspensions on the season. Whether he deserved those suspensions or not, Boro’s focus on being physical has hurt the team more times than helped it.
- Coaching: I don’t want to lump all the frustration on Guy Boucher and while he has been better in some areas this season, he has a long way to go. His utilization of Cody Ceci and the team’s fourth line remain to be both confusing and painful to watch. It is nice to see him trusting guys like Tkachuk and Batherson but really, they have given him no choice. Pyatt and Paajarvi continue to plague our fourth line. While I understand not wanting to bring up players from Belleville to play 13 minutes or less a night, I am sure there are better options like maybe Nick Paul? The PK is embarrassing and it’s mind boggling that Raymond and Co have done absolutely nothing to improve it even after the players were publicly seen criticizing the issues. Accountability doesn’t seem to apply to the right personnel on this team.
- The Hoffman return: the complete opposite of the Karlsson return, Mikkel Boedker hasn’t been a shining star on the team. Most nights he is invisible and considering he is playing with players like Duchene, Tkachuk and Tierney his 12 point performance hasn’t been anything to be excited about.
- Pageau: he has been dearly missed on the team and getting injured before the season even started was such a blow to the team. While he did start skating last week, I don’t see him coming back soon. His addition will surely have an immediate positive impact on the team.
- Eugene Melnyk: while he managed to stay mostly quiet so far in the season, he did manage to make his presence known recently. After an embarrassing Uber incident involving a few frustrated Sens players, Melnyk decided it was a great idea to engage in a media war with the Ottawa Citizen and revoke their charter privileges. While surely he has every right to do so, it was also revealed that he had threatened TSN’s Brent Wallace last year after he asked him about employee bonuses. Like any sane owner, Melnyk dealt with the ongoing media troubles by creating twitter bot accounts to “support the team”. With the team desperately trying to reconnect with the fan base via initiatives like the influencer drive, Melnyk continues to ensure that nothing will get in his way to embarrass this team.
- Video tributes: have been great to welcome back players and celebrate the team’s milestones but it is evident the Sens are purposely trying to erase any memory of Erik Karlsson. They have deliberately cut off Karlsson from all video tributes including Mike Hoffman’s tribute where they showed his infamous playoff goal against Boston without the magnificent pass from Karlsson, the real highlight of that goal. One has to wonder if the pettiness of Eugene Melnyk will actually extend so far that they skip the tribute to Erik Karlsson all together on December 1st.
- While this isn’t a “positive” in normal circumstances, I have to admit that I am impressed with the resilience of this fan base in supporting the #MelnykOut campaign. Attendance has been averaging around 14,000 a night with most weeknight games coming in around 11,000. While these players deserve the support, Melnyk cannot be given a free pass for all he’s done to this team and hopefully the low attendance will have a strong impact on his will to sell considering he has already refinanced his debt (again).
- The influencer initiative by the team has been controversial but I for one welcome the opportunity to give fans more access to games and players. The most important part is seeing if the team will now actually listen to what the fans want and what these influencers relay to them.
- LeBreton flats seems to be a further dream for Sens fans than we initially thought; the Citizen reported this week that application package from RendezVous is incomplete. With meetings between RendesVous and the NCC happening this week (yesterday and today), we should hopefully get more clarity on the issue. Personally, the main concern for me is how this impacts a potential Melnyk sale.
Here are my top-3 videos from the season so far:
Poll of the Quarter:
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