2017-18 for the Ottawa Senators hasn’t been easy. Or fun. Or even entertaining.
But despite the fact that the last 34 games they’ll essentially be going through the motions, there are reasons to keep watching the Senators and following what is going on. It probably isn’t going to be pretty, but there are at least some things to watch out for.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve had to miss a bunch of games in the past couple months, and most of the time I could not have cared less. However, if I do have time at home, I’ll be tuning in.
Here are five reasons why you should be too.
1. Thomas Chabot gaining confidence
If the Senators are going to be good in the next few years, they need Chabot to be a top-four defenseman at minimum. I think he can be a top pairing player, but he’ll have to improve the defensive side of his game to get there.
He isn’t going to perfect his game before the season ends, but every time the Senators play I like keeping an eye on him and looking for the little things that he does well or poorly. Whether he does good or bad the rest of the way, it’ll be good to know what kind of player we can expect him to be going into 2018-19.
Even if he does have his limitations, we know he is capable of providing some highlight-worthy plays. He has quickly become Ottawa’s second best defenseman, and I hope he can keep rising.
2. Does Craig Anderson have anything left?
This isn’t exactly a positive reason to keep watching per se, but it is compelling nonetheless.
Anderson has fallen off a cliff so quickly this season, as his SV% has dropped from .926% to .903%. At the age of 36 (turning 37), it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever be able to bounce-back and be a solid starting goaltender again. He did bounce-back after having a poor season in 2013-14 with a .911% SV%, but he was also four years younger.
I’m leaning towards him being close to done at this point, but goalies are constantly proving us wrong. Why am I pointing out a depressing Anderson situation then? Because we should pay special attention to him to see if there’s any indication that he can have a much better 2018-19.
To my eyes, he looks much slower and isn’t making the saves he should make, but I’d like to watch him the rest of the season just to get a definitive look. If he’s getting unlucky with some goals that are unstoppable, then perhaps there is some hope for next year. But if he continues to look as bad as he has so far, I’m afraid Ottawa might have to look for another goalie if they want to compete.
As I said, this isn’t necessarily a positive reason to stay tuned, but it will give fans a better idea of who their starting goalie could be moving forward.
3. Colin White/Filip Chlapik fitting in
Just like Chabot, a big reason for watching the Senators has to do with some of their young players. White and Chlapik are not projected to be star players, but they could still be valuable in the immediate future.
Their results haven’t been amazing so far, with White being held pointless in 8 games and Chlapik having just 2 assists in 10 games. However, that’s all the more reason to watch, since we’ll (presumably) get to see both of them score their first NHL goals. Furthermore, just like with Chabot, I’d like to know if they can be solid contributors on the team next season.
These two are also just fun new players to watch, whether they actually put up good results the rest of the way or not. I’m also pretty sure people would be more interested in watching these two over guys like Nate Thomspon and Gabriel Dumont.
4. Matt Duchene realizing his potential
Duchene hasn’t exactly been what everyone expected when he was traded from Colorado in November. His 15 points in 34 games is just five more than he had in 14 games with the Avalanche to begin the season. Despite that, everyone knows that he’s a very good player who is capable of a lot more.
I don’t think he’s the 70-point player that he was back in 2013-14, but he should be closer to Kyle Turris’ range of around 55-60 per season.
If he stays healthy the rest of the way, this will be Duchene’s “halfway point” with the Senators, as he’s played 34 and has 34 to go. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if his second half is much better and he ends up with around 25 points so he ends up with 50 total. Even when he isn’t putting up points, he’s electric on the ice, which at least adds some entertainment to the game.
I know Duchene can be better, and we’ve seen it from him at points already. That’s why I’d like to keep watching him to finish the season.
5. Appreciating Erik Karlsson
Save the saddest one for last.
Let’s be honest...There’s a non-zero chance that Erik Karlsson doesn’t re-sign in Ottawa. I still think he wants to stay, but I’m not sure if Ottawa has the money (or wants to spend the money) to keep him. Recent comments from the organization aren’t exactly soothing:
.@MelnykEugene tells me @ErikKarlsson65 is a franchise player “but we have to look at everything” @ottawasenators interview tonight @ctvottawa @CFRAOttawa— Graham Richardson (@grahamctv) January 31, 2018
With that being the case, there is a scenario where it’s realized in the off-season that re-signing him isn’t going to happen, and that they’ll have to trade him.
If that does happen, these last 34 games will be his last as a Senator. I know, typing that last sentence should be blasphemy, but we can’t ignore that possibility. Even if he isn’t traded in the summer, we should be prepared for the worst and cherish watching him play.
He’ll play his 600th game as a Senator tonight, and he has been worth the price of admission on every single one. Sometimes we forget how good of a player he is and we take him for granted. But this is a player who has two Norris trophies and will probably end up being a first ballot Hall of Famer.
With the season now meaningless, I say we focus on the good he brings to the team rather than the bad. No one is disputing that he’s had a rough season, but he’s still the best player on the team. And if he gets traded, it would be a damn shame for his last season to be riddled with fans ridiculing him for being merely good rather than exceptional.
If I had to give just one reason to watch the rest of the 17-18 season, I’d say to cherish the best player in franchise history, Erik Karlsson.