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December Reflections: Closing The Tank Gap

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The team is still showing a lot of heart, even if the results in December weren’t quite as good

NHL: Nashville Predators at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for our monthly recap for a team that despite not performing well is probably not disappointing any of us. December is often associated with festive celebrations, but for the Ottawa Senators the month was filled with new injuries, on-going struggles, and a slow bottoming out.

The highlight of the month has to be Anthony Duclair’s much-deserved spot at the All-Star game. After everything that has been said about him, it was nice to see him get some league-wide recognition. It will be hard to find any fan that isn’t currently enjoying his performance and the only complaint about Duclair at this point would be the fact that he doesn’t have a long term contract in place. Blame Melnyk just because everything money-related is his fault.

Record: 40 games played, 16-19-5 for 37 points and 28th in the NHL

December Record: 5-4-4

Home Record: 4-0-2 Road Record: 1-4-2

Pleasant Surprises

Anthony Duclair: not only was he named to the All-Star game, but Duclair also had his best month ever with 16 points in 13 games. He has been a threat every time he’s stepped on the ice and is showing no signs of slowing down. If for nothing else, Duclair deserves the top honours for his performance against his old team the Columbus Blue Jacket where he scored his first career hat-trick and won the game in overtime.

He is currently leading the team in goals and points, and is second to Brady Tkachuk in total shots. He is also leading the team in power-play goals with 5 goals, which for an abysmal power play may not mean much but Duclair is truly one of the few players who has been a consistent threat with the man advantage.

Marcus Hogberg: By no means are his numbers stellar, but a rookie goalie playing a behind a struggling and injured team can only do so much. In the five games he played in December, Hogberg had one win but did play a strong first game in a loss against the Vancouver Canucks with a SV% of 0.929. He also had to face a flurry of 40 shots from the Tampa Bay Lightning while managing to take the game to overtime. Hogberg’s future is bright, he just needs confidence and I think we have a good goalie on our hands in the future.

Mark Borowiecki: In the first edition of the monthly reflections, Borowiecki was the first on the surprises list and for good reason. Since then he has been continuing his improved play and quietly racking up the points in the process. He amassed 6 more points this past month to bring his season total to 15 points. This outbreak comes at a great time for the Senator veteran, who is waiting to hear word on his future with the Sens. For the right amount of money, I think Borowiecki can be a solid keep as a mentor and leader for the youngsters coming in.

Bright Spots

Dylan DeMelo: One of the worst unfortunate events of this month was the loss of DeMelo and his impact on the team’s defensive play. DeMelo has been the perfect partner for Thomas Chabot, and has been providing a stable presence on the blueline. He reminds us of a previous local hero with the initials MM, doesn’t he?

Brady Tkachuk: The prodigal son has continued to impress by just gaining more and more confidence to annoy the opposition. He may need to work on his offense but he has been leading the team in shots and has worked on his skating to make himself valuable in every opportunity he can get. Will he be a better player than Filip Zadina? That remains to be seen, but the most realistic outcome is going to be both of these players will be extremely successful. Zadina may end up being the more offensive player but Tkachuk is a player that is proving to be very useful for the Sens with his unique style of domination, or future domination I should say.

Thomas Chabot: Are we tired of hearing how amazing Chabot has been for the team? Absolutely not! He is leading the team in assists and leading the league in ice time. He continues to dominate the opposition while consistently being on the weaker team. It’s safe to say Chabot will be on all the top lists for a while since no fan will ever tire of hearing how much of Chabot’s greatness we will be seeing for the long future ahead.

Disappointments

Colin White: I know Brandon told us all to calm down about White and that he will be alright. At this point, I am not concerned— I am frustrated. While he did slightly improve his play the past few games, White has much to do to start earning fans’ faith in him long term. While this season may be a “wash”, it’s also a good opportunity to test which players fit the long picture of this team. I am not suggesting that White doesn’t have a future but he may be making himself easily replaceable soon.

Nick Paul: I don’t want to be harsh on Paul since he’s finally gotten his chance this season and has taken full advantage to showcase what kind of player he can be. While he continues to be a useful bottom-6 player, he had 3 points all month and being a “useful” player won’t earn him much more ice time without improved offensive production.

Vladislav Namestnikov: I am huge fan of Vlad and it was very exciting when he started to produce as soon as he arrived in Ottawa. Nonetheless he was only good for two points in December and has not stood out in any way. It’s at the point of becoming both concerning and frustrating as he could have been a great chip to trade at the deadline. Maybe January will bring back the fight in him and while there was a point I wanted Vlad here long term, I’m starting to think his spot is better filled by one of our promising prospects who will need some NHL experience.

More Thoughts

I cannot end this piece without mentioning our youngster Jacob Bernard-Docker who not only made Team Canada but helped the team win a gold medal! While Team USA didn’t do as well as Canada, it should be noted that Shane Pinto also had a strong showing at the World Juniors scoring 7 points in 5 games played. The future is bright in every direction you look, just don’t stare too much at the present.

Jean Gabriel Pageau has slowed down a bit but is still having himself a great season. The issue is, how can anyone get excited about his recent resurgence when it seems likely it’ll only help another team in a few weeks? As with Boro and Duclair, no sights of talks have been initiated and it has me wondering, so we are left asking: what is Dorion’s plan?

As with the trend all season, the Sens have been an absolute wreck on the road. They only had one road win all month but did prevail in 4 out of their 6 home games. This is an issue that needs to be fixed for the long term health of the team, it may be even more pressing than the power play. Up until now, the majority consensus is that DJ Smith is doing a good job but his long term success will mean making drastic improvements in areas where the team has historically suffered.

Lastly, Scott Sabourin finally returned to the roster and while I never had a strong opinion about his spot I’m just glad he’s doing well enough to play. For January, let’s hope for fewer injuries, a healthy Nilsson and maybe more wins from the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils.