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January Reflections: A Rough Start

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It has been the month of regression

NHL: FEB 04 Ducks at Senators Photo by Steven Kingsman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The start of the year has proven to be tough for the Ottawa Senators and as we get closer to the trade deadline, anxiousness is starting to take over both the fans and players.

Nobody has been signed yet and there have been no solid rumours of what’s to come for players like JG Pageau, Mark Borowiecki and Anthony Duclair. That being said, with the bye week and the All Star break, it is possible that things on the management side went a bit slower.

Overall, this month really wasn’t a surprise for the team. While they do have flashes of good games or good plays, they are where we expected them to be. What is surprising is that somehow, with a disappointing month in terms of wins they still can’t seem to bury themselves down to the bottom of those standings.

Record: 51 games played, 18-24-9 for 45 points and 27th in the NHL

January Record: 2-5-4

Home Record: 1-4-3 Road Record: 1-1-1

Pleasant Surprises

Drake Batherson: everyone wants this kid to succeed, he has the skills and the intelligence. The kid himself is not taking any opportunity for granted. While in the preseason and his first few games in Ottawa he seemed a little out of place, he most certainly found his game back down in Belleville and really understood the meaning of working hard for his spot on the team. Since coming back to Ottawa, Batherson has 6 points in 11 games played including a goal against the Montreal Canadiens. More importantly, he has been playing smart hockey and really making his presence felt at every shift.

Marcus Hogberg: I had him as a pleasant surprise in December and he continued to impress in January. With Hogberg, it is unfair to look at the number of wins he has so far. He has been battling hard every night behind a team that has questionable defensive plays most nights. In January, he faced an average of 32 shots in 7 games played and has come up with an average SV% of 0.920. His style of play is entertaining to watch and at times, he looked like a seasoned veteran with nerves of steel. Without a doubt, Hogberg has a long way to go and will need much better support from his teammates, but he is heading on the right direction.

Connor Brown: I will admit, I refused to accept that anything coming from the Toronto Maple Leafs can be good, but I stand corrected. Brown seems to be having him quite the resurgence season and is definitely being a good influence on all his teammates. It seems he has been enjoying the new year scoring 9 points in 11 games including a goal in three straight games. He has now jumped to second on the team in points (33), second in assists (23) and fourth on the team in shots (121). What has been his strongest asset so far is his consistency, while most players have had an extremely cold month, Brown has continued to challenge himself to become a valuable asset to the team, if not a standout.

Bright Spots

Brady Tkachuk: The surprise All Star! I feel inclined to have Tkachuk in the positive spotlight as much as possible because he seems to be one of the players that has made this team worth watching every night. Whether it’s a battle, something he chirps or an incredible play on ice. I don’t think he has reached his optimal offensive performance just yet but he is making himself continuously useful even when he isn’t producing offensively. He has added five more points this month to bring his point total up to 29 points. I’m going to go on a limb and say that he can probably hit the 45 point by April if not more as I don’t feel he’s quite had the annual offensive burst that other players have had. Maybe during my birthday month? March is magical after all.

Tyler Ennis: Another ex-Leafer I hadn’t been impressed with since his arrival has been Ennis. While he did have some good games in his first few months, he never did strike me as memorable. That being said, as other players’ performances slowed down Ennis continued to be consistent. Maybe, what he was doing became a little more useful once the team needed some deeper found offense. I don’t see him being part of the long term plans for Ottawa but he has proven that he is not just a floater on the team and may have attracted a few interested trade partners in the process.

Chris Tierney: No player flies under the radar as much as Tierney, mostly because fans cannot decide whether he’s a quietly consistent player or just a quiet player. That being said, he has 27 points on the season including six goals in January alone. While he is not the player that will dazzle every night, he certainly is a player you can rely on for secondary offense especially when the top players aren’t producing. I think he can make a good trade target and if not, it never hurts to have a player like him in the mix when injuries or cold performances become an issue.

Disappointments

Anthony Duclair: Yes, the all mighty All Star has fallen from grace this month. Not quite but his phenomenal start to the season has taken a bit of a frustrating pause. He hasn’t scored a goal since December 21st and only had three points in January. While his All-Star performance was impressive and he still is leading the team in goals and points, Duclair will need to find a way to break out of his drought soon. You can see the desperation and frustration in his play and the longer this drought lasts, the more it can affect all the confidence he built in the first half of the season. The only advantage of this sudden offensive freeze is that it may give the Sens an advantage in negotiations, assuming there are any that are happening.

Colin White: My frustrations with White have not been remedied, while he did add five more points this month, I do feel like he has been less than stellar this season. Maybe we had higher expectations than we should have for White but at this point, just like Logan Brown I feel like they both will be part of the Senators in the long term but not with a significant impact.

JG Pageau: If this is the last full month that we see Pageau in a Senators jersey, I am going to regret the next few sentences. The truth is, we all knew Pageau would regress but this is a player who is fighting for a new contract and I expected a better performance than a single point all month. It is true that most of the love for Pageau is sentimental, but he did show us what he is capable of and at this point, he really needs to get his consistency back. Again, if this helps in any negotiations then it’s worth the sacrifice. Pageau needs to start producing soon and showing both the Sens and the rest of his teammates that he can be the leader this team desperately needs.

More Thoughts

Bobby Ryan has resumed training at the Canadian Tire Centre but no sign of a return just yet. At this point, nobody has a clear image of what is going on with Ryan (as it should be) but he is still in the player assistance program. Whether he comes back this season or not, it is encouraging to see the issue being dealt with and his health being made a priority. His absence also begs the question of his impact on the team and to be honest, I can’t say that the team is better without him. A player that has always been harshly criticized, I think Bobby Ryan has been unlucky more than anything and I truly wish he is getting the help he needs even if it means not playing hockey for the next little while.

While this wasn’t a fantastic month, there were few instances that would make any fan proud, the team’s resilience when being outplayed. Hogberg has been a big reason of why the team had been able to hold on in most games but the team has been fun to watch more times than not.

While I didn’t include Thomas Chabot so far, it really is only because I can’t possibly add more to his play. He has been the cornerstone of this team and he will be scary once this team gets some experience and real talent.

The Senators have been doing a good job on home ice so far but the month of January seems to have really dampened that stat as well. It does hurt when they’ve only had two wins all month but it is slightly concerning that their home play has regressed. Some will blame the low attendance but it has been consistently low all season so it may just be that the team’s skill and energy is catching up to them.

Again, while this year is off to a rough start; Brady has finally won a Tkachuk battle and that is certainly worth revisiting.

Brady’s first win against brother Matthew