I know I don’t need to remind any Sens fans of the stats.
In each of D.J. Smith’s first three seasons as head coach, the Ottawa Senators have stumbled out of the gate - and that’s putting it nicely. In 2019-20, they went 2-7-1 in their first ten games, making it clear right from the start that they were gunning for those sweet, sweet lottery odds. In 2020-21, they started with a truly impressive 2-12-1 record, effectively ending their season before it began, which is unfortunate because by the end of the season they were playing at a level that would have put them in the playoff picture if not for that terrible start. The same was true of the 2021-22 season, when a combination of injuries, COVID-related disruptions, poor goaltending and just plain back puck luck completely derailed the season, ensuring that by the time they turned things around they were crawling out of the league’s basement instead of fighting to stay in the playoff race.
So when their 2022-23 season officially began on Thursday and Ottawa spent the night whiffing on passes, holding on to pucks for too long, and getting straight up robbed by their former starting goaltender… you can forgive some fans for overreacting a little bit. The Sens may not be under pressure to make the playoffs this season, but they’re definitely under pressure to win more than, I don’t know, four games during the first month.
Smarter people than me have spent plenty of time theorizing about what went wrong in the past and needs to change - the goaltending, injuries, chemistry, team defense, and so on. However, this is hockey, and if I know anything about hockey, it’s that everything is about luck and superstition. If the Sens keep struggling early in the season, it’s because they’ve angered the hockey gods, and the only way to reverse their fortunes is to change up the routine somehow. Here are a few things that might work:
Lose the season opener
Look. I know it might sound counterintuitive, but hear me out: What did the losing streaks in 2020-21 and 2021-22 have in common? Both started with electrifying wins over the Leafs on opening night. Maybe they need to start losing early so they don’t get too complacent.
Great news: they already did this! If recent history has told us anything, it’s that we should now prepare ourselves for a 15-4-1 start.
Lose their first game against the Leafs
I know I’m suggesting a lot of losing as a solution to losing, but have we considered that the problem was beating the Leafs, not winning the season opener?
I’m not saying they should throw the game, but I am saying that if Matt Murray puts up a 40-save shutout tonight, we’ll know for sure that things are going to turn around.
Bring Back Julia Robillard
You know the last time I remember seeing a Robillard Hearing Centres commercial during a Sens game? May 2021. That’s unacceptable.
What happened to our good luck charm? Our beacon of hope? Who’s going to remind us that hearing is believing? Without Julia Robillard, there is no Ottawa Senators Hockey Club.
Put her logo on the jerseys. Give her a billboard in front of the CTC. Play the Robillard Hearing Centres jingle during warmups. Play her ads during broadcasts. The Sens will not be good again until Julia Robillard makes her return.
Put Zub in the shootout
It may not seem relevant, but I do truly, honestly believe that Zub scoring in a regular-season shootout would fix all of my problems, and all of the Sens’ problems as well. D.J. Smith should try to find a way to make it happen.
Score a 6v5 goal
Here’s a fun stat: during the 2021-22 season, the Ottawa Senators spent 48 minutes and 15 seconds with their own net empty - that’s the 10th most time of any team in the league. In that time, they scored exactly one goal, tied with Boston for last in the league. They also gave up 15 goals, which puts them around the middle of the pack. Having watched that team, I’m surprised the stats aren’t worse.
Under D.J. Smith, this team has not been able to score with their own net empty. In order to reverse their fortunes, I think they need to get really good at it.
Get a new goal song
There’s a big problem with the Sens gameday experience right now, and it’s been a problem for a long time. I think it’s finally time I spoke up about it.
Song 2 is mid.
The Sens are a young, exciting team with a strong identity on and off the ice. When they score, I don’t want to hear one of the most generic arena songs of all time. I want to hear Cut to the Feeling by Carly Rae Jepsen. Or Run Away With Me. Or This Love Isn’t Crazy. Heck, play Gimme Gimme Gimme by ABBA - it’s already a hit in the locker room. Better yet, let the players pick their own goal songs, like lots of other teams have started doing.
It’s been years of Song 2. I associate that song with errant pucks bouncing off Chris Tierney’s arm to break a shutout in a game the Sens were already losing 3-0. The Sens have turned the page on that era. Some traditions are worth keeping, but some aren’t. This one isn’t. It’s time for a new goal song.
Brady Tkachuk should get bitten on the ice again
Cast your minds back to the beginning of the 2021-22 season. What was the moment things turned around for the Sens? That would be the gutsy win over the Carolina Hurricanes that started a winning streak and established Anton Forsberg as the starter.
But what happened right before that?
They got stomped by Vancouver, yes, but what about the game before? That’s right: the infamous road loss to the Los Angeles Kings, when Brendan Lemieux bit Brady Tkachuk during a fight. Brady went on an absolute tear after The Bite, with eight goals and three assists in his next seven games. The team soon followed suit. I personally believe that that happened because of The Bite.
If it worked once, why not try it again? The captain won’t face off against Brendan Lemieux until November 27th - ironically the one year anniversary of the incident - but I’m sure he can piss off the Leafs enough to convince one of them to bite him, and if that doesn’t work, he’s facing Brad Marchand on Tuesday.
Let Chabot sit on the bench occasionally
Have we ever tried that one before?