Christmas is this Sunday, and for those who celebrate it, there will be many presents opened. Some will have to pretend to like their presents, and some will actually enjoy what they receive. This Christmas, I’ve been thinking about what I would ask for if I could receive something regarding the Ottawa Senators. No, I’m not talking about physical items like a jersey, but instead about things pertaining to the team improving.
So here are some things that I’m asking Santa for this year, I think I’ve been a good fan in 2022:
Artem Zub Extension
According to Darren Dreger, a Zub extension could be around the corner:
On Sens Pre Game show I asked @DarrenDreger about Zub contract negotiations.— Graham Creech (@Creech__) December 20, 2022
Dregs said talks have “intensified” and that it “sounds like they’re getting real close to hammering out an extension” as he pointed to the reporting of @reporterchris on Insider Trading
So I don’t even know if this should even count as a present, Santa. I already know I’m getting it.
But a Zub extension would be music to every Senators fan's ears, as he is so important to their defense corps, especially on the right side. He’s a fantastic complement to Thomas Chabot, and at the age of 28 next season, he still has many years left to be a solid contributor. I don’t think the years would be close to the maximum, but anywhere between 3-5 years and perhaps in the $4-5M range would be reasonable. Get it done, Pierre.
Alex DeBrincat Extension
Now, this present is a bit more expensive. I saw a fair amount of people a few weeks ago saying that DeBrincat should be traded because he isn’t what was advertised and that he won’t be worth $9M on a new contract. He was held without a point on Sunday, but before that, he had an 8-game point streak with four goals and ten assists—including back-to-back three-assist games where he contributed to eight Senators goals in a row. Sure, it’s strange that he only has nine goals on the season, but he has 31 points in 32 games, putting him on pace for a career-high 79 points.
A career 14.8% shooter that has this much skill and creates this much offense isn’t going to shoot 8% forever. Furthermore, he’s surprisingly been one of the Senators best playmakers with his fantastic vision. It was shocking that they were able to get a player of his caliber so easily, and if they traded him, they would just be searching for a similar game-changer with that much skill. DeBrincat won’t come cheap, but he’s only 25 and should be part of this core for as long as possible.
This one shouldn’t be too hard to give as a gift. Zub should be coming back shortly after Christmas, if not one of these games before the break. Tim Stützle was questionable for yesterday’s game in Winnipeg so he’s close to returning as well. Josh Norris could return as soon as mid-January, which would be fantastic news considering some were worried he’d be out for the rest of the season. Mathieu Joseph should be back sometime in the next few games as he was only expected to be out for two weeks on December 9th.
That’s four regulars including three core players that the Senators will be getting back within the next several weeks. Stützle and Norris need to be in the lineup for them to be successful because Shane Pinto and Derick Brassard can only play higher up for so long. They’ve been able to tread water of late, but players coming back will give them a necessary boost as well. Now, other players could also get hurt at any point, but I’m asking Santa to ease up on the Injured Reserve. Ottawa’s been pretty unlucky in that department so far, and if they want any chance to be in the mix, they need to have better health.
Speaking of which...
Exciting Games Down the Stretch
I’m not being greedy and asking for a playoff spot. That would be incredible! Getting to watch Ottawa in the playoffs for the first time in six years would be so much fun, and that should absolutely be the goal. However, I just want to at least have hope in February, March, and April that they could actually make it in. Theoretically, they could go on another Hamburglar run and sneak in somehow, but that’s not going to happen again.
I want them to be a team that is within at least 5-6 points of a playoff spot at the trade deadline so that the games down the stretch actually matter. Finish off the year on a high note and head into 2023-24 with a sense that they’re a solid pick to make the playoffs. I can’t do another winter of lethargic hockey.
Regression to the Mean
Listen, I don’t need the Senators to be incredibly lucky, okay? I’m just asking for a normal amount of luck. The Senators 5v5 GF% is a paltry 44.35% (28th), yet their xGF% is 52.26% (11th). That’s a 19-goal swing from -13 to +6, which could’ve easily been several more wins for them this season. Their team 5v5 shooting percentage is 30th in the league at 6.49%, which needs to be better—whether that happens due to luck or better finishing.
Their special teams have done a bit better than their expected numbers, although they’re still first in expected goals on the powerplay, so it’s not as if they don’t deserve the high conversion rate of 28.5%. The Senators aren’t a powerhouse, but if you looked at their shot numbers and special teams, you’d think they’d be right in the 10-15 range overall. I do think they deserve to be in that range, but they’ve had poor health, a lack of depth, and unlucky bounces, which knocks them down to 25th. Positive regression to the mean can get them to where they should be though.
Breath of Fresh Air from Ownership
Bruce Garrioch has reported that there should be new ownership of the Senators by around March, which is exciting for the team, especially if Ryan Reynolds is passionately involved:
Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) on potentially owning the Ottawa Senators— Ryan Hyndman (@RBHyndman) December 15, 2022
“I feel the Ottawa Senators can explode, not just in their local market in Canada, but globally”
“I will be a frothy, rabies infused fan the which the NHL has never seen”
This is my owner #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/gYPOhBBwhg
Who knows what the ownership group will look like, although hopefully they are able to bring Reynolds along which would be fantastic for their brand. I have no idea what will be in store in this new era with the team, but I hope there will be a breath of fresh air in terms of fan engagement, branding, personnel, etc. We had already seen a big shift in how things were run over the past six months, and the fanbase has responded positively. It will be great to have a feeling of trust towards the owners because there will be a legitimate attempt to spend and keep the team successful.
I hope I will eventually get some of these presents, especially because my presents will also be yours!