At the end of each year, I always like reflecting on the year that was and being appreciative of the personal progress that has been made. We can’t dwell on mistakes or regrets, and it’s important to focus on the positives. It’s no different for the Ottawa Senators because there’s no use in dwelling on the “what ifs”. So today I want to share my appreciation for five developments in 2022 that make me happy to be a fan of the Senators:
Tkachuk Becoming Elite
Brady Tkachuk averaged 52 points during his entry-level contract, so when he signed his 7-year extension with an $8.2M cap hit, it was definitely a relief that he was staying long-term, but it was still a big question mark if he was ever going to be a top-tier player that could produce 70+ points or even over a point-per-game. Some of that positive play began at the end of 2021, but he’s taken it to a whole different level in 2022.
In the 2022-23 season alone, he has 37 points in 34 games, which puts him on pace for 89 points in a full season. And in the calendar year of 2022, he has 82 points in 87 games, a 77-point pace which is still fantastic and a massive step up from where he was before. This is not just some sort of fluke either, as he’s shooting 9.1% (career is at 9.2%), and he’s first in the entire league in individual expected goals at 22.41.
He’s no longer just a fan favourite who can hit, fight, lead, and score a little. He’s a legitimate first-line star and has the potential to be an all-time Senators legend when all is said and done.
Jake Sanderson Living up to the Hype
We’ve talked about Sanderson a lot on here, so there’s no need to regurgitate old articles. However, the point remains that there were sky-high expectations for him coming into the season and he has somehow lived up to those hopes. Is he a Norris candidate already? No, although he was instantly one of Ottawa’s best defensemen and he’s a player that they have sorely missed for years. Having another dependable defenseman besides Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub is a godsend.
Sanderson has also been so fun to watch both defensively and offensively, as he always knows how to box out opponents and he has fantastic offensive instincts in order to get the puck up the ice. I’m so thankful that they’ve developed another top-tier defenseman.
DeBrincat for Pennies on the Dollar
I’ll never forget seeing the tweets that Alex DeBrincat, the 25-year-old and two-time 40-goal scorer, was getting traded to the Senators. He had been connected to Ottawa in trade rumours in the days leading up to it, but I didn’t actually believe it was going to happen. Besides, if Pierre Dorion didn’t want to move players like Shane Pinto, Ridly Greig, and other top pieces, how would a deal even get done?
The 2022 Draft was not seen as a top-notch one, so giving up the 7th overall pick (Kevin Korchinski) was more than palatable for a 40-goal scorer. The 2nd and 3rd round picks aren’t nothing either, but Ottawa was able to add DeBrincat without subtracting anyone from the roster who would be playing within the next few seasons. DeBrincat has certainly had a roller-coaster season so far, but he’s on pace for a career-high 80 points and has completely transformed the look of the Senators offense. I really hope they will be able to re-sign him long-term because he’s still young and will absolutely be worth the money. It’s not every day you get a first-line player for that kind of package.
Core to Build Around
Speaking of Tkachuk, Sanderson, and DeBrincat, Ottawa has developed such a strong young core over the past few years. 2022 is the first year that we’ve finally been able to see things come to fruition in terms of the future core. Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle, Drake Batherson, Alex DeBrincat, Josh Norris, and Shane Pinto should be here for a long time, plus Claude Giroux is a perfect complement to the group. Thomas Chabot, Artem Zub, and Jake Sanderson are three fantastic defensemen to build around as well, which means a lot of the heavy lifting is already done. Cam Talbot and Anton Forsberg probably aren’t long-term answers, but goalies can be found.
Not only are many of the core pieces already here, but Tkachuk, Stützle, Norris, Batherson, Chabot, and Zub are also all locked up long-term, giving this core a chance to stick together. Pinto and DeBrincat are RFAs in the summer and Sanderson will be one in 2024—keeping all three of them is very important but I don’t see why they can’t do it. This core is not a complete team, but things are way easier when that part is already figured out. It’s very easy to see a path toward contention.
All of the aforementioned points are important, but nothing matters if there is no stability in the future in regard to ownership. Thankfully, the Senators are on the verge of getting new ownership and are also close to finalizing the LeBreton Flats arena deal. That doesn’t guarantee anything, but whatever owners come in should have enough money to keep the team competitive for a long time, plus a downtown arena will be much better for the team in the long run. Ottawa will never be a top market like New York, Toronto, or Los Angeles, but there shouldn’t be any worries about the team moving or not being able to afford players anymore.
I am so thankful for all of these developments in 2022, because although things haven’t gone exactly how we hoped they would on the ice, the future of the Senators looks extremely bright. Here’s to an even better 2023!