It is Friday. Here are some thoughts:
Josh Norris: Still Good
Josh Norris has now played five games since missing time with a shoulder injury, and he has not missed a single step. He scored power play goals against Arizona, St. Louis and Seattle, and another one at even strength against Seattle, all with his signature one-timer. The difference between the powerplay with and without Norris has been night and day; even when he isn’t the one finding the back of the net, he’s enough of a threat that he’s able to draw defenders away from his teammates. He’s clearly a really valuable member of this team.
But what’s especially interesting about these last five games - and what will be interesting about the next few - is that Norris is playing without Batherson on his wing, something he hasn’t done very much over the course of his career.
According to Natural Stat Trick, Norris and Batherson have both played more minutes together than apart over the last two seasons, and unsurprisingly have both played much better together than apart. Batherson has had the primary assist on most of Norris’s goals, and while, Norris and Tkachuk are a great duo, they historically haven’t been amazing without Batherson on their line.
I was bracing myself for the offense to dry up for those two with Batherson out, and I was completely wrong. They’ve been phenomenal so far, and this team looks completely different with Norris back in that first line spot.
It’s very nice to see Norris scoring at this rate even without Batherson feeding him the puck, and I hope it’s a sign that this is the real Norris.
But let’s not Forget About Timmy
Norris is the king of the PPG in Ottawa, but you know who actually leads this team in power play points?
That would be Tim Stützle, with 13 total points on the man advantage. After a slow start to the year production wise, our Timmy has quietly tied Batherson for second on the team in points, trailing only Tkachuk and on pace for almost 50 points in an 82 game season.
The Arizona game was Timmy’s 53rd game of the season, which is significant only because it’s the exact number of games he played in 2020-21. In those 53 games, Timmy matched his goal, assist and point totals from last year exactly, which is pretty impressive considering how many things he’s been doing other than just putting up points.
The kid’s going to be amazing, and the debate about who should be first line centre between him and Norris is going to be so much fun.
Del Zotto is Down so Bad
The entire Michael Del Zotto saga in Ottawa has been beyond strange. The signing made no sense at the time, and yet he got enough media coverage that it seemed like everyone was excited to have him here. The players seemed to like him, at least.
Then he was scratched on opening night, and for many, many other games before being sent down the AHL and lighting it up there. It’s pretty obvious that he’s not getting called up any time soon, and I don’t blame him at all for being upset about it.
I also find the whole thing hilarious. The man has been liking tweets talking shit about the team and his teammates, and the entire concept of Del Zotto lighting up the AHL is just very amusing to me. Still, I hope for everyone’s sake that there’s a market for him at the trade deadline.
I’m really looking forward to the day this saga ends and we can all laugh at how weird this whole thing was.
Welcome Back, Colin White!
There’s been a lot of talk this season about Colin White’s future in Ottawa. The guy has had horrible luck with injuries, and definitely hasn’t lived up to his contract. The Sens have the cap space to keep him, but we all know this team is operating with an internal budget, which means they’re not going to pay a fourth liner $4.7M a year.
He has, however, been making a case for himself in his first six games back. He was quiet last night, but before that he was scoring at a point-per-game pace, which is obviously unsustainable but still nice to see. He’s looked dangerous on the powerplay and given the team much-needed depth.
Is there a spot for him long term? Yeah, probably. The team could probably do with an upgrade on right wing, but White and Connor Brown as the second and third line right wingers wouldn’t be too bad, and if you want to keep him at centre, Norris-Stützle-Pinto-White is pretty great depth.
His best shot at sticking around is probably if he scores at a second or third line rate for the rest of this season, and for his sake, I’m hoping he does it.
The return of Chabot-Zub
You know what we haven’t been talking about enough? The first pairing.
In the first few weeks of the season, Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub were spectacularly good together, dominating play to a frankly ridiculous extent every time they were on the ice. The pairings were so lopsided that DJ Smith had no choice but to split them up.
And it worked for a bit. Holden and Zub made a good second pairing, and Chabot was able to mentor Jacob Bernard-Docker and Lassi Thomson when they were in Ottawa. He was less successful with Zaitsev, but overall the defense looked better.
But with Holden and Brännström giving the team three decent pairings, Smith has moved back to Chabot-Zub, and you can really see the difference. Their chemistry is something else - for some reason, Zub is always much more offensively-minded when he’s playing with Chabot, and yet the pairing doesn’t give up much on defense either. They’re just very well suited for each other.
This team has a lot of right handed defensemen in the prospect pipeline, meaning many options when it comes to defense pairings, but I remain a Chabot-Zub truther.