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Don’t Panic: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Ottawa Senators 2022-23 Season

Even if the Senators get off to a bad start or fail to live up to lofty expectations, I wouldn’t panic

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

No, this is not a real guide to the Ottawa Senators season, but I’m just taking Douglas Adams’ advice about the galaxy.

Everybody knows that the pressure is on for the Senators this season. Pierre Dorion made some huge splashes in the off-season by acquiring Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, and Cam Talbot, plus he locked up Josh Norris and Tim Stützle to long-term deals. No longer are fans going to be content with “taking a step forward”, they want actual results like making the playoffs. Even Shane Pinto recognizes that, and I’m sure the entire organization does as well:

It will surely feel like a failure if they do not make the playoffs in April. Although the Atlantic Division (and Eastern Conference in general) is incredibly tough, Ottawa has the talent to get there. And while it will be incredibly frustrating if they miss out, I wouldn’t panic if they do. Furthermore, I certainly wouldn’t panic if they get off to a bit of a slow start.

Let’s fast forward to early November and imagine the Senators are off to a 3-6-1 start after losing to the Vegas Golden Knights. People would understandably be upset, myself included. Any number of things could have gone wrong by then, and it might be difficult to see them getting over their challenges. However, whatever challenges they may face, it seems far less daunting than it ever has during this rebuild.

I truly believe that the team is headed in the right direction, which I wasn’t always so confident about in the past. Think about the core that is here:

  • 20-year-old Tim Stützle at centre, poised to be around a point-per-game player
  • (almost) 23-year-old Brady Tkachuk on left wing who can put up 60+ points and be an effective leader
  • 25-year-old Thomas Chabot on defense who has shown he is a number one defenseman
  • 24-year-old Drake Batherson, an elite right winger who can be a first-line player on any team
  • (almost) 25-year-old Alex DeBrincat, another elite left winger who can score at least 40 goals
  • 23-year-old Josh Norris at centre, who scored 35 goals in just 66 games

Those six players right there are incredibly exciting, and all of them but DeBrincat are locked up for at least the next five seasons, and up to nine in Stützle’s case. Even DeBrincat is an RFA who should most likely re-sign. That is such a good core to build around, plus I didn’t even mention young players with tons of potential like Jake Sanderson, Shane Pinto, and Mathieu Joseph, as well as stalwart Artem Zub and veteran star Claude Giroux who will be around for three seasons. On paper, it shouldn’t be that challenging to add to the edges of that roster to make them a contender.

Yes, there are still many question marks on the back-end and in net. Who knows if Anton Forsberg and Cam Talbot will be a good enough duo or if a young defenseman will be able to step up to help the team, but Ottawa is starting their ascent at quite a high point already. It may not feel like it because they had a paltry 73 points in 2021-22, but the talent is undeniably there.

A lot of this we already know, as this off-season has been the most fun I’ve had with the team in years. The Senators are getting a ton of hype, and deservedly so. What needs to be said though is that it’s no guarantee they are successful this season, especially not right away. But even if they start slow or even miss the playoffs entirely, it’s not as if they need to overhaul their roster to get to where they want to be. Just two seasons ago, the only true guarantees on the roster were Tkachuk and Chabot, and we were just hoping that others would cement themselves. Luckily a lot of them have, and now it’s just about having capable depth.

Trust me, it’ll be so easy to get frustrated if the team isn’t in a playoff spot at any point in the season. But we need to remember the bigger picture because realistically they aren’t going to be winning the Cup this year. The team definitely needs to have some urgency, although as fans we should enjoy the ride this year as they begin their journey to relevancy and contention again. That doesn’t mean we can’t get upset or question moves that are made, but they are in a great position right now.

So many things are looking up for the organization these days. The young core is locked up. LeBreton Flats looks promising. Retired former Sens are returning to the team. The jerseys look amazing.

Just remember: don’t panic.