While we didn’t have any more rookie tournament games to watch and we still have to wait a little longer for actual pre-season games, the Ottawa Senators did provide some content yesterday courtesy of a 30-minute media availability with general manager Pierre Dorion and head coach DJ Smith. If you want to watch the whole thing then I’ll link the video below.
Let’s break down some of the key takeaways:
- While it remains a black cloud looming over an otherwise positive off-season in Ottawa, no one can provide any meaningful updates regarding Alex Formenton and/or Drake Batherson and their implications in the ongoing hockey canada investigations. Dorion confirms that the investigation does not affect his roster construction and he considers Batherson and Formenton part of the roster heading into the season. I don’t find it especially palatable comparing Formenton’s situation to Brady Tkachuk’s last summer but I can appreciate that nothing Dorion says at this point about Formenton will satisfy anyone entirely.
- We can extrapolate that the established NHLers on the roster have sewn up their spots and that opportunities remain limited for prospects based on Smith’s comments that this year in camp he’ll focus more on game preparation than roster construction.
- Dorion has not ruled out more external additions, however, and will utilize cap space if possible. He doesn’t seem to be actively seeking reinforcements but it sounds like he has the green light from his superiors if he gets the opportunity to improve the team immediately via trade.
- Good news for my fellow Erik Brännström truthers, as Smith has expressed a willingness to mix defenders despite handedness. Theoretically Bonestorm could supplant Nikita Zaitsev as the sixth defender if Jake Sanderson makes the team out of camp.
- While Smith intends to keep his shiny new line of Tim Stützle, Claude Giroux, and Alex DeBrincat together, he has confidence that Giroux can play anywhere (wing or centre) and will move Giroux around the lineup as needed to assist and mentor the younger forwards on the team. In essence, Dorion and Smith see Giroux as someone who can provide coaching more than someone who requires it.
- It wouldn’t make headlines for just about any other team during any other off-season but given the seismic shift in overall culture around this team since the spring, we have to recognize the significance of the fact that management listened to player feedback when it came to otherwise trivial subjects like meals, facilities, and accommodations. We can’t say if it matters or if it will have any effect, but again in the context of the new-look Senators, it seems meaningful that Dorion spoke on this topic so candidly.
- In other very obvious news, the coaching staff would prefer not to overuse Thomas Chabot night-in and night-out. Until we have confirmation that Brännström and Sanderson can play big NHL minutes, Chabot still looks poised to bear the brunt of the workload in Ottawa (given the lack of blue-line acquisitions) but again at least the staff acknowledge the drawbacks of this strategy and appreciate the urgency of keeping Chabot fresh and healthy if they want to play a long, meaningful season.
- Smith prefers not to think of either his powerplay units as “one” or “two” and would optimally like to have two top-tier options. Obviously most of that goes without saying but considering Ottawa had decent options before acquiring Giroux and DeBrincat, ya gotta ask the question.
- We can expect to see roster cuts when the team returns from Winnipeg after September 27th and from Montreal October 6th.
- Dorion reiterates what we’ve heard about increased ticket sales, and states that in his experience, fans have been more engaging this offseason than in summers past. Vibes!
- Josh Norris remains committed to his reputation of peak physical fitness as he won the fitness title again this year (even with his 8x8 contract in his back pocket!).
- Ridly Greig will skate in a non-contact jersey and then likely play in exhibition games. Zack Ostapchuk will not see any exhibition action and will thus return to WHL Vancouver. Viktor Lodin sustained a concussion (although Dorion reports Lodin feeling well as of yesterday) and the staff naturally won’t rush him back onto the ice.
- We can probably expect to see Jake Sanderson paired with a veteran defender like Travis Hamonic or Nick Holden at least to start the season.
- And finally, I don’t think Smith or Dorion mentioned this but according to capfriendly, Shane Pinto has official come off the injured reserve.