2023-24 Ottawa Senators Player Recap: Brady Tkachuk

Recapping a strange season for the Senators captain, Brady Tkachuk

2023-24 Ottawa Senators Player Recap: Brady Tkachuk
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Brady Tkachuk has always been a unique player. He has enough skill to score 37 goals and was even a point-per-game player last year with 83 points in 82 games. But that's not what he's known for at all: that'd be his ability to get under the skin of his opponents and be a consistent pest every game — all while playing the game at a high level. He loves to fight and be the captain of the Ottawa Senators, and he always wants to be the one leading his team to battle. The only other current NHLers with a similar profile I can think of are his brother Matthew, and Brad Marchand. He's maybe not quite as good as those two, but he remains incredibly valuable.

What's too bad is we've yet to see maybe his value—what he can do in the playoffs. Tkachuk presents like a perfect competitor who is built for the playoffs just like his brother Matthew is. Alas, we obviously know the Senators fell far below expectations this season.

Tkachuk's season included some strong numbers, even if it didn’t always feel like it; an indication our expectations have been raised in recent seasons. His counting stats were actually the second-best of his career, as he tallied 37 goals (a career-high) and 37 assists for 74 points in 81 games. That's nine fewer than last season, which is a bit of a gap, but not a massive one. He also had a whopping 357 shots on goal, which was another career-high and ranked 4th in the entire league. Not that I care much about +/-, but for those who are interested, this was Brady's first season in positive territory at...+1.

Tkachuk averaged between 18:14-18:56 of ice time each season over the past four years, but that jumped up to 19:09 in 2023-24. As a left winger who frequently takes faceoffs, he was much better than his career rate of 49%, as he increased that rate to 52.6% this season. So with a lot of the basic counting stats, he was either at his best or second best in his six NHL seasons.

Then if we look deeper, he led the team in 5v5 CF% at 55.97% (2nd best behind last year's 56.30%), was 2nd in xGF% at 55.25% (2nd best behind last year's 56.63%), and 2nd in Goals Above Replacement (GAR) at 14.2 (career-high), behind just Tim Stützle's 14.6. Everything points to him being a strong play-driver who can generate a ton of shots, and that is invaluable to the Senators. His defensive game still leaves something to be desired as he has only ranked positively for even-strength defense in his rookie season (according to Evolving Hockey's metrics). However, there was a lot to like about the results he put up this season, and it shows that his 2022-23 glow-up was no fluke.

If there's something that I'd like to see improved on though, it's his ability to lead by example and pick his spots better. He was second in the entire NHL in PIMs with 134, which is much higher than the 112 he averaged per season before 2023. He also had six fights, which was tied for 22nd in the league. That's not an outrageous number considering Liam O'Brien, Andreas Englund, and Nicolas Deslauriers led the league with 11, but when you look at the names at the top of that list, it's almost all bottom-of-the-lineup players. I'd rather have him save that fire for when it really matters.

It just seemed like he would only fight or get angry when the game got embarrassingly bad, which just made the fights seem pointless. Out of the six fights, three of them were when they were down by three goals and he was probably just frustrated. One he answered the bell after a questionable hit, one was in retaliation to a bad hit on him, and one was in retaliation to Stützle getting hit. A few of those make sense, but the big loss ones, not so much. And that doesn't count the many times he would be getting into scrums late into games when it was too late to do anything and they were losing badly. When the season became a lost cause, the "I'm pissed off we're losing so I'm going to fight somebody" shtick got a bit tiresome.

The good news is that although he took a large number of penalties, he was also excellent at drawing penalties. He was third in the NHL with 45 drawn penalties, behind...guess who? Matthew Tkachuk and Brad Marchand. That means he was still somehow a net positive in penalty differential at +7, so he is quite good at goading others. I think that can realistically be even better, but it's hard to say for sure.

And you know what? Despite some less-than-ideal things to say about his penalties and fights, I absolutely love his passion, and I have no doubts about his overall leadership. I just want him to be able to get the team to the next level so that he doesn't have to do these stunts so often. Be prepared for the games, lead by example with hard plays, blocked shots, hits, and get under the other team's nose when you have to. Because I tell you what, fighting opponents and chirping at them becomes hilarious instead of embarrassing when your team is winning.

I think he desperately needs another veteran leader in the room to support him just like Claude Giroux has been able to do. I'm sure Steve Staios recognizes this, especially after the departure of Vladimir Tarasenko. He can't lead this team on his own, and another solid veteran plus an experienced coach will do wonders for Brady's role as a captain in Ottawa.

He's a top player that I will take any day of the week, and as I showed, he's had two great seasons in a row. Now he needs to take this team by the horns and get them to the playoffs because there can't be any more excuses. He's dying for playoff hockey and I can't wait to see what he does when he finally gets there. Just imagine this:

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