The Sens are back, and they’re finally getting puck luck. Here are exactly five thoughts on the team.
Great vibes in net
When Anton Forsberg tore both MCLs in the Sens’ game against the Oilers and had to be stretchered off the ice, a lot of fans remarked on the bizarre similarities between this situation and the situation the Sens were in right before the start of the Hamburglar run. A recap:
- The Sens are well out of the playoff race
- There’s a generational talent available in the draft, creating an incentive to tank
- One goaltender has been injured for a little while
- The other goaltender gets stretchered off the ice
Obviously, there are some key differences. Søgaard and Mandolese are top prospects, whereas Andrew Hammond was a complete nobody. We didn’t get the mid-season coaching change. Also, believe it or not, the franchise’s overall situation isn’t nearly as bleak as it was eight years ago; back then, we were worried that the retool had failed, that the team was wasting Erik Karlsson’s prime, and that every star player was on their way out. This isn’t the same situation.
Still, it’s easy to draw comparisons, and having two rookies in Søgaard and Mandolese sharing the crease is so much fun that it can almost rival the vibes of Andrew Hammond. It’s been extremely heartwarming to watch.
Goaltending is extremely difficult to evaluate; I know almost nothing about goaltending, so I’m not really sure I can draw any conclusions about the Sens’ future at the position from the last two games. For now we get a bit of the best of both worlds: a fun story and a chance to see the potential future of the franchise.
Tim Stützle is so good
If you read Dom Luszczyszyn’s most recent 16 stats article over at The Athletic, you’ll have noticed a lot of talk about Tim Stützle, who has been on a heater recently and is also apparently one of the best players in the league at controlled zone entries. That section of the article isn’t even about Stützle: Dom was pointing out that Blue Jackets rookie Kent Johnson is hanging among the best in the league in the category of controlled zone entries - that is, with Stützle, Nathan Mackinnon and Nico Hischer. Stützle lags only a little bit behind the other two when it comes to creating scoring chances off those zone entries, and is slightly better than Hischer at creating off the cycle. High praise, indeed!
Anyone who watched Stützle closely in his first two seasons could have told you this was likely to happen, but it’s still incredible to watch him reach these heights. It’s a testament to his skill that he was even able to turn a weak game by his standards into a four-point night on Monday. With the way he’s playing now, he should clear 30 goals in no time and might even have a shot at 40 before the season is over. He’s 21. Remember about two years ago when we were worrying about the Sens not having a true first line centre?
I’m not even sure what else is left to say about him. He’s amazing, I love watching him play, and we are so lucky to have him here in Ottawa.
Erik Brännström (Nellie Kleist’s version)
Erik Brännström has been a changed man since the All-Star Break, so I can only assume that getting engaged gave him special powers.
The man has oozed confidence on every shift since scoring his first goal in almost two years on Saturday against the Oilers. There hasn’t been a noticeable change in the underlying numbers - he’s still getting scoring chances and the team still has the puck more often than they don’t when he’s on the ice - but this feels like a case where the eye test says so much.
Brännström has been a very inconsistent player throughout his career, but a full season on the third pairing seems to have done him a lot of good. It seems like we finally know what he is: an analytics darling with almost no finishing ability. Maybe he can work on the second part. I won’t hold my breath.
The trade deadline is approaching, so naturally Pierre Dorion addressed the media yesterday to talk about the Sens’ plans. There were no big surprises - he confirmed that the next seven games will determine if the Sens will be buyers or sellers or neither, and addressed rumours about specific players.
Importantly, he confirmed that Alex DeBrincat won’t be dealt. I know a lot of fans are nervous about the winger’s uncertain contract situation after this year, but I’m glad the team isn’t rushing to deal him. It also seems like confirmation that the team thinks they can get a deal done with him. He doesn’t seem like he’s chomping at the bit to leave. I’m not worried yet.
What I am slightly worried about is Dorion’s answer about Hamonic. The blueliner is on an expiring deal, and there was some talk of him being a possible trade option at the deadline. Smith shot down that talk yesterday, praising Hamonic’s leadership and his impact on Jake Sanderson. I’m not sure if there would have been much of a market for Hamonic in the first place, but I hope this isn’t a sign that the team is set on bringing him back.
The thing with Hamonic is that, by numbers alone, it’s very difficult to tell what kind of impact he has on the team, given that he almost always plays with Jake Sanderson. The Sens do pretty well when that pairing is on the ice. Do they work really well together? Or is Sanderson inflating Hamonic’s numbers while Hamonic drags his down? That second suggestion might seem a bit mean, but watching the two play, that’s kind of what it looks like. It’s possible that Sanderson is just good enough on his own that he doesn’t need a great partner. I guess with Sanderson out for the next few games, we’ll get to see what Hamonic looks like without him.
Hamonic isn’t the biggest problem on this team, but I don’t think he’s a top-four defender, either. I hope the team knows that and considers it before potentially handing him another contract. Hamonic has done what was asked of him, but it should be time to move on.
A new chapter for Silver Seven
Finally, if you’ve been paying attention to any other SB Nation hockey blogs, you may have seen a lot of them announcing their intention to go independent, and fundraising to make that happen. You can expect something similar to go up for Silver Seven later today.
It’s no secret that we - meaning the SB Nation hockey blogs - received offers from other networks. Most of those involved payment in exposure and ad revenue, as well as perks like media credentials. The decision to go independent was not an easy one, but it was what we thought was best for us and for our community.
Throughout this whole ordeal, I got the impression that a lot of the people making offers didn’t really understand what people like about SB Nation sites. Silver Seven is popular because it’s community-focused and fan-run, with an active comments section, fanpost options, and so on. As writers, we just want a place to talk about the team. We don’t want to worry about losing media access if we speak our minds. Relying on ad revenue means prioritizing quantity over quality, often relying on clickbait to get people to read our stuff. That doesn’t appeal to us any more than it appeals to our readers.
Virtually all of the current staff started out as fans of the site, just talking Sens hockey in the comments with everyone else. We know what we like about it, and we want to make sure we can keep that going.
It’s never easy to ask for financial support, but we want to keep delivering the best for this community. We’re excited to share the next steps in the journey with you.