We all remember the infamous quote from Pierre Dorion in 2021 when he declared that the Sens’ rebuild was over - at the start of a sesaon that would see the team out of the playoff race by November and gunning for a lottery pick by the new year. Dorion looked silly for that quote, but he was right that the Sens were entering a different phase of the rebuild. By the end of the shortened 2021 season, things were starting to come into focus, with most of the top prospects having graduated to the NHL. It was pretty obvious where the holes in the lineup were, and it would be Dorion’s job to address them.
And address them he did.
Over the following summer, Dorion landed the best top six forward on the market, then added Claude Giroux for good measure. There’s the top six sorted. Months later, he managed to trade for the best defenseman on the market. There’s the top four sorted as well.
So… now what? What’s left to improve?
Obviously the roster isn’t perfect, but there isn’t a clear list of improvements they’ll need to make over the offseason, the way there has been in the past.
This isn’t all hypothetical, either. The Sens’ possession numbers took a massive leap forward this year, vaulting up from the basement to the top half of the league. Their paltry record can be chalked up to poor team save percentage and shooting percentage - the first is concerning, but the second should come around with better luck and Josh Norris back in the lineup.
Now in the thick of the playoff race, the Ottawa Senators appear to have finally arrived on the scene. Is the rebuild over?
That brings me to my question for this week: How close are the Sens to being competitive?
I’ll define “being competitive” as being a playoff team every year and having a reasonable chance of winning a few rounds.
At the moment, my personal list of things the Sens need to do in order to become truly competitive is as follows:
1. Elite goaltending
This is the only really big problem I see. Forsberg isn’t bad, but according to Natural Stat Trick, the Sens as a team have been near the bottom of the league in team 5v5 save percentage this year with 90.70. Goaltending is confusing and hard to predict, so who knows what’s going to happen in the future, but you need a very good group of skaters if you’re going to try to win without a star goaltender.
There’s hope for internal solutions to this problem, with Sogaard and Mandolese getting a long look in the NHL, but it’s still a problem.
2. Fix the bottom six
The Sens managed great possession numbers at 5v5 this year despite their bottom six getting absolutely caved in every night. A big part of the problem has been Josh Norris’s absence, which has forced Pinto into the top 6, so let’s just hope the Sens are due for a full season without any injuries at centre. There’s also lots of hope for internal solutions, with several Belleville players looking NHL-ready.
3. One more defenseman
I think this is probably the lowest priority, but still something worth mentioning. The Sens have 4 legitimate top-4 defensemen, and Brännström who has been very good on the third pairing this year, but they’ll need someone else to round out the third pairing and move up the lineup in case of injuries. Maybe that’ll be JBD or Lassi Thomson. We’ll see.
With all that in mind, I’d guess the Sens are still 1 or 2 years away, but if they stay the course I have hope that they’ll get there.
But what do you think? How close are they to being competitive?
How close are the Senators to being competitive?
They’re already competitive
Next year is their year
Still 2-3 years away
They won’t be competitive without major changes to the roster