Five Thoughts for Friday: Solving DeBrincat, Looking for Norris

Also, where are all the callups?

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for a S7S writer to give five disorganized thoughts. Writing the preamble to these is the worst, so I’m just jumping straight in now.

1. DeBrincat’s alright... right?

NKB had a great piece earlier this week about Alex DeBrincat’s early struggles this season, which look like a combination of bad luck and uninspiring linemates. I definitely agree with the bad luck. After all, a guy who’s shot 15% through his first 370 games doesn’t suddenly start scoring at 7% (5.7% with goalies in the net) because he turned 25. He still seems to have confidence in his shot. Seriously, look at this goal, and tell me he’s lost his scoring touch:

Two more things I’ve wondered. First, he’s listed as a RW, but he’s been forced into playing on the left side on the Sens’ second line. How much does this mess up what worked for him in his first few seasons in the NHL? Second, he seems to have fallen into last season’s Tim Stützle role of the best player not on the top line. Last year, Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson was clicking, and Jimmy got stuck centering whoever was left on the second line, and playing with the top guns on the powerplay. This year, it’s Tkachuk-Stützle-Giroux that are clicking. Swap DeBrincat with any of those guys, and I think his numbers go up (and whoever gets pulled off we starting asking about their “struggles”). The truth is, without Josh Norris in the lineup, this team is going to struggle offensively.

2. How about Norris?

Josh Norris spoke for pretty much the first time since his injury, going on the Comin’ In Hot podcast yesterday. I’m not going to focus on Bobby Ryan or Brent Wallace (or Jason York), I just want to comment on what Norris said. When asked about a timeline for his return, he didn’t say much. We’ve seen him at practice in the non-contact jersey a few times (including yesterday), but that means very little, seeing as it was a shoulder injury that sidelined him in the first place. Personally, I think it’s a good sign that they’re not giving us a timeline. The original prognosis was that he was probably out for the season, likely requiring surgery. They now say he doesn’t need surgery, and nobody’s saying when he’s back. The possibility exists, then, that he could be back in a month, but the organization don’t want to give any false hope. My next question is if it’s worth him coming back considering the Sens have a very minimal chance of making the playoffs and will likely fall further out of contention in the meantime. Maybe it’s better for him to rest and come back next year completely healthy, à la 2021-22 Shane Pinto?

3. Call-ups

At first blush, it doesn’t seem like the Sens have made an unusually small number of call-ups from the AHL. After all, the 26 players that have seen ice time this year is right in the middle of the NHL, between the extremely healthy Dallas Stars (21 total players) and the injury-plagued Colorado Avalanche (32). But it’s worth digging a little bit deeper, in particular when it comes to the forwards. The Sens have played 14 different forwards this season, which is exactly the number of forwards who made the team out of training camp. Josh Norris is out hurt, and then some combination of Gambrell, Kastelic, and Brassard (plus single games for Joseph and Kelly) have served as healthy scratches. For a team that’s had such a bad record to start the season, and whose bottom six in particular has struggled mightily to generate offense, it’s worth asking the question of whether some fresh blood from the farm might help.

Sure, the B-Sens have been hit hard by injuries, so maybe it’s been difficult to justify hurting their roster even more. It’s also the case that Greig, Daoust, and Järventie are hurt, but a player like Angus Crookshank, Egor Sokolov, Cole Reinhardt, or even the newly-healthy Viktor Lodin might have the chance to bring an element of depth scoring that is currently almost non-existent. The Sens are heading west with one spare forward (two if you count Norris), but it says here that the org would do well to mix it up a bit in the weeks ahead.

4. Dads... Dads Everywhere

On a lighter note, the Sens kicked off the Dads’ trip in Dallas last night. I was a little worried watching the Kings game in that it looked as though there were maybe 8 guys there in the dads’ section, but it turns out the main part of the trip is on the road. Honestly, I find there’s something very wholesome about these dads (and moms) trips, celebrating the people who sacrificed a tonne to get their kids to the NHL, giving them a chance to see how their kids live. I wonder what it’s like for some of these hockey dads to be around a guy like Keith Tkachuk or Geoff Sanderson, who they watched play 1000+ games but now their kids just play together. The NHL could stand to improve in any number of ways, but these annual trips celebrating players’ families are just great, encouraging, heartwarming fun.

5. For Explorers

If you missed it, on Tuesday the Players’ Tribune put out a video of Claude Giroux showing people around Ottawa. It’s kind of funny how he doesn’t really show anything of note — he has poutine and eats it beside a Staples parking lot, he walks beside the canal saying how you can skate on it in the winter, he visits the Olympiques’ arena, he goes to Joey’s at Landsdowne with his family. It’s also very sweet though, seeing him with his family, and it’s nice after so many players exiting Ottawa (and so many players reportedlyplacing it on their no-trade list) to see a prominent player, still playing point-per-game hockey, praising the everyday-ness of Ottawa. I’d love to see the reputation of Ottawa slowly change around the league, and this is the kind of praise from a respected veteran (who played almost his whole career elsewhere!) that could do just that.

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