It’s the holiday season, and Christmas is just 10 days away! Obviously not all of us celebrate Christmas, but whatever you celebrate, there are always things we are wishing for. I like coming up with wishlists related to the Ottawa Senators every year, and this year is no different. I could create an incredibly long list if I wanted to, but I’ll keep it at a manageable 5 for Santa.
Some of them are more realistic than others, and I didn’t want to go so far one way that it would never happen. Here is the list:
Brady Tkachuk Staying at This Level
Brady Tkachuk now has an incredible 22 points in 23 games, including 15 in his last 11. His career-best season saw him go on pace for 53 points in a full season, and now he’s on pace for 76 points in 79 games. It’s never a great idea to expect similar production from a player in the future while they are on a hot streak, so I’d be surprised if he ended up in the mid-70s by the end of the season.
However, even with some regression, he could still end up with 65 points, which is a massive improvement. Tkachuk wasn’t a true first-liner in his first three seasons, but if he can somewhat keep this up, he’ll absolutely be worth the big contract he received. They don’t need him to be a close-to point-per-game player, but it would be a huge boost for the team if he can be a strong offensive contributor.
Jake Sanderson Making an Immediate Impact
Jake Sanderson won’t be coming anytime soon since he’s still at the University of North Dakota. He’s having an incredible season with 19 points in 15 games (as a defenseman, remember), which is only behind Owen Power amongst NCAA defensemen in points per game. The amazing thing is his offense was supposed to be his weakness, so he could be quite a two-way threat when he comes to Ottawa.
UND is ranked tied for 5th in the country in the most recent national poll, so they have a chance in the playoffs, but they probably aren’t as strong as last year and could be out early enough for Sanderson to play some games in Ottawa. Even if UND goes to the Frozen Four finals on April 9th, Sanderson would theoretically be available for 9 games afterwards. But he could easily play more than that if UND is eliminated earlier, meaning we could see a good chunk of games from Sanderson, who is almost certainly going to burn the first year of his ELC (which will happen after 1 game).
There’s so much pressure on this kid already, so I feel bad for him. But at the same time, he could really be a difference-maker. Ottawa hasn’t had 3 solid defensemen since they went to the Cup Finals, and Sanderson’s ceiling is sky-high. They desperately need another high-end defenseman, and if he just shows glimpses of that at the end of the season, that’ll be a godsend.
Long-Term Extension for Josh Norris
Josh Norris is also on a hot streak of his own, putting up 12 points in his last 11 games. Overall, he has a whopping 14 goals in 26 games, plus 8 assists to go along with that. He’s on pace for 69 points, but 44 of those would be goals. Ottawa hasn’t even had a 30 goal scorer since Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza in 2011-12, let alone a 40-goal one (with the last 40-goal scorers being Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley in 2007-08).
Who knows if he can keep up that torrid pace, but one thing’s for sure: Norris is incredibly talented and a first-line player. He is an RFA in the summer and will be due for a massive pay raise. I have no idea what he’ll be asking for, but considering they’ve locked up Tkachuk, Chabot, and Batherson, Norris needs to be next. Even if they have to “overpay” as they did with Tkachuk, it would be worth it because they can’t afford to have questions over the next few seasons about whether they can afford Norris on his 3rd contract. Give him 6-8 years and let this core grow.
Winning the Lottery
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. They’ve never moved up in any draft lottery, and they’re due for some good luck for once. Although their top players have been on fire recently, they still really need another elite player to round out the group. Shane Wright is the projected first overall pick, and despite the slow start for his standards (30 points in 22 games), he’s still an elite prospect:
We must remember that Shane Wright lost his entire D-1 season and started “slowly”.— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) December 5, 2021
He has 11 points in his last 14 periods of hockey
His exceptional status season was statistically better than McDavids. The elite offense is in there and it’s starting to show once again. https://t.co/snAEnx5PJY
Perhaps somebody else overtakes him between now and then, but the point is that the Senators really need another top player. It’d be great if they finished 11th from the bottom and end up moving the maximum 10 spots to pick 1st so that they show progress on the ice but end up with the elite talent anyway. Just give us this one, hockey gods.
Shaking up the Front Office
If you’ve read any of my recent work, you’d know that I don’t trust Pierre Dorion long-term anymore. Maybe you do trust him, and we all have our preferences. Personally, while I think he is great at identifying amateur talent, he hasn’t shown any ability to acquire quality NHL talent in order to improve the roster. And that is what the team needs right now in order to surround the existing core because you cannot expect every prospect to pan out.
I don’t want to say I’m wishing for someone to lose their job because that sounds awful. I doubt Dorion would accept a demotion, but in a perfect world, I’d keep him around as one of the head scouts alongside Troy Mann in order to utilize his strengths. So in the end this wish comes down to a stronger front office where the GM and/or President of Hockey Operations can properly build a team around a solid existing young core.
To be honest, I’d be pretty happy if two of these come true, but maybe we get lucky with Santa in 2021.
What is on your list this year?