Ottawa Senators 2023–24 Season Preview, Part 2: Defence and Goaltending

It's been ages since we've had a top-four or a tandem this good—forget both at the same time

Ottawa Senators 2023–24 Season Preview, Part 2: Defence and Goaltending
Photo by Nathanaël Desmeules / Unsplash

Yesterday, Trevor reviewed the forwards who should score a lot and might play defence sometimes. Today, we look at the Sens' D corps and goalies, which may be the strongest we've seen in many years.

The Defence

First off, the D seems to look like this:




And currently the Sens are running zero extras. Right off the bat, that's the best top-four the Sens have run probably since Redden, Chara, Phillips, Volchenkov. Chabot and Chychrun should be wildly entertaining, playing fluidly, swapping who plays right and left, making high-risk high-reward plays, driving offense but getting caught on mistakes too. I think it will be must-watch hockey every time these guys hit the ice, and about 60% of the time for reasons that benefit the Sens. That second pairing should be super reliable, with Sanderson a year older and playing with a much better partner than the Ghost of Hamonics Past. Zub was down last year, but hopefully he regains his form—and probably paying with someone a little less offence-first than Chabot will be helpful. We'll see about that third pairing, since Brännström had good stats but isn't really a third-pairing skillset, and Hamonic still fires slapshots anytime he gets the puck across the centre line. Stull, if 45–50 minutes per night are eaten up by those top two pairs, that third pairing will be more than fine.

On the powerplay, the Sens are in a weird place where four d-men want regular time. Since Smith won't follow my advice of playing a unit of four D plus Tkachuk to take face-offs and be net front, we're likely getting Chabot on Unit 1, Sanderson and Chychrun on Unit 2, and Brännström never. I think we can expect Chabot to get 45–50 points with the powerplay and then Chychrun to also pot at least 5 powerplay goals on that second unit.

On the penalty kill, we'll probably see those bottom two pairings as the regulars. Brännström, despite his size, was surprisingly effective last year there, and Sanderson and Zub have been good. My fear is Hamonic, who is getting older and slower, and last year was the guilty party in injuries to both Forsberg and Talbot, by shoving an opposing player directly on top of them. These personnel are good, not incredible on the PK. I wouldn't mind seeing Chychrun get some reps with Branny out there too—Chychrun's hand–eye in particular is incredible—we'll likely see that bottom four the most.

The Goalies

The Sens enter the year with Korpisalo and Forsberg as a 1A/1B. In many ways, they are similar. They are currently 29 and 30 years old, respectively. Their maximum numbers of career starts are 44 and 37. Their career save percentages are .904 and .908. Both have shown they are reliable in modest workloads and are unproven in heavier ones. So this year, we're probably looking at 50 starts for Korpisalo and 30 for Forsberg, based on salary, but that balance could shift to more even depending on early results. While we watched Talbot's age become a factor last year, we shouldn't see that this year.

I think it's fair to say that this is the best tandem the Sens have had in net since Anderson and Lehner. Not arguing either one will be as good as either of those two, but after some weird mixture of Matt Murray and AHL callups, this year should be a nice change. I think it's fair to expect league-average or a little better goaltending out of these two, which should be enough to keep the Sens afloat. If Vegas taught us one thing, it's that a platoon of competent goalies is more than enough in today's NHL.

Burning Question

So given all this, I think there's one overall question at play here: can the Sens be good enough in their own zone for their offensive strengths to win them games? The Sens shouldn't have trouble scoring. Their offence from the back-end and their puck movement should be more than good enough here. The question is if all that will be enough to overcome the lack of a star goalie and the opportunities that will be given up by a high-octane defensive corps. We're all hoping the answer is yes.


I have high hopes for this crew. The Sens' best tandem in net in 8 years and the best top-four in 17 years have me excited. There will be moments, and even games, of frustration, but for the first time in a long time, the Sens aren't looking for a top-four D. That in itself is an enormous reason to be hopeful for this year.

Not everyone can afford to pay for sports coverage right now, and that is why we will keep as much of the site's content free for as long as we can.

But if you are able to, please consider subscribing to help keep our articles free (and get a few extra perks).

Erik Condra
  • Ability to comment and participate in our community
  • Twice monthly newsletter available only to subscribers
  • Ad-free reading
  • Our undying love and appreciation
Brady Tkachuk
  • Everything from the Erik Condra tier
  • 10% discount on all merch
  • Access to any future paywalled content
  • A personal thank-you from the Silver Seven staff
Daniel Alfredsson
  • Everything from the Brady Tkachuk tier
  • Inner peace knowing you are supporting quality, independent coverage of your favourite sports team