Ottawa Senators Player Grades: Tim Stützle

Some expectations are loftier than others

Ottawa Senators Player Grades: Tim Stützle
Photo by Anja Bauermann / Unsplash

Reader Grade B+, Staff Grade B+

I would make the argument that you typically want your franchise players to get "A"s across the board when making these report cards but considering this team as a whole deserved an "F" for their play this season, Tim Stützle probably wasn't the problem (*cough* goaltending *cough*). I also think it bears mentioning that Stutzle had such an exceptional season last year and it, completely fairly, altered our expectations of the star centre. So what happened exactly?

In the early goings of the season, the DJ Smith times, Stützle centred his old buddies Brady Tkachuk and Claude Giroux and while the team still mostly stunk, the big three continued to produce in the same glorious fashion they did last year. As the team fell apart however, the coaching staff opted to re-distribute the talent in the top-six and we ended up with mixed results to say the least. Certainly, Stützle showed some chemistry with Vladimir Tarasenko as the former reached a new career high with 52 assists in his fourth NHL season. Before we get into goal-scoring I will make the blanket statement that Stützle still helped the Senators generate offence as well as he ever has. The numbers bear that out. We'll get to the caveats on that but at the end of the day 70 points in 75 games seems better than a stick in the eye.

Defensively I think most Sens fans will agree that this season felt like a bit of a regression from Stützle. A couple of years ago he looked like a future Selke candidate. This year, it didn't seem like Stützle could do much to mitigate the defensive woes of the team and again the numbers bear it out.

And if I had to offer the simplest possible explanation, I would argue that between the instability behind the bench and the shuffling of the lines, playing beside Tarasenko arguably did the most to damage Stützle's case. By all means, Tarasenko did the thing the Sens signed him to do but everyone who watched the Tank Show in Ottawa will agree his defensive results stunk to say the least. And it makes the discussion that much more interesting that Stützle played so well on the penalty kill. For all his relative (and keep in mind the established standards here) mediocrity this season at five-on-five, Stützle has exceptional special teams impacts this past season. And so while I don't want to use the teammate excuse too much, I think we really need to take in all the contextual factors.

On the penalty kill I can imagine a lot of folks won't get past the results because the goaltending stunk so much but I still implore you to look at those impact cards. On the powerplay, again, Stützle helped the team as much as anyone could have asked given the overall quality of the team but a powerplay shooting percentage below 3 on the season (and a career low five-on-five shooting percentage as well) cratered Stützle's goal totals and in fairness our grades will reflect the output. If I can add one other note about special teams, for all of Stützle's funny stuff around penalties, he drew 26 more than he took and that has an immense positive impact for the team.

I also want to make a point to clarify that as much as I think Tarasenko dragged Stützle down defensively and Tkachuk propped Stützle up, the franchise centre can and still does drive whatever given line he plays on. I would make the argument that Mathieu Joseph and Drake Batherson played their best five-on-five hockey when Stützle centred them. Again I think the special teams rates speak for themselves.

Ultimately, I think a lot of factors worked against Stützle when it came to our grading this year. It didn't help that he ended the season on the injured reserve or that he spent so much time with a rotating cast of wingers instead of just sticking with what worked so well last year. Despite all that, Stützle can still play and help in all phases of the game and in all three zones as well as any player on the roster. He carries the puck incredibly well and has an enviable blend of skating, vision, and precision. As long as he starts next season fully healthy, I see no reason why Stützle won't have an "A" beside his name this time next year.

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