Ottawa Senators Report Cards: Josh Norris

Our favourite himbo had a down year before suffering yet another shoulder injury.

Ottawa Senators Report Cards: Josh Norris
Photo by Otto Norin / Unsplash

Staff Grade: C; Reader Grade: C

It’s hard to find a Sens player as easy to root for as Josh Norris.

Only three years ago, it looked like the guy who had been a throw-in in the Karlsson trade, seemingly just because he was best friends with Brady Tkachuk, might end up becoming the team’s first line centre. Now, in 2024, his future seems more uncertain than ever.

After missing almost all of the 2022-23 NHL season due to a shoulder injury, Josh Norris’s return to the lineup was highly anticipated - and the source of a lot of anxiety among fans. When he remained day-to-day throughout the entire preseason and the first few games of the regular season, despite assurances from the team that he would be ready in time for game 1, alarm bells started ringing.

When Norris did finally return to the lineup, it took him a while to find his stride, but after a few games he looked pretty comfortable on the second line. Unfortunately, his season was once again cut short in February with yet another shoulder injury. We’re now back to square one, wondering if we can even expect him to play in 2024-25. In fact, I’d say we’re gradually approaching a point now where the question isn’t whether he’s going to play a full season, or even whether he’ll be the same player when he returns, but whether he’ll be able to return to professional hockey at all.

With 16 goals and 14 assists in 50 games, Norris was on pace for about 26 goals - a respectable total, but far, far less than what fans have come to expect from the sniper who was once considered a lock for 30 to 40 goals. One of the biggest reasons for this drop in production was the massive reduction in his powerplay time. Norris played 157:37 on the man advantage, which was 7th on the team and 3rd in TOI per game, so it’s not like he was completely taken off the powerplay, but he still played a lot less than he had in the past, especially under Jacques Martin. More concerningly, he was moved away from the spot he had seen so much success from. I don’t know if the coaching staff suspected those massive slapshots were factors in his injury problems, or if they actually thought he’d be more useful elsewhere, but the drop in production was noticeable, and greatly affected the team’s powerplay.

Overall, he didn't have the best impact on the ice. This is his hockeyviz summary:

As you can see, the Sens both gave up a lot of shots with him on the ice, and got fewer shots themselves, compared to league average. The team as a whole was worse than league average, but you definitely want a player of Norris's calibre to have a bigger impact than that - or at the very least, less of a negative impact.

Most importantly, I have it on good authority that he excels at the only stat that matters:


A lot of Norris's struggles could be chalked up to him being rusty. If he had made it through a full season without getting injured, we'd probably be able to take a lot of positives from the season and hope for a bounceback in 2024-25. He didn't, though.

More and more, it’s starting to look like Josh Norris’s future on this team is tied to that of Shane Pinto. The Ottawa Senators have played very few games with both centres in the lineup. We used to project Stützle, Norris and Pinto as the top 3 centres, in that order, but this season, Shane Pinto finally proved that he can handle the second line, and Norris makes too much for a third liner. Ottawa has the cap space to sign Pinto for what he’s worth and still keep Norris on the books, but if these injury troubles persist, and especially if Norris’s play declines, the team might have to start asking questions about his place on the roster.

The good (?) news for Norris fans is that because his contract is pretty much untradeable, he’s going to get another chance with this team. The bad news is… well, that.

The best case scenario right now is that Norris takes all the time he needs to recover, finally gets his shoulder back to 100%, and goes back to being the player we saw in 2021-22. The worst case scenario is that he tries to come back too early, re-injures himself again, and keeps repeating the cycle until he finally calls it quits, by which point Ottawa will have already made too many roster decisions under the assumption that he would be counting against the cap and not on LTIR.

I know everyone is sick of this word after approximately a million years of the rebuild, but when it comes to Josh Norris, we’re all going to need a lot of patience.

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