Ottawa Senators Report Cards: Mathieu Joseph

Once thought to be a contract that the Senators needed to dump, Mathieu Joseph became Ottawa's best bottom-six forward this season

Ottawa Senators Report Cards: Mathieu Joseph
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin / Unsplash

Reader Grade: B , Staff Grade: B+

Last September, the Ottawa Senators seemingly did not have enough cap space to re-sign RFA Shane Pinto, and for all the world it looked like they were going to have to shed some salary if they wanted to sign him. Names such as Dominik Kubalik and Erik Brännström were mentioned as potential trade candidates, but there was one player that came up the most: Mathieu Joseph.

Joseph was coming off a poor 2022-23 season where he had just 18 points in 56 games, including zero 5v5 goals. It was an incredibly disappointing campaign after being re-signed for four years and $2.95M, and fans were ready to ship him off in order to keep Pinto in the mix. In a strange twist of fate, Pinto's 41-game suspension ultimately saved Pierre Dorion from having to make what might have been a horrendous mistake, as he was able to keep Joseph and sign Pinto for the minimum. Eight months later, it's incomprehensible how poorly a "Joseph plus a pick" trade to another team would have aged. Joseph was very effective for the Senators this past season, and thus he was one of the few nice surprises.

Joseph started the season incredibly hot with 19 points in his first 25 games, and he was doing it while looking dangerous every single game as well. He only put up 16 points over the next 35 games though, which was more of his expected pace. Then he really fell off at the end of the season as he went pointless in the final 12 contests. I don't think anyone expected him to continue his 62-point pace like he was on in the beginning, and his overall line of 35 points in 72 games was still a career-high for him that had him on pace for 40 points overall. Would you like some more consistency throughout the season? Sure, but you take that kind of full-season production all day.

Furthermore, as with any reasonable analysis, it's not fair to just look at Joseph's point totals to evaluate his game. If you watch him play, his strengths stand out immediately: he's relentless on the forecheck, can blow past any defensemen, and can defend well at any game state. He's a Swiss Army Knife with many different abilities, and it shows in his Goals Above Replacement stats. Joseph finished 8th on the team in GAR with 7.3 and was behind just Tim Stützle, Brady Tkachuk, and Ridly Greig amongst forwards. Within the different categories making up GAR (EV offense/defense, PP offense, SH defense, penalties taken, penalties drawn), the only category he was negative in was powerplay offense, but even that was only at -0.2, so barely below 0.

JFresh's model has him as similar over the past three seasons but worse last year; however, he still ranks quite high on the defensive side of the game:

Joseph is definitely capable of some hot streaks where he shows off his quick release, but he has a career-high of 13 goals for a reason, and he'll be foreverknown more for his speed and defensive prowess. If he didn't play those last 12 scoreless games of the season, it wouldn't have left a sour taste in people's mouths, but he shouldn't be expected to be one of the "guys" to rely on anyway. His most common linemates were surprisingly Tim Stützle and Claude Giroux, but if the team wants to score more next season, he needs to be on the third line because the depth has improved sufficiently to merit it.

Will Joseph be able to take another step and be a top-6 contributor at any point? That seems pretty unlikely, although at $2.95M for the next two seasons, they don't need him to be. He's a unique player whose speed adds something to the Sens' lineup that they are otherwise lacking, and although he's obviously not in the untouchable category, they'd have to be getting a very good player in return to make any trade worthwhile for the Senators. He's a fun player to watch, he helps defensively, he's a fixture on the PK, and, if he can score like last season, his contract is not nearly the burden it seemed like twelve months ago. Add it all up, and you have the ingredients for a great bottom six contributor, and a solid season for Joseph.

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