Weekly Question: The Best Storyline of 2022

What will be the most interesting Sens storyline to watch in 2022?

Well, it’s been a full week without Ottawa Senators hockey.

Yesterday, two more Sens games were cancelled - one against the Canucks that was supposed to happen tonight, and another against the Jets that was supposed to close out the road trip. If this stop-start schedule has been pissing me off, I can’t imagine how the players feel about it.

All this uncertainty makes it difficult to look forward to anything, but I’m still going to try. Despite recent setbacks, it’s still a new year, and the Sens will probably be playing a lot of hockey in 2022.

So here’s a question for all of you on this hockey-less Saturday: what will be the most interesting storyline for the Sens in 2022?

Here are a few of my personal submissions.

Tim Stützle’s development

2021 was a huge year for Tim Stützle, as he played in the World Juniors, made his NHL debut, put together a solid rookie season, and then found a home for himself at centre on the second line. We saw him gradually adjust to the pace of the NHL and improve his defensive game. And yet, it still feels like he’s just on the verge of really breaking out offensively.

Could 2022 be the year we see Stützle establish himself as an elite talent in this league? His points production started to take off in December, and it’s not hard to imagine him carrying that momentum into the rest of the season. Add in another summer of training and (hopefully) (please) an upgrade on his wing, and this could be a very big year for our Jimmy.

Drake Batherson putting up real top line numbers

Batherson had an absolutely incredible year in 2021, and it’s reasonable to expect him to build on it. He’s currently scoring at more than a point-per-game pace, and looking like a legitimate first line player. If he continues to improve, he could very well put himself in the conversation as one of the best right wingers in the league.

It’s been a long time since the Sens last had a player near the top of the NHL scoring race. The last 100 point season by a Senator was Dany Heatley in 2006-2007. Even 82 point seasons have been hard to come by around here, with Karlsson being the last player to hit that mark, and 2011-12 Jason Spezza being the last forward to do it. And no, before you ask, no one got a point per game in any of the shortened seasons. If Batherson gets anywhere close to that this season, he’ll already be one of the best forwards this team has had since the days of the pizza line.

Can Josh Norris keep up his goal scoring pace?

Norris is in a similar position to Batherson in that he has a chance to put up the kinds of numbers we haven’t seen in Ottawa in years. With 14 goals in 28 games, Norris is on pace to hit 40 goals by the end of the season. Realistically, he probably won’t score that many goals, but if he does, he’ll be the first Senator to hit that mark since Heatley scored 41 in ‘08. The last time an Ottawa Senator scored even 30 goals in a season was 2011-12, when both Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek did it. It’s still way too early to assume Norris will keep up this pace, but if he can manage even 30 goals in just his second season in the NHL, that could spell very good things for the future of this franchise. The same goes for Tkachuk, who’s putting up similar numbers.

But here’s where Josh Norris’s storyline differs from Batherson’s: Norris isn’t guaranteed a spot on the first line moving forward. There’s a pretty good chance Stützle will overtake him eventually. This year will be Norris’s chance to show us all what he can do on the first line, and maybe ease some of our fears about the team’s centre depth.

The goalie of the future

The Sens have several goaltending prospects in the pipeline, and we may get to see a few of them in Ottawa this year. Gustavsson is first up, but we could see guys like Mandolese, Meriläinen and Søgaard get a chance to grab the starting goaltender position as well.

Could this be the year we see someone step in and fill the gaping hole in the lineup that’s existed since Craig Anderson left? I certainly hope so.

Jake Sanderson’s arrival in Ottawa

I mean. Can there really be any other answer?

The Jake Sanderson hype just keeps building and building. In 2022, we might see him play at the Olympics, compete for an NCAA championship, then make his NHL debut. If Sens games keep getting postponed, he might get to play in more NHL games than we expected. When training camp rolls around in October, he’ll probably get the chance to compete for a roster spot. There’s a very good chance that he’ll be on this team’s second pairing by this time next year. If he’s half as good as the scouts say he is, he could be an absolute game changer for the Sens, a team that hasn’t had a legitimate top 4 on defense in, what, a decade? Longer? Maybe that’s an idea for a very depressing future Weekly Question.

Development takes time, and lots could happen over the next year, but I’m sure everyone is very much looking forward to this storyline.

What will be the most interesting Sens storyline in 2022?

Tim Stützle61
Drake Batherson30
Josh Norris9
The goalie of the future22
Jake Sanderson131

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