As the Ottawa Senators reached their first quarter mark of this campaign (finally, some teams were here for well over a week), let’s have a review. All-in-all, it can’t be too dire, they do sit 10-10-0, which is much better than recent November records. And what can we say this is despite the team continually riding a roller coaster of emotions. They have had plenty of newsworthy stories pass through town. Next, let us remember the Sweden trip, and what a memorable experience it was. Then, we shall discuss the team offensively, followed by defensively. Of course, a review wouldn’t be complete, if we didn’t throw in some forecasting. So, we shall focus on what lies ahead over the next three-quarters of the 2023-24 NHL regular season of action.
Much Ado About Hockey
If we focus on news stories surrounding the club up to this point, there is no shortage of hits. First of all, there is the Shane Pinto suspension. Chaulk it up to poor decision-making from a young man, but either way, it earned him a 41-game suspension. He is eligible to return in late January and look for management to try to sign up at that time. There is thinking, given his predicament that he will sign for a minimum dollar amount.
In addition, this carries right into another news piece, in the resignation of General Manager Pierre Dorion. Even though the Pinto news didn’t result in him leaving, it sure didn’t help the tone of the club. A tone that newly minted owner Michael Andlauer was looking over with a fine tooth comb. The resignation itself was more related to the debauchery of the trade of Evgeni Dadonov. When the Sens traded him, they neglected to point out his contractual conditions, such as a list of teams on a no-trade list.
Also, the Senators had made an executive hiring in President of Hockey Operations Steve Staios. This did help alleviate some of the blow felt the GM move. Along with being hit by the injury bug (having three regular defencemen out of the lineup at the same time), plenty has been happening. Just a note, it appears they will be without Chabot for the next while now too. Hopefully, Head Coach D.J. Smith can ignore the (select) fan base who, look for him to join Dorion on the departure list. Therefore, focus on building on what’s working and fixing what isn’t.
Steve Staios says on TSN 1200 that the club will know more on Thomas Chabot this afternoon. He was sent for another test after his MRI Monday. Club is waiting on that result. Initial expectations were he’d be out awhile so we’ll see where this goes #Sens
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) December 7, 2023
The Ottawa Senators First Quarter Review from Sweden
Before we get into the X’s and O’s, let’s flashback to the trip to Stockholm. This was a great experience for the club, and especially the team members from the area. The Sens have German, Danish, and Finnish, along with Swedish team members. Additionally, having Daniel Alfredsson in a role behind the bench, really added to the appeal. Perhaps it also propelled the team to victory. Conversely, it was not always pretty, which saw the team blow a four-goal lead. But then, cue German superstar Stützle showing off his baseball skills to seal the two points with one second left in overtime against the Detroit Red Wings. In the other matchup, Anton Forsberg was solid in backstopping the team to a shootout win. But what will last were the memories, and it helped the team feel good about itself again.
The Offence Comes in Bunches
The Ottawa Senators offence has been great thus far and carried the team. However, they have only carried the team to a .500 record, and have been marred with inconsistency. For example, with his two-goal performance Tuesday against the New York Rangers, Vladimir Tarasenko bumped a 13-game goalless skid. This was the second-longest goalless streak of the talented Russian’s career. Now, overall he has been playing well, picking up assists, and getting opportunities still. He currently sits tied with Drake Batherson at 17 points for fourth in the club. But this is just the type of example that shows the team’s inconsistencies. Last season, they scored the second-most power-play goals in the league. This year, they are 23rd at 17.6% on the power play. A team with this much talent in their top-six forward group needs to be much higher.
Now, it is not all doom and gloom for the team offensively, in fact, it is a strength of this team. Quite remarkably, they are sixth in the NHL at 3.45 GPG. Furthermore, their young phenom, Tim Stützle, is on-pace for an incredible season, and he’s only 21. His 24 points have him on track for over 98 if he plays an entire 82-game slate. If we move on to Brady Tkachuk, his 13 goals to this point, have him set to easily surpass 50. Overall, it seems the depth of the forward group is driving their offence. Even getting support from the backend, as both Jakob Chychrun and Jake Sanderson have 12 points already. Now, we take a look at why the team struggles, even with this offensive run support, the defensive side of the puck.
Why Are They Bad Defensively, and a Potential Remedy
In the Ottawa Senators first quarter season review, their team defence needs work. They sit in 22nd at 3.84 in goals against above expected. If you think they have played 20 games, that’s almost an extra goal against every five games. Ideally, you don’t want any extra goals against (a negative value). Their offence hasn’t been able to offset these metrics, as their expected goal differential is bad as well. They are currently ranked 24th at -4.81. Also, in 2022-23, their penalty killing was an advantage, this is abysmal, at 28th with a rate of 73.5%.
Once again, similar to the discussion on offence, the defence will right the ship. Up to this point, their team SV% is .895. Both goalies are reliable and should improve this as the season goes along. Having strong two-way forwards, like recently getting Ridly Greig back from injury, will provide a boost. Another sign of optimism was bringing in Jacques Martin in an advisory role. It has long been suggested the Senators lack a strong, defensive structure. Bringing in the right supporting cast will allow for solutions to problems to be discovered.
Seeing Old Faces Brought Into New Places and a Prediction
To close out, a prediction on what will become for the Ottawa Senators 2023-24 based on their first quarter review. Having brought in smart hockey minds like Alfredsson and Martin will pay off. However, the results won’t be immediate. The players need to take accountability to avoid unreliable backchecks or inconsistent point production. They do have talent on defence it is about finding the balance from the bottom pair. If the Edmonton Oilers turn around is a reason for hope, the Senators can also hope. Not to guarantee a playoff spot, but they are only 10-10-0. Look for them to go on a winning streak, as this group is a notoriously streaky team. The projection for playoff points is high in the Eastern Conference, but look for Ottawa to be within five points of the final spot. If they can find consistency, offensively and defensively, they will be on the winning end of those five points.
Main photo: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports