With their loss to the Florida Panthers, the Ottawa Senators have officially been eliminated from playoff contention for the 2022-23 playoffs. Does that mean that this season has been a failure? I don’t think so. This is Why:
Pre Season Expectations
Earlier on in the year, Pierre Dorion and DJ Smith were interviewed and discussed their expectations for the upcoming season on Sportsnet’s 32 Thoughts Podcast “The New-Look Senators” on October 5th 2022.
In this interview, Dorion speaks about wanting to play meaningful hockey up until past the trade deadline, not wanting to be eliminated from playoff contention early on. Pierre Dorion has been known to have numerous quotable pressers, notably saying “The Rebuild is Over” at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, and the team was not close to the playoffs quite yet. The Senators were not eliminated from playoff contention until game #79 of the season. I think that goal of playing meaningful hockey at the end of the year has been achieved.
DJ Smith spoke about special teams specifically, wanting to near a combined 105% and it could be stated that the Senators did get close. With a power play percentage of 23.9% so far and a penalty kill percentage of 80.08%, the Senators achieved a combined 103.98% on special teams. This is 1.02% away from his goal, but it’s close enough in my opinion to call it an achieved goal.
Since the 2022 draft, the Ottawa Senators have brought in 6 new faces, those being Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, Cam Talbot, Tyler Motte, Jake Chychrun, and Patrick Brown. Motte was traded away close to the trade deadline, but he did play 38 games with the Sens. The only two names I mentioned that likely will not return are of Cam Talbot and Patrick Brown. The rest have contributed to the team greatly and will return next season and are part of the core for the foreseeable future.
The most impactful player amongst the newcomers was Claude Giroux. I’m not saying that DeBrincat or Chychrun have been bad acquisitions, it’s actually the opposite. They’ve all been outstanding, but if I had to choose one of these moves as most impactful it would be Giroux.
I believe that for a few reasons, Giroux is a proven leader who was captain of the Philadelphia Flyers for 10 years, and is now their longest-tenured captain in team history. He is an outstanding leader who has helped everyone on the team grow as players and as players. Most notably, Tim Stützle. Stützle has established himself as the Ottawa Senator’s number 1 centre, and I think Giroux can be credited in helping his development so much. Giroux has been shown to help many many players in practice, notably spending a good amount of time helping with face-offs as he’s one of the best face-off takers in the NHL. Under Giroux’s mentorship, Stützle’s face-offs have gotten better, going from 38.1% in 2021-22 to 41.1%. At first glance, this number does not scream as an improvement, but it it an improvement regardless, and it will only get better.
Another reason that Giroux’s signing was even more important because he’s the first certified “star” to sign in the Nation’s Capital in a LONG time. Evgenii Dadonov signing in Ottawa a couple of seasons ago was a surprise, but looking back on it, he’s more of a complimentary pieces as opposed to Giroux who’s an elite play driver and playmaker. Dadonov also did not stick around for more than one season, being traded in the next offseason as he did not fit in as well as hoped.
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Based on expectations entering the season, and the new faces brought into the organization, I can safely say that this season was a success. Sure, it stings that the team was not able to clinch a playoff spot, but in all honesty, reaching the playoffs would have been a great added bonus. I was excited for (almost) every game this season, and that’s something that just has not been true for me in a while. For the first time in years I’ve been excited to watch Sens Games nearing the end of the season.