The good, bad, and ugly about the Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
Ottawa Senators (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /

With a record of 6-7-0, the Senators currently sit dead last in the Atlantic Division, good enough for twelve points, three points back of the 7-7-1 Buffalo Sabres. This year was supposed to be different. It had to be different!

A lengthy sale process; long-term contracts being handed out to top-end talent; finally having a defensive corps that could stand up to the rest of the league; Alfie and Cyril Leeder coming home; that amazing home opener; a solid 3-1 record to start the season.

As Ray Charles put it “You better let the good times roll, baby!” So many good things happened! But then the ground beneath the Canadian Tire Centre out in Kanata, Ontario eroded and everything came crumbling down.

As we await the team’s departure to Sweden as part of the NHL’s Global Series, this felt like an appropriate time to reflect on the first thirteen games of the season for the Ottawa Senators. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good

When it’s good, it’s great! First, one must start with that home opener. Fans still have chills to this day about how amazing it was! That day was drenched in nostalgia and capped off by an awesome win to kick off a homestand!

More recently, their victory over the Calgary Flames, a resounding 4-1 victory on November 11th, highlighted that when they play with structure in all three zones and get the saves from their goaltender, this is a team that is worthy of playing with the higher end teams in the league. Or their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sure, neither team was playing particularly well at the time, but this was still a great test and the Sens came out on top 6-3 on the road!

This team is capable of being really entertaining, fast-paced, dynamic and has an incredible talent to back it up, it’s just putting it all together and doing so with consistency that’s been a glaring hole so far this season!

The Bad

Another season, another run with injuries to key players. It seems to have become some tradition, but a tradition Ottawa Senators fans would love to see come to an end. Major injuries to key players, such as Chabot, Zub and Greig, along with injuries to Brännström and Kastelic have undoubtedly halted any real progress this team could make in the standings early on this season.

They were already without top centre Shane Pinto (we’ll get to that in the “Ugly” section of this piece), which meant that some players were not put in positions to be successful and had to be asked to do more than they were ready for at this point in their career. “Punching above their weight class,” some would say!

Then you have the play on the ice, where you’re regularly seeing the team rely too heavily on their goaltender to make all of the saves while being unable to control the play through the neutral zone and create sustained offensive pressure. The defensive miscues are endless and glaring, as neither the defence can clear the crease, nor the forwards unreliably commit to playing defence.

Neither the players nor the coaches, seem to be consistently committed to structure (offensively or defensively), challenging the shooters, staying active with their sticks and playing more than just a “dump and chase” brand of hockey. Most nights are frustrating to watch as a fan. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The Ugly

This is something the fans never expected when Michael Andlauer took over the team. When he took over, it was seen as a real “turning of the page” moment for the franchise. We finally had stable ownership, with a group that contained passionate hockey minds right alongside local businesses who understand the Ottawa-Gatineau community. Oh, how times have changed!

The Shane Pinto situation. Oh, what a surprise this one was. As fans rained “We Want Pinto” chants from the rafters of the Canadian Tire Centre, all while creating mock trades in order to free up the salary cap necessary to sign him, we were all rocked by the news that he would be suspended for forty-one games, a punishment handed down due to his gambling missteps.

Not one of us saw this one coming and when it did, it hurt a lot. Here we have a middle six centre who showed great potential last season when asked to step in for Josh Norris for much of the season, and who is key to the success of this team moving forward, who lost for half the season. It was a tough pill to swallow, but at least he’s getting the help he needs, so that’s a plus in all of this.

This next one is essentially a two-parter. First, you have the Dadanov trade fiasco, who was traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Vegas Golden Knights back in 2021. At the time of the trade, Vegas believed that Dadanov hadn’t properly submitted his no-trade list, so they would be free to trade him wherever if needed. They ultimately did trade him, to the Anaheim Ducks.

One small catch: they were on his no-trade list which was, in fact, properly submitted, so the league vetoed the trade. As Bruce Garrioch of PostMedia explained, “The league refused to provide any detail as to what happened but the talk in league circles is Dorion gave the Knights the wrong information at the time he made the trade in July, 2021.”

As a result, the Senators have been docked a first-round draft pick in one of the next three drafts, which is an incredibly high price to pay. But not as high as the price Pierre Dorion paid as, after being with the team since 2007 and a GM since 2016, he and the team “mutually agreed” to part ways on November 1st. Many saw this as an inevitability, as it’s common to have a new ownership group come in and put their own people in place, but this wasn’t how anyone expected it to go down.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned off the top, the team departs for Sweden for two “home games,” where they will play the Detroit Red Wings and the Minnesota Wild. The last time the Senators played in Sweden, back in 2017, they swept the Colorado Avalanche in two games but appeared to have decided to leave their success behind in their hotel rooms.

As with any team, in any league, there will always be ups and downs both on and off the ice. But what makes this a particularly difficult situation here in Ottawa is that we’ve become used to being losers, despite being such a passionate and vocal fan base.

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This year was supposed to be different. This was supposed to be the year the team made it back to the playoffs after six agonizing years on the outside looking in. And while it’s still early, there are vibes of another season without “playoffs” being a part of our Spring plans. This year was supposed to be different! It has to be different!