When you think of the biggest disappointments this year in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres are #1, but then you have the Ottawa Senators and the Anaheim Ducks. The Duck are for another time. Not so mighty are they.
Ottawa Senators Got Tallent but not wins
If you look at this Senators team there’s no reason they should be at the bottom of the league. This is a team that has beaten the top two teams in the Scotiabank North Division – the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Montreal Canadiens on more than one occasion. Some of those victories were close wins, but they were wins nonetheless.
So what is the problem with Ottawa?
The 2019-20 Senators
We go back to the 2019-20 season they were the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference. That season was chalked up to being a teardown and rebuild. And they made some moves to set the team up this year, such as the trade with Toronto on July 1, 2019, for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk, the Columbus Blue Jacket’s third-round pick in 2020 for Connor Brown, Michael Carcone, and Nikita Zaitsev.
There were also signings and free agents that in 2019-20 that helped the Sens to where they are now. Moves such as inking Nick Paul to a 1-year deal, Christian Wolanin to a 2-year deal, Colin White to a 6-year deal, and Thomas Chabot to A 8-year deal. In May 2020 the signed Defenseman Artem Zub from the KHL.
The 2020-21 Senators
So fast forward to the 2020-2021 season and the Senators did some housecleaning. They informed longtime Goalie Craig Anderson they would not extend his contract. The team also bought out Bobby Ryan’s contract.
They also made 5 big trades to help get some depth and veteran leadership. The first one addressed the goaltending situation, trading the Pittsburgh Penguins Jonathan Gruden, and a second-round draft pick in the 2020 draft (which became G Joel Blomqvist) for G Matt Murray. Next to be addressed was the depth if the team. A deal was struck with the Anaheim Ducks sending a fifth-round pick in 2021 to get veteran Defensman Erik Gudbranson.
The next deal was with the Nashville Predators, sending them a fourth-round pick in 2021 for winger Austin Watson. The Arizona Coyotes were the next trade partners getting a second-roound pick in 2021 for veteran C Derek Stepan. The biggest moves were moving dead contracts of Marian Gaborik, and Anders Nilsson to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Cedric Paquette, Braydon Coburn, and a second-round pick in 2022.
The draft is where they did the biggest work. With the third pick, they took German superstar Tim Stüetzle, and with the fifth pick, they took USA National Team Development product, Jake Sanderson. With their final pick in the first round, they got Canadian Center Ridly Greig from the Brandon Wheat Kings. Sanderson is currently playing at the University of North Dakota. Ridly is still playing In Brandon for the Wheat Kings. Tim Stützle was the only player that got the immediate jump to the NHL, and it has done wonders for him.
The 2020-21 senators season
The season looked promising after the first game in the Battle of Ontario, when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3. Then reality set in, and the Sens lost their remaining eight games in January – to the Maple Leafs once, the Jets 3 times, the Canucks thee times, and the Oilers once.
Feburary is when the Senators went on a bit of a streak. And it is when some faces of the franchise were solidified. After losing nine straight, the Senators finally got off the schneid by beating the Montreal Canadiens on the back of Tim Stützle’s three-point night. They would lose their next four but they would have big numbers by fellow rookie Josh Norris. Veteran F Evgeny Dadonov who they picked up from Florida, has been playing well. Dadonov struck again in the next two games, leading the Sens past the Winnipeg Jets.
Then it was another Battle of Ontario which was one for the record books. Toronto had a 5-1 lead going in the second period, and then history was made. Started by Nick Paul’s short-handed goal, which was the Senators first shorty of the season, making it 5-2. Then the period it was all Senators after an Artem Zub penalty. Zub was released from the box, got on a breakaway and scored his first NHL goal to make the score 5-3.
Then immediately after a double-minor penalty on Zach Hyman, it was Thomas Chabot who passed the puck to Colin White. He found Connor Brown on a tic-tac-goal to make this a 5-4 Leafs lead. With just two minutes left in the game the Sens pulled G Hogberg, and doing his best Blue Jays impersonation, it was Evgeny Dadonov who scored and tied the game at 5-5.
That wasn’t all from Dadonov. This game went to overtime, and Dadonov saved the game on one end, and on the other by burying home the game-winner on a breakaway to give Ottawa a 6-5 win. It was the first time in franchise history the Senators had come back from a four-goal deficit.
Since that game the Senators are 6-8-1 as of this writing. They have wins against Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary. The Senators also have 2 rookies on Calder watch – Stützle and Josh Norris, although they would both be considered dark horses right now.
So the question should be, is it the strength of the division of Canada’s elite, or, are the Senators just not ready to compete just yet? One Twitter dropped his opinion for this article.
Joseph David or @JD_Senators on Twitter had this to say about the Senators woes this year.
“ I honestly believe it’s because of a few things. 1, the D isn’t great, the forwards aren’t being defensively responsible either. A lot of high-quality turnovers and they are bad!!! Goaltending has been inconsistent at best with a lot of soft goals. To me, most of the reasons are blue line and back.”
I agree that there are way too many turnovers, and the goaltending has been subpar, but I think this team is better than its record says. I think it is the division. If they were playing Buffalo, or Detroit, or Anaheim their record would be a lot better.
Remember the Sly Fox sniffs out the story for the fans.
Jeremy “Fox” Miller