What’s holding the Ottawa Senators back?


Oh, Halloween, the time of year when everyone watches horror movies and goes door to door asking for free candy from complete strangers. There’s nothing like it, especially after it was essentially canceled thanks to the pandemic in 2020. For Ottawa Senators fans, curling up on the couch and watching the game have at times been as scary as it is. ‘a’ Saw ‘movie, even though the team has been a lot better than it was in 2020-21. The season hasn’t started badly for the Senators, but they’re far from perfect, and some nights they’re far from good too.

Expectations for the Senators put them somewhere between missing the playoffs and having a mid-round pick, or simply qualifying for the playoffs if they could have a good run. Right now it feels like they’re living up to those expectations and showing early on that they’ll be good in the future, but they’re not quite ready to fight just yet. If they can get things in order, they might be good now, but that doesn’t necessarily align with the plan the Senators have laid out.

Senators are not good enough defensively

At the start of the season, it doesn’t look like the Senators will have such a tough time putting the puck in the net, but while scoring is great it doesn’t mean much if you can’t keep the puck out of the way. scope. your own net. This was a huge problem for the Senators at the start of the season, and frankly, calling them bad is insulting to the bad defensive cores of the NHL. No one asks for perfection, but the defense the Senators now boast is in line with the caliber of the American Hockey League.

Let’s take a second to talk about the Senators’ best defensive pair. It might be as good as the Senators could ask for with Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub playing fantastic hockey right now. So far this season, the duo have accumulated seven points in Ottawa’s seven games this season. They’ve also combined to be plus-13, and while plus / minus can’t always be used to determine how players play, it’s pretty telling that the rest of the defending unit is heavily in under. Between Chabot and Zub, the Sens have a good thing on their first pair.

Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators (Photo by André Ringuette / NHLI via Getty Images)

The real problems lie in the last four. Nikita Zaitsev has not been great this season, but his potential is not very high. He’s the kind of player who will only be in Ottawa until some of the kids are ready. Nick Holden has appeared to be the team’s third best defenseman this season, but again, he could be a replacement going forward. With the last three defenders, there really isn’t much positive to share. Victor Mete, Josh Brown and Michael Del Zotto haven’t been good this season, and it’s not like there are high expectations for them to begin with. Mete regained his form with the Montreal Canadiens, Brown was the cause of many goals again and Del Zotto was not good at his limited action.

Related: 3 Teams That Should Target Erik Brannstrom Of Senators In A Trade

Additionally, there is virtually no offensive production from the Senators’ defense other than their first pairing. You don’t always need a huge amount of offense for your defense, but sometimes the ability to open things up and get points from everyone on the ice is important. This is what makes players like Chabot, Cale Makar and Adam Fox so effective. You don’t need everyone to be flashy offensively, but they need more than they get, especially in their bottom four.

Murray and Forsberg must be better

There has been hope for the Senators’ goaltending situation for some time now. When they traded to Matt Murray, the hope was that he would find a way to regain his Stanley Cup form, which did not happen for him. Anton Forsberg started the season with a stellar performance in a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, but since then it has been downhill for him. Needless to say, goaltenders have been a soft spot for the Senators in their quest to shock the world and advance to the playoffs.

Matt Murray Ottawa Senators
Matt Murray, Ottawa Senators (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

There’s no denying how struggling veteran Senators goaltenders have struggled this season, but they likely already have their future goaltender in the system. Despite a strange obsession with keeping Filip Gustavsson on the bench, he has shown that he is not only the man of the future but also the man of the present.

Gustavsson had very limited playing time early in the season, but when he has been in the net there is a higher level of confidence that mistakes can be made without being punished every time. He’s by no means perfect, and no one should expect him to be, as he’s only been in the NHL for a very short time and he’s still young at the age of 23. . Going forward, the Senators need to stick with Gustavsson, and give him a chance to prove he can be the team’s starting goalie this season.

DJ Smith’s gritty preference

One of the biggest criticisms of Senators head coach DJ Smith has been his preference for bigger, rougher players rather than those who bring more sparkle and skill to the table. It’s a somewhat complex issue, of course there are times when you need some extra grain in the lineup, but that’s not always the case. This problem becomes especially glaring when Smith chooses to play Josh Brown against Erik Brännström or when you see Zach Sanford on the ice in a power play situation.

Zach Sanford St. Louis Blues
Zach Sanford, formerly of the St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr / The Hockey Writers)

Yes, there have been injuries that got Zach Sanford and Scott Sabourin into the lineup at the same time, but Smith doesn’t seem to have a problem using these players more than he should. One of the power play units that have been used this season are Sanford, Connor Brown and Tyler Ennis. There are arguments to be made for both Brown and Ennis, but there’s no time Sanford should see power play time.

Related: The 3 Worst Senators’ Contracts

Everyone is looking for their Tom Wilson or Ryan Reaves, but the difference with these players is that they are at least somewhat talented and can contribute to your team more than just being difficult to face. In the case of senators, they do not have that and they seem to be trying to force it to happen. They need to stop trying to fit their roster into a certain mold and play the best players they have because the mold they have isn’t working the way they would have hoped for right now.

Injuries to Pinto, Murray, White and Watson

Right now, the Senators have four players who were supposed to be a big part of their season in the injured reserve. Murray, who hasn’t been terrible when he played (although Gustavsson should still play), Colin White, whose Senators are still hoping for a great breakout season, Austin Watson who would give the team the courage they research, and Shane Pinto who is one of the team’s most promising young players.

Colin White Ottawa Senators
Colin White, Ottawa Senators (Photo by Darcy Finley / NHLI via Getty Images)

The one who hurts the senses the most is Pinto. In the 2019 NHL Draft, they passed the first pick in the second round over Pinto, a spot that, after Seattle’s expansion, is now a first-round pick. In four games this season, Pinto has only scored one point, but he looked really good and it looked like he needed to come out ASAP. Then, in the team’s Oct. 21 game against the San Jose Sharks, he came into the boards strong and left the game. He tried to hold on for another shift in the second period, but once again left the game and hasn’t played since.

Every team has injuries, but it doesn’t always happen to important players. For the Senators, that’s exactly what happened. They’ve stood up to four important pieces, but they’ll be a better hockey team when they get everyone back. It’s still unclear when exactly that will happen, but relief is coming for some of them, and the sooner the better on that front.

Life is ‘Gourde’ in Ottawa

We’ve focused exclusively on the negative here, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a positive for the Senators. There is plenty to build on them, especially with their younger generation of players. From Pinto to Josh Norris to Brady Tkachuk, they have the talent to win for years to come. There are still stepping stones to climb before they’re ready to compete for the Stanley Cup, and while they’re not here this season, the Senators are closer to the end of the rebuild than they are. are at the beginning. They have that to look forward to.

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