What do the Ottawa Senators want?
[Exhales] Welcome, my friend, to that worst time of the year when you have to listen to your colleagues talk about all the crap they plan on buying. The holidays stink! All the capitalist greed makes me sick. But, like everything else, we can make this about the Ottawa Senators. And, in the spirit of Sensifying the season, I want to know what you think Pierre Dorion should shop for most aggressively in the coming days and weeks. And, NO, you cannot say a head coach because everyone has heard that one before. Get over it. None of us has enjoyed this 7-21-1 ride but we can still talk about the rest of the season constructively. Record aside, this team has a lot more to offer than it did in previous seasons so let’s make the most of what we have and dream. Remember what the Minutemen said.
Even before this dismal start to the season and before we could fathom that all of Thomas Chabot, Artem Zub, and Jacob Bernard-Docker would miss time with injury, we all knew the Sens needed to improve their defence to seriously enter the playoff picture. Now after years of collective groaning, the team has practiced some addition by subtraction by suspending the Nikita Zaitsev experiment. And Jake Sanderson has surpassed most of our wildest expectations. But watching this team, you can’t miss the glaring need to somehow anchor the back-end. You can never take for granted that all of your best players will stay healthy over 82 games so even with the strong play of Sanderson, Erik Brännström, and to a lesser extent Bernard-Docker and Lassi Thomson, most will probably stick with the same response they had heading into the season.
Considering all of the injuries the Sens have had in the crease in Belleville and that fact that Cam Talbot started the season out injured, you kinda knew how things would play out when Ottawa waived Magnus Hellberg (who played very well in his one game as a Senator). Now healthy, Talbot has started to find his rhythm but Anton Forsberg finds himself on the injured list, and Kevin Mandolese (victim of the injury bug himself) doesn’t feel like the best backup plan given the team’s defence. Injuries aside, you could also make the argument that even with everyone healthy this team could use an upgrade in the net. Yes, the defence has played very poorly but one can make the chicken-and-egg argument that sometimes you just need a goddamn save to inspire confidence and get your team rolling. Those Momentum-Swinging Saves have not come often so far for this team and even great teams rely on a little bit of goaltending magic.
Prior to Josh Norris’ injury this never would have crossed our minds. And I give full credit to Dorion because having Tim Stützle, Claude Giroux, Shane Pinto, Derick Brassard, Mark Kastelic, and Dylan Gambrell softens the impact. But watching this team it becomes rather apparent just how much the offence rotated around Norris. I realistically don’t see any scenario where Dorion goes out and gets a 1C or 2C just to fill the space for this season while Norris remains sidelined, and again, I like Ottawa’s depth. But if say, Ryan O’Reilly’s name should come up in conversation, then ya kinda gotta listen, right?
Heading into the season with Alex DeBrincat and assuming a healthy Norris allows everyone to slot into their optimal spots in the forward depth chart, this didn’t seem like such an urgent need a few weeks ago. But despite the talent Ottawa has on the wings, goals have not come easily of late for the Sens. A lot of players have had zero lucky bounces and should get some shooting percentage regression to the norm eventually but how long can you wait for Fortuna’s wheel to turn? I think Ottawa has some especially intriguing internal options such as Roby Järventie and Egor Sokolov just to name the most obvious ones but just like the other categories, maybe another steady, reliable veteran can come in to really get this team off the ground.
I don’t have a horse in this race. I think you could make the argument for any of these choices. You could also argue that Dorion should hold his course and see if the percentages take care of themselves in the coming weeks. Have your say below. And happy holidays, ya filthy animals.