A lot has changed since January 15th. The optimism and euphoria of this opening night’s 5-3 win over Toronto, led by goaltender Matt Murray, was short-lived. A 2-12-1 run in the first month was too big a hole to overcome.
And yet, a funny thing happened on the way to elimination in the playoffs. The fans in Ottawa grew up SUITE optimistic, no less, about their team and its future.
This week, a viral video of Ottawa kids throwing hats in the backyard of rookie winger Tim Stützle to greet his first NHL hat-trick (in Winnipeg) was a convenient symbol of affection. growing fan base for young Senators players.
An infusion of young people, especially since the April 12 trade deadline, has energized their roster and this community, while also making the Senators one of the hottest teams in the NHL. How much of that late run was Fool’s Gold, in games that exerted no pressure or significance beyond establishing young players in the league?
It’s hard to say. In a way, it doesn’t really matter. Hockey teams have virtually no momentum from game to game, let alone season to season. So while the Senators aren’t picking up exactly where they left off, on a 7-2-1 run into the 2020-21 final, they’ve given the organization plenty to think of as a wave. new and relatively new perspectives have shown their talent on an NHL stage – from Shane Pinto and Alex Formenton, to Jacob Bernard-Docker, Erik Brannstrom and Victor Mete.
Ottawa’s season comes to a screeching halt with the Leafs’ Sportsnet broadcast on Wednesday against the Senators, but in truth, the fanbase has been looking to next season for about a month.
Sketching depth maps has become a popular pandemic activity in the nation’s capital.
Hey, what else can we do until the province reopens its golf courses?
A few potential line combos and defensive pairs for training camp, provided GM Pierre Dorion will likely add a piece or two over the summer:
Brady Tkachuk – Josh Norris – Drake Batherson
Tim Stützle – Shane Pinto – Connor Brown
Nick Paul – Colin White – Evgenii Dadonov
Alex Formenton – Chris Tierney – Austin Watson
Generic F cards: Ridly Greig, Egor Sokolov, Logan Brown
Thomas Chabot – Nikita Zaitsev
Erik Brannstrom – Artem Zub
Victor Mete – Jacob Bernard-Docker
D Wild Cards: Jake Sanderson, Josh Brown
Matt Murray – Anton Forsberg
G Wild Cards: Filip Gustavsson, Joey Daccord, Mads Sogaard
One of the key developments in the second half of the season was the establishment of the Ottawa front row consisting of Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris and Drake Batherson. Two of the three, Tkachuk and Batherson, need new contracts as they are waiting for restricted free agents. It’s remarkable to see all three of them with virtually the same goals / points total – 17/35 for Tkachuk, 16/34 Norris and 17/34 Batherson. All three are able to play and pull the trigger.
Of the four potential lines for next fall, this is the most likely to start the season together. And the most important factors that made it happen? First, Norris’ progression from a center perhaps in the second or third row to a legitimate number 1. And two, Batherson’s explosion as an NHL-level scorer. Prior to this season, Batherson was a three-goal guy in 20 games – he had that score in 2018-19, then three in 23 games in 2019-20.
For Batherson, going to 17 goals in 55 games provides a 25-goal season in an 82-game regular schedule. And because Norris and Tkachuk have similar numbers, they are projecting into similar territory.
Now add the fact that Norris and Tkachuk are 22 and Batherson just turned 23 and it’s easy to see why fans are excited about Ottawa’s front line and the potential for it. be even better next season than it is today.
Call on line 2:
Things may change between now and the fall, but the Senators’ top six looks pretty well established. Smith seems in love, for now, with a second row comprising the two children – Tim Stützle and Shane Pinto – with Connor Brown, an established veteran who has taken his game to another level this season and leads the Senators with 20 goals. before the last game. .
Look for Stützle to be physically stronger in his second season after a summer of training. Pinto is already playing like a man, but both players need room to develop as pros which means there will be learning difficulties. The Senators appear to have abandoned the idea of returning Stützle to his natural central position. It could still happen in a year or two, but with his speed and creativity, even from the wing position, the idea is to let him spin and score – while two-way players like Pinto keep the middle ground. , watch the opponent. crosses and faceoffs.
Letting Timmy be Timmy seems like a great way to go.
The last six can mix:
Typical of any NHL roster, the bottom six situation is going to be more fluid. Versatile players like Nick Paul and Masterton nominated Colin White can move up and down the roster as needed and there could be roster changes. White is overpaid at $ 4.75 million, which means he could be left exposed in the expansion plan. Ditto for center Chris Tierney at $ 3.5 million, but for a year longer. Dorion could add depth forward over the summer.
Mister Breakaway, Alex Formenton, was a revelation with his speed and ability to kill penalties. He’s only played 29 games in the NHL and has the advantage of going with those pretty wheels.
Coach Smith will be happy to get Austin Watson back after his hand injury in the fall. He blocks shots, responds to challenges, and defends all of the kids in training.
A prospect like center Ridly Greig could pose as an energetic player, although he could use a year in the AHL to develop. Logan Brown, a 2016 first-round pick and pending RFA, may have missed out on opportunities with this organization and will likely move on. Brown’s only game in the NHL this season will be in Wednesday’s final.
Belleville’s top scorers this season, wingers Egor Sokolov and Vitaly Abramov, will try to secure a place in the camp but will be struggling. Winger Angus Crookshank has also impressed the organization in his 15 games with Belleville.
How things have changed. Belleville was filled with future senators – Norris, Batherson, Formenton, Brannstrom, etc. Now almost all of them are in Ottawa.
Next year, does Jacob Bernard-Docker step in as a partner of Thomas Chabot, or does Nikita Zaitsev hold this position for another year?
Jake Sanderson, JBD’s teammate at the University of North Dakota, is going to be an important part of Ottawa’s future, but he’s committed to UND for another season. Don’t be surprised to see him with the Senators next spring.
What is the place of Victor Mete? There is a sentence we weren’t expecting to write. Still, Mete came on waivers from Montreal and performed very well. Mete and Brannstrom have similar styles and both are undersized. Is there room for both? It depends on whether Dorion adds another experienced defender during the offseason.
Eyes rolled among the fanbase when he recruited veterans like Braydon Coburn and Erik Gudbranson last year, but these D-men served one goal, giving young defenders a chance to integrate into the league ahead. to step up after the trade deadline.
Will there be peace in the goal?
The Senators could be planning the playoffs right now if they had had the kind of goaltenders in January that they found in April and May. Murray rebounded from injuries and a terrible start to look like a legitimate No.1 in his five appearances in April (.954 save percentage, 1.37 goals-against average, with two shutouts) before being injured at new.
Stabilizing Murray is the most important need for this team next fall. And yet his stumbles may have been a blessing in disguise. This allowed the organization to recover Forsberg on waivers, a useful and experienced backup. More importantly, prospects Joey Daccord and Filip Gustavsson both impressed with their sudden chances at the NHL level, when Murray and Marcus Hogberg were injured. An injury to Daccord put emphasis on Gustavsson, who was exceptional.
It will be fascinating to see which goaltenders are protected in the expansion draft and whether or not Seattle goes for one of Ottawa’s tenders. Murray is expensive ($ 6.25 million for another three years), so the contract could be enough protection. Hogberg is a pending RFA and he is unlikely to return.
On the youth front, Sogaard is Sooooo intriguing. At just 20 years old, Sogaard is a massive man of six feet, but surprisingly mobile. Making the most of a late-season opportunity, Sogaard is 4-0-0 with a .921 save percentage and 2.45 goals-against average with the B-Sens in four starts. . The Danish goalkeeper, who was drafted out of the WHL (Medicine Hat) will likely continue to develop with Belleville next season.