It’s the first week of the new year and we’ve probably worn out the “Happy New Year” greeting to everyone we’ve come across at this point. There’s always something about a new year with its endless possibilities and heightened optimism as we get a fresh start. Then there are the Ottawa Senators, who start this year out with an elevated sense of dread as the season is, well, slipping away. I’ve been trying hard to watch as many Sens’ games on ESPN+ as I can in the hopes that something, anything positive will happen with this team but each night I just keep feeling that prolonged sympathetic pang deep in my stomach for this franchise.
But wait a minute – this is an NHL franchise and quite honestly from the ownership down to the loyal fans, folks deserve better from this team, and the Ottawa Senators are quite frankly running out of excuses. The Sens tossed GM Pierre Dorion out the door in November and then got rid of head coach D.J. Smith a month later to bring in Ottawa coaching legend Jacques Martin to restore pride and hope in this franchise. How’s that working out so far? Well, I’m glad you asked since a 3-5-0 record since Martin took over as the interim bench boss means that there’s something systemically wrong with this hockey team right now. Each night, the Senators fall deeper and deeper into last place in the entire Eastern Conference and quite frankly I’m surprised that the players and coaches alike don’t have more eyesight problems given the fact that this franchise currently lives deep within the dark recesses of the NHL basement and may have troubles adjusting to the lights of hockey arenas.
The great Pacific Northwest certainly isn’t a friendly region for the Ottawa Senators lately after being dismantled 6-3 by the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night and again by the Seattle Kraken 4-1 on Thursday night. Maybe the Sens need to start sampling more of that high-caffeine Seattle coffee to get an energy boost or simply do anything to avoid looking like a listless, aimless hockey franchise just going through the motions. Let’s be real for a moment and accept the fact that the 2023-24 NHL isn’t even half over at this point. The Senators need to realize that they’ve run out of excuses at this point and either start winning and moving up the Atlantic Division standings or it’s time to throw in the towel – in early January.
The Senators have a plethora of great talent – does it matter right now?
There’s an old coaching saying that “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Unfortunately for the Ottawa Senators, neither talent nor hard work seems to be working this season. With a nightly roster that includes names such as Tkachuk, Stutzle, Chabot, and Batherson, why aren’t the Sens making a serious playoff run again this season? That, my friends, may just be the million-dollar hockey question right now. When talent doesn’t seem to work hard, that talent becomes meaningless. the only positive move the Senators have made recently is removing the interim tag from GM Steve Saios and we can assume that Saios is quite busy right now trying to make some deals to help this franchise out of the Eastern Conference cellar. Names such as Dominic Kubalik and now Vladimir Tarasenko are circulating the trade rumor mill at this point and probably for good reason. In addition, blueliner Jacob Chychrun was brought in to bolster the Senators’ defense from Arizona and so far that trade has paid precious few dividends at this point in the season.
Ottawa seems to be happy with a goaltender merry-go-round.
Games are won with offense and championships are won with a stellar defense. Everyone’s heard that adage, right? Well, this mantra hasn’t made its way into Canada’s capital city since the inherent weakness of the Ottawa Senators seems to be pointed straight at the goaltending issue (or should I say issues) that plague this franchise. A lack of strong goaltending seems to be another systemic problem that Ottawa can’t seem to shake and the current dynamic netminding duo of Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg currently ranks 28th in the NHL. While not the worst goaltending tandem in the league right now, the core weakness in the Sens’ nightly roster does appear to be fostered by weak netminding. Joonas Korpisalo has a paltry goals-against average of 3.61 and a save percentage of ..889 while Anton Forsberg doesn’t fare much better with 3.36 goals given up per game and an almost identical save percentage of .883. To put this into perspective, the current NHL goaltending average this season is a goals-against average of 2.95 and a save average of .905. It may not be entirely fair to rest the Senators’ season woes entirely on the Korpisalo and Forsberg but if this franchise has any chance of pulling themselves up by their skate laces, it has to start with better goaltending.