It was quite a week for Sens sophomore forward Tim Stützle, who had 3 goals and 7 points in their 3 games. Stützle is playing the best hockey of his young career and has been absolutely electric with the puck on his stick.
With only 8 games remaining in the season, the focus is quickly shifting to the off-season, where it needs to be a big summer for Pierre Dorion and company. When Dorion was given his 3-year contract extension last September, he stated the rebuild was over. The team arguably took steps back this season after battling injuries and multiple Covid outbreaks, but next season, there can’t be any excuses.
We asked our Faces Friday Sens Roundtable who’s most at fault for the Sens struggles this season, who are free agents the Senators should be targeting this summer, and more!
This week’s Sens Roundtable consists of:
Alicia Scodeller – Co-host of After The Buzzer Podcast.
AJ Jakubec – Host at TSN 1200.
Trevor Shackles – Writer for Silver Seven Sens.
Matt Bostelaar – President and CEO of the Matt Bosty Fan club.
Benjamin Milks – brian5or6.
Kyle Bukauskas – Rinkside host on Sportsnet.
Who’s most at fault for the Sens struggles this season?
AJ: I’m not big on scapegoating. The blame goes everywhere. They had a lot of bad luck with injuries and Covid, but they were still 3-7-1 before that was a major factor. They can’t afford another bad start next season.
Alicia: Pierre Dorion. He brings in the wrong guys at the beginning of the season. Enough with the old vets; it’s time for solid players. Trade some assets and bring in high skilled players.
Matt: Can I say Covid? The fact that the Senators had to play the majority of November down most of their team really took the wind out of their sails. Having that happen followed by the shutdown in December, it was so tricky for them to build momentum, but outside of that, I’ve got to say, Pierre. Our offseason outside of the Brady contract was so disappointing. We added Holden and Del Zotto and then pretty much held pat when it was clear that we had huge holes in our Roster. When players like Buchnevich were available for that price, it shows that Dorion did not do a good enough job in getting the talent we needed. Our best roster move this year has been Stützle at centre, and that only happened out of necessity.
Kyle: This is a tough one because even though Pierre Dorion had the now infamous “the rebuild is done” quote before the season, an honest look at their roster going in and you felt that maybe if they really punched above their weight class, they could perhaps make some noise after the trade deadline. No question, injuries and COVID decimated their depth chart for much of this year, but this is a team that has yet to be built with legitimate playoff expectations. Until management addresses that, the struggles will continue.
Trevor: You can hand out blame to ownership, the front office, the coaching staff, and the players, but to me, there’s one who should be taking most of the heat: the front office headlined by Pierre Dorion. Dorion has done a great job of building up a solid core of young players, but he’s proving to be inadequate at surrounding those players with capable veterans. I don’t think anyone expected a playoff team this season, but a step-back is very disappointing and somewhat predictable, considering they didn’t make any significant additions in the off-season.
brian5or6: I think society is most at fault with the Sens struggles this year. Everyone is just so entitled now and demands a winning team. But guess what? Was Dairy Queen winning the first year they opened? No, they weren’t. They didn’t even have the Blizzard invented yet. They just had cones, like every other ice cream place in the world. But then what happened?? They made the Blizzard and turned the ice cream world upside down. And now they are winning. So society, smarten up, buy your tickets, and you’ll be rewarded with a Blizzard.
How can the team attract more fans?
Kyle: A fascinating question right now, isn’t it? Well, for one thing, winning does cure a lot of problems. Off the ice, however, it really does feel like there is renewed (albeit, cautious) optimism around the potential of the Senators getting a LeBreton Flats address after those initial plans imploded a few years back. Invest in connecting with a younger fanbase that is too young to relate to “The Pizza Line” and “The Pesky Sens,” lock-up Josh Norris, and spend some smart money in free agency with the idea of making the playoffs next year. It’s time. Of course, the backdrop to all of this is the unknown future of the team’s ownership, making this coming off-season one of the most intriguing in team history.
Trevor: The biggest thing, of course, is improving the on-ice product. Ottawa has shown that it is an incredibly passionate market, but I don’t blame people for not showing up over the past several years when the team has been an embarrassment. Luckily, you can see signs of the next great team being built, and that will be a big boost once they’re actually a playoff team again. Beyond that, eventually moving to LeBreton Flats will have an enormous impact, and other ideas such as better marketing toward youth will help but won’t make as much of a difference as the first two points.
Matt: JUST WIN, BABYYYYYYY!!! Honestly, this is the most fun team we’ve had in almost a decade (no offence to Guy Boucher, but those teams weren’t fun), and tickets have never been more affordable and accessible. The in-arena experience is way lighter and a lot more fun than years previous, and there’s a royal oak there now, which is, I guess, pretty good….especially for arena food. What the team can really improve on is messaging around certain events. I know it was tricky this year, but events like the pride game weren’t communicated until, I think, the day before the game, if not gameday? Promote the crap out of stuff like that, and you’ll have people who don’t normally go to games pick up some tickets and see how fun it is to go. Oh, also move downtown.
Alicia: Create a better environment at the arena. Get people more involved, better sound, lighting, better opening to introduce the Sens, etc.
AJ: Hopefully, there’s some positive news with LeBreton in the near future. That would give the business side a major lift and some certainty about the future of the franchise for any skeptics. Also – wins.
brian5or6: I think the team would attract more fans to the game by having a surprise gift basket waiting for you under your seat. Maybe one game, it’s a 6-pack of beers. Maybe one game, it’s a box of venomous snakes. You don’t know what you’re going to get, but isn’t it exciting thinking about it?? Oh, you can’t bring animals into the games? Stupid but okay…. I guess then like get better players or some generic answer? I don’t friggin’ know. God!
Who are free agents the Senators should be targeting this summer?
Alicia: I’m more interested in making trades for players like Jake DeBrusk.
Claude Giroux? Maybe? I’m not sure if it makes sense for his age?
Trevor: Free agency is never something the Senators are going to be very successful at, but winger Claude Giroux is someone they might actually have a shot at, especially after Elliotte Friedman confirmed that Giroux is essentially “doing his homework” on the area and the team. Beyond him, it’ll be worth checking in on higher-priced players such as Ondrej Palat, Nino Niederreiter, Valeri Nichushkin, Vincent Trocheck, plus others such as Frank Vatrano, Calle Jarnkrok, Zach Aston-Reese, and Ilya Lyubushkin could be more realistic options. I wouldn’t count on any of those players to come, although Giroux at least makes some sense due to his roots being in nearby Hearst.
Matt: Good ole Orleans resident Claude Giroux. He’s the absolute perfect target for this team. He’s a veteran whose skills haven’t diminished at all. He’s been on rebuilds, and he’s been on playoff runs too. He can anchor the second line with Stuzle and provide a presence that the Senators have missed these past couple of years. If I’m Pierre, I barely kick the tires on anyone else and full-court press to try and get Giroux to sign for 3-4 years. If I haveeeeee to choose someone else, I would choose Bryan Rust. The guy is a scoring machine when healthy. He’d round out our top 6 quite well; I’m only concerned about his health and just how expensive he’s going to be in the Offseason.
Kyle: With Elliotte Friedman reporting that Claude Giroux has been asking questions about Ottawa, you have to think the Senators would explore every opportunity to bring in a player like that. Now, you would have to be careful about the term, given he is 34 years old. But to have a player of Giroux’s calibre, who is a local product, reportedly already doing some pre-scouting has to be encouraging for Sens fans.
It feels like there are too many decisions on the blueline right now to have a sense of how they will look at free-agent defencemen (what’s the future for Zaitsev, Brannstrom, Mete, Del Zotto, etc.?) but one I do wonder about? Brett Kulak. I know he’s had some consistency issues over his career, but he is a great teammate, can play both sides, and perhaps could be some low-cost insurance on your third pair if one of the other young defencemen still aren’t quite ready for primetime for 82 games.
AJ: I’d love to see Claude Giroux here. Wore the ‘C’ for nine years in Philly. He’s still playing at a high level. Most important, he’s talked about the possibility of playing here. So it’s not a pipe dream. I think he’d be a great fit. Beyond that, their biggest addition will be Jake Sanderson. Along with Owen Power, he was the best player outside the NHL this season.
brian5or6: Claude Giroux and Zack Smith. It better friggin’ happen!
Who are the 3 most talented players ever to wear a Senators jersey?
Matt: This question is keeping me up at night. Number one is easy, Erik Karlsson. What he did in a Senators Jersey was unreal. He willed this team to an ECF they had no business being in, and he looked like the best player in the world while doing. Number two is Dominik Hašek. Even though it was only one season, he is a world talent at the goaltending position, and he was supposed to lift the cup here in Ottawa. It’s sad how it ended with the team, but I always think about how two years later, he was holding the cup above his head in Detroit.
THIS is the hard part….I knew the first two, but my brain was fighting my heart right here. Yashin, Heatley and Spezza are all candidates, but it really came down to Hossa vs Alfredsson. I’ve got to go with Alfie. Hossa is a hall of fame elite talent, but after Atlanta, he was always on contenders; he didn’t need to do anything other than be Hossa, whereas Alfie had to lead a team, LEAD a city and usher in the next wave of Senators talent and that just sets him apart from the other group.
AJ: Dominik Hasek. Erik Karlsson. Marian Hossa. Daniel Alfredsson. You get four!
Trevor: I’m going to take this question very literally and not take into account longevity or overall impact on the organization. With that criteria, number one has to be Dominik Hasek, who is simply the best goalie of all time. After that, Erik Karlsson is the next best as he’s one of just 13 players ever to win multiple Norris trophies. The last spot has many potential candidates, although I have to give it to Daniel Alfredsson. He’s not a Hall-of-Famer yet, but he absolutely deserves to be in there.
Kyle: I’m going to guess the criteria specifies most talented during their time with the Senators specifically, so that would take a guy like Alexei Kovalev out of the running!
I’ll start with Tim Stützle. Recency bias? Maybe. But I truly believe we are witnessing just the beginning of what will be an incredibly entertaining career. He’s a reason for fans to tune in every night. Erik Karlsson. The team wasn’t great in 2015-16, but boy, was it a privilege to watch him average a point per game that year. I still remember standing at ice level at Madison Square Garden watching Karlsson block a shot in front of his own net, then jump up in the rush the other way and score seconds later in the clinching game 6 over the Rangers in 2017.
Jason Spezza. I was still growing up on the west coast during the prime Spezza years in Ottawa, but his hands and passing and playmaking looked so effortless. The fact he did all of that with a wooden stick for so many years makes it all the more remarkable.
Alicia: Marian Hossa. Alfie. Erik Karlsson.
Honourable mentions- Havlat & Heatley.
brian5or6: Yashin – I could give you a million bucks and take it back in a flash. No one had quicker hands.
Alfie – His thighs were so thick he could crush the Mellon off your stupid body and still score a hat-trick.
Karlsson – Had eyes in the back of his head and could see into the future. No seriously. One time he called me and said, don’t go to Horton’s today because he had a bad feeling. I said that’s dumb and went anyways, but then I found out they ran out of Boston Creams. I was arrested that day, but I can’t talk about the details. Let’s just say I was tasered. We’ll leave it at that.