2022 has been an extremely eventful year for the Ottawa Senators,
filled with notable news headlines, on and off the ice. Some of the news was good, some of it wasn’t, but all of it was memorable. Today, Faces looks back at 10 of the biggest Ottawa Senator storylines of 2022.
Summer of Pierre II: Claude Comes Home
In July, veteran forward Claude Giroux signed a three-year deal worth $19.5 million and immediately injected some much-needed veteran leadership into the room. The Sens are rarely on the radar for top free agents, nor are they ever interested in trying to outbid other NHL teams for their services. But in this case, it was a chance for Giroux and his family to come home.
At 34, Giroux is still as good as he ever was – a fierce competitor who plays the game the right way – even helping his new teammates dramatically improve their faceoff stats. In his very first game at home in October, Giroux needed all of one minute to dazzle his hometown fans.
Summer of Pierre: Sens Acquire DeBrincat and Talbot
A week before Giroux’s signing, the Senators acquired forward Alex DeBrincat from Chicago in exchange for the Sens’ first and second round picks at the 2022 NHL draft as well as a third-round selection in 2024. DeBrincat has been been red-hot since December. He’s slightly off his goal scoring pace from last season in Chicago (41), but he’s back to being a point-per-game producer with 32 points in 33 games.
The Sens also felt like they needed a little more stability in goal, so they acquired Cam Talbot from Minnesota for backup goalie Filip Gustavsson. Talbot was an all-star with the Wild, but missed the first few weeks in Ottawa with a rib injury. Since making his debut November 3rd, he’s been the goalie of record in 17 of Ottawa’s last 24 games. When he’s tending Ottawa’s net, the Sens have allowed half a goal less per game (2.71) than when Anton Forsberg (3.23) has been in there.
The Passing of Eugene Melnyk
Long time Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk passed away in March at the age of 62. Melnyk bought the Senators in May of 2003, along with the team’s arena. A day after the sale, the Senators appeared in one of three conference finals during the Melnyk era. After his passing last spring, Melnyk left the team to his daughters, Anna and Olivia Melnyk, who honoured their late father in a banner raising before an early season game in October.
Ryan Reynolds and the Sale Announcement
The Senators announced in early March they’ve begun the process of selling the franchise. Galatioto Sports Partners has been retained as a financial advisor to help broker the best possible deal for Anna and Olivia Melnyk. A major condition of any sale would be that the Senators remain in Ottawa. Less than a week later, actor Ryan Reynolds – who spent part of his childhood in Vanier – confirmed on the Tonight Show he was interested in part ownership of the franchise.
Ryan Reynolds tells Jimmy Fallon he's trying to buy the Ottawa Senators 👇
(📹: @FallonTonight) pic.twitter.com/iZAFikq6fR
— Tim and Friends (@timandfriends) November 8, 2022
Back on Track for New Arena at LeBreton
In June, the National Capital Commission announced the Senators as their chosen bidder to build a major facility that includes a new NHL arena in LeBreton Flats. The proposed events centre will be on Albert St. between Preston and City Centre Avenue. With the franchise now for sale, this development opportunity clearly makes the Sens even more attractive to potential buyers.
Alfie to the Hall of Fame
In November, Senators legend Daniel Alfredsson finally took his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Alfredsson played over 1000 games with the Senators over 17 seasons and holds franchise records for goals (426), assists (682), points (1,108), and shots (3,320). He won the NHL’s Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1996 and led the Senators to two conference finals and their only Stanley Cup Final appearance. His speech on his induction night was amazing.
Jake Sanderson Finally Arrives
Sanderson was drafted fifth overall in 2020, two picks after Tim Stutzle. But he just arrived in October, two years after Stutzle. The extra time at North Dakota appears to have served him well, looking right at home on the bigger stage of the NHL. His apparent comfort level is supposed to take young defencemen years to establish. His first NHL goal in November wasn’t exactly the stuff of highlight reels, but without his veteran-like confidence in jumping up into the play to maintain possession, the opportunity wouldn’t have been there.
Fare Thee Well, Boys
It was out with the old and in with the new in 2022 as we bid farewell to Senator players like Nick Paul, Connor Brown, Chris Tierney, Matt Murray, Colin White, Alex Formenton, Tyler Ennis, Zach Sanford, Michael Del Zotto, Adam Gaudette, Victor Mete, Josh Brown, and Filip Gustavsson.
Paul, Brown and Formenton hurt the most. They’re exactly the kind of two-way forwards that would come in very handy for the current Senators. The Sens traded Paul and Brown in for Mathieu Joseph and a Capitals’ second rounder in 2024. The Sens chose not to re-sign Formenton for now, probably not until there’s full closure on the Hockey Canada investigation. No one balked at the Murray buyout and most regard his current success in Toronto as an “enjoy it while it lasts” scenario.
The Never-Ending Story of the Rebuild
The Senators missed the playoffs for a fifth straight year in 2022, but with all the new summer time additions, the prospects for 2022-23 looked merry and bright. But instead, the Sens did exactly what they did in each of the two previous years. They stumbled horrifically out of the gate, completely eradicating their playoff chances within a month of opening night. No one thought head coach D.J. Smith could possibly survive another season like this. But somehow, he has.
It’s certainly true that, generally speaking, you can’t use injuries as an excuse for losing. But it cannot be denied that the Senators had more than their fair share in 2022. The year opened with COVID having one last hurrah, ripping though the Sens dressing room in early January. After that, the room became completely infested with the more standard injury bug.
January: Shane Pinto, shoulder (missed 54 games in 2022)
January: Colin White, shoulder (missed 22 games in 2022)
January: Drake Batherson, high ankle sprain (missed 36 games)
January: Josh Norris, shoulder injury (missed 16 games)
March: Thomas Chabot, broken hand (missed 23 games)
March: Connor Brown, undisclosed (missed 18 games)
March: Matt Murray, concussion? (played only 14 games in 2022)
April: Mathieu Joseph, chest injury (missed 9 games)
October: Josh Norris again, shoulder again (missed 28 games and counting)
October: Cam Talbot, rib injury (unavailable for first 10 games)
November: Jacob Bernard-Docker, high ankle (16 games and counting)
December: Mathieu Joseph again, lower body (7 games and counting)
December: Artem Zub: Upper body, then jaw (missed 19 games and counting)
December: Jake Sanderson: Puck to throat Dec 22 (awaiting status)
Even athletic therapist Dom Nicoletta wasn’t spared, taking a puck in the face in a game earlier this month.
You get the picture. When you add it all up, the Sens seem to have had more than their share of a bad injury luck in 2022.
So, here’s hoping for a much healthier, more successful new year in 2023.
By Steve Warne