Heading into the season, general manager Pierre Dorion made the mistake of saying the Ottawa Senators rebuild was finished. After an ugly 5-15-1 start, he recanted his statement in what has turned out to be another ugly season for the Sens. Through 30 games now, they sit 30th in league standings, and barring a miracle, will miss the postseason for the fifth consecutive year.
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The good news for the Senators is that they have a very skilled young core who will only continue to get better in the coming years. The bad news, however, is that they still have plenty of holes in their roster that need fixing. Luckily for them, they have several pending free agents, meaning they will have some cap space to make necessary changes for 2022-23. As a result, some of those free agents may be cut loose. Here are 3 that will undoubtedly be forced to find new homes next season.
When the Senators traded Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks during the 2018 offseason, most of the focus at the time was put on then prospect, Josh Norris, who has since developed into a great player and is only continuing to get better. One player who didn’t receive much recognition at the time, however, was Chris Tierney, who is now in his fourth season with the Sens.
Tierney, 27, put up a career-high 48 points in 81 games in his first season with the Senators and had many thinking he could continue to be a 40+ point player moving forward. Since then, however, his numbers have dropped significantly every season, including in 2021-22 as he has just seven points through 30 games. The poor offensive output in recent seasons will likely force him to find a new home for the 2022-23 season.
In late September this past year, the Senators decided to cut ties with their 2016 11th overall pick in Logan Brown, dealing him to the St. Louis Blues for Zach Sanford and a conditional fourth-round draft pick. It was an underwhelming return for a player selected that high, but the fact of the matter is he hadn’t done anything at the NHL level to warrant a bigger return.
Despite the return seeming somewhat underwhelming, however, many were excited to see what Sanford could do with a change of scenery. The 27-year-old has a huge frame at six-foot-four, 206 pounds, and is highly skilled. He appeared to be scratching the surface of his potential back in 2019-20 when he scored 16 goals in 58 games but has failed to progress, or even play at that same level, since.
Unfortunately, joining the Senators hasn’t helped in regards to his offensive game, as he has just seven points on the season. Dorion was never in a fair position to win a trade involving Brown, but he certainly would have hoped at the time Sanford would look better than he has to this point. Barring a much better second half of the season, he will be wearing a different uniform in 2022-23.
While it is becoming increasingly clear that Josh Brown is more of a liability than an asset when in the lineup, that hasn’t stopped head coach D.J. Smith from giving him plenty of opportunities. For whatever reason, he seems to be a big fan of what Brown brings to the lineup, despite the fact that the majority of the fanbase fails to see it.
Back when he was acquired from the Florida Panthers in Oct. 2020 for a fourth-round pick, Brown was an inexperienced NHL defenceman who had trouble drawing into the lineup. At that point, however, he still had some potential that the Panthers hoped he could reach, as he has plenty of size, which certainly has value. Unfortunately for his sake, there isn’t a ton else to like about his game at the NHL level.
In 14 games this season, Brown is averaging just over 14 minutes per game, yet is still making mistakes in the limited ice time. This experiment never worked out, and the Sens would be much better off giving his ice time to a younger defenceman in 2022-23.
Time to Turn Things Around
As mentioned, there is plenty to like about the young talent on the Senators, but it is time for them to get things going. They have struggled far too many seasons in a row, and flat out need to be better in 2022-23. That starts with Dorion replacing the three players above and finding better replacements for them.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.