When it comes to the Ottawa Senators 2022-23 season, it seems as though everything has gone wrong. Twenty games in they are tied for last in the Eastern Conference and 30th in the NHL-wide standings. Injuries have mounted to a level that they cannot sustain, and their big-ticket offseason acquisitions have been hit-or-miss.
Is all hope lost? Money Puck still gives the Senators a 38 percent chance to make the playoffs this season. While that may seem like a high number given the results, there are a few reasons to believe that they may actually do it.
Alex DeBrincat, Drake Batherson & Other Forwards Need to Get Hot
Twenty games into the season, Alex DeBrincat and Drake Batherson have only five goals. When the Senators traded multiple assets to acquire DeBrincat, they did not think he would start this slowly. For a winger with 40-goal potential, him being on pace for only 20 goals is a cause for concern.
Luckily for Senators fans, the underlying numbers are telling us that he’s bound to start hitting the back of the net soon. Natural Stat Trick shows that DeBrincat is creating chances at the best rate of his entire career. On a per 60-minute basis, his individual expected goals, Corsi, high-danger chances, and shots are all the highest they have ever been for the 24-year-old winger. The same goes for Batherson, who is primed to start putting up points with the chances he has been generating.
DeBrincat’s shooting percentage is a career-worst seven percent, and his career average is 14.9 percent. For one of the most talented snipers in the league, he will find ways to bring this number up along with his scoring numbers. These wingers are just too good to be standing idle in the goal-scoring column, so there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about a midseason turnaround.
A Fully Healthy Senators Team Can Go On a Winning Streak
Injuries have plagued this Senators team all season long, but one silver lining that will help with success in the near future is the promising young players that have stepped up. Shane Pinto has 10 points in 20 games, and has proven that he can play well in both a top-six and bottom-six role.
Jake Sanderson has arguably been the best defenceman on the team this season and has shouldered tough minutes in light of injuries to Artem Zub and Thomas Chabot. The former fifth-overall selection is living up to the hype in his rookie season and has even begun to draw some Calder Trophy consideration for his strong play.
This is without mentioning the possible return of Josh Norris in the new year, who could provide a huge boost to the top six. They should not be counting on him to save their season, as they need to start winning games before he returns to make a playoff run plausible. It remains a huge “if” when talking about this team at full health, but they could form into playoff contenders like many predicted before the season started.
Goaltending Needs to Start Stealing Some Games
A lot of the average goaltending can be placed on the defence’s shoulders, but if this team is to claw back into the playoff race, the goalies will have to start stealing some games on nights when they do not deserve to win. Cam Talbot has saved 3.9 goals above expected, which leads us to believe he is providing slightly above-average goaltending. He ranks 13th in the NHL in that category at a per 60-minute rate.
Talbot has been steady, but this team needs more than that. It may be a lot to ask of the newly-acquired goaltender, but this young defence core is not going to have it figured out right away, and the offence has yet to pick up the slack. If both the goal-scoring and goaltending can reach higher levels in the coming weeks, the Senators should find themselves right back in the playoff hunt.
The truth is, the Senators may have already ruined their chances at a playoff appearance in the 2022-23 season. Conversely, there is too much talent up and down the roster to fold after just 20 games. The month of December will decide everything, as a losing streak likely ends their season for good, and a mediocre record keeps them well behind the playoff line.
The Senators play 15 games in December and three times against the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are one of the teams that the Senators would likely have to leapfrog to make the playoffs, and those games will prove crucial to their hopes. Anything short of 10 or more wins, and the Senators’ season may be over before 2023 begins.