It’s almost time for the NHL’s return, making this the perfect moment to consider the Ottawa Senators’ three wishes for the new season. Pierre Dorion was busy during the summer, but will his dreams turn into reality this fall?
Ottawa’s general manager completed several impressive moves in the offseason, sending Matt Murray to the Toronto Maple Leafs, acquiring Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks, and convincing Claude Giroux to come home. The mood at the Canadian Tire Centre has lifted as a result.
Also of note: the Senators inked crucial contract extensions with a couple of their stars. Tim Stützle and Josh Norris are in Ottawa for the long haul, ushering in a new era in the franchise’s history. In other words, the Sens have a fistful of reasons to be daydreaming. Here are three wishes for the campaign ahead.
Senators’ Goaltending Tandem Stands Strong
How often does the quality of a team’s netminders make or break their season? Almost always.
Dorion embarked on an aggressive restructuring of his crease in the summer and will start 2022-23 with Cam Talbot and Anton Forsberg battling for control of the blue paint. If the Senators have ambitions to return to the playoff picture, their new tandem must deliver.
Handily, The Hockey Writers’ Andrew Forbes recently ranked the Atlantic Division’s netminding combinations and had plenty to say about Talbot and Forsberg:
Just like the Maple Leafs, the Senators are getting ready for a new face in town in Talbot. After the Minnesota Wild re-signed Marc-Andre Fleury, Talbot made it known that he was interested in being a starter somewhere. While the Senators are still a building team — no, I won’t say rebuilding — Talbot is the surefire frontrunner to rule the net in Ottawa…
Still, the blueline will be the biggest indicator of how Talbot’s season will go. Behind Thomas Chabot, the Sens aren’t sporting anything special with the likes of Nikita Zaitsev and Artem Zub. Talbot will have to come up with some big stops at key moments if this team is going to make noise in the Atlantic.
As for the likely backup, Anton Forsberg, he’s another player that has bounced around a little over his time in the NHL. However, he has just 102 games of regular season experience over parts of seven seasons in the NHL and carries a losing record over his career.Andrew Forbes, The Hockey Writers
With that said, Forsberg and Talbot have been well-matched over the past two regular seasons, even though the former Minnesota Wild stopper played behind a sturdier defence:
|Appearances (Record)||Save Percentage||Goals-Against Average||Goals Saved Above Expected (Per Game)|
|Anton Forsberg||54 (25-21-5)||.916||2.88||14.5 (0.29)|
|Cam Talbot||82 (51-20-9)||.913||2.71||13.3 (0.16)|
In other words, the battle for the crease in Ottawa will be fierce. Talbot desperately wants to be a starter – hence his departure from Minnesota – but will face stern competition from Forsberg, who was a difference-maker for the Senators last season.
Either way, head coach D.J. Smith will have his fingers crossed for a season of stable performances from his reformed tandem. Whoever earns the starter’s role must deliver.
Jake Sanderson Breaks Through in a Big Way
Jake Sanderson will make his professional debut next month. He spent two successful seasons in the NCAA at the University of North Dakota but is now ready to take the next step in his career. The 20-year-old’s emergence arrives at a fascinating time in the franchise’s history: he joins an ambitious roster hoping to break into the playoff picture for the first time in five seasons. The left-shooting blueliner also has an opportunity to break out in a significant way.
Ottawa’s defence corps for the season ahead isn’t particularly intimidating, with Thomas Chabot the solo headline act. As a result, Sanderson could find himself in some high-pressure situations early in his NHL career, especially if one of his blueline colleagues get injured.
Despite the Senators’ impressive summer, Sanderson making a splash at the highest level during his rookie season would become the most important development of the year for the franchise. He’s that good.
“I was part of a group that drafted Erik Karlsson and Thomas Chabot,” Dorion told TSN 1200 in May. “And I feel that we have someone… that the impact can be as good or better than those two guys. We have something special in Jake.”
If Sanderson bursts onto the scene and is an impactful NHLer from puck drop, it will be a season-defining change for the Senators. The rest of the league better watch out.
Ottawa Returns to the Playoffs
Baby steps, right? Ottawa hasn’t played in the postseason since losing in the Eastern Conference Final five seasons back, with a defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins condemning the franchise to a painful rebuild.
Finally, the tides have turned: the Senators are back in the playoff conversation and head into the new season hoping to end their drought. Dorion has spent the summer extending his stars, acquiring talent, and reforming the crease, placing Ottawa on a collision course with an already stacked Atlantic Division.
With that said, qualifying for the postseason has to be at the top of the organization’s wish list – even though it would only be the first step in a multi-year journey. Smith & Co. finished last season 27 points beneath the playoff line, leaving them with lots of ground to cover.
“We want to be in the playoffs, and I think that’s why we made the moves,” Stützle said last month. “We talked about that in the exit meetings too, that we have to make moves to be in the playoffs. They fully committed to that, so everyone is really happy to get back to Ottawa.”
It may seem unambitious to “wish” for a postseason return, but it would be the first major achievement for the Senators’ young core and mark the opening of their window to contend. Finally, the sands are shifting.
Senators’ Upcoming Season
After a productive summer of wheeling and dealing, the Senators enter the new season looking to climb up the standings. Dorion has made several improvements to the roster, with Sanderson’s rise set to boost an already young and exciting team. It’s an exciting time for the club from Ottawa. After so long on the outside looking in, success is finally just around the corner.