32 in 32: Three issues to watch for the Senators

NHL.com offers in-depth analysis of each of the 32 teams during the months of September and October. Today, the Ottawa Senators.

It is with renewed enthusiasm that the Ottawa Senators will begin the next season, a breath of fresh air after four consecutive exclusions from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

« The reconstruction is complete, we can now go to another level, » said General Manager Pierre Dorion when he met the media after agreeing to a three-year contract extension earlier this month.

32 IN 32 – SENATORS : Best hopes | Analysis for poolers

However, Dorion still has an important file on his desk, that of the attacker’s contract. Brady Tkachuk. Talks continue between the two camps, and the Senators say that these conversations are going without the slightest acrimony and that the fourth overall pick in the 2018 Draft will be in his position at the start of training camp. If not, then Tkachuk’s name will end up at the top of the team’s stakes.

Tkachuk is one of the centerpieces of the Senators’ young core, and the team captain’s “C” could land on his jersey this season. The defender Thomas chabot is another excellent contender for the title, which has not been filled since Erik Karlsson left in 2018.

Dorion managed to put together an interesting core through the draft and some good trades. Tim stützle, Drake batherson, Josh norris, Alex Formenton and Erik Brannstrom They are all set to take on bigger roles this season, while other young prospects are already puffing them in the neck.

It remains to be seen how quickly this beautiful nucleus will progress in the federal capital.

Here are three questions intimately linked to the Senators’ success this season:

Can Thomas Chabot bounce offensively?

Since collecting 55 points in 70 games in 2018-19, after which he accepted an eight-year, $ 64 million contract extension, Chabot’s offensive stats have faltered, and he ended the last campaign with 31 points in 49 games.

It must be said that Chabot is overtaxed by the many responsibilities entrusted to him on equal terms. He was the most-requested defender in a numerical tie last season averaging 22:36 per game, 45 seconds more than Darnell nurse of the Edmonton Oilers in second place. He was almost always sent into the fray against the best opponents, and he started only 42.2 percent of his appearances in the attacking zone.

The Quebecer was almost exclusively paired with Nikita Zaitsev last season. Coach DJ Smith has already indicated that he intends to be a game-changer at training camp and place him alongside Artem Zub to allow Chabot to generate more offense.

Video: VAN @ OTT: Chabot participates in the offensive parade

« The idea is to put him in more offensive situations, not always give him ice time that starts in the defensive zone and give him more time with an attacking line, so that he touches the puck more » Smith told Le Devoir last week.

“With more depth, we will not always have to play against the best opposing lines. He was not drafted to play defensively even though he can face anyone in the league. We’re going to use him like a Morgan Reilly in Toronto, instead of having to do everything for us. « 

Who will pivot the second line?

Barring any surprise, the Senators’ top line will again consist of Tkachuk, Norris and Batherson. Smith will try to assemble a second unit that will be able to provide them with offensive support, but the composition of this trio is far from being set in stone.

The coach has already ruled out the idea of ​​transferring Stützle to the center to start the season. Connor brown, author of 21 goals, including 15 in his last 21 games, last season should be on his right.

Stützle and Brown finished the season with the rookie Shane Pinto, who himself amassed seven points in 12 games in his first NHL audition.

Colin white has mostly evolved with Evgenii Dadonov last season on what was considered the team’s second line. It will be necessary to see if a chemistry can settle quickly between him, Stützle and Brown at the camp.

Video: OTT @ CGY: White jumps on the free puck

“I want to give White a legitimate chance to land this job early in camp,” Smith told Postmedia.

 » [Pinto] could become our second center, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on such a young player. It’s an 82-game schedule, and he’s never played so many games. We are going to give him a real chance in the pre-season matches to see how he is doing. « 

Chris Tierney is another candidate for this position, if the other options do not work as desired.

Is Matt Murray going to play like a real number one goalie?

When Dorion got Murray from the Pittsburgh Penguins in a trade in the 2020 NHL Draft, he said the Senators had just found a real number one goalie. The two-time Stanley Cup winner’s performance in his first campaign in Ottawa, however, made his boss lie.

Murray concluded the season with a 10-13-1 record, 3.38 goals-against average and .893 save percentage. Dorion felt he wouldn’t be at a great risk if he didn’t protect Murray for the Expansion Draft, and the Seattle Kraken backed him up by opting for another member of the organization instead. Joey Ok.

The team’s performances in net prompted the organization to make a change to the goalkeeper coach position during the season, as Zac Bierk replaced Pierre Groulx on April 6.

Coincidence or not, Murray, who was injured during that change of personnel, was much better on his return to training. In his last five campaign starts, Murray was 3-1-0, 1.37 GAA and .954 save in addition to signing two shutouts.

This is the kind of performance the Senators are going to need if they are serious about taking the next step.

« We need a stabilizing presence behind our defenders for sure, » Smith admitted. We obviously hope it will be solid. « 

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