Our Ottawa Senators 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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The Ottawa Senators finished with a 23-28-5 record and 51 points. They placed 6th in the North, actually beating the Covid-ridden Canucks in overall seeding. The Senators had a brutal first half of the season but looked to turn it around by the end of the year.
The stats aren’t in their favour though. The powerplay was 15.5% effective which was 26th in the league. The penalty kill was 79%, placing them at 20th in the league. The team’s offense scored just 155 goals for 19th in league, and the team let in 189 goals which placed them at 27th in league. So basically bottom feeders in almost every stat, although they did find ways to score.
The Senators were fun to watch all season. They did get off to a very tough start going 1-9 in their first 10 games, but were always in the games they played. They were never an easy out, even for the best teams in the division. The team never lacked hustle. Head coach D.J. Smith did a good job ensuring the team was always leaving it all out on the ice. The best example of this in my mind was when the team was down 5-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in February, forced overtime and won in overtime. Truly a fantastic performance and an exciting game to watch. In their last 14 games of the season the team went 10-4. They never quite recovered record wise from their start, but they only narrowly missed bumping Montreal from playoffs.
The team had a lot of positives alongside that game during the season.
Brady Tkachuk showed a lot of poise and leadership throughout the year. He truly is a one size fits all type of player for the team and he was the team leader in points with 36 points in 56 games.
Connor Brown had a good season for himself hitting 21 goals for the first time in his career. He had 35 points in 56 games. He also had 5 shorthanded goals during the season. The Senators as a team only had 7, which did tie them for 4th in the league. It’s crazy that Brown had that high of a percentage of the team’s shorties.
Rookie Josh Norris had 35 points, Drake Batherson had 35 points, Thomas Chabot is their true number one defenseman and they must be happy with him at 8 million compared to some of the defensive contracts dished out this off season. Tim Stützle had a decent rookie season with 29 points in 53 games.
The team’s goaltending struggled, sometimes being beaten in quick sequence against some of the better teams in the North Division. Matt Murray had a very shaky first season in Ottawa, and the team also had to deal with a multitude of injuries in the net. They ended up playing five goaltenders throughout the season.
During the season the team traded out a few more players to further improve the number of draft picks and prospects they have. They moved Baydon Coburn for a 7th in 2022, Mike Reilly for a 2022 3rd, and Erik Gudbranson for Brandon Fortunato and a 2023 7th.
This offseason they moved on from a couple players. They traded out Logan Brown after some frustration between he and the team. He wanted more opportunity but wouldn’t get it in Ottawa so Zachary Sanford comes in from St. Louis in a trade. Sanford has a bit of a scoring touch, plays physical and should slot in nicely into the bottom six on the club.
They also traded out Evgeni Dadonov to Vegas for bottom pairing defenseman Nick Holden and a 2022 3rd round pick. Dadonov really missed the mark in his year with Ottawa. Big expectations were placed on him and he only amounted 20 points in 55 games for the team. Its a good move for Ottawa to flip him for some defensive depth with Holden, and they get rid of Dadonov’s $5 million cap hit. Which in theory will make it easier to sign Brady Tkachuk. The Senators have nothing but cap space, and I’d really like to see them use it for once now that they have announced the rebuild is done, according to general manager Pierre Dorion at least. He announced they are entering “next stage” territory so hopefully they sign their future captain Brady Tkachuk soon…
The team has an absolutely bonkers amount of talented young players on the NHL squad, and in the pipeline. If they are done the rebuild, lets take a look at how they stack up. All things considered this team won one less game than Montreal, who went to the finals, so they shouldn’t be completely ruled out.
- Michael Del Zotto
- Nick Holden
- Zachary Sanford
- Evgenii Dadonov
- Ryan Dzingel
- Derek Stepan
- Michael Amadio
- Logan Brown
- Artem Anisimov
The Senators forward group is young, but talented. Last season they did try a lot of different line combos but settled into a few consistent lines eventually. When Brady Tkachuk gets re-signed by the team he will be on the top line with Drake Batherson and Josh Norrris. These three combined for the most even strength minutes of any line the team iced last season. They all did very well last year and should be back barring any dramatic changes.
The next most consistent line from last season was Colin White, Evgenii Dadonov and Nick Paul. I think it won’t be a shock to see Tim Stützle move up into a permanent home in the top six this season here, but Stützle won’t be the one moving down.
The roster subtractions will open up some more stable spots on the third line for players like Alex Formenton, who’s still looking to find his game in the NHL. Connor Brown and Shane Pinto will likely be the other linemates on the third line.
Auston Watson, Zach Sanford and Chris Tierney are the likely suspects to make up line four, which honestly sounds pretty dang good. The compete level is definitely there, and these guys and Connor Brown could all play minutes on the penalty kill.
Beyond all these players, the Senators have plenty of youth and AHL calibre veterans who could slot in.
Defense will be an interesting story this season. There could be a bit of a log-jam here.
Thomas Chabot and Nikita Zaitsev will comprise the top unit. These two played more than double the minutes even strength than any other duo on the team at 766 minutes together. Head Coach Smith relies on these guys to eat minutes. Chabot averaged 26:17 a game and Zaitsev 22:14. Chabot plays powerplay which explains most of the difference in ice time. Either way Nikita Zaitsev actually looked a lot better this season. This could be partly explained away by him playing with Chabot, but his underlying numbers show slight improvements. He also starts 65% of his shifts in defensive zone which isn’t great for anyone’s advanced stats. As far as number one pairing go, these guys are good but not a truly great pairing.
Erik Brännström played in 30 games last season and looked pretty good. He’ll be looking to earn a consistent top six spot this season and he should be pegged to play with Artem Zub. These guys played about 190 minutes even strength together last season so should be familiar with each other. Zub was signed to a contract out of the KHL last season and was a pleasant surprise for the team. He really added some stability to the defense and looked good.
For the third pairing the team has a lot of options. Newly acquired journeyman Nick Holden could be a good guy to have here. They also have another new guy Michael Del Zotto, who had a good season in Columbus last year. But they do have Josh Brown, Victor Mete who they got off waivers last season, and promising young player Jacob Bernard-Docker who played 5 games last season. There’s only 6 spots on the roster and it’s going to be interesting to see who gets a full time spot.
For prospects the team has the incredibly talented Jake Sanderson still playing college hockey this year. He probably won’t crack the lineup until 2022-2023. They also have Lassi Thomson who could be looking to make the jump from the AHL this season.
Overall there’s a lot of players here, which means a lot of depth, but it may be difficult to keep all these guys.
Goaltending was a sore spot last season. They played five goaltenders throughout the year.
Matt Murray signed a big contract with the team and was very disappointing in his first year. He had 25 starts, 10 wins, a 3.38 goals against average and a 0.893 save percentage.
Filip Gustavsson had only 7 starts, 5 wins a 2.16 goals against average and a 0.933 save percentage.
Anton Forsberg made 8 starts, 3 wins, a 3.21 goals against average and a 0.909 save percentage.
Marcus Hogberg made 10 starts for the team had a 3.74 goals against and a 0.876 save percentage and actually went back to play in Sweden in the off season.
They also played Joey Daccord who mad 6 starts, had 1 win, a 3.27 goals against and a 0.897 save percentage. He was chosen from the team by Seattle in the expansion draft.
So the team is left with a trio of Murray, Gustavsson and Forsberg. Which honestly isn’t very confidence inspiring. However in Murray’s last 4 games he went 3-1-0 with 2 shutouts, a 1.37 goals against and a 0.954 save percentage. The team also swapped goalie coaches to Zac Bierk part way through the season. Matt Murray who has been quite slim during his time in the league listed at 6’4″, 178lbs has bulked up to 190 lbs. Still seems low to me, but he’s been putting in work to improve. If he keeps his numbers up to be closer to his last 4 games worth of work and his further from his season long stats, the team should be okay with him as the starter.
Ottawa Senators 2021-22 Prediction
The Senators are back in the Atlantic this season and while they looked good in the stretch in the North last season, this will be a tougher go for them. I can’t see them finishing ahead of the Panthers, Bruins, Lightning or Maple Leafs, but they should improve their record from last season. The worst is over for the team. They should creep closer to 500 and may even surpass that. They’ve got to have a bounce back from their goaltenders and a lot of young players will have to improve or maintain their performances. The skill is there for the team, they’ve just got to find a way to win the close games they are in to have a shot at a wild card. Either way I will be making an effort to watch this time this season. Now if they could just sign Brady Tkachuk already!
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