Senators: A Pivotal Year for the Rebuild
The Ottawa Senators' 2022-2023 campaign showed signs of progress, yet not enough to secure a playoff berth. As they chart their course for the 2023-2024 season, this young team will be keen to make the leap from rebuilding to contention. Despite several obstacles last season, there are reasons for optimism, but also lingering questions that could define the Senators' immediate future.
2022-2023 Season Recap: Signs of Progress, but No Cigar
Last season, the Senators finished with 86 points and a -10 goal differential, placing them 6th in the Atlantic Division. While the team showed improvement, their ESBC Power AI metrics indicated a concerning downward trend throughout the season, only picking up in the final stretch when it was already too late for playoff aspirations.
One of the glaring weaknesses was goaltending, as injuries and inconsistent play forced the team to rotate through seven goalies over the season. Given the weight of this position, it's safe to say that adequate netminding could have easily put the Senators in the postseason.
Offseason Moves: Patching Holes and Raising Expectations
The departure of winger Alex DeBrincat was met with significant reinforcements, as the Senators signed both Dominik Kubalik and Vladimir Tarasenko. The biggest intrigue lies in goal, where Joonas Korpisalo has been brought in. The Finnish netminder has shown flashes of top-level talent but has yet to establish himself as a reliable number one goaltender in the NHL.
In addition to Korpisalo, Ottawa will likely benefit from full seasons from players like Josh Norris and Jakob Chychrun, both of whom dealt with injuries last year.
Coaching and Tactics: Stability Under D.J. Smith
D.J. Smith will continue to helm the Senators, and how he manages this young roster will be crucial. He's got a mixture of young stars like Chabot, Sanderson, Stutzle, Tkachuk, Batherson, and Norris, plus newly added veterans. This creates an environment ripe for a potential breakthrough, but also a challenging puzzle in terms of optimizing line combinations and individual roles.
2023-2024 Season Outlook: The Make-or-Break Factors
The Senators have several pieces in place to transition from rebuilders to contenders. The young core is either in its prime or nearing it, and the addition of veterans provides a balance of experience and youthful exuberance.
However, much will depend on goaltending. If the tandem of Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg can offer NHL-average or better performances, the Senators will be a team to watch. Otherwise, they could once again find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time.
The 2023-2024 season is shaping up to be a pivotal one for the Ottawa Senators. With a core group in its prime, some valuable veteran additions, and the potential for improved goaltending, the stage is set for Ottawa to make significant strides. Yet, as always, turning potential into results is easier said than done. We are betting that the Senators will reach the postseason!
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