The past few seasons have been heartbreakers for the fans of Ottawa, obviously finishing in the lower part of the standings, but a few years of pain could very well lead to years of success. Pierre Dorion and his crew have already constructed a solid young core lead by Captain Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, Tim Stützle, Josh Norris, and Drake Batherson, but when you look at some of these names, you may begin to wonder why we’ve been struggling.
Problem #1: The wrong veterans. Pierre is no stranger to signing older UFAs bringing in most recently defencemen Micheal Del-Zotto who spent most of his year down with the clubs AHL affiliate, the Belleville Senators. MDZ had a solid run with them, picking up 27 points in 26 regular season games, but never really got a chance in the NHL, mostly being brought up for injuries but still playing solid, putting up 13 points in 26 games. Hopefully he’ll get a chance in the NHL this year instead of being stuck in the AHL. Another example of this is Josh Brown. Traded to the Bruins on deadline day 2022, Josh Brown spent 62 games in the Nation’s capital, and only had 7 points to show for. He was brought in to be a physical force to protect the young guys, which never amounted to much, because Tkachuk fought most of the battles. Before we rush into more 30 year old guys, we need to take a step back and evaluate which veterans would mesh best with the team.
Problem #2: Injuries. This isn’t a controllable factor in sports, but its a huge one. Players could miss entire seasons with injuries that were accidental. This isn’t always the case and sometimes injuries are purposefully. For example, Aaron Dell of the Buffalo Sabres, hits Drake Batherson for 0 reason and we don’t see a potential 82 point season from him. He was over a point per game average before his injury but after the injury, he wasn’t the same
Now there are many solutions to these issues, and that leads me to the biggest one. Solution #1: The proper fits. A huge thing this team lacks is experience. Not just NHL experience, but playoff experience. A perfect example of that would be Mathieu Joseph. He’s won 2 Stanley Cups in his career with lots more time to win another. Signing free agents with these traits is important to help mentor the young guys and bring the extra fire-power our homegrown guys don’t have yet. If you look down in New York at the Rangers, they are a team that was rebuilding but adding experience as well, like Artemi Panarin. Those types of moves will make or break if a team wins a cup or not.
Solution #2: New looks. In my opinion, there is in-fact a difference between a rebuild coach, and a championship coach. And DJ Smith is more of a rebuild coach. If we want to see this team anywhere near the playoffs soon, a new coaching staff is almost a must. An experienced coach with playoff experience and can lead this team to success. Currently our scouting and development departments are doing well so they should stay. A new general manager could also see the team benefit in the case where they aren’t afraid to trade away young talent or picks for immediate help.
In conclusion I think this team is a group that has most pieces in line and could be a solid team if missing pieces are added. Hopefully we make the right moves and see the group make the playoffs in the coming years.
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