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Shane Pinto of the Ottawa Senators Development This Year

Shane Pinto, Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators young centre-iceman, Shane Pinto, is trying to develop and understand his place in the NHL. This is a difficult task as he is learning on the job. The difficulties have been compounded by a tumultuous start to the season for the team. It is further complicated for Pinto with the loss of one of the team’s key centres Josh Norris. In some ways, it is important to not read too much into Pinto’s struggles this year. However, most importantly, for him personally, and for the team’s future goals, he must find ways to continually improve overall.

Shane Pinto‘s Role for the Ottawa Senators

Early in the season, when Norris was healthy, it was allowing Pinto to escape some tough matchups. Therefore, we quickly saw results in his hot streak (6 goals in an 8-game span). As the season progressed, the strain on the Ottawa Senators depth down the middle was shown. With Derick Brassard unlikely to regain the form he had earlier in his career, Pinto has had to carry a heavier-than-expected load. As you can see from the team’s face-off numbers, Pinto has proven capable of taking draws, so needs to continue that work as well.

Claude Giroux 26 23 18:06 188 112 63
Mark Kastelic 23 3 8:30 118 87 58
Shane Pinto 26 11 15:27 146 118 55
Brady Tkachuk 26 30 18:20 123 112 52
Derick Brassard 18 7 13:43 88 86 51
Tim Stützle 26 27 20:27 80 106 43

What Pinto Needs To Work On

Pinto has been playing a lot of minutes in a top-six role. One interesting line that coach D.J. Smith has been trying, is the all-righties of Alexander Debrincat, Drake Batherson, and Pinto. Despite that, Pinto’s statistical output results have not been there lately. However, he is playing big minutes (over 18 minutes plus a game recently) and is not showing to be a liability defensively. For a young centre, this is a huge plus and shows a great deal of maturity. Conversely, while he is going through this slump, he could work on a few aspects of his offensive attack. He needs to continue to shoot the puck and build his confidence. His remains doing a good job of going to the areas where you need to generate offence, like the front of the net, or hanging out in the high slot.

For Pinto, the Norris injury could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The injury is definitely not a blessing from a team perspective for the 2022-23 season but going into camp in 2023. Moreover, this season will give all their youthful centres a chance to mature, develop, and take on additional high-pressure situations and responsibilities. Stützle will look to fulfill his potential as a high-end scorer. Pinto and Mark Kastelic look to establish themselves as reliable defensive-zone faceoff threats. Furthermore, Pinto looks to continue his string of goal-scoring, and become a top power-play type player for years to come.

Finding a Combo that Works

Rank Line Minutes xGOALs %
1 Stutzle-Giroux-Tkachuk 159.6 65.6
2 Norris-Giroux-DeBrincat 52.6 64.4
3 Tkachuk-Stutzle-Batherson 135 59.4
4 Motte-Brassard-Joseph 67.4 58.5
5 Motte-Pinto-Joseph 92.1 49.4
6 Batherson-Pinto-Joseph 116.7 47.5
7 Kelly-Kastelic-Watson 102.7 40.9
8 DeBrincat-Brassard-Giroux 42.5 39.7
9 DeBrincat-Pinto-Giroux 37.5 30

So far this year, the line combinations have been difficult to figure out for coach D.J. Smith and his players. Even with Norris out, they still seem to want to load up on two lines. Thus, this becomes a challenge in that it takes away from their third line. The other interesting problem is that the top line of Brady Tkachuk, Claude Giroux, and Stützle has been so dominant. This prevents the coach from possibly spreading out talent amongst the top-three lines.

There have been questions about the team’s chemistry as a group. The lack of chemistry could be attributed to a lack of a well-defined team system and structure. Basically, coach Smith’s style might not promote the offensive attack. We could think of the Cole Caufield situation for the Montreal Canadiens when Martin St. Louis took over. The Senators have played well, but do succumb to costly defensive zone failures.

How to be Successful Now and Down the Road

It seems the Senators are fragile and with Pinto not contributing, he needs to remain positive. Such is the case, the combination of Batherson, DeBrincat, and himself is good to shield Pinto, but may lack a true playmaker overall. To add on, the coach should continue to allow him to earn his power-play time. This will be an easy way to grow his point totals.

Furthermore, using him on the penalty kill is a great way of defensive skill development, and nurturing his overall confidence. The Senators do need to try to find ways to right the ship. Exploring spreading out their three lines, might be an answer, and help Pinto to avoid some of the tougher matchups. This would allow Pinto to succeed offensively. Pinto has found success playing with Tyler Motte and Mathieu Joseph, but that combination is a challenge to put out there with no Norris, and Brassard is not comfortable in a top-six role.

What this Means for Pinto and the Senators in 2022-23

Sometimes the little things are the most important, like getting better at your trade and having fun. It seems Pinto can do both these days. Unfortunately, the team is not doing better in the standings. After their four-game winning streak in October had them at 4-2, they have since fallen to 10-14-2 overall. However, for Pinto, this is still his first full NHL season, and he needs to use the invaluable experience gained through all this added responsibility. That said, if he can continue to do so, along with the rest of the young Senators, they will all be looking to make a push toward competitive games, into April.

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