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Improvements and What Needs to Go Right for the 2023-24 Ottawa Senators to Make the Playoffs

The 2023-24 version of the Ottawa Senators can make the playoffs if the things we discuss can be executed effectively.

Okay, it is July, and the only ice is on the rocks, but what needs to go right? This is a follow-up to the idea of “Are the Senators a playoff team?” with how they become one. First of all, Joonas Korpisalo must deliver after a strong 2022-23. Next, Drake Batherson needs to improve his shooting percentage. Finally, Thomas Chabot needs to regain his form. If these types of things happen, the Senators are a lock for the 2023-24 Stanley Cup playoffs.

So How Exactly Do the Ottawa Senators Get in the 2023-24 Playoffs?

Other things need to happen, but the Senators need to better prevent teams from scoring. Korpisalo looks to be the main supplier of saves. After all, that is why General Manager Pierre Dorion brought him in and signed him to a $20M contract. For Korpisalo, he will need to come close to matching last season’s success. In 39 games played, he put up a respectable .914 SV%. Moreover, the Senators do have support in between the pipes beyond Korpisalo. Anton Forsberg, a fellow Nordic country native, is there to help carry the load. From last year, his .902 SV% and 8.1 GSAx in 28 games, are solid for a backup. However, he would like to improve upon his 3.26 GAA if he is to prove to be a difference-maker. One thing Coach D.J. Smith must keep in mind is to not overplay either goalie.

Will the ‘Bathman’ Have a Big Season?

We have covered goals against, and now on to goals for, namely for one Drake Batherson. For whatever reason, all three on his line in 2022-23 had poor shooting percentages. We should add a correction to say, maybe not for the average NHLer, but poor for players of their calibre. They included the recently departed Alex DeBrincat and the currently unsigned RFA (Group 10.2(c)) Shane Pinto. All three managed to score 20 or more goals, but it is Batherson we will focus on. His shooting percentage was a dismal 8.8%, good for only 22 goals. One possible explanation was the lack of a true playmaker on the line. Perhaps if Joshua Norris can find his way back onto Batherson’s line, both will benefit from the reunion.  They previously formed a line with Brady Tkachuk for the better part of the two seasons: 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Chabot: The Leader of Defence

Now that we have discussed the forwards and goalies, let’s look at the defence, in particular, Thomas Chabot. When Chabot is on top of his game, he is arguably a top NHL defenceman. Another way to look at it is he garners inclusion in best-on-best Team Canada selection discussion. It is well known that Chabot has been overplayed at times, and is always amongst league leaders in time on ice. Chabot was above 26 minutes a night, three years in a row, until last year. 2022-23 saw him dip to a mere 24:58. Conversely, despite a little less ice time, it seemed he became prone to costly turnovers at times. It just seems like he was playing with excessive pressure, and trying to do too much.

That’s where the 2023-24 Ottawa Senators team vows to be different than the 2022-23 version, on the backend. The team believes, which is more important than the league recognition, that their top-four is elite. One crucial addition was adding Jakob Chychrun at the trade deadline. Chychrun can be a force from the blue line. Furthermore, this will help alleviate the pressure off fellow D-man, Chabot. The other members of the top four include Artem Zub and 2022-23 rookie standout Jake Sanderson. Zub is a proven defender and got the financial backing to reward his work. Sanderson played unreal in his rookie campaign and looks to be able to slot in anywhere. He can play special teams, or as a top-pair guy, with the correct choice of partner. As for the third pair, whoever becomes the regulars, there is plenty of competition to keep pushing and make the players accountable.

The Best Defence is a Strong Offence

The intangible to keep in mind about the defence is this can give a full-circle effect on the team’s success. Having a strong defence is paramount for an NHL team, even more so in the playoffs. Additionally, look at teams like the St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights, and Seattle Kraken. Two of which won recent Stanley Cup Championships: Blues (2019) and Golden Knights (2023). It appears building a team from the blueline out, can be a formula for winning. Having a strong defence can help the goaltending flourish. The Sens gave up an average of 31.37 shots against, just above the NHL average. Having Chychrun around for a full season could help in this regard. Finally, the defence can help jumpstart the offence and lead the attack. Chabot has always been known as an offensive, free-skating guy. If he is playing freer in 2023-24, knowing other guys can step up, he might capitalize on opportunities.

So Will They Make the Playoffs?

These are some of the main ideas for what will propel the 2023-24 Ottawa Senators into playoffs and the chase for Lord Stanley’s Holy Grail . There are teams in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, that the Sens need to beat. They need to take the leap, not just metaphorically, but they physically need to win those games. They cannot be letting those two points slip out of their hands, especially in those November games. Don’t let excuses like injuries get in the way. Additionally, their prospects need to step up and fill those bottom-six roles. They need to come in and play at a high-level, to keep the team in those close 2-1 games. If all these bigger and small ticket items come together, we might just be watching games from the Canadian Tire Centre in May.

Main Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports


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