Playoff Chances, DeBrincat, and Belleville Changes

The make-or-break road trip for the team was a disaster, with both Buffalo and Washington passing them in the standings and the Islanders, Pittsburgh, and Florida having (slightly) better records over their last ten games. The young goaltenders have not been up to the task (this is no surprise with Mandolese, whose AHL-numbers regressed to his rookie season, while Sogaard has struggled much like he did in his sophomore season in Belleville). The team in front of them hasn’t made their lives any easier. I don’t think the losses themselves are what’s troubling to the fanbase, but rather how bad they’ve been. This isn’t doom and gloom for the future, but the path forward for this season seems out of reach (Dom Luszczyszyn has them at just 2% and Ottawa has the toughest schedule in the entire NHL for the rest of the year). If the Sens continue to falter, Dorion’s trades (recent and not) are going to come under scrutiny within the fanbase (as we can see below). The Sens have sacrificed so much draft capital (their first pick this year is in the 4th round) it means there’s no arriving hope to sell from prospects (the high-end players are already in the organization). I think the Sens are too good to tank completely, but the playoff dream has been shattered.

It’s not quite schadenfreude, but the current debate over Alex DeBrincat‘s future reflects what I said when they traded for him in the first place (echoed in September by Sean McIndoe of The Athletic): that he turns into merely a 1-2 year rental or underperforms (and in either case at great cost–1.5 seasons of Matt Duchene cost the Sens Bowen Byram, after all). Ottawa has cap issues that will particularly impact the future blueline (something the fanbase recognized six months later), so as I posed in the summer and Ian Mendes is asking now: what do you do with DeBrincat? His point production has been fine (a decline, but not a huge one), but his goal scoring has cratered (he’s on his worst goals-per-game pace since his third season in 2019-20). Pierre Dorion has a lot of pride and he struggles to admit mistakes–did he make one here? He’s not a 9 million dollar player, so if you want to keep him you have to sign him long term, but is he a long term solution? Three players have scored more than he has this season (Stutzle, Tkachuk, and Giroux), with Batherson essentially on par and Pinto would be there with different usage (not to mention Norris missing the season). If you have plenty of goalscoring, how many forwards can you pay top dollar for (does it makes sense to pay 32 million to just four forwards)? It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months.

The Sens finally came to the realization that signing FA’s Kristians Rubins and Jayce Hawrlyuk was a pointless exercise. Both have been shipped out for a bag of peanuts (to Calgary and New Jersey respectively). I’ve seen it suggested that this is to make room for FA signings, but I’m not convinced by that (with Anton Forsberg and Josh Norris on injured reserve, the Sens had 3 contract slots open before they hit the ceiling of 50 already). Neither player counted towards the AHL-veteran cap, so I think it’s simply shipping out players who failed to meet expectations. The org has a desperate need in net in Belleville, so they had previously signed Dylan Ferguson (7-194/19 Dallas; who has been excellent after bombing out in Toronto). The bag of peanuts in return from New Jersey became Dylan Blujus, who was a second-round pick back in 2012. He has to be an improvement on Rubins, although to what extent remains to be seen.

This article was written by Peter Levi