With the regular season over, the conversation has shifted to what’s next and what was. For the Ottawa Senators, it’s the latter.
General manager Pierre Dorion “met with reporters” via Zoom Thursday and provided a hopeful glimpse into the future of his franchise.
It must be interesting to be on the outside looking in as the NHL ramps up plans to get back on track, but Dorion and the Senators have to use this as an opportunity. They are well-stocked for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and have great odds to win the top selection via the lottery. That could position them to draft the likes of Alexis Lafreniere in one of the better prospect classes in recent memory.
The Senators closed out their 2019-2020 season with a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Their 25-34-12 record gave them 62 points, tabling them second-to-last in the Eastern Conference ahead of the miserable Detroit Red Wings and six points behind the Devils and Sabres.
Brady Tkachuk led the way in scoring with 43 points in 71 games, including 21 goals. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Anthony Duclair scored more goals overall, 24 and 23 respectively, while defenceman Thomas Chabot had a good year with 39 points in 71 games.
Dorion knows he has a lot of moving parts in the organization and putting the season to rest might go a long way to evaluating what comes next. The draft is definitely essential, but other perks include Josh Norris of the Belleville Senators scooping the AHL’s Most Outstanding Rookie honours.
“For us, Josh Norris just became a man among boys at the American League level,” Dorion said. “For a 20-year-old to win rookie of the year tells you something about where we feel he will end up for us. He is someone who plays the game at an extremely high pace. His puck handling, his skating, execution, shooting ability. He has offensive flair, he does everything the right way.”
Norris was acquired in the Erik Karlsson trade and could be in line for a big promotion whenever the next NHL season begins.
Dorion also acknowledged that he was pleased with the growth of the team over a tough season and confident in his coach. D.J. Smith had a lot on his plate, but the GM seemed satisfied with how things went.
“As a coach, he brings great structure, he is a fantastic communicator, he knows how to talk to the older players, how to talk to the younger players, he knows how to get the maximum out of them,” said Dorion. “And if we can give him the right pieces here, we know he is going to bring this team to a championship calibre team in a very short span.”
The immediate goal for the Senators is to get back on the ice, but moving up the standings is part of the big picture. Dorion and Co. believe in their group and are hoping the upcoming draft will be a gamechanger. Sharpening prospects and improving overall team conditioning remain other priorities, with a real return to play in Ottawa sure to provide its own set of unique challenges.
Image: Justin Tang/CP