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Mathieu Joseph has been, without a doubt, the most surprising player for the Ottawa Senators this season. After struggling for almost all of the 2022/2023 season, Joseph has bounced back and become one of the most important members of the Ottawa Senators. Below, I will be doing a deep dive into exactly how Joseph had turned his game around 180 degrees.
Playing With Skilled Players
The big draw with Mathieu Joseph following his 12-game stint with Ottawa in 2021/2022 was that he could play up and down the lineup. Joseph had shown that his speed and skill level were high enough to keep up and drive play with high-calibre offensive players. The line of Joseph-Norris-Tkachuk towards the end of the 2022 season was absolutely dynamite when they played together, which earned Joseph his 4 year $2.95 AAV contract.
Enter into the 2022/2023 offseason, where Joseph was expected to be part of an elite third line of himself, Pinto and Formenton. Following the World Juniors investigation, Formenton remained unsigned by the Senators, and Tyler Motte would take his position. More line turnover quickly followed as Shane Pinto was moved to the second line following Josh Norris’s shoulder injury.
Last season, Mathieu Joseph’s most common linemates included Tyler Motte, Dylan Gambrell, and Derrick Brassard. No disrespect to any of these players, but they aren’t exactly guys with the highest offensive ceiling. Not to mention, they weren’t players who had the chance to build chemistry much in the offseason, as they weren’t expected to play with each other.
Well, it’s safe to say that Joseph’s linemates have taken a significant step forward regarding talent level this season. Joseph has had the opportunity to play with the top dogs in Ottawa and has recently built some great chemistry on a line with Claude Giroux and Tim Stützle. Against Toronto, this line combined for 10 points, three of which came from Joseph’s assists.
Confidence Within Himself
It didn’t take an expert to realize that Mathieu Joseph lacked confidence in the 2022/2023 season. Insiders have noted that Joseph sometimes got down on himself last season when the puck luck was nowhere to be seen. Joseph’s confidence shrunk as his struggles prevailed and his team role diminished.
Entering into this season, there is no lack of confidence in the game of Mathieu Joseph. The ability to start a new season with a clean, fresh slate has done him well, and advice from Claude Giroux to not focus on the negative is also positively impacting his game. This confidence has been shown since the pre-season, where Mathieu Joseph looked dominant.
Trade Rumour Motivation
It feels like forever ago when many Sens fans, including myself, expected Mathieu Joseph to be traded because of the salary cap implications. It would have been impossible for Joseph to ignore the noise around the league regarding his name as a trade candidate. While this kind of outside drama can weigh on a player and negatively affect their on-ice performance, it seems to do the opposite for Joseph.
It sure seems like Mathieu Joseph enjoys playing in Ottawa because he made damn sure that he wouldn’t be the player moved if need be for cap space. He has already surpassed his goal total from last season (3) and is only 6 points from tying his point total (18) in 43 fewer games. The rumour in the off-season was that the Senators would have to add a first-round pick to trade Joseph. There is no way that is the case anymore, and it looks a lot more like it would cost a first-round pick to acquire Mathieu Joseph.
The biggest skill in Mathieu Joseph’s repertoire is his elite skating. Joseph is one of the fastest players on the team, if not the fastest, and he is putting this speed to work. While Joseph has always been a dangerous penalty killer because of his speed, it hasn’t always contributed to offensive success in the past. Joseph has taken a massive step forward in driving offensive play this season by backing defenders off with his speed.
On a line that has Tim Stützle and Claude Giroux, Mathieu Joseph often guides the puck into the offensive zone. If he doesn’t have the puck on his stick, Joseph is excellent at driving down the lanes to open up space for his two linemates. We saw this from Joseph back when the Senators initially traded for him, but it was not something he was doing as effectively last season.
Finally Getting Puck Luck
Mathieu Joseph Stats
Although Joseph’s counting stats were lacking in the 2022/2023 season, his advanced stats indicated he had been quite unlucky. In 2022/2023 at 5v5, Joseph had:
- 56 Games
- 0 Goals
- 12 Assists
- 49.60 CF%
- 50.02 xG%
- 49.29 SCF%
- 49.78 HDCF%
These numbers don’t jump off the page as outstanding, but they show that Joseph deserved a far better fate than he received. For example, Joseph failed to score on any of his 49 shots at 5v5 last season; this year, he has scored on 4 of 21.
These are Mathieu Joseph’s 2023/2024 stats so far.
- 13 Games
- 4 Goals
- 7 Assists
- 50.00 CF%
- 50.47 xG%
- 48.73 SCF%
- 36.92 HDCF%
One could argue that Joseph’s advanced numbers have decreased this season. The moral of the story is that the puck luck has found its way into the stick of Mathieu Joseph after being nowhere to be seen last season.
- 63.22 CF%
- 67.17 xGF%
- 62.00 SCF%
- 52.63 HDCF%
- 6 Goals For, 3 Against
Joseph had found himself a lovely little home on the left wing of Stützle and Giroux.
With the increased production, Joseph has also received an increased role on the Ottawa Senators. After averaging around 14 minutes a night in the 2022/2023 season, Joseph is now averaging just under 16 and a half minutes per game to start this year. This includes some time on the second power-play unit, which nobody expected to see coming into the season.
The increased opportunity gives you more time to contribute to your team and helps players get into the game. Not to mention, it shows that you have the confidence of your coach, which allows players to play more freely without worrying about being benched for making a single mistake.
What’s Next For Joseph
It would be wishful thinking to hope Joseph could keep up this pace for the season. I hope we get production that is somewhere in the middle of his pace for this year and his total from last season. I don’t believe that 15 goals and 45-50 points are out of the question for Mathieu Joseph after what he has shown at the start of this season. Time will tell, but Joseph has completely changed my mindset on who he is as a player. I have the utmost confidence that he will be an essential piece of this team moving forward.
I was very much against trading Joseph with a sweetener when that was the talk in the summer. Even without a 5v5 goal last year, he was a very useful player and not in a horrible contract, as the advanced stats show, and the dropoff from him being gone would be significant if you’re doing anything but counting goals on NHL.com
Very nice to see him getting some results.
It is a pleasure to see Mathieu Joseph succeeding so well. His speed and anticipation has always been impressive and it is really fun to see the chemistry that he has developed with Giroux and Stützle.
Could DJ Smith’s manner in handling whatever MJ’s problem last year have been a big part of his problem? There was obviously something going on with MJ, and DJ’s “punishment” was not helpful to resolving the situation.
When I heard all the talk about trading Joseph earlier in the season, all I could think was “if we trade him, I’m afraid it will end up being one of those trades that we’ll come to regret.” Glad it didn’t happen and even happier that he’s playing so well.
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