The Ottawa Senators missed the playoffs this season yet again after finishing 6 points behind the Florida Panthers for the final wild card position in the eastern conference. There were many factors that contributed to this finish, sub-par goaltending, questionable defensive group, depth scoring/5v5 scoring. So, GM Pierre Dorion is addressing and addressed the issues by acquiring Jakob Chychrun from the Coyotes and targeting bonafide NHL goaltenders. But how does all of this affect depth scoring? Many fans have spoken about targeting depth scorers in free agency and while I agree with their wishes, I feel many people are forgetting about a certain someone we already have.
It’s easy to forget that in his last noteworthy season, Norris had a 35 goal campaign playing as the teams #1 centre against the oppositions toughest matchups. As Sens fans know, Tim Stützle has emerged as a superstar and is now the teams #1 centre. This also means Stützle is likely to be facing the best opposition game in and game out. So, with that in mind we can only assume that Norris, the 35 goal scorer who played against first pair defenders will now have the luxury of matching against teams 2nd pairs. To me, this screams of Norris storming back and pushing for a 40 goal season (health permitting). While this is all great news, it doesn’t provide a solution to the problem of depth scoring, or does it?
As was the plan when this season started, Shane Pinto is likely to start on the teams third line rather than in the top-6. This in turn makes Shane Pinto a bottom 6 forward, and what better way to address bottom 6 scoring then to provide it with a young 20 goal scorer who thrived early in the year against bottom pair defenders. Pinto began the year on a 5 game goal streak in which 4 of those games, he played in a role behind Josh Norris. Pinto was feasting against the opponents weaker defenders and it wasn’t until his role was elevated to replace Norris that he struggled. So that begs the question, what is Pinto capable of if he can play most or all of a season behind 2 elite centres who will draw most of the attention from opponents?
More Power-play Variety
One of the Sens biggest strengths this season was their elite power-play. The Sens were among the very best on the man advantage, and they did this without the help of Norris or the newly acquired Chychrun. If there’s one thing you think of when you hear the name Josh Norris, it is top of the circle one-timers on the power-play. I think it’s safe to say that Norris was and could once again be the most dangerous option on the PP for the Sens, and as discussed with Pinto, this has a ripple effect that creates new openings for other players to have a little bit more space on the ice.
It’s no secret that this season is playoffs or bust for the Senators. While the team still has some holes that Dorion needs to address, I strongly believe that if a fit can’t be found via free agency, the Senators have the internal resources to fill the holes. The biggest question is whether or not the players can stay healthy and how the team could handle losing another elite player for most of the season. This is where free agency comes into play, however if the team can stay healthy I believe in the centre depth of Stützle, Norris, Pinto and Kastelic to get the team to the next level.