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Ottawa Senators season update: Frustrating start threatening to derail season

Having narrowly missed out on a place in the playoffs last season in a campaign blighted by injury, Ottawa Senators fans went into the new NHL season in optimistic mood.

After a poor start, though, frustration levels are through the roof and fans are laying the blame firmly at the door of coach DJ Smith.

The Sens sit bottom of the Atlantic Division with a record of 8-9-0 through 17 games. Although they have as many as five games in hand on their divisional rivals due to a trip to Sweden, they are one of only three Eastern Conference teams with a record lower than .500.

Ottawa Senators 2023/24 season odds

To win Stanley Cup+6600
To win Eastern Conference+2800
To win Atlantic Division+3300
To make playoffs+175

Successful Swedish trip proving to be false dawn

Going into their Global Series trip to Sweden, the Senators had a 6-7-0 record but had won two of their most recent three outings.

It proved to be a successful trip on paper, with two OT wins contributing four much-needed points, but their 5-4 win over Detroit in Stockholm came after they had blown a 4-0 lead in an eight-minute span of the second period. That stretch of play sums up the Sens' season for many fans.

It has certainly been in evidence in their first two games since, a 5-3 loss to the Islanders and 5-0 hammering by Florida, both at home.

The journey to Europe has led to a disjointed schedule for Ottawa (as well as the other three teams who made the trip) and they are currently in a run of only five games in 21 days.

Contrast that with December, which features a road trip between the 14th and 21st that includes in five matchups in eight days.

Star players a cause for optimism

While Ottawa's results have been disappointing, a ray of light has been the performances of their best players.

Captain Brady Tkachuk has a respectable ten goals through 17 games, while Tim Stutzle has 22 points.

Veteran Claude Giroux, Mathieu Joseph and summer addition Vladimir Tarasenko have also been pulling their weight, and it is another plus that Tarasenko and Jakob Chychrun have so far stayed healthy.

Depth is a bit of an issue, as it was expected to be, and that could hurt the Senators if injuries start piling up. But with the top-level quality at their disposal they should be doing better.

Excuses wearing thin

As has become a pattern with Ottawa under Smith, they made a slow start to the season and the same excuses are cropping up again.

After winning three of their first four games, the Sens proceeded to lose five of their next six. They have returned from Sweden in terrible form, losing both games since the Global Series ended.

That disruption has been pointed to as a potential reason, but Detroit were on the trip, too, and they have won their next three outings.

Unlucky bounces and refereeing decisions going against them have also been blamed for the poor run of form, but plenty of teams deal with that kind of adversity and are able to overcome it.

They are the sixth-youngest team in the league, which of course affects how they cope with a bad situation, but again, a team has to be able to perform not only when everything is going their way.

It is up to management to keep the team focused but they have looked too disjointed in a sport where smooth teamwork trumps individual brilliance.

That came to a head during a humiliating 5-0 defeat to Florida at Canadian Tire Center, which descended into a brawl during the third period. All ten skaters on the ice were ejected from the game, which had seen the Panthers convert all of their first three powerplay chances.

Top brass is keeping faith with DJ and his team, but the fans have had enough and we must be nearing the point where a change of management has little downside.

What to expect for the rest of the season

If their current slump continues then a coaching change will surely be forthcoming.

Already this season Edmonton have ditched Jay Woodcroft and Minnesota have fired Dean Evason and assistant Bob Woods, so the Sens wouldn't be the first to run out of patience.

Ottawa have plenty of games in hand, but each loss puts extra pressure on the next game, and they do not seem to be dealing well with the situation.

December's hectic road trip, which takes in games against St Louis, Dallas, Vegas, Arizona and Colorado will be a tough one and could set the tone for the future.

If they can raise their game and come together as a team then a push for the playoffs could be on the cards. If it goes badly, then they can expect trade requests to start coming in and the franchise could opt for a full rebuild.

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