Are the Ottawa Senators Really so Bad?

Bottom of the Scotia North Division heading into April, with the third-worst record in the entire NHL, the 2020-21 campaign has given Ottawa Senators fans plenty to grumble about. What’s more, this was regarded as many to make the most of a unique all-Canadian division, an opportunity to shine during an entirely different kind of season. Unfortunately, results tell the tale of missed opportunities and some woeful performances.

Although the quality of performances took a turn for the better in March, heading into the April schedule of games, the latest NordicBet betting odds are still heavily stacked against the Ottawa Senators reaching the postseason. Currently listed at almost improbable odds of 2001.00 to win the Scotia North Division, that’s hardly surprising, yet the team could still attain a respectable position by the end of the regular season.

This is the part where some writers might turn to some positive statistics, utilizing those to float arguments about the team is starting to improve, perhaps even to underline that things are going to get better.

Sure, we can always highlight individual players and frailties they may have shown. Of course, we can question the rotation decisions of coach D.J. Smith, simply because every armchair critic always knows best, right? Nevertheless, what matters most of all is results and the Senators have shown they are capable of winning games. Not just against fellow strugglers but even when taking on the best this all-Canadian division has to offer.

Hotly tipped as genuine Stanley Cup contenders this year, the Toronto Maple Leafs were soundly beaten by Ottawa in the opening encounter of the season. Perhaps that brought some false hopes for fans, as the team then lost the next nine games, before beating Montreal Canadiens and producing four more defeats. Afterward, the team achieved back-to-back wins for the first time in February, against Winnipeg Jets and once more versus Toronto.

In fact, while Ottawa became something of a bogey side for the Maple Leafs, those games also proved the Senators are entirely capable of taking it to the best in the league. The best qualities from those results have been present in other games, such as the will to fight until the end, plus the determination of not being humiliated by superior teams. Those qualities were present through the back end of March, indicating a positive shift in form.

When fans are clearly able to see this team is willing to battle for every result, regardless of the final outcome, some of the early season criticism begins to dwindle. Hope is gradually restored that while this is a team in transition, rebuilding the roster with talented yet relatively inexperienced young players, there are signs that the good times might not be so far away.

This may well end up being the fourth season in a row the Senators haven’t made the playoffs, although laying the foundations for a strong future is never easy. Several of the best players on the roster, including the likes of Tim Steutzle and Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, or Thomas Chabot, are all under the age of 25. Providing the franchise can continue building around such talents, Ottawa will become a force to be reckoned with.

This brings us back to the titular question – are the Ottawa Senators really so bad? The answer to that question is twofold, given while results this year have been frustrating, we have enjoyed some uplifting positive glimpses of what's to come. Overall, this team isn't as bad as naysayers would have us believe. Look beyond the results and there's enough to see this rebuild moving in a positive direction.