G36 Game Notes: Oilers seeking seventh straight win, Senators might shake things up, and more

Cam Lewis
5 months ago
1. Seeking their seventh consecutive win on Saturday night, the Edmonton Oilers will host the Ottawa Senators, who rank last in the Eastern Conference with a 14-20-0 record. This will be the game of the season between the two teams, with the other meeting coming in Ottawa in late March.
Last season saw the Oilers sweep their two games against the Sens with identical 6-3 wins. Ottawa beat Edmonton in both games in 2021-22 as the team sought payback for the beating the Oilers laid on them during the pandemic-shortened season in 2021. The Oilers won all nine games against the Sens that season and outscored them 41 to 18 all told.
2. Ottawa was the joke of the All-Canadian Division for the first part of that season but they came along throughout the year and finished off strong. There was plenty of optimism around the team’s young core but the Sens haven’t been able to break through since.
They improved from 73 points in 2021-22 to 86 points in 2022-23 but are on pace for 67 points this season, which would be their worst result since finishing dead-last in the league in 2018-19. The Sens haven’t been in the playoffs since a surprise run to the Conference Finals in 2017 and it looks like they’ll miss out for the seventh consecutive season this year.
3. Since Michael Andlauer purchased the team back in the summer, general manager Pierre Dorion and head coach D.J. Smith have been let go, while Steve Staois has taken over hockey operations, and Jacques Martin is back for a second stint in Ottawa as the interim coach.
Beyond deciding who the team’s next coach will be, Staios also has to take a long, hard look at this roster and determine which players the Senators are going to build around. Tim Stutzle, Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Thomas Chabot, and Artem Zub are all under the age of 30 and locked up for at least three more seasons.
Will they keep that talented core together despite the poor results or will they look to shake things up? Elliotte Friedman suggested on 32 Thoughts earlier this week that Ottawa’s young players have become “too comfortable” and that the front office might try to send a “lightning bolt” through the room.
4. Staios spoke on The Jason Gregor Show on Sports 1440 this week as well and noted that he’d like to add a veteran player if the opportunity presented itself.
“The market often dictates things in certain areas to be able to move this thing in the right direction,” Staios said as the Senators prepared to face the Oilers at Rogers Place Arena on Saturday night. “We’ll be out (looking) and we’re being aggressive to try to identify those areas.
“Regardless of where you think your team is, I think (the deadline) is an important time to try to take advantage of certain situations, if they’re there. To try to force something into your team or to try something rash is never been what we’ve set out to do here.
“We’ve taken a process-driven approach. It’s not patience because we work at it every day, and, if there are opportunities, we’ll take advantage of it. Certainly, it’s going to have to make sense. Time will tell on what the opportunities might become as we get closer to the deadline.”
5. What Staios needs to build in Ottawa for the Senators to find sustainable success might go beyond the team’s roster. Former NHL defender Michael Del Zotto, who played for the Sens late in his career in 2021-22, spoke on Daily Faceoff Live about how he “couldn’t believe that that was an NHL organization” when he was playing there.
“I tell this story all the time, I was spoiled. My first year was in New York playing for the Rangers and it was first class treatment. Every single day, anything that a player could think of has already been thought of numerous times and had been perfected by the organization. So just even the food we’d have after the game, a fantastic spread of food at home, which I think maybe two guys would go there and actually make the most of it, because you’re in New York City, you’re going out for dinner after.
And Ottawa, I remember after my first game, we had boxed quesadillas in a warming drawer. And I’m thinking, you’re spending the $80 million on your players, and we had a young team, so we had 20-21 year-olds, guys that probably have never stepped in the kitchen before to cook, and you’re in Ottawa where there’s not really restaurants that are open on a Tuesday-Wednesday, so you’re either eating these boxed quesadillas or you’re going to Taco Bell or McDonalds that are open late night. So, just little things like that. They don’t give their players the best opportunities to succeed every night.”

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