In the world of professional sports, it is not uncommon for teams to go through ups and downs, with some seasons being more successful than others. This is especially true in the highly competitive world of the National Hockey League (NHL). However, one team that has caught the attention of hockey fans and experts alike in recent years is the Ottawa Senators.
The Senators, based in Ottawa, Ontario, are a relatively young team, having been established in 1992. They have had their share of struggles and setbacks throughout their history, including a long-standing rivalry with their fellow Canadian team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, it wasn’t until the past few seasons that the Senators experienced a significant turnaround, going from near the bottom of the league to a playoff contender.
The recent success of the Senators has not gone unnoticed by the hockey world, and many are curious as to how this once struggling team managed to turn things around. In this article, we will take a closer look at the journey of the Ottawa Senators and the factors that have led to their recent resurgence.
The Beginning of the Struggle
To truly understand the remarkable turnaround of the Ottawa Senators, we must first look at their starting point. In the 2017-2018 season, the Senators finished second to last in their division with a record of 28 wins, 43 losses, and 11 overtime losses. This was a significant disappointment for a team that had made it to the Eastern Conference Finals just the season before.
The following season, things continued to decline for the Senators, as they finished dead last in their division with a record of 29 wins, 47 losses, and 6 overtime losses. This was the worst season for the team since their inaugural season in 1992.
It was clear that the Senators were in the midst of a downward spiral, and something needed to change. The struggling team was facing numerous challenges, including poor team chemistry, inconsistent coaching, and a lack of investment from ownership.
A Change in Leadership
One crucial factor that played a significant role in the turnaround of the Ottawa Senators was the change in leadership. In 2018, the Senators were acquired by a new owner, Eugene Melnyk, who was determined to turn the team around and bring a Stanley Cup to Ottawa.
Shortly after, the Senators also hired a new head coach, D.J. Smith, who had experience coaching in the OHL and as an assistant coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Smith brought a fresh perspective and a strong work ethic to the team, which started to make a noticeable difference on the ice.
Investing in Young Talent
One of the most significant changes the Senators made was investing in young talent. This was a crucial step for a team that had been struggling to compete in a league where many teams were investing in young, skilled players.
In the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Senators had three first-round picks, which they used to select top prospects Brady Tkachuk, Erik Brannstrom, and Shane Pinto. These young players quickly made an impact on the team, with Tkachuk and Pinto becoming key players on both the offensive and defensive ends.
In addition to drafting young talent, the Senators also made trades and signings to acquire players like Colin White, Connor Brown, and Chris Tierney, who have all contributed significantly to the team’s success.
Focus on Team Culture
Another crucial aspect of the turnaround for the Senators was the improvement of team culture. The Senators had struggled with issues of infighting and lack of camaraderie in the past, but with the new owner and head coach at the helm, there was a significant shift in the team’s dynamic.
Players spoke of a renewed sense of accountability and a more positive environment within the team. This was largely due to the new leadership and the team’s strong focus on developing a winning mindset.
Looking to the Future
In the 2020–2021 season, the Ottawa Senators showed significant improvement, finishing fifth in their division and narrowly missing the playoffs. This was a remarkable achievement for a team that, just a few seasons prior, was at the bottom of the league.
With young, skilled players, a dedicated coaching staff, and a strong team culture, the future looks bright for the Ottawa Senators. They have proven that with the right leadership, investment in young talent, and a strong team culture, even struggling teams can turn their fortunes around and become playoff contenders.
In the highly competitive world of professional hockey, the journey of the Ottawa Senators serves as an inspiring example of resilience, determination, and the power of teamwork. Fans and experts alike continue to watch and cheer for this once struggling team as they continue to rise in the ranks of the NHL.