Thank goodness it’s November because the Ottawa Senators were a little too festive in making sure October was as scary as possible. For those who haven’t been able to keep up with what was an exhausting opening month (actually less than three weeks since opening night), here’s a quick recap of what’s happened so far.
Shane Pinto Suspended 41 Games
Shane Pinto has been suspended for 41 games due to something involving gambling. The NHL has been very clear that they won’t release any specifics, which is incredibly frustrating, but clear communication has never been the league’s strongest attribute.
What we do know: under the CBA, it’s clearly stated that NHL players are not allowed to bet on NHL games, but betting on other sports is allowed. All we know is Pinto didn’t bet on NHL games, which makes the length of the suspension that much more confusing. Given that info, at first glance, it seems extremely harsh, but the suspension won’t be appealed, and in fact, was negotiated with the NHL Players Association present. The investigation into whatever happened began in the summer, but the Senators weren’t notified of anything until training camp. So I think it’s important to note that while fans have been frustrated with the lack of any trade to make room for Pinto, the last five or so weeks are a write-off as management awaited news on the suspension. Though, that certainly doesn’t absolve GM Pierre Dorion from doing absolutely nothing to make cap room in the nearly two months between having no cap space and learning about the Pinto investigation.
I don’t want to speculate too much on what happened since we don’t know, but given the PA’s involvement in negotiating the suspension, and it still being as long as it is, it must have been a pretty serious mistake by Pinto, or the NHL is doing their best to make an example out of him to deter other players from doing something similar.
The suspension is retroactive to the beginning of the season, regardless of Pinto’s contract status. That means despite not being signed at the time of the suspension, Pinto will be eligible to play as of January 21st, 2024.
Sens May Be Fined a Draft Pick
On the subject of the NHL trying to make an example out of the Senators, according to Elliotte Friedman, the Senators will be punished at some point in the next week or so for an error in making a trade that, at best, is a major blunder, and at worst was flat out lying. Back in the 2021 offseason, the Sens decided to ship out Evgenii Dadonov after a disappointing season with Ottawa. They completed the trade with the Vegas Golden Knights, but somewhere in the process, there was a miscommunication.
At the 2022 trade deadline, Vegas completed a trade that would have sent Dadonov to Anaheim. However, the trade was canceled shortly after it had been completed when Dadonov and his agent went to the NHLPA to dispute it, as Anaheim was on his 10-team no-trade list.
It’s possible that Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion forgot to mention the fact that Dadonov had a Modified No Trade Clause, but most reports are saying that he had told Vegas that Dadonov had not submitted his list on time and would be able to be moved anywhere they wanted, should they decide to trade him. Dadonov had, in fact, submitted his list on time, which means Dorion either made a mistake or lied when making the trade. Pierre Dorion is a little silly, goofy even, but I have absolutely no reason to believe he would have lied about this. I don’t think there was anything malicious about it; it was just a mistake. A fireable mistake, without a doubt, but still a mistake.
Despite the fact that the league decided the Senators wouldn’t face any consequences back in March of 2022, somebody changed their mind in the past 19 or so months. The team will probably be fined or lose out on a draft pick.
Only eight games into the season, and the Senators’ defense is already having major injury troubles. Artem Zub has missed the last four games after taking a puck to the ear on the 18th. Erik Brannstrom suffered a concussion last week and will probably be out for quite some time. Thomas Chabot will be out an estimated 4-6 weeks with a fracture in his hand. Only eight games into the season and already a total of 6 games missed due to injury solely among defensemen.
Team Record in October
It’s tough to make the playoffs after a slow start, significantly when half the starting defensemen are already injured. The Sens’ record in October is 4-4-0. By no means is it the start a team with playoff expectations wants, but it could be a lot worse.
We can start with the positives: Detroit is the only team in the Atlantic Division that has scored more goals than Ottawa, and that’s with two more games played. The Senators are also right in the middle of the pack when it comes to goals allowed, though most teams have played a game or two more than Ottawa. The team’s powerplay is in the top half of the league and should continue to improve, and they are also in the top half when it comes to shot suppression.
As far as negatives go, the list is fairly short. The penalty kill needs to improve from its current 75.9%, otherwise, it would offset any improvements to the powerplay. The team’s shooting percentage is a little bit high to begin the season at 11.6% but by no means enough to skew any offensive numbers. The average across the league last season was right around 10%, so while it’s a bit high, don’t expect too big of a drop off. Finally, the Senators are still among the leaders in penalty minutes, currently sitting 5th in the league. Last season, they led the league in PIMs, and unless the PK improves, a repeat of that could spell trouble.
On to November, where the Senators only played nine games, including a stretch of only playing twice between the 12th and 23rd, due to the NHL Global Series in Sweden.
If Ottawa can’t manage to get at least 10 points in November, it may be time to panic.