Senators look ahead to next season as the players’ cleanout lockers

The Ottawa Senators players cleaned out their lockers as another season came to an end outside of the playoffs, but the group’s ability turned heads and energized the fan base this season.

Now with a new ownership group on the horizon and many young, exciting prospects on the club, the future is looking bright for the rebirth of the Sens franchise.

Right from the start of the season, it was obvious something had changed. There were more fans as attendance rebounded with sellout crowds, some who travelled across the country with season tickets in hand.

“We felt it from them [fans] this year,” Senators captain Brady Tkachuk said Friday. “It was honestly an unbelievable year and even being away from the rink you feel the hunger, you feel the excitement and I just know it’s going to keep growing from there.”

The fans energy did not go unnoticed, and bolstered the talented group of players. 

“Having one year under my belt, knowing what’s going to come next season, I’m excited,” defenceman Jake Sanderson said. “I can’t wait to get training again and just get going.”

And veterans, like Claude Giroux, the former captain for the Philadelphia Flyer. The 35-year-old scored a career high in goals during his first season in Ottawa.

“Coming to the rink is a lot of fun and that makes your job a lot more fun,” says Giroux.

However, Giroux admits the end of the season was not the goal the team was looking for.

“There were a couple of stretches that we weren’t getting the results but playing some good hockey and it was very frustrating,” Giroux said.

“You want to be in the playoffs, you want to be competing. it’s just a little frustrating right now.”

The Ottawa Senators were six points short for a run at the Stanley Cup. For Tkachuk, that’s tough.

“To have that taste of kind of getting into the dance and not getting there, it hurts a lot more this year,” he says. “I don’t like being done in April anymore; I’m pretty done with it.”

Coach D.J. Smith was blunt, saying missing the playoffs, “should hurt.”

While he doesn’t like using injuries as an excuse, Smith notes there were many, including goaltender Anton Forsberg, who suffered torn ligaments in both knees.

As the Senators were playing for a spot in the playoffs on the ice, there was another game playing off the rink – the bidding process to buy the Senators.

While it’s yet to be decided, there certainly has been an A-list buzz around one potential group, which includes Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds. The Canadian movie star appeared at two games in Ottawa this season. 

For Smith, the focus is on the players, who he believes are ready.

“If I’m back next year, my job is to get this team in the playoffs,” Smith says. “These fans deserve that; they’ve been patient, they came out to the games, they supported our group. Now it’s my job to represent them and the city and get this team to the next level.”

The Sens gelled-well this year, engaged fans, renewed interest and want nothing more than a win in 2024.

“It’s been a long one. It’s been a lot of ups and downs but overall I’m pretty happy with it,” says centre Shane Pinto. “You just have to work hard at it every day. I know that sounds cliché, but even in practices just work hard work on your details and it goes a long way.”

And when the Ottawa Senators do breakthrough for a playoff run, there is no doubt, the Sens Army will be there every step of the way.

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