Senators’ captain Brady Tkachuk calls season ‘tough and frustrating’

‘We expected to be in a different spot than we are. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m disappointed’

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The way this season has played out is tough for Brady Tkachuk to swallow.

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He’s not alone on that front.

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But, now it’s not about how the Ottawa Senators arrived at the destination that will have them miss the playoffs for the seventh straight year, it’s about how they finish what’s left of this season.

With 20 games remaining, the Senators woke up Monday 20 points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the final wildcard spot in the East after seeing their winless skid extended to seven straight after a 2-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks Saturday.

As they prepare to host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Canadian Tire Centre Tuesday night, the Senators are a long way from the club everybody expected would push for a playoff spot this spring.

I asked Tkachuk after the club’s skate Monday at the Bell Sensplex if this is the most disappointment he’s felt since he arrived in Ottawa six years ago with where the Senators are right now?

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“Absolutely. It’s been tough and it’s been frustrating,” Tkachuk said. “Of course, we expected to be in a different spot than we are. I’m not going to lie to you, I’m disappointed, I don’t know if that’s the right word because there’s a lot of words to describe what we’re in right now.

“But, like I said, it’s going to show character and who you are right down to the core for these last 20 games. We have to show the effort and represent this amazing city that I love playing for.”

The Senators haven’t won since a 4-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights Feb. 24 at home and have gone through a difficult stretch here. The loss to the Sharks Saturday stretched the club’s record outside the Eastern time zone this season to 0-13-1.

The club didn’t look good against the Sharks after picking up a point in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings Thursday. There’s too much time left in the season for the Senators to just wave the white towel and let the year completely slip away just the club can get a better draft pick.

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Tkachuk said the approach has to be the same every night and the Senators have got to give a consistent effort. What does the attitude have to be?

“Positivity. You can’t do anything about what’s already happened,” said Tkachuk. “It’s over and done with. These are moments you have to learn from. It’s going to show how we play for the logo, the pride that we have and what we’ve preached the last few years about never giving up no matter what the outcome of the game.

“These last 20 games are going to show that.”

Tkachuk is right. As stated in this space Monday, the way the Senators finish this season will give Steve Staios, the club’s president of hockey operations and general manager, and owner Michael Andlauer a good idea of exactly what type of character the club has in its dressing room.

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“I think we’ve out-chanced our opponents the last two games and we’re getting opportunities but maybe we have to be better getting second and third opportunities,” said interim coach Jacques Martin. “We have to simplify our game. We’ve got to look at our roles on the team and play within that role on the team.”

Leadership starts at the top and Tkachuk has always been the type that has led this club into battle He knows the Senators can’t control the result, but he is well aware that the effort has to be there for the club to give itself a chance to win. That attitude and approach can’t change.

“That’s non-negotiable,” Tkachuk said. “Growing up, there were only two rules in my family and two things we kind of focused on, and that was about compete, working hard and being a good teammate.

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“The teams that win every single year, I think their core values are to work hard every night, be good teammates and be tight.”

The Senators wanted to be a team that worked every night coming into the season and they want to be that way to finish the year. But it was interesting to here Tkachuk’s response to a query about the fact the Senators are still searching for their identity.

“That’s a good question,” Tkachuk said. “The last few years it’s always been work ethic a lot of times. I can say I’ve played with a lot of different players in my time here so far so a lot of things have changed in that aspect.

“The way you play is different each year because of the different group each year. We do have some deep, core values of where we are as a team and kind of our standard identity. What we’ve learned this year is about doing it for a full 60 minutes every single night.”

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