Steve Staios says some growth has to come ‘from within’ for the Senators

‘We have a game plan and process going into the off-season, but I think a lot of (the trade deadline) discussions were important’

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Steve Staios won’t be making any bold predictions.

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As the Ottawa Senators president of hockey operations and general manager wrapped up the National Hockey League’s GM’s meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. Wednesday he wasn’t about to promise the club would be playoff contender next spring.

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Speaking to Gino Reda of TSN’s That’s Hockey before heading back to Ottawa, Staios felt the expectations placed on this group to make the playoffs were too high last fall and he wants to go quietly in the off-season with changes in mind.

“I think the expectations were something that were a bit debilitating for us,” Staios told Reda. “We have a young team, a very good, talented group of players. I think that we’ll have to see how the off-season goes, but there has to be growth from within as well.

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“I don’t think any of our core group of players can be looking outside of just improving themselves and continuing to move forward as a group. There’s certainly things we can do to help support that, but there’s also got to be growth within the group. We’ve seen signs of that with this group as the season has gone along.”

The issue is there hasn’t been nearly enough of it.

The more things have changed for the Senators, the more they have stayed the same and with only 15 games left it feels like the finish line can’t come soon enough.

The Senators will host the St. Louis Blues at the Canadian Tire Centre Thursday night as they begin their second straight weekend of three games in four days with a visit by Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers scheduled for Sunday plus a visit to New Jersey Saturday night.

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It’s fair to say this isn’t going to get any easier.

Interim coach Jacques Martin has a 17-19-4 record in the 40 games since he took over behind the Senators’ bench with trusted Hockey Hall of Fame assistant Daniel Alfredsson at his side. This team still has a lot of work to do to be better than it was under former coach D.J. Smith.

Coming off a 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins Tuesday at the TD Garden, the Senators were schooled by one of the NHL’s top teams and by the time the final buzzer sounded this club was put in its place.

Staios was likely watching this latest loss with some of his counterparts and making notes for his “to do” list.

There’s no shortage of work to be done. The Senators surrendered five unanswered goals in 21 minutes in a 7-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday at home and then collapsed again by giving up three in the third against the Bruins.

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That’s the 12th time in 67 games the Senators have allowed six or more goals. The only team that’s been worse in the National Hockey League this season is the San Jose Sharks and they’ve had it happen in 15 games.

Staios said after the March 8 trade deadline that he hoped to have laid the ground work for off-season changes and those conversations will continue.

“The work during the deadline was important to establish what we’re looking for and what the market would bear,” Staios said Wednesday. “We have a game plan and process going into the off-season, but I think a lot of those discussions were important.”

The losses to Hurricanes and Bruins showed the gap between the Senators’ roster and the best teams in the league is oceans apart. The Senators aren’t one or two players away from competing for a playoff spot.

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It starts with shoddy goaltending and the inability of either netminder to make big saves, carry the ball for a stretch of games or their all-too-familiar habit of giving up a lousy one after making a 10-bell stop.

The club has given up four goals or more 18 times this season with Joonas Korpisalo in the net and it’s happened on 10 other occasions when Anton Forsberg is between the pipes. You’re not going to win if you don’t get saves and bad goals just deflate the bench.

Buying out Korpisalo, who signed a five-year, $20 million U.S. deal last July 1, makes no sense You’ll have to carry a cap hit of varying degrees for eight years while paying him a whopping $10 million not to play for you.

The argument we’ve heard is this club would be better if the Senators improved in front of their goaltenders.

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The Senators need help on defence badly, especially on the right side where they’ve been looking for a rugged top-four blueliner.

Defenceman Thomas Chabot has four years with a cap hit $8 million per-season and he’s not going anywhere unless the club is willing to eat some salary. The future of Jakob Chychrun remains clouded at best.

And, that’s just scratching the surface on the blueline because Artem Zub, Travis Hamonic, Erik Brannstrom and Jacob Bernard-Docker have all gone through their share of struggles.

Up front, changes also need to be made. Captain Brady Tkachuk along with forwards Tim Stutzle, Shane Pinto, Ridly Greig, Drake Batherson and Claude Giroux aren’t going anywhere, but the third and fourth lines need more depth.

The answers can come from within but Staios has his work cut out for him to make improvements to this roster.

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