The Ottawa Senators shouldn’t take any lessons from the Buffalo Sabres

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The Ottawa Senators need to look no further than across the ice during the national anthem Wednesday night if they want to get a first-hand look at what this franchise needs to avoid.

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Poised to be officially eliminated from the National Hockey League playoffs for the seventh consecutive year with only 12 games left, the Senators will faceoff against the Buffalo Sabres at the KeyBank Center and then host the rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.

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The Sabres will miss the playoffs for the 13th straight spring when the final buzzer sounds on the 2023-24 campaign. There’s talk that general manager Kevyn Adams and coach Don Granato are both on the hotseat with the club sitting six points out of the final wild-card spot in the East.

The Sabres have had three general managers — Adams, Jason Botterill and Tim Murray — in that stretch, plus eight head coaches. The club has assets, including Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens and goalie Ukka-Pekka Loukkonen that it’s trying to build around.

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But Adams hasn’t been able to find the right fit to get this team to the next level and, as a result, many wonder if he’ll get another chance.

Of course, changing the GM would just give someone else another excuse to lose for a few years, so maybe the Sabres will stay the course.

The Senators are also at a crossroads as they prepare to miss the playoffs again and if Steve Staois, Ottawa’s president of hockey operations and general manager, and senior VP Dave Poulin are looking for a blueprint on how not to proceed, then the Sabres are a shining example.

Buffalo has gone about this all the wrong way and that’s why the most recent time the franchise made the playoffs was in 2010-11. It’s tough for a fanbase that is passionate about the Sabres to swallow and, at some point, the message of hope gets old when you continuously don’t deliver.

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This was supposed to be the year the Senators and Sabres both took steps in the right direction to compete for a playoff spot. Sure, Buffalo is a lot closer than Ottawa with the club sitting 15 points back, but the reality is neither team has ever really been in the playoff conversation.

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While owner Michael Andlauer, Staios and Poulin are all new on the scene, it’s pivotal that the organization makes the right moves in the off-season to put the right pieces in place to help this core make the next step if the Senators are going to find a way to the promised land.

There’s a lot of debate in the marketplace about what the Senators need to do in the off-season to get this club headed in the right direction.

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Changes must be made because Staios can’t roll back with the same roster next season and just hope everybody improves.

He knows that, but some of the answers will have to come from within. He has stated publicly he feels there was too much pressure placed on this group at the start of the season and they couldn’t live up to the expectations.

But Staios also expects the core of Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, Shane Pinto, Thomas Chabot, Ridly Greig and Jake Sanderson to improve. To do that, the organization has to put the right players around them and fix the goaltending issue.

Staois has talked a lot about a leadership void in the room. He’d like to bring in someone to help support Tkachuk because a lot of that job has fallen on 36-year-old alternate captain Claude Giroux and Chabot.

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Both are part of the solution for next season and not the problem.

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The Senators will have to work hard to get the kind of players they want to come here in the off-season. The expectation is they’ll move at least one of their key assets to try to get some help in place and, if blueliner Chris Tanev doesn’t stay in Dallas, the club will make a push for him as a UFA.

But the club isn’t one or two players away from making the post-season, the Senators need to make several changes to try to climb the standings.

The elephant in the room is the club’s goaltender because neither Joonas Korpisalo or Anton Forsberg has gotten the job done.

Hiring the right coach also is paramount. Jacques Martin has tried his best to right the ship in his second stint behind the club’s bench with former captain Daniel Alfredsson by his side, but the reality is this group hasn’t shown any real signs of improvement on a consistent basis.

The Sabres have learned the hard way in the past 13 years that Rome wasn’t built in a day and if you don’t have the right pieces in place, then you can find yourself caught in a continuous cycle of losing with a little hope.

Rebuilding the rebuild isn’t an option for the Senators, but this roster needs some retooling to avoid following in the footsteps of the struggling Sabres.

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