Thomas Chabot is keeping the faith.
The longest-serving member of the Ottawa Senators has faced a lot of adversity in nearly seven seasons with the club, but there haven’t many years that have been as difficult to swallow as this 2023-24 campaign.
Not only has Chabot only suited up 16 of the club’s 38 games this season after two separate stints on long-term injury reserve, the Senators will likely reach the mid-point Saturday sitting in last place in the East.
Barring a miracle run to the playoffs, Chabot, who turns 27-years-old on Jan. 30, will miss the post-season for the seventh straight year.
He’s in the fourth year of eight-year, $64-million deal he signed in 2017 that carries an average annual value of $8 million per year.
“It would be easy to be sitting there and being frustrated or whatever,” the club’s alternate captain told Postmedia following Monday’s skate at the Canadian Tire Centre. “We all knew coming into Ottawa that we were rebuilding, we were a young team and it was going to take some years to get there.
“The reality is you have to look at the upside of that with what we have here in Ottawa, the talent we have as players and the opportunity we have to have success. OK, the first 38 games we’ve played so far haven’t gone our way, but it’s about sticking together. We have the locker room, it’s about us doing it together and being on the same page.
“We have to take steps game after game to finish the season.”
Since Steve Staios, the club’s president of hockey operations and general manager, took over the full-time duties of the club on New Year’s Eve, there has been much discussion about the Senators core and whether it’s time for the club to strike at that group by making a trade.
This team is built around captain Brady Tkachuk, along with Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Jake Sanderson and Chabot. No, this group hasn’t lived up to expectations, but Chabot confident this core will learn from this experience and have success down the road.
One thing we’ve learned about Chabot over the years is that he’s a consummate professional that always puts the team first.
“There’s nobody in this room that doesn’t have faith in the guys in here,” Chabot said. “We all know what we’re capable of, we all know what we have and I’ve said it multiple times: It’s about the guys we have in the room.
“We’re the ones going out there playing and everybody’s still got faith. I don’t think there’s anybody in this room that is going to tell you that they don’t have faith in the guys in here.”
As the Senators prepare to host the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the club is coming off a 5-4 victory over the San Jose Sharks to end a five-game losing skid. The often-used phrase around here has been about the club “trying to find consistency” and that’s the goal in the final 44 games.
“This was probably the first year since I’ve been in Ottawa that we’re coming in with expectations, but we’ve got to find our groove as a group and playing on a consistent basis,” Chabot said.
“That’s the biggest thing: We know how hard it is to win every single night in this league and we know how hard it is to get into the playoffs at the end of the season. Really, it’s about finding our groove, and playing the same hockey every single night.”
The Senators have been getting a lot of attention for a lot of the wrong reasons this season, not the least of which was the decision to fire coach D.J. Smith on Dec. 18 after almost five seasons with the club. Chabot isn’t surprised about the criticism the club has received.
“It’s normal. We’re playing in a Canadian market, fans are passionate and they love the game,” Chabot said. “That’s totally fine to be under the microscope. It’s really about us, we’re the ones playing and we’ve got to learn to play on a more consistent basis.
“When you look at the teams that have success every single night. Some nights things aren’t going to go your way and that’s the reality, but by playing the same way you limit (the losses) and some of the mistakes that happen out there. That’s how we improve as a group.”
The Senators are 4-8-0 since interim coach Jacques Martin came back for a second stint behind the bench with former captain Daniel Alfredsson as an assistant. Martin has tried to change the way the club plays at both ends of the ice so the club can improve defensively.
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A lot of these players are trying to learn on the fly.
“Jacques is so detailed and you can’t buy experience like he has,” Chabot said. “He’s been around for so long and there’s a lot of details in our game that we’re trying to improve. It takes a lot of learning but the guys are on board with trying to learn everything.
“Jacques has good points, good looks and a different overview on different games. It’s been good.”