Giroux believes Sens' young core 'only going to get better'
Ottawa Senators forward Claude Giroux joined TSN1200 Ottawa Wednesday morning to talk about the Sens' off-season moves, his excitement about the young core, and expectations for the upcoming season.
Giroux, 35, joined the Senators as a free agent last off-season after spending the first 15 years of his NHL career with the Philadelphia Flyers. He joined the Florida Panthers via trade for 18 games at the end of the 2021-22 season.
Combined with the acquisition of forward Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks, it was hoped that Giroux would help lead the Senators back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17 last year, but injuries and inconsistent play cost the Senators.
The team finished 39-35-8, six points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. DeBrincat requested a trade during the off-season and was moved to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for forward Dominik Kubalik, defenceman Donovan Sebrango, and a pair of draft picks.
"We kind of saw it coming. It was his decision. We all enjoyed playing with DeBrincat," said Giroux, who was disappointed by the move but understands it from a business perspective.
"That's the business side of hockey that's not really fun, but it is what it is. Now we're going to move on with Kubalik. I'm excited to have a chance to play with him. I've only heard good things about him, so that's very exciting and the team looks good."
Giroux also pointed to the return of Josh Norris to the lineup as a reason for optimism. The centre, who contributed 35 goals in a breakout campaign in 2021-22, appeared in only six games last season after suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery to repair.
"We're happy to have Josh [Norris] back next year, he's very important to our team," said Giroux.
Giroux is also excited to watch the continued progression of the young defencemen on the roster, specifically Jake Sanderson, who earned All-Rookie team honours last year.
"Sanderson is a guy that when he started playing for us was really good early in the season. After every 10 games he would just keep getting better, and at the end of the season we're scratching our heads like 'We have something special here," Giroux said. "This kid is only going to keep getting better. He's very mature for his age."
Giroux, who surprisingly set a career high in goals last season with 35, credited linemates Tim Stutzle and Brady Tkachuk for his success.
"When you're 20 years old, you're not supposed to play the way [Tkachuk] plays. He's a very confident kid," said Giroux. "Playing with Tim and Brady most of the year, we just have that chemistry, have that connection. It just took off right away.
"Who knows what the lines are going to look like next year but whoever plays with whoever it's all about chemistry. I'm just excited to see what's going to happen here.”
The Senators ended the 2022-23 season earning points in eight of their final 11 games. Giroux is confident they can continue that success into this season as they work to end the third-longest postseason drought in the NHL.
"We feel like we have some momentum from last year, we took a big step, now this year we need to take a huge step."
Senators confirm split with AGM Mann
The Senators officially parted ways with assistant general manager Trent Mann on Wednesday.
"We're thankful for Trent's contributions to the Senators and wish him the best going forward," general manager Pierre Dorion said in a news release.
This comes roughly one week after Postmedia's Bruce Garrioch reported Mann would not return to the franchise next season. Garrioch also reported that president of business operations Anthony LeBlanc had resigned from the franchise.
The changes come as the Senators complete an ownership change, with a group of investors led by Michael Andlauer taking over majority ownership from the Melnyk family.
Mann was only promoted to the role of assistant GM under Pierre Dorion last summer. He previously held the role of chief amateur scout for the Senators.
The native of Sackville, N.B., first joined the franchise as a part-time amateur scout in 2010.