When the Ottawa Senators opened training camp, general manager Pierre Dorion made waves with a declarative statement that the team’s rebuild was “done.”
The Senators finished last season 9-2-1 in their final 12 games, and after four straight years as NHL basement dwellers, Ottawa’s bright young core led by Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stützle, among others, looked ready to take a step up. Dorion felt empowered to make that declaration.
Fast-forward to the quarter-mark of the season, and it’s abundantly clear that’s not the case. The Senators are 32nd in the NHL with a 5-15-1 record, headed once again toward draft lottery sweepstakes for what could be another foundational player.
On Saturday, Dorion acknowledged that his pre-season statement needs to be rephrased.
“Sometimes the excitement of a season gets to you,” said Dorion. “What I should’ve said is pretty much all the core pieces of the rebuild are in the organization right now.
“Obviously, (I) didn’t foresee us just winning five games after 21 games, but probably how I should have phrased it, and that’s on me, no one else, is that most of the core pieces, I feel we might be one piece away, are in the organization at this point in time.”
The Senators have faced several obstacles out of the gate. In November, 10 players and associate coach Jack Capuano entered COVID-19 protocol, causing three games to be postponed.
Beyond COVID, they’ve also dealt with a plethora of injuries: Colin White (shoulder), Austin Watson (ankle), Shane Pinto (shoulder), Erik Brannstrom (hand) and Josh Brown (upper-body), to name a few.
Dorion pointed to White and Pinto, two centremen who are still out for the foreseeable future, as “monumental losses.”
“When we projected our team, you know, sometimes you can reject losing one guy for 10 games, but at the same time, when you project losing both guys for a majority of the year, we’re going to suffer,” said Dorion.
Ottawa has made minor moves in an attempt to shore up their lack of depth by trading a seventh rounder for Dylan Gambrell and picking up Adam Gaudette off waivers.
“I know at the same time you can go out and make trades where you sacrifice important pieces of your future for immediate help, but I don’t think that was part of the plan. It’s not something that, you know, we can look at doing,” said Dorion.
“I’m not going to lie to anyone here, I’ve had a few sleepless nights. I’ve not enjoyed this stretch of our team, but it’s not by lack of effort. The players are playing hard, but sometimes players don’t play up to their potential and they know that too, and the buck stops with me and I’m not afraid to say that we didn’t anticipate this. But we’re going to battle through this.”
Dorion also cleared up the situation surrounding goaltender Matt Murray, who was shockingly placed on waivers on Nov. 27.
Since joining the Senators via trade and signing a hefty four-year, $25-million deal, the two-time Stanley Cup champion has struggled. This season, he’s gone 0-5 with a 3.26 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage.
Now in Belleville with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, Murray addressed being sent down earlier this week.
“They just called me in and said they’re going to put me on waivers with the intention to send me to Belleville,” said Murray in an interview with The Athletic’s Ian Mendes. “They said it was a management decision and that’s about all I got.”
On Saturday, Dorion detailed the steps he took to tell Murray he was being placed on waivers, including a “four-to-five minute conversation with an explanation of why” between himself, the Senators goaltender and head coach D.J. Smith.
“We said if someone picks you up, good luck. If not, you’re going to be assigned to Bellville,” said Dorion.
When Mendes asked Murray if Dorion had reached out to communicate with him since the discussion, he said: “Not Pierre, no.”
With Murray still part of the organization, Dorion says he’s still holding out hope for a resurgence.
“We still have faith in Murray. He’s just got to find his game, not be under the NHL microscope, and at some point in time, you’ll be back with Ottawa,” said Dorion.
The Senators take on the Colorado Avalanche Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on Sportsnet ONE.
Soccer-Brazil to stop unvaccinated footballers playing in top leagues
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said on Friday players must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to take part in this year’s league championship,
The CBF said it was in constant contact with health bodies and had sent an updated list of requirements to member clubs.
“One of these is the obligation to present a full vaccination certificate against COVID-19 to the CBF’s Medical Commission,” it said in a statement.
The top four national divisions kick off in the second week of April.
Brazil coach Tite has said he was not selecting Atletico Madrid defender Renan Lodi for his squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers because he was not fully vaccinated.
The issue of athletes’ stance on vaccines has dominated sports headlines recently after tennis player Novak Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, was deported ahead of the Australian Open.
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
Olympics-Canadian snowboarder Parrot eyes Beijing gold after cancer battle
Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot said on Friday that the mental toughness he gained during his battle with cancer carried over to the slopes where the slopestyle Pyeongchang silver medallist now hopes to go one better and win gold at the Beijing Olympics.
Parrot’s career was put on hold when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in December 2018. Two months after being declared cancer free in mid-2019, Parrot won an X Games big air gold medal in his return to competition.
Showing no signs of rust, Parrot also won a World Cup gold later that year and started off 2020 with another big air gold at the X Games in Aspen.
“Every year I become better and better physically and mentally, and especially going through such a big challenge as cancer you get really more mentally tough,” Parrot told a virtual news conference.
“If you look back at my season right after my cancer … It was pretty much my best year ever.”
Parrot finished fifth in his Olympic debut at the 2014 Sochi Games before a runner-up showing at Pyeongchang.
The 27-year-old Canadian pre-qualified for the slopestyle/big air team headed to Beijing based on his results from the 2020-21 winter season and is not shy about his intentions.
“Of course my goal is to go for the gold, that’s for sure,” said Parrot, whose cancer battle is chronicled in a documentary called “MAX – Life as a Gold Medal” that was released this week on his website.
“But I am really happy as well that if I don’t get the gold I won’t have any regrets because I did everything in my power over the past couple months and that was something important for me as well, just to not have any regrets.”
While there were some days during Parrot’s cancer battle where he wondered if he would ever return to the sport he loves, he said he never let those thoughts take over.
“When I had cancer it was ‘OK, I’m going to do treatments, I am going to do them as best as possible’ and even if I didn’t know if the treatments would work or not, in my mind cancer had no chance against me,” said Parrot.
“I had a lot of determination and motivation and the whole time I just wanted to get back to my passion as soon as possible. But never getting back to it was not really an option in my head.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
Canada's Denis Shapovalov is on to the fourth round of the Australian Open – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 21, 2022 7:28AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 21, 2022 6:40PM EST
MELBOURNE, Australia — Canada’s Denis Shapovalov has a spot in the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time in his career.
He beat Reilly Opelka 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Friday to set up a showdown with third-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany.
The Canadian has been pushed hard at Melbourne Park, averaging three hours 37 minutes of court time per win so far.
“I’ve gotten very familiar with the ice baths the last week,” Shapovalov said with a smile in an on-court interview. “We’ve become very good friends.”
At six foot 11 and 225 pounds, Opelka is an imposing force on the court. He had a 17-10 edge in aces on the 14th-seeded Shapovalov but made 46 unforced errors.
“Early on I actually found a rhythm on his serve,” Shapovalov said. “I was able to chip quite a lot back, so I was happy with that. I think I did a really good of just taking the chances today.
“Obviously it’s really tough to get the rhythm against a guy like that so I’m super happy.”
It was the first career meeting between Shapovalov and the 23rd-seeded American. Zverev, meanwhile, has a 4-2 edge in head-to-head matchups against the Canadian.
“Hopefully I can win,” Zverev said. “It’s going to be a great match.”
Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., previously reached the third round at Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021. The 22-year-old’s best Grand Slam performance was a semifinal showing last year at Wimbledon.
Zverev defeated Maldova’s Radu Albot 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in third-round play.
“Radu is in great form right now … 1/8I’m 3/8 happy to be through in three sets,” Zverev said.
Ninth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal was scheduled to play Britain’s Daniel Evans in third-round play Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.
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