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'Sick and tired of losing': Senators clean out lockers after missing playoffs

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Ottawa Senators captain Brady Tkachuk says he's "sick and tired of losing," as Senators players clean out their lockers at the end of another disappointing NHL season.

"I don't want to be going home in April anymore. It's frustrating."

Senators players had exit meetings with management and spoke with the media at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday before leaving Ottawa for the summer.

"At the end of the day, we just didn't make steps forward this year. We took a couple of steps back, and that's frustrating, it's difficult," Tkachuk told reporters.

"I'm not going to lie to you, I had very high hopes coming into this season and for it not to not happen is very disappointing."

This is the seventh season in a row the Senators failed to qualify for the NHL playoffs.

Tkachuk says he met with Senators general manager Steve Staios.

"I have full faith, trust in Steve, the rest of the management, (owner Michael) Mr. Andlauer – all my faith in them."

The Sens finished the season with a record of 37-41-4, wrapping up the season Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins with one last win.

"It's great to finish with a win for the guys," said interim head coach Jacques Martin Tuesday night.

Tkachuk expressed similar sentiments after the game, saying it was "definitely nice" to finish on a positive note.

"Definitely feel a little bit better about yourself going into the summer," he said.

A year ago, Ottawa was the hot spot for celebrities looking to buy the team. Actor Ryan Reynolds was seen at a game and rapper Snoop Dogg threw his hat into the ring as part of a bid to own the franchise. It would eventually go to Michael Andlauer, not Hollywood famous, but a known figure in the sport.

Expectations were high coming into the season under new ownership, but some problems both on and off the ice quickly brought Andlauer "back to earth" — in his own words. Centre Shane Pinto was suspended for 41 games for violating the league's sports betting rules and then, when the team had to surrender a first round draft pick because of a botched trade involving Evgenii Dadonov, General Manager Pierre Dorion was let go.

"Three-game losing streaks, three injuries to three right d-men and two disturbing phone calls from the NHL, which has resulted in a young prospect being suspended for 41 games and today, the announcement of the loss of a first-round draft pick," Andlauer said, speaking to the media on Nov. 1, 2023.

Head coach D.J. Smith would be out the door just before Christmas. Josh Norris, a star player with an eight-year contract, came off an injury and started the season late, only for his season to be cut short as he underwent another shoulder surgery, his third since 2019.

Amid the turmoil, some bright spots shone through. Tkachuk announced he and his wife Emma are expecting a baby boy this fall, Andlauer announced a $2 million donation to local hospices at the first Sens Gala in five years, fan favourite All Star Senator Daniel Alfredsson joined the coaching team, and the pre-pandemic tradition of a Christmas visit to CHEO was revived.

The team's performance on the ice, however, continued to disappoint and the momentum heading into the season was dashed against the reality that it would be yet another year without a chance at a Stanley Cup.

Tkachuk said Tuesday he's prepared to put in the work toward making the next season better than this one.

"I have all the faith and trust in management, ownership, and whatever plans they have," he said. "Just going to try and be the best leader I can with the group that we're going to have. For me, this summer, it's all about trying to knock off the distractions, work on myself, and make sure my game's ready to go for next year."

Down the road from the Canadian Tire Centre, hockey fans came together for a game of pick-up hockey.

A.J. Bhuller calls himself a "massive Sens fan" and follows all the game. He says the season "started off high. It got really low at times."

"It just feels different thinking about. Not bad or good. It just feels different…It just feels off. But I'm excited for the summer."

Bhuller says he hopes next year can be a turning point. "As a sports fan, a guy who plays sports, you kind of know that there's ebbs and flows in sports, and if you're not going to stick around through that, then what's the point?"

Another player at the pick-up game, Kevin Forbes, says this season was almost a repeat for his hometown team. "Kind of the same as last year, right? A little bit hopeful, but a little bit disappointed. The new ownership gives me a ton of hope, so at least I think they're on the right track. Just need a few more veterans in the room and hopefully it's better next year."

Chris Taylor says he will keep watching and believes that next year will be the year the team finally makes the post-season. "In the end, I thought they finished the season off strong, relatively speaking ... But that's going to happen. .They could do better, but they just weren't."

He says, "They'll go big. They're going to make it. They're going to make the playoffs next year!" 

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Josh Pringle and Leah Larocque

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