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Sens' Tkachuk: This season was my 'most difficult year'

Andrea Cardin / National Hockey League / Getty

Ottawa Senators captain Brady Tkachuk said this season was "the most difficult year" he's had mentally after his team failed to meet rising expectations.

"I think at the end of the day, we just didn't make steps forward this year," he told reporters Thursday, including TSN. "We took a couple steps back. It's frustrating, it's difficult. I'm not gonna lie to you, (I had) very high hopes coming into this year and for it to not happen, it's pretty disappointing. Upset, frustrated, all the words you can use there."

"To disappoint (fans) that spend money to support you ... is tough," Tkachuk continued. "It's the first year that I've really, truly felt that. Disappointed a lot of people that stuck with us through the thick and thin."

The Senators had aspirations of making the playoffs for the first time since 2017 after missing the cutline by six points last season. This time last year, Tkachuk boldly proclaimed that he and he teammates "wouldn't be done in April anymore."

Ottawa finished the 2023-24 campaign 13 points outside the postseason picture after losing 41 games in regulation, tied with the Arizona Coyotes for the fifth most in the league.

"Just finished Year 6, and haven't done a thing," Tkachuk lamented Thursday. "I haven't played in those meaningful playoff games that I've imagined, and the rest of the group has imagined playing in."

Ottawa had to battle its fair share of drama this year, including GM and coaching changes, new ownership, and a half-season suspension to Shane Pinto for violating the league's gambling rules.

However, veteran forward Claude Giroux wasn't about to lean on those factors as an excuse.

"We know our potential," he said. "Yes, we are a very young team, but saying that, our game's gotta grow. We need to help each other better, play more as a team."

There are plenty of experienced head coaching options available for the Senators, from Dean Evason, to Todd McLellan, to Craig Berube. Tkachuk said his team is in need of more "accountability," while Giroux knows a new bench boss won't magically solve all of Ottawa's problems.

"There's no coach with a special recipe. ... At the end of the day, it's on the players," Giroux said.

The Senators reportedly hope to have their new head coach in place by the 2024 NHL Draft in late June.

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