THE SENS PANEL: Chris Phillips talks about his new role, an improved squad and rookie Jake Sanderson

« There’s a lot going on on and off the ice. A lot of good stuff. »

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Chris Phillips is completely comfortable in his new role at the front desk of the Ottawa Senators.

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As a home defenseman for 17 seasons with the Senators, the 44-year-old Phillips set the franchise record for games played when he played his 1,179th and final game with Ottawa on Feb. 15, 2015 and had his #4 retired in 2019.

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Now Phillips is back with the organization as vice president of business operations. He works closely with President of Business Operations Anthony LeBlanc and Chief Financial Officer Erin Crowe to help attract corporate sponsors while working on the LeBreton Flats project.

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» It was great. Every day I learn something new and I learn a lot about the business,” Phillips told Postmedia’s panel of senators on Tuesday. “There’s a lot going on on and off the ice. Many good things.

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“It was good to be involved in LeBreton Flats and also to try to grow the business. It was nice to be involved on that side of the team for this team to do so well off the ice.

Preparing to close out this five-game home game against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night at the Canadian Tire Center, the Senators will look to extend their winning streak to five games in a row.

It is the first time since 2005-06 that the club have won four straight home wins to start the year since the 2005-06 campaign. After claiming a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Monday, the Senators have made it clear they are a legitimate contender in the tough Eastern Conference.

We’ve talked a lot about the changes made by general manager Pierre Dorion, coach DJ Smith and the rest of the hockey operations staff, but they paid off. Phillips knows there are a lot of people in the community excited about where this team is headed.

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« The easiest way to describe (the excitement) is that a few years ago we were picking up the phone and working our best to get people to the rink and get involved with the team, » Phillip said. . “Now our phone is ringing and people are calling us.

“We have great partners and great fans. But they contact us to ensure that these relationships continue. It’s a great position.

It’s been a long season and there’s still a ways to go to secure a playoff spot, but people are excited about what they’ve seen from the Senators so far. Not only have the club been good offensively, but they have been strong on their side.

« We all expected the offense to be there, » Phillips said. « A lot of people certainly said it wouldn’t be a problem to score goals. They’ve stuck to that end of the bargain so far at the start of the season.

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« Defensively, and I’m not just talking about the defense and the goalkeepers, I mean as a team, you can tell they’re a lot more proud of that. The other big part for me that really shone through is some resilience. You watch a few games where they got taken down and they were able to defend themselves.

“They didn’t get too carried away in the score going down or down. Either way, they stuck to the game plan. It doesn’t always go your way and showing that ability to fight back after being taken down is huge for a young team.

As noted by Phillips, captain Brady Tkachuk has done a good job leading this team into battle every night. I also asked what he thought of 20-year-old defender Jake Sanderson. The product of the University of North Dakota has shown great maturity for a player of his age.

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Naturally, Phillips was impressed with Sanderson’s poise.

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft has quickly excelled, and you have to think he’ll be considered for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie if he can continue that path with center Shane. Pinto.

« He really has ice in his veins, » Phillips said. “He has all the skills and there is no doubt about it. People have always asked, « What will he be like as an NHL player? » He’s one of those guys who just picked up where he left off (at university).

« He came in and he’s playing his game. I’ll give the coaching staff credit for really encouraging him to play his game. They’re not trying to find his way by playing a different style or playing it safe. .

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« You can see he’s got the green light to play his way and he’s not afraid to make mistakes. He gets things done and you can see he’s got the footwork and the speed. to catch up when things happen.

Phillips added that there’s been a lot of talk about Dorion for a top-four defenseman coming into the season and you don’t hear that much anymore. Sanderson has good chemistry with veteran defenseman Travis Hamonic.

« That was the joker that nobody saw (Sanderson) play, » Phillips said. « He really solidifies that top four for sure. »

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