Cenotaph in Ottawa

Senators to strike big? Preview of the upcoming NHL season for the Ottawa Senators

Senators to strike big? Preview of the upcoming NHL season for the Ottawa Senators

In recent years the MLS (Soccer) has moved into the conversation as one of the biggest sports in North America, with both enthusiasm and attendances for Major League Soccer games steadily rising over the past fifteen years. This is mainly down to one man; David Beckham. The soccer superstar moved to LA Galaxy back in 2007, and since his retirement he has also started his own franchise, Inter Miami.

Unfortunately for Beckham and his fans, Inter Miami have not had the greatest of starts to life in the MLS and currently sit in 10th place out of 14 teams in the Eastern Conference. Let’s hope ‘Golden Balls’ and his old friend Phil Neville (the current Inter Miami boss, emphasis on the word current) sprinkle their magic dust over his team, and their results improve in the coming games.

Despite this increase in interest, more traditionally when you think of American sport, you normally would focus on the big four; the NFL (Football) the NBA (Basketball) the MLB (Baseball) and the NHL (Hockey). Yes there are also contenders like Golf, Boxing and Nascar, but if we’re focusing on team sports, these four are the big ones.

Of these four, the NHL is probably the least popular. In a poll conducted to find out American’s favourite sport, only 4% of people voted Hockey, which is very low when compared to Football which received 37% of the vote. Across the nation 3.1 million people participate in Hockey (again much lower than both Basketball at 30.3 million, and Baseball at 29.3 million) though given the lack of rinks and the expense of equipment, that is hardly surprising.

Either way, despite lagging behind the others, the NHL is a fascinating sport to watch, with pretty much all the world’s best Ice Hockey players participating in the league. The current NHL champions are the Tampa Bay Lightning, who lifted the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive season, beating Montreal Canadiens in the final. It was a great sporting year for the city of Tampa, as their NFL team also won the Superbowl.

The team we are going to focus on are the Ottawa Senators. They unfortunately did not make it to the playoffs last season, finishing with an overall record of 23-28-5. Will this season see an improvement, and will they be one of the NHL picks bettors go for when predicting who will win this year’s Stanley Cup? Let’s delve a little deeper and try to find out.

Senators history

The current iteration of the Ottawa Senators are the second team to have that name. The original Senators were founded in 1883, and played in the NHL between 1917 and 1934, winning an impressive 11 Stanley Cups. However, the franchise was then relocated to St. Louis, leaving Ottawa without a team for almost 60 years.

Then new Ottawa Senators began life in the NHL in the 1992/93 season, after the city of Ottawa was finally awarded a new franchise after much public demand. In the nearly thirty seasons since they have returned, they have made sixteen playoff appearances, won four division titles, and lifted the 2003 President’s Trophy.

While this would indicate a relatively good level of success for some teams, for the Senators fans, it is not quite enough. What they want more than anything is to lift another Stanley Cup. In 2007 they did make an appearance in the finals, where they faced off against the Anaheim Ducks. In the five-game series they only managed to secure one win, a 5-3 victory in game three. Unfortunately in the 14 years since, they have yet to have another shot at victory.

Playoffs beckoning this year?

The NHL has been expanded this year to 32 teams, with the action kicking off on October 12th. Can the Senators fight back and make it to the post-season? Given they haven’t made it there in the last four campaigns, it might seem unlikely.

Coach D.J. Smith has been in charge since 2019, so fans would expect him to be making considerable improvements to the team by now. It hasn’t been easy, as the COVID-19 pandemic meant they missed a large percentage of their games last season 

They have stiff competition. Their fierce rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, certainly have a better team on paper. The recent record in the Battle of Ontario is certainly grim reading for Senators fans, as the Maple Leafs have come out on top in four of the last six meetings. Despite this, the Senators did manage to win the most recent meeting 4-3, so there is hope that this could be the start of an upturn in form against the Maple Leafs.

The Senators have 82 games in the regular season to show what they’re capable of. Let’s hope they have given fans something to smile about come the end of the season.

Header image courtesy Sportsnet.ca