Are we Already at Make-or-Break?
I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with the projected math (and what it all can signify) approaching U.S. Thanksgiving: If you’re ‘in,’ come the final days of November, you’re likely ‘in.’ Subsequently, if you’re ‘out,’ you’re likely ‘out,’ come season’s end.
Yeah, it happens this early. American Thanksgiving comes rolling into the picture on Thursday, Nov. 23rd, which not only means a great day to feast on NFL action (go Lions) but also means tough turkey for those NHL clubs not in healthy playoff positioning.
The math, as discussed in this spot the last few seasons, pinpoints late November as being a make-or-break time. Hockey’s best computative and algorithmic minds have figured out if your team is somewhere in the neighbourhood of four points in arrears of a post-season position, the odds are lustily stacked against an appearance in said post-season.
Go figure, eh?
And that takes us to Sweden; specifically Stockholm.
This year’s incursion into Europe takes on extra-special significance for Ottawa, Toronto, Detroit and Minnesota.
As it stands before the mini set kicks off (Ottawa opens as the home team Thursday against Detroit), the Red Wings and Maple Leafs are in a playoff spot . . . the Wild (if you care) and Senators (c’mon now, you really do care don’t you?) are not. And what makes this extra creepy for Johnny and Joanna Senator is that your team is the dreaded four points (gulp) below that last wildcard rung.
A split for Ottawa in its two games – they also face the Wild, that’s on Saturday morning our time – is kind of ‘meh’ at this juncture. But grabbing three or four points in those two games would go a long, long way in starting a required roll, something that’s evaded this organization (yet again) through its first 13 games.
BUSINESS IS ABOUT TO PICK UP
Ottawa’s leisurely schedule comes to a halt – a hard halt at that – after the trip abroad.
By the time the Senators host the NY Islanders on Nov. 24th, Ottawa will have played the least amount of games of any team in the circuit.
I know Jakob Chychrun alluded to this last week. The Senator blueliner suggested the team was having a tough time getting in sync due to a very scattered, spotty early season schedule. He’s not wrong. And you have to wonder what the calendar-makers at the top were thinking when putting together Ottawa’s appointments list.
Nonetheless, business is indeed about to pick up.
Month-by-month looks like this for the Senators – December: 15 games; January: 15 games; February (which includes an all-star break and team break): 10 games; March: 16 games; April: nine games (keep in mind as well, the season finishes on April 16th).
That’s a lot of hockey.
Chychrun will certainly get his wish as the club gets to play a consistent schedule. That consistent schedule though is going to be a true grind. It goes without saying (so of course I’ll say it anyway), health will be tested.
THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD:
Ottawa, Toronto, Detroit and, and, and Minnesota. One of these things ain’t like the others . . . Why Minnesota and not Montreal or Boston or even Buffalo for that matter gathering with their Atlantic brethren in Sweden? . . . Have yet to hear much about that ‘heated Toronto-Minnesota rivalry,’ or Minnesota-anyone-else-from-that-group and their rivalry going to Avicii Arena . . . For a team that probably isn’t going to make the playoffs, isn’t Calgary sitting pretty? The Flames, with the release that pending UFA bruiser Nikita Zadorov wants out, have suitors lining impatiently up in what’s going to be large bidding war . . . If the Leafs are wanting that player, and they do, it’s going to cost more than similar rearguard Luke Schenn (third-round pick in 2023 to Vancouver) who they nabbed last year . . . Great quote from man-crush Elliotte Friedman from Sportsnet on Zadorov: “The word going around on Sunday night is that a Maple Leaf player said to Zadorov on the ice, ‘You’re exactly what we need,’” Friedman offered after Calgary and Toronto played each other Friday night . . . The Flames also will listen to proposals for fellow UFA defencemen Noah Hanifin (big ticket/big cost there) and Chris Tanev (at a cheaper rate) . . . The NY Rangers and their legion are unusually quiet regarding the team’s superb 11-2-1 start. New York is generally not considered reserved. Nothing about New York is reserved when you think about it . . . God, I love New York . . . I had both Boston and Florida missing the playoffs this season. The B’s and Panthers are a combined 20-5-3 out of the gate. Never trust this column again.
OTTAWA SENATORS WEEK AHEAD:
Thursday, Nov. 16: Detroit at Ottawa (2 pm)*
Saturday, Nov. 17: Minnesota at Ottawa (11 am)*
• Games are in Stockholm, Sweden
Photo: Courtesy Globe and Mail