Future looking rosy in Senator land

The heat was on last week after what appeared in this corner of the page.

Maybe a little too harsh?


Sure. Perhaps.

But after another solid week on the ice, the Ottawa Senators surely appear that they’re about to take another step forward. There’s just too much going well for this group not to stumble out of the gate, like they did in colossal fashion this season.

Anybody remember the pasting Edmonton gave them early on?


Even Vancouver?

Rear-view mirror is about the best thing you can hail it. It seems so very long ago. Best to leave the past in the past.

And you have to hand it to the coaching staff – as well as immeasurable credit to the scouts who slapped this roster together. The Ottawa Senators in January, 2021 are hardly comparable to the Ottawa Senators in the spring of 2021.

So what does that mean?

The window of opportunity is wide open.

If Ottawa gets any kind of netminding next season, this is a playoff-bound team. Even considering the Senators will be backing into a much tougher division.

The expectation is we’re going to see marked improvement from the young core. That means guys like Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Tim Stutzle, Alex Formenton, Shane Pinto and Artem Zub get better.

The trick now will be for general manager Pierre Dorion to get better as well. Let’s face it, Pierre didn’t exactly have a dynamite season at the trade/signing table. From Erik Gudbranson to Josh Brown to Derek Stepan to Evgenii Dadonov . . . big swings and misses.

The GM did however – seemingly – nailed it when he collected Victor Mete from the Habs. That’s still a pretty porous batting average though.

And the best way for Pierre to hit one out of the park is bagging a Top-4 defenceman. With Zub on board, easily Ottawa’s best defender, and freewheeling Thomas Chabot and speedy Mete, another piece of the puzzle is necessary.

Might be a little premature to start calling first-round pick Jake Sanderson as a can’t-miss next season. The kid is only 19 years of age this summer.

But . . . "Sanderson is an outstanding talent capable of taking charge and controlling the play with his elite skating, sharp presence of mind and high-end puck skills," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said.

So then there’s unrestricted free agents like Dougie Hamilton or Adam Larsson or Tyson Barrie or big Jamie Oleksiak. Either one would fit the bill. Mind you, they’re going to cost a pretty penny. Don’t think for a minute the rest of the circuit won’t be hot on the heels.

But the good news for Ottawa, for the first time in years, is that there is actual promise on the horizon.

Despite the vacancies on the blueline, the guys up front should be morphing into a bit of a powerhouse.

Smile Ottawa. The doom and gloom appears to finally be over.

NOTES AND NOTIONS: What’s the more incredible feat: Auston Matthews goal-scoring clip or Connor McDavid’s 100-plus point season? Regardless, both are to be lauded . . . So then, Ottawa fan – does your hate still rain on the Maple Leafs? Given that good-community-guy Nick Foligno and former Sen stud Jason Spezza hold the roost in T-O, hard not to root for those two guys . . . Jack Eichel-Buffalo. A marriage made in hell . . . How can you not like Nick Paul (rhetorical) . . . Thinking my old pal Rick Tocchet got railroaded in Phoenix. He can coach for me any day . . . Unbelievably great radio segment Monday morning with JR and Shawn Simpson on TSN 1200. Honesty and smarts and compassion, well done lads.

Senators week ahead:

Wednesday, May 12: Toronto at Ottawa (8 pm)

Photo: Courtesy Senators.com