Hockey’s back! (Well, not quite yet)
I get it.
I mean seriously – National Hockey League training camps don’t even open for nearly another three weeks so anything resembling the wording season preview needs to be shelved for the immediate future. . . in an appropriate world.
But my world is anything but appropriate (or insert as an alternative: illuminating/entertaining) as we inch along towards the tail end of August.
I’m growing tired of the apartment pool; walking the dog is becoming redundant (well, duh. But don’t ask the dog. Hi Maggie); I don’t get the CFL anymore (I did when I was a kid, aka – the Larry Highbaugh Era); nobody’s scrambling to invite me up to their cottage (probably cause I’d want to talk about the upcoming NHL season, or Stephen Sondheim musicals, or something); the weekly flyer at Metro just doesn’t do it for me anymore (grapes are how much?!); the Blue Jays are being the Blue Jays (just not quite good enough. Again); I tried valiantly to mow through The Americans on FX but surrendered after two seasons of frustration (I read this was as good as The Wire and The Sopranos? Give your head a shake); Mare of Easttown is sensational but only seven episodes long; I’d go back to New Orleans but it’s too damn hot there (and then there’s the dog to miss. Hi Maggie); there have been no Alex North, Tom Rachman or Michael Connelly books released in freakin’ months.
So screw it.
Hell. If my old Sun-scribbler-matey Mike Zeisberger (now with NHL.com) can throw together some enticing stuff in mid-August, give it a toss Dave.
So here’s what we’re going to do for fun in the sun.
This week we’ll entertain some valid and some not-so-valid questions surrounding your Ottawa Senators (oh you sweaty-palmed, anxiety-ridden, fragile sisters and brothers).
Next week, we’ll offer up an equal share of Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.
It might even be enticing.
As dad would say: “We’ll see.”
New ownership means what, exactly?
Everyone’s in can’t-wait mode for Michael Andlauer to officially get handed over the keys to the kingdom. This corner’s guess/prediction is while change and eventual stability are in the air, it’s going to take time to get there.
So then, that means what, exactly?
What it means is don’t hold on to that pending trip to the toilet waiting for big changes – immediate ones – at the management level.
Head coach D.J. Smith enters Season 5 with a less than sizzling record (zero playoff appearances) and while GM Pierre (the artist-formerly-known-as “The Summer of Pierre”) Dorion has had more hits than misses lately, he hasn’t supplied Smith with an abundance of goodies.
This changes this season. Ottawa’s talent level and depth in all the key areas has gained ground. Significant ground.
Anything less than a strong start and one or both could be gone by Christmas. Not quite immediate but certainly acceptable to you Ottawa Fan.
A wealth of health would be a nice change, eh?
And two guys pop into mind – Josh Norris and Jakob Chychrun. You know the history and the questions here, so we don’t need to stomp over familiar ground. Something resembling a full season from both gets Ottawa closer (likely, in) to the playoffs. Both guys are immensely talented. Both can be difference-makers.
So then, the Senators make the playoffs. Right?
The problem here is that it isn’t really completely up to them. Somebody – or somebodies – gotta step off for this to happen, right?
As the great Rick Rude used to ask, loudly: “Who’s it gonna be Bobby??!!”
Take your pick. But don’t pick Toronto or the Rangers or Carolina or Tampa or New Jersey. Not going to happen. And there’s a guaranteed five-out-of-eight slots taken.
Boston? Gulp. Possibly. The record-setters were gutted with the losses of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno, Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway and Tyler Bertuzzi. And let’s not forget Mike Rielly (OK, scratch that. You still awake over there?).
Point being, the B’s are a shadow.
Not too sure what to expect from Florida. Yeah, we know – Cinderella story, blah-blah-blah. The Panthers have also lost key personnel.
Might it be the Islanders? Absolutely. Ottawa certainly has the stronger roster.
But-but-but . . . what about those other guys?
You mean Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Detroit, correct?
The Sabres are on a par with Ottawa talent-wise and are on a similar path. Their young stars – Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittelstadt and Jack Quinn – will get better.
If Pittsburgh can stay healthy, there’s a playoff rung likely for the Pens.
Detroit though? Not totally sold. Some nice additions but they’re still questionable.
Is Ottawa’s defence finally tuned up?
Yes. The Michael Del Zotto and Josh Brown days are behind you. You can breathe now.
Chychrun, Jake Sanderson, the long-suffering Thomas Chabot, Artem Zub and an optimistically ‘capable’ third pairing of Erik Brannstrom and Travis Hamonic or throw in Jacob Bernard-Docker and it’s a good crew.
So they make the playoffs then?
Asked-and-answered, Your Honour.
More or less.
Now onto the Habs and Leafs.
Photo: Courtesy AP