• By: Dave Gross

Hurry up and Wait, Ottawa

Most of you are well into your cups as far as New Year’s resolutions. A full three(!) days(!) in(!) . . . which might suggest the gym is now slowly re-entering the rearview mirror, the Haagen-Dazs has been restocked in the freezer and you’ve barked at your kids or dog (again) at least once or twice.

It’s OK.

It’s really OK.

The Taoists go by the credo that there’s no need to clear out the various character defects in our lives; we’re bloody well OK and worthy just the way we are.

Unless you’re in the NHL.

. . . After taking far too long to get here (AKA – the painfully slow lede), the fact is, the realities in hockey don’t mirror the realities of everyday life, otherwise our years would last a full 82 days (if you’re in Ottawa, chuckle-chuckle) or maybe a full 100+ (if you’re in, say, Florida or Vegas).

Deep thoughts.

With all that in mind, let’s get to the gristle and take our bi-monthly visit to the three most significant centres around our geographical centre (being Britannia Beach/Lincoln on this day) to see what lies ahead for the Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.

New Year’s resolutions, and where these guys have put themselves and are potentially headed through early 2024: let’s have at it.



We’ve ostensibly reached the end of the road-of-chaos here because, discounting the hiring of a full-time head coach (likely early in the off-season, hint: Craig Berube), the cementing of the organization is done.

Permanent general manager?


Senior vice-president of hockey operations?


Associate GM?


Fresh owner?

Already landed.

Alfredsson back?


So here we are – finally – revving our engines where the rubber meets the road. And this is where things get captivating, engrossing and just-plain-interesting because patience is no longer a lengthy visitor for the Ottawa fan base. In other words, this newish, in-place grouping running the show has very little time to appease a formerly lenient set of ticket-buyers.

The Senators’ fans are just plain out of tolerance. Six, and soon to be seven years out of the playoffs is unacceptable for an operation that used to take a post-season position as a given (1997-2008: In every year). You simply cannot blame this legion of handwringers for chronic and enduring handwringing.

Even the gush of bleeding hearts have quietened and the flood of injury excuses, and schedule excuses, and the-league-is-out-to-get-us excuses, and excuses-excuses have slowed to a trickle on that machine called social media (as well as chat sites).

Time has run out.

Time to move forward. Pronto.

And so this Michael Andlauer-Steve Staios love affair – where the appointed ones automatically became the anointed ones, the saviours, the take-us-to-the-promised-land miracle workers – might be short-lived.

(Honestly, I’m still baffled as to why Ottawa Fan was full buy-in, right away on the new management group being the next Toe Blake-Sammy Pollock combo platter without any hard evidence for support unless winning OHL titles (2018, 2022) count as significant. The same one D.J. won in 2015 (as well as the Memorial Cup). Maybe it was Melnyk-Dorion Hangover Syndrome. Then again, maybe they just look too damn dashing in their Harry Rosen suits).

Too harsh? Maybe, but not if you ask a season-ticket holder.

The full-on cleansing is done here in Ottawa.

Do we appreciate the moves made? For sure. That air and feel of giddy immaturity that smothered the operation for years has gone. And while we’re not either way – yet – on whether the Andlauer-Staios regime will be successful, at the very least the window dressing looks capable.

After all, they wear those pretty styling suits. And as Prop Joe says in The Wire: “Look the part, be the part.”

So, organizationally the club is set. On the ice there’s a much, much different tale as that 14-19 record fully spells out. There’s disharmony and discord in spades during a season which was, by all accounts, gonna produce a winner.

Not even close.

As your indifferent scripter over here, I have the luxury of sitting back and watching without unease – just interest – as the story develops.

At the same time, as a NY Giants fanatic who’s suffered almost as much during the last seven years, I get it.



Sunshine, lollipops, happy handstands and plus-de-poutine.

Yeah, my French sucks but the Habs don’t. And they were supposed to, right?

I mean if this is a full-on rebuild, this is completely painless.

Montreal sits with a record at .500 and five points back of the second wild-card slotting. All this after coming off the challenge of a seven-game road swing (a not-so-good 2-4-1).

The team’s right where it needs to be at this point – competitive.

If there’s a New Year’s resolution here it’s getting more offence from the group that’s supposed to score – the forwards. Montreal’s leading scorer is Nick Suzuki with 12, and he’s the lone Hab in double-digits (Ottawa has four, as does Toronto).

Another resolve might be sorting out the goaltending situation. The Canadiens carry three (Jake Allen, Sam Montembeault and Cayden Primeau) and given the way the rest of the circuit seems to be drooling over stoppers right now, Montreal’s in the driver’s seat as far as dealing.

The other plus is bound to be the trade deadline (March 8th). In a very tight, up-and-down Eastern Conference where just about anyone could pluck their way to the Stanley Cup final, adding a Sean Monahan or David Savard would be enticing.

In Montreal, with the phone ringing in the GM’s office come early March, Beaconsfield native Kent Hughes is likely to do his best Frasier impression by answering with: “I’m listening . . .”



Best film tagline: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water . . .” (Jaws II, Andrew J. Kuehn).

Best Maple Leaf tagline for 2023-24: “Just when you thought you had these guys labelled . . .” (This column, David W. Gross).

So the Leafs go out and do this: Stink the joint out in consecutive losses to Ottawa (ugh), Columbus (ugh 2) and Carolina, then head out on a long travel day to LA, then dust the ultra-competitive Kings 3-0 in a neat, defensively sound (Toronto?) complete-game effort.


Not really anymore. Always expect the unexpected down Hwy. 401.

As with Ottawa and its hockey team, it’s never dull in Toronto.

The storylines are perpetually as rich and complex as a Tom Rachman novel (check him out, brilliant writer). From goalies to team character, to coaching, management decisions, defensive-zone play, Core-4 talk, the Nylander contract, to whatever-happened-to-Allan-Bester, to . . . well let’s just say it’s practically enough to fill out the first 10-15 minutes of SportsCentre every night.


As my TSN insider offered last week, the Leafs are like this: Wouldn’t be surprised if they missed the playoffs and wouldn’t be surprised if they represented the Eastern Conference in the Cup finale, either.

Never be boring Toronto.



Thursday, Jan. 4: Ottawa at Seattle (10 pm)

Saturday, Jan. 6: Ottawa at Edmonton (10 pm)

Tuesday, Jan. 9: Ottawa at Calgary (10 pm)


Photo: Courtesy CP