• By: Dave Gross

In a word – ‘Ugh’

OK, I’ve got it.

If the fabulous brain boxes at The Hockey News ask me to write the Ottawa Senators preview for the 2024-25 campaign, I have the perfect lede: “Cue the broken record. A dismal start doomed the Senators yet again last season, as the club missed the playoffs for another year.”

Trouble is, it’d be filching. That was the lede in THN’s yearbook this past summer, almost verbatim . . . And really? Could have been the lede used anytime in the past three or four.

Seriously though, we’re running out of adjectives and analogies and reasons trying to explain why another Ottawa Senator season is suffocating in the mud.

After yet another sloppy loss Sunday night in Las Vegas, their fourth straight, the Senators sit a plum 12 points back of Washington for the last wild-card entry card into the post-season.

And for those clutching at that kind of ‘final’ trump card – games-in-hand – well, you’re running out of real estate too. The Caps have played just two more games than Ottawa. Grab your abacus.

At this point, in addition to Washington, realistically about the only team in the catch-‘em picture is Philly, but the Flyers keep winning. And winning.

Besides, there’s still Tampa, New Jersey, Detroit and perhaps Buffalo ahead and also chasing. Three of those teams are simply better suited for a run.

That brings it around to the most indispensable and key word in the previous paragraph: Teams.

Watching Vegas, the Cup champs, and you’re watching a team play a team game.

Ottawa doesn’t play like that. At all.

I remember buying that NHL 1994 Sega(?) video game and facing off with my buddy Denis who’d complain his players kept skating out of position. I’d say, ‘they’re only blips of light, ya know!’

Plays in here, right?

There’s no disputing Ottawa’s talent level, truly. Tkachuk, Batherson, Norris, Chabot, Giroux, Stutzle, Sanderson, Chychrun, Tarasenko, Joseph, Zub . . . That’s a load right there.

But the fact is, they skate around like blips of light frolicking around in their own little universe.

Someone posted this identifier of Ottawa this week – The worst team with the most individual talent. If there was such a trophy for such a thing, I do believe we’ve found your winner.

And to close, as the slings-and-arrows continue to zip towards coach D.J. Smith, we throw it over to ultimate insider Elliotte Friedman on this morning’s 32 Thoughts podcast: “I really think in Ottawa, Mike Andlauer and Steve Staios . . . you know, there’s that cartoon out there where a whole crowd – like a thousand people – is coming at one guy and that one guy is saying ‘I’m right and you all are wrong’ . . . That’s what it’s like right now. They are really, really trying to hold things off. They have told people; we are trying to get to know everyone and everything about this organization before we make any decisions . . . It’s got to be tough for them right now. They’ve got a vision for how they want to do this but it’s not going that well.”

THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD: Not to rub salt in that gaping wound, but anyone notice that Mark Stone guy skating around Sunday night for Vegas? How would Stone look as a Senator and more appropriately, how would the Senators look with Stone still here remains the biggest mistake of former GM Piere Dorion’s career . . . Stone’s game would be the perfect model for Ottawa’s getting-older-but-not-maturing youth – he’s uber-attentive to detail and responsibility . . . Anyone remember phonograph records? I’ve got one, but it skips. It keeps going – “game’s-over-another-loss-Brady-starts-some-meaningless-shit” . . . Sing along if you recognize the tune . . . Next purchase – a CD player . . . Stone’s impact on Tkachuk could-have-would-have been consequential and worth backing up the Brinks truck . . . Best chat-site clip this week: “Neko Sparks would have fired DJ (Smith) and replaced him with “innovative blockchain technology combined with AI-based decision making algorithms” and the team would still be better off . . . Former Senator-hopefuls checkup: Logan Brown, now property of Tampa, has been out with an injury since late September and Alex Formenton is in Year 2 with Ambri-Piotta of the Swiss league (15 games, four goals, three assists) . . . The Quentin Tarantino meat-grinder schedule continues for Ottawa with three games in the upcoming five days.

AND NOW, THE GOOD NEWS: Attendance for home games is listed at an average of 16,680 bums-in-seats . . . Jiri Smejkal looks like a keeper . . . Jake Sanderson does a bang-on Tkachuk-brothers’ mouthpiece-chew impression . . . The Penguins and Sabres suck too . . . Cowboys got rocked by the Bills . . . That Eagles-Seahawks clash looks like a good Monday Nighter . . .  My OC Transpo bus arrived right on schedule last week . . . There is a Santa Claus.



Tuesday, Dec. 19: Ottawa at Arizona (9 pm)

Thursday, Dec. 21: Ottawa at Colorado (9 pm)

Saturday, Dec. 23: Pittsburgh at Ottawa (7 pm)



Photo: Courtesy NHL