• By: Dave Gross

It’s Crack-of-Dawn Early but Ottawa’s Wide Awake

One down, 27-ish to go.

It’s just one full week into the NHL season and already proclamations are being made league-wide: “The Canucks are soft,” “The Oilers stink,” “Seattle stinks too,” “It’s either Vegas-Ottawa in the final or Colorado-Detroit in the final!” One full week in and we’re thrust into don’t-get-ahead-of-yourself mode.

So let’s pause and let things marinate a bit. It’s a long, long haul through ‘till mid-April and that’s what we’re in for – the long haul.

Bad luck, bounces, tough scheduling and injuries . . . faster than you can say Kirby Dach . . . happen and are bound to happen. Curtailing hopes and dreams in hockey just happen to happen, and that’s a lot of happens.

Having made my own kind of proclamation right there, there is one generalization that Ottawa’s already, seemingly, taken good care of – the dreaded slow start. You remember? That season-killer of years past?

Last go-round in 2022-23, the Senators mustered just six wins in their first 19 games. Just four games into this season, Ottawa’s already halfway there.

But it’s not so much the numbers as the way the team is taking care of business that stands out. In all three of their wins, the Senators haven’t just outperformed the opponent, they’ve sandblasted them. Not even remotely close.

Quicker and deeper and toned more than they’ve been in years, Ottawa’s taking that step that we – well, almost all of us – saw coming. And this week the team can further put its stamp on a full turnaround when Detroit then Buffalo head north-east.

It is a given that Ottawa’s main competition to rise among the flock and nail down a hard-to-get playoff spot lies within the Red Wings and Sabres. All three are hot tickets for grand improvement, sooner rather than later.

Last year things got downright nasty between the Senators and Wings, and we expect nothing less this year with the Senators and Sabres.

At the very least the next two games should provide intense entertainment, and from Ottawa’s perspective, a win or two would keep the early momentum rolling.

THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD: Craziest job in hockey? That’s an easy one through the first week: PR/Media guys for the Chicago Blackhawks. Connor Bedard gets more speaking requests than Tony Robbins . . . Who doesn’t love an aging analogy? . . . Somebody, somewhere (great show by the way) brought up the thought that it all settles down for the newest Connor once the Hawks home opener comes and goes (Saturday versus Vegas) . . . Chicago might want to follow Toronto’s model of how it deals with the abundance of media requests for Auston Matthews. The Leafs are accommodating but only to a point . . . Bedard is the NHL’s new-shiny-toy. Media and fans just can’t get enough of him (and I get it and understand it). From a team perspective, the Ottawa Senators hold that title belt . . . Ottawa is hockey’s new-shiny-toy and when you think about it, why not, the organization’s been a laughingstock for so many years, even the coldest of cold hearts can’t help rooting for something positive . . . I still can’t stomach or foresee a surge in Arizona Coyotes merchandise sales, no matter how far the club rises, which is bound to occur at some point . . . Had to disagree, strongly, with one take on the Reavo-Effect and how it’s stirring or not stirring change with the Leafs in Toronto. Said analyst stated Toronto’s identity as a “soft” team won’t transform in spite of the addition of Ryan Reaves (another hot property these days for the media). Said analyst indicated until the top core – without naming names, but we know who you are – starts ‘sticking up for itself,’ the Leafs remain pliable. If said analyst had ingested the Leafs first couple of games, he’d see that’s already happened . . . While Reaves has been an instant chart-topper, Max Domi’s been MIA. Not sure what’s going on there . . . Montreal remains a work in progress, which is no surprise given the youth, which makes the last two games understandable: Against Chicago, the Habs look terrific; against Minnesota, they look dog-eared . . . That Kirby Dach (torn MCL and ACL) really hurts for the organization and for the development of one of Montreal’s key young players . . . Is it me or has Arber Xhekaj grown another inch or two and added even more muscle? He’s starting to look like Scott Steiner . . . Ottawa’s home swing of five straight games ends mid-week when the Senators travel to Long Island.


Saturday, Oct. 21: Detroit at Ottawa (1 pm)

Tuesday, Oct. 24: Buffalo at Ottawa (6:45 pm)

Thursday, Oct. 26: Ottawa at NY Islanders (7 pm)


Photo: Courtesy nhl.com