• By: Dave Gross

Making the Wrong Call on Ottawa

As most of the NHL’s member clubs approach the halfway point of the season (Ottawa, at 36 played, still has some catching up to do, despite the glut of games the past month), a number of items appear on this week’s agenda.

Here’s what’s popping.



Self-reflection is a great tool.

This morning I thought it’d be appropriate – given where we are in the year – to reflect on a few thoughts churned out here prior to the season getting underway.

I watched TSN’s Craig Button get carved good-naturedly during last night’s Senators-Flames tilt about his pre-season prediction surrounding Ottawa. Craig, like a ton of us in the media, intimated that the Senators would be a playoff team in the spring of 2024.

Flipping through the Ottawa Life Magazine library I caught something I’d written in late August about who the Senators would replace from last year’s group of playoff qualifiers. And it goes a little like this . . .

Boston? 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 . . . 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.”

You can pretty well flush that one. Boston and Florida clearly aren’t going anywhere but to the playoffs.

Finally in the fall, I asked myself, as I often do cause I talk to myself a lot, if Ottawa was playoff-bound?

. . . it’s as good a time as any to thrust the promise into deliver territory. Meaning: The Senators make the move into the playoffs and easily.

What’s not to like.

The defence is more than just useful; up front a healthy Josh Norris and more improvement from Brady Tkachuk and potential 100-point man Tim Stutzle is almost a guarantee . . .

Norris has not progressed; Tkachuk’s defensive game needs construction; and Stutzle looks more and more like Bambi lost in the forest with no Thumper to make the save.




Ever tackle a jigsaw puzzle and try to ram that squarish piece into that not-so-squarish hole? Grunt-and-groan.

By hell or high water, the Maple Leafs organization will stick with what it thinks it knows and ride it hard and steady into the mist. That means loading up on squarish pieces at the expense of not-so-squarish pieces.

The Buds have about eight-billion bucks dedicated to their Core-4 forward group for next year, which means they’ll have about 57 cents to fill out the defence and goaltending.

This is painfully ‘nothing new’ and, ‘no sweat,’ cause it’s worked so well up to now.

Sparing the sarcasm though, did Toronto have any other choice other than to sign Willy Nylander to that monster deal? Not really. Critics say – trade Nylander for a Level-1 defender. Sure, but name me an available defenceman who comes close to bringing back that kind of Nylander-esque value and puts Toronto closer to the top of the heap. (Plus, Nylander does produce in the post-season).

The team has shoe-horned itself into being what it is.

Defence be damned. Budget be damned. Attack-attack-attack.



• Washington and Philadelphia’s fast starts are fading, as are their post-season chances. Philly’s reportedly taking calls on their defence (Nick Seeler/Sean Walker, both upcoming UFAs);

•  Former Flyer Scott Hartnell on Cutter Gauthier’s asked-and-answered request for a trade: “A kid doesn’t wanna be there, hasn’t played an NHL game yet, he’s thinking he’s something else to call where he can be playing . . .;”

•  I don’t get the hate for Philadelphia. Did the Gauthier camp have a problem with Rocky owning Ivan Drago?;

•  Flyer coach John Tortorella on Gauthier: “I don’t know Cutter from a hole in the wall;”

•  Best remembrance of Philadelphia when my pal Peter Zezel (name-dropper) invited me down for a pair of games and some, um, post-game revelry. Three days before I’m flying out, Pete gets traded to St. Louis. Bummer;

•  Remember the labelling of Kings’ youngster Quinton Byfield as a ‘bust?’ Patience is starting to pay off for LA as the 21-year-old, 6-foot-5, 230-lbs. centre is on his way to a breakout season. LA’s dream is to mold the big man into something along the lines of Anze Kopitar. Still a bit of molding to be done;

•  Winnipeg and Vancouver, eh? Canada’s two best clubs, eh? We now send you back (again) to pre-season prognostications;

• Florida’s won seven straight, eh? We now send you back (again, again) to pre-season prognostications;

•  Ottawa has Buffalo Thursday night in the first-ever Disappointment Bowl. The Sabres – much like their competition tomorrow – share a propensity for poor defence and goaltending;

•  And finally, as everyone loves their year-end-bests list, my favourite shows (viewed, not necessarily debuting) in 2023: Somebody, Somewhere (HBO), Marriage (PBS), Tulsa King (Paramount), The Devil’s Hour (Prime), Criminal: UK (Netflix), Time (BritBox), Luther (BritBox), Happy Valley (BritBox), Sherwood (BritBox), Unforgotten (BritBox), Little Boy Blue (BritBox), pretty well anything with Stephen Graham or Nicola Walker or Sean Bean.



Thursday, Jan. 11: Ottawa at Buffalo (7 pm)

Saturday, Jan. 13: San Jose at Ottawa (4 pm)

Tuesday, Jan. 16: Colorado at Ottawa (7 pm)


Photo: CourtesyCP