• By: Dave Gross

NHL Quiz Show

What’s up this week?

Well, I’ll tell you what’s up this week: questions and answers that potentially could carry great relevance to a 2023-34 National Hockey League season, which opens in less than one month.

That’s what’s up.

The one caveat here – as it tends to be since we actually write for an Eastern Ontario publication – is a slight preference for questions involving teams you/I actually care about or affect said club in some sort of way . . . so apologies to any of the Arizona Coyote faithful out and about (which in itself is a question worth grinding: Is there such a thing as an ‘Arizona Coyote faithful?’).

Let’s roll.

Q: Is there such a thing as an ‘Arizona Coyote faithful?’

A: (Just seeing if you’re paying attention)

Q: Who’s the most important player now on the Ottawa Senators?

A: (And we’re right back in the saddle . . .) Now this is a tough one. I mean, it’s not like Ottawa’s the NY Jets and you would undeniably state: Aaron Rodgers (ouch). There are loads of candidates – from Tkachuk to Stutzle to Korpisalo to Chabot. My guy though? Gotta be Jake Sanderson. You’ve heard the cliché, the sky’s the limit? It holds here. Sanderson’s upside is enormous. Not only did Ottawa land the two best players in the 2020 draft, but the Senators also landed the most impactful in Sanderson.

Q: Sure, the Senators are a very talented, young group but does inexperience knock ‘em down a peg or two in the end?

A: If you’re searching for a comparable you might be prone to looking at the NJ Devils and their dramatic rise from the ashes last season. One difference here is that I don’t see Ottawa getting pushed around like the zippy little D’s did in the post-season. Too much oomph (testicular fortitude?) at the top with guys like Tkachuk and Giroux.

Q: The World According to Elliotte says nice things about Ottawa?

A: Yes indeed, Sportsnet guru Elliotte Friedman is bullish on your Senators, and GM Pierre Dorion:

“One of the things that’s going to be interesting here is how does the organization run under new ownership. It’s clear that the Ottawa Senators were a dysfunctional organization for a long time, and now they’ve got everybody pulling in the right direction. Everybody there is optimistic, and I think it’s for good reason.”

(Co-host Jeff Marek also brought up the idea that Ottawa stands tall as far as ‘smart’ contracts, right now) Elliotte, again: “As long as it works. There’s a lot of good bets. A lot of good bets . . .”

Q: Change is in the air management-wise too in Ottawa, right? I mean, don’t they need a complete shift out of the Melnyk era to soothe the disgruntled fan base?

A: Not so fast there Skippy. While there’s a robust love-him-or-hate-him vibe surrounding Pierre Dorion, the likelihood of the GM getting stuffed in an envelope and mailed out pronto is no likelihood at all. Whether it’s new ownership or not, anyone captaining this ship here has to be very pleased with the current state of the roster as well as the contracts doled out.

Q: C’mon man, last week you claimed that Buffalo and Ottawa are both headed to the playoffs in 2023-24. Are you serious?

A: Yup. Too much too soon? Nope. Both are poised.

Q: C’mon man, last week you claimed Boston was going to plummet. Are you serious?

A: Yes. Losing Patrice Bergeron is akin to losing a guy like . . . umm, I don’t know . . . Aaron Rodgers? (Anyone else hear here that Aaron Rodgers is toast? Hear, hear!).

Q: What about Florida? You know – the Eastern Conference rep in that Stanley Cup finale? Forgetting about them already?

A: Florida’s a strange animal (Gowan). Two seasons back, the Panthers set the regular season ablaze with a league-best 122 point result but falling to pieces (Patsy Cline) in the playoffs. Then they shake, rattle and roll (Bill Haley and the Comets) the team – getting Matthew Tkachuk while surrendering Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar – in the off-season. They barely scrape in last spring and make the final (Vic Rauter). Where the H-E-double hockey sticks (Howie Meeker) are they headed this year? I’ve got them out (‘damned spot’ – Lady Macbeth). Finale hangover and all, don’t you know.

Q: If the Leafs want to make hay, they’ll need a huge injection to the blueline. So where do they look?

A: Let me C here. How about Carolina or Calgary? The Flames need scoring (hey there, William Nylander) and have defence (hey there, Noah Hanifan, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov); The Canes need scoring (see above) and have defence (Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei and Jaccob Slavin).

Q: You gotta feel for a guy like Arber Xhekaj, right?

A: Ma’ man Arber was a superb rookie enforcer (and pretty damn good d-man) for the Habs last season. Super heavyweights Milan Lucic and Ryan Reaves have since joined the Atlantic, not to mention Zack MacEwen in Ottawa . . . BTW, why do people always say, ‘not to mention’ then go ahead and ‘mention’ . . . and so yes, our boy will be busier against stiffer competition in Year 2.

Q: You talk about Buffalo and Ottawa riding the wave, why isn’t Detroit on your surfboard?

A: Simple Simon: The Wings have a few very nice, shiny trinkets in Mo Seider, Marcus Kasper, Simon Edvinsson and Lucas (Everybody Loves) Raymond, but comparatively, Steve Yzerman’s group is a step behind the growth-spurt kids in Buffalo and Ottawa.

Q: You flap your gums a lot about the Leafs and Senators but what about the other corner in this Ontario-Quebec triangle?

A: Fair point. The Habs are a long way away from competing but/and you’ll be reading more on the storied franchise in the immediate future. Just not quite yet. But that defence? Man-o-man, it’s going to be a good one in a few years.

Q: Let’s refocus here: What about the Leafs then?

A: The Toronto Maple Leafs are indeed God’s team. And God has a sense of humour.

Q: Anybody else across the Great White North grabbing your attention, either one way or the other?

A: Most point to Edmonton as Canada’s best bet. There’s something missing there though (and has been for years) and another stumble this spring and they’re entering Toronto territory. Calgary? A total wild card; could go either way. Got to get Jacob Markstrom rolling again. Winnipeg? Great coach and some nice pieces but they don’t blow us away. And as for the Canucks, should be knocking on the door of the post-season but again, not doing handstands over the current content.



Photo: Courtesy USAToday