• By: Dave Gross

Ottawa: Time to move

Maybe they simply just ran out of goaltenders and defencemen.

Maybe it got so bad on that injury front that Ron Tugnutt and Lance Pitlick were on speed-dial.

Perhaps it was the coaching. Perhaps the schedule. Maybe the refereeing. Maybe it was the Leafs’ fault.

Maybe, perhaps and maybe.

Whatever your reasonings, rationalization or excuses might be, the Ottawa Senators won’t be joining the playoff parade in 2022-23. (Hell, you can’t even lay the blame on Nikita Zaitsev anymore.)

The reality might arrive on your doorstep as early as Thursday night when all of Ottawa, Florida, Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders are in play.

While most were happy with the Senators skating in meaningful games through the month of March, the fact the team made it well into April is a testament to how well Ottawa has performed post-Christmas. Previous to that? Well, that’s another story.

So then, now Senator Fan can sit back and watch the qualifiers kill each other in the post-season while dreaming of Ryan Reynolds attending their office Christmas party . . . and dreaming of what-might-be starting in October.

For as much as the Leafs (here we go again . . .) carry a hefty bag of pressure surrounding a first-round victory, Ottawa now carries equal pressure in getting into the playoff dance, period.

Welcome to the world of adults there Ottawa. Play time is over.

Which brings up another point – and this one’s a challenging one – who does Ottawa knock off and replace in the playoff hunt of 2023-24?

There isn’t an easy answer.

Boston, Toronto, Tampa, Carolina, New Jersey and the Rangers would seem to be locks, no? Can’t see any of these taking a monstrous tumble, and that leaves the final two spots.

Florida’s a nice choice for one of those rungs, especially if the Panthers can avoid another slow start. The Islanders tend to find a way, but age on hockey’s best fourth line and a thin attack create questions. Pittsburgh’s as old as dirt, but we never count Crosby out.

There is certainly an opening for Ottawa. While some of the above are waning, the Senators are headed in the other direction, and outside of Buffalo, it’s the only organization currently on the outside in the East with true forward movement.

Can’t see Detroit, Montreal, Columbus, Philadelphia and greybeard Washington improving enough to get in the hunt.

Welcome to the jungle, Ottawa. We got fun and games.

(. . . And now that song’s in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome!)

SENATOR’S WEEK AHEAD: Postmedia nailed the headline Tuesday with the headline, “The ship to the NHL playoffs has sailed for the Senators.” You could name that ship too – the Mayflower, cause Ottawa was done like dinner right around American Thanksgiving . . . It will be difficult to replicate what New Jersey’s accomplished this year, from extremely low-end club to high-end . . . Ottawa finished 10 points ahead of the Devils in 2021-22. This season? New Jersey is likely to finish around 25 points ahead of the Senators . . . Can’t truly understand Pittsburgh’s philosophy of one-more-time with an aging roster. This is a young man’s league now . . . Then again, whaddya’ gonna do, trade Sid? . . . When Seattle plugged its roster with skaters at the expansion draft, I thought this was going to be a very long build. Just one of the many reasons why I won’t ever be an NHL general manager . . . Sometimes life is Hell. Toronto just learned Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was named the league’s top star for last week. Vasilevskiy stopped 99 of the 100 shots he faced. When do the playoffs start again? . . . Montreal’s David Savard, Sean Monahan and Alex Belzile are all toast for the remainder of the season. Adding to the fun: Carey Price, Paul Byron, Juraj Slafkovsky, Cole Caufield, Josh Anderson, the God-like Arber Xhekaj and Kaiden Guhle are also all finished. Is Darren Langdon coming out of retirement? . . . Kirby Dach is day-to-day. That’s almost good news . . . Enjoying the snail race, AKA Connor Bedard’s Landing Spot, the last few weeks. Haven’t seen this much attention since the-run-for-Auston Matthews in 2016 . . . TSN I get it, you cover the nuts off curling. But seriously? Splashing your front page with curling-curling-curling anytime you have an event while making it hard to dig for hockey results/analysis during a sizzling playoff chase is grating . . . Masters’ weekend. Ahh, spring. Hello friends . . . The best dialogue writers on TV belong to HBO’s Succession: Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) to his sister after a politically correct declaration – “Listen to Woke-ahontas over here.”


Thursday, April 6: Ottawa at Florida (7 pm)

Saturday, April 8: Tampa Bay at Ottawa (7 pm)

Monday, April 10: Carolina at Ottawa (7 pm)


Photo: CourtesyNHL.com