Senators, Leafs aching to turn the page. Finally
What’s in a phrase?
Let’s discover, as we walk the walk and talk the talk in zones we enjoy calling the ‘three-most-important-markets-in-Eastern Canada.”
One of these National Hockey League clubs is gearing up for the post-season, another for a continuing rebuild while the other’s slotting in between.
“The elevator to Success is out of order. You’ll have to use the stairs, one step at a time.”
Barring a late-season miracle, Ottawa’s looking from the outside on in for the sixth straight year. That’s pain right there, Ottawa Fan.
But, but, but, but and but: You know the rest of the story there Paul Harvey . . . the Senators are looking pretty and correct in 2023-24. To the point that the boys and girls in Senator Town have been given a bouncy castle of hope.
To be honest, at times it can be kind of annoying. Hearing ‘yeah but wait till next year!’ blasted in your ear for the better part of six months is difficult to tune out. But can you blame these people, irritating and irrational as they are? Starvation makes for anxious folk, and believe me, Ottawa is starved. And anxious.
However, let’s not get ahead of the ball game here. First things first. Ottawa needs to continue to do what it’s been doing lately, for the duration of its season, whenever that happens.
That means firewagon hockey, physical play and ensuring Tim Stutzle’s on the ice for the full 60 minutes (insert laughing emoji here).
To make that next . . . big . . . step, a few things need to be cleaned up. Clearly the defensive system needs structure (sometimes it’s like – is there actually a defensive system here?). Ottawa’s still a time bomb in its own zone.
Also on the to-do list is figuring out the goaltending situation. Is Cam Talbot returning. Do you even want him returning? Will Anton Forsberg recover fully? Is it too soon for Mads Sogaard who’s looked fragile at times?
The biggest questions though remain in the front office and behind the bench. With a new ownership group on the horizon, does that signal pack-your-bags to Pierre Dorion and D.J. Smith? If you enjoy perusing the chat boards, that’s an overwhelming ‘yes.’
This corner had Ottawa pegged as a playoff team this season. That’s not likely to happen. Next season though, it’s a must.
Best be: elevator going up.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today, it’s already tomorrow in Australia.”
And a hearty welcome to tomorrow, Toronto Fan.
While Ottawa’s been trumpeting the same old song and dance for nearly six years, Toronto’s theme is similar but different. Ottawa’s been struggling with next steps; Toronto too, but for different reasons.
Leaf fans are like the cuckolded partner who keeps going back for more. Snake oil salesmen in the provincial capital have been raking in the bucks for years selling playoff success as a certainty.
I mean you can go all the way back to the days of Phil Kessel to delve into the sea of promises.
“This is the year. No doubts.”
“We have the right mix this season.”
“The time for our stars to shine post-season are here.”
“Kyle Dubas has done all he can.”
Toronto’s first-round opponent again this year is Tampa. The usually Teflon Lightning appear to have holes like they’ve never had before. (Even at that, they’re not overly significant.) The king’s ransom paid to acquire tough, yet erratic winger Tanner Jeannot has morphed into a nightmare. He’s a bad penalty waiting to happen.
The defence misses Ryan McDonagh, while age and wear-and-tear through so many seasons of lengthy battle appear to be catching up with the rest of the lineup.
But back to the Leafs. A first-round departure means huge changes across the board.
No more fooling around.
LES CANADIENS DE MONTREAL
“I was a peripheral visionary. I could see the future, but only way off to the side.”
I look at the beloved Habs lineup and wonder where we’re going here. There’s a very large splash of young, highly capable talent – Nick Suzuki (quality), Cole Caufield (sniper), Kirby Dach (steal), Arber Xhekaj (God-like) and the rest of the blueline.
Then I look at Chris Tierney.
I understand that you can’t go with a bunch of 22-year-old skaters – talented as they could be – and hope to win. Veterans are required.
It’s almost like the Habs are a year or two back of Ottawa (speaking of Tierney) whereas the Senators had to employ the likes of Victor Mete, Artem Anisimov, Braydon Coburn and Evgenii Dadonov, Montreal gets a few clunkers of its own (including Dadonov for a too-long stretch).
Still, the turnover could come quickly. Ready to take the leap are Hockey East star blueliner Lane Hutson, Harvard winger Sean Farrell and World Junior forward Owen Beck.
Coach Marty St. Louis seems to be the right guy to help develop these youngsters. Montreal has potential but measured success is a few seasons away.
SENATOR’S WEEK AHEAD:
Thursday, March 30: Philadelphia at Ottawa (7 pm)
Saturday, April 1: Toronto at Ottawa (7 pm)
Sunday, April 2: Ottawa at Columbus (6 pm)
Tuesday, April 4: Ottawa at Carolina (7 pm)
PHOTO: Courtesy CTV Ottawa