• By: Dave Gross

Senators’ neighbours going through angst of their own

As Ottawa’s Senators continue a season swimming (and sinking at times) in unpredictability, the guys next door and across the street are drafting their own stories.

Ottawa’s greatest rivals, for the uninitiated, are of course the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As the two most recognized teams in hockey, the Habs and the Buds carry a hefty load of expectation, year in and year out – this year being no exception. In the 2021-22 season, both illustrious organizations are struggling with their own demons.

Let’s start in Montreal where yours truly grew up watching banner after banner raised at the storied Montreal Forum. But there’s no Robinson, Lafleur, Lemaire or Serge A. Savard in the spin cycle this time around.

What we have here is one heap of a mess. It’s so bad in Montreal there’s a good chance of records being set for ineptitude.

The general manager was fired, the coach was fired, and a new coach was hired with zero experience.

The team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final last spring left town faster than the Rapido (Google it if you don’t know. Seriously, it’s a superb history lesson. Really.)

The recipe for the Canadiens as we stand is: “Well, if (there’s) anything this team needs right now, it’s to have fun.”

That’s from the new coach, Martin St. Louis.

That reminds me of my first year in house league in Town of Mount Royal. Our team was so poor that a 5-1 loss was not so bad. We were told to “have fun” too. We didn’t have much . . . “fun.” Eventually the league took pity and rearranged the teams into competitive ones. That was more “fun.”

But enough about me.

Let’s talk about Toronto.

As this corner (and many, many others) has preached the past two years, the regular season don’t-mean-squat in Toronto. But what happened last Thursday in Calgary does.

In a ‘playoff-style’ matchup against Wyatt Earp’s (Darryl Sutter’s) Flames, the Maple Leafs failed to answer the bell, again. There’s something about Toronto that folds when it gets rough; when the spirit of play becomes spirited.

The playoffs draw closer. February drops into March. March drops into April and April passes the torch to early May, and there we are. Playoffs. Hard-edged, in-your-face playoffs.

The last time Ottawa’s brethren to the south and west won a playoff round? 2003-04. Against? Ottawa.

There’s more than a slight hint that if the Leafs stumble again this spring, it’s so-long GM Kyle Dubas and likely team president Brendan Shanahan.

The trade deadline won’t address the guts of this team which – if it loses once more this spring – will need to be addressed as well.

So then Ottawa, as you struggle through another playoff-less season remember: “But for the grace of God.”

Everyone struggles with something.

THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD: It’s another ho-hum, walk-in-the-park week for Ottawa. Just four games in six days . . . Well, it’s slightly better than last week’s slobber-knocker of a schedule, right? . . . Reason #325 not to read local chat boards: Lack of grey matter. While Ottawa fans were quick to blame Saturday’s loss to the Bruins on “missing key players,” not one of the masses pointed out that Boston still dominated while missing its two top players – Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron . . . sigh . . . I feel good for Matt Murray though. Here’s a guy who’s gone through absolute hell, on and off the ice, the past two years. He’s been solid for weeks . . . Sunday’s win over Washington was, yup, unpredictable . . . Now that Logan Brown’s checked outta’ town, the locals’ favourite javelin toss has morphed into Nikita Zaitsev. Welcome to what Leaf fans endured for a few winters . . . If the Senators go and trade pending UFA Nick Paul, doesn’t that go against the idea/theory behind the statement that ‘the rebuild is over’? . . . Erik Gudbranson’s history with his hometown team was certainly not a pleasant one. The Ottawa native has discovered new life though under head coach Darryl Sutter in Calgary. With Gudbranson, Milan Lucic, Nikita Zadorov, Matthew Tkachuk and Blake Coleman, the Flames are hockey’s toughest team and one of its most successful ones . . . The Super Bowl tied a bow on absolutely the best set of playoff games the NFL has ever produced. What superb competition . . . Was rooting for Cincinnati. Cincinnati = Cinderella? Almost . . . When I grow up I want to rap like Eminem . . . Loved seeing Smiths Falls constant Snoop Dogg during that halftime extravaganza . . . The time difference during the Winter Olympics continue to play havoc on my brain . . . What day is this again?


Tuesday, Feb. 15: St. Louis at Ottawa (7 pm)

Thursday, Feb. 17: Ottawa at Buffalo (7 pm)

Saturday, Feb. 19: Boston at Ottawa (7 pm)

Sunday, Feb. 20: NY Rangers at Ottawa (5 pm)

Photo: Courtesy of Ottawasenators.com