Senators: They can’t be this bad again, right?
Photo courtesy of NHLI via Getty Images
Is it time for the Ottawa Senators to finally turn the page on what can only be hailed as a year-long tire-fire?
Face it, if this bad juju keeps going, we’re talking Harold-Ballard-era material in spades.
Yup, it has been that bad. Anyone living with a cable hookup or Internet access across Canada can attest – the news has been less than glowing for a franchise that was once recognized for consistent (albeit moderate) success.
And of course, it’s not simply the lack of winning on the ice that’s haunted Ottawa the past year and change, it’s the fiasco off of it that’s been – perhaps – more troubling.
I’m certainly not telling you anything you don’t already know.
So, here’s some stuff you might be unaware of – as in, how does this team (on the ice) measure up considering just weeks ago it shipped away the most gifted player in franchise history.
Let’s break it down.
Last year at this very time in this very space, we were quick to extol the Senators’ tandem of Craig Anderson and newly signed Mike Condon as being one of the NHL’s best.
That prediction, along with the one that had Anderson/Condon’s team contending for the Atlantic Division title, went the way of Judd Nelson’s career.
Although it’s been said many times, many ways . . . if the netminding doesn’t improve greatly, ANY hope to remain in the playoff hunt past, say, November, is dashed.
With Erik Karlsson out of the picture, these two are going to have to be dynamite.
We’re skeptical given the age of Anderson (37) and the inconsistency of Condon.
Did we mention Karlsson being out of the picture?
Not much to see among the leftovers (aside: great HBO series BTW) unfortunately.
Let’s have a look:
Cody Ceci enters another season where promise needs to translate into arrival. Is he a workhorse? Undoubtedly. Plays tough minutes? For sure. A No. 1 defenceman? No.
Thomas Chabot is the closest Ottawa has to a top-drawer blueliner. He likely gets there but it’s asking too much for the 21-year-old to carry a full laundry basket at this stage.
Another growing defenceman is 20-year-old Maxime Lajoie. A training camp standout, Lajoie plays a smart game for one so young.
Both Lajoie and Chabot could see upwards of 20+ minutes per game (guaranteed for Chabot who could see 25+).
Again though, it’s asking a lot at this stage.
The rest of the gang is not gobsmacking-ly good. Not close.
Has there been any mention of Karlsson being gone?
Offence by committee?
It might have to be.
Ottawa loses 118 points off its roster with the exodus of Karlsson (mentioned . . .) and Mike Hoffman.
Essential to any success is a continued upward swing in centre Matt Duchene’s game, as well as a full, healthy season from Mark Stone.
Duchene was terrific down the stretch – but temper that with the fact Ottawa was well out of the playoff picture and the pressure that haunted him early season was in the rearview mirror.
The Haliburton native is a dynamic talent and will have to be Ottawa’s go-to gunner.
Stone’s overall game is exemplary. Simply, he’s one of the smartest players in the league.
As GM Pierre Dorion declared during an off-season he’d like to forget, the rebuild is on and the youth movement underway.
Enter Brady Tkachuk.
The fourth-overall pick makes this team when maybe another year of US college or one of OHL service would serve him better.
He’ll likely stick though because he not only brings a strong skill element, he brings something this “broken dressing room” team relishes: Character.
"I just see a kid that has got a lot of enthusiasm," Dorion said to NHL.com. "He's not just physically strong, he's extremely open first of all and very coachable. That's fun for a coach. The minute you ask him something, he does it right away."
At 26, looks like winger Ryan Dzingel has found puck-sense to accompany his jet-engine speed.
Speaking of which, Alex Formenton’s theme song isn’t so much Moves Like Jagger as it is Skates Like McDavid. The young ‘un will be here (we predict at this point of writing) for at least the first nine games before a move back to OHL London presents itself as an option.
And continuing on the rebuild theme, something tells us we’ll get a real good grasp of who Colin White is, and is going to be, this season. He’ll be 22 in January and the former first-round pick has been ‘meh’ up to now.
Guy Boucher landed a surprising reprieve after last season’s horror show. This might have more to do with the owner’s short-arms-deep-pockets than a true belief Boucher’s their guy (or Guy. . . so to speak).
Regardless, even resurrecting Toe Blake and planting him behind the bench wouldn’t translate to wins with Ottawa unless every little thing that could go right, goes right.
In the final analysis, we’re not fans of season predictions (please feel free to pick up last year’s preview column for giggles and chuckles).
But since we’re paid enormous sums of cash to churn this stuff out, we’ll pick Ottawa for a bottom-five finish.
Talk amongst yourselves.
News, notes and notions: Karlsson might be gone but you will get your chance to see him before witnessing what he ‘left behind.’ Erik and his San Jose Sharks open Wednesday and host Anaheim (Ottawa opens the next night). I imagine the local pub n’ grub establishments will do a bang-up business reeling in those without NHL Center Ice or any other streaming packages . . . Karlsson is the odds-on favourite to win this season’s Norris Trophy, based on a poll of writers on NHL.com . . . That same group picked Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin for rookie of the year. Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk finished well back, in sixth spot . . . From Postmedia national columnist Steve Simmons in this past Sunday’s piece: “What makes things worse with the Ottawa Senators: there is almost universal dislike of head coach Guy Boucher on that team” . . . Two thread headings that indicate local fans aren’t doing backflips over this coming season’s potential (on HFBoards.com): “Worst NHL General Manager of All Time Award Nomination: Pierre Dorion,” and “Financial Boycott of Melnyk Owned Senators” . . . Will be interesting to watch developments in Edmonton this season. Loaded with arguably the best player (Connor McDavid) on the planet (I’d still take Sid though), the Oilers are out of excuses (again) . . . It’s a no-brainer taking McDavid first overall in your fantasy draft. Not too far behind? Toronto’s Mitch Marner. Playing with John Tavares or Auston Matthews or both, Marner’s in for a dynamic season, especially on the power play #WhizKid . . . Still with the Leafs: Sad news from this past weekend to hear about the passing of former Leaf winger Greg Terrion. ‘Tubby’ always had a big smile paired with plenty of time for young reporters starting out in the business. Not a star by any means, but certainly a star personality. RIP my friend.
Senators’ week ahead:
Thursday, Oct. 4: Chicago at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Saturday, Oct. 6: Ottawa at Toronto (7 p.m.)