Time For Sens to Take the Next Step

SENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators hockey written by OLMSports Dave Gross.

Feature photo Courtesy NHLI via Getty Images

If you're an optimist – that was a helluva run.

If your thinking rides to the other side – yeesh, another lost opportunity?

Ten years between extended playoff pushes, the Ottawa Senators did pretty much all they could to end 2017 on a high note.

Were they fortuitous? For sure.

First round and they faced the Boston Bruins without three of their top four defencemen and a banged-up David Krejci.

Second round and it's the New York Rangers – not Pittsburgh or Washington – on the dining room table. Yep, most picked the Rangers, but strong play from Craig Anderson and good fortune launched Ottawa into and on to the Eastern Conference final.

Now it was time to finally face off with an eastern beast.

Yet the Penguins were charging ahead without the services of Kris Letang – arguably a Top-5 defenceman in the entire league – then lost gritty Patric Hornqvist for most of the seven-game set.

Questions surrounding Sidney Crosby's health also surfaced, but Ottawa had in this case the same issue with uber-super Erik Karlsson and his busted feet – so we'll call this one a wash.

So then, done in seven games . . . was that about right?

Ask the other Canadian clubs that made the post-season if getting all the way to the conference finals was good enough, they'd likely say yes. For the Ottawa Senators, I'm not so sure . . . and here's why.

This is not a young team.

Ottawa is built for the here-and-now. In some respects.

Through the season, GM Pierre Dorion added veteran pieces to his club – be it Alex Burrows or Tommy Wingels – the idea and thought was: Why not us, and why not now?

Given the way the playoffs laid out, it was the smart move. Frankly, the Eastern Conference was wide open. Given their history, most knew that while Washington was the superior hockey team (maybe in the entire league), their propensity for coming up short when coming up short was no longer optional, had become somewhat of a sour tradition.

The only other 'stud' club in anyone's way was Pittsburgh.

Despite the injuries, as discussed in this space two weeks ago, anytime your lineup card includes the names Crosby and Malkin, look out.

Ottawa found that out.

Not that this was lopsided in any manner, but the Senators did end up on the short end in a very vigorous seven-game set.

We're not suggesting that the Senators are 'one-and-done,' in fact just the opposite.

While the deal for Burrows still remains loopy – quite frankly, it is/was a terrible deal – the Dorion add-ons like Wingels and Viktor Stalberg should be depth difference-makers in 2017-18.

And while most trumpet the potential of forward Colin White, the much-stronger prospect is defenceman Thomas Chabot. Have a look at this kid's game through the QMJHL regular season, through the playoffs and in the Memorial Cup . . . Chabot is a remarkable talent.

If he doesn't graduate to the NHL next season, hit me with a Stone-Cold Stunner.

That just can't happen; Chabot is that good. He will be here.
The Senators, though, still need to win now.

Karlsson's contract is up in two years and anyone suggesting he won't be musing offers from New York, or Los Angeles or Vegas is puffing the nearly-legalized pot.

Karlsson, quite honestly, has Broadway written all over him.

Beyond that, fellow D-men Marc Methot and Dion Phaneuf have hit their early 30s, with a ton of wear and tear.

Stud netminder Craig Anderson just eclipsed the 36-year-old mark and there is not much being generated at the minor pro level.

Kyle Turris – speaking of good deals – is in his prime at 28 . . . while playoff chump to champ Bobby Ryan is a well-travelled 30.

Winger Derick Brassard reaches 30 this fall; Stalberg is 31.

You get the idea?

This isn't the Leafs, folks, with a 19-year-old that casually bangs in 40 goals, accompanied by talented youngsters Mitch Marner, Willy Nylander, Jake Gardiner and Connor Brown.

(Sorry, should have mentioned his name – Auston Matthews, ahem).


Ottawa's time is now.

The hay is high.

Certainly there is no need to wait on and watch young squads like Toronto or Carolina or Boston developing.

Given that Ottawa's best skaters are well into their prime, the time to strike is absolutely right now.

Adding a Thomas Chabot and most likely a Colin White as well gets this team's motor racing in the right direction. The clock is ticking for the Ottawa Senators to make and take that next step.