• By: Dave Gross

Youth plunge makes for great entertainment

Photo credit: NHLI via Getty Images

Who knew that the low end of the cycle could be so much – well – fun?

Because, I don’t even need to tell you (but apparently, I will) that the Ottawa Senators are clearly at the low end.

And this is unlikely to change in the immediate future.

But what we have going on here during low tide not only constitutes a surprise, it’s also a whole heck of a lot of entertainment.

The Senators are not world beaters by any stretch. I’ll stick with my pre-season call that they finish bottom-five come season’s end.

Credit the injection of youth for making this team worthy of a ticket buy, though.

Whether it’s Brady Tkachuk or Alex Formenton or the surprise of surprises, Maxime Lajoie, Ottawa makes hockey fun again.

Even the somewhat stoic head coach has a bit of a jump to his stride. Guy Boucher no longer employs a trap game. Nowadays it’s more of a “go-get-the-puck-even-if-there’s-three-of-you-below-the-offensive-goal-line” philosophy.

Not exactly the template to post win after win, but certainly early on it’s proving to be the template for creating whoopee for a more than skeptical fan base.

And not to be Sammy Sunshine over here (but apparently, I will, Part II), but when we’re talking ‘low end’ of the cycle, know this: the cycle at the NHL level spins a lot quicker than it used to.

Meaning: A few tweaks here and there and the Senators’ low end could enjoy a short life span.

Meaning: The turnaround towards more prosperous times could arrive in the next couple of seasons.

You can look at Toronto for proof. It was just a few years ago Leaf fans were donning the paper-garbage-bag-over-the-head look. Now they’re packing Maple Leaf Square to watch a dominant offensive force worthy of Cup-contender talk.

Look to Ottawa’s ‘favourite’ trading partner for further evidence, the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche went from 48 points two years ago to a robust 95 last season.

Ottawa seems to be on the right track with its commitment to youth. We’re not expecting the Lajoies and Tkachuks of their world to maintain this torrid pace all season long, but we do expect to keep seeing a whole bunch of engaging hockey for much of the coming winter.

News, notes and notions: This schedule for Ottawa is kind of a head-scratcher. Only 11 games all of October? I guess if you have a young team in need of extra practice time, that’s a good thing. Guess it also might help get ready for November. Ottawa plays 15 times. The next busiest month is February where the Senators play 14 games in 28 days . . . If speed is indeed the way to go, and we know it is, like the makeup of the suddenly young Detroit Red Wings lineup. A lot. We knew guys like Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm sported wheels. Now add in Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and blueliners Filip Hronek and Dennis Cholowski. I’m sure we missed some others, but they just flew by . . . It’s official: We can finally arrest the “Detroit-is-way-too-old” talk. It took a while . . . Steve Simmons from Postmedia is always interesting. Here’s his latest tweet: “Best player in NHL does his heavy lifting in April. He’s learned to LeBron the regular season. His name: Sidney Crosby. He has three Cups, two Conn Smythes, two Olympic golds. Top that, folks” . . . I don’t always agree with Steve, but he’s bang on there . . . A headline we’re pretty sure the William Nylander camp won’t like reading: “Maple Leafs' Kasperi Kapanen: Looks like fit on top line” . . . Just a week and change in and the Who’s Better debate is in full gear – Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid. We haven’t had chatter like this since the Sid versus Ovie argument started up more than a decade ago . . . The boys at TSN 1200 had it right this past week: The Toronto Maple Leafs are must-see TV . . . Some don’t ‘appreciate’ Matthews’ new confident/cocky approach. I’m not one of them . . . Like the Ottawa faithful, Montreal fans must be getting a kick out of watching their club play. The Habs simply work harder than their competition.

Senators week ahead:

Monday, Oct. 15: Dallas at Ottawa (7:30 pm)

Saturday, Oct. 20: Montreal at Ottawa (7 pm)