A new year, a new division and some new and/or enhanced rivalries. The NHL’s realignment to allow a season to happen during this pandemic will see all 7 Canadian based teams in the new Scotia North Division. In order to get you ready to this new normal, we’ve reached out to our pals from the other Canadian SBN sites to have a quick chat about their teams.
1.- So... what’s new with you folks?
Everything! Well not literally, but there are a whole lot of new faces with the Sens. The team embarked on a major teardown after they traded Erik Karlsson (you maybe heard about that) and in that time Pierre Dorion has been one of the most active GMs in the whole league. The Sens have turned over all but a few players even from just last season, so we’ll be getting to know the team at the same time everyone else is.
2.- What’s the general mood amongst the fan base around this divisional realignment? Good, bad or otherwise? Are you mentally prepared for this many games against Montreal and Toronto?
I think the biggest thing for Ottawa fans is just to see some real NHL hockey. As a team that didn’t qualify for the expanded play-off bubble, it will have been over 300 days since the last game by the time the Sens stop on the ice next Friday to kick off the season. There’s certainly an element of excitement to playing the Canadian teams but it’s also just excitement about seeing the team back on the ice.
3.- Do you feel that the Senators have addressed the issues facing the team that has been living in the basement for a while now?
Yes and no. The idea behind the rebuild was to trade away the existing star players (Karlsson, Stone, Duchene, etc) for prospects and draft picks. We knew that there were lean years ahead, but with the promise of Five Years of Unprecedented Success (TM Eugene Melnyk) would be realized once those young players developed. The arrival of Tim Stuetzle in Ottawa is a big part of that promise. This team will likely still be pretty bad this year, but the future is starting to come into focus. If the kids play well, that will be a big positive.
4.- Elephant in the room time: Can this team ever be successful with Eugene Melnyk?
This is a complicated question, the answer to which partly depends on your definition of success. They can absolutely be a play-off team, and probably even a top 4 seed in the conference under Melnyk; they’ve had intermittent play-off success during his tenure in the past. Can they be successful for a long stretch of time, when maintaining that success means spending all the way up the cap? There’s a lot of reason to be skeptical of that. A lot of Sens fans have adopted a “prove it” stance with Melnyk, which I think is completely fair. We shall see.
5.- When the smoke clears, are the Sens in the top 4 in the shiny new Scotia North Division?
That would be pretty surprising. If the Sens finish too far outside of the basement that would be an over-achievement in my opinion. Their defense is a work in progress and there’s a lack of top flight finishing talent up front. Matt Murray is a question mark. But as I said above, the Sens don’t need to win too many more games for this season to be a success. If they finish last or second last but are competitive and Stuetzle, Brady Tkachuk, and Thomas Chabot are all growing into the All-Stars we expect them to be then that could be considered an accomplishment.
That being said, because they have so many young players knocking on the door the Sens are maybe the team with the biggest variability in possible outcomes. If the team leans heavily into the youth movement and all the kids step up, this team could surprise some folks.
Thanks to Nate for taking time to chat with us, and make sure to check out S7S for all the info you need about our new divisional opponent.