So here we are, in 2022. It’s been, a season so far? I think? Hard to remember with one game played in the last several weeks. I’ll refrain from making a done-to-death joke about “Unparalleled Success™”, because let’s face it, we’ve all heard that one before. But there have been signs of life in the “Unrivaled Accomplishment” department, and given that a new year has dawned on us, let’s see what 2022 has in store for our favourite NHL team.
My crystal ball is telling me…
1) The Sens will actually play a hockey game in 2022. At some point. I mean, you can’t have “Incomparable Achievements” if you don’t play any games. As of this writing on January 11th, the Sens have played just one game in the last month and have had more postponements than any other team in the NHL, except possibly the Islanders this season. I know it seems like a long shot at this point, but I think I can definitively, maybe, possibly, sorta say with some confidence that the Sens will play again at some point this year and get that “Unsurpassed Triumphs” train back on track. Okay, you got me, that’s not actually much of a prediction. So I’ll amend that one by stating the Sens will not complete their regular season schedule and play 82 games this season, at least not before the playoffs arrive. Much like Vancouver and Calgary last year, I’ll bet you’ll see the Senators run out the schedule after the playoffs already begin. Simple math tells us that the league is running out of runway to complete this schedule. That goes double if they stick to that whole idea of postponing games that aren’t allowed to have fans in the building, even without the blank slate of a former Olympic break to work with. 2) That guy who tattooed Josh Norris’ face on his belly will get his jersey. If you haven’t been following this odd story, some fan obviously itching to commemorate his team reached out to Josh Norris asking if he could get an autographed jersey from the young Sens centre if he got Norris’ face tattooed on himself. In a moment which was undoubtedly assisted by “I’m bored and not playing hockey” thoughts, Norris responded and agreed to his bizarre terms. So this fan, with Norris’ blessing in writing, got a tattoo of Norris’ face right in the middle of his beer gut. Norris then stopped responding to him. You can’t make this stuff up, but at least this team always has plenty of off-ice fun to fill the gaps when there isn’t any “Exceptional Victories” going on. So despite spending the equivalent of three custom jerseys on this terrible tattoo instead of just, you know, buying himself a jersey, this guy remains jerseyless. Norris is getting sucked into this story, and really, his only way out is to pony up. I predict he sends him a jersey with a note saying “here’s Drake Batherson’s contact info, reach out to him the next time you want some ink.” 3) Matt Murray will get bought out this off-season. The experiment is over and we’re just running out the clock. Murray has not exactly helped the team get to the “Unequaled Triumphs” department they so very much crave. In fact, he’s been decidedly outplayed by a guy who couldn’t gain traction with a half dozen teams in the last two years with Anton Forsberg, or a young but raw hot shot in Filip Gustavsson. With his massive contract fresh in their minds and his two Stanley Cup wins (one of which came at Ottawa’s expense) a distant memory in the rear view mirror, it’s time to pull the plug on this debacle. Murray is now in the middle of his third disastrous season in a row, and will be lucky to get a backup job next season. Seems like a nice guy, but being a nice guy doesn’t stop pucks or keep you in the lineup, which we’ve learned this year after he’s been out of the lineup more than in it, cleared waivers, and the Sens third best goalie when he is in the lineup. 4) Jake Sanderson plays a key role at the Olympics and signs with the team. Another easy, slam dunk prediction in terms of getting him signed, so I thought I’d spice it up by adding the Olympic prediction as well. Sanderson will be a top pairing defenseman on an American Olympic team filled with unknowns and question marks now that the NHL isn’t participating. This will be a watershed moment and coming out party for the young stud, who will then go on to sign his entry level deal with Ottawa after the NCAA season ends. Once that happens, he’ll be the 1B to Thomas Chabot’s 1A before the calendar switches to 2023, with similar levels of ice time. No prospect in the system is more important to the Sens reaching that “Unmatched Rewards” phase that we were promised. He’s simply the most important defensive prospect for the team since Jared Cowen and Cody Ceci. Those guys hit expectations too right? 5) Sens will finish 6th in the division and 10 spots clear of last place. It’s important to set lofty goals. That’s how you get to “Unique Attainments”. Obviously playoffs are out of the question this year, and probably next year too. But when you look at the standings coupled with how many fewer games Ottawa has played, moving up and showing improvement is there for the taking. Between their current standing above the worst bottom feeders, it’s attainable to move up a few spots when the games are actually played instead of postponed. The picture gets a little rosier and improved placement becomes realistic. Despite playing five fewer games, the Sens are still ahead of the dreadful Canadiens and Coyotes, and have plenty of runway to catch the cratering Sabres, Islanders, Kraken, Blackhawks, Devils, Flyers and another team or two by the end of the season. 6) The Sens will sign Andrei Kuzmenko, and he’ll provide good offensive punch. Kuzmeko, who’s currently lighting up the KHL with 52 points in 42 games will sign a deal with the Ottawa Senators and reunite with Artem Zub, his former teammate. You read it here, erm, 5th or 6th? Once the 25 year old does, he should finally provide some good flanking support for Tim Stutzle on the second line. All part of the plan for “Peerless Conquest” that’s in store for this team. 7) The entire top line finishes on the plus side of the plus minus ledger.
It’s easy to see (pending good health) that Norris is going to get 35+ goals, Drake Batherson is well above a point per game, and Brady Tkachuk is keeping right up with both of these guys. Perhaps more refreshing than having a legitimate top line again that can score is seeing a few pluses on the team. None of the three will go into the negatives in this stat for the rest of the year, or next season either. 8) The team will cut ties with Nick Paul, Chris Tierney, Victor Mete, Zach Sanford and Colin White.
Nick Paul has been a disappointment this season, no bones about it. His usual tough defensive play has been porous and sports an ugly, team worst -16 to go with his 6 points in 28 games. Chris Tierney has been invisible when he’s not head butting pucks into the net, and will walk as a free agent if he’s not traded at the deadline. Colin White will get a few games at the end of the season to plead his case, but he simply makes too much money for a guy who’s either injured or disappointing on the scoreboard the last few years. His buyout only costs the team one third of his salary to boot. The other players listed are so forgettable that I don’t even remember who I listed, and won’t remember them when they’re gone for spare parts, low draft picks, or walk as free agents. These are guys who sadly won’t be contributing to our upcoming “Matchless Paydirt” years to come. Ok, “Matchless Paydirt” is a stretch, but I’m not running out of synonyms for “Unparalleled Success” just yet.
9) Erik Brannstrom breaks out along with Lassi Thompson, Shane Pinto, Egor Sokolov and Jacob Bernard Docker. I don’t know why I still believe in Erik Brannstrom, but I do. Giving the kid a bunch of runway tends to happen when you trade your best player for a prospect I suppose. Upon his return from injury, he’ll stake a claim on a defense corps that has been more underwhelming than the most recent Star Wars flick. He’s finally going to find a home as a third pairing power play specialist before this season is out. The other young guns listed above will all be full time members of the Ottawa Senators before the calendar switches over to 2023. All part of the plan for “Unprecedented Supremacy.” Hey, that one is pretty good, has a nice ring to it.
10) Eugene Melnyk prepares to sell the team and the Sens begin their move to Lebreton Flats. Maybe I’m too optimistic on this one. As I typed in the header on this entry, I realized how ridiculous it sounds, and it still feels like a pipe dream so far away, and yet, cracks are showing in ownership’s armour. But the whispers are growing louder. We’ve all read the rumours and news stories the Senators have been invited back to the Lebreton negotiating table. The Euge’s expansion fee has been paid out. Melnyk and Ruddy’s billion dollar lawsuit over the first LeBreton debacle hits the courts this year. Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips are getting an ownership bid together. The team has lost too much money over COVID and lost revenues for Melnyk to continue his ownership, etc, etc, etc. We’ll have definitive answers one way or another this year, and I’m feeling optimistic. After all, isn’t that what “Consummate Superiority” is all about? Ok, now I’m out of synonyms for “Unparalleled Success”.
By Andrew Sztein | Sens Nation Hockey