Here's part 2 of a look at the Leafs' rivals in the Northeast Division. Part 1 - The Sabres is available here.
Maybe it was the result of a meaningless pre-season game or maybe this pessimism is a ruse to ease the pressure on the perennial cup favourite, but one Sens fan sees darker days ahead...
Preview of the 2006-07 Ottawa Senators
Close, as my dearly departed ma used to say, counts only in horseshoes and hand grenades.
My mom, perhaps thankfully, never met John Muckler.
According to the Muck, the Ottawa Senators, were “close to a dynasty” before the new CBA was signed. In case you missed it, he’s talking about those self-same Ottawa Senators that have been dragging their fans through the Stanley Cup-tease muck in recent years. The same red, black and white whose playoff runs in recent years have been marked with varying levels of heartbreak but a consistent level of success.
Muckler’s not alone though. Sens owner Eugene Melnyk (whose optimism obviously extends beyond his pharmaceutical company’s bank statements) managed to say this summer that the Sens will “not only win the Stanley Cup” but will "hoard that Cup year after year in the playoffs."
Close, but no cigar ‘Gene.
On paper at least, there’s no area where this year’s Sens are better than the 2005-2006 edition.
In goal Ottawa has gone from an admittedly-erratic, locker-room cancer (and first ballot Hall of Famer) in Dominic Hasek to Martin Gerber who, despite having a solid season with Carolina last season, has a grand total of one NHL playoff win.
On the blue line, perennial Norris trophy also-ran Zedeno Chara (and his in-the-bank 15 to 20 goals) and highly under-rated Brian Pothier have been replaced by Tom Preissing and Joe (who?) Corvo. How confident am I in the new D? Well, let’s just say they were both late-season additions to my fantasy hockey team last season and I finished out of the money.
Up front, Ottawa’s lost Marty Havlat to Chicago. His three-year, $18 Million deal proves two things:
- There was no room for him within the Sen’s cap space and;
- Garth Snow is the only thing saving Dale Talon from being the worst ex-player currently GMing in the NHL.
All griping aside, I think there are answers to almost all the questions raised in the off-season.
On D, Preissing gives the Red and Black mobility that Chara didn’t and Corvo is a physical presence with the ability to contribute on the power play. Considering that and the fact that B’s GM Rick Chiarelli paid nearly $8 million a season for Chara, you have to tip your hat to John Muckler for his ingenuity.
On the attack, the loss of Havlat means less excitement (Havlat’s rushes at their best were positively Pavel Bure-esque) and 30 or 40 fewer goals, but it also means fewer stupid penalties and meaningless suspensions for kicking opponents. It also means more ice time for people like Patrick Eaves, Antoine Vermette and even future captain Mike Fisher. Add rookie (and potential second line centre) Alexei Kaigorodov who will wear Dmitri Filimonov’s old number 55 and the forwards might be on to something.
And then there’s the net.
With the Sens, it’s always the net.
Has the Stanley Cup had a more mediocre starting goalie’s name engraved on it than Martin Gerber? I mean, besides Chris Osgoode? Not in my lifetime.
Eugene Melnyk and John Muckler can keep rubbing their horseshoes.
Me, I’ve got my eye on the hand grenades.
In the end, the Sens will finish second in the NE Division to Buffalo (just because SOMEONE will realize that you can't drink out of the President's Trophy nor can you win a Cup in November).
My other "lock" playoff teams are Philly, Carolina and the Rangers.
This leaves Montreal, Boston, Tampa, New Jersey and potentially Atlanta fighting for the last three playoff spots.
I like Montreal, Tampa and the Devils to take them.
The Leafs will not make the post-season.
This will make me happy. Almost happy enough to ignore what happens to the Sens in the playoffs this year.
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