By Stephen Bierbrier (IG: @bytownboy)
Your Ottawa Senators start the 2017–18 campaign at home on October 5 versus Ovi8 and the Washington Capitals. Before they hit the ice, Apt613 wants to get you all caught up with the team, and what to expect this season.
In case you missed it:
Apt613 preview grade: B+
Guy Boucher came into his first season as the Sens head coach last year with a great attitude, a lot of big ideas and his system. Much like his coaching time with the Lightning, an adjustment phase was inevitable. Hockey players are creatures of habit and breaking them of bad habits was number 1 on Boucher’s to-do list.
There were glimmers of hope in the regular season, but there were also some dud moments. It took some players a wee bit more time to adjust, but by the playoffs… BAM. Full buy-in from every single player and it showed.
This season should see a more fluid team from the start, but there are still new players to the system and some bad habits really do die hard.
Boucher knows what talent he has and how to most effectively use it. He also has built trust with his core players. That’s a great start.
Apt613 preview grade: B+ (A- if not for Bobby Wingels trade)
GM Pierre Dorion has made the most of his opportunity as one of 31 (I almost forget Vegas) NHL general managers. He has proven in his first full year to be able to put together a team that can win enough in the regular season and gel together in the playoffs. He has also shown that he can work on the fly when roster moves that need to be made like bringing in goaltender Mike Condon for a 5th round pick in the 2017 draft. There were more hits than misses. With the passing of Bryan Murray this summer, this is now Dorion’s team.
Eugene Melnyk did a bit of an overhaul last year at the Sens corporate level, but that should not have a significant impact on the on ice product this year. Tom Anselmi replacing Cyril Leeder as President and CEO is all about getting bums in the CTC seats now and getting the development off the ground for the Sens’ future Lebreton Flats arena. Murray’s passing and Daniel Alfredsson’s departure leaves Melnyk a few trusted soldiers down for consultations.
Melnyk’s passion for hockey is always on his sleeve and he wants this team to win now. His heart is always in the right place, but his cheque book can be a limiting step. Ottawa is a small market NHL team that needs a winning product and a little luck to turn a profit.
Always expect the unexpected from Melnyk.
SensArmy can rally for a winning team as could be seen on the streets of Ottawa during the playoffs last year. The RedBlacks’ Grey Cup surge last year reminded everyone that Ottawa can win hardware. It’s now year 26 for the Sens faithful awaiting Lord Stanley. Patience and a few good bounces will be needed to make some playoff noise.
Last year’s major non-hockey complaints revolved around the CTC parking costs ($20 and up) and the lack of cheap seats for Joe Fan. This year’s elimination of 1,500 seats (please don’t look under the tarps… those aren’t seats… really) from the upper bowl may provide a more aesthetically pleasing view for the casual tv fan and may produce easier sellouts, but it will close the door on some would-be Sens fans looking to see the action live.
The new Adidas unis don’t add significant changes to the Sens look so there will likely not be a lineup for new gear at the Sens Store.
Oh, and don’t forget to get your parka, toque and bank account ready for the outdoor game against the Habs at TD Place on Saturday, December 16. This will be the first Sens game in the modern era played outside. It just feels like PM JT will be showing up in his bleu-blanc-rouge.
Tomorrow: watch this space for Part 4 of our Senators season preview. Ottawa starts the 2017–18 campaign at home versus the Washington Capitals on October 5. Tickets cost $32–211 online