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2021 Atlantic Preview Series: Ottawa on the doorstep

After years of uncertainty, the Sens look....good? bad? It’s up to you.

NHL: DEC 09 Bruins at Senators Photo by Steven Kingsman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ottawa Senators

Last Season Record: 23-28-5

Last Season Point Total: 51

Key Departures: Viktor Stalberg, Derek Stepan, Ryan Dzingel, Cody Goloubef, Artem Anisimov,

Key Additions: Tyler Ennis (maybe, on PTO), Drake Batherson (Re-signed), Brady Tkachuk (Almost certainly Re-signed and also wearing the C), Victor Mete (Re-signed)

Every time I hear the buzz around the Sens, a very visceral reaction hits. One that wasn’t there beforehand after years of mismanagement, misadventures and poor play. One that came deep from within once I finally sat down and looked at them. No longer the saddest joke in ontario, this team can now join the echelons of “decent hockey teams”. I get a very distinct, bottom of the soul reaction to it.

And that reaction is “...Sure?”

Because yeah! They signed Drake Batherson and probably Brady Tkachuk to money. Good for them! I’m glad they are now moneyed and are in a vibrant city of which to use it, maybe they can get into the town hobby of Lobbying. That forward corps, especially their top six, is a lightning rod of excellent draft choice and solid hands, culminating in something that actually could be considered dangerous. Further, the purchase of Nick Holden has stabilized a defense corps I was very not worried about before this season started, and everyone who was good last year has had another year to get older, get stronger, and better.

Ottawa’s long suffering fans should be very proud that Pierre Dorian has done enough building before the other Pierre can start slowly destabilizing it like a deadly cytotoxin.

...But I’m not losing my mind in saying their roster is still kinda thin, right? Like after the top 6 there’s a noticeable drop off in what the Sens are capable of, right? Logan Brown’s good, but is he good enough to drag Nick Paul and Colin White to 10-15 goals? Is that fourth line not a near automatic possession for the other team? I’m not hallucinating that Michael Del Zotto and Nikita Zaitsev could end up on the same pairing on defense either right? Brannstrom’s getting there, but I wouldn’t call him a defensive stalwart. Artem Zub is a fantastic offensive presence, but he’s still kinda pedestrian in his defensive skills. And again, Michael Del Zotto and Nikita Zaitsev are still projected to be week-in, week-out members of this team. I simply don’t know how you can justify that over 82 games.

Finally, they’re taking a huge bet on goaltender Matt Murray. Murray’s winding road from Cup champion to...well...here, is one that has been well-documented. Whoever it was before he came here is someone who may be long gone, or simply buried under years of what the Sens are hoping is mismanagement on the Penguins part. They’d better be right, or it’s not gonna matter how good their defense or their power play is; they’ll have to contend with the fact that their goaltender simply hasn’t been able to summon that same level of performance since his unprecedented run as rookie.

So what does that leave you with? In my opinion, a magic eye team. They’re going to be unquestionably better than they were, but how much? They’re not playing Canada alone anymore.

The pessimist sneers at them and sees how far away from contention they really are in comparison to some of the juggernauts in division, let alone the league. How fragile this particular balance of talent is, and how quickly this whole thing could come crashing down around the ears of the Sens if McGuire or any particularly traditionalist or penny-pinching thinking gets in-between Dorion’s ears. The optimist sees instead a team just waiting to break out; a strong top six, a good (enough) left side D, and a cup winning goaltender, and most critically of all, over 10+ million in cap space after Brady’s numbers are announced, one perfectly primed to fix nearly any of their lingering issues with an active trade deadline. A good team waiting for the right moment to become a great team.

So tell us, friend. What do you see in this team?

HOT TAEK: The Sens will do something incredible in both senses of the word at the Trade Deadline. We will be very confused by it.