It’s getting to that time.
Which means of course we now need to start looking at the competition that surrounds this team, starting with the teams that, at least in my opinion, will not be major threats to potentially contending for the playoffs...both of whom seem to have the same problems!
Key Signings: Claude Giroux, Alex Debrincat, Cam Talbot
Key Strengths: OFFENSE FULL OF RED BULL, HOPE, DREAMS AND PIXIE STICKS. LET’S GOOO-
Key Weakness: Defense outside of one or two guys might as well be a shooter tutor, Goaltending’s a little suspect, Unclear who actually has any say over the long-term direction of the team
The Ottawa Senators, if everything goes right, are going to be appointment viewing.
Their top six, quite frankly, looks fun as hell: Batherson, Tkachuk, Stutzle, Giroux, Debrincat, Norris, Pinto probably...there’s some real fun talent here! Combine that with Thomas Chabot’s offensive wizardry? That’s a fun, fast, creative bunch that will be a complete and total nightmare to face, especially on the power play. Finally, the Sens will be Watchable.
It’s a shame the rest of their defense is mostly a bombed out building.
Getting Cam Talbot to hopefully settle things down in goal was definitely an organizational win, as starting from Matt Murray’s inauspicious fall can only ever be seen as an upgrade. The problem with that is that Talbot and Forsberg are going to need to work their asses off to get any wins out of this team for the very simple reason that their defense is effectively Thomas Chabot and a bunch of either old men, or broken men. I just don’t think they’re going to be able to get over that particular hump and contend with a defense that looks like this.
They still have the money to go out and do something stupid like get a more legitimate Top 4 d-man, but until the estate of the late Melnyk is finally divvied up in a way that satisfies everybody; I think any improvements they make are going to be very marginal now that they’ve done their big FA spending spree. I think the Sens games will be very fun but very winnable ones. This is just not a division where your goaltending or defense can be lacking, and they’re about to be shown why.
Key Signings and events: Evgenii Dadonov (For real this time.), Kirby Dach, Filip Mesar, Chris Wideman, Nick Suzuki named captain
Key Strengths: Willing to be patient with their hot young stars, having said hot young stars on offense, Coach Marty seems to have a much better head on his shoulders than the dipstick before him.
Key Weakness: Defense outside of one or two guys is looking quite rough, Goaltending’s weak with the loss of Price, in dire need of cap flexibility that may not come until year.
I regret to inform you that the rivals of the B’s, while having a much better coach than they did last year, are still a years away from being worthy of consideration and consternation that they used to be. Which sucks; it’s better when two teams who historically hate each other go beat each other senseless in meaningful games.
Otherwise, I’m afraid that even with Montreal’s very exciting offseason, where they currently stand in the Atlantic division is looking increasingly like they’re just going to be Senators East: Exciting young forward talent, every game will be exciting due to improved coaching...and a scuffed, aged defense without it’s safety blanket in Carey Price to keep it in check, only somewhat bolstered by occasionally swapping out young defenders.
Unlike the Sens, they’re going to be weaponizing their talent, rather than raw cap space, to further their rebuild, especially since Price will be going on LTIR, but they still have to suffer through 50+ games of a young, dumb, and unsure team still trying to figure out what they want to be and who needs to be there in order for that to happen. They could very easily surprise, like Nick Suzuki insinuated they might...
But given where they started, I think being a few games back from .500 for most of the year would count as a pleasant surprise for Quebecois hockey fans who aren’t being super weird about the captain of the team knowing French for reasons definitely not related to getting elected to local government.
Tomorrow? The teams B’s fans actually have to worry about.