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North Division Preview: Getting To Know The Ottawa Senators

We’re going to see a lot of them this season, might as well learn a little bit about one of the Flames newest division foes.

Calgary Flames v Ottawa Senators Photo by Matt Zambonin/NHLI via Getty Images

With the NHL creating four new divisions for the 2020-21 season, Calgary Flames fans are going to see a lot more of teams that they don’t usually see during a typical NHL season. In our first installment we shipped some questions over to the fine folks at Silver Seven Sens to get a look at what’s going on in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa. Let’s just say, they aren’t super confident this season will be a success. Thanks to Ross (@Sheer_Rossyness) for the informative takes on the Senators for 2021!

M&G: We don’t see Ottawa a lot usually, but now we’re going to see you a TON. What’s something Flames fans should know about the Sens as we head into the 2021 season?

SSS: They won’t be very good? This team has raw talent, a couple very good players, and some washed-up vets. On any shift, there’s potential for greatness or patheticness. You never know when Artem Anisimov is going to turn back the clock to 2016 and score a pretty goal. There will be close games, blowouts, games where the Sens’ goalie(s) keep them in it.

M&G: It’s been four years since Ottawa went to the Conference Finals, or even made the playoffs. What has been going on in Ottawa and what will it take to get the Senators back to being an elite team again?

SSS: The easy answer here is a new owner who can afford to keep players like Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson, while also icing a team good enough for them to be excited to stay. The Thomas Chabot extension was nice, because it means he’ll be a Senator through his prime, but as Sens fans, we move on next to a guy like Brady Tkachuk, wondering if he’ll be willing to sign long-term with the team. After that, we need some of the Sens’ prospects to turn into real deals. There’s tones of talent among the prospects, so there’s potential for Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, Erik Brannstrom and others to replicate their AHL success and transform the Sens into a bubble team. But there’s just as much chance for AHL success to not translate, and the rebuild to stall out. A combination of money, development luck, and maybe some better pro scouting will help the Sens to improve.

2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

M&G: Brady Tkachuk vs Matthew Tkachuk will clearly be a highlight of this season multiple times. What’s the fan reaction in Ottawa been to the “other” Tkachuk and are expectations high for him this season?

SSS: Brady is possibly the most beloved Senator ever. Not the most talented (Karlsson), not the best leader (Daniel Alfredsson), but the most beloved. He checks all the boxes you look for in a fan favourite: high octane, high effort, lots of scoring, willing to throw hits and get in fights, gets under the other team’s skin then raises his hands innocently, a great quote in the media, willing to ham it up with young fans, involved in the team’s charity endeavours. He’s a 50-point player already, but we’re hoping that getting older, bulking up slightly, and getting steadier on his skates, he’ll move up to a 60-70 point player. Here’s hoping pairing him with a legit 1C will also push him forward, but that first requires the Sens to either develop or acquire a 1C.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

M&G: Matt Murray will be in his first season with Ottawa after being traded by the Penguins. What’s the feeling on him as your #1 and is he the guy that can help right the ship immediately?

SSS: I have no idea what to expect. He had a couple good seasons, follow by a pretty severe dropoff. Injuries have played a role, but it’s unclear if Murray started off his career very lucky, or if he’s just been unlucky the last couple years. I’m happy to see the Sens acquire him, giving him a real shot to be the goalie behind this team. I’m a little wary of the four-year term, I was hoping for more of a two-year audition, but it should give other goalies in the system the chance to get some time to try to wrestle the reins away from him if he can’t right the ship. Either way, the Sens are going to allow a tonne of shots this season, so no goalie is going to single-handedly rescue the team.

M&G: Finally, the All Canadian Division. Is this something you and your readers are looking forward to and how do you think this may help create some new rivalries that maybe never would have fostered due to the lack of games played against certain teams?

We’re really looking forward to it. You hear a lot about these Canadian superstars in a Canadian market, but with games starting at 10, 10:30 Eastern time, we rarely watch guys like Gaudreau and McDavid and Pettersson play. I, probably much like the M&G readers, am looking forward to seeing the Tkachuks play each other multiple times to see if we get some on-the-ice sibling rivalry. I do think it’s going to make this year even rougher for the Sens, with several anticipated playoff teams now lumped in here, but it should be lots of fun.