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Five Thoughts for Friday: The Home Stretch

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T-minus one week away from the real thing.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Ottawa Senators Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

In just seven days, the Ottawa Senators will return to action for the first time since March 11th, 2020. 310 days after their last game, the Sens will host the Toronto Maple Leafs to open their 2021 season, and fans will get their first look at the new jerseys, new players, and new era of hockey in the nation’s capital.

As training camp winds down, and the roster begins to take shape, there are plenty of topics to hem and haw about until next week. With that in mind, here are Five Thoughts for Friday, January 8th, 2021.

Eye-Brown Raising Performance

Ottawa Senators v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Logan Brown has been one of Ottawa’s most polarizing prospects since he was drafted in 2016. The soon-to-be 23 year-old has put up strong numbers in Belleville, but has yet to find enough consistent NHL production to warrant keeping him in Ottawa on a full time basis. Injuries have been a big reason for this, but the fact remains that the player has not yet emphatically made the jump.

Because of this, Brown and the organization find themselves at a crossroads: the hulking centre has likely reached his last chance in Ottawa, and it’s not hard to see why. Brown is in need of a consistent opportunity to prove himself in an NHL top six, and if he can’t make good on that, or the Senators aren’t willing to give him the chance, it’s time for a parting of ways.

All of this is to say that Logan Brown needs this kind of extended chance to show what he’s got. He has virtually nothing left to prove in the AHL, and with head coach D.J. Smith raving about his puck movement and powerplay skill in training camp, it’s time to see what the Senators have in this player.

If it doesn’t work this year, it’s time to let him go play somewhere that he’ll get a chance, and try to get some value back.

Centre of Attention

New Jersey Devils v Ottawa Senators Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

While the Ottawa Senators likely won’t have fans in the building (attendance joke-makers will be sent to the Hague), they’ll still be able to call Canadian Tire Centre home for the 2021 campaign.

This is great news for the Sens; many of whom are either young and getting settled in the city, or are a bit older but with young children. Being able to stay at home in Ottawa will ease some of the stress that 2021 is sure to bring, and provide a small sense of normalcy.

Hopefully we can be back in the stands again soon.

Quaran-Tim

Germany v Finland: Preliminary Round Group A - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Mark Sunday, January 10th down in your calendars, folks. That is the day that Tim Stuetzle finally hits the ice with his new Ottawa Senators teammates.

Stuetzle is coming off of a World Junior Hockey Championship where he was named the tournament’s top forward, scoring 10 points in five games on a German team that made a run to the quarter-final. The budding superstar was a force in both ends of the ice, with the puck seemingly glued to his stick defensively, and making mouthwatering offensive plays.

While there’s little doubt that Stuetzle will spend the entire season in Ottawa, he is another player in need of a consistent top six opportunity. Stuetzle is a purebred point-scorer, and there’s little benefit to having him grind on the third or fourth line. DJ Smith would do well to put him with talented players, and then stick back and watch the fireworks.

On a more peripheral note; Derek Stepan is also expected to arrive on Sunday, and Erik Brannstrom’s seven-day quarantine following a COVID-19 exposure is scheduled to end.

(P)Arty Time

NHL: FEB 29 Red Wings at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Training camp always yields its share of surprises, but perhaps one of the most eye-popping tidbits this year has been D.J. Smith lauding praise upon Artem Anisimov. On a team expected to be driven by its youth, a veteran centre that many thought wouldn’t see much ice this year is not who one would expect to receive the lion’s share of the coach’s shout-outs.

On the surface, it’s easy to get upset about something like this. There does seem to be a scenario in which Anisimov blocks younger, more promising prospects from seeing valuable NHL minutes, but there does figure to be a solid amount of rotation this year, so maybe the possibility exists that everyone will get their turns.

There is also the chance that the team is trying to inflate Anisimov’s trade value. If the 32 year-old can put forth a resurgent campaign, and command valuable assets at the trade deadline, then this could turn out to be an overall positive.

It is a balancing act, however, so Smith and the coaching staff need to be mindful of not putting roadblocks in front of their youth.

Du-bois-ious About These Rumours

Tampa Bay Lightning v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Four Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

There’s honestly not a lot here, and what there is has been virtually exhausted, so I won’t spend too much time on it.

The relationship between star centre Pierre-Luc Dubois and the Columbus Blue Jackets could be fractured beyond repair. With Dubois vocalizing his desire to play elsewhere, it stands to reason that teams would be lining up to acquire the services of a 22 year-old number one centre.

It would certainly be a fit for the Senators. Pierre Dorion has played coy on any ongoing trade talks, but the acquisition of Dubois would make an instant impact, and go a long way towards accelerating the Sens rebuild. If you don’t have to wait for Stuetzle to emerge as your 1C, you’re in good shape.

The question would be what the Senators can afford to send back to Ohio, without giving up too much. Names like Stuetzle, Brady Tkachuk, and Thomas Chabot are certainly off the table, but which young players could the Jackets look to recoup. Could a Batherson, or Brannstrom go back?

Time will tell, or maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s a story worth following.