Welcome back to the final instalment of this year's Sterling Predictions feature, where I ask the staff to gaze into the future and tell us what they see.
For today's topic, we're tackling the biggest question of them all: will the Ottawa Senators qualify for the post-season?
Question: The Sens have gotten off to a horrible start in every season under DJ Smith. Is this the year that they finally make it out of the first few months in the play-off hunt? Does DJ keep his job past Christmas? What will their record be at the end of the year? And, most importantly, do the Sens finally make it to the postseason?
Ross: The Sens do start the season well for the first time since... 2009? DJ keeps his job, they're still in the hunt at Christmas, they finish 45-29-8 for 98 points, good enough for the first wild card spot.
Trevor: Maybe it's the pre-season optimism, but I'm feeling a good start this time around. DJ Smith keeps his job until the off-season when Andlauer/Staios want to bring in their own coach. They will sneak into the second wildcard spot with 99 points and a record of 46-29-7.
Shaan: I'm of the opinion that the bad starts are just a coincidence. They just happened, multiple times, to get adequate goaltending and shooting later in the season as opposed to the beginning. As for the record, they'll finish 43-27-12. A lot more loser points will get them into a wild card spot with 98 points.
Beata: I simply refuse to even consider the possibility that the Sens will get off to another bad start, because my sanity depends on it. Things have to be different this year, right? Right? So I'm going to say they finally break the curse and start off really strong. DJ Smith keeps his job, they're in the hunt all season, and they grab the first wildcard spot with a record of 48-28-6.
Nada: I don't think DJ Smith will change much of his ways considering he has a vote of confidence (for now) . I don't have a lot of optimism that November will be great but the roster is improved enough that the Sens get out the gates with a chance. At the same time, barring a fantastic start, I don't expect Smith to be here in January as the coach is always the first one to fall when expectations are high and not necessarily being met.
For the sake of this entire fanbase, this hopefully will be the season we get to see the playoffs. I just don't see how this team can fail to make it this time around even with a bad(ish) start. It will also help if the Bolts struggle without their starting goalie. I'm going to make a bold prediction and say that after keeping their heads above water early, the Sens finish red hot down the stretch to the tune of 46-26-10 for 102 points and sneak into the 3rd divisional spot.
Spencer: At some point, even if it's based on pure luck, the Sens have to be able to buck the trend of slow starts. I find it hard to believe that the poor starts are, specifically and entirely, DJ Smith's fault. Partially? Sure. It's on the coach to have his team prepared from game one. I say everything bends the way it's supposed to for the Sens this year, DJ keeps his job, they have a decent-to-good start, and they snag that final wild card spot by a couple points with a 45-28-9 record for 99 points.
Ary: I think the team will be in the hunt all season long, with the Dorion/DJ combination finishing out the year. The favourable home schedule until Christmas gives way to a hellish March and April. The team finishes third in the Atlantic with a 46-29-7 record.
Owen: I'll say DJ keeps his job and the Sens finish with 98 points to secure third spot in the division. Other than a couple of games against Carolina, the Sens have a very manageable schedule for the first few weeks so they can finally start out of the gate with a bit of momentum.
nkb: Ottawa's facing maybe the best team in the league on Wednesday night, but after that the schedule is kind of soft – if the Sens aren't in a pretty good spot by early December, then they're in real trouble. I'll say that the improved depth and a very successful preseason lead to a hot start. DJ keeps his job, and the Sens barely hang on, but hang on they do, for the final wild card spot with a 45-30-7 record.