Wow. What a week it has been.
I’ve been one of Pierre Dorion’s biggest critics, yet even I am extremely happy with what he has done thus far by acquiring Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, and Cam Talbot, while also shedding salaries that weren’t necessary (plus signing Josh Norris to 8 years). He has surpassed all of our expectations, and the crazy thing is he’s not done yet. Every local and national reporter keeps mentioning that the Senators are looking at defensemen like John Marino, Mackenzie Weegar, Jacob Chychrun, and John Klingberg. Any of those defensemen will be a massive upgrade, especially since they’ll have to dump Nikita Zaitsev to get that done.
I literally talked about tempering our expectations this off-season because the track record wasn’t there in terms of splashy moves, but now I just feel even better because of how much this caught me off guard. After these moves have been made plus an expected addition of a top-4 defenseman, I feel very confident in saying that the Senators will be a playoff team in 2023. They could be running something like this, which is the best lineup we’ve seen in years:
While that team oozes talent, the problem is the Eastern Conference is a bloodbath. The Washington Capitals had 100 points and they were the worst playoff team. It’s going to be difficult to pass one of the teams that made the playoffs last year, but the good news is that everyone starts at 0 points. Today’s weekly question is: who is Ottawa most likely to leapfrog in the standings in order to make the playoffs?
In my mind, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Carolina Hurricanes are locks. They’re all way too talented to miss the playoffs unless something catastrophic happens. But who else might be vulnerable to dropping in the standings?
The Bruins are probably the popular pick here because they’re in the Atlantic Division and have lost some members to departures or long-term injuries. They still have some elite players like David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Charlie McAvoy, but their depth isn’t nearly what it once used to be. They seem like a team that will be battling for a playoff spot all year so I wouldn’t count them out, but they aren’t getting any younger, plus who knows if coach Jim Montgomery will be able to repeat Bruce Cassidy’s on-ice success.
The Capitals were 8th in the East last year so it makes sense that they could be the team to fall below Ottawa. They obviously still have a ton of talent with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom, and Darcy Kuemper, but all of those players are in their 30s, and it’s not as if they have much of a supporting cast. Who knows when older players will drop off, and it wouldn’t take much of a decline for them to fall out of a playoff spot. This is still a good team but the Senators can match up against them.
You can pretty much copy and paste everything I said in regards to the Capitals here. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang want some more kicks at the can, and they have a good amount of other very good-to-excellent players such as Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Rickard Rakell, and Tristan Jarry. The question at the beginning of every season is always: can the veterans keep it up? Crosby, Malkin, and Letang are still elite players, although I can’t imagine them getting any better or even staying at the same level.
While the top of their lineup is phenomenal, they have holes in their forward depth and on the blueline, making them susceptible to a drop. It’d be hard to see them missing the playoffs entirely, but sometimes teams with 95 points end up on the outside looking in.
New York Rangers
The Rangers might be a surprise name on here for some of you because they just made the Eastern Conference Finals. Don’t get me wrong, they have a bevvy of talent with Igor Shesterkin, Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, and others. I really like the team that they’ve assembled, and they were even able to replace Ryan Strome with Vincent Trocheck. On paper, they should dominate, and they had 110 points so I guess you could say that they already did.
However, a lot of that was due to an other-worldly performance from Shesterkin, who stopped a whopping 37 goals above expected. Meanwhile, the rest of the team only had an xGF% of 47.04% (24th) thanks to their stingy defense. If Shesterkin takes a step back or gets injured for a portion of time, the Rangers could be prime for some regression. I still love the talent they’ve assembled, but they’re very reliant on Shesterkin being elite.
The Senators are certainly not guaranteed to make the playoffs, and they’ll be fighting tooth and nail to get in. However, they can definitely surpass one of these teams if they stay healthy. Which one do you think is the most likely to drop out of the race?
Who is Ottawa most likely to leapfrog in the standings?
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