With the Ottawa Senators maintaining the 10th overall pick, let’s look at what the club needs to do to get back to playoff form in the 2021-2022 season.
Expectations for the Ottawa Senators in the 2021-2022 Season
After a tremendous finish to the season, Sens fans can’t help but wonder how this team would perform in the playoffs if this was an ordinary season. The top two seeds in the North division—the Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers—fell to the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets. It makes you wonder if the Sens could have done the same thing.Embed from Getty Images
But it’s ultimately pointless to speculate about what the Sens could have done. As the North Division will not exist next season, the performance of both the Jets and Oilers does not affect the Sens. Instead, the Sens will be back in the strong Atlantic Division next season.
There are high expectations that the Sens will contend for a playoff spot next season. Though there will not be riots in the streets if they don’t make it, there will be concern if they don’t come close.
Looking at the Atlantic
Next season, the divisions will return to normal. The same goes for the playoff format. This means three playoff spots per division and two wildcard spots for each conference.
Unfortunately for the Ottawa Senators, they are in one of the most competitive divisions. The Tampa Bay Lightning are perennial Stanley Cup contenders, and they will certainly take up one of the three Atlantic spots. Despite their playoff struggles, the Leafs will likely finish in the top three of the division.
The Boston Bruins would be a favorite for the third spot in the Atlantic, but the team is getting older. Though Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Krejčí are still in top form, they are all getting older.
The Canadiens and Florida Panthers are the other two teams that should be in the playoff picture next season. The Panthers had a great season, but there’s a big question mark about their success, moving forward. The Canadiens, while performing well in the playoffs, seem like they could be the mirror image of the Sens in 2017. The Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres are likely non-factors next season.
Wild Card Contenders
It looks almost impossible for the Sens to claim an Atlantic Division spot unless several players make significant jumps in development. The club likely be looking to sneak into the postseason with one of the wildcard spots.
The Metropolitan teams that may be fighting for the wildcard are the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, and the Philadelphia Flyers. And with the Montreal Canadiens, Florida Panthers, and Sens battling it out in the Atlantic, Ottawa will need to outperform all but one of these teams. A tall order, to say the least.
Teams That Could Fall Off Next Season
There are always teams that fall off in the postseason after a great run in the regular season. It goes without saying that lower seeds are expected to have subpar success, but teams that rely on veterans beyond their prime are also candidates for a mediocre showing in the playoffs.
The Bruins, Capitals, and Penguins are the major teams in the East that are only getting older. Each of these three have at least one Cup in the last decade and future hall-of-famers on their roster. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see these three teams getting outdone by the younger and faster teams in the conference.
The one team from the East that appear primed to fall off next season is the Canadiens. Though they successfully swept the Winnipeg Jets, earning a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s no guarantee that they will be able to do the same next season.
Teams that have gone on Cinderella, postseason runs oftentimes do not have a good subsequent season. Look at last year with the Dallas Stars. They made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals only to miss the postseason entirely this year.
The Ottawa Senators were a goal away in 2017 from making the Stanley Cup Final, and they haven’t been back to the playoffs since. The Habs fans should enjoy this while they can, because next season could be different.
The Road to the Playoffs for the Ottawa Senators
Making the playoffs next season will be difficult. But with how they performed to close out the season, it seems possible. Ideally, one or two of the older teams in the conference will start to show their age, opening the door for the Sens.
On top of that, the Canadiens regressing to their regular season selves would go a long way in helping the Sens move into a postseason position. If those things can happen, there’s no reason the Sens can’t be in the mix next season. Will they make it? Maybe. But there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for the Sens and their fans.