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With the uncertainty surrounding the NHL season, the ice at the Canadian Tire Centre was removed recently while the Ottawa Senators wait to see what happens with the rest of the league’s schedule.
It’s no surprise the decision was made by the club’s management to take the ice out because the employees and the players have been advised by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly to stay home until at least April 15. The expectation is that thatdate will be extended because of the ongoing threat of the world-wide spread of the novel coronavirus.
There’s no telling when — or if — the NHL is going to resume playing this season and with each passing day it’s getting more and more unlikely the Senators will play their final 11 games of the regular season.
If all had gone as planned, this would have been an exciting week for the Senators.
Not only would they have wrapped up the schedule Saturday with Fan Appreciation Night at home against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins, owner Eugene Melnyk and general manager Pierre Dorion were preparing to head to the NHL Network’s studios in Secaucus, N.J. for the NHL’s draft lottery which was supposed to be held Thursday.
The Senators have three picks in the first round of the NHL draft, which was scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal but has already been postponed. Ottawa has strong odds of getting the No. 1 overall selection because not only do they have their own top pick, they also have the San Jose Sharks first-rounder, because of the Erik Karlsson deal in September, 2018.
While the Detroit Red Wings would have the best odds of winning the lottery at 18.5 per cent if the balls were loaded into the machine by the league today, the Senators would be second at 13.5 per cent with their own selection, while the odds for the Sharks pick are third-best at 11.5 per cent.
Combined, that gives the Senators a 25 per cent chance of winning the lottery.
The club also acquired the first-round pick of the New York Islanders in the deal that sent Jean-Gabriel Pageau there at the February deadline, but that selection is lottery-protected if it’s in the top three. When the league took a break because of the spread of the virus the Islanders were sitting a point out of the playoffs.
Neither the lottery nor the draft have been rescheduled and won’t be until the league knows exactly what path they’re going to take with the schedule plus the playoffs.
Down in Belleville, the club’s AHL affiliate had been preparing to wrap up its schedule by playing three of four at the CAA Arena — including a home-and-home series against the Laval Rocket next Friday and Saturday. With a 38-20-4 record in 63 games played before both leagues went on pause March 12, Belleville had a good chance of going into the post-season as the top-ranked seed in the North Division.
The belief was the likes of prospects Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, Christian Wolanin, Logan Brown, Alex Formenton, Vitaly Abramov, Rudolfs Balcers, Erik Brannstrom, Filip Chlapik, Christian Jaros, Joey Daccord, Marcus Hogberg and Filip Gustavsson were going to have the opportunity for a long playoff run.
Now, it’s unknown whether they’re going to get the chance to get that valuable experience this spring because of the AHL schedule is also in a holding pattern.
The news has hit home because the Senators have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus with five players, a staff member and TSN 1200 broadcaster Gord Wilson testing positive. There has also been hardship for the Senators with the difficult decision by the organization to lay off some staff temporarily.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Daly and the 31 owners would like to finish the year by playing the rest of the schedule and having a meaningful playoff to award the Stanley Cup. At this point, it feels like it will be July before the NHL can even consider bringing the players back to either resume the season or go straight to the playoffs, depending on what scenario is selected when the spread of COVID-19 slows down.
Nobody knows when, because it’s impossible to predict the timing, but at some point the spread of this disease will recede and we’ll be able to resume our normal lives. Once the NHL gets the green light from the American Centers for Disease Control and Health Canada, the league will consider the options to return.
Whether the Senators will ever get the chance to face the Penguins in the final game remains anybody’s guess but some are optimistic the schedule will be played. There will be a draft lottery that may be tweaked slightly if the NHL decides to expand the number of teams in the playoffs and goes straight to the post-season, if it does get the opportunity to return down the road.
As we sit in our windows watching the ice and snow melt daily, let’s hope the ice goes back into the the Canadian Tire Centre soon so everybody can get back to a normal lifestyle.
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