Normally, the NHL season would be a quarter of the way through by now and a team’s identity would start to become apparent. However, this year has been far from normal and in Nov. 2020, we still aren’t sure when hockey will return.
In the meantime, we can look ahead to the World Junior Championship and the Senators’ prospects who might be playing. We can also argue about which Reverse Retro jerseys are the best or the worst. When it comes to the Sens’ on-ice hockey news, the organization already signed free agents and made trades early in the offseason, so they’re quiet on that front for the moment. Here’s the rest of the news of the past week.
Item One: Senators’ Reverse Retro Jersey
For the first time in NHL history, every team was involved in an alternate jersey rollout. Adidas, the official jersey partner of the NHL, tried to pull on the heartstrings of fans’ favourite logos, colour schemes, striping, and patterns of the past by releasing the Reverse Retro uniforms. Everyone has their opinion about these jerseys that were revealed last Monday, but you can’t deny it was pretty awesome to see some of the best logos in hockey surface again.
Ottawa’s Reverse Retro sweater shows the 2D logo, which the organization brought back earlier this year. The rest of the jersey was kept simple by having it mostly red with some added black stripes along the sleeves and skirt. In Adidas’ official statement about the sweaters, they noted, “The classic first year jersey will be worn in red for the first time in this Reverse Retro jersey to complement the team’s recent rebranding.” It’s a direct comparison to the inaugural season jersey worn in 1992.
Item Two: Stuetzle Named to German Roster
Depending on when the NHL agrees to start the 2020-21 season, there’s a chance that the Senators’ top prospect, Tim Stuetzle, could be playing for Germany at the World Juniors in December. While this shouldn’t come as a shock, it’s still unclear if Stuetzle will actually dress. He is coming off hand surgery to stabilize a fracture sustained six weeks ago at practice with Adler Mannheim.
Stuetzle returned to the ice early last week and, thankfully, all signs point to a full recovery. He will join Team Germany’s training camp on Dec. 6 in Fussen. Tobias Abstreiter, head coach for Germany, remains optimistic that Stuetzle will be 100% for the tournament given that it is roughly five weeks away.
However, Abstreiter shouldn’t write Stuetzle’s name in ink on the game sheet yet. If the NHL does return on Jan. 1, the Senators would prefer to have Stuetzle at their training camp. He still has to terminate his contract with Adler Mannheim of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga when the time comes, but that is expected to be a smooth process.
Item Three: Sokolov Signs Entry-Level Contract
The Senators signed their 2020 second-round pick, Egor Sokolov, to a three-year, entry-level deal on Friday. The 20-year-old was taken 61st overall and spent his last three seasons of junior hockey playing for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL. Sokolov was originally undrafted, but this past season he led the QMJHL in goals and was tied for third in points.
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion had this to say about the signing: “To Egor’s credit, he’s worked especially hard for this. Despite initially being undrafted, he applied himself to improve many facets of his game to the point where he led the Quebec league in goals last season. We were pleased to select him where we did and look forward to seeing his career progress,” (from ‘The Ottawa Senators sign second-round pick Egor Sokolov to a three-year entry-level deal’ Ottawa Sun, 11/21/20).
Since joining Cape Breton in 2017, Sokolov has improved tremendously year to year. In three seasons, he posted point totals of 42, 57 and then 92 this past season. He spent most of his time playing on the right-wing and the Senators could use scoring from that side down the road.
Item Four: Melnyk Comments on Next Season & the All-Canadian Division
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk was on The Bob McCown Podcast last week and had mentioned that both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly are doing whatever it takes to get the next season started as soon as possible. This shouldn’t be a surprise given that Bettman has been very vocal about getting the 2020-21 season started on the first of January. Melnyk further noted that he is very optimistic and has no doubts the league will return this season.
It’s also no secret that the NHL and the players have taken massive financial losses during the pandemic, which remains the focal point of discussions as they try and work at a new deal. “However, there’s a lot of stuff that has to get done financially because everybody’s taking a big hit. On one hand, there’s no guarantee that this is going to happen. The NHL’s working very hard to try to make it happen,” said Melnyk.
The Return to Play this time around will be very complex with many issues to work out. The financials are obvious, but the league must also agree on where teams will play, division alignments, whether fans will be in attendance, government regulations, and travel, among other factors. Melnyk confirmed a Postmedia report that the league sent out questionnaires asking about local conditions and they wanted the information back within a week. He also said that although travel and border restrictions have remained the driving force behind an all-Canadian division, Melnyk isn’t a fan of that solution from a hockey standpoint.
“It’s only for a hockey reason. This is not our year. We’ll be competitive but this is the year the Canadian teams are all better. Every one of them — including mine. I’m still at the beginning of my rise up. Everybody else was good and they’re getting better,” said Melnyk.
If an all-Canadian division happens, the Senators would be seeing a lot of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Montreal Canadiens, some of the best teams in the league, let alone the country. The young, rebuilding Senators would have a tough time competing, however it could be beneficial to their development.
What’s Next for the Senators?
While we wait for an official announcement regarding the NHL’s return, Senators fans can keep their eye on the prospects who could be playing at the World Juniors in December. Stuetzle, Jake Sanderson, and Ridly Greig just to name a few, remain hopeful to represent their country.
While the Sens still have roughly $12.5 million in cap space available, don’t expect them to make any more trades or signings. The roster has virtually been set for the past month and we’ll have to wait until at least Jan. 1 to see how they will do.