Handicapping the race

CHRIS STEVENSON, BRAD FRITSCH, BRUCE GARRIOCH AND DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

EVERY WEDNESDAY AND SATURDAY IN THE OTTAWA SUN

DON BRENNAN: Minus Tim Baines, we've got pro golfer/Senators fanatic Brad Fritsch making a return visit to the round table with his input from Raleigh, N.C., along with Bruce Garrioch, Chris Stevenson and me, Don Brennan. Let's do it, guys. This will be a less restrictive discussion than those Baines presides over. We'll start by handicapping the Eastern Conference playoff race -- as in who WON'T make it besides Atlanta and the Islanders -- then go from there.

BRAD FRITSCH: The Leafs, of course.

BRENNAN: Okay, Brad. Well, thanks for coming. Have a nice day.

BRUCE GARRIOCH: The Leafs will fight, scratch and claw to get there, though. They don't go down without a fight. They are, without a doubt, the best organization in hockey. They have guts and determination.

BRENNAN: You do like to light a fire under the butts of Senators fans, don't you, Bruce?

FRITSCH: I don't disagree with you, Bruce. They make so many games close, and on paper they shouldn't be. Goes to show you what the element of heart does for a team.

GARRIOCH: I've always said a lot of teams could learn from them.

BRENNAN: Yawn. I think the Eastern Conference standings will wind up looking a lot like they did as we headed into the post-break part of the schedule, with two exceptions: Out will be Buffalo and Carolina, in will be Pittsburgh and Ottawa.

GARRIOCH: Anybody poke Stevenson to see if he's out of bed yet?

BRENNAN: He's supposed to be golfing in Florida at this very moment. He said he'd be taking his shots in between taking his shots.

GARRIOCH: Maybe he'll shoot his age today.

FRITSCH: I don't give Tampa much of a chance either. And all this talk about trading Lecavalier? It makes me wonder who's running this team. Actually, I know who's running the team. Let's just say that I feel sorry for the GM.

FRITSCH: Roll over and nudge Chris, would ya, Don?

BRENNAN: He's GOLFING, funny guy. Just like you're going to be doing in an hour or so. Must be nice. We're getting another snow storm.

FRITSCH: Don't hate a guy for going to work, Don.

GARRIOCH: I really wonder about the Penguins as well. I'm pretty sure these players have just about had it with this coach. They should have made a change. Ray Shero is going to regret not doing something sooner.

FRITSCH: Let me guess, Don. Too much talent in Pittsburgh not to get in. And you have to stick with your prediction of the Senators getting in, because you just can't wait for the accolades when they do? You've been hammering that prediction for a while now.

BRENNAN: True. Okay, this topic is done. Next: Bryan Murray says some Binghamton players will get a shot in the second half. Who do you want to see called up and, barring injury, at whose expense? They liked Peter Regin so much in his debut against Washington before the break, they called him back to play the Devils. Christoph Schubert goes back to the press box and, with the return of Anton Volchenkov, they're making a healthy scratch out of Jason Smith. Finally!

FRITSCH: Well, the one game Peter Regin played, I liked the way he looked out there. A little undersized, but lots of speed. I've watched Ilya Zubov a lot, and I don't get it. I'd rather play Regin. His effort level looks greater than Zubov's, albeit that's based on one game.

GARRIOCH: Geez, when does Josh Hennessy get a shot? Has hell frozen over? Who cares? Please. Don't ever take a run at Tim for his stupid topics again.

BRENNAN: Now that Gerber is gonzo, there are three Senators eligible for unrestricted free agency come July 1 -- Chris Neil, Filip Kuba and Dean McAmmond. Do you trade 'em, sign 'em now or risk losing them for nothing in the summer?

FRITSCH: I think you let Neil go, because everyone seems to be high on Cody Bass. I don't see it, but I'll defer to the "experts." Plus, you should be able to get a nice deal for Neil. I think if you can re-sign Kuba to a similar deal, maybe two years, you do it. And I love McAmmond on the fourth line because of his speed. Keep him, too.

GARRIOCH: I could have sworn Martin Gerber was going to lead them to the Stanley Cup. Filip Kuba won't make it to the deadline. He will be too valuable.

BRENNAN: See ya, Fil. I've got no problem saying so long to him. I think McAmmond is a good guy to have -- for speed, experience and versatility purposes -- and I don't think many teams are going to offer him much more than the 900Gs he makes now, and I doubt you're going to get more than a mid-round pick for him if you want to deal. So hang on to him and take your chances, Bryan. Pardon the play on words, but the tough one is Neil. They can't afford to lose him -- you still need an enforcer, and he's one that can actually play the game -- but they may not be able to afford to keep him, either. A tough guy who once scored 16 goals a couple of seasons ago could go for $3 mil per on the open market.

FRITSCH: What if the Sens have gained, let's say, 6-8 points on the final playoff spot when the deadline comes around, Bruce? Does Kuba still get traded? I hope not.

GARRIOCH: No. But that will never happen.

FRITSCH: Don't they have five weeks until the deadline to make those gains? C'mon, Bruce, be a fan. Like Don!

BRENNAN: Hey, Fritsch -- shut it. I'm not a fan. I'm an unbiased professional. I just don't believe the real Senators have shown up yet -- or at least hadn't shown up until the last week before the break.

FRITSCH: All right, fellas, it's been great. Gotta go to the office, er course, now.

GARRIOCH: Many thanks. Fore!


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