High hopes for Sens?

DON BRENNAN, BRUCE GARRIOCH, TIM BAINES AND CHRIS STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 4:22 AM ET

DON BRENNAN: Hmmm. Is this Groundhog Day? The Senators won't be making any major changes, unless they open up some cap space by dealing Jason Spezza. And he's quietly having another good season, stats wise. Trade him and they'll have to magically pull a No. 1 centre out of their ... I don't think they're going to be making any significant changes at all.

BRUCE GARRIOCH: I think we're seeing a better group of Senators. I still think they need to make changes in the off-season. They really need to get a Top 6 forward and a top-end defenceman. The goaltending is settled. Where I think Cory Clouston has done a good job is by using a system that fits the club's style. That wasn't the case before.

BRENNAN: I think Ryan Shannon and Nick Foligno are proving they're worthy of Top 6 status.

TIM BAINES: A Top 6 forward and a top-end defenceman? And the money for that is coming from where? Too few players make up too much of the salary structure. One of the big boys will have to go, with the addition of a high-end forward a necessity.

CHRIS STEVENSON: The Senators' results under Clouston have been encouraging. For the most part, they've beaten the teams they should beat, but I still don't think this group is ready to compete with the top clubs in the conference. I want to see how they do against the Bruins, for instance, tomorrow night. They're still capable of throwing out a real stinker like they did against Atlanta.

BRENNAN: That they stunk it up against Atlanta was understandable. Their season essentially ended the game before. It's called an emotional letdown, I believe.

STEVENSON: (Last night) against Florida, which should be a motivated club; tomorrow night against the first-place B's and Saturday here against the Philadelphia Flyers will give us a look at how Clouston can manage this bunch against superior clubs. But how much do you read into results at this time of year? The Senators have been realistically out of the playoff race for a month. Is that a positive or negative when it comes to how they play?

BRENNAN: The Florida Panthers are a "superior club" to Ottawa? Please. They're ahead of Ottawa in the standings only because of the Senators' horrible first half ... when the Senators were apparently weren't being coached to play the style they should be playing.

BAINES: No question that Clouston's influence has made a huge difference. But before we start planning the ticker tape parade, let's see what the GM does in the off-season. There's reason for quiet optimism, but I'm sure Mr. Brennan's already calling for them to reach next year's conference final, facing the Bruins. And we all know who our Bruin lover will want to win that series.

GARRIOCH: Oh, Tim, I'm jumping on the Bruins bandwagon with Don. I can see the Big Zee lifting the Stanley Cup over his head this spring. Maybe he'll bring it back to Kanata to celebrate with his friends.

STEVENSON: If the GM makes one move, there's going to be a few. What do they have committed to the salary cap right now for next year? About $51 million? And nobody knows where it's going to be come July 1, though it shouldn't be too far off this year's $56 million. Murray might have about $6 million to play with at this point and that doesn't include Chris Neil and Mike Comrie, both UFAs, or Ryan Shannon and Brian Elliott, both restricted.

BRENNAN: Even on defence, what can they do? There's Phillips and Volchenkov and Kuba. Are they going to buy out Smith? Doubt it. Then there's a cheap Campoli and Brian Lee. And I realize nobody knows I think this, but Brendan Bell is a guy I'd sign to a one-way deal as a 5-6 guy and someone to work the power play. And then what if Erik Karlsson adds some muscle, like I did in the off-(baseball) season? There could be a spot for him too.

STEVENSON: I'm not sure Erik Karlsson could get on the same off-season program you were on, Don, because I've been to Sweden and I didn't see your No. 1 dietary supplement there, Beau's Lugtread.

BRENNAN: You mean the Beau's Lugtread available at the Clocktower, at Bank and the 417? And the stuff that's sold extremely and delightfully cold at The Marshes? Can't get it in Sweden? So why would anyone want to live there?

BAINES: Don, you added muscle? Were you doing chin-ups?

STEVENSON: Or chins-downs?

BAINES: This discussion is way too serious. Hey Chris and Don, didn't we get called The Three Stooges last week while we dodged the Digital Faceoff for a week of golfing in Pinehurst, N.C. Many thanks to those who sat in on the panel in our absence. It's great to know that Roy Mlakar is "in the know" when he speaks of the wrestling world. I'm not saying Roy is old, but he was ringside for Frank Gotch's debut (OK, look it up ... it was many, many years ago). We did learn a couple of things in Pinehurst. Michelob Ultra is a solid beer (but Rolling Rock still rules), don't turn your head away when a golf ball is incoming and don't make Don sleep on a small bed.

BRENNAN: Bruce, I saw Bulldog Therien get hit in the head with a ball, stay down for about five seconds, then bounce up and finish the round. Played well, too. Maybe because when he got to his feet and seemed unsure of his identity, I told him he was Wayne Gretzky.

GARRIOCH: Gee, I missed this while you guys were gone. When are you three going away together again?

BRENNAN: Don't worry, Bruce. We all noticed this feature lacked meat while we were away honing our golf games.

STEVENSON: And by honing, Don means our condo beating Tim's condo on the week, though after eight rounds, it came down to the last hole of the last match.

BAINES: Condo schmondo. I had the bigger bed. And size matters!


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