When you look at the standings, and just the standings, you will find that the BoO is closer to the definition of a battle than we've actually seen in years. Two points separate the rival hockey clubs. If that's not a battle than what is?
Besides the standings and perhaps goal differential, in my opinion that's where the comparison ends.
AGE: Ottawa are around the 8th oldest club in the NHL, depending on which players play on any given night around the league. The Leafs were the youngest team in the NHL last week, jockeying with Edmonton on nights Aulie doesn't dress. This is an important fact when you consider Alfredsson who hasn't scored in weeks is 38 years old. Is it a slump or is it the end? This is what happens when you have players pushing 40. Toronto on the other hand don't have a forward over 28 years old.
DIRECTION: Ottawa finished 6th last season in the east and currently are out of a playoff spot. Toronto are better than where they were at this time last year and where they finished the year, but not by much. Still, Ottawa are heading south and Toronto north.
PROSPECTS: Ottawa have a good young d-man in Karlsson but after that it's a bit dicey. Cowen hasn't made the NHL yet but has upside for sure. Corey Locke is the leading scorer in the AHL right now but at 5'9" and this his 7th season in the AHL, is he a prospect or a career AHLer? Binghampton also have Butler and Condra in the top 30 scorers in the AHL, but again, these are older players and in the AHL that can be a bad thing. Jonathan Cheechoo is the 10th highest scorer in the AHL and ex-Leaf prospect Kris Newbury who is 28 is in the top 20. So it's hard to get a read based on points alone. Toronto meanwhile have two players vying for team Canada positions at the WJC (Ross and Ryan) plus Gregg McKegg has already won player of the week twice in the OHL and is 5th in scoring. D'Amigo will represent the US at the WJ tourney. Add a trio of killer goaltending prospects in Rynass, Reimer and Scrivens, plus the youth on the Leafs big club (Kadri, Aulie), and it's fair to say that Toronto flat out have a better youth brigade than Ottawa.
STABILITY: Love him or hate him, Brian Burke will be GM for the Leafs for years to come. He has four years left on his contract and has installed a team of proven veteran coaches, assistants and scouts. It's a stable management structure with only Wilson seeming to be on the hot seat according to media but not so far by Burke. Ottawa on the other hand have an unproven coach, a GM on the way out and an owner who seems to open his mouth about hockey things when he shouldn't. If I'm a Sens fan I'm thinking who knows what the hell is going to happen in the next year or two. Not very attractive for players.
RECENT WINS: Toronto are coming off a week where they won 3 of 5 games against some of the best teams in the NHL. That's a .600 win % against Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Montreal and Philly. Impressive no matter how you slice it. Since November 24th Ottawa have three wins and two of them have been against teams below them in the standings. Not a bullet-proof statistical argument by any means, but lately Toronto are doing more to make folks believe there is hope with this roster.
SCORING RACE: Alfredsson would be tied for 3rd in scoring if he was a Maple Leaf right now. Toronto have 6 players with more points than Jason Spezza. Even in the early 2000's when Toronto and Ottawa were both cup contenders in the east, Ottawa always had an edge when it came to top talent production. This is actually a bit of a head scratcher. Ottawa can't even blame injuries at this point.
LUCK: Folks will try and blame every trade gone sour on the GM and give props to every move that works out brilliantly. I'm not going to say that Murray was an absolute moron trading Heatley for Michalek, or swapping Vermette for LeClaire, but neither have worked out well for the Sens. Meanwhile Burke picks up McArthur for $1M in salary and the guy leads the team in scoring along with rampage beatings of Montreal defenceman. You need to be a bit lucky in deals and I will be the first to admit that Murray hasn't had a horseshoe land on his boot for a long time. In a league this close, that shit comes back to haunt you.
I can't remember who Don quoted from the Ottawa media, the writer who said he wouldn't trade rosters with Toronto right now, but to combat one homer perspective with another, that dude is out of his mind. Toronto may not make the playoffs this year and this roster and organization still needs seasoning and some additional help, but you would have to be a little crazy not to see that the Leafs are a much stronger bet going forward than Ottawa.