The Entire History of Your Hockey Team

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Now feels like the right time to get some thoughts on the record about the Senators, this being the occasion of their 25th anniversary, and while we still have the luxury of thinking about things like hockey now that all bets are off, society-wise.

If you’ve been to a game in this new year, this promising new year in which no one you love will die, get injured, or vote, you’ve already seen the Senators starting to roll out the 25th anniversary razzmatazz, like the XXV logo at centre ice, or the pre-game ice lasers that make the playing surface look like the dirt floor of an ancient arena, or the bubbling magma of an angry volcano, or pretty much anything else that isn’t located downtown. And predictably, some of us are already rolling our eyes at it all, asking if this team is ever going to hire some actual marketing and design people, what with that XXV logo looking like something designed for an off-brand wrestling championship, or a sad Super Bowl where the players are too hungry to hit each other. Although if you talk any mess about the pre-game ice lasers, you can meet me in Lot 9.

Just as predictably, though, some of us are also rolling our eyes at the idea that the Senators, at 25, even have history, like treating Chris Neil’s 1000th game with the pomp of a royal wedding is a waste of flowers, or projecting giant Sylvain Turgeon highlights across the rink is somehow a waste of lasers. This bothers me. Sure, the Senators’ 25-year history has mostly been nasty, brutish, and short, but all history has to start somewhere, and that’s usually somewhere mediocre. It’s not like the Habs or Leafs had tons to celebrate during their pre-game ceremonies at equivalent points in their history, and anyway, 1930s laser shows were often underpowered and terribly out of focus.

Besides, what point in the Senators’ 25 years is officially legitimate enough to start celebrating the actual making of history? Are you of those people who thinks the team was bad until 1997, or one of the ones who thinks they were bad until 2003, or one of the ones who thinks they’ve always been bad, but for a brief period in the mid-2000s before you discovered analytics?

Sure, we can all agree on Daniel Alfredsson. His retirement ceremony was the kind of generational, capital-H History moment worth celebrating and reflecting upon. But these moments are generational for a reason, and they only work within the larger context of time and its inevitable failures, when they can be the kind of moments where the camera pulls back and we finally see the shape of this thing we’ve been building all these years. History doesn’t mean success; history is the context you need to understand what success looks like. It’s your first apartment that had no heat; it’s that year you spent working the grill at Wendy’s with dogs following you home even after you changed your clothes; it’s Sylvain Turgeon and Senagoth jerseys and first-round matchups with the Leafs.

Other than the Senators, do you know which teams have histories that are mostly comprised of season-ending losses? All of them. You can’t pretend those moments aren’t worth remembering any more than you can pretend they were victories, or that you could go to a Senators game in the 90s and hear Slowdive instead of John Denver. It happened. So don’t begrudge the Senators for looking back a little after 25 years, and heck, maybe have some fun with it? I mean, sure, I hope one day the Senators are successful enough that those of us at the games are all rich enough to ignore them. Until then, it’s still worth remembering how far we’ve come, ideally with lasers.

O Captain! My Captain! On Retiring Alfredsson’s 11 in 2016

2016 has reminded us that our childhood heroes grow old, become ill, and die. We have had consistent warnings that artists, advocates, and athletes we’ve admired and respected, who changed the way we relate to the things we love, who’ve inspired us to strive for some small fraction of that same greatness, can be gone in an instant.

The Ottawa Senators are no stranger to this type of tragedy. Gone are Sergei Zholtok, Karel Rachunek, and Pavol Demitra; all had their playing careers and lives sadly cut short. We said goodbye to Roger and Mark, the men behind the bench. The Ottawa family has suffered losses and survived near misses; cancer has been a frequent companion.

As the franchise celebrates its 25th anniversary, it confronts a certain maturity. Few players from Ottawa’s golden age still play in the league. Sens veterans Chris Neil and Chris Kelly are nearing the end of their careers and former Sens Mike Fisher and Jason Spezza are reaching career milestones wearing other colours. Friends and countrymen Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara won championships in other cities, and will be turning 38 and 40 respectively in the coming months. Soon, the last of the players who played a formative role in this franchise’s contending years, and for some of us, the formative part of our lives, will be retired. Their contributions only memories.

In this context it is vital to remember and honour those who have transcended the normal boundaries of the athlete-fan relationship. Players whose outstanding ability on the ice was matched by their leadership on and off of it. Daniel Alfredsson is eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame for the first time in 2017 and while he might have to wait a year or two to be enshrined, eventually his portrait will hang in that venerable building’s Great Hall. Just as important was his support of LGBTQ inclusion in sport and his mental health advocacy.

In many ways, the team hasn’t been the same since his final game as a Senator. There are undoubtedly those who are still upset about Alfie leaving. But as this year has reminded us, everything can change in an instant. After 17 seasons wearing red, white, and black, there are still things to say and new moments to experience. The retirement of Alfredsson’s storied number eleven, worn by Mark Freer, Jarmo Kekalainen, and Evgeny Davydov before him, but by no one again after his warm up retirement skate two years ago, is one such moment. That Sens fans should cherish this moment is a given, but after a year in which so many public figures who impacted our lives left suddenly and without warning, we should savour the opportunity. The opportunity to show the first legend this franchise had, our captain, and still the embodiment of the Senators, how much he matters, how much he is loved, how much his career is a part of our lives.

I have seen sports fans use the Walt Whitman phrase “O Captain! My Captain!” in relation to the success and achievement of athletic leaders too many times to count. In his time as the leader of the Ottawa Senators, I have seen these words applied to Alfie’s achievements frequently. This tendency always struck me as odd. While many no doubt are referencing the iconic scene in Dead Poet’s Society, Whitman’s original lines were part of a conceit about the death of Abraham Lincoln. What is exclaimed as an act of solidarity in the movie is called out with full-bodied mourning in the poem. An elegy about an assassinated political leader at the conclusion of a civil war hardly seems an appropriate way to mark sporting achievement and yet the poem has a particular resonance in 2016. The speaker’s words in this poem have been lodged in my head throughout the year; for in its lines the poem describes a relationship between us and those we idolize in which adulation is tragically belated.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Unfortunately, in the poem, the Captain (Lincoln) lies “fallen cold and dead”; like too many this year, cut down before their time, unable to hear their posthumous acclaim.

By recognizing those who impact us now, while they are still with us, a different relationship is struck. A continuity with the past is realized in the here and now, and those lessons, values, and priorities, are carried forward.

That is why it’s also important to acknowledge the people who have made the franchise what it is today. To honour the individuals who have shaped the character of the team; who define what it means to be a Senator. Some might feel that a team Ring of Honour is overstated. As the Senators have never won a championship it makes little sense to elevate those who have played for and worked for the team to such an exalted level. However, I think it’s an important step for the organization to take. Yes, there have been rough times for the Senators, but there has also been a considerable amount of good. There have been many who have impacted the community in positive way. Honouring Bryan Murray, recognizing a man who has been part of the team for half its existence, is a good thing. It allows for fans to show their appreciation but it also affords Murray the opportunity to see that he’s respected and loved. Waiting longer might result in another belated adulation. Players like Chris Phillips, Wade Redden, Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher, and Chris Neil have also shaped the character of the team and community. There longevity and achievements on and off the ice more than merit ascension to the Ring of Honour. Importantly, it’s not just a tribute to those who wore Sens colours on ice. In the coming years, Senators founder Bruce Firestone should find an honoured place there. Former CFO Erin Crowe, for her longevity and skilled management during the team’s grimmest periods, should as well. Jacques Martin who coached the team to greatness deserves a place. Such a list would not be complete without Cyril Leeder.

Collectively, we are eager to bid farewell to 2016. This makes sense as for many, the memories of our formative years have been battered. Unfortunately, something far worse looms on the horizon. If we are to have any chance to counter such threats, we must remember who we’ve been. It is vital to acknowledge those who have influenced us for the good with their greatness, and to carry those links forward, holding tight to what matters.

Good news, everyone: this outdoor NHL game is an opportunity to appreciate the subtle pleasures of incremental policy development

As a person who has worked in health care policy for a few years, I’m a lover of the technocratic and the incremental. While policy can be dry, and seem arbitrary to those who locate themselves some distance from its construction, for those steeped in its norms there can be a subtle, democratic beauty to its underlying principles: each policy is a snapshot of the compromises required at a given time in order to move the needle on something that actually affects people.

Vision is important. Describing bold and beautiful things causes people to rally together and inspires civic engagement. But those of us in the policy world understand that most of the decisions that affect day-to-day lives are made in the cultureless voids of hotel meeting rooms and committee hearings, where people with a deep knowledge of maybe two or three things wordsmith far from the peeping eyes of the public.

This tends to create two groups: one large one, of frustrated people who don’t understand why something can’t simply be done, and another, much smaller, who kind of stink at communicating the hows and whys of policy and tend to stick to their niche as a result.

Which is why the latest imbroglio surrounding the Ottawa Senators not being able to play their outdoor game on Parliament Hill, and Senators owner Eugene Melnyk’s frustrated letter to the Ottawa Citizen about the situation, is interesting to me, and feels very much of our time.

I think we can all agree that the visual of an NHL game being played in front of the Parliament Buildings is a cool one. That’s not really that heavily debated. But anybody who spent longer than a minute thinking about what it would take to hold a heavily commercialized for-profit event on the front lawn of the seat of the federal government would not be surprised to discover that it’s not possible.

From the question of security, to construction, to parking (I’m starting to think that all of pro sports is a proxy war for a much larger conflict about parking), to the simple debate over who is going to pay for all of it when most of the money goes back to the league, it’s not hard to see why this would be a legal non-starter.

For example: would the increased security provided by the RCMP be paid for by taxpayers, and what laws might be in place that would limit the sharing of profits generated, in some small part, from these revenues with U.S.-based owners? This might be an exceedingly small issue, but the law is the law, and it exists in the dangerous world of precedent.

 

Melnyk’s letter mentions that he “fought hard” for an outdoor game. This I do not doubt. I’m sure that he really, really, really wanted it, and said so many times. What his letter does not allude to is whether the team engaged in the nitty-gritty of teasing out these abstruse policy questions. What safeguards would the league put in place to ensure that the Canadian taxpayer wasn’t on the hook for ancillary expenses associated with the event? What legal measures, if any actually exist, could be put in place so that next year a country and western music festival doesn’t say, “We can meet all the same criteria as the NHL – we’d like to rent Parliament Hill please”?

Policy, for those who don’t work in it, seems capricious. After all, the levels of government and division of assets between public and private spheres are social constructions, so why can’t we simply suspend those constructs when it suits our needs? Can’t we simply have a game on Parliament Hill because it would look cool and then go back to how things were as soon as the stands are torn down?

The answer is no, of course not, and you’re being ridiculous. We live in a world where the actions approved by our governments have the force and effect of precedent. Boldly conflating private profit with public space would take years to achieve, and have complex side effects we couldn’t possibly predict. It’s a fucking hockey game. Just have it in a fucking hockey arena, you know?

Which, of course, anyone who really works on the problem would allow as reasonable. But Melnyk is the kind of stubborn strongman we are unfortunately too familiar with these days. He thinks that through sheer will he can make this happen, and that by manipulating public sentiment in the newspapers he can turn popular opinion to his side. Even if he’s successful, these structures are in place precisely because they do not bend easily under public pressure. It’s for that reason the Conservatives can’t privatize the front lawn of the Parliament Buildings and turn it into a Tar Sands-themed amusement park.

The outcome, unfortunately for a fan base who seem pretty sick of Melnyk, is that he’s gone and made himself and the team look like a doof again.

What’s particularly frustrating is that this market, with its history of negotiating with the federal government for land rights to build an arena, should be acutely aware of the challenges of business in the federal capital. Melnyk won’t be able to play at brinksmanship to produce the outcomes he wants any more than being upset produced a downtown arena on NCC lands back in 1992. And yet here we are, mere months from when the damned thing is supposed to happen, and the owner is stamping his feet saying, “If this doesn’t happen, don’t blame me.”

What Melnyk needs to understand is that this is a conversation he will largely be having with himself. There is nobody to actually lobby in this situation: the government is insulated from the business interests of a local businessman, which is how we’ve thankfully designed these things. As I type this it occurs to me that maybe Melnyk is only so interested in Parliament because, as a governmental entity, it might be illegal for the government to charge the team to use the space, which means Parliament would be cooler, but, more importantly, cheaper.

So the question is no longer, “What can we do to make Parliament happen?” This was never a real question anyway. Policy nerds could have told you that a long time ago. The question is, “Does it make financial sense for this owner with this team to have an outdoor game at TD Place?” And if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t make sense to have an outdoor game at all.

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I’ve Got Something To Say: It’s Been Emotional.

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I feel compelled to write something about what happened last night because I hardly know how to talk about it. It’s rare that such truly important circumstances factor into something as inconsequential as sport. Most of what we experience as a collective of fans is emotional. Last night’s game really highlighted that. All we can do is sit there, watch and hope. I decided to tune in for the late game last night, in an odd way to “be there” for Craig Anderson. It’s of course a bit of a silly sentiment as I was just passively watching a hockey game on a screen over 3000 kilometers away. But as a fan of his I, for lack of a better way of explaining it, wanted to see if he was okay. Of course we all know, deep down, he’s not okay. We can only hope for a couple of hours, within the focus that his job requires of him, Craig Anderson found some respite from the difficulty of the situation that he, his wife Nicholle and their children are experiencing.

Part of what had me anxiously bouncing my legs and wincing at every Edmonton shot like it was a game 7 of a playoff series was this: Sports is not a movie. The drama is not scripted. As Sens fans we unfortunately know this all too well. So many times we’ve wanted things to come together for those who are hurting. For the success of our team to in some small way honour the legacy of those our community has lost. Those like Pat Redden, Roger Neilson, Daron Richardson and Mark Reeds. Since he revealed the severity of his illness, I assume we’ve all at some point imagined the glory of Bryan Murray raising a well deserved Cup over his head. These are only small honors but they carry big meaning for our community. A complete stranger donated a piece of his body to the team’s owner Eugene Melnyk and saved his life. He withheld his identity but left only the message that Melnyk help bring home a championship with his new lease on life. As much as I try to brush it off at times I must admit, this stuff is in its own way important. If a Senators win puts some wind in kids like Jonathan Pitre’s sails, that is important. If what her husband did under immense pressure put a smile on Nicholle Anderson’s face during the hardest time of her life, that is important. That importance is why you had Edmonton fans on their feet applauding the goaltender whom they just spent time and money watching shut their home team out.

Again, this is a sport, a game. We as fans play the role of customer much of the time. We all in our own way believe the customer is always right and feel it our duty to criticize when we are dissatisfied. I am definitely no stranger the world of calculating salaries, referring to players as “assets” or “pieces” arguing who should not play or be demoted to the minor leagues or bought out of their contract completely. The game we watch together is so often referred to as a product and when facing the most challenging times in their careers, the players who play, echo the reality that, “It’s a business.”

What made last night so special is that the business stuff all went away for a few fleeting moments. What we saw was a truly human display. In a game that is more reliant than ever on intricate strategy, mathematic analysis, speed and skill I believe we did witness the power of the often admonished element of will. Craig Anderson and his teammates “wanted it more” in a way that I don’t think you can get away with every night. The Senators won’t pull out every game on that extra incentive to win and Andy will not pitch a shutout every night to seek temporary relief from the hard time he’s going through. But last night they did and they did it as a team. If you follow the Sens closely you saw, especially as the game wore on, that battles for lose pucks were fought more tenaciously than usual, shots were blocked with no hesitation, sticks deflected incoming pucks away from danger with noticeable precision, the puck was repeatedly carried out of the defensive zone with fierce speed. Hell, this team that often struggles defsensively managed to contain the best offensive team in the league featuring a kid who looks like a first ballot hall of famer at age 19 for a full 60 minutes. Chris Kelly looked 10 years younger killing penalties, Karlsson looked 20 pounds heavier and 2 inches taller muscling larger opponents off pucks, Borowiecki looked nothing like the guy we regularly put on the seat of the proverbial dunk tank week after week and Andy, well, he was perfect. Maybe it’s just me and they were the same guys they always are and played a great road game as the did in Vancouver last week. Looking at the clip of the players hugging Anderson at the end of the game with Chris Neil fighting back tears in the background tells me otherwise.

The truth is many people get out of bed and go to work while facing similar challenges at home every single day. There’s no spectacle for them. No fanfare. But Craig Anderson has a pressure filled job that is broadcast on national television. An off day at the office, a few false moves can mean failure for he and all of his coworkers. Last night under the bright lights of the arena there was nowhere for him to hide. To see a fellow human being who is dealing with such a tough time literally win, literally be cheered for his efforts for one night was truly rare, truly special.

Thank you to Nicholle for her bravery and unfathomable generosity in urging Craig to rejoin his team. We do not deserve it. We are with you and we wish you all the best.

https://www.nhl.com/community/hockey-fights-cancer/donate

James Day Preview: Ottawa Vs. The Ned Flanders of Hockey

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“…hey y’all”

Yo. There must be a lot of new Sens fans out there.

Hold on a sec, everyone. Take a knee there, new fish. I got something I gotta explain to you:

The first two home games of the season coming against the leafs and habs is Gary HUSSEIN Bettman trying to break our collective spirit. With the unprecedented amount of old dudes who like these old man teams, general dumbasses and young guys with suuuper aggressive dad issues out there, it is basically impossible to have a respectable showing at these games (HAVE U HEARD?). Further, given how distant and withholding so many people’s fathers apparently are, these fans really come out to try to impress them with intensity. Spoiler 2 them: It will never work. Your dad hates you and your new, more realistic real doll. Your dad AND the doll wish you were never born but, anyway, congratulations for hating the city you live in with ferocity.
Anyway, fish, the point I’m trying to get through to you is this: The more of these games are played, the more you will come to understand that winning despite a FOUR goal performance from a player that has received hype for the last four months leading up to this game and followed by a game where Ottawa blew a two goal lead only to come back in exciting fashion are NOT regular things. Try. To. Enjoy. Them. For. A. Minute. Trust me, it’s a long season and there will be successful embarrassments from crazy individual efforts of unlikable players on shit teams and blown leads followed by shootout losses to come.
Where I’m at: Those wins are enough for me to accept a few L’s in a row tbh. If you don’t think the Sens are good enough to compete or whatever I suggest you cherish the little victories along the way then. I mean, do your thing but I will live longer than you. Be safe, beloved.

On to the game!

The Detroit Red Wings: Whose Mans Are These?
Yo when did the Red Wings turn into the New York Knicks assembling the wild 2008 All Star team?

Did this team just quietly fall in the organizational power rankings from “Smartest team in the NHL” to “This year’s team with those ‘Thomas Vanek gooooooot thiiiiiis thoooo’” cokedreams? Honestly, the guy couldn’t hang with the Minnesota Wild.
Serious Q: Is Vanek the first player to ever be bought out by the Wild? This is the team that drafted Matt Kassian in the second round. Also, not for nothing, Minnesota replaced Vanek with the swaggarlessness gawd, Eric Staal. Haven’t the Twin Cities suffered enough with the passing of Prince?

Let’s see who else is on Detroit’s 2008 All Star squad. Ah, Mike Green (35 pts last year) is their answer to Erik Karlsson…so…wow. Let’s just move forward.

There are some bright spots for the perennially haven’t done shit in the playoffs since Lidstrom retired dangerous Wings.

Dylan Larkin for one. He had a very successful season for a rookie. No shade, but if Ottawa was pinning its future to a kid for having a 45 point rookie season people would be making fun of us. But look I’m classier than that and I will make fun of them for more legit reasons: STEVE OTT IS ON THIS TEAM.

K, there’s also star goaltender, former Ottawa 67 (gang gang) Petr (sic) Mrazek in net (0-2). He’s looking to bounce back from that wild early season 4.06 GAA. I’m sure Hoffman, Stone, Ryan, Brassard, Turris and Karlsson will go easy on him. Especially Hoffman who I’m sure is feeling super chill about not having a goal yet.

Alright we’ve had lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of fun making fun Flanders. What, we don’t have no flies on us? Well, with a 2-0 record not yet really. Just kidding. Listen, this is the year I officially lose it on this issue:

The ‘Be Safe Tho’ Heard ‘Round the World
Borowiecki in, Chabot (still) out. I meaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan…LOOK, it’s only been two games (2-0-0) and Boucher has been pretty up front about Chabot getting his first action against either Detroit or Phoenix but it’s more stuff like this that frightens me:

K, is that the real competition?  Why does it have to be Chabot Vs. Guy who is way better than Borowiecki again? Seriously, we’ve got this apparent X’s and O’s detail based, strategic mastermind in Boucher, a former head coach with a Cup and 15 seasons experience in Crawford and some big timey eye in the sky video coach now. I’m hoping at some point they at least N O T I C E that Borowiecki is a hot mess. I’m sure deciding when a first round pick’s first game comes is a tricky decision (right Ozton Mayhews?) and perhaps Boucher feels his game would be best suited against the hung and youngry™ Coytoes on Tuesday. I  just thought I would be angry about that for a minute…let’s see anything else? Oh, Matt Puempel is in and Phil Varone is out. I have very little to say about this. I’m not saying I’m ready to throw in the towel on Puempel but it’s gonna be tough for a player like him on the 4th line. I suppose Kelly makes for a bit more of a chance for Pumps to do something on the bottom line than last year but I don’t expect much. Life is about lowered sexpectations for late first round picks.

And the Rest:
The Sens top six has been doing top sixie thangz in the first two games of this yung c-son but in the last game we got a treat: A beautiful trying goal from the third line. Great to see new guy Tom Pyatt bury one after a nice give and go between perfect hockey player JG Pageau and Ryan Dzingel to enter the zone. I’ve liked Pyatt so far. Something tells me a “Guy Boucher player” is of a more useful ilk than a “Dave Cameron player” or “infinity other coaches we’ve had the past near-decade type player.”

Andrew “The Handmurderer” Hammond gets the start in net. The OTHER Andy™ had a bit of an up and down season last year (read: bad) but the worst of it came after coming back from a concussion he suffered off the rip. Hopefully his dome is clear and he can go back to his winning like 20 games in a row self. R E A S O N A B L E.

BOLD Predictions:

  • Justin Abdelkader will score because that name is REALLY annoying and he always finds a way for me to hear it. You know, I actually kind of respect that brand of hater shit.
  • Sens power play starts clicking. Have you seen that thing? It’s only a matter of time. Speaking of which, Hoffman def gets one tonight.

Enjoy the game, drink your Steelback Beer responsibly.

4 Pithy Observations of Questionable Importance from the Season Opener

Hey, there was a hockey game last night. Did anything interesting happen? Anything historic? Oh, a 19 year old consigned to many years of indentured servitude in the most vicious market in the NHL due to the vicissitudes of some ping pong balls had an outstanding individual game in his team’s OT loss.

On Auston Matthews:

I can’t really work up much of a froth about Auston Matthews himself. Any player scoring four goals is an incredible feat. That Auston Matthews scored four goals in his first NHL game ever is remarkable. The Auston Matthews chants that went up around the CTC were well deserved. I have no comeback to any of that.

I still gotta get on my Hater Grind though, and let’s face it, that is also why you are here. Let’s throw up that picture of Goldstein on the screen and get to…

THE TWO MINUTES HATE

It’s gotta be said that the Sens did lots to help Matthews look good. No one could clear the garbage on the first goal. Matthews’ second goal was a great showcase of his doggedness on the puck and the highlight that brought peace to the Middle East, but all I see when I watch that highlight is Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman failing to control pucks, Erik Karlsson being too soft on his own stick, and Craig Anderson getting beat by a really bad angle shot. If just one of those Sens does their job, Steve Dangle’s gotta find a new tombstone. Moving on, why are the Sens so soft on Morgan Reilly’s zone entry here? What is Dion Phaneuf covering, other than his own house in deep shame? What position does Cody Ceci think he’s playing in the buildup to Matthews fourth goal? The Sens had horrific breakdowns on all their goals against last night, and a single player benefited considerably from each of them.

Auston Matthews is gonna have a great individual career, but Toronto’s seen great individuals that still couldn’t drag the entire team to wins. This has also been the norm in Edmonton. Personally, I’d be wild tight if my team’s best player scored four goals in a losing effort. That’s the most Oilers-ass thing I’ve ever heard of.

Good game from Matthews though. Good for him. He’s good, a very good player. Good good good.

Good.

On the crowd at Canadian Tire Centre:

I saw a lot of rending of garments and gazing of navels on Twitter in the leadup to the home opener apropos of the (large) number of tickets still available. Ordinarily, a team’s first game of the season should be one of the better attended games of the year. It’s an Event! Hockey’s been gone for so long and it’s back! You get to see new players for the first time! Erik Karlsson is there! If you can’t bring out a big crowd to the home opener, you might as well pack it in, right?

Counterpoint: I can totally understand why Average Sens Fan wouldn’t want to pay Premium Ticket Prices to go out to a game mostly populated by Leafs fans on a Wednesday. Those Leafs/Habs tickets are ~3 times as expensive as a game against Minnesota or New Jersey. I know I wouldn’t pay that. If I didn’t know a guy who gave me a deal, I wouldn’t have gone either.

Leafs-Sens games in Ottawa make me believe in segregating supporters like they do in European soccer. It’s not a good vibe at the CTC for these things. It just isn’t. It’s always got tons of weirdly aggressive Leafs fans who just come out of the woodwork. I don’t mind that people cheer for the Leafs, but why do they have to be so in-your-face about it? Cheer for whoever you want, but I don’t want to have to see it.

So yeah, Loudmouth Bro in the Matthews Jersey negatively affected my experience. I’m not about to judge any Sens fan who stayed home because they wanted to watch the game on their television or mobile device sans pants and fans of the other team. Who did or did not show up to the game on Wednesday is not a commentary on the fanbase; it’s just a commentary on socioeconomic factors over which most of us have very little control.

On the Sens being bad:

The Senators were not good for long stretches of the game last night, and they were not good in many interesting ways. For all of Guy Boucher’s talk of systems and defensive structure, I didn’t see any last night. On an individual basis, the Sens were also sloppy. Between the failed zone exits, missed passes, pucks fired blindly up the middle, and lack of puck control, the Sens put on a masterclass of Bad Hockey. For all the fans who spent the off-season bemoaning the team’s mediocrity, this must have been very satisfying. You did it, my Boos. You were right all along. The team was bad. (A BAD TEAM THAT WON, THAT IS.)

The good news for the rest of us is that sloppiness is often transient. Anyone will tell you that the only way to get game reps is in games. Maybe we can send the whole team to Binghamton for a conditioning stint before the next game on Saturday so they can all play through whatever malaise is gripping everyone’s normally silky mitts.

As for the defensive zone coverage, we’re working on it. Still……working on it. *places shirt collar on Elon Musk’s shuttle and has it tugged it to Mars*

KOACHING KORNER
1. Cody Ceci needs to watch this game tape until he’s internalized the message.

2. Thank you for that demonstration of Mark Borowiecki. I am now ready to see Thomas Chabot for comparative purposes.

On the Sens being good:

Erik Karlsson’s going to have 400 shots and 100 points this year. Dude is playing Sweet Georgia Brown in the offensive zone at Petersonian speeds.

I think Dave Cameron encouraged EK to be more of a distributor instead of a shooter last year, and early signs are that Guy Boucher has instructed Karlsson to bomb the net like he’s Bruce Willis and it’s the only way to save the Earth from an asteroid strike.

Derick Brassard is good, extremely good. I think he might be better than Mika Zibanejad. His goal on a great individual effort was soul soothing and restored my waning spirit.

While Ottawa didn’t score on the powerplay, they should have as Mike Hoffman was robbed by Andersen off a beautifully worked shot late in the 1st period.

Finally, I would like to express my great appreciation for that piece of performance art that was Ottawa’s overtime shift. Everything about those 37 seconds was perfect. Karlsson’s patience to enter the zone, and then leave it again after he didn’t like what he saw was consummate professionalism. The tic-tac-toe setup to finish the game was the greatest existing argument for giving Michelin stars to hockey plays.

Some people might give Matthews a hard time for losing Turris on the play, but I don’t really think it’s right to do so. He’s only 19 years old. He’s got time to learn. Plus, Matthews had already scored 4 goals! Toronto isn’t even in the position to lose that game in overtime if not for Matthews. One defensive lapse does not wipe out all the good Matthews did in that game. In short, I will not stand for the Spezzification of Auston Matthews. I know a lot of people will want to hang the blame for this loss on Auston Matthews, but it’s wrong and anyone doing such things should be ashamed of themselves. If you’re someone who is perpetuating the idea that it’s Auston Matthews’ fault that the Leafs lost, you should ask yourself if you’d still want him on your team. I think we all want Auston Matthews on our team, we just don’t want him on the ice in overtime when one defensive mistake can cost you the game. That said, he’s just one man; he can’t be expected to do it all himself against all-world talent like Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, and Kyle Turris. Even if Auston Matthews could have done better on that play in particular, it’s not good form to point it out. Let’s just celebrate what an amazing night this young man had, instead of dwelling on the single fly in the ointment which is the blown defensive zone coverage on Turris’ overtime winner. I will not send The Soup of Matthews back to the kitchen simply because The Cockroach of Kyle Turris resides within. Such bad defending during a critical moment of the game could have happened to anyone, but it didn’t; it happened to Auston Matthews and that’s not his fault, except for the ways in which it is entirely his fault, which is most of the ways. Ok, even if it is his fault, there’s a kind of cosmic justice in the fact that he got to ruin his own debut. Sure, Kyle Turris’ glorious snipe over the listless glove of Frederik Andersen was like Sidney Crosby’s mustache painted over the Mona Lisa, but at least Da Vinci himself i.e. Auston Matthews was the one who painted it. As Thelonious Monk once said, “If you make a mistake, play it loud. Then people will think you did it on purpose.”, and by that standard, there can be no question that Auston Matthews made this mistake loudly, and on purpose. Let us all just move on from this mistake that Auston Matthews made.

James Day Preview: Sens-leafs. Catch the Taste or Whatever

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See me at the spot with that vanity tag featuring the 2016-17 motto.

 

It’s time. I’m pulling up to the 2016-17 Ottawa Senators season. Hair lookin DEEC(ish), smellin’ more or less right, hands moisturized and packing an extremely healthy relationship with the sport of hockey. Look, as an adult person who’s definitely not a virgin (check out sex tape and past), I absolutely didn’t change my computer password today because it’s always the name of a Sens player and I have never believed in the past that my password choice may have played a part in bringing the player bad luck. As such, NO I didn’t feel compelled to switch it from a roster player to a retired player for cosmic alignment purposes and things of that nature. I just did regular normal things. I should also mention that I did not decide to watch the game from my mobile command centre beneath the Earth’s crust instead of a bar or the CTC because when Ottawa plays Toronto I get too mean if the Sens are winning and I drink too heavily and get too aggressive if Toronto is winning. Just a day filled with a bunch of healthy things about a thing I believe I enjoy over here. Good. Now that we’ve clarified that:

 

Hi.

 

So, listen, maybe I spend far too much on the ol’ Sensphere (RIP the word ‘maybe’) but things seem almost stunningly grim out there going into this season. It’s pretty much been a rough ride since beating Montreal in the playoffs a few years back. The team never seemed to round that corner that many of us thought they’d reached. In the piss stream media, I read over and over that the Sens have done nothing to improve. I’ve seen many predictions for bottom 5 finishes. That last year’s poor result is this year’s poor result. Thanks, why even watch! While there is still a Clarke MacArthur shaped hole in our hearts, I have to say the Sens are still not world beaters but are better than last year’s and will be better. I’ma break this hater shit down one time:

– Kyle Turris bent his leg at an angle not in accordance with God’s Plan and kept playing for some reason and went from being on pace for a career best year to finishing with a career low in points. He was basically the Montreal canadiens of players last year.
CONTROVERSIAL TAKE: I believe, a healthy Kyle Turris is better than a very much injured Kyle Turris. I’m sorry I just do. A top line centre that improves on better than career worst numbers and doesn’t make you feel sympathy pangs when you watch him skate? This MAY have an effect.

– Like it or not I need to write this message in the sky in gossamer teardrops: Dion Phaneuf IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSSSSS a better option than Jared Cowen [currently fighting contract buy out] and Patrick Wiercioch (52 GP: 0G, 5A). Also speaking of God’s Plan, in Phaneuf, the team also finally has an option better than Mark Borowiecki to play with Karlsson if when Marc Methot goes down with an injury. Do not @ me.

– I do drink the Kool Aid that Derick Brassard will be a more consistent player than Mika Zibanejad. After a summer of projecting the future and blah blah blah I’m talking now. I think we’re going to love this guy.  If you are really in your feelings about losing Ziba still, I understand but hopefully you can eventually find solace in that Brassard will easily be as good as Zibanejad and might be a better fit for the line up (read: A centre who’s good at making plays).

– Dave Cameron is gone. You know, former British Prime Minister who played Mark Borowiecki as a forward? Yeah. More than once. More than once. More than once. More. Than. Once. He has been replaced by Guy Boucher. A coach with NHL experience who claims that he plans to play to the players’ respective strengths. I think if he just follows through on some of what he’s said in the off season, that will be an improvement over the shit like: Borowecki as a winger over ANY other forward, Boro-Karlsson instead of Anyone Else-Karlsson, Benching Hoffman, Hoffman NOT playing regularly on the power play, Hoffman on the 4th line, Hoffman on the bench, line juggling cokedreams, etc. Just don’t do those things and that’s an improvement. I should mention the biggest potential boost of all…

Hey, Come Here and Check this out:

I don’t know if Mike Babcock’s stratagem involves his dumb, shitty team never taking a penalty at any point during the game but should that not work out I would advise everyone to be safe. In a post-Dave Cameron paradigm, the thing I am most looking forward to seeing is the power play unit that that Guy Boucher has assembled:

Ryan – Brassard – Stone

Hoffman – Karlsson

See…it’s not that haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard.

Yo, that crew is so obvious and good that if there even is a second unit I don’t care if it’s this:

Neil – Miniature Schnauzer – Konopka

Borowiecki – Frozen Dinner

3 forwards who can both score and set up goals and the team’s two best shooters up top? Just keep them out there the full two minutes. Honestly, all I  ask as a fan is if that formation doesn’t score the first WEEK of the season just keep them To-Geth-Er. They eventually will score a lot, I promise. If that power play can’t do better than 26th in the league well…I will continue to not know anything about the sport of iced hockey.

 

Oh Right the Fucking Game:

The rebuilding leafs are looking a lot like another exciting, up and coming franchise to the West, the Edmonton Oilers. Some exciting young forwards, a group slightly melted troll dolls dressed up in knockoff NHL uniforms on defense and this year’s model of starting goalie <insert name> who is either playing hurt or will look like they are playing hurt.

Seriously, that defense is a sight. Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner are deec but Roman Polak? Matt…Hunwick? Who the hell are these dudes? Martin Marincin? Did Toronto do a blockbuster swap with the Orlando Solar Bears that I didn’t know about? Wow, Morgan Reilly was second in leafs scoring with 36 points. SECOND. Mmm, cool, he managed 27 assists. That just edges Erik Karlsson’s 25 POWER PLAY assists. Did I mention that was on one of the worst power plays in the league? It’s almost like they are the reigning worst team in the entire league.
Anyway, I’m sure he, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone will go easy on them out there.

Freddie Andersson (?) gets a rare start in net. Yet another product from the goaltending factory of Denmark. Note to the young netminder: If Hoffman or Karlsson looks like they might take a shot in your direction probably best to just get out of the way. Goalie equipment has come a long way but can only do so much. Be safe tho.

Anyway, whatever. Nothing gets Sens fans in their feelings more than a leafs game on home ice. Regardless of your overall outlook on this year’s model of the Senators, they are way fucking better than the leafs and need to win games like this.

 

Now go out there boys and HAVE FUN.

 

 

 

 

……..no, seriously, win the fucking game. Show a little respect for the community.