I can’t think of a better outcome: the games are generally close (a 7-1 drubbing notwithstanding) and entertaining; the team features an interesting mix of upcoming talent and scrappy veterans; Spezza is proving himself a premier playmaker; and at the heart of the team is an extremely creative young franchise defenseman who is worth the price of admission alone. But in the end the games are still mostly losses. Believe it or not, this is what we want.
Rooting for losses is difficult, not only because you’d like your team to prove everyone wrong, but also because 82 games is a lot of hockey to watch if your team is terrible. But when Murray says he expects this team to be competitive, I think we can distinguish between being competitive in the standings and putting up a fight every night. These Ottawa Senators certainly do the latter. Management is embedding a competitive spirit in the dressing room while keeping a stall open for Yakupov. Far preferable to the team going on a surprising run that gets our hopes up without coming within miles of true contention.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s proper team building. John Tavares has nine points in his last two games, and the Islanders on the right side of .500. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a hat-trick last night, in just his third NHL games, and they almost beat Vancouver. Steve Stamkos has already dominated the league. We’re not even talking about Crosby / Ovechkin style generational players, but we see how integral such high draft picks are for a rebuilding team. For a team that has already catapulted itself to the top of the prospect rankings in one year, adding a marquee forward and some great depth can only hurry this along.
The mantra might be “Just one painful season,” but the way the Senators are playing it won’t even be all that painful.