Hey, How Are We Criticizing the Ottawa Senators These Days and Further Can We?

You know, just your average situation where you have kind of a whatevs AHL career and then you become a possession animal and the backbone of an NHL club....

You know, just your average situation where you have kind of a whatevs AHL career and then you become a possession animal and the backbone of an NHL club….

JAMES SAYS: 

Hey, Varada *holds for 2 full minutes of applause* I don’t know if you noticed but this season has been an absolute whirl of wind for the team that we like, the Ottawa Senators (.com). Heh heh heh ahhhh…just…sharing the laughter and love, you know? And by laughter and love I mean, I actually found myself getting a warm feeling deep inside when I read a tweet from Wayne Scanlan saying how Erik Karlsson was seen limping around SBP with TWO shoes on instead of one shoe and one cast. I caught myself feeling so happy that I immediately took a personal inventory in an attempt to find out what personal void I am filling with all this hockey stu—I mean, I was regular, emotionally stable person amount of happy…moving forward…

What I’m saying is the NHL season just to start with on paper is upside down. 40 odd games, something like 60 points and you’re in the playoffs, day is night and vegetables are poison.

Factor in the Sens and it gets no less weird. Let’s do a quick test, which of these things made you more excited as a fan this season: That Ottawa went on a perfect five game homestand or the news that Craig Anderson’s ankle injury wasn’t as severe as it first appeared? Jakob Silfverberg going 3 for 3 in his first 3 shootout attempts or news that Jason Spezza’s return could be as few as 2 to 3 weeks from now? I’d compare something to hearing word that Erik Karlsson will make a full recovery from his injury but I know how we all feel about that one.

The point I’m trying to make is, as last year was defined greatly by the career years a healthy line up helped afford, this year is defined by the injuries that have clouded what expectations for a team like this should be.

Up until recently Ottawa has had rookie Eric Gryba playing on the top defensive pairing. I know right? That prospect so hyped that he was called up after Beniot, Wiercioch and Borowiecki had all been given a shot. I’m not trying to put Gyba down here I’m just trying to illustrate how when you look up the team’s player stats and  see that Gryba’s got the second lowest plus/minus rating on the team (-5) it’s hard not to react like, “Yeah, well they are playing Eric Gryba for over 20 minutes a game so…”

Watching a team’s top line blow a guy who at this point has 12 NHL games under his belt doesn’t make me angry as a fan so much as the fact that that situation is even happening illuminates how deep over their head the team is in it this year.

Although icing a 3rd of a lineup made up of rookies is pretty unprecedented for this club it’s not that simple when it comes to judging it though. It’s not like this team doesn’t have its share of experienced NHLers making up the other two thirds of the line up.
Where do you fall on this whole thing? Are you a “Go easy on Turris, he’s playing in a role he’s not ready and/or cut out for” kind of guy or “Bro you didn’t score a goal for like 2 goddamn months, I’ve had it with you!”  kind of guy? Let’s talk: Are you throwing the patio furniture you call a living room through the window when the Sens cant muster a goal on the powerplay or are you just blown away that its almost mid-March and they are not in last place / actually in the hunt?

VARADA SAYS: 

Well, anyway I cut it, I can’t be disappointed with the 2013 Ottawa Senators (RIP fall 2012, which never happened in my books). You know how much more money the Philadelphia Flyers are spending on players right now when you take into account Spezza, Karlsson, Anderson and Michalek injuries? Almost FORTY MILLION DOLLARS. That’s a whole other low budget hockey team. That’s the equivalent of taking Ottawa and then saying, “here’s St. Louis, think you could use them?” It’s not only making me so proud of this team’s work ethic (how crushed would you or I have been to have lost the way they lost against Toronto last week? Not these guys. Up and at them), it’s making me rethink my whole attitude toward player motivation and development.

I know that Eric Condra and Colin Greening will never be 35 goal guys. How much does a 35 goal guy cost you? $4MM-$5MM? How much does Greening cost? A bag of potatoes (that can’t be sent down to the AHL)? Each of these guys is playing like they know the next game could be their last. Why on earth would someone like, say, Dallas, trade for Eric Cole for “stability” when you could have hungry, hard working kids play their hearts out for you night in and night out?
Which, don’t get me wrong, doesn’t mean they aren’t infuriating. We need to get bailed out every single night by a goaltender, and we’re basically one Steve Mason away from being Columbus. (Maybe more to the point: Bobrovsky plays lights out, Columbus starts looking like a real hockey team for the first team maybe every? Philly looks terrible and is going to miss the playoffs?) In any case, here’s a list of disappointments that I feel like I can’t complain about for all of the reasons above but here goes anyway:
1) Alfredsson has really lost of step. I don’t mean “he’s sluggish because he’s played 48 minutes tonight, all on the penalty kill” step-loss. Like, boneheaded giveaways, terrible passing, 0/5 on the shootout step-loss. It’s weird to see: humbling, existential even. TIME RAVAGES US ALL. (Still one of our best players, btw.)
2) Regin may not, actually, be an NHL player. There, I said it. Nice guy, strong on the puck, but officially cursed. I feel like every team in the league might think he could be an NHL player in the ideal situation, but there is literally no team in the league that wants a guy who isn’t quite skilled enough to be top six and isn’t quite rough enough to be bottom six.
3) I accept that there are pretty much no options after Turris (Z. Smith?) so what are you gonna do: NOT play him as your top line center? But you’ve gotta think this organization is really high on Turris to basically hand him the season in his second year as a Senator. I also wonder if Kyle “Phoenix-didn’t-give-me-playing-time” Turris is now Kyle “HOLY SHIT STOP KILLING ME” Turris. Pretty amazing that he’s not a minus player this year.
4) A running joke between you and I for a few years now has been “Who is the new Antoine Vermette?”, meaning, a guy who pulls off about twelve sick, amazing moves on his way to the net–all predicated on hard work and just fucking going for it–finds himself wide open with the goalie sprawling out of position, and then fans on the shot. It was Foligno for a while. The 2013 edition? Literally every single forward on this team. OTTAWA IS LEADING THE LEAGUE IN SHOTS PER GAME. (also second worst in the league in shots against, ahem.)
JAMES RUDELY CUTS IN: 
I think what might be most surprising to me with this whole thing is how the media are not climbing over each other to try to bask in the glory of Paul MacLean’s moustache. I know I really harp on how Ottawa is one of the most fronted on teams but aside from the odd 20 second video entitled something like “Gitt’n-R-Done” on TSN’s website, I find MacLean’s amazing coaching was actually more of a discussion last year. I’m not saying the media needs to talk about this more, the second thing I harp about endlessly is how I like the Sens in the underdog role. I dont know if you all remember but the high expectations Sens teams of the past…not exactly great under pressure back in those days. Anyway, I’m just saying, if it were all kinds of other teams doing what Ottawa is doing they would be all over it. But in the mean time congratulations go out to Bruce Boudreau for somehow managing to get Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan to play well. Remarkable!

4 thoughts on “Hey, How Are We Criticizing the Ottawa Senators These Days and Further Can We?

      • Thanks, I have and will continue to peruse your blog. Although, 99.9% of the time I read them from my email so not sure how that affects your statistical trending analyses. I will make a more concerted effort to take that extra step of clicking on the link so that the time spent reading your blog is not totally wasted ;P

  1. Pingback: Senators News: March 13th | eyeonthesens

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