Hi everybody, spotlight please….……….
Alright, well, I’ll start anyway.
Is it just me or have you ever seen the microscope on a Senators preseason like this one? In some circles, preseason is typically known as the only time when I am actually offered friends’ season tickets. In the past the giving of said tickets was initially met with excitement but things would take a downturn upon parking my buns (ew, sorry) in the seat and looking at my program realizing the burning questions heading into the match would be stuff like, “will the line of Hennessey, Ruutu and Bass find INSTANT CHEMISTRY???!!??!?!” or “How will Derek Smith and Ben Blood manage in shutting down Kyle Chipchura and Tom Kostopolis’ efforts to put the squeeze on Mike Brodeur!?!?!” ONLY. TIME. WILL. TELL. Also, thank you for your continued support Sens Army on this rainy Tuesday night, all concessions FULL PRICE! *Sens theme song trumpet*
Given the playful yet loosely based on a true story example above, the heavy focus on this year’s preseason can only mean the team is much, much better than it used to be and as such expectations for prospects and bubble players going into the real season are high. An additional circumstance at play here, of course, is that a group of AHL call ups, rookies and less than elite NHLers (riding on the wings of great goaltending) just performed even better than the full team all having near career years two seasons previous. A lot of attention now falls on the team’s skilled players in their return to full time duty. When you add in the loss of the team captain/face of the franchise and the addition of a top line player well…I can definitely see the reason for all of the fuss. That said, I don’t think it wise putting too, too much stock in what are games that are of no consequence to the team’s standing.
It’s an interesting dichotomy at work here. For cemented roster players I can’t imagine how exhibition games serve as anything more than an opportunity to shake off a summer of rust. Conversely, for the guys looking for a shot, they might be the most important games they play all year. I have to laugh at Shawn Simpson’s
trolling expert analysis that Bobby Ryan is just not ready and Erik Karlsson does not look like the same player he used to. First off, both of those guys produced. Second, I am NOT MAD at guys who make $5MM plus on the roster not playing a split squad game (tremendously stupid idea btw) like it’s the playoffs. Just shake the cobwebs off bros. Craig Anderson is a great example of this. He’s no doubt let in some weird ass goals but otherwise has looked pretty normal (good). Who knows that if whatever bro-bro from the Bridgeport Mister Mephistopheleses cuts in and dipsy doodles left to right on him that maybe he’s thinking, “Enjoy dude, I am not exploding my groin to stop you.” Then again, hey, maybe he IS shaky. All I know is if he’s the latter, this is the time to work the kinks out.
On the other side, you have half the guys playing their hearts out in hopes of earning a spot, a waiver pick up or even just a raised moustache from the coach. Considering just two nights ago I watched Jean Gabriel Pageau go over 60% on draws, score a beautiful one timer (one of many quality chances he produced), oh and level a guy who’s SIX FOOT FOUR who tried to check him…what can I say? Some bubble guys’ accomplishments can be tough to discount. I also recognize that I’m a Sens fan and as a Sens fan I should be cautious and remember that those who fail to learn from the Bochenskis of the past are doomed to Bobby Butler in the future.
All this bologna said, here are some musings (again, sorry) going into the season:
– For all the talk about Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson not quite being there (despite multi point games and some highlight reel goals?) not a lot of ink spilled about how Clarke MacArthur and Kyle Turris were hitting it off on some Mark Wahlberg and whatever that bear is called that I’m supposed to think is funny because it says a lot of swears type shit. Sometimes I wonder if Clarke MacArthur will be someone who’s contribution to the team really catches us off guard; Marc Methot style.
– Ottawa…I’m comin in sore. For all the talk of precautionary measures and bobos it is not great to hear about star players nursing injuries this early on…and by early on I mean, the season hasn’t even fucking started yet (theme).
I find there is an easy misconception to fall victim to as a fan and it’s this: That when players return from the injured reserve that they have a full green Mortal Kombat health bar. Most of the time these guys are likely more “well enough to play” than fully healed. In the case of Anderson, having suffered some serious ankle injuries myself, I can say even someone not playing NHL hockey in a position that relies heavily on reflexes, say instead they were some stupid slob, would still be far from normalcy even 7 months later. Are these guys right as rain or playing through the pain? Teams only tell the media what they strategically elect to disclose (which makes Brian Burke all kinds of confusing but I digress) so I suppose when the games are coming every second night we’ll likely see who was pushing too hard to come back and who was just resting while they had the chance. At least we have the luxury of knowing the team is deep thanks for a very stressful
– A couple of the guys who I was hoping would have a great audition in exhibition play did. I’m talking about Patrick Wiercioch, Cory ChronicHerb and Pean Jabriel Gageau.
First, Wiercioch who might have the toughest row to hoe, looks like he took a big step. Not that I needed much convincing but with the departure of Gonchar it was great to see him looking in charge and making great decisions with the puck. No easy task filling in for a future Hall of Famer but can we get a bit real that he’s filling in for a future Hall of Famer that was entering his 40’s last year? I quite liked Gonchar during his time here but that doesn’t mean I’m not ready to move on from the guy and accept the potential ups and downs of Patti W. Lord knows Gonchar had ups and downs.
Second, Conacher has looked dynamite since rookie camp. I’m not really surprised. As a fan of a team that for many years tried to find that “missing piece” at the trade deadline, I know there is a lot of pressure on a player who’s been traded and plugged into a new team, a new coach and new surroundings to perform seamlessly right away. Right, Sideshow Mike Commodore? Few guys can do it. Not only did Double C get moved off a sweet gig playing with Stamkos, he was straight up asked to perform a whole new role by Coach Paul MacLean. He’s gone into this season knowing what he has to do from the get go and that’s be that guy in front of the net. I actually think it’s an interesting strategy given Cory’s about 5 foot 8 and nearly 200 pounds. He may not be tall but owning a bulldog has taught me that when something short and wide doesn’t want to do something it is very, very difficult to convince it otherwise. With a slick shooter like Turris centring for two fairly skilled muckers in MacArthur and Conacher this could prove a very, very annoying line to play against.
Lastly, Jean Gabriel Pageau. It pains me in my efforts to not overdue it. Yet. I don’t remember the last time a Sens prospect has performed this consistently right off the hop. He plays both ways, he creates chances, capitalizes on a lot of them, hell he even hits! It doesn’t matter if he’s buried on the fourth line, it’s very hard to not notice his play. Not only was the best rookie in preseason he might have been Ottawa’s best player in preseason. Yes, to consider my own theme, preseason. But it is hard to ignore the consistency of this player since earning his way up unexpectedly from Bingo. Playoff spot clinching end of season games? Performed well and produced right away. Montreal series? A force. Pittsburgh series? Played well (a rare statement for the Sens). Rookie camp? Dominated. Exhibition games? Again, a stand out performance. I’ve heard many NHL players say that the most difficult thing about the game is being consistent night after night at that level. Perhaps Pageau is showing that consistency could be his strong suit. Say what you will about the reasoning behind it but JGP did actually outplay Zibanejad heading into the season. Despite all efforts to bury him in the pecking order Pager just keeps making it harder to deny him. Let’s hope he can keep it up.
As much as I’ve learned during the past 76 weeks of the preseason, I am incredibly glad to see it end. Though I’m very excited about the additions of Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur it’s not only been an emotionally draining offseason but frankly an embarrassing one for the franchise. Nothing like some strong play to hopefully get we fans back to enjoying what we’re here for ……………………………………………
………………………………wait for it………………………………….
………this COOLEST game on earf……………………………….