Lively discussion on Twitter tonight about whether or not this is the lowest point in the Senators’ history since the bankruptcy. Or was it the year after the Finals appearance? Or was it the Heatley debacle? Or was it finishing 5th last in the league? All I could think was…”are you kidding me?”
The Sens are exactly as good as thought they’d be. Which is to say that nobody thought they were runaway contenders, and nobody thought they’d be awful. Everyone, outside of a few people referencing homemade metrics or taking the outside bet, thought they’d be a bubble team who might make some noise in the playoffs if they made the cut.
Well, we were right: they’re a bubble team. Last year they were a few points in, this year a few points out. They have 13 OT or shootout losses. If they were a little bit better in the shootout (which is to say not dreadful), or if a few of those shots on net in OT were an inch or two to the right or left, we’re not even having this conversation. It really is a game of inches. That I understand. What I struggle with is the tendency of those who spend time analyzing the team to draw drastic conclusions.
I’m all for looking at underlying problems, and the Sens have them in spades. They haven’t been a good possession team, a consistent team, a defensively responsible team, and the coaching is just getting weirder by the game. We don’t need to rehash all of that here. But it’s time to acknowledge that the standard deviation for our predictions is massive–what, about 12 points in the standings?–and the Sens are well within it. What has changed in the last two or three games that we didn’t already know in December or January? Ottawa hasn’t been in a playoff position in months. They’re a bubble team, through and through. We probably could have guessed this on day one when we looked at their salary structure. And, actually, looking back at those posts, we did guess that.
If you pick the Sens to be in the playoffs by about six points, you’ve tacitly accepted that they might be out of them by six. That doesn’t mean the system is broken.
All this to say: they’re exactly where we thought they’d be. So loosen up, fans. This isn’t “the worst season in fan memory.” This is just another season in the long and storied history of a mid-market team trying to catch lightning in a bottle.