Hi lovers. It’s been a while; I’ve been away. Which is to say that I’ve been sitting cross-legged in a furnitureless apartment going on journeys in my mind. Which is to say that I’ve been squatting in strangers’ condos while they were away for the holidays. Anyway, I’m back at the library using somebody’s tablet while they’re in the bathroom.
THESIS STATEMENT: Turns out we were completely right about the Ottawa Senators. See you next year.
They’re a .500 team. They lose in OT or the shootout constantly. (They’re on track for 16 loser points, which is better/worse than last year’s 14 OT/shootout losses, which was tied for third worst in the league.) They’d be a lot worse without their goaltending, even now that new coach Dave Cameron seems to have somehow tamped down on the number of shots against. Milan Michalek, Chris Phillips and Chris Neil suck and make like $10MM against the cap. Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan rule.
All is right in Sensland, AKA the Sleep Country Canada parking lot where I construct a pyramid of shopping carts under which to store all of my things.
…AND YET: as I noted on Twitter (@taylorswift13) I think I enjoy this non-playoff Sens team more than maybe any other non-playoff Sens team. Think about it: we’ve got some young and exciting players in Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Curtis Lazer, and Mika Zibanejad, all of whom have already shown that you can find your feet in the NHL and still score 120% more goals than Milan Michalek. Erik Karlsson is still an utter joy to watch, night in and night out. MacArthur is the perfect hockey player.
It’s not Picasso out there, but this is way, WAY better than those non-playoff versions of the Sens where Alex Kovalev showed Ryan Shannon that the key to consistent two-way hockey was to actively despise the team you’re playing for.
And the team doesn’t exactly stink. For all of the inescapability of the fact that they’re 8 points out of a wild card spot and their probability of a playoff spot sits at 12.7% as of today (tugs collar until I’m strangled to death), they’re as many points from the cellar as they are from the playoffs, have lost a ton of games in OT, and every single team in their division seems to be playing well.
Seriously, when Boston starts playing like Boston again, we’ll be looking at a situation where the Atlantic* (*an ocean at least 500kms away from Ottawa, if you liberally count the Fleuve Saint-Laurent) might send six out of eight teams to the playoffs. People in Toronto are losing their minds and Toronto was in a playoff spot up until recently. Florida is playing well, and are 11-6-6 on the road. Detroit might have built up enough of a lead to get over Jimmy Howard being stretchered off the ice. And my bold prediction that Tampa Bay would be overrated and not great was thankfully overlooked by every single person on the internet.
Ottawa’s PK ain’t bad. (9th.) Their goaltending is good, and there’s a succession plan in place with Lehner. The coaching change seems to have had a positive effect. I don’t know, man…in Japan there’s an expression, mono no aware, which translates roughly into “a pleasing sadness at the transience of beauty.” What do you want from me? We’re all going to die someday. Take a moment to enjoy some fucking hockey.
And Ottawa has the lowest payroll in the league. Has anyone mentioned that before? I don’t think so. I might have just broke that story just now. Lowest payroll in the league, right there. This isn’t a case of the Philadelphias. This isn’t a team that thought it was going to compete and spent like it, who traded away assets to get negotiating rights and then offered years and money up the wazoo to sign the players they just traded assets to get the negotiating rights to, as if they were doing all of these things in order to stink. Ottawa has nothing but bright futures, new arenas, ugly third jerseys and options.
What to expect in the second half? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say more of the same. They’ll finish either just inside or just outside the bottom ten in the league. They’ll sit around .500, with plenty of OT/shootout losses in the mix. Hopefully somewhere along the way they pick up some assets for Milo, Neil, Greening (ahahahahahahahaha), Condra (probably, though they shouldn’t) and Phillips (right). Anderson plays himself right into a deadline trade to St. Louis, though I hope not. Eric Gryba continues to have a mysteriously good +/- and no one will care about him.
Maybe in the draft they package their 2nd round pick with the 2nd rounder they got for Spezza and get another 1st, and then trade Anderson for a 1st, and then package those two 1sts with their own 1st to move up in the draft and get a real impact player.
Maybe Marc Methot was actually the thingy that stirred the drink all along and now that he’s back the team will gel in totally unforeseen ways and go on a winning streak unseen since the days of Cory Clouston and Brian Elliott (still in the league! As a starter on a good team!).
Maybe Ottawa finally, FINALLY makes that Chris Stewart trade, and they put him on a line with Todd Bertuzzi, and the team loses their next 22 games in a row and we don’t need to trade any picks to get an impact player in the draft.
Mono no aware. *lights beeswax candle*