As those of you who have been following the Ottawa Senators’ 2015-2016 season know, everything is terrible.
Ottawa, who currently sits tied with Detroit for second in their division, sixth in the conference, and fourth in the league in goals-for, is not-so-secretly actually a horrible team and all of this is a mirage. They give up more shots than any other team. They don’t take that many shots. So none of the enjoyment that you feel when you watch hockey is real. If you think it is, you’re a dunderheaded neanderthal who probably shouts “shoot!” every time the team gets the puck.
The team has enjoyed above-average goaltending and has, to use the technical term, a golden horseshoe in its collective bum. “This too shall pass,” say the ghosts of Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, and Toronto Maple Leafs teams of christmas past.
Not only that, but the team only has three years left of Erik Karlsson playing generationally supreme hockey on an affordable contract, at which point Methot will be up for renewal too, and by then Stone and Zibby won’t be on their team-friendly contracts anymore, and Hoffman is going to get paid like next year if they don’t trade him, and Anderson will be older and they traded away their goaltender of the future, and the owner is still broke, and Colin Greening Milan Michalek something something, and, and, and…
…and here’s the thing: we get it. We understand. The concept is understandable. It is going into my head and down into my tummy and being understood and then I pee it out. That’s how understanding works. (WebMD™)
What I don’t understand is the impulse to have this discussion in precisely this way over and over and over again to such dwindling returns. It is not, for lack of a better descriptor, spiritually nourishing.
It wasn’t much different during the team’s run to the playoffs last season. What was the refrain then? “This is unsustainable.” Every damned game. Periodic moments of miraculous sunshine allowed to peek through the curtains until someone would storm into the living room and draw the curtains shut while screaming about the dangers of skin cancer.
This isn’t real. What you’re experiencing is not real.
Except it is real. It’s happening, right there, in front of you.
I’m not saying that the team is actually amazing or that we should derive all truth from a team’s record. I’m saying that there are different ways to talk about, and to experience, the local team winning at a popular sport. That different way is called gratitude.
I know Twitter is not a place for gratitude. It’s a place for hysteria and theatrics, and that’s ok. There’s a place for that. It’s often fun, and engaging, and great. It can also be tiring.
So I’m using this blog say that I’m grateful that the team went on a miraculous run last year. It was fun to watch. Really special. That’s the stuff of which sports are made. Not the predictability of statistically-verified trends unfolding as outlined. But a team improbably doing something that, outlier though it may be, allows us to speak about the event with excitement and shared purpose precisely because it bucked the trends.
I’m grateful that Ottawa is having a decent season this year. They’re scoring a lot of goals. Those are fun to see. Am I stupid for saying so? And they’re doing it despite the fact that they’re not the best team in the league. I think there is as much validity in me saying this as me writing a post saying “Ottawa needs to fix the defence,” though there are literally zero defencemen available on the free agent or trade markets, as evidenced by the fact that no other team is signing or trading for defencemen either.
I’m grateful that we have this community of hockey appreciators and buds, people who can write about sports in a way that is calculating and rigorous and also makes room for the emotional and tangential. I’m grateful for the comedy and the tragedy inherent to all that we label entertainment.
And most of all, I am grateful for Erik Fucking Karlsson. He’s one of the best players on the planet, having one of the best seasons of his life, and he plays for the Ottawa Senators. Our team, in our city, which most people outside of Canada couldn’t pick off a map. You can go see this guy play for like forty bucks. You can sit in a chair and see him, 400 feet away, do things that maybe seven or eight people ever in history have been able to do. You don’t have to get on a plane, or follow the band around on tour, or anything.
Game is on in a couple of hours. I’m really looking forward to it. Have a good game, everyone. Put the phone down for a few minutes during a shift, maybe turn the color commentary off, put on some soothing music, and just watch Erik Karlsson skate.
Great post. It’s healthy to have a balance of both the grateful and the critical.
I think you are having one of those moments where you being intelligent enough to appreciate sustainability is affecting your enjoyment of both the game and the eventual standings. At least I was having that moment last week. I still think it is valid to question lineup decisions. Armchair GM-ing has entertainment value too.
What am I on about? I forget what I was….
Thank you! Why can’t people appreciate there is more to hockey thank ranking players in terms of Corsi to determine their position in the lineup and then waiting for the inevitable outcome as calculated based on the comprehensive corsis of the two respective teams playing.
I stopped writing mostly because I couldn’t deal with the seemingly permanent cloud of pessimism that hangs over the fanbase of this franchise now. I strongly believe in the value of analytics, but believe just as strongly that they’ve convinced many fans they know more than they actually do.
I think the unsilent majority (yes, that’s a Rocky IV reference) on the Internet isn’t so much concerned with talking about their team as they are with being right. Advanced stats–and the easy buzzwords (“regression to the mean,” “sample size,” etc.) they create–make it simple for someone to sit back in their chair and say, “COACH MACLEAN/CAMERON/NEXT COACH/PERSON I DISAGREE WITH IS WRONG AND I AM SMART!” Just look at the numbers, right? (But make sure you shit on anyone who says just watch the games… that “just watch” is TOTALLY different and should be scorned!)
It’s a toxic mentality and terribly enjoyment-sapping. I love the team and genuinely don’t understand the defeatist attitude of expecting them to fail. We all knew what the Senators were going into this season, but it seems like the fanbase won’t be satisfied unless the Sens have an Olympic-caliber roster of possession-dominance beasts.If the team had a top six of Karlsson-Subban-Doughty-Hedman-Klingberg-Weber, this fanbase would be complaining that Weber was an anchor who was killing his partner and his team.
I blame the Internet. It’s just not a place to go for open-minded discourse. It’s where you go to shout your opinions as loudly as possible so everyone can see how smart you are and validate your self-worth by agreeing with you.
Well said, Mark. I couldn’t agree with you more. This kind of attitude has driven me as well away from other blogs.