This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.
Tuesday, February 2 – Senators @ Penguins
Okay campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties because it’s cold out there today! It’s cold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach? Nope! It’s western Pennsylvania, where the only thing less appealing than the weather has been the Penguins’ performance this season. The Penzos find themselves coming out of the All-Star break barely hanging on to the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, which is the kind of position you might shoot for if you’re some middling, budget-ass team, but a disappointing outcome when you’re spending to the cap and your top three forwards make more than most Kuwaiti princes.
As seems to happen every year, people are already wondering whether it’s time to blow up the top-heavy Pingus and start over. Crosby’s not getting any younger, after all, so maybe it’s time to sell high on Malkin and use the return to start building a good young core rather than keep papering over holes in the roster with Cullens and Hagelins and Boninos. Besides, who’s ever gotten less than fair value trading a first-line centre for a package? Oh, right, everyone. Still, it’s fair to say that unless the Pingpongs shake things up somehow, they’ll keep finding themselves on the bubble of playoff contention every year, reliving the same thing over and over and over. Can you even imagine?
PREDICTION: All but three players in this game just spent a week off in the sun, so expect to see the kind of well-rested, tanned hockey you’d find in an energy drink commercial. Look for a lot of talk about how the Senators need to start winning in a hurry to get back in the hunt, and for Mark Stone to respond with 7000 goals. Senators 5, Penguins 0.
Thursday, February 4 – Senators vs. Oilers
Winning the lottery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s unrealistic to expect anyone who’s not used to being wealthy to suddenly know how to handle having everything all at once. It’s hard not to fritter money away when you really have no concept of what things are worth. So you keep on living the way you’re used to, making the same ill-considered decisions, never thinking about the bottom line and never developing a long-term plan. You make bad investments. You don’t even recognize the grifters and hustlers who act like your friends but swindle you at every opportunity. Before long you find yourself struggling under the constant weight of the expectations of those around you, slowly realizing your winnings are less of a gift than a curse.
This is the scenario the Oilers find themselves in during Year Million of their lottery-financed rebuild. The Oilers are like that trailer with the shiny, expensive powersports vehicles parked all over the lawn, the team with more toys than thoughtfulness, the team that randomly picks up someone like Eric Gryba because what the hell, ain’t got one of those yet. Meanwhile, the locals get more disgusted every year with how little good they’ve done for the community with their winnings. Into this void steps Connor McDavid. Sure, he’ll be excellent, but turning this team around requires more. It requires a conversation about basic asset management and personal responsibility, like telling a Powerball winner, “Hey, maybe don’t leave $50K in your glove box if you don’t want your truck broken into in a strip club parking lot. In fact, maybe don’t go to the strip club in the first place?” Except they’ve already tuned you out, thinking about the next ATV they’re going to get. Good luck, Connor.
PREDICTION: Oilers fans always seem to be well-represented at Senators home games these days, because who doesn’t like 80s nostalgia? Look for Connor McDavid to be narrowly denied a goal for the Oilers but for Eric Gryba to be responsible for at least two for the Senators. Senators 5, Oilers 0.
Saturday, February 6 – Senators vs. Leafs
Over the break I saw a few Leafs fans on Twitter do the math to figure out how many second-half wins the worst-record-in-hockey Leafs would need to make the playoffs, before coming to terms with the fact that, you know what? It probably isn’t happening this year. I feel for you, Leafs fans. There were about five minutes there where the Leafs had enough of a spark that you could be forgiven for thinking that Mike Babcock might actually be the miracle worker you’d heard about. But then before you know it, it’s February, you’re back in the lottery, and Jonathan Bernier has a GAA that would make even a fifth starter for the Red Sox blush.
Some say Senators fans may be coming to terms with a similar reality in two weeks. Who’s saying this, you ask? Oh, you’ll know. They’ll tell you when you see them this Saturday, being ushered out of the CTC for trying to smoke indoors, their Clark and Gilmour jerseys yellowed with what’s hopefully beer. They’ll have signs, and halitosis, and loud opinions about Donald Trump. And they’ll treat a win in this game, if it does happen, as the nearest thing they have to a Stanley Cup victory, walking out holding their heads high with the tragic, misplaced dignity of a drunk who thinks he’s just won an argument. I would like to be at this game, handing out toothbrushes and distance education pamphlets. You have to be the change you want to see in the world.
PREDICTION: Turns out a Google image search for “Drake” + “leafs jersey” returns no relevant results. Wonder why? Senators 5, Leafs 0.
Season prediction record: 23-21-6
Next week: “Avalanche”? “Lightning”? Come on, those are fake names.