Mark Stone Is Incredible and Other Musings

Let’s talk about hockey. No, seriously! At the time of writing, the 2018-19 Ottawa Senators have played approximately 40% of their season, so this seems like as good a time as any to look at what the team is like both qualitatively and quantitatively. Also I have nothing unique, entertaining, or insightful to say about the ownership/Lebreton situation, so it’s either this or going back to making googly eyes at Craig Medeglia on Instagram until he makes me and the rest of this blog “Sens Influencers” and we can take our rightful place in Brian5or6’s private box.

I believe I can distill this year’s Senators team down to three key observations, which I will illustrate using the shooting heat maps provided by Friend of the Blog Micah Blake McCurdy at hockeyviz.com. These graphs, and many others, are available to you for the price of a small monthly donation, which Micah will use to keep his lights on and his children clothed and fed.

I like Micah’s heat maps because they convey a lot of information easily. Red is locations from which more shots are coming compared to league average. Blue is location from which fewer shots are coming compared to league average.

Need to impress your family with your Sens knowledge this Christmas? Here is what you need to know.

1. Mark Stone is most important player the Senators have ever had

Remember Erik Karlsson? I do! He was great! Maybe even transcendent! It is really too bad he went out for that pack of cigarettes and never came back. I’m still quite upset about it. Anyway, sorry for dredging up old shit, but I brought him up to say this: if you put a gun to my head and asked me if I want Mark Stone or Erik Karlsson on my hockey team, I’m taking Mark Stone.

The photo on the left shows where the Senators take shots when Mark Stone is on the ice. The photo on the right shows where the Senators take shots when Mark Stone is not on the ice. The quantity “Threat” is how many more goals than average the Senators would expect to score regardless of shooter talent. Basically when Mark Stone is on the ice, the Ottawa Senators play like a team with Stanley Cup winning potential. When Mark Stone is off the ice, the Senators play like a bad AHL team. Now, it’s not at all surprising that a hockey team is better when it’s best player is on the ice, but I’ve never seen a contrast so stark as with this years Sens team. For 33% of every game, the Senators are an offensive powerhouse. For the rest of the game, they couldn’t move the puck to the net with a U-haul and the vague promise of free pizza.

A similar effect can be seen with Stone on the defensive side of the ice.

The Senators are a slightly above average team defensively with Mark Stone on the ice. Insofar as “keeping them to the outside” is a thing, Mark Stone appears capable of doing that. On the right, we can see that the Senators give up too many shots from everywhere with Mark Stone off the ice. I really don’t know what else to say about this since the effect is so visually stark. Mark Stone genuinely makes the Sens look like an entirely different team.

As Mark Stone is essentially both the best offensive and best defensive player on the Ottawa Senators at this time, I believe it is in the team’s best interests to give him as much money as he asks for at whatever time he says he wants it. Travis Yost agrees. I don’t think I have ever advocated for a “blank cheque” approach to contract negotiations, but I do in this case because a Sens team without Mark Stone is literally not worth watching.

2. Cody Ceci and Tom Pyatt are not good

I don’t want to spend too much time belabouring this point, but it should still be said:

When Cody Ceci is on the ice, the Senators give up 41.5 shots on net per 60 minutes, many from extremely dangerous areas. When Cody Ceci is off the ice, the Senators are nearly defensively average if you squint a bit, insofar as giving up 34 shots on net per 60 minutes can be considered “nearly defensively average”. Now, it is true that Ceci plays many of his minutes against the hardest competition, and he only plays with Mark Stone 30% of the time. Mark Stone is a player who helps everyone he plays with and Cody Ceci’s results would look a lot better if he got to spend the majority of his icetime with Ottawa’s best player. However, even after accounting for these facts, there’s no getting around the fact that Ceci’s results are garment-rendingly horrific. Therefore, I would advocate for changing his role, and also possibly changing his team.

Tom Pyatt is often tasked with playing against top opposition. It’s a hard job, and Tom Pyatt isn’t incredibly good at it. Tom Pyatt has two points this year. Tom Pyatt is where offense goes to die. Tom Pyatt is a physical oddity who emits an extremely strong field which repels the puck. Tom Pyatt should be studied by scientists. Tom Pyatt and his linemates give up shots at nearly twice the rate at which they take them. There are some powerplays which take shots less often than Ottawa’s opponents when Tom Pyatt is on the ice. These are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.

3. The rest of the Senators aren’t incredibly great either, but they’ll still sneak up on you.

I’ll admit this one surprised me. As great as Mark Stone is, players like Matt Duchene, Thomas Chabot, and Ryan Dzingel have still been having great years themselves and I thought this would show up in the shot rates for the 1/3rd of the time when Ottawa has neither their best nor their worst players on the ice. However, even the likes of Chabot and Duchene seem unable to move the needle much offensively away from Mark Stone. Some of this, I suspect, is due to an intentional stylistic choice. I think Guy Boucher is encouraging players to capitalize on “rush chances”, turning the Sens into a One-and-Done team on offense. Anyone who has watched the Sens much can probably speak to this. The Sens generally look for a good initial chance, and if they don’t score or get the puck back immediately, everyone hauls ass on defense. They are not a team that is looking to cycle you into the ice. The Sens do not bowl you over like a pie in the face. They are quick and precise, like a pool cue to the balls. When it works, this makes the Sens exciting to watch as you get to watch the Sens exciting rookies run and gun. When it doesn’t work, the Sens are completely incapable of generating any offense at all as they have essentially no Plan B. This style does play to some players’ strengths. Matt Duchene in particular is extremely talented with the puck and having your man come through the neutral zone with a full head of steam and an opportunity to get creative is probably the best way to get the most offense out of him. That said, there can be no doubt that Duchene benefits an incredible amount from playing with Stone and vice versa. Of Duchene’s 11 primary assists, 7 of them are assists on Stone goals.

Duchene puts up results with Stone that he seems unable to generate on his own. If you think Matt Duchene away from Mark Stone is alarming, you don’t even want to know about Brazy Tkachuk. On a Senators team that still has some high end talent even after the departures of Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone still stands out as a cut above the rest.

The Wisdom

Look, the Sens aren’t, by any stretch of the imagination, good. They give up too many shots and they’re too reliant on unsustainable shooting percentages (all situations sh% of 11.25%) just to keep treading water. The goaltending has barely even been average, and I’d be surprised if 37 year old Craig Anderson ever again finds the form that took the Sens to the 3rd round of the playoffs in 2016. Also Ottawa is dealing with a spate of injuries and the 3rd defense pairing is now Justin Falk and Stefan Elliott who are two players I have literally never heard of. So, things are not great.

But with no 1st round draft pick this year, there’s no harm in trying to win, so we might as well enjoy the little bits of unsustainable shooting percentage we get along the way as the Sens battle for 20th overall in the NHL. There are enough bright spots in the current team that the path to glory is clear. All the Sens have to do is re-sign Duchene and Stone, let the bad players walk, continue to draft and develop extremely well, get the goaltending figured out, make cunning free agent signings to fill out the depth, and do this all on a shoestring budget as the team continues to be enveloped in turmoil off the ice.

Easy plan. Until all that stuff happens, we’ll always have this:

 

Game On…….ish

Erik Karlsson is playing for the San Jose Sharks right now (team high 9:11 TOI through one period) and I just poured myself a glass of Maker’s Mark and now I feel like writing a few things about hockey.

First off, there can be no doubt that these are dark times for the Senators. With Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s injury, the second line centre is now Zack Smith, a player who was placed on waivers a week ago. You know things are really popping for you when the centre of your second (2nd) line is a guy no one wanted for free. Other interesting lineup notes: Ben Harpur and Max McCormick have one way deals and made the team automatically (Harpur will likely be a healthy scratch most of the time, and McCormick is on the 4th line with Tom Pyatt, who will playing on Guy Boucher’s teams long after they’re both dead), and also Brady Tkachuk won’t start the season due to a nagging groin injury (Fun fact: 80% of all groin injuries have been described as “nagging” at some point). Even the kinda good things have a little silver lining of sadness. Remember Colin White? Well he’s on the second line now! Sure he’s on the second line because Chris Tierney (a player we traded Erik Karlsson for) couldn’t out-play him, but still! Colin White, guys! It’s ok to get excited about Colin White again! Max Lajoie is the surprise of the pre-season! He’s only 20! Made the team out of camp! Did his fellow 2016 draftee Logan Brown make the team? Absolutely not, but still! Max Lajoie, folks! He’s another late round gem from the team that brought you Mike Hoffman (traded), Mark Stone (probably going to be traded), and Ryan Dzingel (he’s cool). Craig Anderson is still the starting goalie, and surely not even he can be as bad as Craig Anderson was last year. Can a plucky Senators squad with nothing to lose recapture the magic that only a .925 sv% can provide? Maybe! Hockey is back, and the Senators are a doing a passable imitation thereof!

Let’s circle back to that first thing for a moment: remember when the Senators put Zack Smith on waivers? What in the Panko encrusted hell was that about? Pierre Dorion claimed it was to “send a message” that last year’s play wasn’t acceptable, but this was message immediately undercut by

a) Matt Duchene, who said the move was like “a kick in the balls” whose purpose was “beyond hockey reasons”.
b) Guy Boucher, who said that Zack Smith was going to keep his spot on the second line.

If I were the message sending sort of GM, I would have thought that trading the captain and the team’s most flaky forward would have done the trick, but apparently the guy with the lowest plus-minus on the team last year had to feel the heat, too. Occam’s Razor says that placing Smith on waivers was a desperate attempt to lower payroll, and even if that wasn’t the case, I’m not sure how you don’t consult Guy Boucher first, or at least get him on board with the messaging. Boucher seemed just as perturbed as many of his players that his second line centre was being left out on the curb without so much as a “If it’s cool with you…”. Ultimately, it seems the message that was received in the room was “We will attempt to ship out your friends if it’ll save us money”, so I guess what I’m trying to say is that Matt Duchene is definitely not signing here long term once he finds out that he’s rich enough to afford a private plane that can fly him to Haliburton from anywhere.

Again, not that I blame Pierre Dorion. He’s got a job to do, and he’s doing it. It can’t be easy to get a phone call from your boss and have him insist that you personally have to find a way to keep the lights on past December even though the team has more money on IR than on the entire defense right now. It’s just gross to see that management isn’t even trying any more. Used to be that you could squint at a move like Zibanejad for Brassard and convince yourself that the cash savings were a mere coincidence and really it was basically a hockey move. Not any more. The Sens are taking 2nd liners and stapling “Free to a good home” to their chests. This is some next level shit.

Being a Sens fan right now kinda feels like being a Napoleon fan post Battle of Waterloo, so here are some reasons why I might watch hockey this season:

1. Aesthetic reasons – Not only were the Senators bad last year, but they were also totally unwatchable. The Sens being a team that could conceivably be watched for fun would go a long way towards my willingness to watch them for fun. Hockey, when played well, can be an enjoyable spectator experience. I am not ready to give up on the possibility of enjoying a 2018-19 Senators game yet.

2. Habitual reasons – One of these days it’s gonna be a Thursday night, and I’m gonna need something to do. Could watching Senators hockey be that thing? It’s been a thing in past years. It’s very possible it could be a thing this year, especially if watching the team doesn’t feel like a massive waste of my time and emotional energy. Hockey: It may be the thing I watch on Thursdays.

3. Emotional reasons – I want to like Brady Tkachuk, and Thomas Chabot, and Colin White, and Alex Formenton. Hell, I even want to like Cody Ceci. With no 1st round draft pick this season, there’s nothing to be gained by losing so why not be open to the possibility of enjoying the journey of a bunch of sentient lunchboxes who are taught the true meaning of hockey by some enthusiastic rookies? That’s a rhetorical question. Do not answer that.

Ok, so on the one hand, we have a hockey shaped hole in my life that maybe the Senators can fill. On the other side of things, here are some reasons someone might not watch the Ottawa Senators:

1. Extreme displeasure with recent events including, but not limited to, the captain being traded, harassment allegations against the team’s former AGM that were only cursorily dealt with by the team, the failure to sign Mark Stone or Matt Duchene to long term deals, the owner inserting himself into the team’s operations as much as possible, and the general impression that things are going to get much worse before they get better because the team is operating in such a way as to accomplish the bare minimum associated with being a professional sports team while the franchise itself accrues value due to land development rights on behalf of the aforementioned owner who has, at various times, openly mused about relocation, referred to the fans as “finicky”, alienated several of the team’s most beloved players, alienated several of the team’s executives, and generally shown an unwillingness to be agreeable in any way.

Look, it’s a complicated time.

It’s probable that home attendance is going to be a storyline again this season, and many fans are already voting with their dollar and openly boycotting the team until the organization proves they’re worthy of support. The organization? Well, they’re working on it. I’m not going to tell you how to be a fan this year; clearly I haven’t even worked it out for myself yet. Everyone has to live their truth and whatnot. Just…please do me a favour and try to not live a truth that is completely whack, like the sort of truth that says the only way to be a true fan is by going to all the games or by burning jerseys or by picketing in front of the Canadian Tire Centre. This year will be a lot more bearable if one half of the fanbase isn’t openly calling the other half of the fanbase dirty scabs for attending a game or buying a San Jose Karlsson jersey (even if those people are dirty scabs). If anyone can find something to enjoy in hockey at the moment, well then they’re entitled to it. Hopefully soon we all will be entitled to some happiness. I patiently await the day when the Senators give us something everyone can get behind.

You Maniacs! You Blew It Up!!!

Earlier today, Erik Karlsson was traded to the San Jose Sharks for a 6th defenseman, a defensive black hole, and some scratch-off tickets. Some quick thoughts because I don’t know how else to deal right now:

1. We’re not changing the name of the blog. That name is staying up forever.

2. Deep down inside, I could imagine a trade return for Erik Karlsson that didn’t make me want to check out entirely. This………..was not that. How do you not even get a SECOND PAIRING defenseman back? The team says it’s six assets in the return, but I say they’re pissing in my face and telling me it’s raining.

3. Until the unauthorized tell-all book is written by Michael Wolff or whoever, I’ll never understand why or how Pierre Dorion went from telling us “God created Erik Karlsson on the eighth day” to trading Erik Karlsson for pennies on the dollar in less than 500 days. I’ll bet the reasons were incredibly fucking stupid, though.

4. Speaking of Pierre Dorion, spare a thought for your man’s Vichy France ass. He knew what he was signing up for when he signed that three-year extension in February, and he did it anyway. Erik Karlsson was the crown jewel in his personal draft record. Your man had to undo his own legacy, be publicly depantsed by Doug Wilson for the second time in two months, and then talk about how he actually thinks it’s smart. Rough stuff. I’m glad I’m not him. If you’re the guy who drafted Erik Karlsson and then traded Erik Karlsson, it just means you’re the guy who traded Erik Karlsson.

5. One thing that can’t be overstated is how clumsy this all seemed from the get-go. Karlsson was going to be imminently traded for over half a year. Karlsson’s face was removed from promotional materials, the Canadian Tire Centre, etc. Your man got the full Enemy of Stalin treatment. Despite it all, we all still had to sit through the dog and pony show of the town halls and the *puts on Michael Jackson rhinestone gloves to make air quotes* contract extension offer before Karlsson got traded anyway and Pierre Dorion said “Yeah we’ve been talking about this since February”. What a waste of my emotional energy.

6. If you enjoyed doing that dog and pony show with Karlsson, I hope you enjoy doing it with Mark Stone and Matt Duchene this year. Rest assured that if they must be traded, the return will be extremely disappointing.

7. I don’t know how I’m going to engage with hockey this year. I think watching the Ottawa Senators will be tough, both in terms of quality of play and emotionally. Why get attached to Mark Stone if he’ll just gone soon? What if Thomas Chabot is good, but not quite as good as Thomas Chabot and Erik Karlsson together? Maybe I’ll get really into the Belleville Senators. Maybe Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, and Filip Chlapik will make the Senators worth tolerating. I’m not gonna put any pressure on myself to engage, though. Why waste energy trying to understand something that can’t be understood except through the lens of the whims of a disgraced former pharmaceutical magnate? This whole thing is stupid. Everything is stupid.

8. Thing I’m not looking forward to: everyone who knows me trying to talk to me about hockey. Don’t make sports your “personal brand”, kids! It’s a bad idea.

9. Check out Hockey Brunch! (Coming soon!)

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The Bad Takes Will Continue Until Morale Improves

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Graphic design is my passion.

Remember February? Remember the organizational turmoil and Erik Karlsson trade rumours? “Could this get any worse?” we asked ourselves. “Yes”, apparently is the answer. Not only have we not hit rock bottom, but rock bottom isn’t even in sight as the news out of Kanata keeps plumbing new depths of awful like one of those Youtube videos that just keeps zooming in on a piece of a fractal.

The common factor of across the stories is a complete lack of leadership at the top of the organization. A decisive org would have nipped any Karlsson trade rumours in the bud before they had a chance to turn into a circus. A decisive org would have also put Randy Lee on leave after his arrest. Maybe this is just my delicate sensibilities talking, but I don’t feel like ALLEGEDLY grabbing a person while making comments about your genitals while on a work trip is the sort of thing that should be ignored by the organization you were representing at the time. Not only is Randy Lee not on leave, the Senators haven’t even had the good sense to act embarrassed by the whole thing, instead hiring The Official Lawyer of Scumbag Celebrities. Being embarrassed, apparently, is left to the fans. (Ed. Note: three minutes after publishing this, Pierre Dorion announced Randy Lee had been suspended pending the outcome of his trial.)

I have little to say about the campaign of cyber-bullying ALLEGEDLY carried out by Mike Hoffman’s finance, Monika Caryk, against Erik and Melinda Karlsson other than to say that it’s horrifying. To be honest, I’m not completely sure what the Senators should have done after finding out about the harassment, but I don’t think letting Hoffman and Karlsson handle it themselves was the correct answer.

So yeah, things are extremely messed up and the reasons why are pretty obvious to anyone who is paying attention even slightly. However, the mess that is the Ottawa Senators has now drawn a crowd, and the crowd is not always paying attention even slightly.

With this sudden infamy come The Takes.

Oh how I loathe The Takes.

How I loathe the drive-by opinioning by media scrubs who would rather fart out any half-baked take than try to be thoughtful, because fuck it, it’s just the internet.

How I loathe the presumption that whatever said media scrubs have to say will be edifying to, not only the public, but to Sens fans in general as if we’re not all intimately acquainted with what the real problem is in Ottawa.

To wit, here’s some garbage from Dave Lozo, who submitted a bold “Might as well just move the team” take yesterday afternoon.

Some choice cuts:

A National Hockey League team in Ottawa. It was a fun experiment. We had a lot of good times. Well, a few good times. Actually, I’m sure a good time occurred even though I can’t pinpoint a specific moment. That time Damian Rhodes bleached his hair, maybe? But maybe it’s time to say goodbye. It’s the best thing for everyone.

Strong move coming out of the gate with as dickish a dismissal as possible of both the franchise’s existence and (modest) success. Let’s see you write the same paragraph about the Florida Panthers, coward.

Sometimes when you love something, you have to let it die so everyone can move forward with their lives. The situation commonly manifests itself in the form of a terminally ill grandparent, an extremely old pet or anything since season three of Arrested Development.

Incredibly topical reference, dude.

Fighting to keep the Ottawa Senators alive is selfish. They can’t go on living like this, if you can call this living. If you really care about their happiness, you will sign the papers, kiss them on the forehead and stand outside the room as Gary Bettman grants them the sweet release of eternity.

Don’t you think that seems a little drastic? If only there were some second option that would allow the team to remove the parts of the management structure that are plaguing it without having Gary Bettman handle a lethal injection. Some sort of legal transfer of ownership, perhaps? 🤔🤔🤔🤔

And this is all during and after a 67-point season with attendance plummeting to its lowest levels since 1996-97, a sign fans already had enough. If you look inside your heart, Senators fans, you know what needs to be done; you just need the courage to do it.

Why does this guy want me to Old Yeller my own hockey team? (see, THAT’S how you do a topical reference)

That leaves likely offer sheet target Mark Stone and pending unrestricted free agent Matt Duchene counting down the days until they are no longer Senators. Yeah, offer sheets are about as rare as sell-out crowds in Ottawa, but you have to believe Stone is telling his agent to whisper into teams’ ears that he’d be happy to sign one to escape Ottawa.

How is this idea still a thing? What offer sheet is Mark Stone going to sign that Ottawa won’t match? As if the only thing Ottawa can offer at this time is three sticks of gum and it’s only going to take $7MM and some draft picks to pry Stone out of Ottawa. Eugene Melnyk may be hurting financially, but Ottawa has a long and established history of paying players what they’re worth at this point. They can’t pay them all, but they pay the ones they keep.

But guess what! Travis Yost posted a story Thursday afternoon that makes the case that the Senators may have their very own renegade Twitter account being run by someone inside the organization.

Oh you mean the account that’s run by a random crank from the Dobber Hockey boards? Great research skills ya got there, you hack.

Some of this isn’t the organization’s fault but so much of it starts at the top with Melnyk, and if he’s there in perpetuity, why should fans expect anything to change?

Finally something sensible.

And if by some miracle the Senators do everything right in the coming weeks and months with their image issues, they still must trade their best defenseman and arguably their best forward. If Melnyk was hemorrhaging money and strapped with immense debt before this season, how does that get better a year from now? Why would he want to continue sinking money into an unprofitable team?

Lozo comes so agonizingly close to cogent analysis here. Indeed, it seems increasingly more unlikely that Melnyk will be willing or able to float a team whose operational losses continue to mount as fans check out. One of the reasons I have not been a particularly vocal supporter of the #MelnykOut movement was due to my private belief that if one wants Eugene Melnyk to sell the Senators, all you have to do is wait.

Back to the nonsense at hand. Having established that

1. Melnyk selling is the only way forward.
2. Melnyk cannot sustain operational losses indefinitely

Lozo then goes on to ignore these facts entirely to get back to his original thesis: it’s good if the Ottawa Senators relocate.

But if Melnyk won’t go, death is the best option. You don’t owe Melnyk anything. You are not obligated to dedicate your time, money, and sanity to something that so clearly doesn’t care about you or icing the best possible team. Find your way to the acceptance stage. Let the Senators go. Houston. Quebec. Kansas City. There are worse things that can happen to a fan than a team relocating.

This guy has such an obsession with killing the Senators that he ignores the logic of his previous 3 paragraphs and just invents a universe where it’s good and logical that Sens fans are forced to go without hockey. Never mind the fact that relocation is a drastic step that Bettman would almost certainly never allow. Never mind that the Carolinas and Arizonas of the world appear set to enjoy hockey in perpetuity regardless of transient market pressures. The Senators will have to move because, well, the owner is a huge wad. You know, that’s why the Los Angeles Clippers moved. And why the existence of Harold Ballard forced the relocation of the Toronto Maple Leafs. And why the only way to save New York basketball from James Dolan is by moving the Knicks. This is analysis by and for clowns. It should be ignored with extreme prejudice, except for when it should be mercilessly skewered and mocked.

In conclusion, the Ottawa has an NHL franchise essentially by accident. We should cling to it tightly, even as we temporarily wave goodbye to our emotional and monetary investment during these troubled times. I’ll be damned if I’m going to lose a battle of wills to Eugene Melnyk. My will is endless, and his bank account is extremely not.

Guest Post: The 2017-18 Ottawa Senators as WWE Wrestlers

Ed. Note: Every so often, we at Welcome to your Scarfo Years like to adopt a guest post so that we can care for it like our very own. A few weeks ago Friend of the Blog, Bragg AKA @Braggzilla, asked “What if the Ottawa Senators were WWE Wrestlers?” and I said “You should write a blog about it” and now that blog is here just in time for Wrestlemania and we are all richer for it. You can try checking Bragg out on twitter, but he has a locked account so he might not let you.

Bake it away, Tragg!

The 2017-18 Ottawa Senators as WWE Wrestlers

If you’re a normal person reading this, your awareness of WrestleMania likely starts and ends with “that’s a thing that exists, and I think Hulk Hogan used to be on it.” If you’re like me, and not a normal person, you know that today is WrestleMania Eve, and you are HYPED for that A.J. Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura rematch from their 4.75 star classic in the Tokyo Dome in 2016! Either way; you, an Ottawa Senators fan, could use a little levity as this garbage dump season reaches its miserable, stupid conclusion. In the spirit of distracting ourselves from this Hockey Hell, and the spirit of my Christmas (WrestleMania); here are your 2017-18 Ottawa Senators as WWE wrestlers!

Mark Stone – AJ Styles

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Remember the Mark Stone/Auston Matthews tweet that turned Ontario Hockey Twitter upside down for a few hours? AJ Styles is the pro wrestling equivalent of that. While beloved by the good and righteous people (WWE: dorks on the internet/NHL: Ottawa Senators fans) who appreciate their talents; neither Styles or Stone have gotten the full recognition their abilities warrant because they appear on television shows that cater to an audience without fully developed motor skills (WWE: 5 year olds/NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs fans). Like Mark Stone, it’s not that no one thinks AJ Styles is good; but he had to become one of the best pro wrestlers in the world, and sustain that for years before a mainstream audience truly took notice.

Bobby Ryan – Randy Orton

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Early in his career, Orton was a blue chip prospect. He had some great years early on, but settled into a pattern of mediocrity by his late 20’s that, when combined with his high salary, caused many to question his commitment to his craft. While Ryan’s career has become beset by hand and finger injuries to near tragicomic levels; Orton’s shoulders have plagued him in much the same way, peaking in 2015 when he missed months of action after dislocating his shoulder taking out his garbage. Another thing Randy Orton has in common with Bobby Ryan is their political uhhh… leanings. Yeesh.

Frederik Claesson – Cesaro

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Claesson and Cesaro are Northern European imports who have shown flashes of brilliance in small samples, but have not yet been given an opportunity to do so in a long-term, consistent role. They have risen to the occasion when given the chance – Claesson in the 2017 playoffs, and Cesaro in great matches with John Cena and Sami Zayn – but nothing more seemed to come of it. Fred Claesson for Intercontinental Champion in 2018!

Ben Harpur – The Big Show

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Both Harpur and Big Show signed contract extensions recently, despite looking like they probably will and should be healthy scratches most of the time. Critique their ability all you want, but you cannot refute that both Harpur and The Big Show are very, very tall men.

Mark Borowiecki – Kane

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The best way to describe Kane’s strengths as a performer in 2018 is to say “he’s very popular in the locker room.” Despite this, the TV commentators talk about him as if he’s going to literally open a portal to hell and throw his opponent in it every time he’s on the screen. Take a listen to what the colour commentator says next time Borowiecki bodychecks a guy or tries to instigate a fight – it’s basically the same imagery.

Cody Ceci – Roman Reigns

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Roman Reigns is the perfect golden son of WWE management. Tomorrow night, he will probably win the WrestleMania main event match for the third straight year. A role on the show you’d expect to be occupied by a Hulk Hogan/Stone Cold Steve Austin type beloved star. As WWE attempts to shoehorn Reigns into the role of their top star, and tell the audience that he is very important and tough and handsome and cool; more often than not, he tends to get this type of reaction from the crowd. Given that his entire job is basically make people cheer for him, those aren’t good results. Roman Reigns is WWE’s top star in the same way that Cody Ceci is the Ottawa Senators’ ‘shutdown defenseman.’ Someone decided that was what he is; and it seems that no matter how much evidence mounts that it just isn’t working out, they’re not going to move away from that any time soon. It’s debatable whether or not Ceci or Reigns is objectively bad as a hockey player or wrestler, but both have become lightning rods for fan criticism because they were placed in top roles before they were ready, and are cited as evidence of flawed organizational philosophies as a result.

Erik Karlsson – Daniel Bryan

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If ‘making people cheer for you’ is the wrestling equivalent of ‘being a good defenseman’ in the NHL, then Daniel Bryan’s résumé is a little more Karlsson-esque in that regard. Though there was some level of expectation early in their careers – Karlsson was a first round pick, and Bryan was a star independently long before WWE – no one could have predicted either of these guys would become possibly the best in the world at their respective positions. Both are electrifying performers who use their athleticism and creativity to produce exciting moments that transcend their sport. Both Bryan and Karlsson have continually exceeded all expectations placed on them, blossomed as performers before our eyes, overcome working for sometimes dysfunctional employers, and formed a bond with their respective fanbases unlike any other.

Daniel Bryan has long been a fan favourite in the most literal sense of the term. He’s really almost every fan’s favourite. He is returning to the ring on Sunday after a two year absence due to injuries and WWE-imposed hurdles on his medical clearance. Wrestling fans, who love Bryan in the same way Sens fans love Karlsson, thought they had seen the last of him in a WWE ring. If there’s anything to be learned from that as a Sens fan, it’s that maybe there is still hope, and maybe we haven’t yet seen the last of our Swedish miracle angel in a Senators uniform, despite the existential despair and sense of impending doom that we all feel right now. Let’s all take a moment to visualize how great it will feel to see “Karlsson signs 8-year extension in Ottawa” bless our twitter timelines this summer, and then see him step on the ice again (in the heritage ‘O’ jersey, or the 2D Senator logo) next fall. Please do not remind me that wrestling isn’t real at this time – I need this!

WTYKY Publishes Our DMs. This is content now.

In an effort to get out in front of Wikileaks publishing our DMs, we’re doing it ourselves. In this part of the DM, Luke, James, and Varada discuss the in-arena experience, who it is for, and whether it can be fixed.

Luke: Is a hockey game experience rocket science?

On the one hand, it can feel like some of the trappings are catered to people who think of going to a hockey game as an Event. Like the Prime Minister Race, or Timbits Game or whatever. There’s all this extra stuff around the hockey game, because maybe the casual fan doesn’t actually care about the hockey game all that much. Then there’s the Season Ticket Holders who have been seeing the same Spartacat Shell Game with Hats 41 times a year since 1997 (I have heard that being a season ticket holder is NOT always easy) and they’re basically impossible to please because their threshold for giving a shit is just too high.

But maybe there’s a game experience out there that’s basically agreeable for everyone regardless of how many games you go to. Or maybe hockey games are like the Star Wars universe in that they’re inherently limited and there’s only so many things you can do with them.

I read some tweets at some point about how the Dallas Stars (???) in-game experience is really good. Are they really thinking outside the bun on that one, or do they just happen to do the same bullshit better than other arenas?

Varada and James just did a podcast on this topic, where Varada was like “I went to a hockey game in San Jose. It was like going to a hockey game” so now I’m thinking maybe we just want too much.

James: Well, that’s what I’m saying. Varada was talking that gangster talk about it on our podcast a couple of weeks ago about going to that Sharks game, and how it was strikingly similar to going to a Sens game. Not surprising to me seeing as I cannot really think of what else you can bring to the table. It’s just 2 minute or 20 minute intervals between play. I remember it being kind of different back in the day where they first had the Sharks players coming out of the tunnel out our of a giant inflatable shark’s mouth. Then the Oilers skated out…from a giant oil derrick …then the Avs skated out of Big Foot’s dick.

Sometimes I try to consider what I actually already like about the in-game experience. I like getting there a bit early if possible and going down to the ice and watching warm up (I don’t even know what it is I like about that but I do like it), I like the 50/50 draw basically only because Varada and my mutual friend winning a bunch of years ago makes me feel like I have a chance…aaaaaaaaaand…Oh, I like during TV time outs when they do those little vignettes with players like, “What was the first car you owned?” because it’s super fun to watch with Chet because we see who can do the best impersonation of Mike Hoffman (the trick is never close your mouth all the way). After that it’s all Missing Chiclets try-too-hard shit and Mattamy Homes Presents How Long Can You Wait in Line to Take a Piss.

But back to your point Luke, we DO want too much. And by “we” I mean mainly Season Ticket Holders (I’m sorry but the main group I see on twitter that seem to complain about “experience” stuff tend to identify themselves as STH (that complaining is the actual reason is how I even know what STH stands for. Anyway, MYYYYYY main complaints about the in game experience are unfixable. Like, “People not clapping for player announcements”. I’m always personally kind of floored after “Number sixty one, numero soixante et un…MAAAAAAAAARK STOOOOOOOONE” and like maybe 1 out of every 10 people around me even bother to cheer for the like 5 seconds it takes for him to get from the tunnel to the blueline. Cmon guys, let’s get somewhat hyped?

Luke: I kinda defend the Ottawa crowd on this one a bit. If Ottawa has a reputation of being a more docile crowd, I feel like it’s because they know what the big moments are and they save it for those times. That playoff game vs. Pittsburgh was loud AF. I don’t blame people for not bringing the same energy for a Tuesday night game against Carolina in January. (But also I agree that it’s obviously more fun when everyone is into it.)

James: Every playoff game I go to is loud as fuck, it’s just funny how much the crowd can sometimes “Save their cheers” for the big moments as if it’s a finite resource. I ain’t talking about the same energy as playoff game that’s not a problem, I’m talking about some MORE energy. I feel there’s a disconnect twixt myself being heading into a game like, “Alright I paid like $60 bucks to be here and sat in traffic for like an hour LET’S FUCKING GET IT THO”, and a bunch of people around me who seem to be like, “Heartland was a repeat so I’m at this Islanders game” kind of kills my vibe sometimes.

Luke: Hot Take: The thing you dislike about hockey games is the thing you dislike about people.

James: Oh yeah absolutely. You can’t trust the Gen Pop (see also: The Current American Political Landscape) and Sports Fans have an extreme tendency toward Gen Poppiness. That’s why I’m saying I can’t fix it. While I’m jealous that the Panthers DJ is playing the dirty version of Trick Daddy’s “Thug dot Com” album from front to back, I also realize that probably 75% of the CTC is like, “YES THE NEW FOOD FIGHTERS SINGLE!”

Varada: I tweeted at Sens DJ once “You should use the new War on Drugs single, I’m not being ironic, it really works!” And after was just like “I’m an idiot for believing in things”

James: If, between faceoffs, they played Mykki Blanco, after one season I’d probably take it for granted like, “Their old shit is better tho”.

Varada: What about this: hiring someone to do funny scoreboard sketches on their Mac might be good. Tap into that internet memeness. I remember I was at the last game with the old scoreboard, and hung around after the game for a bit to avoid traffic and they played a montage of the scoreboard on the scoreboard set to “I Will Remember You” and it was basically for staff only. Why not play that shit during the game?

There’s also an element of “Ask people a question and they’ll answer it”. Maybe they should ask “How important is it to you?”. I think most people would say a winning team is more important to them than a laser show. All of the best stuff about 67s games is fan-driven. That, plus you find the tickets stapled in the Pennysaver.

Basically, I want the Constantines and Les Savy Fav to be playing in a small club in the basement of the CTC on the one night I decide to buy a ticket illegally off the internet at 1/3 face value.

Luke: Not enough bands playing unadvertised shows in intimate venues is definitely a problem with the CTC experience.

Varada: [Me, watching The Fall in the CTC parking lot]: “Pffft. They’re not even playing their early stuff.”

I have a hard time reconciling how much I like watching and talking about hockey with the fact that going to a regular season game in a league with way too may regular season games is basically a family experience. Kids will be awed by the size of everything, the brightness and the noise. And parents will pay something stupid, like $500, for tickets and merch and food to give their kids that special experience. It’s Disneyworld. And so I don’t mind if the team markets entirely that way and leaves me, a bitter man nearing 40 who’s going to wear a John Coltrane t-shirt to the game and pretend not to enjoy myself, out in the cold.

Basically, the “in-game Xperience” should be designed for everyone from the 2nd deck down – families and corporate interests – and the third deck should be about cheap tickets and beer and the scent of blue-collar failure, where people like us feel at home. Mike Fisher taking tickets at the front door, Chris Neil handing out oil change coupons in the rear.

My dad took me to games as a kid – Expos, Jays, Sens, Habs – and I remember leaving like “I am OBSESSED with hockey now” and also didn’t know where the teams were in the standings or what the score was or any of the players. They should market to more idiot children.