This is the result of a writing exercise of mine as I was thinking about the Senators.
They lost in the second round of the 2012-2013 playoffs in a rather convincing fashion to the Pittsburgh Penguins, yet everything was rosy in Sens Land. The team was full of potential and youth that would continue to grow. Names like Mika Zibanejad, Jakob Silverberg, Robin Lehner, and of course, Erik Karlsson were going to be key parts in establishing the Ottawa Senators as contenders.
The team had won the hearts of many as for the second season in a row, after the Cinderella season of 2011-2012. The Ottawa Senators were a feel-good story. They were a team capable of continuously defying all expectations and rising to the top. The team had heart. They were Cardiac Kids. They were Pesky. They had a bright future.
July 5, 2013 was a defining day in the Senators organization when longtime, beloved captain, Daniel Alfredsson, signed with a new Atlantic division rival, the Swede-loving Detroit Red Wings. This was perhaps the first time in two years where fans worried about the direction of the team. It was whirlwind of a day, and it didn't take long to distract fans when the Senators announced a trade for Bobby Ryan.
On that day, the Senators lost their heart and soul captain, and a few of their best assets, including a first round pick, but many Senators fan had to concede that if they looked at the situation less emotionally, the world wasn't ending. There was optimism that this Senators team had earned through their play throughout the past couple of years. There was still youth, and now a new talented star that would grace Ottawa’s lineup on a deadly offensive line with Jason Spezza. What was next for Bobby Ryan? 40 goals? 50?
The biggest issues in the summer of 2012-2013 were the rumours of the Sens' less than rosy financial situation, and the aftereffects of the Alfie situation. There was still a healthy dose of optimism in Sens Land. Over the past two years, the Ottawa Senators overcame the adversity of proving they were a playoff team after trading away some key veterans, and proving their depth after comically, almost every star in the lineup ended up injured. The team would prevail once again. The new core had been augmented by a scorer, everyone was healthy, and the young players had some more experience under their belts.
Sadly for 2013-2014 Senators fans, the season doesn't occur on paper. So much was expected of this team that, at the conclusion of the season, many wondered if it was all too much. Some predicted the team to win the President’s trophy. Some the division. Many decided that it was a safe bet to assume the Sens would make the playoff again. Then, there was hope.
Now, there is pessimism. For the second year in a row, a captain has left the Ottawa Senators and made public comments about his excitement to joining an organization committed to winning. The Ottawa Senators of 2013-2014 were a disaster defensively, often appearing quite fragile after having conceded a goal. The offense was good for the most past, but it couldn't shield the porous defense.
Erik Karlsson’s play, although it improved as the season wore on, was especially spotty defensively over the first few weeks. Bobby Ryan didn't get even 30 goals, once assumed a reasonably safe bet. The goaltending, once so strong, was often nowhere near where it needed to be. The leadership from veteran players was questioned. Everything about the Ottawa Senators was analyzed and picked apart.
A team that was predicted to win the President’s Trophy is now a team that is predicted to be in the running for the first overall pick. Maybe there are some fans with optimism living on in their hearts, but they are few and far between.
No one is expecting much from the 2014-2015 Ottawa Senators despite two years of exceeding expectations and one year of falling far below them. In all sports, there is a recency bias, and the young core that was expected to win so much just one year ago is now expected to be among the NHL’s bottomfeeders.
What a difference a year makes.