I've always been an optimistic Sens fan. At the start of every season I would go out of my way to justify why my team could be a Cup contender. When the team missed the playoffs in 2008-09 I was slightly devastated. Yet I remained optimistic. It was just a small blip on the radar. They would bounce back, and they did. The Senators would go on to lose against Pittsburgh in the first round the next season. However, my excitement for what to come was strong after that exhilarating series, especially the triple overtime victory. I always looked at the bright side.
Having completed a co-op term at university, I finally had the cash to purchase my first 10 game pack. I was finally a season ticket holder and the best years were about to come. Well I was wrong. Despite my positive outlook, 2010-2011 was not a good year. It would lead to the "rebuild", which I of course looked at optimistically. We still retained our best players in Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. Why couldn't we come back and make the playoffs next year with some fresh faces. With that in mind I would upgrade my ticket package to a half season.
With Nikita Filatov and David Rundblad joining the lineup, I was pumped for the 2011-2012 season. They would be the beginning of the next generation that would lead this team for years to come. My optimism there may have been a bit high, but it carried over to the acquisition of Kyle Turris. It would pay off as the Senators were right back in the playoff race against the New York Rangers. This would be the first playoff series I have attended since 1998 and I had forgotten how exciting playoff hockey is live. I won't forget the Turris OT winner. Despite losing the series, I felt like the Sens were trending in the right direction. With my co-op terms completed and money burning in my pocket, I made the decision to get full season tickets.
The lockout would ruin my opportunity to experience having full season tickets during a full season. Nevertheless, I was ecstatic that it didn't take away the entire season. I was ready to watch the Sens improve. Injury problems plagued the team, but the "Pesky Sens" would have none of it. Despite being outplayed in many of the games and only winning due to record goaltending, the optimist in me believed everything was fine. This was only perpetuated by the playoff run that featured one of the most memorable playoff rounds in Sens history. If I thought the building was loud the year before, the Habs one blew that out of the water. I will never forget the Pageau hat trick and line brawl. Losing in the second round was acceptable. The team was trending upwards. Now employed, I had upgraded my full season seats to a better location, and I didn't regret it one bit.
Like every other Sens fan, I couldn't wait for the season to start. That is, until free agency hit and the loss of Alfredsson happened. That stung. However optimistic I'd been, this had me thinking. Fortunately, the optimist in me was able to overcome any doubts as soon as I heard about the Bobby Ryan trade. Despite the loss of Alfredsson, many had the Senators pegged as a Stanley Cup contender in the East. I fully agreed. Unfortunately, that didn't go as planned. The team struggled to find consistency, and this is where my optimism finally started to waver. At first, I placed the blame on coaching. As the season progressed though, I finally began to realise the roster just wasn't that good. I think this is the first time I ever willingly acknowledged that my team wasn't as good as I thought they were.
Fast forward to the present. Free agency opens and 24 hours pass with the Sens trading Spezza for little help in the present and re-signing Milan Michalek. Meanwhile, we watch as other teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars immediately become Cup contenders in one day with several strong moves. Bryan Murray goes on to explain that we have a good team and it will be a hardworking team. Murray explains that the rebuilding days are over. I find myself shaking my head. This isn't a good team. Hardwork is a term used to describe a team lacking talent. The rebuilding days are indeed over though. Who are we waiting on? Curtis Lazar? That's one prospect. There aren't any other knights in shining armour coming up in the system.
What bugs me is the organization trying to convince Sens fans that the money will be there when we're ready to compete. What does that mean? To me, we're ready to compete now. We have arguably the best first line since the pizza line days, all under reasonable contracts. We have Karlsson playing some of the best hockey at a mere $6.5 million. We finally have goaltending, in both the starter and backup position. If anything, this is the best time to go for it, especially with the East being wide open. Look at Montreal. Spend smartly to the cap and this team is far superior to them. Don't lie to me and say we'll spend when we're ready to compete. That time is now.
My optimistic view on the team has entirely flip flopped to pessimism. I don't like it. I don't like not being excited for the upcoming season. It's tough to accept the fact this team will never reach its full potential under current ownership, and will likely never compete for the Stanley Cup with the status quo. The numbers don't lie, a bottom spending team will not win. Despite all that, I am keeping my full season tickets and will still support the team. The one difference is that this time around I have zero expectations heading into the season. I hope they prove me wrong, but this is the death of the optimistic Sens fan.