It's sort of nice to just bask in the glow for a little bit, isn't it? Just sit back, relax, close your eyes, and feel it in your stomach. For even just a day, all the lingering uneasiness and discontent that has been hovering over the franchise for the last sixteen months or so was dispelled. Others have more than amply covered Bobby Ryan's extension, including the usual suspects (SensChirp, 6th Sens, Bonk's Mullets) here, here and here, not to mention our own on-going coverage, so let's set that one aside. That doesn't mean there isn't a lot to talk about in Sens-land.
Trouble for Patrick Wiercioch
Even the most ardent Patrick Wiercioch supporters knew coming into this season that he was likely fighting to earn a spot in the top six. The fancy stat darling has long been something of a whipping boy; for whatever reason he seems to be especially singled out for gaffes and defensive miscues. After a particularly egregious giveaway against Winnipeg that led to a goal, Wiercioch barely saw the ice the rest of the way on Tuesday night. Noted rabble-rouser Don Brennan hinted Wiercioch's problems might be related to the fact he "seemingly lacked the desperation to make up for the miscue" or more broadly his "compete level". Add in the fact that in recent practices MacLean has favoured Turris on the point with Karlsson for PP1, and Zibanejad with Ceci for PP2, and you start to see a bit of a pattern forming. It would be a real shame if the team gave up on Wiercioch because of a perceived lack of hustle, but with a logjam on the backend and Cody Ceci playing very well it's beginning to seem like the writing is on the wall for the Weird One.
Mark Stone set to play a major role
Everything about line combinations (including my above screed about Wiercioch) in the preseason should be taken with a giant grain of salt. Nothing's set until the puck drops on the regular season, and don't believe everything (anything?) you read about the team's makeup until then. All that aside, it sure looks like Mark Stone is being set up to open the season on the top line with Turris and MacArthur. In his limited with Turris last year, the duo went for a completely bonkers 61.6 CF% and 70 GF%. Small sample size, blah, blah, blah, when those three played together last year they were really, really good. Really good. The added benefit of running Stone on the top line is it frees up Bobby Ryan to play with Mika Zibanejad on the second line, in what could turn out to be a killer 1-2 punch. We'll see if the experiment lasts, MacLean has broken up the Turris-MacArthur-Ryan line before only to put it back together when things weren't going well, but for now Stone looks to be the primary beneficiary of an attempt to spread the scoring around.
A changing of the guard?
By marking Erik Karlsson the new captain, the Senators did more than just tie the face of their franchise to their best player, they also finally closed the door on the mid 2000's glory years. They'll say all the right things, but you have to imagine Chris Phillips especially is a bit hurt after so openly campaigning for the title the last couple of years. He and Chris Neil certainly didn't stick around too long after the announcement was made yesterday morning:
For the Senators to succeed this season, Neil and Phillips need to play a smaller role while players like the aforementioned Stone, Wiercioch, Hoffman and others must step up. The captaincy is a symbolic gesture, but it's an important one; clear the way, the youth are coming through.
Rumblings of a Heritage Winter Classic in Ottawa
Rumblings is perhaps the wrong word given how transparent Jim Watson has been in his pursuit of the Heritage Winter Classic, but today there was news of on-going discussions with the NHL. Let's not count our chickens before they hatch, but the optics on this one certainly look good: 2017 would mark the 100th anniversary of the first NHL game, one that featured Ottawa and Montreal. Hockey is nothing if not a game stepped in tradition, and so bringing back teams from the two cities that started it all just makes too much sense. Tell me the beautifully renovated TD Place as the backdrop on a brisk winter day down by the canal doesn't sound like something out of a storybook? Now, when I think about the price of good seats I get a little queasy but I'd have to be dead to miss that.
One Week Before the Season Starts
That's right, this is the last Five Thoughts before the starts of the 2014-15 regular season. They say time heals all wounds, and right now I have to agree. The stink of last year's disappointment and the summer of our discontent has washed right off. With a blank slate, the world is our oyster. I suspect when the final roster is announced and the inevitable head-scratching choices are made clear we will all come back down to earth a bit, but for now it's exciting to think about the possibilities that lie ahead. In the spirit of hope springing eternal, I leave you with this video:
Dare to dream.
Thanks for reading!