Even though it is the shimmery start of June, and us hard-luck Sens fans have to watch two other teams make their way into the Stanley Cup Finals, it's important to note that all is not lost.
When looking back on the 2013-14 season, it's easy to look at the negatives:
1. We missed the playoffs by a solid seven points.
2. Our goaltending never seemed to get established.
3. Our D looked shakier than cafeteria jello.
And so on and so forth...but what about the silver lining of this past season? Surely, in the world of pro sport, it's important to 'turn that frown upside down' and move on to the next page?
In a year where all of the expectations seem to fly out the airplane window on a season-starting (and stifling) Western Road Trip, it's important to note that there were some great players and stunning career highs on this team.
Clarke MacArthur is one of those players, and if there was anyone whose grit, speed and work ethic that both the team and fans stood up and noticed, it was this guy.
Clarke 'Grizz' MacArthur (yes- he got his nickname from a Chevy Chase character) showed up on this team and could be seen on every shift skating his guts out and creating scoring opportunities. Although he definitely had his slumps, Mac boasted 24 goals this season. That's three more than his previous record of 21 with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010-11. Beyond that, he took the highest amount of shots he's ever taken in a season with 159 (beating out 154 from 2010-11) and he notched his second highest point season of all time with 55.
If there was anyone who I wished that some of the sullen Sens squad could have played like this past season, MacArthur was exactly that. His shifts always counted, and his work with Turris and Ryan gave us a look at his speed and forechecking skill. It is my hope that we lock Grizz up for a long time and that he wears an A within a season or two.
Marc Methot is definitely one of the most polarizing Ottawa Senators in the eyes of the fans. With such a strong first year in the 2012-13 lockout season, Methot seemed to stumble at times in his second season with the Sens. Having trouble in his own zone (like every Ottawa D player) and being mysteriously sidelined for a 'flu' that seemed to last forever were all parts of a strange season for the 6'3" D man.
Despite the oddities, though, Methot notched his highest point season of all time with 23 points (beating out his previous high of 17 with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008-09). With a rocket-esque and accurate shot, Methot has proven to be effective at the point and scored 6 goals this season (two higher than his previous high of 4 in 2008-09). With a few interesting offensive flashes (like when he walked out from behind the net and schooled Mike Smith), it's obvious that there is more to meets the eye with this guy.
In my eyes, he's our second-best D man and he's fun to watch. When it comes to positioning, he's in the right place 95% of the time. He hits hard. He's a great skater and he seems to want to have a say in the leadership of this team. Watch for him to have another banner year in 2014-15.
What else can be said about Kyle Turris? The guy is gold. He's dynamite. He is dynamite that is made of gold. In a season where everything seemed to go wrong, this guy was one of the pure 'rights'.
Not the biggest player in the NHL (6'1", 191 lbs), Turris has become a legitimate offensive threat. He's one of the best pickups the Sens have ever made, and he seems to keep getting better with every season.
'Turris Attraction' clocked his highest point season of all time with 58, more than doubling his previous highs of 29 (in both 2011-12 and 12-13). His ability to dig deep and come up with clutch goals and assists showed that he is on his way to being a premiere offensive player in the NHL. I'm unsure of whether he can ever be a successful first liner (because of his size), but I see Turris as being almost as untouchable as Erik Karlsson in his future with the Sens.
Speaking of Erik Karlsson (what a segue, hunh?), one of the most dangerous players in the NHL notched his highest goal season of all time this past year with 20 goals (knocking out his previous high of 19 in 2011-12). There's not much else that can be said about this guy (outside of 'he's the best offensive D-man in the game and we have him').
Karlsson's TOI was the highest of any player in every game this past year, and at the young age of 24, he is becoming a leader of this team. Although his offensive numbers may adjust slightly (especially if Jason Spezza is traded), EK65 is a powerhouse in his own right and he will continue to be a player than can singlehandedly change the course of any game.
Scoff if you must, but Jared Cowen actually scored the most NHL goals he's ever scored in 2013-14 with a stunning 6 (edging out his previous high of 5 in 11-12). Highly scrutinized (and rightfully so), Cowen is one of the strangest 6'5" players in the NHL. He often looks unsure of himself with the puck, his ability to make fast decisions seems to be shot and he's not the fastest skater.
Beyond all of that, though, he did have some nice offensive looks and notched 68 shots on goal (10 higher than his previous record of 58 in 2011-12). He has a hard shot and if he continues to improve (and that's a big 'if'), Cowen could be on to something.
Probably the strangest player of this group, Patrick Wiercioch is somewhat of an enigma. The 6'5 206 pounder is not the toughest defender, but our looks of him in the lockout season indicated that he would be playing more often this year. In the end, Wiercioch spent a lot of time in 2013-14 platooning and never really got a shot at the top 6 pairing for unknown reasons.
Outside of any speculation, though, Wiercioch had a career high season with 23 points (beating out his previous sparkling high of 19 in 42 games in the 12-13 season). He took 97 shots on goal (another high) and spent a lot of time on the PP. His hard shot and offensive positioning screams of a need to play more, and if he leaves, he is a player I will miss.
CHEERS AMONG JEERS:
In the end, it's important to note that missing the playoffs doesn't mean that this team is done. Our offensive output was higher than it has ever been, and that's nothing to shrug away. With all of these career highs in such a down and out season, surely that's an indication that something good is about to happen with this club.
I subscribe to the moneyball theory of hockey; goals = wins. You can have the best D corps and the best goalies in the world, but shutouts won't get you wins if your team can't put the puck in the net. We've proven that we can do that, and all of the above players are great examples of that truth. Let's just hope that moving forward, the offensive game isn't completely gutted in order to pay for our defensive sins.