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Five Thoughts for Friday

After a difficult week for Sens fans, it’s time we find some reasons to be happy.

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s face it, the last two weeks have been anything but rainbows and butterflies for Ottawa Senators fans. The team has gone 2-4 in their last six, losing in some all-around pathetic efforts. So naturally, when I began writing this post, I could only think of negative things to talk about. And trust me, there was a lot that I could talk about. But we don’t need that in our lives right now. Things are tough enough as it is, on and off the ice. I thought it would be a better idea to look at some of the reasons Sens fans have to be happy. So let’s bury out heads in the sand, shall we?

1) The Sens are still in a playoff spot

Despite the horrendous effort we’ve seen from this team in the last few games, and against what feels like all odds, they are still in the playoff picture. The Sens currently sit second in the Atlantic division, which we all know is a wide open door this season. But the important thing is the fact that they are still in there.

Every team is going to struggle at some point during the year. Sure, the latter half of the season is not when you want to see your team have these struggles. There is no doubting the fact that the team needs to get things together if they hope to hold onto their playoff spot, and actually make it to the post season, going forward. But let’s take a minute to acknowledge that with all the inconsistency this team has seen throughout the season, they are still in the playoffs right now.

Of course, they are only one point ahead of Toronto Maple Leafs (in third) and two points sit between them and the Boston Bruins. So this is really just a glimmer of hope more than anything... I can’t help myself!

2) The Sens are not the Boston Bruins

I know what you’re thinking: “You mean they’re not recent Stanley Cup champions??” ... No, I don’t mean that. Moving on.

The city of Boston started this week off pretty great. My The New England Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl in 15 years, cementing the legacy of the greatest quarterback/coaching duo of all time (I might still be a little excited). But their hockey team took the mood down a notch or two on the morning of the city’s Super Bowl parade.

On Tuesday, the Bruins announced, after much speculation, that they had fired Claude Julien and were bringing in Bruce Cassidy on an interim basis. While the move didn’t come as much of a shock to anyone, it certainly was not well advised.

The Bruins are not without their flaws, but it’s hard to blame any of that on Julien. They’ve lost a number of their key players for nothing, if not next to nothing (Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, Loui Eriksson, Johnny Boychuk, etc.), none of which can be blamed on Julien, but rather on GM decisions. Peter Chiarelli basically set up the dismantling of this team, and then said “peace out” on his way to Edmonton. The firing came after years of un-justified Julien-on-the-chopping-block rumours, and had very little to do with the team’s current roster issues.

No one really knows why Julien had to pay the price, but very few can rationalize this decision. And for once, an odd coaching decision has nothing to do with Ottawa. Well, some experts have speculated that Boston waited to fire Julien after the summer, with the fear that Ottawa would pick him up. Regardless of that, Ottawa is not at the centre of a coaching controversy, and are not in the confusing situation that Boston is in. So that’s something to be happy about.

3) The Sens have Erik Karlsson

No matter how bad things feel at times for Sens fans, we can all take comfort in knowing that Erik Karlsson is still an Ottawa Senator. Karlsson continues to have a typical Erik-Karlsson-esque season this year, with 44 points (8G, 36A) in 52 games. He was held pointless in the St. Louis and Buffalo games, and still had four points in his last four games before Thursday.

To add to the offensive success that Karlsson continues to have, both this season and in his career, he’s shown the league another side of his game this season: Defensive dominance.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not, nor have I ever been, of the belief that Erik Karlsson was defensively irresponsible. Despite the fact that many NHL talking heads loved to jump on Karlsson for thinking more about offence than defence, I do not believe that to have ever been true. But this season, we’ve seen Karlsson take a step back from his high-flying offensive plays, to play a more complete game in his own zone as well. At one point this season, he was leading the league in blocked shots.

Erik Karlsson has become an even better defenceman this season, both offensively and defensively. He’s the best defenceman in the league, and he’s an Ottawa Senator!

4) Anderson set to return soon

After what had to be a very chaotic few months for Craig, Nicholle and their family, it looks like things might be returning to normal soon for the Andersons. This means that Craig Anderson could return in net for the Sens as early as Saturday afternoon against the New York Islanders. But more importantly, it’s a good sign for their family.

Having Anderson return to the line-up will be a much-needed boost for the Sens, who (as mentioned earlier) have been a little flat lately. If Anderson returns to his true form, which admittedly might take a few games, the Sens will be set up for some solid goaltending down the stretch.

But this is about more than just hockey. Sure, the team would love to have their starting goaltender back in net. This is about a family that went through some really tough times recently. We know so little about what these past few months have been like for them. So to know that things are starting to return to normal for them should warm even the coldest of hearts.

There’s a lot to be happy about in this situation, not just as a Sens fan, but as a human being.

5) Mark Stone’s season

Much like Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone has been a bright light during this often foggy (I won’t say cloudy) season for the Ottawa Senators. He continues to have a great season for the Sens, with 40 points (19G, 21A) in 51 games. That puts him on pace for 64 points this season, which would match his career high from 2014-15.

Aside from putting up consistent points throughout this season, Stone has also continued to make players around him much better. Zack Smith can essentially thank Stone for his shiny new contract, and Derick Brassard has a chance of holding onto his season because of his chemistry with Mark Stone.

It’s been widely documented this season that Mark Stone doesn’t just have chemistry with other players, but that he creates chemistry out of basically nothing. Maybe I’m just biased because I watch the Sens so closely, but I really believe that Stone is one of the most underrated players in the league. And he’s ours, Sens fans. That is something we can all be thankful for.

Maybe I’m just channeling my inner Leslie Knope, and it may seem like I’m ignoring some of the issues that exist on this team. Trust me, I am not. I’m well aware of the continued mediocrity that plagues this team, and has for many seasons now. But we need something to feel good about this week. Let’s take a minute and think about reasons for optimism around the Ottawa Senators. It might just make being a hockey fan a little more bearable.

What’s your reason for optimism around the Ottawa Senators?