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Five Thoughts for Friday

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Goaltending, youngsters, Lebreton, and tomorrow’s big game!

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Sens have had a busy week, with two losses, two wins, and lots and lots of goals. There have also been a few off-ice shenanigans to discuss, as always. So, despite a major blackout on the East Coast that just so happened to fall on the day I was supposed to pick up my laptop from a repair shop that, naturally, was closed because of said blackout, I come to you from the only working computer I could manage to find in Halifax to give you my thoughts on the Ottawa Senators!

The things I do for this team.

Lebreton, again

Well, well, well. It wouldn’t be the Ottawa Senators if the main topic of conversation was in any way related to the team’s play on the ice. No, as always, we have to talk about one of the biggest things to happen this week, which was Eugene Melnyk being cheap.

Melnyk sure makes these weekly columns a little easier to write.

In last week’s Five Thoughts, NKB discussed the news that the Lebreton deal was pretty much dead, and likely due in no small part to the fact that Eugene Melnyk is a very difficult person to work with. The latest update, courtesy of the Citizen is that, surprise surprise, Melynk wanted the city to pay for the arena.

Based on what the Citizen article says, it sounds like Melnyk jumped into the project knowing he probably wouldn’t be able to pay for it, then assumed the city would help cover the costs because some cities have done that in the past, including Ottawa with TD Place. Mayor Jim Watson, understandably, said that taxpayer money would probably be best spent elsewhere.

I’m not going to get into intense municipal politics here, but I agree with Watson on this front. It sounds like Melnyk didn’t start asking for the city’s money until after the bid had been won, and at that point the mayor had already made it pretty clear that he wasn’t going to pay for it. The Senators are a privately owned business, after all, and if they want to undergo a big project like this one, they should be willing to pay for it. Melnyk has no right to complain now. There’s certainly an argument to be made that a downtown arena would be an asset to the city, but again, it has always been the Senators, and not the City of Ottawa, pushing for it to be built.

Municipal governments do sometimes pitch in to help local sports teams. But definitely not always (*cough* women’s sports teams). Maybe, I don’t know, the City of Ottawa just doesn’t think that moving a hockey team owned by Eugene Melnyk from Kanata to downtown is going to do enough for the City of Ottawa to justify the cost. As Watson said in the Citizen article:

“We own Lansdowne. We don’t own LeBreton Flats. Of course we’re going to partner to revitalize a city-owned asset, and by the way, that has been a phenomenal success in terms of attendance, job creation and bringing life to Lansdowne Park.”

Anyway, I don’t live in Ottawa during the hockey season so it’s not like this is going to affect me that much, but I feel for Sens fans in Ottawa who were led to believe a downtown arena was getting built and might not get one after all.

The kids are alright

This is like that moment in Hamilton where Jefferson says “Can we get back to politics, please?” except we’re moving away from politics and talking about hockey.

Finally.

Please, can’t this team just let me talk about hockey?

The youngsters have been on fire this season. Much digital ink has been spilled about Chabot being fantastic on the blueline, Tierney has been a great addition at centre, and of course, Brady Tkachuk has been lighting it up.

Zadina who?

I joked on Twitter a few days ago that I have so little faith in the Sens’ organization that I’m pretty sure they drafted Tkachuk for his intangibles and genuinely had no idea he was going to be this good, but that doesn’t matter because he’s good! The kid had two third period goals and an assist in Tuesday’s comeback win over the Flyers, and it seems like he just keeps getting better and better.

Also, Batherson! Damn, that kid is a joy to watch.

But one player we don’t talk about enough, who is also having a great season, is 21-year-old Colin White. He’s spent most of his rookie season playing with Tkachuk and Stone, and has quietly put up 7 goals and 9 assists. He’s 7th on the team in points, and a quick look at Natural Stat Trick shows that he’s hovering near the top five in all the good categories (he’s also 2nd in penalties drawn, which is cool).

Losing Kyle Turris and Derrick Brassard was huge, and Pageau being out with injury certainly didn’t make our centre depth look very good, but Colin White has really stepped in to fill that role.

I know he’s had some pretty great wingers, but centre depth is important, and we shouldn’t overlook the role White has had in getting the team to where it is.

I feel like we should talk about our goaltending

So the future’s looking bright, right? Look at how good our youngsters are! We’ve got some fantastic forwards, and a few good up-and-coming defensemen, so we’re all set, right?

Um. I feel like we’re forgetting something.

The topic comes up pretty regularly, and I feel like Sens fans have started to take on the attitude of “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” but at what point do we admit that our goaltending is completely screwed?

Anderson has been facing upwards of 40, sometimes even 50, shots pretty regularly this season, and he hasn’t exactly been bad. The Sens have been giving up goals like crazy, but it’s not like we can blame Andy for that. The problem is, he’s getting up there in years and we just can’t expect him to keep stopping that many pucks this late in his career. Eventually, we’re going to have to think about replacing him.

And, ah, does anyone see a replacement?

Mike McKenna is the only other goaltender to have played for the Sens this season, and he hasn’t looked great. Down in Belleville, the only name that stands out is Filip Gustavsson, and his numbers haven’t been good at all.

Goalies are not easy to come by, and this is a problem the Sens are going to have to address very soon.

Stop the Karlsson smear campaign please

So. There’s a pretty big day looming on the horizon. Tomorrow, Erik Karlsson makes his return to Ottawa and, no, I’m not in the slightest bit ready for it, thanks for asking.

A few days ago, TSN released a video of Karlsson walking out of a Toronto media scrum when asked about his return to Ottawa. There was quite a bit of backlash to it, and I can’t say I agree with it. It wasn’t the time to ask him about Ottawa. It wasn’t the place either. The Toronto media was never nice to him during his time here, so why on earth would he open up to them about the emotional experience of returning to the place where he spent most of his career, when it had no relevance to the game he had just played? He doesn’t owe them anything.

Ah, but that wasn’t all! Another TSN video followed, accusing him of being “the problem” in the dressing room, and thinkpiece after thinkpiece was published asking the same question: was Erik Karlsson the problem all along?????

Hey, I’ll answer that for you: no.

I wrote about the Karlsson trade at the beginning of the season, and one of the main points I made in that post was that I didn’t want to treat his departure like a normal hockey trade. Two months later, I’m very much in the same place.

This wasn’t a hockey trade. Don’t try to use his play on the ice or his behaviour off it to justify a move that came down to the owner being a prick.

I get that the media needs a story. I know these journalists are just trying to figure out how to write about a huge event happening in the hockey world, but it’s a lazy narrative and I wish it wasn’t the one being pushed.

Also, and maybe this is more of a personal gripe, but I don’t really care for the other pieces being published, which are the ones talking about the emotional meaning of this game but that are laughably out of touch with the feelings of Sens fans. Maybe talk to some actual Sens fans to try to figure out how we actually feel about this situation before you start writing about it? Just a thought? Because this just doesn’t do it for me.

How do you feel about tomorrow’s game?

And now, I have a question for you guys.

Usually, when a star player gets traded, I look forward to their first game back, because it’s always an emotional time and I like reflecting on what the player accomplished in Ottawa. But it still feels so, so wrong to be doing this with Karlsson. It’s not that I don’t want the Sens to do anything; it’s just that I still don’t think I’ve fully wrapped my head around the fact that that actually happened. This is the first major departure since maybe Alfie where I feel like there’s just no acceptable reason for it to have ever happened. I don’t really want there to be one, either.

I still don’t know if I’ll be able to watch. I want to try, because I think I’d feel awful if I missed Karlsson’s first game back, but as I said in that article, I really, really don’t want to treat this like a normal hockey trade. Every article the mainstream media has put out about Karlsson’s legacy and about his return to Ottawa has made me angry and sad, and I’m not sure I can handle the same stuff coming from the Sens.

Maybe I’ll watch it until the end. Maybe I’ll start watching and turn it off. Or maybe I’ll do what I’ve found myself doing a lot this season, which is making plans during the game and telling myself I’m too busy to watch. I guess we’ll see.

But what about you? Are you in the same boat as me? Excited for his return? Indifferent?