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Five Thoughts For Friday

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Batherson, Tkachuk, and some off-ice drama!

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a slow week, with the Sens winning two and losing one and, as always, most of the noteworthy things happening off the ice.

Bye for now, Batherson

The Senators recently announced that our collective son Drake Batherson has been sent back to Belleville. The move wasn’t too surprising, as the rookie’s play has declined significantly since Duchene’s injury. He’s been pretty much invisible, and his possession stats have been downright awful.

Sending him down will probably do him a lot of good. He had a taste of NHL action, and performed extremely well, and now he’ll get the chance to light up the AHL with the Belleville Senators.

He’ll be back eventually. And once he’s back, I’m sure he’ll revert right back to his high-scoring ways. But for now, Belleville is the right place for him.

Can this organization get any more ridiculous?

And now, for the only news that seems to matter with the 2018 Ottawa Senators… the off-ice scandals.

In case you missed it, Lebreton probably isn’t happening, because nobody wants to pay for it. The NCC has decided to pull the plug on the deal, after the Senators and Trinity Development launched lawsuits against each other. Essentially, Trinity is claiming that Melnyk is going against their agreement by insisting Trinity and the City of Ottawa pay for the downtown arena, and Melnyk is agreeing with them but insisting that it would actually be a good idea for organizations that are not the Ottawa Senators to pay for the arena.

At this point, I have no idea if there’s any hope of the league ever stepping in, but it just sucks to see yet another good thing ruined by Melnyk.

My favourite part about this whole saga is how it’s not being played out in private, but rather through competing media releases. Very professional. Very 2018 Ottawa Senators.

Tkachuk: he’s really good!

I know this is kind of old news at this point, but Brady Tkachuk has been absolutely killing it lately. On Monday, I had the pleasure of watching him score one goal and have two disallowed, which I’m going to count as an almost hat trick. He also set up one of the goals against Montreal on Saturday.

Not to mention that his underlying numbers have been surprisingly good this season. A quick look at Natural Stat Trick shows that he’s second on the team among regular players in the percentage of corsi, fenwick, shots, and scoring chances that occur for the Sens while he is on the ice. He’s also first in goals for percentage. The only player ahead of him in any of these stats? Mark Stone.

When this guy was drafted, we certainly didn’t expect him to be a major offensive threat, or one of the players with the best underlying numbers on the team, and yet here we are. I’m not sure where this came from, but I’m very glad I was wrong about him.

It’s nice to see him contributing after a bit of a slump, especially considering Batherson’s demotion. We’ve gotten used to the rookies lighting it up.

The in-game experience

While I’ve been in Ottawa for the holidays, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few Sens home games as a digital influencer. As someone who used to attend a lot of games but has only been to one since the 2017 playoff run, it was interesting to see how the in-game experience has changed, especially given the Sens’ new commitment to making the games a bit more fun to attend. I think it’s improved.

Now, granted, the experience I had at these games was wildly different from the experience I used to have at Sens games, seeing as I was in the press box for three of them and a suite for the other instead of being in the crowd, and also seeing as I was watching the game with cool internet people instead of family members. Still, I was impressed with what I saw. DJ Prosper isn’t really my kind of thing, but he’s clearly appealing to young people and that’s a step in the right direction. Country night was also really cool, with an in-house band, a mechanical bull, country-style food options at the concessions stands, and even an after party that featured Matt Duchene singing country music. The Sens definitely did more for this game than I’ve ever seen them do for a theme night before.

I often feel like the entertainment at hockey games is only ever geared toward one of two demographics: middle-aged white men, and little kids. Both of those demographics are very present at games and catering to them isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s nice to see the Sens finally acknowledging that there are other people at the games too, hence my appreciation for DJ Prosper. I attended a lot of Sens games when I was in middle school and high school, and I definitely never felt like the Sens were catering to teenage girls, or teenagers at all, in any of their marketing. Everything they did made me feel either too young or too old.

When you think about it, targeting teenage girls would be a fantastic idea: it’s hard to find a more enthusiastic and passionate audience, and walking around the concourse at any Senators event, it’s clear that they’re already there in some capacity. I have a theory as to why sports teams don’t want to reach out to that particular demographic, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Aimee Deziel and Janice Nicholson on Sens Callups

On a slightly related note, Sens Callups released part 2 of their Ask Me Anything series with the Sens’ CMO Aimee Deziel yesterday, and if you haven’t listed to it, or to part 1, you definitely should as there’s a lot of interesting stuff there.

Now, I’ve met both Aimee and Janice (who was also on the podcast, but didn’t talk quite as much) and I like them both a lot. I was also very satisfied with their answers to these questions. However, there were a few parts of the podcast that didn’t make me feel great, and one of them came around 45 minutes in when Aimee talked about the value of sticking with a team through difficult times and sort of implied that people should be supporting the team now because things will be getting better soon.

I don’t blame Aimee for her approach here, because I understand that it’s her job to convince people to come to games, but it’s a narrative that I’ve heard a lot this season and one that I think has always come off as condescending.

The thing is, a lot of the fans who have stopped watching this season know perfectly well how rewarding it is to keep watching while the team is bad. We also know that, realistically, this team is not going to be bad forever, even if at the moment it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re not dumb. So can we stop pretending this is a bunch of fairweather fans leaving because they can’t handle a rebuild? The disenchantment fans are feeling right now goes well beyond the realm normal sports-related heartbreak.

It’s the same way I felt about the narrative surrounding Karlsson’s return, which was also brought up in the first part of the Ask Me Anything. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get closure on the Karlsson trade, and I don’t want to, because I still don’t think there was any reason for it to happen. I can’t treat this like any other hockey trade and start talking about “closure” when I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that it actually happened.

There’s absolutely no reason for the Sens to be in the place they’re in right now. The fact that the rebuild is going well doesn’t overshadow the fact that it wasn’t the time to rebuild, or the fact that the team could be much better right now if they hadn’t traded all their best players last year. To hear the organization act like fans aren’t smart enough to realize this will never fail to annoy me. Again, I’m not blaming the individuals here, and I really do appreciate the effort they’ve made to reach out to and listen to fans this year, but I do hope that in trying to connect more with the fanbase they develop a better understanding of our feelings and especially our reasons for walking away from the franchise. They’re trying, but they still don’t quite get it.