Coming off a couple of very close losses to the Blue Jackets and the Bruins, the Senators have a matinee(?) against the Minnesota Wild today at 4:00PM Eastern Standard Time. While you wait for puck drop, indulge in some thoughts (and also coffee).
As N_Dew discussed on Thursday, the conversation among hockey fans has shifted further towards a re-defining of hockey culture in the wake of incidents involving Mike Babcock and Bill Peters. In Ottawa, our focus shifted specifically towards D.J. Smith who belonged to the coaching staffs both in Toronto where Mike Babcock unfairly singled out rookie Mitch Marner with “the list” and in Windsor where Bill Peters allowed rookie hazing as reported by Akim Aliu.
I had anticipated a statement from the coach or the organization with some apprehension as the Senators have struggled with these types of sensitive situations in the past. However, D.J. Smith to his credit delivered a reassuring statement regarding his views on hazing and the treatment of rookies on his team.
DJ Smith was in his first year as an assistant coach with the Windsor Spitfires when the Akim Aliu hazing incident happened.— Hailey Salvian (@hailey_salvian) November 27, 2019
He was asked about it today after morning skate and he touched on what he learned and implemented when he became head coach w/ the Oshawa Generals #Sens pic.twitter.com/POcvwVvbvW
Future captain Mark Borowiecki also weighed in on toxic hockey culture following these events and if you haven’t read his statement then please do yourself a favour and read it now. I’ll wait. Has any player come farther in terms of redemption during the Sens Dark Ages? For context “the interview” happened just fourteen months ago.
Between Mark’s comments yesterday, his support of the LGBTQ community, and his insightful thoughts on the Sabourin-Matthews incident, the alternate captain has done so much to earn our respect and appreciation. In previous Five Thoughts I have taken time to thank Craig Anderson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau in what could be their swan song seasons. This week I want to acknowledge BoroCop. I can regrettably admit that I like so many others judged Boro by his poor stats over the years. He had a reputation as a one-trick pony who could only scrap and block shots. This year, he came into camp in The Best Shape of his Career (TM) and will set personal bests in goals, assists, and points at his current pace. Mark will also shatter his personal bests in shot volume metrics and expected goals-for. Boro sets such a good example for young players who may not have the quickest stride, the best release, or the biggest frame because, as Mark has demonstrated, hard work matters just as much as natural ability. For creating the perfect good-kid-does-right-by-their-hometown narrative, thank you Mark.
With Jean-Gabriel Pageau still in mind, another scrappy forward spending this season auditioning for a contract has fared quite well. Boston forward Charlie Coyle just signed for six-years at $31.5M starting next season. Both Coyle and Pageau turned 27 this year (although Coyle hit the cut-off for the 2010 draft and Pageau had to wait until 2011). Coyle has hovered in the 30-40 point range per season, topping out at 18 goals and 38 assists in 2016-17. Pageau has a similar distribution with a high of 19 goals* and 24 assists in 2015-16 (*on pace to eclipse that number this season).
So could this Coyle contract act as a comparable for Pageau in free agency and, if so, does Ottawa want to make that commitment? Do the Senators have home-town leverage with Pageau if he stays past the deadline? I won’t go too deep into this speculation as Brandon has already written at length about Pageau’s future in Ottawa. I can’t imagine Coyle’s contract won’t come up in conversation during Pageau’s negotiations though.
As Brandon informed us yesterday, Hog Time is indeed upon us. With Ottawa’s all-time greatest tender, Craig Anderson, once again on the shelf with injury, Anders Nilsson will get the Friday start and Marcus Hogberg seems like to see his first NHL action of the season on Saturday in Calgary. Despite the overall save-percentage (89% across all situations), I liked what I saw from Hoggy last year and I have cautious optimism for his improvement this year with a more reliable defensive group in front of him. We’ve already patiently waited for six years since Ottawa selected Marcus in the same draft class as Curtis Lazar, Ben Harpur, and Tobias Lindberg. Robin Lehner found his groove at the NHL level around the same point in his career, so maybe this is the season Hogberg rewards our patience.
And finally I would like to utilize this platform to say farewell and thank you to two of the Senators’ heroes of pop culture.
On Monday, Ben Milks announced that he would immediately retire the bRian5or6 character. As so many have expressed since the announcement, “Brian” provided us as a community of fans with some much needed levity during what seemed otherwise as an incessant barrage of bad news and controversy over the past couple of Senators seasons. Ben/Brian also did a lot of fundraising in the community and for that we really can’t thank him enough.
Last Friday, we said ‘good night’ to Ottawa’s favourite sons of indie as Hollerado played their last local gig at the Bronson Centre. Only so many artists overtly express their pride as Ottawa Senators fans and it hurts to lose one of the most prominent. I always hoped for more official collaborations between the team and the band. Alas, they never manifested. As a consolation, please look into this really cool mental health initiative they started up and relive the greatness.
Puck drop at four! Don’t forget!