Yes, it’s another week of off-ice thoughts. Let’s stop pretending the stuff this team does on the ice has any relevance whatsoever.
Mendes calling out the organization
In case you missed it, Ian Mendes (our king) was spitting fire during the Sens pregame show last night. I highly recommend that you listen to the audio if you didn’t get a chance to hear it live (the good stuff starts about 21 minutes in), because he made some excellent points.
Basically, Ian pointed out that the current situation with the Sens is far from normal or acceptable, what with the lack of communication and, obviously, all the star players leaving. He pointed out that it’s very hard to be a Sens fan right now, and that fans deserve better and should demand better from the organization. He even talked about how the media has a responsibility to hold the organization accountable, which was extremely refreshing to hear, and spent a considerable amount of time defending this fanbase’s right to be upset.
Dean Brown pushed back a little by essentially claiming that the fans upset about Melnyk are a vocal minority and that we shouldn’t generalize. I honestly didn’t take too much issue with Dean’s claims, because I’m sure there are Sens fans out there who are unfazed by this team’s recent ineptitude and obviously they deserve a voice too, but I don’t think the people mad at Melnyk are really that much of a minority at this point.
If I may sing the praises of our favourite member of the mainstream media for a second, I think one of the reasons why Ian is so popular in the Sens Blogosphere is that actually makes an effort to listen to and engage with Sens fans. Dean Brown can talk all he wants about how Sens fans aren’t actually that upset and don’t have reason to be, but he’s not the one sharing our blog posts and appearing on our podcasts and inviting us to his radio show and actually making an effort to listen to what we’re saying.
When a lot of people are upset about something, especially when it’s happening on the internet, it’s very easy to dismiss them as irrational and not worth listening to, but what I appreciate about Mendes is that he actually listens to what we’re saying, tries to understand where we’re coming from, and tries to represent us accurately on the radio.
So this is actually happening...
I’m sure it’s not news to anyone at this point that Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel all sat out last night’s game, which is a pretty clear sign that contract talks aren’t going too well at the moment. It doesn’t mean trades are definitely going to happen, but it means there’s a chance, and, well, I can’t imagine anyone has much faith in this organization getting those deals done if initial talks didn’t yield any results.
What’s kind of shocking to me about this situation - and I’m sorry for being super negative today, but honestly, can you blame me? - is how apathetic everyone, myself included, seems to be right now. A year ago, when we were in the same situation with Karlsson, I was glued to my phone, waiting for the news. But now I find I don’t really care, and that scares me. I’m almost certain it’s going to happen eventually. I don’t really care what the return is, which is weird for me. I’ll be sad, yeah, because these are three of my favourite players and I’m really going to miss them, but did I really expect them to stay?
Tying into this is the growing feeling that, as I said in the intro to this piece, everything that happens on the ice is completely irrelevant. I don’t watch half as many Sens games as I did a year ago, and I know I’m far from the only blogger whose interest in the team’s on-ice performance has waned. But I don’t even feel like I’m missing out on anything because, when it comes to this team, most of the stuff worth talking about is the stuff that happens off the ice.
What kind of sports franchise is this?
Won’t someone think of the children?
On the topic of players leaving, let’s talk about how incredible it is that anyone in this organization thinks this won’t have a massive impact on fan support.
Let’s put aside, for a second, the current diehard fanbase. Not because it’s not a worthwhile topic - indeed, it’s fascinating that some executives and even media members confuse their ideas of how fans should react to situations like this one with how they expect fans to actually react - but because it’s a topic that’s already been exhausted.
No, right now I want to talk about the future. Because that’s what this team is all about right now, isn’t it? We may be a dumpster fire right now, but we swear that in 2 years we’re going to be incredible, so please stop criticizing us and definitely don’t think too much about how we’re going to achieve this. I’m interpreting their quotes correctly, right?
What I’m wondering is how they plan to attract new fans, especially kids. A deep playoff run is good for that, but one of the main things a deep playoff run accomplishes in terms of fan engagement is fans getting attached to the players. I say I’ve been a Sens fan my whole life, but it wasn’t until the Sens started making waves in the playoffs that I learned the names Alfredsson, Spezza, and Heatley.
I know my youth loses me some credibility in conversations about fandom, but right now I’m going to speak from the perspective of someone who was in elementary school during the Sens’ 2007 playoff run. The Sens are not cool. Kids don’t like the Sens. The cool kids are the ones who cheer for out-of-town teams.
The only time the Sens were ever cool was in 2007. The kids who got really into the Sens that year stayed fans, even if they did understandably lose interest somewhat in the next few years, and their favourite players were still the ones they had discovered during that run. What I’m getting at is that kids who got into the Sens in 2017 won’t be particularly happy to see literally every single one of their favourite players leave in less than two years. It won’t take them long to realize there isn’t much worth watching in Ottawa right now. Maybe they’ll slowly lose interest in hockey. Or maybe they’ll start looking to those cool teams their friends are supporting, and think, hey, that sounds like more fun. Kids aren’t loyal like adults are. And even if we’re not just talking about kids, how many fans do you think the Sens gained in 2017? How many casual fans do you think became die-hards? And how many of those people are going to stick it out now that pretty much all their reasons for liking that team have been thrown out the window for no apparent reason?
People tell me all the time that the only reason I’m handling the current Sens situation so badly is because I’m too young to have any kind of perspective when it comes to fandom, but if I’m too young, or too new to hockey fandom, or not dedicated enough to this team, to be expected to stay through this “rebuild,” how exactly can we expect this team to build a fanbase? It’s absolutely baffling that this front office is trying to sell this situation is as something that will be good for them in the long term.
Is there a breaking point?
I’ll wrap up this very depressing discussion with this question: is there a breaking point? Because this is what I keep asking myself. It’s what I keep saying when I describe this team’s current situation to friends who aren’t caught up. What is rock bottom? At what point does this front office mess things up so badly that something changes?
Because there’s no way it can continue like this, right? No way they can actually trade all their best players, make vague promises about a “five year run of unprecedented success” that will supposedly start in a few years, as if it’s possible to just snap your fingers and make your team good all of a sudden, and continue to tell us that all the players who left were actually bad in the room or difficult to work with or not part of the plan anyways.
There’s no way this saga ends with this team being a normal, successful NHL franchise with Eugene Melnyk as the owner, right? But where does it end, then? With a sale? With relocation? And perhaps more importantly, when does it end? Because it feels like we’ve been at a breaking point for a long time now, and I just don’t know when things will finally change.
Matt Bostelaar single-handedly saves the Sens
Okay. I’ve probably written more in those four thoughts than I usually do in five, so now it’s time for something a little more lighthearted. Which is this video.
I promised Bosty I would analyze this video in Five Thoughts, and he probably thought I was joking, but I was not. This is art.
The beauty of this video is in the details. The use of the Sens theme song - arguably one of the coolest things this team has ever done. The fact that he’s wearing possibly the coolest jersey the Sens have ever worn. The timing of the “MARK STONE.” The fact that Matt is SO cool that he owns a giant sword and is using it to cut rotisserie chicken. The fact that he cuts the chicken with such force that the entire counter shakes. This is a celebration of everything that is good and cool about the Ottawa Senators.
Whether Mark Stone stays or leaves, we will know that it was because of this video.
This. This is a defining moment in Ottawa Senators history.