I don’t know if I’m feeling more Sens-positive this week because of Blue Team Elimination Day or because watching teams like Carolina and Arizona in the playoffs gives me hope that Ottawa can compete in their own division as soon as the next year or two. If nothing else, every day without Sens hockey and every minute we spent ruminating about the rebuild, that sense of anticipation grows within my mind and I get a genuine feeling of cautious optimism that I haven’t felt in years about this team.
On the Return of the Big Rig
Better late than never, the organization ushered in the era of the Senators Community Foundation on Wednesday after a couple months of confusion and silence. I cannot overstate the extent to which the team saved face and created immediate legitimacy by bringing Chris Phillips on as executive director. It’s not quite Daniel Alfredsson buying the team or becoming the general manager but we take what we can get in 2020. On the one hand, it often seemed bizarre how the modest, stay-at-home defender stayed on as an ambassador for the organization while bigger stars fell into acrimony with the current regime. At the same time, the Big Rig took hometown discounts to stay, always kept his cool with the media, and exemplified what management dreams of in a franchise player. More than anything, I hope Phillips can act as a conduit between the exciting future of this team and the past we want to recall fondly.
On the Jerseys
After just about a month of speculation starting with Hailey Salvian’s article on the subject, president of business operations Anthony Leblanc gave, to my knowledge, the first official acknowledgement from the organization regarding the rebrand. While the team still hasn’t stated that they’re bringing back the 2D Centurion, we at least get some peace of mind that the wait is nearly over for the new uniforms. At this point we can safely assume that the plan had always been to wait until the conclusion of the playoffs and now that we have a realistic of idea of when that date will come, the organization has tipped their hand.
On the Draft
Now that we can stop knocking on wood and biting our tongues instead of making fun of the blue team, let’s get real, real excited about the draft lottery results. While nothing will truly erase the fact the Ottawa fell behind the Rangers and Kings in the final draft order, from a divisional perspective, things worked out almost perfectly. Just to recap, in the Atlantic division (going by reverse points percentage):
3: Ottawa via San Jose: No change
4: Detroit: Fell three spots
5: Ottawa: Fell three spots
8: Buffalo: Fell one spot
12: Florida: Moved up four spots
16+: Montreal: Fell 8+ spots
16+: Ottawa via New York: TBD
May the jury please note the distinct absence of Toronto, Boston, and Tampa. Thank you. Now obviously fans in Tampa, Boston, and Montreal are rightfully more focused on the present, and fans in Toronto—have basketball. For the have-nots, I’ll trade Florida (and their managerial vacancy) moving up in exchange for Detroit and Buffalo falling, any day, even if Ottawa’s own pick fell as well. After weeks and weeks of wringing our collective hands over the identity of the mystery team with the first overall pick, we can exhale knowing Ottawa has the best options in the first round in the Atlantic division. And with the current playoff format, that might make all the difference down the road.
On the ex-Senators Cup
For anyone who needs an update on the remaining Senators veterans who survived the play-in round. At forward we have: Mark Stone, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Nick Foligno, Ryan Dzingel, Derick Brassard, Zack Smith, Vladislav Namestnikov, Derek Grant, and Nate Thompson. In nets, we have Robin Lehner, Ben Bishop, Brian Elliott, and Curtis McElhinney. And, finally, on defence we have—Zdeno Chara. I feel like we could certainly extrapolate something of the last decade of Senators hockey from this list and maybe learn a lesson or two about how to build a playoff team. If nothing else, we have at least 50/50 odds of a Sens alumnus getting a ring.
After the absolute barnburner between the Blue Jackets and the Lightning on Tuesday night, I was
not at all surprised to see some of the worst minds in the hockey media (sorry, no links because I refuse to provide exposure for swine) congregate online to extol the virtues of four-on-four or three-on-three overtime in the playoffs. After some four months without hockey and the very real possibility of having no playoffs at all, some writers already feel as though there’s too much hockey. Colour me surprised. Yes, five periods makes for a long game and it created scheduling conflicts. And that is exactly the type of touch and go chaos that the league signed up for by having playoffs at all in these circumstances. (And don’t even try making a health and safety counter-argument because this is the NHL we’re talking about). The players want to play badly enough that they agreed to the parameters of 2020 bubble hockey and that comes with contingencies like we saw with the delay of the Hurricanes and Bruins game. Sudden death hockey is always the best kind of hockey. Endless overtime is one of the things that makes the playoffs special. Three-on-three overtime still feels exciting and different because we get it occasionally throughout the regular season. If you standardize it for the playoffs then it will lose its novelty the same way that penalty shots became less remarkable in the shootout era. Nothing in hockey fandom touches the suspense of watching sudden death overtime in the playoffs. And hasn’t everyone been been lamenting for months about how much they miss watching the game? You never know how much you take something for granted until you get it back and you can take it for granted again.