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Five Thoughts For Friday: Odd Decisions, Mixed Messages

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But it’s nothing we didn’t expect

NHL: FEB 09 Oilers at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a string of well fought games that ended in frustrating losses, the Sens decided to give up on playing well and see where that takes them. It didn’t end well. While this season has been frustrating so far, we sometimes forget that any optimism we had was bound to be crushed quickly by the reality we all knew would hit quickly. It just seems too harsh some nights.

Oh well, at least we won our opening night game.

On DJ Smith’s Change in Philosophy

DJ Smith became the centre of attention at the beginning of the season as losses started to pile up. The attention was rarely positive and it seemed that he was losing the support of the majority of the fans with his odd decisions, i.e. the employment of Cedric Paquette. However, at some point something clicked with Smith and it seemed like the rest of us he had enough with the veteran mistakes and the slow plays. A few injuries mixed in with desperation saw DJ Smith give our valued rookies a better chance and saw the team get injected with fresh talent such as Artem Zub, Colin White and Erik Brännström. The result? An instant improvement in the quality of games and approval of the faithful fanbase.

But what changed? Why did DJ Smith go from saying that Tim Stützle looks lost and forcing us to watch a first PP unit without him to suddenly praising his exceptional skills at adapting to the NHL level and fitting right into the first power play unit? Was it really DJ Smith calling the shots? I do realize most of the veterans brought in were linked to him and he probably had a strong say in it but was he somehow being forced to justify bringing in players that weren’t necessarily worth spending money or assets on? Was the hesitance of really trusting their use a message from above that DJ Smith was finally able to fight off? Whatever it is, DJ Smith is doing more right things than wrong these days and it seems to not only have calmed the fanbase but the team itself (last night notwithstanding).

On NHL Fighting

I touched on this topic in one of my recaps but it seems to have generated even more mixed reviews than I expected. I once was a huge fan of fighting, I don’t know why to be honest, but it seemed to energize the game. Then you watch more meaningful hockey and you realize most memorable games never have fights in them.

What really changed my mind was the rise of injuries and concussions; obviously not all concussions were tracked to fighting but the ones that were, in my opinion, are completely avoidable. I understand injuries and accidents happen as part of a physical game like hockey but when you purposely go out and seek getting punched in the head, that’s just not part of the game, or at least it shouldn’t be. That being said, hockey is a fast paced and emotional game and tempers do sometimes take over the players and the odd rage-fueled fight here and there doesn’t warrant much disapproval. I just ask that we stop encouraging staged fights or at least end the notion that a fight can really affect the outcome of a game.

On The NHL’s Restaurant Policy

The lockdown has really been tough on a lot of people both in financial terms but also mentally. People miss socializing, taking a break from their living rooms and having a nice coffee or meal at their favourite eateries. The NHL announced this week that visiting players in Ontario would be able to dine in designated restaurants which understandably bothered many people. For some regions, restrictions will be eased next week anyways but for many others, people are forced to remain at home and could find offense in hockey players getting preferential treatment. The NHL’s justification is that NHL players go through stricter regulations and testing policies and therefore are considered safer for the occasional dining experience. While I don’t have a huge issue with the policy because I expect it to be closely monitored, from a PR point of view this is not a great move. First, NHL players were given the status of “essential workers” then were allowed to bypass quarantine rules and now are being able to enjoy luxuries that everyday people are longing to experience.

On Brady Tkachuk

After last night’s loss, a fellow fan on Twitter commented that she worries constantly about Keith Tkachuk’s opinion on his son’s future with the Sens. I won’t lie by saying that the idea of Tkachuk Sr. interfering with Brady’s career hasn’t crossed my mind. It doesn’t help that Tkachuk’s uncle is Mark Stone’s agent and the two players grew very close during their brief time together. While Tkachuk still doesn’t hold a ton of leverage in any negotiations, the fact remains that he is not signed long term yet. Forget the rebuild which is looking like it may take a few more years, nothing has changed on the ownership front and with everything that’s happened the past few season, is there a reason to worry about the long term future of Brady Tkachuk with the Ottawa Senators? I’m not even thinking the next 2-3 years; I’m thinking of when Tkachuk really hits his prime and potential, how easy will it be for him to just leave knowing that this team has minimal loyalty to its most valuable assets?

Have we become this traumatized of a fanbase that we cannot enjoy having a great player without entertaining the idea of him eventually leaving us?

On Logan Brown

The hot topic of this season has got to be the odd treatment of Logan Brown. While I admit that I have never been a huge fan of Brown, there is something to be said about how this organization is choosing to deal with his development. While the move to send him back to Belleville for this weekend can be justified as giving him much needed ice time, how do you explain not giving him that ice time at the NHL level? Brown and his agent didn’t do themselves any favours by objecting to his AHL time last season especially since Brown had never really stood out in camps but in a season like this one, how do you not give him a chance? If he doesn’t impress then trade him but burying him in the AHL is just wasting potential talent for nothing. What is it about Logan Brown that the team is so opposed to explore? They’ve given chances to much worse players so I am starting to think this is not just a pure performance issue. The next few days will end up revealing if the Sens are just sorting an issue with Derek Stepan and wanted to prep Brown in the meantime but at this point, I am having a hard time believing the Sens have Logan Brown in their long term plans. I only hope they do right by him and give him a chance elsewhere if they are no longer interested in investing in his development here in Ottawa.