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Five Thoughts for a Friday

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The other kind of coach-killers

Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Ya know, in a lot of ways, this season really does feel like a success for the Senators so far on the ice. Sure, the team’s record sucks but a few key prospects have broken out and you cannot tell me the North division hasn’t provided ample entertainment. No matter how much we quibble over minutiae, we get to enjoy hockey games that in all seriousness we probably shouldn’t have the opportunity to watch (and they have been some very entertaining hockey games!) So with that said, let’s quibble over minutiae.

On Reputation

When Ottawa benefitted from that disallowed goal call in the dying seconds of Tuesday night’s game against Montreal, I had a feeling we wouldn’t hear the last of it for a while. I would argue that even the most die hard Sens fans know we got lucky on that one. Did Gallagher collide with Murray? Definitely. Did Murray have time to reset? No comment. And I would argue that given the greyness of the call review and verdict, reputation had at least something to do with the decision. If any other Montreal forward collides with Murray then I think Ottawa loses the game.

I find the discussion of player reputation relevant to this team right now because up to this point, Ottawa Bad Boys have stayed on the right side of ledger from the officials’ perspective. And I believe that for this version of the Senators to succeed with Brady Tkachuk, Alex Formenton, and Ridly Greig among others, the Sens will have to toe this line without crossing it outright. To that effect, I don’t consider it a coincidence that among the intangibles Dorion pays a premium for at the draft, coming from an NHL family ranks near the top. I have to imagine that somewhere along the line Keith explained to Brady how to play chicken with the zebras.

The thing about anchors

At the time of writing this, the Senators still have some half a dozen players on the NHL roster who many of us had figured for the taxi squad or healthy scratch territory. To the credit of management and the coaching staff, we’ve seen gradual progress towards a younger and more entertaining lineup on a nightly basis. And I really think we can find a silver lining even as we endure this long, drawn-out process.

Remember in Rocky III when Apollo makes Rocky run in the sand during their workouts? Apollo knew that if Rocky could get his feet moving in the sand then he could get them moving in the ring. And I believe that if the young, core members of this team can learn to win games with one dead-weight forward line and one dead-weight defence pairing then they’ll learn to dominate once they shed those anchors.

It’s okay to be happy for people

In a five thoughts piece before the season I stated that my worst case scenario for 2021 involved the Sens losing Rudolfs Balcers, Filip Chlapik, Max Lajoie, and Christian Jaros on waivers for nothing. Well the Sens gave up Balcers, Chlapik, Lajoie, and Jaros for Clarke Bishop, Jack Kopacka, and a seventh-round pick for what it’s worth. It sucks, I know. And still I maintain my opinion from a couple months ago that given everything this fanbase has gone through, I can live with these types of losses in the grand scheme of things.

I won’t waste everyone’s time arguing about asset management because ultimately if these young players get a shot at a full-time gig at any point and if they can spend one less day riding the bus then good for them. You can feel happy for people even if means a loss for your team on paper. And more than anything I just want to see Stepan reunited with his family. Second-round picks come and go (Chlapik!). And family matters more. If after everything we’ve been through in the past year you still think the team should hold Stepan hostage instead of cutting bait and accepting that they squandered a draft pick then I don’t know what to tell you.

On the toxicity of accountability

After the Sens suffered one of several embarrassing 2021 losses, this time 7-2 to Toronto, Murray took it upon himself to take accountability for the loss. And I consider that his prerogative. Players should speak their minds. I do not, however, endorse the decision from some hockey writers in the market who chose to celebrate Murray’s self depreciation as some commendable act of leadership. To me, it seems so irresponsible for us as hockey writers to send a message that when things go badly for the team, one individual needs to come forward and get up on the cross.

As cliché as it sounds, hockey is a team sport. I imagine players apologize to their teammates and coaches on the bench and in the locker room to own their mistakes. Part of promoting a healthy culture in the workplace involves peers knowing that if they stay accountable to each other then issues can stay within the room. Matt Murray is only 26 and already got chased out of Pittsburgh with proverbial torches and pitchforks despite winning two championships. We already put enough pressure on young athletes. Don’t offer positive reinforcement when they feel compelled to martyr themselves to the media.

When corruption gives way to ineptitude

A while back in the advent of this compressed season nkb discussed the moral and ethical issue of the NHL’s plan to purchase COVID vaccines for its players and personnel. No one would argue that those individuals shouldn’t get vaccinated. However given the information we have available about transmission and the effects of the disease, other more vulnerable demographics should probably stay at the front of the queue. Alas, almost halfway through the season (if we disregard all the postponed games) the teams have not vaccinated any players or staff to my knowledge.

I personally don’t believe that we live in a naturally evil world. I would argue, however that humans are naturally fallible. I don’t buy into conspiracy theories because I don’t think people, for the most part, have that capacity for organization and cooperation. And in this case I feel I mistook the league’s foolishness for virulence. The league never had an evil scheme to deprive more needy populations of the vaccine to protect their business interests. They just blurted out a statement about mass vaccination without an actual plan in place. Oh, to be human. Go Sens Go.