Well folks, of late it has started to feel as though whatever Sicko energy carried the team earlier in the season has begun to wane. The Ottawa Senators have reverted from getting opposing coaches booted to shuffling their own bench. And with the warmer weather moving in to the nation’s capital, I can forgive anyone who feels ready to put another losing Senators season behind them to focus on whatever diversions the summer holds for us. Like most of you, I’ll look for whatever slight silver linings I can find in the remaining games on Ottawa’s schedule. Pierre Dorion still has a couple of days to move some veterans and open up some roster spots for some younger players. Please just give us more Alex Formenton, Erik Brännström, and Filip Gustavsson. Thoughts!
On the trade you don’t make
In the wake of the Derek Stepan era in Ottawa and with consideration to all of the ink spilled over Pierre Dorion’s asset management this season, I feel compelled to state one thing explicitly: no, you don’t trade Erik Gudbranson. While I may not particularly enjoy Gudbranson’s performances on ice, I think anyone can appreciate the need, now more than ever, to keep families together. Dorion already took heat (and maybe rightfully so) for separating Stepan from his newborn in what ended up a losing trade for Ottawa. You don’t balance the scales by separating Gudbranson from his newborn. You lost some draft picks. You move on and let everyone live their lives. And you learn.
On changing perception
With the utmost relief, I can report that Jonathan Davidsson returned to Belleville’s lineup last night having recovered from a shoulder injury. I feel compelled to write about Davidsson’ injury only because every time the young winger misses a game, I immediately get that sinking feeling in my stomach and fear the word: “concussion.” Again, the team reports that Davidsson sustained only a minor shoulder injury and I feel so relieved. Reading the updates got me thinking though about the way I perceive players after they sustain a concussion, and how much Clarke MacArthur’s long battle with post-concussion syndrome changed the way I follow hockey. I’ll never watch a big hit the same way. I’ll never watch a player walk down the tunnel without asking myself if I might never get to watch that player in the NHL again. The abrupt end to MacArthur’s career changed my view of hockey permanently. More than that, most of us know someone in our lives dealing with post-concussion syndrome, and I deal with post-concussion patients at my 9-5 job so, yeah I can’t ignore it when I watch hockey. I only hope that as we learn more about the brain, we as a society do more to protect our most valuable asset.
In which I’m the insufferable jackass who quotes his own twitter
I like to think I'm as bullish as anyone on Ottawa's amateur scouting but what should have been a big season for graduations ended up pretty underwhelming. Also only Hogberg remains from 2012-2014 pic.twitter.com/Xqhw7r88iZ— owen (@owennolanryan) April 3, 2021
Okay, after this paragraph, I resolve to never type the words “asset management” again. For your sake and mine, let’s bury it. With that said, somewhere along the line this season in Ottawa the discourse shifted from “bad asset management” to “see that player was replacement level anyway” to “I guess that was just a bad draft pick.” In hindsight, and considering the prospects who didn’t graduate to the NHL this year, Ottawa struggled to capitalize on those late rounders from 2015-16. And I should qualify that late picks miss more often than they hit. Most teams miss on late picks. As a budget team though, Ottawa could use another late round steal. Historically the Senators owe most of their team success to late rounders. I’ve get my eye on a few names from the last couple of drafts. Oh and then there’s that Drake Batherson fellow too. Also, don’t look now but Clark Bishop leads Ottawa forwards in xGF and five-on-five. Ottawa still has a deep prospect pool if not quite as deep as it looked heading into this season. And some folks will point to the change in regime in 2017 as a reason to feel more optimistic about those depth picks in the last few drafts. Only time will tell.
On a very long year
More than anything when reading the news about the COVID outbreak at the Canucks camp, I ask myself if we’ve really gotten anywhere since this time last year. Seeing Jayce Hawryluk’s name among those affected in Vancouver after he went through the same thing with the Senators last year makes me question how much safer we can consider any un-inoculated individual twelve months later even with the protocols in place now. Does the spread and mutation of the virus not negate any safety measures implemented? I feel as guilty as anyone for watching hockey while knowing the implicit risks associated with playing during the pandemic. I only ask that someone learns a lesson in all of this if we seem so determined to repeat our mistakes. We’ve all had a long year and made sacrifices. I don’t have any scores to settle. I just need to distinguish the reality and the delusion.
On self awareness
In a recent column I made a point about modesty and humility and how this fanbase should attempt to keep these past few years in mind should this team find its way back to relevancy in the not too distant future. I want to add to that thought that we should remember to keep our sense of humour close at hand as well. While not all fans of rival teams take themselves overly seriously, some do. Some seem to have lost all self awareness. And quite frankly it’s absolutely hilarious. It deserves our derision. You know that self-deprecating armour we’ve forged in recent times? Keep it. We’ve been the punchline before and we will be again. Laugh it off. Always. Remember, it’s just a game.