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Five Thoughts For Friday

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Off-ice drama, what the Habs’ success means for the Sens, and more!

Buffalo Sabres v Ottawa Senators Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

It may be the offseason, but that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped thinking about the Sens. I’ve had a few Sens-related thoughts recently. Five of them, in fact.

Where are those contracts, Pierre?

I know the playoffs aren’t over yet, but the Sens have been in offseason mode for a long time now, and it would really put my mind at ease if Dorion could hurry up and lock up, say, I don’t know, Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson and/or Victor Mete soon.

I mean. We got Zub. I don’t want to downplay the size of that W. But it’s a little weird that nothing else has happened.

I don’t think it’s time to panic just yet, but the clock is ticking, and it would be hard to overstate the importance of Tkachuk’s contract especially. A bridge deal wouldn’t be the end of the world, all things considered, but a long-term contract would send a message that Brady wants to stay here, and that the team is committed to holding on to star players. This team has managed to win back a lot of goodwill over the last six months or so, but I think these contracts are the real test. Can the Sens finally break this years-long pattern of running every single one of their stars out of town, or is it going to be more of the same?

I just want this part over with.

Do we want another Tkachuk???

Since all we seem to talk about these days is which players the Sens should or should not go after (gotta love the offseason!) I thought I’d bring up another name that’s been floating around hockey twitter: Matthew Tkachuk.

Brady’s older brother will be eligible to sign a contract extension on July 28th, and it’s starting to look like that contract extension is not going to happen with Calgary. Since he’ll only be a restricted free agent next season, whichever team acquires him would have quite a bit of control in negotiations, so it would make sense for Calgary to start shopping him now.

I have to admit that, as much as I love the idea of this team having even more Tkachuk energy, I’m not totally sure Matthew Tkachuk is what they need right now. They’ve already made it pretty clear that they’re on the market for a centreman, not a winger. They’re not exactly stacked down the right wing, but they’re not hurting, either. Batherson looked like a top line player last season, Connor Brown has been on fire, and Dadonov may have underperformed relative to expectations last season but he’s not bad, and he could always bounce back. Colin White can move to the wing, too. Don’t get me wrong - I’d love to have Matthew Tkachuk in this lineup - but if the man is looking for 8 or 9 million a year, I have to think that money can be better spent elsewhere - at centre, perhaps, or on defense.

Honestly, he’s probably going to end up in Toronto, which would be bad because it would make the Leafs good, but it would also be funny because the rivalry would be so good.

More off-ice drama!

Brandon touched on this in yesterday’s LNN, but Chris Phillips announced on Wednesday that he has resigned from his role with the Senators Community Foundation.

In case you needed a recap, here’s the story: last year, the Ottawa Senators Foundation announced that they were cutting ties with the Ottawa Senators. They became the Ottawa-Gatineau Youth Foundation. The Senators Community Foundation was established in August of last year, and Chris Phillips was involved from the start, taking on the role of figurehead as well as executive. They also brought back Brad Weir, who had been involved with the Sens Foundation.

Apparently, the organization was placed on hold this year as a cost-cutting measure (probably pandemic related, but a little weird considering the organization was founded during the pandemic). Brad Weir was let go about a week ago. Phillips was going to be re-assigned within the organization. He stepped down instead.

So first of all, it is absolutely incredible that this organization has finally managed to drive away Chris Phillips, the one guy who never expressed any desire to leave. What do you have to do to make this man turn on the Ottawa Senators organization? Just staggering incompetence from the league’s most ridiculous front office.

More importantly, though, putting an organization on hold when the community is most in need of charity sounds a little bit suspicious to me. I don’t know exactly what the organization’s finances look like, and I understand that it’s difficult to fundraise during a pandemic, but surely if this organization is actually doing important work, they’ll want to do everything they can to keep doing that work during a pandemic, right? I don’t know. This just seems sketchy, and it’s the third time something like this has happened to a charity run by Eugene Melnyk. I have a lot of respect for the people who work on these charities, but I really think we’d all be better off donating to organizations not attached to Melnyk.

Why are so many people hopping on the Habs’ bandwagon?

I posed this question on Twitter a while ago, and I guess I wasn’t clear enough in how I worded it, because a lot of people seemed to think I was asking why Sens fans hate the Leafs. I’m not confused about that part. What I am confused about is how Montreal has managed to avoid the universal hatred that all of Canada and the hockey world holds for Toronto.

In my experience, the average Canadian who doesn’t watch hockey that closely still has a general sense that the Leafs are bad (unless they grew up around Leafs fans, of course). Fans of teams like Vancouver or Calgary or Edmonton or even a lot of American teams - teams that don’t really have a heated rivalry with the Leafs - will usually still cite Toronto as one of their least favourite teams. Those people who always cheer for the last remaining Canadian team will often still refuse to cheer for Toronto. It doesn’t matter how likable the current team is or how many fun storylines surround the team or how long it’s been since a Canadian team won the cup; the hockey world has a very special hatred for the Leafs. It’s completely justified and entirely fair, of course, but I’m so confused as to how the Canadiens have managed to avoid this.

I know that I’m biased as a French Canadian, but my hatred of the Habs isn’t even about media saturation or the fact that I spent 6 years being told by actual teachers that I was less of a francophone because I didn’t cheer for the Habs. What enrages me about this team is how pretentious they are; the constant circle-jerking about their history, the annoying pregame ceremonies, the fact that every time a player joins the team they have to act like it’s a huge honor, the general attitude that they’re better than everyone else. That’s why I get so much joy out of watching them lose. It’s fun to take them down a peg and remind them that they’re on the same level as the rest of us. That 2013 series was so much fun because we dragged them down to our level! To me, the difference between my hatred of the Leafs and my hatred of the Habs is that it would be worse if the Leafs won, but it’s more fun to watch the Habs lose.

Anyways, I just think that, regardless of how likable this year’s team may be, more people should hate the Habs as a franchise. It’s a lot of fun. The fact that most of the hockey world is willing to cheer them on in a playoff run will turn me into the joker, and yes, the fact that so many people are currently hopping on this bandwagon is only adding fuel to the fire that is my hatred of this franchise.

Setting realistic expectations for next year’s squad

Now that Montreal has shocked the entire hockey world by somehow putting together a deep playoff run, a lot of Sens fans have been wondering exactly how well the Sens might have done if they had managed to sneak into the playoffs - and how well they might end up doing next year.

Now, as funny as it is to joke that the Sens would have easily won the cup if they were in Montreal’s position, obviously we can’t know that for sure. Many teams had a winning record against Montreal this season. Many teams had a better regular season record than Montreal did during the regular season. Most of those teams are not currently in the semifinals.

Montreal’s success does tell us two important things, though. One, it’s possible that maybe the North division wasn’t quite as bad as we thought it was - yay, parity! And two, the playoffs are weird and you really never know which teams are going to do well. Our dreams of the Sens making the playoffs next year may not be that far-fetched after all.

But then that brings us to the question of what we should expect from this team next season - a pretty important question to answer if you’re trying to figure out how much money to spend in free agency or how many assets to give up in big trades. Honestly, I don’t envy Pierre Dorion having to make this decision. The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that we won’t know what to expect from this team until about halfway through the season. I think there’s good reason to believe that they’ll improve next season, but with such a young core and coming off such a bizarre season, they could also be in for a rude awakening.