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Five Thoughts For Friday

Some thoughts on training camp and new marketing material

NHL: APR 26 Canucks at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Don’t worry, everyone: for the sake of our collective well-being, I have decided to write this week’s Five Thoughts without mentioning The Contract Negotiation That Shall Not Be Named. Enjoy!

Sens In Session

One year after the rebrand and with the team set to soon welcome fans back into the arena for the first time since March 2020, it’s no surprise that the Ottawa Senators appear to be busy creating new promotional material for the new season.

Along with some very exciting pictures and behind-the-scenes videos (Sparty has a new outfit!!), the team is also asking season ticket holders for help picking out their new tagline for the…

Oh.

Oh no.

There’s something kind of comforting about this image. The Sens may have changed a lot over the past few years, but they haven’t changed that much. They’re going to replace the slightly cringey “United In Red” and “Sens Army” marketing, but they’re going to replace it with something that somehow manages to be even worse.

Each one is its own special brand of awful. “For The Capital” is one of the better ones, but not especially exciting, unless you think of it as a reference to Melnyk’s finances, at which point it becomes quite funny. “Our House, Our Sens” is going to sound pretty bad when opposing fans come to town. “Sens In Session” makes me think of politicians discussing a bill in parliament. “Join Forces” sounds like a Military Appreciation Night slogan. “We Are Sens Army” is… fine, I guess? The worst one, however, has to be “Our Ice, Our Army.” Try saying that out loud. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. There is simply no way to make that sound cool, and I am so impressed that this actually made it onto the shortlist.

Naturally, Sens fans had some suggestions of their own. Some of the obvious ones were, of course “We’re A Team,” anything referencing the sicko meme, “Gonna Sens ‘Em,” and the short and simple “Go Sens Go.” I’d like to showcase a few of my favourites.

If I had to pick between the options the Sens gave us, though, I’m kind of partial to “Sens In Session.” It’s awful, but it’s the kind of awful we can work with. I can see myself using it ironically.

Captaincy drama (no, not Sens related)

Doesn’t it feel nice to NOT be the team having a very public falling out with their captain for once?

Buffalo may well have overtaken Ottawa as the most dysfunctional organization in the league, judging by the stuff we’ve been hearing about the Jack Eichel saga. You may remember that the team has reportedly not allowed Eichel to undergo the surgery he wants and has been trying - unsuccessfully - to trade him all summer. He is certainly going to miss a significant amount of this season with an injury, and I would be shocked if he ever played another game for the Sabres.

You could say that, heading into training camp, Eichel might be the one player actually in the worst shape of his life.

With all this happening, the team announced yesterday that they would be stripping Eichel of the captaincy. It’s not exactly surprising, but it does feel a bit petty, considering that he’s been asking for a trade for a while now. They couldn’t let him get surgery or trade him to a team that would treat him better, but they’ll publicly humiliate him by stripping him of the captaincy? Just trade the guy already.

This whole saga kind of makes you wonder about the NHLPA’s role in all of this. It sounds like the medical procedure Eichel wants is pretty serious, but it really doesn’t sit right with me that the team has so much say over what kind of surgery he’s going to undergo. This is about the player’s long-term health. If Jack Eichel knows what he’s getting into and thinks that this surgery is what’s best for him, why is the team allowed to prevent him from getting this surgery? Let’s also not forget that NHL teams don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to dealing with concussions.

I think we’re so used to thinking about NHL players as privileged millionaires that we sometimes forget that they’re also workers, and workers who often have very little control over their lives because of the nature of the job. If Jack Eichel feels like the Buffalo Sabres are preventing him from getting the medical care he needs, he has every right to refuse to play for them, and to request a trade to a team that’s going to provide a better work environment. I hope this saga sparks some conversation about how much control teams have over their players’ medical decisions.

(And no, before someone makes this comment, I do not think that a team forcing a player to live with an injury because they do not want him to undergo the surgery he feels he needs is comparable to vaccine mandates. Vaccines are about protecting other people as much as they are about protecting yourself. Players have every right to refuse to play if they do not want to get the vaccine, and teams have every right to cut a player from the team if they think that said player poses a threat to their teammates. That is an entirely different discussion.)

Trades and opportunities

In his most recent press conference, Pierre Dorion reiterated that he’s still looking to trade for a forward. That’s exciting and certainly a good idea, but he’s been saying this for so long that I have to say my excitement is waning.

Are we still holding out hope for an Eichel trade? Are there any other top forwards still on the market? Did Dorion try to make another trade and it fell through so now he’s looking at other options, or has he just been working on the same trade this whole time?

This is definitely going to end with the Sens bringing in an overpaid veteran who will immediately be outplayed by a prospect, isn’t it?

Anyways, looking at the Sens’ roster, it does kind of look like they could use some help at centre. Norris will be fine on the first line, but the Sens apparently want Tierney at 2C, which is... well, I don’t think it’s going to last very long.

If the Sens don’t manage to find a top-6 forward, is it possible someone else could step in? Shane Pinto is the obvious choice at centre, but Colin White could also step in, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sokolov play a few games on the wing, even though he’ll probably still spend most of the season in the AHL.

Line Combinations

It’s time for my favourite part of training camp: overanalyzing the line combinations, despite knowing perfectly well that they’re going to change within the first few games of the season.

It’s been a bit difficult to draw wild conclusions about the forward lines so far, but it’s probably a safe bet that Stützle - Tierney - C. Brown will be the second line to start the season. That’s... not exactly exciting, but I get it. Tkachuk will almost certainly replace Nick Paul on the line with Norris and Batherson as soon as [redacted for our collective sanity], but it’s still interesting that Nick Paul has been the one to replace him. Pinto and Sokolov on a line together is extremely interesting, although we might be more likely to see that combination in the AHL.

The lineup on defense is even more interesting. It sounds like Chabot and Zub will get to play together, and we’ve seen Mete and Brännström skate together as well. That’s pretty much the best top 4 I could think of, so I’m cautiously optimistic about how this will turn out.

It’s too good to be true, right? We’re going to see Zaitsev back on the first pair before training camp ends, aren’t we?

Everybody’s going to be friends

My final thought for this week is that it’s just really nice to see the players back on the ice and be reminded of how much fun this group of players is.

Each player interview has brought us great quotes. Sokolov’s mic’d up video was every bit as delightful as you’d expect. No, Josh Norris and Tim Stützle aren’t living in Mark Stone’s house anymore, but it’s still clear that these kids are all having fun and getting along with each other.

Also, if Sokolov makes the team, he can speak Russian with Zub. Name a more powerful duo. You can’t.

I think this is a really big part of why so many fans have come back to the team after the uhhhh eventful few years that occurred between 2018 and 2020. This is a team that’s really fun and easy to root for, and I can’t wait to see what happens in 2021-22!

Go Sens Go.