After three straight defeats, two of which could be charactertized as at least mildly embarrassing, and injuries to Josh Norris and Artem Zub, a lot of the good vibes around the Ottawa Senators have seemingly disappeared. It’s not just the fans being spoilsport pessimists, either: following last night’s defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning, coach DJ Smith called his team’s effort “maybe as disappointing a game since I’ve been here” — which is really saying a lot when you think about all of the terrible hockey he’s witnessed firsthand! The rest of his answers in his short media availability weren’t exactly radiating with optimism. Pierre Dorion’s stare as the team imploded at the end of the third period, caught on camera and broadcast to a national audience, looked like it could bore a hole through steel beams. Things feel a bit...tense.
I’m not normally one to write about fan discourse around the team. For one, I don’t like to tell people how to support the team. If it helps you to yell and rage after every defeat, then be my guest. If no defeat, no matter how pathetic, can dim your sunny outlook that’s great, too. Everyone is welcome here. But in reading some of the coverage of the team in the media, the comments on social media, and our own comment section, it seems like folks have forgotten what the ebbs and flows of an NHL season feel like. I get it, we’re all out of practice and the rush of those four straight home wins had us all absolutely floating. But even good teams get absolutely shit-kicked every once in a while. Just like no single win tells you the True Character of a team, nor should every loss be a referendum on the fate of the franchise.
Three weeks ago in our Sterling Predictions series, I predicted that the Sens would make the play-offs on the back of a 95 point season. After nine games, the only thing that’s changed is the Norris injury. If he’s out for the rest of the season, the road looks much tougher. But there’s also plenty of cause for optimism: Jake Sanderson has, a few inevitable rookie struggles aside, been virtually as good as the almost impossible hype that accompanied his arrival in the nation's capital. Shane Pinto literally cannot stop scoring. When everyone is healthy, the blueline looks like a complete unit for the first time in fifteen years. The core is mostly young and mostly signed to good contracts.
The Ottawa Senators Will be OK. And if they weren’t goin to be, now is way too early to know that anyhow. We still have so much yet to learn about where this season is going to take us. I suspect that we’re going to have a lot more roller-coaster rides along the way, so let’s strap in.