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Five Thoughts For Friday

Being “hard to play against,” outreach to francophone fans, and more!

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

Welcome, friends. It’s time for some thoughts:

Sanderszn

It’s been a frustrating season for star prospect Jake Sanderson, and unfortunately his current injury means that signing his entry level contract wasn’t quite as exciting a moment as it otherwise might have been.

Although we won’t get to see him suit up for a game just yet, it’s nice to get confirmation that he’ll be a Senator next season at the very least. It’s also nice to hear that he’ll be living with Shane Pinto and Colin White - an elite trio from a vibes perspective, if not quite on par with the Tkachuk/Norris/Stützle household from last year. There is no way that Colin White is the responsible adult in that house.

Will we see Sanderson in the stands with Chabot and the rest of the IR squad soon? Will Chabot begin mentoring him from the stands? There’s so much to look forward to, and that’s without even getting into the on-ice stuff. Sanderszn is upon us!

Being “hard to play against”

Perhaps I am a little bit late in making this observation, but I want to briefly return to an interview Mathieu Joseph gave before his first game with the Senators. When asked what he knows about his new team, he had this to say:

I personally found this interesting because I’m not sure I’ve ever heard D.J Smith or anyone in this organization highlight the Sens’ speed as their main attribute. There is the occasional talk of pace, but not outright speed. Rather, the identity they seem to be going for is that of a big, heavy-hitting team. Indeed, they currently sit second in the league in hits, with Brady Tkachuk of course leading the way in that regard.

I won’t deny that hits can be important in men’s hockey, but I’m also skeptical that this extremely hard-hitting style has worked to the Sens’ advantage at all. It doesn’t look like opponents are afraid of them, and it’s not it’s been having the effect of wearing the opposition down - aren’t the Sens still the worst third period team in the entire league? It kind of looks to me like they’re just wearing themselves down and getting injured a lot.

So what does it mean to be “hard to play against”? I’m not sure that throwing lots of hits is what does the trick. Joseph may be biased as a very fast player himself, but if he is to be believed, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions were overwhelmed by Ottawa’s speed in that particular game, and I feel like that maybe says something about what actually wins hockey games.

I, personally, think that a team of speedy, hard-working agitators sounds like a lot of fun. There are lots of ways to built a good hockey team; physicality doesn’t have to be the top priority.

No, the Sens are not moving to Quebec

The Senators’ ownership situation is very much up in the air in the wake of Eugene Melnyk’s death, and naturally, this uncertainty has lead us to the same place it always does: relocation rumours.

I’m putting this here because I know that not everyone who reads this blog pays quite as close attention to hockey media as I do: the Ottawa Senators are not relocating. As Ian Mendes has said, repeatedly, over the last few days, there are several groups interested in buying the team and keeping it in Ottawa, and the league would only consider relocation if there were no prospective buyers in Ottawa.

This rumour about the Sens potentially playing a few games in Quebec city is a bad look, for sure, but we don’t even know if it’s true. If it is, it’s probably about putting pressure on the City of Ottawa to work on a downtown arena, or trying to build the francophone fanbase, or just trying to explore the market. The team is not moving. Enough ink has already been spilled on this topic.

… but they should probably do more to reach out to their francophone fans

Did you know that a lot of francophone hockey fans really hate the Montreal Canadiens? There’s a complicated history there, but the Habs don’t have the exclusive claim to French Canadian culture that they want us to believe they do.

I’ve always thought the Sens were a great rival to the Habs. They’re a new franchise with little history and a major inferiority complex, whereas the Habs are… well, the Habs. I think the Sens could reach a lot of new fans just by putting more effort into communicating with their fanbase in French. Maybe that means French social media content, or French subtitles on their videos, or just putting more effort into the relationships they have with French media members. This kind of stuff makes way more of a difference than I think most anglophone fans realize.

The End of an Era

Like so many Senators fans, I was shocked to hear of Eugene Melnyk’s passing on Monday, and unsure how to talk about it. Melnyk was a controversial figure in Ottawa to say the least, and it feels impossible to talk about his legacy without acknowledging that fact. I thought Ian Mendes from The Athletic and Varada from Welcome To Your Karlsson Years both summed things up really nicely.

A few days after his death, I’m left with the thought that Melnyk defined this team for almost two decades. As Sens fans, we have created a culture around this team, with inside jokes and shorthand, and a distinct sense of humour that has given us a reputation as one of the funniest fanbases in the NHL. We have Eugene Melnyk and his larger-than-life personality to thank for that sense of humour.

Who are the Sens without Eugene Melnyk? I’m not sure. For that reason, I have hope that he may be remembered a bit more fondly than people might expect.

He certainly made things interesting.