Thoughts. Five of them. Now.
Aftermath of Melnyk's Outburst
Tuesday night's attendance was an early indication that the organization has a tough, uphill battle ahead of them if they're going to, at some level, regain the respect of a large portion of the fanbase that feels somewhat betrayed by the team’s owner.
The Minnesota Wild don’t exactly bring the away crowd intrigue of an Original Six franchise or the superstardom to excite those who pay money to see more than just their home team’s talent, but you’d think that a huge 3-0 victory in one of the most important regular season games in recent memory would generate some momentum in the ticket sales department.
Three days after the most picturesque sporting event in Ottawa history, in which 33,959 people gathered at TD Place to watch hockey from horrible vantage points in the blistering cold, a timid 13,804 sat in the stands of the Canadian Tire Centre to watch the Senators blow a 3-1 lead.
Already on pace for their lowest attended season since at least 2000 (that’s as far back as ESPN’s attendance reports go), Melnyk’s catastrophic comments ahead of last Friday’s alumni game surely guaranteed that the 2017-18 campaign be the organization’s worst in said category.
Bobby’s Lookin’ Good
After an absolutely horrendous start to the season, it looks like Dan Girardi Bobby Ryan is on the cusp of completely turning things around.
It helps when they’re effortlessly going in, but make no mistake, Ryan has shown obvious signs of rehabilitation with regards to his broken finger, and continues to improve his stride, shot and overall play in the offensive zone.
After scoring one goal in his first 21 games, the 30-year-old has notched three in his last four.
The stats are great, but it’s more convincing to see the confidence he has in simple plays like one-timers, driving to the net, digging for pucks in the corner and laying big hits. With the broken finger he has been nursing back to health since mid-October, it’s the second-guessing and fear of getting hurt again that looked to have a negative impact in the three weeks immediately after his return.
But now, with more consistent linemates in Matt Duchene and Mark Stone, Ryan has looked like he’s found some chemistry and could be making a breakthrough with his ailing finger.
The terrifying reality with a repeat injury like Ryan’s is that, like we saw in the first period last night, it doesn’t take much of a whack to start the healing process all over again.
Formenton, Batherson Getting Set for World Juniors
They may not burst with skill and talent when a microphone is planted a few inches from their chins, like we painfully bared witness to in the first intermission of last night’s game, but Alex Formenton and Drake Batherson do the exact opposite when they’re in their happy place on the ice.
And luckily for Sens fans, the two, both currently having career years in the CHL, will be on display for everyone to watch on their HD TV, opposed to grainy post-game gifs on Twitter, come Boxing Day.
It’s only the third time that two Senators prospects will play together on Team Canada at the U-20 championships (Wade Redden and Chris Phillips in 1996, Curtis Lazar and Nick Paul - wow - in 2015).
For Formenton, be on the look for how his lesser attributes (everything except skating and determination) have come along since training camp, and simply if his hands and hockey IQ can keep up with his feet. The 18-year-old has had elite speed for quite some time, but his skill with the puck needs to improve if he’s to become the full package. He currently has 21 points in 20 games with the London Knights in the OHL.
Batherson, on the other hand, is probably the most balanced forward in the Senators’ prospect pool - something we dove into in a previous 5 Thoughts for Friday.
Leading the QMJHL in goals and points before an injury took him out for weeks, Batherson took gigantic strides last season and even bigger ones in the summer. His combination of skill with the puck, a lethal shot, impressive hockey sense and leadership abilities have him constantly playing in all situations and with a letter on his chest.
All WJC games can be found on the 73 five TSN channels.
Time to Tank?
The NHL 100 Classic seemed like a reasonable time and event to either declare the season a sure bust or a possible turning point. The Senators were losers of 12 of the previous 14 games, their owner was calling out everyone but the prime minister and trade rumours swirled around nearly every player, it felt; a loss to a top-two rival on one of the most anticipated weekends in city history could’ve been the nail in the coffin.
But they won. And they won with style. And that was two games in a row the team had looked their absolute best. After the dreadful month of November, who could blame anyone for having a bit of hope hot off two convincing wins?
And then they started off in the most brilliant way against the Wild on Tuesday night.
And then they finished in the most brutal way against the Wild on Tuesday night.
And we were back to wondering when, once again, would it be appropriate to beg the question?
Overall, the team simply didn’t build off of last season’s encouraging run in three major ways. The players brought in during the offseason in no way made up for the losses, the coaching staff seems to have refused to evolve in a progressive manner and mould to a speedier, more aggressive and far more talented game, and, plain and simple, there are few players taking a step forward this year.
Then there’s the final couple problems, which are mostly out of the Senators’ control.
The Boston Bruins are way too damn good. The Metropolitan Division is way too damn good.
It would be a different story if the Senators were putting together uplifting performances and just barely missing out on an extra point most nights. Or the complete opposite. But there’s nothing inspiring about this team right now. Not only have they been getting inconsistent play by almost every player on the team for a month now, but they’re finding ways to lose. And when you need to put together a five-star showing each night to win, you’re in trouble.
Good teams win when they play well. Great teams win when they play badly.
So, yes, back to that looming question. When will it truly be time to tank?
A loss of any kind in Sunrise tomorrow seems like a suitable breaking point.
Sens Blogger Classic
It’s the moooost wonderful tiiiime ooof the yeeeear!
The annual Sens Blogger Classic, organized by the tall, handsome SensNation, is tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. at the Carleton University Ice House.
So if you’d like to watch your favourite blogger or Sens Twitter personality try to do things resembling playing hockey, come on out!