Five Thoughts for Friday: Blame it on the Bus Ramp

Some dark thoughts on a dark Friday

1. I hope that fucking bus ramp is worth it. My understanding is that the Senators chose to start the season on a long road trip against tremendous opposition to give themselves more time to finish the new ramp to the Canadian Tire Centre. The team was annihilated out west and many of the players have struggled with confidence and form ever since. Turns out that, not unlike your first love, you never really get over a season-opening western road trip.

The beautiful irony is that the bus ramp has been rendered relatively unimportant by the team playing so badly that only 13000 people are going out to games, which alleviates many of the traffic concerns that led to the construction of the ramp in the first place. Way to go, awful schedule!

I just pray this doesn't get Eugene Melnyk thinking about how much money he can save on infrastructure costs by pissing off the fanbase. "If we can get down to 8000/game we can halve our gameday costs! Trading Erik should do the trick!"

2. The Battle of Ontario on Saturday is set to be an exciting race to the bottom. The stakes are surprisingly high for an early season game between two bad teams. If the Leafs lose, it's very possible that their anomalous win against Dallas on Thursday night turns out to be their only win in a 12 game stretch. If the Senators lose, it's likely that it won't matter too much whether they win or lose their ensuing games because they'll be so far behind both the division and wildcard leaders that the season will effectively be lost.

Either way, I'm just excited to watch a hockey game on Saturday night.

3. The playoffs last year were very exciting, especially the first round win against the Montreal Canadiens. Unfortunately, the playoffs this year are starting to seem very unlikely for the Ottawa Senators. Granted, it's still early and a run of decent results could change things around pretty quickly, but the odds of such a run happening are not in the Senators' favour. Frankly, you'd be better off betting against Katniss' name getting drawn out of the fishbowl in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire than you would on this Senators team to make a good run right now.

Here are the three things that I think would need to happen very soon for the Sens to make the playoffs:

  • Something suddenly "clicks" for one of Jared Cowen or Patrick Wiercioch, and the Senators find themselves with a good second-pairing defenceman who can move the puck and play a lot of minutes;
  • Something suddenly "clicks" for Jason Spezza, and he plays like Spezza two years ago, pouring in points and making his linemates better; AND
  • One of Milan Michalek or Cory Conacher stops being an anchor and starts banging in goals. I have higher hopes for Michalek. But I have very little hope.

Alternatively, we could ask Paul MacLean to do what Randy Carlyle did and make a Faustian deal with the devil, selling his soul exchange for strings of mathematically impossible, reason-defying wins. It may be too late though; there is reason to suspect MacLean may have done this last year.

4. What exactly does a Cory Conacher do? I may be wrong on this one, but for me the sum of his positive contributions to the team seem to be screening the other team's goalie and being so annoying that people punch him in the face. These are both valuable skills, but "willingly taking punishment" and "drawing penalties" are somewhere around 37th and 45th, respectively, on the list of things I look for in a (theoretically) top six forward. Of course, he's still young and he's little and learning to play in a big league, but neither of those facts is particularly reassuring for a guy who isn't really even showing flashes of top-end skill.

But please, Honey Badger, prove me wrong. I so dearly want to be wrong.

5. I was going to list out the reasons why I'm starting to have tiny creeping doubts about both Paul MacLean and Jason Spezza, but frankly I think those reasons are obvious and overly-discussed at this point.

Instead I will say this: try to have some faith. Not blind faith, but the kind of faith you put in something that has always been good but is a little bit bad at the moment. Call it statistical faith. While Spezza is starting to hit the downside of his career, there's really no reason why he should be suffering so precipitous a decline. He's been a great player for a long time, and he almost certainly has at least a few good seasons left in him. Similarly, Paul MacLean has given us every reason to believe that he is a good coach and will have success as such in the future. I still believe that both of these guys will come good in time, and I just hope that Senators fans will keep the faith for long enough to let that happen.

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