Five thoughts on another frustrating Friday:
The Constant Yo-Yo
Here are the individual game results for the Ottawa Senators this season:
Loss, win, win, win, loss, loss, loss, win, loss, loss, win, loss, win, win, win, loss, loss, loss, win, win, loss, win, loss, loss. That's a paltry record of 11-13-0.
Despite that, they've been at or over .500 on four separate occasions, constantly going from a game or two under to even or one game over. I'll narrate how each stretch has gone so far:
Game 1: Uh oh, not a good start
Games 2-4: We're so back, this is a playoff team again
Games 5-7: This is a disaster, another bad start
Games 8: Maaaybe they can get back?
Games 9-10: Nevermind, this team is so injured, they're doomed. Fire DJ
Game 11: Hugs in Toronto!
Game 12: Embarrassing loss against Vancouver
Games 13-15: Over .500 again! We've righted the ship
Games 16-18: DJ has to be gone, right??
Games 19-20: Okay well those were solid games, you're making this interesting
Game 21: Couldn't close it out as usual, but at least they played really well?
Game 22: Fourth solid game in a row, maybe Jacques Martin is helping!
Games 23-24: Nevermind, two more pathetic efforts
Yes, some of that is the fanbase having feelings all over the place, but it's truly mind-boggling how the team can go from looking solid one night, to just dreadful for a few games afterward. They've been unable to sustain any sort of positive momentum, as even both of their three-game winning streaks were followed up by three-game losing streaks. Hooray.
This constant yo-yoing has got to stop.
Always Needing a Wake-up Call
Something that I've noticed recently is that almost every few games, the Senators are playing so poorly and lethargically that they require some sort of "wake-up call." And that wake-up call inevitably comes in the form of Brady Tkachuk trying to get the bench going by getting into a fight. Which is funny, because I thought that's why a guy like Zack MacEwan is here: so Brady didn't have to take himself out of the lineup while fighting a 4th liner.
This isn't meant to be an anti-Tkachuk stance, because I love the passion he has, and I appreciate the leader that he is. At the same time, I do wish he would try to wake up the team in other ways by helping on the ice. Furthermore, why are the Senators constantly in need of this? It just seems like they can't go more than a few games without an embarrassing game or period or two, which is why it was such a nice change of pace when they played a complete 60 minutes on Saturday against Detroit. That was easily the best win of the season, and more of that will take them far.
Speaking of wake-up calls...
Do You Need Fire on the Bench?
I find DJ Smith's body language on the bench fascinating. Here's an example from last night after the St. Louis Blues made it 4-1:
He literally doesn't give a damn. He knows as well as anyone that it's a matter of time. Probably has his resume ready to go.— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) December 15, 2023
What are we doing here? Wasting everyone's time, that's for sure. pic.twitter.com/1xT5JjWtd2
He looks pretty nonchalant there. The funny thing is, I don't love the typical "rah-rah" coaches like John Tortorella who yell and essentially verbally abuse their players just to get their points across. I usually think it's counter-productive, and it doesn't build a good relationship. However...I do still think there is a time and place when fire and passion should be exhibited on the bench. And I'm really struggling to think of a time when Smith has shown that.
I know we are piling on here, and I'm not even here to talk about Smith's tactics or anything. He's a great human being. But I just find it jarring that there is seemingly no fire on the bench even during the worst of times. Maybe that works for some players, who knows? As a fan though, it is a bit frustrating, because the product on the ice is disappointing to watch. Again, I'm not asking for every second word to be profanity that is screamed at the top of his lungs, but the lack of outward passion is a bit strange.
Analyzing the Math
It's December 15th, two months into the season. At this point, it's definitely not too soon to talk about making the playoffs or not. While most of the NHL has played around 29 games, the Senators have somehow played just 24. 29th in the league in points is a little bit misleading then, but even by points percentage, they're still just 25th. In the East wildcard race, they're 11 points out with five games in hand on the Carolina Hurricanes. Those games in hand are great, but if they only win two of those, they're still seven points out.
If you go by points percentage, the Detroit Red Wings are the second wildcard team with 34 points in 29 games. That puts them on pace for 96 points. So for the Senators to get 97 points, they would need 75 points in 58 games, or a record of something like 35-18-5, or a 106-point pace. It's not out of this world impossible, but they essentially have no margin for error the rest of the way. Who doesn't love loser points?
Good People in the Organization
I know this edition of Five Thoughts hasn't exactly been rainbow and sunshine-filled, but it was a bit of a challenge to discuss too many positives. However, I did want to highlight the fact that it seems like the Senators organization is filled with so many good people. Firstly, Ian Mendes had an article yesterday that shares the story of countless Senators playing with kids at the Roger Neilson House. In it, Chris Neil talks about the impact these kinds of meetups and connections have changed his life for the better, and he mentions that "hockey is secondary." These kinds of interactions are always incredibly wholesome, and I love seeing the smiles on kids' faces when they get to meet their heros.
Vladimir Tarasenko seems to be particularly fantastic with the community already, which I love seeing from a newcomer. They also had their holiday family skate recently, which is a great opportunity for families to interact with each other:
The holidays are all about traditions and this is one of our favourites!— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) December 10, 2023
Go behind the scenes with the #Sens as they celebrate their annual holiday family skate ⛸️
Breakaway presented by @Bell | #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/ye8rP8Dw7Y
Someone like Egor Sokolov has the biggest heart as well, and although he hasn't played in the NHL this season, he's still in the organization and I hope he can bring his good vibes to Ottawa. All the content online I see from players such as Brady Tkachuk, Claude Giroux, Tim Stützle, Erik Brännström, Mathieu Joseph, Jacob Chychrun, Josh Norris, Artem Zub, and so many others just fills my heart and makes it easy to root for their success.
Furthermore, I feel much more confident with a level-headed and seemingly down-to-earth owner like Michael Andlauer, who genuinely seems like he cares. I can't say much about Steve Staios, but he has a sterling reputation. Even Smith might not be a fan favourite right now but we can all agree he's a great person. Plus it seems like every person they bring into the organization has been praised by others, such as Daniel Alfredsson, Jacques Martin, Matt Nichol, and Sean Tierney.
I just feel like there are a lot of good people in this organization right now, which you couldn't always say in the past.