Five Thoughts For Friday: Discourse, All-Stars, and PWHL Opening Week

The vibes couldn't be worse for one of our teams, and they couldn't be better for the other

Five Thoughts For Friday: Discourse, All-Stars, and PWHL Opening Week
Photo by Emerson Vieira / Unsplash

Rome wasn’t built in a day

I can’t recall a more frustrating time to be a Sens fan. It feels like it’s always one step forward, two steps back with this team. The moment you think they’ve pushed their metaphorical boulder up the hill, it rolls right back down. Things were just starting to look up after the coaching change, and then the team went right back to losing, before they had even strung together a long enough winning streak to make up for all the earlier losing. This far into the rebuild, it’s hard to take any positives from what’s happening on the ice, but I don’t think it’s quite time to make drastic changes on the ice.

Remember that New Jersey was in this position less than two years ago. As Jacques Martin said after the Vancouver game, the Canucks were in a similar position last year. There’s no one-size-fits all model for getting out of a rebuild. This roster is much better than their record suggests, and they’ve barely had any time to adjust to the new coach. I know it might not be what people want to hear right now, but it's still too early for a major roster shakeup.

Everyone please calm down about Tim Stützle

I try to avoid writing about Twitter drama on this site, but yesterday’s discourse about a comment made by Tim Stützle got so wildly out of hand on multiple platforms that I feel like I have to address it here.

In an interview with Ian Mendes about the coaching change and his goals for the new year, Stützle said this:

“It was tough with the coaching change. I loved playing for him. He meant a lot. I’m a really thankful person and a loyal person. And a lot of the guys wouldn’t be here without him. And a lot of our guys wouldn’t have signed those contracts without him.”

The whole article is about how Stützle wants to win and doesn’t care about his personal stats. In it, he takes full responsibility for the team not doing well and shows a clear understanding of the fact that DJ Smith was fired because the players failed to perform under him. He also seemed excited about the new coaching staff. I don’t know what else people wanted from him.

Players aren’t going to get in front of the media and complain about the coach that just got fired. That doesn’t happen, and the one time a player got close to doing it, he was driven to tears after being booed on home ice by his fans. DJ Smith can be simultaneously a not perfect coach and someone who meant a lot to the players he coached. Tim Stützle is a competitive guy and he made it abundantly clear in the article that he wants to win. Acting like any and all praise of DJ Smith is acceptance of losing is just ridiculous.

It’s equally ridiculous to twist this - as I’ve seen some people do - into Stützle insinuating that he wouldn’t have re-signed in Ottawa if he’d known DJ would be fired. Nobody is signing an 8 year contract extension under the assumption that they’re going to be playing under the same coach for the entire length of it. Smith was one of the longest tenured coaches in the entire league when he was fired after about 4.5 seasons. It’s far more likely that Stützle was commenting on how DJ Smith created a welcoming environment for the players and helped them grow into the athletes they are now.

Ian Mendes put it well on Twitter:

This was a pointless controversy cooked up because people were mad at the team and needed to take it out on someone. It’s unfair to journalists whose work is meant to be read in its entire context, and it’s not creating a good environment for the players. 

All-Star Selections

As if we needed more discourse, the NHL announced the first 32 players who will be representing their teams at the All-Star game, and as always, people were angry.

I think I’ve finally reached a point of apathy about the All-Star selections. This game stopped being a showcase of the best talent the league has to offer a long time ago. You simply can’t construct one roster for each division, each including at least one player for each team in that division, and act like it’s an event featuring all the best players in the league. I’m not even sure the league is trying to do that anyway - the All-Star weekend is just a marketing event these days. They get players from each team all in one place and make them interact so they can get social media content out of it. Even the skills competition isn’t really about skills anymore, with events focusing mostly on skits or strange games the NHL made up. It’s always been a gimmick, but it’s been feeling more gimmick-y every year.

Stützle deserved the chance to go, but Brady is more marketable, and the NHL wants to make more content with the Tkachuk brothers together. Also, Stützle very obviously has a wrist injury right now, so he probably won’t be going either way.

I don’t know what the solution is to make the All-Star weekend more fun, but I can’t say I have much interest in it this year.

Opening Week

The PWHL season kicked off on January 1st, and our Ottawa team played their first game on January 2nd, in front of a record-breaking crowd. The league has faced a lot of criticism for moving ahead without team names or logos, but after 3 games, it’s looking like they made the right decision, if it was between starting without team branding and pushing back the start date. The hockey speaks for itself: it’s fast, it’s physical, and it’s wildly entertaining. If you missed Ottawa’s season opener on Tuesday, you really missed out. I never thought I’d feel so elated walking out of a hockey arena after a loss.

It’s been so much fun to see these rosters come together, and it’s kind of wild to think they’re only going to get better as they gel as teams. There are fascinating storylines in every game, with players facing off against teammates and rivals. In Ottawa, Emerance Maschmeyer nearly out-duelled the goaltender she always backs up on Team Canada, and shut down her captain on a penalty shot. So many of these players have something to prove. Even though there’s still work to be done behind the scenes when it comes to marketing and promotion, it’s hard not to feel optimistic about this league after seeing the quality of the on-ice product, and the interest all around the hockey world. 

The Home Crowd

Hayley Scamurra had a great quote after Ottawa’s home opener, in which she scored the first goal in PWHL Ottawa franchise history. As a member of the US national team, she’s played in front of bigger crowds than the one that filled TD Place on Tuesday, and yet she told reporters that this one felt different, because it was a club team and not a national team.

That same sentiment was echoed in just about every media availability after the game. Scamurra and coach Carla McLeod were both emotional in postgame press conferences. It’s fun to watch the World Championships on TV every year and maybe attend a rivalry series game when they’re in your city, but it’s a completely different thing to have a local team to cheer for. They’re part of the Ottawa hockey community now, and that game was us welcoming them.

Case in point: one of my favourite moments in the game was booing Marie-Philip Poulin when she lined up for a penalty shot. It was such an absurd feeling - a whole crowd of people who have loved her for years, booing her because she plays for an opposing team now. It was so much fun. International women’s hockey tournaments are always popular, but I’ve never seen this level of buy-in at the pro level before. It’s amazing to watch.

Not everyone can afford to pay for sports coverage right now, and that is why we will keep as much of the site's content free for as long as we can.

But if you are able to, please consider subscribing to help keep our articles free (and get a few extra perks).

Erik Condra
  • Ability to comment and participate in our community
  • Twice monthly newsletter available only to subscribers
  • Ad-free reading
  • Our undying love and appreciation
Brady Tkachuk
  • Everything from the Erik Condra tier
  • 10% discount on all merch
  • Access to any future paywalled content
  • A personal thank-you from the Silver Seven staff
Daniel Alfredsson
  • Everything from the Brady Tkachuk tier
  • Inner peace knowing you are supporting quality, independent coverage of your favourite sports team