Five Thoughts for Friday

Loyalties, suspensions and goalie equipment

After a thrilling comeback win against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night, the Sens still can’t solve the Bruins top line a few days later and the home stand with a disappointing 4-1 loss. Nevertheless, we have some fresh five thoughts just for you this Friday.

a) The case of Mark Borowiecki’s ethical stance

Here’s the thing with being a physical player, you’re always playing on the edge and you’re always expected to be on the receiving end of equally physical plays from the opponents. When Boro decided to mouth off the refs for letting Gallagher off the hook for his hit, most people agreed, that is until Boro decided the very next game that elbowing a rookie player in the head was somehow acceptable. Now, I get it was scrum and things get out of control but anyone who has watched the replay can see there was a bit of deliberation from Boro on the play (and yes I’m an expert). Personally, if this same play happened against one of our players I’d be expecting at least 3 games but I wonder if he used the Gallagher hit as an excuse or defense for him being reckless on the ice and somehow affected the final sentencing. It still boggles me that both incidents went uncalled during the game. It seems he’s apologetic for it but he also isn’t convinced what he did was wrong which seems confusing considering how outspoken he seems to be about improving player safety in the league.

b) Loyal fans? Sellouts? Influencers?

In times of darkness, sports fans rarely agree on anything. In Sens land, the most popular topic to argue about these days is “what kind of fan are you?”. The Sens have started to engage the fans a lot more this season in an effort to lure back the fans into Canadian Tire Centre and in many ways, it’s been promising. The term “influencers” has been thrown around quite a bit to reflect bloggers and fans with a large social media presence that have been used as a bridge between the team and the rest of the fan base. Personally, I think this is a great step in the right direction even if a little late. The problem with this is timing, not that it’s late but that it’s at a time where most fans do not want to associate with the organization from a management perspective. The intention may not be innocent by the Senators but at least it’s an effort and I most certainly don’t expect everyone to agree or participate but getting access to the team and/or players is an opportunity many find as an experience not to be missed. The problem remains that we as a fanbase have been so focused on labeling fans that we’re losing sight of the big picture: we all cheer for the same team. How one chooses to support the team is completely up to them. Just because a fan attends every game or accepts the team’s invitations to certain events doesn’t mean they are a sellout or that they love the team any less. Same can be said for the #MelnykOut loyalists who are holding out on attending games and refuse to be part of any Senators reach out events. The fans are fed up, it’s evident by the attendance numbers so far but that doesn’t mean we should also shun any initiatives that will help the team’s connection with the fanbase long-term. Cheering for a sports team is never black and white, please remember that.

c) The curious case of the power play

I realize that there’s new personnel on the team and that Chabot has an extra year of experience, but what was Boucher doing with the PP the last 2 seasons and what finally woke him up? The Sens power play is operating at a 25.9% success rate, good for 10th in the league but more importantly they have looked threatening on most opportunities that they’ve been getting with their quick movements and creative plays. I’m not complaining but considering the lack of power play success pretty much cost us a trip to the Stanley Cup finals, I’m curious whether Boucher is now playing a larger role in the power play strategy or stepping back for more knowledgeable advice?

d) Goalie safety

The discussion around player safety and headshots has been heating up the past few seasons with the league seemingly taking a more strict look at cleaning up the game. But what about goalies? They’re not threatened by headshots (usually) but is their overall safety being sacrificed for the sake of a more entertaining game? Former Senators goalie, Brian Elliott seems to think so and for once I actually agree with him. This season, the NHL implemented a size reduction on the goalie chest and arm protectors and the initial impact of the change was goalies being more careful how far they would go to make a save. According to Elliott, the smaller equipment makes no sense now that more players are shooting as hard as Chara and Weber. The change could be justified if it was actually working but through 121 games (as of Tuesday) this season; teams are averaging 3.10 goals versus the 3.09 goals through 124 games last season; a difference hardly worth mentioning. To me, the constant development in skaters skills and technology will automatically result in more goals but to potentially destroy a team’s entire season because their goalie got injured on a hard high shot will do absolutely no good for the game. The position is one of the most difficult in all of sports in my opinion, there is absolutely no need to make it harder or more dangerous.

e) Facing old teams

Tonight, Matt Duchene will face his former team in a game that will surely be emotional for him. When Craig Anderson was asked about Duchene possibly getting booed, his response was nothing short of a stern warning to the fans of his former team:

I’m going to be very honest, Duchene didn’t leave on the greatest of terms and as a fan I can understand why some bitterness may exist. That being said, Duchene didn’t pull a Tavares or a D*** H****** type of move and for the most part gave Sakic the best chance to get a good return for him. Judging from the Avs fans I follow, it does seem that the feelings are split on Duchene and I’m curious to see how the fan reaction will actually affect his game. In general, fans become so connected to the players that when they leave it’s often considered an act of treason or a personal attack but is it really? If Matt Duchene or Mark Stone don’t sign here long term, do they get booed next season? When does it make sense to feel bitter about a player leaving and when is it merely a friendly departure? Does a player ever have a right to “want out”? Do fans ever have the right to feel entitled to a player’s loyalty?

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