The Ottawa Senators season may be over but the hockey world is still alive and well. Admit it, you’re all staying up to ridiculous hours to watch teams you probably never cheered for. Playoff hockey, baby!
The most popular series among Sens fans has to be the San Jose Sharks vs Las Vegas Golden Knights matchup for obvious reasons such as the presence of King Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone. The problem is, with every successful Knights game (and there are many) comes a post game interview with Mark Stone that twists a knife even deeper. This was his most recent quote:
Mark Stone: “These are the type of games you want to be playing in as a hockey player. If I wasn’t having fun, I’d probably still be in Ottawa” #VegasBorn— Justin Emerson (@J15Emerson) April 18, 2019
What I’m about to say won’t go well with many fans and I don’t expect many to agree but it is my opinion whether it’s fair or not, I just cannot help it. Mark Stone deserved the money he got from Vegas, the bonuses, the NMC, he deserved it all. It’s completely understandable that he is happy with how this situation ended, he got paid and is now playing in a fun and successful environment. I get all that but what I don’t appreciate is the constant jabbing to the media about Ottawa. It started with a knock on ownership which was great and understandable but now it’s a constant reminder of how much better off he is in Vegas. News flash to Stone, Melnyk does not care. In his mind he won and so did you but you know who lost? Ottawa Senators fans, we are now left with nothing and nobody needs the constant reminder of our misery.
Many say to not take it personally, that it’s all against Melnyk but how could I not? I apologize to Mark Stone that the “atmosphere” wasn’t great this season in Ottawa or that we weren't the “greatest fans” but we stopped showing up for you, so that you and the rest of the players could get an owner that would treat you better. I guess it worked since you have the dream owner now. Maybe I am taking it too personally and that’s my fault, I had drawn this image for Mark Stone, the perfect Sens warrior, the next Daniel Alfredsson, the loyal saviour of this team. That image got brutally shattered the day he agreed to an extension with the Knights before he even boarded the flight out of Ottawa. Yes, Melnyk destroyed everything but for once I wanted someone to make the ultimate sacrifice for this team and for this fanbase. Someone to stand up and say, I love this city through thick and thin and I will fight to make it work. For a split naïve second, I thought the shining knight would be Mark Stone and I was so terribly wrong and that’s all on me, nobody else. I wish Mark Stone all the best, I am sure under the right circumstances he would have stayed but we weren’t worth the sacrifice and there’s nothing wrong with that either. #MelnykOut
His days are almost forgotten, even though he was one of the most enjoyable and talented players the franchise has seen. Ever since the trade to the Dallas Stars, his stock has declined to the point where he’s been a healthy scratch a few times. He is a free agent this summer and at 35 years old, if the Stars don’t retain him I don’t see a great market for him. Obviously, I don’t see it happening but would it be so crazy to bring him back to Ottawa if even for one season? For the right price, wouldn’t it be nice to see Spezza end his career where it started? He can provide some veteran leadership until the young ones are all grown up. What would be even better is if the Sens hired Jacques Martin as coach and then we’d at least get a dramatic season to get us by.
An extremely small sample size poll suggested that some fans don’t completely disagree with the idea and while it’s all a fantasy, it was nice to see there is still some love for Spezza in Ottawa.
Opinion on possibly bringing Jason Spezza (for the right price) back to Ottawa so he can retire where he belongs and so I can be happy?— N_Dew 🦋 (@CaptainDewie) April 18, 2019
The Sens are slated for a big summer in management and it could really alter the look of the team next season. The three most important hires are the new head coach, the president and the promised analytics team. While all three roles are important, which one has the most impact on the team? Which one is Melnyk willing to spend more money on? It is hard to imagine the Sens attracting any good calibre coaches so it is safe to assume that the new coach will either be internal or a former coach and/or player taking the position for a slightly cheaper rate. As for the President, while I do believe a good president can alter the direction of the team, I truly believe an improved analytics team will have a larger direct impact on the team. It remains to be seen whether the Sens deliver on their promise of hiring the right people but I will be happy if they even get one hiring right this off season.
Is Ottawa a viable hockey market?
This topic has been debated to no end ever since Melnyk made those relocation comments prior to the infamous outdoor game. The truth is, people seem to have a short memory when it comes to the Senators attendance issues but let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we (using ESPN attendance chart):
2000-2004: Ottawa was top 15 in NHL attendance constantly beating team such as the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins.
2005-2008: Ottawa was top-5 in attendance even beating Toronto in some occasions. Again, beating out teams like Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and post Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins.
2009-2014: While there was a slight dip in attendance, the Ottawa Senators still hovered between 6th-13th among NHL team attendance.
2014-present: This is where the problems started, in 2014 the Sens dipped to 16th in the league and then it went downhill from then. After barely surviving the Alfredsson trade in 2013, Jason Spezza was the next favourite to be dealt in the summer of 2014. Bit by bit, the Melnyk effect started unravelling from not spending enough on personnel to rumours of staff being mistreated to the eventual implosion of the franchise.
The point of all this is to say that Ottawa fans have consistently proven that they are hockey fans and can support a professional NHL team. The problem is, Eugene Melnyk has made it impossible to sustain any fandom for the team. Ottawa fans are starving for good hockey and you just need to drive to Lansdowne park to see how hungry and passionate this city is for hockey. I really recommend everyone in Ottawa to go check out a 67s team, it’ll really satisfy the hockey void and remind you of how much this city embraces its sports teams, at any level.
We are a hockey town, we always were and always will be.
While the Womens’ tournament ended in a heartbreak for Canada and an extremely questionable win for the USA, the men’s tournament will be upon us shortly. Colin White was named to Team USA today and while I am extremely happy for him, it’ll be tough seeing him on the other side. Other Sens players I am hoping to see in the tournament are Batherson (Canada), Tkachuk (USA), Chabot (Canada). It’s a fun tournament for those of us who don’t get a team in the playoffs. It’s also a great way to see how certain players react and perform under high pressure situations in a tournament that is short and very unforgiving. I am hoping that the full rosters are released soon and we will definitely keep you updated here.