It’s been 186 days and just over six months since the last Ottawa Senators game that actually counted in the standings. Tonight though, that changes. After spoiling the Bruins playoff hopes on the last day of the season, all we could do was wait. Wait for the draft. Wait for free agency. Wait for training camp. Wait for pre-season games. And now wait for real games to start again.
The Senators will be opening up the season at home for the first time since 2010-11, and their first opponent will be the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’ll be fantastic to be able to watch the team again, and the night will be even better if Ottawa can easily beat Toronto.
At the beginning of every year, there is hope within every organization in the NHL. Even for the teams that are in dire straits, they can still hope for a miracle, or at least hope that some of their players get better. It’s a great feeling knowing that there’s a possibility that everything can go right and that the Senators go deep in the playoffs.
Every Fall, fans don’t want to look at the negatives on their team, they just want to focus on a fantasyland where everything goes well. And there is nothing wrong with that, because if we never had hope, hockey would become quite dull to follow. Do I think Ottawa is going to win the Stanley Cup? Almost certainly not. But that doesn’t mean I am not excited to start the season and see how this team is different than years past.
Although this team is unlikely to go all the way, there are plenty of reasons to tune in every night. First and foremost is Erik Karlsson, who is worth the price of admission almost every game. He’ll continue to be one of the best and most exciting players in the NHL.
Then there’s Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman who continue to get better while they should be getting more and more national attention. Hoffman should be even better than he has been in the last two years simply because he has a coach that trusts him. Guy Boucher loves how he plays, and I can’t wait to see if his point totals increase this year.
Cody Ceci has the potential to be a very good player, and he’s another player who could benefit with a more structured defensive system. Then there’s another young defenseman in Thomas Chabot who seems like he might play in Ottawa for the entire season. If he does, you can bet he’ll be a reason to be excited about the team.
There are several other players that are worthy of your attention on any given night, as it’s not as if the team is devoid of talent. Although they struggled and missed the playoffs last year, the 2016-17 team should be fun to watch because of the skill from their high-end players.
I don’t think I need to convince most of you why you should watch, though. For most readers, you’d be watching the Senators no matter what. It’s the die-hards that have been eagerly waiting this day for a long time, and they are so ecstatic that there’s real hockey to follow.
If the team begins to struggle in November or December, just remember: at least there’s hockey to watch. Remember the dog days of summer and how the off-season seems incredibly long when your team misses the playoffs. Hockey is better than no hockey, and we have it for the next eight and a half months.
We can be amazed at Mike Hoffman’s sniped goals, Guy Boucher’s villainous faces, Bobby Ryan’s dangles, Erik Karlsson’s end-to-end rushes, Craig Anderson’s sprawling saves, and Mark Borowiecki’s late penalties...well not that, but you get the point. Fact is, every season at least has it’s memorable moments, which cannot really be said about the off-season.
Just for this one day, we can set aside our worries about the team, and appreciate what this day means for fans of the sport. On October 12th, anything is possible. On October 12th, why not be enthusiastic about this season?
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