There's Always Next Year

When you're as addicted to the Ottawa Senators as we are, you have to be able to find hope anywhere you can

There's Always Next Year
Photo by Nick Fewings / Unsplash

One of the challenges I faced in writing about this year's edition of the Ottawa Senators is the fact that their fate has been virtually sealed for the better part of four months. Sure there were fleeting moments of hope along the way, but by the time DJ Smith was relieved of his duties in mid-December, it was already difficult to imagine any other outcome than the one we've reached today. The Sens, for a variety of reasons, were simply not good enough to compete for a post-season birth. The 2023-24 campaign represents the most disappointing season in a string of them.

At some point in mid-February, analysis felt trite and bordering on pointless; any tactical adjustments would be long forgotten by the time the Sens were back playing meaningful games next October. Besides getting the young players some reps, what was the point exactly? I've written several times on this blog over the years about trying to keep hope in hopeless times; that act of devotion is a big part of being both a professional athlete, and of being a fan. You need to be borderline delusional at times. There were moments this season, though, when it was difficult to muster even a baseline belief.

I don't mean to sound nihilistic about this: we are, after all, talking about being sports fans. There are no real, serious consequences to any of it. Still, the feeling of the loss of hope was hard to endure. Maybe it's the lack of star prospects in the pipeline to get excited about, maybe it's the still-lingering shock of having so badly misjudged the quality of the assembled roster, but it's been tough to shake.

You'll understand my relief when, rather suddenly, as last night's game against the Boston Bruins was concluding, I realized I was, already, looking forward to the 2024-25 season. Historically, I have taken for granted the fact that I would be restless for the return of OTTAWA SENATORS HOCKEY once the summer rolled around. A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly wasn't so sure. Call it a mid-life sports fan crisis. But damned if hope doesn't spring eternal: as I write this on Tuesday night, I'm already mapping out in my mind just how next season can be so much better. I'm ready to be hurt again.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we'll be serving up all of our usual end-of-season analysis: the staff and our readers will hand out grades for the players, the coaches, and management, we'll re-visit our Sterling Predictions, and more. As spring trucks along, we'll transition into more intensive NHL Entry Draft coverage. I truly did not expect to be devoting a lot of space to the draft yet again, but here we are. We're going to do it right, just like we always do.

For now, though, I'm just letting the feeling of the end of the season wash over me and trying to be thankful for the fact that the feeling of hope returned so quickly. It's passe to say that I'm a "Sicko" but the descriptor still feels apt. We made it, the worst part is now behind us; there's nowhere to go but up (God, I hope that's true). Thank you so much to each of you for sticking with us through this season from hell. It'll all be worth it in the end. There's always next year.

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