Sweden Trips and Curses
If you’re a Sens fan, the recent news that the Sens are headed to Sweden as part of the NHL’s global series may have come with a mix of emotions. Excitement, because the Sens will get lots of attention, and we’ll probably get some fun social content out of it. You might even be an International fan who’s excited to get a chance to watch the team in person, or maybe you’re planning on using it as an excuse to visit Sweden.
But if you’ve been around a while, there might be a bit of apprehension or even dread mixed in there. The last time the Sens participated in an NHL Global Series was 2017, when they went to Sweden alongside the Avalanche, traded for Matt Duchene right before leaving, and promptly went into complete freefall, plummeting to the bottom of the standings and staying there for years to come.
What happened? Did the trip mess with their schedule and wear them out so much that it messed them up for the whole season? Did they get cursed while in Sweden? Or was it all just a coincidence because it was actually the Duchene trade that cursed them? Personally, I like to believe it was the last one, for the simple reason that that option is the funniest one.
So, does a return to Sweden mean more bad vibes? Or will it be a nice full circle moment, marking the end of the dark days that began with that first Sweden trip. Maybe Chabot remembers what the team did to get themselves cursed on that first trip and can figure out how to break the curse. I have hope.
The hot seat?
With the season over, there’s been even more attention than usual on Pierre Dorion and DJ Smith. Lots of other people have done the work of reviewing both of their tenures in Ottawa, going over the good decisions and the bad ones, the pros and cons of keeping them, so I won’t rehash any of that. But what I have been thinking about recently is what either one would have to do in order for me to feel confident in them.
With Dorion, it’s kind of hard to tell. The plan for the summer seems pretty straightforward and obvious - sign all the players he needs to, improve the bottom six, ideally make some improvements in goal. Compared to what’s been asked of him in previous years, it seems pretty doable. The lineup looks pretty good on paper right now, so I almost feel like I need more time to evaluate Dorion.
When it comes to Smith, I’m even less sure. I like Smith, and I’ve been vocally supportive of him for a while now, but “win a game in November” shouldn’t be the goal going into the new season.
In both cases, it feels like we’re at the point where things aren’t working, but it’s hard to pinpoint why, and that’s frustrating. Maybe running it back will work, or maybe it won’t, but last year felt like the big test, especially for DJ Smith, and it ended up being more of the same.
New Women’s Hockey Teams
This is shaping up to be an incredibly exciting summer in the world of women’s hockey, as the PWHPA is reportedly planning on starting a new league, and the PHF is once again kicking the tires on expansion. None of the host cities have been announced yet, but there was a rumour going around recently that Ottawa might be on the PHF’s expansion list. I haven’t been able to find a source for that rumour and definitely cannot confirm it, so it might be pure speculation, but I do think it’s fun to think of whether Ottawa would be a good destination for a women’s hockey team.
Obviously, I’d love to see this, and I do think there’s an appetite for women’s hockey in the city. Every women’s hockey event I’ve attended in Ottawa has been well attended. There are lots of girls’ hockey teams in the city, as well as a large student population that would probably appreciate having games that are closer to downtown and easier to get to. It’s a bit of a small market, but it’s possible that could work in the PHF’s favour, since they wouldn’t have to compete against that many other teams. It would be an unconventional choice, but I think it would be worth trying. I’d actually rather see the PWHPA try that than compete with existing PHF teams in Toronto and Montreal, as seems to be the plan right now.
Nick Paul: Senator For Life
The first round of last year’s playoffs was weirdly heavy on Sens content, with Brady Tkachuk going wild in the stands at Calgary’s games, Cody Ceci scoring the winning goal in the game that sent the Oilers to the second round, and of course Nick Paul playing the hero for Tampa in game 7 against the Leafs. Until last night, this year has been comparatively quiet, unless you counted all those clips of Jason Spezza celebrating Leafs goals. Pain.
Thankfully, Nick Paul sensed our need to make everything about the Sens, and showed up in a big way in game 5, scoring what would end up being the winning goal in a win that kept Tampa alive and, most importantly, prevented the Leafs from winning a playoff series. He is him, he is the moment, he is and always will be a Senator For Life. What a guy.
Which former Senator will become the main character of the playoffs next? Will Nick Paul keep carrying the torch? Personally, I’m waiting for Jean-Gabriel Pageau to return to his old ways. Isn’t he due for a playoff hat trick? I believe in him, and I believe that the Ottawa Senators will once again find a way to make the playoffs all about themselves.
The Atlantic is not that good
The popular narrative going into the 2022-23 season was that the Atlantic was stacked and the Sens had no chance of taking anyone’s playoff spot. I have been pushing back against that narrative since day 1, so forgive me for allowing myself to gloat just a little bit now.
The Lightning look like they’re on their last legs, and granted, I did think that in the first round last year and they managed to make it all the way to the finals, but it really looks like the beginning of the end this time. The Panthers barely made the playoffs and don’t look like a serious threat. Even the Bruins have a very “last dance” feel to them. I’m not saying that all of these teams are going to fall out of the playoff race overnight, but I am saying that the Sens could overtake them.
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