With the 2010s now entirely in the rearview mirror and an exciting new era of Senators hockey on the horizon, I can understand that some of you by now must feel fed up with bloggers ripping off the bandages from wounds you believed may finally heal. Before I can close the book on my Karlsson years, however, I have to ask myself one question: after everything we endured as fans of this team (and we endured A LOT), for those three magical springs in 2013, ‘15, and ‘17, was it worth it?
I have a few caveats I want to acknowledge before I proceed. First of all, you can argue that any decade during which your team failed to claim a championship was a wasted decade. Secondly, tragedies that occurred off the ice are entirely separate from thought exercises regarding the performance of a hockey franchise. And finally, for the sake of this specific discourse, we can disregard everything after the spring of 2017 because it was essentially all bad until the metaphorical building had crumbled to its foundation.
Now a few literary allusions come to mind when I think about the last decade in Ottawa. At times it felt like a Faustian Pact, at others like a wish on the monkey’s paw, and maybe even like the Portrait of Dorian Grey. I wanted to get a little more speculative though. If you haven’t read A Sound of Thunder then you have probably at least seen it receive tribute on the Simpsons. To oversimplify, the story suggests that even the most insignificant actions can alter the course of history. So, can we apply this concept to a decade of Senators hockey?
Consider every transaction that led up to the unforgettable series against Montreal in 2013, the amount of sheer dumb luck that sent Ottawa on one of professional sports’ most improbable regular season runs ever in 2015, and arguably the most exciting playoffs in franchise history in the spring of 2017. Against all logic, plenty of ill-informed decisions begat those cherished memories. Would you trade away those memories? And, if so, at what price?
I would argue that the regrettable trades preceding those playoff berths outweighed the favourable ones (losing Zibanejad, Silfverberg, Bishop, Spezza, and first round picks in 2010 and ‘14 while gaining Ryan, Phaneuf, Conacher, and Burrows stand out among the worst losses and gains). The Senators probably also signed more clunkers than shrewd contracts (see: Pyatt, Legwand, Latendresse et al). And, of course, who could forget those abysmal drafts in 2012, ‘13, and ‘14 (Hogberg being the lone keeper).
Now I cannot emphasize enough that I have ZERO intention of re-litigating any of these transactions. Because every turbulent moment along that improbable timeline led us to a place that maybe we never belonged. And yet, there we were, on top of the mountain if only to laugh in the face of all logic and reason.
So do you look back pragmatically or sentimentally?
Do you still regret the Bobby trade? Do you regret enough that you would give up this memory?
How about the Phaneuf trade? Were the years of cap crunching worth this goal?
And if the Sens had kept Zibanejad then we may have never experienced this:
If the Senators had handled the Anderson-Lehner-Bishop conundrum differently then the Hamburglar run never would have happened. If the team hadn’t abandoned their rebuild prematurely in 2012 then we never would have defeated the Canadiens in the 2013 postseason. Again, logically, you could argue in favour of going back, building this team differently, and likely achieving more sustainable results. But does that outweigh your emotional attachment to these memories? Of course, we don’t have to choose. We can cherish our memories and write revisionist history as we please. But if for no reason other than self-reflection during a period of growth for us as a community, in the wake of all we’ve been through as fans, for those three unlikely runs in 2013, ‘15, and ‘17, was it worth it?
Was it worth it?
|Yes it was and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
|No it wasn’t and I would trade those memories for more sustainable success.