Monday, December 2, 2013

Not Much Left After Alfie Circus Leaves Town

If you’re a fan of the Ottawa Senators, you probably woke up today with the nagging feeling that the most important moment of the season has already come and gone with the return of Daniel Alfredsson yesterday.

Sure, there are diehards out there who are convinced this team is about to turn it around any day now and storm their way into the playoffs, possibly winning a round or two against the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, or, enticingly, the Detroit Red Wings. Dreams die hard.

Yet for many fans, I’m guessing there’s a strange feeling in the air, an almost unnameable dread that today is the start of a long conclusion to what is shaping up to be a humbling season for this franchise.

Fans endured the losing stretches of October and November with hopes that this was just an underachieving bunch of young players learning to adjust to bigger roles. The buildup to Alfredsson’s return on Sunday was immense and suddenly this town felt important again, hosting the marquee matchup of the early season. Everyone had those great Senators moments running through their heads, the building was alive and it felt just like old times when Alfredsson wore the “C” and the Senators were occasionally talked about just as much as the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs.

Now it’s Monday morning and the circus has left town. I’m not saying there’s empty popcorn bags and streamers blowing down the desolate avenues of Kanata, but there does seem to be a hangover lingering in the winter air.

With the way things have been going for the Senators, there doesn’t seem to be any more big games on the horizon, just numbers and stats to be compiled for the books. Truthfully, that’s the way it is for a lot of teams season after season, but in Ottawa we’ve been spoiled by drama and occasionally exciting hockey for years now. If it wasn’t one, it was the other. There have been very few boring campaigns in the Capital, no matter the standings.

Yet never before has a season seemed to have peaked so early in this town.

What’s left is an Ottawa Senators team who’s most valued and loved player now skates for a division rival, and the prospect of a long winter with no playoffs now seems like a certainty, even if you’re a “half-full” kind of fan.

The good thing about December 1st being behind us is that maybe now this team and fanbase can start to get over the “trauma” of losing their most beloved personality. The columns have been written and the emotions have been expressed. It’s over and now it’s time to play hockey. But what kind of hockey are we going to get? What kind of drama can we anticipate that will make bad (or worse, boring) hockey tolerable?

When this Senators team bottomed out a few years ago under Cory Clouston, we at least witnessed a flurry of trades that kept everyone invested in the process. Last year we saw half the team, including most of their best players, go down with major injuries and a scrappy group of kids and lunch-bucket fourth-liners take over and carry this team to the playoffs. It was almost movie-good.

This year?

It wouldn’t make any sense for GM Bryan Murray to start blindly trading everybody just to make a belated run to the finish line. There are so many good building blocks in place that the only logical thing to do is wait it out and let them develop. Even the contract status of guys like Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan don’t add to the intrigue too much because they don’t have their UFA status coming up this summer. Everything can be delayed and probably will be.

We might see a few moves here and there, and Milan Michalek is one player to watch in that regard, but anyone hoping for compelling storylines outside of the expected goalie controversy may be in for a disappointment. How exciting is a goalie controversy on a bad team anyways?

What fans may have to accept is that not every year is going to be the stuff of legend, good or bad. Sometimes a team is just mediocre, on the ice and in the columns. It doesn’t mean something can’t happen here to turn this into riveting drama, but as Eugene Melnyk said the other day about retiring Alfredsson’s jersey one day, “it’s not a gimme.”

If that seems like an uncharacteristically doom and gloom article for Black Aces, you’re probably right. Tomorrow I may be writing about the blockbuster trade that just blew all our minds.

But even hack blog writers get a hangover once in a while. I’m just like you, waiting for the next curveball in what promised to be a fun season turned …. ordinary.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps a coaching change to make things interesting .. I mean bring back an extra assistant coach to work with the defensemen and replace Richardson ?

Send Jared Cowen down to work on the fundamentals.

But I agree it is a season to forget. That said the team should continue to work to develop. Anderson to find his game. No first pick means they try their best. Management, coaching staff and players.

phil said...

if there's one place cowen and his one-way contract aren't going, it's binghamton - besides the fact that eugene isn't gonna pay $3.1 million for him to play in the AHL, he'd need to be waived twice to go down and come back up.

Anonymous said...

We're not spoiled. We're a great hockey market and expectations should stay high, otherwise mediocrity will become acceptable.

It looks like you've "thrown the damn towel", to borrow a line from Rocky.

December 2 and out of the playoffs is not a good combo, as we've been told countless times from the pundits. It's supported by the stats.

But, the teams in front of us are pretty fragile. It ain't over yet. Take back your towel.

Anonymous said...

Cowen doesn't need to be waived, his one way contract only determines the money he would be paid in the minors. The number of years as a pro and your age determine whether or not you are waiver elligible or not

Anonymous said...

I think tonights game against the panthers is going to be telling. Thats not to say we've necessarily got a chance if we win tonight, but if they can't put up a W tonight, its certainly time to turn off the lights on this season.