On The Negativity From The Sens Blogosphere

The Ottawa Senators blogosphere has always been accused of negativity when it comes to their coverage of the team. It seems to have reached its peak this season, with the team sitting 2nd in the Atlantic, in a playoff spot, but still very little positivity coming out of most Sens blogs. Is the criticism of Sens bloggers’ negativity warranted?

At the end of the day we’re all Sens fans who want the team to win. From that perspective we should be supporting every player on the team, from the crease outwards. That’s what made the miracle run last season so fun. Winning makes it easy to do that, for both bloggers and fans alike.

At the same time though, the end goal is being the team to win the Stanley Cup. From this perspective, you have to focus on the weaknesses of the team that are keeping it back from being a true contender. The easy targets to start this season have been the defence and the fourth line. Unfortunately, this will lead to criticisms of players, including fan favourites such as Chris Neil.

The thing is you have to separate them as a person and a hockey player. I’m sure all the bloggers will admit that they love Neil and Chris Phillips, who have both had long and memorable careers in Ottawa, both on the ice and in the community. However, at the same time it’s completely fair to acknowledge that as players they are indeed past their prime, and no longer bring as much to the table as they did a couple years ago.

Bloggers have the advantage over media in that they don’t have to meet with the players every single day, and thus when criticizing them, don’t need to look them in the eye the next day (unless you’re Don Brennan). As it stands, the Ottawa Senators are not a Stanley Cup contender. Bloggers are making the effort to try and pinpoint the reasons why that is. Whether or not you agree with those reasons is a different matter, but they are criticizing because they want to see more than a “get into the playoffs and anything can happen” team.

Since making the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006-07, the Ottawa Senators have only won one playoff round (2012-2013 against the Montreal Canadiens). That’s one playoff round win in eight years. It’s almost like fans have forgotten how good this team once was. In the eight years prior to 2006-07, they won a total of five playoff rounds, while consistently icing a top team in the Northeast.

That’s still a great success compared to the Toronto Maple Leafs who only have an epic playoff collapse to show for in the last eight years. I think the bar should be set a tad higher than the Leafs who aren’t even really a rival anymore and a team that we should stop measuring ourselves against (I won’t get into that in this article). Maybe we should look at our other rivals in the Montreal Canadiens who have managed six playoff round victories in the past eight years.

Of course, a downturn was to be expected after making the Stanley Cup Finals, with the prospect cupboard absolutely bare. How long can that be used as an excuse for a lack of postseason success though? Eight years is a long time.

One of the more common responses I see to bloggers is that the team isn’t ready to win yet anyways, just enjoy what we have now, and when the time is right the team will make their moves. Well, when is the winning window?

Personally, I think it’s within the next two to three years. Let’s face it, the prospect cupboards are pretty empty again, with only the likes of Thomas Chabot, Colin White, Nick Paul, and Tobias Lindberg filling them. Those players are probably several years away from playing in the NHL, and who knows if any of them will have a major impact.

The current roster features talented players in their prime like Craig Anderson (34 years old), Clarke MacArthur (30 years old), Marc Methot (30 years old), and Bobby Ryan (28 years old). Once two to three years pass, will they be the same players? Will some of them even still be on the team? I’m looking at you Anderson. Goalies are unpredictable, and he could crash at any time. Sens fans may not realise it right now, but Anderson is arguable the best goalie this franchise has ever had, rocking a 2.35 GAA and .933 SV% in the playoffs (COL/OTT).

On the flip side, the current roster also has a ton of young talent in Mike Hoffman (25 years old), Erik Karlsson (25 years old), Mark Stone (23 years old), Mika Zibanejad (22 years old) and Kyle Turris (26 years old). These players are certainly going to get better in the coming years, but once that happens most will be hitting their UFA years and you’ll have to pay up. Right now all are under bargain contracts for the next few years (minus Hoffman), you have to take advantage of that.

Then you have the young guys like Cody Ceci (21 years old) and Curtis Lazar (20 years old) who are still question marks at this point. If they suddenly find their game, it would definitely change the makeup of the team.

Essentially you have to balance those four different set of players to determine when your window to win is. The Sens current prospects probably won’t have too big an impact on the short term, and most likely long term won’t be better than the older core of this team. The young talent on this team is pretty phenomenal right now, and likely getting better, but once they earn their paycheques it might be harder to round out the team. There’s only really two young promising players on the team right now, so there’s not really much impact to be made there.

That’s why I think their window is in the next two to three years. You need to capitalize on having solid performing veterans in the lineup before they tail off, while at the same time taking advantage of the young talent under cap friendly contracts. Wait too little and the young talent may not be as good as they could be, but wait too long and your veterans won’t bring as much to the table while the young talent takes up more cap space.

I think this is a major reason why fans are seeing so much negativity in the Sens blogosphere. Their window to winning is probably getting shorter every year, and it’s painful seeing two time Norris winner Karlsson only having a single playoff victory to his name. Each year without a playoff appearance or victory is a waste of one of the greatest offensive defenceman we may see in the game. Cheer the team on to success, but know that the end goal is the Stanley Cup, and the current roster just isn’t there right now (although, I’ll be perfectly content if they prove us all wrong).

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