We have all listened as fans and the media talk about and debate the Senators recent turn around. Since Corey Clouston became head coach the team has played better and won more. The net result is that Ottawa has now moved up in the standings to the point where they will still not make the playoffs but also it appears will not have a shot at the #1 pick in the draft. The way the draft lottery works is that should a team get the #1 ball in the bingo draw, that team can not move up more than 4 places in the draft. It means that even if you get that #1 ball, you can only get the #1 pick if you finish in the bottom 5 of the league. Ottawa is now out of that bottom 5. If they were to get that #1 bingo ball they could move up and pick 2nd or 3rd but not first.
There are those who contend that teams like Ottawa and Toronto should stop trying so hard to win games when it won’t change their playoff chances, but will damage their draft position. My first question to those people is always the same. How do you get players to not play hard and get coaches to coach to lose? If they are competitive people playing at the highest level, they simply don’t have that chip in their hockey brain. There are also integrity issues. How could you ever look a coach or a player in the eye knowing they didn’t try to win? It goes against everything we’ve been taught in areas of competition and goes against what we all try to teach our children. How would you like to be that fan who paid good money for his ticket, sitting there watching a team not try to win so that next year or the year after things will be better? That fan would feel cheated and rightly so.
While Ottawa may not have a shot at the top pick maybe the way to find a silver lining in a disappointing season is to consider the things you thought were lost but now have been found. Maybe the Senators have finally found a coach who can push the right buttons while still holding a stern hand. Maybe the Senators have discovered that some of the players, who were thought to have lost something, might still have it. Maybe this dose of humility after an 11 straight playoff seasons is something we all needed to calm the arrogance which comes from never considering your team might not make the playoffs.
The idea of being lousy enough to miss the playoffs but not being lousy enough to get a shot at the #1 pick is fair comment. But it’s a loaded comment. The integrity of your manager, coaches and players is at stake when people believe you are no longer trying to win. That is worth far more than a lost season or a chance at the #1 pick. That can lose you a generation of ticket buyers who would always wonder.
See you at the rink.