With the Senators season set to end on April 11th in Toronto, for me that could mean the end of my season unless like last year Hockey Night in Canada needs an extra play-by-play guy and I get to work in the first round. For the first time in 11 years I may not work in the playoffs and that is both financially and emotionally disappointing. The post season is more fun than you can imagine. This is a wonderful and fulfilling job any time of year, but the playoffs carry such a different excitement level for everyone involved, it’s hard to imagine not being a part of it.
This situation does however give you a chance to reflect on ones good fortune in the past. I believe you do develop a certain arrogance based on the unspoken assumption that the team you cover will be in the playoffs and thus the startling reality of not working during that time hits you in the head pretty hard.
Looking at the Senators roster at the start of the year I would never have guessed this was a possibility. I first started to think about this team not making the playoffs just after Christmas when I started doing some math on probabilities and possibilities. While the last several weeks have been impressive for Ottawa, simply the hole is too deep. Making up ground in this current scheduling system is next to impossible. If you take last season for example, the teams in the Eastern Conference which were in the 8 playoff positions on February 8th were the same ones which got those playoff spots when the regular season ended. There was some shuffling from February 8th until the end, but in the end those same 8 got the spots. A depressing reality for teams chasing with more than a few points to make up down the stretch.
For a team like Montreal, holding the 8th spot is tough but for Florida and Buffalo catching up is even harder. With the number of in-conference games and division games, it means that when you lose to a team you are chasing the plight is obvious. But when you look at all the games this time of year where you have 3 point games, that is the killer. You don’t fall back but you don’t catch up either. When the Senators for example went on their run winning 8 of 9 games they only moved up from 12th to 11th and the spread between them and the 8th place team changed by only 3 points.
It is like walking down the street in your old neighborhood remembering when this was the street you lived on. “Chasing Lane”. In Buffalo, Florida and St.Louis I have spoken to friends who are in the chase. Their excitement and hope is wonderful and uplifting. Emotions I had come to take for granted because of the run the Senators have had for the past 11 years.
It makes me appreciate far more what this franchise has done for a very long time and what it will do again. While the thought of a long off-season is not an appetizing one, I have learned some lessons in appreciation. Getting to work in the playoffs is a privilege earned not granted for both players and even old broadcasters too.
See you at the rink.