The Senators season ended on Saturday night in Toronto. It is amazing how attitudes can change. No post season is certainly not a good thing, but surprisingly the fans I speak too feel optimism. There isn’t this feeling of being at a wake after the season ends. It’s almost as if people believe the operation was a success. The patent still isn’t out of the woods and is headed to the recovery room, but for all signs there is reason for cautious optimism. The patient will have the summer to heal and rehab before heading back to work and punching the time clock next September.
People seem to have the sense that the major ills of this team have been cured and the off-season of chasing the 2 specs of gold dust can begin. Those specs are the same 2 that 28 of the 30 teams in the NHL are all looking for and seem to each year. Ottawa GM Bryan Murray wants to find a top-4 defenceman and a top-6 forward. Those are the specs of gold that everyone wants but can’t find in abundance at a price that works.
Since February 3rd only one team in the eastern conference had more points than Ottawa. That was Pittsburgh. Ironically the two teams which fired experienced NHL coaches and replaced them young aspiring AHL coaches. Ironically the two teams which have gone to the final the past 2 years and both have tried to carry forward the huge weight of expectations in their respective communities.
It really makes the Detroit Red Wings even more amazing. Those expectations are squarely on their shoulders each year and the weight seems to have next to no affect. Even if they don’t make it to the final, the 18 straight years of being in the playoffs is simply amazing. Pressure and expectation I have come to realized are the 2 toughest things to manage and 2 of the most crippling things to deal with for professional athletes. The huge paychecks can’t stop internal 2nd guessing and the burden of so many fans almost guttural need for their team to win.
The Ottawa players will have something this coming season that they haven’t had the last 3 years. The knowledge of who their coach will be before this season ends. They will come to camp next season knowing who he is, what to expect, what he expects and what the system and the plan is. That is a large step forward because it means no buy-in time. No worries about the players believing in the new coach and the new system. They already believe in both right now.
I will end this season with a bold prediction about next season. Many things will happen this off season and some players will go and some new ones will arrive. I am ready to make my prediction right now. The Senators will make the playoffs next season. The bitter taste of a 5 month summer is the horrible cough syrup required to remind players they don’t want to catch this kind of cold again.
See you at the rink.