2 October 2014

Ahh, the preseason: update n°2

Well. A lot of things happened in five days.

Let’s cover them reverse-chronologically:

1. Erik Karlsson: named captain.

To be honest, this surprise was infinitely more thrilling to me because I never truly believed he would be given the chance. It seemed like most of the hockey world was in agreement that the captaincy of Gabriel Landeskog had been a mistake; the failure of the Avs to go deep in the postseason (or reach the postseason at all) appeared to confirm this. Chris Neil and Chris Phillips had been jockeying around this topic since the departure of Alfredsson as well, both expressing how lovely some good ol’ veteran leadership would be to turn this team around. In some fans’ mind, the best alternative was rolling with three alternate captains for the 2014-15 season and then perhaps bestowing the gloried C upon Turris or even MacArthur.

Instead, the spotlight shines sooner rather than later (or rather, brighter than ever before) upon EK65, who’s already demonstrated the requisite ability to pour all the right clichés smoothly off his tongue at the double whammy of a press conference Thursday morning. Amid ostentatious phrases like “taking this community into my heart even more”, Karlsson slid in some references to Alfie which would serve well to remind the fans that the Senators organization have a lot to make up for in rectifying the way they handled the departure of our longest-serving captain ever. Naming Karlsson as captain is a big step in the right direction.

A quote from Paul MacLean on the captain representing the team’s style of play, in particular, gives me hope: “he's an important representative of [everything we’re trying to do] and throughout the League he's a representative of the Ottawa Senators. I think we have to recognize that as well.” Hang on, let me just check… it’s still the preseason, right? I can still be optimistic, right? Okay, then. I’m going to assume this means that we’ll be playing shot-suppressing, possession-driving hockey in this club. The kind of hockey EK excels at.

2. Bobby Ryan: signed long-term.

Evidently Eugene Melnyk et al. decided to try for a seven-league-boot-sized step in the right direction on Thursday; with the announcement of Ryan’s contract extension for another seven years after the 2014-15 season, one could almost hear the audible uncracking of Sens fans’ hearts across the city. The grumpiness surrounding Ryan’s (and Methot’s, let’s not forget about him) contract discussions had manifested rather obviously through the helplessly transparent tongues of the media, and as such it was almost nearly—though not quite—as big of a shock to hear him signed for another seven years with Ottawa.

Seven years! He’ll be 34 years old in seven years. It’s difficult to project long-term careers of older players, since NHL career paths vary so greatly once players are out of the trial period of their twenties (a trial period which Colin Greening is soon to exit…). Nevertheless, Ryan is a genuine star, a player with demonstrable skill whose signing generates quite a bit more faith in the fanbase than, say, the signing of Milan Michalek. (We still love you, MM9!)

3. The rookies’ game versus the Winnipeg Jets.

Oof, that was a harsh reminder of what a bad team can be like in the NHL—i.e., not fun to watch. It also is a relevant reminder in regards to our prospects: they aren’t NHL-calibre, not all of them, and perhaps not any of them. They won’t be able to fill the offensive holes left by players who are now playing in roles left by better players who… left… and they’re not defensive miracles. As high as I admittedly am on Fredrik Claesson’s reputed defensively defensive game, these AHLers don’t look quite up to par next to the big team.

This was particularly clear in the number of passes missed from rookie to rookie. All hockey is sloppy in the preseason, but some hockey is identifiably sloppier than other hockey. So while the preseason is good for optimism and fantasy, it’s also good for proving optically how our team isn’t about to be saved by young bucks, no matter how strapping or Canadian (or not) they are.

But that’s okay. We’ll be an up-and-coming team, a just-about-to-come-into-their-own team, a led-from-the-back-end-straight-through-your-end-and-past team. There are so many ways we can be better this season. As fans, we're here to hope that they'll happen.


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