Any Building Plan Starts with Karlsson
SENATORS: A Week in Review is a weekly column looking back at the week in Ottawa Senators hockey written by OLMSports Dave Gross.
Feature photo Courtesy NHLI via Getty (Andre Ringuette)
Given the context, you can label this one as absolutely the worst season on and off the ice in Ottawa Senator history.
We’re giving the first couple of years under Rick Bowness (and for the blink of an eye, Dave Allison) a break. Ottawa was not handed an equitable deal in expansion like the Vegas Golden Knights were, some 25 years later.
Nope, the Sens were handcuffed to expansion gems like John Van Kessel, Dominic Lavoie and Chris Lindberg. Teams could protect two goalies and 14 skaters at the time and Ottawa got, umm, those guys among others.
But I digress.
So, let’s push ahead.
First, put the 2017-18 season in the dumper. Frankly to focus on it would be like a kid fixating on that tetanus shot needle the size of the CN Tower about to jammed into his arm.
Zeroing in would cause prolonged and unnecessary hardship.
Looking ahead, the hockey product is bound to get better.
Maybe, but there’s a whole helluva lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done first.
And from this corner, it must start with Erik Karlsson.
Much has been written, said and speculated regarding the future of the Ottawa captain.
Does Eugene Melnyk shrug his shoulders and demand Karlsson be traded in the summer? Does Karlsson (or has he already) suggest the 2017-18 campaign would best be wrapped up with him moving elsewhere? Can Ottawa afford to spend capacious dollars and lure No. 65 back to the bosom?
The answer needs to be ‘yes’ – to the latter.
Any other option won’t do.
Regardless of what the experts think and believe about Karlsson’s talents and whether he is the best defenceman in the National Hockey League, this baby is all about optics.
The Senators’ fan base is lower than low right now; in desperate need of counselling.
The first step in curing the patient is tying a sold-steel chain around the waist of Ottawa’s leader and ensuring he stays on board for the long term.
Ottawa needs stability – both for the hockey team and its diminishing ticket base.
Because, let’s face it, the esteem around these parts can’t take another slap in the face.
Be it the antics of the owner or the antics of a hockey team that has not only been losing consistently, but lately doing so with hardly an effort.
Say what you want about Karlsson this season – his plus/minus is in the toilet while the giveaways and slip-ups are sky-high – but you can not question his zeal and his pride.
He is the face of the hockey team.
Much along the lines of his buddy Daniel Alfredsson.
Beloved and treasured as an Ottawa icon, Alfredsson twice chose to separate himself from the organization in the past few years.
They were bitter times for the fans.
And those same fans are highly unlikely to accept another gut-punch of an exit.
Honestly, this rebuild is going to take a considerable amount of time . . . from the ground on up.
But there’s no getting started without cementing the structural base and that starts with hanging tightly onto Ottawa’s biggest pillar: Erik Karlsson.
No-brainer, pay up Eugene.
NEWS, NOTES AND NOTIONS: Next week in this very space we’re presenting the annual Senators’ report card for the ‘end of term.’ Summer school waits for many . . . As of Monday (early evening), Toronto’s Auston Matthews is in exceptional company, and really, has carved out his own spot as a truly exceptional talent. As first noted by Postmedia, Matthews has scored 61 goals at even strength during the past two seasons. That’s tied for first in the league. How good is that? Edmonton’s Connor McDavid also has 61 even-strength markers, but has played in 21 more games . . . With the uber-talented Sedin twins set to retire at season’s end, it’s time to recognize Henrik and Daniel for what they were: The most intrinsically creative passing tandem – maybe – in NHL history . . . Can’t blame Matt Duchene for turning down an opportunity to play for Canada at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship as he’s clearly earned the rest. Can’t say the same for Mike Hoffman who’s got to have a ton of energy in reserve after mailing it in the second half of the season.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Monday, April 2: Winnipeg at Ottawa (7:30 pm)
Wednesday, April 4: Ottawa at Buffalo (7:30 pm)
Friday, April 6: Ottawa at Pittsburgh (7:30 pm)
Saturday, April 7: Ottawa at Boston (7 pm)
(End of season)