by Chet Sellers
Boy, yesterday sure was an exciting day, wasn't it? But what did we really learn? Here are some things that I learned!
I'm Living on Such Swede Nothing
After the tragic events of 7-5, but before all parties had gone on the record to explain their version of events, Sens fans seemed to experience a few common reactions in the face of what, for some reason, everyone described as a “gaping wound”. One impulse was to turn the whole thing into some kind of Quincy, M.E.-style procedural and get to the bottom of exactly who pulled the trigger; another was to obsess over the personal impact of the wound and pick at it endlessly, ensuring that even if it eventually healed, the scars would be visible forever. The third and most pragmatic reaction was simply to apply Bobby Ryan directly to the area and move on.
Although Alfredsson’s recent press conference has “reopened the wound” for some, the development of the factual record has largely obviated the need for speculation (if not finger-pointing), and, as with any breakup, the physical ability to wallow in misery only lasts for so long - hey, Breaking Bad is on again! Which brings us back to . . . Bobby Ryan and the 2013-14 Ottawa Senators.
They’re different; they’re better. It’s perfectly rational to look at the events of this summer and forecast how bad things could get in a couple years, if Bryan Murray retires, Spezza and Ryan leave after being low-balled, and the prevailing view of Ottawa among potential free agents (and even its own players) becomes one of a dark, cold, bureaucratic backwater with a spendthrift owner and a hostile media. You know, more so. But before any of that can happen, this team, this $50M wonder, gets to play actual hockey games that you can watch – and this year there’s 82 of them! And who knows – you get a group of mostly young guys together under Paul MacLean, let them develop a camaraderie as they win a few games, and then a few more, and they might start having enough fun that they forget that Uncle Eugene keeps telling everybody not to turn the hot and cold tubs on until after 7 PM, unless you want to pay the hydro bill.
Remember Paul MacLean? That’s who really could have fixed this whole situation, you know. Forget Alfredsson, forget Melnyk, forget Murray, forget J.P. Barry. All sides should have just agreed, after the tragic events of 7-5, that whatever may have happened, Paul MacLean would have been the only spokesman in the matter. And he would have come out at a press conference and said something like, “Folks, we’ve got a saying in Antigonish – you put your hand in the lobster trap, you better know where the claws are. Now are there any more questions?” And there wouldn’t be.
A Random Fact About Chris Neil, to Break Things Up
I made the argument in this month’s power rankings that Jason Spezza is now the best representative of continuity in the Senators franchise and should be captain on that basis, but I forgot one of the most obvious links: you can draw a straight line from Spezza, the team’s second real franchise centre, directly to Alexei Yashin, the team’s first real franchise centre, through the 2001 deal that sent Yashin to the Islanders for Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt, and the 2nd-overall pick that obviously became Spezza. Yashin himself was the team’s 2nd-overall pick in its first entry draft on June 20, 1992, held before the modern franchise had even played a single game. Can’t get much more continuity than that, right?
Well, actually, you can. On June 18, 1992, with the 25th pick in the expansion draft, the Senators selected centre Mark Lamb from the Edmonton Oilers. Lamb scored 55 points in 137 games for the Senators and was even named co-captain with Brad Shaw at the start of the 1993-94 season, but was traded to Philadelphia in March once it was clear Gord Dineen was the team’s captain of the future. Coming back were winger Claude Boivin, a former first-round pick who had struggled with the Flyers and managed to score only 2 points in 18 games with the Senators, and goaltender Kirk Daubenspeck, at that time in his first year at the University of Wisconsin. Daubenspeck played four years at Wisconsin and in September of 1997, the Senators traded his rights to Chicago for the Blackhawks’ 6th-round pick in the 1998 draft. That pick, #161 overall, turned into Chris Neil.
So in a roundabout way, you can trace Neil’s lineage as a Senator back two days earlier than Spezza’s. And that’s the best argument I can come up with for why Neil, and not Spezza, should be named captain.
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