Ottawa Senators Off-Ice Power Rankings - April 2014

by Chet Sellers

The Senators saw their playoff aspirations all but evaporate during the month of March, a month that also saw no end to off-ice drama and personnel changes. Ales Hemsky came to town and taught Jason Spezza that you can't write a love letter unless you spell Czech. Cory Conacher took his microgrit sandpaper to Buffalo. We said goodbye to Joe Corvo for the second, and presumably final, time. Bobby Ryan revealed a closely-held secret, and then some kids arrived to brighten everybody's lives. Like Sens through the hourglass, these were the days of our lives last month. Let's go!

1) Bobby Ryan (last month: 3)

I should have known something was up when I saw those “His and Hernia” bathrobes on his wedding registry. Let’s review the bidding for Bobby Ryan’s 2013/14:
  • traded from Southern California to Ottawa;
  • had to give up this car for this car;
  • got a sports hernia;
  • was called out publicly for being “sleepy” while trying to play through a hernia;
  • slumped badly at year’s end before finally undergoing surgery;
  • missed the playoffs;
  • endured the longest winter ever.
No, that can't be right. Let me try that again:
  • sent to a team that’s coveted him for two years in exchange for a king’s ransom;
  • celebrated as “the guy” in Ottawa despite coming off a disappointing season in a second-line role;
  • asked by fans to sign an extension before he’s played a single game;
  • blazing start to the year;
  • got engaged;
  • full public support from his GM after gritting out a tough injury;
  • endured the worst winter ever.
THAT looks like a much better year, although I still can’t do anything about the weather. I swear, Bobby, it’s not usually this bad. The point is, you can look at Ryan’s first year in Ottawa in a lot of different ways, and rather than try to make a narrative out of all of this, I think we should all just hit the reset button. See you in the fall, Bobby! And if it ever becomes available, the number 9 would look good on you, by the way.

2) Erik Karlsson (last month: 2)

Then you are not dressed, bro.

So in talking to Aftonbladet last month (translation courtesy of 6th Sens), Erik Karlsson confirmed what many in town already knew, and what the local media had been considerate enough not to report, even though some of them still got upset when he was clearly working through some stuff and didn’t want to talk to them for a while about what they already knew for a story they wouldn’t report.

I’ve seen some hand-wringing online about whether Karlsson still wants to be in Ottawa, and let me tell you, worrying about whether someone’s happy in Ottawa is the second-most Ottawa thing you can do (the first is defending your favourite shawarma place like some kind of religious fundamentalist). But look, this has been a bad year for everybody. Erik Karlsson is still a Senator until 2019 (2019!), and by that point this year will be a distant memory.

Besides, every relationship goes through cycles, and relationships between players and teams are no exception. In the early days spending time together is effortless, you like everything about each other, and physicality comes naturally. When things settle into a rhythm, though, what starts out feeling comfortable can end up feeling confining. Friends start to drift away, making doing things together feel more like a chore. Everything seems to turn into an argument about money. Bodies deteriorate.

But change is positive too. Over time, you redefine what’s important to you and what you’re looking for. When success finally comes, you share it with each other. And both of you still have the ability to surprise the other when they least expect it.

A 23-year-old Erik Karlsson, and an Ottawa Senators team that refuses to spend the money needed to win, are just chapters in a much longer story that’s still being written. Five years from now? Maybe Daniel Alfredsson will be a 46-year-old pensioner who’s moved back into the neighbourhood. Maybe the Senators will be owned by one of the Snapchat guys, after Eugene Melnyk’s rented yacht disappears under what Gary Bettman will later term “mysterious circumstances.” And maybe Erik Karlsson will be a different guy, with different priorities, possibly with kids, or an owl. But whatever happens between now and then, 2014 will seem like a long time ago.

3) Ales Hemsky (last month: NR)
I'd like to put a big billboard that looks something like that outside whichever hotel Ales Hemsky is living in, just to get him over the hump on signing in Ottawa. I'd also like to put the following billboard outside Bryan Murray's house in Shawville:


4) Jason Spezza (last month: 5)
Womp womp womp.
Another guy who needs a realtor? I don’t know where I stand on the whole Trade Spezza thing, other than to say that after just losing an 11-year captain to another team, I can see the Senators being reluctant to deal his replacement after only a year. I mean, imagine if they had gone the other way during the off-season and named Chris Phillips captain instead? Can’t you just imagine the team then feeling compelled to do something really crazy, like signing Phillips to another long-term deal? At least that bullet’s been dodged, right folks?

5) Chris Phillips (last month: NR)

Oh. There's Chris Phillips, signing a long-term deal that smells of rich mahogany. I bet the negotations went something like this:

MURRAY: Look Chris, I want to keep you but I have to think long-term as well. I can do one year at two million, no more.

PHILLIPS: Alfredsson.

MURRAY: We're not giving you a long-term deal just because you're one of our last veterans and people think we screwed up with Daniel. Now tell me that one year, $2.5M is going to get this done.

PHILLIPS: Alfredsson.

MURRAY: I’m not going to two years, Chris.

PHILLIPS: Alfredsson.

MURRAY: Can’t do it.

PHILLIPS: Alllllllllllll . . .

MURRAY: But even if I did . . . even if I did it wouldn’t be for any more money.

PHILLIPS: . . . fredsson.

MURRAY: Two for four.

PHILLIPS: *holds up clock set to 11:11*

MURRAY: *sighs, defeated* Two for five.

PHILLIPS: Pleasure doing business with you. *hip pops as he stands up to shake hands*

Phillips, you old polecat. Now let’s move on to the real issues – why can’t I order a duck at your restaurant that’s been shot by Eric Gryba? You want to talk about getting this team's defensive corps to work better as a unit, let's start there.

6) Eric Gryba (last month: 7)
Can you guess which one is the NHL defenseman? You'll never guess.
I said it last month, I’ll say it again: good for you, Eric Gryba. This month it’s for putting his (still entry-level!) money where his mouth is, literally, and starting his own duck call company. And Zack Smith (you know, the guy who shoots better than Gryba does) is a celebrity endorser!

We talked about Gryba’s duck calls on the podcast so I won’t belabour the point here, other than to say more Senators need to follow Gryba’s lead and starting marketing their own signature products. Would you buy a salon-quality volumizing spray made by Erik Karlsson? Children’s phonetics lessons from Colin Greening? Matt Kassian’s artisanal macaroons? Of course you would.

7) Marc Methot (last month: 4)

We wrote about Methot’s blogger-shaming in this space a few months ago, and the Olbermann rant above is just a more over-the-top way of telling Methot what we already did – right target, buddy; wrong approach, that’s all.

What’s funny about all of this is that in order for a Twitter beef to go viral, somebody had to physically print it out first. And they say print is dead.

8) Robin Lehner (last month: NR)

You forgot to mention that he whittled those chopsticks out of the femurs of his enemies.

So apparently if you’re Robin Lehner, a polite-but-forceful “no” is enough to get you out of high school forever. Can you imagine if he ever does get his Grade 10? Can’t tell him nothing after that.

9) Mark Stone (last month: NR)

This is, technically, "off-ice".

10) Buckets (last month: NR)

Sure, what the hell. See you next month!

NOT RANKED: Eugene Melnyk. Womp womp womp.
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