Ottawa lost to Boston 4-2 last night in a familiar story for the Senators: a lot of effort, a few good chances, but still, a loss. But the real story on the night was not about the game, it was all the intrigue around the game. Trades, whispers, rumours, the chance of more trades, and the return of Chris Kelly as a Boston Bruin.
The game is never the story anymore. For most of the Ottawa fans, the fact that the game will end up in a loss is usually a foregone conclusion before the puck even drops. What makes the game more intriguing to watch now is all the off-ice drama that’s been keeping everyone guessing for days.
I went to the game last night and it didn’t carry with it the same excitement that I usually feel. Part of the reason is because the starting lineup is not what I’m used to hearing. There’s something disheartening about going to the game and realizing that you don’t know half the guys on the scorecard. There’s so much change in Ottawa, that it was actually wonderful to see that Lynden Slewidge was still there to sign the anthem.
Seeing Chris Kelly return to Ottawa in a Boston Bruins jersey with a new number (23 instead of 22), felt like seeing an ex-boyfriend that you still like. The video tribute on the big screen was likewise heart-wrenching. Kelly is one of those recognizable Ottawa players with a good history, a good sense of community and good skills on the ice. Like Fisher, he’s sorely missed.
Ottawa was feeling a lot less heartbroken over the loss of Brian Elliott and the arrival of Craig Anderson. Indeed, when the big screen flashed a smiling Anderson on the bench, there were cheers in the building. It’s unfortunate that people feel that Elliott deserved to be shipped out in such a way.
While I agree in principle that it’s a good decision for the franchise, I really don’t see how Elliott deserved the mountain of criticism that came down on him. He was never intended to be the number one, but was thrown into that position with the added pressure of no back up after Leclaire got injured multiple times. Add to that the complete lack of goal support and it was hardly a fair situation for Elliott.
Given the bitter aftertaste that this season has left for most of Ottawa fans and players alike, though, it’s no surprise that everyone is looking towards the future without looking back. That said, the replacement players from Binghampton have been able to make an impact, with Bobby Butler putting up some good numbers and finding a little chemistry with Jason Spezza. It may be enough to carry Ottawa through the last 25 games of the season, but the truth is, Ottawa needs some players now. Getting Anderson is a good start, but Murray is surely aware of the fact that draft picks aren’t good enough.
Murray must be having a tough time, making the tough calls and being forced to part with key players for very little in return. He always sounds like he’s lost his best friend every time he holds a press conference. There’s a lot of pressure around Murray, but he’s paid to make hard decisions. My real sympathy lies with Clouston, who’s done a lot with what he’s had this season but had everything go wrong for him. Injuries, attitudes, rumours and constant criticism makes for hard working conditions.
Tonight’s game against Toronto is a toss up, with Toronto having given up Kaberle to Boston just yesterday. Ottawa and Toronto have both been in a tough spot this season and both GMs have been busy selling off assets and looking towards the future. For once, the Battle of Ontario may have a touch of empathy, as the two struggling franchises looking to rebuild take serious hits and lose familiar faces.
Even so, I still hope we beat the heck out of them.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.