The media is said to capture the true pulse of its city. They put together their story through their respective media outlets that "really capture the spirit of the thing." I have the privilege, either fortunate or unfortunate in this case, of being neither a part of the media nor living in the city. This should hopefully lead to an opinion free from the bias of papers and radio and the general masses. It is with this straight-shooting and unbiased mind that I offer my opinion in response the Williams post of the past weekend, as well as general thoughts on what I read in the Ottawa Sun over the past few days.
Let me start by making a personal vow from now until the end of eternity. Never again will I ever utter the expressions, "panic button" or "sense of urgency". I have used both expressions in the past and have grown sick of them. What is a panic button? What does it do? Seriously, what does it mean to push a panic button and what do we expect to happen? Does the rest of the league say, "uh oh, everyone, the Sens pushed the panic button so watch out for them." I'm done with it. And having a sense of urgency - why can't we just refer to that as playing to our potential? We are a very talented team that wins games and loses games and the season is full of ups and downs. Is there point in a game or in a stretch of games that we need to have a sixth sense, a sense of urgency, where all of a sudden our game just becomes that much better? "Oh boy, the Senators seem to have discovered a new sense, move out of the way and let them by" If there is a series of other levels that we can raise our game to, then why were we playing so poorly in the first place? No more sense of urgency. Mr. Williams wants you to have a sense of urgency about our Sens and he wants you to push down with two hands on this magical panic button that makes public all our team's problems. I beg you - resist the temptation and stay the course. Here's why:
1. The goaltending controversy of our minds.
Martin Gerber makes a lot more money than Ray Emery. Ray Emery had a better training camp than Martin Gerber. The comparisons need to stop there. John Muckler paid what he had to in order to get us a bona fide goaltender in Gerber and he paid what he had to in order to retain the services of Emery. The only controversy between these two is the one fabricated in your morning newspaper, my friends. Do you think Ray Emery and Martin Gerber fight over a sew-on patch that says #1 Goalie every day at practice? Of course not, silly. These guys are both fierce competitors and they both want to help their team win games. Whether or not we the fans want to give out a title of #1 goalie is irrelevant. They are both capable of being the go-to guy for extended periods of time and our coach is going to start which ever one has the best chance of helping us win that specific game. Has Ray Emery stolen the job? What is there to steal? He is going to play in games so long as he gives us a chance to win games. Take a look at last year's final four: Buffalo's Martin Biron rattled off twelve straight wins as the backup to Ryan Miller, Carolina's Cam Ward sat on the bench all year and flipped that around to a Stanley Cup MVP when Gerber went down sick, Edmonton reopened its hearts to Jussi Markannen when Roloson got hurt in the Finals, and Anaheim went back and forth between Giguerre and Byzgalof throughout the postseason. My point is that from October through June, the coach's job is to put in nets the guy that will give your team the best chance to win. There is no lost job and there is no controversy in Ottawa; all that is happening is that Emery has played two solid games in a row. This will only make Martin Gerber a better player. It's the circle of life. I'd also like to add that it was funny how the Sun's Don Brennan wrote after last year's season that Muckler had let us down at the trade deadline by not acquiring a goalie to replace Hasek, but writes over the weekend that Emery should have been named our outright starting goalie. This isn't fantasy hockey, guys.
2. Oh Captain, My Captain
"Daniel Alfredsson's career in Ottawa has hit a wall". Bite your tongue, Ottawa, and believe me I'd rather be using much harsher words. Your loyalty to your beloved captain runs no longer than a minority government, it seems. There is a difference between a passionate fan that wants your team to win and being a crazy fan that wants to blow the roster up after each loss. Daniel Alfredsson is the consummate professional that we rarely see anymore, not just in hockey but in professional sports. He is one of the most respected guys among the league's players and has more class and integrity than just about any other captain in the NHL. Write that down. Whether you believe it or not, he puts more effort into his game and more pressure on himself than anyone else in that dressing room. Has he failed to deliver a Stanley Cup even though he has been the captain of great teams? Absolutely. Have dozens and dozens of other captains (Canadian and European alike) failed at the same goal? You bet. This guy is highly respected in the dressing room and will be vindicated at some point in his NHL career - and I just hope that is in Ottawa. Considering how we treat the guy in the papers and in our own building, it is amazing that he still wants to be our captain. We play a home game and he is showered with boos. We travel to Montreal where we don't really even have a rivalry and all you heard when he touched the puck in the first period: "le booooooo. le hisssssssss." I think the Sun's Erin Nicks was in one of these crowds, planning her next article that rang similar to a Brennan-esque travesty demanding drastic measures be taken after our horrifying 2-3 start that has no doubt ruined our season.
Why do people dislike Daniel Alfredsson? Why do people love Mats Sundin? What the hell is the difference? Have either made it to the Stanley Cup Finals? "Oh, but Sundin scored in overtime on Saturday and he is the true leader of that team when they need him the most." Didn't they need him the most when they played Carolina in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2002? Where has he been when they needed him the most? Does that mean he doesn't have leadership qualities after all? Who the frig are we to measure intangibles like that, anyway? If our ship wrecked on a desert island and me and ten others had to vote on who would be our leader to help us get off the island, and our choices were Sundin and Alfie, why would I be the only one choosing the smaller Swede? I mean, for all we know, Sundin might go off to the other side of the island and build himself a mansion and not let us in, because he's the private type, you know. How do we really know that one is a better leader than the other when they play in two completely different environments and neither have succeeded in winning a Cup? My end point on this ridiculous tangent is that Alfredsson is our captain and he is an amazing leader that works his ass off out there and faces the music each and every time we come up short. He WILL lead this team to a title. If you still want to trade him away and take on a fresh look, ask Mike O'Connell how that worked for him in Boston when he traded Thornton, the face of the franchise, for a new attitude. Long story short - Daniel Alfredsson will never wear a different jersey in his NHL career and we should be thanking our lucky stars.
3. We're in a freefall and there is no sign of the end
Alright, it's time for review. What did we say in April and May earlier this year about the season? We said, "the regular season doesn't mean anything, the playoffs is all that counts." Now fast forward to Friday morning and Sunday morning and today and tomorrow. What are we saying now? "This team is struggling and we need a major shakeup if we want to win games." Now go back and read what we said in April again. Now back to yesterday's comment. What am I getting at, you ask? How can our city be so disheveled over a 2-3 start in the regular season when mere months earlier we swore that the regular season was a waste of seven months? Does anybody really think that this team won't make the playoffs? Does anyone really think Heatley will finish the year with no goals? Does anyone really think Mike Fisher and Peter Schaefer won't score and that Martin Gerber won't see another game? It's time to take a step back, focus on what we need to tweak, and enjoy the opportunity to watch this season's team work through its growing pains. I'd rather Heatley be scoreless now than later, for instance.
I absolutely agree that it is the right of each and every fan to express their concerns and to demand more of their star players. Heck, I do the same after every single game. But to put a full-court press on management and the players and say that Muckler and Murray's jobs are on the line and trade winds are blowing through the capital is just silly. What bothers me so much about it is that it is that very same attitude that our foes down the 401 possess. How can we make fun of their chaotic demeanour if we've taken on the same persona? These Ottawa Senators have NOT let us down at every turn, as my co-blogger wants you to believe. They have been one of the most successful teams of the past decade, showing amazing skill and talent and taking us on an amazing ride. There is one more thing we want to accomplish with our gang and rest assured that in the near future, if you are still waving our flag, you can come and celebrate a Stanley Cup with us. This team, led by Daniel Alfredsson and backed by solid goaltending, will find a way to win the trophy that we dream of. Have patience and learn to appreciate the amazing team that we have here in Ottawa. The stars will be stars and the role players will fulfill their roles and the defencemen will be defensive and the goalies will stand on their heads. If the regular season means nothing to us, then just sit back and enjoy watching this group learn together and soon excel together. Just don't judge an 82-page book by its first five pages.
I end by restating Mr. Williams' closing arguments for the amusement of the crowd:
- Alfredsson has been mediocre at best
- Heatley is invisible
- Gerber has lost his swagger
Five games, guys. That's all we've played so far. Someone tell Mr. Williams to get his hand off the panic button.