Fusspot rants, embarrassing photos of yourself and general correspondence go here: universalnicks@gmail.com

The last time we see Alfredsson lack the killer instinct. The last time we watch Redden act like a pylon.

The following will be the column that appears tomorrow. I'll leave this up for the meantime, because it's the way I feel, and I really don't have anything else to add right now.



The Boston Red Sox fans can sympathize. Surely the Atlanta Braves supporters can as well.

The problem is, both of them have championships to show for their misery, regardless of when it began.

Nine seasons. Nine seasons of playoff berths. Nine seasons that saw the Ottawa Senators finish five times with 100+ points. There was a President’s Trophy, and a Jack Adams award-winning coach. Nine seasons that allowed the top defensive core in the league to form. Nine years that saw this team eventually emerge as the odds-on favourite to win it all -- a begrudging admission to make, specifically for the team’s many critics.

But these nine years also bore witness to a team perpetually on the losing end of a mental battle. Goaltending issues. Confidence issues. History kept repeating itself, yet everything seemed logical on paper. Why couldn’t it work out?

And more importantly, why couldn’t this year be different, when so many believed it would be?

When the Senators repeatedly fell short in the post-season, inevitably the blame fell upon former coach Jacques Martin. The implementation of Bryan Murray into the head-coaching role after Martin’s dismissal provided a clean slate behind the bench. GM John Muckler then began adding “names” into the Ottawa lineup. Dany Heatley. Dominik Hasek. Perceptions began to change.

And oddly enough, the lockout itself played a role in changing ideas about the Senators. It provided a buffer from the messiness of the past, almost allowing the team to approach the fresh league with a “new era” mentality.

However, the Senators’ history is never truly forgotten. Especially when reality rears its ugly head.

There’s something exceedingly frustrating about being on the cusp of greatness for so long, and lacking the ability to break through. Blowing through the regular season, tackling the majority of battles with ease, handling the rough spots with professionalism – it almost seems as if someone is handing the Sens a map with directions that lead straight to the world’s most famous trophy.

Poor navigation skills are one thing, but do we really need this many detours?

The Sacramento Kings know what it’s like. So do the Indianapolis Colts. The latter, in particular, have a very clear idea of how it feels to be labeled the favourite, only to perpetually come up short when it matters.

Teams on the cusp realize that their window of opportunity is short. If they linger, they risk breeding a psychological petri dish filled with cynics, bandwagon jumpers, and vicious monikers that stick like Crazy Glue.

Nicknames like the “c” word. Chokers.


Cusp teams run out of excuses when they last as long as the Senators have. You can only fire so many front office faces, trade so many players, and garner so many free agents.

Most of all, you can only lay the trust and hope in your fans’ hands for so long. Patience may be a virtue, but blind allegiance is not.

Nine seasons. Nine seasons of building and hoping -- of joy, but many more disappointments. Other teams’ fans have waited longer. They have pined and prayed for a breakthrough. Their patience is admirable.

Nine seasons is long enough for a Senators core to prove they are capable of bringing a championship to Ottawa. If they are unable to do so, then perhaps they should shut that window. Jump off the cliff. Get off that cusp. It’s seems blatantly clear that this nucleus of players can’t get it done. It might be time to find someone, somewhere, to become the eventual Senators who can.

8 responses to "Let that be the last time"

  1. *thunderous ovation applause*

    The dramatic heart grabbing emotion shines through every syllable in this column. Bravo.

    Michael

  2. I admire you for everything you wrote. I know its hard to wait for a cup, Leafs Nation has been waiting since 1967.

    If the Sens do not resign Redden then the Leafs will get rid of Mccabe and pick up Redden, should be interesting.

    An outstanding column to end a series that the Sens had a chance but made too many mistakes!!!

    Rodogg

  3. If heartbreak and humiliation don't build character in these guys, nothing ever will.

    The Senators are blinded to the truth as to why they have failed again. This failure, this series was lost at about the midway point in the season.

    Overconfidence and their own arrogance bit them in the behind. During the regular season, all those close games they never had to play, those character building tests that never came, found a way to become their undoing. Their record in games where they scored less than 4 goals has become a very telling statistic. They rarely needed to battle. They steamrolled opponants in the regular season and never had to learn as a group what it takes to move on in the playoffs. While they were coasting to victories, they got busy patting themselves on the back. With everything running so smoothly, the finer points of the game were ignored. Jason Spezza's defensive liabilities were never looked after properly. Their penalty killing stats were inflated due to the fine play of Dominic Hasek in goal.

    The Ottawa media deserves one big assist on this failed goal. Early in the season, no less than 5 players were mentioned in articles, touting them for the Hart Trophy and other individual awards. Two games into the playoffs, Martin Havlat gets touted as a Conn Smythe candidate, with the Tampa series tied at one game apiece. Truth be told, few on the Sens know what it takes to win, what sacrifices need to be made in order to go far.

    Where was that veteran of Cup wins the Sens roster cries out for. This is still in essence a very young team, and it shows! What leadership can Daniel Alfredsson provide the team based on his resume of failure and shortfalls. It comes down to immature talent, zero coaching vision, and burdensome expectations. Call it a recipe for playoff failure.

    reality check

  4. A couple of comments:

    People get upset when the team shows confidence (running smack on Montreal) and when they don't (playoffs). Make up your mind. This also isn't an immature team, nor a young one. Although they had only one Stanley Cup winner, there were plenty of players that possess other championship experience elsewhere -- Chris Phillips, Wade Redden, Dany Heatley etc. Is that the same as the Cup? I didn't say that. But they do know what it takes to win.

    As for Spezza, his defensive liabilities will never be an issue as long as he's producing offensively -- and he was in the regular season. Playmakers like Jason give away the puck. Constantly. You take the good with the bad. Speaking of which, do you know who holds the record for all-time giveaways? Gretzky. (No Mensas, Spezza isn't Gretzky. I'm just trying to make a point.) As for zero coaching vision, Spezza's a perfect example to negate that argument. He wasn't exactly blossoming under Jacques Martin. In fact, he was downright stifled.

    The media isn't a member of the team. They're not the 7th man. But they do have something in common with the team -- we get slagged when we're positive, and we take it when we're negative. It's a no-win situation. I personally wrote a piece about Alfredsson for the Hart. I can't remember when I wrote it -- before the Olympics, I think. I wrote it because a) I had nothing else to write about at the time and b) it was a worthy argument to make...again, at that time. I don't think it inflated Alfie's head -- his stats spoke for themselves. It was all him. I simply wrote about his achievements.

    The media is just as flaky as the fans -- some of them were on and off the Emery bandwagon at least three times in this series alone. But sometimes you can only go with with what's presented to you at the time. Sometimes you've got to reach for topics. That's the sad reality. And for the record, it doesn't occur solely in Ottawa. There are those people who were ready to give Sidney Crosby the Hart and Calder, midway through the season.

    The Universal Cynic

  5. Seeing a waiver-wire pickup scoop a loose puck from Heatley, and blow past Alfredsson, as Redden does nothing, to pot the winner in overtime - AGAIN - I couldn't believe my eyes. Another eye-popping playoff collapse. Alfredsson, of all people, getting beaten for the winner. For all the knocks he's taken in Ottawa over the past few years, for this memory to be stamped in the memories of Senator fans this summer, my first thought on seeing number 11 out there on the replay was, "wow, Alfie let him get past. What a way to go down."

    Step back a second and look at this team. The Senators had all-stars at every position. The best top-4 defensemen in the league. Playmakers, snipers. One of the strongest rookie corps to step onto the ice this year. The most goals scored, the fewest scored against. A 50 goal man. A 6-time Vezina trophy winner (no, not in this series, but still). A farm system stocked with prospects and picks to deal.

    You name it, this team had it. You want to arm yourself for the playoffs, well, the Senators were loaded for BEAR.

    And they still lost.

    It's a good reminder of just how hard winning the Cup really is.

    For a few weak goals suffered by Emery, for a few shots off the post, Ottawa might even be ahead in this series today. Think:

    If Emery didn't let in the weak winner in game one, that's a victory in their pocket - assuming Hasek had been there to stop it.

    For the Hecht breakaway in game two that Hasek might have stopped, that's a second win. Maybe - I wouldn't bank on that one, though.

    For Alfredsson's shot off the post in game three - he becomes a "clutch performer and a hero" in Ottawa, instead of a "choker who can't win it all". If only the shot was an inch more to the inside. An INCH.

    If one of their two shots off the post tonight were goals instead...

    Ottawa might have taken this series. They'd still be playing, at minimum.

    Watching Alfredsson in the postgame interview, watching him choke up, trying so hard to be a man and not cry, I felt sorry for him. The shallowest of emotions, but I really did. I felt sorry for him, that little guy standing there with his silly moustache, which he must have shaved hoping against hope that it might help persuade the hockey gods to change the direction of his hockey team. People are crazy if they don't think he was trying his ass off to win every single game out there. But - he just couldn't. For whatever reason, he didn't know how, or he froze up when it mattered most, or Buffalo was simply a better team, but he doesn't deserve the criticism he's bound to receive in the coming days. He just couldn't come through - but it doesn't make him a bad leader, necessarily. It's a team game.

    And you never know. The entire thing, it just might have amounted to that would-be game-winning shot in game three. It could have changed the entire face of the series. From goat to hero, for one inch.

    In front of the camera, I know Alfredsson was thinking about it. He knew it.

    And when I watched him walk away, I knew that someday my own favourite team - the Leafs - might lose a series by the same, maddening, unbelievable margin.

    An inch. With a second to go, no less. It's no way to lose.

    After so many years of expectation and hopes, when Ottawa has done everything possible to put together a winner (has Toronto?), it's the stomach-punch game of all stomach-punch games.

    The Senators' season this year makes one hell of a case study, that's for sure.

    As for jumping off the edge, considering the almost arbitrary way the team lost this series - all one-goal games, three overtime losses - if I were a Senator fan, I'd take a deep breath and invest my faith in this team for at least one more try. This team lost this year, but they aren't a team of losers.

    Wardo

  6. I'm just going to have a Larry King moment here...

    Do you realize this all-night-wake on the Team 1200 has been completely produced with lead-ins, bumps and actual sponsors? Seriously -- how long have they been planning this?

    How on Earth did I end up with Leaf fans on my blog?

    It's good that fans still care, but I'm glad they don't care this much:

    (From Yahoo.ca)

    Two people were stabbed and 49 others were arrested in Edmonton when fans celebrating an Oilers playoff victory turned violent.

    Thousands of people, some throwing bottles and firecrackers at police in riot gear, poured into the streets after the Oilers defeated the San Jose Sharks 6-3 on Friday night.

    The crowds were so thick that ambulances were unable to get to the stabbing scene. Police were eventually able to break through the crowds, rescue two men in their 20s and transport them to hospital in police cars.

    "We just had a double-stabbing at one of the lounges down there and couldn't get ambulances in," Edmonton Police Service Insp. Dan Jones told the Canadian Press on Saturday.

    He did not release the names of the two victims or the extent of their wounds.

    Jones said police arrested 49 people, mainly for minor offences such as breaching the peace. They also laid four criminal charges for offences that ranged from assault to impaired driving.

    Most of the people arrested were held overnight and released Saturday morning.

    The win Friday night tied the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal at two games apiece. The fifth game in the series will be held Sunday night in San Jose (7 p.m. PDT, CBC) with the sixth game Wednesday night in Edmonton.

    The Universal Cynic

  7. Ok, just for the record, I'm no Leafs fan. Add red to those colors - Habs all the way with me!

    Watching my team hoist 8 Stanleys in my lifetime, taught me a little about the differences betwwen winning and losing!

    I've played, coached, and raised kids who play. Confidence while winning is one thing - overestimating yourself while not respecting others is quite another.

    The Sens have no clue what it takes to win. The experiences of Redden, Heatley and Philips amount to squat. They were mainly youngters looking good alongside hardened vets who know how to win. left to their own leadership skills...well the proof is obviously in the pudding!

    Spezza's regular season was awesome! He is a great offensive talent and will hopefully get only with time, experince and better teaching than a coach of Bryan Murrays stature can provide. When Martin was easing Spez into the lineup three years ago, due to reasons and weaknesses that are still prevalent now - the Sens were in the 3rd round versus the Devils. They got to the 7th game that year! If you think his defensive liabilities aren't at issue - happy suffering! Point is - he needs to learn like any other player his age - what it takes to win. Am abundance of talent simply will not do this time of year, and again, proof is in the pudding.

    My point regarding the media is players read their press clippings. Talk to a player agent sometime, they save the damn things like Mothers! It serves to raise expectations and falsely (not always) inflate egos. My take is that the writing focus is falsely placed on the sensational as opposed to the intracacies of the game. No one in the Ottawa media acutely critques the smaller details of the game that add up to making a difference this time of year. Then again, it can't as it doesn't know the difference. Your defense of my argument plainly proves it.

    There are no winning experiences comparable to winning the Stanley Cup. Once a team gets there, then it earns the right to be as confident and arrogant as it wants. Until then, you've won nothing. Winning teaches a player the required edge. Never witnessing it teaches nothing.

    I'll go slightly off topic a bit...

    I know how much you love Crosby - glad you brought him up. No he won't win the calder and he could care less. If the Sens had just a few players with half his desire and hatred of losing, they'd be praying for drawn out Hurricanes - Devils series.

    You've critcized the kid for a myriad of nonsense this season, always failing to see the passion that runs through his veins. No one really gives a crap about the circus surrounding his off ice activities. When hockey columnists become akin to a Hollywood trash talk file the focus on the game is lost. It might seem like good print at the time, shocking and all, but unless your desire is to become the next Jim Rome, hockey fans and purists couldn't be bothered to care.

    ...and now back to those chocking on Spartacats furballs!

    With a lineup as talented as the Sens, finding the failings is never easy. Look beneath the surface because the problem is not that obvious. Questioning Alfredsson's desire is foolish. Many a great player has been tagged a playoff underachiever - it's not always warrented. Players get smothered in defensive coverage this time of year - they go MIA until they learn how to use it in their advantage. Coaching in the playoffs in like a chess game. So many moves must be anticipated in advance. Bryan Murray has never seen the 3rd round - do you know why? He adjusts too slow. He doesn't estimate the flow of a game. In the playoffs, if he opens his team up to it's freewheeling tendencies, he allows Buffalo to take full advantage of their mistakes. While the Sabres were grinding it out shift after shift, playing to frustrate Ottawa, the Sens are playing an individualistic game, trying to pop in highlight reels goals. October was 7 months ago!

    With more astute hockey brains running the team, the right vets, and a lot less attitude, Ottawa should remain a contender for a long while. The whole surrounding the team is starting to look alot like Toronto for now. Excuse after excuse - all finger pointing at the easiest of targets.

    The roster only needs fine tuning. The focus should be squarely on how team play wins. It's never down to any individiduals. Ottawa keeps relearning how to lose.

    reality check

  8. For the last time re: Crosby... Passion does not equal maturity. Passion does not justify literally pouting when you don't get the calls you want. Passion does not justify giving the "A" to an 18-year-old, because passion does not equal experience. I did not say he was a bad player. Not once, not ever.

    One mention of a limo in Toronto, and suddenly all I wrote about was off-ice antics? Shake yourself, RC.

    And that's the last time Crosby will be mentioned in this thread.

    The Universal Cynic