Following yesterday's piece on how the Senators' lack of payroll flexibility could negatively impact the organization's desire to reverse their ill-fortune, I figured it'd be interesting to play devil's advocate and look at the situation from an optimistic perspective. While they're currently the 4th-worst team in the NHL and are pressed against the cap threshold, there has to be some reason for optimism.
The season's not even over yet and already some are writing off this team already for next year. Looking at the roster, some difficult decisions have to be made and Bryan Murray has to get creative. For a managerial regime that has placed a lot of blame on the Muckler era, they keep stressing for fans to be patient. Melnyk stressed patience in waiting for the miraculous turnaround. (There's still time, they have to run the table.) And Murray's stressed patience to compliment the core. He made some moves at the deadline but stressed that there was still work to do this summer. Patience guys.
If I could epitomize the reason for optimism in one phrase, it'd be this. Consider that for the first time in 3 seasons, no more Martin Gerber. Seriously though, the most frustrating thing to watch in hockey is a goalie who can't be trusted. Regardless of who's manned the nets for the past 5-8 years, none of the goalies have invoked confidence in a fan base whose psyche can only be described as fragile. Whether it was a Lalime spreading his legs like Mariah Carey, Ron Tugnutt letting face off draws float over his shoulder or Dominik Hasek going gimp on us. We knew something bad was always going to happen. It wasn't intuition that we knew these guys would let us down, it was our knowledge that our organization always spent cheaply on the position.
Aside from the looking forward to watching Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire work together to form the best combination of goalies that the organization has ever had. What else can fans look forward to?
To answer this question, I'm going to ask myself "What If...?"
What if Dany Heatley can realize that the game of hockey consists of more than a one-timer's backswing and follow through?
What if Jason Spezza develops into the 100-point, 2-way center that everyone in this city demands he be? Shit, just because his situation parallel's Yzerman's from yesteryear, we could have a real player on our hands here.
What if Jarkko Ruutu is the latest Senator to jump in on the celebrity fad and hooks up with Amy Winehouse? Who cares if she has drug and alcohol problems? Being a winner off the ice translates into being a winner on the ice.
What if Jason Spezza develops into the 100-point, 2-way center that everyone in this city demands he be? Damnit, just because his situation parallel's Yzerman's from yesteryear, we could have a real player on our hands!
What if Brian Lee plays well enough to make us forget names like Kopitar, Staal, Statsny, et al?
What if Pascal Leclaire shakes off the rust, avoids injury, bests his career high in games played (54) and proves that it wasn't Ken Hitchcock's defensive system that inflated his stats?
What if defensive stalwarts like Volchenkov and Jason Smith can contribute more offensively than Pascal Leclaire?
What if Erik Karlsson buries himself in the gym, adds 20lbs, makes the roster and signs an entry-level deal that doesn't completely handicap payroll?
What if Mike Comrie decides, "Hey I'm the heir of the Brick franchise!" and realizes a cheap contract would be beneficial to the organization? (It's not like he held out on his home-town team or anything. Wait, why were those Oiler fans booing about last night?)
What if the staff at the Sun learn to love and appreciate the game of hockey again? Would they feel the need to run another player out of town?
What if Mike Fisher donates half his salary to Roger's House? Like a tax break, can the Sens write this off of the cap?
What if Mike Fisher finally harnesses the "1432 MPH snapshot" that Gord Wilson proclaims he has? Would he finally become the 50-65 point guy that management thought he'd be when they signed him to an inflated salary?
What if Nick Foligno develops into a 15-20 goal scorer that we all hoped Patrick Eaves would become?
What if Bryan Murray waves goodbye to Neil and his exorbitant contract demands and asks the affordable Cody Bass (513K) to fill his role?
What if Alfie continues to defy the aging process and avoids injury? Ok, how about one of these two things coming true?
What if Filip Kuba evolves at the age of 31 and goes from that defenceman who's ok at everything to that guy who's slightly better than ok at everything?
What if Ottawa wins the lottery and reserves the right to pick first at the NHL Entry Draft? Who cares if they have to ink Tavares to a big entry-level deal - Murray can worry about clearing salary later.
What if Ryan Shannon becomes the new Marty St. Louis?
What if Gary Bettman goes rogue and single-handidly raises the Salary Cap Ceiling in an effort to demonstrate the financial stability of the League in some US Markets? Not only would this allow Murray to add salary without touching the current roster, it'd give Melnyk another opportunity to flex his financial muscles and hold 12 press conferences to announce new signings. The team's slogan for next year: Got Euge?
What if Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov overachieve and revert back to the days of Stanley Cup lore?
What if Jason Smith is dealt for Evgeni Malkin?
What if Cory Clouston lasts more than half a season? (That's successful in itself, right?)
What if the team couldn't be anywhere near as bad as they've been for the past season and a half?