First, a disclaimer. The following statement is by no means meant to be construed as the opinion of either The 6th Sens or a certain Mister Graeme Nichols, 6th Sens founder and gentleman scholar who goes to great pains to present fair, cogent arguments on myriad issues, free of rancour and ad hominid attacks while respecting contradictory views even if he does not agree with them. It's all very commendable. But because I am a horrible human being, I hold myself to no such grand social convention. Got that? Excellent. So let us move on to the gist of my argument, shall we?
Jeffrey Simpson is a pompous front running twat addled gasbag.
My main objection to Simpson's letter (and subsequent radio gabfest) isn't so much the petulant threat of taking his wallet and going home. As a season ticket holder, that is well within his rights to do and his argument that Leaf Nation's refusal to do the same has in no small way contributed to their delightful state of suck dating back to the days when Margaret Trudeau was bedding the Rolling Stones has merit. Thankfully for the rest of us, their failure to realize this just means we can go on pointing and laughing, even as our own little worlds crumble around us. "Well", we say to ourselves, comfortable in our Giant Cloak of Smug "at least we'll never be that bad".
The seemingly arbitrary "deadline" for Cyril Leader to accede to his wishes isn't that big a deal either, as stupid as it looks at first glance. Not being privy to the rarefied air populated by the season ticket holding hoi polloi, I can only assume that the 1st of May is the due date imposed by the Club for deposits on renewals for next season. It's the only explanation that makes any sense. After all, a self described hockey nut such as our boy Jeff-Fa-Fa would know that between the trade deadline and the draft (let alone during the NHL playoffs) an NHL team can do very little in the way of personnel changes, wouldn't he? Of course he would. And if not, then Simpson's "May 1st" drop dead date is quite simply the arbitrary brayings of a hockey moron, isn't it? Of course it is. Then again, maybe he's just a communist.
Nor am I all that hung up with his choice of medium, as some of you seem to be. Sure, signing his letter "National Affairs Columnist" rather than "Joe Hockey Fan", printing it on Grope and Flail letterhead before forwarding it to all of his media buddies to ensure maximum exposure screams of a hubristic sense of self importance out of all proportion to reality. The only thing that confirms is the fact that he's either an unapologetic attention whore or someone without a shred of self-awareness. And I have the sneaking suspicion that his overlords at CTVglobmedia, owners of the Globe and whose spiffy logo adorns the bottom of the page, will vigorously attempt to cure our friend Jeffrey of this mortal sin by gently reminding him that they also own SportsNet TSN, home of the vast majority of a few Senators' broadcasts, and that pissing off the fan base that fuels their viewership is very much not a welcome addition to their business plan isn't that big a deal because they're all closet Leafers anyway.
No, my main objection to Simpson's screed is that it offers absolutely nothing new. Other than the galactically stupid suggestion Pierre McGuire should be the next GM (something not all that novel in and of itself and a position from which he retreated a tad in his CFRA follow-up, I notice) it's simply the same reheated and tired arguments Sens fans have been having since the team shit the bed coming out of the gate back in October. In fact, it's worse than that. It's one of the very reasons the team is in this mess to begin with, to wit: "Fix it now, or lose me forever". Nothing more, nothing less, no matter how much faux gravitas the "status" of the messenger may impart.
Like most fans (and media...Don...) now calling for The Bryan's head, Simpson is trapped in the lingering hangover from the Cup Final, something I like to think of as the "three years ago" disease. "Three years ago" the Ottawa Senators were the class of the East. "Three years ago" this team was one Chris Pronger Flying Elbow of Death and a Chris Philips own goal from winning it all. "Three years ago" The Bryan locked up the core of that Finals team to long term contracts. And "three years ago" this team started its death spiral into the bowels of the standings, to the point where all we have to look forward to a scant "three years" later is a better than even shot at a lottery pick (Go New Jersey!). Ergo, it's all The Bryan's fault. No allowance made for Muckler's decimation of the farm system to get to that Final. No allowance made for the barrels over which Joe Corvo and Dany Heatley put the organization. No mention of the faint glimmer of hope now playing in Bingo or the SEL, a faint glimmer provided, I should add, by the very man now being excoriated by our hero Jeff as an incompetent ass.
Don't get me wrong. The Bryan is far from blameless in this mess. The annual rentals-for-picks trades at the deadline and then not re-signing those rentals (Mike Comrie and Matt Cullen...come on down!). The utterly baffling one-way contract to Brian Lee (Muckler's last first round pick, it should be noted). The spectacular failure of his faith in supposedly skilled yet inexcusably soft defencemen. Alex Kovalev. All of that can be laid squarely at the feet of The Little Guy From Shawville, and to a lesser extent at those of the guy writing the cheques in his Barbadian paradise. And all of it symptoms of the same disease. The "three years ago" disease.
A proper rebuild is going to take three to five years, an admission The Euge himself has already made. He, at least, seems to have finally shaken off the "three years ago" bug and come to grips with the fact that simply tweaking or plugging holes isn't going to get it done. The Bryan has been a little slower to embrace the idea, but embrace it he will. He's too smart a hockey guy not to. And if the next twelve to fifteen months proves otherwise, then so be it. There will be lots of people not named Pierre McGuire available to take the helm.
Simpson has made it clear that he does not, and will not back a team that considers simply making the playoffs the ultimate sign of success; that only one that aspires to the immortality only a Cup win can bring will merit his august attentions. As a meaningless motherhood statement, it's spectacular. As the working philosophy of a real fan, it sucks moose cock. There are many shades of gray between those two states of being and the fact that Simpson fails to make the distinction is what I object to most of all.
So Jeff, not worry buddy. Five years from now, when the Sens are once again contenders, we'll save you a seat on the bandwagon. Maybe. It depends on whether Cyril Leader lets you have your season tickets back.