Making an appearance on TSN 1050’s The Drive with Dave Naylor and Steve Simmons, Bob McKenzie spent the bulk of a segment breaking down what’s been going on in Ottawa over the first quarter of the season.
For whatever reason, TSN 1050’s audio clips aren’t anywhere near as accessible as TSN 1200’s for example, but through the magic of Itunes, I listened to the McKenzie and transcribed what he had to say.
Put succinctly, it’s concerning.
As always, my thoughts will be in bold.
On what is going on with the struggling Ottawa Senators...
“I don’t really know. You know what, there’s going to be people, they are going to say ‘Well, it’s obvious they miss Daniel Alfredsson. (There are) leadership issues,’ and they’re going to point the fingers at (Jason Spezza). I don’t think any of that’s fair. If you want to know the truth, and it’s all anecdotal evidence as opposed to anything else, but I think this team is cracking under the pressure under the burden of expectations that they missed a year ago. It was that they lost all those guys to injury last year – Anderson, Karlsson and Spezza -- everybody got hurt. It was almost like, ‘Okay you know what, we’re free and easy, nice and loose and nobody expects anything of us.’ They created that pesky Sens mentality and they had fun. And they were the underdog and they kicked everybody’s butt or a lot of peoples’ butts along the way and they weren’t supposed to do anything, and they did great things. And coming into this year, the expectation level got ratcheted up because the theory was, ‘Well, if they did all that without Anderson, and Spezza, and Karlsson, not to mention Michalek and a whole bunch of other guys that got hurt, even with the changeover with Alfredsson leaving but they brought Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur in, that this team was going to take the next big step forward.’ Because if healthy, this might be a team that would push Boston for the division title and it might be a team that would push Boston or Pittsburgh for the Eastern Conference title. That’s the kind of expectation and burden or pressure that these guys were on. And almost from the get go, I’ve talked to some people in Ottawa, and they said, ‘Everything about this year was tense and tight right out of the gate.’ That Paul MacLean, who’s normally a pretty loose guy and everything else, he seemed to be more tense. There just seems to be an air of tension about this team right from the get go. Guys like Jared Cowen, who’s a good NHL defenceman, he hasn’t played very well at all. Eric Gryba, who looked so good last year in the absence of some of these other guys, he’s played very poorly. So they’re looking for a defenceman and they’re trying to stabilize things but boy, oh boy, it seems to me like I just think they’re just cracking under the weight of the pressure.”
Considering how the organization handled the Alfredsson fallout and how persistent Eugene Melnyk was with comments on the casino issue, it’s not really that surprising to hear from McKenzie that those close to the Senators situation perceived a tense group. Rather than building off the momentum and optimism that accompanied the team’s first round playoff victory over Montreal, a lot of the positives were overshadowed by the loss of the captain and this hockey club’s financial concerns.
Now we’re in a situation in which many pundits and fans expected some linear progression and for this organization to take a step towards Cup contention thanks to the return of its healthy players.