As I sit here nursing my hangover from last night, I look back on your season and think of mostly positives. As disappointed as I was in your defeat and elimination Thursday night, I can’t help but feel guilty. How dare I expect more from you – the team who was pegged to be last in the league this season by a majority of hockey experts, analysts, and Leafs’ fans. You boys worked hard this season, and this letter is a salute.
I want to start by thanking the organization for thwarting the excuse of a “re-build” for other teams. For years, going through a “re-build” gave teams the ability to lose games without being chastised for it. With the power of his moustache, new head coach, Paul MacLean, turned this team around into a contender in one season and made the playoffs with a team he happily referred to as a re-build team. The Senators got as high as fifth place this season, and spent little time lower than eighth. He’s got a lot of competition from Ken Hitchcock, but MacLean’s Jack Adams award nomination is all but in the bag.
Bryan Murray – the man behind MacLean: you made some good moves this season. Matt Gilroy didn’t cost the team much (aside from a few game winning goals…) as you added to the defensive end. In goal, the pick up of the 50-foot tall Ben Bishop was a sensation. Most impressively was the chance you took on a kid known to have a little bit of an attitude: Kyle Turris. It was a risk that paid off huge, and that says a lot for the team about how hard they worked with him. Turris had 29 points in 49 games with the Sens and was an incredible work horse in the opening round against the Rangers.
Oh Captain, my captain – he had his first 25+ goal season in a while, and that fire in his belly shone all season. What’s not to respect? He did it all. The things he couldn’t do, well, he busted his ass trying. Daniel Alfredsson was a different animal this season, and the team played off of him, his energy, and desire. He was, and always has been, the heart and soul of this little engine that could. He is now on the verge of retirement, and if he does I can only hope that he remains with the team in some capacity as his talent and leadership will remain unmatched for years to come.
This team also produced the most impressive defenseman in recent years – not just on for the Sens, but for the entire NHL. Not only did Erik Karlsson show people a thing or two about how to grow proper hockey hair, he put up 78 points this season and was plus-16 for the year. Any confusion as to why Karlsson was nominated for the Norris trophy, along with Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara, can be considered as ignorant.
To Jason Spezza – thanks for staying with the team and for waking up this season. Your 84 points in 80 games were vital for the Senators to beat the odds as they did.
To Craig Anderson – you’re a beast. Sixty starts this season! You were on pace to maybe have the most, until that little kitchen mishap… A GAA of under three and a save percentage of .914, not to mention four assists, on a team expected to finish in last. Immaculate. To your support team, Robin Lehner (2.02, .935) and Ben Bishop (2.48, .909) – thanks for getting us through out tough time while Anderson healed physically (and mentally, I’m sure).
We’ve had our ups and downs this season, as we do every year, but looking back through still slightly foggy eyes, I can only think of how you were supposed to be last and ended as eighth. I think of what great ambassadors of the sport you all were at the All-Star game. I think of how you were below only the defending Stanley Cup champions in your division. I think about how you made the playoffs after missing them last year and lasting longer than the only other Canadian team there (who happened to be the President’s Trophy winners). I think about how you took the number one team in the east to seven games – and only lost by one goal. Looking back, I think of how I always expect more out of you guys and that this season you surpassed my expectations.
For that I thank you. See you next season.