t was a limp, spiritless moment, and rather sad.
For reasons of their own, those hardy souls left in a half-empty ACC when the buzzer ended last night's game between the Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators chose to shower a modicum of warm applause on the home team at the conclusion of the club's worst regular season in a decade.
Yessir, miss the playoffs by a mile in these parts and you still get a hand from the paying customers.
Those would be the same paying customers that booed the Leafs mercilessly throughout the season every time they failed to perform whether they were a ten year vet or a green rookie. What mixed messages! Yessir, don't win a game by 10 goals and those sheeple will sting your ears with boos. Don't those idiots know that the Leafs were never meant to be good this year? Well, the fans know but the scribes seem to have missed that memo. Then again, goldfish have better memories. Speaking of goldfish-like memories, let's travel back in time to the senators' season opener in Stockholm (gorgeous city, gorgeous women, visit it if you can):
"I'm a big boy, I can take criticism," Spezza said afterwards. "I'll learn from it. I was just trying to win the hockey game. I think I'm getting more and more mature as a player. I'll recover from stuff like this."
That was said after the overtime winner was scored off of a typical Jason Spezza turnover at the blueline. Now what did Giggles have to say after the Leafs' insurance goal was potted shorthanded by Boyd Devereaux for his hat-trick after Matt Stajan intercepted a typical no-look backhand pass?
"We played real good against teams that made the playoffs the last part of the season. We won a lot more games than we did earlier in the season. It’s something to build off of but we know we still have a lot of work to do to be an elite team like we were before."
I am going to go ahead and assume that Giggles has not learned his lesson.
The senators, like the Leafs, have some tough decisions to make on UFAs:
Speaking of players looking for a contract for next season, CBC reported that Chris Neil was pretty much definitely poised to dip into free agency when July 1 rolls around. Sad, in a way, to see the end of an era as a career Senator goes out on pretty weak terms, but I haven't really seen much from Neil over the past two seasons. He does typically lead the team in hits, and did again Saturday with four, but his lack of speed is a liability when he commits to hits and it certainly doesn't help when he's on the offence. I'm looking forward to that open roster spot for next season.
He also leads the team in stupid penalties, the size of the gap in between his teeth, and fights runaway from. Clearly he's a valuable member of a team that has gotten progressively worse the more Bryan Murray has been in charge but obviously the Ducks' Stanley Cup win was all his doing. And what was that that DGB wrote about senators fans greeting every action by the Leafs' as if it was the most abhorrent act ever performed?
And who needs an enforcer like Neil when you've got Brian Lee on the ice. At least over-the-hill NHL enforcer Brad May seems to think Lee is a fighter, because he went after the babyface forward twice for a clean (and pretty light) hit in the second period. For his trouble, May was assessed 18 minutes in penalties. Hell of a way to go out on your career; trying to fight someone who's 20 years younger than you and has one NHL fight to his credit. Terrific stuff, May. Terrific. Don Cherry felt it necessary to stand up for his boy May, too (here on YouTube, about 1:00 in), but he was as incomprehensible as ever.
Cherry might have been incomprehensible (he is kind of old) but here's the meat of the argument: if you are going to take two-handed swings at an enforcer's ankle/back of the leg then that enforcer might want to teach you a lesson. Luckily, Lee plays for a team well versed in the "hack 'n hide" strategy. I bet senators fans would also be shocked to learn that if you poke a bear it might eat you. At least it gives us a better idea of where senators fans stand on important issues. Body-checking when you are wearing a full cage? Illegal if your jersey is blue and white. Slashing an enforcer and being shocked that the victim gets angry? Can't imagine any other conclusion. But then again, why wouldn't he be? He's just a rookie! Funny, I don't remember any outrage when Chris Neil fought Luke Schenn (also a rookie) earlier in the season. Probably because Chris Neil isn't known as an enforcer.
Even the GRBRZRKR's best efforts to give the game away weren't enough for the sad-sack senators whose trip to the Final in 2007 must seem more and more like a Cinderella story with every passing day:
The offence helped Gerber overcome a pair of embarrassing gaffes. Twice he gave the puck away behind his net – once to Jason Spezza, once to Chris Kelly. Both times, Ottawa scored, erasing the Leafs' 2-0 lead.
Did anyone else wonder if Gerber was a double agent after the second time he coughed up the puck for a goal? Actually, he looked like he was Curtis Joseph in disguise. The best part of this season ending is reading all about how the senators are going to build on that great finish to the year and how Clouston is the coach (this time we swear!) for the team. Actually, it's not the best part but it is pretty damn funny:
To Clouston's credit, the Senators did give their fans some hope in the final two months. Clouston's more aggressive style was a more entertaining style. Wins and excitement came back to Scotiabank Place and on the road, as the the Senators strung together a pair of five-game winning streaks and were the hottest team in the league from March 5-March 22, winning nine of 10 games.
Considering that they said the same things for Paddock, Murray Redux, and Hartsburg should anyone believe that the players are being honest? And should we tell them how the season after a late, inspired run that falls just short of the playoffs plays out? Or should we wait and laugh as they find out on their own?