Kravchuk. Lalime. Alfredsson. Redden. Spezza.
What do these players have in common? If you guessed that at one point in time they have been scapegoated by fans as "The Reason the Sens Can't Win," then you are correct.
That's right, even Alfredsson has been lamented by "fans" in the past as being a stumbling block as to why the Sens can't seem to find much playoff success. There are other names we could throw in—heck, this season, three-quarters of the team is "The Reason the Sens Can't Win."
Apparently, the solution in both the past and the present is to make a trade that Ottawa would do in a heartbeat and no other team would touch with a 10-foot pole. Apparently, the other 29 GMs are idiots. Even if Mike Milbury were to come back as a GM, Senators fans would likely end up finding a new lightning rod to direct their displeasure.
The fact is that the constant scapegoating of a player each year needs to stop—for the sanity of Sens fans everywhere.
The reason the Sens aren't winning much this year isn't because Jason Spezza is "dipsy-doodling with the puck." One player doesn't break a team. Yes, it would be nice for Ottawa to have a (healthy) Roberto Luongo in net, but why would the Vancouver Canucks give up one of the best goalies in the League at a time when elite goalies are hard to find?
And, I'd be remiss if I didn't point how quickly "fans" forgive and forget if a player scores a few goals. Anyone living in Ottawa knows the fickleness of the area's team support.
Frankly, for the record, the Sens' troubles began last year when, collectively, they lost their structure. Everything that made them good the previous year and for the first 20 games went out the window when discipline took a backseat to coddling. The machine that was the Senators broke down, they squeaked into the playoffs, and were exposed as the kids they thought they'd left behind.
Much like in today's stock market, you simply can't flick a switch and have everything go back to normal. The same goes for a team seemingly in turmoil. It couldn't be done last year,, and thankfully the Sens had a long offseason to try to figure it out.
Craig Hartsburg's biggest challenge coming on as new head coach isn't to figure out who should play with Heatley and Spezza, or which goalie he should go with. It's to get the Sens believing again in a system—any system—from which they can regain composure as a team.
The fact is that this is a good team. Realistically, it's not a great team. The goaltending is average at best, and the defence is a shadow of its former self.
But there is a heart beating in this team. There is grit like we haven't seen before. There is a solid amount of skill that needs to feel welcomed again. We are seeing the next generation get its feet wet, and learn that wearing the crest of the Sens is a privilege—even when "fans" scream for them to be traded.
It's important to keep expectations in check, and I think it's important to remember that parity doesn't necessarily mean the rest of the League gravitates up to the Sens.