2 December 2013

Catching up: a third of the way through the season

Here we are, ~34% through the 2013-2014 regular season. Let's do a little self-evaluation.

Heritage jerseys.

They played it safe, and safe ended up being beautiful. The 2014 Heritage Classic jerseys are a tasteful inversion of the black heritage jersey which is currently acting as our third, and I fully expect them to be just as popular. The style of the sweaters is optimized when one pairs them together: the black is modern, a little more edgy, while the white is unpretentious and clean, with the cream lending it an undeniably throwback feel. Together they would make absolutely fantastic home and away jerseys, and one can only hope that this is a possibility under serious consideration by the organization. I mean, as long as it doesn't affect our internal budget, right?

Alfredsson and home.

Alfie came home last night. A video tribute was played; a standing ovation was delivered; and Karlsson graced his former mentor with applause. But directly after that, a "go Sens go" chant filled the CTC. Draw what conclusions you will from that; it seems like folly to assign sweeping terms like "moving on" to an entire fanbase of a hockey team. There are some things that are undeniable, things like 17 seasons with one team, and there are some things that are more nebulous, things like responsability and reception and reverence. Ultimately, the only known constant is: Alfredsson meant something to this city, this team. But after the schism, it's up to either side to decide what's left.

His empty net goal didn't help. And that leads nicely into...

Team play, and playoff possibilities.

We're under .500, and I hold this mathematical fact up as evidence that our team play has struggled. Looking at Extra Skater's game-by-game charts graphing even-strength FF% close, it's even difficult to say that we're improving. It looked like we were improved before; but each little shoot that was upside of 50% was immediately followed up by a plunge into 30%s and 40%s area. We've had some games where we played well enough to win but didn't, and we've had some games where we played poorly enough to lose but didn't. This is an 82-game season, though. Those anomalies will even out, and we need to find our possession-driving game before we fall any further.

Again, we're a third of the way through the season already. We're getting to the point where it's almost too late, and it's not just me who thinks so. I suggested in my last game file notes that perhaps the game was a turning point because I thought I'd seen some semblance of the team that had drudged out win after win last season. We're not the same team this season. That would be okay if not for the fact that our new identity doesn't seem to exist.

Only two years ago, Erik Karlsson won the Norris Trophy; we pushed the Rangers to a 7-game first round series. Only one year ago, Paul MacLean won the Jack Adams Trophy; we beat the Habs in a 4-1 series win and avoided getting swept by the Pens. Only two months ago, we had branded ourselves as a playoff contender. No longer the underdog, the Ottawa Senators were ready to take on the league in a season during which we could hang tight with every team.

Still waiting for that season to start.


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