Being a Maple Leafs fan I am accustomed to seeing the never ending distractions and adversity plague my team for the last few years now, while being constantly envious of the chaps in Ottawa, reveling in success while seemingly avoiding all the pit-falls that come with consistent success (or lack of in the Leafs case).
Well it appears that for now, our friends up the 401 from us seem to be dealing with their fair share of adversity, as they are hitting some troubling snags on their quest for Lord Stanley.
But don't worry Sens fans; I see this patch of rough times as a good thing.
You may remember at this two years ago, everyone except for the fans in Detroit were crowning the Sens as the best team in Hockey; and they had a case too, with the team finishing 1st overall in the league and amassing a staggering +100 goal differential. After flaming out in the play-offs, they entered last season with great expectations and were considered the best team in the East. A slow start killed their chances of winning the conference, but it was that same slow start that many fans claimed would spur their title run; the adversity they faced would make them tougher. Well it may have carried them to the Stanley Cup finals, but they fell short against a much more focused and energized Ducks team.
Which brings us to this season, and while the Sens are still leading the East, they are not dominating like they are used too; Far from it actually, only holding a 3 point lead over second place Pittsburgh, and only 11 points over 8th seed Boston. They are 4-6 in their last ten, besting only Atlanta and the Islanders in that regard. They've seen key contributors go down to injury, with Heatley and Alfredsson missing a significant amount of time. Add in the fact that Ray Emery has been a one man circus this year, and you have a team dealing with an amount of scrutiny that would make a Leafs fan feel at home.
I for one, think it's a good thing.
Ever since the Sens started plowing through the Eastern conference a few years ago, they haven't had to deal with much controversy, the biggest being as I said the slow start that plagued them last year. Being Canada's best shot at a cup the last couple of years, they were hailed as the next coming of the 1994 Canadians, almost being handed the Cup mid-season by fans and media alike in the country. Now with the turmoil that's surrounded them this season, and the banter that's being strewn about by the talking heads on the sports outlets, you'd think the Sens were all but finished.
Now this accomplishes a few things; first, it will provide obvious motivation for the players to prove everyone wrong and to prove that last seasons Cup run was far from a fluke; secondly, it will help the players deal with the bigger distractions that are surely to erupt playoff time; and thirdly, it will bring a tight-nit team closer together which is invaluable come play-off time.
Does this mean we should start planning a parade down Elgin St.? Of course not, but what it does mean that this team will be better equipped mentally to deal with adversity come playoff time, and it what is shaping up to be a spirited spring of hockey, it should prove to be quite valuable.