Erik Karlsson can now finally turn the page on his move to the San Jose Sharks.
On Saturday afternoon, Karlsson returned to Canadian Tire Centre for the first time since the September trade that sent him to San Jose. After getting the solo lap treatment during warmups, the former Ottawa Senators captain was honored with a video tribute and a long ovation following the game’s first television timeout.
“I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t know this was coming up and that I haven’t been thinking about it,” Karlsson said on Friday after the team’s practice in Ottawa. “But at the same time, I’ve been trying to stay focused on the tasks that we’ve had at hand and the games that we’ve played before this game.”
Admitting he was feeling a bit anxious upon returning to the city where he grew up as an NHL player, Karlsson, who spent nine years and 627 games with the team, said he was unsure how he would be received by Senators fans. It was pretty clear that considering how things are going in that city between the fans and the team’s ownership, there was no doubt he was going to be showered with love.
“I’ve had nothing but great memories there and I’m again looking forward to creating more,” Karlsson said Friday. “[Saturday] afternoon is going to be another one of those great memories.”
Of course, the dark comedy didn’t stop once Duchene was traded from the Avalanche to the Senators. Thanks in part to a quantum leap by Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado erupted after the trade, while the Senators imploded in 2017-18. Things only got worse from there, as drama and turmoil surrounded the organization, with issues going even deeper than trading away stars in Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman.
Considering all of the headaches (and, as Duchene would say it, kicks below the belt), it seemed like 2018-19 would only bring about more uncomfortable chuckles.
And, no doubt, there have been. We’re talking about the Ottawa Senators here.
There are also the continued misadventures of owner Eugene Melnyk, who doubles as hockey’s Don Quixote.
All of those swirling controversies shouldn’t distract from this fact: Duchene is absolutely on fire. As great as Patrik Laine has been lately, you could make an argument that Duchene is the hottest player in the NHL right now. At minimum, opponents aren’t getting many chances to trash talk him, because they’re too busy trying to catch their breath after failing to keep up with the speedy center.
Duchene might be most satisfied to realize that he’s been a little ahead of Nathan MacKinnon lately. Since Nov. 6, Duchene’s generated 21 points, tying him with Nikita Kucherov for the league lead (and edging MacKinnon by one point).
Nitpickers will point to his 19.7 shooting percentage, yet if any NHL player deserves some bounces, it’s Duchene.
Delightfully, plenty of Duchene’s points have come in exhilarating fashion. I’ve seen Duchene bat this rebound out of mid-air at least 10 times, and I don’t expect it to get old even if I see it in perpetuity:
Raise your hand if that goal leaves you belly-laughing. This stuff is right up there – maybe even better than – some of Sidney Crosby‘s “MLB audition” goals.
As you’d expect from a hockey player, Duchene mostly gave the “Aw shucks” treatment after that goal, although he did provide Sportsnet with some interesting insight. He explained that he might have been a little angry that his initial shot attempt was blocked, possibly driving him to get another mustard on the swipe that actually netted a goal.
Maybe that goal captures the spirit of what Duchene is doing right now.
He very well might be frustrated with his situation. Sure, the Senators have been far more entertaining than expected, with high-scoring games making it easier to accept certain aspects of their struggles. (Note: Senators fans probably still aren’t very happy with Melnyk.) It must be exasperating for Duchene to get traded into another losing scenario.
Yet, Duchene is responding by combining skill and will to do the best he can to put his team in a position to win.
A lot was made about Kyle Turris enjoying a strong start in Nashville, while Duchene’s stay with Ottawa opened with a thud.
📁NHL L📁Ottawa Senators L📁Matt Duchene L📁points highlights L⚠️folder is empty
Turris is perfectly fine (when healthy), but that punchline is about as relevant as Y2K jokes at this point. Despite that tough start, Duchene generated 49 points in 68 games with Ottawa last season, translating to a .72 points-per-game average, virtually matching his run in Colorado (.73 ppg). Of course, he slammed that door shut with even greater velocity by roaring out of the gate this season.
Prepare for turbulence
There could still be some stormy days ahead for Duchene, mind you.
That 19.7 shooting percentage isn’t likely to last all season. The grind of an 82-game campaign might change reactions from “Hey, these Senators aren’t half-bad” to “These Senators need to be more than half-good.”
The 27-year-old also faces some uncertainty.
Duchene’s $6M cap hit will expire after the 2018-19 season, opening the door for free agency. While the Senators might not want to part ways with another key player after trading Karlsson and Hoffman (not to mention questions surrounding Mark Stone), this team’s reality as a rebuilding team might prompt yet another Duchene trade.
In recent history, drastic change of locales have often been tough on players, particularly ones who play big roles. There’s no guarantee that a third team would be a charm for Duchene, if a trade were to happen.
Whatever happens down the line, Duchene’s been fantastic this season, and must feel liberated to just get out on the ice. It hasn’t just been about numbers, either, as he’s frequently been a blast to watch.
Really, Duchene getting the last laugh is something we can all smile about.
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is suing his business partner for $700 million in a development deal meant to bring a new NHL arena to downtown Ottawa’s downtown.
Capital Sports Management Inc., a group controlled by Melnyk, said in a statement Friday it has started legal proceedings against John Ruddy, the chair of Trinity Development Group Inc. Melnyk is ”seeking damages arising out of a failed joint venture.”
Melnyk’s group contends the companies were unable to complete an agreement for the LeBreton Flats area of Ottawa, a few blocks from Parliament Hill. The statement alleges ”egregious conflict of interest on the part of Trinity and its principal, John Ruddy.”
The Trinity Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Senators play at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, less than 15 miles from Ottawa’s downtown.
Senators players apologize after being filmed ripping assistant coach
The video ranges from Duchene poking fun on the Senators woeful special teams play, which Raymond heads up, and at one point even saying he hasn’t paid attention in video meetings in weeks.
Wideman can be heard saying that Raymond doesn’t teach the players anything.
“Marty Raymond, the only coach in NHL history to have the worst power play and the worst PK within a calendar year,” Duchene says.
“Do you notice that when (Raymond) runs the video, if you actually do pay attention, he doesn’t ever teach you anything? He just commentates what’s happening,” Wideman adds.
“Here’s the other thing, too. We don’t change anything, ever. So why do we even have a meeting? I haven’t paid attention in three weeks,” Duchene responds.
The Senators released statements on behalf of the players and head coach Guy Boucher on Monday night:
“Nothing is more important to us during this rebuild than making sure our players and coaches are fully committed to our plan, our values and our system of play. We have every confidence in Marty Raymond’s coaching; in the effort and determination of our team; and in the sincerity of our players’ apology. We are now treating this as a team matter, and will be making no further comment to the media.”
“We want to apologize publicly to Marty Raymond, our teammates and coaches for our comments in Phoenix, Arizona on October 29. Our private conversation was recorded without our knowledge or consent. We’re passionate about our team, and focusing on growing together. We are grateful for the support of our fans and organization. This is an important learning experience, and we will do better.”
“A video was released by the media today of several Uber passengers being filmed without their consent while having a private discussion during a trip in Phoenix. This is a clear violation of our terms of service and we worked vigorously to investigate this issue. Filming or recording passengers without their consent is totally unacceptable and if reported/detected we will investigate + take action to preserve our communities privacy and integrity. In this specific case, we made efforts to have the video taken down.”
The Senators host the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night. The media availability after their morning skate should be interesting.