WRITTEN BY SENSCHIRP READER- JPW
I’ve never played hockey at a professional level, nor have I known anyone who was ‘inside-the-game’. I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes in Bryan Murray’s office, nor do I know exactly why Paul Maclean plays his roster as he does. I can claim that picking Matt Kassian through trade is a pointless move, I can blame Bryan Murray for not finding a way to keep Alfredsson in Ottawa, and I can shake my head at Maclean playing Zibanejad alongside Smith and Neil most of last year. But at the end of the day, after all my finger pointing, I remember one important thing. I am fan. I am the consumer. I am not more knowledgeable about anything Ottawa Senators than the Murrays and Maclean. And to that end, I have had enough with the #freeMika project.
The Ottawa Senators chose to start their 2013-2014 NHL season with Mika Zibanejad in the AHL. They chose to start their season with JG Pageau and Stephane Da Costa on their NHL roster.
If DJ-Zbad is in the AHL for financial reasons – ahem, we’re looking at you Mr. Melnyk – then there’s no amount of free-Mika hashtags that are going to change that. If Melnyk can’t afford to carry the player currently, then so be it. I’m not happy about it, but the finger pointing needs to be redirected. No amount of pressure on GM Bryan Murray can salvage what’s left of Melnyk’s empty pockets. If the issue lies here, it needs addressing.
If, on the other hand, money is not the issue (or, more likely, is not the only issue), this decision falls on our management team. And in that case, I have to remember that they’re the closest to the situation and have made this decision based on their inside knowledge of everything Senators. If Murray & co. believe that assigning Mika to the AHL and keeping JGP and SDC on the NHL roster is for the betterment of the Ottawa Senators organization overall (this year, next year…), then I bow my head to their knowledge and experience: how short-sighted of me it would be to assume I know better.
….Maybe they project Mika as a top-6 centre and would like to give him first line experience. Playing 20+ mins nightly and being the go-to guy on a team is something he has never done professionally. Recall he was playing 3rd line defensive minutes in the SEL before crossing the pond. The current Sens depth chart slots Mika as 3rd line centre at best. They could move him to the wing, but if the vision is for him to play C, then it would seem that the AHL is a perfect place for him to establish himself as a star among his peers. Remember the guy’s age, too….
….Maybe Murray is hoping that playing Da Costa in the NHL can up his trade value, eventually opening up a spot for the then-#freeMika. Da Costa has put in his time in the AHL, maybe the team thinks he’s plateaued….
….Maybe Mika needs a good kick in the pants. He may have thought he was entitled to a roster spot this year … and maybe that’s reasonable. But yet, if guys behind you on the depth chart outwork, outhustle, and outplay you at training camp (guys who play your position, mind you!), you don’t deserve a spot. The more hockey I watch, the more I realize that hustle and determination are vastly underrated assets. I’d rather have a hard working Pageau on my team (recall last year) than a slightly more talented but less hard-working Zibanejad. If complacency and entitlement got to him (which they very well might have, through no fault his own), then the current Senators roster is perfectly designed to afford the luxury or developing Zibanejad further in the minors.
Yes, I love the guy: I think he’ll be a hell of a player. But enough with the #freeMika. I trust my team’s management and decision making, and I trust they’ve considered every angle behind this decision. And so if they chose to start my future favourtie player in the AHL to start the year, I’ll start trying to understand the reasons behind their decision rather than whine about my team’s locked-up star after every loss.