Brady Tkachuk was mad.
He was frustrated.
The captain of the Ottawa Senators and his teammates had been embarrassed by the Tampa Bay Lightning at Canadian Tire Centre Saturday night, dropping a-not-indicative-of-how-lopsided-the-game-really-was 6-4 decision.
Throughout the match, the 17,387 in attendance let their unhappiness be heard.
And when it was finally, mercifully over, Tkachuk had the opportunity to vent.
“It’s frustrating,” Tkachuk told reporters. “The negativity from the outside, the constant booing and bulls–t. …I understand that they’re a passionate fanbase. I understand. I love it. But I mean when you face adversity, you don’t turn your back on the guys out there. We’re playing hard. I know it’s frustrating right now but it’s not like we’re giving up out there. We’re fighting to the very end. So to be honest with you I was very frustrated today.
Tkachuk’s post-game soliloquy could also serve as the unofficial eulogy for the 2023-24 Senators season, as well as a State-of-the-Senators-Address.
One of the trendy picks to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs prior to the start of the season, Ottawa entered play Monday night with a 4-6-0 record which is dead last in the Atlantic Division and ranks 29th overall.
No, it’s not great.
But the suboptimal on-ice results pale in comparison to what is taking place off the ice with the franchise.
Just-fired general manager Pierre Dorion was unable to come to terms on a contract with restricted free agent center Shane Pinto, due to Ottawa’s cap constraints and the center’s financial demands during the off-season and training camp.
Which led Pinto to leave the Canadian capital to return to his home on Long Island, New York. Only for the NHL to announce on Oct. 26 that Pinto was suspended for 41 games due to sports wagering.
Shortly thereafter, the Senators and Pinto addressed the situation–which the league made clear did not involve betting on NHL games–in a joint statement.
“We were made aware of the National Hockey League investigation into this matter and additional information was made available to the club upon the completion of the league’s investigation yesterday,” the Senators’ portion of the statement began. “Shane is a valued member of our hockey club; an engaging, intelligent young man who made poor decisions that have resulted in a suspension by the National Hockey League.
“We know he is remorseful for his mistakes. The Ottawa Senators fully support the NHL’s rules on gambling. While saddened to learn of this issue, the entire organization remains committed to Shane and will work together to do what is necessary to help provide the support to allow him to address his issues and become a strong contributor to our community. When the time is right and with the league’s blessing, we will welcome him back to the organization and embrace him as one of our own.”
Pinto’s public act of contrition was significantly shorter than the team’s statement, but he was certainly accountable for his actions.
“I want to apologize to the National Hockey League, the Ottawa Senators, my teammates, the fans and city of Ottawa and most importantly my family. I take full responsibility for my actions and look forward to getting back on the ice with my team.”
According to reports, the Senators have tabled all contract talks with Pinto, who may be forced to sign a qualifying offer for $874,500 despite coming off a 2022-23 season in which he played in all 82 games and finished with 20 goals and 35 points.
Six days later, on Nov. 1, the organization suffered another public humiliation as Dorion was fired for his role in an invalidated trade of right winger Evgenii Dadonov.
Dorion had traded Dadonov to Vegas in 2021, but according to the NHL’s internal investigation, the Senators did not submit the player’s no-trade list to the Golden Knights. That oversight became an issue in March 2022 when Vegas attempted to trade Dadonov to Anaheim, only for the trade to be rescinded.
Shortly thereafter the league began its investigation, and after being made aware of its findings, new owner Michael Andlauer made the decision to fire Dorion, who is being replaced on an interim basis by Steve Staios.
To summarize: The Senators are losing games on the ice. They have been unable to sign a key piece to the franchise’s future, and he is suspended for 41 games for gambling on sports. And the newly minted owner had to fire the GM for bungling a trade in spectacular fashion.
It is one thing to be bad. It is another to be a punchline. And the Senators, who have become a punchline, are in need of a savior. Someone with a vision to build what is a fairly talented young corps into a winner.
The question is who that person is. And whether they are up for the challenge that potentially awaits them.