Under normal circumstances, three consecutive losses over a one-week span to the division rival Montreal Canadiens with first place in the Atlantic Division on the line would have disastrous effects on this fan base’s collective psyche – think in the same vein as Martin Gerber starting an important playoff game.
Fortunately for everyone’s sake, first place in the Atlantic isn’t as desirable a position as it should be and perhaps most importantly, the past 48 hours have provided a number of important distractors to take our minds off the team’s recent on-ice performance.
Colin White, welcome to the fold.
Leading up to Sunday night’s announcement that White had agreed to terms on an amateur tryout (ATO) with the Senators, all of the analysis focused on how the two camps were diametrically opposed to the idea of White starting his professional career on an ATO.
On one hand, you cannot blame the player for wanting to cash in and sign an entry-level contract (ELC) when he has spent the past few years as a student athlete at Boston College.
Looking around at the NCAA landscape where a number of his peers were signing contracts because other organizations were willing to burn the first years of their respective contracts, White probably felt like he merited similar considerations and could help the Senators during the playoff push.
Considering how poorly some of the team’s bottom-six forwards have fared, White wouldn’t have been wrong. It is just relative thing in which the bar that he would need to clear has not been set particularly high.
From the Senators’ perspective, they made it clear that they were uncomfortable burning the first year of his prospective ELC.
Although they never really outlined their concerns over having White’s ELC end one year earlier, they spun a message through the media that it might be difficult to throw White into the mix as the team makes their playoff push when there’s no guarantee that White represents an upgrade, especially when it means pushing someone to the press box who has been with the club for most of the year and helped put the team in this position.
Even though every prospect develops at different rates and has a different skill set, aptitude and work ethic, it’s also possible that the performance of the Senators’ recent high draft picks has given the organization cause for concern. Certainly from the organization’s standpoint, it’s a much easier decision to bring along White slowly than promote him to the parent level and risk having their decision be second-guessed by the media and its fans.
By signing White to an ATO, the agreement does not preclude them from signing him to an ELC after evaluating his performance in Binghamton and determining that he can help the team during the playoffs.
Maybe it’s for this latter reason that White’s representation cracked during their negotiations with the Senators and agreed to this ATO, but I find it difficult not to acknowledge the added benefit the Senators get by having White play professional hockey games without earning a salary.
The only money White will collect during his stay in Binghamton is a daily per diem. He will not make any real savings until he signs an ELC, but keep in mind that NHL players stop receiving salary payments at the conclusion of the NHL’s regular season.
In other words, if White signs his ELC and makes his first appearance in the postseason, the only money it costs the Senators is the cost of his signing bonus.
It’s a tidy piece of business for the Senators to get a free look at a prospect before deciding whether or not to burn a year.
White will wear #10 in his Binghamton Senators debut tomorrow night.
Craig Anderson Nominated for the Masterton
It’s essentially an award that you never want to win because it usually involves overcoming some personal tragedy, but the Senators’ Craig Anderson was nominated by the Ottawa chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy which is “awarded annually to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.”
Anderson has been limited to 34 appearances this season because he has spent the better part of the year being with his family and his wife Nicholle, who was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma this past fall.
Despite the hardships that he and his family have had to endure, his performance this season has never wavered. He currently has a 22-10-2 record, a 2.32 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.
How he has been able to maintain his focus and composure is incredible, but personally, I’ll never forget his 37-save 2-0 shutout win over the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place in late October. After taking a leave of absence to be with Nicholle following the Senators win in Vancouver on October 25th, Anderson returned to the Senators’ net just five days later because Nicholle pushed him to return and help his teammates after Andrew Hammond suffered an injury in the team’s October 28th game against Calgary.
His performance in that game and the raw emotional release that accompanied the final buzzer will forever be engrained in my memory. To see the way that the Oilers faithful and Cam Talbot respected Anderson that night during the game’s three star announcement, it gave me chills and is the kind of moment that makes me love sports so much.
Clarke MacArthur Wants to Return
During last Thursday’s regional broadcast against the Pittsburgh Penguins, TSN’s Darren Dreger raised eyebrows – seriously, the look Bruce Garrioch shot Dreger during their first period intermission segment was incredible – when he suggested that there may be a chance that Clarke MacArthur could play for the Ottawa Senators this season.
It seemed weird at the time, but clearly, Clarke MacArthur is not ready to write himself out.
Speaking to reporters after practice yesterday, MacArthur confirmed that he targeting a return to the lineup before the end of the regular season.
“I’m always holding out for this year. I could care less about next year. I’m only training like this and doing what I’m doing now for this year. Next year is next year. I’m going to do anything I can to get back in and if they clear me, I’ll be ready.”
MacArthur has not played in a regular season game since being concussed on October 14, 2015.
Since that day, he has suffered three more concussions with the latest occurring this past fall during a scrimmage when Patrick Sieloff caught him unsuspectedly with a hit.
Given the circumstances, it’s discomforting to see a player willingly want to jeopardize his long-term health to play a game that he loves.
I totally understand that MacArthur’s only 31-years old and a professional athlete and that for a player who’s doing whatever it takes to get back on the ice, he’s not willing to throw in the towel on another season.
I mean, what else is he going to say?
He’s obviously frustrated sitting on the sidelines during a time when his team is competitive and has a chance to play in the playoffs. He has been skating and training, so inevitably when he has worked his ass off to get as close to a physical return, he’s innately going to want to try and play.
I get all of that.
The problem is that we’re talking about a player who may be one hit away from something that will not only rob him of the rest of his career, it’s a hit that can rob him of his quality of life as he ages.
The impacts of brain injuries and CTE are well-documented, so I won’t get into them here. We’re all familiar with them and Clarke is too.
Even if he can pass his baseline testing, I’m just not getting the sense that the organization would be comfortable putting him in the lineup – for health reasons and team performance reasons – when the player has not played any meaningful hockey in a very long time.
That’s not a knock on MacArthur. Health permitting, he has the potential to be one of Ottawa’s best two-way wingers, it’s just at this stage of the season, I’m not sure the organization would willingly want to expose MacArthur to physical, playoff hockey when the margins of error – his long-term health and the team’s on-ice performance – are so small.