Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Finding optimism for the Senators in five of history’s most depressing trade deadlines

I​ think there’s a good​ case​ to​ be​ made​ that​ Ottawa Senators fans​ just endured one​ of the most​ depressing​ trade deadlines in​​ NHL history.

Ottawa ended up trading away three veterans, including the team’s most popular player in Mark Stone, plus their next two leading goal scorers in Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel. Just in terms of talent going out the door, the Senators’ 2019 deadline exodus is hard to match.

But that’s not what makes the weekend so depressing. Instead, it’s the context here that makes it all sting so much. The Senators wanted to re-sign Duchene and Stone, but apparently couldn’t get them to buy into the team’s long-term vision for a return to contention. Coming on the heels of the Erik Karlsson trade, it’s hard for fans to shake the feeling that their best players just don’t want to be there anymore. And so three more were traded away, leaving behind some good picks and prospects but also a husk of a roster that seems destined to finish dead last. And of course, the Sens can’t even look forward to the draft lottery, because they traded away their first-round pick for one of those players who just said goodbye.

So yeah … not fun. But we’re all about optimism around here, so let’s see if we can find some for Ottawa fans. I went back and looked at five other trade deadlines in modern NHL history that left fans feeling miserable, to see if we could find some small rays of positivity for the Senators.

This might feel like rock bottom in Ottawa. But it felt at least a little like that in these towns too, and maybe we can draw some lessons from that. Cheer up, Sens fans. There are brighter days ahead.

2013 Calgary Flames

The setup: The Flames were about to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year and the team hadn’t won a round since their 2004 run to the final. For years, there had been rumors that the team would have no choice but to trade franchise icon Jarome Iginla. Year after year, the deadline would pass without a move, and with hope that Iginla could somehow lead the team on one more run at an elusive Cup. But with the Flames struggling and his contract expiring, the 2013 deadline really did feel like the time had come.

What happened: After nearly 17 years, Flames fans finally heard the news they’d been dreading: Iginla had been traded. And then, a few minutes later, they heard it again.

In one of the weirder deadline week moments in recent history, Iginla was reported to have been dealt to the Bruins, only to turn out to actually be headed to Pittsburgh. The deal ended up being Iginla for Kenny Agostino, Ben Hanowski and a first.

Why it hurt: Flames fans got to enjoy the gut punch of the first deal, followed by a momentary reprieve, and then a second uppercut. When the dust settled, the trade felt like the end of an era. And it really was – Iginla finished as the Flames’ career leader in just about every major scoring stat, but never did win that Stanley Cup.

To make matters worse, this is one of those deals that really didn’t work out for anyone in hindsight. Iginla and the Penguins ended up being swept by the Bruins in the playoffs. He’d bounce around three more teams in four years, missing the playoffs in each of his last three seasons. And the Flames didn’t really get anything out of the deal; Agostino and Hanowski didn’t contribute much and they used the first-round pick on Morgan Klimchuk.

In hindsight, both Iginla and the Flames waited too long to move on. You almost wonder if it wouldn’t have been better for everyone if he’d stuck around and just ended his career in Calgary.

But the good news is: The Flames struggled through one more miserable season, but were back in the playoffs by 2015, and even won a round. They haven’t won a playoff game since, but that should change this year. It’s been a long six years, but the Flames are contenders again. It can be done!

Sens fans optimism index: That’s … well, that’s not bad, I guess. But Senators fans are probably hoping to have more to look forward to than one playoff round win in the next five years or so. Let’s see if we can find a team that went on to win a Cup.

2000 Boston Bruins

The setup: Much like the Flames and Iginla, the Bruins were a bad team with an aging superstar running out of time to win a Cup. In this case, it was Ray Bourque, who was heading down the stretch on his 21st season in Boston. The Bruins had been reasonably good over the years, even winning a round in 1999. But the 1999-00 season had gone off the rails, and it was clear that a rebuild was on the way.

With Bourque nearing the end of his career, it was time for Bruins fans to consider the unthinkable: Watching him chase a Cup while wearing another team’s logo.

What happened: The rumor mill had Bourque staying east, with the Flyers emerging as the favorites. But in a mild surprise, the Bruins sent him to the Avalanche instead. Despite how you might remember it, Bourque didn’t go right out and win a Cup in Colorado that year. But he decided to come back for one final season, and this time he and the Avalanche went all the way, leading to the greatest Cup handoff in history.

Why it hurt: The Bruins didn’t get much out of the deal, although that wasn’t even really the point. Instead, it was about finding the right place for Bourque to chase his title. In that sense, the deal was a success, albeit a delayed one. But it was also an acknowledgement that an era was ending without a title in Boston. And while Bruins fans cheered Bourque on in Colorado, seeing him finally lift a Cup in another uniform was a bittersweet moment.

But the good news is: The Bruins did eventually recover and win that Stanley Cup, although it took 11 years to do it.

Sens fans optimism index: Guys, we’re trying to make Senators fans feel better here. Surely we can come up with a slightly better rebound story than one that takes over a decade. Come on, these folks are hurting here – let’s find them a team they can really look up to?

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