Senators fans have had it since the beginning- I call it “The Whipping Boy” – a player or players that no matter what they do well, it is never enough and the player(s) they love to hate. The players I am referring to are the ones who even if they weren’t on the ice for a goal or a terrible play, are still the name brought up as the reason for the error.
The baton of dishonour has been passed along like a family heirloom since the franchise’s 2nd season. The first “honouree” was former 1st overall pick Alexandre Daigle, and the torch has been relayed right up to the current title holder, Jason Spezza. Those who have worn the goat horns include Alexei Yashin, Wade Redden, Radek Bonk and Alexei Kovalev. Even the now immortal and much beloved captian Daniel Alfredsson had a period of time where he felt the constant wrath of the fans.
Spezza still has the mantle of being the current whipping boy, but if his play at the end of the season is any indication, he might not be in that position for much longer. So the question is, if he can shed it, who does he hand the baton off to? Here are my top contenders:
Sergei Gonchar – One poor season is forgiveable, but a slow start to his second Senators season could put Gonchar in the Kovalev area, that being an underacheiving Russian talent who really doesn’t care. Gonchar will be pushed for power play time this season and his $5M + price tag mandates that he perform up to par, and also serves as a mentor to the likes of Karlsson and Rundblad.
Nikita Filatov – Assuming he makes the squad out of camp, the former first round pick of the Blue Jackets will show pure talent that could rival Spezza. His problem has been putting it together on the ice, which if it continues, will frustrate Senators fans to no end. Comparisons to Kovalev will also follow him should he fail to deliver.
Chris Phillips – For the most part, Phillips has flown under the radar when it comes to wearing the goat-horns for an extended period of time. His new three year contract means that he will be in the spotlight and with youngsters coming in to take his job, his every move will be examined even more than it was before.
Craig Anderson – What goes up, must come down, and Anderson’s stock is as high as it could possibly be. Remember when Patrick Lalime was the toast of the town? Anderson cannot afford to have a letdown like he did in Colorado last season. There is more pressure on him than anyone on the team to maintain a high level of play, mainly due to his two month stint in Ottawa and the Senators’ past experiences between the pipes.
Jason Spezza – Let’s face it, Spezza is the odds on favorite to keep the title. The reputation he carries preceeds him and it is a tough one to shed. The first time he makes an ill-advised drop pass (and he will) the old memories will come flooding back, as will the “boooos”. He cannot afford to revert back to the player he was in previous seasons, he must build on the level of play he showed after returning from injury in February. That version of Jason Spezza is a top 25 player in the league and a future captain of the team.
So there are my 5 contenders for this year’s title of Whipping Boy. Senators fans love to have a fallback position when things aren’t going well, and I think Alfredsson has earned the benefit of the doubt, and most of the rest of the roster has got a year or two of growing a reputation before any of them get to Whipping Boy status.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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