That’s the word that is supposed to be defining the 2013-2014 Ottawa Senators. If you follow any of the Sens’ social media accounts, you are familiar with this campaign. They’re really trying to make it work. Like most fans, I don’t buy it. They are not fearless as a team. I am not fearless as a fan. As the team travels to Columbus this week to face the 5-8-0 Blue Jackets, I have no idea what to expect. Sure, it was natural to fear the high flying Sharks and the reigning champion Blackhawks. But come on, I shouldn’t have feared the Islanders or the Stars. No offence to those organizations, but there is a reasonable expectation that we can, and should, be beating those teams. We should be fearless against those opponents, but we simply aren’t. I spent the past few games watching my team in fear. In fear that they would take a bad penalty, give the puck up, or blow a two goal lead. And sure enough, they did.
Remember those Pesky Sens of the shortened 2013 season? The scrappy, hard working team that played the 200 foot game for a full 60 minutes. The team that would grind for the puck, and score in the final minute to tie the game and deflate the opponent? The team that always gave you hope that despite injuries to most star players, or being down in a game, or being a #7 seed playing against a #2 seed, that you always had a chance of winning? I miss those Sens. The post Daniel Alfredsson world is certainly not a Pesky one – nor is it fearless. The fact of the matter is that the on ice product is not there this season – yet. I think it will come. But in the meantime, we are uncomfortably stuck with this “fearless” identity. Despite the valiant efforts from the Senators’ marketing team to make fearless a thing, it just isn’t happening. It’s not their fault. I see what they are trying to do, but you can’t force these things.
#PeskySens worked becuase it happened naturally. Rumour has it that it started down in Binghamton during the Senators’ 2010-2011 Calder Cup run to describe their scrappy, never-say-quit style of play that helped them win a championship. And so, last year when the big club shocked the hockey world and succeeded through adversity, the Pesky identity came to the surface again. Fans, players, media and even the team’s official social media accounts used the term relentlessly. Everyone loved it. It wasn’t forced. It was real. It was earned.
So this year the marketing team wants convey the perception that the Senators are a fearless team. Fair enough. But if they play in fear, and their fans watch in fear, then no one is going to buy the fact that they are apparently “fearless”. You can’t define the team, the team will define themselves. The same rings true with other brands. Apple doesn’t just say they are innovative – they practice what they preach. They lead by example.
According to the Senators, Fearless is a “season-long marketing initiative aimed to capture the spirit of the team’s never-quit attitude and courageous style of play and share it with the Sens Army.” Sounds to me like they are just trying to emulate pesky, which is impossible. Last year’s Sens were truly a pesky bunch. That is a fact. People not only believed it to be true, they knew it was true.
Let this team define who they are. It’s something that Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, Bobby Ryan and the group are still trying to figure out. It’ll take time, but it’ll come.