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What do we say to serious posts? Not today.
With the highly anticipated return of HBO’s Game of Thrones on television, I figured it would be an opportune time to break away from the statistics, analysis and news to bring you readers something slightly different.
Using characters from the series, I’ve drawn parallels to current and former individuals who at one point, were involved with the Ottawa Senators. Having read the books, I have tried to limit the potential to spoil anything for those of you who have only watched the television series. For those of you who intend on getting into the series but haven't had a chance to, do yourself a favor and stop reading.
Now let’s get to it…
Bryan Murray as Daenerys Targaryen
Some of you are probably wondering how I’m going to explain how a 70-year old GM and an exiled Targaryen who lost her virginity in the grasslands to a Dothraki horselord are alike. Well, although I don’t doubt for second that Bryan Murray has visited the prairies, this angle is not the one I’m looking to use.
Besides their silver hair, both Murray and Daenarys are viewed by their supporters as the ones who will restore the realm or organization its rightful prominence.
Although Murray and the rest of his management/scouting staff have been able to restock the organization’s farm system and assemble a competitive roster that gives the team a chance to win now, Daenarys’ success, is dependent on the growth and maturity or her three dragons.
Sound familiar? It should. Murray’s success is dependent upon the growth and development of his team’s youngest players and amazingly, he credits his rebuild blueprint to much of the work that led up to the 2011 and allowed them to procure three, I repeat three, first round picks.
So there you have it, Mika Zibanejad, Stefan Noesen and Matt Puempel are Murray's 'dragons'.
Mike Fisher as Robb Stark
Remember that story in which an Ottawa radio station stopped playing Carrie Underwood music as a ploy to grab headlines and attention?
Sadly, I do and perhaps what may be more disturbing is the realization that there were (and still are?) people out there who actually believe that Carrie solely responsible for her husband, Mike Fisher, no longer being a member of the Ottawa Senators. I mean, we can laugh at their expense, but at the same time, it’s still pretty sad.
Like Robb Stark, Fisher was the ‘King of the North’ – a player who was revered by fans and the media alike here in Ottawa. With the Senators in the midst of turmoil during their infamous 2010/11 season, the organization shipped Fisher south so he could compete and vie for the prize of the realm. Instead of an Iron Throne however, he was pursuing a throne of his own – becoming a Stanley Cup Champion.
In Ottawa, the decision to trade Fisher to Nashville wasn’t predicated on which trade offer was the best. Given Fisher’s history and outstanding reputation, the organization elected to do what was in the best interests of the player. In shipping him off to the Nashville Predators, Fisher would be free to play in the city that his wife called home.
It was all pomp when Fisher arrived in Nashville and the Predators went on their longest run in the postseason history. However, that short-term success has been forgotten due to the team’s current struggles.
Since Jeyne Westerling married Robb Stark, you can’t help but wonder whether his choice to renege on the terms of his previously arranged marriage with Walder Frey’s daughter will come back to haunt Stark in that his personal life will thrive while his career objectives fall by the wayside.
Dominik Hasek as Khal Drogo
Dominik Hasek was the Ottawa Senators’ first big free agent splurge. Even if the terms of his contract were modest by a player of his reputation’s statistics and accomplishments, he was Ottawa’s first major unrestricted free agent signing. He was a hired gun, who despite some injuries, was the goaltending talent that Ottawa had always lacked throughout its modern existence.
Khal Drogo, however, made a deal with a different sort of devil. The Dothraki Khal was a pay-for-play warrior, only his currency was an arranged. The Dothraki Khal agreed an arranged marriage – offering to help Viserys Targaryen reclaim his father’s throne in exchange for Daenerys’ hand.
When Viserys grew tired of how long it was taking for Drogo’s Khalasar to make its the way to Westeros, he threatened his sister’s life to expedite the process. It would not be the last attempt on Daenerys’ life. After a failed assassination attempt, Drogo pledges to wage war on the Iron Throne and claim it for his wife and unborn son.
Eventually, in a minor dispute that never should have transpired in the first place, Drogo suffered a wound that festered and eventually took his life. It was the equivalent to Hasek’s adductor injury that he suffered at the Turin Olympics that left the goaltender hobbled for the remainder of the season.
Like Drogo, who was kept alive by a maegi, Hasek’s 2005/06 season looked like it could have some life left in it because he practiced with the team down the stretch and in the playoffs. Unfortunately, he lived up to his reputation for refusing to play if he was not at full health. Ignoring his teammates’ pleas, Hasek refused to play the team’s second round matchup with the Sabres and the Senators were subsequently eliminated. I bet there were a few teammates who would have liked to smother him with a pillow after that decision.
John Muckler as Stannis Barratheon
Like Stannis Baratheon, John Muckler was a man of few words in Ottawa. He was forward, uncharismatic and much like his transaction and draft record here in Ottawa, rather forgettable.
Despite his best efforts, Muckler’s deadline deals never panned out – bringing in the likes of Varada, Smolinski, and Peter Bondra over the years. His most tragic error was his steadfast refusal to bring in a capable veteran goalie to challenge Ray Emery or assume that number one role after Hasek’s injury in Turin. For whatever reason, Muckler and the organization opted to invest faith in Emery and the prospective return of Hasek, but unfortunately, Hasek never wound up playing.
It was Muckler’s Battle of the Blackwater moment. Had he brought along his Melissandre, perhaps Ottawa’s defeat in the playoffs would not have been inevitable.
Chris Neil as Bronn
A loyal sellsword who always comes to the aid of his much smaller teammate(s)? Who fits that description better than Chris Neil?
Alfie as Ned Stark
Both are figureheads whose nobility and effort to be just and fair make them endearing characters to their followers.
Should Alfie retire without winning a Cup with the Senators, our feelings will mirror what we felt when Ned Stark, was executed on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. We just hope that his time in this story isn’t cut short.
Dany Heatley as Theon Greyjoy
Despite the 180 goals and 362 points with the Senators, I would never characterize Dany as a beloved player in Senators’ lore. Considering his individual accomplishments and his prominence on the only Senators team to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, one would assume that Heatley would have had more ardent supporters than he wound up having.
Like Theon Greyjoy who was a ward of the Starks of Winterfell, it never really felt like Heatley was a member of the family; even after he signed his 7-year, $45M contract extension with the Senators. One season into this extension, he formally requested a trade during the summer of 2009 because of philosophical differences with then head coach Cory Clouston. It was a move driven completely by self-interest and although it may not have seemed like it at the time, Clouston’s treatment of Heatley will solidify his legacy as a coach in Ottawa – as the guy who expedited the departure of that front-running turncloak.
After Theon was sent home (or in Heatley’s case, San Jose), it did not take long before they were subsequently sent away.
Erik Karlsson as Jon Snow
Erik Karlsson is not a real defenceman. Jon Snow is not a real Stark. One defends the Wall from the Others, the other defends the front of the Ottawa net from others. Both are well known for their prowess with their stick (or sword) and both are probably too handsome for the jobs that they do.
Eugene Melnyk as Robert Baratheon
Loud and proud, these two charismatic and boisterous rulers of their realms could only be more alike if Baratheon walked around Westeros with a Banks Beer and a Bert's Bar t-shirt.
Kyle Turris as Jaime Lannister
Before Kyle Turris arrived in Ottawa, there were many outcries and concerns from the MSM and fans about bringing in a player whose reputation preceded him. Without knowing any of the explicit or full details concerning the reasons why the player wanted out, the media was quick to label Turris as a malcontent whose hotshot attitude wouldn’t mesh on a young and rebuilding Senators team.
Like Jaime’s storyline, we lacked insight into Turris’ character and backstory. The more we got to know the player, the more likeable he seemed to be.
Francis Lessard as Hodor.
Who can’t envision Lessard walking around a NHL dressing room saying “Less-ard. Less-ard. LESSARD!”?
Jared Cowen as Bran Stark
A prominent young character derailed by injury, yeah, that’s Jared Cowen in a nutshell.
Bruce Garrioch as Varys
"Storms come and go, the big fish eat the little fish, and I keep on paddling."
The above is a quote from Varys that applies directly to his work and to that of Ottawa Sun columnist, Bruce Garrioch. Kings and queens come and go as frequently as the coaches, players and managers that come through the Senators organization; yet, the constants who survive these changes are the journalists and Master of Whisperers who serves on the king’s small council.
The strength of both men lies in their access to a network of informants who keep them informed of the comings and goings of their respective worlds. The only thing that prevents this comparison from being more of a lock is that Boo doesn’t refer to his league sources as his “little birds”.
Zdeno Chara as Tyrion Lannister
You cannot talk about either of these two men without referencing their unique physical attributes. Like Tyrion, Chara was underappreciated for his contributions; thanks to him being overshadowed by his fellow teammates *cough* *cough* Wade Redden *cough* *cough*.
Nikita Filatov as Arya Stark
Just look at the guy!
* Note: I just wanted to thank those who helped and provided some input for the post — Matt, Mer, Lewy — thank you again.