On Saturday night, the Ottawa Senators played a 30-second video tribute to Derick Brassard during a stoppage in play in his first game back at Canadian Tire Centre as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Senators were certainly under no obligation for a scoreboard acknowledgment, considering Brassard did not even play two full seasons with the club. Nonetheless, it was a classy gesture that was certainly appreciated by the player.
So far this season, the Senators have gone out of their way to acknowledge players who were traded away as part of the rebuilding process that started around the trade deadline last season. When the Los Angeles Kings visited town last month, both Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson were saluted with a ‘Welcome Back’ message on the big screen.
But on Monday night, the Senators might have a conundrum on their hands as Mike Hoffman makes his first appearance at the Canadian Tire Centre wearing the colours of the Florida Panthers.
The Hoffman-Senators divorce was one of the most awkward and messy departures between an athlete and NHL team in recent memory. Hoffman was caught in a situation that saw his long-time girlfriend, Monika Caryk, accused of orchestrating a cyberbullying attack on captain Erik Karlsson and his wife Melinda.
It was a salacious storyline, more fitting of a soap opera than an NHL dressing room. It became obvious the Senators needed to move on from either Hoffman and/or Karlsson – and in the end, both players were traded away. But there was a three-month window where Karlsson was still a member of the Senators after Hoffman was traded and it became clear the organization felt like Hoffman was the one who had to leave.
“Trading Mike Hoffman was what we needed to do,” Pierre Dorion told reporters one day prior to the NHL Draft in Dallas when he executed the trade with the San Jose Sharks. “Our dressing room was broken. We have to have a dressing room that wants to win together.”
And with that, the Senators seemed to lay a portion of the blame for their disastrous 2017-18 season at Hoffman’s feet.
So now that he comes back on Monday, the question has been asked: Will the Senators have a video tribute for Hoffman?
On the surface, it would seem like a slam dunk. If Nate Thompson – who scored a grand total of four goals in 43 games with the team – got a scoreboard mention, it stands to reason that Hoffman should receive at least that same treatment.
And when you factor in that Hoffman tallied 107 goals with the Senators – one of only 16 players in franchise history to hit the century mark – it would seem rather obvious that he should get a full video tribute for his contributions to the organization.
There may be residual animosity from some members of the front office and possibly his ex-teammates for how things played out in Hoffman’s final campaign with the Senators. If Karlsson was still with the team, it would make perfect sense to omit a welcome back greeting for Hoffman. But both players are long gone and the organization seems to have turned the page.
Besides, the video tribute is a gesture meant for the fans more than anything and this would seem like a missed opportunity if the Senators decided to send one final message to Hoffman with a snub. They already sent a message by trading him, so omitting a video tribute would just seem petty at this point.
Hoffman was one of the most dazzling, electrifying and polarizing players to ever wear a Sens jersey. He had a skill set that could draw people out of their seats and he became ‘Must See TV’ when the game went into 3-on-3 overtime.
Furthermore, Hoffman represents another terrific mid-to-late round find by the Senators’ scouting staff. A fifth round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, he developed into a legitimate top-six forward who could beat opponents with his skill and speed.
It should be noted that Hoffman never asked for a trade, so he shouldn’t be lumped in with others like Dany Heatley and Alexei Yashin who didn’t get video tributes in their returns after messy divorces from the organization. In January of 2015, the club had a lengthy video tribute for Jason Spezza in his first game back in Ottawa, even after he asked for a trade out of town. That resulted in a standing ovation inside the arena, even for a player who was a polarizing figure.
There probably won’t be a standing ovation for Hoffman on Monday night, but there is certainly a chance for a nice warm ovation inside the arena. Hoffman was on the receiving end of one of the most iconic goals in franchise history, when he took a 150-foot saucer pass from Erik Karlsson in the 2017 playoffs and scored a breakaway goal on Tuukka Rask by pulling the Peter Forsberg move. Showing that goal on the big screen might generate a little buzz inside the building for a date with the Panthers on a Monday in November.
The Senators have vowed for the past few months that they’ve moved on from the circus and negative storylines that enveloped the 2017-18 campaign. If they truly have, then a video tribute for Mike Hoffman should be an easy decision – and the right one as well.