It's safe to say it's been a long season in the nation's capital.
The Ottawa Senators have sat last in the NHL for much of the year and dealt pending free agents Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel at the trade deadline after months of speculation.
Veteran forward Bobby Ryan said Tuesday that the controversy after video of players on the team mocking assistant coach Martin Raymond's techniques while riding in an Uber back in November feels like a lifetime ago.
“It feels like a different season (that happened),” Ryan told the Philadelphia Courier-Post. “A lot of the guys involved in that are gone now, but for different reasons obviously. That one went by pretty quick and not a lot was said after the fact. I think the week and a half leading up to the deadline when those guys were really expecting it at any minute — Were they getting dressed for the practice? Were they getting dressed for a game? They had no clue and we had no clue. That was just a ton of uncertainty that distracted us for 10 days.
“Having been around for a while in the league, you prepare for a few things but you can’t really prepare for the gauntlet we just ran through in the last three and a half months. You know the guys are leaving but you’re waiting for the shoe to drop and you’re waiting for the team to make the best trade available for themselves and all that stuff. I think we’d all be lying if we said we didn’t get pulled into that a little bit. It certainly pulled from the season. It pulled from what we were trying to do in here.”
Two of the players in the video, Duchene and Chris Wideman, were traded this season, while rookie Alex Formenton was assigned to the OHL before the burning the first year of his entry-level contract. The other players in the van, Thomas Chabot, Colin White, Dylan DeMelo and Chris Tierney, all remain with the team.
Ryan said the uncertainty around the trade deadline took a toll on the team and specifically cited the experience of Dzingel, who was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets two days before the deadline.
“I think every time his phone rang he was lighting up to see who it was and what was going on,” Ryan said. “I said, ‘Most of the time it rings it’s just gonna be your fiancée. Don’t worry about it. It’s never gonna be what you think it is until the last second.’ And that’s exactly how it happened. It was like that though. It was a week and a half of, for them both dread and anticipation and for us just, ‘What the hell?’”
Ryan, 31, is the third-oldest player on the team's 23-man roster and, with 798 career games under his belt, said he took it upon himself to lead the younger Senators through the difficult season.
“I think there were times where we had eight or nine guys that had played under 40 NHL games and they looked a little wide-eyed with everything going around them,” Ryan said. “You just try to talk to them. For me, I just went up to them quietly and talked to each individual guy and said, ‘You’re never gonna see something like this again so just kind of weather the storm. Worry about what you can control, which is the way you approach tonight, approach tomorrow’s practice and go from there.’”
The Senators (23-41-6) are the only team to be mathematically eliminated from the postseason.