The last time the Ottawa Senators went to Sweden to play regular season games was in 2017, when they won two games against the Colorado Avalanche. When they returned home from that trip, the Senators fell into a hole that, six years later, they are still trying to climb out of.
The Senators lost 12 of their next 13 games and finished that season 30th overall in the NHL standings. They were so bad and dysfunctional that they opted to tear things down and rebuild the roster.
Last week, the club went on another trip to Sweden and again won both games.
So what will the rest of this season have in store for them? Is the era of misery over, bookended by games in Stockholm six years apart? Or will they be struck by another Swedish hangover?
Former Sens defenceman Mark Borowiecki was on that 2017 Senators team and assured fans that the club’s swoon that year had nothing to do with that trip.
“I can appreciate the collective shell-shock of Sens fans and maybe having some misgivings about it happening again,” Borowiecki told Faces. “But I can pretty much assure worried Sens fans that’s not the sole reason for that happening. I think that was more coincidental than anything.”
“I think that just had to do more with us internally as a group, as players, as coaches. I think things fell apart for different reasons. I won’t go into too much detail. Obviously, within the locker room, the coaching staff, stuff like that, I think that probably played a lot more into it than just that trip in and of itself.”
Borowiecki does say that regular-season trips to Europe do have pros and cons.
“I think anytime you can get on the road early as a group, you’re together as a team, 24/7. I think there’s some benefit to that early on in the season,”Borowiecki said. “But there are some cons too. If you look at the month, their November schedule has been pretty light (because of the travel and required recovery time). They’re going to get slammed here a little bit with a lot of games in a short amount of time to make up for that.”
The season started October 11th, and the Senators have played in just 15 games, the lowest total in the NHL. They’ll now play 15 games a month in both December and January.
That’s not ideal for a team currently outside of the playoffs, looking in. The lack of rest also isn’t optimal for a team that’s been so collectively unlucky in the injury department.
But busy schedules or not, a big part of Borowiecki, still only 34, wouldn’t mind still being out there. This will be the first winter he can remember when he wasn’t fully immersed in playing hockey. After playing just four games last season, “Borocop” was forced to retire as a player due to concussions. When asked about the idea of playing for his hometown team today, it wasn’t the team’s exciting young talent that intrigued him.
“I think I was most upset that they switched to those black jerseys, and I didn’t get a chance to wear those,” Borowiecki laughed.
Mark Borowiecki now works in player development with the Nashville Predators, but he and hisfamily recently moved home to live full time in Ottawa.