I will admit that I sometimes get emotionally attached to a lot of the players on my team, even if they aren't necessarily my "favourite". You get used to seeing the team look the way they are, you have names associated with faces associated with numbers. Certain numbers with certain names on the back of the sweaters just look right, like they absolutely belong together.
As a Senators fan, I suppose I've been "lucky" that we haven't seen our team blown up or gutted over the years. However, this summer marked the departure of somebody who was once a key piece of the team. If you asked me as near as three years ago, I would have told you there was no way in all that was sacred, Wade Redden would be leaving the Senators. He was one of the originals, the core, the heart and soul of the team who had been with us since he was still a young rookie and has grown up before our eyes. He was one of the key pieces that helped turn the team into the Beast of the East (at least in the Regular Season) we all know.
But as much as we try to fight it, hockey is still a business and there isn't any room for emotions in business. So this summer, we waved goodbye to Redden as he searched for greener pastures and greener dollars with the New York Rangers.
Redden had been my favourite player for as long as I could remember. I always maintained that he meant more to the Senators than any other player on the team, for a time I thought he was more dear to the franchise than even Daniel Alfredsson (I admit to being young and foolish. I've learned the error of my ways). But everything this off-season was set in a way that Redden leaving was inevitable. Over the years, myself and many others of Senators nation had grown disenchanted with Redden. His play had been faltering and while we gave him the benefit of the doubt for awhile, it became more than just underachieving, it became what looked like downright lethargy. Like he didn't care, and that the fire was gone. After a dismal end to a season with such high expectations, the franchise needed a shake-up and Redden needed a fresh start.
As much as I was expecting Redden to leave, it still hurt a little to see him signing with the Rangers for $6.5 million. For one, it was the Rangers. For another, it always stings a little to see a former favourite go for a hefty price tag.
The Senators first meeting with the Rangers is at MSG on Monday, November 17th, a game I'll be sure to be watching with interest. I'm curious as to see whether or not Redden can bring his play back up to the level which it's capable of, and whether or not he will find chemistry with this Rangers team that I've decided is some sort of Frankenstein with very expensive parts. I want to know if he got the fire back and if playing his former team will be special for him too. If there really were bitter feelings at the departure, I would love to see it on the ice. Sure, having a charged up and inspired Redden might be a disadvantage for us, but it'd make for exciting hockey.
The following Saturday on November 22nd, the Rangers will visit the Senators in an afternoon game at the bank. It'll be Redden's first visit back to the bank and I can only guess what the reception will be. He didn't exactly leave town under the greatest circumstances, but to be fair, he left via free agency, which he had every right to do and not because he pouted and demanded a trade. I expect a couple of boos, we gave Zdeno Chara the same treatment even if he didn't deserve it. But I really hope that the Senators fans will remember all of the great things that Redden did for the team and not the shell of the player he once was that we've come to know in recent memory. Hey, he's somebody else's expensive responsibility now after all.