Trades I Wish Ottawa Made: Brett Connolly

If you were up at 2am waiting for the Nikkei Index to open, you may have seen a curious trade take place between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins. GM Stve Yzerman sent former 6th overall draft pick Brett Connolly to Boston for a 2nd round pick in 2015 and another 2nd rounder in 2016.

Connolly is only 22 years old, and playing in his second full NHL season, but apparently his 134 NHL games were enough for Yzerman to know that his development is off track.

I say “curious” because after spending a resource as valuable as a 6th overall draft pick on Connolly, Yzerman just traded him for the equivalent of a couple of lottery tickets. Even if Connolly wasn’t in “win now” Tampa’s plans, I would have thought they could have packaged him to bring in NHL-ready help. Instead, whoever they take in those rounds won’t be NHL ready for another 4-5 years, if at all. Finally, Connolly fits in well with Tampa’s young core. He’s about the same age as Namestnikov, Palat, Kucherov, Panik, Hedman, Drouin, and Ashton.

Which brings me to Ottawa, a similarly young team who’ve been trying to add a top six winger since roughly 1982. Connolly would have been a nice addition, kept with the tradition of Ottawa buying low on other team’s reclamation projects, and not cost too much, either in assets to acquire him or money to resign him. He’s on an expiring deal where he’s making less than a million a season. A two-year “prove it” bridge deal would align nicely with the Melnyk’s plan to return those empties now that it’s getting warmer out.

Connolly isn’t setting the world on fire offensively, and he’s only having his first positive possession season this year, but he’s the kind of young, swing-for-the-fences player with pedigree that Ottawa could have spent a couple of later-round picks on. They have an extra second rounder from the Spezza deal. Instead, he goes from one division rival to another. I mean, I guess I can’t blame them. It was 2am.

I’m pretty sure none of us know what to do with this

Four Andrew Hammond starts. Four wins. .962 SV% and a 1.15 GAA. And a nice little curve there on the end of the playoff probability chart. Like a hook in our hearts.

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Yes, Hammond is looking positively Brian Elliott-esque out there. And as a result, for the first time in over two months, Ottawa’s playoff chances are higher than 20%. Somehow this was achieved with even better goaltending for a team whose only strength was goaltending. Hockey is the weirdest. Or, as James put it:

A survey of Twitter last night at 1AM – usually the hour for calm, rational assessment – revealed schizophrenic levels of indecision. We’re in the middle of a hockey analytics renaissance; the supremacy of cold, objective logic and infallibility of numbers. And yet here we have a 27 year old with mediocre AHL numbers in the NHL driving Ottawa within five points of a wild card spot. It’s unsustainable and a small sample size and yadda yadda yadda. But in the meantime we actually have a reason to watch the Ottawa Senators play hockey again.

It’s a weird thing to root for, to be sure. Of all the teams with a shot at a generational talent in this year’s draft, Ottawa is the one who could turn around into a contender the quickest. They’re already on the tail end of a rebuild. Adding a high end prospect in the mix could be the thing that turns a fully developed Sens team from a playoff hopeful to a genuine threat. Finishing 9th in the East this year would be soul crushing.

Or, on the other hand: fuck it, let’s go for it. Is there anything more compelling, any better distillation of why we watch sports, than the story of an almost washed-out goaltender getting his shot in the NHL for a team that has nothing to play for and turning them into world beaters? Don’t you want, at the end of the day, people to want to watch your hockey club? Shouldn’t we be excited for the next game as opposed to being excited for the next draft?

So, against all logic, with 23 games left and five points out, with two teams to leapfrog and the Bruins of all teams holding down that last wildcard spot, I for one will be cheering on Andrew Hammond. Not just as our goaltender, but because in the back-half of a too-long season it’s outliers that make hockey hockey and sports sports. Because for all of the revolutionary democratization that analytics brings to this old boys club, and as completely into overturning the moneyed order as I am, sometimes you just want to see the plot of Rudy play out in your team’s colors.

At least until we flip him to Philadelphia for a prospect.

Actually: The Bryan Murray Type Player is a Myth

PROLOGUE

I approached the pay phone cautiously, roll of quarters in hand. I took the Belle and Sebastian concert ticket stub out of my pocket and dialed the number that had been hastily scrawled on the back. Almost immediately, a computerized voice answered.

“Welcome to Your Karlsson Switchboard. If you know the extension you wish to reach, please enter it now.” I dutifully entered 4, 2, and 0 and waited.

Finally after 11 rings, an annoyed man picked up the phone. “If you don’t know how to turn common fruits and vegetables into a crack pipe, I don’t really want to talk to you right now.”

“Hello, James,” I replied.

James’ tone lightened immediately. “Luke Peristy! Or should I say ‘Luke Princely’! Just the man I wanted to talk to. You’re an engineer, so tell me: is an avocado rind going to have the thermodynamic properties required to get this crack on the boil?”

“You trying to make crack-amole?”, I quipped.

James sighed. “I hate you. Look, Chet and I got a little loose last night and long story short I’ve got to figure out some way to freebase using this pile of compost or I owe Chet fifty bucks. You’re calling from a pay phone, right?”

“Yeah, of course. My advice is see if you can find any bones in there and use that. Although you’ve currently got a pile of compost in your office so I think Chet’s already won, to be honest. I wanted to talk to you about something though. It’s about the internet.”

“Yeah? What about the internet?”

“Someone is wrong. The world must be told.”

“Funny you say that. We’re kinda building our brand around that sort of thing. We’re calling it ‘Actually’. You want in? It would be our pleasure to Welcome You to Your Karlsson Years.”

“James,” I said, “I thought you’d never ask.”

————————————————————————————–

Friends, bring it in. Take a knee. Unroll your yoga mat and look away from me in a Half Lords of the Fishes Pose because you want me to talk to the hand. Find your natural resting state because we’re going to have a chat.

Coming out of the All-Star Break I made a point of publicizing my boundless optimism. I said “This team’s got +50% possession under Dave Cameron and a slate of 11 eminently winnable games coming up, so if there was as time for a little run to be had, this is it.” Since that time, my faith has been rewarded by a 5-5-1 stretch which sent Ottawa’s playoff odds plummeting before recovering slightly. As it stands, Ottawa has a roughly 8% chance both to make the playoffs and 5% chance to draft Connor McDavid. These odds are infuriating as they are not so small as to be completely out of the question, but still small enough that fantasizing about spring hockey in Ottawa or Connor McDavid in a Sens jersey is a waste of one’s mental and emotional energy. Worst of both worlds! Get hype!

The good news is that unlike last year, Ottawa’s dropped out of the playoff race early enough that The Bryan and Associates (Ed note: Not a real law firm) won’t be tempted to trade a 2nd rounder for an expiring asset in an overly optimistic attempt to “go for it” or “make a push”. We didn’t even have to blow a 4-1 lead to the Habs to get to this point! #Blessed

Yes, the Sens are definitely sellers this year, although whether or not any of the players the Sens want to sell will actually get sold remains to be seen. It would be interesting to see what the market for Chris Neil and Chris Phillips would be if they weren’t out with a thumb injury and general shittiness wear and tear respectively.

(Aside: Even before The Chrisses (Chrisii?) hit the shelf, it was unlikely they were going to go get traded, which means I must ask: how crazy is it that two players, whose greatest contribution to the team at this point is ostensibly leadership, don’t want to be traded to a Cup contending team? What’s the message here? “Winning the Cup is what we all play for. Unless you own a local restaurant, in which case you’re gonna want to make sure you oversee that baby in your spare time, and you can’t do that from Nashville, let me tell you.” Nothing about that situation makes sense to me, except the idea that no one actually wants to trade for Chris Phillips.)

Anyway, having circled my point like Dave Cameron trying communicate where the puck should go on the powerplay, and with the trade deadline only a week away, I feel the need to make an observation: Whenever trade rumours start to swirl in Ottawa, I’ve noticed that the phrase “Bryan Murray type player” always seems to come up at some point.

This phenomenon isn’t just limited to Twitter.

The Bryan Murray Type Player seems to be thought of as a blunt instrument, someone you can point at the net with intent to destroy in the hope the puck goes in the net incidentally, a player big of body and small of skill. Admittedly, The Bryan’s LEGENDARY negotiations for Chris Stewart have done nothing to disabuse anyone of the notion that Bryan Murray is all about that bass and/or Colin Greening But Better Type Players. However, this is where I Gotta Hit You With The Mad Actually: There is no such thing as The Bryan Murray Type Player. Let’s take a look at some of the players The Bryan has acquired during his time as GM.

Group A: Deadline Rentals Acquired to Prop Up a Crumbling Season
Cory Stillman (Acquired via trade, Ales Hemksy before there was Ales Hemsky)
Mike Commodore (Acquired via trade, rocked awesome ginger afro but not the score sheet)
Martin Lapointe (Acquired via trade, was old)
Matt Cullen (Acquired via trade, didn’t suck)
Ales Hemsky (Acquired via trade, was the piece of rope the Senators tried to make a playoff push with last year)

Group B: Puck Moving Defensemen
Erik Karlsson (THA GAWD, acquired via draft, the earthly manifestation of perfection)
Patrick Wiercioch (Acquired via draft, the earthly manifestation of Corsi related arguments)
Filip Kuba (Acquired via trade, played with Erik Karlsson then GOT PAID then got bought out)
David Rundblad (Acquired via draft trade, made a sweet pass once)
Sergei Gonchar (Acquired via free agency, got booed at the home opener once)
Joe Corvo (Acquired via free agency, pretty cool guy)
Cody Ceci (Acquired via draft, actually kinda decent, also only 21 years old)

Group C: Players Entirely Known for Being Small
Ryan Shannon (Acquired via trade)
Corey Locke (Acquired via free agency, Ottawa legend)
Andre Benoit (Acquired via free agency, Binghamton/Colorado legend)
Cory Conacher (Acquired via trade, guy people will never forgive for not being Ben Bishop even though Bishop was going to walk at the end of the year anyway so whatever)
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Acquired via draft, has a cult following L. Ron Hubbard would be jealous of)

Group D: Defensemen Who Are Chris Campoli, Alex Picard, or Matt Gilroy
Chris Campoli (acquired via trade)
Alex Picard (acquired via trade)
Matt Gilroy (acquired via trade)

Group E: Big Scary Defensemen Who May or May Not Have Strong Feelings Regarding Experts
Matt Carkner (Acquired via free agency, had two signature playoff moments)
Andy Sutton (Acquired via trade, first Ottawa Senator who actually inspired fear of injury in opponents)
Dave Dziurzynski (Acquired via free agency, originator of the little known “i before u” grammatical rule, also not actually a defenseman which you probably didn’t even notice or maybe I’m just projecting)
Jared Cowen (Acquired via draft, frequent object of scorn who will only become The Next Chara after Ottawa trades him as is dictated in the Necronomicon)
Mark Borowiecki (Acquired via draft, fills Eric Gryba’s role despite the fact the team already has Eric Gryba on it)

Group F: Players Acquired for Dany Heatley
Jonathan Cheechoo (Acquired via trade, tried hard, loved the game)
Milan Michalek (Acquired via trade, soon to be one of the longest serving active Senators)

Group G: “Skill” Players Who Were Disappointments
Alex Kovalev (Acquired via free agency and possibly Eugene Melnyk’s coke dreams)
Stephane Da Costa (Acquired via free agency, currently a KHL ЅUPEЯSTДЯ)
Nikita Filatov (Acquired via trade, didn’t do rebounds ALLEGEDLY)

Group H: “Skill” Players Who Were Not Disappointments
Kyle Turris (Acquired via trade, is now 1st line centre)
Bobby Ryan (Acquired via trade, is one of the best players on the team)
Mika Zibanejad (Acquired via draft, has more points than Clarke MacArthur this season, turns 22 in April)
Clarke MacArthur (Acquired via free agency, was the David Clarkson consolation prize)
Jakob Silfverberg (Acquired via draft, was the forward form of David Rundblad in that in was a slightly overrated Swede who was traded for someone much better)
Mike Hoffman (Acquired via draft, skates like the wind, you’re all probably hoping he’ll be your boyfriend one day)
Mark Stone (Acquired via draft, the guy you’ll settle for if things don’t work out with Mike Hoffman)

Group I: THANKS 4 READING
Rob Klinkhammer (Acquired via trade)
Mike Lundin (Acquired via free agency)
Guillaume Latendresse (Acquired via free agency, was ragged on more than u)
Alex Chiasson (Acquired via trade)
David Legwand (Acquired via free agency)

Group J: Facepunchers
Zenon Konopka (Acquired via free agency)
Matt Kassian (Acquired via trade because we had CHRIS PHILLIPS fighting dudes at one point)

Group K: Best of the Rest
Marc Methot (Acquired via trade, holds Erik Karlsson’s jacket while EK kicks the rest of the league’s ass)
Zack Smith (Acquired via draft, may or may not still exist, hasn’t been seen for years)
Curtis Lazar (Acquired via draft, has a thousand Watt smile, might only end up being a Rich Man’s Zack Smith, but he’s only 20 so let’s not put him in a box just yet)

Looking at that (close to exhaustive) list, I don’t know that there’s definitive conclusions that can be drawn other than that Bryan Murray’s a GM who believes that it takes a lot to make a stew. Hell, even in the year he selected Jared Cowen with a 1st round draft pick, there’s footage of the guy trying to draft Nazem Kadri instead. Who’s the player in the above that looks the most like canonical Bryan Murray player? Cory Conacher? David Legwand? Has Bryan Murray ever even acquired a Bryan Murray Player?

I think the takeaway here is that Bryan Murray’s not afraid to pull the trigger. He’ll deal from a position of strength to address a weakness (Methot trade, future Legwand/Wiercioch/Lazar/Cowen/Smith trade), he’ll roll the dice on a reclamation project (Filatov trade, Turris trade, future Yakupov trade), he’ll draft a smooth skating garbage pick in the first round (Erik Karlsson), and he’ll draft a guy who’s big as a battleship and just as maneuverable (Jared Cowen). The Bryan Murray player is the one he thinks will help his team. That’s the long and short of it.

So be afraid of Bryan Murray. He’s a loose cannon.

Except when it comes to to dealing Chris Neil. That guy is going nowhere.

Jeffrey Simpson’s Globe and Mail Article about the Senators is Hot Garbage

It’s not often we take time here at WTYKY to respond to a particular article in detail, but Jeffrey Simpson’s article in the Globe and Mail yesterday feels significant, and indicative of some common assumptions about hockey and how it works, and so warrants a closer look.

Of note is the author: Simpson is a public policy commenter, a winner of several media awards, and perhaps best known for his book Chronic Condition, an analysis of the worsening state of Canada’s health care system. To see his name next to an article about the mediocre performance of a small-market NHL team is, at the very least, interesting. But it’s also the equivalent of delicate dissection by bazooka. This isn’t the everyday hockey analyst, paid to spit outrage daily and meet site hit quotas. This is an eminent thinker in Canadian policy, at least when looked at through a mainstream lens, spilling over 2000 words about the Senators being bad, and blaming management.

Let’s take a closer look:

While the “national” hockey media shoot fish in a barrel reporting obsessively on the collapse of the Toronto Maple Leafs, up the road in Ottawa, a franchise has been in slow decline.

[…]

Melnyk, who has recently sold his stables and horses to raise money, used to brag about being willing to spend to the NHL salary cap in quest of a winning team. Now, Melnyk boasts about having imposed one of the league’s lowest salary caps on the Senators, claiming other owners are blowing money on bad deals. The result is obvious on the ice and in the organization. The Senators cannot compete against teams with much higher salaries. The co-relation is not exact (see the Leafs), but larger-spending teams do tend to finish higher up in the standing.

This is an odd way to start an article. So, is there a relation between spending and winning? Yes, but it’s a very general one, and the inclusion of Toronto in the analogy is proof of that. We don’t need to look far for more examples: Philadelphia, Carolina, Edmonton, Dallas, Boston, Los Angeles, Minnesota and San Jose are all spending at or near the cap and underperforming. To start a (long) article with the thesis that a team needs to spend to win is the equivalent of shooting at the broad side of a barn. He’s not wrong, but it’s also not a one-to-one equivalent.

Melnyk remains defiant, insisting in December, “I’m not in the least embarrassed about us spending at the bottom. I’m happy about it because we’ll be able to spend more in the future and some can’t. Some are stuck.”

I’m not exactly sure what an owner without money to spend is supposed to do when responding to questions about why he doesn’t spend more. Especially when he’s trying to sell tickets.

Perhaps this smaller-market reflex explains a little why Sens fans are remarkably uncomplaining. They don’t make much noise compared to fans in other cities. They seldom boo. They don’t throw sweaters on the ice in disgust or wear garbage bags over their heads. They don’t hold up homemade signs decrying mediocrity. The Ottawa media are tame by Toronto standards.

It’s almost as though by expressing unhappiness at Melnyk’s Mess, fans fear he might try to move the team, which of course he could not easily do under league bylaws. Were his creditors ever to force him to sell the club, it would be purchased by someone else.

Another option unexplored here is that perhaps the team isn’t as bad as Toronto, and is actually kind of fun to watch. Ottawa has been missing a top 4 D for most of the season, has lost more games in OT or the shootout than all but four other teams in the league, and is still a .500 team.They had possession problems at the beginning of the year, since improved under Cameron. No, they’re not contenders, but to act like they’re terrible is just misleading.

Invoking the spectre of relocation is just crass and silly. Where would Ottawa relocate to? If Arizona and Florida and Carolina and Nashville and any number of other teams who don’t rake in the cash haven’t relocated, why on earth does Simpson think the league would actually approve and abet a relocation from a Canadian market? Ottawa was actually bankrupt once and didn’t relocate. It’s ridiculous.

Ottawa’s ticket sales and prices are around league average; there’s a new television deal in place that lasts more than a decade; they’ve just submitted a bid to build a new arena downtown. I don’t think anyone but Simpson is thinking about relocation, let alone pointing to it as a reason why Sens fans don’t complain more.

The more obvious reason for that, I think, is that the team actually isn’t that bad. Or I guess Simpson could spend more time on Twitter before he says Sens fans don’t complain.

That he would be forced to sell the club is a consummation for which a growing number of sophisticated and dedicated Sens fans devoutly wish.

How sophisticated is a Sens fan if they cling to the idea that a person who owns a commodity, pays his employees, and spends within the limits set by the league, would be “forced” to sell his club? This is one of the most ridiculous, patently absurd declarations in the article, and setting up a binary where if you don’t believe in it, it means you’re “unsophisticated” is just wrong. In reality, claiming that an owner should be forced to sell because you don’t like him is pretty unsophisticated.

Update: realizing after the fact that Simpson is saying it’s Melnyk’s creditors who would force him to sell, though after what we’ve seen in Arizona, Florida, Nashville and elsewhere, I don’t think that’s any more likely. The league would extend emergency funding so he could make payments long before he’d have to
resort to a $400MM sale to meet his loan obligations.

In fairness, the slide began almost imperceptibly under the previous general manager, John Muckler: two straight draft years without an NHL player, the Dany Heatley for Marian Hossa trade, poor moves at the trading deadline. The slide has continued since.

Was the Heatley for Hossa trade part of a slide? I recall Heatley forming 1/3 of the most productive line in hockey when he was here and scoring back-to-back 50 goal seasons. Wasn’t he also part of the Cup Final year? Bizarre logic.

The Senators are privately owned, so no one knows how much revenue the club produces goes into debt payment. What is known is that when Melnyk bought the franchise, which was bankrupt in 2005, he did so with plenty of debt. It is not known what Melnyk’s two divorces did to his wealth.

This is true. What the article fails to look at – and which I haven’t seen many articles look at – is that the prevailing business model of sports franchises everywhere, in every sport, is to finance the purchase and operational expenses with debt and hold on for dear life while the underlying value of the franchise increases. Then you sell for a profit.

The Sens have increased in value fourfold since Melnyk took over. That his personal fortune has diminished is unfortunate for Sens fans, but is a byproduct of a league who relies on billionaires with designs on glory, whose fortunes are subject to variances in their markets, rather than on more stable conglomerates or networks of buyers. The NHL should be doing more to stabilize the market than vet the next wacky telecom personality riding high on a wave of success. Today’s billionaire is tomorrow’s millionaire, and Melnyk isn’t anything special in that regard. He’s a byproduct of the system, not the problem.

Rather than comparisons with Toronto or Edmonton, Sens fans should check out how the Montreal Canadiens have soared under owner Geoff Molson and general manager Marc Bergevin. Or the Winnipeg Jets, a team in a smaller market than Ottawa, that is going to qualify for the playoffs and has a stacked farm system.

This is hilarious. Montreal has had success of late, but only after years and years of mediocrity, and only because of all-star goaltending and a Norris winning defenceman. Sound familiar? Ottawa also beat Montreal soundly in the playoffs not too long ago.

Winnipeg is about to make the playoffs for the first time in their modern history, and Simpson is actually pointing to them as an example of what Ottawa should do? How does he presume that Winnipeg got their stacked farm system, anyway?

The Senators are lumbered with bad contracts to underperforming players. There are not as many horrible contracts as in Toronto, but for a low-cap team, a bevy of bad contracts eats up desperately needed money.

As in, a three-year, $7.9-million contract for Colin Greening, who is now in Binghamton, never to return. As in, a two-year, $6-million contract for declining centre-iceman David Legwand, signed as a free agent. As in, a $4-million-a-year, three-year deal for Milan Michalek (11 goals in 51 games). A slightly more lucrative and longer deal for Clarke MacArthur (one goal in 2015).

I don’t disagree that there are some stinker contracts in there, but I thought the premise of the article was that Ottawa needs to spend. Now it’s that Ottawa spends frivolously.

If the point of this article is that Ottawa should spend a lot of money, but only on good contracts, then it’s not only obvious and condescending, it’s insipid. The challenge, Jeff, is how you do that. It’s not like Ottawa can just go out and sign all of the best UFAs tomorrow because 1) there aren’t any good UFAs available, and 2) Ottawa is not as attractive a destination as New York City.

What they have to do is take longshots on players who might provide value on their contracts down the line. Sometimes it works, as it has with Turris. Sometimes it doesn’t, like with Greening.

Bobby Ryan, a joyous personality and a talented player, has signed an eyebrow-raising contract starting next year: an average $7.25-million, not commensurate with someone with 14 goals this year and on target for maybe 20 or 22.

So now we’re rating Bobby Ryan, on pace for some of the highest point totals of his career, solely on goals?

The slide – remember the Senators went to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007 and remained strong for several years thereafter – has featured bad trades, the worst being goalie Ben Bishop to Tampa for Cory Conacher.

They remained strong for several years thereafter? I thought they were consistently mediocre, according to this article. They were swept in the first round the year after the finals and missed the year after, all while spending to the cap.

Yeah, the trade of Bishop for Conacher was bad. How about the Turris trade? Or the Ryan trade? Or the Anderson trade?

By contrast, the trade that brought Kyle Turris from Phoenix was a steal for Ottawa, although this season with Jason Spezza gone has revealed that Turris is a second-line centre, not a No. 1.

Oh, there it is. A backhanded mention that Turris isn’t a #1 center without Spezza, ignoring that Turris played most of a season without Spezza already and was fine.

The Senators are among the league’s youngest teams. Perhaps that explains the team’s inconsistency, as in a 6-3 loss this week at home to a bad Carolina team; a 4-2 triumph over first-place Montreal. The franchise hopes that many of young players are still adjusting to the demands of the NHL and, with time and more experience they will help the Senators improve. The Senators will have a high pick this year in a draft with many fine players.

Yes. Finally. This is what’s called “building.”

At some point in the not-too-distant future, the Senators’ front office will look somewhat different. Whether with the budget constraints as they are, new personnel could reverse the slow slide remains to be seen.

And there’s the whole rotten thing in a nutshell: criticism and finger-wagging without a single solution beyond the following embarrassingly obvious ones:

  1. Spend more money! Even if you don’t have it! But only on players who deserve it!
  2. Only make good trades! Never make bad ones!
  3. Don’t sign anyone to a bad contract! It helps if you know how they’re going to perform into the future, so you should know that! It’s apparently easy!
  4. Win more games, but at the same time, draft good talent! I’m ignoring that your draft record is actually pretty damned good!
  5. If you can’t do any of those things, force the owner to sell the team, something which can’t actually be done and which, in a league which wants to remain business friendly, would never happen!

What I would have liked to see from an analyst of Simpson’s stature is an attempt to solve to irreconcilability at the center of the NHL business model. If an owner doesn’t have money to spend to the cap, but has enough to keep it running, and so an interest in continuing to wait until his investment accrues more value before he sells, and you’re already in a league with revenue sharing, a cap, escrow, and more, than what, exactly, can be done?

It’s totally infuriating to see someone so respected dip his toe into the hockey pond with such an amateur, illiterate analysis. More infuriating still to see some Sens fans jump all over this article as truth.

This is pandering garbage and dead content designed to stoke the dissatisfaction of readers without much to look forward to for the rest of this season. It should be ignored with extreme prejudice.

Robin Lehner is getting traded, isn’t he…

So, as we all know, this happened.

Not the craziest thing in the world. Not even the craziest thing Lehner’s ever done.

Let’s be clear about one thing first: I don’t care that Lehner threw / broke his stick. As James, Steven and I have covered on our Scotchcast more times than we remember because we drink when we’re recording those things: goalies are always a little bit crazy, and the best goalies are also kinda pricks. For years Lehner has been our nutso-goalie ace-in-the-hole.

But we can agree it’s a tiny bit concerning when your goalie melts down after losing a totally meaningless game in February, right? Especially when management has a Pros and Cons list on Lehner on which they’ve written “might be crazy” under the Cons column.

This is the first time Lehner is without training wheels. He was always insulated in the past, either relegated to backup duty or even playing second fiddle to Ben Bishop (who is no longer in the NHL, I believe). This season, Anderson’s ridiculous play has nailed his ass to the bench again.

Now he’s the team’s starter. His backup is Andrew friggin’ Hammond. Management has been agonizingly patient with Lehner’s development, but now they have no choice and nothing left to lose. It’s the Lehner show, at long last.

Even better, when Anderson got hurt the team was already like 10 points out of a playoff spot. There’s absolutely zero pressure to get this team into the playoffs. All Lehner needed to do was acknowledge that he wasn’t playing that well, come to the rink ready to work, and learn from every mistake. Whatever his performance was like, this was his chance to prove to everyone that the biggest hole in his game — his ability to get through the day without eating another human being alive — was something he’d thought long and hard about.

And I have to say, it’s looking a wee bit like management’s not-so-secret fear that he couldn’t handle the pressure is looking not entirely unreasonable. If this is how he reacts after giving up a 4th goal when the team is already well on its way to a loss, in mid-February, with the playoffs long out of sight, then how does this person react in game 7 of a Conference Final? (I mean theoretically. I don’t actually remember what a Conference Final looks like.)

I also can’t help but think of Ray Emery. Ah, Ray. The only goalie to backstop a team that was starting to get a reputation as a goalie graveyard to the apex of its modern era. Young. Talented. Room to grow. Oodles of swagger. The playoff resume to show for it. Signed to a reasonable deal. Then bought out because of attitude problems and off-ice issues.

I can’t help but feel like Ottawa is still a bit sensitive about their goalies, and with Lehner still having all kinds of trade value, I’m starting to think that this is his audition. If he doesn’t win some games and show some poise while doing it, I can see Lehner in another uniform. I’m not saying it’s a good idea. I’m just saying that for a team obsessed with having the “right” people, “good” people, Lehner’s quirkiness could get blown out of proportion right quick.

Could it be possible that he’s traded by the deadline? I hope he isn’t traded at all, but if he is, let me just throw this out there: if you’re a team in a transition year — not truly bad, definitely not good — and the draft is particularly deep, and you’re already 6th last in the league, and there’s no way you’re clawing your way back into it, and you’ve already fired your coach…is playing Andrew Hammond for a few games the worst strategy in the world?

Sens go full Kijiji: E’rthing 2nd round pick OBO

According to Craig Custance, whose name still sounds like it belongs to a Dickensian brigadier general:

Sounds good to me! Sens currently sit 125 points out of the second wild card spot. Which seems like when you go a-sellin’.

I’m not one of these “Blow the team up! Blow the team up!” people. (You know what? Strap a bomb to yourself and blow yourself up.) The team ain’t all bad. They’re competitive most nights. They’ve got room to grow. But I’m excited that a lost season gives management the cover to make some changes: sell off popular vets, correct mistakes, and head into the strongest draft in years with a few extra lira in their pocket.

Who do I most want to see traded, and for what, you didn’t just ask? Here’s some words about it.

BUT WHO? (scream the fans)…AND FOR WHAAAAAAAT?? (going hoarse)

Chris Neil – for a 3rd round pick

Well shyeah. He’s not very good at hockey. He plays on the fourth line. He doesn’t score, he doesn’t drive possession, he makes everyone around him worse, and he doesn’t even fight that much anymore, if that’s your thing. Whatever it is you think Chris Neil brings to the team, I’d trade it for a draft pick.

So here’s what I propose: trade him for a draft pick. We already have Zack Smith. (…wait, do we? Is he alive?) And character pluggers are not as expensive as Neil. Way back in the day we traded Jarkko Ruutu for like a 6th. Getting anything higher than a 4th would be a coup for Neil.

Chris Phillips – for a 2nd round pick or prospect

I know, I know: this will never happen. But Phillips has found himself slipping down the depth chart and hasn’t been a positive possession player in a couple of years. He’s not very expensive, provides more of that magical veteran juice that playoff teams seem to want to load up on for playoff runs, and is apparently supposed to be a shutdown defender. If Ray Shero gave up two 2nd round picks for Douglas Murray, we can get one for Phillips.

Zack Smith – for a 2nd round pick

He’s probably hurt, which makes this unfeasible. But if he’s tradeable, Ottawa has depth down the middle and plenty of third liners on the farm team. And he’s not that far removed from seasons of 14 and 13 goals. This seems to me like the prototypical Chris Kelly trade. Solid two-way guy. Can chip in with timely goals. Punches stuff.

Milan Michalek – for a reclamation player or prospect

Milo’s been playing better lately, but he’s still way off of what the team must have hoped his pace would be. Without Spezza, he’s just another solid two-way player; he doesn’t have the kind of scoring jam they need out of him.

I hate to say that this was probably predictable, but you know what? We have WOWY stats and this was probably predictable. Murray still extended him. At this point, I’d take another team’s underachiever and see what the change of scenery does for him, though picks and prospects is probably preferable.

David Legwand – 2nd or 3rd round pick or prospect

See Phillips, Chris. Veteran player. Doesn’t actual produce offense anymore, but hey, you can trust him to make the “smart play,” even if he does get skated around by Jonathan Huberdeau so easily that he may as well be a tree. He’s got a year left on his deal, too. On a stacked team, you could see him anchoring a shut down line and providing good value for that later pick.

Jared Cowen – a good prospect / another player of the same age and ceiling

You wonder if Cowen could actually be the centrepiece of a larger trade package. After all, people are still talking about Tyler Myers as if he hasn’t been terrible for years now and isn’t on an expensive contract. But we’ve written thousands of words already about the team rewarding him for potential, and he hasn’t turned into that ideal top line pairing partner for Karlsson (even though they played him as one forever). I’m ready to cut bait.

Alex Chiasson – as part of a larger package for a big fish

Hold on, hear me out. I like Chiasson, even if the stats seem to imply that he drags his teammates down, but he’s young. He started well this season, just as he did last season, which would imply that as he matures he’ll be able to maintain production longer…

…or not. Maybe he’s just another third liner on a team of third liners who puts up a few lucky points early on because he keeps getting played on the top line. I’m just saying that if a good player becomes available and we need to include some promising young players in the package going back the other way, Chiasson’s still got some of that allure. He’s tall!

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Ottawa already has a high 1st round draft pick that only seems to be getting higher by the day. They have their own high 2nd round pick, plus Dallas’ from the Spezza trade. You add another couple of picks at the deadline, and Ottawa has some serious ammunition to trade up at the draft. They’re not looking for wide-net prospectin’ at this point. They need to combine some assets to draft an impact player who will help them in the next couple of seasons. This is one way to do it.