Roundtable of Death: Robby Bryan Edition

roundtable

The Question: HEY – what you think of Bobby Ryan’s first season as an Ottawa Senator? Is he worth the dubloons?

Varada

I think it’s tempting to look at Bobby Ryan as a small disappointment, but probably only in the somewhat arbitrary terms we’ve put forward all season: he’s supposed to be a 30 goal scorer, and he’s probably not going to score 30 goals this year. Since he’s been described that way over and over, to score 30 goals is, at this point, a huge part of his identity. This is of course totally ridiculous.

He’s third on the team in points, with a +10 rating as of this writing, behind only Karlsson and Spezza. He has a positive Corsi For, and hasn’t been too sheltered, starting about the same percentage of his zone starts in the defensive and neutral zones as he does in the offensive zone. He doesn’t face the easiest competition either; MacLean seems to be a fan of rolling his lines.

All of this makes him an effective top six forward, and a very good one in the context of this (not very good) team. So, yeah: he’s been fine. Whether or not he was worth giving up two potential regular NHLers and what’s looking more and more like a lottery pick is another thing entirely, but I think, based on Ottawa’s season last year, and the weak draft, you have to think it was a risk worth taking.

Of course, it’s all completely relative to his salary, which, at a $5.1MM cap hit, makes him a deal. You could argue that he’s not providing as much value for his cap hit as his comparables. There are some pretty amazing players in that bracket – Phil Kessel, Patrice Bergeron, Jamie Benn, Evander Kane, Jeff Carter – but also some stinkers – Martin Havlat, Stephen Weiss, and David Clarkson. Also, the only way those other players have cap hits so manageable is that many of them are signed to gigantic, era-spanning deals.

The point being that if Ottawa can convince a still-young Bobby Ryan to stay in town for at or around his current cap hit, and knowing that his ceiling is probably higher than it was this season, he’ll be well worth the dough. But if he’s looking to make north of, I don’t know…$7MM on a long term deal? Then it may not be wise to commit so much to him.

James

Yeah, I for one have been quite pleased with Bobby Ryan. It would be a stretch, in my opinion, to say that he came here and didn’t do what he was supposed to. Any disappointment in him is merely attached to the disappointment surrounding the entire team this year. They’re better than they played and we all know it and that’s why we’re all so depressed about it.

Ryan may fall a bit short of the 30 goal standard that was placed on him the second he was traded here (albeit it’s a pretty fair standard considering he’s still in his prime and given the number of times he’s reached 30) but I don’t see that sub-30 goal total as his “new normal.” It’s just like how I don’t think that because Ottawa wont make the playoffs this year that they’re going to miss the post-season routinely now. Weird year, weird year.

Side note: Funny how some things can change in a heartbeat in the NHL. Seems totally normal that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche sit comfortably high up in their respective conferences despite the Bolts finishing 3rd last and the Avs 2nd last in the entire league less than a calendar year ago. Short season? Nah, chalk it up to the Avs rebuild model of getting a number 1 pick, adding him to the team right away and putting a successful minor league coach at the helm (WORKED FOR EDMONTON EVERY YEAR!!!) or the Tampa model of trading a standout rookie forward for what was essentially a 3rd string goalie at the time, losing Stamkos to injury most of the year and trading away their captain Marty St. Louis. You know, “hockey moves” (See also: Varada’s Be a GM Mode: Tipz n’ Trixx article).
What was I talking about again? Right, your recent divorce…I mean Bobby Ryan’s recent engagement, I mean just Bobby Ryan sports stuff. Did he surpass expectations? No, but on the up side he’s more or less met them in my eyes. I would say Clarke MacArthur would get my surpassed expectations award and Cody Ceci a very unexpected surprise for the year. Bobby? Well, he was what I hoped he would be: A smart top line winger with a dangerous shot. Was he incredibly consistent? No, but again, I don’t think many players on the team can say that. Here’s an example of why I find it a bit hard to have a go at Ryan’s goal today: A couple of months ago he was on pace to score a career high in goals. Also of note, Craig Anderson was the best goalie in the league last year and this year has had trouble not letting in TWO fucking goals on the first ten shots.
Hey James?
Yea-huh?
Can you get to the goddamn point, please?
OH, sure! 
I think Bryan Murray traded a ton for a top line player and got one. His first year here was a really messy one for the team, unfortunately. The Senators, as a whole, blew a ton of opportunities to advance in the standings. Individually it’s fair to say he went for quite a cold stretch, he was also, in my view, misused by the coach at times. I think that has a lot to do with trying to ignite a losing team but I’m a bit concerned that there’s something about Ryan’s game that drives coaches bananas. In added twist, it’s also being hinted at that he’s been playing hurt. I think that taking off two weeks for the Olympics and still having to miss out on practice after speaks for itself.
I am very much looking forward to seeing how next year goes (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADOI). I don’t think we really saw the Ottawa Senators this year and I don’t think we fully saw Bobby Ryan this year either. A little winning really makes a lot of shortcomings disappear. I don’t remember anyone complaining about how Dany Heatley was the slowest skater on the team when he was rolling or how Chris Neil takes a lot of bad penalties back when the team was winning a lot of games (though social media was not as much of a thing way back in the 1700′s). Tough season to out and out judge but if I had to, I’d say he was fine. Scored a lot of goals, found a line he gelled with, seems like a great teammate.
Would I re-sign him? In a heartbeat. We should let a 30 goal man walk after giving up so much for him? Not usually a benchmark for good contracts but look at Toronto: gave up just an absolute ton for Phil Kessel, it didn’t work out right away. Was I the only one wringing my hands thinking, “Thanks for giving powerful division rival Boston 2nd overall there, Burkie” but to their credit they saw what they had in Kessel and locked him up – for a lot of money. As a Sens fan I really wish they didn’t. Similarly, I hope Ottawa sees what they have in Ryan.
As for how much he wants, well that’s always tough. I’m just a fan *audible gasp* and as a fan I’m thinking, we’re basically a cap floor team; pay the good players. Stop giving the fucking Colin Greenings and Chris Neils multi-year, multi-million dollar deals to be 4th liners. [Editor's note: at this point Varada stood up and started banging on the table.] I love a good Turris dream contract and all but I appreciate that they are rare. I’m not concerned about Bobby Ryan becoming a Stephen Weiss or David Clarkson so I say pay him like Jamie Benn or Jeff Carter. If he wants to stay pay him what he should get within the reason you’d expect from a good general manager. If he can’t wait to jump ship after one down year (downISH too, its not like they’re in last place! The team was seriously like two small winning streaks away from being totally in the mix) then I don’t know: two trade demands in a few years? Guy’s kind of a talented wuss then. I would personally really love to see a fresh start with a top six of:
MacArthur – Turris – Ryan
<exciting new toy or Hoffman> – Spezza – Hemsky

Senators/Lightning Game Recap in Drawing Form

First Period:

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Second Period:

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Third Period:

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Bonus:

ImageLet’s get serious here, folks. It sucks a lot when your favourite team is doing badly but a pessimistic, antagonistic community just makes it hard for all of us to stay positive. Venting is normal (and I would never feelings police anyone) but chirping at players isn’t helping morale, and in-fighting sucksssssssss. I guess what I’m saying is “Stay golden, Ponyboy(s)”

 

The Sens are exactly as good as we thought they’d be

Lively discussion on Twitter tonight about whether or not this is the lowest point in the Senators’ history since the bankruptcy. Or was it the year after the Finals appearance? Or was it the Heatley debacle? Or was it finishing 5th last in the league? All I could think was…”are you kidding me?”

The Sens are exactly as good as thought they’d be. Which is to say that nobody thought they were runaway contenders, and nobody thought they’d be awful. Everyone, outside of a few people referencing homemade metrics or taking the outside bet, thought they’d be a bubble team who might make some noise in the playoffs if they made the cut.

Well, we were right: they’re a bubble team. Last year they were a few points in, this year a few points out. They have 13 OT or shootout losses. If they were a little bit better in the shootout (which is to say not dreadful), or if a few of those shots on net in OT were an inch or two to the right or left, we’re not even having this conversation. It really is a game of inches. That I understand. What I struggle with is the tendency of those who spend time analyzing the team to draw drastic conclusions.

I’m all for looking at underlying problems, and the Sens have them in spades. They haven’t been a good possession team, a consistent team, a defensively responsible team, and the coaching is just getting weirder by the game. We don’t need to rehash all of that here. But it’s time to acknowledge that the standard deviation for our predictions is massive–what, about 12 points in the standings?–and the Sens are well within it. What has changed in the last two or three games that we didn’t already know in December or January? Ottawa hasn’t been in a playoff position in months. They’re a bubble team, through and through. We probably could have guessed this on day one when we looked at their salary structure. And, actually, looking back at those posts, we did guess that.

If you pick the Sens to be in the playoffs by about six points, you’ve tacitly accepted that they might be out of them by six. That doesn’t mean the system is broken.

All this to say: they’re exactly where we thought they’d be. So loosen up, fans. This isn’t “the worst season in fan memory.” This is just another season in the long and storied history of a mid-market team trying to catch lightning in a bottle.

NHL 14 Review, Part 2: Live the Life Mode

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By SuperDigestive (AKA Steven) – @superdigestive

You may recall back when NHL 2014 came out we ran the first of a promised three-part review of the game. You can find that first part here. Here is the second part, which concentrates on the “Live the Life” mode, formerly “Be a Pro.” James may someday review the NHL 2004 remake, as promised, or at least spoil the plot to Super Mario 2, which no one has ever finished (that friend that said that they did is a LIAR).

NHL 14 Review, Part 2: Live the Life Mode

First Impressions:

Well déjà vu actually… you turn this thing on and (Varada won’t know this because he’s wise enough to only throw $70 at this thing every other year) it’s the same design as last year’s menu big dumb TV that loops advertisements for the game itself, as if you haven’t already bought the thing.  Not exactly the greatest endorsement for the progressive development of NHL 14.

Anyways, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, Live the Life mode for those who don’t know, this mode used to be called Be a Pro mode, and the basic objective is to become a player in the NHL. And you know, be good at it.

The Draft:

Probably the most life-like element of this game. Why? There’s 806 players that have played this season in the NHL zero of them dreamt of being drafted by Florida. Now I’m not a gamblin’ man, but a 3.3% (probably even less considering draft order and such) of being draft by your team-of-choice is not exactly as sure-fire as “allows bet on black”, which wins all the time (48.648648648% of the time). So, if you don’t want to explore the studio space while wearing one of those Buffalo Sabres’ third jerseys, (On Sale Now!) I suggest picking your team from the get-go.

My experience: I got drafted number two overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs, in which I promptly used the now “enlightened media outlet” in LTL mode by selecting the option memory now has named  “I know that I should be happy, but despite their playoff potential, I am deeply disillusioned by the idea of playing for the team that has once or twice stabbed my team in the heart” {paraphrased, but you’ll know the choice should you find yourself in the same rock and hard video game diorama scenario} and they traded me to Vancouver where I was automatically signed to a three-year deal. (Because that’s how hockey works?) What would Eric Lindros do?

Money Matters:

The issue I have with these single-perspective sports games is that money doesn’t matter in the slightest.  You could pay me a dollar or millions, there’s no difference.  You can’t buy anything.  And yet, money compared to the performance of a player is the grand narrative of the NHL.

In past iterations of this game your rookie season could include such honors as the Maurice Richard (because of your 120 points), Calder Memorial, Conn Smythe, the Stanley Cup, and when it comes to contract renewal, Ottawa and a cap shallow team such as the Rangers are the only two teams offering you contracts that resemble a three-year 1.15 million per year.  If the underwhelming visual development of the game’s menus and aesthetic is any indicator, there’s no sign of that changing in this life-like addition of the NHL.  Think for a moment about how much more interesting it would be if they added in a dynamic contract dialog.  For instance:

Congratulations on an incredible year. There is no debate that you were a key component to our success and we, as an organization would like you to continue your future successes in an Ottawa Senators jersey.  We know that if we do not engage in these talks respectfully, that a number of teams will be more than willing to pay market value for your talents.  There are however, a number of complications regarding the team’s finances.

Players without a contract:

Jason Spezza

Robin Lehner

Cap Space Available:

13.85 million

Options:

  1. Your contract takes priority.  Get market value, but you are now a franchise player and we will demand your commitment in years in exchange for our commitment in dollars.  We will deal with other contracts with what cap space we       have left.
  2.  We recognize your future value to this team, but your youth and inexperience, is the reason we must focus on resigning Jason Spezza.  Hopefully he will give us a “home town discount” so that we can offer a competitive bridge contract.  Your sacrifice will not go unnoticed.
  3. Something about signing youth above experience and secure you and Lehner
  4. Advise agent to prepare for free agency

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The Media is the Message:

The additional factor of having your pro navigate the media in the form of pre and post game interviews and the occasional role playing game type scenario where your team want to celebrate a win, but you are under a strict curfew, is really what differentiates 2013’s Be A Pro mode from 2014’s Live the Life mode .  Whatever is a professional hockey player to do?  It’s been my experience that whenever a video game franchise tacks-on one of these RPG type elements, the results are of two possibilities. A)  Insanely unrealistic (you’re out to dinner and a young boy politely asks for your autograph.  You select yes. Result: you break your wrist in the process and will miss the playoffs?) B) So easy that it’s not worth adding to the game. (You won tonight – Why?  You select: It’s a team game and a team effort, so it’s a team win. Keyword: Team.  Result: Your team likes you 2% more) This game leans towards outcome B.

Now, I haven’t played enough to see any transparent benefits/drawbacks of your fans, teammates, management, family either support or villainizing your media presence, but spoiler alert: getting 100% approval across the board, doesn’t mean you won’t be sent down to the minors for a spell to make room for Vinny Propsal (trade robot does it again).  There is an obvious flaw with the role of the media in this game. Sports media exists to do two things; create a story that manufactures debate by over-reacting to simple comments or action.  Imagine if EA developed the media aspects of the game according to these principles? The game would be incredible. Chris Neil refuses to pass to you because you didn’t see the validity of his fight when want to team really needed was a goal.

There are the same irritating contributions for the in-game commentating where the announcer doesn’t know which team is on the power-play or which team scored to tie the game, but will point out the fact that your player is one hat-trick away from tying Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux’s record for most hat-tricks scored in a season.

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This Hockey Game is Starting to Look Like Fight Night Round 4:

I’ve got to pause for a second to talk about the new advanced fighting in the game.  Yeah, it’s more realistic, but it quickly becomes the most irritating feature when your line-mate (in most cases Cory Conacher R.I.Buffalo) decides to defend your team’s honor and you’ve got to sit there and watch that shit for like minutes.  I’ve already got to play 82 games a season in real time at least let me fight someone else simultaneously so that I can gain the simulation time back in penalty minutes.  Couldn’t they have stuck to developing the advanced skating physics that they started in NHL 13? I know people criticized the change in skating for being harder in every aspect of the game, but hockey is difficult because you wear tiny swords under your shoes and go faster than any other televised sport (sorry Jai alai) and maybe the best thing to is celebrate and develop the aspect of the sports video game that brings it closer to the real experience than taking the easy way out and added an ultimately drop-in-the-ocean element of the game (“This year sticks break!” Varada 10 years ago)

Where’s My J.P. Barry:

I’m not going to labor over this issue for long.  In fact, the idea of a graphic of a sweaty, greed-driven shaved ape whispering in my ear every time it’s time to negotiate a contract does not fill my imagination with joy and I’ve already submitted my idea on how to improve the weight of your player’s contract, but the fact that you have to sign on the first day of negotiations without seeing who else is going to be signed is nuts.  Let’s introduce a little hold out scenario just so you’re not forced to sign early and the next move is for the Senators to trade their entire core group of players to the Winnipeg Jets for tickets to the Snow Birds air show.

Money Ball:

If you, like me, feel cheated by the total lack of positive development in this franchise, then let’s talk value.  The current trade-in value of this game is $30 (This paragraph was written a while ago, but WTYKY consumer tip of the day: The value of this game will remain high until the final round of the playoffs, jump ship before then and you won’t have some oily goon offer you 75 cents for a trade in).  Here’s an idea on how to spend it.  If you’re going to miss playing virtual hockey do not despair.  You can get NHL13 used for $14.99.  It’s the exact same playing experience with the same level of frustration.  You don’t have to say it, I know what you’re thinking.  What about the improved fighting element of the game?  Well, with your remaining fifteen clams, you can buy a used copy of possibly the best fighting game ever made.  DEF JAM ICON.  You get to beat the shit out of Ludacris and Method Man is your best friend.  Suggested fighting style: Street-Kwon-Do.

What EA can learn from EA:

When this game was initially released Varada and I were talking about our disappointment in the lack of substantial development in the game and how globally hockey is a small market sport in comparison to say soccer (fütboll), so it goes without saying that the hockey wing of EA sports is not pushing the most units worldwide, which means less money for development.  On top of that, THERE IS NO COMPETITION in the hockey game market. EA sports could literally update the roster from year to year, introduce the latest in stick graphics and would still be light years better than the next closest rival, which I suppose would be NHL2K but a new version of that hasn’t seen the light of day in my neighborhood since 2009.

As it happens, the solution to the majority of concerns that I and Varada have raised have already been developed years ago in franchises like FIFA, which I am a huge fan of.

Game Face in Be A Pro:  For those who do not know.  Game Face is a feature that has been available in every other EA sports platform since at least 2011 (even football. Where you can barely see a face behind those face cage things on their helmets) where user log into EA sports online upload a frontal and profile image of your face, place a few nodes and presto! It maps your face.  You then download that face into your Be a Pro mode and your beautiful mug is right there in the game with surprising accuracy.  EA Sports, if you’re listening (I know you are) I dare to find a face in nature that remotely resembles the mutants that you use for preset face options and update your hair options at least once a decade on all your platforms. (See also Erik Karlsson, Patrick Kane, and God Damn David Beckham. Shit changes a bit)

International play (Topical Non?):  Let’s face it; NHL hockey is at a distinct disadvantage in comparison to FIFA soccer.  That being that there is only one prize to win in the NHL and once you win the Ford Windstar for All-Star MVP, the game loses a significant motivating factor to renew the 82 game commitment to a new season.  Even if EA Sports is too cheat to pay the IIHF (which it is and what the fuck are those subway ads for anyway?) at least make up some phony International Mega Bowl to encourage players to qualify and play for their respective countries.  I know that you have the option to play in international competition in Tournament Mode, but let’s take the next step and immerse it into Live the Life mode.

Performance and experience based player development:  There’s no fucking reason why scoring four hundred goals should improve my ability to knock out all bums Muhammad Ali style or every win faceoffs, but in fact this is the way that the game is setup. Individual successes are rewarded with points that therefore can be assigned to strengthen features of the players game.  I can tell you that I’ve never felt the need to use a saucer pass or a one-touch deke, but I can tell you that I am number one in the league in terms of potential ability to do so.  I know what you’re going to say “how could I possibly get good at, let’s say, fighting if you don’t have the skill to do so from the beginning?” Well with experience comes development.  Playing 50, 100 or 1000 games could give a general boost to your overall ability.  The immediate playing benefit would be promoting multi-dimensional facets to game playing, instead of simply scoring 6 goals per game.  There is another option for player development, which brings me to my next wish list item.

Skill based pre-game challenge activities:  Relating directly to the idea that player development should be evolve through achieving certain feats rather than assigning points to a skill set, pre-game challenges can give the player an opportunity to develop and practice skills without in-game consequences.

Internal budget: Varada mentioned this in his previous post that no team is created equal money-wise (paraphrasing) and there is no reason why it should be any different in the video game.  It’s one of the most contributing factors in the success of any sports franchise.  FIFA lesson to learn?  Have a realistic budget based on market size of the team and as the GM’s responsibility, choose how to adequately ice a competitive team, while also using funds to upgrade and develop facilities to promote new revenue (Example: expanding capacity in the arena etc.)

Four minute halves or reduced game schedule: Athletes get paid millions of dollars a year to play 82 real-time 60 minute games a year; I pay EA Sports to have fun.  If you can reduce the period length in GM mode, please let us do so in Live the Life mode.  Maybe the answer is to acknowledge that the NHL season is at least 30 games toooooo long and have mercy on us by allowing a reduced schedule.

Going from a single player career into a GM mode:  It’s been in an option for a while in FIFA, so that when you get bored of playing in the single person perspective, you could smoothly transition into full team control.

Earning captaincy comes with input as to who stays and who goes:  Pretty self-explanatory

Media as a Weapon:  In past releases of the FIFA franchise you could use the media to call out an individual player or team.  The commentators remember players’ former teams and analyze the status of that relationship.  You know media stuff.

Why I keep playing this GD game:

Despite the infinite moaning over inaccurate media presence and still being able to score a 100+ goals in a season on the hardest level, (that’s right. I’m like 12-year-old-playing-video games, good) this game mode totally satisfies the part of my brain where my inner child meets my inner plebe at dawn and they tell each other a fart joke. I’ve heard goings on about why would you want to be only one player, basically watching the game half the time? Well, the answer is simple. The one player is you or your grotesque faced alter ego, but this mode allows you, in its more simplistic dimension, to be the hero or feed the puck constantly to a guy like Mika Zibanajad so he gets points and won’t be traded because you know the game doesn’t love him like you love him.  You can lay out Matt Cooke over and over again should you choose. (Wink)  Like I said, this is emotional. You gain a sense of agency while being a part of a universe that will not make sense on its best day.

Speaker’s Corner:

Since there are so many possible outcomes in a user’s single or multiple season experience, here’s your chance to vent, villainize or another ‘v’ word that means praise.  I’m especially interested in users playing in different roles or positions. Maybe I’ve been playing in the wrong position all this time.  Maybe being a stay-at-home defenseman is the thinking person’s experience for Live the Life mode.  If you were the brave soul who dared to play an entire season as a goalie, please chime in below.  Do so and I will award you with a picture of a beer.  Believe it or not, I think EA actually reads this stuff, so include development ideas and hopefully NHL15 will be more than a re-boxed version of NHL14.

The Defensive Dearth and Ottawa’s Future

It probably doesn’t come as any surprise at this point in the season to hear that Ottawa’s biggest weakness is its defence, or lack thereof. 28th in the league in shots allowed per game—only last-place Buffalo and made-a-deal-with-the-devil Toronto are worse. 28th in the league in goals allowed per game—only Edmonton and the Islanders are worse. They have decent, or at least average possession metrics. (Possibly as a result of slowly working Karlsson to death.) But when they’re outshot, they’re outshot badly. And when they get outshot badly, they can’t keep the puck out of their net.

It becomes truly worrisome when one considers there’s really no relief in sight. Ottawa’s best defensive prospect, Cody Ceci, is already up with the club. He’s acclimatized well, though is still a couple of years away from the team knowing what it has on its hands. Even when he maxes it, he’s thought to be more of an offensive defenseman.

Look at this depth chart from Hockey’s Future (number rating is self-explanatory; letter rating is probability of them having success, which I take to mean applicability of their skillset to the NHL game. I don’t really know how it’s determined, though it seems conservative enough):

1. Cody Ceci Pro 7.0 C
2. Mark Borowiecki Pro 6.5 B
3. Fredrik Claesson Pro 6.5 C
4. Troy Rutkowski Pro 6.5 C
5. Mikael Wikstrand Europe 6.5 C
6. Michael Sdao Pro 6.5 D
7. Chris Wideman Pro 6.5 D
8. Ben Blood Pro 6.5 D
9. Tim Boyle NCAA 6.5 D
10. Ben Harpur CHL 6.0 D

 

Troy Rutkowski is our fourth best defensive prospect! Ugh.

Beyond Mark Borowiecki, who’s demonstrated that he can play replacement level minutes, and some promising output from Mikael Wikstrand, there’s nobody that projects as a top four defenceman, and certainly nobody who projects as a top four shutdown defenceman.

The UFA market doesn’t look much better (courtesy of Capgeek):

Player

Pos

Team

Age

Cap Hit

Expiry

Boyle, Dan »

D

SJS

37

$6,666,667

2014 (UFA)

Timonen, Kimmo »

D

PHI

38

$6,000,000

2014 (UFA)

Markov, Andrei »

D

MTL

35

$5,750,000

2014 (UFA)

Pitkanen, Joni »

D

CAR

30

$4,500,000

2014 (UFA)

Zidlicky, Marek »

D

NJD

37

$4,000,000

2014 (UFA)

Meszaros, Andrej »

D

BOS

28

$4,000,000

2014 (UFA)

Quincey, Kyle »

D

DET

28

$3,775,000

2014 (UFA)

Salo, Sami »

D

TBL

39

$3,750,000

2014 (UFA)

Orpik, Brooks »

D

PIT

33

$3,750,000

2014 (UFA)

Mitchell, Willie »

D

LAK

36

$3,500,000

2014 (UFA)

Schultz, Nick »

D

CLB

31

$3,500,000

2014 (UFA)

 

Yeah, I stopped at Nick Schultz. I considered stopping further down the list at Douglas Murray, but I think you get the point. Even if there was anyone desirable on that list, Ottawa would be easily outbid by Philadelphia, who are basically a bunch of nihilists bent on crashing the market system at this point.

Chris Phillips—he of the fresh new contract—is clearly in decline. Marc Methot is only 28, but hasn’t had a great season, and could be on the verge of his own decline. Wiercioch doesn’t seem to have earned the trust of his coach, spending every other game in the press box, even if he earned a contract at $2MM per from Bryan Murray. And to make matters worse, without a first round pick this year, Ottawa misses out on the chance to draft a defenceman in the top ten. (Assuming they continue to perform at their current output.)

Bryan Murray has put all of his chips on Jared Cowen developing into a top four defenceman. It may have been a reasonable enough bet; drafted top ten, big guy, you know the drill. And it’s the sort of gamble small market teams have to make to get players at good value—trust your projections, get them under contract, and pray. But if Cowen doesn’t round into form, and Ceci takes a step back, Murray is going to need to find a solution elsewhere.

After all: we only have five seasons left of Karlsson’s prime after this year. I suppose it could be worse. Imagine if Karlsson had turned out to be an Anton Babchuk-like offensive specialist instead of the tiny beast we know and love. Where would Ottawa be in the standings today?

So where does that leave Ottawa? It does have a few decent if not outstanding NHL-caliber forwards it can dangle as trade bait, including captain Jason Spezza. Its prospects on the front end are also respectable, with players like Mark Stone, Matt Puempel, and Mike Hoffman at what might be the peak of his trade value.

Who could Ottawa target? There are a number of small fish like Dimitri Kulikov, or pending free agent Tom Gilbert, but this is depth at best. Christian Ehrhoff’s name has been bandied about, though the 175 years left remaining on his contract may be an issue. We can fantasize about getting Shea Weber from the offensively starved Nashville Predators for Jason Spezza, but I don’t see two captains with no trade clauses waiving to swap mid-level teams and go play in a system that doesn’t suit either of their skillsets. You might see a transaction on the Foligno-for-Methot level, but the truth is that there just aren’t many options out there for a team without blue chippers, without their first round pick, without money, and without being an appealing contender in an appealing market.

…which is to say that, in the short term, it’s Cowen or bust. Let’s hope that in the next couple of drafts Murray concentrates on the blueline.