The Jail Phone: Real Talk About a Real G(M)

jail

Stringer: More like P.R. Dorion, feel me?                                    Avon: Not on the phone.

In which James and Luke burn all the topics they could have talked about individually from here to training camp. Hi, it’s still August. 

James:
Hi how’s your Sex Life? Oh. Let’s change the subject.
Since taking over as El Generalissimo just 5 months ago, Pierre Dorion has been a very busy human person. He did all of his things that he had on his To Do list and then some.  RELATABLE. Son really hit the ground running on an intimidating first few months on the job. Now that Pierre has done his part to set the table well in advance of training camp let us now do our job* and assholishly pick apart the major moves he’s made.

*LOLz

Clearing the decks of entire coaching staff, replacing them with The Guy Boucher Singers:

James:
And I mean the ENTIRE staff, my G. Even Binghamton’s Food and Beverage Coordinator.
Since Bryan Murray stepped down as coach following the 2007 season to focus on his duties as GM , the on-ice results have been not so premium pour les Senateurs.
The team has seen 5 coaches (6 if you count Murray’s second tour to finish out 2008) and one measly –but glorious AF- playoff round win. For my drachma, the decision on a new coach was the one with he most pressure facing the rookie general manager. Without having coached one game yet, who are we to pass judgement on – just kidding this is the Internet, serve up your scorching ass take on what you think of some of the coaching hires, Luke.

Luke: 
First of all, thank you for you concern regarding all aspects of my health. I appreciate it.

Secondly, let’s talk about the Binghamton Food and Beverage Coordinator for a minute. Have you SEEN this menu? $45 for a basket of fries? $11 (!!!) for a Mike’s Hard Lemonade? Did they start making Mike’s Hard out of unicorn tears? HOW YOU GONNA PUT A 22% SERVICE CHARGE ON A $70 VEGGIE AND DIP PLATTER, MY GUY? That is goddamn extortionate, and I, for one, applaud Dorion for putting an end to this highway robbery. #MakeBingoSkyboxesGreatAgain

Ok, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s move onto the comparatively minor issue of The Entire Coaching Staff. Installing a new coaching staff is a no-brainer for any new GM who is looking to put their stamp (???) on a team. Add in the fact that Ottawa frequently looked like white hot garbage in it’s own zone and the fact Mark Borowiecki Once Played At Forward (A ghost story I will tell to my children), and it had to be done. What was more than a little curious to me was the fact that even goaltending coach Rick Walmsley was relieved of his duties. Ottawa’s goaltending development had frequently been praised by goaltenders other than Robin Lehner, so I wasn’t entirely sure why Dorion wanted to address an area that many considered a strength. On the other hand, Matt O’Connor didn’t exactly destroy the AHL last year, so maybe a new set of eyes and drills was warranted.
I’m glad you wrote me about this because I’ve been thinking a lot about coaching lately. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the effect coaching can have on an individual player. We have more than a handful of examples where a coaching change has brought about noticeable differences in a player’s production and shot differentials. Just look at Sidney Crosby last year or Phil Kessel two years ago. Coaching and systems don’t really get talked about much in the context of player evaluation, but it’s clear there is some effect. This is very exciting to me because I think it’s possible that Guy Boucher is a Super-Genius.
I was in the tank pretty hard for Bruce Boudreau. His regular season success (the phrase “regular season” is contractually obligated to appear next to the word “success” when discussing Boudreau) with multiple teams over multiple seasons was pretty incontrovertible proof that the guy knows what he’s doing. That said, I really gotta give it up to Guy Boucher for nailing his interview and subsequent media appearances. Imagine you call this guy in from Switzerland and he gives you a three hour lecture and powerpoint presentation about your own hockey team. Who isn’t going to be impressed by that?
I also love the fact that Guy Boucher’s coaching philosophy seems to be “play to your strengths”. Steven Stamkos had a 60 goal season once, and Guy Boucher was his coach at the time. Let’s see what Super-Genius Guy Boucher can do with Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman. The powerplay and penalty kill can’t possibly be worse, so they’ll almost certainly be better right? Guy Boucher is gonna take us all the way, James!
My one extremely small, quite tiny concern is that Guy Boucher’s hockey teams seem to win right up until they don’t. Boucher made the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year as Tampa Bay’s head coach, missed the playoffs the next year, and then got fired 2/3rds of the way through the lockout season. In Switzerland, he coached SC Bern to a Swiss Cup in February and got fired in November. That aforementioned Stamkos 60 goal season happened during a year Tampa Bay didn’t even make the playoffs.
In more ways than one, Ottawa can’t afford to Bern (see what I did there?) through another head coach. I hope Boucher’s got the interpersonal skills to adjust to his team’s personality and to keep his approach fresh, and I hope his assistant coaches can compensate for whatever weakness he has in that area. Otherwise it’s likely Ottawa just hired Mike Keenan With Better Hair.

Still, if we’re grading #Process here, I gotta give Pierre Dorion a B+ for this one.

James:
The coaching staff still has a record of 0-0-0 so I give this a cautious A for A-ddressing (barf) the fact that the Sens haven’t had a head coach with NHL experience let alone NHL success in almost 10 years. He also got two coaches with NHL experience AND. I hope they can get along btw. For the hand wringing over losing Rick Wamsley and Luke Richardson, it sucks but goaltending nor the Bingo Sens did particularly well of late. These are Pierre’s people that’s for d_rn sure.
Moving forward…Did not qualify Patrice Wiercioch 

James:
Can someone out there recommend me a good metric for measuring the degree to which a player completely fucking blew a contract year?
Ahh, the offensive defenseman and stats darling who SLIGHTLY underwhelmed in one statstical category: Points. Listen, my frustrations with Wiercioch are well documented. I’ll give it you straight like a pear cider made out of 100% pears: Like Peter Regin before him, you can choose to miss him because he had a couple of deec seasons and one good playoff round or you can just move on.

I am moving on because after his abysmal production relative to his role last season it would have been unacceptable for Dorion to agree his qualifying number. He let him walk and another team gave him the 800K he earned with his five points.

He’s not terrible but if you’re not a particularly tough stay at home defenseman you should probably put up some points. And by put up points I mean more goals than Mark Borowiecki (a total of zero to Boro’s one if you want to be a dick about it, which I do).
Can he bounce back and be DEEC for the Avalanche? Sure. But DEEC, nothing more. It’s okay to let go of DEEC players from time to time. Andre Benoit put up 28 points (better than PW’s career best) with the Avs the year after Ottawa let him go, no one cared. Anyway, in conclusion, after that season, I don’t really see what Wier would have brought to that 3rd pairing that Chris Wideman wont.

Luke: 

How is it August 24 in The Year of Our Lord 2016 and I’m still being forced to have Patrick Wiercioch takes? He had good shot differentials, but somehow was exceedingly average at both individual defense and individual offense creation. (Note in the second link: Wideman is second only to Erik Karlsson on the Sens in terms of his ability to create shots for himself and others.) Ask me what Patrick Wiercioch’s #FancyStats were and I’d tell you they were good. Ask me what he was good at, and I’d be unable to tell you. I’d have loved to keep him on the 3rd pairing, but some birds were not meant to be caged. Ultimately, if you’re not sure what a guy brings to the table, it’s tough to justify keeping him at the table at the cost of Whatever PW’s Qualifying Offer Was That I’ve Forgotten Because I’d Rather Remember Anything Else.

Speaking of which…

Trading Alex Chiasson for a Real Boy. A. REAL. BOY.

James:
Traded him for a real boy, Luke. I’ve heard this hockey jewel that if you’re a middling NHL player and you get traded fairly early in your career you will continue to be traded for the rest of it. I see that future for Chaser. Ideal hockey size, good at deflections, kind of invisible outside of that. Related: Welcome to the Sens family, Tom Pyatt!
Hard to have a problem with Dorion managing to trade a player on an expiring deal he wasn’t going to extend while addressing defensive depth with a player who has actually seen NHL ice and also freeing up roster space for the, at this stage, more promising Lazar. So what I’m saying is, trading Alex Chiasson is the kind of fuck up that will haunt Pierre Dorion for the rest of his career. But in all seriousness, look for Chiasson to score one (or two) of his 7 goals this season on Thursday January 26th when Ottawa hosts the Flames because FMFingL.

Luke: 
Getting anything back for Chiasson goes down as W in my books. For all of Alex Chiasson’s physical tools, I can’t think of a hockey player I’ve watched who did less with more. Maybe this is overly harsh, but Chiasson was an uninspiring beige force in the lineup last year and I look forward to his spot being replaced by someone who is actually going to try to do something with it.

Best of luck something something future endeavours etc., and you’ll see no ill will out of me if he goes on to be a highly productive member of someone else’s hockey team.
James: 

You’re firm but fair. Like a Yung Judge Mills Lane in his prime…of being a Daytime TV show judge.

Now let’s address one of the most controversial moves of the off-season that rocked the hockey world.

Signing Christ Kelly

James:
So, apparently the Sens needed a stabilizing veteran presence on the 4th line. So that, you know, reflects well on Chris Neil (973 GP). I don’t hate this signing. Who hates it? Who could haaaaaaaate it? I’ma cheer LOUDLY when he gets announced at the home opener. I was very sad when he got traded. I confess he was a real favorite of mine back in the day. *Looks wistfully at framed desk photo of JG Pageau* I guess I just have a thing for extremely competent bottom 6 centres. Still, I am a little edgy about my nostalgia and love for Kells obscuring the reality that he is coming back from a devastating broken femur bone (barrrf) injury. Returning at a more advanced age than others who’ve overcome it like Dany Heatley’s Nuermberg Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers teammate AND GOOD, BEAUTIFUL CARP, ONTARIO BOY AND EVERYTHINK LIKE THAT, Kurtis Foster. What if Kelly ain’t Kelly no mores and actually sucks and doesn’t improve the PK and makes that Legwandian heel turn and morphs into the slow old guy that we all blame for our life’s problems via sport? I don’t want to live in a world where I’m pissed at Chris Kelly every other night.

How do I REALLY feel about this Luke? Show me the way to Take Town. I’ll hang up my computer and listen.

Luke:
I guess the scariest thing about the Chris Kelly signing is the fact that it’s only good given assumptions we don’t know are true, assumptions like “Chris Kelly can still be a useful depth forward at age 35”. Hmm…I don’t know about that. Let’s try some positivity. Yes, Kelly suffered a devastating broken femur last year that required a 6-8 month recovery period, but at least he’s coming into camp well-rested? Hmmm…..this isn’t going too well.

Dorion’s made some moves this off-season that were calculated risks, but this feels like a case of playing it too safe. It feels like he just looked at the list of UFAs and said “Oh Chris Kelly, I remember him. Get me that guy’s agent on the phone.” when there were players like Sam Gagner or Jiri Hudler still available. On the other hand, you can’t beat that price point of $900,000 for one year.

I think the risk in this deal comes down to how good Chris Kelly needs to be to keep the bottom 6 average. If he’s frequently scratched, will the bottom 6 be ok, or do the Sens need him to come in and play like he did back when he was still wearing this jersey? I worry it’s the latter, which means there’s a lot riding on the steel plate in that dude’s leg.

Grade: C-. This is the Dorion move I’m least happy with.

James:
Chilling stuff, Jack that was like reading a Goosebumps…I mean…Go Sens Go! Plowing ahead to the next tiny little off season move…
Trading Mickey Banana Jazz and a 2nd for Derick (sic) Brassard
James: 

Oh, we gamblin’ now.

I gotta take my backward Kangol cap off to Dorion for doing all the shit that was required of him while not being boring or complacent about it. This is a move the likes of which we havent seen since Bryan Murray blockbusters such as Rundblad & a second for Turris or Lehner for Buffalo’s first round pick or The People vs. Silfverberg and Noesen plus a first round pick for Bobby Ryan. I digress.

I’ve spent many braincells I could have been killing with alcohol OR WHO KNOWS WHAT SPICE defending Zibanajad, his ceiling and his only 22 years oldness. Now he’s gone for a statistically comparable but older dude AND GOOD, BEAUTIFUL HULL, KWABECK BOY AND EVERYTHINK LIKE THAT Derick Brassard.

Truly our new Team Overlord’s boldest move thus far. It’s definitely a factory-wrapped “you gotta give to get” trade. I hated it at first because I’ve grown quite attached to Ziba over the years. So much development invested plus we had to endure a very, very shitty season in order to pick him at no.6 overall in 2011. The more I think about it though the more I see the strategy. Much like a skilled right hand shot defender, to have a well balanced team you can’t ice a line up without a skilled left handed centre. What’s that? Oh, we did that last year. How did the power play finish? *THINKING EMOJI*
Zibanejad is awesome but the thing I’ve had to keep reminding myself is that we didn’t trade him for Corey Conacher or some shit. Brassard was the Rangers leading scorer last year. Scoring is not even his forte, more of a play maker apparently so…blessed is the play making 27 goal scorer?

I think he’s likely going to be a better fit for the team and Ottawa was never going to get a lefty centre of Brassard’s quality on the free agent market. His contract is also great and not overly long. Added bonus: should the Sens make the playoffs in their GARBAGE division, you have to love Brassards rich creamery post-season numbers.
The fact that the Sens have drafted burly, two way centremen in the first round of the past 3 drafts provides a bit a hint of the next phase to this plan. Still a gamble as all trades are but I get it and I’m frankly lowkey excited about it. If we end up liking him half as much as Rangers fans seem to, it should make it easier to forget about Mika. Oh, speaking of whom, look for Mika Zibanejad to score a natural hat trick in under 2 minutes when Ottawa hosts the New York Rangers on Saturday April 8th on HNIC because FMFingL.

Luke:
Most of the moves Dorion’s made so far had a degree of difficulty of about 0.2. You don’t have to be the sort of next level GM who can see through The Matrix to realize you should get rid of under-performing personnel and re-sign the players who are good. The Zibanejad trade though…the Zibanejad trade took some real GM-ing to pull off. Faced with a looming contract crunch on several RFAs, Dorion had to assess that centre was an area of strength for the team in the long-term, and then persuade another team to give up their leading scorer in exchange for an Ottawa prospect who is gonna make more money on his next contract. All this to get the legendary centre for Bobby Ryan. I really hope this handedness angle pans out, and if the extent to which Mats Zuccarello benefited from playing on Brassard’s right wing is any indication, I think it will.

I said pretty much everything else I had to say about the trade here.
This trade gets an F in my heart and a B+ in my head.

 

Re-Signing Mike Hoffman

James:
Hey, on behalf of all Sens bloggers at the edge of the off-season desert, I just want to give a quick shout out to human man P. Dorion for signing Mike Hoffman to a contract that it is impossible to have an opinion about. Hoffman’s back for 4 more years. Just like we all predicted the night The Hoff ice grilled Dave Cameron instead of celebrating his goal after spending the 3rd period benched against Florida City. Seriously tho…is it too early for an A+++? Highkey, I thought that in order to have a prayer’s chance of getting this done for less than Bobby Ryan prices I thought Dorion was going to have to offer him Bobby Ryan term. Keeping in mind that Hoffman is turning 27 this year and he managed to sign him for 4 years? Just wow to this shit. This signing was most vital to keeping the Sens chances of being DEEC alive going forward. Bravo. Imagine he didn’t get this thing done? Your 2016-17 Ottawa Senators: “Alright Ryan Dzingel go out there and have FUN!” *Danger Flutes*

Luke: 
Mike Hoffman’s next deal overshadowed EVERYTHING last season. Every time Mike Hoffman scored a goal, or didn’t score a goal, or glowered at Dave Cameron, or got benched, or didn’t get enough powerplay time, or got powerplay time, or told an Ottawa real estate agent that he was only looking to rent at this time, the underlying question was always “What does this mean for Mike Hoffman’s next contract?”. It even started to look like the answer to those questions was “What contract?”. As recently as March, Elliotte (sic) Friedman wrote “Are we looking at the final 15 games of Mike Hoffman’s tenure in Ottawa? Sure looks like it.” What a time that was. As I said to a Sens Store employee in March, “Well, this year has been the greatest calamity on the face of the earth since the last Robin Thicke album, but at least I have the looming departure of one of our best players to look forward to. Anyway, how much for this Scott Gomez shirsey?”

In return for our emotional turmoil, we received Mike Hoffman for four more years (Four more years! Four more years!) on a deal that is unfuckwithable. The term is, as you pointed out, perfect, and even if Hoffman does not improve, he’ll still be a great value player on a team that needs a lot of great value players.

I hope the Sens front office has player evaluation skills that are at least DEEC because early indications are that Pierre Dorion is tha contract negotiation GAWD.

Grade: A++. If drafting Erik Karlsson is Dorion’s Aja, the Hoffman contract is Pretzel Logic.

James: 
Now let us move on to the contract that could end up either his “Katy Lied” or his “Everything Must Go” …god, who is this blog for at this point? ANYWAY —>Re-Signing Kobe CC. 

James:
This is the Hoffman Contract Lite. Meaning to a slightly lesser degree, if you have a fuego take on why you don’t like this deal, you might consider shutting yourself and your kids the fuck up out of respect for the community. I have actually read some commenters out there moaning about the salary jump to $3.35M in the second year of the deal being a rip off and that it will end up “Wiercioching” (actual word I saw used) his next contract. K, stop my music – If Cody Ceci is not a second pairing defenseman who’s worth 3.5 to 4 million dollars in two full seasons from now well he can catch the ol’ PW Express to the bottom pairing of a non-playoff Western Conference team.
Remember Cowen getting offered 8 years by noted moneypuck genius Tim Murray? Glad they ended up settling on a REASONABLE 4 year deal that caps out a REASONABLE 4.5 million in salary this season? Yes, Jared Cowen will make just 400K less than Marc Methot this year. That’s how delicate these contracts are. Just a four year deal can turn out to be a massive disaster. Taking the wait and see approach with the two year ‘prove it’ deal was perfect. If he doesn’t prove it, the team can move on. My money’s on that he has what it takes. The kid is 22 and spent half the year paired with either a guy who played himself off the team or a guy who played himself out of the league.

Luke: 
I’ve read all the criticisms of Cody Ceci and I just can’t believe that a kid with that skating ability and puck skill is going to have bad possession numbers forever. I can’t do it. How you gonna tell me that the player someone is at 22 is the same player they’re going to be at 26? Player development is black magic dark arts stuff that’s highly dependent on individual-specific factors, but it’s definitely a thing that exists. Players improve. I remember back when Patrick Wiercioch was good, he talked about how working with veteran Sergei Gonchar helped grow his game. How about we sign Cody Ceci up for Being A Mean Bastard classes with Dion Phaneuf and see what happens. In a worst case scenario, there are ways of taking even the most defensively deficient players and making them useful. Justin Schultz is a Stanley Cup winner! You’re telling me Cody Ceci can’t be Justin Schultz good? Come on, Cody. Let’s get to defending some of these clowns.

All this to say, I approve of Cody Ceci’s bridge deal and everything you said about it.

James: 

Thx 4 agreeading, Luke.

It’s August what do you say we do one more for cultural purposes…

 

Flipping a 3rd round pick to the Devils to move up and draft Logan Brown at 11th o’erall.

James:
I know, I know, “Area GM makes selection in first round of draft” isn’t really a move on the level of Ziba for Brassard. Still, flipping NJ a 3rd to move up in round 1 is not insignificant. A couple months back I read a thing on The Hockey News dot co dot ck (registered in The Cook Islands, m8) on “Winners and Losers At This Years Draft.” As an Ottawa Senators fan reading any kind of mainstream hockey media, I clicked the link to find out why they thought the Sens were losers. SPOILER: They thought the Sens were losers! Why? Well, who(m)ever wrote the thing blessed us with the wild #ACTUALLY that NJ probably wasn’t going to draft Logan Brown anyway [Ed. Note: K] so PD was a fool to surrender that 3rd rounder he could have used to draft this year’s model of Jakub Culek to ensure he got the player he wanted in round 1. SAD!
What does your juicy chess club brain think of this?

Luke: 
My personal theory on Flipgate™ (the scandal that rocked the draft) is that the Sens offered their 1st round + 3rd round pick to move up a number of times and New Jersey just happened to be the team that called them back. I like this move because there’s something for everyone. Draft Models Are Jesus Types get to say “The Sens lost this trade by approximately 0.72 Replacement Players”, and Old-Timey Scout Types get to say “That’s the human difference right there. The Sens got their player.”. The best part is that everyone is correct! The Sens DID make a terrible trade from a pick-for-pick perspective and they DID get the player they wanted! Lukewarm (because my name is Luke) Take: If the player the Sens wanted is good, no one is going to care about the 3rd round pick.

Personally, I like the fact the Sens drafted someone about whom they said “This guy was so high on our board, we couldn’t risk missing out on him.” even if they had to trade sub-optimally to do it.
SENS ORG: We are super excited about this player we scouted extensively and then drafted.
THE HATERS: You are an irrational actor in this market. Your inefficiency will be punished by The Model’s true believers.
ME: I choose………………………………excitement.
Grade: I/C. Final grade will be given upon completion of Logan Brown’s development.

Pierre Dorion’s GPA for the Summer Semester: B+.

James: 
Well I give it a —Luke:
*dial tone*

Summer Reading: DEEC Moments In Sens History

DEEC

Hello, how’s your summer? Cool, shut up please, thank you. Listen, I have a very healthy relationship with the sport of hockey. I definitely don’t watch this video every now and then when I’m having a bad day.


No, that would imply that my mood can, in large, be dictated by the outcome of a sporting event and as an adult that would be pathet- OKAY LET’S STOP THE CHARADE.

Look, I’m just a caveperson headbutting their stupid way through life. I need stuff like this to get by. Sure, it’s not a Stanley Cup clinching goal or anything but this video has the makings of a legit DEEC Moment.

  1. Stars a player I really, really like being glorious
  2. The goal is of a hater-ass nature and on a very good (looking) goaltender
  3. The sound the crowd makes is a natural alternative to MDMA
  4. Jimmy O’Brien, who I can barely believe was on the ice in overtime comes through with the uncharacteristic Santana feat. Rob Thomas smoove AF drop pass.
  5. 🙂

 

Up till now, the modern Ottawa Senators greatest moment has been Daniel Alfredossauce’s 2007 overtime goal against Buffalo to send les boys to the Stanley Cup Final. Proud of this we each and every last one us are. As indelible a moment as that is, I am starting to realize we’re fast approaching the “That was like 10 years ago” era. I suppose this is in part due to the fact that since the NHL added 24 more teams to the league, huge moments don’t grow on trees or who knows what type of foliage (no judgements).

Nothing of that level of consequence has happened for the Sens in the near decade since that goal but I’d like to go on a psychedelic rock ride™ with you to explore a few of the DEEC Moments that have occurred in the mean time. Some are big and memorable, some are just little hater-ass nuggets. Come away with me, it’s August.

 

Craig Anderson’s Debut for the Ottawa Senators

As the reigning champs of tracking the career of every player that is traded from the team, nothing says more about Ottawa’s goaltending troubles post-2007 than the complete lack of longing for Brian Elliot. Since he was dealt, dude’s won a Jennings Trophy, played in an All Star game, set a franchise record for shutouts with the Blues and just generally posted excellent numbers. Our reaction: None.

I’ve heard more longing for Ben Bishop who played 13 games for the Sens. I think the complete lack of fucks donated to Elliott’s post-trade success shows how frustrated we fans were when he was dealt.

Enter Greg Anderton. I knew him as Western Conference guy who could win you your hockey pool one year but then maybe bottom out the next. Considering we traded him straight up for the 13-19-8, 3.19 GAA Elliot I didn’t expect much. Fortunately, he’s been one of the better goalies that our franchise has seen since, and it all started in his debut performance:

http://video.senators.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=98802
(Sorry, Gary HUSSEIN Bettman wants to take all easily viewed Youtube vids from us)

A Saturday night road game in Toronto broadcast on Hockey Night in Canada and called by Bod Cole. No matter how bad the leafs are (saying something!), that just feels like a guaranteed loss. What did we get? A hate hate HATIN-ass 47 save shutout, shootout win. Flawless victory for Andy. I remember watching this game alone (that’s right) perched on the edge of the chesterfield (that’s right) after the win was in the books and saying aloud to myself “Lifetime pass…lifetime pass.” That was one of the few good nights of that whole goddamn season and Craig made it so near singlehandedly. What other Sens goalie has his own (positive) chant? Lifetime pass.

 

This Clarke MacArthur Pass that Kyle Turris Had Enough Respect for the Community to Bury

Yaaas, my Kweens! Expose theeem, draaaag them!

And in the heritage jersey too. Considering Clarkey was healthy scratch for the leafs for TWO playoff games just a few months prior to this, I was not expecting to see anything resembling this level of skill from him when he was signed here. The fact that the goal is scored by alleged “enigmatic brat” turned gentlemanly first line centre who we traded magic beans for? Makes it all the more DEEC a moment. A play to remind us that sometimes the dice roll ole’ Ottawa’s way.

 

Erik Karlsson’s Entire Career..ugh, Fine, If I Have to Pick How About Him Winning That Second Norris

LOLz. Slight jump in DEECness levels here. I chose this moment because in this particular case, your man won another Norris after his devastating Achilles injury. A YEAR AFTER. The night of that injury I was laying in bed wide awake (healthy relationship w/ the sport of hockey) thinking in circles that we’d possibly never see the same electrifying Erik Karlsson again. He’s kind of even fucking better now somehow. We’re in the midst of watching a Hall of Fame career unfold. Enjoy it purely from time to time.

 

Sens Are Going to Have A Stadium Downtown, You Know, Just Like a Big Kid Team!

Please I’d never subject you to a video of an NCC meeting. Instead enjoy this clip of another DEEC moment where the Sens stormed back from a 3-0 deficit (given up in the 1st!) to beat the Penguins and keep their playoff dreams alive.

Seriously though, I am so thrilled about this new arena thing. Never thought it would happen. Our stadium is fine but real talk it’s located beside an outlet mall in a farm field. Cleveland has three stadiums downtown. Three. Cleveland = Three.

 

Chris Phillips Scores 2.8% of His Career Goals During his 1000th Game

Look at the man’s face on that second goal. Guy deserved a DEEC moment like that. We all did. No shade, Phillips was a Marine for the Sens but his long career is not exactly brimming with highlight moments. Salute to this one. C whut eye did they’re?

 

Mark Stone Seals The Most Hater Ass Run to the Playoffs In Team Herstory

(at the 10:12 mark. Sorry so sloppy)
…m8…m8

I chose this of the many DEEC moments from the Hamburger Heard Round the 4th Most Popular North American Sport World Era not just because it capped off a run the likes of which we’ll probably never see again. I chose it because it is the perfect encapsulation of the “Holy shit we have a very special player on our hands here” experience that was watching Mark Stone that season.

Here we are, stressfully up just one goal in the third period of an absolute, hack the bone level must-win game. Only Stone left in the O zone while his teammates go off for a change. He strips the puck from Philadelphia star that no one cares about Jakob Voracek and in all alone makes no mistake on Artist’s Conception of a goaltender Steve Mason. Beyond clutch. Resembles something another jewel of a late round pick round pick might do. Which reminds me…

 

This

That series with Montreal was such an emotional thrill ride that I don’t remember the following series against the Pens save for this moment. This one is staying in the old brain bin forever. What a captain. Truly a DEEC Moment in post-2007 history.

 

Perhaps This Moment Was Mildly DEEC

Closure. I should go easy on the Alfie Moments. I could do a whole post just about his contributions to DEEC Culture post-2007. Gotta sway back to some Young and/or Hungry Sens moments.

 

#Rispekgate

Excuse me but that exchange was on some Sun Tzu shit.

Now, as you well know, part of your responsibility as a Sens fan is to be on the side of the villain. No one out there is rooting for us or even likes us. Like I said, if certain other teams went on that run to the playoffs on the back of an undrafted AHL goalie like Ottawa did two seasons ago, they’d have made a commemorative coin for it. This being our reality, we must enjoy our small hater-ass victories personally. This piece of art is one for the ages. I’m truly sorry things didn’t work out better here with MacLean. He seemed like he had so much potential to be a special coach. Regardless, the way he fried Michel Therrien’s mind grapes while making him look like a humongous, bracelet wearing lizard baby was truly masterful. Awe, domage, les pauvres canadiens! Won’t someone step in and stop these heroes from getting their heads kicked in by the big, bad #7 seed? Somewhere on a dock in Nova Scotia right now, there’s a sly smile hiding under a gigantic moustache.

 

Unveiling the Heritage Jersey

Peace to the design gawd @Le_Collectif and, you know what, credit to the Sens for letting him cook on an official level. Before the Great War, I grew up never thinking twice about the Sens logo and jersey. It was fine, I liked it. I’d draw it on my binder and things of that nature. Then the design started changing and changing and the team looked worse and worse as more eyeliner, chevrons and speed lines were added to it.

Over time, things were scaled back a bit and the jersey came to settle where it is now. I could at least live with it. I didn’t like it but it was shaped up to a better look than the dreaded Senagoth days (not that hard). Then the slap in the face that was the SNES flying squirrel arms jersey was delivered. I was hopeless when I saw that some people actually bought those. Flash forward to the day I pulled on my Heritage jersey. I actually felt proud for the first time since I put on my first Sens jersey as a bright eyed 45 year old back in 1992. If we’re gonna play like a “hope for a wildcard spot” team at least (some games) we can look DEEC doing it.

 

And Now…The Most DEEC Moment Since Alfie’s 2007 OT Goal

You already knew.

A French kid. From Ottawa. Against a hated rival. On home ice. With their MVP goalie in net. Kid gets his tooth knocked out off a slash to the face on the first goal. Pageau responds by scoring 2 more. Fans respond by mocking the most annoying song in the history music with the now staple “Pageau” chant. Salut les hateurs! Added bonus: Listen to Bob Khol’s reaction on that third goal. Was not joking about that playing the villain role thing earlier😉

For all the putting down the team’s penchant for acquiring local players, which I lowkey think is really just code to talk about how Mark Borowiecki sucks, you gotta hear both sides in a moment like this. Magique. I’d give Pageau an 8 year deal off the rip for this.

 

I actually have a bunch more moments big and small to share but I think you’re probably fed all the way up with reading the words “DEEC” and “hater-ass” at this point.

 

Got some DEEC post-2007 moments you want to contribute to the community? Put em in the comments or share them on twitter. Disagree with some of my choices? Slide into my DMs with your address and I will mail you a rope for you to go piss up.

 

THXu 4 Reading.

 

You Didn’t Have to Invite Detroit

It is interesting, operating as part of the theatre of sport, that the Ottawa Senators have become keen subscribers to realist narratives when it comes to Daniel Alfredsson.

The most recent contribution to this genre, famously begun by the former captain himself with his oft-quoted quip “probably not,” is Alfredsson’s number retirement ceremony scheduled for December 29. In a ceremony designed to mark the highest honour a sports franchise can bestow on someone who has played for that organization, the Sens have opted to invite the Detroit Red Wings, the only asterisk on Alfredsson’s career in the capital.

It is possible Alfie wants the ceremony to take place when the Sens play the Wings. And of course that’s fine for him to want. It’s his career the team is marking after all. He wouldn’t be the first athlete to be honoured by one club while a former team was in attendance. If memory serves, long-time Oiler Mark Messier had the Rangers in the building when his number was retired and long-time Ranger Mark Messier had the Oilers in attendance when his number was celebrated by New York. This sort of dual acknowledgement works for players with significant connection to multiple franchises. Your Wayne Gretzkys, your Mark Messiers, your Al MacInnises, and your Ray Bourques. But that’s not what we have in Alfredsson. Honest question: do the Detroit Red Wings even care about their 2013-14 leading scorer or remember him? Probably not.

In Alfredsson we have a player who is Ottawa’s all-time leading scorer and a player who sits tied for 220th in all-time points for Detroit. The difference is staggering.

This sort of feting is for the individual, Alfredsson, but it is also for the fan base. Hence the public announcement in August, the (likely) more-expensive-than-usual-tickets, the delayed start time. Retiring number 11 has been inevitable for the Senators franchise for some time now (I suspect since 2007?), but the ceremony is also the last event in a three-part rehabilitation of the team’s relationship with the Sens legend. Beginning with his one-day contract/final pre-game skate with the Senators to announce his retirement and continuing with his hiring as a member of Ottawa’s hockey operations, Alfie’s number will now be retired during the franchise’s 25th anniversary celebrations. This Alfie triumvirate suggests a seamless transition from suiting up as team captain, to assuming a much speculated, post-playing role with the team, to having his number raised to the rafters as a legend.

Except inviting the Red Wings to crash the party recalls not Alfie’s triumphant return to the team, but his painful return to Ottawa with Detroit in December 2013. That night, it was impossible to ignore who and what Ottawa had lost. With Detroit as the opponent, the careful fabrication unravels.

It wasn’t seamless.

It wasn’t painless.

It wasn’t what anyone wanted.

Many of us have moved on from July 5, 2013 and to a fan, I’d bet no one wants to go back to that moment.

I often write about how sport is a reflection of society, that there is a realism to the issues games like hockey face on and off the ice. Generally I think it’s a shame that when we cover sports like hockey, we resort to the mode of fantasy, obscuring controversy, issues of safety, and discrimination from view. But if there was a moment to remain in the fantasy genre, this ceremony fits. We don’t need to acknowledge Alfredsson’s departure from Ottawa, no one has forgotten it. But this is a ceremony celebrating what he meant and means to the team and city; surely we should revel in all that was good about Alfie, greatest Senator, on this night? For one night we can believe the fiction, embrace the fantasy, and ignore Alfredsson, Red Wings forward. In this moment, we should feel like he never left.

However, Alfredsson and the Senators have chosen realism and the bit part Detroit played in his career will be acknowledged if only in its presence. Perhaps that’s for the best. The myth of the player disrupted, if only slightly.

But on December 29, I wanted a little bit of fantasy and I don’t think I’m alone. I wanted that myth intact.

The Atlantic Division is Trash and That’s Probably a Good Thing

I remember whenever it was (it was 2013) that the NHL underwent a minor realignment and created the scary Atlantic Division which included such Eastern seaboard cities as Detroit. I recall some slight dread about this. Not only was Ottawa still in a division with all the teams I hated from the Northeast (I’m talking about you, Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, and Toronto) but Detroit joined and the Florida teams. So an 8 team division with three very three recent conference/cup finalists/winners and the Wings? Cool. Thank god for Buffalo, I guess.

Fast forward three years and we’re in the same division with a team that traded Tyler Seguin and lost to the Sens 6-1 in an elimination game to end the 15-16 season, a team that traded P.K. Subban for a dog lover with a very terrible contract (how many seasons will it take for Weber to be bought out?), and the worst team in the league in 2015-16 that somehow also has cap trouble. Sure, Tampa is good and re-signed Stamkos and co. to decent deals, but they still have a “Rotten in the State of Denmark” vibe (hint: Stevie Y is the head of lettuce liquefying in the bottom of Tampa’s fridge). Hats off to the Panthers who seem poised to contend for the division title for a while after re-signing their RFAs to decent deals and adding James Reimer and Keith Yandle to offset the inevitable decline of the great Roberto Luongo (sadly this might be as soon as this season with Lu’s age and offseason hip surgery). But as much as we like to denigrate Ottawa’s commitment to the Department of Statistical and Mathematical Dominance In Sport, Boston, Montreal, and even The Team Who Has Done Everything Right The Last 2 Years have made some questionable decisions this summer. This isn’t exactly a division filled with the best and brightest in management (with possible exceptions in Florida). And while the Florida teams are good, they haven’t hit the great standard of teams like Pittsburgh etc.

So sure, Carey Price can be great, and probably will be, but for the Habs to be good two years ago, Carey Price needed to win significant individual hardware and have a career year (Fearless Leader Max Pacioretty probably had his career year then too). They are worse now than they were two seasons ago, Carey and Max probably won’t be quite as good, Subban is gone, and Andrei Markov is now two years older (so am I). Boston has a defense worse than the Senators (hey! Anything’s possible). Detroit has been running on fumes since Lidstrom retired and now that franchise’s most pressing question is, which contract is worse: Justin Abdelkader’s or Danny Dekeyser’s (it’s Abdelkader’s, but wow, Ken Holland is making some questionable decisions)? Don’t worry, the Detroit Method of wasting players’ prime years in Grand Rapids will most definitely keep the Wings irrelevant for years to come.

So where are the Sens going to finish? Look, Ottawa is hardly a model franchise, but there is some talent here. I see Ottawa competing for third in the division if this is an average year. If it’s a year with injuries to key players like last season then it’s fighting for a wild card spot/slightly missing the playoffs. Is it possible Ottawa players have had their career years and the team will mimic the downward spiral Montreal is destined to act out in front of our ravenous eyes? Sure.

I’m not expecting much from Craig Anderson this season and at 35 he’s probably played his best hockey (even if he was lightly used in his 20s). Regardless, I think Andrew Hammond might just be a decent goalie? I think it’s likely he’s Ottawa’s starter by season’s end and that’s not a bad thing? This Andrew is on Team Andrew not Team Andy.

Bobby Ryan probably won’t duplicate his Anaheim numbers (I’d be ok with it if he did though) but that’s fine? Yeah, Ryan makes too much, but dudes in their UFA years always make too much. His production is fine even if it leaves you wanting more (I worry more about his health). Maybe Brassard is the left-handed playmaker with the keys to the Bobby Ryan 30 Goal Season.

What if Marc Methot isn’t good? Well, he wasn’t last year, so we’ll be prepared. That’s where I’m at with the defense. Yes, they were bad. Yes, they haven’t made any changes. Yes, it’s possible they’re that bad again. But they haven’t had a good defense for several years now? Turris and MacArthur healthy this year should help and if Ottawa’s goaltending can be slightly above average (not great, just a tad better) I think they probably make the playoffs in the third spot. I mean, an improved defense would be preferable, but the only real change that might come would be Thomas Chabot (I don’t care about the “don’t rush prospects method,” I still kinda want to see this kid work in the NHL).

Is it possible EK already had his career year?

No.

Here’s the thing, I think Karlsson is getting 30 goals this season and pushing 100 points. Why? Because he’s low key pissed about the Great Omission of 2015-2016, because holy hell did that dude pass up a zillion opportunities to get a shot on goal last season (opting for passes and tips down low, plus he had more trouble getting his shot through bodies, but I expect him to improve on this in 16-17 because it really is one of his strengths). I also think EK improves on his goal and point totals because the Sens re-signed Mike Hoffman and because Guy Boucher seems much more determined to use the power play as an actual advantage for his team. Plus, I choose to be optimistic about EK. I also think Karlsson is going to have one of those long primes like Lidstrom, so mostly I’m just enjoying watching the majesty unfold in Sens colours.

Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone will be better too. I don’t really think Hoffman has another gear, I think he’s already the player we can realistically expect him to be, and he’ll just be used better by a new coaching regime. Mark Stone had a sophomore slump and still managed 20+ goals and 60+ points and I think he has like four more gears? Good things are happening on the wings.

Ultimately, I’m not worried about the other bubble teams in the division. Detroit, Boston, and Montreal either don’t have a superstar (Boston, Detroit until Larkin fully matures) or have a weaker supporting cast (Detroit, Boston, and Montreal). Ottawa lacks bottom six depth and depth on the blueline but so do those other teams. I’d take Ottawa’s top six over the top six forward group from any of those teams and I’d take EK over any defender in the league.

You might worry about how Ottawa’s new GM and coaching staff are going to perform but it’s not like those other bubble teams have front offices that are the envy of the league. Claude Julien has almost been fired two years in a row and Don Sweeney probably won’t get another job as a GM in the NHL once he’s inevitably fired from his current gig. Michel Therrien is fairly conclusively a terrible coach but won’t be fired until Former Genius Marc Bergevin feels the rising water around his own neck, then he’ll fire his friend and use him as a floatation device (yes, Marc is Rose in this scenario and Michel is Jack). Jeff Blashill is not Mike Babcock (overrated in his own right) and will therefore be more fallible in Detroit but hey, Ken Holland managed to trade Pavel Datsyuk’s bloated remains of a cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes who are always willing to do everyone else’s dirty work. There’s nothing to be envious of here.

But what if one of these teams gets off to a hot start? Here’s the thing about Montreal starting the season 10-0 last year: it made me really happy. You know why, because if you start a season 10-0 you’re likely playing your best hockey of the year when people are eating turkey and watching football and playoff baseball. A bad start would be rough for any of Boston, Detroit, Montreal, or Ottawa, but it would be worst for Montreal. There’s a scenario in which Montreal loses its season opener, and then puts up a few more losses. Montreal sports media would gleefully continue to talk about P.K. Subban and the pressure would mount on Bergevin and Therrien. One can only hope.

It’s extremely difficult to win the Stanley Cup. It’s still hard to make the playoffs. But this is the Atlantic division and the bar isn’t set high. Sens finish third in the Atlantic.

Instant Analysis: Mike Hoffman’s Extension

The Ottawa Senators announced they have signed Mike Hoffman to a 4-year contract worth an AAV of $5.1825 this morning.

Here is my analysis of this deal.

  1. Mike Hoffman is good.
  2. Mike Hoffman’s contract is good. He will stack paper.
  3. Mike Hoffman will help the Ottawa Senators win because Mike Hoffman is good. The Ottawa Senators will stack paper.

Verdict: A very fair deal for a player who is ok when he wants to be. This deal accomplishes some things which I believe to be good.

Grade: 6/10

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Roundtable of Death: Goodbye Yellow Brick Banana Jazz

Eug

In which James, Conrad, Andrew, and Luke discuss the sudden departure of the Senators’ second-most beloved Swede in exchange for Derick Brassard.

James:
Hello.

Let’s start this off with a little Konfeshun Korner:

When I first caught wind of this trade I was M.A.D.D. I really, really like Zibanejad as a player. I thought it was dumb and stupid and dumb to give up on him for a comparable but older guy…and a second round pick to boot. Not even the dignity of a one for one swap. Ugh, again, with the thrown in pick.
For all the talk of Ziba needing to hit another gear, I’ve spent some time and energy arguing that by passing the 50 point mark at age 22/23, he’s already hitting that next gear. This all goes back to the landmark case of The People vs. Viable 2nd Line Centre Mike Fisher. In his respectable 16 season career, he has eclipsed the 50 point mark only twice. Just once in his younger days with the Senators. Z-Bad’s output was shaky at times, sure, but it seemed he was definitely getting there. I always thought that fan disappointment might come from the expectation to cement himself as a top line player at such a young age. With Turris filling that top line role, I didn’t see the big rush.

When the trade went down, however, I saw all the immediate red flags. A local guy (WE ALREADY HAVE A CENTRE FROM GATINEAU GODDAMN IT) and the cost certainty of his super reasonable salary hit with his signing bonus paid out by the Rags. Are you glad I went over these two items? I’m sure this is the first time they’ve been discussed. Damn Melnyk back at it again with the tight cash. I must admit however, the more the smoke is clearing on this trade the more I’m starting to see a bit of strategy to go with the belt tightening.

  1. The Sens currently have 73 roster players who are natural centres plus player/coach Erik Karlsson who can fill in as the entire team in a pinch.
    Highkey Facts: The Senators have taken a centre in the first round of the past 3 drafts. Last season, the team could put Zibanejad, Turris, Smith, Pageau, Lazar or Nick Paul down the middle. Something had to give. Zibanejad is a huge ‘give’ though. I think it’s TROU-BL-ING that the organization essentially chose Smith and Pageau over giving Ziba a potential big payday next off season. Probably didn’t help Ziba’s case that the Godbody JG Pageau totally outshined him when Turris went down for the season with an injury.
  2. This team reaaaaaally needed a skilled left handed playmaker down the middle. Judging by how mad Rangers fans are, it would seem we are indeed getting that in Brassard. I don’t know about you Eddie, but if you’re perennially disappointed in Bobbito Ryan’s goal totals, I’m okay with him getting more looks from a left handed centre. I’m thinking if Guy Boucher is supposed to be a power play focused tactician, he might have asked for a left handed centre who can create offense. No shade to Zibanejad but the ability to make plays was probably the biggest shortcoming in his game. Zibanejad’s more of a shooter…who should also shoot more.
  3. The budget, the schmudget, the fludget ALRIGHT ALREADY. Finally, I get to talk about the budget! Dreamz kome tru. Seriously, it’s painful but it’s a reality. I want Mike Hoffman and Cody Ceci locked up. Brassard is signed for 3 more years at a number Dorion can hang his hat on (?). I think this only helps those other signings happen. We keep a Zibanejad-level player who’s left handed and we have a better chance of signing Hoffman? I can live with that. We’d never get a guy like Hoff on the market and we don’t really downgrade on Brassard. I’m not going to pretend a 28 year old with good shot suppression metrics and who led the Rangers with 27 goals is bound for the glue factory. With 3 years left on his deal and centres White and Brown OR WHO KNOWS WHAT COLOUR on the way, this is starting to make more sense.
    That second rounder stings but can still be recovered. Zack Smith is a UFA at the end of the year *thinking emoji*

So I guess that just about wraps it u—or sorry, did anyone else have any thoughts

Conrad:

The conflicted thoughts I’ve encountered in the past 33 hours:

  1. The Sens should be looking for players on high-value contracts because they’re a budget team. Except in this case, where Brassard is making $10M over three years – which can we take a moment to acknowledge is amazing value, maybe even Kyle Turris value? – it’s yet more evidence that they’re broke AF.
  2. Similarly, Sens being a budget team, they waited until after July 15 so they wouldn’t have to pay Brassard his bonus, which again means they’re broke AF and not that they are smart business people. You definitely want your team paying $2M for 2nd round picks like the Rangers just did.
  3. The Sens gave up a second round pick, which is the sort of thing that’s killing them in the draft, except when they get a pick, which is then worthless because we know that every pick outside the top 15 in the first round is basically a lottery ticket who won’t play for like 3-4 years at best, and so sacrificing the draft to save money is evidence that they’re broke AF.
  4. Zibanejad never lived up to expectations, and so he needed to be traded before he was due a huge payday which, as we all know, disappointing players always receive. Because broke AF.
  5. The Sens should be more focused on analytics, unless they’re trading a young player for a superior possession player who’s cheaper because they’re oh you know.

I’m starting to think that part of enjoying one’s local hockey team is to compete with others on the basis of your team being worse and stupider than any other hockey team, and so every transaction, even when you can see the logic behind it, becomes yet more evidence of recurring ineptitude or behavior inspired purely by a broke owner. Melnyk being broke has, in this case, become a kind of zen mantra for some. It’s the WWJD bumper sticker of Sens fandom. I imagine fans tying thread between pins on a pushboard, connecting Ottawa Sun articles, looking for patterns, only to find that they’re spelled the words “Melnyk.”

The Sens just brought in someone who happens to be a center, happens to be left-handed, happens to be local, happens to produce goals, happens to be on an affordable contract, happens to be experienced, and instead of saying “I can see how this might make sense in the context of needing to sign these other RFAs,” it’s become another opportunity to say “Why don’t we have a richer owner?”

Here’s the thing: you CAN have a richer owner. It’s called following another team. You have a ton to choose from. Go be a Tampa Bay Lightning fan and cheer when they buy out Vinnie Lecavalier for $32M so they can sign Valtteri Filppula for $25M.

In this summer of trades that made zero sense – I’m still wondering how Edmonton doesn’t get at least a pick in that Hall-Larsson trade – I’m enjoying the fact that the Sens are able to make trades that take care of their needs while ALSO saving money. I’m enjoying watching a team operating under constrictions be strategic.

Andrew:

I am currently feeling really good about the fan base’s ability to handle disappointment and the reality that economics are a part of sport as we head into Phase 2 of the LeBreton process.

What’s funny to me is, yes, the economic reasons are fairly self-evident from an Ottawa standpoint, but like this was also a money/cap trade for the Rangers. New York saves some very important cap $$ which they needed to do because….they have some absolutely terrible deals? If I’m a Ranger fan, it’s like we let Stralman walk, Yandle go, traded Brassard, so we could keep salaries like Marc Staal’s and Dan Girardi’s? That would be a serious WTF. Instead of cries of “We’re wasting Erik Karlsson’s prime!” I’d be seriously bemoaning that Henrik Lundqvist is 34 and has a pair of high-priced Boro/Gryba/Cowen Take Your Picks in front of him. This is an example of another team not named Senators which has Some Problems.

There was that silly “fan confidence” poll circulating around twitter a few days ago about GM/front office confidence and the Sens ranked 23rd or something (it was 23rd, no “or something”) and like, that’s not remotely surprising? The methodology was not really overly useful (approx. 200 fans voted on all teams in the league). Like I pay a lot of attention to hockey and to other teams, but I don’t give a fuck about New Jersey’s front office and I try and block to Kings from my mind etc. Simply put, fans across the the league can’t really accurately rate this, there’s not enough info about what teams do, and fans are singular in their focus (ie pay attention to only their team). But even if this was somehow more accurate or the voting was just for the team for which you cheer, Ottawa fans would totally slam their management. Why? Because like Maryland and crabcakes, it’s what we do. Off the top of my head, only Winnipeg’s front office impresses me more, possibly, of the Canadian teams but they also seem to be in a perpetual, “building a strong foundation for the future – maybe” mode. Ottawa isn’t perfect and at times they make mistakes. But lots of Sens fans don’t seem to realize that “not perfect” and “makes mistakes” are constants with other teams too.

My point is this: I don’t think Ottawa has a front office full of geniuses, but that’s ok. I think being smart in the NHL is a lot like an episode of Pinky and the Brain: one might be a genius, but episode after episode, he gets proven wrong by Pinky. These artificial distinctions about which front office has it going on/is smart/is cutting edge/tells you all about the analytics hires they don’t listen to etc, are just that – artificial. The line separating a Ron Francis or Jim Nill from a Jim Benning or Marc Bergevin is shorter than most of us think. But most of us – me included – are too involved with our own shit (i.e. Euge’s bankrolling of the Institute for Horse Analytics) to realize.

It’s fun to laugh at the “Buy Local” portion of the deal but I don’t think Ottawa trading for or signing players with roots in the area (outside of Boro tbh) is anything more than successive GMs now trying to make the most of what little competitive advantage in terms of location this team has. They don’t have the tax advantage of teams based in Florida, Texas, or Tennessee (as a citizen of this province, I am more than ok with that), they don’t have the nightlife, the weather, the team history, contender status, or other big draws. But they’re one of the biggest cities in Canada and one of the few (only?? I didn’t look at a map) with two junior teams. So lots of guys have ties to the area and if that helps keep the budget low while bringing in decent and good players? Fine.

As for the trade pieces, I like Mika, so that sucks. You get attached to the players you know, especially those your team drafts and that you get to watch mature in your system. Will Mika be a better player than Brassard this season and in the future? Quite possibly and that sucks too. But so far it seems like this deal is fairly even and might suit both clubs right now and in the immediate future. Fine.

This is where I’m at with the Senators: I want to spend to the cap every year, to not make Toronto pay (or not pay, as the case may be) for our buyouts, but have the resources to do it ourselves. I want to pay top dollar for coaching, and hockey ops, and management, and facilities. I want to get a new arena built without what I’m sure is going to be considerable consternation. But mostly…

I want to win the Stanley Cup 65 straight times. I want every season engraved on the Cup’s 5 rings to start with “Ottawa Senators”. After that 65th straight win I want the rest of the teams to finally capitulate and disband. But I also get the realities of Euge’s wallet (it looks like mine after all), that this team (like most teams in the league really) is just trying to make the playoffs, that they are currently a bubble team (though the division is shit so that’ll probably be enough), and that only one team gets to win every year. I am capable of carrying two versions of this team in my head; I firmly believe that WE’RE GONNA WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! every night, while understanding that the Sens are a bubble team who will in fact, lose on many occasions.

So yeah, this trade hurts, because Mika is almost 6 years younger and therefore would have been around for at least a few more of those consecutive Cup wins. But this is a fairly even trade at this point, it’s just not without risk, which is true of all trades. We’ve been talking about how Bobby will look with Brassard, and with good reason, but I think I’m most looking forward to him playing with EK. It’s possible we’ve have a player for the first time since Spezza left that can accept a hard pass from Karlsson.

Erik Karlsson is going to have the biggest Fuck You Haters season with 30+ goals, 100 points, and Shea Weber winning the Norris.

Luke:

Look at you emotional bastards. I’m going to analyze this trade the old fashioned way: with Objective Fancy Stats.

Right off the bat, I’d like to address the notion that *today* Derick Brassard is a better player than Mika Zibanejad by saying that this is likely true, but the statistical evidence of that is not overwhelming. Over the past 2 seasons, Brassard’s 5v5 fancy stats are slightly better, but not overwhelmingly so. Brassard has an all-situations primary points per 60 minutes of 1.7 compared to Mika’s 1.6, which is driven by Brassard’s slightly better goals per 60 minutes. Their usage is pretty much identical, both in terms of zone starts and quality of teammates/competition. On an individual basis, Brassard gets shots on net more often, whereas Zibanejad shoots at the net more often. Brassard’s s% over the past two years is 13.1% compared to Zibanejad’s 12.3%. Brassard’s shot 11.5% over the course of his career, and Mika’s shot 10.9% over the course of his. Brassard’s spent most of his time playing with Mats Zuccarello whereas Mika’s spent most of his time playing with Bobby Ryan. Brassard’s play may have been suppressed playing under Alain Vignault’s non-optimal system. Ditto Zibanejad and Dave Cameron’s system. Gun to my head, I’d say that Brassard’s results have been slightly better over the past two years, so I guess we can chalk the player part of this deal that in the Win Column for the Ottawa Senators. Add in the 2nd round pick for a 7th round pick part of the deal and this deal is that rarest of animals: a fair trade.

The Objective Hockey Reality part of this trade seems to be pretty much airtight unlike some other Subban-for-Webers I could Hall-for-Larsson, but let’s talk about this trade in the context of where this game is #ACTUALLY played: off the ice. The subjective, off-ice considerations that factor into this trade have people getting into their feelings like they’re auditioning for Inside Out 2. Now, I’d love to just ignore the context of this trade, just like we all love to ignore the contexts of so many other trades around here like Bishop-for-Conacher (Context: team had 3 goalies and Bishop was a UFA at end of season), Spezza-for-Chiasson (Context: Spezza had no-trade clause and was UFA at end of season), and The Phaneuf Trade (Context: team needed a defenseman and needed to dump contracts), but when there’s so little to argue about objectively, you gotta be willing to go to the dirty areas for the sake of the roundtable.

So here’s some context:

a) “Time and Age” or Constructs Denoting the Continuous Progress of Existence and Events as the Entropy of Both Ourselves and The Universe Continues to Increase Indefinitely.

Mika Zibanejad is 23 years old and Derick Brassard is 28 years old. What this means is that Mika Zibanejad is likely to improve as a hockey player somewhat over the next 5 years, whereas Derick Brassard is not. How much is Mika Zibanejad likely to improve? Who can know for sure? Let’s put a pin in this one until we know the answer, at which point we can all talk about how it was a complete certainty things were going to turn out that way.

b) “Finances” or The Ability of An Organization to Conduct Its Business Both Successfully and Sustainably

Mika Zibanejad makes $3.25 Million this year, after which he will be an RFA in need of a new contract. Derrick Brassard has a cap hit $5 million per year for the next 3 years, but only must be paid $10 million in real dollars over that same period. It’s likely that Ottawa will get the next three years of Derrick Brassard for much less money than New York gets the next three years of Mika Zibanejad. Given that the Senators need to provide new contracts for Cody Ceci and Mike Hoffman this season, and J-G Pageau and Curtis Lazar next season, the importance of this newfound cost certainty cannot be overlooked.

c) “Hockey is a Team Sport” or The Extent to Which Small Factors Such as Playing Style and Handedness Affect a Group’s Overall Quality of Play

Watching Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan on the same line was kind of like watching someone bail out a leaky rowboat using a live pelican; it sort of worked, but you always got the feeling there had to be a better way. Now Bobby Ryan’s going to be getting those silky smooth Brassard forehand passes instead of the weird clunky Zibanejad backhand passes. Now the Senators powerplay has a specialist at centre. Now the Senators have a guy who is Good In The Room and doesn’t have a reputation for coming into camp out of shape. None of these things may matter, but I like how there’s the possibility of some team-building inside baseball going on here. If you told me the trade was Zibanejad for Some Other Team’s Older Zibanejad Who Also Makes Bobby Ryan Better, I’d pull the trigger on that all day. Maybe Derick Brassard being left handed won’t matter at all, but I say it will! Let’s see your spreadsheets explain the relationship between centre handedness and right winger goals, NERDS! (Seriously, that’s a neat idea for analysis. I would read that.)

In conclusion:

One of the main (and entirely justified) knocks on Bryan Murray was that he was too attached to His Guys. He liked who he had on his team, and he believed in their potential, often to the point of overvaluing them. The line always went that Ottawa needed a GM who could rationally assess various factors, and wasn’t afraid to move players if he thought he’d be able to find value. I don’t know if Pierre Dorion is that GM, but I think the Zibanejad for Brassard trade is the sort of move that GM would make.

It’s a pretty nifty trade when you get right down to it. Ottawa traded a promising player due for a big raise for a player of equal or slightly superior hockey ability who has a high degree of cost-certainty for the next 3 years, and they did it by trading with a team who is in some not-insignificant cap trouble. It’s a trade that’s easily justified on both hockey and financial levels, and that’s pretty damn impressive to me. If you think making a Hockey Trade at the same time you make a Business Trade is easy, I would like to introduce you to the Chicago Blackhawks trading Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, and Teuvo Teravainen.

In short, I respect this trade a lot. I might even go so far as to call it “creative”.

But mostly I hate it. I don’t even hate it for what the trade means about the financial state of the team or ownership. While I realize that we’re not exactly immune to the occasional gripe regarding ownership around here, mostly I believe that getting upset about the team being poor is like getting upset at the Law of Universal Gravitation. I’d love to be able to dunk a basketball, but I can’t. I can either write a thousand columns about how much better my life would be without gravity, or I can write some columns about the stepladders I’m looking at buying. I’ve made my choice.

I hate this trade because I like Mika Zibanejad and I always believed deep in my heart that this was not his final form, that he had one more gear. Now when he finds that gear, it won’t be with Ottawa, and where is the fun in that?

Point: The Senators are not a worse hockey team after this trade. They might even be better in both the short and long term.

Counterpoint: I don’t like Derick Brassard (yet). I like Mika Zibanejad. I hate this trade.

Conclusion: I also like winning, so let’s make me feel better by doing that.

In Praise of Rooftop Patios: Or How I Learned to Stop Caring and Turn off TSN on July 1st

Free agency is awful and should be avoided at all costs.

To clarify, I don’t begrudge players who exercise their rights as free agents, nor do I mind that the age and accumulated experience at which a player can opt for free agency has been getting progressively younger and shorter. I have, and always will be, on the side of workers getting paid.

But from a franchise perspective, free agency is bad news.

There is no day on the NHL calendar more hazardous for a team than July 1. Organizations might hit or miss at the draft, but picks are marketable and have currency, they can be traded. Even prospects once selected have a shelf life (some longer than others) in which they can be moved. The trade deadline at times leads to grievous error, but it is often a swap of expiring deals, worth a third of their original value, and obligatory throws-ins, like second round picks. In one form or another, it’s an exchange of money and at a reduced rate.

But free agency differs from other ill-advised NHL traditions in that it more often leads to damaging deals that hamper a team’s ability to compete for years. July 1 gives GMs the opportunity to throw escalating dollar and term figures at players who will either start their new deals on the wrong side of 30 or will soon count themselves among hockey’s elder statesmen. The desire to improve their team, a somewhat free market, and an incrementally increasing salary cap, all push prices higher. Because the only assets teams give up are money, cap space, and flexibility, free agency is a steal for GMs who only think short term, not long term.

In this context, the winning team almost certainly overpays to get their man. But that’s part of why it should be avoided. In any bidding war, you have to know when to step aside. Free agency should be avoided because GMs can’t be trusted to make smart decisions.

Why not hire a smarter GM and save your billionaire owner more money than a municipality bent on securing a pro sports team?

The list of GMs who were once considered smart but recent hirings, bloated re-signings, terrible trades, and general misguided July activity, have caused that status to be revoked, is a long one. Smart GMs don’t trade P.K. Subban or Taylor Hall for bad returns. Smart GMs don’t re-sign Ryan Kesler. Smart GMs don’t lose decent defensemen to free agency because they insist on trying another year with the same expensive, underwhelming tandem in net. Smart GMs don’t regret trading for Kris Russell because they avoided the move in the first place. Smart GMs who have created their own roster problems don’t get celebrated when they signed a new deal with their captain on the eve of free agency because they operate in a state without income tax. Smart GMs don’t watch Roman Polak get walked on every other goal against San Jose in the playoffs and then think “he should play more hockey. He should play more hockey for our team”. Smart GMs don’t hire Michel Therrien.

There are no smart GMs. There are only Jim Bennings and those on their way to becoming Jim Bennings.[1]

There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which is possessing excellent sporting ability in your 20s is in no way preparation for the job of running a modern professional hockey team in your 40s and 50s. I’m recalling Brett Hull and Joe Nieuwendyk in Dallas but Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy (who seemed poised to do something regrettable with their own young stars this offseason), are a comparable current example. However, these limitations can be overcome with time, training, and occupying various hockey ops positions at the junior, minor, NHL level, a sort of apprenticeship program.

Unfortunately, none of that can save them from one of the primary reasons they make mistakes. These are emotional men who make rash decisions in the moment to shake things up, trade for players they like on a personal level, and ostracize athletes who are skilled players, but different in some way. This is why Pete Chiarelli moved on from 24-year-old Taylor Hall and seemingly replaced him with the less-good Milan Lucic (a player he’s known for years). Lucic might do great things in Edmonton, especially if he gets to play with Connor McDavid, but that doesn’t change the fact that Chiarelli made an ill-advised trade for the sake of trading and brought in a player he has a personal relationship with to mitigate the damage. He’s not the only GM to make this mistake.

Most of the year I am in favour of spending money. I want the Sens to be able to secure RFA talent like Mike Hoffman. I want Ottawa to be able to sign players like Hoffman for the prices that kind of talent commands and for a long time. I want Pierre Dorion to flash the cash when it’s needed to develop and re-sign homegrown talent, to invest in hockey ops, and to pay the coaching staff more than bargain bin prices. But no GM can be trusted with the kind of money that’s needed to sign marquee free agents, and that’s why, for one holiday weekend a year, I’m glad my team lacks the kind of money required to land big name free agents.

It’s not that I don’t believe in Pierre Dorion. At this point, there isn’t enough info available on what kind of a GM Pierre Dorion will be. He may be great, he may be awful, he may be some muddy middle ground but it’s too soon to tell (I do like that he seems to conduct his business behind closed doors and not through the media). It’s that GMs across the league have shown a willingness to make bad signings every year.

Things as they are have basically insured the Sens don’t drop $42 million paying Kyle Okposo to not play with John Tavares until he is 35 or Loui Eriksson $6 million to play when he is 36. Can you imagine if Bryan Murray was still Ottawa’s GM and the trio of David Backes, Milan Lucic, and Andrew Ladd hit free agency? He would have refinanced the Canadian Tire Centre, sold off the largest parking lot in Eastern Ontario, and leased Spartacat to the Nepean Junior Wildcats so he could make an offer to at least one of those guys.

Many were glad that new GM Dorion seems to have moved on from the top-6 forward crushes of old GM Murray to focus on improving Ottawa’s defense. But would landing the best available defenseman be worth it? Jason Demers, whose $5.5 million annual salary has been declared a Good Deal by hockey twitter, is one of the marquee signings of a successful offseason for the Florida Panthers. However, I absolutely believe if Ottawa had the money to make that same deal, Sens fans would still find a way to complain about the money or the term or both. We both refuse to acknowledge the economic limitations placed on management by ownership when making our free agent wish list and then moan about current market rates. Sens fans are nothing if not predictable.

Further, with Methot and Phaneuf already taking up space in the “Over 30 and more than $5 Million Lounge” the Sens really can’t afford to add another member. Instead, we should take Dorion at his word when he said he was interested in adding a depth defenseman to shore up the blue line. That the team hasn’t yet signed someone for the role, and given Development Camp comments designed to push prospect Thomas Chabot in training camp, it seems likely there will be no new faces on Ottawa’s blueline. That seems a reasonable place to start evaluating Dorion, not for his failure to land one of the big names.

But what about the hidden gems? Sure, it’s possible to pull a Clarke MacArthur out of another team’s trash, but for every deal like this, there are 10 Matt Martin signings. What about those low risk signings like $800,000 for Patrick Wiercioch? It’s possible a fresh start (which I think was best for him at this point) works out, but on the other hand, he was signed by Colorado and Patrick Roy seems like the sort of coach who will absolutely destroy him for every defensive failing. Regardless, there just aren’t that many guys available who actually prove worthwhile. Last year the Leafs found some hidden gems only to find they were neither hidden, nor gems. Ditto Montreal with Alex Semin. Maybe it works out, but often it leads to trades, buyouts, and regret.

And that’s the crux of the problem with free agency: the youngest guys available are in their late 20s, many are in their 30s, all have established NHL track records that will increase their value, and the often limited talent pool creates competition and drives salaries up. On top of that, virtually every one of these guys is looking for a long term deal. While some of these deals will undoubtedly prove to be good value, too many of them will lead to diminishing returns and salary headaches. Since GMs don’t listen to the analysts teams have hired anyway, I’d rather my team be broke than flush with cash on Canada Day.

Don’t agree? Remember a team is still going to add Kris Russell in the coming days.

[1] Perhaps after the disastrous P.K. Subban trade and the ludicrous decision making that led to not only hiring Michel Therrien but choosing him over Subban (in part because he’s your friend), the term for managerial incompetence should be changed to “Marc Bergevin” to reflect this new and enjoyable reality.