Actually: The Illusion of the Senators Lack of Prospects

Hey Girl,

Look, these are hard times *Looks at bottom of standings* k, these are hardish times to be a Sens fan. Through these months of struggle, we can focus on the holes in the line up. Perhaps the holes in the line up are the result of a top pairing defenseman missing half the year with Rubella or maybe it’s not knowing what you’ve got in your career point per game first line centerman till he’s gone. We see these problems and we look for solutions. Simply put…

We need a hero. We’re holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night. And he’s got to be 3 things:

  1. Strong
  2. Fast
  3. Fresh from the fight (?)

When things are looking grim for Les Boys, one might find themselves on old, neglected trying to see who’s in the holding pen for their shot at the bigs and Bobby Butler us into that sacred Wildcard spot worse draft position. We’ve all done it. I think a lot of people are doing it right now and are a bit pissed at what they’re seeing. Lately on the Sensphere, I’ve come across more than a few of my fellow fans complaining that there are few to no young colts in the stable (weird, sorry).

Now, I’ve seen some soft Actuallys from other fans in rebuttal, pointing out that goalscorer Shane Prince is ripe for a long-deserved call up and that Chris Wideman is 2nd in points by defenseman in the AHL (and only back of the top spot by 1 point at the time of this writing, I might add). Others are quick to mention that Freddy Claesson’s steady play could earn him a promotion (Sens are currently carrying 38 defensemen but Ima let Freddy cook). 

Anyway, these are all good points. There are a couple of promising looking players in the AHL but hearing both sides I can see why the cupboards appear bare in terms of players who are really blowing your skirt up (again, sorry)…But here’s where I gotta hit you with the mad ACTUALLY: The cupboards might appear bare but it’s an illuuuuusion, Michael.

It’s not so much that the team doesn’t have any exciting young players ready to break out of the minors. It’s that they had a bunch and the majority have either already broken out and graduated to the big league or have been swapped for better players who make up the team’s core…

Exhibit A: First Rounders Working Out
Plain and simple, a major cause of Binghamton looking a little paltry talent-wise is that the past two 1st round picks the Senators drafted, defenseperson Cobi C.C. at 15th in 2012 and centre Courteous Lazar at 17th in 2013, respectively made the big club in their first year of eligibility. For mid round picks you can’t really ask for better than that. I can only speak for myself (blech), but I don’t think Ceci or Lazar have been rushed into the league either.
After just 30 regular season games in the AHL, Ceci was selected to fill in for Jared Cowen who was serving a suspension for copyright infringement of the TV character Jerry Seinfeld (he was later acquitted claiming he was merely a parody of the character under the stipulation that Seinfeld is “Haha funny” while Cowen’s portrayal is “Crying on the inside funny.” The judge agreed and threw out the case). What was I talking about again? Oh yes, my 2nd divorce: Ceci has not looked out of place developing as a  guy who carries Chris Phillips bottom pairing guy and has stuck with the club since his call up. He’s even looked comfortable getting some time on the second pairing with human moose Erik Gryba. As a right hand shot Ceci will (hopefully!) never usurp Erik Karlsson on the top pairing but I believe within the next couple of seasons he will only get better and establish himself a solid player with the capacity for offensive flash in the important 2nd pairing role.
As far as Lazar goes, we’re only halfway through his 1st season so it’s a bit early to tell. Having a teenager learn the ropes in the NHL seems a bit risky but with a game as refined as his is, I think his development has been handled correctly so far. Keep him in the bigs, ease him in with bottom six assignments and let him play at the WJC. While he’s be been a little cold in point production (tough to get mostly playing on the 4th line), I think captaining Team Canada to their first gold medal in five years on home ice, and playing alongside Edmonton Oilers’ first overall pick Connor McDavid might have been okay for his confidence. With nothing left to prove in Junior, he’s where he should be.

Courtesy, Confidence, Value.

Courtesy, Confidence, Value.

Sure, he would likely play a more prominent role in Binghamton (had he been eligible to even play there, which he wasn’t) but if one of the main purposes of the farm team is to help rookies round out their game, I am lost as to what the main area of improvement for Lazar would be. Smile less? He was touted as a prospect who’d be most likely be able to jump straight into the NHL and he’s lived up to that billing since day one.

Exhibit B: Dat Top 6 Tho
If you look at the most consistent top 2 lines that have been deployed this season I would say they look at little something…like…this:

MacArthur – Turris – Stone

Hoffman Zibanejad – Ryan

K, so, 50% of the top six forwards are products of in-house drafting and development. One a mature rookie, one a sophomore, and one a grizzled 21 year old vet in his 3rd season. They look remarkably comfortable in difficult roles despite having fewer than 300 NHL games combined. Perspective: Bobby Ryan is only 27 and has 488 games played. All three of them did some time in the AHL and have made the leap to the show. Let’s examine a touch closer:

Mark Stone, 2010, 6th round pick, 178th overall. Taken at a Datsyukian 178th overall, it was a long shot that Stone would even make the NHL let alone play on a top line so early in his career. He’s still finding his way at age 22(!!) but after an injury plagued first season, he’s really starting to show that he’s the real deal.

Mike Hoffman, 2009 5th round pick, 130th overall. A late bloomer through every phase of his development, and nearly getting waived last season, Hoffy is proving that the NHL level is no exception to this tendency. After hardbodying the American Hockey League last year, Hoffman finally got a proper shot at the end of last season.
Personally, I saw potential with his speed and shot but found him a non-presence in most games. This year he has blown me away as often as he’s blown past defenders. Going into this season, I thought too much stock was being placed in a player with 6 NHL points to his name but like so many doubters along the way, I judged him too quickly. Hoffman has emerged as the highlight of the Senators season. He not only leads the Sens in goals (and we have Bobby Ryan!) but is currently tied for most among all NHL rookies to boot.
The catch with Hoffman’s tendency to be a late bloomer is that his rookie season is a mature one at age 25. He might not have as much prime road ahead as say, 20 year old Nashville phenom Filip Forsberg but…if you can’t be happy because the guy leading the team in goals in his first year in the NHL is 25? As Nelly once sang, “Hmmmmmm shorty I can’t heeeeeelp ya.”

Mitchell Zibanejazz, 2011 1st round pick, 6th overall. From an ill advised development year with a to-be-relegated Djurgardens, to a shocking demotion to the AHL last year and a slow start to this year, Ziba’s growth as a player has had ups and downs. Then one foggy Christmas eve, my G got to play his natural position of centre on a steady line with Bobby Ryan and Micheal J. Hoffman. He has been an improved player pretty much since that trio was allowed to stay together for more than 2 periods.
Barring a Scott Gomez level dry spell, Zibanjad looks poised to trump his point totals from last season. I’m not quite sure he’s the top line centre Bryan Murray has said he envisions him to become, but he’s looking better and better as a second line pivot each game. At age TWENTY ONE (by the fucking way), I think he will end up sticking there and become a key contributor to the team’s offense.

Exhibit C: Trading Potential Away For Proven Top 6 Players
Again, looking at the top six above, two of the best players on the team were acquired by making tough decisions with developing talent.

Kyle Turris was acquired by selling high on slobbered over Abercrombie model David Rundblad and a 2nd Rounder. In the nearly four seasons since the trade went down, Rundbleezy has yet to play 82 career games and has put up 17 points in total. Not tremendous for “the next Erik Karlsson.”
Sure, he’ll probably win a Stanley Cup with Chicago because hockey but hey, Mike friggin’ Commodore has a Cup ring, Marcel Dionne doesn’t so whatever fuck.
Say what you will about whether he’s a true top line centre or not, but the Turris trade and his subsequent contract, might go down as Bryan Murray’s finest move as Sens GM. He may not have the numbers of Spezza but he’s easily one of Ottawa’s best forwards and looks like a favourite to wear an “A” when Chris Phillips retires after his next 3 year extension is up in 2019. HAHAHAHA….ha…that’s…probably going to happen.   

Bobby Ryan got gotted with an absolute swing for the fence trade giving up much of the Sens stockpile of prospects in fan favourite Jakobi Silvermountain, 1st round pick and 2nd Amendment defender Stefan Noesen and Ottawa’s 2013 1st round pick. That’s a punch to the prospect pool for sure but with a little luck Bryan acquired arugably top 3 forward for the long term.
Looking at Silfverberg’s numbers with the Ducks, on a team that talented, they essentially got an Alex Chiasson. He’s a top 6 forward in the East, role player in the West. He might also win a Stanley cup tho.
Stefan Noesen’s been a bit more of a tragic case. He’s suffered two consecutive season ending injuries including serious tears to his ACL and MCL. Yikes. He is only 21 years old  and can hopefully bounce back but having only played 6 AHL games in two seasons he’s got a long road ahead. I will take Matt Puempel’s “disappointing” 24 points in 36 games over that any day.
Nick Richie who was taken by Anaheim with the 10th overall pick continues to have a solid OHL career…also tho, we’d be proper fucked without Bobby Ryan. He’s quickly become a leader, a contributor to the community and most importantly, he leads the team in points. Thank God Almighty that they got that extension done or that would have been a goddamn disaster Excellent asset management if you ask me. 

Exhibit D: …K, I’ll admit things are getting mad sketchy on defense.
Your honour, I’ll admit  this is where things got kind of fucked up. I believe that the forwards aren’t really the problem on this team. It’s the defense. I’m going to come off as an apologist here but as far as this whole prospects graduating thing goes I’ll boldly say this: It’s been quite a dog show but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.
Scary Part: Basically, all of Ottawa’s best defensive prospects of the past few years ARE ON THE TEAM NOW. For better or worse…mostly worse! Marc Methot is the only defenseman currently in the line up who wasn’t drafted by Ottawa. You can argue that the Sens have been drafting a number of NHL calibre defensemen…It’s just that some of them are Erik Karlsson and others are Mark Borowiecki.

You know i have to address this up front: You gotta hear both sides on Jared Cowen. He was supposed to be an absolute beast. He appeared to be coming along nicely until he missed a season with a torn hip barfarum. Guy has not looked the same since to a frustrating degree. Maybe in hindsight the Sens should have waited to see if he fell in the draft but I think we all had visions of Chara 2 dancing in our heads when he was taken. Also, it was no shock he was taken top 10 at the time. He’d been projected even higher than 9th leading up to that draft. Bottom line: You can’t predict people and further you can’t predict injuries. It’s a risk every GM has to take. If Karlsson never played the same after his injury, that’s not something the organization could have helped. It seems to me that’s what happened to Jared. He’s getting steadier of late but as to what his ceiling is at this point? I’d say with those wheels, it’s looking like middle pairing at best. At least he hasn’t played his way out of league and retired before age 30 like other certain defensemen Ottawa’s taken at 9th overall? There’s still time! Time to get good or time to retire pre-age 30? …LET’S MOVE ON!
For me, it’s Weircioch who’s really been a disappointment to the club. I’ve waited and waited for a breakout but now I am just super concerned. I’m not sure what it is about him but this guy is just unable to get a steady assignment for going on his second coach now. That’s pretty nuts considering how much more he offers in size, talent and experience compared to say Mark Borowiecki who has just been named Director of Player Personnel because compete level. I think Wiercioch was a big part of Ottawa’s re-build plan and has just been unable to take the opportunity that was in front of him. How Boro and Phillips got to fill in for Methot over him for months…I can only scratch my head.
Cody Ceci I’ve already spoken about and Gryba? Maybe he could be upgraded on but to me its been Wiercioch and Cowen not hitting their projected ceilings that’s done the Senators defense in. Not a lack of trying to develop talent.

Funclusion: We’ve had lots and lots and lots and lots of fun not reading all the way to the end of this deathmarch of a post. Heyyyyyyyy, I didn’t even talk about Lehner, or any bottom 6 players, or that nightmarish Bishop for Conacher trade (LOOK, CONACHER WAS THE MIKE HOFFMAN OF HIS GENERATION)…maybe next time?
Anyway, maybe I’m too forgiving, maybe those prospects are only succeeding because of the crazy opportunity they’re afforded on a low paying team like the Senators (Now featuring only 3 FA signings on current roster!). The point I’ve hopefully made is that it’s not so much that Binghamton appears bare of exciting players to call up because the Sens have done a poor job drafting them, but rather that it’s a bit of a down cycle because nearly all the best prospects have either made the team and are now developing their game at the top level or they’ve been dealt to solidify the core going forward with vets who are still in their prime.
The biggest thing holding the team back has been the disappointments that Wiercioch and Cowen have been. The organization needs to focus on either drafting more defensemen or packaging up more potential in exchange for a proven guy to correct this. I suppose taking Andreas Englund is a start. Locking up Marc Methot would also be huge.
The other major thing is that the team is an a frustrating stage of mid-torch pass. It just feels like players like Chris Neil and Chris Phillips will be around forever taking up roster spots where young guys with more potential could hone their craft.
“But at least Michalek and Greening are signed for the next 27 years. So we have that going for us!” – Matt Puempel and Shane Prince, in unison.
The team has some very tough decisions to make going forward. Some vets who can no longer effectively pull their weight have to be shipped for a “shot at the cup (lol)”, the defense has to be addressed at some point, and yes, the cupboard does need to be restocked now to keep the team growing (and cheap) so plz stop giving up picks for Hemsky cokedreams. I’m not even going to pretend anyone’s going to be bought out. The team’s drafted quite well for years despite only having one lotto pick in past decade plus. The in-house talent has been there but can Murray and co. patch the holes in the line up with no money for quality free agents? To me that’s the problem that could keep this team in purgatory.


3 thoughts on “Actually: The Illusion of the Senators Lack of Prospects

  1. Pretty much sums it up..
    Re the Ryan trade .. essentially you traded a 10th, 21st and a second rounder for a fully developed 2nd overall with heart. Turris was 3rd overall if I am not mistaken (from 17th overall +a second ?). Add to all of that .. someone we need to thank who doesn’t even work for the Sens. Randy Carlyle(sp?) messed up with both Bobby Ryan and Clarke M. causing them to fall out of favor in their previous teams.
    While I am at it .. I’d like to send a shutout thank you to Dave Tippet. The only blemish on this record is Tyler Seguin. Ottawa should have made every effort to get him. I wonder if they even tried given his contract or if Boston would have even be willing to trade him to an Eastern team

    • Yo respect on the Carlyle angle! Funny how players always get pegged as “Locker Room Poison” but could Carlyle alienate more of his players? A suppose couple of coaches get the business a bit, Torts or Keenan back in the day…but I’m glad you bring up Clarke MacArthur as a gift via ol’ Randy. Like, different teams have different cultures but I often ask myself, what did Carlyle not like about MacArthur’s game? Like I guess, he’s a bit streaky and takes penalties…but…he’s basically awesome at everything else. A tough, fast, two way player with hands and a good attitude. I’m no coach but that to me is the perfect hockey player. Can’t imagine the team without him already. Thanks again Randy!

  2. Pingback: Ottawa Senators Prospects, Tic-Tac-Tao, Top-Line Chiasson

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