Guest Post: Steve On Sens Presents, A Suspicious Amount of Optimism

Steve Sur Sens

Image Courtesy of Steven O. Sens Holdings, LLC

Hello, the following is a post from Internet Bad Boy and Salon Quality Hair Haver, Steve On Sens. If you like what you read, follow him for more delightful twitter jewels HERE. If you don’t like what you read I don’t know who TF you’re talking about and this post got on here by accident and I’m going to be looking into that and I’m going to look into it very strongly. Anyway, take it away Steve! 

There’s lots of uncertainty these days. If you’re the kind of person that likes keeping up with the news, I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines about COVID-19. Each week comes news about death, sickness, unemployment figures, how well the stock market is doing despite these unemployment figures, and also tweets that vaguely hint at what the NHL might do in order to finish the 2019/20 season and preserve the “sanctity of the Stanley Cup”.

If I were a fan of a contending team, I’d be really concerned. Tampa Bay, Carolina, the Islanders, and Vancouver all made big trades to improve their team now. It must be frustrating to make a big move to win the Stanley Cup and then the NHL doesn’t award the Cup that year.

While the top teams are concerned about their short term future, it is the bottom teams that need certainty from the league in order to plan their long term futures. The most recent rumour we’ve heard is that the draft lottery could be held on June 26. This is weeks after previous rumours nearly guaranteed an early June draft. Amidst all this uncertainty, there is only one thing that is certain: the Sens are looking kinda nice with it.

If you’re the kind of person that tuned out after the 2017 playoffs, or after Melnyk’s comments at the NHL 100 Classic, or when Karlsson picked up the puck at his last home game, or the allegations that Hoffman’s girlfriend was cyberbullying Karlsson’s wife, or the Randy Lee allegations, or the Boro-Melnyk video, or the actual Karlsson trade, or the LeBreton arena falling apart, or the Duchene and Dzingel trades, or the Mark Stone trade, or the various front office arrivals and departures, or the Pageau trade, this may come as a surprise. The Ottawa Senators have been a tire fire on and off the ice for 3 years. Fans have seen their favourite players get traded out for draft picks, prospects, and filler players. Amid the ashes of the 2011 rebuild are some key franchise players, lots of good prospects, and tons of draft picks. There’s many reasons for optimism. 

Starting with franchise cornerstones in D Thomas Chabot and LW Brady Tkachuk, the team has a great foundation. Chabot’s offensive skills have made it a lot easier to forget about Karlsson’s departure and Tkachuk has provided instant likability and star power. Further down the lineup are players like C/RW Colin White and RW Anthony Duclair who have shown potential and could play important roles on the team for years to come. 

Down in Belleville, players like C Josh Norris (Erik Karlsson trade), RW Drake Batherson, and LW Alex Formenton had phenomenal years. Norris and Formenton surpassed expectations and have elevated their status as top prospects in the organization. While these three players drew lots of attention this past year, C Logan Brown and LW Rudolfs Balcers (Karlsson trade) each put up over a PPG and RW/LW Vitali Abramov wasn’t far behind. Depth pieces like C Filip Chlapik could still pan out! On defence Erik Brannstrom (Mark Stone trade) had an up and down year after making the NHL out of training camp, and Christian Jaros and Max Lajoie could also serve as useful depth pieces down the road. In net, Joey Daccord had a stellar year posting a .915 SV% and Marcus Hogberg seems to have graduated to the NHL. 

In addition to the crop of players in Belleville, the Sens have drafted C Shane Pinto (2019, 32nd) and D Jacob Bernard-Docker (2018, 26th) who both had excellent seasons for NCAA North Dakota. D Lassi Thomson (2019, 19th) is an intriguing two-way defenceman with a massive slap shot based on highlight clips I have seen on Twitter. In goal, Kevin Mandolese was just named the QMJHL Goaltender of the Year and while he didn’t have a great season, we shouldn’t write off 6’7” Mads Søgaard.

The 2020 Draft is Ottawa’s opportunity to find those franchise cornerstones to add to Chabot and Tkachuk. The Sens have lots of solid prospects that will be important contributors but they currently lack the star power needed to contend down the road. The Senators currently hold the 2nd and 3rd (SJS – Erik Karlsson trade) best odds to win the draft lottery but no one is really sure when that lottery will be or what the format will be. Regardless, the Sens are essentially guaranteed 2 of Alexis Lafreniere, Quentin Byfield, Tim Stutzle, Jamie Drysdale, Marco Rossi, Lucas Raymond, Cole Perfetti, Alexander Holtz, Anton Lundell, Jake Sanderson, and Jack Quinn. In the past 20 years the Sens have picked twice in the top 5 selecting Jason Spezza 2nd overall in 2001 and Brady Tkachuk 4th overall in 2018. Now they have the opportunity to do this twice in the span of half an hour! An absolute worst case scenario is picking a guy who put up 120 points in the OHL and a defenceman who tore up the World Junior Championship for Canada. A best case, and extremely possible scenario could be drafting Alexis Lafreniere and one of Quinton Byfield and Tim Stutzle. We all joked about it at the start of the season when San Jose went 0-3 but this could actually happen.

After the 2 lottery picks, the Sens hold the Islanders’ first round pick that is currently sitting at 21st overall. This is an intriguing spot to be in because Ottawa holds four!!! 2nd round picks. As Owner/ Chairman/ sometimes CEO/ General Secretary Eugene Melnyk alluded to on Toronto sports radio, it’s likely that Ottawa will use some of these picks to trade up to get more elite talent in the first round. Depending on where the Islanders finish the season, the Sens could be picking 3 times in the top 15. The Sens also hold two 3rd round picks in 2020, their 1st round pick next year and three 2nd round picks in 2021.

In addition to all the positivity when it comes to roster players, prospects and the draft, the Senators have found themselves in a pretty desirable cap situation. Hockey related revenues will be way down as a result of COVID-19. Even if the NHL manages to finish the playoffs and award the Stanley Cup, there won’t be any ticket revenue for teams. This means that the salary cap will likely decrease —  or at a minimum won’t increase — allowing your Ottawa Senators, who have a projected 2020/21 cap space of $42 million (lmao), to exploit cap strapped teams. Give me your Gaboriks, your Datsyuks, your Hossas yearning to breathe free.

Despite all the optimism, there is a real hesitancy to support this team because of the owner. To put it simply, the guy is the worst. An unfortunate reality that I have recently come to terms with is that he’s probably not going to leave anytime soon. Eugene Melnyk has held onto this franchise as it liquidated all of its players, saw attendance plummet, and faced public criticism from crowd funded billboards to The Simpsons. I don’t think it’s likely that he’ll sell now that the team has bottomed out and looks to be trending upwards. In a normal world you could potentially make the case that with a franchise trending in the right direction it would make sense to sell high to a prospective new owner wanting to win now. Unfortunately, COVID has thrown conventional Senators ownership conspiracy theorism out the window. The pandemic has undoubtedly hurt the NHL and with it franchise values have certainly been impacted. It really makes no sense for Eugene Melnyk to sell the team when it’s likely at its lowest value in years. In a weird way, it’s possible that COVID has given Melnyk a new lease on the team. Without fans at games, it doesn’t matter if the arena is in Kanata. It also doesn’t matter that attendance has struggled. The team was certainly not counting on playoff revenue this Spring. Melnyk owns the Canadian Tire Centre and doesn’t need to pay rent on an empty arena. It feels weird to think but this NHL stoppage came at a pretty ideal time for the Senators.

This might all look too good to be true. It very well could be. There’s no certainty in sports. We didn’t know that Jason Pominville was going to make Alfredsson turn in OT. The seemingly indestructible 2007/08 Senators didn’t look like they were going to collapse until they did. Sens fans have gotten optimistic about things in the past only to see it all fall apart. I thought that Curtis Lazar was going to be captain by now. My point is that we should at least enjoy this crop of young players while they’re around. They’re likeable and play a fun, hard working style of hockey. General Manager Pierre Dorion has assembled one of the best prospect groups in the league and has hoarded an unprecedented amount of draft picks. There’s going to be tons of depth and it’ll be fun to see lots of top prospects develop into NHL players. Maybe it’ll all be for naught and Melnyk will trade all the players in their prime again. We really don’t have much of a say in it. You and I both have no control over the team. This isn’t participatory democracy, it’s the entertainment industry. 

Since you’re reading this, you are more than likely an Ottawa Senators fan. There’s also a decent chance that you live in the ever expanding City of Ottawa. I totally understand if you’d rather spend your entertainment money elsewhere. I’ve sorta realized that I really like watching the local professional hockey team. The trek out to Kanata is tedious but it’s still fun to watch live games. It’s a good time to go to a bar ( I really miss going to bars), see that all the TVs are showing the Leafs and Raptors, and then sheepishly ask the bartender to change the channel just in time to watch Question Period with Bruce Garrioch without audio. I was sitting second row at the last Sens home game before the league shut down and got to see Brady Tkachuk go top shelf against the Islanders on a 2 on 1. Strangely enough it’s probably one of my favourite Sens memories. What I’m saying is giving Eugene Melnyk some money to watch your favourite team play your favourite sport when we can safely do so isn’t crossing a picket line. This isn’t the same thing as boycotting Amazon. You won’t be cancelled because you buy a home black 2D Tkachuk jersey next year. The Sens make tons of money from TV deals and advertisements. Melnyk isn’t going to sell the team because you refused to buy a $15 USD ticket on StubHub. For the first time in a while I am really excited about this team. I think you should be as well. Go and enjoy this insane franchise that continues to ruin our lives. 

4 thoughts on “Guest Post: Steve On Sens Presents, A Suspicious Amount of Optimism

  1. Yeah it’s been a while. Dorion has done a really good job. He restructured the NHL team and the minor team in Belleville as well. Now we just need to give it a little time and it will be fun again. Can’t wait to see the outcome of the draft.

  2. i agree 100 % the only other really xool thing you forgot to mention is thr expansion draft we are gold there also. we wont have to worry about losing any top end talent. Chances are Ryan will wave his clause.
    i picked SJ to be a lottery team but was wrong about cbj and van

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