The Verdict Part 4: The Real Problem

Euge

Eugene Melnyk First off, I am very glad that Eugene is healthy again. Thanks to an extremely brave and unspeakably generous person he’s been given a second lease on life. Lowkey,  the most amazing fan moment in team history.  Oh, you threw a hamburger on the ice and Curtis Lazar took a bite of it, Sheldon Cutestory?
How about this person saved the owner’s fuckin’ life and hit him with the wild “Now win us a Cup.” Swish from full court…backwards.
Okay, these real-talk transitions  don’t get any easier to do, so in the spirit of “now win us a Cup” I’ll just dive in.
As all three of you may have noticed reading through the previous 3 parts of this series, aside from coaching, the actual changes I would make to player personnel are more complimentary than core. Would I part way with guys like Wiercioch and Chiasson? Yeah, but they aren’t making or breaking the team. Despite a bad performance this season, I’d like many of the players to remain on the team.
My biggest gripe up to now was always the need for a proven top 4 defenseman. Now that it’s been addressed, I wouldn’t be against giving a similar lineup a mulligan. Especially with a healthy Turris, MacArthur and non-broken finger edition Bobby Ryan. I don’t think they’re ready for the President’s Trophy but in a Florida leading the division with a 66 point, 44 year old leading scorer paradigm,  I think the East is still open enough to do some damage without having to sign Stamkos (whom I hear is very interested in signing in Ottawa for a discount).I was okay with Murray stepping down and Cameron getting the axe but really, if they got one more year too, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Actually, Cameron played Mark Borowiecki as a forward more than once so…good luck in future endeavors (Last time I will bring that up, I promise).No, in all seriousness, for me, the main issue holding this franchise back is ownership. Eugene Melnyk saved the Sens from Bankruptcy when he came in and bought the team and now he’s ruining them. He’s BEEN ruining them for a minute too. It’s one thing that his personal finances have deteriorated. It’s another that he’s stepping on the coach and management’s toes and meddling with their ability to make the “on ice product” the best it can be. Think potential coaches didn’t notice that Dorion said the money was there to sign a big name only to be contradicted by the owner like a day later?
If you can’t pay them you can’t pay them, why state your reluctance to sign the cheque to the media? I thought this guy was a fucking businessman. I’m a BLOGGER [who’s definitely not a virgin] and even I know that was a dumb move.I’ve heard it said the The Euge is the owner with the passion of a fan. That’s true but here’s the thing: I talk about hockey with a lot of different people. He does talk like a fan but he talks like the type fan that 2 minutes into talking to them I think to myself, “This guy doesn’t really know what he’s fucking talking about…but, you know, love the passion!” What kind of fan does he sound like? Ah, yes, the type of fan that you’re glad isn’t the one making the decisions. That’s where things are messed up in the organization. He’s imposed his influence, he’s meddling and he’s not a professional. No greater proof of that than how he handled the question of Dave Cameron’s future in the press. He should take a queue from the Anaheim Ducks owner and how they handle press…oh wait I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHO THAT IS BECAUSE YOU NEVER HEAR ANYTHING ABOUT THEM. Euge isn’t the only owner who has had a reputation for being what leading anthropologists classify as “The Worst.” Daryl Katz, Charles Wang, “Dollar” Bill Wirtz, and hell, peace to the originator Harold Ballard [thanks for making the leafs awful btw!] come to mind. Most of the time, if you know the the name of a sports franchise’s owner it is because they are: Meddling with operations, broke, holding the team back out of sheer cheapness, or threatening to move the team if some expensive toy they want isn’t handed to them [usually by the city] on a silver platter. Any of this sound familiar?

Personally, for a long time I’ve thought that Bryan Murray has flattered The Euge’s penny pinching with many of his signings and trades. But you can only really get away with dealing with those kind of constraints for so long before the cracks show. This was probably best evidenced by Alfie’s failed final contract negotiations and the “you can have Spezza OR Ryan but not both” ultimatum. See also: the current downplaying of re-signing the team’s leading goal scorer. Some of these magic moments can be blamed on managerial blunders but others are definitely due to just not being able to make certain financial commitments work because of lack of available resources.

Operating under the cap in spending is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a blessing to have payroll flexibility with a team as young Ottawa’s. As kids develop and perhaps emerge as core players they will ultimately earn bigger pay days. You have to factor that in so you need some cap space to keep them in the fold down the line. But “flexibility” isn’t really what the Sens have, do they? No, it’s a money in, money out fixed internal cap. Again, Murray’s Turris, Karlsson, Stone, and Methot contracts (among others) were amazing. A first line centre for under 4 million? A two time Norris winner and team captain for under 7? Two of the best deals in the league / sports (and for term!). Those aren’t the kind of deals that you’re going to be able to lock down over and over. Especially when trying to fill needs on the market. Also, Turris and Karlsson and Stone are going to need to be re-signed at some point. I’m sure this is the first you’ve heard of this. We Sens fans are not absolutely obsessed with this at all.

Not that you needed any of this pointed out [sad!] but why I feel like Eugene is the biggest problem facing the team is this:  Deep down I believe he is stalling the sale of his team as long as he can and operating the Sens on a shoestring season after season to pay down debt so the franchise is worth as much as possible when he eventually does sell it. It’s his business to run and I get why this would happen. However, if he truly loved the team as much as he says he does he’d realize it could be much better and more stable without such tight constraints on spending “when the time is right.”
I don’t know what to believe when he speaks (problem: I rarely believe him). I’m no Dom Trumps, you know, the business genius who bankrupted a casino, but when he says that in this market, you need to make the 2nd round of the playoffs to break even I don’t know how to make sense of that. The numbers show that attendance is very good compared to the rest of the league. This despite Ottawa being a city of 1 million people whose hockey fandom is divided in three among smart, good looking Sens fans who have pleasant smelling breath, and the remaining fucklords who attempting to connect with their parents, cheer for one of two other cities stupid, dumb teams [for jerks]. The team operates millions and millions of dollars under the salary cap, recently got a TV deal, the owner also owns the arena where Garth Brooks just had a sold out, month long residency. Oh and by the way it’s not always pretty but the team DOES make the playoffs most years. They’ve only missed 3 times in the 12 seasons he’s owned the team. The Panthers are older than the Sens, just made the playoffs for the 5th time EVER and didn’t even sell those games out. How are they making it work?
I digress. Operating the way he asks, he can’t expect things to somehow improve. We’re going to games, we’re buying the merch. We’re doing our bit. We’re also supposed to believe that the plan is that the Sens just magically make the playoffs past the first round every year, as is? That’s a risky plan when you consider the Islanders just won ONE round for the first time since Mika Zibanejad was born. They didn’t do it one time under the sole ownership of notorious cheapskate and Proto-Melnek, Charles Wang.

The Sens are still a relatively new franchise and I think a lot of current fans were converted during the Sens powerhouse years.  Melnyk is not helping develop the brand by creating an environment to scrape by in, badmouthing his employees and the players while threatening and even in some cases blaming fans in the media.

He is simply too broke to be in the business of winning anymore and it becomes more obvious with each passing season. His attitude toward his paying customers is contemptuous and alienating and this almost worries me the most as a person who lives and dies on Senators hockey. Thank you for saving the Sens, Eugene. We had a hell of a run with you writing the checks but face it now someone needs to save you.

 

Verdict: Sell the team to Rich Uncle Space Clown.

 

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The Verdict Part 3: Coaching, Management & Moves

Verdict

Daaaaaamn, Judgey Judgerton back at it again with the inconsequential taaaaaakes

Coaching 

Dave Cameron Ugh. This.

K. As much as some seem folk out there to want it to be, this bad season is not all on Dave Cameron…but also gotta hear both sides because this guy wasn’t all that great as a coach too.
The tough thing with evaluating coaches is that you’ll never know the full story behind 100% of their decisions but at the end of the day, some of Dave’s came off kind of desperate and didn’t make much sense.
The team had a lot of injuries this year and I’m sure that messed up his plan. I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t in his grand design to have to start either O’Connor or Dreiger in the home opener or to put Pageau on the top line.
That said, when judging Cam’s performance it always comes down to one decision for me: Playing Mark Borowiecki as a forward. I know I’m like a broken record with this but it’s only because this one is cut and dried just a horrible, avoidable decision that in no way helped the team win. It’s not as if Boro had a history of playing both defense and forward in college (a time for experimentation!). Nor does Boro even have an applicable skill set to warrant the decision to move him there. If Cameron, had played, say, Chris Wideman, up front I could wrap my head around that. He’s a crafty puck handler with a great speed and a hard, accurate shot. Wiercioch as a forward for a game? I could see that too potentially, I guess. Why Boro?

Related: How TIGHT would you be if you were Cole Schneider leading the BSens in points and the shutmost of shutdown defenseman was getting the nod to fill in ahead of you. Damn.

Speaking of player usage, I’d like to bring up one thing that I just cannot forget about: One of the questions asked of Cameron in his first presser after he took over for MacLean was “Will this be the end of Line Juggling Bingo” and Cameron said, “I’ve never been big on juggling the lines.” Then less than a calendar year later we have shit like Boro at forward and Bobby Ryan in a “non-scoring” role. Like injuries shminjuries WTF? He ended up worse than MacLean with the bingo balls in just one full season.
Could Cameron have been given another year? Yeah. He’d have probably had better results with a healthier line up and a year of Phaneuf instead of Cowen/Wiercioch.
Was Murray too zesty to extend him for multiple years given mistakes of the past? Definitely. With so little NHL experience Cameron would have accepted a one year contract.
Finally, did Ol’ Coach Blue Eyes seem in over his head a little at times? I think, like every coach since Bryan Murray, it showed. Post-Hartsberg/Paddock/Clouston/MacLean and now Cameron I think the team does need to return to someone with NHL head coach experience.

Verdict: Right to part ways but I propose a media blackout of Eugene Melnyk.

André Tourigny Did you run the power play? Well you’re fuckin’ fired.

Simple as this: How you gonna have the 9th highest scoring team in the N HAITCH L and have a 15% power play?

Verdict: Right to part ways.

Jason Smith Are you the defensive coach? Well you’re fuckin’ fired.

This guy arguably did a worse job than Tourigny. I’m pretty bummed that he was shuffled around the organization and not dismissed outright but whatever. The defensive coach will be different next year and that’s what matters most to me as a fan.

Verdict: Absolutely should have been dismissed.

Rick Wamsley Uhhh, look lady, this ain’t my real job, okay?

A huge reason credited to Hammond’s emergence was Rick Wamsley’s coaching. A big factor leading Matt O’Connor to sign here was a chance to work with “Wammer”. Seems rash to get rid of him. I also heard he played a big role in running practice drills which were apparently shit, M8. So…

Verdict: I plead even more ignorance than usual. I suppose this gives the new coach a chance to fully staff their ranks going forward? Man, this coach of the future better slaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

Luke Richardson I would like to start off by acknowledging that Luke Richardson is an awesome and inspirational person who has been through unimaginable stuff. My respect for him and his family almost makes writing stuff like this objectively quite challenging. Here goes nothin…

On a professional level, one thing I’ve never quite understood is the degree to which Luke was coveted as the golden goose of the coaching staff. So much fear of Luke over being snatched away by Tim Murray was expressed over the years. Like, I wouldn’t be thrilled about that happening I guess but I don’t know if that what it is about him leaving that had people so shook. A couple of good seasons in Bingo, one DEEC season and then one brutal one. Kurt Kleinendorst won a Calder Cup and was gone just one season later. I don’t remember uproar about that. Life goes on.

Luke seems like a positive guy and a very good communicator from what I can gather from interviews. These qualities in a coach  don’t grow on trees, unfortunately. With his eyes set on a chance at an NHL job, with the Sens regime change, it obviously wasn’t going to happen for him here. I think Dorion is banking on the next coach having NHL experience and for them to be in charge for a few years. Makes sense if it will be best for both parties to move on.

Verdict: A tough one. I hate that the organization loses such a quality person but ultimately I support both a full coaching changeover as well as giving Richardson his best chance to advance his career.

Management

Bryan Murray First off, again, respect to the person. This man is a Marine and a hockey legend. I hope he winds up in the hockey hall of fame sooner than later.  I don’t know if I should really sum up his entire tenure with Ottawa in this small space. That’s another post and one that should probably be written someone more eloquent than me.

Focusing on more recent Brystory, I can see at the end of the last few off-seasons why BMurr would waver about his future only to re-up the next year. He’s built a pretty solid but still growing core here over the years. I’m sure he’d be thinking ‘just a few more moves and this could be something’. There were blunders along the way but I felt this year he cleaned up a few huge ones. Dumping a bunch of burdensome or straight up dead salary for an actual player who can fill a much needed role was undeniably huge. The Phaneuf trade has it’s critics and he deserves blame for putting the team in that position but what I see in that deal is the wizardry required to address team needs without the option of money to fix things.

Under the ever-looming shitcloud of budgetary restrictions, Murray hit some absolute monster home runs as GM. But as the years pressed on, he’s taken his share of L’s too. I think he set the table as best he can. He’s had the management reins for nearly a decade, an eternity in modern pro sport. Deep down I fell much of the heavy lifting has been done and it might be alright for a fresh set of eyes to have a look at things.

Verdict: Not happy to say it but it was probably time.

Pierre Dorion Good luck in future endeavors ha ha ha…no but seriously do not fuck up your future endeavors.

Given the restrictions that Bryan Murray had to work within for the past few years it’s not the worst idea to have a guy who was learned the ropes under a GM who did an admirable job dealing with both the budget AND A MEDDLESOME EGOMANIACAL OWNER – wow. Sorry.
Seriously, Dorion has negotiated some seriously shrewd contracts over the past couple of years. They are a shitty reality necessary to making the club “work” so it’s a vital strength to have as Sens GM. I also really like that PD’s background is in scouting. Something not only helpful for drafting but also figuring out who to acquire in the Mike Hoffman tra—ahahaha *tear*

Under Melnyk the general manager position is a uniquely tense and difficult one. Dorion has been groomed for it for years now. Unlike nearly every goalie we’ve drafted now that he’s been developed he’s actually being kept around and given his shot.

Verdict: Probably one of the few people who actually knows HOW to run this team under current ownership [theme].

 

Randy Lee Made that giant trade with Rocheste and the BSens seemed to improve greatly after. I’m no expert with the BSens (peep the gawd Alicia Straunch’s insight for that) but after an apparent lockey room rift and 2nd last place finish I’m for a new look Binghamton team. Shout out to addressing problems. Seems like they changed things up without really sacrificing whatever depth is still there.

Verdict: Brutal BSens season not a good look but at least he did something about it instead of sitting on his hands. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if he did. Good to keep him on board.

In Memoriam: A look back at the players we lost this year. Was it right to let these players set sail?

Milan Michalek Milan Michalek, man…You know, when Milo is talked about in the press it’s never long before how much respect his teammates have for him is mentioned. This is just a pet theory [thx4reading] but I think a lot of it comes from his teammates watching a guy with chronic knee injuries show up to a physical job every day and compete at a high level without complaint. No further proof of that to me than after he was traded to Toronto they promptly shut him down for the year with a knee injury. Damn, he’s had a rough career.

In terms of his usefulness as a player I’ve long said, $4M is a lot of money but blessed is the guy who can fill in on any line without issue, kill penalties and chip in with the odd goal. That said, with the injuries piling up and another 4 mill on the books for next season, it was time for our poor ass team to let go of 9MM. Basically the only player on TML’s current roster that I admire.

Verdict: Right to part ways.

Jared Cowen Is it too much to say this guy was basically the Alexandre Daigle of defence? JC had great size, some offensive upside, and WJC pedigree when he was taken 9th overall in 2009 (Seven years ago tbx!). Of course, he never had the hype of Daigle but at least Daigle was kind enough to at least be a DEEC if mediocre player. I mean, he did have a 24 goal 51 point season here. Cowen…gave Jeff Skinner a concussion…so…
Anyway, there’s not much to say about Cowen that hasn’t already been said. On paper he was the perfect partner for Erik Karlsson so can’t blame the organization for taking him high as they did (even if he was their second choice after Nazem Kadri).
Where one absolutely CAN the blame organization is for giving this guy too many goddamn chances. I can think of a few high pedigree players who the organization had the sense to cut ties with. Brian Lee and Nikita Filatov come to mind.  Thank Christ he rejected that 8 year deal that the genius Tim Murray offered him. I guess Cowen’s massive ego came in handy for something. 

Verdict: Extremely LUCKYYYYY to part ways with him.

College Greening I know it’s super outto talk about intangibles these days but if there’s a je ne sais quoi that is REAL real, it’s confidence. Good LORD. What happened to this guy? You know you fell the fuck off when you used to play in the top 3 and BOOM a $2.65M cap hit seems crazy unreasonable for your services.
I don’t know if there’s a player I feel less sympathy for than a handsome, buff 30 year old millionaire with a degree from an Ivy League school. Hope he can land on his feet. 

Verdict: Amazing to dump his contract on the leafs…I mean respectfully and amicably part ways.

Shane Prince *Vapes thoughtfully, exhales a massive cloud of Monster Energy Drink flavoured smoke*

Now that he’s gone one big question looms: Did Shane Prince get the most ideal chance to succeed here? Given Dave Cameron’s questionable player usage, it’s fair to argue he didn’t.
Still, I sometimes wonder if players like Pageau, Hoffman, and Stone really got treated much differently early into the careers. They all started off in and out of the line up by toiling away in the bottom six until further notice. Sure, Prince didn’t play with the most talented line mates but I just don’t know if I can call a player who due to his contract was pretty much guaranteed a roster spot a victim. Also, other than a few games  I must admit he was okay but didn’t exactly dazzle me. That’s not to say I don’t think he’s talented or could be something in the NHL one day but his 3 goals in 42 games left something to be desired.

Take this for what you will but I had heard that since he requested a trade last season, he and the organization did not get along well. I think that might have played a large role in why he was dealt before he’d played even 1 full pro season here. As for the return. Yes, a 3rd round pick is pretty weak but imagine for a second Ottawa acquired a guy who was drafted going on 6 years ago and had 12 NHL points. Would you expect to give up more for that player?
Regardless, I for one am looking forward to every point he gets for the next 5 years to be carefully catalogued on twitter. Please be better than this guy Matt Puempel. I’m begging you.

Verdict: The way this played out I feel like we don’t know the full story here. Probably should have waited out the year before moving him though. He was still a controllable RFA at seasons end. Remember what Hoffman got in arbitration? Could have given him another year for peanuts.

Tobias Lindberg Loved seeing people freak out to the “Lindberg could make the leafs roster full time as early as next year” headlines on TML fan blogs like TSN.ca/NHL. That or the hand wringing over him getting called up all to the bigs all, “SEE we gave away an NHL player” like, okay, also, Toronto is literally the worst fucking team in the league.

Advice: When it comes to giving up players in trades, don’t waste your energy on when the crown jewel of a trade for a top 4 defender who can play 20+ minutes is a guy putting up single digits on a shit team.
I’m calling it, Lindberg’s not going to do much that Nick Paul or Matt Puempel won’t. Save the trade rage for Vezina nominee Ben Bishop being dealt for a dude who’s now a Swiss league player and perennial candidate for the Spengler Cup roster AKA Hockey’s Purgatory.

Verdict: You gotta give up SOMETHING in every trade. Sometimes it’s handsomeness. I think he’s a good player but honestly probably wasn’t going to get much of a shot here. Again, prepare for every point he gets for the rest of his career to be chronicled, bronzed, polished and compulsively rearranged on a shelf beside Silfverberg’s.

 

The Verdict Part 2: Defenders and Goaltenders

Verdict

Today we carry on our jerky journey of inconsequential judgement. Who’s on the docket? Oh, gooood defensemen and goaltenders. This should be quick and easy. Who should stay and who should go? 

Erik Karlsson Well, you know, best player in franchise history at age 25. In a perfect world he would be a lock for his third, second consecutive Norris trophy.

Verdict: APPARENTLY NO ONE IS SAFE but I suppose keep.

Dion Phaneuf Hi, Dion Phaneuf plays for the Ottawa Senators.

Not since Rocky Balboa’s historic “We can all change” speech that ended Communism have I had to checkitty check the shit out of my feels about anything.
After hating him for years, two games into his time here it was clear to me that Dion was exactly the type of player the Senators needed. I fast realized many of the reasons I couldn’t stand him are exactly why I now love him. The biggest problem with the trade? He was acquired a little too late into the season to help turn things around. Back in September of 2015 if you asked me what the thing I’d be most pumped about going into the 2016-17 season was, I’d have definitely responded “A full season of Dion Phaneuf.” Why? Because history is written by the Victors and I am known as Victor on several prominent dating sites.

My biggest concern with Phaneuf is that his leadershipocity could spill over into “taking over the locker room” territory. After watching that 30 for 30 about Shaq and Penny Hardaway on the mid-90s Orlando Magic, I am suddenly VERY sensitive to keeping your best player happy, rich and thinking he is the undisputed leader of the team, full stop.
I suppose whether an overbearing team takeover happens or not comes down to what kind of a person and teammate Dion is. Considering I’ve only thought of him as a piece of shit from Oct. 5th, 2005 though Feb. 9th, 2016, your guess is as good as mine.

Verdict: Living in the now and not 4 years from now. Very excited about going into next season with him. Keeper.

Cody Ceci We wanted a young team and we got one. With youth comes inconsistency. Ceci is pretty representative of that inconsistency but I honestly believe in him. I think he’s the Mika Zibanejad of defense. Is he a superstar? No, but what he is is a very young kid learning to play an important and difficult role with a tiny margin of error. After struggling with a rotating cast of defence partners, Ceci was a new player when Dion Phaneuf was brought in to stabilize him. He even played with a noticeable confidence without Phaneuf after he went down with a foot injury. Ceci quietly finished 2nd in scoring among defensemen with an impressive 10 goals and 26 points. He’s 22 years old.

Verdict: I believe Ceci will develop into everything Patrick Wiercioch was hyped up to be. Keep.

Chris Wideman Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan this guy switch contracts with Mark Borowiecki? Wideman was not a player I initially had tons of faith would electric slide into the NHL smoothly. Sure he won AHL defenseman of the year…but look up some of the other winners of that award. It’s a mixed bag.

Happily, Wideman has worked out quite nicely in his role. Is his game perfect? No, but that’s why he’s a 3rd paring defenseman and that’s okay. I think he could thrive even more if he had a bit of a better partner to work with.

Verdict: Great deal for what you get. Keep

Marc Methot Kind of a quiet year for Methot…I guess that’s good? Solid player on a good deal with both the wheels to keep up with Karlsson and the acumen to hold him down while EK hits us with The Art. Injuries are becoming more and more of a concern for the 30 year old who has never played a full 82 game season in his 9 season career. Also, from time to time, I worry about his [ALLEGED] Vengaboy lifestyle catching up with him.

Methot also stands to benefit greatly from the Phaneuf trade going forward as he is no longer the sole capable, big minute shut down defender on the team. Put simply: We are no longer proper fucked if Methot goes down with an injury.
Meth put up his second highest scoring total this year with 5 goals, none of which I remember. Could he be upgraded over? Yes. Will he be? Nah but he’s fine. I do kind of hope a replacement emerges for him in the next couple of seasons.

Verdict: Keep but gotta come up with a contingency plan pretty soon.

Patrick Wiercioch If you follow my Twinder account, you already know that I don’t have any love left in my heart for Patty W nor his Patty Wagon full of almost inexplicable die hard defenders.

I know, I know, why don’t I cut the most disappointing player on the roster some more slack! In a world where we’re disappointed in Ceci for his 26 point season then YEAH, Ima stay mad at Wiercioch for putting up 5.

Offensive dynamo Ben Harpur put up one point in 5 games. How you gunna tell me PW didn’t hit 10 points BY ACCIDENT in 52? Patty was the most frustrating player on the team this year not because I hate him but because I believed in him. Believed the hype more accurately. At least we knew Jared Cowen sucked from the get-go.

Anyway, I am a fan who’s willing to accept shortcomings in exchange for offence (See: Kaufman, Mike) but if you’re not a great defender and you don’t put up points what are you? A guy who can ONLY pass? I’m sorry but that’s not going to cut it in the NHL. Just ask only good at passing, former NHL player Scott Gomez. You seem like a good dude but you blew it, Patty.  After a 5 point season, an injury and a 2.7 million dollar qualifying price, homie seems bound for Europe. I truly hope he can turn it around, just not here.

Verdict: Get rid.

Mark Borowiecki Oh goooooooooooooooood finally an opinion on Mark Borowiecki. K, the biggest trick the devil [Dave Cameron] played on the world was making this no.7 defenseman a 6th…and OCCASIONAL FORWARD?! Borowiecki should basically be a non-factor on this team like Chris Neil. You know, a tough but not offensively blessed NHLer who at the amount ice time they are [ideally] allotted, shouldn’t really be a player who wins or loses games. What’s fucked is that the coach on numerous occasions put him in a position where he had to carry out a tougher assignment than he should have. It’s not Boro’s fault that he was paired with Karlsson on the top pair or that he was played at forward [More. Than. Once.]. I just hope the Sens get a coach who says, “Wow, this guy works extremely hard and sets a great example. He will be first off the healthy scratch list when one of the better defenders is sick or injured.”

Tip: Set him up to succeed by playing him less.

Finished ahead of Patrick Wiercioch in goals scored btw. These are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.

Verdict: I’m tempted to say we are totally stuck with this guy but now that management and coaching is changing hands, I’ll be interested to see if he’s still the Golden Child next season. If Greening can be sent to Bingo at 2.65 million I could see Boro getting the heave-ho at 1.1. Should be downgraded to depth regardless. Would count him being demoted to the AHL as getting rid.

Ben Harpur I don’t know, shout out? No, for real, even though he’s just 21 the kid had kind of already became an afterthought for me once I heard he got demoted to Evansville of the ECHL early in the year. A rash of injuries to the big club certainly helped things out but you have to respect him working his way up from the ECHL to a cup of coffee in the NHL in just one season. Even one NHL game is something a lot of very talented hockey players never get to experience.

Verdict: LOL like we can give up any semblance of defensive prospect depth. Keep.

Mike Kostko Michael was a pleasant student to teach. Good luck in future endeavours. I respect him but let him go, he’ll find work somewhere.

Verdict: Get rid

Freddie Claesson I think I was one of the few people  luke warm on FC when he got called up to a struggling, injury riddled D corps . Nothing against Yung Claess per se, I was just skeptical of a young shutdown down defender with zero NHL experience saving a team who was dead last in shot suppression.

I set my expectations pretty low and his inconsistent play was in line with those expectations. Some games he looked like a guy playing in the NHL for the first time and other games you could see him getting more comfortable. Diagnosis: Prospect!

A restricted free agent, there are rumours that he has AL-LEG-ED-LY been tendered an offer to play in the Swedish league. I don’t know if that’s true but if he elects to play there at 23 after only 16 NHL games I think that really says something about his drive at this point.

Verdict: Stay or go. Up to him, I suppose.

Greg Anderton Andy once again kept the Sens in more games than he should have had to. Did he have some rough ones? Well, when you start three quarters of the season for the team who is 30th for shots against you know IT HAPPENS.

Honestly, all things considered, his 31-23-2 record is pretty remarkable. He’s put up two of his 3 winningest seasons here. One of them was this year. The Sens finished in 19th. Brazy. Could you imagine the defence started lightening his load? Oh you can’t at this point? Yeah, I know that feel.
He’s getting long in the tooth on paper but can obviously still handle a ton of games. I wish he wasn’t leaned on quite so hard but I’m convinced he can still play out his deal as a bona fide quality starter. It’s the team in front of him that needs to step up

Verdict: Keep

Andrew Hammond Ah, it feels normal to get back to my roots criticizing a back up goaltender for having a whatevs season. No one expected a repeat performance of his legendary run. I mean, dude was handed the 2nd regulation, regular season loss of his CAREER this year. I didn’t expect a Vezina from him this season but a winning record was something I did.
He got off to a rough start suffering an injury just as the season began. Never a great position to be in. Still, Hammond was shaky enough that I suspect Cameron was reluctant to play him at times especially during the first half of the season. I could be wrong but I found Anderson was overplayed a little and I believe Hammond’s slow start had to do with it. He was also in net for a few of those CLASSIC blowing a huge lead games. Not entirely his fault but as a goalie you’re always going to be blamed for those type of losses. Hammond started looking like his solid self again toward the home stretch. Hopefully he goes into next year that way.

Verdict: *Looks at the Binghamton goalies’ records* OH wow, fuckiiiing Keeeeeep

Chris Dreidger Kind of brazy to think this guy is only 21. He’s been in the pro system for over 3 seasons already. Rocked a DEEC 0.00 GAA in the NHL this season. Seriously, by all accounts he really took the reins as starter in Bingo this year. Pretty impressive he squeaked out a winning record considering the season they had down there. His numbers could stand to be better but at his age he has tons of time to improve.

Verdict: Keep

Matt O’Connor Aight, so, got a rough trial by fire by being handed the home opener against a divisional rival for not only his first NHL start but first  PROFESSIONAL start. Sans pression. He was actually alright in that game but failed to get much offensive support.

In Bingo he had a concerrrrrrningly rough go. His brutal 10-20-3 record and 3.31 GAA make one think he might need time in ECHL to build up his play. I ain’t know nothing about goalie confidence building / destroying though. Until someone comes along to change my mind, I’m starting to think this whole “sought after US college player FA signing” thing might not be something to get overly excited about. Still, O’Connor turned his play around toward the end of the year. Like the case with defence, I don’t know what is gained by giving up on a prospect after one [very] bad season given the lack of depth in net. Probably the most disappointing Sens prospect this season.

Verdict: Keep. Give him another chance but …you know…yikes.

The Verdict Part 1: Forwards

Verdict

With the Ottawa Senators’ 2015-16 season now over, one question looms heavily above all:
What does JAMES have to say about this shit?

Well, I thought I’d never ask! I been reading and hearing a lot of comments from the organization and on the Sensphere that the organization needs to make big changes. While I tend to agree with this sentiment two immediate questions arise:

1. What does that mean in terms of who should actually be moved? 

2. Shouldn’t all personnel decisions go through me first?

Let’s go on a psychedelic rock ride™ examining the Sens org top to bottom and see what I think should be done! Keep or Get RID. We can compare at the beginning of next season. Shower me with compliments if I’m right, allow me to redact if I’m wrong!  

Over the next few days Ima travel these choppy garbage seas in a three legged journey: 1. Forwards 2. Defense and Goaltenders 3. Coaches, Management and Ownership

I will arrive at an ultimate  inconsequential  VERDICT for each. 

Today, a focus on forwards: 

Mark Stone Blessed is the player who puts up 61 points in a streaky year. What’s his ceiling if he has a super consistent season? 80+? For real, remember how Stone was absolutely ice cold for a good stretch before the All Star break? He had a classic spotty sophomore season with twist: He led all Sens forwards in points. Just one of those types of players who make it easy to think that they will be better with each passing year.
Lowkey, I think he will be the franchise’s next Daniel Alfredsson. Yeah, I said that. Fight me.

Verdict: Basically an untouchable IMO. Keep. Hard Keep.

Mike Hoffman I learned a lot about Mike Hoffman this season. As an overage rookie, I think Hoffy pulled the rug out from fans and management alike with his 26 goal campaign. This season watching him as a 26 year old sophomore, I, like many others, concluded he is the most talented pure goal scorer on the team. I also concluded that he is the most defensively inept top 6 forward on the team–WAIT! PUT AWAY YOUR TORCHES AND PITCHFORKS! I’m just saying, if you don’t see some of his bruuutal moments particularly in the neutral zone you need to REGARDÉ LES JEUX.
Noooowww, here’s the other thing: I don’t care that much that he’s not great defensively. You know who wasn’t great defensively? Jason Spezza. When he was here I felt like his points made up for his shortcomings. I think the same of Hoffman. At a time when goal scoring is at a premium this guy can score goals. It’s okay that it’s the main thing that he does. Maybe the firing of Dave Cameron helps his chances of re-signing here?

Verdict: Try…to keep him? I really don’t want to watch a team made up entirely of responsible two way forwards.

Bobby Ryan D’ohhhhhhhhh jeeeeeezuzz…This is the one I was looking forward to writing the least (thx 4 reading!). We are complicated beings and the world’s a fucking complicated place. Bobby Ryan is no exception. With immense pressure to re-sign him after trading for him Bryan Murray actually backed the money truck up for once to make it happen. Now the reality of that deal is kicking in. He’s signed to 2022. But I suppose this is an assessment of his season and here’s the thing about that:
Bobby Ryan is doing his job.
He put up his highest point total as a Senator and did so playing more than half the season with a broken finger. He got quiet again down the stretch but also Cameron was playing him with Scott “The 1 point wonder” Gomez regularly, so you gotta hear both sides. Put simply, he hasn’t hit the mark a lot of fans want to see from him but he’s had pretty viable excuses along the way. I think there’s a growing concern that there will be an another excuse asterisk next year instead of a breakout. Despite all the noise he’s trended upward in games played and points produced each year since coming here.

Verdict: He’s not the team leader in points but that doesn’t mean I think the team is better without him. Keep.

Mika Zibanejad I read a comment on the ‘net from a fan who said that they’d seen enough of old hickory ham Bananajazz. Further, that he was “done” here in the capital. I guess you don’t put up 20 goals and 51 points at age 22 without making a few enemies. Just a FUEGO take from a fan but I think it’s indicative of a larger attitude toward him.
A tagline often given Ziba is that he always“leaves u wantin’ more™” AKA A SECOND LINE CENTRE. Also a bit of an odd thing to say about a player who’s increased his point totals every season.
I just can’t help but think back to hearing / thinking similar things about Mike Fisher back in the day. Then you look back and realize he was a perfectly cromulent 2nd line center. Yet Fish was coveted enough to net Ottawa a 1st round pick when he was traded. Now, consider Fisher’s best season in Ottawa was a 53 point campaign in 2009-10 when he was 10 seasons into his career. Zibanejad just posted up two points short of that at age 22. Fisher didn’t even hit 50 on any of the Sens high flying squads of the mid-2000s. I think it’s funny to re-evaluate Mika this way considering scoring is down league-wide and he’s playing for a bottom 10 team and is only in his early 20s.

Verdict: If the Sens are to keep developing talent as a major means of improving the team on the cheap going forward, I say, yeah, continue to develop this talented, 22 year old top 6 player. Ah doi.

JP Gageau Pros: Habs killer, NHL fucking leader in shorthanded goals, and can apparently fill in as top line centre in a pinch. Scored 19 goals and 43 points for a price tag of 900K. I wish they just gave JGP an 8 year deal when it was time to re-sign him.

Cons: LOCAL BOY WHO GETS HANDED EVERYTHING! Just kidding. I love how that local player bias only applies when the player is bad. But seriously folks…

Actual Cons: None.

Verdict: One of my favourite players on the team. Keep him, renegotiate his contract for 8 years.

Zack Smith Has a guy ever taken so much shit for having an outstanding year as Zack Smith? Milan Michalek 35 goal year maybe? Smith is a super interesting player to watch going forward as goal scoring-wise he either has a solid year or a shite year. This year was V solid. Bro came back from a disgusting injury and improved his goal total by 23. Even cynics should take their hat off to that.
Sure, I’m worried about his next contract being too rich but like Hoffman before him, let’s see if he can do it again.  If he can’t, a tough, solid ass bottom six guy on an expiring deal is catnip for GMs. Either that or will probably re-sign for a reasonable price. I got no issue with Zmith.

Verdict: I don’t know understand why people hate on this player. Keep ‘eem.

Kyle Turris In MacArthur’s absence, filled in admirably with the role of “Perfect Hockey Player.” My one beef with Turris, probably the first I’ve ever had with him since he started playing here, is that I wish he just sat out immediately after getting hurt. Not that there’s any ill will but he went from being one of the hottest players in the league to just getting by after getting his ankle bent in a way not in accordance with God’s Plan. Don’t be a hero, Turry! Sincerely hopes he makes a full recovery in time for training camp next season. High ankle sprains can be, in the immortal words of JCVD, a “sont of a binch.”

Verdict: Like Pageau, I just wish he was signed for 8 years. Remember when that contract was a huge risk? LOLz.

Curtis Lazar There’s nothing to dislike about Curtis Lazar. He’s very likable. He plays a responsible if quiet game.
The problem is I think the Sens might have too many Curtis Lazars at this point. He’s only but 11 and a half years young but I sometimes wonder, what will Curtis grow up to do that JG Pageau doesn’t, that Zack Smith doesn’t, that Nick Paul won’t …that Colin White…won’t. The Sens BEEN had responsible two way centres. If the team’s going to make changes and a team thinks that he could fill a key role for them I’d be okay with it.

Verdict: Could be time to thin the herd down the middle and if Lazar could net the best return because of his pedigree, so be it.

Alex Chiasson This guyyyyyy. Not since Jaisson Spezza has a Sens player had a tougher time cultivating goodwill with fans than this dude.
I thought it was perfect/troubling that he turned up the intensity of his play after he wasn’t be moved at the deadline and the Sens were more or less eliminated from the playoffs. You know, when the pressure was completely off. What really bugs me is that I do feel like Chiasson has another gear to his play that I saw him hit like 2 times over the entire course of his time in Ottawa.

Verdict: Straight up, Jim Nill hustled The Bryan on this one. He’s not really a make or break type guy to begin with but you can’t really win with this type of player. Experiment over. Find someone hungrier. Get RID.

Chris Neil Musings: For all the calls for a complete culture change in Ottawa funny how a guy like Chris Neil, whose whole strength as a player at this point is his connection to team culture manages to avoid being a part of that discussion. Phaneuf was praised for filling a gaping hole in veteran leadership. What does this say about Chris Neil? Sure, MacArthur was missing but Neil has played for Ottawa for 15 years now. He’s all time franchise leader in fighting teammates in practice…which is apparently good and not very, very bad.
Anyway, following a few years of him driving me absolutely bananas I let Neiler cook this season as he was pretty quiet for the most part. If I don’t really notice him in-game, I can handle him. Guy still can’t carry the puck over the blue line 9 times out of 10…and the ONE time he does it’s getting dumped in  (read: turned over to the other team) the second he enters the zone. Hey, here I am NOT letting son cook, oops! One more year, get your thousand games and ride off into sunset.

Verdict: Whatever, fuck.

Scott G.O.A.T.mez I saw a person (allegedly) comment that signing Scott Gomez was one of Bryan Murray’s worst moves of the season. Family, we had JG Pageau as no.1 centre for a stretch of the year lining up against up against the likes of Crosbex or Getzloaf (no disrespect to JGP). I can wrap my head around why a cheap guy with NHL experience and two Cup rings was signed for a song to bolster the line up. Problem: He stunk and his one assist showed why a guy with two Cup rings was available for a song. Enjoy break out passes from David Rundblad in Zurich.

Verdict: Get RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIID.

Ryan Dzingel Basically why I wasn’t too busted up about not giving Erik Condra a contract extension. Nothing against Condra, I really liked him as a player, but for a budget conscious team I figured we could find someone who could offer similar services for cheaper. A player that always impressed me at dev camp, he  finally got a serious look at the top level and seems pretty capable in his role. Will not be heartbroken when we look for a cheaper replacement for him in that made up guy Macoy Earglompz or whoever in two years.

Verdict: Keeper

Max McCormick A Binghamton fan favourite who both looks like and shares a name with their mascot, Max. The biggest question surrounding McCormick is this: Is he the NHL’s first player of plush manimal descent? I am so fucking high right now.
A lot is made out of useless facepunchers with a heart of gold getting called up ahead of skilled players but one thing I can’t ignore is that McCormick put up around the same amount of goals as Shane Prince, Matt Puempel and Nick Paul and in fewer games. Not calling Max a skill player so much as I’m saying the higher pedigree guys are putting up Max McCormick numbers. The higher he pushes himself up the depth chart the more of an indication that higher skilled prospects aren’t showcasing themeselves well enough IMO. Can’t knock the hustle tho.

Verdict
: Seems to make Binghamton fans happy and their happiness makes me happy. Keep him.
Nick Paul A pleasant surprise this season. I didn’t think we’d see him in Ottawa for at least another year. He had a slow start in Binghamton and we all fronted. I found once in the NHL he made his presence known more than players way ahead of him in the depth chart like Shane Prince and Matt Puempel.
Agree with me or not, I just noticed this guy contributing more. Might be one of those players who’s game is actually more suited to the NHL but don’t get it twisted I would not be opposed to him getting more time to grow in Bingo. After all, the team is 80% two way centres at this point.

Verdict: Keep him.

Dade Brzyntski Ahh, the call up that just won’t go away. I predicted the end of the Dziurzynski call up era at the beginning of the season. Wrong again!

Just like McCormick, for the talk of organization favoring braun over skill, the boy Dizzy put up around the same amount of points  as Matt Puempel and Nick Paul in nearly half the games and with less ice time. Again, an indictment of the production of the higher pedigree prospects, putting up those Dizzy numbers while getting more opportunity.

Verdict: Homie’s numbers are lacklustre even in the AHL. Get RID

Buddy Robinson The OTHER Dave Dziurzynski!

Verdict: You can’t teach depth.

Matt Puempel Ended the season with a goal in the last game allowing him to juuuuust edge out the veteran Craig Anderson in total points by one so… he’s developing nicely.
Interesting how there seems to be oceans of patience for Puempitty Pump Pump (sorry) and yet some seem at their wits end with younger, far more productive Zibanejad. Not saying that impatience should be directed at Puempel or something but I can’t help but find it concerning how quiet he’s been the past couple of seasons during his call ups. I’ve noticed Dzingel more, I’ve noticed Nick Paul more. He’s been more Scott Gomez than Mark Stone.

Verdict: Having traded away Noesen, Silfverberg, Shane Prince and with the looming possibility of Hoffman getting moved (for some fucking reason) the Sens can hardly afford to cut bait with Puempel at this point. Still has the potential to show what he can do. Keep.

Clarke MacArthur https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRFEz2MjZgg&nohtml5=False

Tune in tomorrow (OR WHENEV) for Part Two: Defense and Goaltenders!

LONG READS: How Did This Get Made? A Colour Coded Guide to How the Current Roster Came to Be

how

Depth Chart (Artist’s Conception*) 

Forwards :
HoffmanTurrisRyan
MacArthur/Lazar – ZibanejadStone
MichalekPageauChiasson/McCormick
PrinceSmithNeil

Call ups: Puempel, Greening, Dzingle, *long sigh* Dziurzynski

Defense:
Methot/ClaessonKarlsson
Cowen/WierciochCeci
Borowiecki – Wideman/Phillips

Call ups: Kostka, Frozen Dinner

Goaltenders: 
Anderson / Hammond

Call ups: Dreidger / O’Connor

(*Look, the lines move around virtually every game so just let me rock with this config, K? I’m tryin’ to hit the Publish button at some point, my G. Thxu)

First impressions:
Wow, the current team was sure as hell constructed with Bryan Murray and Co’s hands. 13 of the 24 above listed players are Sens draft picks. Another 6 players acquired by Murray trades.
The team has hit the lotto once during The Bryan’s reign; the 2011 daft which they lost the NJ btw, and picked in the top 10 just one other time (2009) since taking Jason Spezza 2nd overall in 2001 [AKA when Thomas Chabot was 4 years old].

50% of the current top 6 and 75% of the top 4 of the defense are made up of draft picks. It’s worth mentioning that of the internally developed guys in the top 6 and top 2 there are a 2 time Norris winner & team captain, a Calder Nominee and last season’s [and the current] goal scoring leader. DEEC drafting tbh. Another thing that jumps out to me is that legacy Christophers Neil and Phillips are the only Non-Murray Regime picks drafted by Ottawa on the entire roster right now. For better or worse this team is almost completely Bryan Murray’s.

A Wee Bit of a Break Down: I’ve colour coded the team into 5 categories [YOU‘RE
WELCOME] using the 2011 Retool (shied away from the word Rebuild to avoid getting pelted with #ACTUALLYS) as a major milestone of the Murray Era.
I broke it down like this: Pre-2011 picks, 2011 picks and beyond, Pre-Bryan Murray picks, Players acquired by trade and finally free agent signings. Let’s do the damn thing shall we?

Pre-2011 Retool Draft Picks – Post-Cup Final Era AKA Wha’ Happen? (Green):

Forwards:
Mike Hoffman – Round 5 #130 overall, 2009 draft

Zack Smith – Round 3 #79 overall, 2008 draft

Mark Stone – Round 6 #178 overall, 2010 draft

Defenders:
Erik Karlsson – Round 1 #15 overall, 2008 draft

Patrick Wiercioch –  Round 2 #42 overall, 2008 draft

Mark Borowiecki – Round 5 #139 overall, 2008 draft

Jared Cowen – Round 1 #9 overall, 2009 draft

Chris Wideman – Round 4 #100 overall, 2009 draft

Smooth Jimmy’s Funalysis:
Using the 2011 Retool as a major milestone, looking back, it would seem that love or hate the current line up, some very important players were acquired before going fire sale and jettisoning most of the 2010-11 team for picks.
Up front, we have vital top 6 forwards Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone taken late in the ’09  and 2010 drafts. Two forwards most fans would consider untouchable. It’s nothing for both of these guys to play on the top line. Whether you consider these guys lucky breaks or seeing eye picks cant complain about these dudes.

On D things get more complicated. We, of course, have team captain/whole entire world Erik Karlsson famously taken mid-way through the first round of the 2008 draft. Easily the most important pick in franchise history since Daniel Alfredsson.
A quick aside: I was tripping out the other day thinking about how Erik Karlsson will be in the Hall of Fame one day. Brazy.
Now, that Chris Wideman seems to have established himself as a full-time roster player, it’s clear that it’s the guys who were selected pre-2011 that make up the majority of the current defense corps.
This isn’t exactly a good look if you’re one of the many among us who think the defense is the team’s weakest point. I’m sure opinions here will be mixed as we seem to have a split down the middle.
On one hand we have the beloved Karlsson and the welcome addition of the competent Chris Wideman. On the other, the hard working but much derided Mark Borowiecki and the wildly detested Jared Cowen. Serving as the creamy middle we have the Human Gotta Hear Both Sides Patrick Wiercioch. You take the good you take the bad you put em together and there you have *takes enormous hit off bong* … fuckiiiiin’ whatever.

Hmph. Weird this. Seems the pre-2011 draft classes have given this team:  The sublime (#65), the good (#61 and 68), the DEEC (#46), the bad (#74) and a young, healthy top 10 pick that I would trade for “future considerations** (Try and guess what player I’m talking about!)”
In conclusion, I forgot to mention Zack Smith and neither of us noticed.

**buy out.

 

2011 Retool & Post-Retool Draft Picks – Rebirth of a Nation’s Capital (Blue): 

Forwards:
Mika Zibanejad – Round 1 #6 overall, 2011 draft

Shane Prince – Round 2 #61 overall, 2011 draft

Jean Gabriel Pageau – Round 4, #96 overall, 2011 draft

Curtis Lazar – Round 1 #17 overall, 2013 draft

Defenders:
Freddie Claesson – Round 5 #126 overall, 2011 draft

Cody Ceci – Round 1 #15 overall, 2012 draft

Kibitzing Korner:
In 2011, Murray sold off heaps of the team’s veteran-laden roster and had 5 picks in the first two rounds. In a draft that Bryan and his team really needed to make count, a whopping 7 of the 10 players selected in 2011 have stepped on the ice for Ottawa in at least one game. Not counting Stephan Noesen who was moved. What’s interesting to me is the diversity of players they got from that draft. The line-up features ZBad as the ever important (and harshly criticized ) role of 2nd line centre, JG Pageau as 3rd line centre and Habs killer, heir apparent to Chris Neil’s Pest sash in McCormick, a raw like sushi but decent looking shut down D in Claesson and a couple of young scoring wingers still finding their way in Prince and Puempel. Fam. You know you had a good draft in 2011 when the “disappointment” so far is 22 years old and has already put up 30 goals in a season in the AHL and shown flashes of chemistry in the Sens top 6.

Though many forwards have made the jump in a pretty short period of time, it’s pretty clear that the only D man that’s been able to do the same since 2011 is 2012 1st rounder Cody Ceci. His play has been getting roasted of late but the pre-2011 picks show it takes time to develop on D. Way too early to tell what the 22 year old’s ceiling is but I don’t think its outlandish to think he could top out as a 3-4 defender.
It appears that not many quality D men have been picked since 2011 but it could be a bit early to call that as the Sens have drafted 11 other defensemen besides Ceci since 2011. Ceci just happened to make the leap very quickly. Many of the guys taken since the retool are too early in their development to judge quite yet. Claesson seems to be making a case for himself of late but I’m apprehensive to call him a roster player just yet and almost didn’t include him here as he’s played less than 10 NHL games. Harsh, I know but you knew I had a temper when you married me.

 

Pre-Murray Regime Picks – Dark Ages (Grey – see what I did there?):

Chris Philips – Round 1 #1 overall, 1978 draught (see what I did th–)

Chris Neil – Round 6 #161 overall, 1998 draft

Uhhh, I don’t know, prob skip this part:
Legacy players doing their legacy thing: Being hurt or playing on the 4th line.
I don’t know what to say here other than Neil has been fine so far in what might be his last season in Ottawa and Phillips won’t play professional hockey again. It’s hard to continually beat on Big Rig who’s best years were back when he was paired with Boaz in the Book of Ruth (ugh who am I Dennis Miller with this joke?). I realize it’s harsh to say his career is a wrap but remember last season how we were worried that Marc Methot might not have been able to keep up after missing half a season? Yeah. That guy was 29 at the time.
Pretty cool for Neil to go from NHL longshot to closing in on 1000 games. Good late round find, GM I’m too lazy to look up! Will Neil will get one more year here to reach the milestone or get the oil painting of Legwand in a Sens uniform treatment? Hard to say. What’s most important here is that our boy Andrew should be the one who paints it

After some ups and downs the past few seasons, neither player is hurting the team at the moment. Thx 2 U 4 Ur Serviss.

 

Players Acquired by Trading Assets/Picks (That Purp):

Milan Michalek (w/ junk) – Acquired in 2010 from San Jose for Dany Heatley

Craig Anderson – Acquired in 2011 from Colorado for Brian Elliot

Kyle Turris – Acquired from Phoenix in 2011 for David Rundblad, 2012 2nd round pick.

Marc Methot – Acquired from Columbus in 2012 for Nick Foligno

Bobby Ryan – Acquired in 2014 from Anaheim for Jakob Silfverberg, Stephane Noesen, 2014 1st round pick.

Alex Chiasson – Acquired in 2014 for Jason Spezza

Smobservations:
As much as the Sens are known for their ability to draft, the trades might be the most interesting part of this whole thing for me. Gawdbody Bryan catches much flack for his whiffs but it would appear that you gotta give the guy that he knocks many of his trades out of the park too.
Since 2011, he’s both wheeled and leaded to BLESS the Sens with a starting goaltender, a first line centre, a first line winger and a top pairing defenseman. Who do you miss from those exchanges? Jakob Silfverberg? (Guy JUST potted his 4th goal of the year…he’s a forward btw) All in all, pretty damn shrewd, dude. The big loser out of this bunch is Alex Chiasson and two prospects for Jason Spezza but meet me up in this tree for a second so we can meet in private about something:

K, Alex Chiasson is def turning out to be a Corey Conacher sitting on the shoulders of a another Corey Conacher but for all the talk of the lack of return for Spezza there’s one forgotten element of the return on that trade: Spezz’ impending FA status at the time. Though Dallas managed to re-sign him, mazel tov btw, Spezza was no guarantee to the teams he was being shopped to. A young NHL player with potential upside in Chiasson, a high pedigree prospect in Nick Paul [hey he’s off to a slow start in Bingo but my guy was playing on a line with Connor McDavid at the WJCs last year] and such and such (Forrest Guptil) is an alright if unspectacular return for a guy with one year left on his contract.
I invite you to make peace with Spezza’s departure like I did by considering this: Spezza was done here. He wanted out for years and it was time to deal him. What made trading him finally possible was that Turris had emerged as the first ever viable replacement for him.
Further, could you imagine our budget team being painted into the corner of Ottawa having to re-sign Spezza? An aging but still very good legacy player who was team captain? Yipes. I would much rather use that money to keep other, younger players.
As great as Spezza is, as Sens fans, we know he is on the back 9 of his career. He is a far better fit as second line centre on an elite Dallas team not a core piece of the Sens. Lowkey, we also know my dude is like, one back injury away from missing an entire season. Oh, also on some hater shit, Turris put up more points than him last year and has the vast majority of this year as well.

What happened? I just blacked out.

Goalie chat: It’s pretty telling that Brian Elliot’s won a Jennings and been in an All Star game since being dealt and not one Sens fan pines for him. Craig Anderson meanwhile is putting together a strong argument for the best goalie in franchise history who isn’t a dumb dickhead who played here for most one season…let me get you on scope in the streets Dominek Hasek. Ima suplex you through a pizza shop window. Anyway, beautiful trade.

AYYE, GOOD LOCAL BILINGUAL BOY MARC METHOT! Can you imagine our team without Marc Methot? Oh yeah I can, the first half of last year. We were terrible. Perfect trade this was. Both teams got a quality player they needed for a quality player they could do without. Don’t get used to these.

Bryan’s made his fair share of shitty trades over the years [see: every trade deadline deal of playoffs past] but I suppose at least as far as the current roster goes we aren’t stuck with any remnants from said bad trades. Well, okay, again, Alex Chiasson is that but he makes like 1M dollars and his contract is up at the end of the season. I also still hold fast that making the trade for him and clearing Spezza’s cap space is why we have Bobby Ryan. Look for Chiasson to be tipping shots from Corey Conacher on the 2nd power play unit in next year’s Spengler Cup.


Free Agent Signings – Rare Like Mr. Clean With Hair (Metallic Pumpkin):

Clarke MacArthur – Signed in 2013, extended in 2015

Andrew Hammond – Signed in 2013, Extended in 2015

Musings:
For a team that basically doesn’t “do” free agents Bryan Murray seems to have picked up  a couple of SLEEPAHS here. A top six winger and a backup goalie without breaking the bank for either? 2 for 2. Nuff said. Also, get well soon Clarkey.
As If This Fucking Thing Needed a Closing Thought:
A common criticism I come across on social media and even the mainstream media is that the Sens lack top flight talent in the minors.

With a relatively young and cheap top 6 and top pairing D everyone seems to be quite happy with, my question is who are we trying to replace sometime soon?
Injured Clarke MacArthur? Seems a bit rash. I guess in a few years MacArthur might be moved down the lineup to play more of a 3rd line role…again, in a few years. Not exactly an emergency. Zibanejad? The guy’s a bit inconsistent but he’s 22. Also, is anyone ever happy with a 2nd line centre? It’s one of those spots in the line up like 2nd paring D where it always seems like the guy could be better. Anyway, I suppose Craig Anderson will be getting up in years soon but his play doesn’t seem to be dropping off yet either.
I think it might appear that the cupboards are becoming bare for one big reason:

Most of the teams “top flight” prospects from several years of drafting have graduated to the Senators in a relatively short span of time. This is a very good thing.

Think about it. If you go back to the depth chart at the top of this post [plz come back, I’m almost done, I swear!] many of Ottawa’s newer players to the team had either been developing in Binghamton for a couple of years or made the team relatively quickly. Stone, Hoffman, Zibanejad, Pageau, Wiercioch, Cowen, Borowiecki, Ceci and Lazar are all draft picks who’ve have made the jump to the NHL the past few seasons. More recently, the additions of Wideman, Prince, McCormick and Claessson(ish) have further cleared out the Farm team’s roster. Different players, different positions, high picks, low picks, some top flight, some Mark Borowiecki. I’m just illustrating that nearly half the current Sens team were prospects not long ago. Calling up 13 players (14 if you count Hammond who was not a draft pick) will empty the stockpile some.
Essentially, there are no Mike Hoffmans left to call up at the moment because all the Mike Hoffmans are already on the team. Now is a time of hopefully temporary down swing in Binghamton. Be it via rebuild or injury, Ottawa has gutted that team of whatever NHL talent it had. I’d argue that the lack of prospects left to call up from the AHL is due to good drafting, not bad.

Honest question: Is an array of top flight talent waiting in the wings year upon year a thing most teams have? If so, follow-up question: Have they set a date for their attack?

Following the hype surrounding recent 1st round picks Thomas Chabot and Colin White I think more re-enforcements are on the way. Factor in that Andreas Englund, Marcus Hogberg and….maaayyyybe Mikael Wikstrand are still on the way, things are likely to balance out a bit soon.

Going forward, if the more hyped aforementioned players don’t necessarily work out that may not mean there’s no high end talent on the way either. For me, the most fun thing about following the Sens prospects is seeing afterthought players come out of the woodwork. Hoffman and Stone are proof of that. I still remember looking up Mark Stone out of boredom back in the day and seeing he was putting up over 100 points a year in the WHL. I thought, I’m going to keep an eye on this kid. It took him almost 5 years to establish himself but homie took himself from 6th rounder to untouchable top six player in the that time. Hockey is pretty cool sometimes (Note: most of the the time it’s shit, m8).
As much of a safe bet Colin White looks like, who knows if he’ll top out at the AHL level. Maybe it will be 6th rounder Francis Perron who rises to the top. Hey, as of the time of this writing he’s quietly put up 66 points in 33 games in the QMJHL. Yeah, I know, I know, kids stay putting up points in the Q but if we’re all salivating over Thomas Chabot I mean I’ma at least keep my eye on a kid who’s leading his entire team by 21 points.

Anywa—
You: James what was the point of all this?

Oh, thought you’d never ask! Sens need a second pairing defenseman. Thx 4 Reading.

 

 

Your Father and I Would Like to Talk to You About Patrick Wiercioch

WeirNation

Shown Here: Sens Twitter most of last season

Please press play on this before reading:

Hi honey. How was school today?

Just…okay?

Hey! Don’t you start sassing me you little fungus. I need you to unplug your Pono personal listening device™ from the wall for 5 minutes. We need to have a frank discussion about the Wiercioch boy you’ve been going to the ice cream social with of late.

In the spirit of keeping it 100, I should be up front about my feelings toward Wiercioch as a player before going into this thing:

 Patrick Aloysius Wiercioch is a human man who plays ice hockey. He is an excellent passer who reads the ice well. He possesses a deceptively good shot that he can keep quite low making it difficult for opposing goaltenders to track the puck through traffic.
He might also be the easiest 6 foot 5 200+ pound defenceperson to play against physically in the NHL. I mean I’m not one of those people that demands that our guys defend using The Scott Stevens Method™ (i.e. Legally giving someone brain damage) but your man is routinely soft as my chinchilla coat. I once saw Chad LaRose, whilst carrying the puck on the rush, give Patty the one arm shiver and put him on his ass while entering the Ottawa zone. Chad. La. Rose. One could say I have mixed emotions about him. He’s probably our 3rd best defender…but he plays defence for the Sens so…you know how that go.
This article about a defenceguy is a stub. You can help WTYKYpedia by expanding it…just kidding don’t talk to me. Do not TOUCH me…don’t talk to me.

Let’s get this right out there: Homie can move the puck. I think he’s very good at it. This season he’s also rocking an above team average Corsi…but again, he plays defence for the Ottawa Senators so that’s still well under 50% at the time of this writing. Interestingly he’s been well over 50% playing away from Cody Ceci so…celebrate the moments of our lives? Anyway, he’s steady carrying the puck. Area Man Does His Job. Good. This area of his game is fine and valuable.
So we’ve established that eye test-wise he doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of his opponents. Going by the numbers, however, we find that despite getting sonned off the puck, he seems to be carrying it out of the defensive zone. So I guess this just about wraps it up—WAIT, NOT SO FAST THERE, NUMBERS.

We still haven’t talked about one oh so important stat: Points

After nearly getting dealt by The BryBry, Wiercioch finished last season with a strong playoff round against Montreal with 4 points in 6 games. He then made Team Canada to play in whatever tournament that I’m going to pretend people give a shit about for the sake of letting him cook. Let’s call iiiit…The OTHER Spengler Cup. Good, good, nice and good.

This year has been different for him production-wise. Much different. I’ve never thought of Wiercioch as on offensive dynamo but I think its fair to say he’s been annual frontrunner for the Filip Kuba Memorial Award for Outstanding Acheivement in the Field of Being the Other Defenseman Besides Karlsson Who Puts Up SOME Points. How’s his season going? Well, compared to other players strugging on the scoresheet I present this visual aide:

JCPW

Once you stop screaming “WHAT ARE THOSE!?” at these stat lines we can unpack them a bit.

Okay I can’t wait that long so I’m going to just start talking again. Can we calmly discuss how Wiercioch went from guy who could put up decent double digit points (23 in 53 games two seasons ago) to sharing a stat line with human Pontiac Aztec Jared Cowen? Without hitting the easy target of how Cowen is dummying him in the plus minus department despite playing the on the PK regularly, to me, it’s most troubling that Wiercioch takes twice as many shots and is putting up the same numbers as JC. Shots are good but damn even Chris Neil’s been lighting the lamp more with the same amount of attempts (41). Further, Wiercioch hasn’t had a point in 15 games [Ed Note: Now 17 games]. Perspective: The Sens played 15 games during that entire December Death March. A secondary assist here or there would make me more feel at least a little less concerned.

Despite their shared stat line, Cowen’s not actually the guy I want to compare him to.
I be thinkin’ this reminds me of someone else: The lengthy stretches as a healthy scratch, that one strong playoff round, the drop off in production, the long pointless streak, soft on the puck but good at carrying it…this is all reminiscent of how you say….ah yes, Peter Regin.

*Dodges Internet garbage being hurled at me for even suggesting such a thing* 

PLEASE, ANGRY MOB, PUT DOWN YOUR FLAMING TORCHES! LET ME SPEAK…I’m trying to get fired here.

Look, I know they aren’t the same player. Hell, Regin is (was?) a center and Wiercioch a defender. I also think the circumstances surrounding their struggles are a bit different. Regin’s were spawned from from chronic injury which probably led to a lack of confidence and then Swiss league comes at you fast. For Wiercioch it might be lack of confidence from struggling to live up to high expectations.

As was the case with Regin before him I want to again point out that I actually like this player. I was happy when Patty W. seemed to bounce back and hit his stride under Dave Cameron. I remember thinking during that series against Montreal that #WierciochNation was right all this time. He IS the top 4 defenseman this team needed.
The truth is, however, that NHL can be a bit of “what have you done for me lately?” league and, honestly, I think he’s quietly been one of the most disappointing players on the team since October. For all the vitriol spewed at Cowen, Borowiecki and Chiasson, the difference, for me, between them and Wiercioch is I actually have pretty high expectations for PW. I think most fans do.
For instance, if I were to have predicted at the beginning of this season that in January of 2016, the offensively talented Patrick Dubya would be outscored by the entire fourth line AND every Defenseman save for Borowiecki (who only trails him by 2 points BTFingW) and Claesson who has played under 10 NHL games? I think I would have been deservedly laughed at. 3 points nearly halfway through the season. Damn. PW lover or PW hater that’s really disappointing. Dave Dziurzynski, the least exciting Sens prospect, seemingly put up 3 points in 12 games by accident! All of this is happening to our boy in an important contract year.

I bring all this up because of that last sentence there. A decision needs to be made on Patrick’s future with the organization. The way I see it, the options are:
1. Re-sign him for a SONG and gamble that he turns it around. He’s an RFA going into his next negotiation and is currently on pace for SEVEN points. I don’t expect a drop in his already modest 2 million dollar salary but surely he’s not entitled to a raise. Who is he, Jared Cowen? Ah, speaking of which…
2. Trade him and get something for him.

If I were the Sens GM [blech no THANKS], I would be moving heaven and Earf to free up money right now. Meet me up in this tree and I’ll tell you my stupid plan:
Accept selling low on Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen and take a hit in what you get back. For Patty, I still think we could get something modestly good. An okay pick or maybe someone who could help the struggling B-Sens. In Cowen’s case, it’s a fucking wrap. Murray dealt Alex Kovalev for a conditional 7th round pick and that guy had a Cup ring and over 1000 points. I would do that deal for Cowen if it came up for Cowen, IDGAF. He cant even play on the 3rd pairing at this point. He’s a bust. IT HAPPENS. If there’s even one offer where you can shed some money, take it.
K, then, use the money you’ve just cleared to re-up RFAs Wideman and Claesson, send Neil to a contender at the deadline, transfer Chiasson to the Mexican Elite League and at season’s end Phillips finally comes off the books…NOW DO EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO RE-SIGN MIKE HOFFMAN WITH WHAT MONEY IS LEFT.
In 2016, it’s basically all about freeing up Mike Hoffman’s money for this cowboy. I’m willing to sacrifice players both DEEC and terrible in an attempt to keep one clearly awesome player.

Could this year’s disappointing showing be an anomaly in the long run of Wiercioch’s career? Of course it’s possible. There’s risk involved in every trade. At just 25 years of age he could definitely turn it around. We’ve seen what he can do. But he was a trade candidate last year and, frankly, he’s a less valuable trade candidate again this year. Not a good sign.
Again, this reminds me of The Battle of Peter Regin on Social Media a few years ago. When the Sens parted ways with Regin, I figured they could be parting with a potentially good player but probably not one so good that the team would suffer greatly without him. I think similarly toward Wiercioch after the last two seasons. We gave him a shot as a 2nd pairing guy and I don’t think he’s really proven to the Sens that they should lock him up as that going forward. He had a chance and now I think it might be time to give Claesson that chance. I’m pushing the chips in early as hell but budgets favour the brave.
Either way, if a left side of Methot, Claesson, Borowiecki/Frozen Dinner doesn’t work out, yes, we still need that second pairing defenseman. But maybe by dealing Patty W along with making some of the other moves outlined, the team can save enough money to continue that search with Hoffman in the fold.

This post is dedicated to Left Handed, Puck Moving Defenceman Thomas Chabot. No pressure, my Boo. Angels soar high.

James Day Preview: Ottawa Visits Texa$ with a Dollar Sign (to borrow money)

 

Alert

Hey there hi there HO THERE. Whew, sorry, off to a bit of a rough start here. Let me regroup…Bob Cole style:

Hockey. Tonight. The Ottawa Sens. The Texas Stars. Captain Jaden Spenzza looks to get revenge on Captain Al Silfversson. OH! BABY!

Area Goaltender Proving Doubters Wrong Despite Years of Goodness:

Put your handerson in the handerson of the manderson who stopped the puck…derson.
Craig Anderson everybody! BAMBY! BAMBY! BAMBY! I don’t care who the opponents were, the bald headed beast has turned away the last 61 shots he’s faced and that’s the kind of momentum he needs going into a game against the high octane offense of 3 goal DYNAMO Ales Hemsky. Yo, shit is quiet for your man Hemsky.
Remember when letting him dip and keeping Michalek was a disaster? Heady days. I didn’t think I’d be saying “well at least Milo is a solid 3rd liner” when re-examining that turn of events. Yeah, we’re good for 4th liners who can put up a goal total that you can count on one hand here in Ottawa, thank you very much.
“I can’t really hurr…what Ales say because I have my 4 goals pluggings my ear” – Z. Smith, person who is currently outscoring Hemsky.

Heyyyyyyy, raise your hand if you would prefer Hemsky’s contract pushing fellow right winger Mark Stone down the lineup ‘til 2017? Me. Neither. Bullet dodged.

Gathered crowd in unison: “JAMES STOP HATING, STOP HATING…*sniffle* he’s already deaaaaaaad!”

(Exclusive Video: Me, hating)

BACK OFF, I still need to bring up when Alex Chiasson was a huge disappoint to us all last season and ended said season tied with Hemsky’s 11 goals. Imagine he made 4 million instead of  900K?  Or you can picture David Legwand but making an extra million bucks and signed for longer. Did we lose that Spezza trade? I don’t know, I guess but less we forget that Spezza put up fewer points than Turris last year…and currently does this year as well.  Don’t even get me started on how overlooked it is that Dallas somehow failed to make the playoffs. Must be nice playing in Texas where no one gives a shit about the quality of the team until further notice. Like Milli Vanilli said, “Blame it on the not having Patrick Sharp despite having the Art Ross winner last year” <– relatable problem.
I know, I know that was last year, this is this year and now they’re kicking everyone’s ass. *Slowest clap in human history*

EXTREE EXTREE Stacked Team Does Well.

The most heartwarming story since “LA Kings Overcome Adversity of Winning Cups and Find Way to Be Good Again”.
What was I saying? Oh yeah, fuck this stupid team. #Analysis

 *Looks up at heading* Whoa this started off being about Anderson? K. Tonight he will square of against Antti Niemi. Yes, the goaltender so good he wasn’t resigned by the team he just won the Cup with. Yeah, and if that’s not enough, SAN JOSE thought they were too good for him despite his getting a Vezina nod while playing for them. Round of applause for the Goalie Game Rodney Dangerfield. With only 4 regulation losses on the season, Niemi has been in net for 3 of them. That’s the start of the exact combination of Dallas playing down to the Sens and Ottawa being at their best that’s going to be needed for this thing to work.

 

Speaking of the Sens being at their best…

Please welcome back Colin Greening to the familiar confines of the healthy scratch ranks. We’re all still reeling trying to figure out what Matt Puempel did to deserve this demotion other than put up 1 goal in 17 games despite getting numerous chances to prove himself? I mean, Colin Greening got 26 games before being sent down to the AHL! *Rimshot*

If Prince and/or Puempel were making a strong case for themselves I’d be hot over this but in truth I can’t say that either player have done so. Maybe a bit more time in the AHL, where he recently scored 30 goals, can get Puemps going again.
In the meantime, hey,  Greening gets one game during this call up? I don’t know, I’d almost be curious to see if he was hungry enough to bite someone’s arm off to keep from riding the buses. If not. Well, business as usual. He goes back down to Binghamton until 2017 AKA Clarke Macarthur’s glorious return to the line up (Get well soon my sweet, sweet prince).

Do I have anything to say about the actual game? Hmmm.

With the majority of the high end players playing quite Zestily™ right now there’s not much to say in regards to them (thx 4 reading). Well, actually I should bring up Lindy Ruff’s pre-game comments where he said that you could swap Karlsson’s and John Klingberg’s jerseys and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them. *Needle skips off record, Internet goes DEAD silent, glass breaks in background* 
King Karl, you really gunna let this guy talk about you like that? You have two fucking Norris Trophies, my pal. You’re the current leader for a 3rd despite having to play with Mark Borowiecki when Marc Methot’s out of the line up. So some punk comes along and gets to make break out passes to Jamie Benn and failing that Tyler Seguin and failing that Patrick Sharp and failing that Jason Spezza? Go rip Antti Niemi’s still beating heart out of his chest protector. Klingberg wasn’t playing on a power play with CHRIS NEIL at the beginning of a Norris winning season. Fuck outta here. Go roof these guys in their own barn.

Wow, I just blacked out.

Since no one askesd, here are some of the lesser skaters I’d love to see have a good game:

Alex Chiasson – Boyo, you’re getting steady time on a good line. Quite literally could not pick a more perfect game for you to have a big night against the team who gave up on you…you know, so this team doesn’t give up on you.

Milan Michalek – You go out there and show em who the REAL overpaid bottom 6 Czech National with top 6 pedigree is!

Shane Prince – B, despite my tough talk earlier, don’t think I’m rootin’ against ya! I don’t ACTUALLY want to see Colin Greening get a chance. Now, go out there are HAVE SOME FUN! score a goal look like a much, much better option than Colin Greening.

Cowen-Ceci Pairing – Self-explanatory

ENJOY THE GAME…or else