The Jail Phone: Training Camp Battles

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“How you never gonna be slow? Never be late?” – Avon Barksdale worries about the Bobby Ryan contract

Once a month, James and Luke sit down separated only by a piece of plexiglas and talk shit for a few hours. The Jail Phone is a recurring segment containing the transcripts of those conversations. Today’s discussions are about theft…theft of roster spots.

Mike Costco vs. Mark Borowiecki vs. Thomas Chabot vs. Freddie Claesson vs. Patrick Sielof vs. Infinity

James: Ahh, nothing like starting off with the high stakes drama that is The Battle of the Bottom Pairing.

Playing 63 games with the big club in 2015-16 (SPLITTING TIME BETWEEN DEFENSE AND FORWARD BECAUSE NEVER FORGET) one would think that Mark Borowiecki was a lock for the bottom pairing job to start this season. A few things have changed over the past few months however. As we all know, Mark has a reputation as the Senators’ Extremely Local Boy and that he gets the more ice time than he deserves because of his local work ethic more than his local abilities. Fair. This year could be a bit different. First of all, along with a new General Manager under a lot of pressure in his first season on the job, there’s also an entirely new coaching staff with a ton to prove. This staff features a head coach who is billed as an offensive/power play mastermind who has embraced analytics as a tool for decision making. Offense and advanced stats; that cannot bode well for Borowiecki can it? The other thing no one seems to be talking about is that Boro missed the last stretch of the season with a knee injury. Do you think Boro could see a lot of scratches this year and be used sparingly for regional face punching in games against Boston or teams of that nature? As much as it’s pumped up that he can do no wrong with the organization I think it could get quiet for Borocop and that this door is wide open. For a broke team, they sure didn’t seem to have a problem burying former Golden Child Colin Greening in Binghamton at nearly two and a half times the price. He’s got the heart and all but can Boucher and co. afford to roll with the least talent player on the team game in and game out? If not, who do you see making that electric slide into his spot?

Luke: I think Mark Borowiecki is my 6th or 7th favourite defenseman on the Ottawa Senators, but I can’t honestly say that I dislike him with the Nerudian passion of others. I’m never going to sit at a bar and tell you about all the ways Boro is good, but I also find the ways in which he is bad pretty inoffensive. He couldn’t move the puck if you rented him a U-Haul and offered free pizza, but he’s generally in the right spot on the ice and he doesn’t shy away from the physical aspects of the game. As a honest, hard-working man, I can appreciate some meat and potatoes in my blue-collar lunchpail as much as the next unionized steelworker.

THAT SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAID…Mark Borowiecki was feeling good about himself to a degree that was, frankly, inappropriate last year. Here’s what he had to say about Erik Karlsson, his captain and the greatest defenseman of his generation:

“Karl, offensively, skill-wise, he’s a generational talent,” Borowiecki says. “You’ve got to let him do his thing. But it definitely is the coach’s job to kind of keep him reined in a little bit.”

Counterpoint: Your single goal last season was scored into an empty net so maybe you want to shut the fuck up until you start producing some offense that needs reining in, my G?

No doubt Boro is gonna go out there and give it 100% in camp, but for me the best case scenario is that his good example leads to Thomas Chabot also giving it 100% in camp and subsequently winning a permanent spot on the 3rd pairing, because I honestly don’t think Kostko or Claesson are any stronger in the areas where Boro is weak.

STAT TO WATCH: Can Patrick Sielof keep his goal-per-game pace at the NHL level?

CONCLUSION: Even if Chabot doesn’t win a full-time spot on the team, Boro should be the same as he always is. Expect Chabot to get his full 9 game tryout at the NHL level regardless.

James: So what you’re saying is Thomas Chabot AND Mark Borowiecki could both be working out their lacking defensive games at the NHL level. Moving on…

Francis Perron vs. Nick Paul vs. Ryan Dzingel vs. Matt Puempel

James: With Zibanejad, Prince, Noesen and 2014 first round pick all playing elsewhere now can we agree that Matt Puempel is pretty much playing for his NHL career with the team that drafted him…5 years ago. For a first round pick, this egg is going to have to step up to if not Faberge status at least omelette usefulness levels(???) if they are going to keep him around (or make him captain of the Binghamton Sens). There are many different paths to the big leagues, ask Mike Hoffman or Andrew Hammond but some stats are creeping up on Puempel. I wont take the low hanging fruit of how stridently he’s been surpassed by fellow 2011 draftee and National Treasure JG Pageau. But how about this? 2011 seventh round pick Ryan Dzingel now has more points at the NHL level than Puempel and in 9 fewer games. No question that Matt’s ceiling is higher but when you consider that the Dorion likely identifies Dzingel as “Erik Condra who can put the puck in the net occasionally” the chances of him finding a spot on the roster are likely better than Puempel’s of “Probably a good goal scorer who was outscored by several of his less skilled contemporaries who’d played fewer games” A lot is made of player usage and again, that’s fair but you gotta outshine future 4th line meat bag Max MacCormick. Not like he’s spent any time on a line with Bobby Ryan like Puempel has. Most damning is that Buddy Robinson got within one point of him in THREE games. I acknowledge that these numbers are all very close and of small sample sizes but you’d think Puempel should be pulling away from the pack at some point soon.

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I know I’m coming off like a Negative Nedra (?) but there’s more to this than simply giving it to you straight like a pear cider made of 100% pears. I think because all of the questions and concerns I’ve outlined, barring a very unlikely poor showing at camp, Puempel gets a full time slot on the team. They know what they have in Dzingel and he’s a great injury call up. Paul is only 21 and could still stand some AHL time, Perron looks fantastic but weighs 160 pounds despite being 6 feet tall and needs to spend time riding the bus hitting all the Broome County Denny’s locations to bulk up. I see Puempel getting a last chance to show his worth.

Luke: Ah yes, The Battle of the Left Wing Prospects of Dubious Ceiling.

My infatuation with “Pope” Francis Perron has not been a secret. The Sens took a flyer on him in the 7th round in 2014, let him develop in the Q for two more years and he responded by putting up 141 points in 80 total games last year. Yes, I understand that he was an over-age player in the Q, but wouldn’t you rather have a guy like that totally dunking on fools instead of being *ok* in their Draft+2 Year? Pope Francis was dunking last year. He’s barely signed his first pro contract and he’s already drawing comparisons to Mike Hoffman. Mike Hoffman is…*googles “is mike hoffman good?”*…quite good, so that’s an encouraging sign. So yeah, he’s young, he hasn’t done anything in a pro league yet, he’s probably too small to make the NHL out of camp, but he’s got a shot like a sci-fi weapon and he’s full of hope and promise, and I refuse to be anything but a shameless homer about his chances to develop into a great NHL-er. When was the last time the Senators had a prospect who just dominated a junior league? This guy is our Mitch Marner and I’m going to act like it, dammit.

Where there is optimistic Yin, there must also be cynical Yang, and it is at this point that I must ask Matt Puempel to step forward. Matty P had 30 goals a few seasons ago in Binghamton, a fact about which we were all very excited. He’s followed up on this by scoring an underwhelming 6 points in 39 NHL games, and things have not been amazing in Binghamton either. Since that 2013-14 30 goal season, Matt Puempel hasn’t scored 30 AHL goals total, soooooooooo………I think that’s a wrap. It happens. Sometimes your late 1st rounders aren’t as good as you’d like. Maybe Puempel comes out and has a great camp and pre-season and eventually finds a home on the 3rd line, but at 23 years old, I’d say this is definitely his last chance to make that happen and I wouldn’t bet on it.

Nick Paul and Ryan Dzingel are similar players in that they both looked decent in their limited NHL time last season despite their crippling handicap of playing on the same line as Chris Neil and Scott Gomez respectively. Based purely on some arbitrary eye test shit, I’d say I like Dzingel’s game more than Paul’s, although Paul is three years younger and probably has the higher ceiling. Basically I expect Paul and Dzingel to be the main combatants for the bottom 6 left wing spots and I don’t have a problem with either or both of them earning it.

James: I wouldn’t say it’s cynical to doubt that a first round pick will become something. In that post you linked to that a guy who’s extremely not a virgin wrote, you’ll note that two previous Bingo 30 goal scorers included Mike Hoffman (definitely an NHL player) and Ryan Keller (help Wiccanpedia by expanding this stub). Just because Puempel is a first round pick don’t mean homeboy has a leg up on his competition. He might just get a little more of a look as clubs hate to flop on first rounders. I’ve done a couple posts over the years examining the pedigree of various Sens lineups and my findings are that full time players tend to be from both poles of the draft. Take last year’s top six:

MacArthur (3rd rounder) – Turris (3rd overall) – Ryan (2nd overall)
Hoffman (5th rounder) – Zibanejad (6th overall) – Stone (6th rounder)

That’s the most fun thing about the draft and watching prospects develop. The high end guys obviously get every chance to make it but no one can predict that a sixth rounder will rocket up the depth chart and put up a Calder worthy rookie season. The first round is weird. You can be just on the cusp of the 2nd rounder but still have those first rounder expectations. “I’m not playin wit u” – Jim O’Brien, person. Zibanejad developed much better than Puempel has…which is likely part of why he was selected 18 spots ahead of him. Anyway, when you have a season like Francis Perron just did your lack of pedigree no longer matters. He’s made himself one of the team’s top prospects like how Stone did a few years ago. Speaking of NHL players lacking pedigree…

Max McCormick vs. Chris Neil

James: I will say, Max McCormick is not the type of player who will ever set the advanced stats crowd aflame. We’re not even allowed to get excited about Zack Smith scoring 25 goals. Not even for a minute. His goals are bad. Whatever don’t @ me, I digress. Max is the type of player who has that “Hardest Worker at Rookie Camp” stank on him that will never wash off with some fans and yet makes him a legit award winner to others and I say all that to say this: Regardless of how you feel about him, you have to admit McCormick did not really look out of place at the NHL level. He knows what his assignment is and looked pretty capable of it. He is the heir apparent to Chris Neil’s…uh…throne? Chair? Chair as a GOOD BEAUTIFUL RURAL WISCONSIN BOY KEEPIN EM HONEST OUT THERE AND EVERYTHINK LIKE THAT. That said, there are a couple of factors that I think will have Max Keeping (‘Em Honest) in the Southern Tier region of New York State another year. The first is, despite getting up there in years, Neil upped his game from “Bullshit” to “Deec” last season. He did nothing to make me think that will be healthy scratched going forward. Especially given the organization’s emphasis on the need for veteran leadership. Second, he’s 24 games from hitting 1000 as a Senator. Regardless of your feels toward the B U S I N E S S of sport (aka why we all got into this stuff as kids) I think Neil hitting 1000 games is important to both him and the organization. I believe that this will likely be Neil’s final year with the team and possibly in the NHL. They’re going to play him a lot. Hopefully he can cut down on his 165 penalty minutes (down 46 minutes or a full episode of the hit TV melodrama Nashville from his last full season). I have no reason to think Neiler won’t show up to camp slim with the tilted brim as he impressively did last year. The only thing keeping him out of the starting line up is injury.

Luke: I hope Max McCormick turns into Chris Neil 2.0 i.e. a pesky spark plug who’ll chip in 20 points, won’t be a defensive liability, and will occasionally punch someone in the face if his coach thinks that’s important. (Ed. Note: I don’t think punching people in the face is important, and I hope that one day no hockey player will have to punch another hockey player in the face, but changing the hockey culture that is responsible for facepunching is beyond the scope of this Jail Phone.) Until that time, as you say, I guess we will deal with Chris Neil Classic.

I have no idea how to feel about Chris Neil. You’ve got to respect the hustle of a 6th round pick (who once had 354 PIMs in a single IHL season) who manages to have what will likely be a 1000+ game NHL career. I’ve been to many an Ottawa game where Neiler would wake up an otherwise sedentary winter weeknight crowd with a big hit or a fight. (Remember that time Neil nailed Dany Heatley? Who didn’t love that?) Also, as physical as the guy plays, I don’t think I’d characterize him as a dirty player. Like Chris Phillips, he’s been a fixture at various Ottawa area charity events for years. He had a big playoff goal. He’s been in commercials that aired only on Ottawa Public Access Television. He’s been on Ottawa teams that won a bunch. He’s been on Ottawa teams that were terrible. I guess the takeaway is that as good as Chris Neil was at his role, it wasn’t a role that had much effect on the fortunes of the Ottawa Senators. Like your family’s ancient cat, Chris Neil’s been around forever, but it’s not difficult to imagine a past without them as your life would be largely unchanged, except you’d have cleaned puke off the carpet much less. (P.S. RIP My Family’s Ancient Cat. 1998-2016)

How best to commemorate an such a veteran in what is likely to be their last season? Probably with a hashtag. I would like to submit #RE25ECT for consideration.

James: Sorry 2 hear about your Ancient Cat’s Passing. Speaking of an Ancient Cat and little pukes…

Curtis Lazar vs. Logan Brown vs. Chris Kelly

James: *Thinking emoji* This is weird. I didn’t even consider something like this. You’d think Kelly is a lock but I’m not about to talk smack about Borowiecki coming off a rough injury without acknowledging Kells coming off a far worse one at almost 10 years his senior Luke, can you tell us how we feel about this?

Do you really think Brown has a shot?

Luke: Chris Kelly was brought in to provide some more options on the 4th line, but I think it would be foolish to write him into the lineup using permanent marker when Curtis Lazar’s been working on his shot all summer. Just as a little X-factor, we’ve got The New Hotness Logan Brown coming in with his first ever pro contract looking to turn some heads. No doubt Curtis Lazar and Chris Kelly have more NHL experience than Logan Brown, but Brown does have the advantage in one critical area: being 6’6″.

Also, I’ve been watching Logan Brown on tape, and that dude dishes the puck so well, he could make passing a kidney stone look easy. I think there’s a non-zero chance Brown shows enough in camp that Boucher pretty much has to keep the kid around. You wouldn’t normally expect your 18 year old 1st round pick to make an NHL team unless they were Connor McEichel or Sidney Hall, but again: Six Feet Six Inches Tall.

This spot is Kelly’s to lose, but Lazar and Brown will push him.

Craig Anderson vs. The Passage of Time

James: Thing I’ve been avoiding thinking about: Craig Anderson is getting up there in years. At a freshly turned 35, he’s in the top 5 of the Golden Goalie Oldies but I suppose it is comforting that there are other capable starters close to him in age. Luberto Rolongo and Ryan FUHHCKIIIN MILLAH are both older than him. Hunk Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne and Mike Smith are just a year younger. Some of those guys might be considered a little past their prime years but I think you could easily see another good year out of any of those dudes. Ah, on the topic of another good year, I think we probably have another good year max left out of Andy. This is curious as he has two years left on his deal but I suppose that’s another post about the Las Vegas Harlem Knights altogether. Anyway, if the legends are true that Boucher can improve defensive zone structure and that Dion Phaneuf is better than Wiercioch and Cowen than I think Anderson can get away with being solid instead of the usual outstanding that he has to be to keep games from being 8-2 by the second intermission. I guess you can say I think the bigger factor than Andy’s age is the team’s defensive play.

Luke: Craig Anderson is second all time in games played and wins by a Senators goalie, and there’s a pretty decent chance he passes Patrick Lalime in both categories this season. Should that happen, I think anyone would have to say Craig Anderson’s the best Senators goalie ever.

To your point about old goalies, I see what you are saying. Sure he’s 35, but he’s got as many minutes played as Carey Price and Pekka Rinne. Roberto Luongo is 37, and he’s still stoning youngsters like he’s Willie Nelson hotboxing his tour bus.

However, Price, Rinne, and Luongo have all dealt with extremely serious lower body injuries in the last two years. Rinne hasn’t been the same since, and while we’re going to have to see about Price and Luongo, it’s possible they won’t be the same either. (Interesting to note: Luongo’s team went and picked up a VERY competent backup this off-season, whereas Price’s team traded their best defenseman. Which one of these teams is more likely to be run by Smart People? HMMMMMM…mmmm…) Hey, does Craig Anderson have a history of injuries? Can anyone remind me?

I’m not yet entirely filled with predictions of Doom about Anderson’s level of performance, but he is getting into his “This guy could drop off a cliff for any number of reasons” years. Three years ago if Anderson had a bad season, it was because he was a goalie and these things happen. If Anderson has a bad season this year, it’s going to be because he’s old.

James: So what you’re saying is, be safe tho?

Zack Smith vs. Shooting Percentage Regression

James: Look, my Ayatollah Bromeini, I’m not out here saying Zachariah Smith is the new Mike Hoffman or some shit but it’s not like he was tapping in pretty Spezza dishes like Greening did when he put up 17. Smith had a really good season and I am really happy he’s coming in to camp thinking “I can score 25 goals.” Many refuse to admit it but Zack Smith is a very useful mid-6 player. As such, it’s not his job to score 25 goals again so I’m not expecting it. One thing I have said time and again over the years is Smith seems to either score 14 goals or 4. I am hoping he breaks his one again off again pattern and has one of those 14 years.

zmith

Luke: Not sure if you heard about this, but P.R. Hussein Dorion said on the radio that he thinks he has nine (9) twenty goal scorers on the team this year. I would guess he means Clarke MacArthur, Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Bobby Ryan, Derick (sic) Brassard, Mike Hoffman, Erik Karlsson, Zack Smith, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Here’s the thing about that: with the exception of Pageau (who had 19 goals last year) all those players are only 20 goal scorers in the sense that they have literally scored 20 goals in past seasons. Why is Dorion out here defining his players based on what they’ve achieved in the past? This dude lives in a fantasy world.

Anyway, Zack Smith isn’t going to score 25 goals again this year unless he takes a lot more shots, and that’s FINE. He’s not supposed to be the 25 goal scoring dude, but he stepped into a 25 goal scoring dude’s role and filled it anyway because he’s a goddamn professional. Having a bottom 6 guy who can also produce in the top 6 if he has to is aka “The Dream” by the way. Given that The Smit_Treat (???) nearly didn’t have a spot on the team following a fairly horrific wrist injury two seasons ago, I think it’s great that he had himself a career year if only to prove to himself and others that the game hasn’t passed him by.

Hell, maybe Zack Smith is the hockey version of Rookie of the Year and his injury was directly responsible for his improved scoring prowess. Keep your eye on that storyline.

Bobby Ryan vs. Expectations

James: We’re sorry, Bobby Ryan cannot meet expectations in this area code at this or any time. Please hang up and try your call to the Gabriel Pizza Hotline again. Seriously. As if the price of that trade wasn’t enough hanging over his head, that contract of his really sealed the deal. He will never be able to meet the expectations of many fans. Case in point, he’s increased his point total every year since coming here, including his best in 5 years last season. Yet he is seen as a massive disappointment. Getting paid more than Erik Karlsson will do that. I know, of course, it’s mainly because of his failure to meet the expectation of hitting 30 goals. At this point though, I believe the guy could put up 35 and be met with “Took you long enough” or “It’s not real unless you do it again.” With the addition of the play making Brassard I think he will be able to focus on his role as a goal scorer again. That’s something he’s barely been able to do since coming here from Anaheim. A lot is riding on he and Brass having good chemistry for sure. I hope at the very least it can allow Ryan to be a bit more consistent in his production throughout the season. I find his cold streaks as frustrating as the next fan I just wish he’d get some credit for the times he’s absolutely carried the team’s offense. Regardless, I think the minds of many are made up on the guy. It’s kind of a bummer that our fan base seems to have a tough time embracing such a likable player. I do understand it to a degree. How’s by you, @Perist_Treat?

Luke: From the fanbase that brought you “Jason Spezza turns the puck over too much” comes “Bobby Ryan gets paid too much”. You don’t go top 60 in NHL scoring without making a few enemies I guess. Here are some players Bobby Ryan outscored last year: Tomas Plekanec, Ryan Kesler, Gabriel Landeskog, Patrick Hornqvist, Nathan MacKinnon, T.J. Oshie, Henrik Zetterberg, Scott Hartnell, Patrick Marleau, Jarome Iginla, Dylan Larkin, Tomas Hertl, and Nazem Kadri. Hell, he was only two points back of Jonathan Toews. Maybe it’s time to *adjust* the expectations of what constitutes a good season. Top 60 scoring used to be 64 points in 2007 and now it’s 56 points. Put another way, what was Top 100 scoring in 2007 is now Top 60 scoring. It happens.

CONCLUSION: Bobby Ryan’s got a kid now, which means he’s gonna have Dad Strength, which means he’s gonna have a great year. Also Super-Genius Guy Boucher is gonna work magic with Ryan and Brassard on the powerplay. The Haters may now advance upon my position.

Derick Brassard vs. Kyle Turris

James: This battle is the one that I find the most interesting but no one is talking about it…UNTIL NOW! *Awkward pause*

Turris and Brassard will be a solid 1A and 1B combo. Well I think that just about wraps it u—. I don’t dispute the 1A/1B thing but there is still the matter of who(m) is the 1A and who(mb) is the 1B. When it was Zibanejad here, Turris was clearly the better of the two and as such was the top line guy. The much more comparable Brassard spices things up. I’ve heard Brassard referred to as the Sens new number 1 centre in a couple of articles. You can definitely argue that but these are competitive beings and the worrrrld is a competitive fuhhckin place. Kyle Turris will be entering his sixth season(!) here in the capital. Coming off an injury plagued year he started off hot but never got a real chance to follow up on his 64 point career season of 2014-15 . If he’s fully healthy, I’d imagine he’s coming into camp at least slightly picanté and isn’t about to give up the job he’s earned over the years. A lot is made of the left handed Brassard being a boost for Bobby Ryan but one wonders if a sub-competition emerges twixt Turris and Brassard of who gets to play with the more productive Mark Stone who seems to give zero fucks about the handedness of his centre nor if the other team has the puck for that matter. I really like the idea of these pretty similar players competing for top line duty. We all win if Brassard blows Turris out of the water as no.7 would make a pretty dynamite 2nd line pivot. Well, in a more accurate way, everyone but Turris wins there. Ultimately it’s up to Guy Boucher but I can’t imagine Turris won’t be trying to outshine Brassard and hang on to the 1A job.

Luke: If I were going to describe Kyle Turris as a hockey player, I’d use the phrase “relentlessly competent”. What can’t that guy do at an extremely high level? I hope we get a whole year of Pre-Injury 2015 Kyle Turris this season because he was on pace for 70 points before his leg was bent in a way not in accordance with God’s plan. Even if we don’t get Next Level Fuego Turris, I’m not worried about Kyle Turris Classic: The Relentlessly Competent Centre.

Before I continue, I must make the confession that I don’t know a goddamn thing about Derick Brassard. (Thx 4 reading? Thx 4 reading.) However, I did pop over to (Friend of the Blog) Micah Blake McCurdy’s website to check out how Brassard was being used in New York and the answer is…like a number one centre, so yeah, this is a legitimate battle. In terms of stats and usage, there’s very little to choose between Turris and Brassard, which is I’m perfectly ok with because if you’ve got a good player, why not have two? Brassard didn’t get as defensively important assignments as Derek Stepan in New York, but is that because Stepan is the better defensive centre or because Alain Vigneault is weird? It’s hard to say.

Ultimately, as you point out, the question of “Who is the number one centre?” might not be answered by ice time but by who is playing with Mark Stone, and there I’d have to say Kyle Turris has the inside track.

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

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

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

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

*LOLz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving forward…Did not qualify Patrice Wiercioch

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

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

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

Luke: 

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

Speaking of which…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Signing Christ Kelly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, we gamblin’ now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Re-Signing Mike Hoffman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re-Signing Kobe CC.

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

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

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

James: 

Thx 4 agreeading, Luke.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

James: 
Well I give it a —

Luke:
*dial tone*

The Jail Phone: On Plans, Phaneuf, and a 2015-2016 Pre-Mortem

image

tfw ur thinking about bobby ryan and dion phaneuf’s 2021 cap hit

Once a month, James and Luke sit down separated only by a piece of plexiglas and talk shit for a few hours. The Jail Phone is a recurring segment containing the transcripts of those conversations.

Luke: Hi James.

I dunno if you’ve been outside today, but there’s so much white powder out there it looks like a Saturday Night Live after-party in 1979. As such, I thought you’d might like to grab a glass of your favourite winter beverage and we might have a little fireside chat about the State of the Sens Union.

Earlier this season, you looked around the mass of negativity around The Sensphere and said to me, “Imagine how bad this would be if the team didn’t just go on a historic run to the playoffs on the back of an ECHL journeyman goaltender.” Well, I think we’re about to find out how bad it can get.

For my part, I’m attempting to be as Zen as possible regarding the remaining games of this season. Some people might want to go Full Tank, but this team isn’t bad enough to go Full Tank. Toronto has that shit sewn up having cemented their place in Tank History by trading for Colin Greening and then putting him on the 2nd line. I don’t care how zesty Dave Cameron gets with the line combinations, we can’t beat that.

All this to say that I still want the Sens to win, but I’m no longer upset when they lose. I’m already looking ahead to next season. Can’t wait to see who we draft 12th overall.

Tell me about your feelings. What’s on your mind? What are you hoping to get out of the rest of this season? Why are you still here?

James: Maybe I’m comin out the gate WILD apologetic but my feelings are that the Sens sort of just had a shit season. IT HAPPENS. Remember how Columbus was talked about across the board that they were poised to make a deep run this year? Imagine as a Blue Jackets fan your most optimistic moment of the year was buying a jersey that said Saad on it? Damn.

What I’m saying is, it’s frustrating to sit through but DEEC teams miss the playoffs sometimes and don’t need to go into full out rebuilds to fix things. Yes I’m glassy eyed enough to vault the Sens into the lofty status of DEEC.

The Penguins missed last year. Washington missed a couple of seasons ago…they didn’t blow it up. They made some changes but realized they weren’t totally fucked. Sure, blowing it up is an option but let’s face it, it can be as risky a plan as they come. It’s not always the answer. Ayyyye Connor McDavid is really good! *looks at standings* WOW, Edmonton is starting to turn things around they’re only two points back of 28th place!

Peter Chiarelli: Bartender, ANOTHER round of Dalai Lama-level patience for the whole fanbase please!

Sam Malone: IIIIII think y’all have had enough.

Peter Chiarelli: Fuck. THAT. Another generational talent or two and we be battling for a wild card spot just hold tight. AGAIN.

Honestly, the negativity is such that it’s hit the point that the team gets roasted even when they win. I hate to say it but personally I don’t think Sens fans have the kind of patience to tough out a full rebuild. ESPECIALLY should aaaaaaaaaaanything not go according to plan in that time. I’m seeing a full meltdown over missing the playoffs. What would happen if we drafted another Daigle?

Luke: Alexandre Daigle? The 1st overall pick this fanbase is bitter towards 23 YEARS after we drafted him?

James: To me, Tampa Bay are one of the most annoying teams in the league because they had the good fortune of being a shit pile just a FEW times. Good the odd season, shite others. Some high end picks and a few good trades while avoiding ushering in a full on culture of losing. They picked up some key players while remaining DEEC. Because of this, they’re one of the better teams in the East, having not thrown the baby out with the bathwater (blech to that imagery).

Anyway, I’m not heartbroken if we have a high pick and a better team going into next year, which I believe we have. Why? Well, we were all experts on what was wrong with the Sens all season. “Get rid of Cowen, free up money to extend Mike Hoffman, make a big move and stop wasting Karlsson’s prime” AKA, “GET A TOP 4 DEFENSEMAN!”
Here we stand, mid-February Cowen gone, Greening gone, Milo’s money off the books (no disrespect but it’s a fair amount of money off the books), and all this for a top 4 defenseman with plenty of good years left ahead of him. This is …bad?

Luke: I’m gonna talk about the last thing you said and then bring it back around to the first thing you said because I’m the sort of writer who likes to flout the conventional rules of structure.

I feel like a lot of the negativity stems primarily from a few well-spoken, high-profile blogger/media figures who have been running with this narrative that the Ottawa Senators have no coherent plan. (Please see this James Gordon article entitled “The Ottawa Senators have no coherent plan”, and this 6th Sens article where Nichols writes of Ottawa’s “whimsical ‘get into the playoffs and anything can happen’ approach to team building.”). When you think that management is just spinning The Wheel of Moves at random, it becomes pretty easy to criticize everything management ever does, because every move is more proof there is no Plan.

People like Plans. Have you ever thought objectively about tanking? The Idea of Tanking is some Jedi Mind Trick shit. If you are a fan of the worst team in the league, the default reaction is usually extreme sadness or anger. Now if you’re a fan of the Leafs or Sabres, you love losing just because management has said “Don’t worry. We’re doing this on purpose.” It’s wild. That’s the power of A Plan, James. I don’t think fans want Ottawa to tank; I think fans want the comfort that comes with having A Plan. We are lost in a world of uncertainty otherwise.

I don’t really ascribe to the above narrative, because I think the Ottawa Senators DO have a plan and that plan is to get better one incremental improvement at a time. You know, building your team the old fashioned way. Witness these moves from the past year:

Move: Erik Condra out, Shane Prince in.
Hot Take: We all love some Erik Condra, but Shane Prince is like Erik Condra only with scoring touch so that’s an improvement.

Move: Eric Gryba out, Chris Wideman in.
Hot Take: Chris Wideman is better than Eric Gryba. That’s an improvement.

Move: David Legwand out, Curtis Lazar in.
Hot Take: Old, expensive veteran exchanged for cheap kid with (ALLEGED) upside. I don’t think this one has really worked out yet, but I understand the reasoning.

Move: Patrick Wiercioch out, Dion Phaneuf in.
Hot Take: I think this is an improvement, but let’s revisit this one in a few years. Again, I understand the reasoning.

So why does the team suck this year? If had to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s because injuries to Clarke MacArthur, Kyle Turris, and probably Marc Methot, in addition to major regressions in play from Alex Chiasson, Patrick Wiercioch, Mika Zibanejad, Craig Anderson, and Andrew Hammond have totally overshadowed whatever minor improvements the team made in personnel. This is part of the reason why I’m so hard on Patrick Wiercioch. I fully acknowledge Mark Borowiecki is not as good as Patrick Wiercioch, but Boro is the same as he’s ever been whereas PW is a major part of the reason why the team is worse this year. That dude had a ROLE to take on, and he was a total no-show this season. Brutal.

This all comes back to your point that “the Sens sort of just had a shit season”. Yes. Yes they did.

If we can treat this like one of those Tampa Bay anomalies, enjoy a nice-ish draft pick, refuse to panic, and then come back next year, I’ll be pleased with that.

James: I think the acquisition of Phaneuf is pretty big. Yes, it’s early but iz it ev-R 2 earl-E 4 HOTT-TAEKZ? The optics suck because the Sens haven’t managed to win since acquiring him (Ed note: #ACTUALLY), but I’m bold enough to say that so far Phaneuf has been an improvement over Wiercioch on the second pairing. (Cowen didn’t even get a sniff at the job he was so bad).

Not even a handful of games yet, but Phaneuf has looked pretty solid and in his role as a Senator. I think much of the trepidation regarding him does have to do with the contract, but also very much the fact that it’s Dion Phaneuf. This is a guy we have dragged mercilessly for years now as Sens fans. It’s going to take some adjustment…and time to believe in him. I mean hey, I feel weird even writing that. Most importantly, of course, is that he also has to earn our trust as fans. I still remember the handwringing over Marc “Regressed to the 3rd Pairing in shitty Columbus” Methot. Or how Sergei Gonchar in his late 30’s was overpaid no matter how he played. Maybe he was overpaid but I gotta say I miss the 27-37 points per year he’d put up and the wealth of experience he brought to the dressing room. In my opinion, another vet with a track record is better than rolling the dice on more than half of the D corps like the Sens were doing.

Whatever, it’s okay to be skeptical. Who knows how trades and FA signings are going to work out. I just can’t help but dwell on the fact that after a strong finish to last season, Wiercioch has been given ample opportunity to be a top 4 defender this year and hasn’t made a case for himself. At 25, is PW’s career over? I certainly don’t think so. But I think the organization realized they can’t continue down the current path by retaining him at a qualifying offer of $2.7 million. Instead they brought on Dion Phaneuf who, at age 30, has shown that in bad year (on a shite team) he puts up a higher output than Wiercioch’s career best. All this while being a guy who’s billed more as a stabilizing, physical minute muncher than a puck moving finesse player.

Basically, he’s not going to be worth his contract in blah di blah years. Okay. I thought the big criticism was the team wasn’t making any bold moves to improve the team in Karlssons prime. Well, here it goes nothing. It’s my feeling that (when healthy) the top 6 is fine, the top pairing is fine, the starting goaltender is fine. The big problem was bolstering the top 4 and a fun surprise has been a floundering bottom six. I don’t know about you, Eddie, but I’d much rather a GM on a budget tasked with improving the bottom 6 than the top.

This year might be a bit of a wrap but I think we go into next year stronger. Which is good as Imma need all that time to adjust to seeing DION PHANEUF in a Sens uniform.

Luke: I find it amazing that we, as a blog, put up nearly 3000 words of Dion Phaneuf takes and we’re still not done. At this point I’ve spent more time writing/talking about Dion Phaneuf than I’ve spent actually watching him play.

You’ve hit on something I believe though, which is that the bottom six is/has been the biggest problem this season. I’d have a lot more respect for “Sens don’t have a PLAN” takes if they were accompanied by some commentary that implied a Karlsson-Turris-Stone-Hoffman-Ryan-Zibanejad-Not Brain Damaged MacArthur core is insufficient to be competitive in the long term. That, at least, would display conviction that one truly disagrees with what The Bryan et al. have constructed over the past 4 years. However, to the best of my knowledge, most criticism of those players tends more towards something like “Kyle Turris only makes $3.5 Million a year, but he isn’t quite Anze Kopitar, is he?” or “Sure Bobby Ryan leads Sens forwards in points this year, but can he DRIVE POSSESSION?”, and outside of that, it is generally acknowledged that Ottawa’s good players are pretty damn good. (Four Senators are in the Top 35 in scoring this year TBH).

At the very least, a pessimist would have to say that Ottawa’s acquired some very good players BY ACCIDENT.

The big question for me is whether Ottawa can find some improvements over the Alex Chiassons of the team in the next six months? Honestly, I’m hopeful. If anything, being a seller at the deadline will make that easier. It’s not like Ottawa’s 2 points back of a wild card spot and has to keep Zack Smith around so as not to mess with locker room chemistry. If I’m reading these tea leaves correctly, Ryan Dzingel can easily step into that left winger role at a third of the cost. In addition, if Kyle Dubas has taught as anything, it’s that you can create a team consisting entirely of decent depth players in a single off-season. Surely finding a mere 3 or 4 of those guys shouldn’t really be that difficult, right? Then we just gotta sort out whatever it is Dave Cameron’s doing differently from last year. This off-season is gonna be EASY.