Musings: Hi, Could This Tommy Wingels Thing Signal The End of The Chris Neil Era?

change

You’re probably already calling me an idiot for even suggesting the mythical Chris Neil could see time as a healthy scratch over the more obvious and likely more accommodating candidate Courteous Lazar. Had this been a couple of years ago I’d have agreed there wasn’t a chance of this happening. This particular season, however, has me at least Musing™ otherwise.

I heard a pretty interesting argument by former Kontinental Hockey League executive Shawn Simpson that the addition of Thomas Wingels is, of course, to add depth to the line up but more so to provide the floundering Curtis Lazar with a better linemate than who he is currently playing with.

As you all know by now, I be thinkin’ and this comment got me playing around with the idea that even though Lazar might, politically, be the more obvious scratch I think it’s at least possible at this point that the odd man out could be Neil.

Let’s start with ice time. There’s no bigger indicator that Guy Boucher is not a fan of Chris Neil’s unique brand of Post-Enforcer/Jazz fusion than his ever dwindling ice time. He took a mere 7 shifts in 5:33 in his last game against the Capitals. While Lazar’s 10 shifts and 5:38 is certainly comparable, a larger gap can be seen in the near full minute more Average Time on Ice Lazar is given (8:26) over Neil (7:31). I find it at least worth noting that a coach who’s so big on structure might trust the kid more than a veteran who has been playing his bottom 6 role at the NHL level since Lazar was about 7 years old.
Further, though I welcomed the move, I couldn’t help but find it odd that the whole reason Dorion brought in Chris Kelly was to provide “much needed veteran stability to the 4th line”. When I initially heard the news I thought, “Yeah that make sense” but then I realized, “Wait a minute, there’s already a guy on the 4th line set to eclipse the 1000 game mark this year.” It begs the question: Does the new general manager Pierre Dorion also not have confidence in Chris Neil?

Then there is performance. I don’t expect the moon from him play-wise nor for his advanced stats to even be good. And hey, I’ll admit I’ve gone in pretty hard on twitter about his Borowiecki-esque stat line. All that said, did you watch that last game against Toronto? I felt it was the perfect encapsulation of his game this season and it’s this:
He works his ass off but if he gets the puck on his stick he either dangerously gets rid of it instantly, has it roll of his blade or, most often, has it taken from him the second he has it. I play a little game when Neil possesses the puck: Can he carry it for more than 3 strides? This is not a game I enjoy for reasons you will soon learn should you play it.
Anyway, if a dingbat like me notices this stuff there’s no way Guy “Detail Oriented Even For A Modern NHL Coach” Boucher doesn’t.
So Neiler’s not good at moving the puck, he doesn’t kill penalties like Kelly, isn’t defensively aware like Lazar and rarely fights anymore. A lot is made of how Lazar lacks an identity but at least he could make the case that he’s still figuring it out at this early stage of his career. Speaking of figuring out identity early in the career, the addition of the speedier, slightly more productive Wingels to the 4th line could help spark the (alleged) offensive side of Lazar’s game. With a couple 15+ goal, 20+ assist seasons in recent memory Wingels is clearly far more capable of setting up a Lazar goal or finishing a pass from him than Neil.
Why is it so important to spark the snakebitten 4th liner Lazar? Well there’s the obvious aspect that he is a 1st round pick who can no longer be sent down to the AHL without clearing waivers. After losing fellow first rounder Matt Puempel earlier this season to a waiver claim from the Rangers, the optics of another high pedigree pick going for nothing is just plain bad optics. Even more pressing is, I think, Dorion and Boucher’s need to see a better picture of what they have in Lazar as his Entry Level Contract sets to expire at the end of this season (they grow up so fast!).

Chris Neil’s spot in the lineup has been bulletproof in years past. Hell he was getting fucking power play time a few years back let alone a benching. But looking at the addition of PK specialist Kelly and now Wingels to the bottom 6, coupled with Neil’s ever-dwindling ice time it’s at least arguable that, like Young Metro, the new GM and new Coach just don’t trust Neiler like the previous administration(s) did. But how will 1000+ game vet and fan favorite Chris Neil likely take being scratched? Probably not well!
So say the previously unthinkable happens and he starts sitting games here and there or even regularly. Say, he gets furious about this or at least very reasonably feels disrespected by it. I could see a guy who’s worn a letter for years and also fought teammates in practice (without reprimand) feeling comfortable [read: entitled] enough to express this slighting to reporters. Or conversely, maybe he’s a good soldier and expresses this distaste for his situation privately. Either way, he would likely want to play as much as possible for the rest of a UFA year in hopes of one more contract.

Now that he’s played his 1000th game as a Senator, maybe Dorion takes the hit of outrage from the hordes of #25 jersey wearing faithful with a G move like “Eh, I’ll be the ‘bad guy’ by sending you to a contender in the Western Conference for a few months for that 7th round pick back.” In a Post-Alfie to Detroit Paradigm he can lean on thinking “We’ll be homies again when you retire and we’ll put you in the ring of honour, install you as food and beverage coordinator and things of that nature.”

The question all this obviously balances on is this: After spending hundreds of words explaining how useless Neil now is to our DEEC team, what GM of a really good team would be stupid enough to take him on at the deadline? The answer is admittedly that I don’t know. But as we saw this past off season, the role of the enforcer might be more or less extinct but the role of the GM to make a dumb move is still very much alive. If a contender maybe has some injuries or generally needs gritty depth, we know full well Neil’s role changes from enforcer to agitator come playoff time and that is a job more in demand than ever. He also has leadership stuff and nearly 100 games playoff experience and goes to church and life is precious and God and the Bible.
With San Jose retaining a considerable portion of Wingels salary, Neil suddenly became by far the most expensive member of a 4th line that Boucher clearly does not trust or use much. Also worth pointing out is that Zack Smith’s new raise is almost perfectly equal to Neil’s current salary. I bring this up of course because you’re not legally permitted to make an Ottawa Senators related post without mentioning the almighty dollar. I have now fulfilled that obligation.

Anyway, either all the stuff I said happens or they just scratch Lazar or some shit.

 

THANX 4 REIDINGZ!

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.

Your Father and I Would Like to Speak to You About Francis Perron

Salut, mes hateurz!

Salut, mes hateurz!

Now listen, this may not occur to you but your dad and I work very hard to put food on your back and clothes on the table. So if you want any of this delicious homemade hotdog stuffed crust pizza that your dear Nona gave me the family recipe for on her deathlay-z-boy, you’re going to sit there and hear what we have to tell you about your baby cousin Francis:

[Spotlight, please]
Hi, the other day I found myself checkin in on some of YOUR Ottawa Senators prospects for no reason other than having an extremely healthy relationship to the sport of hockey. Admittedly, I was sniffing around the cyberweb to see how the 3rd round pick who caught the attention of our very own Lunch Peristy at the rookie tournament, Gabriel Gagne was faring so far this season in the QMJHL.

To my surprise there was absolutely no statistical information for Gab Gagne for the 2015-16 season on both of the websites I looked on (IM NOT MADE OF wEb.SiTeS). Maybe he’s hurt, maybe he’s taken his talents to the Kontinental Hokki Leeg where due to a recent financial downturn for the major Russian crime syndicates, statistics and other record keeping (such as paystubs) have been postponed for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know. Frankly, I’m just a guy on the Internet™. If the prospect nerds don’t know what’s up I sure as hell aint going to find out *Thunderous applause, some heroes DO wear capes (me)*

My journey into the choppy waters of the weird world of dudes at computers talking about what teenage boy is going to dominate the other boys and grow into the body of a big strong man one fine day (See what I’m sayin: Imagine what a report for an OHL scout reads like? NSFW) was not without some interesting news. Since I was looking at a QMJHL player’s profile [with no stats], posted on the side of the screen was the Quebec League scoring race. Who should I see at the top of the table [AT THE TIME OF THIS WRITING PLEASE HOLD BACK ANY APPLICABLE ACTUALLYS, thank you] but one Francis Aloysius Perron of YOUR Rouyn-Noranda (???) Huskiiiies. I was blown away by the stats that were posted as I thought he was a defenseman…as I thought he was fellow 2014 3rd round pick, Miles Gendron:

Hi, I'm singer songwriter Miles Gendron and I like to keep it super duper casual.

Hi, I’m singer songwriter Miles Gendron and I like to keep it super duper casual.

What can I say, Fran P is just Miles G with way, WAY weirder hair…

Hair
(attends une minute avec le blowdryer, Franco-stein’s monster)

OH…and the eyes of a hatchet murderer.

Eyes
(It places the biscuit into the basket…it places the biscuit into the basket)

Wow, weird tangent…sorry

K, turns out Perron is a left winger but don’t get it Twiztid, that doesn’t make the numbers he’s posting any less impressive. Perron has put up 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 total points in …wait for it *timpani* 16 games. Yeah, G is currently operating at an over two point per game pace, not to mention just shy of sitting at a goal per game. He was also named the league’s first star last week (which is nice).
NOW, let’s be clear, the Q is a league notorious for an offense first, Patrick Roy’s dollar store Justin Timberlake of a son was a starting goaltender because his dad was a good goalie reputation. Seriously, name me a star NHL defenseman who cut his teeth in the Quebec league? *Gets bored of thinking* …………………………

Uhh, let’s hope Thomas Chabot is the first of his kind (yipes!)…LETS MOVE ON…

In the spirit of keeping it 100 for you, dear reader, I urge caution as when one examines the top 5 in the QMJHL scoring race [AT THE TIME OF THIS WRITING] the other four skaters, a bunch of French dudes I’ve never heard of, are sitting respectively at 33, 32, 31 and 30 points. So I would hazard that 4 other teams are probably thinking they have their own Francis Perron on the creep. After all, this is the same league that brought you a 98 points in 57 games rookie season from 1st round pick and current Italian ELITE league gawdbody Angelo Esposito (BTW Espo gunna put Cortina SG on his back this year and take his paesans all the way to Lord Boyardee’s Cup).

That said, it’s one thing to do well in an offense-first junior league but another to lead an offense first junior league in production overall. You gotta respect that people put up mad points in this league and for the time being he’s putting up the most.

As a seventh round pick, 190th overall, this guy has all the making of a classic Bryan Murray late round SLEEEPAH. But unlike other recent late round gems, Mark Stone (lack of skatefullness), Mike Hoffman (overagedness) and *sigh* I guess Brian Elliot (Swaggarlessness?) it’s a bit tougher to find a ton of info as to why Franny P was left on the board with only 20 selections remaining in the entire draft. All I can come up with “he doesn’t weigh much.” K.

Again, maybe a guy who went all the way to halfway down the 7th round of the draft wasn’t the most heavily scouted player to begin with but like Stone and Hoffman before him, putting up the numbers he’s putting up, I invite you to join me in keeping an eye on him this season. After all, it was after being drafted that Mark Stone dominated the WHL and became Canada’s Sweetheart at the World Juniors. Ditto Mike Hoffman winning the Antoine Vermette Memorial Trophy for QMJHL MVP as well as Q League Sportsman of the Year (also called the Antoine Vermette Memorial Trophy). I suppose Quebec league players are the easiest to doubt due to the leagues one dimensional reputation but that’s not fair considering the Q has produced a ton of quality NHL players forwards including our very own Michael Hoffman.
After making quite a strong showing at development camp as well as the rookie tournament, as a SEVENTH round pick, Perron’s development is like playing with free money. Think of him as a regular Emil Sanden but with actual goal scoring stuff going on. A 19 year old in his final Junior season, if  he can best his already impressive 76 points in 54 games from last year, he should at the very least be an intriguing addition to the Binghamton Senators forward corps going into 2016-17 season.

Bonne chance, Francis!

4 Things I’m Hmmmm Not So Much Looking Forward To This Season

Service. Selection. VALUE.

Service. Selection. VALUE. Fucking guy has gotten a million dollar raise every year. Who is this guy’s agent, Chris Phillips?

Wait For It…Wait For It…….*closes eyes, bites lip* Jared “JC” Cowen:
For all the “Murray loves his big boys afja;lskdjf ;fdsjbf;lksg kjhsfdgl s” endless trope, the fact I can’t ignore is that Murray just will not (cannot?) trade him and keeps going back to saying that Cowen’s been injured/recovering from injury for years and is finally healthy and will show his true ability this season. As you know, you gotta hear both sides and though he is far from my favorite player, I have to admit, Cowen’s injury troubles have coincided almost perfectly with the exaaaaaaaaact moment since we all started hating him.
It’s also undeniable that the injuries he’s suffered have been pretty significant. It’s at least feasible that he might have been well enough to play last year but only enough to perform as a shadow of the potential guy we say a couple years ago.
Before he even made it to the NHL, Cowen had reconstructive knee surgery and followed it with a quiet World Junior tournament and many people, including myself, were super low on him. Over time he got back to normal and came out the gate pretty strong as a rookie in Ottawa.
I remember the word out of Binghamton right before the hip labarum thing was that he was mercilessly pancaking everyone in sight. That he was looking quick, solid and strong; on the fast track to take the next step in his development. Then we fast forward through the awful hip thing and then this hernia thing. I can’t deny his mobility went from a non issue to a major one following those injuries. He’s come back from a major set back in the past. He is still quite young and could potentially do it again.
So, on one hand I’m thinking, it’s at least arguable that he’s not as bad as he’s been but on the OTHER I’m like, “Son gets injured…severely…a lot.” Alllllso, that season with all the potential spoken of earlier is getting pretty far in the rear view.
I’m not the first to say this but this is the last chance for JC to show and prove. But here’s the rub –Oh I’m sorry, you thought the rub already happened…nah Boo Boo, peep rub game: Even if Jared Cowen does bounce back, which again, I’m not ruling out, I think he’s going to top out as a 3rd pairing guy.
*Movie trailer voice* From the teaaaaaaam that brought you Eric Gryyyyba…comes….
                              Eric Gryba 2: Return of the More Expensive Gryba.
Where I’m at: I hope Cowen is at best a slightly better version of Gryba. It is very hard to  imagine him surpassing Wiercioch who outperformed him by a country mile last year in about as many games. That and Patty had a breakout performance in the playoffs instead of you know, being scratched the entire playoffs. So by this thinking, this bus stops at 3rd pairing on the left side.
So spoiler here: Even best case scenario we’re never going to be happy with him as he will always seems like a disappointment because of his pedigree and price tag. Oh, speaking of which and I don’t know about the last chance stuff I mentioned earlier. Believe the trade rumor chatter about him if you want (no one does) but this guy’s been pretty awful for a minute and stands to make 4,500,000 human dollars NEXT year. Yep, more than now ($3.7M). Another raise of nearly one million in as many years. He will make 400K less than Marc Methot next season. He aint going nowhere except maybe Binghamton. The only trade I could even entertain happening is one for a different kind of Cowen. Like Greenzo, he just makes too much for too long to trade him. We’re stuck with this guy. I guess we live in a world where Columbus managed to move Nathan Horton but in the mean time y’all are better off to pray with me that Jared Cowen is a decent 3rd pairing D man and not…nothing.

Cameron Gunna Do Some Stuff With the Lineup That’s Gonna Have Fans WILD Frustrated
I’m certainly not the first person to bring it up but even though he was pretty real talk about benching some players, DC did have the luxury of having some of the less skilled players on the injured reserve through most or all of the Sens glorious run to the playoffs. Smith, Cowen, Neil and Phillips were all out for the stretch run. MacArthur’s top six spot was up for grabs. Hell, he didnt even have to deal with the Anderson vs. Lehner politics through it. It’s undeniable that he even had a bit of that, “Whoa, where do you think you’re goin’ Neiler…can’t mess up this mojo” leeway going for him once players did get healthy again.
With the exception of Phillips, going into this season, he won’t have it that easy.
I am realistic to the idea that Chris Neil, who in addition to drawing ever nearer to the 1000 game milestone, will be playing for his very career this year and as such will draw into several games. Zack Smith is going to be given his chances too. In the case of Smith, it’s not all bad. My advice is to be patient. I think he will be given the Greening trade showcase special. Oh btw, don’t rule out some games for Greening again. Unlike Greening, however, I think Smith is one of the most tradeable bottom 6 players on the team. Smith is not as bad his 3 points in …38 games *gets very dizzy* indicates and his contract is excellent. Smith had a really rough start to last year adjusting to wing and he couldn’t bounce back from that horrible sounding wrist injury. Have you ever hurt your wrist? It’s gross. The shit takes like a YEAR to feel normal again. Anyway, he’s got over 300 games for the Sens, he’s going to be in the starting line up. At just $1.8M for a big, tough 4th line centre who’s had a 13 and 14 goal seasons, expect him to get moved at the deadline. Try not to lose your shit too much when he’s getting looks, guys like Smith are catnip for GMs. I all but guarantee he’ll be moved.
*Skips talking about Jared Cowen more*
Rookies like Shane Prince and Chris Wideman may not make it into every game either. I want them to get their shot as much as the next person but a gradual intro is how it often seems to go for rookies. From Mark Stone to Patrick Wiercioch to Erik Condra (god bless), most promising players coming up from the minors tend to get spot duty rather than just thrown into the shit full time. I’m not super stoked on it as being patient with development is not my strong suit (Me want Thomas Chabot NOW dammit) but I’m bracing myself for Shane Prince to potentially splitting some time with *30 second exhale through nose* Colin Greening. Wideman will have it even tougher with zero NHL games experience and 6 defenders ahead of him on the current depth chart. Lest we forget Chris Phillips shooting up adamantium in the shadows. Ugh, who knows what that will look like if Big Rig deems himself fit to play. Cross that bridge when we get there I guess. Heyyyyy at least the guys on the edge of roster are still exciting, skilled players.

Is “Bobby Ryan Needs to Score 30 Goals” the New “Jason Spezza Not a Good Baaackchecker Thooo”?
No, Bobby Ryan did not score as many goals as he was expected to last season. He went into a near quarter season slump (he also carried the team offensively for a couple of months as well but ima let this point cook for a minute).
Okay. I, like all fans, hope this guy has the best year of his career and everythink like that (thumbs up). I just also hope we can find it in ourselves to not treat this guy like he’s a disaster if he scores like 28 (or fewer) goals. I will TAKE him putting up betwixt 20 and 30 goals, especially if he’s playing well all around.
There’s no question that Ryan is a talented goal scorer. I understand that’s why The Bryan made a big play for him. It’s been his job his whole career. I just can’t get it out of the back of my head that when he put up a career high of 35 biscuits back in 2009-10, he was playing with Cup Winner/Olympian shlubs like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf posted an incredible 50 assists in just 66 games the 09/10 season. Perry had 49 helpers. That’s just two players dishing out 99 goals right there.
The following season, when Bobby Raw put up 34 goals, Perry and Getzlaf combined for 105 helpers. Getzlaf had 57 assists for 76 points in ONLY 67 games (soft). Perry en route to a Rocket Richard & Hart Trophy (selfish) dropped down to a pathetic 48 assists.  Good thing Tea-Moo Salami (of future First Ballot Hall of Fame fame) was there to pick up the slack with his 49 assists. Jesus, while were at it can we talk about how Lubomir Visnovsky (person) dropped 18 goals and 50 assists on some lowkey Erik Karlsson shit? How the fuck did these dickheads not win the Cup? OH, they got bounced in the 1st round you say? …man, I need to relax about losing to Pittsburgh as a low seed all those times. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, what I have tried to outline here is Ryan played with some dudes who could put up some POOOOIIIINTS in Anaheim.
Perspective: Norris trophy winner, Erik Karlsson would have been 6th in scoring on that 2010 team just behind Visnovsky. FML. King Karl has led Ottawa in points the past two years he’s been healthy. He’s a defenseman. An all-world one…but a defenseman. Different Teams. Different Needs.
After the departure of Spezza with the exception of Karlsson, Turris and Stone (who just became a thing like 45 minutes ago), this team is not overloaded with elite playmakers like those Ducks teams were. Only Karlsson is on a comparable level. All this to say, on this Senators team Ryan is going to be relied upon to set his linemates up about as much as he is to put the puck in the net. It’s likely to come at the cost of some goals. His 36 assists last year could be indicative of that. That may not seem like a ton but it’s the second highest total of his career.
Real Talk Korner: Even if Bobby didn’t have that extended dry spell, I’m still not entirely sure he’d have hit the coveted 30 goal plateau. Going into this season, if he doesn’t have a slump I think a 25 goal, 65 point campaign is about what you should probably expect. If he’s making his teammates better, that’s not the worst thing in the world.

Ohhhh The “Schedule” Look at our Fancy Aristocratic Friend With His SCHEDULE! Ha! What’s that? What Do I Call It? A Game Quilt.
I’ma come CLEAN about the schedule. Like with referees or an opposing team’s broadcast play by play, for whatever reason I am always on some serious hater shit. I’m a tough audience, I admit it. I know this because every year the schedule is released I am bummed out about it. I don’t even know if it’s better or worse than other teams. WHO HAS TIME TO FIND OUT ANYTHING IN THIS WORK A DAY WORLD!? Again, I don’t know how it shakes out in comparison to others but there are a couple of things that I think are objectively rough about this year’s table.

First item of concern is that throughout the season, the Sens will play 28 games back to back (or 14 back to backs if you want to be a complete D about it). After his historic run of wins last season HAS ANYONE MENTIONED THIS RUN YET? back up goaltender Andrew Hammond will certainly get his share of starts based on the back to back games alone. Anderson loves the lion’s share of starts but he’s not exactly known for his durability either. More concern! You’re welcome 🙂 Even though he seems content with his role as back up there will still be there will be a ton of pressure on Hammond to perform.
Like Robin Lehner before him, Hammy isn’t really an ordinary back up. Every time Lehner would get a start it would never have the feel of your average Alex Auld start against whatever visiting team in the midst of a long road trip. With Lehner every start would always have this air of “This is Lehner’s Big Chance at stealing the starting job from Anderson!” Not saying it will be that with Hammond but after the unicorn that was last season, I anticipate many of Hammond’s opportunities will have a “Is this guy the real deal? Did he deserve a 3 year(!) contract?” vibe surrounding them. Me? I’m pretty confident that Hammond is Curtis McElhinney good. I guess the 4 back to backs in the first two months and a sprinkling of additional starts we will start to find out early. I really hope he gets off to a solid start.

Next up, DAT DECEMBER THO.
I’m just going to post this nightmarish image to speak for itself:

Game Quilt

What no west coast away game at high altitude against Colorado on Christmas eve at 4am? Lazy!

Let’s break it on down: We come in calienté with a home game against Philly. Not too bad, fine with that…Oh, then for the next four fucking weeks it’s relentlessly one day on, one day off (what is this baseball?) but don’t worry the entire second week is a road trip. Luckily, the Sens only have to face the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, Presidents Trophy winning Rangers, Cup finalist Lightning (only twice, so it’s all good. Stamkos is in a contract year so…) and the only shitty by Western Conference standards Kings and Sharks. Toss in the Islanders, Habs and Caps just to make it zesty. They then get a luxurious four days off, two of which workers must have off BY LAW in this country. Then cap it off with a cozy little home and home with the Bruins that is glued to a back to back (theme) against the Devils. I would imagine the boys will celebrate New Year’s Eve by sleeping for the next 36 hours.

Last season, Paul MacLean was given the axe on December 8th. The month was obviously used by Bryan Murray as a fulcrum point to decide where his team was at. This year Cameron wont likely be under nearly as dire a situation but will have a razor thin margin of error for how he rests and uses his troops. He’s worked under a ton of pressure already in his young career as a head coach but regardless this is going to be a massive month in terms of how his sophomore season as coach goes.

Eh….Go Ativan Go, I mean, Sens!

Feeling like you’re getting an ulcer? Purify yourself in the waters of Lake Part One of This Series That is Far More Positive here.

4 Things I’m Looking Forward To This Season:

Remember Cecer...every goal this year...is like earning a new Jetski next year.

Remember Cecer…every goal this year…is like earning a new Jetski next year.

Welcome to part one this two part series that will run from today all the way to tomorrow or maybe the following day. Next up will be be the exciting conclusion “4 Things I’m Hmmmm Not So Much Looking Forward To This Season” 

Contract Years for Both Cody Ceci and Patrick Wiercioch

There’s a lot of talk on the Sensphere™ about the need for Bryan Murray to get out in these streets of rage and spend some money *tumbleweed wearing sunglasses rolls by* to get a free agent to shore up the second D pairing. Some would even argue he needs to improve the top pairing. I mean, Marc Methot has been nothing but excellent on the first pairing for an extremely reasonable price since he got here but I’ma let you people cook. Anyway, I don’t disagree that if one aspect of the team needs improvement it’s the defence and the second pairing in particular. That said, it’s my opinion that the defence is the last step in the rebuild that began in the spring of 2011 (Ed Note: Please hold your Actuallys until the end of the presentation, thank you). I’m serious, I think Ceci and Wiercioch could very well have a ceiling of top 4 defenders; they just haven’t quite reached it yet is all. Buying the services of an FA can no question help your team get better faster. But for a club (and fanbase) as concerned about spending cash wisely as Ottawa’s you gotta be careful. Lest we forget how quick it was brought up how Sergei Gonchar made an unreasonable 5.5 million dollars whenever he would have a couple of bad games in a row, which was sometimes! Remember, G was a Cup winner fresh off a 50 point season when he was signed here. You gotta outbid other teams for a guy like him I.E. You gotta overpay. Sometimes you get a Nick Leddy bargain but most of the time you get a Gonchar who can never “save the team” enough or live up to the money.

With Ceci and Wiercioch, especially the former talent (can we talk about how the 21 year old Ceci basically sidestepped the need to play in the AHL?), it remains to be seen if what we’re getting but I think we should remain patient and find out. If Erik Karlsson’s current contract shows something, it’s that if you’ve get a special home grown player to re-sign, you can save a boatload of cash with that RFA negotiating power and what seems to be some kind of Loyalty Rewards Card that Bryan Murray has mad points on.
If this team keeps trending up, I want the organization to have as much walking around money left over as possible to start adding final pieces. Hey, I told you to warn me if I stopped living in the now and got too far ahead of myself…

What we have here two young, obviously talented players with a lot of potential and offensive upside. With the two of them vying to get as big a raise as they can manage while trying to solidify their spots in the line up, it should be a lot of fun to watch.

Cokedreams Conclusion: Karlsson’s last contract year was the shiiiiit. He put up 78 points (!!?) and won a Norris. A broke ass version of that from either of these dudes would be a massive boost to the team.

Dave Cameron Not Having to Win Every Fucking Game to Stay Alive:

Peace to the hardly ever losing GAWD and all but Santa Maria did this guy have a slim margin of error to work with. Follow me: There was actually LESS pressure for him to win to stay alive after the team made the playoffs than before. Brazy.
Oh, and allow me be the first person to point out that the Sens are likely going to be unable to re-create their historic run *thunderous applause* ALRIGHT ALREADY. Thank you. That hottake just came to me so I went with it. I like how the unlikelihood of repeating a near two month long win streak is constantly pointed out like it’s something anyone expects. Hey, we’re Sens fans, we’re happy with a 3 game winning streak round here thank you very much. It was fun and very special but I, for one, am excited 2 move ON.

Cameron starting the season off with a clean sheet is an intriguing story line for me. I think it’s safe to say that majority of Sens fans initially doubted the hiring of Dave Cameron ESPECIALLY when BryBry hit us with the “this is not an interim hire” right out the gate. Little did we know homeboy would finish the season with a Quenvillian 32-15-8. Winning is great and we all like Cambo (…it’s like…a play on…Rambo BACK OFF IT’S PRESEASON FOR ALL OF US) but with a new contract signed, a 0-0-0 record and a healthy line up to start the 2015-16 season, we are about to see what this guy can really do with the controls.

Thus far we’ve seen that Killa Cam preaches a fitness-first, hard skating practice style for his fast transition game and a “best players play” real talk attitude toward the line up he ices. He also has a new man running our (seemingly always shitty) power play in new assistant coach Alain Tourignafdsfdgjrkgeegoni. So that’s…new.

Many coaches replacing a guy who lost the room often experience early success so here’s hoping he can keep it up. On a optimistic note, (Don’t worry, there will be a more negative Cameron thing in the next post just to keep it 100), according to Wiccanpedia, we’ve had 26 coaches in the nation’s capital since the gawdbody Bryan Murray stepped down in after the 2007 season…and came back for a minute after firing John Paddock less than a year after stepping down…anyway what was I talking about again? COACHES, we’ve HAD ‘em. One of these fuckers has to work out eventually right? Let’s hope we’ve finally found someone solid after about 7 seasons of searching in the desert.

Mercifully, We Seem to be More or Less Out tha Dave Dziurzynski Era of Call Ups

Call it part patience with development paying off, part having far more skilled prospects in the system, but the Sens have stayed calling up higher end players for the past couple of seasons now.

At the start of last season, I remember it was the same story as this year’s “only one spot up for grabs on the roster.” By Spring we’d seen Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Courteous Lazar, Matt Puempel and Shane Prince make it up to the NHL level in some capacity. For what it’s worth puck moving defenseman Chris Wideman even got a call up despite not getting the chance to play in a game.

This summer I’ve come across some moaning about the team not possessing any top flight prospects—I guess you don’t produce a Calder nominee, a rookie who lead the Sens in scoring, a 21 year old defenseman who only played about 30 AHL before making the club and a World Junior gold medal winning captain without the luxury of a lotto or even top 10 pick in the last 5 years without making a few enemies.
Sure, our playoff team (btw) doesn’t seem to have the next Tyler Seguin in the system at the moment but I will take what we currently have over the not so long ago classic “The Ottawa Senators have recalled Cody Bass from Binghamton” mess any day.

The fact is that many of the Sens best prospects have graduated to the big club in the last few seasons yet the cupboards are far from bare. There are still exciting prospects fighting for spots at both forward and defense and perhaps soon enough in goal as well. Keeping that internal competition zesty is great news for this fan. It wasn’t all that long ago when the only hope for legit help from the farm was Nick Foligno. Nothing against Foligno it’s just that it was either him or praying that Denis Hamel finally figured out how to travel back in time to kill Hitler (naturally) and avoid that knee injury he suffered in 2000 that ruined his shot at the bigs. Nothin else.

Hey, by the way, I’m as unnerved as anyone when I hear Bryan Murray and co. utter the name Dave Dziurzynski as a guy who as a “real shot” at getting some games this year. I mean, lord knows Ottawa could benefit from a dude who put up 4 goals and 14 points in the AHL last year but I’m hoping it’s just lip service to the guys who’ve been riding the bus for years now.
What’s most important is that this season, there are many far more talented players ahead of him on the depth chart. Hell, even Buddy Robinson seems like a version of him with more upside. Look, I’m dumping on this poor guy. What I ultimately mean to say here is that Dave D would be the first guy who’d get called up a few years ago. Now, it would be a slap in the face to guys like Shane Prince or Matt Puempel to not prioritize them. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a couple of games from a youngster like Nick Paul this season. Young pups have developed nicely and earned shots and ultimately our eyes will be happier for it.

Ottawa Plays Toronto 4 Times This Season Instead of the Usual 5

In the Digital Age™ of tracking trends in the sport of Ice Hockey (that’s what we call it in Canada so we don’t confuse it with the other popular hockeys) one of my LEAST favourite trends to examine is Ottawa’s record vs. Toronto (the other is our success on the Power Play).

Seriously, what in the Hesus Christo happens when these teams get together? I’m like a broken record with this but feel me. Look, sure, I hate them, we’ll just get that out of the way, but there’s more to it than that. My problem is mainly this: Toronto is a shitty division rival who Ottawa just cannot beat consistently. Consider this, 2014-15 was Ottawa’s best season series against the leafs in 5 years…they went 2-1-2. *lets it s(t)ink in* That looks at first glance like Ottawa won more games than they lost. I see it as more of a glass half empty situation. Against the 4th worst team in the entire league, a 2-1-2 record is two points blown in OT or the shootout more than it’s two loser points salvaged.

The last three seasons, the Sens combined record against the loaves (thank you, Autocorrect) is a putrid 4-6-4. C’mon B, have a little pride, don’t you realize these guys suuuck? It was a lot easier to take when we we’re getting stonewalled by Tim Thomas year after year but you’re telling we can’t light up James fucking Reimer? That guy’s barely a starter!

As admittedly petty as this comes off, this is important to me because Ottawa is a team that typically either barely claws its way into the playoffs or just misses them. You gotta hack the BONE with the weaker teams in your division. Ottawa going 3-2-0 against the Bruins last season was the kind of subtle make or break stuff that helped get them into the post-season.

I’m an optimistic fan but for whatever reason year upon year Les Boys repeatedly struggle against these turds and I’m glad there’s one less goddamn game against them. Yep, that’s where I’m at, after watching the team go nearly unbeaten for like two months I am happy to avoid the lottery team that just traded away their best player.

Is Matt Puempel’s 30 Goal AHL Rookie Season Worth Getting Excited About?

"Guess who just got his second WTYKY post in a week? ....Oh, it's me." - M. Puempel

“Guess who just got his second WTYKY post in a week? ….Oh, it’s me.” – M. Puempel

Yeh, it is. THANK$ 4 READING! *Frazier ending theme song starts fading in*

I suppose I should back that up. After all, this is the Internet Age where accountability and sound arguments have never been more respected.

Part 2 of my 128 part series on Matt Puempel apparently.

2011 24th overall pick Matt Puempel got his first taste of professional hockey at the end of the 2011-12 season when he suited up for the Binghamton Senators’ last 9 games. He managed a goal. His next shot was late the following season when he was brought over from the OHL to bolster the Bingo lineup in time for their brief playoff run. He put up a noteworthy 2 goals in the 3 post season games he appeared in. It certainly got my attention that in the very limited action he’d seen at the pro level that Puempel had made a bit of noise. It’s never easy to be parachuted into new surroundings and make an impact in such a short period of time. Puempel seemed able to do that.  What’s an even greater challenge to a player, however, is to be able to sustain production over the long term. Could he make shit real and produce consistently in his first full season?

Not really. At first at least. In the first half of the season Puempel managed just 7 goals. Not unacceptable output for a rookie finding his way in the pros but considering he’d put up almost half that in the 14 combined AHL games he’d previously played, it seemed a bit tepid. Especially for a player who’d up to then been described as a natural goal scorer.

WELP, turns out it was just a slow start. I don’t know if it’s the “comes ze shooting, comes ze goals” talking or what but in the second half Puempel (TBH I’m getting tired of typing this name…ah, could be worse, could be zDzizuzrzyznzszkziz) and positively a’sploded scoring-wise. PumpittyPumpPump (new nickname!) more than tripled his scoring output and ended up finishing his 74 games with a smoove 30 goals. He even tied the team lead in goals with the King of Bingo, Micheal Seymour Hoffman. It should be noted that Hoffman got his 30 in just 51 games and had 19 more overall points. But you gotta hear both sides and It should also be noted that Hoffman is an AHL All Star who was in his fourth season with the club.
Point being, 30 goals in a season is not quite elite but breaches that nice-nice threshold that get’s you noticed as a standout player. The question on this piece of human garbage blogger’s mind is: Is it special to score 30 with Ottawa’s American Hockey League affiliate?
To investigate (Ed note: *Hand wanking motion*) I had a look back in time and discovered it is pretty special and more rare than I would have thought. Enter the lower fourth dimension with me as we embark on a spiritual journey and I share my findings and thoughts on Binghamton’s past few 30 goal scorers…

2007-08 Denis Hamel (32)
Aloysius (my imaginary grandson): Grandpa?
Me (fantasy grandpa): Yes, little Aloysius?
Aloysius: Why do only start your journey at 2007-08?
Me: Well, that’s because that’s the exact year we Senators fans started caring about our farm system.
Aloysius: Grandpa can we have Hungry Man frozen dinners for breakfast again?
Me: Quiet, grandpa’s trying to get drunk here.  

Denis Hamel, the long serving captain of the Bingo Sens, may be a familiar name to some of you. By 2007 he had already had played 7 successful seasons in the American Hockey League including a 56 goal 91 point year with Bingo back in 05-06 or as some of you may call that season, “Back when the Ottawa Senators were really good”. So now that I think about it, maybe he might not be a familiar name to you…
Why all that production from a guy who’s NHL career can be summed up in one youtube video? Well after a positively dominant junior career in the QMJHL and then building up his name in the AHL to make the bigs, Hamel suffered a terrible knee injury that hampered his speed significantly. He still had the hands to get on the score sheet but the wheels just weren’t there anymore for poor Denis. What you see here in 07-08 are the numbers of an AHL star and veteran in the midst of a long career.

2009-10 Ryan Keller (34) and Josh Hennessy (30)
Ahhhhh, 2009-10. Remember them days? Heatley had jumped ship, made it hurt on the way out and Ottawa was truly in the midst of a downward spiral from powerhouse of the East to eventual draft lottery participant. It was an awkward in between phase where after Erik Karlsson, who spent an hilarious in retrospect 12 games in the AHL before returning to the big club for good, the team did not exactly have many exciting young players developing in Bingo to reverse the suck. They did have a bunch of talented AHL lifers at the time…which is nice…for the fans in Binghamton.

Ryan Keller went undrafted by the NHL and bounced around the AHL eventually managing to carve out a solid career in the Finnish league. The scoring touch he had in Finland carried over to the American League where he led Bingo in goals in 09-10 with 34.
Just behind him in scoring with an even 30 that season was 2003 San Jose 2nd round pick, Josh Hennessy. One year younger than Keller, Henny seemed at that point to be on that same career trajectory of Junior star turned productive Minor-Pro who just can’t stick with an NHL club. 24 years old at the time, Hennessy wasn’t exactly ancient but had been given about 4 call ups to the big club at that point. 1 point in 20 games and scoring forwards like him typically find out it’s a cold, cold world. Hennessy has since moved on to the KHL.

2010-11 Ryan Keller (32)
Again with this Keller guy! Fully established as a veteran leader, Keller led the Binghamton Sens to a Calder Cup victory serving as captain. He also became the first Bingo player since the aforementioned AHL great Denis Hamel to put up 30 or more goals in back to back seasons. I feel it worth mentioning that he put up 25 points in 23 playoff games that year. Respect. He showed a lot of the younger players who are currently with the big club what it takes to win. R-Keller has since taken his talents to the Swiss League.

2013-14 Mike Hoffman (30)
It’s kind of surprising to me that a guy as hyped as Hoffman has only hit the 30 goal mark once in Bingo. Not even a dis really so much as it’s just a bit of a shock. I think it’s again worth mentioning that The Hoff hit the 30 goals in a remarkable 53 games. He had a team high 67 points at season’s end despite some of his teammates, including Puempel, getting to play in 20 or more games than him. Amazing stuff. His explosive season earned him an extended stay in Ottawa to finish the year and likely a roster spot on October 9th.
The down side to this is that Mike Hoffman turns 25 in a little over a month and if he doesn’t significantly improve on his 3 goals and 3 assists at the NHL level right quick, it could be curtains for his chances. Hoffman is an exciting player. A brilliant skater who can put the puck in the net. I’ll take that any day of the week over a guy who’s really tall or can punch really hard, but history shows Hoffy is hitting that age where a goal scorer like him is getting into that top 6 or bust territory.
He’ll have to go through waivers if he’s sent back to down but if he can’t make a strong impression in the first quarter of the season or so, something tells me that the Senators brass wont be too bothered by that.

FUNCLUSION
We’ve had lots and lots and lots of fun skimming through this thing, haven’t we? Well, I did at least. K, so what do we take out of this examination? I think the most obvious thing is that despite having some pretty good players in the system the past few seasons, many who’ve made the jump to the NHL, the only guys who seem able to put up 30 or more goals in Binghamton are established minor-league professionals who are in their mid 20s or older. The only slight exception is Hoffman who will likely get a longer look in the bigs than Keller or Hennessey ever did. As for Hamel, well, a severe injury basically ruined his shot so he’s a bit of a different case.
What makes Puempel’s 30 goal year special, is that despite struggling out of the gate offensively he still managed to reach this milestone in just his first full season with the club and at age 21 no less. I think acknowledging the words “full season” is important too. I’ve already mentioned that Hoffman did it 22 fewer games but had Jean Gabriel Pageau played more than 46 games for Bingo he’d have likely improved on his 20 goals. Ditto Mark Stone who had 15 in just 37 games.
Threatening 30 next year are Shane Prince and Cole Schneider who had 21 and 20 respectively last season. Scheneider is entering his mid 20s but Prince is probably Puempel’s closest rival so that should be interesting.

N-E-WAY, what’s exciting about this is that the majority of the guys I just mentioned are the players you want to see leading your farm team in points. It’s always great to have veteran leaders around the kids to show them the way but as a fan you want to see the guys with the highest pedigree and best shot at the big club heading the charge scoring-wise. To see a young, first round pick like Pumper(?) do it in his rookie year is worth getting…………..wait for it………………………………PUMPED about.

Sorry.

Here’s a song about Matt Puempel:

Risk Assessment: Matt Puempel, the Senators, Drafting, and the Worst Blog Post Title

pumpel

With the closing ceremonies of the rookie tournament long in the rear view, Newfoundland sleepaway training camp done and now main camp well underway, I’ve been thinking about Madagascar a lot lately. I’ve also been thinking about all of those li’l rookies who are camping.
Who’s the new hotness? Who are the “past their prime” 23 year old senior citizens, who are the DARKEST horsies? I’ve been thinking about a you and one camper in particular. His name is Max Math Puempel.

Ever since his draft day I’ve been very interested in Matt Puempel as a prospect. Call me a changed man since Garbage Pick™ Erik Karlsson™ was selected in the first round back in 20 ought-8. Seemed like a crazy choice at the time to (seemingly) gamble on an undersized player let alone defenseman that high in the draft but that event pretty much single handedly changed my view of player selection to this:
Get good players, yes, for the love of Jah get only good players, but don’t be afraid to think outside the bun in the pursuit of acquiring those good players, player.
God, I am so poetic. That would look really nice on a throw cushion.

The 2011 draft was the perfect storm for taking the Karlssonian type high risk high reward action I’m talking about. With the three picks in the first round alone, Bryan Murray took power forward in the mould of Corey Perry, Mika Zibanejad at 6th overall and power forward in the mould of Corey Perry, Stefan Noesen at 21 with his first two selections. He grabbed a couple of guys who fit the bill of hard charging goal scorer with a mean streak that Bryan Murray makes no secret is his ideal type of player. Good, do your thing baby, after all, it should be noted that Murray drafted the real Corey Perry in 2003 at a Jim O’Brienesque 28th overall (Ed note: good value!).
Having more or less played it safe up to that point and with one pick remaining in round 1, the record seems to indicate that B. Murray and Co. felt it was time to take a wee gamble. That gamble was their selection of Matt Puempel (I need to find out what the origin of last name that is btw. He’s like this century’s Todd Gak) at 24th.
As Sens fans well know, the 2011 draft was a special one. Ottawa had an awful season finishing 25th in the league (hi haters!) and sold off many long time players including some fan favorites for picks. As a result of the team’s poor play and the copious amount of selections they’d get in that draft, one plucky young go-getter (me) paid particular attention to that year’s draft class.
I remember an adorable young chipmunk named Matt Puempel being described as one of the best pure goal scorers available. Oh, but he came with a catch. On top of nagging back problems, he had suffered a bone chip in his hip (Ed note: Gross!) that required risky surgery to repair and caused the CHL Rookie of the Year’s value to drop significantly on draft day. Advantage: Team with nothing to lose and a whole world to gain (That’s us btw. I know that was a totally insane way to describe the Ottawa Senators but my backspace key is broken so here we are).
Since making a full recovery from his surgery, Pumper(?) continued his torrid scoring pace in the OHL and made the jump to AHL where he tied Mike Hoffman for the team lead in goals with an impressive 30 in his debut campaign.
Now, its still very early but it seems the Sens made a good move taking a chance on the talented young man. He arrived at training camp this year as one of the team’s best prospects and so far has not disappointed. Let’s see how some of the riskier picks over the past few seasons have fared for the team:

2008
I’ve already noted that Erik Karlsson was a bit of a risk at least as far as Bryan Murray’s draft tendencies go. B-Murr is pretty averse to selecting a forward under 6 feet tall let alone a defenseman. Admittedly I thought it was pretty wild to take him so high with productive forwards like Tyler Ennis or Jordon Eberle still on the board but hey, that’s why I get paid the big bucks to blog (in Doni Brennan’s mumma’s basement).

Risk Vs. Reward: Spending a First Round Pick on an undersized defenseman was a pretty big statement especially when the draft was in Ottawa. But contrary to early scepticism, Erik Karlsson is slowly but surely shaping up to be a competent bottom pairing NHL regular.

2009
Jerry Cowen. Now, a hulking shutdown defenseman from a Saskatchewanese town of less than 700 people seems, at first glance, to be the least risky player you could ever draft. Consider though that he had reconstructive knee surgery just months before being selected. That’s a pretty damn big gamble to take him with a top with a top 10 pick. Despite everyone currently hating his guts, it should be kept in mind that he was coming off another significant injury last season *tugs collar clean off shirt* and should be given a bit more time to see the real Jared Cowen stand up (and hopefully not be severely hurt in the process).

Risk Vs. Reward: Still too early to tell, in my opinion. Come see me at the end of the season and we can talk about our emotions. In the meantime I offer young Jared this olive branch:  

2010
Uhh…Mark Stone couldn’t skate fast?…So they took him way deep in the 6th round…then… heeeee improved his production by scoring 78 more points (!!!)  in the season after he was drafted and THEN he finished his final junior year with 123 points in 66 games on some production of a level that got Alex Daigle hyped as the next Mario Lemieux. Not bad for a guy who played in a tough junior league and was taken at 178th.
What was I talking about? Oh yeah, risk stuff.
K. So, in 2010 I suppose the biggest risk Ottawa took was trading away their 1st, 2nd and 5th round picks. The 2010-11 Sens team was terrible and after going on record saying that “Anyone who thinks we should blow the team up, should blow themselves” (slight paraphrase) owner Eugene Melnyk flip flopped and gave Bryan Murray the green light to ship out high priced veterans (a strategy Melnyk has since become addicted to) which lead to both a draft lotto finish and 2011’s big crop of picks.

Risk Vs. Reward: Ignoring the trading of 16th overall pick for David Rundblad for a second, 2010 was overall a fucking terrible draft. Murray n’ friendz couldn’t have played it safer by pretty much only taking big bodied wingers with the few picks Ottawa did have.
If Rundblad ended up the Joe Corvo level healthy scratch in Ottawa that he’s become since being traded (twice), this could have been one of the worst drafts in modern Sens history! Think grumbling over how Kopitar could have been taken instead of Brian Lee but change the names to Tarasenko and Rundbleezy.
Anyway, that whole Rundblad for Turris murky revisionist history aside, Murray and co. goddamn lucky all that chatter about Mark Stone’s lack of adequate foot speed was overdone and they ended up getting an NHL capable player out of him. None of the other guys who were taken in 2010 are even in the conversation as far as call up is concerned. 2010 had the potential to be their worst draft since the 2005 where they were lucky to end up with Colin Greening in round 7. Yeah you just read that shit right. That’s how poorly they drafted that year. LUCKY to get Colin Greening…in round SEVEN.

2011
As alluded to earlier, 2011 is the draft where Ottawa got to play with house money the most (Ed note to Casinos: Can I haz some of this House Money? Only got to gamble with own real money so far, thx). They got the luxury to take some risky picks along with some of your safer bets. Something-something Matt Puempel’s hip drama. Oh but there was a second in that class. Jean Gabriel Pageau.

You know you can’t trust Wikipedia (#staywoke) when they list JG at a generous 5 foot 9. He’s short. AKA The equivalent of the Bubonic plague to most pro-scouts. He’s not just undersized for an NHL player he’s undersized compared to most adult males. I’ve never actually seen dude in person but I have a feeling when I do I’ma step to him and it’s going to look a little something like this…

Still an amazing hockey player tho and it’s pretty foolish to discount that.

Risk Vs. Reward: Look, if there’s one thing GMs continuously front on it’s skilled players under 6 feet tall. There’s just boatloads of them out there up for grabs. Pageau has made it impossible for the big club to ignore him as anyone who’s watched him can see he is a speedy, surprisingly tough two way player with a great head for the game who can both set up and finish plays AND kill penalties. Sounds ideal…except for one thing…this:

But I ask this: Has his size ever really hindered Pageau on the ice? Not that I’ve seen.

With the exception of Karlsson, Bryan Murray rarely drafts players under 6 feet tall let alone a guy of Marty St. Louis-like stature. If Jean Gabriel never suits up for another game again it could be argued that rolling the dice on him has already paid off for that one playoff game alone. The fact that I don’t need to specify what game I’m talking about speaks for itself. I seriously hope JGP serves as a lesson to Murray and his staff that though they are still pretty rare, there are a number of smaller guys doing quite well in the league now and you could potentially buy pretty low on a very good player who other GMs were too conservative to take a chance on. Even if he can’t squeeze into the lineup full time he remains one of the best players in Binghamton and an extremely competent call up. I’ll take a guy with his potential upside over a safer Cody Bass in round 4 any day of the week. Gold star!

2012
Here we go, Jarrod Maidens! Now THIS kid is like the street cred Matt Puempel. Rumored to have the potential of a top five to ten pick before suffering a severe concussion, the Senators scooped J-Maids (?) up in the 3rd round at 82nd overall. If this kid works out we could have a horse SO DARK on our hands that — *Puts on reading glasses to check incoming Jarrod Maidens Ask Jeeves News Alert, starts reading under breath* “mumblemumble Senators prospect Jarrod Maidens mumble mumble suffers set back in recovery mumble mumble mumble hockey career likely over Senators release his rights…”
WELP you know how that go.

Risk Vs. Reward: Def lost out this one. Sincerely,  best wishes to Jarrod. Really feel for the guy.

2013
Uhh, I don’t know. P-solid draft, tbh. Thanks for reading!

2014
Uhh, I’ve got nothin’ so i’m just going to take this opportunity to type in the words Curtis Lazar to drive up hits. #CurtisLazar