Roundtable of Death: Duchurris Edition

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As we all know by now, on Sunday night the Ottawa Senators completed a three-way trade with Nashville and Colorado. Kyle Turris ended up a Predator. Matt Duchene ended up a Senator. Three picks and three prospects ended up…an Avalanche? I’ve never thought about this before, but it’s weirdly hard to personify that team’s name. “I’m super happy to be…an Avalanche” doesn’t really work. You came here for the hard-hitting analysis. We’re bringing it.

Varada wrote:

Look, I like Turris a lot. I loved watching him play, and he’s had his share of big-game moments. He’ll be missed. But I’m shocked – SHOCKED – by the degree to which some are spinning this as a loss for Ottawa.

I think there’s a tendency to look at assets in a vacuum. How much is a first-rounder worth? Let’s give it a number. Then let’s add up all the numbers of all the assets and produce a score. Ottawa gave up four things and got one thing, so that’s a loss, etc. There are two issues here. The first is the way we routinely overvalue picks and prospects. The second is the way we ignore context.

There are some surprising parallels here with the Zibanejad-for-Brassard deal. They had a player due a contract whose market value would be multi-year – enough so to carry them into the middle of what would be Karlsson’s next contract. You can commit to that deal and then hope to hell you can get Karlsson done, or you can clear the decks for Karlsson and fill in other players around him. Having Duchene, Brassard, and Karlsson all up at once is helpful. They can fill around Karlsson or, if he leaves, they have the option to launch a rebuild.

With Turris, they could go into next year with Turris on a long and expensive deal, or go into next season without their top-line center and maybe get a 2nd rounder for him at the deadline instead. Neither of those is an enviable choice. So instead, they looked to include Turris with other assets to get a player who is at least as good, if not better, and in a league where it’s notoriously difficult to get a deal done, they pulled it off while dumping salary and without losing any of their best prospects. That’s commendable. To me, it’s hard not to see turning your 28-year-old center who’s not interested in re-signing into a 26-year-old center with arguably a higher ceiling as a win, and yet it seems hard for some to see it that way. Remember when we thought Noesen and Puempel were future cornerstones? I guess all I can say is that we’ll check in with Shane Bowers in a few years and see where this deal is at.

Honestly, I don’t understand the deal as much from Nashville’s perspective, and they’re receiving routine praise. They gave $36M and six years to Turris, a 2nd line center, and gave up two prospects and a pick in the process. They could have waited until the deadline, or even the UFA bidding period, when better centers like Tavares might be available, to fill that need. I know they went to the Finals and are trying to win now, but they’ve taken on possibly more risk than Ottawa here. They better hope that Turris can contribute at 34. As some have pointed out, they probably could have thrown in a 1st rounder and just gotten Duchene.

Colorado, meanwhile, receives a wing and a prayer. Girard could be something, but a 5-10, 160lb offensive defensemen doesn’t set my world on fire unless he turns out to be the second coming of Karlsson, who is a Magical Freak (and Mind Freak). A 1st that’s top-10 protected, two depth prospects, a couple of later picks AND they have to eat a $1.5M AHL goaltender who they don’t even want to come to Colorado, straight up lending him to the team they just acquired him from… It’s a deec return – six things for one thing is, by my math, definitely more things. But let’s not act like they got Chabot. They did not get Chabot.

Every team got what they’re looking for. Nobody got robbed. I know that makes it less interesting but, don’t worry: Bergevin will probably make another trade soon. Price straight up for Lundqvist?

James wrote:

It’s funny that after a year of “Announce Duchene” not-so-jokey jokes on The Sensphere, the day after one of the biggest blockbuster trades in recent franchise history goes down AND THEY ACTUALLY GET HIM the conversation seems to be mostly centered around Kyle Turris’ new contract with Nashville. Additionally, that it has a particular bent on speculation surrounding Dorion’s inability to reach a deal with number 7’s camp on an extension. It makes sense but frankly, I’m a bit shocked at the lack of “Holy fuck, Dorion just landed the most coveted player on the market!” Am I the only one who’s actually shocked this thing even happened? I would have thought the Habs tepid performance coupled with Marc Bergevin’s inability to be good at his job meant he was going to outbid everyone for Duchene out of sheer desperation. Dorion actually managed to pull it off and get us the new toy we all asked for on Annual Gift Day.

I mean, it’s understandable to react negatively given the full scope of the trade. No one wants to lose a beloved player even in the process of trading for a very good one. Still, in the melancholy haze of parting ways with a guy who made huge contributions to the culture on and off the ice [seriously do any Sens fans even dislike Turry? Your boi is LIKED], I hope Sens fans don’t lose sight that the Duchene trade has the potential to be one of pretty significant consequence. And I say that as someone who owns a Kyle Turris jersey! (Note: If you see me in my Turris jersey at CTC gone off my 5th shot of Ducce in the second intermission respect my agency and approach me like an ursine manimule).

K, here’s where shit’s about to get pizzadelic on that ass: You know what this trade reminds me of? Heatley for Hossa. Uh oh, I can actually feel every eye reading this watering up with blood of Mother Gaya, but hear me out. Those of us who were in our late 40s at the time of the Heatley for Hossa (RIP Gregg DeVry) swap can harken back to a time before Hossa was a Stanley Cup Champ and general playoff hero and Heatley was scoring machine with all the talent in the world desperately in need of a change of scenery. Back then I was bummed to lose Hossa’s reliable brand of hockey you can set your watch to, but that sadness was quickly overshadowed by the fact that a DEEC Sens team desperate to make some REAL-REAL noise in their window of goodness just picked up a player with a dynamism to his game (dynamism = insane shooting ability) that’s hard to come by. Sure Dany (sic) Heatley sells timeshares in Baden-Baden now but NO ONE missed Hossa when big homie was doing NUMBERS with Spezza and Alfie. The team with Heatley also got as deep into the postseason as our beloved team ever has. It wasn’t perfect but it was damn fun and great while it lasted.

Turris is one of my favorite players because he plays a game pretty much without flaw. He is extremely competent at nearly all aspect of the game. Shootouts, faceoffs, d zone exits, clutch play, consistent play. Like I said, I love him. The thing I can’t stop thinking about is how the Sens just upgraded their speed and scoring power at centre without surrendering their three blue chip prospects; Chabot, White n’ Brown. Sure they gave up some stuff. The promising Shane Bowers and a first and a third were surrendered but does anyone seriously think a deal like this goes down by trading away Andreas Englund and future considerations? With Duchene, I cant help but keep thinking about that dynamic element of his game. Even if Duchene turns out to be “extremely fast Kyle Turris” that…sounds amazing?

What I think I like most about this trade is that after a surprise run to the Conference Final last season it’s a bit of a “Fuck it, let’s get wild while the times is a-gettin’” move. I don’t know what the team is going to look like in future but honestly, when we have one of the best players on earth in his prime on the roster for a good price it’s probably time to do something bold like this.

Luke wrote:

Sorry for holding up this Roundtable guys, but it’s taken me a few days to separate what I think from what I feel. Acquiring an Olympic-calibre player for whom I have been very publicly clamouring at the cost of losing a near-legendary team fixture who is beloved by the community is some very Wishing-On-A-Monkey-Paw type shit. Add to this the unusually public nature of the trade negotiations and the fact that this deal went from dead to extremely alive over the span of about 48 hours, and one can see why it would take a minute to recover from the emotional whiplash.

That said, this trade has not been without foreshadowing. For one thing, Kyle Turris’s name had been floating around in trade rumours for a few months now (One rumour I heard was that Turris was all but on a plane to St. Louis before Robby Fabbri’s knee disintegrated), so we’ve all had some time to get used to The Idea of trading Kyle Turris. Additionally, Ottawa’s been connected to Matt Duchene for nearly two years. None of this came completely from left field. Yet, somehow when Ottawa traded the player they’d been quietly shopping for the player for whom they’d been publicly lusting, it felt like a shock. I think I know why this is: Bryan Murray never would have done it.

The Bryan was always fiercely loyal to His Guys, sometimes to the detriment of the organization’s long-term potential. Giving a declining Kyle Turris, a community pillar who is good on the ice but not elite, a 6+ year contract to keep him in Ottawa well into his mid-30s is exactly the sort of move no one would have blinked at three years ago. However, it is also the sort of move that would have done nothing to improve the team on the ice, and if there’s one thing we can say about Pierre Dorion, it’s that he’s always looking to improve his team.

I gotta say this for Pierre Dorion: every move he’s made has improved the team in the short term. Even a trade I hate, Burrows for Dahlen, immediately allowed Guy Boucher to ice a better lineup. It is virtually undisputed that Matt Duchene is an upgrade over Kyle Turris, so shout out to Pierre Dorion. He did it again; the Senators are better today than they were yesterday.

And now we must ask the question, that everyone else is trying to answer: Yes, the Senators are better today, but at what cost?

First off, I want to put a bracket around the Andrew Hammond + 3rd Round Pick part of the trade. As far as I’m concerned, Andrew Hammond was a salary dump, and the 3rd round pick was what it cost to make it happen1. This means that as far as Ottawa is concerned, the business end of this trade boils down to Turris + a 1st round pick + Shane Bowers for Matt Duchene. Advantages for Ottawa include Top 10 protection on the 1st round pick in case they accidentally win the draft lottery, and the fact Shane Bowers isn’t even the most hyped-up prospect Ottawa drafted this year. A charitable reading of this situation, therefore, is that Ottawa traded an expiring contract, a safe low ceiling prospect, and a pick they’d have used to draft a safe low ceiling prospect, for an immediate upgrade at 1C and an extra year of the 1C’s contract.

Just how big is that upgrade? Well, it’s hard to say. Many people have pointed out that over the past three years, Turris and Duchene have had nearly identical production on a per minute basis over the past three seasons. However, only one of those players have had to spend significant time on a line with Matt Nieto, Mikko Rantanen, Mikhail Grigorenko. If Duchene can find the sort of form that got him selected to Team Canada during a 70 point 2013-14 season, Ottawa will quickly forget the name of Shane Bowers and 2018 1st Round Pick. No doubt this is what Dorion and Boucher are hoping for.

Another question I have seen asked is “Why trade an expiring contract for a contract that’s going to expire next year?”. It is my contention that that Duchene’s contract that expires in 2019 is a feature, not a bug. Let’s take a look at CapFriendly. That sure is a lot of contracts expiring in 2019, isn’t it? If, theoretically, you had a player who you needed to sign at any price, wouldn’t it make sense to have a lot dollars available the year he was due to start a new contract?

Hmmm…Hmmmmmmmmm…..

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Essentially, I believe that this season is a dress rehearsal for Ottawa’s 2018-19 season. As a team that is ostensibly not a Cap Team, Ottawa has to pick their spots. A 2018-19 season where they have Derick Brassard and Erik Karlsson on team friendly contracts, Colin White and Thomas Chabot on ELCs, Matt Duchene, Alex Burrows, and Ryan Dzingel on expiring deals, and Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Zack Smith, Bobby Ryan filling out the Top 9 is as close to Going For It as Ottawa can possibly get. Acquiring Matt Duchene is a sure sign that the Senators consider their window open. By getting at least two years of Matt Duchene instead of seven of Kyle Turris, the Senators have improved their short-term prospects while simultaneously maintaining their long-term financial flexibility and ability to keep Erik Karlsson in the organization.

One Closing Thought: I think some people may be upset that Ottawa was so willing to part ways with Kyle Turris, and the fact that a 6 year contract was never proposed by either side may indicate that neither Dorion or Turris were serious about getting a deal done at any cost. However, the opportunity cost of signing Kyle Turris is not signing Matt Duchene. Many highly sought after UFAs stay with the organizations they were just with. Every off-season there are just as many Joe Thorntons and Steven Stamkoses as Patrick Marleaus and Kevin Shattenkirks. If Ottawa can have success over the next 20 months, don’t sleep on Dorion’s ability to get a deal done that could keep Duchene here long term. At worst the acquisition of Matt Duchene pushes Ottawa’s Cup Window open just a little more, but at best it’s a move that will positively shape the franchise for years to come.

1. It’s been amazing to me listening to the media talk about the possibility of Sakic flipping Hammond for more assets, as if Ottawa hasn’t been trying to do that themselves for the better part of a year. Maybe he’ll be able to pull it off, but I doubt it. Either way, it’s not our problem anymore so who cares? *puts finger up to ear piece* Wait, Andrew Hammond is still in Belleville? Well, I guess it is still our problem! In that case, good luck in future endeavors Joe Sakic and, by extension, Andrew Hammond.

Roundtable of Death: Here We Go Again Edition

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H/t to the god @slowhnds

Luke: The thing about being the only bloggers who haven’t joined The Athletic is that we’ve had to keep our “real” jobs, so I feel like the hockey season may have sneaked up on us a bit.

I barely even noticed that the season was starting until I was suddenly inundated with articles and tweets about how Ottawa is a sure lock to miss the playoffs. You have been able to set your watch to those things for the past few years.

Here’s where the team stands:

  • No fun or interesting off-season additions to the team, unless you count Nate Thompson, which I don’t because he is neither fun nor interesting.
  • Erik Karlsson will not start the season due to his ongoing recovery from ankle surgery.
  • Derick Brassard will start the season, but is also still recovering from shoulder surgery.
  • Colin White, the prospect we were most excited about, got hurt in his first pre-season game and is on the IR.
  • Logan Brown has made the team and is now the prospect we’re most excited about.
  • Alex Formenton is on the team, even though he’s only 18 and there’s absolutely no way Guy Boucher trusts him enough to give him the keys to the Ford Mustang.
  • Thomas Chabot is starting the season in Belleville even though he was the best defenseman in camp who was also a -5 in the last pre-season game.

Besides that, there have been no interesting story lines to discuss.

I guess the over-arching question to the season is this: When will the Senators announce Duchene?

Just kidding. The question is actually this: Last year, Guy Boucher came into Ottawa with a mandate to make the playoffs. He, and the team, delivered. Can they do it again?

What do you think?

Andrew: Starting to feel like Cody Ceci is going to be a Senator for a long time and the video tribute I’m imagining for when he inevitably returns with the Colorado Avalanche or Arizona Coyotes or Winnipeg Jets or some such poorly run franchise is 2 minutes long but features zero highlights.

James: We’ll you don’t come second in your division, come within a goal of the Cup Final and then keep the team that gave you the club’s most successful season in a decade together as best you can without making a few enemies.

I certainly don’t LIKE how the Sens are forced to start the season already coming off a season of NUFF adversity but here we are. I have to admit it’s a little funny to me how the goalposts of how fucked we are keep moving despite some positive news items. I’m yet to come across anyone in the wild rejoicing in the fact that Brassard’s status went from missing weeks to a 50/50 chance he can play in the season opener or failing that back within the first couple of games. More importantly Karlsson’s status went from missing the entire month of the season to saying that he “Probably” wont be able to play opening night. Um, I’ll take that kind of update. Karlsson missed 5 games last season and the team made the playoffs hopefully he again misses under 10 here. But if he misses the first, say, 5 games I’ll take that over the first month plus. I can’t predict the future but it sounds like he’s closer than initially reported, don’t @ me no matter what happens. Thxu.

The Chabot thing is, of course, disappointing to us all, yes, but because he’s not starting the year in Ottawa in no way tells me we won’t see him this year. We all know the coach likes to play it safe defensively and Chabot plays as high risk a position as they come. Judging by comments Boucher has made publicly, it sounds like he really likes Chabot but simply doesn’t want to welcome him to the NHL under this kind of pressure (i.e. without Karlsson to insulate the entire D corps). My thoughts have already been shared on the delicate dance twixt the sun of “DON’T RUSH HIM YOU’RE RUINING HIM” and the moon of “WHY DOES BOUCHER LIKE BOROWIECKI MORE THAN CHABOT!” [Ed. Note: Why does he tho?] changing depending on what management does with him. One thing I do know is that a little time in AHL will not hurt Chabot. Will playing more established less talented players while weathering a Karlssonless lineup hurt the team? I hope not.

More concerning to me on defense is that on top of being missing Karlsson the Sens are missing Methot…poi-ma-nent-ly. Lot of pressure on Phaneuf, Oduya and Claesson to fill that void. “So, who will provide the offense from the back end then, dumbass?” Well I’m glad you asked. Since Ceci was traded for Matt Duchene earlier today, the only item of intrigue I can find is that since Chris Wideman is in a contract year and as an undersized guy with prospects like Harpur, Jaros, Englund and of course MACOY ERKAMPS knocking at the door, there’s a ton of pressure on him to keep his job/get a new job this season. Hoping he does numbers to get numbers. LOL, remember when Chris Wideman was the new hottness, shit changes quick. MOVING FORWARD…

It’s pretty exciting to see a bit of young blood up front to start the year. Doesn’t sound like Brassard will miss much time so Logan Brown will have to make an impression early and often. Now go out there kid and HAVE FUN making an impression both early and often! (Seriously, start your career as an impact 2nd line centre or I’ll frame you for murder.) Alex Formenton looked great in the preseason…which is nice! Another thing: I am well aware it is impossible to be excited about Nate Thompson, the fact is Boucher trusted the fourth line so little last year that he barely played them. Have to think that with Kelly and Neil out, a Formenton – Thompson – Burrows 4th line will at least get ice time.

Sure, other than Duchene for Ceci straight up, there were hardly any moves this off season but I don’t know why that hurts a team that just stormed through a few rounds of the playoffs. Considering these guys are used to Boucher’s system, an improved 4th line and Anderson not having to miss half the damn season, I don’t know why these guys are a lock to miss the playoffs. Still, there are a lot of things up in the air. Is Playoff Bobbito Ryan the Real Bobbito Ryan? Will Karl and Brass miss a few games or a month? Etc. The first month is really sketchy and important for us (a GREAT combo!) and I praise Jah every day that the early schedule is filled with Tomato cans. Unpopular opinion but after what I saw this team do last year in a really challenging season chalk this one up to “I aint never scared you aint never there.” It will be stressful AF but yes the Sens can make the playoffs.

Varada: Here’s the interesting thing about last year’s Ottawa Senators: they should have been absolutely stuck in the mud. Their possession numbers weren’t very good, nor was their PDO, so they weren’t purely lucky. They didn’t score many goals. (23rd in GPG.) They had one of the worst defensive pairings in the league playing big shutdown minutes in Phaneuf and Ceci. Key forward Bobby Ryan had a putrid year. Clarke MacArthur was out almost all season. They didn’t have depth until some late season trades. They were not, on paper, good.

So how did they do it? Yes, Karlsson is a god who accounted for a huge segment of the team’s offense. But, more to the point for me is that Craig Anderson was very good in a league where a good goaltender is everything. He was 7th in the league in save percentage among goaltenders with more than 20 games, and Ottawa won quite a few one-goal games. That is, as they say in hockey, the ball game. They landed four points above the playoff cutoff.

Now, in the off-season they lost Methot and learned that MacArthur would be out indefinitely again. So, again, they are starting from a position of weakness. But the question remains: can Craig Anderson play at or near the level he did last year? Sure, we can talk about players like Stone and Hoffman taking another step, or the theoretical contributions of rookies, or a bounce-back year from Ryan, or having Burrows for a full season. All of these, to me, would be incremental contributions to the team’s competitiveness. But Anderson is the key. If he can play, this is a playoff team. If he regresses, even to league average, then Ottawa might find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble. I think those picking Ottawa to miss the playoffs seem amplified and provocative because of Ottawa’s run last year, but really all they’re saying is that Ottawa looks about the same as they did last year. That seems fair to me.

Another key: how does the rest of the division look? This is where I think Ottawa’s critics may have overstated the case for Ottawa’s dire state.

  • Montreal: yup, they’re good. Best goaltender in hockey and lots of depth throughout. But let’s not act like they aren’t a Carey Price ankle injury away from AL MONTOYA being their starter. Also, you can’t act like adding Drouin and Hemsky is world changing if you don’t ding Tampa and Dallas for losing them, which nobody is doing.
  • Boston: also good, especially that first line. But Chara is 40, Torey Krug is on injured reserve, and the rest of that defensive corps is a mix of unspectacular reliability and young promise.
  • Toronto: this is the same team as last year plus 38-year old Patrick Marleau and 36-year old Ron Hainsey. Last year they took the last wild card spot. They’ll probably be improved given the development of young players, but acting like they’re Cup favorites all of a sudden is bananas.
  • Tampa Bay: good team, but I don’t see how they’re improved. They lost Drouin, added 38-year old Chris Kunitz and the absolutely brutal Dan Girardi. Their starting goaltender is 23 and their backup is PETER BUDAJ. How people are penciling these guys in as Cup contenders is beyond me.
  • Florida: hahahahahahahahahahahaha
  • Detroit: see “Florida.” They’re the same team as last year except they just signed DAVID BOOTH. Did you know this team still pays Stephen Weiss?
  • Buffalo: they fired everybody who used to run the team at Jack Eichel’s request then gave Jack Eichel $80 million not to demand a trade. I hope Jack Eichel scores 700 goals this season.

Man, don’t tell me that that is the super-intimidating group that every hockey analyst is looking at and saying Ottawa can’t hang with. I’m not saying Ottawa is the best team in the league, or even in their division, but Craig Anderson, a little PDO fairy dust, and one or two of that group of basket cases playing the way they did last year is all it’s going to take for Ottawa to make the playoffs again.

Andrew: Varada speaks the truth. Last summer I wrote about the Atlantic division being crap and how that was a good thing for the Sens and not that much has changed. Yeah, Montreal made a splash, but turns out Shea Weber still isn’t P.K. Subban and sure they added Drouin but lost Radulov etc etc. Luke and I have talked a lot about how everything went perfect for the Leafs last season and a) they were the 8th seed and lost in the first round b) that….never happens? They are almost surely not going to have everything go perfectly this season, plus they have the weight of expectations now, and Toronto media is just bursting to explode. The Bruins are crap and old and thin, Detroit is abysmal and has cap issues, Florida? Whatever. Tampa will be good if healthy, Buffalo’s collection of shitty dudes should make them not so bad, but really, the Metro is a much harder division, so let’s not buy into any crap about the relative strength of the Atlantic.

Here’s the most likely scenario for the Sens, at least as I see it: they’re actually a better team this season, but don’t go as far in the playoffs. Why? Because they did really really well last season and success is hard to replicate. I pretty much always bet against a team making the conference finals in back to back years because…it’s really hard and there are 30 other teams. In high school I had friends who had an annual Stanley Cup bet. She would bet that the Leafs would win the Stanley Cup (they were at least a good team when I was in high school….I’m old) and he would bet….that they wouldn’t? And while this represented a rare glimpse of intelligence on his part (dude once ate a vat of mustard for $2 and then was sick for 3 days), it’s a pretty good idea to always bet against any one team when your options include all the other teams. So, while I’ll be pumped to be proven wrong, it’s just unlikely the Sens are a goal away from a Final against Pekka Rinne quality goaltending.

But I do think they’ll be better this season. We sort of forget that the first couple of months of The System were rough. But now the Sens know The System, so I think they’re better position to weather storms if Brass is maybe not 100% to start the season and EK might miss a few games. As with any season, the Sens go as far as Mike Condon err Erik Karlsson takes them. And that’s actually cool? Erik Karlsson was the best player in the league through 3 rounds in a playoffs that featured McDavid and Crosby and he was doing it through a pretty severe injury. That’s not to glorify injury, but holy hell if he was healthy they would have won. I think about this a lot and it makes me sad. Anyway, I have faith in both his recovery abilities and his commitment to rehabbing injuries, so he’s gonna perform at shoe-in-Norris level only to be denied by some by some campaign for Ron Hainsey shit by hacks like Pierre LeBrun. It’s cool, EK moved on when Keith won his second Norris.

This also feels like a pretty good time for Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone to have career years and hit 30 goals. It’s totally doable. Maybe Johnny Oduya won’t be as bad as Mark Borowiecki (which is the minimum a defender must do). At some point, Chabot is going to get called up and then never visit an AHL rink again, so it’s cool. Logan Brown feels like someone I’m very interested in watching for 9 games but will be replaced with Colin White whenever he’s physically ready. In conclusion, I’m not really worried about a forward group that no longer includes Chris Neil.

Regardless of how this season pans out, we’re switching to the O logo at the end season, so we all win in the end.

Luke: It seems strange on the face of it, but all last year’s success did was further convince us that winning is a fragile and many-splendoured thing like a butterfly made of tissue paper that alights on a Faberge egg. People act like the Penguins’ journey to last year’s Cup repeat was a foregone conclusion, but lest we forget, if Viktor Stalberg actually breaks up the pass he gets his stick on and goes the other way, he’s a hero and I’m wearing a commemorative Ottawa Senators 2017 Stanley Cup Champions bomber jacket right now. Enjoy Switzerland, Viktor.

I guess this is what the manifestation of parity in hockey is. The spread of team possession stats has tightened up league-wide, and now success and failure is largely dictated by goaltending and shooting percentage and other such “random” quantities. As such, Ottawa’s got Top 5 or Top 18 goaltending, depending on who you ask, and some truly talented shooters in Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, and Kyle Turris, and a single transcendent generational talent in Erik Karlsson, and really that’s going to be good enough to get close most years. Better depth, a full season of Craig Anderson, and Erik Karlsson playing at or near 100% for the majority of the season should push them over the top of last year’s high water mark. It seems eminently reasonable. On the other end of the spectrum, the team might forget how The System works, Craig Anderson might implode, and injuries may hang over the team like a miasma and we’ll have to deal with a lot of smug pundits telling us “I told you so”. This is also a scenario that can’t be rejected out of hand. Hockey is great. I love it. I wish it was MORE random, actually.

The one wild card that no one is talking about this year is special teams. The Senators had a decent penalty kill and a terrible powerplay (for the 17th year in a row) last season and noticeable improvement in either of those areas could go a long way in insulating the team from regression. By this point, an above-average Senators powerplay is about as timely as a long-term solution to the Eurozone debt crisis, but hope springs eternal that this is the year someone comes up with a cogent zone entry plan beyond “get the rock to Karlsson and get out of the way.”

I will close by saying how nice it is to have some prospects in the lineup that are actually worth getting excited about. Logan Brown is going to start his first NHL game tonight, and Alex Formenton beat out several more established players to get his roster spot. On top of this, the team isn’t really counting on them to be difference makers right out of the gate, and instead is hoping that they’ll augment an already solid roster. A Logan Brown or a Colin White or a Thomas Chabot putting up a decent 40 point rookie season could be a stealth difference maker this year, rather than a necessary one.

I’ve talked myself into it: the Sens are a playoff team unless something happens to Erik Karlsson or Craig Anderson. There are too many ways for them to improve.

Time to get a big ol’ dose of Vitamin W. (That means win the game.)

Roundtable of Death: “We Won a Playoff Round!” Edition

Luke:

I’d like to start us off with a stat. According to Some Guy on Twitter, the Senators and Bruins were tied or separated by one goal for 367:47 of 404:31 total playing time in their series (90.9%). Now that is unsourced information from an anonymous internet account, but I have no reason to doubt it because it feels right. That series felt like watching a guy cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope for 18 hours. Six one goal games, four overtimes, and the only game that didn’t feature either team giving up a lead at some point was Ottawa’s 1-0 win in Game 4, a game which felt like someone said “We’ve had 2 straight overtime games, so now here’s a game that is just entirely overtime”.

There are many things I will remember about the series. Bobby Ryan showed up and wouldn’t go away, and I’ll always remember thinking “DON’T THESE ASSHOLES EVER LEAVE THE ICE” after Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak cycled the puck relentlessly against whoever Ottawa had out there for minutes at a time, and Erik Karlsson had multiple moments which will be shown during his Hall of Fame induction montage.

But as great as Karlsson was, this series is just gonna be another page in a very long book of Karlsson Greatness. The guy who I’m gonna always associate with this series is Clarke MacArthur. What can you even say at this point? That MacArthur’s career would continue was in such doubt that he literally test-drove retirement after failing to pass his baseline concussion test in January. Three and a half months later, he scored his first goal in two years and brought the Canadian Tire Centre to such a roar, they heard it in Orleans. A little over a week after that, he clinched the series in overtime from basically the same spot. Before returning to the lineup last month, MacArthur said that he couldn’t retire because he thought he still had more to give. He was right. What a story. I couldn’t be happier for him.

On a team level, this series felt like the culmination of everything Guy Boucher has been trying to instill since the beginning of the year. From the obvious commitment to defense in all three zones to the team’s mental resilience and ability to bounce back after a bad period or game, one thing is clear: this is not the Senators you grew up with.

The Sens could have rolled over after going down 0-1 in the series and 1-3 in Game 2, but they did not. After Ottawa blew multiple chances to close the series in Game 5, and went down 1-0 after failing to convert multiple powerplay opportunities early in Game 6, the Sportsnet Panel (may peace and love be with them) spent the 1st intermission talking about how Boston must be “destined” to force a Game 7. I read what you all said on Twitter so don’t .@ me when I say that you all agreed with them. Of course the Sens responded by scoring two powerplay goals and winning the series.

Now, I understand that a series that close with essentially even Corsis, shots, and expected goals (and 4 games decided in overtime) was basically a coin flip, but Erik Karlsson and the Sens’ relentlessness weighted the coin just enough.

Having survived The Best Line in Hockey, we now get to look ahead to the Rangers and I have just one question: We can totally take them, right? Not saying Ottawa should be the favourite to win or anything, but still…we can take them, right?

New York has some of my favourite players outside of Ottawa in Zuccarello, Zibanejad, Nash, and Lundqvist, but is there anyone over there who inspires fear the same way Patrice Bergeron just did? If anything, New York seems like an alternate universe version of Ottawa: a flawed team with the individual talent to outrun the flaws for a little while.

What are your takes, people who have watched the Rangers as much as or less than me?

Andrew:

Sens in 5.

Conrad:

A few nights ago, I discovered that my friend is not really into sports. Don’t worry: we’re not friends anymore. But as I was burying his body in the desert, I couldn’t help but admit that I understood where he was coming from. He’d say “sports are so arbitrary.” And because we were watching a game between two teams from cities in which he’s never lived, I could understand. To him, all hockey is is the puck and the net and grown men getting upset or ecstatic about the location of the puck at any given time.

Of course, hockey isn’t even remotely about that. Hockey’s about Clarke MacArthur spending his entire life in the service of doing one thing, and having his ability to do that one thing threatened, only to come back and do that one thing again, at the highest level, in front of thousand and thousands of people openly wishing for him to do it or fail at doing it, and all of us looking at the expression on his face, and on the faces of his teammates after he’s done it, and from our thoroughly compromised, banal deskjobs and meaningless commercial consumerist lifestyles, recognize an authentic expression of feeling. That’s what sports is. Simultaneously absurd and meaningful, low stakes and the highest stakes, vicarious enjoyment. For those of us who can accept this bargain, last night was what we call “A lot of fun.”

This playoffs it seems like the ultimate winner will not be any single team, but The Narrative, omnipresent and suffocating and awesome. You can see The Narrative at play everywhere, and it never dies. “The Bruins are the better team,” though they lost the season series to Ottawa in a sweep. “The Bruins are built for playoff hockey,” though the Sens managed to eek out these one-goal games and get clutch performances from key players. “The officiating lost it for Boston,” even though they took five delay-of-game penalties in two periods of hockey and in a series of one-goal games. “I hope this run doesn’t overshadow the weakness of certain players,” from a pile of wet towels who’s been writing the same story over and over for years. The Narrative, like Goldblum describing life, “finds a way.” Those with fully developed biases toward a certain team or a certain thesis about hockey will find those biases completely intact, even after the Sens win the series, and even if they beat the Rangers.

I’m saying this because a lot of hot noise is about to emerge about the Sens not being able to beat the Rags. That’s only true in the contact of The Narrative, which will be imposed, largely, but a bunch of people who don’t watch the Senators and don’t care about the Senators. But we know the truth. Our own narrative is just and true and shining like a beam of light right about the Clarke MacArthur’s golden farm boy heart and jesus christ did you see that interview with his parents? Clearly the Senators are God’s Team this year.

And even if you don’t believe any of that? Erik Karlsson is the greatest hockey player on the planet right now, playing the best hockey of his career, and he plays for the goddamned Ottawa Senators.

Chet:

The Bruins and the Sens were so close that not even the scalpel of Dr. Don Chow could separate them, and I hated every minute of it. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a playoff series that dramatic – sure, they went seven games with the Rangers five years ago, but those Sens weren’t really supposed to be in the playoffs so early into the rebuilding process, and so we all agreed that series was a good learning experience that would lead to imminent, multiple championships as we continued to construct a team around our young franchise future captain and would never make a bad roster decision ever again. I see you, Leafs fans. Truthfully, I don’t remember being that stressed out by a playoff series since the Battle of Ontario years, and that’s mostly because that was a stress that compounded over time. I see you again, Leafs fans. You’re everywhere, uninvited. One day there’s going to be a guy in a Tie Domi jersey that just shows up at my colonoscopy for no reason.

All that to say a series with the Rangers can’t possibly be as close, one way or the other, and so I’m looking forward to it. Bring on the 7-4 games, and the goaltender meltdowns, and the ongoing checkers match between Cody Ceci and Dan Girardi. Bring on the silly Brassard and Zibanejad narratives. On paper, the Rangers just look like a slightly more famous version of the Ottawa Senators, and this fact alone is enough for most pundits to favor them. Remember election night. Do not trust these people.

James:

It’s pretty fun to see hockey pundits or “experts*” get dragged on twitter this time of year for stuff like unanimously picking Tampa Bay to win the Atlantic but here’s the thing: Whatever.

I love a retweet of that “Can Anyone Beat the Blackhawks?” headline as much as you do but the hockey media have a job to do. We’re all just guessing and they get a paycheque to put their guesses in print. Hey, maybe next year Carey Price and his Tampa Bay Lightnings might end up challenging for the division after all.
A lot of this shit could go either way and the NHL is more fun for it…especially when Buffalo still can’t buy a bucket.

I say this because, as Conrad pointed out, these writers and talking heads are paid to find not just a narrative for each series but the narrative that the most people will enjoy reading. I saw one NY sports writer come up with “The Rangers will win because New York is a cooler place than Ottawa.” Dynamite stuff. Honestly, I gotta make some changes.

Proof of the tin-eared ‘never let a good story get the way of a ton of clicks” motivation was the headline I saw on TSN “Leafs Emerging as Feel Good Story of the Playoffs.” Look, as a dyed in the wool hater I’ll admit, it’s a deec story. Team comes in last, drafts first, new kid lives up to enormous hype and they make the wild card spot by one point. They then stun the President’s Trophy winning team in the early games of the first round then lose three straight and its #ACTUALLY good they lost in the first round because apparently everything is actually good And ws;dlkfjdgfdsf;gfkjfafaf ikja;g” until you just wish Flanders was dead. To further summarize this feel good story: Plan going decent.

What a tale, let it sink in.

I’ll just ignore WHY Craig Anderson is up for the Masterton, or the shots of he and Nicholle embracing in the stands after not seeing each other for weeks, or how a career backup played over 20 straight games helped to get us to the playoffs at all in his absence, or the sound of the Canadian Tire Centre when Clarke MacArthur scored his first goal in two years, or the most fronted on elite player in the NHL taking his game to new heights while injured, or the fans whipping boy becoming a scoring machine when it matters most, or the new GM’s biggest off season acquisition leading the team in points. This isn’t even touching that Bryan Murray is in the stands looking strong as an ox or that OUR HEART Jonathan Pitre is somehow finding the strength to cheer on the boys.

Honestly, as far as feel good goes I feel spoiled. I’d have just settled for “Former hated rival Dion Phaneuf scores overtime winner!”

This is our feel good series. We know what the life of a Sens fan is. We’re wedged in an original 6 hellscape of fanbases with a century head start, full of people trying to come up with a way to bond with their dads while rooting against their home city in favour of other places that look down on us. Sens fans against everyone. All we’ve got is us and all we’ll ever have is us and I like it that way. This is the Rangers series to lose as it was Boston’s. I’ll say what I said at the beginning of the first round: I like our chances.

* – LMFAOOOOOOOOO

Steph:

Bob Cole is like a series of Onion headlines that have have just enough reality to get a minority of people to read them and give them credibility while everyone else shakes their head in disbelief. Truly, listening to Bob Cole is as fun as having a really old person jump into your conversation in the grocery store to give you their opinion about kids and their computers nowadays. Guy is not good.

That said, nothing could make this series less dramatic-even Cole saying “Ottawa Sens” constantly. I think I got at least one ulcer from watching these games, for realsie. One goal games are the devil and Bergeron is Beelzebub. There was no time while I was watching this series when I was comfortable, also it destroyed my relationship with MomPuckpossessed so I guess I can take back her mothers day gift (I named a star after a Bruins player-“Punk Ass Bitch”). There is a joke to be made about fans throwing garbage on the ice and Brad Marchand playing but it’s just not coming to me. Bruins fans I know have had a pretty solid “officiating was biased” refrain- which is tired and lazy- but I can’t hear because I have my…first round winner rings plugging my ears.

I am more than a little confused about Karlsson talking about his hairline fractures before the Sens run is finished, but maybe it’s some sort of intimidation technique. Like, he thumbs his nose at regular mortals who do things like rest when they’re injured, or who play less than 55 minutes per game. From what I hear, this series will determine who won the Brassard/Zibanejad trade-an issue which I give zero cares about but since it looks like Brassard is winning, it is a #fun #thing.

Lundqvist is a terrifying prospect, and from the previews I’ve read-New York is pretty heavily favoured to win. Blah blah their Powerplay is soft blah blah physical play. Sens are always more comfortable being underdogs-this isn’t new information. Craig Anderson said in an interview recently that his wife’s health issues have given him new perspective on hockey. It’s supposed to be a fun game-and it’s always fun to win.

Sens in 7.

Roundtable of Death: Playoffs Against Not-Toronto Edition

Luke:

You know, even though the Senators are a team that’s spent almost the entire season in a playoff spot, the last few weeks were still emotionally fraught for me. This culminated in an extremely dramatic final regular season weekend where I went through The 6 Stages of Playing The Leafs in the Playoffs

Stage 1 – Denial
“No way the Leafs are gonna beat Pittsburgh and Columbus on back-to-back games. They’re gonna miss the playoffs for sure.”

Stage 2 – Anger
“Goddamn the Penguins. They are truly useless. They haven’t the faintest idea of when to lose, and absolutely no idea of when to win.”

Stage 3 – Bargaining
“Ok, even if this happens, the Sens will have home ice advantage. That’s gotta count for something right?”

Stage 4 – Depression
“Whelp, the Leafs are up 2-0. This series will take years off my life. Why did I have to live to see this?”

Stage 5 – Acceptance
“I guess this is happening. I’m ready. Let’s do it. Bring it on.”

Stage 6 – The Leafs Choking
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

So after all that wasted emotional energy, Ottawa’s got home ice advantage in a playoff series against Boston. I think Boston’s a good matchup for Ottawa, but more than that, they’re also the perfect playoff opponent. They check all the boxes. All the ingredients are there:

a) The Good Player You Grudgingly Respect – Patrice Bergeron
b) The Good Player You Will Never Respect – Brad Marchand
c) The Grizzled Tank Defenseman Who Plays 47 Minutes A Night and Never Gets Tired – Zdeno Chara
d) The Flashy Prospect Who Is Incredibly Young – David Pastrnak
e) The Incredibly, Obnoxiously Homeriffic Play-By-Play Guy – Jack Edwards
f) The Deeply Annoying Anthem Singer – Rene Rancourt
g) Some of The Dumbest Fans In Hockey – Self-explanatory

You don’t even have to try to hate them. They’re like if Richard Nixon was a hockey team. Plus they’re a team Ottawa has quietly owned over the past two seasons. Add in the fact that we’re learning today that Boston’s pretty beat up and likely to be without Torey Krug for much of the series and I have to ask you a question: Is this all a little too perfect? It feels like the Senators are getting everything they could have wanted and I don’t trust it. It feels like Tuukka Rask is gonna suddenly turn into an immovable object after spending the last 2 years being extremely average. It feels like The Universe is trying to set me up to get my heart broken by Adam McQuaid or some other useless scrub who will immediately fade into back into obscurity after assassinating my hopes and dreams. It feels unwise to hope.

Is this just me? Where are you folks at in your spiritual journey to Wednesday night and beyond?

Andrew:

Sens in 5.

Conrad Varada:

There seem to be two emotional levels on which all hockey victories are processed:

1) the coldly utilitarian, a culmination of an objective process, under which we are as likely to see 1000 game player Chris Neil thrown under the bus as a promising prospect slotted into an area for which he’s been projected.

2) a cathartic expression of relief from anxiety over every perceived shortcoming and insecurity.

If I’ve learned anything from generations of movies about rich men who grew up to say, “Wait, maybe it isn’t about getting rich after all…” it’s that the latter scenario is more capricious but has to happen before anyone will take you seriously.

Sens could win the Cup, but if they do they likely won’t have to go through the Leafs to do it. And so there will always be an asterisk, and if will largely be imposed by the Sens’ own fanbase.

And what better year would there have been to do it! A Leafs team full of kids might have lost to a team of veterans (and some kids) reversing the armchair psychoanalysis of yesteryear. We could have read a summers worth of think pieces praising the Sens, because the Toronto media would have to play the Sens up to explain the Leafs’ exit. How could the team of destiny lose to anyone except a truly formidable opponent?

All this to say: the Sens matching up against a team they’ve played well against, and who are missing two defensemen to boot, is preferable. But rarity is value in and of itself, and a Sens-Leafs series would have been good in a rare way, with potential for real catharsis.

Oh well. Fuck the bruins, too. Go Sens!

James:

Varada, I only say this out respect for you and the community: I feel the need to present, as the ancient Olmecs would say, “L’autre cote” of this mindset. Are we really that messed up that we’d impose our own asterisk on winning a GD Cup without playing the Leafs? I don’t want to discount the psychological implications of an Ottawa-T-ONto* series but if the Sens made their first serious run in 10 years (Ed Note: fuuuuck) the last thing on my mind would be “Ahh but we didnt fade the most fadeable team on the wayyy tho.” Maybe its the decade with one playoff round win talkin’ but I find all victories to be of the cathartic relief over anxiety nature at this point. If I had to pick beating the Leafs and getting swept the next round or making the Final without playing them I know where I’d put my money every time. After getting so close to glory in ’07 only to see things go downhill the very next season, I would take an efficient game 5, 2-1 Cup victory against Las Vegas Golden Corrals in the Pacific timezone and live out my days in my ugly commemorative jacket hating out the door like “Kiss the ring!!!”. I’d also likely live 4 or 5 years longer.

Will I ever despise another professional sports franchise as much as Toronto? I mean, the Sens are set to play their first post-season game Wednesday against Not-The-Leafs and we’ve spent the majority of this post talking about them all because they failed to seal a game on home ice against a Columbus squad that had nothing to play for. I for one look forward to the think pieces about how Auston Matthews let the Caps sweep them on purpose to teach his teammates the true meaning of working hard in the offseason to come back stronger than ever.

Anyway, what I’m saying here is we have sitting in front of us what’s likely going to be a very good series. We’re seriously one Brad Marchand slewfoot away from hating the living shit out of this Boston team. Two series, one win, one loss and the very sight of a Canadiens hat brings the bile to the tip of my throat. Ditto the penguins. Even that series against the Rangers had an interesting effect. After taking them 7 games as the 8th seed does anyone else get that “Ahh, you guys ain’t shit” vibe every time Ottawa plays them? Trust me, we’ll find enough to chew on. Holy shit, speaking of which I just remembered Alex Burrows bit Patrice Bergeron in the ’11 series. It’s officially lit.

We’re about to witness some new franchise history here and I’m pretty damn excited about to dive in there with our first coach with NHL playoff experience since Bryan fucking Murray.

*T-ONto is the new way Drake shortens Toronto. He’s moved on from the VERY cool nickname “The T dot” (v cool)

Chet:

Look, we all wanted the Leafs. We all wanted the Count of Monte Cristo reboot where the guy plots his revenge for 15 years, drafts Erik Karlsson, and comes back to town to methodically destroy his enemies with a series of timely overtime goals. But now that tacky, overpriced cruise ship has #actuallysailed, and trying to recycle those white-hot Leafs takes we were all preparing for our series previews is pretty much just writing that kind of speculative fiction where the South wins the Civil War, helps Hitler win World War II, and worst of all, we end up living in a world where the Leafs don’t blow 2-0 leads. Unseemly.

How is Boston the favorite in this series? What am I missing? The Senators are getting most of their key players back at the same time the Bruins defense is down to a bunch of kids trying to save their orphanage by putting on a big show. Craig Anderson is going to steal at least one game, and Alex Burrows is going to goad Brad Marchand into getting suspended. Each of Pierre Dorion’s blazers is more Bob Hope-ass than the last. What else is there?

Luke:

I’ll try to write more about this later, but basically anyone who is looking at this series from a predictive point of view is boiling this matchup down to “Sens Goal Differential = Bad, Bruins Corsi = good, Bruins win in 3 games.” Never mind that Ottawa has matched up well against Boston this year, or that Ottawa’s fully healthy for the first time in weeks while Boston is banged up. The Corsis have spoken.

Boston’s perfectly capable of winning this series, and I’d probably even put them as slight favourites with a gun to my head, but I am skeptical about the 70%(!!!) winning chance they’ve been getting from some sportsbooks/models.

Let’s look at their players and sort by points this year.

1-3) Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci. – Those guys are good.

4-6) Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug, Ryan Spooner – These guys are also quite good.

7-8) David Backes, Zdeno Chara – These guys are Old, but I have heard of them.

9) Dominic Moore – Ummm??

10) Frank Vatrano – ….???

11) Riley Nash – What?

12) Brandon Carlo – Are?

13) Tim Schaller – THOSE?

Is Boston just a team with 2 lines and a bunch of Erik Condras? The answer is a HARD maybe! You can’t tell me that you wouldn’t like the chances of a 4th line of Pyatt-Smith-Wingels against a guy named Kevan.

Andrew:

Fuck the Leafs. Sens in 5.

Roundtable of Death: Goodbye Yellow Brick Banana Jazz

Eug

In which James, Conrad, Andrew, and Luke discuss the sudden departure of the Senators’ second-most beloved Swede in exchange for Derick Brassard.

James:
Hello.

Let’s start this off with a little Konfeshun Korner:

When I first caught wind of this trade I was M.A.D.D. I really, really like Zibanejad as a player. I thought it was dumb and stupid and dumb to give up on him for a comparable but older guy…and a second round pick to boot. Not even the dignity of a one for one swap. Ugh, again, with the thrown in pick.
For all the talk of Ziba needing to hit another gear, I’ve spent some time and energy arguing that by passing the 50 point mark at age 22/23, he’s already hitting that next gear. This all goes back to the landmark case of The People vs. Viable 2nd Line Centre Mike Fisher. In his respectable 16 season career, he has eclipsed the 50 point mark only twice. Just once in his younger days with the Senators. Z-Bad’s output was shaky at times, sure, but it seemed he was definitely getting there. I always thought that fan disappointment might come from the expectation to cement himself as a top line player at such a young age. With Turris filling that top line role, I didn’t see the big rush.

When the trade went down, however, I saw all the immediate red flags. A local guy (WE ALREADY HAVE A CENTRE FROM GATINEAU GODDAMN IT) and the cost certainty of his super reasonable salary hit with his signing bonus paid out by the Rags. Are you glad I went over these two items? I’m sure this is the first time they’ve been discussed. Damn Melnyk back at it again with the tight cash. I must admit however, the more the smoke is clearing on this trade the more I’m starting to see a bit of strategy to go with the belt tightening.

  1. The Sens currently have 73 roster players who are natural centres plus player/coach Erik Karlsson who can fill in as the entire team in a pinch.
    Highkey Facts: The Senators have taken a centre in the first round of the past 3 drafts. Last season, the team could put Zibanejad, Turris, Smith, Pageau, Lazar or Nick Paul down the middle. Something had to give. Zibanejad is a huge ‘give’ though. I think it’s TROU-BL-ING that the organization essentially chose Smith and Pageau over giving Ziba a potential big payday next off season. Probably didn’t help Ziba’s case that the Godbody JG Pageau totally outshined him when Turris went down for the season with an injury.
  2. This team reaaaaaally needed a skilled left handed playmaker down the middle. Judging by how mad Rangers fans are, it would seem we are indeed getting that in Brassard. I don’t know about you Eddie, but if you’re perennially disappointed in Bobbito Ryan’s goal totals, I’m okay with him getting more looks from a left handed centre. I’m thinking if Guy Boucher is supposed to be a power play focused tactician, he might have asked for a left handed centre who can create offense. No shade to Zibanejad but the ability to make plays was probably the biggest shortcoming in his game. Zibanejad’s more of a shooter…who should also shoot more.
  3. The budget, the schmudget, the fludget ALRIGHT ALREADY. Finally, I get to talk about the budget! Dreamz kome tru. Seriously, it’s painful but it’s a reality. I want Mike Hoffman and Cody Ceci locked up. Brassard is signed for 3 more years at a number Dorion can hang his hat on (?). I think this only helps those other signings happen. We keep a Zibanejad-level player who’s left handed and we have a better chance of signing Hoffman? I can live with that. We’d never get a guy like Hoff on the market and we don’t really downgrade on Brassard. I’m not going to pretend a 28 year old with good shot suppression metrics and who led the Rangers with 27 goals is bound for the glue factory. With 3 years left on his deal and centres White and Brown OR WHO KNOWS WHAT COLOUR on the way, this is starting to make more sense.
    That second rounder stings but can still be recovered. Zack Smith is a UFA at the end of the year *thinking emoji*

So I guess that just about wraps it u—or sorry, did anyone else have any thoughts

Conrad:

The conflicted thoughts I’ve encountered in the past 33 hours:

  1. The Sens should be looking for players on high-value contracts because they’re a budget team. Except in this case, where Brassard is making $10M over three years – which can we take a moment to acknowledge is amazing value, maybe even Kyle Turris value? – it’s yet more evidence that they’re broke AF.
  2. Similarly, Sens being a budget team, they waited until after July 15 so they wouldn’t have to pay Brassard his bonus, which again means they’re broke AF and not that they are smart business people. You definitely want your team paying $2M for 2nd round picks like the Rangers just did.
  3. The Sens gave up a second round pick, which is the sort of thing that’s killing them in the draft, except when they get a pick, which is then worthless because we know that every pick outside the top 15 in the first round is basically a lottery ticket who won’t play for like 3-4 years at best, and so sacrificing the draft to save money is evidence that they’re broke AF.
  4. Zibanejad never lived up to expectations, and so he needed to be traded before he was due a huge payday which, as we all know, disappointing players always receive. Because broke AF.
  5. The Sens should be more focused on analytics, unless they’re trading a young player for a superior possession player who’s cheaper because they’re oh you know.

I’m starting to think that part of enjoying one’s local hockey team is to compete with others on the basis of your team being worse and stupider than any other hockey team, and so every transaction, even when you can see the logic behind it, becomes yet more evidence of recurring ineptitude or behavior inspired purely by a broke owner. Melnyk being broke has, in this case, become a kind of zen mantra for some. It’s the WWJD bumper sticker of Sens fandom. I imagine fans tying thread between pins on a pushboard, connecting Ottawa Sun articles, looking for patterns, only to find that they’re spelled the words “Melnyk.”

The Sens just brought in someone who happens to be a center, happens to be left-handed, happens to be local, happens to produce goals, happens to be on an affordable contract, happens to be experienced, and instead of saying “I can see how this might make sense in the context of needing to sign these other RFAs,” it’s become another opportunity to say “Why don’t we have a richer owner?”

Here’s the thing: you CAN have a richer owner. It’s called following another team. You have a ton to choose from. Go be a Tampa Bay Lightning fan and cheer when they buy out Vinnie Lecavalier for $32M so they can sign Valtteri Filppula for $25M.

In this summer of trades that made zero sense – I’m still wondering how Edmonton doesn’t get at least a pick in that Hall-Larsson trade – I’m enjoying the fact that the Sens are able to make trades that take care of their needs while ALSO saving money. I’m enjoying watching a team operating under constrictions be strategic.

Andrew:

I am currently feeling really good about the fan base’s ability to handle disappointment and the reality that economics are a part of sport as we head into Phase 2 of the LeBreton process.

What’s funny to me is, yes, the economic reasons are fairly self-evident from an Ottawa standpoint, but like this was also a money/cap trade for the Rangers. New York saves some very important cap $$ which they needed to do because….they have some absolutely terrible deals? If I’m a Ranger fan, it’s like we let Stralman walk, Yandle go, traded Brassard, so we could keep salaries like Marc Staal’s and Dan Girardi’s? That would be a serious WTF. Instead of cries of “We’re wasting Erik Karlsson’s prime!” I’d be seriously bemoaning that Henrik Lundqvist is 34 and has a pair of high-priced Boro/Gryba/Cowen Take Your Picks in front of him. This is an example of another team not named Senators which has Some Problems.

There was that silly “fan confidence” poll circulating around twitter a few days ago about GM/front office confidence and the Sens ranked 23rd or something (it was 23rd, no “or something”) and like, that’s not remotely surprising? The methodology was not really overly useful (approx. 200 fans voted on all teams in the league). Like I pay a lot of attention to hockey and to other teams, but I don’t give a fuck about New Jersey’s front office and I try and block to Kings from my mind etc. Simply put, fans across the the league can’t really accurately rate this, there’s not enough info about what teams do, and fans are singular in their focus (ie pay attention to only their team). But even if this was somehow more accurate or the voting was just for the team for which you cheer, Ottawa fans would totally slam their management. Why? Because like Maryland and crabcakes, it’s what we do. Off the top of my head, only Winnipeg’s front office impresses me more, possibly, of the Canadian teams but they also seem to be in a perpetual, “building a strong foundation for the future – maybe” mode. Ottawa isn’t perfect and at times they make mistakes. But lots of Sens fans don’t seem to realize that “not perfect” and “makes mistakes” are constants with other teams too.

My point is this: I don’t think Ottawa has a front office full of geniuses, but that’s ok. I think being smart in the NHL is a lot like an episode of Pinky and the Brain: one might be a genius, but episode after episode, he gets proven wrong by Pinky. These artificial distinctions about which front office has it going on/is smart/is cutting edge/tells you all about the analytics hires they don’t listen to etc, are just that – artificial. The line separating a Ron Francis or Jim Nill from a Jim Benning or Marc Bergevin is shorter than most of us think. But most of us – me included – are too involved with our own shit (i.e. Euge’s bankrolling of the Institute for Horse Analytics) to realize.

It’s fun to laugh at the “Buy Local” portion of the deal but I don’t think Ottawa trading for or signing players with roots in the area (outside of Boro tbh) is anything more than successive GMs now trying to make the most of what little competitive advantage in terms of location this team has. They don’t have the tax advantage of teams based in Florida, Texas, or Tennessee (as a citizen of this province, I am more than ok with that), they don’t have the nightlife, the weather, the team history, contender status, or other big draws. But they’re one of the biggest cities in Canada and one of the few (only?? I didn’t look at a map) with two junior teams. So lots of guys have ties to the area and if that helps keep the budget low while bringing in decent and good players? Fine.

As for the trade pieces, I like Mika, so that sucks. You get attached to the players you know, especially those your team drafts and that you get to watch mature in your system. Will Mika be a better player than Brassard this season and in the future? Quite possibly and that sucks too. But so far it seems like this deal is fairly even and might suit both clubs right now and in the immediate future. Fine.

This is where I’m at with the Senators: I want to spend to the cap every year, to not make Toronto pay (or not pay, as the case may be) for our buyouts, but have the resources to do it ourselves. I want to pay top dollar for coaching, and hockey ops, and management, and facilities. I want to get a new arena built without what I’m sure is going to be considerable consternation. But mostly…

I want to win the Stanley Cup 65 straight times. I want every season engraved on the Cup’s 5 rings to start with “Ottawa Senators”. After that 65th straight win I want the rest of the teams to finally capitulate and disband. But I also get the realities of Euge’s wallet (it looks like mine after all), that this team (like most teams in the league really) is just trying to make the playoffs, that they are currently a bubble team (though the division is shit so that’ll probably be enough), and that only one team gets to win every year. I am capable of carrying two versions of this team in my head; I firmly believe that WE’RE GONNA WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! every night, while understanding that the Sens are a bubble team who will in fact, lose on many occasions.

So yeah, this trade hurts, because Mika is almost 6 years younger and therefore would have been around for at least a few more of those consecutive Cup wins. But this is a fairly even trade at this point, it’s just not without risk, which is true of all trades. We’ve been talking about how Bobby will look with Brassard, and with good reason, but I think I’m most looking forward to him playing with EK. It’s possible we’ve have a player for the first time since Spezza left that can accept a hard pass from Karlsson.

Erik Karlsson is going to have the biggest Fuck You Haters season with 30+ goals, 100 points, and Shea Weber winning the Norris.

Luke:

Look at you emotional bastards. I’m going to analyze this trade the old fashioned way: with Objective Fancy Stats.

Right off the bat, I’d like to address the notion that *today* Derick Brassard is a better player than Mika Zibanejad by saying that this is likely true, but the statistical evidence of that is not overwhelming. Over the past 2 seasons, Brassard’s 5v5 fancy stats are slightly better, but not overwhelmingly so. Brassard has an all-situations primary points per 60 minutes of 1.7 compared to Mika’s 1.6, which is driven by Brassard’s slightly better goals per 60 minutes. Their usage is pretty much identical, both in terms of zone starts and quality of teammates/competition. On an individual basis, Brassard gets shots on net more often, whereas Zibanejad shoots at the net more often. Brassard’s s% over the past two years is 13.1% compared to Zibanejad’s 12.3%. Brassard’s shot 11.5% over the course of his career, and Mika’s shot 10.9% over the course of his. Brassard’s spent most of his time playing with Mats Zuccarello whereas Mika’s spent most of his time playing with Bobby Ryan. Brassard’s play may have been suppressed playing under Alain Vignault’s non-optimal system. Ditto Zibanejad and Dave Cameron’s system. Gun to my head, I’d say that Brassard’s results have been slightly better over the past two years, so I guess we can chalk the player part of this deal that in the Win Column for the Ottawa Senators. Add in the 2nd round pick for a 7th round pick part of the deal and this deal is that rarest of animals: a fair trade.

The Objective Hockey Reality part of this trade seems to be pretty much airtight unlike some other Subban-for-Webers I could Hall-for-Larsson, but let’s talk about this trade in the context of where this game is #ACTUALLY played: off the ice. The subjective, off-ice considerations that factor into this trade have people getting into their feelings like they’re auditioning for Inside Out 2. Now, I’d love to just ignore the context of this trade, just like we all love to ignore the contexts of so many other trades around here like Bishop-for-Conacher (Context: team had 3 goalies and Bishop was a UFA at end of season), Spezza-for-Chiasson (Context: Spezza had no-trade clause and was UFA at end of season), and The Phaneuf Trade (Context: team needed a defenseman and needed to dump contracts), but when there’s so little to argue about objectively, you gotta be willing to go to the dirty areas for the sake of the roundtable.

So here’s some context:

a) “Time and Age” or Constructs Denoting the Continuous Progress of Existence and Events as the Entropy of Both Ourselves and The Universe Continues to Increase Indefinitely.

Mika Zibanejad is 23 years old and Derick Brassard is 28 years old. What this means is that Mika Zibanejad is likely to improve as a hockey player somewhat over the next 5 years, whereas Derick Brassard is not. How much is Mika Zibanejad likely to improve? Who can know for sure? Let’s put a pin in this one until we know the answer, at which point we can all talk about how it was a complete certainty things were going to turn out that way.

b) “Finances” or The Ability of An Organization to Conduct Its Business Both Successfully and Sustainably

Mika Zibanejad makes $3.25 Million this year, after which he will be an RFA in need of a new contract. Derrick Brassard has a cap hit $5 million per year for the next 3 years, but only must be paid $10 million in real dollars over that same period. It’s likely that Ottawa will get the next three years of Derrick Brassard for much less money than New York gets the next three years of Mika Zibanejad. Given that the Senators need to provide new contracts for Cody Ceci and Mike Hoffman this season, and J-G Pageau and Curtis Lazar next season, the importance of this newfound cost certainty cannot be overlooked.

c) “Hockey is a Team Sport” or The Extent to Which Small Factors Such as Playing Style and Handedness Affect a Group’s Overall Quality of Play

Watching Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan on the same line was kind of like watching someone bail out a leaky rowboat using a live pelican; it sort of worked, but you always got the feeling there had to be a better way. Now Bobby Ryan’s going to be getting those silky smooth Brassard forehand passes instead of the weird clunky Zibanejad backhand passes. Now the Senators powerplay has a specialist at centre. Now the Senators have a guy who is Good In The Room and doesn’t have a reputation for coming into camp out of shape. None of these things may matter, but I like how there’s the possibility of some team-building inside baseball going on here. If you told me the trade was Zibanejad for Some Other Team’s Older Zibanejad Who Also Makes Bobby Ryan Better, I’d pull the trigger on that all day. Maybe Derick Brassard being left handed won’t matter at all, but I say it will! Let’s see your spreadsheets explain the relationship between centre handedness and right winger goals, NERDS! (Seriously, that’s a neat idea for analysis. I would read that.)

In conclusion:

One of the main (and entirely justified) knocks on Bryan Murray was that he was too attached to His Guys. He liked who he had on his team, and he believed in their potential, often to the point of overvaluing them. The line always went that Ottawa needed a GM who could rationally assess various factors, and wasn’t afraid to move players if he thought he’d be able to find value. I don’t know if Pierre Dorion is that GM, but I think the Zibanejad for Brassard trade is the sort of move that GM would make.

It’s a pretty nifty trade when you get right down to it. Ottawa traded a promising player due for a big raise for a player of equal or slightly superior hockey ability who has a high degree of cost-certainty for the next 3 years, and they did it by trading with a team who is in some not-insignificant cap trouble. It’s a trade that’s easily justified on both hockey and financial levels, and that’s pretty damn impressive to me. If you think making a Hockey Trade at the same time you make a Business Trade is easy, I would like to introduce you to the Chicago Blackhawks trading Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, and Teuvo Teravainen.

In short, I respect this trade a lot. I might even go so far as to call it “creative”.

But mostly I hate it. I don’t even hate it for what the trade means about the financial state of the team or ownership. While I realize that we’re not exactly immune to the occasional gripe regarding ownership around here, mostly I believe that getting upset about the team being poor is like getting upset at the Law of Universal Gravitation. I’d love to be able to dunk a basketball, but I can’t. I can either write a thousand columns about how much better my life would be without gravity, or I can write some columns about the stepladders I’m looking at buying. I’ve made my choice.

I hate this trade because I like Mika Zibanejad and I always believed deep in my heart that this was not his final form, that he had one more gear. Now when he finds that gear, it won’t be with Ottawa, and where is the fun in that?

Point: The Senators are not a worse hockey team after this trade. They might even be better in both the short and long term.

Counterpoint: I don’t like Derick Brassard (yet). I like Mika Zibanejad. I hate this trade.

Conclusion: I also like winning, so let’s make me feel better by doing that.

Roundtable of Death: “Seriously? Another Fired Coach?” Edition

Luke: Folks, this past week we said goodbye to Dave Cameron. His departure was, perhaps, inevitable after Eugene Melnyk threw him under the bus with the gusto of a cartoon villain, and so we are still gathered here today to answer one question: What the hell is going on out here?

The floor is open.

Conrad: A few thoughts:

Bringing in a coach and expecting him to single-handedly be responsible for changing the identity of the club, institute a winning strategy that plays to the club’s strengths, and make up for the weaknesses in defense, is just going to end in another fired coach.

I hope Dorion takes his time and does a top-to-bottom assessment of the organization’s structure. How do they assess players, both on the roster and in the pipeline? How do they decide who is promoted from the B-Sens and when? How do they gather information during the games and feed it to the coach? Is the coach accountable to act on that information?

Detroit had a lot of success over the years with Babcock not just because of Babcock’s coaching. (In fact, a lot of the Wings seemed relieved when he was gone.) But they were really effective at vertical integration: they drafted according to a particular style of play, developed in that style, promoted only when a player could reliably execute in that style, and they enforced it across the lineup. They don’t seem to care if the Grand Rapids AHL team ever wins a Calder, because the farm club exists primarily to incubate Wings hockey. Once you’ve got that pipeline set up, which is a longer-term strategy than any single coach’s tenure, then I presume it becomes a lot easier to know who your guy should be. In other words: anyone who gets the system, is a believer, and will go to bat for it.

Ottawa currently oscillates between coaches who teach an uptempo style and coaches who “demand accountability.” MacLean had this “play the whole rink” mentality, and fans couldn’t wait to make a change because he wouldn’t take the leash off of Karlsson. Cameron said “it’s always a green light” and now we’re looking for someone to teach defense. All of this echoes back to our high-powered offensive teams of the past, who “didn’t have what it takes to win in the playoffs” and an insistence on hiring a series of disciplinarians, like Craig Hartsburg, to follow up Jacques Martin.

I don’t really care who they hire as a coach. No single person is going to integrate decision-making across the organization. That’s the GM’s job. If Dorion says, “we hired this guy because he’s going to execute according to the same playbook as the scouts, the analysts, and myself,” then that’ll be good enough for me. But if we go with Julien because name recognition, I don’t think that will be enough.

James: I agree to an extent. I’m with you that the success in Detroit is largely in thanks to doing EeeeeEEEeeEEerything perfectly until you just wish Flanders was dead. Legend has it they’ve made the playoffs for an XFL record 3 centuries in a row only picking in the 9th round while walking 10 miles to school in waist-high snowbanks. So, no, it’s not all thanks to Babcock. It also has to be recognized their success was partly thanks to drafting a 900 point perennial Selke winner in the 6th round and a captain who looks like Jack Fucking Gyllenhaal in the 7th round. I literally know a guy who was picked ahead of Zetterberg in that draft. That has to be a bit of good fortune there. Ah, speaking of good fortune…now the biggest thing…they had Nick Lidstrom. 20 seasons and 7 Norris trophies from a guy who’s literally nicknamed “The Perfect Human”.

I’m not discounting the smart MLB-like approach of having every player adapt to the system in the minors before being called up for duty as relentless kill bots. What I’m interested to see going forward, however, is if Detroit’s “We’ll solid fundamentals them to death!” strategy has a shelf life on it. I sometimes wonder if the Wings are turning into the Street Cred Sens of a few years ago. Sure, they make the playoffs a lot but on the REAL-real-real, they haven’t done shit since Lidstrom retired. I guess what I’m saying is organizationally the Wings have, deservedly, pretty much the best team building rep in the biz. They (and now Chicago) are the best at bolstering their lineup with in-house gems. BUT the Detroit teams that actually won were more superstar laden than lunch pail crews. Even the least star studded of their Championship teams in 07-08 still had Dominik Hasek in net. Look at their 01-02 team. They resemble the 14-15 Blackhawks more than say the 03-04 Flames who went to the dance with Shean Donovan as their 2nd highest goal scorer (!). The Wings also interestingly happened to have the winningest coach in NHL history behind the bench in their Destroyer of Worlds days. The past few seasons, the truth is, they’ve been scraping in and getting bounced early.

James?

Yes, dear?

Can you actually make a fucking point about Ottawa firing the coaching staff here?

GOD’S WORKING ON ALL OF US, OKAY!?

I guess what I’m saying is I’m interested to see supposed “best coach in the NHL” Mike Babcleezy operate without being able to lean back on “You there Datsyuk, hit a home run!”

As for the whole “Detroit not caring if their AHL affiliate wins or loses”, I’ve heard Bryan Murray and Dorion both say this as well. In fact, Richardson was installed as coach to teach the same system as the NHL team to the minor leaguers. The Sens aren’t as disciplined as Detroit. For every Hoffman or Stone they’ve been patient with they seem to have a Lazar or Ceci who’ve been tossed in the fire. Organizationally they’ve been far from perfect but I do think they are trying. Hearing Dorion distance himself from Murray’s proclivity to go for size above all else as well as admitting that they’ve been rushing prospects and will be more cautious with Colin White was promising.

The team is not devoid of talent. As such, I do think coaching matters to give the players structure. Structure and strategy matter big time. How the hell do we have a team top 10 in NHL scoring with a 15% power play? How many times can we watch Hoffman, who’s one of the best puck handlers on the team, dump the puck in on the power play just to turn over possession without calling bullshit on the strategy. Lord knows it’s not his idea to dump it in. Look at the team’s lack of structure in their own zone. It’s been atrocious. The worst in the league this year. It has to be improved.

Coaching also matters in terms of making game-to-game as well as in-game personnel decisions that give the team the best chance to make the most of their talent. Borowiecki as a forward for entire games. Bobby Ryan in a checking role for a huge stretch of the season. Neil getting power play time. Phillips on the power play (lest we forget). Hoffman getting benched for entire periods. Cowen getting all the chance in the world without earning it. Playing Anderson too much. Breaking up line combinations without giving them so much as 3 games to gel. These have been coaching decisions that have, in my opinion, hurt the team.

I’m just a caveman. I’m frightened and confused by your strange flying machines. I don’t know any of the details or challenges regarding personality conflicts or the need to establish authority and discipline guys. What I do know is that I’ve been pretty forgiving but a lot of things the past couple of seasons didn’t make sense. Many elements of the team controlled by coaching were failing and ultimately needed to change. Will a new coach magically fix all of that? Of course not. Can a new coach at least improve things with a more sound playing system and more consistent decision making? Absolutely. But it’s obviously going to take a brilliant hire by Dorion. There could not be more pressure on him to make it.

Luke: This whole situation feels like when someone in your family breaks up with a partner you really liked: it’s certainly for the best, but it’s sad that it had to go down like that. (Hey, a thing I’ve been using a lot with respect to the Ottawa Senators over the last 3 years: BREAKUP ANALOGIES. The Sens direction is amazing right now, you guys.)

Here’s something some people might not remember: the Sens #actually instituted the vertical integration Conrad refers to with the hiring of Paul Maclean. I even wrote about this three years ago. The 30 Thoughts from Elliotte Friedman I quote within is no longer available, but the relevant passage is this:

Back in AHL training camp, Ottawa coach Paul MacLean and Binghamton counterpart Luke Richardson discussed philosophy. Richardson wanted to play the same way as the big club for consistency. MacLean wanted Richardson to have some flexibility. They decided to co-ordinate terminology and drills. One of the reasons the Senators are holding on amid all their injuries is, when players get called up, the familiarity creates comfort. For example, one of the ideas MacLean likes to preach is “fast defence.” Basically, he wants his forwards to create three lanes of support for defencemen trying to move or pass the puck out of their own zone. When the AHLers are called up, they understand what that means, no explanation necessary.

What happened to that organization? What happened to that structure? What happened to the team that lost Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, and Erik Karlsson to injury, but still rode a 53.7%CF to a playoff berth in the shortened lockout season? Did those effective practices stop? Did those practices stop being effective? I thought about this a lot after Paul Maclean was fired, and I’m thinking about it even more now because both Paul Maclean’s and Dave Cameron’s coaching tenures followed identical arcs. To wit:

1.) New coach is brought in and the team’s play immediately improves.

2.) Team makes playoffs to the surprise of many. Coaching is praised.

3.) Coach says he’ll demand more accountability from players as they prepare to take “next step”.

4.) New season starts and team underperforms.

5.) Whispers of communication breakdown between coach and players start.

6.) Coach starts making increasingly suboptimal lineup decisions and acquires an air of desperation.

7.) Coach is let go. Management, players, and media alike express sadness regarding the loss of “a good man”. Coach says he regrets nothing.

The fact that we’ve seen the same thing happen over consecutive coaches suggest a commonality of cause. One thing I’ve noticed about Cameron is that he was very up front about the locker room chemistry. Last season he had nothing but great things to say about the team inherited from Paul Maclean (God bless the dead). Sample quote: “One of the strengths of our team is we have good people.” Compare that to some of his quotes in this video about Dion Phaneuf that I’ve watched 127 times. Sample quote: “Phaneuf is engaging…he won’t let you mope. We don’t have enough of those guys on this team.” Damn, what a turnaround. Cameron went from zero to pretty damn frustrated in less than a year

Smart Twitter™ has a tendency to get all in their snarky feelings about things like “leadership” and “character”. I don’t think those things should be valued over, say, skill, but I have no trouble believing that it’s incredibly important to whoever has to spend a lot of time in the locker room. I don’t even have fun playing beer league softball once a week if I’m on a team full of People Who Are Dinks. Having to do that EVERY DAY surrounded by national media sounds like my personal hell. You know those moments when you’re playing some game of Beer League Whatever and you just can’t bring yourself to give a shit because no one else is bothering to? The quality of your individual game is probably suffers a bit in those cases, right? Imagine having to coach that team with that dynamic. Frustrating. At. Best.

Or maybe Dave Cameron’s just a bad coach. I don’t know.

Is it possible this Ottawa Senators team is a bit young and immature? After all, nearly a 3rd of the team is 23 years old or younger. Maybe the team went on a unprecedented run to the playoffs last year and thought they had hockey all figured out which led to a letdown this season.

Or maybe Dave Cameron’s just a bad coach. I don’t know.

There is a paradox inherent to the nature of coaching wherein a coach is expected to positively influence the events that occur in the game, but they can only do this by taking actions outside of the game. Turns out most things are “outside of the game” and that a number of those things are interconnected. Also proper evaluation of those things requires knowledge of certain personal dynamics that we, as fans, are not privy to. Talking intelligently about coaching is difficult as an outsider, and I’m probably never going to understand what went wrong for Dave Cameron between May and September of 2015. However, the players are certainly culpable to some degree and I suspect they realize that.

Still, when it’s all said and done, the fact remains that Dave Cameron once played Mark Boroweicki at forward for several games and as James points out, that’s a coaching L you just can’t come back from when you miss the playoffs.

I’m gonna miss that guy’s weird-ass accent though.

Roundtable of Death: We Just Traded Our Worst Contracts to the Leafs Edition

change

Luke: People are out here like “WTYKY must speak on this”.

James: ____________________________!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steph: I am so begrudgingly happy right now.

Andrew: I think it’s a deal that works well for both sides. Toronto will just buyout the players they don’t want (hint: all the guys being described by Bob McKenzie as NHL calibre) and get Lindberg and a 2nd rounder because I hear they want to have the most picks in the draft (that’s real winning) and GMBM got to trade another second rounder. But really Dion isn’t great, makes too much for too long, (the opposite of my financial situation btw), but instantly improves the blueline.

You all wanted an upgrade on D (yeah, you heard me) and this is what it looks like.

It’s also a way for the Sens to get out of nearly $10M in bad deals next season and for the rest of this season, so that mitigates the cost of Dion right now. The Sens love the deferred dollars in PW and Cowen’s deals, and this is a sort of creative interpretation of that.

Whatever, now we get a few months of hoping, beyond all odds, that Cowen will re-sign in Toronto. #DareToDream.

I don’t mind this trade. Defense was a need. We weren’t going to buy out those deals, they were just going to soak up more dollars next year. It will hurt later, but whatever. Sens are better because Cowen can never get back into the lineup.

Varada: “You all wanted an upgrade on D and this is what it looks like” is seriously perfect analysis. This is what it takes to trade for a defenseman who will actually play in this league.

Sens take on $22M in future salary for a bunch of players who currently aren’t contributing anything.

You know what would be an interesting point to look at: does the sens making deals that put a big financial burden on some future version of the team mean that Melnyk is selling?

Steph: Jared Cowen isn’t a Senator anymore. Sure, okay, we got another mediocre defenseman who misguidedly fights frequently and is overpaid but…your EB-Games-employee lookin ass ex-man Jared Cowen is GONE. This deal is not a thing I’m ever going to toast to, but it’s probably not going to be the cause of my drinking either. Contract wins and losses are being talked to death right now but we won’t know who “won” this deal for a long while (hint: Sens won, they’re winning the Cup, fuck the police).

Here’s what I know about the rest of the players we’re getting from extensive research in the last 5 minutes:

One time Matt Frattin autographed this kid’s face:

IMG_9630A6DFF7B3-114A-4F6D-8C58-BD69159806DA

Ryan Rupert is a twin and twins are the work of the devil. Casey Bailey is from Alaska and Alaska is the work of the devil. Cody Donaghey’s Twitter is the reason I had to look up what GOAT means.

Andrew: Steph, I love you. I am on board. Face autographs for all. EB-Games employees rejoice.

Chet: The Sens trading for the Maple Leafs’ captain reminds me of a Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China.” But yes, this is what trading for a Top Four Defensiveman looks like. This is also Bryan Murray throwing Wideman and Wiercioch in a locked room with a shrimp fork and telling them that only one gets to come out, because you know Borowiecki is dug in like a tick on that third pairing.

And Clarke MacArthur helped convince Murray that Phaneuf was a good egg, right? But he still has a concussion? Vivid.

What I like about this trade is the number of different ways TSN 1200 listeners will be able to roast Phaneuf (which is Albertan French for “The Nine”) after some 6-5 loss to the Islanders:

a) That GUY Phaneuf used ta be the CAPTAIN in TORONNA. He was KING of the BUMS.
b) Phaneuf? Even TORONNA was smart enough to trade that BUM.
c) Bet that BUM Phaneuf is playin’ so bad ’cause he’s ticked off that he can’t find the fancy hair gel in Ottawa like he used ta buy in TORONNA.

I’ll hang up and listen. Although in the interests of hearing both sides (you gotta), any time you can improve your D by trading for the #1 guy from a team you just pasted 6-1, you gotta do it, even if it didn’t cost you $11M worth of guys, none of whom started for your team yesterday. At least the Leafs cleared enough cap room for Stamkos to use them as a stalking horse before signing somewhere else.

Andrew: Gotta say, the Stamkos Watch and subsequent disappointment is one of my favourite angles for this trade.

James: *Movie trailer narrator guy voice* “From the miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind that made you fall in love with Clarke MacArthurrrr…”

Chet: I remember James describing his powerful emotions upon hearing that the Sens had signed Clarke MacArthur less than an hour after Daniel Alfredsson left for Detroit – and I’m paraphrasing, because at the time two cops had him in a headlock – as “Hey Sens fans, don’t worry, we just signed a guy you HATE.” Except nobody ever really hated Clarke MacArthur, did they? Did anybody even have an opinion on Clarke MacArthur until he came to town as something other than a blue jersey? After that it only took him five minutes to convince Sens fans he’d been a misused third-liner in Toronto, making him exactly the kind of “We Told You So, You Stupid Leafs” player that Ottawa could get behind. Phaneuf is . . . not that. Until today, Phaneuf was the overpaid, overrated, underwhelming captain of an overrated, overexposed, underperforming rival – with one of the NHL’s top 5 punchable faces – and flipping the switch completely on THOSE powerful emotions will take some time. But the Sens are a better team tomorrow, 36-year-old Dion Phaneuf is still five years away, and by the time Bobby Ryan TORCHES Jared Cowen on March 12 at the CTC, Phaneuf will officially be a member of the family. “That’s my son!” you’ll find yourself shouting despite yourself, as some drunk land-plankton in a Sundin jersey finally gets to shout “Suck it, Phaneuf!” before vomiting Carling Black Label into his sister’s purse.

What else? Karlsson is gonna use Phaneuf’s contract to ask for 700 kajillion dollars in a few years. Fine. Worth it. Milan Michalek took a lot of BS from Sens fans, but his teammates loved him, he was good on the PK, he scored 30 goals one time, he wanted to be here, and he wasn’t Dany Heatley (Heatley’s ears just perked up at that mention as his Bugatti idles at some German drive-through window). Colin Greening is a good dude with an Ivy League diploma who took all the money the Sens were willing to give him, even if his final NHL fate is being turned into Diet Nathan Horton by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jared Cowen? You never know; what struggling players HAVEN’T turned their game around under the laid-back eye of the Toronto media? Mike Babcock has an arm around his shoulder right now, telling him, “Son, we’re going to give you every opportunity to get your game together,” as Kyle Dubas waves a “BUYOUT=650K=STAMKOS?” placard in the background. Good luck in Switzerland, you big western omelette.

I will miss Milan Michalek, actually. Yes, Michalek, the guy the Senators kept, at the same price, over Ales Hemsky, who literally only tried for 20 games – kudos to you, Bryan Murray, for not getting fooled, because Hemsky totally got ME on that one – after the Sens, barely in sight of a playoff spot, picked him up on an all-in move that ultimately failed. Is this more of the same? Yeah, maybe. But is it SOMETHING? Yes. Bryan Murray will be gone soon, but make no mistake, he’s not done writing the story Senators fans will tell about him. And I give the guy credit for that, no matter how this works out. See you in a week when he trades Wiercioch for Jonathan Drouin.

Luke: As of this morning I had resigned myself to spending the rest of the season evaluating interesting pending UFAs (Mikkel Boedker looks quite zesty! Jason Demers could be a satisfying acquisition on a number of levels!) and generally staying away from Twitter on account of my philosophy of devoting energy to things I enjoy. Then Andrew sent me a G-chat that read simply “GO ON TWITTER. NOW. TRADE.” and I was right back in.

I’m feeling very confused emotionally about this whole thing. On the one hand, there’s the joy of knowing that Ottawa has sent two of their worst players to a team I HAAAAAATE, although this joy has been somewhat lessened by every Leafs fan insisting “No, actually we want bad players!”, much in the same way I would make fun of myself in high school to discourage bullies from trodding that same ground.

There’s also a slight despair at having given up Tobias Lindberg, a prospect I really like, to a team I HAAAAAATE.

There’s also sadness at losing Milan Michalek, a consummate professional who did nothing other than whatever the org asked him to do, right down to waiving his No Trade Clause as his last official act as an Ottawa Senator.

And then there’s the uncertainty associated with acquiring a player who has mostly been an overpaid disappointment, yet could still be useful to the team given the right situation. Like James, I’ve certainly delighted in Phaneuf’s high-profile failings in the past, but even as I’ve mercilessly roasted the guy, I’ve also privately admitted that I thought Phaneuf was a victim of his role and expectations more than anything. “Dion Phaneuf: not as bad as you think!”, I would preach to my hapless friends, like a pretentious food connoisseur explaining how the shit sandwich they’d been served was actually considered a delicacy in some countries. Well now the shit is on the other baguette, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to fake a smile as I dig in.

James: I think we all know what Toronto’s plan is for Greening and Cowen. They are using that “New, veinier leaf logo” merch money to buy them out, something Bryan Murray has consistently said was not an option for the Senators. Baring injuries to better players, Greening and Cowen couldn’t even get into the lineup anymore. On a .500 team. That…is awful. I cannot stress this enough: Jared Cowen was going to get a fucking $800,000.00 dollar raise next year. Yes, almost a million dollars for playing EVEN WORSE this year. Another angle: He was going to make $400K less than Marc Methot next season. You know, the guy who’s done nothing but hold down the top pairing for years. What a mess. Though I have spent years defending him I have to respect the money ball of getting Michalek of the books. Blessed is the player that can play in the top or bottom 6 without complaint but the hard truth is Milo though his contribution to the team can be under-appreciated, he does spend quite a lot of time injured these days. We all know deep down that the Senators aren’t really the type of team that can pay a bottom 6 penalty killer, good as he is, 4 million bananas a year. Besides what does Michalek really do at this point that Pageau doesnt? It was time.

As I attempt to scrub my internal hard drive of years and years of roasts, I cannot really say with confidence I know what Phaneuf’s play is like on a game to game basis. I’m sorry I have shit to do besides watch a terrible team that i loathe in my spare time. BUT i feel pretty good that the chances of him regressing below a second pairing defenceman are farrrrrrrrrrrr less likely than Jared Cowen progressing into a bottom pairing defender. Besides we have Hoffmans to re-sign.

Also, those in their feelings about Tobias Lindberg. He might make the Leafs yeah…THE REBUILDING LEAFS. Are we really thinking that guy had a chance of getting someone in the current top 6 out the paint? Shit, Shane Prince has twice the pedigree and is toiling on the 4th line trying to set up Chris Neil for one timers. Thumbs up to improving the defence which absolutely had to be done in exchange for shedding dead cash, giving up a prospect who had little chance here, a DEEC player and a second round pick.

Bryan Murray once traded a FIRST round pick for Chris Campoli btw.

Varada: I think I’d summarize this trade by saying, yes, it’s a blockbuster, in that trades don’t really happen anymore and this involved a lot of people. However, at the end of the day, it’s an often-injured top 6 forward, some dead cash, and some lottery tickets for a pretty ok top 3 D, some dead cash, and some lottery tickets. It’s hard for me to get worked up about it. We added a body we need now, and a player whose salary descends over the next five years who will be tradeable as the cap keeps going up. I’m a fan of the trade.

And to those who are writing that this is a terrible deal and we should be launching a BONAFIDE REBUILD™ – you know who you are, because you interpret every single occurrence through this lens – all I can say is that what was said when Phaneuf was signed to that deal remains true today: if you want to add a defenseman who can play 18-22 minutes for you every night, then you’re not getting him on the UFA market for anything less than a ridiculous number, and you’re not trading for him without giving up an amazing prospect. So you give him the term, and figure out the rest years from now. Ottawa got a player who literally could not be got any other way, and I don’t know what to say to those who are wishing we had to sit through 3-5 years of massive losing seasons instead. I’m a little tired of everything Ottawa tries being met with “Yeah, but this doesn’t fix everything the way the team being an entirely different team might fix things.”

Luke: One thing is certain, and that is that The Universe has set a course towards one of two possible realities – one reality in which Bryan Murray is hailed as an all-time genius for having managed to ship off Ottawa’s contractual dead weight to free up money for Mike Hoffman’s pending contract extension while simultaneously shoring up the Sens’ porous blue line simply by giving up a veteran 3rd line forward and Ottawa’s 3rd best prospect, or another reality in which Bryan Murray is remembered as having rid himself of two of his greatest mistakes by doubling down on an even bigger mistake and is subsequently forever ridiculed as an executive whose final year was mostly in service of our bitter provincial rival. Which reality we end up in hinges on one thing: Dion Phaneuf not playing like a pile of wet paper bags on Ottawa’s second pairing for the next 3 to 5 years.

Early predictions are mixed to say the least, but I have watched a lot of bad defensemen play for the Ottawa Senators this year, and I can confidently state that Dion Phaneuf will be an upgrade on no less than three of them.

“Phaneuf only looked good because he’s been playing against 2nd-tier competition!”, yell the braying masses. Well that’s good because that’s who Ottawa’s brought him to play against. “Phaneuf was being CARRIED by Jake Gardiner!”, goes another common criticism, as if Ottawa doesn’t have a defenseman as good as Jake Gardiner. This might be my inherent optimism talking, but it seems to me that if Dion Phaneuf can play well in certain situations on a team that is objectively terrible (Sorry, Rich Clune), he should be able to play well in certain situations on a team that is objectively slightly better than terrible. I don’t expect greatness, but I do expect an upgrade over what was there before by way of steady competence, and the peace of mind that steady competence brings is something you can’t really put a price tag on.

Well, I guess you can put a price tag on it. $33 million over 5 years would be the amount on that price tag.