Roundtable of Death: Playoffs Against Not-Toronto Edition


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

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?


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!


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)


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?


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.


Fuck the Leafs. Sens in 5.

Roundtable of Death: Goodbye Yellow Brick Banana Jazz


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


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


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.


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.


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.


Yes, dear?

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


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


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:


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.

New Yorker Long Reads: Mike Hoffman Edition




Mike Hoffman. Mike Hoffman is a thing now. Is he a legitimate thing? What is legitimate? What is “thing”? What we know is that he’s 26, has 84 points in 137 games, and, oh, is currently on pace for 51 goals with a totally sustainable 19.8% shooting percentage.

So, where are you on Hoffman? Sign him long-term? Trade him while his value is high? Give me your delicious takes.


Man, I hope I can keep this under 3000 words because this thing’s got more angles than a mid-90s rendering of Lara Croft.

First off: Mike Hoffman’s pace is more torrid than that love affair I had in Europe last year, and to Hoffman’s credit it seems to be considerably longer lasting. I’ll get our friends at Silver Seven to break it down:

– Since last year, tied for 5th in even strength points per 60 minutes played.

– Since last year, Hoffman is tied for 3rd in goals scored per 60 minutes played.

– Tied for 4th in goals this season.

What’s more is he’s just as strong at even strength as he is on the powerplay.

Is that 19.8% shooting percentage gonna come down? Yeah, obviously. Is he, statistically speaking, at his exact peak right now? Yes, almost certainly. After Destroyer of Worlds Mike Hoffman turns back into Normal Mike Hoffman, will he still be good? Yeah, I think he will be.

Hoffman’s just one piece of a very strong core. Erik Karlsson is the best player on the team, and I’d put Mark Stone 2nd on that list because he’s the only player I can remember who can look to be in the midst of a soul crushing slump while still being a point-per-game player. (Seriously, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of Mark Stone.) After that, you can put Bobby Ryan, Mika Zibanejad, Kyle Turris, and Mike Hoffman in any order depending on the night. (Get a healthy Clarke MacArthur back and good lord is that Top 6 ever cooking with gas. Get well soon, you curly-haired rescue puppy of a man.)

The thing I like most about Hoffman is that what he creates is different than almost any other player on the team. I watch Kyle Turris and Mark Stone and I see two players with high end skill who are cerebral and can slow the game down to play the game at a different pace than other players. I watch Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan and I see two players who are heavy on the puck, gifted with superb vision, and can finish plays with the best of them. I watch Erik Karlsson and see one of God’s Original Creations, a player who can do it all and usually does because he has to.

Hoffman’s not like those other guys. He can create for himself with his speed, but because his shot is so lethal, he creates for others by drawing the defense to him and opening up space for his teammates to operate. Mike Hoffman is pure, distilled liquid offense in a way no other player on the Senators is.

For what it’s worth, I think Hoffman’s ability to “drive the play” *makes wanking motion* is a little too ballyhooed around the Sensphere. Looks to me that Hoffman’s excellent With-Or-Without-You (WOWY) percentages are more a function of playing with Erik Karlsson than Hoffman being The Chosen One (Please click on these images from Friend of the Blog, Micah Blake McCurdy for more), but that is really a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things. Area Player is Pretty Good in General but is Goddamn Outstanding When Playing With Karlsson is not a headline I’m ever going to feel rage towards.

Put it all together and I get one conclusion: Mike Hoffman is A Thing now.

What does this mean for The Future? Well, I don’t think Ottawa’s ever had an asset as tradeable as Mike Hoffman is this season. I think most teams would consider him an established known quantity at this point, he’s still going to be under team control for another off season, and Ottawa would be dealing him from an area of relative strength (high end forwards) to address a position of weakness (goaltending. lol jk it’s the defense obvs).

I was struck with a sudden case of The Fear yesterday because I imagined a future where all of Mike Hoffman’s money was being given to Jared Cowen next season so they had to let him walk. I am more of a Murray Apologist than most, but a scenario where next year’s Ottawa Senators are paying Jared Cowen $4.5MM and paying Mike Hoffman $0.0MM would be unforgivable. Luckily with Chris Phillips coming off the books and a buyout of Jared Cowen coming down the pipe (please God), I foresee a solid $5.5MM in monies easily being available for Mike Hoffman’s next contract. We’ll even have enough cash left over to re-sign Chris Neil (a thing that is definitely going to happen, by the way).

In short, I don’t think The Infernal Budget is going to be a factor in Mike Hoffman’s future.

Which finally leaves us to wonder the following: Should Noted Good Player, Mike Hoffman, be traded so that the Ottawa Senators can acquire a Noted Good Defenseman?

The answer to this question is yes.

This is not to say I don’t have concerns. It may be many moons before we get another player of Mike Hoffman’s unique talents into the organization. Proper evaluation of defenseman is obscenely tricky, so I worry about getting fair value back in return. However, I do not believe the Ottawa Senators can seriously expect to compete in the playoffs with one NHL calibre defense pairing. The Chicago Blackhawks recently showed you only need to play 4 good defenseman to win a Stanley Cup.  Making a trade in Today’s NHL™ seems to be about as easy as hammering out a legally binding international carbon emissions agreement, but in much the same way ending the world’s reliance on coal and oil is necessary to the long-term survival of our civilization, acquiring a Legitimate Top 4 Defenseman is an important next step if Ottawa is to be considered a serious threat to win more than one playoff round.

Enjoy Mike Hoffman while you can. His speedy sharpshooting is soon to be replaced by steady but unsexy defending, and we will be both better and worse for it.

Or maybe Clarke MacArthur will come back, Patrick Wiercioch will find his Sea Legs again, and everything will be fixed. I’m not made of answers.


As Chort Smelters and Lunch Pairisty mentioned on “Advanced Chats: the Blogger Show with your host The Gawdbody Ian Mendes, a Presentation of Robillard Hearing Centres Now With Nine Convenient Locations to Serve You,” Hoffman is an interesting case as he is kind of an unprecedented type of player.

Basically, Bobby Ryan earned a lucrative contract on an otherwise cheap team mainly because of his success during his formative years with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (Ed Note: Actual professional sports team name). His reputation preceded him coming here. We paid for those 30 goal seasons in Anaheim. Hoffman, however is still very much in the process of establishing his reputation hence the arbitration case in the summer and why this upcoming contract is such a tricky one.

Especially tricky when you consider his age. It’s not unusual for players to start hitting their “prime years” around Hoffman’s age, but typically they’ve been in the league longer than a season and a half by then. There’s a reason that he lost his arbitration case and I would think it was lack of a track record at the NHL level. That said, while I’m running my yap about sample size the kid is snapping twine…you see what I did th– twine is what nets are made out o— let’s move on…

If Turris was worth the risk of a long term deal without much of a track record, then so too is Hoffman. Mistakes were made with this philosophy, signing Greening and Cowen [thxu Tim Murray], but I think we can agree Hoffman is clearly a much better hockey player than both of them…combined.

Whatever he’s worth, pay it, but I just don’t know what that is. 5 million? 6? I don’t know. I’d be fine with it in that same way Bobby Ryan might not be worth his contract price but I’m more about keeping him in the fold going forward than getting a bargain every time. The elephant in the room on this one is “Can the organization do it?”

The funny thing is, name me a player Murray has failed to re-sign during this budget era. Ryan, Anderson, Lehner (RIP), Stone, Zibanejad, MacArthur, Methot, Pageau, etc. were all re-upped during that parade of signings.

[Shameful afterthought: Hi, I totally forgot that he failed to re-sign Alfie which is TOTALLY understandable seeing as he was a marginal AHL 3rd string goaltender and not much was made of the story in the local media. SORRY SO SLOPPY! Anyway, back to me ranting despite not being very smart…] 

Spezza, I guess, but we were going to have to foolishly overpay for him and Hemsky was simply not worth what he asked.  Anyway I just want the team to have space and funds for Erik Karlsson’s impending 10 billion dollar raise, so lock up the as many good players as possible before then.

The thing I was glad to see with one more year before pushing the chips in on Hoff was that his game is more than his speed. That was my only concern after last season. The guy’s got insane wheels but as demonstrated the other night against the Los Angeles Krangs, his hands are as deadly as his feet. If he slows a bit as he ages (which will probably still be above average speed tbh), it’s not like he will stop being able to release the puck like he has been doing night after night. I think the risk is actually decently low despite the unique situation.

So put me in camp “PAIY HEEM HEEZ FAAKING MAHNEE.” I am really, really enjoying having one of the most exciting and productive forward corps in the East and I don’t want to change that. 1000 years of putting five past Jonathan Quick.

All this said, as per Andrew’s recent post, Hoffman is exactly the kind of player who could net us not just a top four defenceman but a KWALIT-E defenceman, which is what is clearly holding this team back from taking the next step. Gets into this thing where maybe we’d rely on Hoffman’s scoring less if we had better defence…so…uhh….gotta go!


What Luke said, basically.

I think Hoffman is legit and has been for awhile, but the organization, for whatever reason, seems cool on him, so I’ve kept my distance. This is actually something that can be measured, like I don’t want to invest 30 hours working on a Mike Hoffman painting only to see him in St. Louis next year.

I think he’s going to be traded for blue line help, or rather, one of our decent/good forward pieces should be moved for a good defender, and he seems the most likely candidate. But I would also rather “PAIY HEEM HEEZ FAAKING MAHNEE” because I like blowouts and this team can score and that’s a lot more fun.

For the record, Mike Hoffman, you had me at TEEN WOLF CASTING CALL.


Hey guys, I only have 20 words left to work with after those responses. Anyway, shouldn’t trade Mike Hoffman, he’s

Sent from Outlook Mobile


Guys, guys, guuuuuuuuuuys….we’re forgetting about Mike Hoffman’s EPIC attitude problems and the fact that, in the NHL, you always take the coach’s side. Lest we forget that the last time we had an elite sniper who hated his coach, one enchanted ventriloquist’s doll named Cory Clouston, we chose CORY CLOUSTON over one of the three players we’d basically built our entire team around. Thus was heralded in the Cheechoo era.

All this to say, while the undisputed champion of Torching His Relationship with Management remains Jared Cowen, Mike Hoffman is also turning a wee bit into a sour patch kid. I don’t think it’s his fault or anything, but there’s a track record evolving here. They go to arbitration. He shoots daggers at Dave Cameron. He clearly wants term and to be paid – as is the right of any human who can score goals like this at the highest level of hockey in the world.

All that to say that I would love to see Michel Hhaffmann re-signed, and I wouldn’t mind tacking on a couple of extra years on the end to keep his cap hit down, knowing that he’s waiting an extra-long time to make the NHL and wants to stay in the show now that he’s here. But it’s hard for me to see giving the guy the $6m-$7m an elite scorer would get on the open market. His speed and shooting percentage are not the sort of thing people build strategies around, because both erode in time and he’s already 26.

I guess I’m overthinking the part here where Hoffman occasionally gets nailed to the bench for defensive lapses that are all but naked to my untrained eye. Maybe the coach is saying, “Go out there and execute play x and y” and Hoffman is saying “I’m just going to shoot the puck, you wiener” and so the coach benches him. There’s something happening there that we don’t necessarily have access to.

And if Ray Emery can get us to the Cup Final, get re-signed, then bought out for being Not Our Kind of Guy, then an RFA with snooty-patootie airs is going to get shipped off for 2017’s Marc Methot.

Just to be clear I DON’T WANT THAT.


Not trying to Actually you here just playin a little word jazz as something you brought up got me thinkin’.

It’s interesting the examples of Bad Attitude Bears you mentioned:

Corey Clouston was maybe the worst choice of coach to side with over player but, disaster that it was at the time, it’s crazy to think the Sens actually won a trade where they were handcuffed from getting maximum value for a two time 50 goal scorer and, like you’re saying, guy Ottawa built the team around, for Milan Michalek, a 2nd round pick and Jonathan Cheechoo.

Sure, because of chronic knee injuries Milo’s more of a 3rd line player and, sure, Cheechoo is in the KHL, but at least Michalek is still IN the NHL and at least Cheechoo has recently been an all star in the KHL. Heatley is in the GERMAN LEAGUE. And after not living up to a one year, 1 million dollar deal and getting waived. In his last year with the Sens homie was making TEN MILLION DOLLARS. Ovechkin money! He was making 8 million as recently as the season Karlsson won his first Norris. What a world.

Meanwhile at Geppetto’s Workshop: Clouston was recently fired from the WHL.

Oh, and that ever-so-valuable second was traded for Andy Sutton for our LEGENDARY 6 game playoff run of 2010.

I will always be fascinated by this ever-unfolding saga.

As for Ray Emery, despite that Cup Final run, I think we have a special case here as well. Dude was getting into a Latrell Sprewell level of bad eggness at the time. Being late for practice [not a game] is one thing but fighting your teammates, threatening to kill the townsfolk, “partying” *rubs gums* to the point that it’s local lore even on a roster where a dude KILLED a guy? I mean, dude played himself out of the whole league for a while there. No one wanted to pick up a relatively young, pretty cheap goalie who just started in the big dance? Who is he, Annti Niemi? *Rim shot, mean-spirited applause* He wasn’t let go because he showed up to games dressed like The Mask and drove an iridescent Hummer.

To his credit, he’s rebuilt himself into an inspirational redemption story, but when the Sens cut ties with him he seemed like a nightmare douche…even for a pro athlete.

AAAAAAAAANYWAAAAAAAY, all this to say, if the same treatment were to happen to Hoffman because something something he got mad at being demoted despite being one of the league’s top scorers, t’would be some new heights of mismanagement. Especially considering Jared Cowen, who, I don’t know if you’ve heard this, stinks at hockey and seems like a tool, is still a regular fixture in the lineup. Pray4FenceMending.

Roundtable of Death: The Sens are Dead, Long Live The Sens

In which Luke, Varada, Chet, Steph, and James discuss how it’s better to have won and lost than never to have won at all.


Part of me just wants to let Mick, Keef, and The Boys take this one.

I’m having a hard time coming up with anything to say about this series other than “So it goes.” Having watched nearly every bounce go Ottawa’s way for two months, I’m not inclined to summon my equine dental hygiene specialist to closely examine this horse we’d been given.

That said, as someone who publicly stated “Montreal’s bottom 6 is terrible”, the first three games of the series were still deeply troubling to me. By the time Dale Weise scored in overtime to give Montreal a 3-0 series lead, I was reduced to a hollow husk of a man who could do nothing but mutter to himself “Well on the bright side, at least no one could have possibly predicted this!” My feeling is that if you play the first three games of that series over again, there’s no way Montreal goes up 3-0 a second time. I say this because they DID play three more games in the series, Bryan Flynn, Torey Mitchell, and Dale Weise were nowhere to be seen (just as God intended), and Ottawa won 2 out of the 3 games. If you lose because the other team does stuff that’s so unlikely there’s no way you’d ever expect it to happen again, should that make you feel better or worse? Let’s ask Bruins fans. I bet they have thoughts on the matter.

Going into Game 4, I was filled with something approaching dread. Making the greatest run to the playoffs in NHL history only to get swept in the first round would have raised philosophical questions I would have been ill-equipped to answer. Luckily we were spared these questions as Mike Hoffman did a thing, Ottawa blew out Montreal once in Montreal (as is now playoff tradition), and only the referees were able to stop the series from going to a Game 7. We had some moments, people, and that’s all you can really ask for as a 7 seed. *Hands out t-shirts reading “2015 Playoffs: They Didn’t Totally Suck!”*

Speaking of the Refs Tho

I’ve been trying for the past 18 hours to work myself into a moderate froth regarding the heinous refereeing that led to Ottawa’s untimely departure aaaaaaaannnnnd……………..I just can’t do it. Every team loses due to human error, and as annoying as it is that the errant humans weren’t the ones who play the game, the lesson to be learned is that if you don’t want to risk losing in an utterly soul crushing way, you shouldn’t go down three games to zero against Carey Price to begin with.

I feel like this was a fitting way for this Sens team to go out, to be honest. Yes Montreal won, but did Ottawa really lose? This year’s team will forever be remembered as the team that only the refs could kill. Not a bad legacy for a team that gave us one of the most enjoyable 12 weeks in Sens history.

So it goes.


I just finished watching a bootlegged copy of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it’s just like, what, so the Hulk is invincible now? That’s his power? He can do anything and nobody can stop him? The movie ends when the Hulk just does the thing everybody said they needed to do? At least it’s not as bad as that show Daredevil. Hoo boy! What a torture-thon! Literally! He’s constantly torturing people! I don’t understand how that’s supposed to be an enjoyable watch. What’s that? There was a hockey game last night? Oh, yeah, that broke my heart.

But I think you’re right, Luke: it’s hard to be particularly bitter when the team put themselves in a position where a miracle run was required just to sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the season, then they lose a tightly contested first round which they just as likely could have won.

This isn’t a Toronto team that doesn’t know what stage of rebuild it’s in, or a Sabres team that’s definitely, definitely in stage one, or a Carolina team spending oodles of money to be terrible with no end in sight. This team played entertaining hockey, got into the dance, anything could, and did, happen, and we’re all better for it.

Was the announcing annoying? Considering Price was outplayed by Anderson, and debatably even Hammond (who I thought was really good! No idea where people get this “played himself out of a job” thing), and was talked about as if he was the best player in the world throughout: yes. Only one goalie in this series allowed five goals in one game.

Was the officiating atrocious? Maybe. It was certainly weird, as quick whistles and face-off violation penalties can attest. The series occasionally felt as if the refs would randomly drop a power-up onto the ice and the team would hope for a red shell. It was weird, but it’s an even weirder tradition in the sport itself. Powerplays change the whole dynamic of the game, and always have, in ways that forever distort the purity of the contest itself.

Are the Canadiens full of pests who really got under my skin? Absolutely. Prust and Gallagher had jobs, and did them, and I hate them for it. I guess it’s interesting to see Montreal learn from what we did to them a couple of years ago.

But all in all, the Senators won the respect of the league and its many armchair experts, all of whom couldn’t give a crap about a small market team with the lowest payroll in the league. They did so with Vezina quality goaltending, Norris quality defenseman, a Calder quality rookie, and only room and financial space to grow. The future’s bright.

Now bring back the damned heritage jersey and let’s build some memories.


Winning is great, but you know what’s sometimes more memorable than winning? Heroic failure. We’re all moved by heroic failure, right? Gallipoli? Cervantes? Kristers Gudlevskis?

The Senators went out on their shields last night, and as much as I love the 0% ROI complaining about blown calls, I’m with Luke in that I can only get so frissoned about last night. They would have needed another goal anyway, and just like those Iranian hostages, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place, trying to win four straight off Carey Price. Besides, losing a game like that is all of a piece with a series in which the Sens had already lost two overtime games, which are already basically coin flips. It was clear from the very beginning that the only thing separating the Sens and Habs were a few bounces one way or the other, and it was almost immediately as clear that luck, or fate, or that Mufasa-like cloudbank over the casino that looked just like Julia Robillard, was not going to give the Sens those bounces.

But they scratched and clawed anyway, didn’t they? To make sure Montreal knew, in a deep, uncomfortable place, that Ottawa was better? That their own lucky bounces would run out soon enough? And when they do, maybe in the next round, maybe in the conference finals against the Rangers, when Carey Price simply can’t keep his so-so team afloat forever, they too will fail. Except at that point, there won’t be anything heroic about it. It’ll just be Julia Robillard evening things out.

The Senators played like beautiful, star-crossed, tragic heroes last night, and I’m proud of them. Senators history is full of more talented teams that choked, or gave up, or won, but in a predictable, suffocating fashion. These guys refused to do any of those things, which is why we’ll remember them. As failures, and as heroes.


You know what sucks about being constantly convinced that your team is going to do the thing – come back in the third period to win the game, come back from a 14 point deficit to make the playoffs, force game 6 against a team with probably the best goalie in the league, etc. – is that when they don’t do the thing for once, you’re extra disappointed. I couldn’t be team tank in January and I still think this run was worth not getting a high draft pick, but it still doesn’t feel good for the season to end like this. We all went through the stages of hockey grief together.

Denial: Nah, nah, this was a shitty dream and I’ll wake up to the Sens in the conference final and also Jared Cowen never existed and Alfie is back on the team.
Anger: The Habs are a shitty team with maybe 3 good players, they’re dirty, Gallagher is a piece of shit, the refs were against us, it was a garbage end to a Cinderella season, fuck hockey, I’m done with sports.
Bargaining: If only the ref hadn’t whistled early on the Pageau attempt they would have evened the score, forced overtime and probably won, since the Sens work best in high pressure situations, right?
Depression: Get the tequila. No, not the good stuff.
Acceptance: I guess I’m cheering for the Flames. Habs are still garbage fucks though.

I don’t know, I’m still mad about the officiating, but I don’t want to be thinking about it 20 years later like Leafs fans about Kerry Fraser. The last months of the season were incredible to watch, and I want those crazy goals, improbable wins, and Hamburger themed revolutions to be what’s remembered about this season. In the end, the Sens did the thing – they kept trying to win no matter how many shitty bounces or shitty calls went against them, and that’s what should be remembered about this season and give us all hope for next season (when it will be revealed that Jared Cowen never existed). ​


Hahahaha You slay me Chet…those things you’re referring to that I totally know about…CLASSIC examples of heroic failure things. I would add some but I’m…uh…in a—

HEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY what a way to go out. And by “what a way to go out’ I mean “I’m still trying to figure out what all the feels mean.”

Corny as it sounds, I think today we are all Dave Cameron showing a stiff upper lip to that blown call. There’s nothing we can do other than move forward and let that dickbag in the office cook and act like he actually won that series. BTW I think it’s going to be a big year for “his” Yankees AND “his” Patriots/Cowboys…I guess he doesn’t root for the Heat at this point.

To build on Chet’s point, hey, to the victor go the spoils and everything but if I take one major thing out of this series it’s this: If that’s the class of our division I’m extremely excited about the future because that simply is not a very good hockey team overall. Sure Ottawa lost this time but have you ever seen a team go down 3-0 and seem less intimidated about that? Especially a Sens squad. If that’s what losing to Montreal looks like, where the biggest margin in the series was a 5-1 win? I’d take them as a playoff dance partner again in a heartbeat. That was not like Sisyphean task of facing the Pittsburgh Killbots year after year in the past. The Senators still have a lot to work on (Could have made Price work way, way harder) but they have a ton to build on as well. I’ll take a 1-1* rivalry with these assholes.

To me, the story of that series was Craig Anderson. Just a few weeks ago, I was confidently saying the wise move going forward was to give Robin Lehner his long awaited shot as starter, install Hammond as backup (he’s not going to keep going undefeated but SURELY he’s as good as Curtis McElhinney) and deal Anderson while the dealing’s good. 3 games of Andy and I am totally rethinking it. To come in after basically not playing for months in relief of a goalie who couldn’t have been on a hotter run just to go toe to toe with Carey Price and to hold it down like that? That was damn impressive. Not to get too ahead of myself here but I think a big move is going to be made this summer and I’m glad I’m not the one who has to decide what that move is.

Moaning Korner: Dat fucking broadcast tho. Much as I talk about shit about commentary, don’t get it twisted, I looooove cheering for the “bad guys.” Ask yourself this: Would you really want Glenn Healy endlessly waxing on about if he were but a glove upon the hand touching the cheek of Craig Anderson? Blech, no thanks.

We live in a world of hockey media where the most talked about team is a garbage pile of perpetual failure. The Canadian hockey press basically covers the Chicago Cubs as if they were the Yankees. It’s funny and consistently shines a spotlight on the ongoing embarrassment of our hated rival. With years of training I’ve come to embrace that bias to a large degree. If you ever want to know the extra satisfaction that is your team beating the opposition AND the announcers just look up JG Pageau’s hat trick on Price two seasons ago. Bob Cole’s call on that third goal is worth more than all the Saturday night losses to the Leafs on HNIC combined. As I’ve said in the past, I am more or less used to the bias at this point. I have no doubt that if Toronto went on the same epic march to the playoffs that Ottawa just did, they would put them on a postage stamp. Whatever. I don’t want Ottawa to be Canada’s team. I want to see them grow and succeed on some hater shit. There is no bandwagon here (well, save for the gawd Ann Murray). This thing is ours for better or worse and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Anyway, all this in mind, the coverage of those six games was just unbearably shitty. I’ve sat through countless Saturday night cringefests on CBC but that was just a new level all together. From the gotta hear both sides on Subban’s slash on Stone it was slanted to the point that I think went beyond being annoying as a Sens fan to just a sports fan in general. Hearing any series called that way would be frustrating. I can handle bias of that stripe from a bunch of failed football commentators on an ESPN Nashville feed or whatever, all of those local broadcasts have an obvious slant, including ours. But there’s a reason a clownshoes guy like Jack Edwards is on Boston public access and not NBC. For national coverage of TWO Canadian teams that was just embarrassing. The Habs already had Gallagher, Prust and Subban trying to get under everyone’s skin, they don’t need your help from ice level there, Glenn Healy. You know the game’s fucked up when former Leaf AND Hab Mike Johnson feels like the only voice of reason in the whole mess. For the first time I thought even Elliot Freidman’s approach was clumsy. Felt like HNIC jumped the shark and pandered out of desperation or something. Either way, what an all around shit show that was. “You think that shit is poppin’ man but it’s not poppin’ man” – Ghostface Killa, Re: HNIC Panel.

I have more to say (WHAT!?) but I’ll leave it at this, after a season and a half of almost inexplicable lethargy came a coaching change and an historical run by a below average career minor league goalie we were treated to something truly special. Hammond was the spark, the inspiration, but the whole team turned the season around under immense pressure. The team as a whole, especially many of the young guys, can’t unlearn what they went through these past few months. How to win games. I think as fans all we wanted were honest efforts and we got those to the very end. We got a team who figured out how to compete with anyone. I’ve been yammering on about the need for a passing of the torch for a minute. All you need to do is look at the lineup Dave Cameron iced these past few months to see that the time has come.

Roundtable of Death: Life Comes At You Fast Edition

"Boy, if you thought the Sens had a bad weekend, you should get a load of these guys! Reminded me of watching the Phillips-Karlsson pairing."

“Boy, if you thought the Sens had a bad weekend, you should get a load of these guys! Reminded me of watching the Phillips-Karlsson pairing.”

In which Luke, Varada, James, Chet, and Steph discuss the ways in which losing is not preferable to winning.

Luke says:

“For when the One Great Twitter comes
To mark against your name,
They write – not that you won or lost
But how you made your lineup decisions.”
Grantland Rice (Mostly)

Friends, do you remember last week? It seems so long ago and yet I remember it as if it were only last week. Following six full weeks of sustained and improbable excellence, Ottawa had finally climbed the mountain to find themselves in a playoff spot for the first time since November, and Sens fans had a belief in the supernatural power of beef rarely seen in Western culture. It was heady times. I wouldn’t expect you to understand. I guess you had to be there.

Since that time a number (again, that number is “zero”) of Tuesdays ago, the Sens lost their talismanic journeyman goaltender to an ankle injury, allowed 4 goals in under 20 minutes to the Toronto Maple Leafs (who are terrible and should be celebrated only for their unwavering ability to consistently ice a team of 20 players who are either, by definition, professional hockey players or Zack Sill), and had their hearts ripped out by a 40+ year old legend who surprisingly wasn’t Daniel Alfredsson this time. Also, the Bruins, with whom the Sens are fighting for the last playoff spot in the East/14th overall draft pick, took 5 of an available 6 points, and now the Sens are 3 points out with a game in hand. Again.

Basically this is the sort of thing that could just as easily happen in the middle of November as at the end of March, but if I may put on my “Amateur Psychologist” novelty t-shirt for a minute, I’ll make an educated guess that what happened didn’t gall most Sens fans so much as how it happened. Turns out experiencing a lifetime of torment at the hands of the Leafs isn’t one of those things you eventually get used to and learn to accept. However, while I’m not going to argue that the Sens have played well in their last three games, I am going to make like MC Escher and provide some weird perspective. To wit:

1. After going a quarter of a season without playing a true stinker, the Senators coming out flatter than a plate of piss against the Rangers had a certain air of inevitability to it.

2. The frustration of Ottawa blowing a two goal lead to a Tyler Bozak hat trick belies the fact that it was such a Black Swan Event as to be literally unprecedented.

3a. If Dave Cameron’s answer is “Colin Greening on the second line”, I have serious reservations about the phrasing of the question.

3b. On the other hand, putting in two fresh guys on the second half of a back-to-back isn’t entirely illogical.

3c. On a third hand which has suddenly sprouted from my chest, Dave Cameron doesn’t actually play so there are only so many ways he can affect the game.

3d. Speaking of players who played, Jared Cowen #actually played pretty ok.

3e. For all the hand-wringing regarding Mike Hoffman’s place in the lineup, he still had more ice time on Sunday than any forward except Mark Stone and Erik Condra. Sure 6:30 of that was time spent on the powerplay, but at least Mike Hoffman is now getting hella time on the powerplay.

3f. I don’t begrudge Dave Cameron making lineup decisions based on nebulous psychological reasons like “trying to give the team a spark” or needing to “change things up a bit”. As no less than Ian Mendes pointed out, it’s tough not to argue that something had to give after the preceding two gong shows. I see this idea on Twitter a lot that coaching should really as simple as sending out your best players and that any other coaching adjustments are a sign of overthinking things and that psychology is overrated. I’d be willing to accept this idea a lot more if it weren’t for the fact that a number of the most successful coaches in sports are especially noted as much for their motivational ability as for their skills as tacticians and teachers. If you want to tell people that coaching the Bulls was as easy as sending out Michael Jordan at the same time as Scottie Pippin, be my guest, but also be prepared to accept my serene dismissal of that opinion. Dave Cameron’s been hitting every note correctly for six weeks straight while trying to drag this team into the playoffs. He missed one yesterday, but the task he’s been set is analogous to playing Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto as the guest soloist filling in for Yefim Bronfman. Even the pros think that ossia cadenza is a real tricky bastard to get right every time. Selah.

The Wisdom
The reality here is that despite the negativity in our souls, very little has changed. Ottawa still needs to win games. Boston losing games still helps a lot. The Sens need to go 4-2-1 in their remaining 7 games to make 95 points. 94 points has never been insufficient to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. If the Senators reach 95 points and still miss the playoffs (because reasons), I’ll be bitter only at the inherent injustice of it all, not at a team who will have done enough by any reasonable definition except the one that counts. I’m gonna focus on the process (winning), not the results (playoffs).

Varada Says:

There’s something to be said about the fact that it took an agonizingly long period of time – about three weeks – and an unprecedented winning streak for Ottawa to claw its way into a playoff spot, and then it took all of three days to fall basically out of contention. With every win it seemed like our playoff probability increased by, what, 3%? Then, two losses later, it’s plunged from the lofty 70%+s that sent us, Viking-like, to the tops of our coffee tables, roaring in the faces of loved ones and sending the ottoman tumbling chaotically from its feet to its side, to the 20-whatever% that has me standing in the driveway and looking up at the moon and saying softly, so softly, “Beyond those mountains lie madness.”

I said this on Twitter, and now I say it again on this actual, legitimate website: It’s weird when you have hobbies that don’t make you feel good. And with this win streak followed by this losing streak, the Senators have become a hobby on par with all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. It was so, so good for a while. Then you could see through time for a while. Then the depression and angriness set in.

So I guess Ottawa could go on another ridiculous run, but with games against Tampa and Detroit and shit, it’s hard to see it happening. Their special sauce has turned. There are so many positives to take from this magical, nigh-Matrix-like run. But we tasted the nectar of the gods and had that gourd pulled away from our luscious lips at the last moment BY THE FUCKING TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS seriously we all knew that was going to happen.

As for line combos, I feel like it’s a matter of not really having any other interface with which to criticize a team. It’s no coincidence that line combos are basically the only thing coaches ever get criticized for. But I have to admit, Greening is on some NEXT LEVEL cursed existence thing here. If you had told me that with only a few games left in the season Colin Greening would have one empty net goal…and that’s it…I’d tell you that you were being an hysterical mouthbreather.

Sent from a mobile phone

James Says:

I’m not here to be a complete apologist for any and all weird coaching decisions but for me, if the team is really struggling for a couple of games I’ve just come to expect some line up shuffling. Like Luke said, in-game, there’s really only so much a coach can do to provide a spark outside player assignment. There’s an argument to be made (and a good one) that players need consistency to break out of a funk. Troo, troo. Also, on the other side, if a player you count on is not performing or looking lethargic, the concept of giving them a temporary demotion in favour of someone who doesn’t get much of a shot or who might have more legs and could potentially give you the level of play that you’re looking for, isn’t exactly mind blowing either.

The other thing, when shit drastically hits the skids like now, I have such a hard time assuming that because guys are in the line up consistently that they are all 100% healthy. I mean, we are 75 games deep in the season. Also, Andrew Hammond seen limping out of arena, has to start game two days later and heyyyyyy cant move side to side very well…I think more than a few of us were shocked. He can’t start the next game, magically Craig Anderson who hasn’t even been backing him up much is good to start. Probably not. The team’s also been without Milan Michalek who, like him or not, was absolutely flying during the run. I’m saying, I personally think these injuries have hurt things more than some line shuffling.

As to what happens next, well, in a post-sweeping the Kings, Sharks and Ducks on the road paradigm, I’m officially on “I have no fucking idea” status for the rest of the season (thx 4 reading). That’s also the reason why even the height of the Sens crazy streak I was looking at it long-game, as such a positive for next season. Doesn’t mean I’ve given up or don’t “believe” or whatever. The Sens do the impossible? Guess how long Ima cherish that: Guess. The rest of my sad, li’l lyfe. If not, I’ve seen it before. In all my years on the force, workin’ the beat, I’ve seen a lot of odds defying, Cinderella teams and I’ve seen a lot of 4 line, relentless killbot factories and guess which of those two I’ve seen more of succeed. Guess. K.

Consistency through the season gets you into a position where you don’t have to do things like run the table for like 2 months to squeak into a wild card spot. You just, you know, qualify. You know like we did back in Covered Wagon Tymes.

A healthy, signed Marc Methot, a couple 20 goal rookies who look like the belong in the top 6, Zibanejad surpassing expectations, a coach who despite a couple of clunkers looks like he’s shifted the teams playing style to the more uptempo brand they looked like they were built for…oh and living proof the team is better off without Phillips and Neil. Sorry, but if this streak proved one thing it’s that a changing of the guard is looking more than clear. Those are the things that make me believe the Sens can be in the playoff conversation for more than a few weeks but maybe a whole season going forward.

Chet Says:

Like with baking a cake, putting on your socks and shoes, or plotting the perfect murder, the order in which you do things matters. If the Senators’ last three losses had happened in early February, when we were all closing down the bar with one more karaoke version of “Tanke Schoen”, and NOW they were on a 17-2-2 run? We’d all be high as gin-soaked kites. And yet where would we be? Three points out, with a game in hand.

Or say the Senators took that 17-2-2 run and spread it out over the course of the year, rather than the last month and a half. For just one more win a week, *Sarah MacLachlan music starts, sad-looking dogs shuffle in* YOU can help have a consistent hockey squad that people are still vaguely unsatisfied with, using terms like “bubble team,” and “tweeners”, and “disappointment, just like when my son flunked out of clown school.” Clown school is harder than you think, though. And where would we still be? Three points out, with a game in hand.

Yes, it’s nice to be consistent sometimes. But what makes for a better story – doing the speed limit on the highway all the way to where you’re going, or taking a few crazy-ass detours, outrunning a couple cops, seeing some weird backwoods stuff you can’t unsee, partying with a bear, trying pies you’ve never even HEARD of… and still making it to where you’re going just in time? Because one of those is consistent, and one of those is memorable. And if you’re gonna ultimately finish the year three points out again, which would you prefer?​

We all know the Senators aren’t as good as their last six weeks, but they aren’t as bad as the last three games, either. I have no clue what’s they’re going to do in their last seven games and neither do you. We can’t predict when a team will suddenly go on some inexplicable hot streak or cold streak, only that hockey players try to have memories like goldfish for a reason, so that last night’s game doesn’t affect tomorrow’s. Does it always work? Of course not. But does losing to the Leafs and Panthers mean they’re going to lose to the Red Wings and Lightning? This year, I wouldn’t bet on it. Seven games left, three points out, with a game in hand, let’s see what happens.

*looks at tomorrow night’s lines*


Steph Says:

So how’s everyone’s hangover? I’m assuming you all got blackout drunk to forget the nightmare that was this weekend in Sens hockey. I honestly can’t fault them for the Rangers loss, but the Leafs game should have been a guaranteed 2 points instead of the shaky mess that it was. Tyler Bozak got a career high 4 points. Bozak. Career high. Help. And I mean the rest of the schedule is also not amazing, even if the teams that clinched or are almost guaranteed a playoff spot all rest their top players. I stupidly checked how the Sens have fared against the teams in their remaining schedule and it’s not good (getting less than half the total possible points against those teams kind of ‘not good’). But as much as I loved Hammond, we can’t lay all the praise on him for Sorta Saving the Sens (trademark pending) and all the blame on Anderson for Fucking Up Everything (sad trademark pending). I have to assume this sudden downturn is mostly attributable to end of season fatigue-like they played 15 games in 29 days in March and got 22 of a possible 30 points type of fatigue. That’s pretty incredible but it makes me tired just writing it.

Should some lines have not played nearly as much as they were? YES, FUCK YES, WHY, CAMERON, WHY? And maybe I’ve been having night terrors about Colin Greening, maybe I haven’t. Plus there have been some injuries (Michalek) and some players presumably pretending to not be injured (Hammond) too that people kinda seem to be ignoring in favour putting the blame on easy (read: also deserving) targets like Cameron and Anderson. I’d love for the Sens to get into the playoffs, but if the price to be paid is 4 players recovering from injuries for half the following season, maybe no thank u. Really, a lot of the things responsible for the Sens sudden slowing can be attributed to fatigue, which isn’t very optimistic for the remaining games, but obviously I’mma still be optimistic because why the fuck not, optimism never hurts. Like these other humans said, it’s a lot more of the same-Sens have pretty bad odds of winning these games, but, you know, COULD. Longview: it was two shitty games that happened at a bad time, but playoffs are not out of the picture. The Bruins are not irredeemably ahead. Shit could happen. Good shit, I mean, not like the shit that happened this weekend which we will never speak of again. Anyway, even with all the things I just wrote, I think the Sens will get the same sort of manic sprint-to-the-end energy that every student going into exams knows, and totally NOT get run out of the playoffs in the first round (and that wasn’t even sarcasm). ​