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


Depth Chart (Artist’s Conception*) 

Forwards :
MacArthur/Lazar – ZibanejadStone

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

Borowiecki – Wideman/Phillips

Call ups: Kostka, Frozen Dinner

Anderson / Hammond

Call ups: Dreidger / O’Connor

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Hoffman – Round 5 #130 overall, 2009 draft

Zack Smith – Round 3 #79 overall, 2008 draft

Mark Stone – Round 6 #178 overall, 2010 draft

Erik Karlsson – Round 1 #15 overall, 2008 draft

Patrick Wiercioch –  Round 2 #42 overall, 2008 draft

Mark Borowiecki – Round 5 #139 overall, 2008 draft

Jared Cowen – Round 1 #9 overall, 2009 draft

Chris Wideman – Round 4 #100 overall, 2009 draft

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

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

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

**buy out.


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

Mika Zibanejad – Round 1 #6 overall, 2011 draft

Shane Prince – Round 2 #61 overall, 2011 draft

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

Curtis Lazar – Round 1 #17 overall, 2013 draft

Freddie Claesson – Round 5 #126 overall, 2011 draft

Cody Ceci – Round 1 #15 overall, 2012 draft

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

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


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

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

Chris Neil – Round 6 #161 overall, 1998 draft

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

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


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

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

Craig Anderson – Acquired in 2011 from Colorado for Brian Elliot

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

Marc Methot – Acquired from Columbus in 2012 for Nick Foligno

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

Alex Chiasson – Acquired in 2014 for Jason Spezza

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

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

What happened? I just blacked out.

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

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

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

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

Clarke MacArthur – Signed in 2013, extended in 2015

Andrew Hammond – Signed in 2013, Extended in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You: James what was the point of all this?

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



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.

A primer on how to talk about Ottawa Senators hockey during the 2015-2016 season


Pictured left: Erik Karlsson Pictured middle: Jared Cowen Pictured right: a deer

After having spent the last few years being one of many, many, many voices in a discussion about one particular team in one particular sport, I’ve concluded that there are a few ineluctable truths about this team (spoiler: Ottawa) on which we can each and every one of us agree. That isn’t to say that the details can’t be debated in one form or another, like a squabble of ducks nibbling around the edges of a delicious saltine cracker. But the distilled nougat at the center of each truth (editor’s note: saltine crackers do not contain nougat) should be common knowledge by now, and so, require no further writing.

After this post. In which I write about them.

In acknowledging the truths articulated below, it’s my hope that we, the fans—the collective heart, and perhaps a small part of the brains of this team—might come to some sort of understanding about how to constructively talk about the Ottawa Senators and thereby enjoy watching them play hockey maybe a little bit more.

They are as follows:

  • The team owner, Eugenious R. Melnyk III, does not have enough liquid cash on hand to spend to the cap. This fact often inflates a concept we understand and describe through clenched teeth as, “The Infernal Budget.” (See what I did there? Thanks, I went to college for like 9 years.)
  • Though 1) exists, it does not mean that the owner doesn’t have enough money to operate the team, which is to say he can keep selling tickets and merchandise and just generally keep the ship floating as the franchise’s underlying value accrues.
  • However, also because 1) exists, the team can’t spend the next 4-5 years tanking and not making any money, because Eugenious can’t float the losses.
  • It makes absolutely no sense—zero whatsoever—for the owner to sell the team now. The league keeps growing. Revenue sharing is in place. There’s a TV deal kicking in. Expansion is on the way. There’s money to be made on this team over the next decade.
  • Though the team might have a couple of clunker contracts on the roster, they don’t have any absolute stinkers, and those that do stink are of a small enough order as to not significantly tie management’s hands. Yes, Colin Greening’s contract didn’t work out. Sure, Bobby Ryan should make like $1M less. Jared Cowen is paid like a defenceman he’s never been. Chris Neil and Chris Phillips are old and ineffective. But none of those deals were made without justification at the time. Some of the guys  are well loved and have been with the franchise their whole careers. Some were given Turris-like low risk / high reward contracts that didn’t pan out. Jared Cowen has prestige and punched Ian White in the face that one time. That doesn’t mean that management is inept. Whatever swings for the fences that fell short are more than than made up for by the high value contracts for Karlsson, Turris, Anderson, Stone, Zibanejad, Methot, MacArthur, Hoffman, Chiasson, and Wiercioch.

What does this mean for people who write and read about the team? Well:

  • The team can’t spend money that isn’t there, so don’t suggest that they go out and get whomever.
  • The owner will not sell the team just so we can have a new owner who has the money to go out and get whomever.
  • The team is going to keep trying to sneak into the playoffs where “anything can happen” ™ for the foreseeable future. No five-year rebuild.
  • Though we can note when a contract didn’t pan out, and how a team that needs to spend money wisely can’t have too many bad contracts, spilling literally twenty million words every year about what amounts to about 14% of their cap space delivering 7% of its value just isn’t compelling enough a story to convince anyone that ownership and management don’t know what they’re doing.

So, with what does that leave us? How can we possibly write about hockey in Ottawa if we’re not wringing our hands about finances?

Well, for starters, acknowledging that everybody knows the above and closing those discussions for a wee period of time allows us to focus on the individual games being played right there in front of us, every other night, like magic. It allows us to enjoy and to talk about the experience of watching live hockey, and the myriad moments in any given game that contribute to the end result.

Letting go of the bugaboo of ownership dollars and Greening’s contract allows us to give in to the dizzying highs and desultory lows of watching a small-town hockey team, led by the greatest defenceman of his generation and an undrafted goaltender with hamburgers painted on the side of his helmet, as it attempts to snatch divine inspiration from the vain clutches of the media-market gods.

It allows us bloggers, unwashed and uncouth, to write about important topics like fairness, and inclusiveness, and community, and to participate in something larger than any one of us, and to revel in celebrations of Asgardian scope and become deeply and inconsolably depressed when the team blows a lead in the last minute.

It allows us to put aside the petty, daily distractions we are each faced with and to enjoy sport as entertainment. And, when we aren’t enjoying it, to change the channel and watch something else.

And it allows us to identify the many, many other things to write about and talk about that will come to us spontaneously after one too many plastic cups of $9 draft.

What I’m saying is that I’m supremely looking forward to this year, not least of which because we have an exciting young team, but also because it’s possible for us to create the conditions in which to enjoy it. Hockey is a lot of fun. It’s the best sport in the world. Let’s start talking about it that way.

At least until we start talking about the new arena. During the construction of which we will all die.


It’s July. The draft is over. The “free-agent frenzy” *shudder* is over. The playoffs…(checks internet)…appear to be over. That means we’re as far from meaningful hockey as a person can be. Which gives me a little bit of breathing room to run as spurious an article as I can think of.

How LIKEABLE are the Sens, anyway? I mean, but really. I like them. You probably like them. But how about relative to other teams? Is that not the true barometer for likeability—comparing oneself to one’s peers in a way that undermines one’s confidence? I think so.

So here, in ascending order, are the 30 NHL teams in terms of likeability.

The Horrible Stinkers

30: Toronto Maple Leafs

Huge surprise, I know. This isn’t (just) Sens-fan bile. They’re a terrible team who are totally undeserving of the love they receive and whose overlords throw money around to the degree that should they ever win a Cup it should come with an asterisk. They got a little more likeable sans-Kessel, but the brand and market are so unlikeable that it transcends the actual makeup of the team. All these guys need to do to be the least likeable team in hockey (maybe even pro sports) is to put on that uniform and dominate the media regardless of performance. Leafs suck.

29: Philadelphia Flyers

I guess you could argue that these guys being unlikeable means that they’ve achieved their goal. They want you to hate them. Well, mission accomplished. Even their fans hate them because of how often they make laughably bad decisions in an attempt to recapture a glory that never existed. These guys are what you end up with when you take a “team identity” and privilege it over every rational metric for team building.

28: Montreal Canadiens

This might be an example of an otherwise only mildly obnoxious team and brand being dragged down by the most obnoxious fan base in hockey. Toronto is in a hysterical panic all the time. Montreal is trying to explain the meaning of the universe outside a bar and won’t stop dominating the conversation even though people are shooting looks at one another behind its back. Plus Brendan Gallagher.

27: Boston Bruins

See Flyers, Philadelphia. Totally willing to trade immensely talented players in an attempt to get “Bruins tough.” Also completely have Ottawa’s number. Saved from a bottom three finish because it’s a nice uniform and it wasn’t Chara’s fault Ottawa didn’t re-sign him. And Bobby Orr. Points detracted for Don Cherry.

26: Florida Panthers

Because you forgot they existed until now. Only exist because they’re attached to a shopping mall with valuable parking real estate. Elevated a bit by Luongo, who seems like a genuinely nice and funny guy.

25: Anaheim Ducks

Built like Philly, except with skill. Perry is immensely hateable…and awesome. Obvious deduction of likeability points for Things that Happened in 2007 That Shall Not Be Articulated Here. Stupid name for a stupid team. Product of capitalism synergy lifesuck peak oil go to hell.

24: San Jose Sharks

They have what seems like 6-7 really great players and have never scared anyone. They’re entering their desperate, “it’s all about identity!” panicky, scrambling-for-answers-before-the-window shuts mode, AKA Ottawa Senators 2008-2013.

23: Vancouver

Mediocre team with Toronto-lite hysterical market that employs Alex Burrows and once employed Matt Cooke. Fans burned down the town once, which is Montreal’s dick move.

22: New Jersey Devils

It takes a special kind of team to not just be uninteresting, but to actually ruin hockey for everyone else through their very style of play. Wasn’t even a particular coach that did it. Boring hockey is who they are.

21: Edmonton Oilers

An embarrassment for the sport. Yeah, those dynasties were awesome, but present day Gretzky is like the king of a minor country if he lost a bet and could only wear golf shirts for the rest of his life. Even has his own clothing line is mostly golf shirts. Institutional cronyism on skates.

20: Calgary Flames.

Hired Brian Burke. Hired Bob Hartley. Saved from lower finish because of (lingering) association with Jerome Iginla, Nicest Man in Dodge.

The Slightly Stinky Middle

19: Carolina Hurricanes

I could not generate an interest in this team if I had a gun to my head and had to name six players on their roster to prevent my own murder. Bad team that overspends to be bad, bad uniforms, obnoxious colors, flukiest bunch of flukes that ever fluked. Won a Cup, lessening the value of the Cup.

18: Tampa Bay Lightning

See Hurricanes, Carolina, except with the added detriment of having more money than god. Do gain some points by virtue of Stamkos being awesome and cool and Yzerman being awesome and cool if over-valorized for his GM work because he spends like a drunken sailor.

17: Pittsburgh Penguins

Points added for Lemieux, uniform with skating penguin on it. Points deducted for winning generational lottery, inventing the modern tank model, Matt Cooke’s career.

16: New York Rangers

They have the unfair advantage of being located in the best place on earth. But points added because every weekend I’ve spent in New York has been one of the best weekends of my life. Henrik is Handsome. Sean Avery was annoying but in a sort of innovative way?

15: Dallas Stars

Brett Hull: amazing hockey player who sort of lowers the tone…of America. Players only want to play there because it’s in a state full of insane anti-tax libertarian Tommy Lee Joneses so they get to keep all of their millions at the expense of schools and art and stuff.

14: Winnipeg Jets

Feel good story about getting their team back followed inexorably by realization they were the Atlanta Thrashers except in Winnipeg. All of these years later STILL not using classic Jets logo, which is a crime.

13: Los Angeles Kings

Good team playing modern style. Coach seems to hate life itself, but in a ha-ha way. Come back against crazy odds (except this year). I don’t know, I’ve got nothing against the Kings.

12: Arizona Coyotes

They’re boring and I don’t care about them and I’m seriously sick of reading about their financial problems, but Antoine Vermette is, what, a top five most likeable guy in the league? And he went back there after winning a Cup with Chicago? I’m rooting for them, if only because I’m rooting for him.

11: Washington Capitals

They’re sorta due for some vintage love. Never quite a bad team, never quite a threat. One of these days they’re going to go on an insane run, and I get the sneaking suspicion that most of us will be closet Cap fans. That might be a bit strong. We won’t actively be rooting against them to lose in the first round again.

10: Colorado Avalanche

Roy leaves Montreal, wins Cup in Colorado, cements Colorado at #10 on this list. Joe Sakic.

The Teams with Hardly Any Stink 

9: New York Islanders

Former embarrassment of the league turns into seriously fun team to watch. Dynasty memories. Moving to Brooklyn (which…I don’t know, could seriously impact their place in these standings one way or another…). Jack Capuano’s hair is so, so bad. He looks like fat Def Leppard.

8: Ottawa Senators

Probably higher than what other people would rate them, but come on! Hamburglar! Poor ass team wins over cynical city hearts on miracle run! Loses points for every single iteration of their uniform ever and Eugene Melnyk, but Erik Karlsson is an angel sharing mana from heaven through a diamond trumpet.

7: Minnesota Wild

People can love or hate that high-concept puma headed logo, but this is a hockey crazy state that, for me, sorta exemplifies what you want the sport to be. They sort of suck and have a GM who rails against player salaries and then pays out $200 million for two players. But it’s not like they’re unique in that.

6: Buffalo Sabres

They were one of my least favorite teams as recently as 3-4 years ago. They employed guys like Steve Ott. Their uniforms are awful. They’re an embarrassment to the league most nights. But being the #1 underdog goes a long way in my books, and they were one of the historically worst teams in league last year. Imagine poor old Matt Moulson having to actually put on skates and do that night after night. And the good people of Buffalo have suffered – oh lord have they suffered. So I hope this #6 spot on an Ottawa Senators blog wipes away all of that indignation, which I’m sure it does.

5: St. Louis Blues

Sort of so unremarkable that you forget they keep demolishing the regular season and have some killer players on their team. Classy uniform. On the verge of becoming the San Jose Sharks by overcompensating for never winning, but for now I like them. Which according to this scale, makes them likeable!

4: Nashville Predators

Play prototypical moneypuck hockey. Them against the world, since nobody cares about them. Philly tried to push them around with the Weber offer sheet and they matched. Speaking of which: Second best defenceman in the league. Guitar strings running through the numbers on the uni. Points deducted for Mike Ribeiro.

3: Chicago Blackhawks

Toews. Kane. Modern dynasty. Nobody unlikeable on them (maybe Bollig?). Hossa. Keep having to lose the lineup for cap considerations; keep being good. The rare original six team that isn’t totally drunk on its own history, mostly because they don’t have to resort to history. They’re good right now.

2: Columbus Blue Jackets

Loveable losers and misfit toys who take it in the teeth over and over. The market loves them. The team loves the market. There’s not a person alive who would hate for the Jackets to go on a nice long playoff win streak. Giant fever-dream bee or wasp or something in Civil War uniform for a mascot. That is, when it isn’t a cannon that looks like genitals.

1: Detroit Red Wings

Sigh. It’s like this was destined. Nobody hates the Wings. Maybe Colorado fans, but even they respect the Wings. They’ve got everything: fun players to watch, great vets to admire, a winning history, a smart system, beautiful uniforms, and a city that needs good news. Nobody hates the Wings, and in this league, that’s the same as loving them.

Is consistency the unrecognized analytics factor?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this Senators’ goalie situation and the fact that we just absolutely MUST trade a goaltender and get good value back otherwise everyone’s going to write 200 blog posts about how we didn’t. I was also thinking about how Chicago is probably going to have to trade another 3-4 good players to stay under the cap next year, and Cory Crawford, he of the lucrative new deal could be on the block.

If I were a GM in either situation, what would I do? Could Chicago really go into next year with Scott Darling as its starting goaltender? Would Ottawa go into next year with an injury-prone older starter and Wildcard Hammond? How about Lehner, who has all of the potential in the world but is in the middle of his own personal time travel journey?

This led me to think about how much GMs pay for potential and projections, and how little they pay for consistency. Here’s a theory:

In an analytics-driven, salary-cap era, a player’s value is expressed in three ways: 1) The degree to which he drives possession. 2) His statline relative to his peers. And 3) How much money he makes.

Each of these three factors are dependent on one another. It’s why expensive Alex Ovechkin can be one of the best players in the world and still have people question his value, and why scoreless Erik Condra can be cheap and drive possession but be allowed to walk for nothing.

(I guess there’s a fourth factor in here encompassing all of those other intangible qualities, like sticktoittiveness and likeability and being a good dude.)

One factor that I think might be missing in all of this is if a player performs consistently. I know, you must be thinking “this is obvious. If a player performs well consistently, then a GM knows it and factors it in.” But I’m talking about if a player performs only averagely, but consistently. I’d like to argue that that consistency provides a level of value over and above the player’s statline and possession metrics.

Because a player is consistent, it means that a GM can plan around him. He can better understand the gaps on a team in a coming year and spend his meager resources, in terms of picks and cap space, to plug those gaps, confident in the knowledge that they won’t produce yet more gaps.

This is the place in the blog post where I would love to include a spreadsheet of the most consistent players, but frankly I don’t have the data. War on Ice will give you cumulative totals, but I don’t have the patience to download stats season-by-season and run the spreadsheets to describe variance. What I’d love to see, though, is which players above a certain threshold for possession (so we weed out the players who are consistently bad) display the lowest variance from season to season. Basically what you end up with are players about whom you know what to expect. And that, in itself, has value.

I know I’m mixing up skaters and goalies here, and I don’t know if Chicago will trade Cory Crawford, especially if he helps them win another Cup. But I do know that if Chicago can find a cheaper option with less variance in his statline, they can reliably pour the savings elsewhere to compensate. The same holds true for Ottawa. Lehner might have a higher ceiling, but also a higher variance than, say, Craig Anderson. And knowing that variance has value.

I hope you enjoyed this summertime blog post. Stay safe everyone, and wear sunscreen.

Trading Goalies: Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game

So, this is a bit of a weird one, innit?

We began the season wondering if the extension to Craig Anderson was prudent given that Robin Lehner was clearly ready to ascend to both his throne of human skulls and the starting position, in which case we’d have an overpriced backup goaltender who’d already proclaimed he needs to start a lot of games to be effective. And now, with only a handful of games left, Lehner is all but an afterthought, Anderson continues to have a puzzling number of hand problems, and an unheralded, undrafted goaltender with terrible numbers in the AHL is pulling the earth off its orbit by ignoring the rules of physics and chance.

From a resource management point-of-view, it’s an enviable position for the Sens to be in, and I know we’re all into hockey because it fulfills our need to debate about resource management. They have a bona-fide starter with a reasonable salary. A young, prestige goalie with the potential to be a franchsie cornerstone, also with a reasonable salary. And a player who is either nothing or the second coming of the son of god on whom to sell high.

The problem with trying to cash in on Hammond while his value is high is that the number of times someone has pointed out that Andrew Hammond’s performance is not sustainable has now reached stratospheric heights. I don’t think there’s anyone in the league, Sens fans included, who think that what’s happening right now is normal. I mean, it’s fun as hell and I don’t want it to ever stop, but if Ottawa were to try to cash in on him, what would they get? A draft pick, AKA a lottery ticket? Maybe a later-round prospect?

Jaroslav Halak once had a magical run for the Canadiens, carrying the team on his back to the Eastern Conference Finals. And Halak – an NHL goaltender who was actually drafted and developed – yielded two prospects in return: former first round pick Lars Eller, who could be a second-line player, and Ian Schultz, who has yet to crack an NHL lineup.

In retrospect it seems like a decent enough return, in that Eller has cemented a place in the Habs lineup. But two untested prospects for the hottest goaltender in hockey, and who was only 24 at the time–supposedly entering his prime–held a lot of risk. Neither player is really comparable in worth to a starting goaltender, even if the Habs didn’t know at the time that that’s what Halak was.

Hammond is 27, and has far worse numbers than Halak (up until recently, obviously). A team might want to gamble on him by sending a later pick Ottawa’s way, but what’s more valuable to the Senators: a pick with a tiny chance of becoming an NHL player, and likely a third or fourth liner at that, or the chance, however slight, that Hammond is a legit starter? If it doesn’t pan out, it seems worth the risk.

Given how little it will likely take to re-sign Hammond, and how little the team will get in a trade, I think it only makes sense to keep the good times rolling and swing for the fences on this one.

What about Anderson? For all of his injury problems, has also been stellar for Ottawa this year, deserving a far better fate in many of his losses. Injuries will always be a concern with his age, but I think he can provide value at least through the end of his current deal.

Which brings us to Robin Lehner.

Now, I like Lehner. I think he gives Ottawa just the amount of crazy it needs to get by, especially considering their lineup is made-up of fresh-faced, genuinely nice guys like Turris, Karlsson, and Lazar. I love this speedy, skilled iteration of the Sens, but let’s admit that they’re not the most intimidating bunch. In that context, I enjoy Lehner’s goat sacrificing, Satanistic ways. But the number of times he’s been mentioned in a package deal for something truly ridiculous – Rick Nash or Taylor Hall fer Crissake – makes the potential for a deal too tantalizing to pass us. Lehner still has the perceived value to wrest something of qualitatively demonstrable value from another team’s grubby hands.

There’s a lot of risk in what I’m describing, of course. Going into a season with a 33-year old starter and a 27-year old backup, and without a blue chip goaltending prospect in the hopper, is generally not a recipe for sound sleeps.

I maintain, however, that the opportunity here is just too interesting to pass up. I’ve seen what Bryan Murray and his drafting team can do with a mid-round pick (names rhymes with Schmarlsson) but it’s truly tantalizing to think of Ottawa packaging their first rounder in the draft this year with Lehner to plug a hole on their blueline, or add scoring help up front, or both.

Murray and Melnyk must feel a bit vindicated with this recent run–it turns out that the team is a lot better than anyone thought, and all it took was all of the team’s bad players getting injured at once to prove it. But they could turn into a really interesting dark horse contender in the East if they added that gamebreaking piece that only a prestige player like Lehner can get you.

Jeffrey Simpson’s Globe and Mail Article about the Senators is Hot Garbage

It’s not often we take time here at WTYKY to respond to a particular article in detail, but Jeffrey Simpson’s article in the Globe and Mail yesterday feels significant, and indicative of some common assumptions about hockey and how it works, and so warrants a closer look.

Of note is the author: Simpson is a public policy commenter, a winner of several media awards, and perhaps best known for his book Chronic Condition, an analysis of the worsening state of Canada’s health care system. To see his name next to an article about the mediocre performance of a small-market NHL team is, at the very least, interesting. But it’s also the equivalent of delicate dissection by bazooka. This isn’t the everyday hockey analyst, paid to spit outrage daily and meet site hit quotas. This is an eminent thinker in Canadian policy, at least when looked at through a mainstream lens, spilling over 2000 words about the Senators being bad, and blaming management.

Let’s take a closer look:

While the “national” hockey media shoot fish in a barrel reporting obsessively on the collapse of the Toronto Maple Leafs, up the road in Ottawa, a franchise has been in slow decline.


Melnyk, who has recently sold his stables and horses to raise money, used to brag about being willing to spend to the NHL salary cap in quest of a winning team. Now, Melnyk boasts about having imposed one of the league’s lowest salary caps on the Senators, claiming other owners are blowing money on bad deals. The result is obvious on the ice and in the organization. The Senators cannot compete against teams with much higher salaries. The co-relation is not exact (see the Leafs), but larger-spending teams do tend to finish higher up in the standing.

This is an odd way to start an article. So, is there a relation between spending and winning? Yes, but it’s a very general one, and the inclusion of Toronto in the analogy is proof of that. We don’t need to look far for more examples: Philadelphia, Carolina, Edmonton, Dallas, Boston, Los Angeles, Minnesota and San Jose are all spending at or near the cap and underperforming. To start a (long) article with the thesis that a team needs to spend to win is the equivalent of shooting at the broad side of a barn. He’s not wrong, but it’s also not a one-to-one equivalent.

Melnyk remains defiant, insisting in December, “I’m not in the least embarrassed about us spending at the bottom. I’m happy about it because we’ll be able to spend more in the future and some can’t. Some are stuck.”

I’m not exactly sure what an owner without money to spend is supposed to do when responding to questions about why he doesn’t spend more. Especially when he’s trying to sell tickets.

Perhaps this smaller-market reflex explains a little why Sens fans are remarkably uncomplaining. They don’t make much noise compared to fans in other cities. They seldom boo. They don’t throw sweaters on the ice in disgust or wear garbage bags over their heads. They don’t hold up homemade signs decrying mediocrity. The Ottawa media are tame by Toronto standards.

It’s almost as though by expressing unhappiness at Melnyk’s Mess, fans fear he might try to move the team, which of course he could not easily do under league bylaws. Were his creditors ever to force him to sell the club, it would be purchased by someone else.

Another option unexplored here is that perhaps the team isn’t as bad as Toronto, and is actually kind of fun to watch. Ottawa has been missing a top 4 D for most of the season, has lost more games in OT or the shootout than all but four other teams in the league, and is still a .500 team.They had possession problems at the beginning of the year, since improved under Cameron. No, they’re not contenders, but to act like they’re terrible is just misleading.

Invoking the spectre of relocation is just crass and silly. Where would Ottawa relocate to? If Arizona and Florida and Carolina and Nashville and any number of other teams who don’t rake in the cash haven’t relocated, why on earth does Simpson think the league would actually approve and abet a relocation from a Canadian market? Ottawa was actually bankrupt once and didn’t relocate. It’s ridiculous.

Ottawa’s ticket sales and prices are around league average; there’s a new television deal in place that lasts more than a decade; they’ve just submitted a bid to build a new arena downtown. I don’t think anyone but Simpson is thinking about relocation, let alone pointing to it as a reason why Sens fans don’t complain more.

The more obvious reason for that, I think, is that the team actually isn’t that bad. Or I guess Simpson could spend more time on Twitter before he says Sens fans don’t complain.

That he would be forced to sell the club is a consummation for which a growing number of sophisticated and dedicated Sens fans devoutly wish.

How sophisticated is a Sens fan if they cling to the idea that a person who owns a commodity, pays his employees, and spends within the limits set by the league, would be “forced” to sell his club? This is one of the most ridiculous, patently absurd declarations in the article, and setting up a binary where if you don’t believe in it, it means you’re “unsophisticated” is just wrong. In reality, claiming that an owner should be forced to sell because you don’t like him is pretty unsophisticated.

Update: realizing after the fact that Simpson is saying it’s Melnyk’s creditors who would force him to sell, though after what we’ve seen in Arizona, Florida, Nashville and elsewhere, I don’t think that’s any more likely. The league would extend emergency funding so he could make payments long before he’d have to
resort to a $400MM sale to meet his loan obligations.

In fairness, the slide began almost imperceptibly under the previous general manager, John Muckler: two straight draft years without an NHL player, the Dany Heatley for Marian Hossa trade, poor moves at the trading deadline. The slide has continued since.

Was the Heatley for Hossa trade part of a slide? I recall Heatley forming 1/3 of the most productive line in hockey when he was here and scoring back-to-back 50 goal seasons. Wasn’t he also part of the Cup Final year? Bizarre logic.

The Senators are privately owned, so no one knows how much revenue the club produces goes into debt payment. What is known is that when Melnyk bought the franchise, which was bankrupt in 2005, he did so with plenty of debt. It is not known what Melnyk’s two divorces did to his wealth.

This is true. What the article fails to look at – and which I haven’t seen many articles look at – is that the prevailing business model of sports franchises everywhere, in every sport, is to finance the purchase and operational expenses with debt and hold on for dear life while the underlying value of the franchise increases. Then you sell for a profit.

The Sens have increased in value fourfold since Melnyk took over. That his personal fortune has diminished is unfortunate for Sens fans, but is a byproduct of a league who relies on billionaires with designs on glory, whose fortunes are subject to variances in their markets, rather than on more stable conglomerates or networks of buyers. The NHL should be doing more to stabilize the market than vet the next wacky telecom personality riding high on a wave of success. Today’s billionaire is tomorrow’s millionaire, and Melnyk isn’t anything special in that regard. He’s a byproduct of the system, not the problem.

Rather than comparisons with Toronto or Edmonton, Sens fans should check out how the Montreal Canadiens have soared under owner Geoff Molson and general manager Marc Bergevin. Or the Winnipeg Jets, a team in a smaller market than Ottawa, that is going to qualify for the playoffs and has a stacked farm system.

This is hilarious. Montreal has had success of late, but only after years and years of mediocrity, and only because of all-star goaltending and a Norris winning defenceman. Sound familiar? Ottawa also beat Montreal soundly in the playoffs not too long ago.

Winnipeg is about to make the playoffs for the first time in their modern history, and Simpson is actually pointing to them as an example of what Ottawa should do? How does he presume that Winnipeg got their stacked farm system, anyway?

The Senators are lumbered with bad contracts to underperforming players. There are not as many horrible contracts as in Toronto, but for a low-cap team, a bevy of bad contracts eats up desperately needed money.

As in, a three-year, $7.9-million contract for Colin Greening, who is now in Binghamton, never to return. As in, a two-year, $6-million contract for declining centre-iceman David Legwand, signed as a free agent. As in, a $4-million-a-year, three-year deal for Milan Michalek (11 goals in 51 games). A slightly more lucrative and longer deal for Clarke MacArthur (one goal in 2015).

I don’t disagree that there are some stinker contracts in there, but I thought the premise of the article was that Ottawa needs to spend. Now it’s that Ottawa spends frivolously.

If the point of this article is that Ottawa should spend a lot of money, but only on good contracts, then it’s not only obvious and condescending, it’s insipid. The challenge, Jeff, is how you do that. It’s not like Ottawa can just go out and sign all of the best UFAs tomorrow because 1) there aren’t any good UFAs available, and 2) Ottawa is not as attractive a destination as New York City.

What they have to do is take longshots on players who might provide value on their contracts down the line. Sometimes it works, as it has with Turris. Sometimes it doesn’t, like with Greening.

Bobby Ryan, a joyous personality and a talented player, has signed an eyebrow-raising contract starting next year: an average $7.25-million, not commensurate with someone with 14 goals this year and on target for maybe 20 or 22.

So now we’re rating Bobby Ryan, on pace for some of the highest point totals of his career, solely on goals?

The slide – remember the Senators went to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007 and remained strong for several years thereafter – has featured bad trades, the worst being goalie Ben Bishop to Tampa for Cory Conacher.

They remained strong for several years thereafter? I thought they were consistently mediocre, according to this article. They were swept in the first round the year after the finals and missed the year after, all while spending to the cap.

Yeah, the trade of Bishop for Conacher was bad. How about the Turris trade? Or the Ryan trade? Or the Anderson trade?

By contrast, the trade that brought Kyle Turris from Phoenix was a steal for Ottawa, although this season with Jason Spezza gone has revealed that Turris is a second-line centre, not a No. 1.

Oh, there it is. A backhanded mention that Turris isn’t a #1 center without Spezza, ignoring that Turris played most of a season without Spezza already and was fine.

The Senators are among the league’s youngest teams. Perhaps that explains the team’s inconsistency, as in a 6-3 loss this week at home to a bad Carolina team; a 4-2 triumph over first-place Montreal. The franchise hopes that many of young players are still adjusting to the demands of the NHL and, with time and more experience they will help the Senators improve. The Senators will have a high pick this year in a draft with many fine players.

Yes. Finally. This is what’s called “building.”

At some point in the not-too-distant future, the Senators’ front office will look somewhat different. Whether with the budget constraints as they are, new personnel could reverse the slow slide remains to be seen.

And there’s the whole rotten thing in a nutshell: criticism and finger-wagging without a single solution beyond the following embarrassingly obvious ones:

  1. Spend more money! Even if you don’t have it! But only on players who deserve it!
  2. Only make good trades! Never make bad ones!
  3. Don’t sign anyone to a bad contract! It helps if you know how they’re going to perform into the future, so you should know that! It’s apparently easy!
  4. Win more games, but at the same time, draft good talent! I’m ignoring that your draft record is actually pretty damned good!
  5. If you can’t do any of those things, force the owner to sell the team, something which can’t actually be done and which, in a league which wants to remain business friendly, would never happen!

What I would have liked to see from an analyst of Simpson’s stature is an attempt to solve to irreconcilability at the center of the NHL business model. If an owner doesn’t have money to spend to the cap, but has enough to keep it running, and so an interest in continuing to wait until his investment accrues more value before he sells, and you’re already in a league with revenue sharing, a cap, escrow, and more, than what, exactly, can be done?

It’s totally infuriating to see someone so respected dip his toe into the hockey pond with such an amateur, illiterate analysis. More infuriating still to see some Sens fans jump all over this article as truth.

This is pandering garbage and dead content designed to stoke the dissatisfaction of readers without much to look forward to for the rest of this season. It should be ignored with extreme prejudice.