The Verdict Part 3: Coaching, Management & Moves

Verdict

Daaaaaamn, Judgey Judgerton back at it again with the inconsequential taaaaaakes

Coaching 

Dave Cameron Ugh. This.

K. As much as some seem folk out there to want it to be, this bad season is not all on Dave Cameron…but also gotta hear both sides because this guy wasn’t all that great as a coach too.
The tough thing with evaluating coaches is that you’ll never know the full story behind 100% of their decisions but at the end of the day, some of Dave’s came off kind of desperate and didn’t make much sense.
The team had a lot of injuries this year and I’m sure that messed up his plan. I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t in his grand design to have to start either O’Connor or Dreiger in the home opener or to put Pageau on the top line.
That said, when judging Cam’s performance it always comes down to one decision for me: Playing Mark Borowiecki as a forward. I know I’m like a broken record with this but it’s only because this one is cut and dried just a horrible, avoidable decision that in no way helped the team win. It’s not as if Boro had a history of playing both defense and forward in college (a time for experimentation!). Nor does Boro even have an applicable skill set to warrant the decision to move him there. If Cameron, had played, say, Chris Wideman, up front I could wrap my head around that. He’s a crafty puck handler with a great speed and a hard, accurate shot. Wiercioch as a forward for a game? I could see that too potentially, I guess. Why Boro?

Related: How TIGHT would you be if you were Cole Schneider leading the BSens in points and the shutmost of shutdown defenseman was getting the nod to fill in ahead of you. Damn.

Speaking of player usage, I’d like to bring up one thing that I just cannot forget about: One of the questions asked of Cameron in his first presser after he took over for MacLean was “Will this be the end of Line Juggling Bingo” and Cameron said, “I’ve never been big on juggling the lines.” Then less than a calendar year later we have shit like Boro at forward and Bobby Ryan in a “non-scoring” role. Like injuries shminjuries WTF? He ended up worse than MacLean with the bingo balls in just one full season.
Could Cameron have been given another year? Yeah. He’d have probably had better results with a healthier line up and a year of Phaneuf instead of Cowen/Wiercioch.
Was Murray too zesty to extend him for multiple years given mistakes of the past? Definitely. With so little NHL experience Cameron would have accepted a one year contract.
Finally, did Ol’ Coach Blue Eyes seem in over his head a little at times? I think, like every coach since Bryan Murray, it showed. Post-Hartsberg/Paddock/Clouston/MacLean and now Cameron I think the team does need to return to someone with NHL head coach experience.

Verdict: Right to part ways but I propose a media blackout of Eugene Melnyk.

André Tourigny Did you run the power play? Well you’re fuckin’ fired.

Simple as this: How you gonna have the 9th highest scoring team in the N HAITCH L and have a 15% power play?

Verdict: Right to part ways.

Jason Smith Are you the defensive coach? Well you’re fuckin’ fired.

This guy arguably did a worse job than Tourigny. I’m pretty bummed that he was shuffled around the organization and not dismissed outright but whatever. The defensive coach will be different next year and that’s what matters most to me as a fan.

Verdict: Absolutely should have been dismissed.

Rick Wamsley Uhhh, look lady, this ain’t my real job, okay?

A huge reason credited to Hammond’s emergence was Rick Wamsley’s coaching. A big factor leading Matt O’Connor to sign here was a chance to work with “Wammer”. Seems rash to get rid of him. I also heard he played a big role in running practice drills which were apparently shit, M8. So…

Verdict: I plead even more ignorance than usual. I suppose this gives the new coach a chance to fully staff their ranks going forward? Man, this coach of the future better slaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

Luke Richardson I would like to start off by acknowledging that Luke Richardson is an awesome and inspirational person who has been through unimaginable stuff. My respect for him and his family almost makes writing stuff like this objectively quite challenging. Here goes nothin…

On a professional level, one thing I’ve never quite understood is the degree to which Luke was coveted as the golden goose of the coaching staff. So much fear of Luke over being snatched away by Tim Murray was expressed over the years. Like, I wouldn’t be thrilled about that happening I guess but I don’t know if that what it is about him leaving that had people so shook. A couple of good seasons in Bingo, one DEEC season and then one brutal one. Kurt Kleinendorst won a Calder Cup and was gone just one season later. I don’t remember uproar about that. Life goes on.

Luke seems like a positive guy and a very good communicator from what I can gather from interviews. These qualities in a coach  don’t grow on trees, unfortunately. With his eyes set on a chance at an NHL job, with the Sens regime change, it obviously wasn’t going to happen for him here. I think Dorion is banking on the next coach having NHL experience and for them to be in charge for a few years. Makes sense if it will be best for both parties to move on.

Verdict: A tough one. I hate that the organization loses such a quality person but ultimately I support both a full coaching changeover as well as giving Richardson his best chance to advance his career.

Management

Bryan Murray First off, again, respect to the person. This man is a Marine and a hockey legend. I hope he winds up in the hockey hall of fame sooner than later.  I don’t know if I should really sum up his entire tenure with Ottawa in this small space. That’s another post and one that should probably be written someone more eloquent than me.

Focusing on more recent Brystory, I can see at the end of the last few off-seasons why BMurr would waver about his future only to re-up the next year. He’s built a pretty solid but still growing core here over the years. I’m sure he’d be thinking ‘just a few more moves and this could be something’. There were blunders along the way but I felt this year he cleaned up a few huge ones. Dumping a bunch of burdensome or straight up dead salary for an actual player who can fill a much needed role was undeniably huge. The Phaneuf trade has it’s critics and he deserves blame for putting the team in that position but what I see in that deal is the wizardry required to address team needs without the option of money to fix things.

Under the ever-looming shitcloud of budgetary restrictions, Murray hit some absolute monster home runs as GM. But as the years pressed on, he’s taken his share of L’s too. I think he set the table as best he can. He’s had the management reins for nearly a decade, an eternity in modern pro sport. Deep down I fell much of the heavy lifting has been done and it might be alright for a fresh set of eyes to have a look at things.

Verdict: Not happy to say it but it was probably time.

Pierre Dorion Good luck in future endeavors ha ha ha…no but seriously do not fuck up your future endeavors.

Given the restrictions that Bryan Murray had to work within for the past few years it’s not the worst idea to have a guy who was learned the ropes under a GM who did an admirable job dealing with both the budget AND A MEDDLESOME EGOMANIACAL OWNER – wow. Sorry.
Seriously, Dorion has negotiated some seriously shrewd contracts over the past couple of years. They are a shitty reality necessary to making the club “work” so it’s a vital strength to have as Sens GM. I also really like that PD’s background is in scouting. Something not only helpful for drafting but also figuring out who to acquire in the Mike Hoffman tra—ahahaha *tear*

Under Melnyk the general manager position is a uniquely tense and difficult one. Dorion has been groomed for it for years now. Unlike nearly every goalie we’ve drafted now that he’s been developed he’s actually being kept around and given his shot.

Verdict: Probably one of the few people who actually knows HOW to run this team under current ownership [theme].

 

Randy Lee Made that giant trade with Rocheste and the BSens seemed to improve greatly after. I’m no expert with the BSens (peep the gawd Alicia Straunch’s insight for that) but after an apparent lockey room rift and 2nd last place finish I’m for a new look Binghamton team. Shout out to addressing problems. Seems like they changed things up without really sacrificing whatever depth is still there.

Verdict: Brutal BSens season not a good look but at least he did something about it instead of sitting on his hands. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if he did. Good to keep him on board.

In Memoriam: A look back at the players we lost this year. Was it right to let these players set sail?

Milan Michalek Milan Michalek, man…You know, when Milo is talked about in the press it’s never long before how much respect his teammates have for him is mentioned. This is just a pet theory [thx4reading] but I think a lot of it comes from his teammates watching a guy with chronic knee injuries show up to a physical job every day and compete at a high level without complaint. No further proof of that to me than after he was traded to Toronto they promptly shut him down for the year with a knee injury. Damn, he’s had a rough career.

In terms of his usefulness as a player I’ve long said, $4M is a lot of money but blessed is the guy who can fill in on any line without issue, kill penalties and chip in with the odd goal. That said, with the injuries piling up and another 4 mill on the books for next season, it was time for our poor ass team to let go of 9MM. Basically the only player on TML’s current roster that I admire.

Verdict: Right to part ways.

Jared Cowen Is it too much to say this guy was basically the Alexandre Daigle of defence? JC had great size, some offensive upside, and WJC pedigree when he was taken 9th overall in 2009 (Seven years ago tbx!). Of course, he never had the hype of Daigle but at least Daigle was kind enough to at least be a DEEC if mediocre player. I mean, he did have a 24 goal 51 point season here. Cowen…gave Jeff Skinner a concussion…so…
Anyway, there’s not much to say about Cowen that hasn’t already been said. On paper he was the perfect partner for Erik Karlsson so can’t blame the organization for taking him high as they did (even if he was their second choice after Nazem Kadri).
Where one absolutely CAN the blame organization is for giving this guy too many goddamn chances. I can think of a few high pedigree players who the organization had the sense to cut ties with. Brian Lee and Nikita Filatov come to mind.  Thank Christ he rejected that 8 year deal that the genius Tim Murray offered him. I guess Cowen’s massive ego came in handy for something. 

Verdict: Extremely LUCKYYYYY to part ways with him.

College Greening I know it’s super outto talk about intangibles these days but if there’s a je ne sais quoi that is REAL real, it’s confidence. Good LORD. What happened to this guy? You know you fell the fuck off when you used to play in the top 3 and BOOM a $2.65M cap hit seems crazy unreasonable for your services.
I don’t know if there’s a player I feel less sympathy for than a handsome, buff 30 year old millionaire with a degree from an Ivy League school. Hope he can land on his feet. 

Verdict: Amazing to dump his contract on the leafs…I mean respectfully and amicably part ways.

Shane Prince *Vapes thoughtfully, exhales a massive cloud of Monster Energy Drink flavoured smoke*

Now that he’s gone one big question looms: Did Shane Prince get the most ideal chance to succeed here? Given Dave Cameron’s questionable player usage, it’s fair to argue he didn’t.
Still, I sometimes wonder if players like Pageau, Hoffman, and Stone really got treated much differently early into the careers. They all started off in and out of the line up by toiling away in the bottom six until further notice. Sure, Prince didn’t play with the most talented line mates but I just don’t know if I can call a player who due to his contract was pretty much guaranteed a roster spot a victim. Also, other than a few games  I must admit he was okay but didn’t exactly dazzle me. That’s not to say I don’t think he’s talented or could be something in the NHL one day but his 3 goals in 42 games left something to be desired.

Take this for what you will but I had heard that since he requested a trade last season, he and the organization did not get along well. I think that might have played a large role in why he was dealt before he’d played even 1 full pro season here. As for the return. Yes, a 3rd round pick is pretty weak but imagine for a second Ottawa acquired a guy who was drafted going on 6 years ago and had 12 NHL points. Would you expect to give up more for that player?
Regardless, I for one am looking forward to every point he gets for the next 5 years to be carefully catalogued on twitter. Please be better than this guy Matt Puempel. I’m begging you.

Verdict: The way this played out I feel like we don’t know the full story here. Probably should have waited out the year before moving him though. He was still a controllable RFA at seasons end. Remember what Hoffman got in arbitration? Could have given him another year for peanuts.

Tobias Lindberg Loved seeing people freak out to the “Lindberg could make the leafs roster full time as early as next year” headlines on TML fan blogs like TSN.ca/NHL. That or the hand wringing over him getting called up all to the bigs all, “SEE we gave away an NHL player” like, okay, also, Toronto is literally the worst fucking team in the league.

Advice: When it comes to giving up players in trades, don’t waste your energy on when the crown jewel of a trade for a top 4 defender who can play 20+ minutes is a guy putting up single digits on a shit team.
I’m calling it, Lindberg’s not going to do much that Nick Paul or Matt Puempel won’t. Save the trade rage for Vezina nominee Ben Bishop being dealt for a dude who’s now a Swiss league player and perennial candidate for the Spengler Cup roster AKA Hockey’s Purgatory.

Verdict: You gotta give up SOMETHING in every trade. Sometimes it’s handsomeness. I think he’s a good player but honestly probably wasn’t going to get much of a shot here. Again, prepare for every point he gets for the rest of his career to be chronicled, bronzed, polished and compulsively rearranged on a shelf beside Silfverberg’s.

 

The Verdict Part 2: Defenders and Goaltenders

Verdict

Today we carry on our jerky journey of inconsequential judgement. Who’s on the docket? Oh, gooood defensemen and goaltenders. This should be quick and easy. Who should stay and who should go? 

Erik Karlsson Well, you know, best player in franchise history at age 25. In a perfect world he would be a lock for his third, second consecutive Norris trophy.

Verdict: APPARENTLY NO ONE IS SAFE but I suppose keep.

Dion Phaneuf Hi, Dion Phaneuf plays for the Ottawa Senators.

Not since Rocky Balboa’s historic “We can all change” speech that ended Communism have I had to checkitty check the shit out of my feels about anything.
After hating him for years, two games into his time here it was clear to me that Dion was exactly the type of player the Senators needed. I fast realized many of the reasons I couldn’t stand him are exactly why I now love him. The biggest problem with the trade? He was acquired a little too late into the season to help turn things around. Back in September of 2015 if you asked me what the thing I’d be most pumped about going into the 2016-17 season was, I’d have definitely responded “A full season of Dion Phaneuf.” Why? Because history is written by the Victors and I am known as Victor on several prominent dating sites.

My biggest concern with Phaneuf is that his leadershipocity could spill over into “taking over the locker room” territory. After watching that 30 for 30 about Shaq and Penny Hardaway on the mid-90s Orlando Magic, I am suddenly VERY sensitive to keeping your best player happy, rich and thinking he is the undisputed leader of the team, full stop.
I suppose whether an overbearing team takeover happens or not comes down to what kind of a person and teammate Dion is. Considering I’ve only thought of him as a piece of shit from Oct. 5th, 2005 though Feb. 9th, 2016, your guess is as good as mine.

Verdict: Living in the now and not 4 years from now. Very excited about going into next season with him. Keeper.

Cody Ceci We wanted a young team and we got one. With youth comes inconsistency. Ceci is pretty representative of that inconsistency but I honestly believe in him. I think he’s the Mika Zibanejad of defense. Is he a superstar? No, but what he is is a very young kid learning to play an important and difficult role with a tiny margin of error. After struggling with a rotating cast of defence partners, Ceci was a new player when Dion Phaneuf was brought in to stabilize him. He even played with a noticeable confidence without Phaneuf after he went down with a foot injury. Ceci quietly finished 2nd in scoring among defensemen with an impressive 10 goals and 26 points. He’s 22 years old.

Verdict: I believe Ceci will develop into everything Patrick Wiercioch was hyped up to be. Keep.

Chris Wideman Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan this guy switch contracts with Mark Borowiecki? Wideman was not a player I initially had tons of faith would electric slide into the NHL smoothly. Sure he won AHL defenseman of the year…but look up some of the other winners of that award. It’s a mixed bag.

Happily, Wideman has worked out quite nicely in his role. Is his game perfect? No, but that’s why he’s a 3rd paring defenseman and that’s okay. I think he could thrive even more if he had a bit of a better partner to work with.

Verdict: Great deal for what you get. Keep

Marc Methot Kind of a quiet year for Methot…I guess that’s good? Solid player on a good deal with both the wheels to keep up with Karlsson and the acumen to hold him down while EK hits us with The Art. Injuries are becoming more and more of a concern for the 30 year old who has never played a full 82 game season in his 9 season career. Also, from time to time, I worry about his [ALLEGED] Vengaboy lifestyle catching up with him.

Methot also stands to benefit greatly from the Phaneuf trade going forward as he is no longer the sole capable, big minute shut down defender on the team. Put simply: We are no longer proper fucked if Methot goes down with an injury.
Meth put up his second highest scoring total this year with 5 goals, none of which I remember. Could he be upgraded over? Yes. Will he be? Nah but he’s fine. I do kind of hope a replacement emerges for him in the next couple of seasons.

Verdict: Keep but gotta come up with a contingency plan pretty soon.

Patrick Wiercioch If you follow my Twinder account, you already know that I don’t have any love left in my heart for Patty W nor his Patty Wagon full of almost inexplicable die hard defenders.

I know, I know, why don’t I cut the most disappointing player on the roster some more slack! In a world where we’re disappointed in Ceci for his 26 point season then YEAH, Ima stay mad at Wiercioch for putting up 5.

Offensive dynamo Ben Harpur put up one point in 5 games. How you gunna tell me PW didn’t hit 10 points BY ACCIDENT in 52? Patty was the most frustrating player on the team this year not because I hate him but because I believed in him. Believed the hype more accurately. At least we knew Jared Cowen sucked from the get-go.

Anyway, I am a fan who’s willing to accept shortcomings in exchange for offence (See: Kaufman, Mike) but if you’re not a great defender and you don’t put up points what are you? A guy who can ONLY pass? I’m sorry but that’s not going to cut it in the NHL. Just ask only good at passing, former NHL player Scott Gomez. You seem like a good dude but you blew it, Patty.  After a 5 point season, an injury and a 2.7 million dollar qualifying price, homie seems bound for Europe. I truly hope he can turn it around, just not here.

Verdict: Get rid.

Mark Borowiecki Oh goooooooooooooooood finally an opinion on Mark Borowiecki. K, the biggest trick the devil [Dave Cameron] played on the world was making this no.7 defenseman a 6th…and OCCASIONAL FORWARD?! Borowiecki should basically be a non-factor on this team like Chris Neil. You know, a tough but not offensively blessed NHLer who at the amount ice time they are [ideally] allotted, shouldn’t really be a player who wins or loses games. What’s fucked is that the coach on numerous occasions put him in a position where he had to carry out a tougher assignment than he should have. It’s not Boro’s fault that he was paired with Karlsson on the top pair or that he was played at forward [More. Than. Once.]. I just hope the Sens get a coach who says, “Wow, this guy works extremely hard and sets a great example. He will be first off the healthy scratch list when one of the better defenders is sick or injured.”

Tip: Set him up to succeed by playing him less.

Finished ahead of Patrick Wiercioch in goals scored btw. These are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.

Verdict: I’m tempted to say we are totally stuck with this guy but now that management and coaching is changing hands, I’ll be interested to see if he’s still the Golden Child next season. If Greening can be sent to Bingo at 2.65 million I could see Boro getting the heave-ho at 1.1. Should be downgraded to depth regardless. Would count him being demoted to the AHL as getting rid.

Ben Harpur I don’t know, shout out? No, for real, even though he’s just 21 the kid had kind of already became an afterthought for me once I heard he got demoted to Evansville of the ECHL early in the year. A rash of injuries to the big club certainly helped things out but you have to respect him working his way up from the ECHL to a cup of coffee in the NHL in just one season. Even one NHL game is something a lot of very talented hockey players never get to experience.

Verdict: LOL like we can give up any semblance of defensive prospect depth. Keep.

Mike Kostko Michael was a pleasant student to teach. Good luck in future endeavours. I respect him but let him go, he’ll find work somewhere.

Verdict: Get rid

Freddie Claesson I think I was one of the few people  luke warm on FC when he got called up to a struggling, injury riddled D corps . Nothing against Yung Claess per se, I was just skeptical of a young shutdown down defender with zero NHL experience saving a team who was dead last in shot suppression.

I set my expectations pretty low and his inconsistent play was in line with those expectations. Some games he looked like a guy playing in the NHL for the first time and other games you could see him getting more comfortable. Diagnosis: Prospect!

A restricted free agent, there are rumours that he has AL-LEG-ED-LY been tendered an offer to play in the Swedish league. I don’t know if that’s true but if he elects to play there at 23 after only 16 NHL games I think that really says something about his drive at this point.

Verdict: Stay or go. Up to him, I suppose.

Greg Anderton Andy once again kept the Sens in more games than he should have had to. Did he have some rough ones? Well, when you start three quarters of the season for the team who is 30th for shots against you know IT HAPPENS.

Honestly, all things considered, his 31-23-2 record is pretty remarkable. He’s put up two of his 3 winningest seasons here. One of them was this year. The Sens finished in 19th. Brazy. Could you imagine the defence started lightening his load? Oh you can’t at this point? Yeah, I know that feel.
He’s getting long in the tooth on paper but can obviously still handle a ton of games. I wish he wasn’t leaned on quite so hard but I’m convinced he can still play out his deal as a bona fide quality starter. It’s the team in front of him that needs to step up

Verdict: Keep

Andrew Hammond Ah, it feels normal to get back to my roots criticizing a back up goaltender for having a whatevs season. No one expected a repeat performance of his legendary run. I mean, dude was handed the 2nd regulation, regular season loss of his CAREER this year. I didn’t expect a Vezina from him this season but a winning record was something I did.
He got off to a rough start suffering an injury just as the season began. Never a great position to be in. Still, Hammond was shaky enough that I suspect Cameron was reluctant to play him at times especially during the first half of the season. I could be wrong but I found Anderson was overplayed a little and I believe Hammond’s slow start had to do with it. He was also in net for a few of those CLASSIC blowing a huge lead games. Not entirely his fault but as a goalie you’re always going to be blamed for those type of losses. Hammond started looking like his solid self again toward the home stretch. Hopefully he goes into next year that way.

Verdict: *Looks at the Binghamton goalies’ records* OH wow, fuckiiiing Keeeeeep

Chris Dreidger Kind of brazy to think this guy is only 21. He’s been in the pro system for over 3 seasons already. Rocked a DEEC 0.00 GAA in the NHL this season. Seriously, by all accounts he really took the reins as starter in Bingo this year. Pretty impressive he squeaked out a winning record considering the season they had down there. His numbers could stand to be better but at his age he has tons of time to improve.

Verdict: Keep

Matt O’Connor Aight, so, got a rough trial by fire by being handed the home opener against a divisional rival for not only his first NHL start but first  PROFESSIONAL start. Sans pression. He was actually alright in that game but failed to get much offensive support.

In Bingo he had a concerrrrrrningly rough go. His brutal 10-20-3 record and 3.31 GAA make one think he might need time in ECHL to build up his play. I ain’t know nothing about goalie confidence building / destroying though. Until someone comes along to change my mind, I’m starting to think this whole “sought after US college player FA signing” thing might not be something to get overly excited about. Still, O’Connor turned his play around toward the end of the year. Like the case with defence, I don’t know what is gained by giving up on a prospect after one [very] bad season given the lack of depth in net. Probably the most disappointing Sens prospect this season.

Verdict: Keep. Give him another chance but …you know…yikes.

The Verdict Part 1: Forwards

Verdict

With the Ottawa Senators’ 2015-16 season now over, one question looms heavily above all:
What does JAMES have to say about this shit?

Well, I thought I’d never ask! I been reading and hearing a lot of comments from the organization and on the Sensphere that the organization needs to make big changes. While I tend to agree with this sentiment two immediate questions arise:

1. What does that mean in terms of who should actually be moved? 

2. Shouldn’t all personnel decisions go through me first?

Let’s go on a psychedelic rock ride™ examining the Sens org top to bottom and see what I think should be done! Keep or Get RID. We can compare at the beginning of next season. Shower me with compliments if I’m right, allow me to redact if I’m wrong!  

Over the next few days Ima travel these choppy garbage seas in a three legged journey: 1. Forwards 2. Defense and Goaltenders 3. Coaches, Management and Ownership

I will arrive at an ultimate  inconsequential  VERDICT for each. 

Today, a focus on forwards: 

Mark Stone Blessed is the player who puts up 61 points in a streaky year. What’s his ceiling if he has a super consistent season? 80+? For real, remember how Stone was absolutely ice cold for a good stretch before the All Star break? He had a classic spotty sophomore season with twist: He led all Sens forwards in points. Just one of those types of players who make it easy to think that they will be better with each passing year.
Lowkey, I think he will be the franchise’s next Daniel Alfredsson. Yeah, I said that. Fight me.

Verdict: Basically an untouchable IMO. Keep. Hard Keep.

Mike Hoffman I learned a lot about Mike Hoffman this season. As an overage rookie, I think Hoffy pulled the rug out from fans and management alike with his 26 goal campaign. This season watching him as a 26 year old sophomore, I, like many others, concluded he is the most talented pure goal scorer on the team. I also concluded that he is the most defensively inept top 6 forward on the team–WAIT! PUT AWAY YOUR TORCHES AND PITCHFORKS! I’m just saying, if you don’t see some of his bruuutal moments particularly in the neutral zone you need to REGARDÉ LES JEUX.
Noooowww, here’s the other thing: I don’t care that much that he’s not great defensively. You know who wasn’t great defensively? Jason Spezza. When he was here I felt like his points made up for his shortcomings. I think the same of Hoffman. At a time when goal scoring is at a premium this guy can score goals. It’s okay that it’s the main thing that he does. Maybe the firing of Dave Cameron helps his chances of re-signing here?

Verdict: Try…to keep him? I really don’t want to watch a team made up entirely of responsible two way forwards.

Bobby Ryan D’ohhhhhhhhh jeeeeeezuzz…This is the one I was looking forward to writing the least (thx 4 reading!). We are complicated beings and the world’s a fucking complicated place. Bobby Ryan is no exception. With immense pressure to re-sign him after trading for him Bryan Murray actually backed the money truck up for once to make it happen. Now the reality of that deal is kicking in. He’s signed to 2022. But I suppose this is an assessment of his season and here’s the thing about that:
Bobby Ryan is doing his job.
He put up his highest point total as a Senator and did so playing more than half the season with a broken finger. He got quiet again down the stretch but also Cameron was playing him with Scott “The 1 point wonder” Gomez regularly, so you gotta hear both sides. Put simply, he hasn’t hit the mark a lot of fans want to see from him but he’s had pretty viable excuses along the way. I think there’s a growing concern that there will be an another excuse asterisk next year instead of a breakout. Despite all the noise he’s trended upward in games played and points produced each year since coming here.

Verdict: He’s not the team leader in points but that doesn’t mean I think the team is better without him. Keep.

Mika Zibanejad I read a comment on the ‘net from a fan who said that they’d seen enough of old hickory ham Bananajazz. Further, that he was “done” here in the capital. I guess you don’t put up 20 goals and 51 points at age 22 without making a few enemies. Just a FUEGO take from a fan but I think it’s indicative of a larger attitude toward him.
A tagline often given Ziba is that he always“leaves u wantin’ more™” AKA A SECOND LINE CENTRE. Also a bit of an odd thing to say about a player who’s increased his point totals every season.
I just can’t help but think back to hearing / thinking similar things about Mike Fisher back in the day. Then you look back and realize he was a perfectly cromulent 2nd line center. Yet Fish was coveted enough to net Ottawa a 1st round pick when he was traded. Now, consider Fisher’s best season in Ottawa was a 53 point campaign in 2009-10 when he was 10 seasons into his career. Zibanejad just posted up two points short of that at age 22. Fisher didn’t even hit 50 on any of the Sens high flying squads of the mid-2000s. I think it’s funny to re-evaluate Mika this way considering scoring is down league-wide and he’s playing for a bottom 10 team and is only in his early 20s.

Verdict: If the Sens are to keep developing talent as a major means of improving the team on the cheap going forward, I say, yeah, continue to develop this talented, 22 year old top 6 player. Ah doi.

JP Gageau Pros: Habs killer, NHL fucking leader in shorthanded goals, and can apparently fill in as top line centre in a pinch. Scored 19 goals and 43 points for a price tag of 900K. I wish they just gave JGP an 8 year deal when it was time to re-sign him.

Cons: LOCAL BOY WHO GETS HANDED EVERYTHING! Just kidding. I love how that local player bias only applies when the player is bad. But seriously folks…

Actual Cons: None.

Verdict: One of my favourite players on the team. Keep him, renegotiate his contract for 8 years.

Zack Smith Has a guy ever taken so much shit for having an outstanding year as Zack Smith? Milan Michalek 35 goal year maybe? Smith is a super interesting player to watch going forward as goal scoring-wise he either has a solid year or a shite year. This year was V solid. Bro came back from a disgusting injury and improved his goal total by 23. Even cynics should take their hat off to that.
Sure, I’m worried about his next contract being too rich but like Hoffman before him, let’s see if he can do it again.  If he can’t, a tough, solid ass bottom six guy on an expiring deal is catnip for GMs. Either that or will probably re-sign for a reasonable price. I got no issue with Zmith.

Verdict: I don’t know understand why people hate on this player. Keep ‘eem.

Kyle Turris In MacArthur’s absence, filled in admirably with the role of “Perfect Hockey Player.” My one beef with Turris, probably the first I’ve ever had with him since he started playing here, is that I wish he just sat out immediately after getting hurt. Not that there’s any ill will but he went from being one of the hottest players in the league to just getting by after getting his ankle bent in a way not in accordance with God’s Plan. Don’t be a hero, Turry! Sincerely hopes he makes a full recovery in time for training camp next season. High ankle sprains can be, in the immortal words of JCVD, a “sont of a binch.”

Verdict: Like Pageau, I just wish he was signed for 8 years. Remember when that contract was a huge risk? LOLz.

Curtis Lazar There’s nothing to dislike about Curtis Lazar. He’s very likable. He plays a responsible if quiet game.
The problem is I think the Sens might have too many Curtis Lazars at this point. He’s only but 11 and a half years young but I sometimes wonder, what will Curtis grow up to do that JG Pageau doesn’t, that Zack Smith doesn’t, that Nick Paul won’t …that Colin White…won’t. The Sens BEEN had responsible two way centres. If the team’s going to make changes and a team thinks that he could fill a key role for them I’d be okay with it.

Verdict: Could be time to thin the herd down the middle and if Lazar could net the best return because of his pedigree, so be it.

Alex Chiasson This guyyyyyy. Not since Jaisson Spezza has a Sens player had a tougher time cultivating goodwill with fans than this dude.
I thought it was perfect/troubling that he turned up the intensity of his play after he wasn’t be moved at the deadline and the Sens were more or less eliminated from the playoffs. You know, when the pressure was completely off. What really bugs me is that I do feel like Chiasson has another gear to his play that I saw him hit like 2 times over the entire course of his time in Ottawa.

Verdict: Straight up, Jim Nill hustled The Bryan on this one. He’s not really a make or break type guy to begin with but you can’t really win with this type of player. Experiment over. Find someone hungrier. Get RID.

Chris Neil Musings: For all the calls for a complete culture change in Ottawa funny how a guy like Chris Neil, whose whole strength as a player at this point is his connection to team culture manages to avoid being a part of that discussion. Phaneuf was praised for filling a gaping hole in veteran leadership. What does this say about Chris Neil? Sure, MacArthur was missing but Neil has played for Ottawa for 15 years now. He’s all time franchise leader in fighting teammates in practice…which is apparently good and not very, very bad.
Anyway, following a few years of him driving me absolutely bananas I let Neiler cook this season as he was pretty quiet for the most part. If I don’t really notice him in-game, I can handle him. Guy still can’t carry the puck over the blue line 9 times out of 10…and the ONE time he does it’s getting dumped in  (read: turned over to the other team) the second he enters the zone. Hey, here I am NOT letting son cook, oops! One more year, get your thousand games and ride off into sunset.

Verdict: Whatever, fuck.

Scott G.O.A.T.mez I saw a person (allegedly) comment that signing Scott Gomez was one of Bryan Murray’s worst moves of the season. Family, we had JG Pageau as no.1 centre for a stretch of the year lining up against up against the likes of Crosbex or Getzloaf (no disrespect to JGP). I can wrap my head around why a cheap guy with NHL experience and two Cup rings was signed for a song to bolster the line up. Problem: He stunk and his one assist showed why a guy with two Cup rings was available for a song. Enjoy break out passes from David Rundblad in Zurich.

Verdict: Get RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIID.

Ryan Dzingel Basically why I wasn’t too busted up about not giving Erik Condra a contract extension. Nothing against Condra, I really liked him as a player, but for a budget conscious team I figured we could find someone who could offer similar services for cheaper. A player that always impressed me at dev camp, he  finally got a serious look at the top level and seems pretty capable in his role. Will not be heartbroken when we look for a cheaper replacement for him in that made up guy Macoy Earglompz or whoever in two years.

Verdict: Keeper

Max McCormick A Binghamton fan favourite who both looks like and shares a name with their mascot, Max. The biggest question surrounding McCormick is this: Is he the NHL’s first player of plush manimal descent? I am so fucking high right now.
A lot is made out of useless facepunchers with a heart of gold getting called up ahead of skilled players but one thing I can’t ignore is that McCormick put up around the same amount of goals as Shane Prince, Matt Puempel and Nick Paul and in fewer games. Not calling Max a skill player so much as I’m saying the higher pedigree guys are putting up Max McCormick numbers. The higher he pushes himself up the depth chart the more of an indication that higher skilled prospects aren’t showcasing themeselves well enough IMO. Can’t knock the hustle tho.

Verdict
: Seems to make Binghamton fans happy and their happiness makes me happy. Keep him.
Nick Paul A pleasant surprise this season. I didn’t think we’d see him in Ottawa for at least another year. He had a slow start in Binghamton and we all fronted. I found once in the NHL he made his presence known more than players way ahead of him in the depth chart like Shane Prince and Matt Puempel.
Agree with me or not, I just noticed this guy contributing more. Might be one of those players who’s game is actually more suited to the NHL but don’t get it twisted I would not be opposed to him getting more time to grow in Bingo. After all, the team is 80% two way centres at this point.

Verdict: Keep him.

Dade Brzyntski Ahh, the call up that just won’t go away. I predicted the end of the Dziurzynski call up era at the beginning of the season. Wrong again!

Just like McCormick, for the talk of organization favoring braun over skill, the boy Dizzy put up around the same amount of points  as Matt Puempel and Nick Paul in nearly half the games and with less ice time. Again, an indictment of the production of the higher pedigree prospects, putting up those Dizzy numbers while getting more opportunity.

Verdict: Homie’s numbers are lacklustre even in the AHL. Get RID

Buddy Robinson The OTHER Dave Dziurzynski!

Verdict: You can’t teach depth.

Matt Puempel Ended the season with a goal in the last game allowing him to juuuuust edge out the veteran Craig Anderson in total points by one so… he’s developing nicely.
Interesting how there seems to be oceans of patience for Puempitty Pump Pump (sorry) and yet some seem at their wits end with younger, far more productive Zibanejad. Not saying that impatience should be directed at Puempel or something but I can’t help but find it concerning how quiet he’s been the past couple of seasons during his call ups. I’ve noticed Dzingel more, I’ve noticed Nick Paul more. He’s been more Scott Gomez than Mark Stone.

Verdict: Having traded away Noesen, Silfverberg, Shane Prince and with the looming possibility of Hoffman getting moved (for some fucking reason) the Sens can hardly afford to cut bait with Puempel at this point. Still has the potential to show what he can do. Keep.

Clarke MacArthur https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRFEz2MjZgg&nohtml5=False

Tune in tomorrow (OR WHENEV) for Part Two: Defense and Goaltenders!

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

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

The floor is open.

Conrad: A few thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James?

Yes, dear?

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

GOD’S WORKING ON ALL OF US, OKAY!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.) New season starts and team underperforms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hater’s Guide to Week 27

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

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From failing hands, we sexualize this defenseless animal.

There are two ways the hater’s season ends: in celebration, arms raised high, cursing and mocking your bitter, petty rivals after your inevitable triumph; or staggering toward death, arms clutching the multitude of stab wounds inflicted by your bitter, petty rivals, still cursing and mocking them until your final breath. Like the end of Macbeth, maybe. But either way it ends, not on their terms, but on yours.

Tuesday, April 5 – Senators vs. Penguins

The Penguins are going to the playoffs, in part because they fired their coach in December after a few months of underwhelming performance and the new guy had no choice but to take the brakes off the team’s firewagon offense and trust that their skill would more than make up for their occasional mistakes. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the Senators did it first, last year, and as usual the Penguins are just a sour-faced bunch of no-account copycats. Good luck next year, Pens, when your coach starts feeling himself and telling everyone that Ben Lovejoy is his ideal defenseman.

Some say that Penguins captain Sidney Crosby – you know, the guy whose personality reasonably answers the question, “What if you could teach a piece of toast to play hockey? – is a dark horse MVP candidate, having led the league in points since the All-Star break to lift his team back into the playoff race. This gives him all of three points more on the season than Erik Karlsson, who may be in danger of losing a lesser positional award to a guy who looks like a bewildered Guy Fawkes mask. I guess what I’m saying is awards are obviously vitally important.

PREDICTION: Pittsburgh and Ottawa have settled their playoff fates, so look for players on both teams to target individual milestones; expect Mika Zibanejad and Mike Hoffman to score their 20th and 30th goals, respectively, for Erik Karlsson to assist on all of them, and for him to eventually refer to the 2015-16 season, Norris or not, as “The Season I Outscored Sidney Friggin Crosby”. Friggin, of course, is a type of dry Swedish rye toast, and great with herring. Look for Phil Kessel to show up with Arby’s sauce on his helmet. Senators 5, Penguins 0.

Thursday, April 7 – Senators vs. Panthers

The Panthers are also going to the playoffs, as likely Atlantic Division champions, no less, with a zesty mix of Golden Girlsaged players and a scenery-chewing Kevin Spacey as their unofficial mascot. This sounds terrible on paper, and it is in real life as well. They will also probably get the Islanders in the first round, in a matchup that in the not-too-distant past would have been considered “insipid”. Also today.

It’s worth noting that the Panthers have only made the playoffs one other time in the last 15 years, so expect Panthers fans with little playoff experience to have a lot of questions when Game 1 rolls around, questions like, “Where is the rink?” and “How do I get there?” Bear with them, because this is how the good people of Sunrise, FL become hockey fans for the rest of their lives. Most of them are already over 65, though, so better get cracking on that Cup run, Cats.

PREDICTION: This is the last home game of the year for the Senators, and likely the last game in Ottawa for at least a few players/head coaches on the roster, so look for the Senators to come out strong. It’s also Fan Appreciation Night, which means you can expect giveaways, discounts, and a variety of other diversions that appeal to fans, including meet-and-greets with Daniel Alfredsson, scoreboard videos of Erik Karlsson with cute animals, and the ongoing Idea of Patrick Wiercioch. Senators 5, Panthers 0.

Saturday, April 9 – Senators @ Bruins

And last/least, there’s the Boston… Friggin (usually sold nearly the canned seafood in the deli section, BTW)… Bruins. These black-and-yellow dirtbags are in a dogfight with the nauseatingly orange Flyers and the tediously Red Wings for the last two spots in the east, so one of the three will be cleaning out their lockers after this weekend. We talked last week about the merits of eliminating either the Flyers or the Red Wings, but why not the Bruins? Remember how much fun it was last year, overtaking the Bruins in the season’s final two weeks and muscling them out of the Wild Card? Remember every game a bullied Senators team lost 7-2 to the Bruins over the years? Remember how bad DiCaprio’s accent was in The Departed? Boston, man.

Besides, Boston doesn’t really need the Bruins to make the playoffs right now. They have a Stanley Cup from a year that starts with a 2, so rather than thinking about hockey in June, Bostonians’ thoughts are already turning to summer activities, like complaining about the Red Sox, or projectile vomiting outside the OTB, or taking the sloop up to Kennebunkport, or whatever the hell it is people do in Boston. Your summer can start next week, Bruins fans. Just let go and let the Senators do what needs to be done, what you secretly hope they’ll do so that you can stop watching hockey, get out your Chieftains tapes, your switchblade, and your chowder mug, and start making some summer memories. Let’s step-dance, Boston.

PREDICTION: Sometimes a year doesn’t go the way you planned, and there are parts of it where you probably could have tried harder, and other parts that made you wonder why you ever thought things would work in the first place, but there are also a few things you’re proud of, and a few moments that people will hopefully remember, and that’s all you were ever really chasing in the first place. Thanks for reading. Senators 5, Bruins 0.

Season prediction record: 36-34-9

Exact score prediction record: 1-78 (HAHAHAHA GET BENT MONTREAL)

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The Hater’s Guide to Week 26

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

sweater

The Hockey Sweater reboot no one asked for

Wednesday, March 30 – Senators @ Jets

It’s almost April, you’re almost out of it, you’ve shut down half your roster with the kind of injuries that are only suffered by non-playoff teams . . . even the most dedicated hater packs it in at that point, right? But that’s where you’re so wrong, idiot. After all, no season, even a losing one, is truly over until you’ve had a chance to spoil the aspirations of other, more successful competitors. God doesn’t close a hater’s door without opening a window through which that hater gonna continue hating.

First up this week is the Winnipeg Jets . . . who I’m being told were eliminated from the playoff hunt last week. So unfortunately there’s nothing to spoil here, as the Jets have already curdled like milk on a hot Winnipeg sidewalk. Don’t forget that the Jets, a playoff team last year, didn’t make any major roster improvements going into this season, believing that their core would continue to consolidate and their young players would continue taking steps forward. Come on, when does that actually work? My informed suggestion for the Jets is that they spend the offseason getting rid of all their players for better ones.

PREDICTION: But wait, you’re saying. As the last Canadian team standing, surely it is the Jets who will be looking to spoil things for the Senators. Yes, probably. But they won’t. Look for Andrew Hammond to let in negative goals. How will he do that, you’re asking. Well, he’ll get a shutout, and also score one, I guess. Okay, you’re saying, so that might mean he’s directly responsible for a positive goal differential, but that’s not the same as allowing negative goals; you can’t actually allow negative goals. Right, I tell you, I’m just trying to turn a phrase here, and anyway, directionally, the effect is equivalent, isn’t it? Yes, but it’s a false equivalency, you respond. “A false equivalency,” I repeat to you in a mocking, sing-song voice. Senators 5, Jets 0.

Thursday, March 31 – Senators @ Wild

Ah, here we go, a team still in the playoff hunt. The Minnesota Wild, a team that 15 years post-expansion still has a name and uniforms like a fake hockey team in a Rob Schneider movie – let’s say one where he’s a down-on-his-luck dog groomer who accidentally kills his local team’s starting goaltender with a pair of clippers while trying to trim the guy’s standoffish Bichon Frise, and has to cover it up by putting on a mask, faking a semi-racist French accent, and leading the “Minnesota Wild” to the “Stanfield Cup” while also convincing his estranged teen daughter he’s still a good dad – are hanging on to the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, five points ahead of the “Colorado Avalanche” with five games to play. I had to look that up, but let’s be honest – you hadn’t even heard of either of those teams until I told you just now.

On the face of things, it looks like the Wild have a pretty good shot at making the postseason so they can lose to the Blackhawks for a fourth year in a row. But you know all those things people make fun of the Senators for? The Wild have done them even more embarrassingly. You know how the Senators drafted Alexandre Daigle and paid him too much money? The Wild gave him another job after he ran out. You know how the Senators fly Stanley Cup banners that weren’t won by the modern franchise? The Wild retired the number 1, in honour of their fans, before they’d played a single home game. Good luck signing Ray Emery, guys. You know how the Senators play way west of town? The Wild play all the way out in the Central Time Zone. They are a cheap photocopy of an unflattering picture of a better franchise, and they will lose this game.

PREDICTION: The outcome here is a foregone conclusion, so rather than predict the details, let me tell you why Bryan Murray made the Shane Prince trade. He made it in anticipation of this game in Minneapolis. He made it because Prince, the musician, shows up at Wild games from time to time – he has his own purple velvet box – and after watching the Senators embarrass the Wild at home, he’s going to find Murray after the game and say something dramatic like, “I see you’ve lost a Prince. Well tonight, you gain another.” And then he’ll buy Milan Michalek’s house (a man who’s no stranger to purple, BTW)  in the offseason, replace the Senators’ in-game organist, and spend every play stoppage ripping off guitar solos which continue well after the puck is dropped. The Senators will win every game in this environment, and it will start with this one. Senators 5, Wild 0.

Saturday, April 2 – Senators @ Flyers

This is a tough one. On the one hand, we all hate the Flyers, right? Philadelphia has made a late-season rally to get into playoff position, and would anything be sweeter than if the Senators, the team that made the run of all runs last season, were also the team to truly spoil things for the Flyers this year, just to highlight how unique their run last season really was? On the other hand, the Flyers making the playoffs most likely means an end to one of the most celebrated boring records in sports, that being the Detroit Red Wings’ 24-year playoff streak. And who doesn’t hate the Red Wings? Nobody, that’s who.

So the real question is whose season is best spoiled? The answer in this case is the Detroit Red Wings. And maybe a year off will do you some good, Detroit. More time to travel, to have a few new experiences, to develop more personality. Come back as something other than a consistent, dishwater-dull hockey team where everybody has the same haircut. Missing the playoffs isn’t the end of the world, Detroit. It instills a hunger in you, deep down, the kind of hunger where you tell yourself you’ll do anything it takes to get back to where you were, even if you only barely scrape back there, no matter what it costs. Hey, have you guys thought about trading for a veteran defenseman?

PREDICTION: Look for the Senators, in their wisdom, to ignore me and exert their influence over only those matters that are within their control. Senators 5, Flyers 0.

Season prediction record: 34-33-9

Next week: We cross the finish line, unbowed, unbroken.

The Hater’s Guide to Week 25

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

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Sadly more than any V-shaped belly could promise this year.

 

It’s round 3 of “Guys who were worse after leaving the Senators for one of this week’s opponents!” What are we waiting for?

Tuesday, March 22 – Senators vs. Capitals

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Chris Phillips and Joe Corvo stare into the middle distance.

Senators: 127 GP, 14 G, 50 A, 0.50 PPG
Capitals: 18 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 0.33 PPG
Senators again: 25 GP, 3 G, 7 A, 0.40 PPG

PREDICTION: No Eastern Conference team has won both the President’s Trophy and the Stanley Cup in over 20 years. Will the Capitals break the streak? No. Look for the Senators to rout the resting Caps and for the Sun to have a headline like “PREZ CANDIDATE FELLED BY DZINGEL GUNMAN” the next day. Senators 5, Capitals 0.

Wednesday, March 23 – Senators @ Islanders

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Chris Phillips asks Shane Prince to hit him.

Senators: 44 GP, 3 G, 10 A, 0.30 PPG
Islanders: 10 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 0.10 PPG

PREDICTION: Look for an 18-year-old forward to be drafted by the Senators with the Islanders’ third-round pick after scoring a hat trick the OHL playoffs this week, and for you to quickly talk yourself into his potential. Look for Shane Prince to take 12 shifts Wednesday and finish -2. Senators 5, Islanders 0.

Saturday, March 26 – Senators vs. Ducks

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Chris Phillips shows Jakob Silfverberg what a real beard looks like.

Senators: 48 GP, 0.40 PPG, $900K AAV
Ducks: 204 GP, 0.45 PPG, $3.75M AAV

PREDICTION: Bobby Ryan has 4 points in 5 career games against the Ducks; Jakob Silfverberg has 2 points in 5 careeer games against the Senators, which is ironic given that Silfverberg isn’t half the player Ryan is. Look for Ryan to make this ratio a little more accurate by scoring 42 goals Saturday, and for Silfverberg to continue to resemble one of the guys in Aqua. Senators 5, Ducks 0.

Season prediction record: 34-31-8

Next week: A WILD Sens road trip will mean they’ll be travelling on JETS, which I guess makes them FLYERS. Look, this is not my real job.