Varada and James catch up about the inevitable degradation of their shared hobby, the Ottawa Senators, a team in apparently steep decline.
Varada and James catch up about the inevitable degradation of their shared hobby, the Ottawa Senators, a team in apparently steep decline.
At the risk of sounding like a twee Etsy throw-pillow, I long ago came to the conclusion that one’s sports fandom should be about the journey not the destination. It’s supposed to be about Winning the Championship, but generally speaking, unless you’re the type of morally-bankrupt person who cheers for the Patriots or Manchester United, you are never going to watch your chosen team Win the Championship. In lieu of this, sports fandom is about Moments, it’s about The Struggle, and it’s about other metaphors for things that are actually meaningful. Sports are fake; you’re cheering for laundry. The way sports make you feel, the way you interact with sports, these are the realest thing about them.
I have grown tired of interacting with the Senators.
It’s not the losing. I have cheered for losing teams before, and it’s a near-certainty that I will continue to do so until I die. This year’s Senators isn’t nearly as bad as they are playing. They’ve had very bad goaltending, and the 3rd pairing collapsed with Chris Wideman’s injury, the team’s play has been lazy (witness the league-leading number of Too Many Men penalties), and the team is clearly just playing out the string, but there’s simply too much talent for “Draft Lottery Threat” to be the team’s true level.
No, I tire of the Senators because there is a spiritual sickness emanating from the top of the organization. Everyone from the team’s President to the organist is infected. Anonymous internet commenters whisper on Reddit and Twitter of an organization that has gone from “Bare bones” to “Potemkin”. Newspaper beat writers speak in understatement and euphemism, couching reports of ill-tidings in phrases like “it’s possible” and “sources say”. Everyone knows the same things, no one is quite willing to say them, but the implications are clear: the Senators, as we know them, are coming to an end. There will be a change; the change will either be on the ice or in the owner’s box, but deep, long-lasting changes are coming.
The Sens have been a lean organization for years now, but the canary in the coal mine for me this year is GM Pierre Dorion’s return to scouting. Granted, Dorion’s background is in scouting (by all accounts, he was a fairly good scout), but General Manager is not supposed to be a part time job. If the top hockey ops exec in the organization has to be moonlighting in Europe as a set of player evaluating eyeballs, things cannot be right.
Everyone sees where the corners are being cut. Scouts have left without being replaced, the analytics “department” is simply “a guy”, free agent acquisitions are players with whom the coach is familiar, popular players are traded rather than negotiated with, and the defensemen who are given new contracts are the ones which will come with the cheapest price tag.
It’s all so cynical. I am tired of the cynicism. I am tired of the lack of sincerity. It lacks sincerity when Melnyk announces “It doesn’t get any better than this” weeks before preparing to tear-down the current roster. It lacks sincerity when Melnyk reads off a script prepared for him by a PR firm. It lacks sincerity when the team announces a Hockey Is For Everyone Ambassador and then and fails to further acknowledge diversity in any way.
I’ll say this for Tom Anselmi: at least he seemed sincere. Anselmi brought us a commitment to the =O= logo, hot dogs, the Missing Chiclets, the outdoor game, a new jersey, and while not all those things were hits, you could at least tell that they came from a place of trying to do right by the fans. Sens fans actually want to like the team; the organization just needs to make itself likable. By God Anselmi tried to do this, but such naive and idealistic motivations could not last long in today’s Senators organization.
Friday’s press release from the organization spoke of “a renewed commitment to scouting, drafting and development”, and “changes to our lineup” and “pain with an endgame in mind: building an organization that wins”, but frankly, the organization hasn’t earned the right to have these words interpreted as anything other than a craven cover for trading away the team’s best, most-expensive players.
The fanbase doesn’t want a rebuild; the fanbase wants investment. The fans want to see investment in scouting, investment in hockey ops, investment in analytics, and most of all, investment in players. The fans want assurances that the team’s 3rd straight captain won’t be lost to another team because of money. The fans want things that we know current ownership can’t give us, and so we are sarcastic, we are unhappy, and we are tired.
I didn’t get into sports for this. I don’t want to have to give a shit about whether the team is burning through Presidents (!!) too quickly. I don’t want to do a Google search of the acting CFO and have the top two results be a harassment lawsuit and a securities commission fine. I don’t want to have to ask “Is this actually about money?” whenever the team does anything. I don’t want to talk about attendance or relocation ever again. I don’t want to have to think about how Daniel Alfredsson’s feud with ownership affects Erik Karlsson’s mindset.
So I won’t.
Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not quitting yet. The Senators didn’t “lose a fan” yet. I don’t respect myself enough to do anything that drastic, and I’m too much of a sucker for the team to pretend I’m able to stand up for myself. Yet.
But dammit if I’m going to survive Late Period Melnyk Ownership, I’m going to have to make some changes. I implore the Senators and Eugene Melnyk to do the same sooner rather than later.
As I’m sure you’ve read, the Ottawa Senators and the National Capital Commission have reached a preliminary land-transfer agreement, paving the way for a new hockey arena in downtown Ottawa. To commemorate the event, the NCC released the following concept image:
There’s a lot going on here, and it demands a breakdown.
…but first thing’s first: let nothing I’m about to say detract from how exciting this prospect is. We’ve been talking about how the arena is too far for literally two decades. Having a modern-looking downtown arena will make going to Sens games more fun, not to mention more likely. It’s awesome. But quite separate from that discussion is a discussion about how this concept image looks like something you’d see on the back of a Sega CD game case after you took a fistful of acid and conjured a Sega CD game case from memory.
Let’s start with the main attraction: the arena itself.
Okay, cool, cool. It’s got some indoor wood, which continues Canada’s unbroken streak of reminding everyone that we are a nation of trees. I can live with that. If the AGO and our own football arena do it, then that’s fine, even if this aesthetic flourish has the shelf-life of carpeting in the 1980s or people who built their modern in-fills with corrugated metal like five years ago. Let’s admit it: for a team whose aesthetics have been QUESTIONABLE since like 1996, doing what literally everybody else does was always going to be the best-case scenario. Let’s not let the makers of the SNES jersey get too creative, here.
Obvious caveat: that better not be the team’s fucking logo when this monstrosity is completed, but if it is, guaranteed, 100%, the team will have added a swoopy white halo thing around it as appears here.
And speaking of that logo, the building is on some kind of 1/3 perspective but the logo is flush to the “camera” and super big so it’s cut off, like a big ‘DRAFT’ water stamp on a Word document, which is convenient, because this image was created in Word. It kind of has the feel of “we cut and paste an arena and then to make sure you know this is YOUR arena, we cut and paste your team’s logo on it.”
Again, this is fine. What can we assume from this? There won’t be a giant fucking logo on the side of the building, for sure.
Panning down a bit, we see the entrance to the building and what looks like four tents or utility sheds. I like how the artist didn’t try to make the tents or sheds seem like something the crowds of people would be interested in – they’re just sheds. People will walk through them or otherwise line up to get inside. Also, they will be red because Canada, and they will say Ottawa Senators on them because Ottawa Senators. I have zero idea what’s going on on the roofs of the sheds, or inside the upper right shed. “Meet me at the sheds!” will not be a thing that people will say.
Okay, now we’re playing acid jazz. You’ve got an asymmetrical skating rink, complete with piles of snow that have been pushed off to the side because there’s nowhere to dispose of it; actual NHL players sort of skating around, celebrating for some reason; a band playing in the middle of the hockey rink without the aid of amplification; and several fans who, despite the total lack of security, are politely watching from what looks like red carpeting.
We can only assume this is the Missing Chiclets, or possibly their children, trapped inside what appear to be beams of pure energy or possibly water cannons. They are also wearing short sleeves in what is apparently winter. This seems like a terrible gig.
Several ghosts celebrate with confetti, including the Force Spirits of Anakin, Yoda and Obi-Wan. Off to the left, it looks like Jackie Onassis is pointlessly standing in the snow instead of on the red carpet, and a lone Senator appears to be throwing a puck over the glass into the crowd, though there’s no glass, and there’s no crowd. WERNER HERZOG VOICE: “It is a theater of the absurd, designed to draw attention to the fact that hockey, as a pastime, is a social construct and we, as passive audience members, are whiling away what little time we have.”
A dejected goaltender without a net just sort of skating around, looking like he was just scored on though, as we’ve established, there is no game except the one in his mind.
Not to be outdone by the weird unsatisfying skating rink involving several jagged boards and extremely pointy edges, the arena also features: 1) a dock, for those who wish to sail to the game, 2) river access, which makes the weirdly dangerous rink even more pointless because, according to this picture, you can skate on the river, and 3) of course, a gigantic projection of the unpopular logo onto the ice from a projector in the sky. The logo, as is tradition, is off-center and too big to entirely fit the surface onto which it’s projected.
This dark corner of the concept is very mysterious. Along with several dead trees and what looks like either an empty set of stands or possibly a pile of folding chairs or even an army of Japanese apparitions from Spirited Away, we have some people kind of hanging out. Three of them, possibly tourists, look at the chairs. “Do you think they make those chairs in Canada?” they ask themselves in their German accents, and then go for dinner and talk about how they should have gone to Massachusetts on vacation instead.
Speaking of desolate, dystopian emptiness, where is this supposed to be, anyway? QUESTION: Is the new Ottawa Senators arena going to be in Ottawa?
I’m not sure if the NCC’s plan includes several multi-story skyscrapers, which I’m fine with, but I’m mostly interested in what that weird, cube-like intelligence hovering on the horizon is supposed to be. Is it pointing out or sucking in? Is that a starburst of energy radiating from its foreboding exterior? I’ve looked at this thing for like five minutes and I can’t tell what it is or where it begins or ends.
ALL HAIL THE CUBE.
Finally, you have a parking lot, which will be empty because nobody will need to drive because the arena is downtown.
There you have it folks: the thing we have all been asking for, for twenty years. Ottawa being Ottawa, we took this moment, and we sort of slapped together a thing that approximated what we’ve all been talking about, like a parent so afraid to say the wrong thing in front of their kids’ friends that they just blurt out the most nonsensical thing possible.
And it’s…fine. It’s all fine. The underlying concept remains awesome. You’ll be able to walk home from a game, or even *GASP* go out afterward! The execution is a bit muddy, but in the end, we’ll all be together downtown. It’s going to be great.
I’ll see you at The Sheds!
Varada and James catch up. It’s been a minute.
Music by Sun O)))))).
Varada and James go deep on the Duchene and Turris trade.
Music by Oxes.
It’s Scorpio Season aka a time of death (good night, sweet Kyle) and rebirth (hello Matt) and while some of the guys have already discussed the trade at length, I’m gonna give you an insight on what you really care about:
What does Matt Duchene’s birth chart look like and what the hell does it mean for the Senators?
Duchene is a Capricorn, which should make it extremely easy for him to get with the System. I always like to think that if the System had a sign, it would be Taurus. Capricorn and Taurus are both earth signs and extremely compatible. Duchene will probably fall in love with the System. They’ll become inseparable. It’s a match made in heaven.
Capricorns are known to be quietly strong-willed and hard working. They’re also known to not be very flashy, so there’s no chance of him inheriting the position of #1 Gold Chain Fan on the team.
A moon in Aquarius means Duchene will definitely bring something new and innovative to the team. Aquarius moons are very good at analyzing their surroundings, adapting to new situations and looking at things a little differently. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t impress us with an unexpected and skillful goal within the first weeks.
Mars rules the physical energy and Duchene’s Mars is in Taurus, you know, the sign I said the System would have if it had a sign. He’s gonna LOVE the “boring” System and it’s gonna suit him so well.
All in all, my very scientific opinion is that Duchene is perfect for the Senators and the Senators are perfect for him. It’s in the stars.
As we all know by now, on Sunday night the Ottawa Senators completed a three-way trade with Nashville and Colorado. Kyle Turris ended up a Predator. Matt Duchene ended up a Senator. Three picks and three prospects ended up…an Avalanche? I’ve never thought about this before, but it’s weirdly hard to personify that team’s name. “I’m super happy to be…an Avalanche” doesn’t really work. You came here for the hard-hitting analysis. We’re bringing it.
Look, I like Turris a lot. I loved watching him play, and he’s had his share of big-game moments. He’ll be missed. But I’m shocked – SHOCKED – by the degree to which some are spinning this as a loss for Ottawa.
I think there’s a tendency to look at assets in a vacuum. How much is a first-rounder worth? Let’s give it a number. Then let’s add up all the numbers of all the assets and produce a score. Ottawa gave up four things and got one thing, so that’s a loss, etc. There are two issues here. The first is the way we routinely overvalue picks and prospects. The second is the way we ignore context.
There are some surprising parallels here with the Zibanejad-for-Brassard deal. They had a player due a contract whose market value would be multi-year – enough so to carry them into the middle of what would be Karlsson’s next contract. You can commit to that deal and then hope to hell you can get Karlsson done, or you can clear the decks for Karlsson and fill in other players around him. Having Duchene, Brassard, and Karlsson all up at once is helpful. They can fill around Karlsson or, if he leaves, they have the option to launch a rebuild.
With Turris, they could go into next year with Turris on a long and expensive deal, or go into next season without their top-line center and maybe get a 2nd rounder for him at the deadline instead. Neither of those is an enviable choice. So instead, they looked to include Turris with other assets to get a player who is at least as good, if not better, and in a league where it’s notoriously difficult to get a deal done, they pulled it off while dumping salary and without losing any of their best prospects. That’s commendable. To me, it’s hard not to see turning your 28-year-old center who’s not interested in re-signing into a 26-year-old center with arguably a higher ceiling as a win, and yet it seems hard for some to see it that way. Remember when we thought Noesen and Puempel were future cornerstones? I guess all I can say is that we’ll check in with Shane Bowers in a few years and see where this deal is at.
Honestly, I don’t understand the deal as much from Nashville’s perspective, and they’re receiving routine praise. They gave $36M and six years to Turris, a 2nd line center, and gave up two prospects and a pick in the process. They could have waited until the deadline, or even the UFA bidding period, when better centers like Tavares might be available, to fill that need. I know they went to the Finals and are trying to win now, but they’ve taken on possibly more risk than Ottawa here. They better hope that Turris can contribute at 34. As some have pointed out, they probably could have thrown in a 1st rounder and just gotten Duchene.
Colorado, meanwhile, receives a wing and a prayer. Girard could be something, but a 5-10, 160lb offensive defensemen doesn’t set my world on fire unless he turns out to be the second coming of Karlsson, who is a Magical Freak (and Mind Freak). A 1st that’s top-10 protected, two depth prospects, a couple of later picks AND they have to eat a $1.5M AHL goaltender who they don’t even want to come to Colorado, straight up lending him to the team they just acquired him from… It’s a deec return – six things for one thing is, by my math, definitely more things. But let’s not act like they got Chabot. They did not get Chabot.
Every team got what they’re looking for. Nobody got robbed. I know that makes it less interesting but, don’t worry: Bergevin will probably make another trade soon. Price straight up for Lundqvist?
It’s funny that after a year of “Announce Duchene” not-so-jokey jokes on The Sensphere, the day after one of the biggest blockbuster trades in recent franchise history goes down AND THEY ACTUALLY GET HIM the conversation seems to be mostly centered around Kyle Turris’ new contract with Nashville. Additionally, that it has a particular bent on speculation surrounding Dorion’s inability to reach a deal with number 7’s camp on an extension. It makes sense but frankly, I’m a bit shocked at the lack of “Holy fuck, Dorion just landed the most coveted player on the market!” Am I the only one who’s actually shocked this thing even happened? I would have thought the Habs tepid performance coupled with Marc Bergevin’s inability to be good at his job meant he was going to outbid everyone for Duchene out of sheer desperation. Dorion actually managed to pull it off and get us the new toy we all asked for on Annual Gift Day.
I mean, it’s understandable to react negatively given the full scope of the trade. No one wants to lose a beloved player even in the process of trading for a very good one. Still, in the melancholy haze of parting ways with a guy who made huge contributions to the culture on and off the ice [seriously do any Sens fans even dislike Turry? Your boi is LIKED], I hope Sens fans don’t lose sight that the Duchene trade has the potential to be one of pretty significant consequence. And I say that as someone who owns a Kyle Turris jersey! (Note: If you see me in my Turris jersey at CTC gone off my 5th shot of Ducce in the second intermission respect my agency and approach me like an ursine manimule).
K, here’s where shit’s about to get pizzadelic on that ass: You know what this trade reminds me of? Heatley for Hossa. Uh oh, I can actually feel every eye reading this watering up with blood of Mother Gaya, but hear me out. Those of us who were in our late 40s at the time of the Heatley for Hossa (RIP Gregg DeVry) swap can harken back to a time before Hossa was a Stanley Cup Champ and general playoff hero and Heatley was scoring machine with all the talent in the world desperately in need of a change of scenery. Back then I was bummed to lose Hossa’s reliable brand of hockey you can set your watch to, but that sadness was quickly overshadowed by the fact that a DEEC Sens team desperate to make some REAL-REAL noise in their window of goodness just picked up a player with a dynamism to his game (dynamism = insane shooting ability) that’s hard to come by. Sure Dany (sic) Heatley sells timeshares in Baden-Baden now but NO ONE missed Hossa when big homie was doing NUMBERS with Spezza and Alfie. The team with Heatley also got as deep into the postseason as our beloved team ever has. It wasn’t perfect but it was damn fun and great while it lasted.
Turris is one of my favorite players because he plays a game pretty much without flaw. He is extremely competent at nearly all aspect of the game. Shootouts, faceoffs, d zone exits, clutch play, consistent play. Like I said, I love him. The thing I can’t stop thinking about is how the Sens just upgraded their speed and scoring power at centre without surrendering their three blue chip prospects; Chabot, White n’ Brown. Sure they gave up some stuff. The promising Shane Bowers and a first and a third were surrendered but does anyone seriously think a deal like this goes down by trading away Andreas Englund and future considerations? With Duchene, I cant help but keep thinking about that dynamic element of his game. Even if Duchene turns out to be “extremely fast Kyle Turris” that…sounds amazing?
What I think I like most about this trade is that after a surprise run to the Conference Final last season it’s a bit of a “Fuck it, let’s get wild while the times is a-gettin’” move. I don’t know what the team is going to look like in future but honestly, when we have one of the best players on earth in his prime on the roster for a good price it’s probably time to do something bold like this.
Sorry for holding up this Roundtable guys, but it’s taken me a few days to separate what I think from what I feel. Acquiring an Olympic-calibre player for whom I have been very publicly clamouring at the cost of losing a near-legendary team fixture who is beloved by the community is some very Wishing-On-A-Monkey-Paw type shit. Add to this the unusually public nature of the trade negotiations and the fact that this deal went from dead to extremely alive over the span of about 48 hours, and one can see why it would take a minute to recover from the emotional whiplash.
That said, this trade has not been without foreshadowing. For one thing, Kyle Turris’s name had been floating around in trade rumours for a few months now (One rumour I heard was that Turris was all but on a plane to St. Louis before Robby Fabbri’s knee disintegrated), so we’ve all had some time to get used to The Idea of trading Kyle Turris. Additionally, Ottawa’s been connected to Matt Duchene for nearly two years. None of this came completely from left field. Yet, somehow when Ottawa traded the player they’d been quietly shopping for the player for whom they’d been publicly lusting, it felt like a shock. I think I know why this is: Bryan Murray never would have done it.
The Bryan was always fiercely loyal to His Guys, sometimes to the detriment of the organization’s long-term potential. Giving a declining Kyle Turris, a community pillar who is good on the ice but not elite, a 6+ year contract to keep him in Ottawa well into his mid-30s is exactly the sort of move no one would have blinked at three years ago. However, it is also the sort of move that would have done nothing to improve the team on the ice, and if there’s one thing we can say about Pierre Dorion, it’s that he’s always looking to improve his team.
I gotta say this for Pierre Dorion: every move he’s made has improved the team in the short term. Even a trade I hate, Burrows for Dahlen, immediately allowed Guy Boucher to ice a better lineup. It is virtually undisputed that Matt Duchene is an upgrade over Kyle Turris, so shout out to Pierre Dorion. He did it again; the Senators are better today than they were yesterday.
And now we must ask the question, that everyone else is trying to answer: Yes, the Senators are better today, but at what cost?
First off, I want to put a bracket around the Andrew Hammond + 3rd Round Pick part of the trade. As far as I’m concerned, Andrew Hammond was a salary dump, and the 3rd round pick was what it cost to make it happen1. This means that as far as Ottawa is concerned, the business end of this trade boils down to Turris + a 1st round pick + Shane Bowers for Matt Duchene. Advantages for Ottawa include Top 10 protection on the 1st round pick in case they accidentally win the draft lottery, and the fact Shane Bowers isn’t even the most hyped-up prospect Ottawa drafted this year. A charitable reading of this situation, therefore, is that Ottawa traded an expiring contract, a safe low ceiling prospect, and a pick they’d have used to draft a safe low ceiling prospect, for an immediate upgrade at 1C and an extra year of the 1C’s contract.
Just how big is that upgrade? Well, it’s hard to say. Many people have pointed out that over the past three years, Turris and Duchene have had nearly identical production on a per minute basis over the past three seasons. However, only one of those players have had to spend significant time on a line with Matt Nieto, Mikko Rantanen, Mikhail Grigorenko. If Duchene can find the sort of form that got him selected to Team Canada during a 70 point 2013-14 season, Ottawa will quickly forget the name of Shane Bowers and 2018 1st Round Pick. No doubt this is what Dorion and Boucher are hoping for.
Another question I have seen asked is “Why trade an expiring contract for a contract that’s going to expire next year?”. It is my contention that that Duchene’s contract that expires in 2019 is a feature, not a bug. Let’s take a look at CapFriendly. That sure is a lot of contracts expiring in 2019, isn’t it? If, theoretically, you had a player who you needed to sign at any price, wouldn’t it make sense to have a lot dollars available the year he was due to start a new contract?
Essentially, I believe that this season is a dress rehearsal for Ottawa’s 2018-19 season. As a team that is ostensibly not a Cap Team, Ottawa has to pick their spots. A 2018-19 season where they have Derick Brassard and Erik Karlsson on team friendly contracts, Colin White and Thomas Chabot on ELCs, Matt Duchene, Alex Burrows, and Ryan Dzingel on expiring deals, and Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Zack Smith, Bobby Ryan filling out the Top 9 is as close to Going For It as Ottawa can possibly get. Acquiring Matt Duchene is a sure sign that the Senators consider their window open. By getting at least two years of Matt Duchene instead of seven of Kyle Turris, the Senators have improved their short-term prospects while simultaneously maintaining their long-term financial flexibility and ability to keep Erik Karlsson in the organization.
One Closing Thought: I think some people may be upset that Ottawa was so willing to part ways with Kyle Turris, and the fact that a 6 year contract was never proposed by either side may indicate that neither Dorion or Turris were serious about getting a deal done at any cost. However, the opportunity cost of signing Kyle Turris is not signing Matt Duchene. Many highly sought after UFAs stay with the organizations they were just with. Every off-season there are just as many Joe Thorntons and Steven Stamkoses as Patrick Marleaus and Kevin Shattenkirks. If Ottawa can have success over the next 20 months, don’t sleep on Dorion’s ability to get a deal done that could keep Duchene here long term. At worst the acquisition of Matt Duchene pushes Ottawa’s Cup Window open just a little more, but at best it’s a move that will positively shape the franchise for years to come.
1. It’s been amazing to me listening to the media talk about the possibility of Sakic flipping Hammond for more assets, as if Ottawa hasn’t been trying to do that themselves for the better part of a year. Maybe he’ll be able to pull it off, but I doubt it. Either way, it’s not our problem anymore so who cares? *puts finger up to ear piece* Wait, Andrew Hammond is still in Belleville? Well, I guess it is still our problem! In that case, good luck in future endeavors Joe Sakic and, by extension, Andrew Hammond.↩