The more I look at the Ottawa Senators, specifically the choices they’ve made this off-season, the more I think the team’s management might actually be building for two to five years from now.
The last several years, the Senators have looked like they had no plan beyond doing just enough to get into the playoffs. Many moves seemed to be made with an eye to appeasing the fan base rather than adhering to a specific plan for the future. Trading for Bobby Ryan after losing Alfredsson to free agency, then signing him to his massive contract, were two such moves. Trading Spezza for a cluster of futures was another. Signings such as Borowiecki and Hammond, not to mention the trade of Lehner to make room for the latter, also appeared to be driven by knee-jerk response than by careful consideration. Most recently, the trade for Dion Phaneuf seemed, on the surface, another reactionary move.
Since Dorion took over, things have started to look a little bit more like a plan. I’d even argue that we can now start to see the beginnings of that plan starting as far back as the 2015 draft, since it’s been apparent for almost that long that Dorion was the successor-in-waiting to Bryan Murray.
To illustrate my point, let’s look at the most recently drafted players. Those taken in the past two drafts have included:
- a potential (and overdue) replacement for Spezza (Brown)
- a possible 200-foot 2nd-line centre (White)
- a possible future partner for Erik Karlsson (Chabot)
- at least two possible top-six wingers (Dahlen, Gagne)
- several possible second and third pairing defenders (Jaros, Wolanin, Lavoie)
- several possible depth forwards (Nurmi, Burgess, Chlapik, Ahl)
- a shot-in-the-dark goalie who could actually turn into something (Daccord)
As such, here’s the possible lineup that could be in place for the 2018/19 season:
Clarke MacArthur – Mika Zibanejad – Mark Stone
Matt Puempel – Logan Brown – Bobby Ryan
Francis Perron – Colin White – Curtis Lazar
Nick Paul – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Ryan Dzingel
extras: Jonathan Dahlen, Gabriel Gagne, Max McCormick
Thomas Chabot – Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Ceci
Andreas Englund – Marc Methot
extras: Patrick Sieloff, Fredrik Claesson, Christian Jaros
Anyone I’ve left off is because they won’t necessarily be under club control for 2018/19 (i.e. UFA, retirements, etc.) or don’t project to be more than marginal depth options (there may be at least a couple among the list above that will fit that category, as well). I, like many fans, hope that Mike Hoffman gets a long term contract and that Turris resigns with the team in a couple years when his contract expires. But, I see the draft and development strategy as planning for a future without them.
This team could be very strong or it could be extremely terrible or it could end up somewhere in between. In my mind, the weakest area is the goaltending. I still have high hopes for O’Connor and Hogberg looks capable, but projecting that position is akin to voodoo, so who knows whether either will turn out.
Obviously, Dorion is not immune to the same desires to appease the fanbase as appear to have plagued his predecessor. The signing of Chris Kelly is likely an indication of such. But, the way things look to me, I’m at least a little comforted by the idea that there might be well-considered plan in at least one area of hockey operations.