Everything Else

vs.

 

RECORDS: Senators 22-31-5   Hawks 24-26-9

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT: Silver Seven Sens

There will be some, perhaps lots, who look across the ice tonight at the Ottawa Senators and wish the Hawks had taken their path so far, or at least their path forward. For the Senators are already at the bottom of the league, and will soon discard Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel (or should), and the end of their season will almost certainly be something resembling whatever that was at Daytona yesterday. Except instead of hilljacks it’ll be….Canadian hilljacks, and more Timbo’s. And the Senators will end up in the bottom three of the lottery, where they would have a great chance at a franchise-turning player in the draft.

Except they don’t have a first-round pick, so that’s the part Hawks fans wouldn’t want.

Meanwhile, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, with help from Erik Gustafsson and Alex DeBrincat and possibly Dylan Strome, will keep the Hawks from bottoming out. And whether it’s a reality or not, they’ll continue to chase a playoff spot that the Western Conference as a whole keeps trying to pass around like it was waiting at a highway-offramp. And they’ll end up with anywhere from the 7th to 16th pick, all the while not doing themselves a whole lot of good. Who will be better off when it’s all said and done? Well, the Hawks because they’ll actually have a pick. But you get it. It could be argued they’d be better long-term if they were where the Senators are.

But you didn’t come for hypotheticals.

Anyway, the Senators have been able to only put it together recently when playing the Jets, whom they’ve beaten twice in a week for some reason. Other than that, they’ve lost five of their other six games in February. Their lone win came against the Ducks, because you cannot lose to the Ducks no matter how badly you might like to or even try. It’s akin to Tommy trying to lose to Begbie in Trainspotting. And yes, the image of the Ducks as a whole cowering in a corner trying not to piss themselves works pretty well, I think.

That hasn’t kept Duchene, Stone, and Dzingel from trying to play their way into happier situations, and all have been hot of late. Dutch would seem a perfect fit for the Predators, which is goddamn annoying, which means the Jets are then also interested in that Central arms race. The Flames have been most hotly connected to Stone, but he will have no shortage of suitors either. If they can get a bidding war going for them they could end up with a decent enough haul. Or they’ll end up watching Eeli Tolvanen do nothing for years despite claims he was going to be the greatest Finn every to grace this league since the lovechild of Selanne and various Koivus. It’s the Senators, you won’t bet against anything.

As for the team that’s on the ice now, like the Hawks they are woeful defensively, among the worst in overall Corsi or xGF%, and in attempts and expected-goals against. When Thomas Chabot isn’t on the ice, the other pairings simply get steamrolled into their own end. While there is more than a touch of offensive talent at forward between the trade bait and Chris Tierny, Bobby “I Swear I’m Not The Dumbest Person Alive” Ryan, and Colin White, it doesn’t matter much when it’s backing up.

Craig Anderson is now too old to hold up under an avalanche, and Sens fans can thank him for extending noted-genius-in-his-own-mind Guy Boucher’s reign of boredom much longer than it should have gone thanks to a goofed East Final Game 7 appearance two years ago. Boucher’s “system,” such as it is, requires a goalie to throw a .925 or better at the world, and if they don’t his teams suck. And they almost always suck. Anderson is hurt, as 37-year-olds tend to get, so Hawks legend Anders Nilsson will be in net. He had a hot-streak upon arriving in The North Capital, but has flattened out of late.

For the Hawks, small changes around the edges. Collin Delia will slot back in, trying to come correct after a touchdown surrendered to the Bruins. Gustav Forsling will once again exhibit his modern art representation of sadness in place of Carl Dahlstrom, who was a splatter-painting himself on Saturday. Brendan Perlini will replace Chris Kunitz.

For whatever this is, the Avs and Yotes are also in action today, though both have tough assignments in the Knights and Flames, respectively. Should those results go the Hawks way and the Hawks get one over the Sens, they’ll be within one point of the last playoff spot. A playoff spot that the Wild clearly are treating like it needs disinfecting and have no interest in keeping. As dumb as it might seem, one point is one point, especially with the Wild beating a hasty retreat from the world at large.

You can’t say that the Hawks “should” beat anyone, given their status. But if anyone’s that team, it’s the Senators. And it’s also the Wings, who are on the docket Wednesday. And the Avs on Friday have been backing up for a couple months. Honestly, come Saturday night this could all be very real, no matter how stupid.

Ride the snake.

 

 

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Lineups & How Teams Were Built

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Ok it doesn’t really work. But we’re going with it.

In the scorched-Earth-covered-in-manure season and situation that the Senators have found themselves in, the one flower springing from it all has been Thomas Chabot. Whether the Senators meant to or not, they’ve found themselves a d-man they can build around. Shame they have to do ALL the building, but you have to start somewhere.

Chabot was always pointed to this of course, being a first-round pick in 2015. Chabot is the rare defensive product out of the QMJHL, a league where most defenders are just watching forwards streak by them before putting up a touchdown or more on their confused and lonely goaltender with shoddy skin. Chabot was a point-per-game from the blue line there, and made the Senators the year before last. He put up a respectable 25 points in 63 games in his rookie year. Come on, Nicholas Beaudin!

This year it’s exploded. He’s already got 33 assists and 44 points for a Sens team that struggles merely to breathe. More impressively, his metrics are some of the best in the league. His relative-Corsi is second in the league among any d-men, including being just ahead of Erik Karlsson. He’s 10th in the league in relative-xGF%, again just behind Karlsson (and some real randos, to be fair). The level at which Chabot is pushing the play above what his team does when he’s not on the ice is striking.

Sure, Chabot has some help. He’s getting cushy zone starts, as only him and Chris Wideman are getting more offensive zone starts than not on the team. He and Wideman are also getting the easiest competition, basically a third-pairing, bum-slaying role. Which is exactly how you bring along a d-man barely out of his teenage years. Wouldn’t it have been lovely if the Hawks could have done the same with Henri Jokiharju?

The hope for the Senators, no matter the record, is that they can take Chabot, Maxime Lajoie, Ben Harpur, Dylan DeMelo, and one or two others and roll with them for years. None are older than 25 at the moment. And they’re going to have to because as you probably know, the Senators don’t have a first-round pick this year and it very well may be top-three. They could have added to this.

Sadly, the Sens look bereft up front, other than Brady Tkachuk and his never-closing mouth. Colin White might be a middle-six player one day, but that’s it. The Senators are aiming to be the Hurricanes, with a great blue line with nothing ahead of it. It’s…a plan?

The Sens might not have much. In fact, they have startlingly little. But at least in Chabot there’s a start of something. Mighty oaks from little acorns and all that. If they can cash in on Matt Duchene and Mark Stone to the extent they should, and maybe one or two others, it’s at least a launch point.

But then, this is the Senators after all.

 

Game #60 Preview Suite

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Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

You find anyone willing to admit they’re a Senators fan these days. We were pointed to this person on Twitter, who confiscated our phones and made us where a shrouded hood while he drove in circles. We felt just like Pierre Dorion. Anyway, here’s what you need to know from the inside. 

We don’t want to be insulting, we know it’s been a rough summer for Senators fans, but…why are you even bothering this season?

 I guess at the end of the day it’s just entertainment. I’m still really looking forward to watching Mark Stone, who is one of my all-time favourite players. With Brassard gone and Pageau out for the year he won’t have good line mates, but that has never stopped him from producing or playing great defensively. I’m not sure if he’ll be a Senator after the deadline, but regardless he’ll be fun to watch.
Thomas Chabot on the top pair with Chris Wideman is also going to be great to watch. While Chabot was pretty bad defensively in his rookie season, he’s such a skilled player and has the potential to be a number #1 defenseman. I also think Wideman will surprise a lot of people. He was injured all last season, but in his 3rd pairing minutes the year before he was amazing. Size has always been an issue for him but he’s a good puck mover and does a great job of getting the puck to the net from the point.

Why should Pierre Dorion be trusted with the rebuild that is coming for the Senators? And if he’s not (he’s not) is there any hope that the higher-ups know it?

While so many of his trades have been brutal, Dorion’s biggest strength is his drafting ability. As a GM he’s managed to pluck some great prospects outside of the 1st round like Formenton (47th overall, 2017), Batherson (121st overall, 2017), and the Dahlen he traded for Burrows (42th overall, 2016). While the Sens don’t really have a young guy with star potential outside of Chabot, they have a surplus of players who look like a safe bet to develop into top six forwards/top 4 defensemen.
I honestly don’t see him getting fired any time soon. I think Eugene Melnyk really likes him, and they seem to have a strong relationship. What they need to focus on now is building up the front office. With no assistant general managers, Dorion was running the team alone all summer. They hired a lot of scouts over the past month, brought in a new assistant GM, and are still looking for another one. Scouting and development are so important during a rebuild, so I think providing more resources to both Dorion and their prospects will have a bigger return on investment than any free agent signing they could possibly make.

Is it really advisable to have Brady Tkachuk spend the season in Ottawa?

I think it is. He isn’t eligible for the AHL so the Sens would have to send him back to the OHL. I don’t think he would progress much in his development there because it wouldn’t be challenging enough. As an 18 year-old he was 4th in points and 1st in shots on his Division 1 NCAA team, so playing in the OHL as a 192 pound 19 year-old against teeenagers would be nothing for him. Since he’s already so physically mature and defensively responsible I think the NHL would be the best option for him.

Is the only endgame here somehow getting Eugene Melnyk to sell the team? Is that in any way feasible?

The Sens just completed a $135M refinancing over the summer, so I don’t think there will be a sale this season. With something like 4,000 season ticket holders, an angry fanbase, zero optimism surrounding the team and a downtown arena still years away (the Sens play 25km from downtown) I really don’t see things getting better anytime soon.
Having a low payroll will make it hard for them to be anything better than a bubble team, but it’s not insurmountable. The Sens have a lot of good prospects coming through the pipeline, so taking advantage of their cheap ELCs and first RFA contracts will be key over the next few years. But they absolutely need to find a way to move Bobby Ryan’s contract and have to trade Ceci at the deadline.

 

 

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