In a season where everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong, it's nice to see that fans are already looking towards the future, and glaring at what we could be in a couple of years. It's the new formula in the Salary-Cap version of the NHL, suck for 3 years andthen contendfor 8-10 years. History has shown it works, especially with the two last Stanley Cup Champions (Penguins, Hawks). It has to be harder for a Canadian team to tank since it is a market where there is no nonsense. But people have to realize there is no need to be stuck in mediocrity, like the Flames or Canadiens. And the time has come for the Sens, to lose, and lose.
I won't be going too far into the future, but here's how I think everything should and can pan out until the start of the 2011-2012 season. It's not one-year exact, but it's close. First off, the team finishes January and February are parcel bit better, winning 5 of 13 games until the Trade Deadline. And then the rebuild starts:
February 26th, 2011: The Ottawa Senators trade Brian Lee to the Dallas Stars along with a 5th round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft for a 2nd round pick in the 2011 Draft. The Sens showcase Brian Lee the rest of the way to the league and a team finally picks him up, the Stars who for me likely have the thinnest blueline for a team headed to the post-season. Lee brings them insurance and a nice fit on the back-end. This ends Brian's tumultuous tenure in Ottawa.
February 28th, 2011: Trade Deadline Day. Very busy day for Bryan Murray the organization. They spend a lot of time pitching assets to other teams, and hatch a couple of deals...
First, Jarkko Ruutu is traded to the Washington Capitals for a 3rd round pick. Ruutu goes to the USA Capital and expects to be a pest for them throughout the rest of the season and into the playoffs. The battle-tested Finn is a ncie addition for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. The Sens get back a nice, late pick.
Bryan Murray than finds no suitors for Filip Kuba and Alex Kovalev, placing them both on waivers. It comes to no avail as no team picks the two up, and Kuba is re-inserted back into the line-up, while Kovalev is left for dry after a horrific season. There is suggestions he might be headed to the KHL.
Rumours build up of a move between the Vancouver Canucks and the Senators. To further them, Nucks GM Mike Gillis deals Sami Salo to the New Jersey Devils for Johan Hedberg. Salo is placed on LTIR by the Devils, meaning no salary consequences for their cash-strapped team. Quickly after, the boomerang is brought down. Chris Phillips, Nick Foligno, and Ottawa's 2nd round pick in the 2011 Draft is traded to Vancouver for Cory Schneider and Cody Hodgson. The big deal is made as Vancouver acquires a hard-nosed defenseman who would work well with Kevin Bieksa, and a big Left Wings up front at a cost. Their chances at the Cup clearly get a boost. Ottawa then gets their "goalie of the future" in Schenider, who has been perfect for the Canucks on spot duty and is NHL-ready, and in Hodgson a future No.2 centre who they can build on. Cody has fallen out of favour with the Canucks, and needs a new home. He finds one in Ottawa.
The Deadline is lowered, and Ottawa had to be one of the busiest sellers. The outline is now laid, and the team can hold their head high going forward.
To reaplce the traded players, Bobby Butler is kept for the season, and so is Jim O'Brien up front. David Hale is called up and sticks with the big club. Shortly after the 28th, Kovalev is told he won't play in a Senator uniform again, and to literally take a hike. He does, and takes the rest of the season off, a brief hiatus. Pascal Leclaire goes under the knife, and gets season-ending surgery, as he is also told his contract will likely not be renewed by season's end.
Ottawa finishes out the season with a record of 29-49-9. Weird, I know. They do "well" in the end, as a pressure-free Cory Clouston leads the team to 12th place in the Eastern Conference, and 26th place in the NHL. A couple of days after the season ends, Bryan Murray resigns as General Manager, and stays as Vice President, Senior Hockey Advisor, and Scout for the team. Cory Clouston's contract is not renewed, meaning a new era is about to begin in Canada's Capital.
One Day after the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Vancouver Canucks in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Final, Eugene Melnyk decides to official bring in and hire Paul Fenton, former Assistant GM of the Nashville Predators. Fenton worked under David Poile and brought the team to numerous playoff appearances, including finally a Calder Cup victory of his Milwaukee Admirals. Fenton's first job is to bring in a new Head Coach.
Early June, and the Sens sit in a lottery pick. Things don't work out for them, as they stay with the 5th pick, behind the Isles, Devils, Oilers, and Bruins respectively.
June 20th, 2011: New GM Paul Fenton gets news that both assistant coaches Brad Lauer and Luke Richardson resign from their posts. Ironically, it is the day where a new coach is hired. Fenton goes for former NHL tough guy and Columbus Blue Jackets assistant coach Bob Boughner. Boughner's expertise with prospects and on special teams gets him the job. It is only days away from the Entry Draft.
June 24th, 2011: With the 5th overall pick, the Ottawa Senators draft from the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, Gabriel Landeskog. After bumping all the way down to 5th, Swede Landeskog is picked up by the Senators, as Ottawa finally gets a right wing on the cup-board. The Swedish Mike Richards is already NHL-ready, and should provide good competition at Training Camp. 7 more picks are made by Fenton and his crew, as we go on into Free Agency...
July 1st, 2011: While this is an important day for other teams, it is not for the Ottawa Senators. At the start of the day though, the organization lets Ryan Shannon, Pascal Leclaire, David Hale, and Mike Brodeur know that they will not be re-signed by the team. Alex Kovalev is already an exiled man gone, while Chris Campoli is not offered a first contract, and let go into the Free Agent Market. The only signing the team does is getting Bobby Butler under contract, a 2-year, 2-way contract worth $1.4 million.
July 19th, 2011: The Sens hire Claude Noel as assistant coach, as his main job will be to run the offense. Greg Carvel will stay on as the man behind the defense and penalty killing, while Boughner takes over the Power Play. Zack Smith is also re-signed to a 3-year, 2-way contract worth $1.5 million.
August 2nd, 2011: The first and last free agent signing by Paul Fenton, as Sean O'Donnell is signed to a 1-year, $850,000 contract. O'Donnell is brought in to bring a veteran presence to the young defense, and to the young locker room.
August 4th, 2011: The final piece of the off-season puzzle is re-signed, as Brian Elliott is brought down to a 1 year, $975,000. The two sides avoided arbitration earlier, and now expect Ells to serve as the back-up to Cory Schneider to start the season.
Some days before Training Camp, the Sens bring back and old partner, Jarmo Kekelainen, who leaves the Gm post at Jokerit to come back to Ottawa and the NHL. Jarmo is named an Assistant GM along with Tim Murray, Assistant GM of the Binghamton Senators and Head Scout. It is a bit odd that a team would have two Assistant GM's, but Fenton brings in a stabilizing force behind him and Tim Murray. As Camp starts, first-round pick Gabriel Landeskog is signed to a 3-year ELC contract, meaning his NHL career could be starting as soon as this October.
The 2011-2012 season is close to starting, and the final line-up to start the first game is finalized, after a couple of position battles in Training Camp. Here is how the roster looks like...
Michalek - Spezza - Alfredsson
Regin - Fisher - Butler
O'Brien - Hodgson - Landeskog
Neil - Kelly - Winchester
Carkner - Cowen
O'Donnell - Rundblad
Filip Kuba is left out to dry. Nobody cares for the big lug, as Fenton sends him down on waivers, and in the AHL.
Next time I plan to write about the gradual improvements of Sens' prospects David Rundblad, Andre Petersson, Jakob Silfverberg, and Markus Sorensen. Farvall all, hope you enjoyed.