I realize as a die-hard Senators fan that last night's news could very well have caused you to pour another stiff drink post-game. I too was shocked and felt terrible after seeing the freak accident (I'm undecided if it was intentional or not-- but despite it being Cooke, that's a farfetched assumption to make that he decided to use his skate blade to attack another player). If Karlsson doesn't come back to 100%, it will truly be a tragedy for hockey fans all across the world. It took about an hour for me to digest the situation and in the end, I decided to make positive of what could potentially be a blessing in disguise.
I'm not saying here that the season isn't lost. It's a shame for Alfie in particular if this is his last dance in Ottawa, but he started here on a very crappy team and his legacy here will not be remembered for this year, but his devotion to what was once a poor team and how he stayed with them all the way, almost bringing the cup home in the process. The longest standing captain in the NHL, remember.
With the way Anderson is playing, this team was potentially a cup threat (with Spezz back), but in reality we really were likely going to go 2nd to 3rd round, face a tough team like NYR or Boston and most likely not bring Stanley home. (Realist opinion here - bash me if you want)
With the trade rumors floating around about Brian Murray potentially looking to bring in help, who knows what may have been lost for a short-term fix like Weiss, or a potential over-payment for a greedy player like O'Reilly. Only B.M. can truly know how much he would have given up to give our Sens an extra push come trade deadline, or earlier, but we must remember that this is still year two of our rebuild.
With all of that said, I decided to focus on the positive aspects of this, as opposed to mourning the season right away, and look ahead to the future of what truly may be a championship contender for years to come.
1) Draft Day
Immediately, we can assume the Senators will likely drop out of the rat race at this point, and could fall quite low in the standings. Yes, this season may not be pretty, but you must realize the value of having a top pick in this draft and how valuable it would be for our forward prospects to pick up a big name early in this year's draft. I'm not saying we should be like EDM and do this every year, but another top 2 line forward prospect can never hurt and this year's draft is stacked with "potential" talent.
2) Trade Deadline - Sellers instead of Buyers
I mentioned above that B.M. was looking to buy, but come closer to trade deadline, I fully expect to see Bishop moved for something like a 2nd pick as we're looking to plan for next year at this point. I realize that we traded our 2nd to get him and it may end up being a lateral move, but it gave us the time to build Lehner up this season and he could see a few starts come closer to the end of the year.
Unless Alfredsson and B.M. agree that it's best for the club and wants to gift Alfie a shot at the cup with a contender in his final year, I doubt he gets moved and we'll be chanting Alfie on the final day of his career this season. However, this doesn't mean that we don't have trade assets to move come trading time.
Of the UFAs next season, you have to assume there's very little value in Lats, Regin, but wouldn't be surprised if we can trade Gonchar to a playoff contending team for their first round pick or a reasonably good prospect. (Something we wouldn't do if we were heading into the playoffs).
3) UFA Heaven
Going into the off-season then, Ottawa's cap situation (which is already great) will shed about 10M more with the loss of Alfie and Gonchar. This gives us the flexibility to first choose which UFAs/RFAs of our own we want to sign moving forward, as well as makes us a big contender to hopefully bring in a big fish forward to help our front lines. This is the year the cap is going to drop and some teams will be forced to make tough decisions (ex: Chara or Redden from years back - ya I still hate this) to stay cap compliant next year and this offseason could be quite an interesting one. Some will say a defender may help us, but its certainly not a necessity (as I will explain further down).
4) Player Development
This is the year that we truely get to see some of our prospects, despite it being like watching AHL hockey for the rest of the season. Yes, when you put AHL players into the NHL, they still play like AHL'ers for some time. With the core in place for years to come, you can't deny it's still a treat to watch the talents of Z-Bad, Turris, Silfverberg, Wiercoch and whoever else gets called up to fill the gaping holes in the lineup now. You know McLean will teach these young studs all year and you must hope they will improve by year's end given the ice time and new focus that this season may bring.
The core of this team is unbelievably solid for years to come and if the players who are out now all heal properly and can come back next year, the lineup might be something feared. A lot of this is based on B.M. being able to sign our RFAs (namely Condra, Daugavins, maybe Da Costa, Wiercoch most definitely and maybe even Lundin) but that shouldn't be too difficult given the 26 million he has to spend, even with a lowered cap.
Michalek - Spezza -
Silfverberg - Turris -
Greening - Smith - Condra
Daug - JOB - Neil
With ZBad as your 1st/2nd line right winger, depending on the off-season moves, this doesn't look that bad at all. The bottom 6 is quite nice and would be fierce to play against on a nightly basis. Hoping for a top line right winger would be ideal through the UFA market, but it wouldn't surprise me to see a trade filling this void as well.
Karlsson - Methot
Cowen - Wiercoch
Phillips - Ceci/Boro/Lundin
Depending on Ceci's development, this would be a fierce defensive lineup with some huge bodies there who can lay down the body, as well as some fine puck moving skills from the back. If they can keep these guys together, this is a scary defense for years to come. It's hard to say it, but Phillips looks like he's past his prime, but being in a 5/6 role could be beneficial to the kids and trading him away would almost be worthless at this point.
Need I say more?
I should apologize for the length of this post for those who don't like to read :) I was raging after the game yesterday evening, decided to sign up on the website and had to share my thoughts in order to continue breathing. I started writing this last night, only to put the final touches on it now. Please enjoy.