As a certain other Canadian team goes into a rebuild "cough" Calgary "cough" and another is mired in an endless rebuild "cough" Edmonton "cough", I have wondered why it has seemed to work so well in Ottawa and not in Alberta.
How so? There are various reasons, but for me it is best to look at it through the timing of the official rebuild (the 2nd half of the craptacular 2011 season) and the how the players and personnel actually correlate to the teams sudden success.
Rebuild and Revamp Analysis #1: Drafting.
This was a full on revamp of how Ottawa drafted and developed. Brian and Tim Murray and the scouts led by Pierre Dorion fundamentally changed the roster since they got here. Ottawa went into a full rebuild mode in 2011, but the organizational revamp goes back all the way to the Karlsson draft. It has been talked about to death in Ottawa sports media, but Murray has stocked a barren farm.
The 2009 draft which has produced a No.1 goalie (Lehner), a top defenceman (Cowen) and top six forward (Silfverburg) and another potential top six forward (Hoffman) may very well go down as one of if not the best in Senators history.
Karlsson/Cowen/Weircoch/Smith//Silferburg/Lehner/Stone/Borowiecki/Rundbland (which turns into Turris) were all drafted prior to 2010-2011. (Condra/Greening/Gryba were not drafted by Murray).
Actual drafting from the rebuild year that has impacted the roster? Zjad/Pageau. Calgary should not expect players from this years draft to make a meaningful impact for at least another 2-3 years.
Whereas Edmonton has the pieces, Calgary is virtually barren of high level prospects. This will severely hurt the speed of them turning it around. But as Edmonton proves rebuilding teams need more then draft picks, so lets move on.
Rebuild and Revamp Analysis #2: Trades
In this we see a noticeable shift in philosophy from the pre-rebuild era and the post rebuild era. Only two pre-rebuild trades still directly effect the roster, the Heatley trade (Michalek) and the Vermette trade (Lehner) (Edit. Weircioch was from a trade, Happy now Too Clutch?) . Everything else no longer affects the roster. Since the rebuild, Murray has changed his attitudes immensely, calculated flipping of talent and pieces has been the dominant methodology. ( The pre-rebuild deadline deals being the most obvious example of the shift in attitude ). The first wave of trades was simply cleaning house in return for draft picks, but the 2nd wave has truly been positive for the team. Pieces and prospects began being traded for roster players. Anderson (for Elliot) finally gave Ottawa a starting goalie they have long sought. Rundbland + 2nd for Turris considerably upgraded our depth and scoring at center. Bishop's acquisition filled a pressing need but was also flipped for a young top six forward. Foligno for Methot has so far been fantastic. For a rebuilding organization in Ottawa, the attitude shift is clear.
For Alberta? Edmonton plain and simple needs to start flipping some prospects for a better supporting cast and Calgary only now begun the first wave exodus seen in Ottawa. Both these teams will have to work heavily in this area to turn around their fortunes.
Rebuild and Revamp Analysis #3: Coaching
Pretty simple. Hartsburgh/Clouston did not work, Maclean has.
Rebuild and Revamp Analysis # 4: Signings
Of all the categories I have this is by far the biggest mixed bag and the effectiveness has not changed greatly before or after the rebuild. On the one hand free agent youth/college signings are now clearly an organizational strategy since the Murray's have arrived. Winchester/Butler/Da Costa/Dizzy/Schneider (and now Rutkowski/Robinson) were signed out of college but of them so far only Winchester had a lasting impact and it was not a dynamic one. Kuba and Gonchar were signed to 3 year deals but Kuba had only one great year (and my god seeing his dropoff in Florida did we ever dodge a bullet in not resigning him) well Gonchar has actually panned out pretty well. Up front? Kovalev was a bust, Latendress has been good but great. Lundin was bloody useless (though he was supposed to be depth) whereas Benoit has been frankly superior in the depth role.
Free agent signings outside of Gonchar really haven't had an impact on the Sens roster.
Edmonton signed a major piece in Schultz but the the overall defence is still awful. Calgary actually has signed a few good players in recent years, but by and large it has been patchwork, not franchise changing. Of all the teams Edmonton really needs to sign some established secondary players to support their young players well Calgary still has some players to build around.
Final Rebuild and Revamp Analysis #5: What The Franchise Had To Work With When The Team Imploded.
Murray saw the sinking ship and immediately entered a rebuild. In this Ottawa really benefited from a strong veteran leadership when they initiated the rebuild. Spezza/Neil/Alfie/Phillips provided a nice core to support a rebuild with and the Anderson trade gave Ottawa great goaltending. A #1 Center (Spezza) and strong goaltending (Anderson) meant Ottawa actually had the two most important pieces for a good team before they revamped the roster. Toronto's long rebuild more or less single-handedly explains why having both of these pieces matters to making the playoffs.
Edmonton quite frankly needs an upgrade in goal and support players., Dubnyk is not the goalie that will take them to promise land and they have to accept it. They have pieces to work with but still haven't fixed many of the holes that sunk the ship in the first place. Calgary refused to see the writing on the wall and lost the chance for better returns on its best trade assets. Calgary is about to lose the single biggest reason they challenged for seventh/ eighth often in Kiprisoff, the replacement does not look good. Edmonton definitely has a #1 Center, whereas Calgary still had a decent, but not spectacular forward core.
Positive Reasons for Successful Rebuild in comparison to the Alberta Teams.
Drafting has been an unquestionable reason for Ottawa's quick turn around, particularly in its depth, Edmonton has been unable to internally supplement its blue chippers whereas Ottawa has. Calgary (an historically poor drafting team in recent years) will have to improve in the area. Effective trading has made a notable impact and both teams in Alberta should follow in the model of pieces/prospects for established players. Calculated trading for organizational needs has been a clearly effective strategy in Ottawa. Edmonton may very well (and if rumors are true probably will this offseason) have to flip one of the first overall picks. Ottawa also entered its rebuild with several key pieces forming a backbone for a roster. Edmonton had virtually none well Calgary has some but not at the same level of talent that Ottawa had in the most important areas.
Reasons which actually have not been great in Ottawa, but generally not any better in Alberta.
Coaching was a crapshoot in Ottawa until Paulrus. Do not get me wrong it matters, but finding the right coach is not easy for any team. (Edmonton is already on Coach #4 in their rebuild) well Calgary has been relatively stable in the regard, though not necessarily effective. Ottawa has not greatly benefited from impactful free agent signings (outside of Gonchar), but this does not mean the teams in Alberta will not have more success despite each having made one impact signing this year (Schultz, Hudler).