Bye Bye, Brian Lee

(Ed's Note: The following is a FanPost from user Mark Parisi, which may or may not reflect the views of the editors at Silver Seven. You can read more FanPosts, or write your own, by looking to the sidebar on the right side of the page)

In demoting defenseman Brian Lee to the AHL today, the Ottawa Senators have sent him a very clear message about his future with the organization: He has none.

Lee, who was one of Ottawa’s better players in the 2007-08 first round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins has not done himself any favors since then. He has not looked close to being the same player, and last season split time between the AHL and NHL again. In 53 games with the Senators last year, he only managed two goals and eleven assists, and was not a physical force on the ice. That same unremarkable play has seemed to carry over to this year, which is confusing considering his pedigree: Lee made the AHL All-Star game in 2007-08 and managed as a high school player to make the USA squad for the World Junior Hockey Championships.

But somewhere along the way, his development has stalled. The fault for this probably lies with both the organization and the player, but it doesn’t appear that Lee fits in GM Bryan Murray’s plan for the team. His reassignment to Binghamton means that the team thinks four teammates are better players than he is: Matt Carkner, Alexandre Picard, Chris Campoli, and rookie Erik Karlsson. Include Ottawa’s top three defensemen and Lee is completely buried in the organization.

Is Lee that bad? Probably not, given what we have seen him do in the past, but there can’t be much doubt that he has fallen out of favor with the team. Coach Cory Clouston has seen Lee for three years now, including his AHL All-Star season, and here’s what he had to say about Lee after today’s reassignment:

"He’s got to go down and recapture his game. He’s got to be dominant."

It would be silly to think that either Murray or Clouston believe Karlsson, who was called up with Lee’s reassignment, is going to come in and be "dominant" in only his 10th NHL game, so clearly there are other forces at work here.

Lee was part of former GM John Muckler’s penultimate draft class, and based on the fallout from Muckler’s subsequent dismissal – as well as the Murray-built Ducks team which beat the Senators in the Stanley Cup Finals that year – there is a marked philosophical difference between Murray and Muckler on defensemen. One doesn’t need to look further than Murray’s most recent picks (Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch, Jared Cowen, Chris Wideman, and Michael Sdao) to see that Murray values size and then skill. In fact, only one defensemen, 2008 fifth-rounder Mark Borowiecki, resembles Brian Lee physically. In addition, Murray did not hesitate to trade defenseman Joe Corvo when he asked to be moved.

While I am at a loss to explain why Murray traded for Campoli and Picard given that their skill sets are so similar to Lee’s, I don’t believe it is coincidence that all three players are restricted free agents at the end of this year. It’s highly possible Murray only intends to keep one player, and move along the development of our younger defensemen faster than some of us (namely, me) would like. With his demotion today, the odds are against that one player being Brian Lee.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Silver Seven community, and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of the site managers, editors, or Sports Blogs Nation, Inc.