It's my favourite time of the year. Greedy kids asking for PS4's and iPad's is what it's all about. Christmas is just one week away, and I'm going to submit a late list to Santa. I'm also going to be one of those greedy kids though, because I am asking for a lot this time around.
1. Trade for a defenseman---and a good one
I think Bryan Murray and the team have finally realized that this team needs a defenseman if they want to go anywhere, which is a good sign. However, I'm worried that they may be targeting the wrong guys. Not too long ago, Bruce Garrioch mentioned Kris Russell, Trevor Daley (who has since been dealt), and Ron Hainsey. Someone like Russell looks to be a Murray type of player, but in the past two seasons he ranks 155th out of 164 defenseman in 5 on 5 possession. He also sits 143rd in corsi relative in that time frame.
He might be a serviceable 3rd pairing player, but he certainly won't do much to fix Ottawa's blueline. For Christmas I'd love to see a bona fide top-four defenseman. This needs to be someone who can hold his own at 5 on 5, and be able to play well with Patrick Wiercioch. There are a few around the league that are undervalued, and the Senators should be making daily calls to every team (and I'm sure they are).
2. Announce a succession plan for Ottawa's next GM
Bryan Murray's battle through cancer has been admirable. He's a loved man throughout the league, and it's hard not to root for him. Just recently Greg Wyshynski named him the number 1 for the Top 10 Hockey People of 2015, and it's nice to see that he is probably in better shape by being at the rink around young people so often. He will always be remembered in Ottawa, but let's not forget that he did say he would step down after this year.
And then he said not so fast. However, I think it is time for him to call it a career at the end of 2015-16. The Senators need some improvement, but they also badly need a new voice or two in the front office. For a small market team, they really need all the smart people they can get in order to help build a winning team. I'd love to see some stats-oriented people come in, even just as consultants. If you look around the league, Ottawa's braintrust is pretty small comparatively.
Pierre Dorion might be a fine choice as GM, but I'd rather see somebody new. They should be able to find their man in the coming months by doing lots of background work. As awkward as it is, Murray should do what is best for the team, and the Senators should quickly try to find a successor.
3. Keep Shane Prince in the lineup/stop with the bad lines
Despite having a rather pedestrian 2 goals and 5 assists in 18 games, he is actually fifth on the team in points per 60 due to his limited ice time. He's only averaging 11:24 of ice time per game, which is extremely low for someone of his skill-set. Not only has he been fine for point production (on pace for 32 points over 82 games), he also has good possession numbers. He's first on the team in raw corsi at 51.3%, and his corsi relative is third at +6.0%.
I'm not saying that he is going to be a superstar player, but when Ottawa has been struggling mightily with depth issues, it makes no sense to keep Prince out of the lineup. Furthermore, it would be nice to not see Zack Smith on the first line and Mark Borowiecki at forward. Someone like Prince is much more deserving than either of those players.
4. Don't settle for just making the playoffs
One playoff series win. Just one. That is how many Ottawa has since they lost in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007. They have not been good enough since then, and making the playoffs shouldn't be the goal. With a core as good as this, there's no reason why Ottawa can't go deep into the playoffs. Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Bobby Ryan, Mika Zibanejad, and Craig Anderson is a fantastic group. The problem is they need some outside pieces to fix the defense on the depth up front.
At the end of the day, I'm not going to be happy if they make the playoffs but lose in the first round. This is a team that should be taking large steps forward, not sideways.
5. Sign Mike Hoffman to a long-term deal
The Senators cannot negotiate with Hoffman until January 1st, but the second the calendar turns to the year 2016, Ottawa should be all over his agent. The longer Ottawa waits, the more expensive his contract will be. Perhaps Hoffman will wait it out for that specific reason, but the Senators need to try extremely hard regardless. He is still an RFA so there isn't a huge amount of panic going into the summer, but if he scores 40 goals, then he could be asking for $6 million. He's currently on pace for 47, so that is definitely not out of the question.
They can't afford to lose him either, so signing him early on would be the best thing to do. He clearly has proven to the team that he can repeat last years performance, and even be better. He needs to be part of this core for years to come.
6. Buy a magic potion to get Clarke MacArthur healthy
People have forgotten about MacArthur, and it's really sad. He's one of the more underrated players in the league, and he would really put everybody back into their place if he returned. Over the past 3 years he is only behind Erik Karlsson on the team in corsi, and is fifth on the team in points per 60 at 1.92.
Having him healthy for the second half of the season would be phenomenal. He makes others around him better, and he would make Ottawa's depth look much better. They would be able to have two fantastic lines again, and someone like Shane Prince or Milan Michalek (once he returns) could go back to playing with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Curtis Lazar. He is apart of this teams core, and I think losing him is one of the reasons why the team has been struggling possession-wise. Please, we just need some magic potion to bring him back!
7. Find a way to unload Jared Cowen
He's 24 years old. I have definitely seen enough, and I think even most casual fans have as well. It's not great when Hockey Blogger God Travis Yost says this about you:
I don't know how many times I can say this but Cowen has zero spatial awareness. Nothing like I have ever seen before. Forget confidence.— Travis Yost (@travisyost) December 17, 2015
Despite his play over his career, I still believe a team would trade for him. I don't care if it's for a 7th round pick, or cash considerations, or anything. His subtraction would be an addition.
So please Santa, can I find at least a few of these under the tree by the end of the season?