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Five Thoughts for Friday

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Thoughts on the goalie carousel, Alex Ovechkin, Ottawa's draft pick and more!

Melnyk in happier times
Melnyk in happier times
USA TODAY Sports

The sun is shining, the lake is calling: it's the May long weekend! With the Ottawa Senators' elimination from the play-offs a now distant memory, we've got a hodgepodge of off-ice issues to get to before we can all call it a day and sneak away from work. If your boss asks, tell 'em Nate said it was O.K.

Let's get to it!

Matt O'Connor and the Senators' Goalie Carousel

The biggest news of the week for the Sens was the signing of Matt O'Connor from Boston University. It's always fun to be the team that wins a free agent derby, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited when the announcement was made official last Saturday. O'Connor won't make an immediate impact in the NHL, but it can never hurt to have another goaltending asset. We've already covered this in a couple of places, but even Elliotte Friedman got in on the act in his 30 thoughts column earlier this week. The relevant quote:

25. So now that O’Connor is going to Ottawa, who’s leaving? It’s not an easy question to answer, because some potential partners may prefer Craig Anderson while others might choose Robin Lehner, pending his recovery. It’s believed Buffalo would have interest in Anderson, but would the Senators send another goalie in the division (Ben Bishop)? If one of them can get the Senators a top-six forward, that’s the guy who goes.

There's lots to unpack here, but the juiciest tidbit from Friedman is his mention of the Buffalo Sabres as a potential destination for Craig Anderson. It's a bit of a curious suggestion: I'm not sure who on Buffalo would fit Bryan Murray's stated goal of a top six forward besides Matt Moulson, and I can't see Ottawa being willing to take on his salary. As long as Tim Murray is in charge in Buffalo and Bryan Murray is heading up the Sens, these two will be mentioned as potential trade partners. Still, where there's smoke there's often fire and Friedman doesn't have the reputation of someone that throws out rumours for the sake of it.

All that aside, something has to give. The Sens have made no indication whatsoever that they see O'Connor starting the year in Ottawa, but he's surely been promised big minutes in Binghamton. One of Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner and Andrew Hammond then has to move. The simplest thing to do would be to let Hammond walk as a free agent, but that appears to be the least likely course of action. Instead, I'd wager a large sum of money that one of Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner will be traded before training camp. Which one? Your guess is as good as anyone's, because not even the pros seem to know.

Speaking of highly sought after prospects:

Ottawa's Draft Position

With the elimination of the Calgary Flames, the Sens are now locked into the 18th position. Around this time of year, lots of people claim to be draft experts; I've personally always put a lot of faith in Corey Pronman's rankings for ESPN (N.B: this link requires ESPN Insider. Pronman's articles are worth the price of admission alone, but be warned there is a paywall). Pronman has Nick Merkley of the Kelowna Rockets as his 18th ranked prospect. Merkley's a high scoring forward who Pronman describes as "flashy" but whose frame, only 5"11, and defensive game aren't ideal. If you're thinking to yourself that Merkley sounds like a bit of a gamble, that's because picking in the 18th spot is well past the point of a sure thing. I've compiled a list of the last nine players taken in the 18th spot in the table below:

Year

Name

Team

NHL Games Played

2006

Chris Stewart

Colorado Avalanche

463

2007

Ian Cole

St. Louis Blues

187

2008

Chet Pickard

Nashville Predators

0

2009

Louis Leblanc

Montreal Canadiens

50

2010

Austin Watson

Nashville Predators

6

2011

Mark McNeill

Chicago Blackhawks

0

2012

Teuvo Teravainen

Chicago Blackhawks

37

2013

Mirco Mueller

San Jose Sharks

39

2014

Alex Tuch

Minnesota Wild

0

If you recognize more than four names on that list, you're a better hockey fan than I. This isn't to say that picking mid-way through the first round is all doom and gloom, but it's probably not realistic to expect a major impact player coming out of this pick. It would certainly be unlikely that the Sens produce a player that could contribute in the next couple of seasons. Knowing this, would Bryan Murray be willing to move this pick if he thought it would land him a major upgrade? He should at least be willing to consider the idea; Ottawa's window to contend with this core is the next two to three years. Time's ticking by faster than you'd imagine.

Ovechkin brings back memories of Alfredsson

When the Senators are eliminated from the play-offs, I don't typically have a back-up team that I cheer for. These last two weeks, however, I'd been pulling hard for the Washington Capitals, and particularly Alex Ovechkin. Why? Because I am so tired of articles like this:

If it seems unfair to lay the blame at the feet of one man on a roster of 20, a player who’s on the ice for just about one-third of the game, a player on a team who brought in a coach who was supposed to change the losing culture around Washington, it’s not. When you reap the rewards, you deserve the criticism.

If you want to save yourself the trouble, it's a re-hash of all the same old tired points about coming through in the clutch. What struck me this time, though, was how much it reminded me of all the old articles that were once written about Daniel Alfredsson. Those articles were unfair then, and this stuff about Ovechkin is unfair now. It was just days ago that I was reading, and hearing, analysts heap praise on Ovechkin for his "changed approach" and his "maturity". How quickly we forget. At some point, Ovechkin's going to end up on the right end of a "clutch" performance and we'll all talk about how much he's evolved. And it will be all too familiar to Sens fans.

Harrassment at Sporting Events

On a more a serious note, you've probably heard about the incident that took place at a Toronto FC game this weekend in which a reporter was harassed on live television. I needn't say that these actions are deplorable; that's a given. What I would say, and I'm speaking directly to other men here, is that we can do more to stop this kind of thing. It's all too easy to make excuses for men harassing women (and it is almost always men harassing women): "they were just drunk", or "they didn't really mean it to be harassment", or "what do you expect with a woman on camera in front of a soccer stadium?". If you see harassment, say something. Stop it. You can make our sports world can be a better place; idly standing by and thinking to yourself "well, at least I'm not like that guy" just isn't good enough.

Eugene Melnyk

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Eugene Melnyk and his health issues. I'm among those who don't count themselves as fans of the way that Melnyk has run this team, but even the most intransigent of us would today wish nothing but the best for Eugene as he fights for his life. Euge, if you're reading this, I hope you're just a procedure away from coming back to meddle in the affairs of the team and drive all the fans mad. It wouldn't be the same without you. All the best from everyone at Silver Seven.