Editor's note: This is Callum's first article as a writer for Silver Seven. You may know him from The Hockey Writers or from Twitter. We're looking forward to having him as a regular contributor here this coming season!
Dave Cameron Signs Two-Year Extension
Yesterday, the Senators extended head coach Dave Cameron for two more years. Not as spontaneous as Paul MacLean's three-year extension signed just two years ago, but maybe this means Bryan Murray and company have learned to be more cautious after MacLean's disastrous decline.
As the mind behind the Senators' miraculous end-of-season run to the playoffs, Cameron was given high praise for the way he handled a young and injury-ridden roster.
But we shouldn't be so quick to judge.
Of the many things that went extremely well for the new coach, one in particular was opportunistic injuries. When Chris Neil and Chris Phillips were forced out of the lineup, the Senators went 20-4-3 without the under-performing veterans. To be fair, Cameron was sending Phillips up to the press box more often than not before the 37-year-old started having major back problems, but it will always be unknown how much playing time the two would've received down the stretch if their injuries were nonexistent.
And who could forget about Andrew Hammond? A coach can only take so much credit for the team's success once his goalie has remarkably gone 20-1-2 in the final quarter of the season.
If there's anything to be worried about with Cameron, it has to be his questionable forward line combos and deployment of the defense near the end of the year and especially in the playoffs.
For some reason, once Zack Smith had returned to the lineup late in the season, he was almost immediately thrown in the top six alongside Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan. Ultimately, this had bumped Mike Hoffman - who lead the team in goals with 27 - down to the fourth line, leaving everyone baffled. It seemed that every game Cameron would start Smith with Zibanejad and Ryan, only to realize it was a horrible mistake. Hoffman would be moved back with Zibanejad and Ryan after the first period, but the next game Smith would be back and the process started all over again.
When Hoffman was finally added back in the top six for good, the Senators won two playoff games in a row.
I won't even get started on the usage of Mark Borowiecki and Eric Gryba in the playoffs.
Everyone seems to be very high on Cameron, but a lot for one reason: he's not MacLean. Rightfully so, they should be satisfied that Cameron is definitely an improvement over his predecessor, but there were a lot of concerns that slipped by simply because the team kept winning.
Don't get me wrong, there's no doubt Cameron did a great deal of things the right way. Let's just wait to see how he handles a healthy roster at the start of next season before we put a label on him.
The Search for a Top-Six Forward
Murray reassured everyone on Thursday that he hasn't shied away from his previous thoughts of improving the forward corps.
Murray says he is trying to land a top-6 forward as part of the goalie trade. He says that landing a top forward remains a priority.— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) June 4, 2015
Among the many things that this organization doesn't need to do - say, like giving Jared Cowen just one more year to impress, saving a roster spot for Phillips, offering Alex Chiasson a new contract (I could go on for days) - they certainly do not require another top six forward.
The graph below shows all goals, assists and points per 60 minutes played from all of Ottawa's top-six forwards. The number in brackets is their plus/minus to the top-six forward league average.
|Player||Goals Per 60||Assists Per 60||Points Per 60|
|Clarke MacArthur||0.91 (+0.01)||1.14 (-0.02)||2.05 (+0.01)|
|0.79 (-0.11)||1.59 (+0.43)||2.38 (+0.32)|
|Mark Stone||1.15 (+0.25)||1.68 (+0.52)||2.82 (+0.76)|
|Kyle Turris||0.91 (+0.01)||1.52 (+0.36)||2.44 (+0.38)|
|Mike Hoffman||1.41 (+0.51)||1.10 (-0.06)||2.51 (+0.45)|
|Mika Zibanejad||0.91 (+0.01)||1.19 (+0.03)||2.10 (+0.04)|
Production wise, the Senators don't have a single forward in the top six that is below league average (points).
The fact that Murray is after a forward more than a defenseman is quite unsettling. Overall, the offense Ottawa generated was the most impressive part of their game last season, finishing in the top-10 for goal scoring.
They need someone who can play alongside Patrick Wiercioch on the second pairing, not another 20-goal scorer.
Seven Teams Interested in Anderson, Lehner
Also on Thursday, Murray claimed to be getting a lot of interest in Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner.
"I've had quite a number of calls actually. There's some real interest by a number of teams that don't have the depth that we have, that are looking for an NHL goaltender. We'll just have to filter through them as we're doing now and try to get a deal that fits for the organization." - Bryan Murray. Ottawa Sun.
But as of late, it seems more and more likely that the Senators will be moving the younger of the goaltenders.
"Who is going to help us? We want to win now." - Bryan Murray. Ottawa Sun.
After Anderson's brilliant performance against the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs, and seeing how Lehner is still a few years away from really becoming a No. 1 goalie, maybe Daniel Alfredsson will be moving back into his old house sooner than later.
With the Senators' roster so young, the "win now" mentality could really harm the direction and future of the team. Yes, Ottawa will have a far better chance to make the playoffs next season if Anderson stays and Lehner goes, but for how long can the 34-year-old stay as the starter? Without Lehner, the Senators future is concerning. Hammond - even with his amazing record last year - is still an unproven goaltender with only 25 games under his belt and Matt O'Connor has yet to play a single game in the AHL. Oh, and he's also the same age as Lehner. Weird.
Plainly put, what really put a wrench in Ottawa's goaltending situation was signing Hammond. Either road the Senators decide to go down, whether it's to win now or prepare for the future, there's going to be a downside to both.
Senators Likely to Let Condra Go
You could hear the entire fan base groan in unison when, earlier in the week, Bruce Garrioch reassured the speculation that we've seen the last of Erik Condra.
"The Senators haven’t made a decision on whether they’re going to keep UFA winger Erik Condra but it’s doubtful he’ll be back with free agency set for July 1." - Bruce Garrioch. Ottawa Sun.
Condra was one of Ottawa's most important players this season, especially during the push for the postseason. Alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Curtis Lazar, the three were able to create a most effective checking line; one that the team could truly rely upon in any situation.
It was a refreshing change after too many years of the Greening-Smith-Neil line that Paul MacLean ever so loved.
Condra wouldn't be too expensive to keep, but he won't be cheap either. Don't expect him to be asking anywhere around what his old salary used to be. He's worth much more than $1.25 million now.
It's been so entertaining watching Condra grow into a fan favourite this past season, it would be such a shame to see him go.
Hockey Night In Canada
Rogers Media boss Scott Moore rates the first year of Hockey Night in Canada with Rogers "a strong 7.5 out of 10."
It seems Rogers has almost completely put the blinders on and earplugs in, unwilling to listen to anything the public has been complaining about for nine months now.
"The big danger in our business is you're programming for millions of people — you don't want to let the dozens of people on Twitter tell you what to do." - Scott Moore. The Canadian Press.
Along with showing confidence in rookie host George Stroumboulopoulos, Moore hinted that the addition of Mike Babcock to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Connor McDavid to the Edmonton Oilers will help increase their ratings next season. Moore had stated that he felt the Leafs' poor performance had something to do with the lack of increase in their ratings.
Yes, the Leafs do have to share some blame for Hockey Night's poor ratings, but it's time Rogers takes a good, long look in the mirror. Maybe listen to the "dozens of people on Twitter," for a change. They seem to know what is wrong with the program.
I sure as hell wouldn't have given them a 7.5 out of 10, let alone a "strong" one.