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Silver Seven Sens Mailbag: What Should They Do With The Defense?

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You asked and we have answered. It's the first edition of the Silver Seven Sens Mailbag!

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Right after the All-Star break, we asked the readers if there was anything they wanted to ask us, as we are starting our own Silver Seven Sens mailbag. The questions slowly rolled in, but hopefully there will be more each time we do a new one. Here they are!

From NOT Jared Cowen: With regular whipping boy Jared Cowen out of the lineup, the Senators have gave up 3 goals in the 1st period against the Oilers. Who will Sens fans scapegoat for their team's defensive struggles now, or will the fanbase finally wake up and realize that the finding one guy to single out for blame (Kuba, Gonchar, Greening, Spezza, Cowen, etc.) blinds them to the current state of the team?

Well, they eventually gave up 7 to the Oilers, so that doesn't look any better. I don't think that's exactly fair to characterize Sens fans as scapegoating just one player though. The people who hated Jason Spezza are the same ones that criticize Erik Karlsson---they aren't that smart. I think the majority of Sens fans (who are smart) realize that the issue with the team is that so many of them are bad. Sure, Cowen gets a lot of crap, but it's mostly deserved.

If you think that Cowen is the only scapegoat, then you haven't been listening to what people are saying. Alex Chiasson, Mark Borowiecki, Cody Ceci, Chris Neil, David Dziurzynski, and more have all been criticized heavily this year (at least by fans). Not having Cowen in the lineup doesn't make the Senators insanely better, only because they still have a few anchors on the blueline that are killing the team every night. So while I think scapegoating one guy isn't great, it's a bit misleading to say that Cowen has been the only one that has been blamed this year. This team's depth overall is just not good. -TS

From RogerTheShrubber (@rtshrubber): My dearest friends, the other day when the issue was raised on Twitter, I thought to myself "if this team extends Neil and loses Hoffman, I'm done." I don't know whether it's actually true, but the fact is, I'm getting close to my breaking point, and every time we call up a goon or demote a skilled player, I get a little bit closer. I supported this team through a lot of rough times. A LOT. But this feels different. I could deal with it if we were building, or rebuilding, or showing any ambition at all. But all I see is stagnation, and I hate it. Most of all, I think, I can't stand watching the best years of Karlsson's career being frittered away. It's starting to ruin every game for me. So tell me, what do you do when you've lost the love? Can I walk away and wait for the team to be lovable again, or do I need to find a way to stick this thing out? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, and those of the hivemind too. Love always, RTS. P.S If we lose Karlsson and make Borowiecki Captain, I will not only burn my jerseys, I will have all memory of this team "Eternal Sunshined" out of my mind.

Well, there's a lot to dissect here. I think that many Senators fans stand where you are right now as well, myself included. Before the season began I talked about how making the first round and losing this year isn't good enough anymore, and I got some backlash for that. But I think almost everyone is just extremely frustrated with the organization right now, and rightly so. They have done absolutely nothing since 2007 to make this team a true contender, and it comes down to a front office that is simply behind the times. There was hope back in 2013 that this team was on the edge of something great, but it's gotten worse since then.

So don't get me wrong, I feel your pain. But I'll tell you this: wait it out at least until the end of September. Wait until a new GM is hired (which will most likely be Pierre Dorion), and wait to see if they finally will make some wholesale changes, or if they are still acting clueless as if being a wildcard team is a good thing. Who knows, maybe Dorion actually does think differently than Murray. Honestly, if nothing changes for next season then I don't blame you for losing interest, as this summer could define the next decade for the franchise. I am constantly upset with the organization, but it will take a lot for me to lose interest.

Although, if Karlsson does leave and Borowiecki is named Captain, I might change my mind. -TS

From Tykos: How long you think Cameron has before his insanity gets him fired ? And ... Who do you think would be a good hire ? (I think he's gone in the off season if there's a new GM).....aaaaand....Am I crazy for thinking Carlyle ??

I doubt he'll be fired during this season, since it's much easier to find a replacement in the off-season when there will be more coaches available, and they can find the right guy. However, if they finish in the bottom 10 in the league I would bet that he's gone. I would think that Binghamton coach Luke Richardson gets a long look, but I'm not sure I'm so confident in him given the terrible results from the team in the past few years. He hasn't exactly had a good lineup to begin with, but I think I would look for a veteran coach that we know is going to be good. If Bruce Boudreau gets canned from Anaheim (which is likely if they don't go far in the playoffs), then I would absolutely love to get him, as Elliotte Friedman said Ottawa could be a fit.

As for hiring Carlyle, yes, you are crazy for thinking that. He was a trainwreck in Toronto, and he'd be worse than Dave Cameron. -TS

From Be_Rad: Does Cameron have a 'system'? If so, can you describe its essential elements and are the players executing it?

I'll be honest, this is easily the toughest question here. When I watch hockey, I don't particularly focus on systems and how teams forecheck, defend, etc. So I can't give you a perfect answer for that, but I will say this: we know what Dave Cameron likes in players. We know that he is extremely risk-averse, as he continuously puts Mark Borowiecki out there because he is perceived to be someone who won't turn the puck over.

For the past 15 months, he still has yet to fully appreciate Mike Hoffman and Shane Prince, and with Hoffman it is even more baffling considering that he actually has the point totals to justify more power play time. I think if he was coaching in game seven of a playoff series, he'd have a "safe" guy like David Dziurznsyki over Prince because there is a perception that Prince is too risky. The thing is though, Cameron doesn't understand the Senators strengths. They should be a run and gun team that takes chances and lets their players do what they are capable of. Instead, you have guys like Alex Chiasson in the lineup who don't particularly do many things well.

I'd say that the essential element to his 'system' is that he values grit too much, and he hates taking risks. If you believe that taking your team to a sub .500 record is what will happen when you have a system like Cameron does, then yes, I guess you could say Ottawa is executing it to perfection.  But I certainly would say that they could have a few more wins here and there if they had an optimal lineup night in and night out. -TS

From David Rajsic: Hey, longtime reader, first time "caller." (sorry I always wanted to say that). We all know the Sens need to make moves on defense, but do you think 1 move for a top 2 type player or a couple moves for just some capable d-men to help is more likely? Thanks, David Rajsic.

I think it would be incredibly hard to find a top-2 defenseman out there. Probably the only guys who would be available are Kevin Shattenkirk and Dustin Byfuglien (Update: Byfuglien signed a five-year extension with the Jets on Monday afternoon). Byfuglien won't be in Ottawa's price-range, and Shattenkirk will cost at least Mike Hoffman, so it most likely won't happen. I think it can be fixed semi-easily, as they really just need a puck-moving second pairing guy and someone who won't submarine the third pairing. I'm not sure who they could go after, but amongst free agents, if they have the money a guy like Keith Yandle would fit in very nicely on the second pairing.

Sadly, Borowiecki will never leave the lineup so the third pairing will always be a bit of a disaster. One above average defenseman and one average defenseman will make this team so much better. -TS

From @luca_buffone: When is Murray going to make a trade to shake up this team? We've hit rock bottom and it's embarrassing....Toronto visits us this weekend too. Team needs a revamp

So obviously some parts of these questions get a little dated over time. As we all know, the Sens demolished Toronto, but that doesn't change the fact that the team has been embarrassing as of late. While I agree, that the team needs a revamp, I'm not sure if it'll happen this season. Bryan Murray hasn't made many in-season trades recently. He didn't acquire or trade a single NHL player during the 2014-15 season. He traded Jason Spezza before the season started, and waited until the draft to ship out Robin Lehner (and David Legwand!). During 2013-14, he only acquired Ales Hemsky for a pair of draft picks. The year before that, he got Cory Conacher. The year before that, Matt Gilroy. So it's possible that Murray has cooled on making in-season trades due to recent history, or it's possible that since this team isn't buying (like 2007-2010) or selling (like 2011) he isn't too keen on making trades during the year.

So when will Murray make a trade? I'm skeptical one will happen before the off-season. The team is trying to ditch Jared Cowen to put money into Hoffman and Ceci extensions (according to Bruce Garrioch), but if they can't trade him, I'm not sure anything will happened before June. -RA

From @slowhnds: How many more games does Cameron have left if this slide continues?

Cameron may have bought himself some time with last season's surprise run, but it seems to be ebbing with every seven-goals-allowed game. However, I can't see Cameron getting fired before the off-season. I think if the Sens continue on this trend of being outshot, badly outscored, and losing 2/3 of the games, he'll be fired April 10 once the Sens' season wraps up (aka the Cory Clouston treatment). Normally teams that fire coaches during the season either have Stanley Cup aspirations like the Penguins, or have an abysmal start like this year's Blue Jackets or the 2013 Flyers. If Murray decides he's stepping down at the end of the year, he may even leave the decision about firing Cameron to the next GM, leaving Cameron in limbo kind of like Claude Julien this past summer. -RA

From anonymous: What to do with this D core? Karlsson is now tied with the league lead for assists . Yet another year taking this team on his back. What do we do? Hope for chabot next year? The core of karlsson, stone, turris, Ryan, Hoffman, and zibanejad is awesome we just need some help on D really bad. Shattenkirk maybe? Fowler? Go all in and grab big buff?

This is the million-dollar question. How do we improve the Sens' D? Similar to the answer above, Ottawa probably won't be able to get someone like Shattenkirk. (As pointed out earlier, Byfuglien is off the market after signing a big-money extension with the Jets.) A name like Cam Fowler has intrigued me a bunch, especially if the team decides they can't keep Hoffman. Anaheim could use a top LW, and he should fetch Fowler and then some. Failing that, the UFA market isn't looking too great - an aging Brian Campbell or the remote possibility of Alex Goligoski look to be the best options right now.

As for waiting for Chabot, I think that's too much pressure for such a young guy. It's very rare for a 19-year-old to step in and make a difference in the NHL. The team tried it with Cody Ceci and now he seems to have stagnated. I really think Ottawa needs to realize that trading for an outside defenceman is the only way the D can be improved. As you said, the core is fantastic, but every year is yet another year of Karlsson's prime wasted by insisting the D will get better organically (or that Joe Corvo is the missing link). -RA

From anonymous: So yet another sens loss eh guys? Once this team gets healthy won't be this year or if it is, it will be too late so looking to next year:
MacArthur Turris Stone
Hoffman zibanejad Ryan
Michalek pageau white

Not too bad looking but still need a D or two who do you think sens should pursue? Offence is not a problem one bit for this team win or lose it's usually good hockey. What D or two D men should sens try and get?

The D is a common theme in these questions. You can see a couple questions earlier on, but as for guys to target, here are some suggestions I have: Cam Fowler (or maybe Hampus Lindholm, depending on what Anaheim decides), Keith Yandle, Jakub Kindl (who yes, cleared waivers), or maybe Jonas Brodin, who had a good start to his career but needs to get back on track. The problem is that normally you target UFAs or underrated low-pairing guys, but the best options for these are on teams with Stanley Cup aspirations, making them less likely to get rid of anybody. As examples, Alex Goligoski as a pending UFA with the Stars, or Dmitry Orlov as a high-ceiling guy on the Capitals. -RA

From Deryk MacDonald (@d_mac_87): Any info on how MacArthur is doing? Any timetable on return?

We'll wrap this up with some good news. He's been doing morning skates and some non-contact drills with the team. Bruce Garrioch reports that he's targetting an early March return.

If you've got questions for future mailbags, you can get them to us in three ways: