If you ask any Ottawa Senators fan what this upcoming off-season means, most of them will (and should) tell you that this is the most important one in years. After years of the team stalling its progression, it seems like the organization has finally realized that changes need to be made. The 2011 draft was extremely important due to how many picks they had, and now the 2016 off-season is extremely important due to fans clamouring for immediate improvement.
The thing is, what constitutes a successful off-season? We all want the team to make smart decisions in the summer, but we all have different definitions of "success" for the Senators. No doubt there are many things that the team needs to improve at, but creating a perfect team in one summer is probably impossible.
With that in mind, let's go through a few things that some of us expect them to do in order to have a successful off-season.
Acquire a top-four defenseman
It's no secret that the Senators defense wasn't good enough last year. Even after trading for Dion Phaneuf, it's still a work in progress. I'm of the opinion that they still need a legitimate first or second pairing defenseman a la Tyson Barrie or Sami Vatanen (who will both be on the trading block), but players like that will cost a lot in a trade. Perhaps Thomas Chabot can become that sort of player, but that would be a lot to expect of him as a 19-year old.
If Ottawa did acquire a player like Barrie or Vatanen, it would be a major move. I'm not exactly expecting it, but my opinion of Pierre Dorion would go up a lot if he makes a massive upgrade on defense.
Acquire a bottom pairing defenseman
Perhaps you may think that the top-four is fine right now, and instead they just need a proven defenseman on the third pairing to make sure they're at least competent. This wouldn't be a sexy move, but it's clear that their lack of depth hurt them last year, plus this wouldn't cost too much in money or assets. This sort of move would allow them to make a bigger move at forward (or save money for later).
They have been rumoured to want a veteran third pairing player this summer anyway, so we may have to just expect that.
Acquire a top-9 LW
As I outlined on Wednesday, there is a definite need at left wing because their depth at that position in the entire organization is not great. Mike Hoffman is clearly is a phenomenal player and Clarke MacArthur is a great second line player, but beyond that there isn't much. Zack Smith could stay at left wing, but it would be foolish to expect another 20-goal campaign from him. Ryan Dzingel and Matt Puempel may fit in with the team, and Francis Perron could be an option in a year or two, but for next year there isn't a whole lot of depth on that side.
Factoring in MacArthur's health is the real worry, because that's when Ottawa's lack of depth shows. Ottawa may want to sign a free agent like Teddy Purcell, Jamie McGinn, or Kris Versteeg, or trade for an undervalued winger. Forward as a whole may not seem like a big need, but the third and fourth lines could use some help.
Sign Steven Stamkos
Haha, yeah right. We don't want him for that money anyway. Move along.
Hire a few analytics people
Yes, we've beaten this drum for a long time. It gets tiring, I know. But there's no reason why the Senators shouldn't be investing more into analytics given that it costs the fraction of what actual NHL salaries cost and essentially every team has made at least a few hires here.
It seems like Dorion is more open about looking into numbers than Bryan Murray ever was, and that gives me some hope. Combine that with the fact that Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford are aware of the good side to analytics makes me optimistic that there will be at least one prominent hire this summer. It would be nice for the whole organization to embrace this, but let's take baby steps.
Have a major shake-up
I don't think this teams core needs to be blown up, but some people may want that. Maybe you want Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, and a few others to go in order to create a totally different team. Or perhaps you want the team to trade away most of its players to try to rebuild again. This would be an odd opinion, but I'm sure there are a few who want this. I truly believe the core is fine, but there will always be people who want to blow things up and re-start.
I wanted to end this with some sort of poll to see what people think will constitute a successful summer, but it's too complicated because many people will want multiple things to happen. Instead of giving a poll answer, I want to hear what you think in the comments.
Would you be happy with something as simple as a few analytics hirings, or do you need to see them acquire two defenseman, a left-winger, and make a few hires in the front office? This team needs a lot of work, but it's not impossible to create a solid team within the next year or two. We haven't seen a lot of success in the past few years, and I think it's about time we see some real improvement.
The question is what will you be happy with? I'm curious to see what the fans expect this off-season, and I'm sure there are a few things that I did not list, so let me know.