It may be the middle of the summer, and the driest time of the NHL's calendar year, but the Senators have kept things interesting throughout the offseason. This week was no different.
Thoughts. Five of them.
Dorion's Quick Start
The Senators have yet to play a single game during Pierre Dorion's tenure as general manager, but the 44-year-old has already had a major impact on the short and long term future of the team.
Solidifying Ottawa's crowded bottom six with veteran and now two-time Senator Chris Kelly was a rather minor acquisition, but it addressed a couple important issues. For one, the penalty kill will benefit greatly from Kelly's presence, especially after finishing 29th overall in the 2015-16 campaign. And the second matter may not be as significant, but it doesn't hurt to have a known leader on a team that was heavily criticized last season for lack of direction.
Also setting the stage for an interesting upcoming season - although a questionable move looking further down the road - is the addition of Derrick Brassard. This instantly improves the top six forward corps and gives Bobby Ryan the linemate he needs in order to put together an 82-game season that has been missing ever since his arrival in 2013.
Though they only picked five times, the Senators managed to select a bluechip prospect in Logan Brown after moving up a spot to get their guy, nabbed a talented Swedish forward in Jonathan Dahlen and were also able to snag an absolute steal when they drafted Maxime Lajoie 133rd overall, considerably lower than he was projected to go.
And Dorion has now completed the two biggest tasks of the summer. And aced both.
His first mark on the organization was bringing in a new coaching staff, and with Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford behind the bench, from what we've heard from both already, the team is in better hands than they've been the past decade.
"What I’m going to ask of (Erik Karlsson) is to be outstanding offensively. I’m going to ask him that and whatever we need to improve defensively, we’ll go one step at a time. And I do now appreciate the great talent that he’s had and especially, I love his speed. To me, the thing he has more than anybody is the possibility of speed of hands, speed of mind and speed of feet and I think that’s something every player on our team has to look up to. And that won’t change. Absolutely not. That’s something we’re going to cherish and that’s something that’s going to be at the forefront of our team." - Guy Boucher. May 9, 2016. 6thSens.com
"I have always been at the forefront of analytics. We utilize statistics for zone time, zone exits, zone entries, scoring chances, momentum swings and of course, shots, hits, giveaways, takeaways, and goals. I have long been a proponent of using the info to develop your practices, to utilize your match ups and to aid in the development of your line combos and D pairings. I am constantly looking for the edge and I do believe that interpreting the data is of more importance than collecting it." - Marc Crawford. May 24, 2015. Today's Slapshot.
And of course, the Senators have extended Mike Hoffman for four years with an AAV of $5.1875 million. An extremely team friendly contract.
The security of knowing the team's best goal scorer is locked up is more than comforting and maybe the best move of the summer in the nation's capital.
After a disappointing season that produced a fanbase riddled with more negativity than usual heading into May, Dorion has flipped the script, leading the team into October with higher hopes than the past few years have seen. Again, they've yet to play a single game, but even the most pessimistic critic would claim to be a heck of a lot more excited now than they were in late April.
What is Mike Hoffman's ceiling?
During his first full season with the club, Mike Hoffman scored 27 goals under a coach (Paul MacLean, and later Dave Cameron who would do no better) who scratched him twice and refused to pay him more than 13 minutes a game.
During his second full season, Hoffman scored 29 goals under a coach (Cameron again) who once substituted one of the team's third pairing defenseman for him on the first line in the third period, kept the 26-year-old off the first power play unit for a total of 15 games - which, in turn, was the reason why he ended the season fifth on the Senators in power play time on ice - and threw him on the fourth line during a push for the playoffs.
Things are different the this time around. Just ask Dorion.
"The thing that's exciting about Mike Hoffman is he's going to play for a coach that, without divulging too many secrets, simply adores him. He going to play for a coach where Mike has been productive. I know it was junior, but they have a history together." - Pierre Dorion. July 27, 2016. Silver Seven.
For the first time in his NHL career, Hoffman will play for a coach where no issues are present. And for the first time, he's going to be the power play's main shooting option from the get-go, until the end of the season.
If we were to project the line combinations right now, it's very likely that Hoffman would be on a line with the newly acquired Brassard. That's an elite sniper playing alongside a known playmaker, both in the prime of their careers.
So what's the number? I don't think it's crazy to say above 40 goals, but there's no way Hoffman doesn't crack 35. With a brand new coach, contract and linemate, it's almost a guarantee.
I'm going to go with 42 in 2017.
Dzingel or Lazar?
Let's take a look at the bottom six forwards. If you had to guess what they'll look like at the start of the season, there are a several locks right now.
3rd Line: Zack Smith - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - ?????????
4th Line: ????????? - Chris Kelly - Chris Neil
It's also very likely Nick Paul (although Matt Puempel has been renewed for another year) will be given a legitimate shot to become a full-time NHLer beside Kelly and Neil. So that leaves the 3rd line right winger position available. And there are two name that come to mind.
Ryan Dzingel and Curtis Lazar are too skilled and too speedy for the bottom trio, and have just enough tenacity for a checking line role. The only question is who will claim the position?
Dzingel seems to have the upper hand on two accounts. He's simply been more productive with less opportunity, and Senators management has an open mind about finally sending Lazar down to flourish in the AHL.
Wow, Dorion doesn't shut the door on Lazar starting the season in Binghamton. Way different than last year where he shut that idea down.— Kevin Lee (@BringBackLee) July 2, 2016
And hey, it's the cheaper option by $144,167.
Ceci's Looming Contract
It's no secret that Dorion is currently talking with J.P. Barry (Cody Ceci's agent) in hopes of getting a deal done with the team's young defenseman before the season starts.
Yesterday, we got a look at what a bridge deal might look like for the 22-year-old if the Senators choose to go down that road.
It's the better option for the club. We know Ceci can create offense at a steady rate, but what's unknown at this point is if he can truly take on the role of solidifying the second pairing. A bridge deal gives the organization more time to figure out what Ceci really is, and also saves a bit of coin for the immediate future.
Interview with Trevor Stewart - Coach of Senators Prospect Todd Burgess
On Todd's demeanor, and his non-reaction on Draft Day:
"He's calm and cool; nothing really seems to phase him. He's got ice water in his veins. It's what makes him effective out on the ice, as well, in certain situations. He's truly one of the older kids to get drafted, but he really is a late developer. He doesn't have any body hair or facial hair or anything. So I'm excited to see what his body will be able to do in the next couple of years as he prepares for pro hockey."
On why he's their captain (Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the NAHL):
"He's a third-year guy for us. He had numerous opportunities to go and play in the USHL and a number of different options, but he chose to come back and be loyal. He wanted to win, and he won two national championships with us."
On Todd's pure domination of the league:
"On most nights he was our best player, for sure. And most nights he was the best player on the ice. And I imagine in the league, as well. He rarely had an off night, and when he did, he usually found a way to produce. That's the sign of somebody special."
On "discovering" him a few years ago:
"It was in Anaheim, California. We had an open tryout and he was there. He had only played one year of AAA hockey and we kind of saw that perfect young, developed forward that would be in and out of the lineup and by Christmas time we couldn't keep him out of the lineup. He was in almost every situation for us. He seeped potential when we saw him at first."
On his part in the team's championship-winning postseason:
"Teams came at him hard. They had a pretty good game plan to come at (Todd's) line, but they kept cool, bled leadership, found ways to be effective every single night even when every team was coming and being overly physical and trying to match as best they could against Todd's line."