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Senators Rumblings: Colin White, Erik Karlsson, the Olympics

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A look at Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Colorado Avalanche Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re not already reading Elliotte Friedman’s weekly 30 Thoughts column, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s great reading. It keeps you up-to-date on so many things going on in the NHL. And as of late, there have been a lot of Senators-based thoughts. And when anyone talks about the Sens, it’s important we take the time to discuss their thoughts here, so here are my thoughts on Friedman’s thoughts.

8. Ottawa is trying to sign Colin White, selected 21st overall in 2015, out of Boston College. When Columbus signed Zach Werenski last season, he was 18, so he needed to play 10 games before burning that first year of his entry-level contract (section 9.1 of the CBA). White is 20, so the 10-game bar is gone. I always thought someone had to get into one game to burn the year, but that’s not necessarily the case. There is no “entry-level slide” after age 19, so, if the contract begins for what’s remaining in 2016-17, only two years remain, even if he doesn’t play.

No one disputes he is ready for the next level. What the Senators have to weigh is, does White go back for his junior season if he doesn’t like the offer? It’s a poker game (and I always wonder in these cases if bonus structure is another debate). It’s possible he gets a World Championships invitation, too.

NKB talked a lot more about this yesterday. From my point of view, White has most of the leverage here. He could always go back to college if he doesn’t like the offer. Binghamton hasn’t had a great year again, so I don’t know why you’d insist on sending White down to join them. He could always start next year in Belleville, even if he signs now.

12. Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk on whether or not he will allow Karlsson to go the way Ted Leonsis would allow Alex Ovechkin to go: “I’m going to give Sweden my best player at the risk of him being injured, beating our Canadian team? That doesn’t make sense. Maybe if it was a Canadian going to play for Canada... maybe. But right now, it doesn’t make any sense for our franchise, it’s not fair to our fans if we were to lose him, God forbid, into a year like this to an injury in the Olympics.”

There’s a lot to digest here. Melnyk’s attitude stems from 2006, when Dominik Hasek was injured playing for the Czech Republic. One year later, Ray Emery led the Senators to the Stanley Cup Final, but the organization felt very strongly that Hasek’s absence cost them a shot at the championship.

I worked those Olympics and we interviewed the goalie after he got hurt. You could tell right away he knew it was bad, and after the interview aired, then-Ottawa GM John Muckler tracked me down in a panic to gather as much information as possible.

Melnyk is the ultimate old-school, shoot-from-the-hip, oh-my-God-what-did-he-say owner, but he’s not backing down on this issue.

13. The obvious follow-up is, what does Karlsson think about this? Melnyk said he plans to meet face-to-face with his captain to explain his position. Hours before the Senators started a critical back-to-back with Montreal, Karlsson provided a quote: “I really want to go and feel all of the players do, too.”

Melnyk has to handle this situation carefully, making sure he’s not upsetting his most important player — who is an unrestricted free agent in 2019.

There’s a lot going on in here about Olympic participation. On the one hand, I kind of get what Melnyk’s saying. He doesn’t want to lose a player for nothing again. But on the other hand, I don’t think you can question Karlsson’s commitment to Ottawa. He is a star, and part of that stems from him being able to take tropical vacations to take a break from hockey. And as Friedman keeps pointing out, annoying your best player isn’t a good idea. He wouldn’t be the first Swedish captain of the Sens that was rubbed the wrong way by the owner.

9. What did I learn after spending 24 hours in Canada’s capital for the outdoor-game announcement last week? The Senators — we’re talking players, organization and fans — are spoiling for a fight if Erik Karlsson loses the Norris to Brent Burns over point production. They felt Karlsson was clobbered for being too offensive-oriented last year.

Amazing how points matter again, now that a Canadian leads defencemen in points and a Swede leads everyone in shot blocks. Though over the last six weeks, Karlsson leads defencemen in scoring (22 points) and Burns is 11th (13 points). I still think Burns will take it, but as I said before, it’s for all the reasons Karlsson should’ve won last year.

10. Still three weeks to make up my mind, but Burns and Karlsson are in both the Hart and Norris conversations. Ottawa’s surge propelled Karlsson into the MVP race, and his teammates stress how much he sacrificed offence earlier in the year to set an example. [...]

That last part is something we’ve talked about a lot. Karlsson’s play was noticeably different to start the year, and only since the team seems to have adapted to Guy Boucher’s #TheSystem (TM) has Karlsson started to roam a bit more again. He wasn’t a one-dimensional, non-scoring shutdown guy like Drew Doughty or something, but he seemed more committed to leading by example.

As for that first part, I fund it really funny people talking about Ottawa’s surge. Ottawa is currently second in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa took over 2nd in the division on November 26, and have held that position ever since other than a span from January 6 to 18 (mostly due to Ottawa having the earliest bye week in the league). I don’t think it’s so much that Ottawa’s surging, but rather that the league has noticed they’re not fading and now paying a bit more attention.