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Mid-Season Report Cards: Coaching and Management

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The S7S staff hands out their grades for coaching and management

NHL: Ottawa Senators Press Conference
“I’ve seen a dark future”
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back for part three of the Mid-season Report Cards from the crew here at Silver Seven Sens. Part one and part two focused on the forwards and then the defense and goalies, respectively. Today we turn our attention to the coaching staff and management.

Coaching:

Ross: The powerplay and penalty kill have both been atrocious, with the former in particular having no apparent plan other than “pass to Hoffman”. It’s astounding it took so long for the assistants to swap roles when it comes to special teams. The other issue is personnel decisions, since most of the bottom six hasn’t deserved to play most nights. The idea that Dumont would get one game over Paul/Chlapik/White/DiDomenico is laughable. The fact that it’s been 16 is mind-boggling. I know that’s just one decision, but this team makes the same decision with Thompson, Burrows, Pyatt, Oduya, Harpur... it adds up eventually.

Spencer: I came close to giving the coaching staff an F. Between deployment, special teams and owning up to how bad the team has been, Boucher & Co. have been a pretty big disappointment. Boucher, in particular, has shown a stubbornness that I think has put the team in a bad position at times. There’s an almost impressive inability to evaluate talent on the backend and an unwillingness to modify #TheSystem to fit the players (see: playing Chabot on his off side at first because “the left hand side steps up and plays physical”). We’re talking about a guy who has repeatedly played Cody Ceci for more minutes than Erik Karlsson.

Colin: I think Guy Boucher has good ideas. I really do. The whole style of trapping the neutral zone and then pouncing once the chance arises has the potential to catch teams off their guard, as we witnessed last season. The trade-off is that it sacrifices offensive creativity, which I think is in no small part why many of Ottawa’s star forwards went cold at the same time. The overall push-back in the neutral zone seems to be weaker this season as well, although it’s hard to tell how much of that is on the coach or the players. Either way, The System is obviously not working this year and an unwillingness to change has plummeted the Sens to the bottom of the standings. And I haven’t even touched on the special teams and the over-reliance on veterans.

Trevor: I know Guy Boucher isn’t a dumb man, and he clearly thinks about his team all day, every day. But man, is he ever stubborn. He’s playing some of the young players more recently (most notably Thomas Chabot), but he’s only doing that once the season has already gone down the tubes. Considering how much he tinkers with lines, I don’t understand why he would never want to give guys like Filip Chlapik, Colin White, Thomas Chabot, or hell, even Gabriel Gagne much of a shot. It’s not like Ottawa’s depth forwards any great asset. He and his assistants have had terrible special teams for two straight years now, and I really do believe that coaches can have a strong influence there. Boucher might be a one-hit wonder wherever he goes, and “The System” fails miserably if the Senators aren’t getting fantastic goaltending.

Ary: Like many others, I still believe a bit in Guy Boucher’s hockey brain and tactics. His personnel management and ability to adapt, though, needs some work. The Senators clearly have to transition to younger players, and although I don’t really want to fire Boucher, he’s done nothing to show me that he can work with young players in a beneficial, empowering way.

Beata: I really, really want Boucher to succeed in Ottawa because I’ve liked him from the beginning and I think he did great things with the team last year. With that said, his unwillingness to adapt his system this season has been incredibly frustrating to watch and could very well cost him his job if he doesn’t turn things around. Add in the terrible personnel decisions (giving Cody Ceci as many minutes as Erik Karlsson, over reliance on veterans, refusal to play the young guys... basically the same problems every coach has), and I can definitely say that I’m disappointed in his performance this season.

nkb: The issues that most fans, and the staff, take with Boucher come up with virtually every other coach in the NHL: an over-reliance on veterans, a stubborn streak, and seemingly inexplicable favoritism. This isn’t to excuse Boucher, but rather to point out that outside of an exceptional few we would probably eventually have all the same complaints about whoever was in charge. The better question to ask about Boucher, then, is whether he’s the right type of coach for the roster he’s been giving. Given the results this year, I’m not sure you could really say he’s getting the most out of what he’s working with and that’s a real problem.

Staff Grade: D

Management:

Ross: I’m a little bullish on management because I still kind of like the Duchene trade. If Turris wasn’t going to be re-signed, the team did well to replace him with a better player. That being said, the decision to claim Dumont (and then waive DiDo) is indefensible. Dorion seems to bend too much to Boucher’s will, and it’s hurting the team. My only other complaint is that Thompson was the biggest off-season move. Still, the recency of the Duchene trade moves them up out of the C-zone in my books.

Spencer: There are things to like. While I love Turris, I think the Duchene trade was a positive. After that, there are a lot of moves I question. I enjoy Brassard but it’s tough to see what Zibanejad has done in New York, when healthy, and wonder if Ottawa would be better off with him and that second round pick back (and I thought this at the time of the trade). Burrows for Dahlen AND AN EXTENSION is mind-blowing. Then there’s the Oduya and Thompson signings, and the Dumont claim. You can put a lot of deployment decisions in Boucher’s court but Dorion gave the coach his toys. Further, the Belleville Senators are in a pretty tough spot with talent and that falls on management as well. The goalie disaster in the organization is something to behold; the Danny Taylor signing puzzles me to this day. I think the only part of the management group that has been successful recently is the bare bones scouting group putting together a decent cupboard of prospects. Chabot, White, Brown, Chlapik, Formenton, Batherson, Lajoie, Gagne, Jaros all drafted within the last 3 drafts with only 1 top-15 pick. That’s not bad at all.

Colin: Looking back at Dorion and company’s recent track record, I find it hard to give them even a half-decent grade. I still think we gave up too much for the small upgrade of Turris to Duchene, although that admittedly is up for debate. Besides that, the Thompson, Burrows and Oduya contracts aren’t holding up for what they’re being paid (as expected), and Gabriel Dumont hasn’t shown positive signs either after being claimed off waivers. A big move that I think is being overlooked is the Anderson extension, where Dorion sacrificed every ounce of leverage by signing him way too early. Two more years for Condon isn’t looking too dandy, either. Then we also have to look at the absolute mess Randy Lee has once again made in Belleville, as absolutely zero of his off-season signings have proven to be positive contributors. The only two positives I see countering all this are the strong drafting (Batherson & Formenton), plus the Aaron Luchuk signing. Overall, it’s been a slowly accumulating pile of ineffective decision-making.

Trevor: It’s death by a thousand paper cuts. Besides the Burrows for Dahlen trade, there haven’t been many “that is awful” decisions, but when you add up the signings of Nate Thompson, Tom Pyatt, Johnny Oduya, Mike Condon, Zack Smith, the claiming of Gabriel Dumont, and the lack of other moves to bolster the team’s depth, then you’ve put yourself in a deep hole. The Matt Duchene trade hasn’t been great so far, but I don’t think it will be terrible if Duchene can remain productive for a while. If the Mike Hoffman rumours are true, and Dorion actually does pull the trigger, then I’ll lose whatever small amount of faith I had in him, because unless they’re getting an extremely NHL ready blue-chip prospect for him, the team will be nowhere near as good next year. I just don’t trust him to make the right call in terms of who to go after, but that can change with just two or three good moves. Hell, if he is able to get a quality asset or two for Cody Ceci then I’ll be ecstatic.

Ary: Even if Guy Boucher asked for some of the depth players currently submarining this team, the job of a general manager is to assess whether that’s what’s actually best for the team. Dorion has supplied Boucher with too many safety blankets, given easily replaceable players an extra year on their contract, and re-signed older, riskier players to extensions without waiting six months to see how the start of this season would go. Dorion and Lee look to be in over their heads, and despite clearly working hard, need some support.

Beata: I don’t hate the Duchene trade, for the same reasons Spencer mentioned above, but it was a risky move and I don’t think Dorion has made any other good moves this season. He’s also given contracts to a lot of undeserving players. He needs to turn things around, and quickly, or he’s likely to find himself on the hot seat.

nkb: Obviously the most meaningful move made this year is the Duchene-Turris trade but its impact on the NHL roster for this season was always bound to be somewhat muted — even in the rosiest of projections, Duchene wasn’t a massive upgrade (or downgrade in a worst case scenario) on Turris. Instead, the most damning thing you could say about management’s performance has been its on-going inability to address the bottom half of the depth chart up front and on the blue line. The team’s needs going into this past off-season were obvious and the moves that were made, re-signing Condon and Pyatt, bringing in Oduya and Thompson, were never going to help. As others alluded to, the performance in the draft looks to be the one redeeming factor but it can’t save them from a less than stellar grade.

Staff Grade: C-

What have you thought of the coaching staff and management’s performance to date? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

Finally, with the Sens set to return to action tomorrow stay tuned for a full recap and breakdown of the grades we handed out, as well as our predictions for the second half of the season.