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Five Thoughts for Friday

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Some thoughts on the Lebreton project, the Wideman trade and more

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

No time for a preamble, let’s just get to some sweet, sweet thoughts:

Issues with Rendez-Vous Lebreton

As most of the readers are probably aware by now, some major complications have arisen in the plan to develop Lebreton Flats. Yesterday The NCC voted, unanimously, to re-open the bidding for the project in January if things were not back on track by then. The issues appear to be strictly between John Ruddy’s Trinity Group and Eugene Melnyk’s Ottawa Senators — the NCC repeatedly stated that they are ready to move ahead and are not the ones holdings up the process. During their media availability, some of the parties did not pull any punches. Mayor Jim Watson had this to say:

“Let’s put it this way: It has been a challenging relationship that I have witnessed, and my hope is that they come together, get their act together and bring forward a corporate governance structure that makes sense and that is workable and is implementable so we can break ground on this project and not be constantly mediating between the two partners.”

Meanwhile, NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson was critical of the revolving door of negotiators from the Sens’ side:

“There’s been a changing cast of characters in this project from the beginning. We started out dealing with Cyril Leeder, for example, who we admire and was a great leader. We moved on to Tom Anselmi. We’ve been dealing with Mr. Melnyk. We’ve been dealing with Mr. Ruddy and his team. We put it in the term sheet that this all needed to be finalized, what we approved last January. The teams came back saying not enough progress was being made.”

You’ll notice, the laudatory comments for Cyril Leeder and the, uh, noticeably less positive remarks about his successors. It’s hard to overstate how important Leeder was to maintaing a good relationship with the business community in Ottawa.

Major land development deals like the one at Lebreton are complicated affairs, and there’s a reason that they take years to complete, but it seems almost unfathomable that a project of this magnitude could be jeopardized despite being so far along. If the NCC is publicly sniping at their preferred bid, then things must really be dire.

Very few of the specifics of the proposed Trinty-Senators partnership are known so it’s hard to guess at what comes next, but with only eight weeks to repair what appears to be a very broken relationship we are staring at the very real possibility that Lebreton will be developed by a group that doesn’t directly involve the Sens.

Trading Chris Wideman

I’m finding it difficult to summon much of a reaction to the Sens trading Wideman to the Edmonton Oilers for a conditional 6th round pick in the 2020 draft. Wideman has had a bit of a tough go of it this year at 5v5, maybe in part due to some lingering after-effects of his brutal hamstring injury last season, but he also never enamored himself to Guy Boucher even when he was healthy. By the time this trade went down, Boucher was giving Wideman the regular healthy scratch treatment, and playing him less than 10 minutes a game when he did see the ice. Wideman was almost certainly leaving at season’s end as a UFA, so getting something, anything was better than nothing. The only real tangible downside that I can see here for the Sens given Wideman’s usage is that they might miss him on the second power play unit, where he played a fairly important role in that unit’s success. There’s a case to be made, and it’s been made on this site many times before, that he was better option than some of their other veterans but with the emergence of Lajoie, Wolanin, and Jaros someone was going to have to move. That player was virtually always assured to be Wideman.

Shots, shots, shots

It may not be breaking news to those of us that follow the team closely, but the Sens are giving up shots against at an absolutely alarming rate this season. What you may not be aware of, is that they are on pace for an historically bad defensive performance. Travis Yost had a good piece for TSN earlier this week, but the gist of it is that Ottawa are on pace to give up the most shots of any team since the 1960s At the start of the season, the Sens emphasized that they were going to adopt a different, more aggressive style of play than in years past under Boucher. The massive uptick in goals for, and the accompanying aggressive attacking style, are points in favour of the strategy but the sheer barrage every night has to be the coach’s absolute nightmare. It’s hard to know whether this is actually the best strategy to get the most out of the team, it’s not like playing very conservatively did them wonders last year, but you are left to wonder if there isn’t some sort of middle ground here; the Sens aren’t going to keep scoring on nearly 12% of all their shots, no matter how many odd-man rushes they generate and those 5-4 wins might turn into 4-1 losses real quickly if they don’t trim down on the shots against.

Penalty Kill Calamity

For whatever else you want to say about Wideman and the other Uber video trash talkers, they were right about one thing: the Sens’ penalty killing has been abysmal. The Sens have killed a meagre 67.1% of the penalties they’ve taken, and they’re also dead last in shot attempts allowed at a whopping 119.7/60 — this means they’re giving up almost exactly 2 shot attempts per minute. This isn’t historically bad, the Winnipeg Jets gave up nearly an identical number last season, but it is run-of-the-mill very bad. Again, none of this is news to those of us following closely. My main reason for bringing this up is that I’d like to see the team experiment with some different players on the kill. I think that we can say with a fair degree of certainty at this stage that the regulars, Cody Ceci, Mark Borowiecki, Tom Pyatt, Magnus Paajarvi, Zack Smith, etc are not getting the job done. This isn’t a recent problem, and it’s not just coaching strategies since those have been changed more than once as well. It sounds unconventional, but I’d love to see what someone like Ryan Dzingel could do on the PK. His speed could potentially be a real threat and he could pressure puck carriers effectively through the neutral zone. Colin White has occasionally been deployed in the role, but why not see if he can improve on what the vets have done? Though Boucher may be loathe to admit it, this season is the perfect time to tinker with things, experiment, and give his youngsters expanded roles. I’d recommend starting with a place where it really couldn’t hurt to try.

How Important is Lebreton to you?

I wanted to wrap this edition of Five Thoughts with a question to the readers: just how important is the Sens’ potential move downtown to you? With the project seemingly in jeopardy, how does this change your outlook for the team? Were you more inclined to go to games if they were downtown? As someone who doesn’t actually live in the city, I don’t have quite the same investment as others who might be able to go see more games in person with a new rink. Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments.

Thanks for reading!