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Five Thoughts for Friday

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Expansion draft, fixing the fourth line, and more!

Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

It’s Friday, so here are five thoughts. Let’s begin!

LeBreton Survey

A week ago, major Canadian polling company EKOS sent out a survey to over 1,000 Ottawa & Gatineau residents with questions regarding LeBreton Flats (these were their questions). The results were released earlier this week, and while most of it is just confirmation on what we already knew, it’s interesting to see it put into tangible evidence. Below are what I believe are the three biggest takeaways:

1) 79% of respondents are opposed to using tax dollars on the LeBreton Flats project. The model for building an arena has changed drastically over the last decade, as cities are become increasingly hesitant to use tax money when there are private investors waiting in the wings. Of course, that doesn’t stop the owners from trying to squeeze out public money, as we saw during Calgary’s recent situation. That case may end up being a turning point, with the public being less open to having their money support the welfare of billionaires.

2) 41% of respondents believe that an arena as part of LeBreton is a “crucial ingredient”, while 40% disagreed. This was probably the most surprising for me, maybe because I’m a hockey fan, or because both original proposals had an arena as their centrepiece. While it still appears that DCDLS is keeping an arena in their suggested plans, maybe it opens up an opportunity to avoid one of their major obstacles, which is the fact that their opponent owns the hockey team. It would be disappointing to say the least, if the last major piece of undeveloped land in downtown Ottawa isn’t used to build an arena. Although it’s interesting to see that not everyone shares the same sentiment in that regard.

3) 32% of respondents said they have “no further interest in supporting the Ottawa Senators as long as Eugene Melnyk is in control.” That number bumps up to 40% among those who identified as hockey fans. It’s been clear for a while that Melnyk has been the reason why many fans are turning their backs on the team, from the #MelnykOut campaign to fans voicing opinions. And while that 32% doesn’t clearly show in the drop in attendance, we also have to take into consideration all the tickets the team has been papering this season. All in all, the problem with the team is Melnyk, and no amount of marketing efforts or parking price cuts will do anything to change that.

Waiver Claims?

The bottom six has been a disaster for the Sens this season, particularly the fourth line. In their nearly 100 minutes at 5v5, the trio of Paajarvi, Smith and Pyatt have a measly CF% of 37.5%, while being used in a more defensive role. The problem is that none of the three are particularly strong defensive players, and even less so offensively. Now with potential long-term injuries to Matt Duchene and Bobby Ryan, they’ll only be moving up the roster.

There’s an opportunity to fix this, however, as there have been a fair amount of decent players hitting the waiver wire over the past few weeks. And considering Ottawa is near the top of the waiver order given their low placement in the standings, it’s been a tad frustrating to see players with minimal risk slip through.

If we’re looking at recent examples, here are the forwards that have been claimed over the last month: Marko Dano (Winnipeg), Jean-Sébastien Dea (Pittsburgh), Valentin Zykov (Edmonton), Nikita Scherbak (Los Angeles), Brendan Leipsic (Los Angeles) and Gemel Smith (Boston). With the exceptions of Scherbak and Leipsic, the Sens had a chance to claim any of these players. Every player on that list was making under $900,000 this year, and could easily serve as an upgrade on any of the fourth line spots. With potentially more roster vacancies coming up, let’s hope the Sens realize the opportunity that is in front of them when another quality player gets placed on waivers.

Seattle Expansion Draft

With the NHL announcing Seattle as their 32nd franchise, teams will have to start planning ahead for yet another expansion draft. Their inaugural season will be in 2021, a year later than originally expected, which has implications on how things stack up. The rules are going to be the exact same as it was with Vegas, meaning all first and second year pros are exempt from needing protection. So by the time 2021 rolls around for this season’s rookies, they’ll have already played their third pro season, making them eligible for protection. That doesn’t really help Ottawa, who is stacked up on rookies this season.

It’s difficult to project this type of thing for Ottawa, since it’s really far down the road, and so much hinges on whether Stone, Duchene and Dzingel decide to come back. In fact, Bobby Ryan is Ottawa’s only player currently under contract until 2021-22, and he was left exposed in the last draft.

But this is a fun exercise, so let’s do it anyways. Below are the players that might still be kicking around by then, given their RFA expiry status.

Forwards: Bobby Ryan, Chris Tierney, Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Drake Batherson, Logan Brown, Rudolfs Balcers, Andrew Sturtz, Aaron Luchuk, Gabriel Gagne, Filip Chlapik, Jack Rodewald, Tobias Lindberg, Adam Tambellini, Nick Paul

Defencemen: Cody Ceci, Thomas Chabot, Christian Jaros, Ben Harpur, Maxime Lajoie, Christian Wolanin, Andreas Englund, Julius Bergman, Patrick Sieloff

Goalies: Marcus Hogberg, Filip Gustavsson

A lot will depend on how well these players turn out considering most of them are really young, although this is how I’d place my protection list now:

Forwards (7): Tierney, Tkachuk, White, Batherson, Brown, Balcers, Chlapik

Defencemen (3): Chabot, Lajoie, Wolanin

Goalie (1): Gustavsson

The one spot of potential concern could be the forwards, especially if any combo of Stone, Duchene and Dzingel end up re-signing. This is why the extra year makes such a difference, as three of the forwards I had on my protection list would’ve been exempt in 2020.

World Juniors

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Prospect gurus and international hockey fans unite, for the most exciting tournament in all of sports (yeah, I said it). Three Sens prospects have been named to preliminary rosters, with Alex Formenton and Jacob Bernard-Docker representing Canada, and Josh Norris joining Team USA. While Formenton and Norris are locks for their teams and will potentially be taking on top line roles, Bernard-Docker will still be fighting for a spot among the dozen named Canadian defencemen.

I honestly don’t have much more to say here, other than that I’m just really excited. This is a tournament Sens prospects have succeeded at in recent years, from Chabot taking home the MVP award in 2017, to Colin White scoring seven goals in seven games in the same year, to having Drake Batherson being the tournament’s biggest surprise last year. Having two or three more Sens hopefuls in major roles is going to make this must-watch hockey, if it wasn’t going to be already.

NHL Awards

It’s not too early for this, is it? Even if the Sens end up finishing outside of a playoff spot this season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few names high up on the awards ballots, with maybe even someone taking some hardware back to the nation’s capital. Of course there’s lots of hockey left to be played, but if previous awards winners are any indication, we’re probably already behind in our campaigning.

The first one, and most likely winner, is Brady Tkachuk for the Calder Trophy. It’s a two horse race between him and Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson, and while Pettersson has him beat out in points, it’s much closer on a per-game basis. Both have taken on immediate top line roles, providing offence in two completely different ways. And who knows, maybe Colin White can also sneak his way onto the ballot. He’s second in rookie scoring, after all, with ten more games played than Tkachuk.

Thomas Chabot might also be deserving of a major award, sneaking his way into conversations for the Norris Trophy. His defence could still use some refining, although he’s tied with Morgan Rielly for the league lead in defencemen scoring, with 31 points in 29 games. He’s been dynamite on the power play, and also has, dare I say it, filled the void Karlsson left behind. Just imagine what the two could’ve done together.

And finally is one I’ve been campaigning for for years, and that is Mark Stone for the Selke trophy. It’s been eons since a winger has won the award, but given his defensive responsibility, incredible underlying metrics, and league-best thievery, there’s no question in my mind that he’s at the top with the other elite defensive forwards. #SelkeStone — spread it like wildfire.