The Senators have had an extremely Senators week, splitting a home-and-home with the Hurricanes and subsequently beating the Devils in Newark. As fans we enjoyed some improbable on-ice entertainment, some significant hockey culture news, and a little bit of everything in Belleville. Let’s wrap up the work week and prepare for tonight’s game against the Flyers [sic] with some thoughts:
In case you missed it, local centre Jean-Gabriel Pageau recorded the first hat trick of his career that didn’t A) occur during the playoffs B) take place in Ottawa or C) come against a former Vezina Trophy-winner. And while the achievement in and of itself galvanized the fanbase for the night, Pageau’s future with the team remains a point of contention. I will not get into my personal stance on whether the Senators should sell high on Pager or keep him as a foundational piece. I will, however, express the same sentiment I did for Craig Anderson in my first Five Thoughts here at Silver Seven: ENJOY EVERY SECOND of Pageau’s ice time this season. For all we know, we might see our beloved JG in a different uniform by the end of the winter so take nothing for granted.
Pageau already ranks 20th in even strength goals among Sens all-timers, he ranks fifth in shorties, and could very well crack 400-games played in a Senators uniform (top-20 in franchise history) while likely passing Antoine Vermette and Alexandre Daigle on the franchise points list. At age 27, he has already become the best hometown player to dress for the modern-day Senators. He has carried the penalty kill while seeing limited time on the powerplay for years. He scraps. He snipes. He wins faceoffs. And I don’t want to wait until I see him on the ice as a visitor to appreciate him for all he does.
On a much less mournful note, the Duke continues to deliver. With nine points so far this season, Duclair has elevated his career total to 131 in 305 games and placed himself 14th in points among his 2013 draft class. And if you can’t already see where I’m going with this then I’ll remind you that the Senators selected Curtis Lazar 17th overall in that draft. To me it just seems so un-Senators-esque to enjoy this kind of serendipity. While the Sens could defend the Lazar pick at the time, and recovered ground by swapping Lazar for a second-rounder (Alex Formenton), Duclair feels like compensation for a wasted pick. I know all about the red flags that led to other teams giving up on Duclair and that some still doubt his potential as a defensive forward. Acquiring Duclair as a throw-in in a deadline deal still feels refreshing though as a Sens fan who got accustomed to draft disappointment long ago.
I still haven’t gotten over the limited return the St. Louis Blues got for Fabbri from the Red Wings. I recall when those among us discussed Fabbri as a centrepiece in a potential Mike Hoffman-to-St. Louis deal. Since going 21st overall in the 2014 draft, Fabbri has experienced significant injury setbacks missing the entire 2017-18 season and 20+ games in the seasons before and after. He did, however, look like a 20-goal scorer in his first two NHL seasons before the injuries took their toll and has scored more than a point-per-game since Detroit acquired him (extremely small sample size alert). I hate to see a player with that much untapped potential end up playing for a division rival who paid such a meagre price. I would hope Dorion at least kicked tires even if Fabbri’s career trajectory doesn’t quite line up with Ottawa’s future plans.
If I forgive Dorion for not kicking tires on Fabbri, then I do so because Ottawa, as an organization, has a serious lack of defensive depth right now and plenty of forwards. While I wouldn’t belabour this point too much at an NHL level during a tank season, Belleville desperately needs reinforcement. While the Sens couldn’t predict a long-term injury to Christian Wolanin and extended simultaneous absences from Christian Jaros and Andreas Englund, every team needs a contingency plan for a regular rotation of banged-up players, particularly on the back-end.
Much like the Pageau trade debate, I won’t get into the merits or pitfalls of demoting Erik Brannstrom to Belleville. Maxime Lajoie has done a tonne of heavy lifting though and coming off an injury-shortened season of his own, it behooves Dorion to unburden Lajoie somewhat. We should hope to see an addition not unlike Stefan Elliott last season to fill the role of veteran minute-eater or for Ottawa to take on an undesired, yet imminently expiring, contract from another team. Were pride and the 50-contract limit not issues for the Senators, Dorion could have claimed a ready-made pairing of Fredrik Claesson and Chris Wideman off the waiver wire. The fans in Belleville deserve playoff hockey and with the Senators wealth of young forwards and goaltenders, one or two competitive defenders could make the difference.
And finally, in completely serious news, the future owner of the Ottawa Senators has started practicing for his new gig. On Tuesday, authorities filed drug charges against Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberte in French Polynesia. As a die-hard fan of the Senators, I really appreciate this commitment to the proud tradition of our franchise. When mean Eugene finally declares bankruptcy, he will leave some big orange canvas slip-ons to fill and Laliberte seems up to the task of splitting his time between courtrooms and exotic islands as far away from Ottawa as possible.