It goes without saying, at this point, but I reiterate as a formality, hockey couldn’t be farther from a priority for most folks right now so by all means, stay informed and stay safe above all else. We’re here as a distraction from the difficulties many are living through right now so if you need some hockey content to get your mind clear of the harsh realities of the twenty-first century then indulge in these five thoughts.
International Free Agents
As Shaan noted in his article yesterday, Olle Alsing will likely cross the pond to join the Senators organization next year. I remain lukewarm about international free agents as the Artemi Panarin’s of the world remain one in a million. However, Pierre Dorion and his staff see something they like in Alsing and he could certainly provide some much-needed depth in Belleville. To satiate my curiosity, I checked out the eilteprospects data on the SHL and, among other defenders under the age of 24, with about a point for every three games-worth production, Alsing lines up along the likes of Tim Erixon, Gustav Forsling, Andreas Borgman, and Niklas Hansson, in our era. If you don’t recognize any of those names, you’re not alone. Erixon, Forsling, and Borgman all had brief stints in the NHL before settling down in the AHL full-time (and in the case of Erixon returning to Sweden). Hansson played parts of three seasons in the AHL before heading back to the SHL. All that to say, Alsing will have an uphill battle to make it and stay in the NHL. I say good on the Senators for giving him a shot during a rebuild nonetheless.
On the subject of free agents, Brandon’s article from Tuesday really put into perspective the extent to which the Senators have eschewed big-game free agency relative to the rest of the league. As much as I love me some Clarke MacArthur now, I didn’t flinch when Ottawa signed him back in 2013. And as much as I’m biased by my affinity towards a budget team and emotionally-scarred by years of the Senators shedding payroll, I feel so relieved that other teams in the division gave out those atrocious contracts to Sergei Bobrovsky, John Tavares, and Karl Alzner while Melnyk kept his chequebook in his pocket. I can’t say the phrase ‘free agent’ in my head without adding ‘landmine,’ and Ottawa, we can only imagine, will stay out of the running for the Travis Hamonic and Zach Bogosian landmines of the upcoming free agent class.
In his Thursday article, Shaan also mentioned the imminent arrival of overage draftee Viktor Lodin. And while I won’t re-litigate the choice to use a fourth-round pick on an un-ranked (probable international free agent) overage player, I did feel compelled to look into Ottawa’s history of drafting twenty-year-olds and, as it turns out, Ottawa makes a yearly tradition of this. Prior to selecting Lodin and Mark Kastelic at the 2019 entry draft, the Senators recently selected right-winger, and NCAA senior, Todd Burgess (who will likely find out if he has a future with the Senators this summer) and Christian Wolanin who is somehow already 25-years-old and no longer a prospect. Past duds include Chris Leblanc, Bryce Aneloski, Michael Sdao, Corey Cowick, and Emil Sandin. For those hoping that Burgess, Lodin, and Kastelic have NHL futures, look to Senators legend Zack Smith and corsi-god Erik Condra for inspiration as both got drafted at age twenty and had solid NHL careers.
Speaking of overage draftees, I learned through my research that Jonathan Davidsson had also reached the ripe age of twenty when the Blue Jackets selected him with the 170th pick in the 2017 draft. To say that I’m a Davidsson-apologist would be an understatement and I have been pulling for the diminutive right winger from Sweden to crack the Senators lineup since Ottawa acquired him from Columbus. Alas, concussions have set back Davidsson’s career and I desperately hope that the suspension of play provides him with the time he needs to determine the best course of action for his long-term health. We can say the same for fellow Swede Anders Nilsson who last played in December before suffering a concussion. And while I can’t fathom the disappointment of players like Christian Wolanin and Rudolfs Balcers who came back from extended time on the injured reserve shortly before the suspension of the season, the Senators should have Erik Brannstrom, Logan Brown, and Joey Daccord back and healthy when hockey does come back. In the meantime, however, nothing matters more than the safety of the players, staff, fans, and their families.
And finally, remember when we could get genuinely fired up about something as trivial as jerseys?! Well that discussion never really went away and in the absence of actual games I would expect the debate to rage on for a few more months. Some had rumoured that the Senators would rebrand coincidentally with the 2020 entry draft and now with that postponed, we continue to hold our collective breath as a fanbase to find out if the organization is staying 3D, throwing it back to 2D, embracing the ‘O’ full time, or cooking up something totally different. Even if I have to wait another six months to see Alexis Lafreniere in any Senators jersey, the wait will have been worth it.