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Five Thoughts for a Friday: Crisis Averted?

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In which we manifest a speedy recovery for Colin White

NHL: MAR 08 Senators at Oilers Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Remember when we were all excited about the prospect of watching Connor McDavid on a regular basis? Me neither. After so many shellackings at the hands of the team that traded Hall for Larsson one for one, I yearn for the good old days of Ottawa only playing games against Buffalo and Boston (and usually losing to the former while somehow prevailing against the latter). I jest, for the most part. I’ll take whatever brand of hockey I can get from the Senators because even on the longest nights, we still get to watch Tim Stützle so how can I complain? Folks, it’s time to pour another cup of coffee and have some thoughts.

On the irreplaceable majesty that is Colin White

While the staff around these parts are no strangers to playing the role of Colin White apologist, and while number 36 has established himself as something of a meme god among Senators faithful, I still feel the need to devote a thought to the other players’ dad on the occasional Friday. The club may have narrowly avoided catastrophe if Colin White did not in fact sustain a serious injury during Wednesday night’s game against Edmonton. While the masses continue to debate White’s contract, his performance relative to draft position, and his overall role in the organizational depth chart, White has quietly put himself on pace for 20+ goals and 40+ points over an 82-game season while leading the Senators’ regulars in five-on-five corsi-for percentage and trailing only Josh Norris, Brady Tkachuk, and Drake Batherson in five-on-five expected goals-for percentage. Folks, ask me what a former first-round pick who makes $4.75M and plays top-six minutes looks like and I’ll say: Colin White.

On the taxi squad (or lack thereof)

Speaking of narrowly avoiding catastrophe, and player health at large, I probably shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up for DJ Smith using the taxi squad this season to run the Senators like a National League ball club. In my mind, the taxi squad lends itself to a three-goalie rotation, the option to rest one of your regular defensive pairings each night, and the chance to ice a different fourth line each game. Smith has done none of those things. Between the over-reliance on veterans up front, Thomas Chabot’s massive minutes, and Matt Murray’s struggles, I can’t explain for the life of me why this team rolls out so many of the same players night after night within a condensed schedule during a non-competitive season when more young players need to establish their long-term roles with the team.

On he who Zubs last Zubs Zubbest

The thing about being wrong is that sometimes it can be fun in its own right. Posterity plays a big part in what we do here because we don’t take down our old posts and we make a habit of revisiting our bold predictions and seeing how our hot takes have cooled off. You can probably comb through my old posts and find dozens of contradictory quotes. And if one recent miscalculation on my part takes the proverbial cake, it’s gotta be Zub. When we did our Top 25 under 25 this pre-season, I didn’t even have Artem Zub on my ballot! To me, Zub was a depth AHL player at best and well below the likes of someone like Christian Jaros on the right-side defensive depth chart. Well, time makes fools of us all I suppose. We may only have a 20-game sample to work with, but Zub has absolutely looked like someone who can stabilize a defensive group in desperate need of reinforcements for the near future. All hail Zub. Long may he reign.

On the Dorion Mode

In past articles, I’ve tried to tilt my head sideways to try to comprehend just why Pierre Dorion does the things he does (please do not try this at home). And midway through this statistical outlier of a season, I still believe Pierre intends to build a defensively sound, backchecking-first type NHL team that can draw lots of penalties and generate offence with a deep blueline that compensates for a lack of high-end shooting talent. To that effect, for anyone looking for a silver lining beyond the 7-1 drubbings, the foundation has started to emerge from the rubble. At the time of writing, Ottawa ranks 16th in the NHL in five-on-five corsi-for percentage, 13th in Fenwick, and 21st in expected goals (per naturalstattrick).

On the penalty kill, Ottawa ranks 10th best in Corsi-against per 60, 13th in Fenwick, and 14th in expected goals. On the powerplay, Ottawa ranks 18th in Corsi-for per 60, 20th in Fenwick, and 19th in expected goals. Now those aren’t exactly playoff-calibre numbers and the team still has a long way to go but this team is dead last in the league in points-percentage and all but guaranteed to enter the draft lottery yet again. Without belabouring the point of sub-par goaltending and lack of goal-scoring touch, this team is one or two pieces away from at least fighting for a playoff spot based on their shot volumes. Contrast this with the 2010s Senators who had all-world goaltending from Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond, the best defender in the world, and a couple of all-star quality forwards—and still got pummeled routinely in nerd stats. When someone asks why bother suffering through another rebuild after what transpired in 2018, I squint at these fancy little numbers.

An Ode to Nick Paul

You cleared waivers thrice,

You have no last name,

You toiled in the minors

Refining your two-way game.

You won us the Spezza trade,

And look like Mr. Bean.

You kill penalties with the best,

And your slap shot is mean.

You’re top-six in our hearts.

Your 2D jersey looks sweet.

You became immortal

Doing this with your feet:

North Bay or North Division,

Getting Red Lobster for Christmas,

Battalion or Baby Sens,

We salute you Nicholas.