On Changing Expectations
Last offseason, if you’ll recall, the Ottawa Senators made some veteran acquisitions. They added the likes of Erik Gudbranson, Derek Stepan and Austin Watson, while also bringing in Alex Galchenyuk and Cedric Paquette. Effectively, Pierre Dorion “ruined” any opportunity a prospect had to make the roster out of camp by filling it with players who DJ Smith would almost certainly opt to play over someone with little to no NHL experience.
Fans were, understandably, frustrated.
Why add replacement level (or worse) players instead of giving Erik Brännström, Logan Brown and/or Alex Formenton a chance to cement a role on the roster from the start?
This offseason, interestingly, the Senators haven’t done much of anything. Yes, they brought in Nick Holden and Michael Del Zotto but, for a team claiming to be stepping in to the next phase of the rebuild, that doesn’t amount to much of an impact. After talk of looking to add a first line centre and a top four defender - of which, it’s very possible Dorion believes he accomplished with the aforementioned additions - the offseason has been pretty quiet.
Fans are, understandably, frustrated.
Why not make additions to the team that ended last year with a 9-2-1 record in their final 12 games? Why not take this group to the extra level by spending the abundance of assets in the cupboard on someone who can do so.
Funny how things change, isn’t it? This time last year we were clamouring for the Brännström’s, Brown’s and Formenton’s of the lineup to get a shot at cracking the roster but this year, many fans have expressed some frustration that Ottawa hasn’t done much. If they had, players like Egor Sokolov, Ridly Greig and Jacob Bernard-Docker wouldn’t have a spot to fight for.
As we see the future of the Ottawa Senators hitting the ice this week for development and rookie camps, with reports of players like Sokolov, Grieg and Angus Crookshank standing out, you can sense a cool down from Sens fans across Twitter on their desire for incoming additions.
A long offseason is finally coming to an end, the anxiety around the roster is slowing down, let’s get to it.
On Negotiation Through the Media
Over the past four seasons, after plenty of public messes in the realm of player negotiations, Dorion’s most used phrase might now officially be “we don’t negotiate through the media.” While it can be frustrating as fans, particularly when we’re all waiting not-at-all-patiently for news of a long term extension for Brady Tkachuk, it’s in the best interest of the organization to ensure as much of this stuff happens behind closed doors as possible. After all, a team like the Senators can’t afford any more negative media attention than they tend to generate for themselves outside of contract negotiations.
On this topic, however, there has appeared to be plenty of negotiation through the media - just not by Dorion himself. Over the last few weeks, TSN’s Shawn Simpson and PostMedia’s Bruce Garrioch have essentially been reporting one-sided updates - Simpson from Tkachuk’s side, Garrioch from Ottawa’s. The question is, how much of this is each camp trying to leak some information to tip the scales on their favour and how much of it is just genuine reporting of what each journalist has heard?
It’s incredibly possible that Simpson doesn’t report too much from the Sens side simply because he doesn’t have a deep, trustworthy source to keep him in the know. Similarly, it’s possible (read: incredibly likely) Garrioch’s information comes directly from the team and he doesn’t have much in the way of a network within the NHL Agents community.
It’s hard to ignore, though, how regularly these two indirectly spar on Twitter. For every Garrioch article, there tends to be a Simpson subtweet. For example, Garrioch recently penned a piece updating on the Tkachuk contract negotiations, claiming Tkachuk not being at camp on day one would have an impact on his chances of making the Olympic team. The next morning, Simpson tweeted this:
Tkachuk wanting to play in the Olympics is less than zero leverage for the Sens. Not even on the radar at this point. If it's November 1st maybe it turns up the heat.— Shawn Simpson (@TSNSimmer) September 14, 2021
As @TSNHammer looked up, Matthew signed in the middle of camp in 2019.
At the end of the day, I like that Dorion tries to keep things under wraps as much as possible but it’s really hard to take those words too seriously with how frequent these types of pieces and interactions happen. I don’t blame Garrioch, Simpson or any other media member for releasing to the public information they find out. Not one bit. That’s their job!
But the Sens definitely negotiate through the media, Dorion just doesn’t reveal information himself with a microphone in his face.
On Player Personalities
Thomas Chabot and Tim Stützle attended the NHL media event in Toronto this past week and it was a refreshing reminder of how gosh darn likeable the new era of Ottawa Senators are.
It was great to see both players interacting with the media, answering questions, playing fun games and, of course, drawing the teams logo from memory. It’s a good thing they’re both good at hockey so they don’t have to try their hands at the starving artist career - they’d be quite hungry, I suspect.
This summer we also got the chance to see a number of players hop on The Wally and Methot Show and get a glimpse into their personalities, as well. From Josh Norris to Brady Tkachuk to Egor Sokolov, we had the pleasure of getting to know these people better, not just the players, and, for me, that felt incredibly relatable.
Many joke on Twitter about Ottawa trying to rebuild their team based on vibes and it seems to be true. Maybe it’s because we have more mediums to get to know them better or maybe it’s because the dust is settling and the black cloud above the organization appears to be dissipating, but overall I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season and a big part of that is feeling more connected to the people under the uniforms.
On Professional Tryouts
We’re getting to the part of the offseason, right before camp, where teams are starting to announce players who will be attending camp on professional tryouts (PTO). Over the past week, we’ve seen Tobias Rieder heading to Anaheim on a PTO, Artem Anisimov to Colorado, Mark Jankowski and Jimmy Vesey to New Jersey and more.
With the idea that Ottawa was expected to add more to its roster than they have, I’d think we’ll see at least a few players invited to the main camp next week on PTOs. As the blueline is relatively busy already, if the Sens are going to bring anyone in, you’d think it’ll be up front.
Looking through the list of free agents on CapFriendly, a few names popped for me. The first name was Alex Galchenyuk. I know, I know. Why revisit this? At the end of the day, Galchenyuk is a player you can toss onto your third line and second power play unit and get something done, in a pinch. He’s someone who’s played up the lineup and down the lineup and while his skillset is a much closer match to a top six role than a bottom six role, bringing him in on a PTO certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Another familiar face would be Tyler Ennis. I loved Ennis when he was on the Sens. He was the perfect energy player, rarely out of position and can certainly be trusted with extra responsibility from time to time.
If we’re going down the familiar face rabbit hole, neither Bobby Ryan nor Zack Smith have contracts for the upcoming season but... I think those years are behind us.
Joseph Blandisi recently didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Montreal Canadiens. He spent last years shortened AHL season in Laval, where he wore an A and compiled 21 points in 28 games. He’s a 27 year old centre with 101 games of NHL experience that I’m sure could either push the kids to compete or, at worst, get a contract and head to Belleville to provide veteran leadership as a player who’s cleared the 200 game mark in the AHL as well.
None of these names are fancy or shiny, but PTOs rarely are. Nonetheless, I think we can expect a name or two to surface over the next week and I’d be happy to see any of Galchenyuk, Ennis or Blandisi join the Sens when main camp opens up.
On Logan Brown
I’d like to start this thought of by saying I’ve always been a fan of Logan Brown - likely more so than the average Sens fan.
There are a lot of knocks on Brown’s game and his development. There are claims that he doesn’t work hard enough or move his feet but the only thing lazy related to Brown is that narrative. That’s not the real problem.
The real problem has been his health. This isn’t news, even the most casual of Sens fans knows that Brown hasn’t had a full, healthy season since before he was drafted. If you don’t know this about Brown, you’d be shocked to learn he hasn’t been able to crack the NHL roster yet. After all, he’s a 6’6” centre with the softest hands and he’s put up 0.84 points per game at the AHL level.
As Development Camp has come and gone and Rookie Camp is kicking off, Brown is nowhere to be found. Without a contract, it’s been stated that if Brown can’t be moved, he’ll be off to Europe until another NHL team is ready to give him a shot.
It saddens me to say, but it’s time to cut ties and move Brown for whatever you can. He’s not going to play another game in the Senators organization and, even if it’s just a mid round pick two years in the future, Pierre Dorion should be looking to get something - anything - for the 2016 11th overall pick.