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Mailbag, Pt.2: Skills Competition, Memorable Play-off Runs, A Time to Sell?

We’re back for Part 2!

Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome back for the second installment in our mailbag feature. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. Thank you again to everyone that took the time to write in and ask some great questions.

Question: If this season keeps going badly, what are the odds that one of Pierre Dorion or DJ Smith are fired after the season? — Dylan Cull

At the start of the season, there was an expectation that the Ottawa Senators would meaningfully improve their position in the league standings. Dorion’s been mocked for his comments about the rebuild being “over” but he was also speaking the truth: the organization was not aiming to finish at the bottom of the league yet again. As of this writing, the Sens are 30th by PTS% after 29 games — a failure by any measure. That being said, Ottawa has faced some hardship with injuries and COVID that, at least in part, explain some of the struggles. If the season ended today, I don’t believe either DJ or Dorion’s jobs would be at risk. The play-offs are now a virtual impossibility, so another year out of the post-season tournament won’t cost anyone their employment at this stage. That being said, if Ottawa is still in 30th when the season ends, and there isn’t additional exculpatory information, then, yes, I do believe there could be some fall-out. - nkb

Question: Which playoff run was the most fun? 1997? 1998? 2007? 2013? 2015? 2017? - Shaila Anwar

It’s close, but I have to give the edge to 2007. The Pizza Line was on fire, and they served up revenge to the Sabres for 2006 and the Devils for 2003. And the vibes were amazing - not the underdog feel from 2017, but a confident feeling that the team was finally translating regular season success into playoff success. And even when it ended, some of that vibe ran right through the summer. - B_T

Question: With no fans again and teams selling for high prices lately, is this the right time for Melnyk to sell? Mendes says he knows at least two groups who could be interested if the team is ever put on the market — DW19

First of all, it’s always a good time for Melnyk to sell. Interested buyers shouldn’t be an issue since hockey teams are not exactly something that’s always available on the market. Lost revenues and low performance may actually lower the team’s present value and make it not an ideal time to sell. That being said, rumours have been circulating that Melnyk’s health is on the decline and he may want to sort out his assets soon just in case. But if one of his children are willing to take on the team (we may have ruined that dream for his offspring), I see Melnyk staying put and just passing the torch to them. He could also wait until next season when the team is driving more fans and showing more potential to see an increase in value. Maybe I’ve been burned before and remain cautious but if Melnyk were to sell, I don’t see it happening before 2022/2023 when revenues rebound. -Nada

Question: Have you heard anything about how Pinto’s injury is rehabbing? - Bob

No official update from the team in about a month now but I don’t think the recovery timeline from Pinto’s surgery was ever subject to change. Either his season is over or he may play a couple of games down the stretch in March/April. The team absolutely doesn’t want to rush him back *again*. It’ll be interesting to see if all the rescheduling gives him some extra runway to work with though. - Owen

Question: If they ran the Sens skills comp again (when even was the last time they did that?) who wins which event? Off the top of my head, that would be fastest skater, stickhandling, accuracy shooting, hardest shot, and let’s imagine there’s a style-points shootout — Tak

This is actually something I’ve given a lot of thought already, because I love Sens Skills and was really hoping they’d do it again this year (the last one was in 2020, by the way!). Fastest skater is the easiest one: Formenton, no question. Stickhandling would be either Batherson or Stützle (maybe Chabot), and accuracy shooting would probably be Norris, although Batherson could win it too. Hardest shot is a little bit difficult because the Sens don’t have a lot of defensemen with really big shots right now. I could maybe see some random call-up surprising everyone and winning that competition, but I think Norris is probably the favourite for that skill as well. There are lots of great candidates for the shootout competition, with plenty of fun personalities on the team. I think Brady would probably put together a great performance, as would Paul and Brown, and at least one Belleville call-up would do something cool. Stützle would lose because I’ll bet he’s the type of player who pulls out a normal shootout move thinking that’ll cut it - there’s always one of those. I’m going to go off the board, though, and say that Austin Watson wins it. I don’t know what he would do, but I feel like he would go way overboard with something very fun. However, if the winner is determined by fan vote, then Zub wins just by using his one shootout move. - Beata

Question: The Sens will eventually need to capitalize on all their assets, and trade some of them to fill positions of need with players that fit the current roster and step in the rebuild. Who are some youngish players the Sens could target that would fit that description, and who or what are some of the pieces the Sens could potentially sacrifice to get said players? For example, there’s a lot of noise around that the Wild might not be able to retain Kevin Fiala. Is that someone worth looking at, despite him playing mostly LW ? - Eldur00

Assuming Tim Stützle plays as a centre going forward, Ottawa should definitely acquire at least one top-six winger. Kevin Fiala would be a great addition, but I actually don’t anticipate the Wild having trouble doing what’s necessary to keep him around. The name I’m actually interested in, and should be available, is Jake DeBrusk. He’s requested a trade out of Boston, he has just nine points in 27 games this season, and the Sens are one of the few teams that could reasonably qualify the pending RFA at $4.85M. In terms of who Ottawa could part ways with, Erik Brännström is stuck behind Thomas Chabot and Jake Sanderson on the LHD depth chart, and might have enough value to snag DeBrusk on his own. The team also has two 2nd-rounders and three 3rd-rounders in the upcoming draft which can be included in this sort of deal as well. -Shaan