Does it Matter if Belleville has a Long Play-off Run?

The Sens are placing a lot of importance on their AHL team’s play-off success, but should we care?

One of the themes of this season for the Ottawa Senators’ organization has been a focus on developing their prospects in the AHL. It would seem they are true believers in the adage that the “NHL isn’t a development league.” Naturally then, Belleville’s ascension to the top of their division has management (and fans) focused on setting the B-Sens up for a prolonged play-off run.

We might never know for sure, but it seems likely that Cody Goloubef’s appearance on waivers where he was claimed by Detroit was prompted by a desire to bolster the AHL defense corps since Ottawa remains short on healthy defensemen as of this writing for Saturday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. It’s hard to blame Pierre Dorion and co. for thinking that Goloubef would make it through unclaimed; he’s a 30 year-old veteran who hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory at the NHL level, after all. Still, Goloubef is possibly gone for nothing because of a focus on the minor leagues.

On its face, pumping the Belleville Sens’ tires isn’t such a bad thing: the NHL team is having a season to forget, the B-Sens are chock full of promising young prospects, and the franchise did just recently relocate from Binghamton. Giving the fans in Belleville, and Ottawa, something to cheer for isn’t nothing. Sports are supposed to be fun, and long play-off runs are exceptionally fun. If the Belleville Senators win the Calder Cup after Josh Norris scores a hat-trick in Game 7 of the finals, you’re darn right it’ll be worth a hearty celebration.

But does play-off success for the AHL squad actually matter for the NHL team’s future? Look at the 2011 Binghamton Senators’ roster that won the Calder Cup. Several of the team’s prospects at the time, like Zack Smith, Patrick Wiercioch, Eric Gryba, and Jared Cowen, would go on to have NHL careers but I’d be hard-pressed to say any of the four (besides maybe Smith) turned out to be of a calibre to offer meaningful contributions on good NHL teams. Only Mike Hoffman and Robin Lehner really met the type of expectations that have been set for this year’s crop of prospects, and Hoffman was more of a bit player than anything else on that Calder Cup team.

Remember Jim O’Brien? He was 22, the team’s second-leading scorer and a recent first round pick when Binghamton took home the championship. O’Brien’s had a successful pro career, but not in the NHL, and certainly not with the Senators.

Now, the clear counter-argument here is that this iteration of the farm team is loaded with much more highly regarded prospects. Winning the AHL championship wasn’t going to transform Cody Bass into a second line winger. Fair enough.

I do think the question is worth asking, though. Winning together as a group can’t hurt, but how much does it really help? A lot? A little? Not at all?

With the Sens putting so much emphasis on it, it’ll be fascinating to see it all play out.

Does it matter if Belleville has a Long Play-off Run?

Absolutely, winning builds chemistry and provides invaluable experience!166
Somewhat, it might help a few of the top prospects develop a bit quicker 84
Won’t hurt but it seems unlikely to have much of an impact at all40

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