Five Thoughts for Friday: Deep Playoff Runs and Loving Lucas Raymond

Let’s talk about the Islanders, the Stars, and some things closer to home.

While the past six months have elapsed very quickly in the real world, events in the Sensphere have often proceeded at a glacial pace since March. Alas, with the draft now genuinely rapidly approaching and the official end of the 2019-20 NHL season in sight, it feels like we can’t keep up with all the moving pieces around Ottawa.

We’ve got Duclair’s commendable work with the HDA, Viktor Lodin’s arrest, and more jersey leaks. Vitaly Abramov’s temporary new team has an outbreak of COVID in the locker room, we have a senior director for the Senators Community Foundation, and the Sens weren’t paying the coaches. Bobby Ryan won the Masterton Memorial Trophy, Brandon wrote a fantastic article about Quinton Byfield, and Ary and Colin keep providing some top-notch draft profiles. I can’t keep up.

On the New York Islanders and their hapless fans:

Not since the inaugural season of YOUR Ottawa Senators back in 1992-93, have the New York Islanders made it this deep into the postseason. And after those 27 futile years my heart goes out to all the fans on Long Island who can’t enjoy this improbable run in person.

While I never would have predicted the catastrophic derailment of the O-Train following the 2017 season that saw Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone leave town on one-way tickets, I did have the foresight to torpedo my personal finances and catch game six of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals at the CTC because even if the organization had kept the band together long term, deep playoff runs never come guaranteed.

At the end of the day, any team can go on a deep playoff run with reliable goaltending and timely scoring. From an analytical perspective, however, few expect this current iteration of the Islanders to contend annually and in a (soon-to-be) 32-team league, Islanders fans can realistically only expect so many playoff games in the Mathew Barzal era. NHL success has an ephemeral nature and the timing of the Isles’ success couldn’t have been worse for fans hoping to pack Nassau Coliseum.

On the audacity of Dallas Stars fans:

I remember a couple years back when this editorial came out, I stared incredulously at my monitor. Dallas had emerged as a frontrunner in the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes and Miro Heiskanen’s name came up often in trade rumours. From what we can deduce, the Stars’ management wouldn’t include Heiskanen in any trade for Karlsson, and that killed the deal.

While Sens fans who had accepted the reality of Karlsson’s imminent departure looked at Heiskanen as an acceptable consolation prize, the reality always remained that Ottawa would hypothetically trade a probable future Hall-of-Famer for a prospect. Don’t be mistaken, Heiskanen was a very highly touted prospect. But Erik Karlsson is Erik Karlsson.

While I will never concede that Karlsson is anything less than a Hall of Fame-calibre defender and arguably the best of his generation, Heiskanen is currently doing his best Karlsson impression for the Stars. At the time of writing this article, Heiskanen has racked up 21 points in 18 playoff games — Karlsson had 18 points in 19 games in the spring of 2017. Points don’t tell the whole story, and I reiterate that Karlsson remains the defining defender of his generation. Nonetheless, fans in Dallas can feel vindicated for the Stars holding onto their prized prospect, for now.

On the luxury that is Lucas Raymond:

Having two of the top-five picks in a generationally significant entry draft creates, in its own way, a sizeable margin of error with which to work. From a consensus top-two of Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield, to a modified top-three including Tim Stützle, the plan seemed pretty cut-and-dry for Pierre Dorion heading into the draft. You can, however, count me among those who would happily endorse the Senators taking Lucas Raymond with the third overall selection.

In the past calendar year, the narrative has shifted drastically from Lafrenière-or-bust at number one and Byfield as the obvious runner-up. Now rumours abound of Stützle moving up to the second overall selection via Los Angeles (see also Drysdale, Jamie) and Pierre Dorion finds himself in a position where he can choose from a pool of at least four very good players with the third overall pick and still sleep soundly at night. Throw in Marco Rossi and Anton Lundell and the number of viable options by pick number five gives Dorion even more leeway. Thanks to Raymond, Dorion’s career-defining draft should be a tap-in. Statistically speaking, it will be more difficult to miss than hit on those two picks. Now everybody knock on wood and go pray at your Alfie Altars.

On maybe just letting us have the jerseys already:

Look, when I said we had lots of Sens news lately, I didn’t mean we have lots of good Sens news. In fact, a lot of it is bad. And I know it’s not the organization’s fault about the Abramov or Lodin news. However, the Senators still haven’t officially or publicly endorsed Anthony Duclair’s work with the Hockey Diversity Alliance, ownership is getting some justifiable flack for the furlough fiasco, and Hailey Salvian dropped a (foreseeable) bombshell on us yesterday regarding Mark Borowiecki’s future (spoiler alert: it’s not in Ottawa). And while I’m not an expert, now seems like a good time to balance out some of the bad PR with some shiny jerseys to distract the fanbase at least until the draft rolls around to pacify us in a month.

On more heavy lifting:

While we can’t truly compare or equate Matt Dumba winning the King Clancy Award for his tireless community efforts and focus on anti-racism, and Bobby Ryan winning the Masterton Trophy for his determination and perseverance through his battle with addiction, both cases to me demonstrate the continued way in which the league has managed to eschew its responsibilities at a social level.

Both players absolutely deserved those awards and I can’t commend them enough because racism and addiction are both very real issues in our society that we need to talk about — and are also pressing issues within the NHL. And the league is at least aware enough of these issues to hand out the hardware to the players. This however, does not absolve the league of its responsibility to create a constructive discourse on these difficult subjects and make some forms of tangible effort to deal with these issues. No one should question the validity of recognizing players for their individual achievements, especially in the face of adversity. I, however, question the manner in which the players continue to carry the league when it comes to difficult social issues and not the other way around.

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