Five Thoughts for Friday

Phaneuf, rookies, and tanking are all on my mind this week

1. Dion Phaneuf logistics

Shannon Proudfoot has an excellent piece you should all read about the logistics that allowed Dion Phaneuf to become a Senator. I can't say I've ever thought about things like how much work it is to move a single player across the country, or the work equipment managers have to put in to getting a player's equipment colours to fit. I personally find it cool to see how things work behind the scenes, from scheduling interviews to getting a player's jersey ready in the team shop. I'm impressed by how professionally Phaneuf has handled the whole ordeal. Consider how last-minute the trade was from his point-of-view (because it didn't need his approval), he's taken it all in stride.

2. The Phaneuf-Ceci pairing

A big thing Bryan Murray kept pushing when Phaneuf was brought in was that he was going to stabilize the pairing with Cody Ceci. The early returns have been alright. They have 47% of the even-strength shot attempts together, which isn't great, but is a big improvement from the 43% Ceci's been carrying through the season before he showed up. Ceci also has two point in his last three games, which may come from a bit more confidence from playing with a regular partner. So far, this pairing is looking better than I expected.

3. Thoughts on Ryan Dzingel

Watching Dzingel play makes me wonder why he only got one call-up earlier in the season. For starters, his speed is unreal. He may just be the fastest skater on a team that already has Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman. That's saying a lot. He also has a nose for the net, and seems to make the simple, smart play most of the time. His first NHL goal involved an impressive bit of stickhandling in a tight area to give himself the chance. It also showed patience that lots of goal-searching rookies wouldn't have.

He appears to have confidence carrying the puck, something that our resident Binghamton writer Jeff Ulmer has said has been lacking from Dzingel's game. It's nice to see him have it at the NHL level. His hustle also can't be questioned. In last night's game, there was a play in which the Hurricanes were breaking up the ice and Dzingel raced back to be the first forward on defence, forcing them to turn around a regroup. He was then the first forward up the ice on the forecheck. If he can keep up all these talents, there's no reason he won't spend the rest of the season in the team's bottom six.

4. Thoughts on Nick Paul

He's looked alright at the NHL level so far. I don't think he should be in the lineup over Shane Prince, but the team hyped him for a while and are giving him a shot in the big leagues. What has impressed me is his use of his body. He seems to win many of his board battles, and used his size last night to force Jay McClement into a hooking penalty along the boards. I can't say I've noticed him very much besides that, which I guess is a good sign for a player early on in his career. Personally, I think he should be sent back down. I'd hate to see Paul end up like Lazar, a player rushed to the NHL who then stalls out in his development. Especially when the team has a player who brings a lot more offensive flair in Prince. But anyway, for now, he's been OK.

5. Tanking vs. winning

Last season, everyone had the debate around this point as to whether the Sens should tank for Connor McDavid or still try to win games. Then they went on a historic run to the playoffs, and everyone got on-board the winning train. This season, we're having the same debate arise again. I don't think the team should tank. For starters, as Callum Fraser and others keep saying, a team with Karlsson can't tank. He's good enough to move a team up five or six spots in the draft. This draft won't have two generational talents waiting for the top pickers, so tanking isn't as much a guarantee to turn the franchise around.

But I think the biggest point is that there are currently eight teams behind the Sens in the standings. At least six of them are going to be serious sellers at the deadline, and I have a hard time seeing Ottawa catching any of them through a tank at this point. If Ottawa were to drop even three spots in the standings, overtaking the Jets, their odds of winning the first-overall pick go from 5% to 7.5%. In other words, they hardly increase at all.

At Ottawa's current spot, they have about an 18% chance of picking in the top three. Moving down two spots in the standings, their odds increase to 23%. Is it really worth trying to lose the next two months' worth of games to move up 5% in their chances? I say no. Maybe you still disagree, and that's fine. I just want us all to realize what "tanking" would accomplish at this point.

Whatever the Sens decide to do at the trade deadline, the team will probably end up in what Micah McCurdy's been calling the sadness zone: out of the playoffs, and without a top-five pick. He currently has the Sens at a 64% chance of "sadness", which seems about right for this season. If that's how things are looking, I'd rather at least watch my team have a decent chance of winning each night.

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