Five Thoughts for Friday

Thoughts on Guy Boucher, the playoff picture, Mark Stone’s excellence, and more

I’m not going to lie, writing about the Ottawa Senators is not very fun when they’re playing horribly. I never want to write articles like this, but some things need to be said.

Here are this weeks five thoughts:

Time to Play the Young Guys

After losing seven straight games, the Senators are rapidly losing ground, and if things don’t turn around quickly, we could be looking at a lost season. I have talked in the past about Guy Boucher’s biggest weakness, and I still think that it is the same thing: his over-reliance of veterans.

He flat-out said that Thomas Chabot was called up only because of injury and not because he thinks he is good enough, Colin White and Francis Perron have yet to play a game, and Filip Chlapik played in just one. While the team is struggling both offensively and defensively, what is the harm in trying to breathe life into the lineup?

He can juggle the lines all he wants, but when you have Gabriel Dumont, Tom Pyatt, Nate Thompson, and Alex Burrows in your bottom-six, plus a goalless Zack Smith and Bobby Ryan duo, there aren’t going to be many long-term solutions. I understand that Boucher really loves to play it safe and he doesn’t trust players who are risky and turn the puck over. In his mind, rookies are bound to make more mistakes.

That may be true for some of them, but how does he expect them to ever learn? These young players will have to play in NHL games eventually, and there is no better time than now to try to turn things around. If they play poorly and somehow make the team worse (which I doubt), then you are in just as bad of a spot as you used to be.

The situation with the team is already terrible right now, so I have a hard time seeing any downside to giving Chabot consistent minutes, putting White on the 3rd line, and Chlapik on the 4th. If it works, then great! And if it they are a clear negative impact after 4-5 games, send them back down.

It is infuriating seeing so many young players around the league making big differences for their team like Mat Barzal, Brock Boeser, Clayton Keller, etc., but for some reason it is ludicrous to expect the same thing to happen in Ottawa. Boucher needs to give this team some life.

What happens to Boucher if it keeps getting worse?

And what if this losing streak just keeps getting longer? I wouldn’t say that Boucher is on the hot seat, but it is definitely warm for the first time.

There are some valid criticisms of the way he has handled the Senators in 2017-18, and fans are rightfully frustrated. Once a losing streak has gone on for this long, it is assumed that “okay, next game they’ll for sure win, it’ll balance out,” but hockey doesn’t always work like that. There’s a chance that this could last several more games.

If that happens, how long would it take for Boucher to actually get fired? 10? 12? 15? Obviously the chances of a losing streak reaching those numbers is very unlikely, but it would be extremely interesting to see how the organization views Boucher if they did not win for an entire month.

I think Pierre Dorion still really likes Boucher, but GMs aren’t afraid to fire a coach when losing streaks reach epic proportions around double-digits. I can’t see him getting fired during the season, but if Ottawa misses the playoffs, I wouldn’t say he is 100% safe.

It’s still very early to discuss this, but I think it is interesting to think about nonetheless.

Playoff Implications Early on

Like I mentioned in the beginning, due to this awful losing streak, Ottawa has put themselves in a terrible position for the playoffs. They should thank the heavens that they are in the worst division in the league, because if they were in the Metropolitan, the playoffs would probably be out of the question at this point.

Even with that in mind, things aren’t looking great.

We can pretty much give the Metro both wildcard spots, since I could legitimately see seven teams in their division making it in. That means that Ottawa will be battling with Boston and Montreal for the 3rd spot in the Atlantic to most likely play Toronto in the first round.

Ottawa’s dropped all the way to tied for 3rd last in the entire league with 22 points in 23 games, and they sit five points behind Montreal with four games in hand, and four points behind Boston with the same amount of games played.

Are the playoffs still possible? Of course they are. But it looks like they’ll have to finish higher than both the Canadiens and Bruins, and they’re already behind. The wins need to come now.

Stone Deserving Selke Praise

Now that all the not so fun stuff has been said, let’s talk about Mark Stone and his amazing play. Ian Mendes had a tweet on Wednesday that I’m sure most Senators fans agree with:

Stone is easily the most complete player on the team, as I fail to name a single thing that he does poorly. His skating was once labelled as a problem, but he won a foot-race against the Canadiens and scored a short-handed goal simply because of his fantastic acceleration.

I don’t think he’ll win the Selke Trophy, nor do I think he should, but there’s a reasonable argument for having him as a top-3 finalist. Voters haven’t given the award to a winger since Jere Lehtinen in 2003, and that probably won’t change anytime soon if Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar are still in the league.

Those two will be incredibly hard to de-throne, but Stone should get some recognition as well, since he’s Ottawa’s best forward in every zone on the ice.

Sell the Franchise Already

By now, everybody has heard the rumours about Eugene Melnyk potentially selling the franchise, and the first big news I saw was from Senschirp:

After other people had said they had heard similar things (whether they actually did or not), it seems inevitable that a new owner will be at the head of the organization in the near future. And I have to say, I cannot wait.

Melnyk did save the team when he originally purchased them, but I don’t think he has any sympathizers in town anymore. If a new owner has deeper pockets and it would would help guarantee the LeBreton rink, then I say good riddance to Mr. Melnyk.

It’s hilarious that the lasting image we’ll have of him is his love for infamous ex-Fox news host Bill O’Reilly:

Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

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