2015-16 was not a memorable season for the Ottawa Senators. No one will look back on it as a significant time in the franchise's history. The Sens acquired Dion Phaneuf, a player who can plug into the top four for now. The team traded away Shane Prince, which isn't the kind of move that makes or breaks a franchise's trajectory.The team failed to make the playoffs, fired their coach after just one full season, finally gave up on Jared Cowen, and saw Bryan Murray step down as GM after nine years. When the Sens celebrate their 25th anniversary
Wrestlemania style they may just ignore this season completely.
But this offseason, things feel different. Sure, the Sens missed out on Bruce Boudreau as coach. The reasons for it aren't entirely clear. Maybe he wanted to stay in the Western Conference. Maybe he was more attracted by a team that's made the playoffs several years in a row. Maybe he wasn't actually the Sens' top choice, and so he went to Minnesota. There's a good chance the fourth year offered by the Wild was the tipping point. But you know what else? I'm more than OK with it. The Sens made a good choice in my opinion to not just throw four years at the best coach on the market. After all, they're paying two coaches money to not coach the team next season. There are dangers in giving out lengthy contracts. For an example, just look at Minnesota, who are stuck with $7.5M cap hits for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter until 2025. The Wild didn't become a Cup contender, and now don't have money left to get players to push them over the top. The Sens have locked themselves into poor long contracts before - Cowen, Greening, David Legwand. They traded Milan Michalek because they couldn't justify the money he was due next year. Contracts to guys like Clarke MacArthur and especially Bobby Ryan may come back to hurt the team. Even if I wanted Boudreau, I can respect the team deciding to play it safe and not offer a fourth year. Financial prudence is something this budget team has been missing.
I'm excited about Guy Boucher. I'd said before that he was my top choice outside of Claude Julien or Boudreau. I want to see what he can do. The Sens need a good systems coach. Boucher seems like an intelligent guy who's always looking for a way to get a competitive edge. And as much as I may hate the Maple Leafs, I respect a lot of people in their organization right now, and those people decided Boucher was their guy until Mike Babcock said yes. I'm pretty happy with the Sens getting the coach that Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas decided was the second best available last summer.
I'm also excited about Marc Crawford as an assistant. He seems to realize that being an NHL assistant is his path back to coaching in this league. He seems a lot more mature than the idiot who sent out Todd Bertuzzi to end Steve Moore's career. I think he's accepted his role as an assistant, and is excited to be back in North America. I like the angle that both Boucher and Crawford coached in Switzerland. There's something about Swiss hockey that's intriguing right now. Auston Matthews chose to play this past year there, and you know he had an agency that advised him that it was the best idea. This season has cemented the emergence of Roman Josi. Switzerland is far from a hockey powerhouse, but things at least seem to be on the upswing.
There's been a lot of complaints that we've been too negative as a blog this past season. I know i contributed to that. But it seemed to me like there was a lot to complain about. I was frustrated with a franchise that was essentially spinning its wheels. But now, I want to go on the record saying that I'm more than willing to give this coming season a chance. A new GM who seems willing to spend smart and an experienced coaching group sound good to me. Here's hoping 2016-17 is a season to remember.