Mailbag, Pt.1: Fastest Skater, Trade Targets, Pizza Line and more!

The Staff answers YOUR questions!

You ask the questions, and we’ll provide the answers: that’s the premise of our two-part Mailbag feature this week. We received questions from our comment section, on Twitter, and through the Google form — so many in fact that we unfortunately are not going to be able to answer them all. Based on the response, this is likely a feature we’ll run again soon so if your question didn’t make it in this time please try again next time.

Thank you to everyone who submitted an answer. There has been some “light” editing done to a couple of the questions for clarity. Part two runs tomorrow.

Question: I have always assumed that the rebuild would take time, so I am OK with the progress of the established future core. Given that, which of the unheralded low-round picks have the potential to really surprise us in a BIG way? — TheDude

I should preface this answer by clarifying that Ottawa doesn’t have a Daniel Alfredsson, Mark Stone, or even Drake Batherson in the system (in terms of production relative to draft position). That being said, as a staff we’ve always liked 2018 5th-rounder Angus Crookshank (126th overall) who had three strong years in college and, current injury notwithstanding, got off to a torrid start to his professional career. I personally like 2019 7th-rounder Maxence Guénette (187th overall) who profiles as a steady, low event defender and 2020 6th-rounder Philippe Daoust (158th overall) who has the potential to become a versatile depth centre. From this most recent draft, 4th-rounder Carson Latimer (123rd overall) has quietly racked up eleven points in his last ten games in junior. — Owen

Question: What players should the Sens be looking to move? I’m going with Tierney, Holden and yes Forsberg — i.e all the expiring contracts. — Jonathan Lapp

Most players over the age of around 26-27 are likely expendable on this roster. As you mention, if they can get anything for Chris Tierney, Nick Holden, and Anton Forsberg, they should pounce on that since none profile as meaningful contributors to the team’s future. Other than that, I’d look at potentially moving Zach Sanford, Michael Del Zotto, and Tyler Ennis. Ennis is the only one of that bunch who I’ve liked, and they wouldn’t be getting much at all from these six players, but something would be better than nothing. I’d like for them to re-sign pending UFA Nick Paul though, as long as his AAV comes in under $3M. Paul is essentially the only guy potentially on the block who I’d really want them to keep (unless we include the much-discussed Erik Brännström as well). — Trevor

Question: Which line will turn out to be better: the Spezza-Heatley-Alfredsson line or the Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson line provided five more years of development? — TheDude

I believe the Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson line will remain the best line this team has ever had, for a few reasons. The first is a bit of a cop-out: I’m just not sure that Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson is going to stay together for five more years. I keep going back and forth on this, but at the end of the day I think Stützle will turn into a better centreman than Norris, and without knowing which wingers will round out Ottawa’s top 6 down the line, it’s hard to say exactly how the lines will look in a few years. The other reason is that Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson set such a high bar that it doesn’t seem likely Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson can clear it. This isn’t a slight against the team’s current young stars: remember the Pizza Line was the best line in hockey for a period of time, and arguably one of the best lines in NHL history. With another five years of development together, Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson might be able to get close, but I don’t think they could overtake Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson. — Beata

Question: How do you think Matt Murray’s going to look going forward? — Luke B.

I believe Matt Murray has some good hockey left in him, but I just don’t see it being with Ottawa. Confidence is likely going to be an issue for him knowing that he’s now seen as an AHL goalie by his own coaching staff/management group. Add to that our young and often unreliable defenseman, and the Sens are not exactly a team that are well-positioned to help Murray find his game; they need a goalie that can win them games even when they don’t have a stellar game and that’s just not Matt Murray at the moment. Eventually I suspect he could be a buyout as I don’t see how his contract is tradable — Nada

Question: If you’re setting up a race between the two fastest skaters in Sens history, who is in the race — and who wins? — Ian Mendes

The obvious answer here is Frederick “Cyclone” Taylor, MBE. The man was known as Tornado and Whirlwind before arriving in Ottawa. However, none of us were alive to watch him play, so I’ll pick Mike Hoffman and Alex Formenton. Hoffman had such a good shot  that the team built its whole powerplay around it, but Formenton wins this race because finishing ability doesn’t matter in a pure speed contest. It’s close, but 2021 Formenton edges out 2016 Hoffman. — Ross

As you mention in your question, it is very difficult to evaluate a player who has been injured as consistently as White has of late. Coming into this season, White was one of the Sens players who most stood to benefit from a clean slate. As I wrote in his Top 25 Under 25 Profile,

It’s not that White has been bad per se, it’s just that it’s hard to get excited for a player who looks like a capable third line centre and perhaps not much more. White does many things pretty well, but very few things exceptionally well. He’s a good skater, but he doesn’t possess breakaway speed. He’s skilled enough with the puck to make some smart plays, but he won’t beat a lot of defenders one-on-one and he’s not a well of creativity off the rush. He’s defensively responsible, and he works hard, but he’s not exactly a stopper either. Colin White is a perfectly good NHLer, but unless something really clicks, that might be all that he is. If that sounds overly negative, consider that most of our collective disappointment stems from where he was drafted and the promise of those early years in the organization. He’s a capable, helpful, NHLer. Every team, even the very good ones, would employ someone like White. if he’s on your third line, there’s a good chance he’s helping you win hockey games.

White turns 25 later this month, not ancient but not exactly young anymore by NHL standards. It’s unlikely that he’ll ever exceed the 2018-19 season in terms of production so there’s not much upside to the contract. A defensively responsible third-line centre or right winger who chips in 30-35 points is valuable in today’s NHL but I’m not sure I’d pay him 4.75M to do that. That being said, the Sens are very thin up front as of this writing, and subtracting a solid, if unspectacular, NHLer from this line-up without a replacement or upgrade strikes me as moving backwards. All this to say that, despite all the uncertainty and general underwhelming feeling, the Sens will need to have made some other moves to bolster their forward lines before I’d feel comfortable moving on from White just to save a few bucks. —nkb

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