If you’re an avid reader of this here website (and why wouldn’t you be?), you’ll recall that our very own Trevor Shackles wrote an exceptional piece about Pierre Dorion, and his unceasing trade frequency. The main point of which was that the Ottawa Senators’ general manager has statistically been one of the league’s most active, never shying away from the opportunity to try to improve his team via player swap.
There have been instances where this has worked out. Trading a fifth-round pick for Mike Condon in 2017 was a pivotal moment for that year’s playoff run, and the Erik Karlsson trade that yielded Josh Norris and Tim Stützle - to name a few - smells more and more like roses with each passing day.
But for every home run that Dorion has hit, he’s also gone down swinging. For every Norris, or Stützle, there is a Mikkel Boedker, or Alex Burrows. With all of that said, it’s time for Pierre Dorion to keep the bat on his shoulder — for now.
Make no mistake: the Ottawa Senators need to improve. The team is currently mired in an eight-game losing streak, being out-scored 41-17 in the process. As I wrote just last week, nothing is going right for the Sens. They can’t score, they can’t defend, they can’t kill penalties, and their goaltenders can’t stop the puck. It’s only natural, then, that Dorion would seek to find such an improvement via trade, but he finds himself in an unfortunate position. The fact of the matter is that Dorion has already tried to improve this team through transactions with other NHL squads, and it just hasn’t worked.
The most glaring example of this, so far, is Matt Murray. Fans were understandably excited about the Senators bringing in a 26 year-old two-time Stanley Cup winner, and while his subsequent four-year $25million extension had some folks taking pause, the general consensus remained optimistic. Through seven appearances, Murray has just not lived up to his billing: posting a record of 1-4-1, being pulled twice, with a GAA of 4.82, and SV% of .849, the season is bordering on disastrous for the Thunder Bay native. While it all hasn’t been on Murray - the team around him has certainly failed to help him out - it’s an acquisition that looks worse with each passing day.
Similar things can be said of Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette, albeit they arrived with far less in the way of expectations. Paquette is pointless through eight games, while Coburn has registered just one assist, coming in game one of the season. The two are currently sporting five-on-five Corsi ratings of 44.13% and 37.14%, respectively, and it’s difficult to argue that they’ve been effective at all.
Derek Stepan’s play has been somewhat up and down, but those of us (myself included) who thought that a second-round pick was fine to part with are struggling to maintain that belief when he’s been relegated to the fourth line.
The point of all this is that the Senators did their best to become become a better team in the offseason, and appear to have misfired. Maybe the tide will turn soon and their veteran acquisitions will find their way, but for now the only players with a modicum of value are their young core. It goes without saying, but there’s no sense in moving these assets.
There have been reports of teams calling on the Senators, with Colin White rumoured to be a recurring name. It’s also been reported that Ottawa is “not anxious to give up talented young players”, but this is the NHL, and things could always change.
A player like White may be tempting for Ottawa to part with. His contract is a fair bit to live up to, and it seems he had to work fairly hard to earn his coach’s favour. Factor in the Senators’ wealth of centre prospects - Shane Pinto is lighting it up at UND this year - and Dorion could find himself convinced that White is a player worth parting with.
This is, of course, the exact type of move that Dorion can’t afford to make. It is surely tempting to try something drastic, to make an attempt to force the Sens out of their funk, but such a trade would be short-sighted. As deep as Ottawa’s pool of youth is, they can afford to take nothing for granted, if that were not already evidenced by the team’s apparent inability to find contributors on the open market.
Perhaps acquiring a bigger name would snap the Senators’ skid, and maybe even make them a better team in the short term, but this team should have their eyes on the longterm prize. The brief tenure of Ales Hemsky is still not forgotten, after all.
The hard truth of this situation is that Ottawa is in it because of the moves they’ve made since the end of last season. The blue line is paper thin, the goaltending hasn’t held up, and any quick-fixes will cost far more than it would be prudent for them to part with. If they’re going to snap this eight-game losing streak, then it has to be done by the players already on the roster.
Logan Brown, Erik Brannstrom, and Alex Formenton are twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the AHL to start. If D.J. Smith wants to shake up his roster, give the kids a chance to bring some energy, and fresh blood. Parting with young assets or draft capital would be a move not befitting of a rebuilding team.