The Senators Don’t Need “Feel-Good Wins”—They Need More Losses

The Senators organization is a mess right now. And the only way long-lasting change will come is if they bottom out and realize that both the on-ice and off-ice products need drastic improvements.

I understand that cheering for your favourite team to lose goes against every fibre of your body, and it feels sickening when you are actually excited to see them do poorly in games.

We want to see Erik Karlsson score overtime winning goals, not Craig Anderson allow five goals in a blowout loss.

Some fans simply cannot do it, and I get why. We all have different types of fandoms, and I’m not one to judge on how to enjoy your teams. Having said that, what’s best for the Ottawa Senators the rest of the season is if they continue to pile up the losses. I don’t see a way out of this continuous cycle they are in unless the 18-wheeler finally does fall off the cliff.

My hope is that this will a) net them the highest draft pick possible, and b) force the organization to make some long-lasting changes that will make the team a sustainable contender. The Senators have been stuck in a rut for over a decade now, and the time has come to say enough is enough. The overall organization has become a laughingstock due to how poorly it has been run by Eugene Melnyk, and the run to the Conference Finals last year is the only thing that briefly made people forget about that.

I get that it’s nice to see some good results down the stretch, and wanting the Senators to play as bad as possible seems a bit counterintuitive. Furthermore, I know there will be people who are worried that if Ottawa ends on a bad note, that Karlsson will be less inclined to re-sign here.

The thing is, this season has already done enough damage that I highly doubt a record of say, 8-15-4 in the final 27 games, is going to make him realize that he wants out. If he truly wants out (which I’m not so sure of), I feel like he would have reached his breaking point already. Continuing to play horribly shouldn’t really change much, unless more off-ice issues arise.

In fact, I’d say off-ice changes are just as big of a factor for Karlsson in order to determine if he wants to stay long-term.

In terms of getting the best odds at acquiring the best player in the draft, continuing to lose would be the most beneficial of course. Nobody is arguing that the Senators roster is good enough as is, and even slightly improving their odds at getting Rasmus Dahlin is worth it. And even if they don’t end up winning the lottery, I’d much rather have a pick in the top-3 than a pick around 6 or 7.

Most people want to keep Karlsson a Senator for life, and if they want to take advantage of his prime years, then a star-level player like Dahlin or Filip Zadina coming into the lineup would be a huge boost.

When most fanbases realize that the playoffs are not going to happen in any given year, they will embrace the tank and hope for a high draft pick, and my hopes are no different. However, the Senators situation is unique, because the draft pick is not even the biggest reason why I want them to keep losing.

I am so incredibly sick and tired of everything surrounding Melnyk, and the only way I can see him making noticeable changes is if he realizes how bad his on-ice product is. The problem with the Senators in the past decade is that when they make the playoffs, the front office believes they are good enough and don’t make many changes, but when they miss the playoffs, they believe that they deserved a better fate, so they once again don’t make big enough changes.

It doesn’t help that a lot of the time their beliefs are slightly correct, as they never missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. However, when you go from a bottom-10 team to 15th in the league and bounced in the first round, how can you describe that as a legitimate contending team?

Even in 2010-11 when the Senators had their lowest amount of points since 1995-96, Craig Anderson’s phenomenal play to end the year gave the team hope and made the Senators look a lot more competent. So in the following season they traded for Kyle Turris, but that was their only significant move to improve the team, as the organization believed that they didn’t need to do a whole lot to get the team back to the playoffs.

The problem with this mindset is that Melnyk only ever cared about making it to the playoffs—he couldn’t care less about spending more to make them an actual cup contender.

And that’s where the financial issues come into play, rather than just poor management from the people running the team.

It’s no secret that the Senators have been woefully run in the past few years, with ex-President Tom Anselmi’s departure being just another black mark against ownership. The Senators haven’t been able to keep any consistency with their off-ice staff, and it is reaching unprecedented levels:

In addition, Melnyk boasted about having the smallest hockey operations department in the league, but in no world should that be something to brag about. Them having a tiny front office is why they failed to see why Jonathan Dahlen for Alex Burrows was a bad idea, why acquiring depth players like Nate Thompson, Tom Pyatt, Gabriel Dumont, and Johnny Odiuya would actually hurt the team rather than improve it, and why their AHL teams have been horrible with a strength and conditioning coach as their GM.

When Dorion made a good deal shipping out Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson on Tuesday, it was such a shock because I’ve come to expect losing trades.

How would a ton of losses down the stretch help this situation then? Well, it’s no guarantee, but I hope that Melnyk will realize that he needs to invest money in his staff so that they can make better decisions with the on-ice product. Teams front offices around the league are getting bigger, not smaller, and even hiring a new assistant GM, a President, a few more scouts, and a 3-4 person analytics department would be a massive upgrade.

Over the past 5-10 years, analytical hiring’s have been a market inefficiency, and despite their minuscule cost in relation to players, it’s mind-boggling that Ottawa hasn’t tried to exploit this.

All the Senators need are some new voices, as I feel like they are stuck in their ways in terms of player evaluation. There is no guarantee that a bottom-3 finish will get Melnyk to hire more people, as he can simply say he doesn’t have enough money. But money can be moved around, as other small market teams have been able to invest more in their team.

At the end of the day, the Senators simply need big changes as they cannot win a Stanley Cup under this model. I’d rather be cheering for wins at this time of year, but I can’t see them getting out of mediocrity without realizing the organization is in a terrible place.

The dream scenario is for Melnyk to sell the team, but while he’s here, the only thing that might motivate him to improve is if the team he owns plays like garbage.

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