To say the first 19 games of the season have been disappointing is a massive understatement. I don’t think fans expected the Ottawa Senators to be a playoff team, but they at least expected a step forward from last season where they were on pace for 75 points. But now they’re at 4-14-1 and on pace for just 39 points. 39!!
Matt Murray was obviously waived yesterday, and now there is talk about potential consequences for off-ice personnel. Pierre Dorion signed a contract extension in September so I don’t think he’d be dismissed so soon, but today’s question is a slightly different one: do you think he’s the right person for the job?
It’s difficult to expect a quick turnaround when you trade elite players such as Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Matt Duchene, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, etc. over the course of a few seasons. Ottawa essentially took the scorched earth path, and it’s not easy to build a contender from nothing. Pierre Dorion has been the GM since spring of 2016, although he really only started the tear-down process in 2018, with a few seasons where he could only wait. October 2020 represented the first time he no longer had any big chips to trade and the team could go in so many different directions.
So in this next phase of the rebuild, it’s only been about a year.
He has brought in bonafide top players such as Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Tim Stützle, Artem Zub, and Connor Brown, plus many top prospects are close to reaching that status such as Shane Pinto, Filip Gustavsson, and Jake Sanderson. Beyond those players, the Senators still have promising young players with Lassi Thomson, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Alex Formenton, Egor Sokolov, Ridly Greig, Roby Järventie, and many others. The amateur scouting under him and Trent Mann has been great, and he has the potential to build a solid homegrown core here.
It’s also important to note the role that Eugene Melnyk has here. He will always be an extremely hands-on owner, and who knows what sort of restrictions he has put on Dorion. Furthermore, who knows what sorts of moves Melnyk has essentially pressured Dorion into making. It is not an easy job to have, and the expectations can’t be a playoff team in 2021-22 anyway.
The team turned things around last season in the final 41 games, and perhaps we have to be patient with this group as well.
While Dorion has obviously brought in a lot of good young talent, he has also failed miserably to support that talent with anything useful. In the 2020 off-season, here are how his moves ended up working out:
- Artem Zub, 1x$925k: one of their best signings, although not technically an acquisition from within the NHL
- Matt Murray, 4x$6.25M and acquired for a Jonny Gruden and a 2nd: waived after just 33 GP and an .892 SV%
- Evegenii Dadonov, 3x$5M: just 1 PP point, 20 pts overall in 55 GP. Dealt for Nick Holden and a 3rd in an effort to essentially get rid of his contract
- Alex Galchenyuk, 1x$1.05M: 1 point in 8 GP, dealt along with Cedric Paquette for Ryan Dzingel
- Cedric Paquette, Braydon Coburn, and a 2nd, acquired for Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson: One of his best deals by essentially getting a 2nd round pick for free
- Derek Stepan, acquired for a 2nd: Season-ending injury after just 6 points in 20 games
- Josh Brown, acquired for a 4th: Has provided -3.6 Goals Above Replacement (GAR) in 39 games in Ottawa
- Erik Gudbranson, acquired for a 5th: Had a -4.5 GAR and was dealt for a 7th at the deadline
- Austin Watson, acquired for a 4th: Provided great defensive value on the 4th line with +7 GAR in 34 games./
So out of all those moves, Zub and Watson were really the only ones that helped make the team any better (plus the 2nd could help down the line), with Watson’s role being quite limited. But the rest of the moves either actively make the team worse or they used up too many assets (money or picks) to acquire them.
Then this past off-season where he declared that the “rebuild is over”, the only players they added were Michael Del Zotto, Nick Holden (replacing Evgenii Dadonov), Zach Sanford, and PTO Tyler Ennis. It was a far cry from their plan of a top-6 centre and a top-4 defenseman. No, they shouldn’t be trading away tons of futures for players right now, but they also need to begin adding some good players to fill out the roster. By giving Del Zotto that second year, it’s clear that they thought he could actually help the defense.
No Stanley Cup Champions can build a team solely through the draft, you need to make good moves beyond that. Tampa Bay added Blake Coleman, Mikhail Sergachev, Barclay Goodrow, etc. St. Louis added Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly, etc. Washington added TJ Oshie, Brett Connolly, etc. Not all of them are stars, but they all add depth to the roster, which Pierre Dorion has failed to do so far.
Now, they shouldn’t have been expected to make the playoffs this season anyway, but 2022-23 has to have those expectations. And I don’t know how they make that massive jump from last in the league without adding quality players via free agency and/or trades.
Have Your Say
What do you think though? Is Pierre Dorion the right person for the job in Ottawa? Or should someone else come in to right the ship?
Is Pierre Dorion the right person for the job?