Before you can explore what the Sens did at the trade deadline you have to ask yourself this question: what is the team trying to achieve? We know that ownership wants playoff gates above all else, so the mandate for Pierre Dorion is to make the playoffs and go as far as he can. This eternal pursuit of making the playoffs is the seed of destruction that’s made the Senators the middling team that they are (with Ottawa’s internal budget and the city’s limited attraction for free agents the Cup isn’t realistic). We don’t have to like (and I don’t) the mandate from ownership, but we have to accept it as the constraint under which a GM operates. Dorion isn’t permitted to think long-term in the usual way; it’s all about making the playoffs now. To that end we’ve seen both he and Bryan Murray make innumerable deals where the future is sacrificed for perceived short-term gain (inevitably veteran acquisitions, cf). These “character” players have given the team…zero second round appearances. The signing or acquisition of aging veterans since 07-08 has achieved absolutely nothing. Why Dorion continues acquiring players like this is difficult to comprehend–I can only assume confirmation bias in what he observes elsewhere as well as his own tiny echo chamber makes evolving more or less impossible.
The trend of sacrificing prospects and picks to add older players continued this week, dashing any hopes fans might still have had that Dorion was going to represent a change from Bryan Murray. Leading off the roster moves was the abysmal trade of prospect Jonathan Dahlen for the antique Alexandre Burrows, followed by picking up Viktor Stalberg and signing Chris DiDomenico (!). I’d like to credit Dorion for jettisoning Curtis Lazar, but that’s exactly the kind of prospect other old school managers (ahem, Brian Burke) are willing to take chances on, so the only credit Dorion deserves is in understanding Lazar wasn’t going to improve. As I mentioned on Twitter, these moves specifically reminded me of Murray in 2008 when he was desperately trying to keep open Daniel Alfredsson‘s Cup window by acquiring Mike Commodore and Martin Lapointe (for those who don’t remember, Ottawa was swept in the first round by Pittsburgh and none of the assets stuck around)–much of the rhetoric about Burrows echoes that about Lapointe.
Delving into the trades themselves there’s nothing to get excited about. On the most basic end of it Burrows isn’t going to help the Sens go on a long playoff run and signing him to an extension is madness (his stats have long been inflated by his teammates; he’ll also be 36 in April in a league where players peak at 27). The best case scenario is maybe the Sens win a round, Dahlen fails as a prospect, and Burrows finds someone on the Sens roster to boost his performance–that’s the best case scenario. Another indicator of why this is being derided as a bad move is the reaction within the hockey community–it’s being called Vancouver GM Jim Benning’s best move thus far and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Nichols goes into the trade in great detail (Dorion’s defensiveness about the move is clear and, I think, a reaction to his peers, not the fans).
Stalberg peaked with Chicago in 2012 (I wonder why) and has accomplished very little the last four seasons. He’s 31 and mercifully the Sens have not extended him, but he’s an even worse player than Burrows (maybe he’s the Oleg Saprykin of the season–Nichols is slightly more optimistic about him than I am). It seems as though his addition is intended to help the PK, but as a rental that’s not worth the asset (3rd round pick) they gave up for him.
Chris DiDomenico is an interesting move intended for the AHL (if not this season, than next). The 28-year old former Leaf pick comes off the scrapheap of Langnau in Switzerland (a full breakdown of him is below). He’s signed to a two year, two-way contract and his AHL history (74-2-15-17) is part of why he easily cleared waivers. Binghamton seems beyond help for this season, but maybe he’ll do something in Belleville next year.
Finally, Dorion managed to dump first-round bust Curtis Lazar (along with Binghamton blueliner and former Burke player Michael Kostka), in return for a much-needed second round pick and blueline depth in the form of Dallas prospect Jyrki Jokipakka. The Finnish defender isn’t going to blow anyone away (Nichols reflects on his middling numbers), but with an expiring contract it’s a low risk acquisition required to get rid of Lazar.
At the end of the day the only exciting thing for me is the draft pick, but who knows what the Sens will do with it? Does it really matter whether Ottawa loses in the first or second round?
It’s been a couple of weeks since my last Binghamton update. The team was treading water at that point (their hot streak having cooled) and when you look at their most recent performance (3-5-0, 0.375) the BSens have fully regressed to the mean. Michael Kostka missed this entire slate of games (he’s out with an eye injury) and has since been traded to Calgary. Kleinendorst continues to juggle the blueline, returning to dressing seven defensemen on Sunday night (26th) to no avail. Neither ECHL player given PTO’s has helped (Greger Hanson and Mike Cazzola). In the five-straight losses the offense has largely ground to a halt. The team has seen a lot of roster chaos, with Andrew Hammond returning (O’Connor sent to the ECHL–for more about that see below), who then got injured, and varying forwards being called up to Ottawa.
The promised a DiDomenico breakdown: C/RW, 6-164/07 (Tor)
10-11 ECHL Toledo 37-9-16-25 (0.67)
11-12 AHL Rockford 49-2-11-13 (0.26)
12-13 Italy Asiago 37-22-38-60
13-14 Italy Asiago 31-24-48-72
14-15 NLB Langnau 46-12-26-38 (0.82)
16-17 NLA Langnau 48-10-28-38 (0.79)
Acquired from Toronto by Chicago as part of the Kris Versteeg-Stalberg trade (a funny connection) in 2010. After failing out of the Blackhawk system he moved on to the Italian league and from there to the NLB and, as Langnau advanced into the NLA, he went with them. He lead Langnau in scoring this season, albeit he’s second to Rob Schremp in PPG. When it comes to the overall NLA scoring he clocks in at 30th. He’s available to the Sens because Langnau failed to make the playoffs and the NLA’s regular season is over. It’s very difficult to translate European numbers to the AHL, but to draw on an example Binghamton fans will be familiar with: Roman Wick coming off this season 37-15-16-31 (0.83), put up 70-20-22-42 (0.60) in the AHL–take the comparison with a very large grain of salt.
I posted a full Wichita update not long ago, but it’s worth noting the team broke their 13-game losing streak on February 22nd (only to start a new one immediately afterwards). The free-falling team is in danger of being caught by both the Indy Fuel and Elmira Jackals (the only ones they are ahead of) and Matt O’Connor‘s brief tenure was not the help they were looking for (0-2-0 4.63 .875, numbers slightly more terrible than Chris Driedger when he was sent down). There seems to be nothing coach Malcolm Cameron or Thunder GM Joel Lomurno can do to stop the bleeding.
Grant McCagg has set up a site dedicated to the NHL draft. His lengthy preamble (almost 3,000 words!) is an excellent example of how, in any industry, you need to make connections. It will be interesting to see what impact Recruites Hockey makes to draft coverage.
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)
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