Thoughts on Org Prospect Hype and on Randy Lee’s Departure

Image result for that's a bold strategy cotton

I was randomly listening to The Team 1200 recently (something I generally don’t do) and encountered the org narrative being parroted by the media: don’t worry about the failures, player changes, or drama, because the Sens have an ‘unprecedented’ crop of prospects and all will be well–if not now, in the near future. This is a card the Sens have played before and I wanted to explore that (those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, after all, as I butcher George Santayana).

The summer of 2011 is what I immediately thought of when I heard the above. It’s not that long ago, but I remember the exact same hype being generated about the prospects at the time. The org had just picked three players in the first round (including Mika Zibanejad) along with local 67 Shane Prince; won the Calder Cup with 19-year goaltender of the future Robin LehnerDavid Rundblad, acquired for the pick that became Vladimir Tarasenko, was arriving from Sweden after breaking the SEL record for points by a defensemen; Jared Cowen was still a thing; Patrick Wiercioch and Derek Grant were being touted; Jakob Silfverberg was in the offing; Andre Petersson was coming over from Sweden; etc, etc. Look at all that talent–don’t worry about the 2010-11 season and promises of a Stanley Cup contender from the owner–all will be well soon enough.

This approach worked very well–at least in the fandom–but as we’ve seen none of the aforementioned players became elite talents (Silfverberg is arguably the best of the lot). In the subsequent seven seasons the team missed the playoffs three times and had just one good (very good) playoff run (when all the aforementioned pieces were gone). If the summer of 2011 is a story of anything it’s a story of missed opportunities and overblown expectations.

dean brown

I think because the above is well-remembered Gord Wilson (in his segment) didn’t make that comparison. Instead he reached far back in time to reference when Martin Havlat and Anton Volchenkov were playing in rookie tournaments (they only played one together, 2000). Despite the Sens ultimate failure with this crop of players, it’s a more successful group and touches on the greatest nostalgia for Sens fans. As strategies go for hyping the future, it is the best approach.

Both of these comparisons are problematic. In 2011, despite the ultimate failure of what was promised, the team had an all-world player on his way up in Erik Karlsson–there is no player of similar talent playing on the roster right now once EK is traded (as seems inevitable).  As for the turn of the millenia there was another established star in Daniel Alfredsson who was accompanied by arguably an even more elite talent in Marian Hossa. Today’s team? There just isn’t definitive elite talent like that. Comparing the quality of prospects is difficult, but it’s safe to say the ceilings of the talent assembled in the late 90s/early 2000s is above that of either 2011 or currently. As for the current crop (you can view scouting sentiments for 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 via the links–something I wish all the writers at The Silver Seven would do for their prospect profiles–as well as the AHL breakdowns where appropriate), it’s a collection filled with hope–hope that some might be good second-liners, average first-liners, or a solid, supporting top-pairing blueliner–there’s just no definitive elite talent. Maybe that will change–maybe there’s a Mark Stone out there waiting, but it’s very unlikely (for those who don’t remember the only reason he was such a late pick was because his draft-season was derailed by injury). Free agents are even less likely to pan out given the Sens abysmal track record with them.

I admit that I can’t think of any other way for the org to try to pump enthusiasm into the team or the upcoming season. While they’ve finally addressed the Randy Lee situation (see below), the specter of trading Karlsson remains and the general stink of negativity around the team remains. The point of the above was simply to take the rhetoric seriously and explore how justified it is–the valid comparison is, I think, to 2011, so the expectations for this collection of prospects should be along those lines rather than the heyday of talents from the days of yore.

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On August 21st we learned that Randy Lee had resigned his position. The timing of the move seemed odd–he’s not due in court again until September 13th, and if he was going to resign because of the charges why wait so long? My guess is his resignation was forced or demanded by the org–the team doesn’t want his trial hanging over training camp and the regular season–there’s enough negative press as it is.

For those who haven’t kept tabs on Lee’s legal problems it’s worth keeping the timeline in mind:

  • May 30th – Lee was on a bus in Buffalo which is the source of the harassment charges against him (details can be found here)
  • June 1st – the Senators released a statement (revised the next day) about the charges, but neither they nor Lee took the obvious action of removing him from his position with the draft approaching (either temporarily or permanently)–instead Eugene Melnyk did what he did best by sticking his foot in his mouth and vigorously defending Lee (including hiring a lawyer to defend him)
  • June 15th – the Sens suspend Lee–speculation (see the link) that new COO Nicholas Ruszkowski was behind the move seems probable, given that he’s the only new voice in an org which was otherwise content to do nothing
  • June 27th – an additional charge of harassment was made against Lee (from the same incident)
  • July 5th – Lee tried to get the charges dismissed (which failed)
  • August 21st – Lee resigned his position with the Sens

I have no idea what the validity of the charges are–the courts will weigh in on them soon enough (on the positive side they haven’t been followed by an avalanche of accusations ala Jerry Sandusky at Penn State)–but the incoherent approach by the org is blindingly evident above. The limited (and late) damage control with his suspension seems even more pointless given his resignation. Until he resigned Lee showed no intention of reacting or responding to what’s happened (such as, on his own accord, removing himself from his position while the criminal process was ongoing), which is why I think his departure was forced.

One of the questions on my mind is: if he’s acquitted, do they immediately re-hire him? It would be a terrible PR move, but the org has shown no ability to judge public sentiment so if that happened I wouldn’t be surprised.

 

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Putting aside the criminal charges for a moment, for those of us who have watched Randy Lee’s bungling tenure as AHL GM (see here and here) there’s relief in seeing him gone. Unfortunately, those responsible for putting and keeping Lee in charge are the same ones replacing him, so we should expect roughly the same approach going forward. There’s likely no true evolution in BSens land until the people in charge are replaced en masse in Ottawa (something likely requiring a change in ownership).

Analysis

I wanted to tag this article covering the move away from Quality of Competition (along with the issues with Corsi) by the analytics community and why. It’s well worth reading and there’s no special knowledge is required to understand it.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

 

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2 Comments

  1. […] Thoughts on Org Prospect Hype and on Randy Lee’s Departure […]

  2. […] been beating the drum for 2011 rebuild comparisons for quite some time (not because I predicted a rebuild, but because of the rhetoric I was hearing on TSN 1200); in […]


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