Senators News & Notes

There hasn’t been this much to write about the Sens in pre-season since the 2011 rebuild (comparisons I’ve made previously). Almost daily news of interest is coming out and I don’t expect that to truly die down until the season starts. In the last few days I’ve posted comprehensive looks at the Sens two new prospects, looked at Pierre Dorion’s track record, and even looked at what toxic fandom might mean for Sens fans.

Pierre Dorion

Two things stood out from Dorion’s comments to various bloggers:

sometimes when you get [into] the fifth, sixth, seventh rounds sometimes you try to hit a home run with a skill guy. We’re going to do less and less of that now. Just because at the end of the day most of them don’t ever pan out

This confirms what I’ve said the last two drafts (about the team drafting ‘safe’); it’s also a terrible idea that’s refuted from the team’s own history. One Mike Hoffman is worth hundreds of Max McCormick‘s–the team puts far too much weight on ‘character’ players who can easily be obtained (if required) via free agency at low cost (ask the San Jose Sharks). To briefly go over the relative failure since Dorion has been involved (excluding the 2007 draft since that was put together by John Muckler’s team):

Skill Fails (10)
Andre Petersson (08)
Emil Sandin (08)
Brad Peltz (09)
Jakub Culek (10)
Bryce Aneloski (10)
Matt Puempel (11)
Shane Prince (11)
Robbie Baillargeon (12)
Tobias Lindberg (13)
Kelly Summers (14)

Character Fails (14)
Jared Cowen (09)
Jeff Costello (09)
Corey Cowick (09)
Mike Sdao (09)
Darren Kramer (11)
Jordan Fransoo (11)
Tim Boyle (12)
Curtis Lazar (13)
Ben Harpur (13)
Vincent Dunn (13)
Chris Leblanc (13)
Quentin Shore (13)
Andreas Englund (14)
Shane Eiserman (14)

While the proportions are similar what value, really, are you getting from grinding third and fourth-liners, or bottom-feeding defensemen? It’s a puzzling approach that doesn’t wind the wheel of adding talent.

The next comment:

You can have as many big names as you want but sometimes it doesn’t bring Cup after Cup after Cup

No Cup has ever been won by a team without ‘big names’–the closest you can come to that is the 1995 New Jersey Devils, but even that team had Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, and Scott Niedermayer. I’m not sure if the comment is delusion on Dorion’s part or if he’s making a virtue of necessity.

The Rebuild

I have some additional thoughts to my previous article on the rebuild (which got some love from scout Craig Smith, which is always gratifying) via Nichols:
-Even after all this time Dorion is unaware that using ‘character’ to promote players isn’t effective outside a very narrow part of the fanbase who are already onboard
-Dorion: “it’s unfortunate that Josh Norris is not at his peak because then maybe fans would be more excited … whether he’s a second or third line guy or whether he’s a seventh forward or a fourth forward, we feel comfortable he’ll be a good player for us.
I entirely agree with Nichols’ response to this: “There’s nothing wrong with drafting or developing good third line players, but for the Senators’ rebuild to ultimately be successful and take a lot of the pressure off of management, the Senators will need to procure some elite prospects to build around.
I didn’t mention in my Norris profile that one of the problems with him being a combine warrior is that it leaves him no place to go–every single player taken in that draft has room to improve, but Norris is at his physical peak already, so how much better can he be?
-Nichols: “Ceci may be a great guy and a fantastic teammate, but as frequent observer, I don’t believe he has the hockey IQ to ever thrive in the roles that the Senators have used him in.
I want to say this is inarguably the case, but the org would argue it. The org loves secondary characteristics–playing through pain, a good team guy, great tan, etc–it takes a long, long time for them to embrace the wider reality (think of how late the org was trying to lock-up Jared Cowen).
-Nichols: “What I struggle with is that if the Senators decided to rebuild in February and were permitted to talk contract with Karlsson leading up to July 1st before they could their formal offer, why play up the fact that they would make an offer on July 1st? Surely, they would have had some kind of understanding of Karlsson’s intentions for wanting to stay or negotiate terms before then? And if Karlsson was that unwilling to talk terms, why wouldn’t the organization set its own drop date for negotiations before the trade deadline so that it could maximize the return by giving teams two prospective playoff runs and an extended window of negotiation to talk contract? To me, at its base level, everything just sounds like spin and this rebuild seems designed to lower expectations, explain the decision to cut payroll and put an uncertain timeline on when fans can expect this group to be competitive again.
I agree wholeheartedly with him. As I went over in my theory about when the decision to rebuild I think what we’ve heard about it now is simply spin. It boggles the mind that the team didn’t speak to EK since November–not a word to your team captain. It does lend credence to them wanting to move him, but I don’t think the intent was a rebuild until much later.

Rudderless Ship?

Mike Kelly laid down the thunder on the org going over basic analytics:

In 2016-17, at even-strength, the Senators ranked last in offensive zone puck possession, 2nd last in offensive zone turnover rate, which measures how often a team turns the puck over per puck possession, and 3rd last creating shots from the slot.

Defensively, Ottawa spent the second most amount of time defending in its own end, had the worst defensive zone turnover rate in the league and yet its goaltenders still posted the 8th best save percentage in the NHL. The Senators finished with the 2nd best team save percentage on shots from the slot and ranked 1st on shots from the inner slot.

And on and on it goes. None of this is new for those of us who keep an eye on this sort of thing, but having it spelled out so starkly in the midst of a rebuild is refreshing.

the Senators clearly don’t know what they don’t know. It bit them last season and it’s going to bite them again this season.

This is exactly the same sentiment I have and I made the same point in my rebuild article. A captain without a compass isn’t going to arrive at the desired destination.

I happened to catch Jeff O’Neill weighing in on TSN:

When the owner is a dope, like they have, it’s awful all the way down. … I think Eugene Melnyk is bad for the league–I think he’s the worst owner in pro sports.

Yikes.

Gus Kastaros (of McKeen’s) is yet another who didn’t think much of the EK trade (outside of the org I haven’t seen a positive opinion of it yet).

Image result for mark stone

Louis Jean got dog-piled on social media after reporting that Mark Stone won’t resign until the org gets its house in order. This isn’t a radical thought–I certainly don’t think he’s going to stay anymore than Matt Duchene is, but I feel for the guy with the reaction to it.

belleville sens

The org has hired an AGM to replace Randy Lee, but Peter McTavish is apparently going to be more of a numbers guy rather than running the BSens as Randy Lee did. There remains the dreaded possibility that failed Leaf AGM Claude Loiselle will be foisted on the team, but that’s still up in the air.

While Sens camp has largely gone as planned we do have one surprise thus far: Logan Brown was sent down to the BSens camp. This doesn’t mean he won’t be recalled or will spend much time in Belleville (I think a season in the AHL would be good for him), but in my roster speculation article back in August I thought he’d stay with the Sens for marketing reasons and because the Sens like to rush top-picks into the lineup (Curtis Lazar, Cody Ceci, Mika Zibanejad, Jared Cowen, etc). He may have been sent down purely due to the numbers game, or perhaps the team has decided he needs more minutes to develop–either way, I think it’s a good decision. Also a good decision: PTO Jack Skille was released. Jim O’Brien, incidentally, seems to be injured but has apparently already passed through waivers so once healthy can go down.

There’s nothing exciting about the BSens invites, especially as the roster is bloated: Brampton Beast players Anthony Beauregard and Austin EcEnemy (profiles forthcoming) are there along with pugilist Chase Stewart (from whom there seems no escape as the org seemingly loves him), rookie camper Jordan Stallard, former BSen Daniel Ciampini, former 2014-pick Kelly Summers, and yet another fighter in Jonathan Racine. All of these are likely heading to Brampton (or being released).

prospects

A couple of more free agents to add to the NHL-pile from the CHL: Yegor Zamula (Phi) and Joel Teasdale (Mtl).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Toxic Fandom?

Image result for power outage

What an interesting time it is. Friday night I was driving home from Kingston unaware of the severity of the damage here in Ottawa and when I arrived it certainly upset the apple cart of my immediate plans. I’m grateful I only had one night without power and suffered no damages–others have certainly suffered more than I.

I couldn’t help but remember similar situations. I vividly recall the 1998 ice storm (watching transformers explode from my apartment balcony, never losing power in my building), and the 2003 blackout, which happened just as I was leaving work–I remember walking through a sea of people as the entire downtown core was emptying (then enjoying some barbecue with my roommates when I got home). On a personal level this blackout has had the most direct impact on me, minimal as it was. I never lost power during the ice storm and during the blackout it was only down overnight. Relatives of mine, living in the country, faced actual hardships during both events and my sympathies go out to everyone facing loss or simply being without power (I can’t help but recall James Burke’s 1978 series Connections “The Trigger Effect” where he talks about how dependent society is on technology). But I digress.

Image result for toxic fanbase

I first encountered the term ‘toxic fanbase’ when it was applied to video game players, but over the last couple of years it has been used for franchise fandoms like Star Wars. I was quite surprised when WTYKY’s Varada used the term for hockey fans, especially without any context. I think it’s well worth delving into what the term means because wherever it is used it becomes a destructive, polarizing part of the rhetoric and I don’t want to see it infect Sens discourse.

Part of the problem with the term is it has no set definition (the one in Urban Dictionary is less than a year old and even it’s definition of toxic has only been around for two years; Wikipedia has no entry related to it at all, reflecting that the culture hasn’t decided what exactly it means, although clearly the word ‘toxic’ is borrowed from toxic masculinity and I suspect it’s something ultimately lifted out of the GamerGate fiasco from 2014–if you aren’t a fan of Milo Yiannopoulos you can thank the Streisand Effect from that for him). Applying the term to a group just adds to that confusion because what, exactly, makes someone toxic in reference to a hobby they enjoy?

When I think of current parlance the most common place I hear it is debate about entertainment franchises, beginning with the hubbub over the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. It then jumped to 2017’s Star Trek: Discovery and from there over to Star Wars for The Last Jedi and beyond–becoming an ingrained piece of rhetoric within that fanbase (I remain mystified about how liking or disliking a piece of entertainment has any value-added judgement to it–the fact I don’t like The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t mean I think less of someone who does–we just enjoy different things about that kind of film).

I’m very cynical about the term because I think it both lacks substance and it fails to advance or enrich whatever is being debated. There’s no case where someone calling a group ‘toxic’ has lead to a fandom changing to lose that label–if it has any impact at all it simply polarizes debate. Fans have happily bickered over the things they love from time immemorial, but you can trace modern discourse back to the letter columns of pulp magazines at the turn of the century–H. P. Lovecraft owes his literary career, in part, to this specific element of fandom. Let’s be clear that the term ‘toxic fandom’ can’t simply be applied to fans disagreeing–you might believe the Sens (or BSens) need an enforcer and I do not, but our opinions aren’t toxic, we simply have a different view of what matters in the game–arguing vigorously is part of the fun so long as we remain respectful of one another.

The term didn’t arrive organically from the fans themselves. Corporate people–those involved in franchises being criticised–and people in the media push it (directly and indirectly they both profit from it–hey, my movie failed but it’s because of toxic fans, or hey editor, look at all the clicks I’m getting–intentionally or unintentionally the debate helps those who propagate it). The suits only use the term when their product (or employee) is facing criticism, which should ring alarm bells. To me it comes across as Orwellian doublespeak, or more specifically Newspeak, because it’s meant to prevent someone from having an opinion (ie don’t listen to X because they are toxic). We can argue about whether this is the intent or not (I think it is inarguably about limiting opinions, but there are media and creative people who truly believe it represents something beyond how I see it), but I’m very suspicious of things like this whose outcomes are about selling product. You don’t see the term used by successful franchises (the MCU is the easiest example, as its corporate speakers never attack the fanbase which absolutely gets into silly debates).

Bringing this back to the Senators I haven’t heard the term used by them in their battle against criticism–I doubt they are aware of it and generally they borrow rhetoric from the right not the left–but it’s something I’ll keep an eye on going forward. Criticism of the org or the rebuild is perfectly valid so long as there is evidence or reasonable arguments behind it–I feel the same way about those who defend both. Emotional expressions of support and criticism are also perfectly valid if, again, it’s done respectfully of other fans. I don’t want discussion to become polarized like it has in the aforementioned franchises or like we see in politics–nothing good comes from it. The whole point of vigorous debate is learning and avoiding being trapped in your own bubble. I have been and will continue to be wrong about things (Alexander Nikulin and Tobias Lindberg as prospects are the two clearest examples when it comes to hockey–in both cases, if memory serves, Jeff Ulmer’s opinion was on-target), and I’m never going to learn from my mistakes if I simply reject opposing opinions as ‘toxic.’

This was an unplanned article and we can thank Varada’s Twitter feed for it (or, more precisely for me, Ary who re-Tweeted it). I still have a much delayed post about the Sens ECHL affiliate in Brampton to finish as well as a substantial news digest/opinion piece in the hopper. We’ve had one surprising cut in Ottawa’s NHL camp thus far which I think is related to an injury to Jim O’Brien and I’ll get into that next time.

Best wishes to everyone in Ottawa-Gatineau during this difficult time.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)