Sens News & Notes

We had a much needed outsiders preview of the team from Dom Luszczyszyn and Shana Goldman at The Athletic. Let’s sum up their sentiments:

The Senators still aren’t a bonafide playoff team with a projected 88-point finish. That’s well short of the projected 95 points for the eighth-best team in the East and explains the team’s 27 percent chance of making it. That’s still a strong step to make, but perhaps a slightly disappointing one for some Senators fans who might have hoped the team’s new additions would be enough for a wild-card spot. … At the very bottom of the lineup, however, there’s a lot to be desired on that fourth line. … Defense is still a weakness, especially on the right. If there aren’t any major systematic tweaks to change that, it may leave Sanderson a bit exposed — so this could be a sink or swim experience in his first NHL stint. Ottawa is putting a lot of faith into him being able to swim. If he sinks – the team will struggle to take as big a step as expected by many. Including the model.

The writers question whether any of Ottawa’s top-six are truly elite (going through the numbers to demonstrate they have not established that yet, while admitting the possibility remains), saying that without elite players they will struggle to compete with the best-of-the best. This kind of exploration from The Athletic, whether you agree with it or not, is a welcome check against the local myopia. I think the projections are reasonable (assuming the team stays relatively healthy, no one seriously regresses, and Sanderson is as-advertised). What they predict is a welcome improvement and the team should be more fun to watch, but I still wonder how Dorion will navigate his salary cap issues next season (see below).

I made an error when talking about potential salary cap woes: I casually suggested that Debrincat could be retained somewhere near his current salary, but to qualify him the Sens will need nine million (which is significantly more). For those of you who don’t remember the numbers, that would mean 64 million committed to next year without re-signing anyone else (Pinto, Formenton, or half the blueline). I envision some forced deals by Dorion to clear cap space (along with, presumably, either buying out Zaitsev or burying him in the minors). This issue doesn’t impact this season, but is food for thought in the near-future.

There have been no real surprises in training camp for the Sens thus far, other than the injury to Cam Talbot that necessitated a waiver claim of Magnus Hellberg from Seattle (given that Mads Sogaard does not look ready for prime time). Hellberg has very good AHL and European numbers, but the 31-year old only has 5 games of NHL experience. Getting him was a sensible move, as it avoids disrupting plans in Belleville. Outside of goaltending some fans may be disappointed that Lassi Thomson went back to the BSens, but it’s early and I don’t see it as an issue (he’s only 22, younger than JBD and Brannstrom).

Yost took another swing at explaining the scoring increases in the NHL (after a vague attempt back in April). He believes the increase is due to a larger talent gap between teams than previously, making it more difficult for less talented teams to gum up the works and force a low scoring affair. I see no reason to argue with him. Perhaps the decrease in NHL expansion that began with San Jose in 1991 has finally allowed the talent to catch-up, stymieing the mediocrity that’s defined the NHL for over two decades. I want to see another season or two of high production before I start celebrating, however.

I’ve been watching the Hockey Canada situation specific to Ottawa (impacting Drake Batherson and Alex Formenton) for awhile and thought I’d weigh in. I mentioned a long time ago that fans aren’t consistent in what does or does not inspire outrage, but that aside, the current scandal is an illustration of how empty it is when it isn’t followed by tangible action.

Whenever situations like this come up, regardless of their veracity, fans continue to support the team and league regardless. Because of that, no pressure is being applied–it’s just virtue signaling. The NHL and its component parts are a capitalist enterprise that depends on people paying for it, ergo, you need to impact their wallet to foment change (the film industry and streaming services are in the midst of that change right now, paying the price for years of producing unwatchable garbage). It could be argued the real target of the outrage is Hockey Canada, with the NHL is simply suffering as a byproduct of that, but I don’t see that reflected in the coverage (instead there’s a debate about suspending players or whether they should be re-signed, etc). That doesn’t mean we can’t ask the question: are people abandoning the WJC etc? The answer is the same: no, they aren’t.

What’s sad is if the abuse is ever verified (which seems impossible given the settlement), fans still won’t hit the eject button, meaning on the business side there’s no reason to take it seriously outside the optics (clearly the Sens feel no pressure whatsoever). The NHL isn’t unique in this, but it’s exasperating seeing so much outrage from people who refuse to put their money where their mouth is. As for me, I don’t know what happened (a settlement doesn’t confirm or deny guilt). I know what’s been claimed on both sides, but a legal process to determine its veracity has not occurred, so I’m not making assumptions. There is a strong tendency to conflate all situations with what happened at Penn State or Chicago, but they simply are not the same (both in scope and in what’s been proven).

The point of discussing this isn’t to absolve Hockey Canada of culpability, or deflect from how institutions protect their image over individuals–that’s a systemic problem that goes well beyond hockey or sport–but simply to point out how absurd the outrage is when it’s interspersed with theory-crafting line combinations and praising free agent signings. For those of you who have given up season tickets or taken some other direct action in relation to what’s happened, hat’s off to you, as that’s at least consistent.

This article was written by Peter Levi

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  1. […] Sens News & Notes […]


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