After 260+ posts on #RedHeartBlueSign, this is my first sports specific post.
So what precipitated me taking such a step? The Ottawa Senators sell-off at the NHL trade deadline. Fans are upset that Matt Duschene and Mark Stone were traded leaving a team with no where to go but staying at bottom of the league. Normally finishing last gives the best shot at the best player in the NHL Draft, but in the case of the Ottawa Senators they traded their 1stRound pick in this years draft to the Colorado Avalache for, wait for it, Matt Duchene. Yep the same Matt Duchene the Senators recently traded.
I am at best a casual fan of the Ottawa Senators, I follow the scores and even have a copy of the Senators schedule posted in my office at work and have this on my bulletin board:
As a casual fan, I have asked Billy Morrison, a writer for Full Press Coverage who writes exclusively on the Ottawa Senator. I asked Billy five questions related to trades, the breakdown of the Lebreton Flats and the future of the Senators in Ottawa. I’ve edited some of Billy’s responses for length, but they don’t take away from the content
RedHeartBlueSign: What should Senators fans take away from the loss of Duchene and Stone?
Billy Morrison:On Mar. 1, 2018, Eugene Melnyk penned a letter to Sens fans preparing them to brace for a full scale rebuild. One year later, the loss of Stone, Duchene, and Dzingel before the 2019 NHL trade deadline is still part of the process of dismantling the ‘old’ team. They follow other names of that era who have already left, such as Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, and Derick Brassard. The loss of these players is simply the continuation of the tear down. It is ironic that on Mar. 1, 2019, exactly one year later, the Senators fired head coach Guy Boucher. There is a good chance now that the tear down is nearly over, and the rebuild can officially begin.
RHBS: What are your impressions of what the Senators gained from the trades?
BM: It is always difficult to see skilled and talented players like Karlsson, Stone, Duchene, and Hoffman, amongst others, leave. With that said, GM Pierre Dorion has done a great job negotiating strong assets in return. The Senators are already loaded with prospects like Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, and Colin White, in addition to many others. That pool just got deeper with the additions of Erik Brannstrom and Vitaly Abramov. On top of their youth movement, the Sens are well stocked with draft picks for the next three NHL entry drafts. In total, Ottawa has at least 15 picks in the first three rounds over the next three years. Senator fans are absolutely allowed to be frustrated from how the last two years have gone for their team. However, they should also be optimistic and excited about this team’s future and it’s potential to be very bright.
RHBS: With the no deal to build a new arena, will Melnyk sell the team, is there a possibility it moves to Quebec City?
BM: If the Arizona Coyotes can survive in the desert all these years, there is zero chance the Ottawa Senators will be leaving the nation’s capital. Furthermore, the NHL fully supports the team remaining in Ottawa. Despite what the home attendance record shows, Ottawa is a strong hockey market. The part about location that makes little sense is having the team based in the far west end of the city. Reaching Kanata from Orleans, Gatineau, or the downtown core can be difficult and very inconvenient at the best of times, never mind in gridlock traffic on a weeknight in the middle of a winter snow storm. For successful businesses, location is everything. With no new arena deal downtown in the foreseeable future, the Senators will remain in Kanata- for now. It is highly likely they will continue their search for a more central location in the city.
RHBS: How long before the Senators are competitive and a playoff team?
BM: Talent is growing quickly in Ottawa. At only 21-years-old, Chabot was already named to his first All Star game. Tkachuk and White have also both been two of the most productive rookies in the NHL this year. Depending on the rate of development, the three-to-five-year timeline set by Melnyk should be accurate. However, five years at this rate seems generous, and may follow the strategic approach of under promising and over delivering. Five years might be playing it safe. Three to four years could be more accurate.
RHBS: What does the future of the Senators mean to you?
BM: The actions of Eugene Melnyk and the Senators have been unprecedented in the history of professional sports. The agony and pain that fans have endured these last two years is next to unbearable. This treatment strains fan relations and tests fan loyalty. With that said, Melnyk and the team have been very transparent about their future direction and intentions since Mar. 1, 2018. There is a plan being implemented, as witnessed by the trades, the stockpiling of assets, the dismissal of the head coach, and the development of prospects. There are also timelines in place (3-5 years) and money that has been verbally committed (Melnyk has said he will be spending to the cap by the time the rebuild is complete). The future of the Senators means integrity and accountability. The talk has been talked. It’s time to walk the walk. So far, Melnyk and the Sens have done what they said they would do one year ago.
Senators fans in Ottawa have had a tough season, and thankfully it is almost over. February was particularly difficult with a record of 3 wins and 11 losses. I think I could handle a rebuild if it seems that the owner is sincere about spending the money “it takes” to have a team of championship caliber, the coaching is patient but firm in expecting the best performance of each player every time they hit the ice.
The next phase of the rebuild will be the NHL Draft taking place in Vancouver June 21 & 22, 2019. I await the results of the draft and the commentary Billy Morrison would have on the picks GM Dorion and his team settle on.
Until then it’s a very subtle #gosensgo
You can read more from Billy at Full Press Coverage
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