The Faker's Guide to the Ottawa Senators Offseason
by Chet Sellers
So you’ve finally decided to start following the Senators this season – congratulations! You’ve made a decision that will in no way result in any personal hardship, either now or in the future. As a fan, you should now feel comfortable sidling up to other fans you see talking about the Senators – the office IT folks, your yoga instructor, and of course, cops – and joining in. But until you become more familiar with the team, should you fake it until you make it?
Of course you should! Why are you reading anything on the internet if not to represent yourself as a subject matter expert right away? Heck, look at this blog - this time last year, most of us working at RBM were still trying to identify the Senators in road games when we couldn’t spot those snazzy red jerseys. Now we’re well-versed in the complete history of the team, from late-round pick made good Alexandre Daigle to other early stars like Steve Duchesne, one of team’s best-ever right wingers.
But don't try to bite off all that delicious history at once; for now, why not just start with our helpful offseason recap? To make you an instant expert, we've included helpful talking points for each major offseason event so that you can fake your way through any conversation. Those cops won’t know what hit them!
May 24 – The offseason begins after the Senators fall 6-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal and are eliminated from the playoffs. After dominating the higher-seeded Montreal Canadiens in Round 1, the Senators had few answers for the high-powered Penguins offense in Round 2.
You say: “This team didn’t have problems scoring last year, not with guys like Karlsson and Spezza, so it seems pretty obvious to me that goaltending was the problem. I think we should get rid of Anderson for a bag of pucks and bring in a real #1, somebody who knows how to win, like Brian Elliott.”
June 6 – Veteran defenseman and pending free agent Sergei Gonchar is dealt to the Dallas Stars for a sixth-round pick, where he signs a two-year, $10M deal. Senators fans were largely ready to see the 39-year-old Gonchar go, expecting his skills to be replaced for less by emerging young players like Patrick Wiercioch.
You say: “Gonchar, Wiercioch; I can’t tell all these Russians apart anyway!”
June 14 – NHL awards are handed out and the Senators take home some serious hardware – Paul MacLean is named Jack Adams Coach of the Year after managing the 2012-13 Senators through a rash of injuries, and veteran superstar Daniel Alfredsson receives the Mark Messier Award, in recognition of his 17 years of leadership in Ottawa both on and off the ice.
You say: "Two great choices. There's no doubt that going forward, Paul MacLean is going to be able to do great things with a healthy team, and as for Alfredsson, the leadership and perseverance he's shown should be enough to win this award every year for as long as he's playing."
June 18 – The Senators’ arena, Scotiabank Place, is renamed as the Canadian Tire Centre after the team signs a new corporate sponsorship deal. This marks the arena’s third name change, as it had previously been known as the Corel Centre, and before that, the Palladium.
You say: "This is what happens when a team gets trapped in these corporate sponsorship deals and changes the name of its rink every few years. Back when this team played at the Civic Centre, we had an identity."
June 30 – Picking 17th, the Senators make forward Curtis Lazar their first-round pick in the NHL entry draft. Lazar, a scorer for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL, had been ranked highly by some coming into the draft and could be a steal for the Senators.
You say: "Sure, the kid might be a star in a few years, but right now there are other first-round picks that are a lot closer to being cornerstones for this team, like Jim O'Brien."
July 5 – As free agency opens, a tumultuous day changes the Senators forever – long-time captain Daniel Alfredsson leaves to sign with Detroit; Jakob Silfverberg, prospect Stefan Noesen, and a first-round pick are traded for Anaheim gunner Bobby Ryan; and ex-Leaf Clarke MacArthur signs a two-year deal.
You say: “I don’t know much about this Ryan guy, but it doesn’t forgive the real tragedy here, which is signing a guy from Toronto. Aren’t we already trying to keep these guys out of the building?”
July 8 – The Senators sign defenseman Joe Corvo to a one-year deal, replacing the departed Andre Benoit. Corvo was part of the Senators’ 2006-07 Cup Final team but left a year later, claiming Ottawa was too small of a market.
You say: “Smart move, bringing back a guy who knows how to win and never should have left. Corvo will give this team some of the veteran leadership it’s definitely missing.”
July 12 – Bottom-six forward Erik Condra re-signs with the team for two years and $2.5M. Fans generally react positively to the deal, as though Condra’s traditional statistics aren’t flashy, advanced metrics show him to be a positive possession player who plays well with several different linemates.
You say: “$1.2M next year and he scored four goals last year? We’re paying this guy $300K a goal! Good thing we’ve got the cash, I guess.”
July 22 – Although he's only played 50 NHL games, the club shows its faith in Patrick Wiercioch with a three-year, $6M deal. Wiercioch is expected to play the role of puck-moving defenseman on the team’s second pairing.
You say: “I don’t know, you never want to pay these enigmatic Russian kids too early. Pretty soon they’ve lost their focus and you’re left with a guy who just moves the puck and takes shots from the perimeter.”
July 22 – Team Canada announces its roster for Olympic orientation camp; defenseman Marc Methot earns an invite, but shockingly, Jason Spezza does not. Although Team Canada is loaded with skilled forwards, particularly at centre, Spezza’s non-invite is still seen as a snub by fans and media in light of his gaudy career numbers.
You say: “Sure, Spezza scores a lot of goals, but show me that Methot doesn’t prevent twice as many! Plus he's a local boy who plays the game the right way.” [nod knowingly]
July 25 – NCAA forward Ludwig Karlsson is signed to a two-year entry-level contract. In 17 games with Northeastern University last year, Karlsson scored 8 points.
You say: “Finally, a Karlsson with some scoring touch! With this guy up front, it should free up his brother Erik to stay back and focus on his defensive game.”
August 22 – In response to league rule changes, Craig Anderson shows off his new, smaller pads on Twitter. Although Anderson set a single-season NHL record with a .941 save percentage in 2012-13, the smaller pads have been mandated by the league in an attempt to increase scoring.
You say: “Smaller pads? Sounds like what we need is a bigger goaltender who's not afraid to break a few rules! And a bag of pucks.”
September 4 – Senators rookie camp opens, giving fans an opportunity to watch the team’s junior, college, and minor-league prospects. The Senators go undefeated in a round-robin tournament with the Maple Leafs, Penguins, and Blackhawks, winning for a third consecutive year participating.
You say: “It’s always good to know the pipeline is stocked with solid prospects. That's how you build a winning team - by trading all those guys in 3-for-1 deals for proven, veteran talent.”
September 9 – Colin Greening signs a three-year, $8M extension to play with the team through the 2016-17 season. Though Greening has moved around in the team’s lineup from first-line power forward to fourth-line checker, his versatility, speed, and scoring potential make the Ivy League grad a valuable asset to the team.
You say: "More like GREEN-ing, am I right? Just kidding; big kid, smart kid, like him a lot. He's not Russian, right?"
September 11 – Training camp officially opens. Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, and Milan Michalek declare themselves fully healthy, Bobby Ryan takes the ice with his new linemates for the first time, and fan optimism abounds.
You say: “I've got a good feeling about this year - it turns out most of these guys are in the best shape of their career. We can't lose!”
September 14 – The team’s last remaining restricted free agent, defenseman Jared Cowen, signs a four year, $12.4M contract. Though Cowen’s experience at the NHL level is limited, owing in part to injuries, the value of the contract represents the team’s belief that Cowen is the team’s shutdown defenseman of the future.
You say: “As far as I’m concerned it’s a bargain - it's just too bad we couldn't sign him for longer, like the Sabres did with Tyler Myers. These big guys who throw their bodies around like that, you need to lock them up for as long as you can.”
September 14 – After a drawn-out process, the team makes what many fans feel is the logical choice by naming Jason Spezza team captain, replacing Daniel Alfredsson. As an 11-year veteran and first-line centre, Spezza was chosen over teammates Chris Phillips, Chris Neil, Erik Karlsson, and Marc Methot.
You say: “Sure, Spezza may be the captain. But Neil is the admiral, am I right?” [raise hand for incoming high five]
September 15 – Preseason games begin. After four months off, Senators hockey is back.
You say: “Finally - let's watch some games! Hey, where are you going?”