Ottawa Senators Off-Season Power Rankings - October 2013

by Chet Sellers


The season's almost here! And the end of the off-season means the end of the off-season power rankings, right? That's what I thought, but let's go to the mailbag:
Well, who am I to argue with that? Will it be a challenge to continue these off-ice power rankings without being biased by events on the ice? Of course. Is it a bigger challenge than the 1979 deregulation of the US craft brewing industry? No. So let's do this.

This is going to be an exciting season for two reasons. One is that, on paper, the Senators are more talented than they've been in several years, and they go into the 2013-14 season with legitimate expectations - how they deal with that pressure will define their success or failure. The second reason to be excited is the increasing number of Senators that are not only present, but surprisingly active, on Twitter. Heck, last month I wrote about the dearth of Senators aged 30+ using social media, and since then, even team dad Chris Phillips has signed up. If we can read their minds, what tales will their tweets tell? Let's find out!

1) Erik Karlsson (last month: 1)
So Bobby, I thought we went over this last month, but Erik is our franchise player, and so we try not to make fun -

Hi Marc, if you'll give me a second here, I was just talking to Bobby, but it sounds like you and I should have a little chat too, because Erik is our -

Oh, to hell with it. EK, you're on your own.

Karlsson tops our power rankings for the second month in a row because he looks relatively healthy, and a healthy Erik Karlsson is better news than a child's sand pail full of puppies. Karlsson also holds onto the #1 spot because, although he seems to spend most of his time in his very-rural mansion watching television and live-tweeting golf, that isolation seems to slowly be turning his Twitter feed into a Dadaist masterpiece. Can you score 85 points, win a second Norris, and still find time to tweet non-sequiturs that would put Cher to shame? I'm gonna say yes.

2) Bobby Ryan (last month: 2)
Do you remember the last time someone called you fat? I do. It was 1983, and the high-protein, high-carb, high-fat, large-muscle group strength training I'd relied on throughout the 70s was beginning to fall out of favor in the face of ab crunches, bicep isolation curls, and low-carb "cutting cycles". I was loading a fourth plate onto each side of the bench one day and I remember a group of showpony "bodybuilders" laughing at my 14% body fat. That or my neon-blue muscle shirt; anyway, I cried in my Fiero for hours. How should I have responded? Like this, probably:

My point is, there are haters everywhere. You didn't go to college, you're too fat, you like the wrong TV shows. What do you do? You keep a positive attitude and you go out there and you achieve. Bobby Ryan, get ready to have your best season ever. As long as...

3) Jason Spezza (last month: T7)

...your new captain stays healthy. Shortly after being named official team leader, Jason Spezza went out and aggravated the one major muscle that generally hasn't bothered him throughout his career, in this case his groin. He'll be fine, and he'll probably have a great season, but come on dude, act like you've been there before.

Doesn't Jason Spezza seem like an adult now? It's weird, given that he already had kids, was losing his hair, and was born in the early 1980s, but in a lot of ways the "C" seems to change everything. His interviews seem to have more gravitas somehow, and even when he can't wear his jersey properly, he seems less like a goofy kid and more like a befuddled dad. He'll go top-shelf against the Lightning during a January road game and then point to his younger teammates as Dean Brown says, "And there it is! Jason Spezza shows the whippersnappers how it's done! Oh my heavens." And it feels right, you know? Which brings us to...

4) Chris Phillips (last month: T7)

...the man who was overseeding his lawn before most of the current roster was out of their onesies (okay, not exactly, but he was drafted a little more than a year after Curtis Lazar was born). Chris Phillips is now the unironic cardigan-wearing, pipe-smoking, double-chinned, responsible father figure helping to guide the young Senators through all kinds of challenges and struggles, even if he's disappointed not to have the right letter to go with it.

But you know what? The same mid-winter road game in Tampa that Spezza's out there taking charge on the ice, Phillips will be just as important, speaking to the troops in between periods when they're down 2-1 and telling them, "Trust me, guys, I've been here before. When we opened the restaurant, we had way too many menu items. Customers were overwhelmed, and we started falling behind because we weren't focusing on what we did well - beer. That's where we are tonight, guys - we just need to go out and do what we do well. Forget about the raspberry vinaigrette mesclun salads and the teriyaki-glazed short ribs; just get out there and stick to the basics - keep cycling the puck and keep taking shots. And pretty soon we'll make it up on the scoreboard and keep those tables turning over every 45 minutes. Got it?" And you'd see a lot of hungry, fired-up 25-year-olds taking the ice after a speech like that.

The other notable thing about Phillips this month, as mentioned up top, is that he's joined Twitter. And he pretty much gets it! Welcome to the power rankings, Chris.

5) Marc Methot (last month: 3)
Marc Methot was unafraid to show off his geeky side last month, engaging with random useless bloggers on the finer points of #fancystats and getting up close and personal with the world of larpers. This kind of broad-base appeal is going to serve Methot well when he enters the world of politics in 15 years; in the meantime I'm crossing my fingers for pictures of him slamming vodka Red Bulls at the Horse while holding up a slide rule.

Where does Methot rank on the all-time list of athletes with Anglicized pronunciations of a French surname? He'll probably always be behind Brett Favre, but he's passed former Twins shortstop Greg Gagne at this point, right?

6) Robin Lehner (last month: NR)


On the surface, it doesn't make a lot of sense for a 22-year-old, unmarried, backup goaltender to be rattling around in a rural Carp home designed for a family with four children. If, however, Daniel Alfredsson is selling for tax reasons and intends to return to Ottawa after a sojourn in romantic Detroit, maybe it makes sense for his young Swedish buddy to take care of the place for a while, sleeping in full gear on a cot in the basement and spending weekends using his trapper to skim leaves out of the hot tub. The other, more intriguing possibility, is that Lehner is like a hermit crab, and taking over the home of the team's long-time captain and spiritual leader is part of his strategy to steal Alfredsson's powers and lead the team himself. One thing, though:

The team has started hyping up the whole "Release the Lehner" thing, which I think is great, but I'm choosing to believe that the decision to stencil Lehner's nickname on his sticks comes from the team and not Lehner himself. The Robin Lehner I know, at least the one I assume I know, would never tolerate that kind of vanity.

7) Cory Conacher (last month: NR)
Full marks to Cory Conacher this month for grinding his way into a second-line job and solidifying his role as the team's resident honey badger. And by that, I mean he looks like a badger, and perhaps he is literally covered in honey? It would explain why he seems to have a defenseman's glove stuck to his face after every whistle.

8) Colin Greening/Jared Cowen (last month: NR; 8)

Hooray, we don't have to write about Jared Cowen's contract negotiations any more! Greening and Cowen were the final long-term signings of the offseason, and while both came in with relatively fair deals, they illustrate a conundrum for a team with an internal budget (which inside sources tell me is just a whiteboard with the words "CAP FLOOR + PETTY CASH" in Bryan Murray's office).

Greening and Cowen are only making a total of $2.5M this season (albeit with a $4M cap hit), so they're not exactly to blame for Mika Zibanejad's recent demotion, but those combined salaries rise to $4.5M, $6.5M, and $7.7M over the following three seasons. With a rising cap, that's market value for two solid role players, and it looks even better if Cowen turns out to be a star. But that's the problem with market value - you can develop cheap, reliable role players like Colin Greening, but after a window of a few years, you can only keep them with the kind of middle-class deal that Greening just signed. And if there's one thing you can't afford when you're operating closer to the floor than the cap, it's middle-class deals - you can pay top dollar for irreplaceable talent, and rely on smart drafting to keep your bottom-six stocked on the cheap, but you can't throw $3M at a guy if he's only giving you 20% more than a second-round pick making $600K.

Forget about the big UFAs like Spezza and Ryan - it's the middle-class guys that are going to force Eugene Melnyk's hand in terms of being able to afford keeping this team together, starting with Conacher and Lehner this year and continuing with Pageau next year. The team's had a lot of luck finding and developing talent over the last 3-4 years, but will their luck continue forever? Would you be as high on guys like Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman if you had no choice but to play them every night?

9) Patrick Wiercioch (last month: NR)

Wiercioch looked GREAT during the preseason and even joined Twitter, and that alone is good for 9th on the big board this month even though he knows nothing about wrestling. Patrick! You're full-time now! You need to start hanging around with EK - not only will you pick up a few O-zone tips and a little taste of the nightlife, but you're tall enough that people will think he's your foster kid. Let's make it happen!

10) Eric Gryba (last month: NR)

Sure, what the hell. See you next month!

NOT RANKED: Eugene Melnyk; wedding gifts; seeing something, saying something; Tweet My Truck; Tweet My Truck 2: Dealership Boogaloo; Jim O'Brien's credit card at every Binghamton team dinner.
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