Ottawa Senators Off-Season Power Rankings - September 2013

by Chet Sellers

We made it, everybody – we defeated summer! It’s finally September, a month when we can watch the semi-new-look Ottawa Senators play iced hockey somewhere other than our imaginations. It hasn’t been a great summer, has it? We’ve had the team’s media war with ex-captain Daniel Alfredsson, the internal budget, casino fights, Ukranian hackers, the smooth taste of Corvosier, and at the centre of it all, the question of whether, when Eugene Melnyk next opens up his wallet, anything is going to come out except a single, cartoon moth.  But has any of this bad news affected the players? Let’s find out!

1) Erik Karlsson (last month: 4)
2) Bobby Ryan (last month: 1)

Alright Bobby, I think we’re going to have to lay down some ground rules here. This is Erik C. Erik C. is one of our role players, so he's game on for chirping and it’s good to see you’re already in on the act. Going forward, please continue to tease him about any of the following:

This is Erik K. I know it’s hard to tell them apart, so try to remember who he is by his salon-quality hair, or by pretending the “K” stands for “knice outlet pass”, several of which he’ll be sending your way this year. Erik K. is our franchise player, and we try to make a point of not mocking him about the following, non-exhaustive list of topics:

Got that? Great. You’re gonna fit in perfectly. And hey, as long as you’re heading to the kitchen, Erik K. said he wanted a Fresca. No, don't get anything for Condra. Thanks again.

What’s that? Why the change at the top? We said Bobby Ryan wouldn’t give up top spot until at least the season started, and yet here we are arbitrarily putting Erik Karlsson at #1, much like one would cradle a baby bird. And don’t expect any fancy stats to back it up, folks: power rankings are an art, not a science. So does this mean the honeymoon with #6 is over here at RBM? Of course not; in fact, if you tried to soundtrack how excited Sens fans still are about the Ryan deal, you’d probably come up with something like this:

3) Marc Methot (last month: 2)
This picture’s fun because it makes Chris Neil look a bit like a real-life ninja turtle.

We don’t talk about Neiler much in the power rankings because he keeps his private life private, which is fine. But I don’t get the sense that Neil is a guy whose “brand” would be significantly enhanced by a social media presence – he’s not enough of a star to earn a ton of followers, at least by NHL standards, without being really entertaining, but he’s also not such a one-dimensional player that he needs to cultivate a fun online personality to win people over. Also, many of Neil’s fans like him more for his style of game than its actual results, and it’s not clear that sort of appeal would translate to Twitter.

Neil is also relatively old; the only Senator in his 30s with a Twitter account is Craig Anderson (@bigrigbrew doesn’t count), and he’s not nearly as active as most of the younger players. DJ Z-Bad is 20 and has probably been over-sharing via social media his entire life; when Chris Neil was 20, smartphones didn’t exist. Having an online presence and staying constantly, obsessively connected was never part of the developmental process for him. In other words, Chris Neil may not be opposed to showing you what he’s eating on any given day, as much as it probably still seems bizarre to him that anyone would even be interested.

But this is probably the most time anyone’s ever spent thinking about Chris Neil’s reasons for keeping some degree of personal privacy, and this is supposed to be about friend of the blog Marc Methot. So here’s a picture of a large man in a small car:
Looking good, Marc!

4)  Zack Smith (last month: 8)
Zack Smith has a grand total of 183 tweets, and as far as I’m concerned each one is a painstakingly cut, carefully polished jewel. I follow people who make more tweets in a week. About British television.

5) Kyle Turris (last month: 7)
Congratulations to Kyle Turris (pictured above, showing Patrick Wiercioch how to comb his hair) on his recent nuptials, the third Senators wedding of the summer after Matt Kassian’s and Wiercioch’s own.  What I find interesting is how young all these guys are when they get married: Kassian is 26, Turris 24, and Wiercioch 22. Last summer, Erik Condra tied the knot at 25, as did Erik Karlsson at 22. 22! I don’t know about you, but I can’t find a single player on the Senators roster who was older than 26 when he got married, with the exception of Anderson, who was 29 (but of course, goalies always take longer to develop).

The average first-marriage age for men in Canada is over 31 years old. I’ve done no research, so I don’t know if the Senators are marrying young relative to other NHL players or just relative to the general population, but it surprises me a little for professional athletes with full access to a bachelor lifestyle. One possibility is that there’s something insidious about Ottawa that turns would-be party animals into staid, boring monogamists who marry young and start families early. An encouraging corollary to this theory, however, is that guys who settle down and develop local roots early may be more willing to stick with the team long-term (unless they’re traded) – see big-family men like Spezza, Neil, and Phillips, versus gadabouts like Dany Heatley, Ray Emery, and Daniel Alfredsson. Wait, hang on.

6) Mika Zibanejad (last month: 5)

They didn’t let me in! Even though I had, in my opinion, the nicest pleated khakis in the whole line! In any event, the smooth transitions between the 130 BPM thumps I could hear through the outside wall made it sound like DJ Z-Bad pulled it off, and good for him. My only suggestion, DJMZ? [D Jamz?] Start the season strong and avoid getting a bunch of B.S. about “priorities” if you haven’t scored after five games. Also, 2 AM, you know what kills? No Jacket Required. Trust me, bro.

7) Jason Spezza/Chris Phillips (last month: 3; NR)

The "race" for the captaincy is down to these two, and though the announcement probably won’t happen until the start of training camp, some are surprised there’s any race at all. It’s true that Phillips is the 16-year veteran, the loyal soldier and the local restaurateur, but Spezza’s not far behind him as an 11-year veteran, plus he’s a career point-per-gamer who’s supposedly been groomed for leadership this whole time. We obviously have no idea how things are “in the room”, but I don’t believe Paul MacLean when he says the team doesn't yet know who’s going to get the job, unless they still need to take a poll of league referees to see which one's generally been more articulate explaining what Chris Neil just did.

Anyway, this may be a closed process but the team can at least make a show of it. Maybe a debate video on the website, with Chris Neil moderating? A webcam on top of the Canadian Tire Centre waiting for a puff of white smoke? Can we get Denis Potvin involved somehow? After all, you only name a new captain once every 14 years.

8) Jared Cowen (last month: NR)

Oh yeah, this is the other guy we’re still waiting for. If you had told me a month ago the player that Sens fans were going to discuss and gnash their teeth about the most during the month of August was going to be Cowen, I would have said, “Really, Jared Cowen?” Then I would have gotten ready for some kind of Patrick Kane-level shenanigans, not some pretty standard RFA negotiations.

He’ll sign, he’ll play, and then we’ll have a better idea of what kind of player he is. The fact that it’s still an open question should be all the reason both sides need to sign a bridge deal, and if it’s turns out he’s the next Zdeno Chara? Great! We’ll resign him for more money in 2-3 years when the team is owned by a cable company, or maybe Chip Wilson. Jerry! Just sign on the line which is dotted!

9) Matt Kassian (last month: 9)
I mean, this is just inscrutable. Every time I try to imagine what “mall-back” might be I come up with an idea more off-putting than the last. Like, is it just sore from standing, and if so, why is that specifically a mall thing? Is it being jostled by a crowd? Does it smell like Manchu Wok? Are teenagers loitering nearby?

10) Craig Anderson (last month: NR)
Craig Anderson makes his debut in our power rankings after making August-level news by showing off his new, league-mandated smaller pads. Some are suggesting these changes will increase the size of a goalie’s five-hole by up to four inches. We’re going to turn this into a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style joke, so feel free to finish that statement with any of the following punchlines:

A)    Only 20 inches to go to match Patrick Lalime!
B)    Erik Condra was disappointed to learn no changes would be made affecting a player’s ability to score in the area two feet wide of the net.
C)    Sure, what the hell. See you next month!

NOT RANKED: Eugene Melnyk; weekends with the bridge out; official merchandise; Matt Carkner photobombs; staring blankly into the middle distance.
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