SensNation Hotstove – December 4th

Follow the panel on Twitter: @DefenseMinister, @Fffeisty, @IneffectiveMath, @Senturion. Be sure to chime in with your answers and feedback below in the comment section and on Twitter. Enjoy!!

Q1: What is your ideal succession plan for Sens senior management / hockey operations?

@DefenseMinister:

End of the season, Murray retires and they bring in an external voice from another organization, more of an up and comer who ideally is fairly open to analytics (your Kyle Dubas equivalent basically) as I feel like that’s the main deficiency in the front office currently. Surround him with Dorion, Lee and Alfie and use that as your braintrust. I am not really concerned about whatever the hierarchy or titles are in this configuration, go nuts with whoever you want to call the GM, as long as they’re all working together.

@Fffeisty:

This is a tough one for me because of Alfie. Of course I want to put all my faith and trust in him to lead the team into the next generation but I also want to ensure that his legacy is not in any way tarnished. Therefore, what I hope to see moving into the future is Alfie as a sort of Governor General of the franchise. He must give his consent for all major decisions but the bulk of the work will be undertaken by a strong management group. I don’t have an issue with Dorion or Lee being part of that group but I would like to see the Sens have more resources, whether it’s in scouting or analytics, if not both.

@IneffectiveMath:

Nobody should ever trust me with hiring or firing but the most important decision will be who is to be GM after Bryan Murray; my main criterion would be a quantifiable track record player projection.

@Senturion:

The natural inclination her his to say GIVE IT TO ALFIE but I think the best course of action would be to split the roles of president and GM, give the president job to #11 and the GM job to the next Alex Anthopoulos of the hockey world. The Sens are never going to be big budget team so they need to really embrace new ideas and new ways of doing business. The fact that from all outward appearances the Sens seem to be on the low end of the fancy stats/moneyball scale is troubling. Current Sens management seems to have applied a formula of combining local connections with locking in players young and drafting safe but serviceable prospects. That’s a recipe to get us…well pretty much exactly where we are now. I don’t know who this mystical GM should be but I would be hesitant to just hand it off to Dorion or Lee simply out of loyalty.

Q2:  EM gives you the keys to the franchise. What are your first 3 moves as GM?

@IneffectiveMath:

Let’s pretend that I’m not heavily constrained by financial constraints; first I’d hire a number of clever people and I’d have them develop a player projection model for every player in the league, and refine it slowly over several years until I had a very strong idea of just how predictable future player results could be.

Even more importantly, I’d isolate a handful of key criteria for making personnel decisions and try to implement a process that carefully excluded taking other factors into account, to maintain consistency and clarity.

As for immediate personnel moves, I’d trade Cowen for a second round pick or better, if I could, and I’d buy him out at the soonest opportunity if I could not.

@Senturion:

1) Apologize profusely to Erik Karlsson. 2) Waive Jared Cowen. 3) Apologize profusely to Erik Karlsson.

@Fffeisty:

One fun element about getting caught up in the Jays bandwagon this year has been to see how different the baseball management culture is from hockey. There was something a bit liberating both as a NHL fan and as a small-market team supporter to see how the Jays, led by GM Alex Anthopoulos, decided to stack the deck of an already impressive team and just go for it. His actions allows their fans to think like this:

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As a Sens fan I am conditioned to not think boldly like that. But looking at the ages of the core group, I feel like the team is on a precipice. Although I’m still scarred by the various events that occurred between 2003-2007, I’ve decided after watching the Jays magical run, that I want to feel like that again about the Sens. Safe is death. Life is too short. And Erik Karlsson is entering his Wonder Years. With that in mind, I would do the following with the keys to the franchise:

1. Hire @IneffectiveMath for $1 million to say “don’t do that” to the mgmt team five times per year.

2. Trade some of the future and some of the present for right now elite talent, ideally for one top 4 defenceman and one top 6 forward. If it’s elite level talent, it will be worth it.

3. Buy out or send down what doesn’t work anymore. Bingo looks like it could use some veteran leadership..

@DefenseMinister:

Lock up Hoffman longterm and swallow the fact that it’s going to cost a lot more than it would have to do in the past couple years. Then I’d make finding an external option on D the priority. A solid top 4 and ideally a top pairing guy if one is available. I’d be willing to deal from my forward surplus or younger players like Lazar/Ceci to make it happen. Then I’d explore every single option, including buyouts to get Cowen and Greening off the books this off-season in order to free up more payroll flexibility. I have a longer list but you said just the first 3 so I’ll stop now.

Q3: Which current Sen, under 25, in addition to Cowen, would you trade to secure a top 4 defenceman? (ie. Lazar, Pageau, Prince, Stone, Zibanejad)?

@Fffeisty:

See previous answer regarding future. Pull the trigger. If it’s for an elite level defenceman who is between 24-27, I’d consider trading one of our top level young guys (with Stone being the hardest for me to part with) and one of the highly rated prospects or a 1st round pick..

@Senturion:

I think Lazar is the candidate with the biggest discrepancy between his external value and actual value. He has the Team Canada pedigree, the golden smile, and the good ol Canadian boy vibe. There are still GM outside Ottawa who buy that right? Lazar is a good player but I don’t see his upside as much more than third line, maybe second on a weak team.

@DefenseMinister:

Lazar and it’s not even close. Probably still has a good amount of value because of his age but if he continues to look more and more like the low-scoring checker I suspect he’s destined to be, that value will disappear.

@IneffectiveMath:

For Lazar or Pageau, I don’t think there’s any impediment; I don’t like to trade away a strong centre like Zibanejad but if the return was sufficiently good I would include him. Prince is the one with the shortest space for evaluation which makes him hard to be sure about, probably I say yes to such a trade to resolve a lingering weakness on D. Stone definitely not.

Q4: How does the team’s success (or failure)impact your decision to buy tickets/watch the games? Do the RedBlacks and Fury have an impact?

@Senturion:

Right now I’m not a STH but I used to be. I originally gave it up because I had kids but now I still don’t really have time to commit to going to enough games to make it worthwhile. That said, while wining is important, the thing the Redblacks and Fury have over the Sens right now is the fan experience. It’s really not even close. While I’m a bigger hockey fan than I am a football fan, tickets to sporting events are about entertainment and the experience at Lansdowne destroys the quiet, stale atmosphere of the CTC. I live 5 minutes from CTC yet I gladly brave the traffic and crowds to go to Lansdowne because it is an all-in experience. Sure winning helps, but the formula to long term success is winning + atmosphere and right now the CTC doesn’t have it. My hope is that the redevelopment of LeBreton provides the Sens with the ability to bring a bit more spark back to the experience.

@IneffectiveMath:

I literally don’t know who the Fury are so whatever they do has a very small impact on my willingness to go to games. The airfare is the real trouble for me, I reckon.

@DefenseMinister:

Personally, I’ve been a fan since Day 1 and those years have included a fair number of shitty editions of the team with far less in the way of light at the end of the tunnel hope that we have now so I have never made my STH support based around team performance. I realize that there is definitely a segment of the fanbase that will base their buying decisions on performance but I feel like the majority of the fanbase is there regardless because they understand that pulling back support probably leads down a road that threatens the team’s existence in this city. In terms of the fortunes of the Fury and RedBlacks, I don’t think there’s any real correlation because they aren’t real competitors for the NHL ticket (both because of the price point and timing of seasons).

@Fffeisty:

The team’s performance has no impact on my ticket buying habits (I have been a season-ticket holder for 20 years basically). The only thing that has ever caused me to reduce or stop buying tickets has been lockouts (I went on strike for one full season after the 2005 lockout). Given that I kept my tickets after the Alfie debacle, I guess I don’t know what it would take for me to cancel my tickets out right. I do not believe the success of the other sports teams in town has a huge impact on Sens attendance. It might only in the Fall when there is more overlap but I cannot imagine sports fans choosing one at the expense of the other and the games usually do not conflict. I am extremely biased towards purchasing Sens tickets. Attendance in Oct-Nov is generally always a bit soft anyways.

Q5: Is a hockey game on Parliament Hill desirable? Is it feasible? What if the tickets are $800+?

@Fffeisty:

I would probably rank having a game on Parliament Hill as up there with the Alfie homecoming game and the Stanley Cup finals. I have a personal connection to Parliament Hill and the ‘worlds colliding’ aspect would make it a great life event for me. I feel it would give the outdoor game (which has become generic) a unique Ottawa stamp. That being said, I see so many difficult logistical and financial problems with the location and physical limitations of the Hill. I propose that they nonetheless put a rink on the front lawn. They can hold the practices and maybe even the Legends game there and then have the NHL game at Landsdowne. The NHL game could also be shown on big screens on the Hill. And I would not hesitate to pay for tickets. The Ottawa ASG weekend cost about $800, if not more, and I have nothing but positive memories of that whole experience.

@DefenseMinister:

If you’re having an outdoor game in Ottawa, that’s probably the coolest place to put it and certainly gives me more interest in attending. Is it feasible? I have no idea, I can’t imagine they could get the size of crowd you would in other venues but maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world. More intimate probably makes for a better atmosphere.

@IneffectiveMath:

For the sake of grand spectacle, I would. Special events should be special, even if the price is preposterous.

@Senturion:

It really depends on the goal. If the goal is largest crowd possible I don’t see how Parliament can work. If the goal is a spectacle, something that showcases the game in a bigger picture way, Parliament could be fun. Ticket sales are only part of the revenue picture. Maybe the Government of Canada pitches in some cash as part of the Canada 150 celebrations to offset the smaller crowds. Maybe the tickets are astronomically priced so as to bring in more revenue. Frankly, I find the outdoor games a bit played out now so it’s hard to imagine me paying anything more than a slight premium to attend.

Q6: What do you see Shane Prince’s ceiling as?

@DefenseMinister:

Prince is a tough one because I haven’t really seen enough of him to get a sense of what his true potential could be. In terms of Sens comparables, he doesn’t seem to be as talented as a guy like Hoffman or as smart as Stone but I think his speed, hands and strong possession numbers give him a good size ceiling. Let’s say if everything rolls right, he could be a Sean McEachern (and that’s a big compliment since McEachern was awesome) but I could easily see him fall into a Clarke MacArthur role as he develops.

@Senturion:

Shane Prince is one of those Sens prospects who has been buried for a bit too long in favour of gritty, homegrown favourites who have been clogging up the lineup. I can see him topping out on the second line (maybe) but at the very least he is a player that can add some life to the bottom 6 rather than making it a refuge for gritty payers who can’t skate.

@IneffectiveMath:

Having seen so little NHL time from him it’s very hard to say, but league-average top-line winger is probably the very top.

@Fffeisty:

Too soon to tell about Prince. The way NHL scoring is going, 25 goals is the new 30 goals per year. I’d be happy if he hits the 20 goal mark on a consistent basis, but I’d probably say that about most of the Sens.

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