SensNation Hotstove – Feb. 8th

Welcome to the first week of the SensNation Hotstove.  In these (hopefully) weekly articles I’ll be putting a few topical questions to 4 of Sens Twitter’s best and brightest (@DefenseMinister, @Fffeisty, @IneffectiveMath, @Senturion).  Be sure sure to chime in with your answers and feedback below in the comment section.  Enjoy!!

Q1: How do you see the Robin Lehner vs Craig Anderson situation playing out over the next 3 years?

@DefenseMinister:  I used to look at the Sens future goaltending situation as something very simplified. The veteran gradually giving way to the youngster over the course of a couple seasons where the starts would become more weighted towards Lehner and eventually Anderson would be moved along. But the Sens never make things simple and seeing Andy’s relatively team-friendly extension now puts me in the “Lehner is moved as part of a package for a coveted position player” camp. Not now, but maybe in the next 18 months if I had to guess. Which is kind of a shame because history shows Andy’s play will likely fall off a cliff before the end of his deal.

@Fffeisty:  As a long-time Sens fan accustomed to the goalie graveyard, I want to cling desperately to two capable goalies, however the Sens have some decisions to make this off-season. One of them ideally should be leveraged in a trade this off season. My gut says Lehner goes (better return).

@IneffectiveMath:  I see the team maintaining an uneasy inertia for most of those three years. Anderson will see his trade value decline slightly but won’t be moved, while Lehner will remain merely good-but-not-great. Nothing decisive will be done.

@Senturion:  How should it play out? The Sens should trade Anderson at the deadline and run with Lehner. All Anderson is doing now is propping up a mediocre lineup. How will it play out? Anderson will return next week and the Sens will play .700 hockey for the rest of the season to finish 2 points out of the playoffs. Lehner gets traded to Edmonton and wins a Cup.

Q2: Who is the most underrated player on the Senators?

@IneffectiveMath:  That depends on who is doing the underrating. Karlsson is clearly the most underrated by fans, but obviously not the coaching staff or the management given his ice-time and letter. Wiercioch (+5% possession at 5v5, more than twice as good as Karlsson) is probably the most underrated by the coaching staff, and if ever there were a conundrum whose solution would lead us all to wisdom it’s 46.

@Senturion:  No one. The entire lineup is overrated. The tendency to overvalue the current lineup is a Sens fan tendency. Right now it’s hard to pinpoint anyone that is playing up to potential. Even Karlsson is struggling.

@Fffeisty:  I want to say Bobby Ryan, just to bug you but I think I have to go with EK. There are still far too many Sens fans (let alone outsiders) who consider him to be bad defensively or that he is a one-dimensional player. Good grief, imagine this season without him in the lineup!

@DefenseMinister:  Up until recently it was Mark Stone but I think most fans are getting on board that train now.  Erik Condra is the stock answer but I’ll mix it up and say Bobby Ryan (if only to bug @SensNation).  Most identify Ryan as a sniper in the mould of pre-breakdown Dany Heatley but it’s clear to me in watching him for close to 2 seasons that when healthy, he doesn’t snipe nearly as well as he does everything else.  Amazing playmaker, tenacious forechecker who lays a surprising amount of body, works hard to be defensively responsible, and is quickly becoming the team spokesperson/ambassador off the ice.

Q3: If you took over as GM what’s the most important and immediate move you would make?

@Fffeisty:  1. Hire Alfie to be my assistant in charge of whatever he wants to be in charge of. 2. Find a top 4 defenceman, even if it means giving up a young player/prospect (ie. Lehner).

@Senturion:  Clean house. It’s hard to figure out the potential of the Sens young core until all the barnacles are scraped off the hull. The core has potential but there are massive holes that can only be filled once the team knows what it has. 

@DefenseMinister:  There are a lot of moves that a new Sens GM should make (fleshing out hockey ops department with new blood, embracing analytics, hiring a new coach etc) but most important to me at this stage is laying out to the players, fans and media exactly what the next stage in the process would be when it comes to rebuilding the club.  No double-talk about building and going for it at the same time.  Acknowledge and embrace the budget, tell the fans exactly what it’s going to be at start of off-season, and then let vets know where they will or won’t fit in so no one can say they weren’t told later on when they don’t get the icetime they thought they’re going to.

@IneffectiveMath:  My immediate GM move would depend on what I could get, but I would trade whichever of Neil or Phillips could get me the best draft picks, both if possible.

Q4: Favourite memory of Chris Neil and Chris Phillips?

@Senturion:  Best memory of Neil: the rage in opposing fans each time he got away with no suspension after a monster hit. Best memory of Phillips: It’s so hard to pick one, no really, it’s not easy, Philips has longevity but his career is one of largely being overshadowed (Redden, Chara, Karlsson) and underwhelming. The fact that his biggest goal came in a series the Sens would ultimately lose (game 6, 2003 vs Devils) is apropos.  

@DefenseMinister:  Chris Neil: Getting away with the monster hits on guys like Drury that would get you suspended nowadays.    Chris Phillips: Playing alongside Volchenkov (and sometimes Chara) during 04-07 period when he was at the height of his effectiveness and usage. By far his best time as a Sen.

@IneffectiveMath:  It sounds cruel but all of my happy memories of both Chris Neil and Chris Phillips are so long ago and so covered over with bad memories that I can’t think of any today.

@Fffeisty:  My favourite Phillips memory would have to be the OT goal in 2003, except that remembering that goal is immediately followed by the traumatizing memory of Jeff Freisen (#BlameRachunek)


My favourite memory of Chris Neil is……. How about the time that he did…… Or that important moment in that playoff game where he did………… yeah, I got nothing. Confession: I have disliked Neil since long before it became cool and hipster to dislike him. Why? He is the model of a guy who goes out of his way to make a hit, even if it takes him out of the play.