SensNation Hotstove – March 31st

Week 7 of the SensNation Hotstove.  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:  Other than Hammond, what was the most impressive part of the Sens (now completed) streak?

@DefenseMinister:  I was surprised to see the very quick emergence of 3 dangerous lines. I’m not sure if it was a resurgence of Michalek or Mark Stone just getting that much more awesome but having that line producing at the same clip as the Zibanejad line made a huge difference. And then of course, the ability of the Pageau line to not only be a possession driver, but to actually produce offense was massive.

@Fffeisty:  As great as the Hammond story was, for me the play of so many of the “kids” was even better. It was nice to see so many of them finally being put in a position to succeed and watch them experience actual success. These are important life lessons for the group and a definite confidence boost that will hopefully not be lost if the Sens end up out of the playoffs.  Of course it is hard not to take this opportunity to point out what we were at the time attributing to some pretty savvy coaching, may turn out to in fact be simply due to injuries that forced certain lineup decisions that worked out favourably. Sigh. We were so close to losing our cynicism for good.

@IneffectiveMath:  I was extremely impressed with the play of Hoffman, Wiercioch, Pageau, and Lazar. They’ve all flourished when given substantial ice-time and settled linemates / pairs.

@Senturion:  Karlsson. It’s hard to overstate just how crucial he is to everything the Sens do. Part of what makes Hammond’s job easier is having the puck in the defensive zone less often. Karlsson went from being a non-factor in the Norris race to being a player who will clearly get snubbed for a nomination. Oh, did you think I was going to say he’d get a nomination? The hockey media would never do that, Shea Weber is due.

Q2:  Given that Bryan Murray tried and/or considered acquiring David Clarkson twice (2013 as a UFA & 2015 via trade) and “kicked the tires” on Joffrey Lupul at the 2015 trade deadline… can he be trusted?

@IneffectiveMath:  It’s impossible to evaluate deals that didn’t happen for returns that are imagined. If Murray offered a deal along the lines of “We’ll take Clarkson and a 1st rounder from you in exchange for future considerations” that’s a universe away from “We’ll take Clarkson and you can have Zibanejad and a third rounder.” Without knowing the details, there’s nothing to say, for good or for ill.

@Senturion:  Brian Murray is the one part of the Sens equation that has been given a pretty free ride so far. It’s understandable because of his illness, but at a certain point the team needs to think about what the succession plan is, and what the long term strategy for staying competitive on a budget is. Murray is a great hockey man, but he’s old school, and the new, analytics-driven NHL world is rapidly passing him by.

@Fffeisty:  It’s interesting that in the middle of the run, someone (@Sens_Adnan probably) posted this clip from Erik Karlsson’s draft day. If you can ignore the Pierre McGuire part and jump to Bryan Murray, listen to how he describes the “new NHL” and the ideal type player. I think Murray definitely has his biases but the team has always drafted pretty well. I think he’s won some/lost some in the trade department also. It’s so hard to judge when we know there are cost constraints he has to operated under. I also believe he sticks to some tried and trusted talking points when he speaks publicly, but I think based on his body of work, he’s willing to listen and have faith in his scouts and assistants. I trust him, despite not agreeing with all of his player moves. No GM has a perfect record of success but overall, I have a hard time being critical of Bryan Murray. At this point, he feels like he’s a part of the family. The one area where I don’t trust him is in choosing coaches. So far, his best coaching selection has been……Bryan Murray.

@DefenseMinister:  Hearing some of these “looked into” stories can be a little concerning, but to be fair, we don’t know to what degree the interest was and what conditions needed to be met in order for him to pull the trigger on trades or signings like these. I tend to think GM’s like Murray kick the tires on a ton of players that we don’t end up hearing about but I don’t think it’s a big deal unless the deal actually happens. To this point, I can only judge him on his acquisitions that he makes and for the most part (Anderson, Turris, Ryan, Methot, MacArthur etc) he does a lot more good than harm.

Q3:  Now that Hammond’s magical run has ended, I ask again – is he a legit NHL goaltender or is this a one off run by what will be a career AHLer?

@Fffeisty:  The Hamburglar will get a lot of looks from teams this off-season. With such an impressive start to his NHL career, along with an easy-going, team-friendly attitude by all-accounts, I’m sure a number of teams will be happy to give him a shot. Good for him. I’ve liked his game but it’s a big leap to come out of nowhere to become an elite NHL goalie. Hopefully he puts in the work and time required to stay in the NHL and if he’s well-coached and playing for a decent team, anything can happen (look at Brian Elliott). And if goaltending doesn’t work out, he definitely has a career in the fast-food industry to fall back on now!

@Senturion:  I haven’t changed my position on this. Hammond had a great run, a historic run, but there’s nothing in his underlying career numbers that suggests this is sustainable. Goaltending is one of the most mental positions on the ice, both for the goaltender himself, and for the shooters. Once coaches start breaking down the tape and shooters start recognizing tendencies, Hammond is going to be picked apart. Give the guy credit, he probably earned himself an NHL contract somewhere, major props for that, but the Sens should not be counting him in their big picture goaltending plan.

@DefenseMinister:  Can he be a legit NHL starter that you can trust to play in 75% of your games? Nothing in his career would suggest that to be the case. Can he play as a backup and provide you more or less solid goaltending when called upon? I don’t see why not. But as always, goalies are just weird, man. Guy could be the second coming of Tim Thomas for all I know.

@IneffectiveMath:  I’m not comfortable evaluating AHL numbers, since all of the contextual work about the repeatability of save percentage and the impact of skaters on save percentage, and so on, is from the NHL and applying our NHL intuitions to those circumstances is sloppy. Looking only at his NHL numbers, I see a guy with not enough games to say much about. Worth playing more to find out.

Q4:  IF the Senators make the playoffs who would you prefer they play in Round 1?

@Senturion:   Easy, the Habs. Not only do they provide the best matchup for the Sens, beating them would drive their arrogant fanbase nuts. Has there ever been a more suspect #1 seed than the Habs?

@IneffectiveMath:  The Habs, of course. They’re going to crash and burn out of the playoffs the instant that Carey Price fails to be superhuman, and the first round is as good a time as any.

@DefenseMinister:  Has to be the Habs right? That’s the shittiest 1st place team that we’ve had the pleasure of watching in quite some time. Their entire strength is predicated on Carey Price being inhuman and the Sens have scorched Price consistently ever since the last playoff matchup.

Screenshot at Mar 30 20-55-01

@Fffeisty:  Sigh. There are no rainbows and no unicorns.

Q5:  What’s been the most ridiculous Ottawa “drama” the past week: (1) Burgers being thrown on the ice, and (2) Whether the City should put the Sens Mile street signs?

@Fffeisty:  (3) Losing a big, pivotal game – again – to the Leafs. How many times will the Sens do this to me? I can’t take this kind of emotional abuse. I just can’t. Saturday was a tough night and once again, I fear that the Sens fate was decided for this season by our arch-nemesis, yet again.

For my thoughts on the other Sens-related dramas from the past week, see the column by James Gordon in The Citizen and and my thoughts on Burger-gate are best encapsulated by this extract:

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@DefenseMinister:   Both were ridiculous but the burger thing was the dumbest because of the whole “wasting food” angle. It was an easy enough tweak to suggest that fans could find a way to donate to the Food Bank to coincide with this activity and the team could have hopped on board to help out as well. This is something that pretty much all Sens fans could get behind because the Food Bank is a noble cause that deserves all the attention it can get.

 But this is of course the town that fun forgot so without thinking anything through, the immediate outcry led for calls to eliminate the activity altogether and instead, I don’t know, have fans celebrate at the end of games by pulling out their chequebooks and giving to charity. So good job hockey community and city for quashing one of the rare spontaneous acts of fun this fanbase has come up with. And making fans who wanted to simply be a part of a great run by participating in some small way feel like shit for not feeding the city’s hungry instead.

@IneffectiveMath:  The hamburger-throwing is a lot less ridiculous because fans yearn to participate directly, and throwing things on the ice is the semi-permitted way of doing this—hats, octopus, rats, batteries, and now hamburgers. Also, the palaver may well have generated some extra food bank food, which is laudable. The street signs are just common-or-garden superstition and a bureaucratic cock-up.

@Senturion:  Full disclosure, I was one who criticized the burgers thing. Yes the wasted food angle was one part of it, but mainly I just think throwing things on the ice is dumb and played out. When Florida Panthers fans think something is passé, it’s probably best to leave it be. The idea that not throwing burgers is somehow killing all the fun is asinine. That’s like saying Habs fans can’t have fun without burning police cars (OK maybe they can’t). Wear the Hamburgler masks, chant, cheer, eat disgusting burgers, but throwing food on the ice is just dumb.

   

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