Week 5 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: Would completing this big comeback and squeaking into the playoffs actually be good for the Sens long term? (and by that I mean conducive to building a true contender)
@DefenseMinister: I’m fine with it because I’m not overly concerned that the difference between say the 7th overall pick and the 14th is enough to get too freaked over. The other concern would be about Melnyk having his views on spending on the cheap being enough to get by being reinforced but even before this happened, the Sens were going to be significantly increasing their payroll next season anyways. From here on out, it will hopefully just be about how the GM allocates those dollars, which is as it should be.
@Fffeisty: Full disclosure: I’m a season ticket holder so the thought of paying thousands of dollars to see continuous losing – even if constructive in the long-term – does not appeal to me. I suppose if the Sens were really down the rabbit hole and in McEichel territory, I could get behind it, but they’re not. Watching the Leaf Nation sadness/resignation is fun to watch, but a good reminder that I do not want to be them. Ever. I drank the tank Kool-Aid once with this team and so it is fair to say I am scarred for life. To me, tanking will always be associated with:
@IneffectiveMath: I’m not sure it will make a great deal of difference either way. The natural talent level of the team is ‘bubble team’, which is as consistent with just making the playoffs as it is with just missing them. The central question of ‘how good are the players we have compared to the players at our disposal by callup or trade’ is unchanged and I don’t think squeaking in this year clouds or unclouds the judgment of any front office member. Making the playoffs this year is not overachieving the roster talent if it’s deployed properly. If they were to fluke into, say, the conference finals, though, that’s the kind of ‘good luck’ that could lead to some dreadful decisions.
@Senturion: It’s a tough question. As the resident cynic, I have to question whether or not a run like this, backed by a goaltender on his once-in-a-career run, is simply reinforcing Melnyk’s extreme frugality. If they squeak into the playoffs (or even if they don’t but come close) it tells Melnyk and Murray that everything is fine. Ideally I’d like to think that’s not the case. I’d like to think that they would still seek to reinforce the team’s weaknesses, but they did nothing last summer either with even stronger evidence. There is an argument to be made that this run is helping the young players develop, the team gel, etc, but at the end of the day they are still a playoff bible team, at best. This team in a perpetual 8th to 12th tier, and a run to finish at the top of that range, while exciting, doesn’t change that. That said, my irrational mind still cheers for them every game.
Q2: Mark Stone vs Mike Hoffman, discuss
@IneffectiveMath: Hoffman is much faster but Stone is much less predictable. Hoffman will invite you to a fair contest and then win with his cards on the table; Stone will trick you. I like them both a very great deal. For the fancy statter they’re very similar though; I prefer Stone slightly when trailing and Hoffman slightly when leading.
@Senturion: Do I have to choose? They’re both the kind of players a budget team like the Sens need, slightly older “rookies” who produce, play responsibly, and don’t break the bank. I think long term Stone has more potential simply because he’s three years younger, but Hoffman has the potential to be an impact player for a few years. One thing to keep in mind with both is that, as with Turris when he was being shielded by Spezza, the impact of both players could be muted once they start getting more checking attention. As this is their first full season, you can’t underestimate opposition coach’s ability to start preparing game plans to neutralize them.
@Fffeisty: Ken Warren had 5 interesting thoughts in his Sunday piece. In the article, he makes the point about Turris and Zbad regaining their scoring touch in the 2nd half of the season:
It’s next to impossible to win consistently when your top centres aren’t producing.
Guess what’s happened now that the lines centred by Turris and Zibanejad are taking turns delivering?
Let’s take a closer look.
In the past 12 games, Turris has six goals and eight assists. The line of Turris, Milan Michalek and Mark Stone has compiled 14 goals and 25 assists. During that same span, Zibanejad has four goals and six assists and the trio of Zibanejad, Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman have combined for 13 goals and 21 assists.
“I’ve been talking to (Turris) and we’re taking pressure off each other,” Zibanejad says of what has amounted to a 1A, 1B scenario for a top line. “That way we’re competing (with each other), but we’re also helping each other get better. That’s going to help us as a team as the two lines grow and get better here.”
I would add to Warren’s point that it is precisely the addition of Mark Stone to Turris/Mac, along with the addition of Mike Hoffman to Zbad/BFR that is the key contributing factor to the uptick in production. To think that Mac had them both as occasional scratches and/or toiling with the likes of David Legwand on L3 or L4. Makes me want to give Dave Cameron a hug.
@DefenseMinister: Stone is just too great to come in 2nd place here although I really like them both. Can we just combine them to create the best overall hockey player to grace us with their presence?
Q3: Eugene Melnyk has been suspiciously absent from Twitter since January … wildly speculate as to his whereabouts and present activities.
@Fffeisty: He is no doubt busy planning Alfie’s jersey retirement ceremony. If he needs ideas, I turn to the enemy of Sens post-game show callers everywhere, @sens-adnan, who came up with the best idea for a ceremony:
@Senturion: My guess is the Sens PR team equipped him with am electro-shock collar that prevents him from taking media calls. There’s an app for that. Also the red phone in his bedroom with a direct line to the FAN 590 has been disconnected. If I were to theorize as to why Mean Gene has finally decided to pay low, I guess it might be because he’s seen the past results of his penchant for shooting off in the media. The LeBreton project may be a factor too, he’ll need to amp up his diplomacy skill to make a deal with the NCC.
@DefenseMinister: This one to me is super weird. The prevailing theory is that he’s been muzzled because of the Lebreton bid and I can certainly buy him not speaking on that for the foreseeable future but to not tweet or say anything publicly about the team at all? That’s crazy town. Not commenting on Phillips breaking the GP record is very unlike him as is him not saying anything during this streak. Christ, last season he linked to that stupid chart about how teams with lots of Olympic participants do poorly in stretch drives. How isn’t he reminding us how amazing the #Hamburglar has been every day for the last 2 weeks?
@IneffectiveMath: Melnyk strikes me as the kind of chap who knows his own personality traits very well and is constantly experimenting with well-meaning but ultimately futile schemes to improve himself. Maybe he’s trying to stay away from twitter for lent.
Q4: Now that Alfredsson has had his big retirement night and has been given the key to the City, how long should the Sens wait to retire his jersey?
@Senturion: Next season. If for no other reason than to get it done while the cold war between Melnyk and Alfredsson is still in a thaw. Let’s face it, this improvement of relations could end at any minute (if somehow the collar malfunctions), and if the Sens want to get Alfie back into the fold permanently with a front office position they need to keep the charm offensive going. Alfie would be within his rights to stay away from the organization until Melnyk is gone (which sadly seems unlikely), so the best way to convince him to overlook that is to focus on the positives. Letting Alfredsson play for another organization was the biggest blunder in the team’s history, fixing it is essential.
@DefenseMinister: When was yesterday?
@IneffectiveMath: I’m not a very sentimental hockey fan, but I wouldn’t wait. There’s no way the organization is going to put some new acquisition in #11 next year, which means the number is as good as retired already. Put it in the rafters for the 2015-2016 home opener.
@Fffeisty: You mean this jersey????
Q5: Will the Sens make the playoffs?
@Fffeisty: Don’t make me jinx it by talking about it here. Saying how I feel out loud now will only make it hurt that much more when the Sens make their 15th overall first-round pick at the draft. Sigh. (Other scenarios I envision: Habs win the Cup, followed by Leafs winning the draft lottery).
@DefenseMinister: Call me a cock-eyed optimist but I say yes. I’ll probably look silly in a week’s time but I like the way they’ve been playing, it’s not unsustainable stuff (outside of Hammond’s goaltending). I don’t think any of the teams they’re vying with are all that great and the alignment of injuries and coaching decisions has left us with the optimal lineup for the remainder of the season. Unicorns and rainbows.
@IneffectiveMath: If they can get +1% PD0 they’ll have a 50/50 chance and I think that they have the goaltending talent for that. The crucial point for me is Wiercioch: if they ride him heavily, I think they’ll make it, if they play Cowen or Boro over him, then not.
@Senturion: Ugh. Despite my reservations. How can you not cheer for the Sens to make the playoffs? Let’s face it, beating the Habs again in round 1 would be a lot of fun, but it would likely end shortly thereafter with a beating by a team that’s actually good. Emotionally, I want them to make the playoffs, but rationally I don’t think it’s going to happen. As usual, they have left their late season run far too late. Making up ground is so difficult with a loser point, and remember, we don’t just have to catch Boston, we also have to fight off Florida and Philly. This is why falling into a deep hole early in the season is so deadly.