SensNation Hotstove – September 9th

Week 8 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: The Sens clearly prioritized minimizing the current payroll over betting long term on guys like Zibanejad, Hoffman and Stone. Was that the right move?

@DefenseMinister:

The easy answer to the question “should the Sens (meaning Eugene) set their annual payroll budget higher in order to not put their GM in this position?” is “yes” but the budget is the budget, so what are you gonna do? However, I certainly think that the Sens could have been much more aggressive and proactive in trying to free up salary space (like say Michalek) in order to be more generous on their RFA contracts to negotiate more term on them.

I realize that the prevailing theory amongst teams and fanbases is “let the player show us, he’s worth it over a long period and then he’ll get paid” and that’s nice in theory but if you’re a budget team, you can’t afford to have every single contract on your team be at or above the value the player is providing you, which is what this philosophy will leave you with. You need a number of bargain contracts and the only way to have bargain contracts is to take calculated risks by locking down some players before their production explodes, not after. The caveat with the Sens of course (because they appear to now be gun-shy with this because of some mistakes) is that your calculated risks should be on players that display high-end talent potential (like Zbad, Stone, Hoffman) and not on your physical/grit/intangibles players like Cowen and Greening.

There are plenty of indicators in the careers of all 3 of these guys that give you a good sense that they will be very good NHL players. The team has evaluated and developed them long enough to know what they have. You don’t need another NHL season to tell me that Mike Hoffman has scored lots and lots of goals at every single level he’s played at and probably will in the NHL too.

@Fffeisty:

Signing cost-controlled contracts on younger players with limited NHL experience seems to be the new way to go. As much as we love the Turris contract, it’s fair to say that the Sens rolled the dice and lucked out with him. I suspect they see now that for every Turris gamble that works out, there’s a Cowen or Greening contract lurking on your roster. The newly-signed players are happy because they know a big payday awaits, the team is happy because it leaves the players feeling a little bit hungry and most importantly, the team keeps some cap room and has their young players on very tradeable contracts of necessary. (Permission to remind me of my rose-coloured glasses when I am crying in 2 years when Mark Stone leaves us for brighter lights, bigger cities). At the very least, it is fair to say the NHL makes no sense. Last summer was free-agent signings gone wild, whereas this summer most teams signed their own players and/or free agents to relatively responsible contracts. So it is hard to know what to think now, but this question will be an interesting one to revisit in a couple of years.

@IneffectiveMath:

In terms of general strategy, you can either wait-and-see and be more sure but pay more for quality, or you can bet early and take your wins (Turris) with your losses (Cowen). The Senators may use the latter strategy more than other teams for reasons of cheapness, but the success of either strategy depends on the same ability to identify talent. The short-term focus is higher-leverage, though, and it suggests to me that the team is imagining a big turnover of players in about two years, though.

@Senturion:

They really had no choice because of the bind they have put themselves in with the glut of shitty contracts. This is the real danger of the current situation, not so much the glut of crappy 4th line players and bottom tier defence man with bloated contracts, but how that is jeopardizing the future by not allowing them to lock up their actual talent. That’s not even considering the fact that the Sens are wasting the prime years of a generational talent by not surrounding him with players that can help the team win.

Q2: Hammond is in and Lehner is out… it’s repetitive, but are you satisfied with how management handled the goalie crunch?

@IneffectiveMath:

More or less pleased. Hammond surely won’t play as well next year, but he should still be a slightly above average backup at worst, and Anderson still has a year or two of good quality play left in him. I don’t worry too much about goaltending generally, since acceptable goalies at acceptable prices are available every summer without fail these days. They got a good price for Lehner, too, so it’s hard to be too upset.

@Senturion:

I’m trying really hard here, I really am. I know I’m the negative guy, but management bit hard on the Hamburgler hype and ended up trading away a better goalie. I understand why they ran with Hammond at the beginning of the playoffs, even though Anderson probably could have won us the series, but when it comes to managing talent they have to think past the hype. Nothing in Hammond’s past suggests his run was anything other than a great once-in-a-lifetime story. Will he be a serviceable backup goalie? Sure, but the bigger issue is asset management. Signing O’Connor helps but it’s hard to shake the feeling that Lehner will come back to haunt the team. Literally, dude is scary.

@Fffeisty:

Goalies are a dime a dozen. Goalies can be replaced by mushrooms. Goalies can’t be trusted. Don’t ever expect goalies to make you happy in the long run. All good goalies turn into bad goalies. Goalies are voodoo. Goalies will always break your heart in the end.

@DefenseMinister:

I am satisfied, mostly because I’m not as sold on Lehner as others and I think a 1st round pick is probably the top return you are ever going to see for him. I’m under no illusion that Hammond is going to be anything special but I don’t think your back-up goalie needs to be special, just competent. Since you can go out and find a goalie whenever you want to, I don’t see it as the Sens getting rid of their “goalie of the future” since that position can be filled by any number of internal or external options whenever the time comes for Andy to step aside. The only reason to be upset with this development is if you think Lehner will develop into a Top 5 elite goaltender in the league, and send me your stash if that’s your belief cuz I want some of that good stuff.

Q3: Which Sens player will most surprise / exceed expectations this season? Who will disappoint?

@Fffeisty:

I think Hammond will exceed expectations (see my answer to Q2, hand me a pill and a cold towel). I expect Bobby Ryan to exceed Owen’s expectations. I would like to see Chiasson see some of his decent play translate into actual points and scoring chances. The most surprising Sens player will continue to be Erik Karlsson. He’s just that amazing. I can’t wait for hockey season because nothing beats his ability to pull you out of your seat, hold your breath and just watch him in wonder and amazement as he gathers the puck at his blue line and flies up the ice.

@Senturion:

True story. I was *this* close to making my Sens Heritage jersey Zibanejad over Alfredsson. I think Z-Bad has another level to reach and I hope this is the year we start to see it. I feel like in past years he was holding back a bit, almost like confidence was an issue, but I think this is the year he breaks out.

The biggest disappointment, sadly, will be Stone, not because he will regress substantially, but because he will get so much additional attention this season that he will likely fade back a bit. I think he’s the real deal but the optimism is probably going to lead a lot of people to see his year as a setback.

@DefenseMinister:

Surprise: I’ll say Ceci (who is more liked in the general fanbase than the blogosphere) just because I felt like near the very end of the season, he was showing more flashes of what he could become. He’s still raw as hell and is kind of dopey sometimes with his decisions but a (hopefully) more stable partner like Wiercioch all season will see him take off.

Disappointment: I think things will get dialed back somewhat on Lazar this year. I like him and think he’ll be a useful player and you’ll never have to worry about effort from him but I just don’t know what his ceiling will be for offensive production. He could be settling into more of a checking winger role which is fine but probably not what the Sens envisioned when drafting him.

@IneffectiveMath:

I expect big things from Alex Chiasson, who performed dramatically better driving play under Cameron than under MacLean, and I expect Wiercioch will have better totals, since he’s clearly played his way into an every-day second-pairing spot, as he has deserved for a long time now.

I expect Mark Stone will be good but I don’t think fortune will favour him quite like it did last year, and some people will be surprised when his point totals shrink slightly. I think Zibanejad and Ryan might both underwhelm if they’re played with a linemate who’s not very fast, as I fear they might be.

Q4: Assuming the below players will be in the most frequently iced version of the Sens roster… who will AND who should fill the two voids (Neil, Greening, Prince, Smith)?

@Senturion:

I’d like to see the Sens just healthy scratch the entire 4th line. Seriously, what are 4th lines for anymore? Even Cup teams only rely on their 4th lines for a handful of minutes a game. Can’t we just do that? If we must ice a bottom 3, let it be a place for youth to develop, go with Prince and someone like Nick Paul or Matt Puempel. But let’s face it, they’ll probably go with Neil and Smith, nothing says intimidation like guys who play 4 minutes a night.

@IneffectiveMath:

I expect the spots are Neil’s and Smith’s to lose, especially since Smith can move to wing more easily than Pageau. I wouldn’t be surprised if Prince and Neil were rotated through the last spot for “offensive” or “defensive” games and if Greening’s only used for injury cover.

@DefenseMinister:

WILL: Smith (mostly because he’s a C and they need that on 4th line right now) and Neil (just because he’s the vet).

SHOULD: I’d say Prince has earned his shot to get a regular NHL shift and he and Puempel should fight it out in camp to see which one can be more effective in that 4th line role to start their NHL careers. If Smith isn’t as much a bag of shit like he was last year, I don’t mind him on the 4th line with guys who aren’t Chris Neil. Colin Greening can coordinate the popcorn distribution in the pressbox like he did last year (vet).

@Fffeisty:

Sounds like there’s a spot open on the third line for player #11! Also, looking at this list of forwards makes me pine for Erik Condra. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I hate change. I don’t know what to feel about the bottom six. It’s like the defence. The Sens didn’t really do anything to improve their roster in terms of upgrading on talent, so we are left to just hoping and praying that some of the vets bounce back and that some of the kids show improvement. I guess that worked last year, but it doesn’t leave me filled with loads of confidence.

Q5: How excited are you about the paved parking lot?

@Fffeisty:

If lot 6 is finally paved after 20 years of being a gravel and mud pit, I am having a Thanksgiving Sunday tailgate party and you are all invited.

@DefenseMinister:

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve spent more than a few summer nights recently laying down in the new lots to get a feel for them. I wanted to get a jump on the rest of the STH’s so I have a bigger advantage going into camp this Fall. We’ve really come a long way, folks. Savour it.

@IneffectiveMath:

My only exposure to the parking lot is people moaning about it on twitter, so I’m pretty stoked to see it get fixed up.

@Senturion:

The idea of paying for parking in the hinterlands of Kanata is bad enough (disclosure: I live in Kanata) but the audacity of not even paving the lot always amazed me. Hooray for asphalt!

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