One day after conducting his end of the season media availability, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion joined Steve Lloyd and Todd White on TSN 1200’s ‘In the Box’ for an excellent 32-minute interview to tidy up all the loose ends and provide his analysis of the season and lend some insight into what could happen in the months to come.
You can listen to the full interview at the bottom of this post using the embedded audio player.
As always, my thoughts are in bold.
On where the Senators are at with their organizational meetings…
“Yesterday was a really long day of meetings. I think I got here at about 7:30 am yesterday and I wanted to be with support staff and obviously which took most of my morning. Then we had our media availability and then met – (Daniel Alfredsson), Randy (Lee) and myself — with all the coaches and we had about a three-hour meeting there. Then I met with Guy (Boucher) individually and with Jordan (Silver) just to make sure how we can do things better next year. Next thing I knew, I think I left here about 6:00 pm and then I spent a bit of time with our pro scouts and after I’m done here, I’m going to spend the next few days with them just going all over a lot of things – one, including expansion. If I can talk about expansion for just a quick minute because I think (I’ve been) between two conversations. I don’t know if I misinformed our listeners or our fans yesterday. Maybe I wasn’t as clear as I probably should have been on Clarke MacArthur. I think we should just review that for just a quick minute. If we choose not to protect Clarke, he would be available for (selection) but he does not meet the criteria of one defenceman or two forwards that have played 70 games in the past two years or 40 games in this season. I wanted to make sure that I get the proper information (out there).”
Can’t blame Dorion for wanting to clear the air and address his comments from yesterday’s media availability.
Yesterday Dorion had the following to say in regards to MacArthur:
“He said his neck hurt him a bit at the end and we just want to make sure that everything’s okay, but he’s coming back. He can’t be exposed for expansion purposes because you need to play 40 games this year or 70 in the last two years, so he can’t be a player we expose even though he’s under contract, so he’s back with us.”
According to the expansion draft requirements, each team must make available a minimum of one defenceman or two forwards that have either played 70 games combined over the past two years or 40 games this past season.
Thanks to MacArthur’s concussions, he obviously did not surpass either of those benchmarks, meaning that despite being a quality veteran player who has tons of NHL experience, the Senators cannot use MacArthur as an exposed player who counts as one of the players who meets the outlined requirements listed above.
In other words, although MacArthur does not meet these requirements, that does not preclude the Las Vegas Golden Knights from selecting him in the expansion draft. So you can understand why Dorion wants to set the record straight. The last thing he wants to do is speak definitively and put the wrong information out into the public realm. All the fan base wants is to trust that the man responsible for the hockey operations department knows the inner workings and finer details of his job.
It’s probably just a small oversight on Dorion’s part, especially since Las Vegas probably won’t touch MacArthur because of his concussion history, but by clearing the air, there’s no harm and no foul.
As an aside, if MacArthur’s healthy, he could be a useful trade chip for Las Vegas if they choose to go that route. Provided he can stay on the ice, he’s a versatile and smart two-way player that can really help some teams.
On using the same principle whether Andrew Hammond is available to be selected in the expansion draft…
“Yes, he is as long as the injury is not a long-term or career-threatening injury and Andrew is on pace, I think he’s going to start skating in the next week, so yes, he will be one of the goalies that will be available.”
Yeah, I’m not holding my breath on Las Vegas claiming Hammond. Hell, the only reason the Senators keep bringing Hammond up is to leverage his presence against the contract demands of Mike Condon.
On if the organization is still doing mock expansion drafts and whether these mocks have changed significantly from the start of the year…
“A lot of things have changed over the course of the season. I think we went in and have done five (mock drafts). Just by myself, we have a few tools that we can use. What I do is I write it all out because I’m a bit old school and when I write things out, I remember them about what plans. But it’s difficult because Vegas has to take 30 players. Now there will be side deals. I would bet you anything and everything I have that I know there will be at least one side deal, so when you’re doing this exercise, you know that it’s not exactly how it’s going to fall into place. But at the same time, it’s interesting from our side of things because we were just talking with the pro scouts when I got here today about… let’s just put ourselves in Vegas’ shoes if we make no side deals. Who else could be available after Vegas (makes its picks)? Or can we make a deal with a team if we have more forwards and they have more defencemen and we flip one for another? So, those are all things that we’ve looked at.”
The opportunity for side deals certainly adds some intrigue to the expansion draft beyond the simple question of which players each NHL team will protect.
There’s definitely a window for the Senators, or every other NHL team for that matter, to explore the trade market and look for a trade partner who has a surplus of talent at a position who would prefer to move that talent in a trade rather than lose them for nothing at the expansion draft.
Teams like Minnesota and Anaheim spring to mind considering the quality of defencemen both teams have, but it remains to be seen how confident the Senators are with their blue line.
Looking at their situation and Dorion’s willingness to parlay draft picks for roster certainty in the past, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Senators use prospect or draft pick currency to dissuade Las Vegas from claiming a particular defenceman.
On seeking permission from Phaneuf to waive his NMC so the club can expose him in the expansion draft and whether that’s a legitimate consideration…
“I don’t know if it’s a legitimate consideration. I think I really am happy with the way Dion has played. I think our coaches are very happy with the way Dion’s played. He’s one of our better defencemen. I’m not sure. I believe he’s the only one we would have to talk to (about waiving his NMC). Contrary to what reports are, we don’t have to speak to Bobby Ryan if we decide to expose him – which I’m not even sure if we’re going to go down that road. I think Dion’s been good here. He’s been a good soldier and he’s been a good teammate. If we can keep our top-four intact that we had this year, I think (improving the top-four is) something that our fans have been talking about, I think, previous to this year and previous to when we got Dion, we’d like to do that. But we understand that at the end of the day, Vegas, they’re going to get a player off of us and they’re going to get what we could consider our 12th-best player, but he could also be our fourth-best defenceman. We have to live with that and that’s something that we’ve prepared for and we can accept.”
I don’t know how it isn’t a legitimate consideration, unless of course Dorion is just towing to the veteran defenceman because he doesn’t want to acknowledge publicly that it’s a no-brainer to ask Phaneuf to waive his no-movement clause.
In reality, it’s an easy sell.
With four-years left on a deal that will pay him $25.5-million (carrying an average annual value of $7.0-million), Phaneuf’s contract is toxic and completely unpalatable for an expansion team that is looking to accrue as much talent and as many good contracts as it can so that it can parlay these assets into future assets down the road.
Phaneuf, thanks to his contract, is essentially untouchable and by getting him to agree to waive his NMC, it essentially allows the Senators to protect another defenceman and preserve the team’s talent pool and short-term competitiveness.
The only deterrent towards this is that by waiving his NMC, the Senators could shrewdly package future assets to send Las Vegas’ way to ensure they take Phaneuf’s contracts off their hands, but I don’t believe Dorion to be merciless.
On another note, it is a bit irksome to hear Dorion play up the team’s top-four and talk about how important it is for the team to keep it intact because fans have been clamouring for the team to improve its top-four for years. I mean, I understand how this offseason – thanks to the team’s success and how the market should be bountiful thanks to the upcoming expansion draft — represents the perfect time to make some trades, so the general manager won’t want to publicly downplay the play or performance of some of the team’s defencemen, but the second pairing of Ceci and Phaneuf was routinely caved in throughout the regular season and the playoffs.
If there’s an opportunity to upgrade the top-four via trade, I’d love to see Dorion pull the trigger.
On how much trade chatter there is because of the kinds of players teams may lose for nothing in the expansion draft…
“As far as chatter, I’ve gotten some nice texts and a few calls from some of my counterparts. A few guys sent me nice notes when I got nominated for being one of the GMs of the Year, but I know other guys are talking. Not a lot, but I know other guys are talking just from when I talk to a few guys that I talk to more on a regular basis. But (the other GMs) have pretty much left me alone. I think it’s the unwritten code that when someone is in the middle of battling for the Stanley Cup, especially if you’re in the top-four at the end, you just leave them with what they need to do. As much as people think a GM’s job is over during the playoffs or after the trade deadline, that’s the furthest thing from the truth.”
I suppose if there is a downside to a long playoff run it is that the focus on the games and this accompanying respectful cone of silence that Dorion speaks of could put him at a disadvantage when it comes to grasping the market and understanding what kinds of players or deals could be available to him. Including Las Vegas, 27 other general managers have a head start on their respective offseasons and now Dorion is playing catch up.
On how many GMs are cornered with the possibility that they could lose a good player for nothing and realizing that said player will have more value on the trade market…
“Oh, I think a lot of guys are doing that as we speak and a lot of guys did that during the season. In me doing this exercise just by myself and in talking to our pro scouts and talking to our management group, you realize that there are a few teams that are going to lose a considerable asset. And I’ve had discussions with some of those GMs to see what road they were going to go down. At times, they already have solutions and they don’t mind losing a player – they don’t tell you that. And other times, they want to talk trade, but at other times, they don’t want to talk trade. They know what their plan is and they have no interest, but we have to explore. We always have to explore.”
Exhaust and explore every avenue, Pierre.
On how things are progressing on the amateur scouting front in preparation for the 2017 NHL Draft…
“Our amateur scouts are down in Buffalo right now. I had a chance to talk to our head amateur scout, Trent Mann, before he went (down). We had good discussions just at the end of last week about targeting certain guys and making sure that we’re all on the same page. I know Chris Schwarz is going to go down later on to look at the guys that are getting tested physically. It hurts because this is the first time I haven’t been there and I don’t plan on going because of everything going on this week. We had scheduled pro meetings maybe at the same time if we were ever lucky enough to get to the Stanley Cup because I figured our pro scout (meetings) were something that we could live through. And I knew that my impact on the amateur draft isn’t as high as it’s been in previous years. Even though I’ve seen a lot of the (projected) guys in the first round, as I did last year, after that, I haven’t seen much junior (hockey). I know our drafting and our amateur scouting is in great hands. We don’t have many picks, but with the four picks we have, if we ever get more or less, that we’ll find a way to get players.”
The one thing that I’m curious about is that the Senators, I don’t believe, ever hired another amateur scout after their former chief scout, Bob Lowes, left to take a job with Las Vegas. Obviously Trent Mann took over Lowes’ role, but unless I missed something – which is entirely possible — I don’t believe anyone ever stepped into the amateur role that Mann had.
On why the organization screwed up its draft slot by going on a deep playoff run…
“I know. That’s what I told Guy (Boucher). After we beat the Rangers, I looked at Guy and said, ‘I am so mad at you,’ and he looked at me and I had a smile on my face. I said, ‘I think we moved from 19 to 29, 30 or 31st.’ It looks like we’re going to be picking 28th right now.”
Ah yes, there’s another downside to going deep into the postseason: the draft pick slot deteriorates as you move on. Somehow Sens fans will be able to live with this one.
On how deep the first round is…
“It’s good. It’s not great, but it’s good. You’re going to get players. Anywhere in the first round, you’re going to get players and it’s up to us to go ahead in that direction. When it comes to the draft, when you’re picking that late and it’s not something that this organization has done in a while, you know the player you’re going to get is not going to play right away. He’s going to play for you – whether it’s in three or four years – but at the end of the day, you’re just going to try and get the best player available. I know it’s a very boring line, but it’s something that we can look forward to. The draft is always fun. Coming from a scouting background, I’ve got to tell you that the draft is so much fun. Everyone is there, (indistinguishable) being talked to, all your scouts are there… it’s a lot fun to be present there.”
It is cliché to hear a general manager talk about getting the best player available and I’m sure on draft day, we’ll hear about how surprised Dorion was to get a player who the organization had much higher on their draft board. It’s the nature of the job.
On signing Christian Jaros to an entry-level contract and explaining how his development has gone and what kind of defenceman he is…
“Christian Jaros is (Shean Donovan’s) favourite player, so I think that tells you a lot. Both Randy (Lee) and Shean Donovan went to see him this year in Europe. He really had a great year. He’s playing in the top-four for his Swedish team in the men’s league. He’s a physical presence. He’s really improved his puck skills to another level and his skating has (improved). He’s a physical presence and that’s what we like about him. That’s the biggest element that he brings and he’s someone that’s coming to North America and staying in North America the whole year next year – whether it’s in Ottawa or Belleville – he’ll have his chance to make our team. But like every young player, I think they need growth and hopefully his growth can be as quick as possible.”
Sounds like a more skilled and European version of Mark Borowiecki.
On Shean Donovan saying that Jaros is the kind of player that you need to tell to dial it down in practice sometimes…
“I love those guys.”
On some big news to announce…
“Derick Brassard, I found out yesterday afternoon that Derick will require surgery. He has got a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He will have surgery next week and he will be gone four to five months. We are hopeful that Derick will be able to (go) once the season starts in early October next year.”
Brassard missing a summer of training because he’s rehabbing his shoulder is not ideal. Even if Brassard makes it back for the start of the season or by the end of October, who knows how long it will take him to be back at 100-percent and get back to the level where he’s productive and comfortable?
On noticing that Derick seemed to struggle with his shoulder on one particular faceoff play…
“I think at that moment, the shoulder popped in and popped out. All I’ve got to tell you is that Derick is everything that we expected him to be. He played through so much pain, you have to give him credit. We had an idea (of the severity of his injury). Gerry (Townend) couldn’t confirm it to me before Guy (Boucher) and I did our media availability yesterday, but I can tell you there were a few long faces with the coaches when had our meeting at about 12:30 yesterday afternoon. So we’re going to support Derick. I can tell you that we were very happy when we added Derick and we’re hopeful he can start the year next year and if (he’s) not, it might be a few weeks after the season starts. But, I think it’s the right path to go to make sure that Derick is at 100-percent when he gets back.”
Again, considering the Senators reached the third round of the playoffs and one of Dorion’s biggest trades to date was the one that sent Mika Zibanejad and a second round pick to the Rangers for Brassard, Dorion’s never going to play down that deal.
On Derick Brassard fighting James Neal earlier in his career in which he suffered a shoulder injury and whether it’s the same shoulder that is affected now…
“No, I think it’s the other one. Again, he was showing me scars on his shoulder in the exit interview and I don’t know. One scar was bigger than the other one. The other one was a little incision and he’s had stuff done on both of his shoulders, but a lot of players get these things done and they come back at 100-percent. We don’t expect anything else from Derick.”
Brassard will be on the wrong side of 30 this September. If he was a younger player, I’d be much more confident in his ability to heal and bounce back quickly, but I hope he does. The Senators need a productive and healthy Brassard to bolster the centre position and give the team the depth and flexibility it needs to have success.
On how much say the organization has on its schedule near the time it travels to Sweden to take on the Colorado Avalanche…
For all the heat that Melnyk’s put on former employees (ie. Cyril Leeder) for overlooking the team’s scheduling and blaming the surplus of home games in the early part of their season for the team’s poor attendance, I hope the schedule is something that the Senators take very seriously this season.
On any special considerations or requests that the Senators will make to the NHL to factor in this midseason European road trip…
“To me, personally, I don’t care if we go there two days ahead. To me, it’s getting as much recovery time (as we can) after we get back – which is something that the league has indicated that they will do. For anyone who’s been to Europe, I’ve been to Europe many times scouting and going over there, I get there. Boom, I’m ready to go that day or the next day. Coming back, any trip I make I find that the jet lag really affects me coming back and I think it’s the same thing. In talking to a lot of teams that have gone there in doing our research, we’ve found that as long as there is recovery time, we can have the best (recovery) it will be.”
The Senators’ owner has made much of the impact that the Olympics can have on teams and the players, so the hope is that this midseason trip isn’t merely an opportunity for a Melnyk cash grab. Like Olympic participation, the hope is that the Senators take the recovery of its players seriously and presses the league to give them ample time to recover.
On whether fans can anticipate any transaction announcements before the expansion draft or if there is an imminent move coming…
“No, I don’t think there’s anything close. I think I spoke about Mike Condon yesterday. For us, we’d like to get something done with Mike Condon. Mike’s a great guy and he’s an unbelievable competitor. He fits in well here and him and (Craig Anderson) have a great working relationship. We really want to get something done, but sometimes you know how the process is and maybe the process has been fairly difficult. But this doesn’t mean that we’re not going to try everything we can to sign him. As far as the rest of the (free agents), I spoke yesterday about really wanting to meet with Chris Neil and Chris Kelly personally. I will reach out to (Viktor) Stalberg’s agent, Tommy Wingels’ agent and Tom Pyatt’s agent within the next few weeks here.”
It looks like the game has passed Chris Neil and Chris Kelly by. Of all the free agents, Viktor Stalberg is the one player I wouldn’t mind seeing the Senators bring back, but Tommy Wingels played reasonably well in the playoffs too. As much as Tom Pyatt is Guy Boucher’s pet, he strikes me as a classic third or fourth line overpay. Don’t get me wrong, he has utility has a penalty killer and he’s responsible within his own end, but at the same time, he’s an anchor on every line he plays on. There will be better and more efficient players for the organization to spend its money on this summer.
On whether reaching out is an interest to re-sign all of them or more to gauge what they are looking for…
“A combination of both and at the same time, I have to figure out what Chris Neil and Chris Kelly want to do. I don’t think you’re going to hear about any imminent signings before the expansion draft, but I’d like to. Ideally, I’d like to have everything done right after the draft, so I can have a good summer because I think I had about four days off last summer. Since I’ve been named (GM), I don’t think I’ve had more than about a week off as GM and that was about 13 or 14 months ago or so. I’d like to ideally to have everything done and I told (Jean-Gabriel Pageau not to ruin) my summer, please. But, (the players) have to do what they have to do. I can’t see us doing anything and I’m going to reach out to Pageau’s agent and Dzingel’s agent at the same time. Also, it’s not earth shattering news, but we told Jyrki Jokipakka that we weren’t going to qualify him because of his wish of probably going back to Europe.”
Chris Neil is on the record reiterating his belief at his end of the year media scrum that he’s capable of continuing to play. Considering how much credit he received from the media and his teammates for sparking the club during game four of the team’s playoff series with the Rangers, it wouldn’t be surprising to think that this positive reinforcement has had some influence on his desire to play in 2017-18.
Then again, this is some who had four minutes and 15 seconds of ice time across two games in that Rangers series. Coupled with the fact that Neil only played 53 games this season scoring a career-low one goal and four points and that the organization made a concerted effort to address its bottom-six forward situation by acquiring Alex Burrows, Tommy Wingels and Viktor Stalberg near or at the trade deadline, I think the writing from the organization is on the wall.
It’s essentially the same situation with Chris Kelly. Despite his veteran experience, it hardly made up for the fact that he was no longer capable of keeping up with the game at the NHL level.
Despite playing in each one of the team’s 82 regular season games, Kelly only dressed for two of the team’s playoff games – playing sparingly in each of them.
On hopefully not having to deal with arbitration this summer…
“(Groan), there’s hope and there’s reality. Probably the agent that I have the best relationship with is Craig Anderson’s agent, Justin Duberman, but in my top two or three is Craig Oster and he’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s agent. So we’ve done contracts before. We’ve done (Mark) Stone, we’ve done (Mika) Zibanejad and we’ve done (Robin) Lehner, so I think we know each other fairly well. I’m hoping we can get something done, but it’s a business and not because I like someone that we’re going to give someone more money. We’re just going to do what’s fair and what’s right and we’ll see what happens.”
It’s great that Dorion has a good rapport with the agents, I suppose. It’s interesting to look at the contracts that the Senators and Oster’s clients have signed to get a gauge for how this Pageau situation might unfold.
|Mark Stone||3-years, $10.5-million ($3.5-million AAV)|
|Mika Zibanejad||2-years, $5.25-million ($2.625-million AAV)|
|Robin Lehner||3-years, $6.675-million ($2.225-million AAV)|
Looking at these deals, it’s easy to pick out a pattern. Each of these contracts is not only short in term, but relatively inexpensive.
This is important because as much as I like Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s game, it seems like each season he doesn’t score or produce enough at five-on-five to command a big contract.
Some may believe that his 19-goal 2015-16 campaign is reflective of his scoring ability, but keep in mind that this 2015-16 campaign also featured seven shorthanded goals and five empty-netters. It’s incredibly difficult to replicate that kind of production across seasons.
In fairness to Pageau, he’s frequently bogged down by a linemate or linemates who drag down his five-on-five performance and production. In 2015-16, it players like Alex Chiasson, Curtis Lazar and Milan Michalek who dragged him down and in 2016-17, it was Tom Pyatt.
If there is any risk here, it’s that the Senators may overcommit dollars to Pageau without insulating him with the appropriate players so that the team can get the most out of him.
I’m hopeful of a two or three-year deal that pays him less than what Mika Zibanejad earned.
On the news that the league’s salary cap could approach $77-million and what kind of effects, if any, it will have on the Senators…
“Well, you’ve always got to think not just one-year ahead, but we have a guy that wears #65 and we have to think about cap reasons a few years down the road. I think every contract that we do, I take that into (account).”
This sounds way more palatable than talking about the groan-inducing limitations of a strict internal budget.
“Why aren’t we spending to the cap ceiling? Well, we want to ensure that we’re not taking on enough dollars and term so that when the time comes to re-up Erik Karlsson, we have the financial flexibility to get his signature on a new contract.”
Well done, Pierre.
On the Memorial Cup tournament and the reports on the play of Thomas Chabot and Logan Brown…
“I ended up watching the final and I was very impressed with Logan Brown’s vision and passing ability. I think he’s going to be a great prospect one day. I still think there’s a lot of growing up to do as far as physical maturity more than anything and I think there’s some growing up to do also as far as understanding what it is to be a pro. Your dad could have been a pro, but you’ve still got to understand that you’ve got to put the work in – even though he does put in the work. But, things aren’t going to come to you easily because you are a first rounder. And to me, Thomas Chabot had some and what I was able to see in the reports that I got from our guys that were there, he really had some really good games and at times, he wasn’t as dominant as I think some people expected. But, he’s played a lot of hockey and I really feel that we probably have the best defenceman outside the NHL in our farm system.”
It’s not a surprise to see Dorion allude to Brown’s work ethic because it’s a characteristic that has dogged Brown’s stock as a prospect for some time.
In his scouting profile on Brown before last year’s draft, Corey Pronman wrote:
“A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Brown has been a much-discussed prospect in the scouting ranks for years, and for a variety of reasons. He is often defined as having “all the tools.” He’s a 6-foot-6 center, with high-end skill who can dominate a game whenever he gets near the puck. He’s a very smart playmaker with great patience, vision and instincts. Though not a blazer, he skates extremely well for a player his size. If there weren’t some consistent negatives hanging on him, he’d have all the capabilities to be in the top five of this class. One of the negatives is that he can be a non-factor off the puck. Historically, he’s had a tendency to shy away from physical play, and his defensive effort isn’t good, although the latter area showed significant improvement in the second half of this season. His work ethic on and off the ice have been criticized, but Brown seemed to take those critiques to heart, and really impressed in the past few months. If he maintains that trend, he could be a game-breaking center.”
Even if he showed improvement in his work ethic, Dorion is pointedly acknowledging that it still has room for growth.
Depending on your point of view, that could be an excellent thing because it’s something that is totally within Brown’s control and with a little initiative and some self-starting, Brown could really take a huge step forward as a prospect. Brown has all the tools, but you hate to see a player be satisfied simply scraping by on talent alone.
On how he views what’s best for the development of prospects like Colin White and Thomas Chabot next season…
“Well, Erik Karlsson spent a month in Binghamton. Cody Ceci spent three months in Binghamton. I always find for defencemen it is much tougher for defencemen to step right into the lineup. If you ask Randy Lee, he’d ask us to send Erik Karlsson for a conditioning stint to Binghamton or Belleville. So I think playing in the minors is not the worst thing. I don’t think anything should be given to you and you should earn it. It depends on what role you have, how much ice time you have as a very young player in the NHL, but spending some time in the minors will never hurt any player.”
More development time in the minors or in junior is never going to adversely affect a player, unless that player has nothing left to prove at those levels. At the same time however, the minors or another year of junior hockey doesn’t have to be a precursor for success at the NHL level. Every prospect is different and just because previous first round picks like Curtis Lazar and Cody Ceci have seen their development at the NHL-level stagnate, that shouldn’t impact how the organization handles a player like Thomas Chabot or Colin White. If they’re good enough to play in the NHL next fall and earn their spots through development camp and training camp, let them play.
On the exit interviews with players and how important it was to emphasize to the players that Guy Boucher and Dorion were on the same page…
“I think it’s very important. When I got this job, I made a lot of calls and did a lot of research and seen a lot of things. To me, the most important thing and I’m being selfish in my analysis here, but when you’re the head of hockey operations you always have to think about, ‘What can I do to make sure that this team has the most success?’ Right from day one, we changed a few things. We never go in the room after a game because all it does is… it’s a very emotional talk and sometimes it’s nonsense. For the most part, Guy and I were always on the same page. We have a great relationship. Tonight we’re going out, us two and his wife and my girlfriend are going out for supper tonight because we feel that we have to live our life a little bit and we’ve been away from the house so much. It was great because I never told (the coaches) once to put this player in or don’t put this player in. I never did that. I always left it up to him. He’s got to feel comfortable about putting the players on the ice and I always felt as a coach that that’s where you have the power. He came to me with a lot of demands and sometimes we’d laugh about a few of them and I said, ‘This is unrealistic and this is realistic,’ but he liked the group for the most part. Where we really gelled well was about two or three months into the year, I really saw what players – whether they were a first liner or a fourth liner – would fit in well with this system. And that’s where we… and we had an open communication. Not that I want to get myself into trouble, but I said to Marc Crawford yesterday, ‘What’s the one thing that we did well?’ and Marc said it in a coach’s meeting with us is that the relationship between the coaches and the GM is as good as he’s ever seen it in his NHL career. I don’t know if that means anything, but to me, knowing that our players know and everyone knows that we’re on the same page, it will be like that as long as we’re both here together. We’re not going to agree on everything and don’t worry, we have some battles but they’re kept private and they’re not usually big things. Sometimes we need to make sure that we understand each other.”
Going back to Chris Neil’s future, this dialogue and the relationship between Guy Boucher and Pierre Dorion is important. If Boucher was pressing Dorion to address the team’s depth in the bottom-six, what does that say about how the organization and its coaching staff views Neil’s utility now and moving forward?
On having the opportunity to sign Kyle Turris and Craig Anderson to extensions on July 1st and how much appetite there is to get deals done with both at that time…
“We can’t talk until July 1st, so there’s no point in even approaching the subject. Not allowed (to talk). Here’s the deal: I’ll do an interview with you guys tomorrow. You phone the league, find out what the fine is and I’ll give you exactly what my appetite is to do this.”
It’s fair to assume that the Senators want to get deals done with both players.
On how Nick Paul’s season went and how he would characterize it…
“Disappointed. Disappointed because I thought he would have been here except for the last game of the year. Nick has all the tools to be a real good player. I told Nick that he’s got to ramp it up a notch. Will Nick be here next year? Yes. It will be up to him if he’s here at the start of the year or midway through the year. That will be up to him. He’s got the size, he’s got the hockey sense, he’s got the range and he’s got the shot to be a really good third line player in the NHL. It’s going to be up to him to decide what he wants to do.”
The organization has been beating this drum for the entire 2015-16 season, but in fairness to Nick Paul, Binghamton was a pretty fucking horrendous team and has been for the past few seasons. Maybe part of the reason for his inconsistency is attributable to the other four guys on the ice that he’s played with. I mean, for someone who safely projects as a bottom-six forward, it seems weird for an organization’s management group to spend this disproportionate amount of time trying to spur a depth guy on. Of course, Paul’s the last remaining piece of the failed Jason Spezza trade, so maybe there’s some sense of pride in the organization to prove that it has a salvageable piece to help offset how shittacular it was.
On whether that was the roughest exit meeting or close to it…
“No, I let Randy (Lee) handle that one. I let Randy tell him exactly how we felt as a management group, especially me.”
On what the roughest exit interview was…
“We had one tough one. I’m not going to go into names, but we had one really, really tough one. But, you know what? The one thing that we appreciate from the 28 guys that we met is there was honesty, there was clarity, there was almost a unanimous ‘Don’t change too much, try to keep the core group together. We were one-goal away from the Stanley Cup Final and we’re on the right path.’ Unanimously, it’s the greatest group of guys they’ve ever been around, so it was pretty good but there was one meeting that probably didn’t go the way I expected it to go.”
My money is on Chris Neil.
On having the benefit of hindsight and whether knowing now what he did then, would he still burn a year on Colin White’s entry-level contract…
“Oh, without a doubt. Without a doubt. Without a doubt. There was no hesitation. There was no hesitation to sign Colin White because we felt he could help us. That is without a doubt. I’m going to give you a bit of a secret. When we kept Thomas Chabot at the start of the year, it was because he was within our seven best defencemen but it was to help his growth as a player. He went back to the Quebec Major Junior (Hockey) League won the league MVP or whatever it was, (won) the playoff MVP, was the best player at the World Junior (Championships), it was for his growth. It was to help him as much as he could for his growth and we did the same thing for Colin White. If you look back at the history of burning a guy’s (first) year (on their entry-level contract), at the end of the day the money difference isn’t much. It’s not going to affect his accrued seasons for UFA status. The only thing it will affect is his arbitration (eligibility) and for the most part, when we go to arbitration we win. I’m not too worried about it. And for him to grow and he talked about it – seeing and understand what the rigours and what the NHL is but at the same time, in the playoffs – to a guy who I consider is going to be a great leader one day for us. It can only help him. No hesitation at all. If I had to do it again, without a doubt. There’s something I’m not going to admit publicly that I would have to do again, but this one, there is no doubt that this was the right thing to do.”
Bang on. I agree with everything Dorion’s saying here and frankly, White’s second deal – which hopefully will coincide with the Senators’ window of opportunity – should be cheaper because he’ll have fewer seasons under his belt to cash in on his next contract. The fact that he was playing games, traveling with the club and experiencing this playoff run should inspire him to bust his ass in the offseason so that he pushes for a spot in camp.
On what prospect he believes experienced the most growth this season and whether Ben Harpur would be at the top of the list…
“Yes, without a doubt. From where he went last year to being a healthy scratch at times in the minors to being the best player in Binghamton to coming into our lineup and playing some important minutes in the playoffs, Ben Harpur. He’s grown tremendously. I think if you look at the first half of the season, I’d probably have to go with a guy like (Andreas) Englund, but him, I think the rigours of North American hockey caught up to him in the second half. So without a doubt, I’d have to tell you that Ben Harpur was the one guy who made leaps and bounds.”
It’s not like there were a ton of alternatives in Binghamton. The goaltenders were horrendous, the organization has already dropped trou on Nick Paul’s season and prospects like Francis Perron were experiencing their first professional seasons.
On Brassard’s shoulder injury possibly opening the door for Colin White to break camp with the Senators next season…
“And maybe it was the right thing to have Colin White live the NHL experience in case he has got to slide into that slot.”
On whether the Brassard injury affects his decision-making knowing that there may be pressure to make changes because the expectations from their playoff run will increase fan expectations for next season…
“No, I think because (his return) is going to be very close to when the season starts. It might give opportunity to other guys including a Colin White or maybe a Filip Chlapik. I think it might give an opportunity to more guys to get a chance. I think we’re looking closer to the four-month range than the five-month range and that’s exactly when the season starts. But, if it falls into the season, no. I don’t think we’re really going to change our mindset here. I think with what we have with depth at centre and it could be an opening for a guy like Logan Brown to see what he could do. It’s exactly what we did with Chabot last year. These are all situations that we’re not sure about, but I know at centre with White, Brown and Chlapik, I feel very comfortable for the future of this team.”
It seems a bit ridiculous to believe that a Chlapik or Brown could break camp with the Senators, but hey, you have to let those players know that nothing’s being given to anyone and that with strong offseasons and camps, they could potentially earn a spot or at the very least, compete for one of the first call-ups in the event of an injury.
On what he saw in the difference between Bobby Ryan during the regular season and in the playoffs…
“The biggest difference? To me and to the coach and not that we’re not saying that he didn’t do it before, but the work ethic when he came back from his injury was a notch above. Not that it wasn’t good before, but he really raised his work ethic. People all laughed at Guy and I when we were speaking because we were very happy with the way Bobby played when he came back. The puck just needed to find a way into the net and give Bobby credit, he was our best forward during the playoffs and he should get credit for that. When we made the trade and I was onboard to make the trade, there was no doubt about that. I’m not going to hide behind others’ work, I think Bobby is back to where we think he can be.”
Bobby Ryan’s playoff performance was fantastic, but he needs to continue to build on it. The pressure is going to be on him to prove that it wasn’t some mirage.
He’ll always be behind the eight-ball trying to justify that the trade and contract extension were worth the price Ottawa paid, but at least if he continues to play at a higher level it will help the Senators win games or even potentially give management an opportunity to move him down the road.