Missed this the other day, but TSN 1200 posted audio of Pierre Dorion’s media availability from Vancouver on Wednesday. Although the delivery of this post could have been more timely, there’s still a slew of information from it that doesn’t deserve to fade into digital ether.
To listen to the full scrum, scroll to the bottom of this post.
As always, my thoughts are in bold.
On the announcement of Trent Mann as the new chief amateur scout…
“Obviously the organization today is very happy to announce Trent Mann is the new chief amateur scout. One of the first deals I ever made in hockey when I was with the Ottawa Jr. Senators was to acquire Trent Mann from the Pembroke Lumber Kings to the Ottawa Jr. Senators. So I think Trent and I go back a long way. He’s really established himself as one of our better scouts and this promotion is very well deserved. Trent, with his background in the educational program, is very well organized. He’s going to get us… I know he thinks a lot along the same ways that I think about players and I think this is just a really good day for the organization and we should congratulate him.”
News of Mann’s promotion comes on the heels of Bob Lowes’ decision to leave the Senators and become the Las Vegas expansion team’s director of player personnel.
On easy the decision was to announce Mann for the promotion…
“Well, it wasn’t the easiest decision for the simple reason is we had a few really good internal candidates and we always feel that in this organization, if you get a chance to promote from within it’s something that you should do because you give people a chance to move up. We went through the process with a few interviews and it was a really tough decision. I think that speaks to the strength of our whole scouting staff when you have some really, really good candidates within. But, I didn’t answer your full question. For me, it’s easy (to promote Mann) because I know his strengths as a scout and the transition is just going to be so smooth.”
It’s a bit muddied as to whether the Senators intend to replace Mann with another full-time amateur scout, but it’s worth keeping an eye on moving forward.
Amateur scouting and player development is the lifeline of every NHL organization however, and it would be a shame to see the Senators neglect to fill out their scouting staff’s ranks.
The organization neglected to find a second assistant general manager to absorb some of Dorion’s workload when he was promoted to general manager, but with the continued presence of Daniel Alfredsson and Bryan Murray within the front office, maybe that’s an area that the organization felt was covered well enough.
On whether it’s difficult to lose Bob Lowes as this time of year…
“No, not really. At the start of the year, it’s never tough to lose a scout and I think we’re better for it now with Trent on board and I think we’re going to draft a lot of good players as we’ve done in the past. And I was always very present as an assistant GM with running drafts and everything, especially with the first rounders. Logan Brown, I saw, I think, nine or 10 times last year. I don’t want to be off on the number, so we felt really comfortable with the pick. It’s going to be the same (this year). I’m still going to see the first rounders and know them. I’ll probably be around the team less in the second half, so I can scout because I feel that it’s very important.”
I was kind of surprised to hear how blunt Dorion was in regards to the loss of someone who I believed to be one of his close confidants.
When Dorion took over as the Senators’ general manager in April and knew that his amateur scouting input would be more limited because of his expanded role, he knew the amateur scouting department would be fine in Lowes’ hands.
“I think especially with Bob Lowes, we’ve worked together now for nine years, over nine years, we really feel comfortable with each other. And I know our scouting staff is in good hands.”
With a nickname like PR Dorion, I don’t blame Dorion for downplaying the hit that his scouting staff took or playing up how seamless the transition to Mann will be, but due to the nature of the job, we are years away from really being able to evaluate the impact of these changes.
On what he saw from his hockey club in its most complete game of the season…
“It was definitely our most complete game of the season. I think the way we came out really, I really feel the guys are really getting the system now. The way we came out in the first, we were a bit flat in the second period, but afterwards how we played in the third period, we gave up five shots. I think it’s the game we gave up the (fewest number of) scoring chances. This process, we weren’t going to go 82-0. We weren’t going to win every game 5-0 and give up 10 shots every game. It’s a process. It’s a more difficult process. We always want to get to the finish line as quickly as possible, but through the first six games, we’ve seen times where we’ve been really good and times where the guys are maybe overthinking. But, that’s going to happen when you implement a new system and for us, I feel even though we haven’t been always perfect, I feel you see the pot of gold at the end of the road; you see that we’re headed in the right direction and that’s very encouraging for our team.”
It’s only been seven games and it’s really hard to glean any kind of meaningful information from such a small sample size of games, especially since the competition hasn’t really been particularly strong and teams haven’t really begun to adjust to Ottawa’s new system and aggressive neutral zone tactics.
At the same time, it’s silly not to give the Senators credit for improving their play and helping cut down the volume of chances and shots that they are giving up. Unfortunately per Corsica.Hockey, only the Carolina Hurricanes (.882) have compiled a worse five-on-five save percentage than the Senators’ .884 this season.
Even if the Senators’ defensive performance slips a bit moving forward, they can help compensate for this by hoping for some regression from their goaltenders.
On the 20-game mark being the watershed moment for the team and whether that’s the point that he wants to get to before figuring out what this team is…
“No, no, no. I think we know the players. We know what they can do. We want to see what the players can do under these coaches and under this system, but to me, we have a good idea with where we are and where we’re headed. We’re going to face some adversity through the year. No one liked the way that we started against Tampa, but I loved the way we bounced back in the second period. So there’s going to be ups and downs through the year. We have a good idea of what we have. As I’ve said, we’re going to run through our course of injuries during the course of the year. We’re going to face adversity with certain situations, but I think it speaks to the resiliency of our players and this organization and we’re going to be fine. But, we’re always looking to improve. Over the past week, I think it’s been one of my busiest weeks just talking to various GMs as far as what’s out there and what’s going on. But, it doesn’t mean that we have to make a deal. As long as we feel we’re headed in the right direction, we’re going to keep on going.”
Well, no general manager should ever ignore the opportunity to improve their respective team because they haven’t met some self-imposed timeline. Even if Dorion wanted to wait to see what his team is capable of or where they’re seated in the pursuit of a playoff spot, recent history suggests that the Senators will not shelve its short-term interests simply because of where they’re situated in the standings.
On when the organization will make a decision on Thomas Chabot’s future with the Senators this season…
“Yeah, I think at some point in time we’re going to have make a decision on Thomas. Both management and the coaches felt that he was within our seven best defencemen after camp. At this point in time of the year when juniors are settling in, it’s not the end of the world for him to be here and practicing and going on his first real road trip – seeing how the pros do it. I think it can only help him down the road to see how things are done and putting the extra effort in. But at a certain point in time, he’s 19-years old and he needs to play. We could hit an injury tomorrow and he’s here with us for the rest of the year and maybe one guy’s level of play drops off and he gets in the lineup. That’s up to the coaches, but at a certain point in time, we’re going to make a decision for sure.”
It’s not like there’s some textbook definition on how to develop players properly. Sure, there are going to be fans who will point to recent examples like Cody Ceci or Curtis Lazar as first round picks who may have benefited from extra development time at a lower level, but it’s not like every prospect develops at the same rate or sees their talent level or skill set improve exponentially with time. Similarly, there’s no way to prove that either player would be any further ahead had they been brought along slowly.
Sometimes it’s hard to admit that the process is a little more innate or that every player develops differently and at a different rate. There just isn’t a one-size fits all process because every prospect is unique. Then again, it’s also hard to prove that a player’s development was ever adversely stalled because they were asked to return to the junior level as a 19-year old.
Being included on this western road trip isn’t going to hurt Chabot or really have a lasting positive or negative impact on his long-term projection as a player, but eventually, the Senators will have to find a way to get him on the ice and developing.
On the decision to send Chabot down not being the worst thing for him…
“No, I think there are great possibilities. We’re really happy with the development that’s happened with the Saint John Sea Dogs with Danny Flynn and Paul Boutilier. They really helped. I know Paul worked a lot with him on his shot last year and it’s a good program. So he’s not going back to bad circumstances. I think they’re going to have a pretty good team there this year, so it could be positive but I think we should focus on the present with him and see where he’s at for the next game when he plays and go about it that way.”
Maybe I’m reading into it, but with the way that Dorion was talking, it almost sounded like he expects Chabot to be back with Saint John sometime soon.
On Curtis Lazar’s play with the Binghamton Senators and whether there’s an update on the possibility of a promotion to the parent club…
“I just want to finish (my thoughts on Chabot) – there’s a World Junior (tournament) too where it’s the best tournament in the world for junior kids. It’s the most competitive, so that’s also good. As far as Curtis, he’s going to play tonight. I know Randy Lee is there watching him play tonight and we’ll go about Curtis… we’re not to make any immediate decisions on Curtis. I think the best thing for Curtis right now is to go down there and play and play as well as he can play – play in all situations and from there, I think it’s the right thing to do. Let him get confidence and play in all situations and when the time comes, we’ll call him back up. But, there’s no timetable to call back up Curtis.”
Nor should there be a timetable for him to return. Aside from actually playing in NHL games, it’s not like Lazar has ever flourished at the parent level.
If you’ve been a regular visitor of this site, you’ll know that it has been well documented that proportionate to the ice time that Lazar’s received through his first two years in the league, he was one of the league’s least productive players.
There’s probably something to be said about Lazar going into survival mode as a young player and conditioning himself to playing conservatively to minimize mistakes and keep the confidence of his coaches, but his first two years in the league were completely forgettable.
I don’t know whether playing in Binghamton will allow him to restore the kind of confidence he needs to play with the puck and make better or more creative decisions, but it might and that’s the line of questioning the media took shortly after Dorion’s answer concluded.
On whether this time in Binghamton is also designed to help his skill development…
“I think with Curtis last year, we ran into a lot of injuries and it’s something that we thought about – sending him to the minors last year more based on play. This year with all the circumstances of missing in camp, I think he’s not there yet. He’s playing, but he’s behind the eight ball. So for him to work on his skills, we didn’t draft Curtis just to be a third or fourth line guy. We drafted Curtis to be an impact player for us. I think going down there and even if he makes a mistake down there, it’s not the end of the world – even though we want to win and make our players accountable down there too. I think it’s about handling the puck more, making more plays, being as (much) of an impact player as he can be at that level. If we look at it, Erik Karlsson spent a month in the minors and he’s arguably the best defenceman and one of the best players in the league. Cody Ceci spent a few months in the minors, so for Curtis to go down there at this point in time in his career, I think is actually a benefit for both parties.”
Again, there are a number of people who would argue that Cody Ceci could have benefited from more time in the AHL, so maybe he’s not the best example to use when describing how Lazar could benefit from some minor league seasoning.
On how great it has been for Ryan Dzingel to step up and perform at the level he’s been playing at…
“I think it’s great. For a guy like Ryan, there was an open spot and right now he’s taken the ball and rolling with it. Only more credit should be given to him for what he’s been able to accomplish. He even told us that, ‘I’m going to prove to you guys that I’m a regular NHL player,’ and he’s showing it through his play. All the credit goes to him. The way he’s skating, the way he’s competing, we can only congratulate him as best as we can and he’s playing well within this system. We know our coach likes speed and we’ve seen it in our dressing room. So I think it’s great for him. No one is more happy and again, it goes to all the few years that he’s put into Binghamton, the coaches we’ve had there and Shean Donovan, and (we) go back to Bob Janecyk stepping up to draft him. I think it’s a great credit to the organization, but I think the biggest credit should go to Ryan Dzingel.”
As shitty as Clarke MacArthur’s concussion was or hell, maybe we can include Curtis Lazar’s bout with mono in this conversation too, their absences helped create an opportunity for Ryan Dzingel. Under normal circumstances, maybe Dzingel doesn’t get that opportunity to start the season in Ottawa or play at a level that could push him past a number of vets once some of these aforementioned players get healthy.
On whether the biggest challenge for the Senators is to replicate their performance versus the Canucks…
“Exactly. I think if we can continue on the same path of how we played last night, but I wish I could tell you we were going to play like that for 60-minutes, but no team plays like that for 60-minutes. You know, it’s us when we have breakdowns. Like Craig Anderson, the save he made yesterday when it was 2-0 on (Sven) Baertschi – that can change the whole course of the game. He makes that save, we bounce back and win the game. Yesterday was the game we gave up the (fewest number of) scoring chances according to our coaches, so it’s fun to do media on a day like today when we’ve played so well. But at the same time, you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our fans have to be patient. It’s not going to change within a matter of a game or two, but what I like about this team is that we’re entertaining to watch. I love the way we step up in the neutral zone and take away ice. It’s a bit different than a lot of how other teams play, but I think that’s why we hired Guy (Boucher) and his staff. We felt that this would be a successful way for our team to play and for us to have success in the long road.”
I think most fans are willing to extend that patience to Boucher and his staff. It’s not like there’s much of a choice. There haven’t really been sweeping changes to this team’s core and without a ton of financial or roster flexibility, it’s up to the coaching staff to get the most out of this group of players.
I can understand Dorion wanting to be a pitch man and play up the entertainment factor for his team, especially considering their struggles at the box office, but at the same time, with the exception of last season, the Senators have consistently been one of those high event hockey teams that trades chances with the opposition.
The Senators are in the entertainment business, but they’re also in the sports business. Winning matters and as much as Dorion can play up the entertainment factor, the fans ultimately want a winner or save that, a franchise that they can easily invest hope in. Maybe for some fans, they care less about short-term results and are eager to see a long-term vision that puts the franchise in contention for a championship.
After enduring the past few years, it feels safe to assume that more and more fans are suffering from “Melnyk malaise” and maybe that light at the end of the tunnel isn’t as bright as Dorion’s letting on. Whether that’s fair or not is ultimately up to the individual to believe, but that’s what years of short-term prioritizing and modest goals can produce.