In light of recent events that saw Andrew Hammond land on the LTIR with a groin injury and Nicholle Anderson’s cancer diagnosis that necessitated having her husband, Craig, taking a leave of absence from the team, the Ottawa Senators announced yesterday that they dealt a 2017 fifth round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for goaltender Mike Condon.
On the surface, it’s the kind of deal you would expect Pierre Dorion to make.
If there’s one thing the Senators general manager hasn’t been shy to do, it’s flip or add draft picks to a sweeten a deal if he believes it improves the short-term competitiveness of his club.
Condon offers the Senators more NHL experience than either of their internal alternatives – Matt O’Connor and Chris Driedger — but whether he actually represents an upgrade remains to be seen.
Fans may recall Condon’s performance at the beginning of the 2015-16 season when the unheralded backup stepped in admirably after Carey Price sustained a knee injury.
Condon thrived through his first 15 appearances, but by early December, his game fizzled and he’s been struggling to find it since.
|First 15 Games||Last 41 Games|
Granted, Montreal was a bit of a tire fire last season and to Condon’s credit, he has posted some decent minor league numbers. So maybe there’s something there that the Senators feel confident in, but if Condon continues to play at the sub-replacement level he’s exhibited in the last 41 games, this deal will be one that fans equate with trading an asset for a poor stop-gap solution.
I don’t know, personally speaking, that Condon has NHL experience or has played in 53 more NHL games than Driedger doesn’t do much to placate my concerns. I just want to see the most talented alternative play.
Of course, that’s easy for me to say since I’m not the general manager who was issued a mandate by the owner to reach the postseason. I don’t have my reputation or job on the line and knowing that, maybe it would be difficult to roll the dice and bank on a young goaltender like Driedger to stem the tide until Anderson eventually comes back from his leave of absence. But as Hammond has shown, you don’t necessarily have to have NHL experience to be successful at the game’s highest level.
The biggest cause for concern is that no one is really sure when Anderson will return. Having already returned to the team at the encouragement of Nicholle, it could be some time before the process and test results arrive and the Anderson family makes its decision on how they will move forward.
Knowing that, maybe the organization is really concerned with entrusting Driedger and O’Connor to win games for a playoff bubble team. Moreover, the organization is probably mindful of the impact that would be created by having its two AHL goalies play in Ottawa concurrently. But holy shit, Binghamton’s all sorts of terrible and it’s not like that team’s welfare should come at the expense of the parent club or that there’s a slew of blue chip prospects down there whose development would irreparably suffer from playing in front of lower caliber netminders.
Yesterday’s trade wasn’t the only bit of housekeeping for the Senators. The organization also announced that it had returned Thomas Chabot to the QMJHL Saint John Sea Dogs.
After a strong performance in training camp and preseason, Chabot only wound up playing seven minutes and nine seconds for the Senators in the lone regular season game that he got into.
He wasn’t provided much of an opportunity to assert himself or prove that he belonged, but his situation was compounded by the fact that the coaching staff played up the performance of the defencemen ahead of Chabot on the draft chart.
Although it’s disingenuous to suggest that the second pairing of Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci have played well when the two have been a tire fire, the reality of Ottawa’s situation is that neither of these players is going to come out of the lineup for Chabot.
So what that does is create a situation in which the Senators have to dress 11 forwards and seven defencemen or Mark Borowiecki or Chris Wideman have to come out to make room for Chabot.
Fortunately for those third pairing guys, they’ve played well this season.
Admittedly, it’s a small sample size, but per Corsica.Hockey, Wideman and Borowiecki have the first and second highest Corsi percentages on the team and when they’ve been on the ice at five-on-five together, the Senators have outscored, outshot and outchanced the opposition.
The risk is that the Senators’ handling of Chabot, coupled with their investment in the third pairing’s play is that should Borowiecki’s underlying metrics begin falling in line with his historical norms, the Senators may have put themselves in a situation in which they demoted the superior player — relative to Borowiecki or the alternatives in Binghamton — during a season in which they’re trying to win now and now can no longer recall the player until there’s an injury emergency or Chabot’s junior season is over.
As much hope as I want to place in Guy Boucher to get the most out of his players, it’s hard not to wonder whether this is a decision the Senators could ultimately regret if Borowiecki regresses to his career norms.
I mean, there are obvious tangible benefits to Chabot returning to junior — he can dominate that level, he will opportunity to play at the World Juniors, the Senators won’t be rushing his development, blah blah blah — but, it’s hard not to dream on the possibility that Chabot would be an upgrade when the team is trying to win games down the stretch.
Other News and Notes:
- According to a Bruce Garrioch report, the Senators could be closer to reaching an agreement with the NCC in regards to their LeBreton Flats proposal. “The RendezVous LeBreton group — led by Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk — submitted responses to questions on portions of their bid before a deadline that was set for Monday.”
- Mark Stone (neck) and Chris Wideman (upper-body injury) were scratched for tonight’s game versus the Hurricanes.