Good and bad: Senators have changed their look
Above: Alex Galchenyuk
Are the Ottawa Senators accelerating, or just blocking the path towards achieving their self-proclaimed rebuilding plan?
It’s a little bit of both from this corner.
Let’s put it this way, general manager Pierre Dorion was definitely not “sit-tight-and-let-the-process-playout” during this very odd off-season.
You likely knew that even if you were merely a casual follower of the Senators.
I get where Pierre is coming from. You can’t simply throw a band of unproven entities – even if they do have great upside – on to the ice and expect magic. (We’ll call that the junior-hockey model for now).
So the signings/trades that brought veterans like Evgenii Dadonov, Austin Watson, Matt Murray, Erik Gudbranson, Josh Brown and to a lesser degree Matthew Peca and Logan Shaw make sense.
And there’s no question that Dadonov and Murray are the lynchpins here.
The expectation is for Murray, 26, to stabilize the net.
Is he stepping in the way (blocking the path) of prospects Joey Daccord or Filip Gustavsson?
Not at all.
Neither one could have been remotely expected to take over as the No. 1 netminder this upcoming season.
Is Murray an upgrade on a potential tandem of Marcus Hogberg and Anders Nilsson?
He’d better be for the term and money he’s getting.
And it’s likely, very likely, that one of the two veterans spells Murray for about one-quarter of the schedule.
(Sidebar your honour: If the NHL schedule is indeed going to be carved down to between 48-65 games, as per ESPN, Murray’s backup won’t see many starts).
(Sidebar II: The NHL and NHLPA decided last month to target Jan. 1, 2021 for the season’s opening. Some though have suggested early February is a more probable scenario).
Passing past Murray, the additions of Brown and Gudbranson can only band aid that bleeding hole known as the Ottawa blueline . . . it’s pretty bad right now.
Gudbranson is a certainty to play a regular role, Brown not so much.
Youngsters Erik Brannstrom, Christian Wolanin and signee Artyom Zub will skate significant minutes, if they earn them.
On-the-way-guys Jacob Bernard-Docker and Lassi Thomson are at least a year away, while uber-prospect Jake Sanderson is committed to NCAA hockey for the next while.
Up front is where the table turns for this corner.
Loving the acquisition of Dadonov, with mild reservation. While the veteran scored 25-plus goals the past three seasons down south, he generally had underrated superstar Jonathan Huberdeau feeding him the puck. ‘Daddy’ won’t have the same luxury up north.
Will Logan Brown, Josh Norris or Shane Pinto get barricaded by Dadonov?
No. He’s a winger, they’re all centres.
As is the recently signed Alex Galchenyuk.
This is the one I don’t understand.
Yes the apologists have spoken on Galchenyuk who’s had stops in Montreal (who drafted him), Arizona, Pittsburgh and Minnesota. They argue it’s low money and low term (He’s on a one-year deal worth $1.05 million US.) and call it a flyer.
I call it a fly in the ointment.
The 26-year-old Galchenyuk broke in with the Habs and bashed in 30 goals in 2015-16. Since then it’s been a steady plummet.
The Penguins had him last year and got tired of his non-compete level and sent him the Wild. Minnesota got tired of him and let him walk to free agency.
Now he lands in Ottawa and is indeed impeding the likes of Brown, Norris and Pinto.
If Chris Tierney is not Ottawa’s No. 1 centre then the mantle lands squarely in Galchenyuk’s lap. Tierney would drop to No. 2, leaving room for the prospects at No’s. 3 and 4. That’s unless Colin White doesn’t convert to wing and grabs No. 3.
Super-agent Pat Brisson of CAA Hockey talked a good, if questionable, game on his client.
“He’s always been a hard-working person . . . I’m excited for him and I’m excited for Ottawa. They made a good bet on this kid. He’s only 26, he’s not 32,” Brisson told Postmedia.
Dorion said all the right things as well.
“Alex’s signing represents another good addition for us at forward.
“He’s gifted offensively, has been a solid power-play contributor and is a proven goal scorer in this league.”
He can shoot the puck. Not doubting that.
It’s what he’ll bring as a ‘role model’ for the up-and-comers that makes me wonder.
Not a bad off-season there Pierre. Prove me wrong on Galchenyuk and flowers are on the way.
Photo: Courtesy NHL.com