Senators still building; playoff experience invaluable
Andy Veilleux on Sat, 2012-04-07 23:30
The Ottawa Senators have beaten the New York Rangers in three out of the four games the teams have played this year, which bodes well for the Senators in their first-round playoff match up.
This record is a huge improvement over the Senators' record against the Boston Bruins, in which they lost five of six games, so it is great news the Senators are not squaring off against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Senators have scored 15 goals against the Eastern Conference champions, and only allowed eight goals.
Many people have written off Ottawa in the playoffs. The easy money is against the Senators, even with their impressive record against the Rangers. They were not meant to be a playoff team, and were even slated by most to be in the running for the lottery pick at this year's draft – hello Montreal, Toronto (or Anaheim), Edmonton, Columbus, and New York Islanders – but they have exceeded everyone's expectations.
I figured they would be a bottom-five team in the East, in a true rebuilding year. When GM Bryan Murray predicted the rebuild would take one to two years, I thought it was laughable. He almost entirely blew up the roster, brought in a ton of kids, and didn't bring in any real help through trades in the off-season. Sounded like Fail for Nail was the reality, and indeed, I argued in favour of having a bad year in order to build for the future.
The future is now for Ottawa.
Paul Maclean was brought in to coach the team and instill a culture of winning. The hiring of Dave Cameron as an assistant coach was brilliant. His work at the junior level as the head coach of the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, or of the Canadian World Juniors in 2011, can not be understated. He can work with youth, and he can develop top prospects. Mark Reeds was brought in for the same reason as Cameron. Reeds coached the OHL champion Owen Sound Attack last season, and won the OHL Coach of the Year award for the 2010-2011 season. Murray hired Cameron and Reeds, who faced off against one another in the 2011 OHL finals and Mastercard Memorial Cup, because they can both work with young players.
It is likely the Senators will be bringing in another wave of youth next season.
While top prospects like Matt Puempel, Stefan Noesen, Shane Prince, and Mark Stone will likely spend time developing with the Binghampton Senators – who desperately need the injection of talent – prospects like Mika Zibanejad, Jakob Silfverberg, and maybe even Mark Borowiecki could make the big club out of training camp. Silfverberg and Zibanejad are basically locks to be on the big club next year, and may even see some playoff time this season. The club would certainly love to have reigning SEL-MVP Silfverberg with them in the playoffs, even if in a limited checking role.
This season is not about how deep the Senators can go in the playoffs from a perspective of winning a championship. The team is looking to get their young players as much playoff experience as possible – which is an invaluable experience for young players.
It is likely several of these young players will go play in the World Championships following the tournament anyway, so even a short playoff run would be beneficial when combined with that.
Whether the Senators get eliminated in the first round, or make a run near the finals, the team has had an extremely successful season.