With the trade deadline set for this Friday (March 3rd), the Ottawa Senators are still mired in an identity crisis.
Are they a playoff team or not? Are they buyers or sellers? Until the Sens know exactly what they are, it’s difficult to know exactly what they should do, leading up to the NHL’s annual trade deadline.
“Let’s see where these next seven games take us,” Dorion told the media on February 16th. “I think we pretty much have to decide. We have a plan in place if we’re going to be a buyer or a seller. We might also be standing pat.”
Since saying that 12 days ago, the Sens have played all but one of those seven games and stood pat in the standings, going 3-2-1.
With just one game left in Dorion’s seven game exam, a split or a sweep against the Wings probably won’t change much. Even a sweep won’t necessarily be an indicator the Sens are about to go on a wild tear to close out the season.
It’s possible, of course. Anything is possible.
But to get to the magic 100-point mark (8th place Washington’s total from last season), the Sens need to pull 38 points out of their remaining 23 games. Does anyone see the Senators closing out the season with, say, a 19-4 record? In the best-case scenario (an unlikely one), 93 points might get you in. That requires the Sens to go, for example, 15-7-1.
Even if the Sens do get there, it will be because they go on this spectacular, exhausting, emotional run. And for their troubles, a team like Boston or Carolina will be there at the finish line, waiting for them in the first round. And we just saw last week how good those teams are.
Dorion has had his 7 game evaluation, he’s done the math, and the most probable scenario is that the Sens come up short again this season. So the smart play is to avoid, at all costs, the playoff rental. Giving up future draft picks or prospects for a rental player, who will be a UFA and gone after this season is a terrible idea. No one is asking for a ban on big game hunting, but true rentals should be the exclusive domain of only the true Cup contenders.
Dorion’s seven game look ends on Tuesday night, and there is one wild card as he settles into his final decision. Job preservation. Dorion has been at this for a while and even the most patient, positive Senator fan would admit this rebuild has taken too long. When any professional GM is on the hotseat, they’re taking things one day at a time. How worried are they about the loss of picks and prospects that are several years away from contributing? Yes, we’re looking at you, Kyle Dubas. When Dorion sits down with a new owner this summer for a performance review, he’d rather not have to tell them he’s now missed the playoffs six years in a row.
For that reason, despite what all the math indicates, there’s still a very good chance Dorion will be a buyer and try to do something by Friday. Sens fans have their fingers crossed it will be the right thing.
By Steve Warne