Five on Three: Five Ottawa Senator Analysts Address Three Big Questions About the Offseason

As the Ottawa Senators try to get their rebuild back on track, they’re entering a crucial offseason. They have the NHL Draft coming up in Vegas at the end of June. They have a busy July ahead with free agency and possible trades. And they have a different head coach and GM than they did this time last year.

So we’ve assembled a knowledgeable NHL panel of five to take on the three of the hottest Sens’ questions about the offseason. It’s made up of former Ottawa Senator defenceman Jason York, the co-host of the Coming in Hot podcast; veteran TSN 1200 radio host Steve Lloyd; longtime Ottawa Senators colour analyst Gord Wilson; broadcaster and former NHL executive Shawn Simpson; and broadcaster/writer Steve Warne, who covers the Senators for FACES and The Hockey News.

Question #1

What do you think of the Senators hiring Travis Green as their new head coach?


Jason York: I’m of the ‘let’s see how Travis Green does’ opinion. I’m sure he’s learned a lot, having gone through some ups and downs as an NHL coach and is probably wiser for it. I played against Travis. He was a smart player that had a long successful career, I’m sure many of those instincts as a player have helped him along the way. A couple things he’s got going for him: One, he’s played in a Canadian market. And two, he’s coached in a Canadian market. Both those factors will help him.


Gord Wilson: I like the hire. Travis is young enough to relate to the Senators’ young players, but he has enough head coaching experience to be able to demand accountability. I also like the fact that as a player, Travis learned from a multitude of top notch coaches.


Steve Lloyd: I think a lot of the immediate vitriol from fans on the Green hiring came from the simple fact he wasn’t Craig Berube. Berube’s name had been floated so much, and for so long, that any other hiring was going to be met with, “See? They’re cheap.” Handing a new coach a four year deal isn’t cheap. Green is an experienced NHL coach that has experience in a Canadian market. Many coaches don’t have great winning percentages in their first go round (see Pete DeBoer). I think it’s fair to take a wait-and-see approach here.


Shawn Simpson: I’ve heard good things about Travis Green from buddies who played with him, and from people who have worked with him. But much like any move the Sens make, I like to wait and see in person. I do feel the Sens have an excellent management group and ownership. That support should give any coach the best chance to thrive, versus what we’ve seen in past years. The other key is the staff. It’s imperative the Sens finally bring in a former D man to work with the D. Teaching never stops, even at the NHL level.


Steve Warne: He wasn’t even close to being what I considered the biggest name or the hottest NHL coaching option out there so I was underwhelmed at first. But he said all of the right things on his arrival and if he delivers on half of that they should be fine. I’m still in the mode of having great faith and respect for the new management team. So I’m simply deferring to them on this one and hoping for the fans’ sake that they got this right. 


Question #2

What’s the biggest thing GM Steve Staios needs to do this summer to have a chance at making the playoffs next spring?


Jason York: Being the president of the right shot defenceman union, this is what I’d like to see Staois do: Sign big 6-foot-3 smart right-shot D man Brett Pesce and sign steady smart right-shot D man Dylan Demelo. Both are UFA’s. Pesce, Zub, and DeMelo would look awfully nice on the right side and your goals against average would love you for it.


Gord Wilson: Clearly, the Sens roster needs to be tinkered with. GM Steve Staois has pretty much admitted to that. I’ve learned over the past eight months that Steve is very focused and does his due diligence. Only time will tell if he can pull off a big trade, or land a big free agent.


Steve Lloyd: Many people will say goaltending, but the organization has chewed through 17 goalies since it last made the playoffs. Yes, of course the goaltending needs to be better, and needs to be addressed in some way. No argument here, but it’s not like this team has been a save away from being good. Staois needs to address the roster by adding two or three bonafide veteran players that touch the middle six forwards and top four D. The culture change that’s needed starts with Green, but true change has to come from within the roster.


Shawn Simpson: Staios’s biggest task is obviously the entire roster. After watching, what does he think of the current core? From a distance, I wouldn’t be doing much with it, but they would have a far better feel for what fits and what doesn’t. The forward group still lacks depth, and the Norris situation is very tricky based on the injury and money tied up with the player. Finding a proper partner for Chabot has never happened, and he’s been overused. So this would be a priority along with working on his own game and getting back to basics. Obviously, a top goalie is probably priority #1. The club isn’t going anywhere with what we saw from Murray and now Korpisalo. They need a Craig Anderson 2.0.


Steve Warne: He needs to rebalance the roster, especially that blue line. It’s not even the right-shot, left-shot thing for me. How many roving, puck-moving defencemen who aren’t physically hard to play against do they need? I’m open to replacing anyone except Jake Sanderson. Adding two quality right-shot veteran defenceman would be ideal. A couple of fast, veteran two-way forwards would also help. It’s easier said than done, of course. But fix the roster imbalance, bench and eventually remove players who cheat defensively, and then watch everyone proclaim that the goalies have “figured things out.”


Question #3

What player (or what kind of player) do you think they should target at 7th overall?


Jason York: At number 7, you have to go for the best centre or defenseman available unless there is a Thachuk clone in this draft.


Gord Wilson: Often, when holding a top 10 pick, teams simply go with the best player available, regardless of position. In the Senators’ case, I think the team needs to lean towards the best defenceman available. The organization’s cupboard defensively is already thin enough.


Steve Lloyd: The easy answer and the correct answer is always “best player available”. Don’t go reaching off of your master list for a certain position with a pick that high. Having said that, if it’s a close debate with the amateur scouts between a forward and a D, I’m taking the D all day long. And with Thomson and JBD not panning out as top four guys, preferably a right shot D.


Shawn Simpson: I worked 17 drafts from 1992 to 2008. From that, I learned so much. The biggest thing is not drafting for need when you are dealing with 18-year-old kids. You truly need to focus on the best player at 7. Chances are he’s a few years away from playing, at which time what you need may have completely shifted. After using high picks on DeBrincat and Jakob Chychrun, and Tyler Boucher looking like a bust, this is certainly a critical pick the staff must hit on.


Steve Warne: I’d take the best player available, which is subjective. I think the best at 7 will be forward Tij Iginla, the son of Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla. Iginla has a fantastic release, great skill, and he’s a puck possession machine. I love the way he’s able to hold on to the puck while absorbing hits along the boards. We sometimes joke about how many Senators have fathers who played in the NHL, but most of the time the strategy has actually worked out pretty well for them.

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