It’s getting drafty in Ottawa as more players are being dealt for future picks. Mike Fisher was the first to go, followed swiftly by Chris Kelly last night. On the one hand, it’s a shame, because both players had solid seasons and were contributing to the little success that Ottawa had this season. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense that given the circumstances, they essentially played their way out of Ottawa by being so strong. Either way, the range of emotions felt by the fans must be in line with what the players themselves feel: sadness, loss, frustration, a feeling that they deserved better, but always a glimmer of hope for the future.
This season, although far from over, is already being referred to in the past tense and with good reason. Nobody wants to dwell in the basement longer than they have to, and the team has probably had enough of the constant media scrutiny and fan trash talk. It is clearly time to look ahead and it is encouraging to see that Bryan Murray has been busy on the phonelines. While there is good reason to be optimistic that the draft will bring about change, even if that change is not immediately felt, there’s also an underlying current of apprehension.
Will Ottawa make good choices with what they’ve been given? Will this be a deep draft? Will Ottawa be able to pull more rabbits out of their hat when dealing with trade deals leading up to the February 28th deadline? And who will go next?
There are questions in the air, but very few answers. Regardless, I’m still going to do what every sports geek in the city is doing right this moment- add my two cents.
2011 promises to be a good draft year, but not as deep a draft as 2010. My apologies in advance to the class of 2011, but the 2010 draft had star power in the forms of Taylor vs . Tyler and a deep list of talent rounding out the top 50 on the scouting reports. The preliminary rankings have the likes of Gabriel Landeskog and Sean Couturier as NHL-ready powerhouses, but as for the rest, well, they have yet to be schooled. It will likely be a few years before they even touch NHL ice and many of them have to grow physically in the process. So while planting trees for the future is generally a good investment, it requires patience and time, both of which are not virtues known to the Ottawa fanbase. They will not sit idly by and watch the grass grow like cows in the f ield. Something has to come up now.
Trading for draft picks is smart, but it’s not smart to mortgage your future on them. Murray will have to pull off a deal that results in a physical person coming to Ottawa sometime soon. Physical in both the real sense and the athletic sense, because Ottawa’s back end has suffered in the past year by lacking a big body. Jared Cowen will fit the bill nicely next season, but he could use a little help, what with Chris Neil being battered and bruised and Carkner out with no timetable yet for his return. An up and coming, big, strong defenseman should be on the wish list. And while Ottawa’s defense looks good for the future, this team has been destitute in scoring, coming up with a measly 1.2 goals a game on average. Ottawa could use a forward before this season’s out.
The succession plan in Ottawa has been rumoured to have a key place for Jason Spezza. Much ado was made over Spezza becoming the star Centreman for Ottawa last season, but let’s face it, he’s never been the same since Heatley left. While he’s still a high calibre player, he has been known in the past for not playing to his potential, with lazy drop passes and simply giving up on man on man coverage. If the team wants to make him a key part of their rebuild, there’s going to have to be some maturity and attitude changes. Perhaps becoming a new dad will help- provided, also, that he stays healthy.
One man who cannot be paid enough to stay healthy- Pascal Leclaire. It’s true what they say when they say that money can’t buy you health- or luck for that matter. Ottawa is going to have to unload this hapless goaltender. It’s clearly not his fault that he’s had such a hard time, but this business is about winning and there can’t be any of that with deadweight on the team, especially considering the size of his contract. Leclaire may prove to be the great immovable object when the trade deadline looms- but something HAS to be done.
Ottawa may choose to ride out this season with lots of draft picks in the bank and calling up the young guns from the AHL to play in the meantime. But if they don’t make smart choices and pick up a few players right now who could help with the rebuild, the management in Ottawa cannot expect Ottawa fans to go along for the ride.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.