The Myth of an Ottawa Rebuild

SensChirp April 18, 2013 0


Looking at the Ottawa Senators roster, I’m struck by a few things. 

Firstly, they’re a young team; I can count over 20 roster players under the age of 30.  Secondly, the team is filled with players drafted and developed within the organization.  Finally, I’m amazed by how few UFAs this team has signed.  These three thoughts have me wondering about the ‘rebuild’ that is coming to a close in the nation’s capital. How do you reconcile the notion of a rebuild when there’s a constant stream of Sens drafts pick in their regular lineup?

Looking at the players that have suited up for the Senators this season, you find 17 picks representing 8 consecutive draft years dating back to Peter Regin’s 3rd  round selection in 2004.  In total, 22 players drafted by the Senators organization have played for the big club this year alone.  For a team that is supposedly emerging from a rebuild, one wouldn’t expect to find so many original parts.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Examining the wider picture of asset management, it should be obvious that the Senators aren’t the type of organization to waste… well, anything.  I’ve included a chart (below) showing who we’ve got and how we got them.  Apart from Sergei Gonchar and Guillaume Latendresse, the Sens have drafted or trade assets to assemble their current team.  Kyle Turris and Craig Anderson were acquired through deals which saw former draft picks converted into desperately needed pieces (our 1st  in 2010 and a 2nd  in 2012 for Turris and our 9th  in 2003 for Anderson).

David Rundblad, acquired in return for the 1st  round pick used by St Louis to select Teresenko at the 2010 draft, was used to pry Turris away from Phoenix, while Brian Elliot was sent to Colorado at a trade deadline for Anderson.  Hell, even Marc Methot was picked up in a trade for the Sens’ 2006 1st  rounder Nick Foligno.  Looking back, the consensus is forming that Ottawa managed to snag some franchise players for what was considered spare parts at the time.

The flipping of Ben Bishop also has a similar feel.  Originally acquired for a 2nd  round pick after starter Craig Anderson went down with a sandwich related injury, Bishop was recently traded for Calder Trophy hopeful Cory Conacher and a 4th  rounder in 2013.  While this transaction is much fairer than the three previously mentioned, it does provided an excellent segue to one of the darker tales in Senators’ history.

Most Sens fans cringe when hearing the name Danny Heatley, and rightfully so.  The mercurial winger was brought to Ottawa in a trade for fan-favourite Marian Hossa, the Sens 1997 1st  round pick.  After asking for a trade from the Atlanta Thrasher, Heatley excelled with Ottawa but the relationship soon grew sour.  After four seasons and 180 goals in Ottawa, Danny again asked for a trade.  Bryan Murray managed to salvage the situation by landing Milan Michalek in the exchange that moved Heatley to San Jose at the start of the 2010-2011 campaign.  Ironically, Heatley would be traded to Minnesota two season later for another former Sens’ 1st  round draft pick, Martin Havlat (1996, 26th  overall).

So, back to the title of this post – the myth of an Ottawa rebuild; after a disastrous 2010-11 season the organization was perceived to be in full rebuild mode.  After the Heatley saga, trading away pillars of the community in Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly and finishing 26th in the league, most fans didn’t see much room for optimism.  Yet to the surprise of many, the drafting of Mika Zibanejad, the hiring of Paul MacLean and resigning of Craig Anderson marked the beginning of a Senators return to respectability.  Nearly two years later, Zibanejad, MacLean and Anderson all have outside shots at bringing home hardware at this year’s NHL awards.  However, to be fair, Zibanejad faces some serious competition in regards to the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, especially from his new line mate Cory Conacher.

The question remains; did Ottawa actually go through a rebuild after the 2010-11 season? With the help of hindsight, the answer seems to lie somewhere in between yes and no.  While Bryan Murray and co. managed to significantly improve the Senators through trades (Methot, Turris and Anderson), the organization drafted a number of core players between their 2007 Cup run and the 2011 offseason; specifically, Lehner, Karlsson, Cowen, Wiercioch, Silfverberg, Stone, JOB and Smith.

While the moves made since the start of the rebuild have made a tremendous difference, I would argue that the organization already had a number of key pieces in place at the start of the 2010-11 season.  Honestly, I see more evidence of a slow change of course that began when Coach/GM Bryan Murray joined the club in the summer of 2004, highlighted by the arrival of Pierre Dorion in 2007, as opposed to a full blown ‘rebuild’.  Regardless of whether it was a retooling or refresh, the Senators seem primed for another stint as perennial cup contenders.

Please, a round of applause for Bryan Murray and the entire Ottawa Senators organization…