The Senators have tumbled to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and begun a 25-game battle with the Oilers for the NHL’s worst record and their best chance at this summer’s No. 1 overall draft pick.
And no matter how hard it is to watch your team plummet down the standings, be happy in the knowledge that the Sens will be on a faster pace back to respectability than they would have been.
Make no mistake, there’s no quick fix coming, there will be a couple more years of pain before any real gain, but the future is bright.
The Hockey News is just putting the finishing touches on the 20th edition of our Future Watch issue. And by all accounts, Sens general manager Bryan Murray has done a good job stocking the organization’s shelves with prospects.
Our panel of NHL scouts has listed Ottawa with three of the top-50 NHL-affiliated prospects — two blue-liners and a goalie, a good place to rebuild from. The Sens have also proven to be one of the league’s best talent evaluators the past few seasons, nabbing good players with their selections, despite generally picking later in rounds.
The rebuild began with the trading of former heart-and-soul type Mike Fisher to Nashville. And it will continue by moving veterans like Chris Phillips, Jarrko Ruutu and pretty much anyone else not named Erik Karlsson who other teams show interest in.
With their own first- and second-rounders plus Nashville’s first from the Fisher deal and what must assuredly be another second-rounder for Phillips, the Sens are set to pick three times in the first 31 or 32 selections, with another choice between there and No. 60.
While in all likelihood Murray won’t be around to make those picks, Sens fans can thank him for a job pretty well done in the prospect department. And you can thank him for one more thing: Not firing head coach Cory Clouston.
Take solace in the fact Ottawa isn’t New Jersey, where the firing of one coach and the hiring of another has turned around a team that looked like a sure bet to finish last overall.
The No. 1 overall pick means options for whoever wins the draft lottery. There’s a Swedish winger playing in Kitchener who looks like a cross between Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Neil — a leader and scorer who is tough. There’s a slick blue-liner in Sweden scouts have said is already better than Karlsson. There’s a big, lanky center playing in Drummondville who, last season, was the first 17-year-old to lead the QMJHL in scoring since Sidney Crosby. And there’s a sniper out West in Red Deer some have compared to Joe Sakic.
So smile, Sens fans, and pray for a further free fall — all the more chance at that coveted No. 1 selection.