Earlier this season the Ottawa Senators gave the Colorado Avalanche their 2018 first-round pick. This went along with other pieces in a trade that saw Matt Duchene come the other way. When this deal was made it was clear there were no plans for an Ottawa Senators rebuild. They had just come off a run to the Eastern Conference Finals and they felt they had a strong enough team to do it again. By all measures, this season has been a disaster and that pick ended up being lottery protected by Pierre Dorion. This means that if it is a top ten pick it the Sens can opt to keep it. If this would be the case the 2018 pick would become a first rounder in 2019.
This move looks like a good decision by Dorion as the Ottawa Senators are currently 29th in the NHL. They sit just a few points north of last place. Currently, in a lottery spot, most of this season has revolved around the possibility of an Erik Karlsson trade, which would automatically lead to a Senators rebuild. If this was the case, it may be beneficial for the Senators to give up this seasons pick. This would only be the case if Ottawa lost all three lottery picks and picked in fourth place or worse. This is something that could very well happen as well. So, let’s break down why an Ottawa Senators rebuild would lead to this years pick being moved.
Ottawa Senators Rebuild Means Cutting Losses
If Ottawa’s plan is to actually rebuild, which it seems like it might be then they need to play the odds. A key part of rebuilding is getting “The Guy” like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, or even Jack Eichel. What is just as big of a part of the rebuild is getting other very good players. Players such as William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Kasperi Kapanen. You need a crop of young players to make it work, not just one or two.
Luckily for Ottawa, they arguably have some of those players. Players like Colin White, Logan Brown, Filip Chlapik, and Thomas Chabot are all young players who can play in support roles. So why do I think they are going to rebuild? Well, no team trades their franchise player and expects to be good. It’s just not happening. Eugene Melynk and Pierre Dorion have talked about “a plan” going forward. Giving that they were trying to and almost did trade Erik Karlsson it seems like that plan is to rebuild.
It can be argued if it is smart or not but what shouldn’t be argued is, if Ottawa loses all three lotteries this season it may be smart to give up their pick. The team if it does sell Karlsson or any other big piece like Hoffman, will most likely be bad next season. Which leads them to play the odds.
Playing The Odds Game
If Ottawa finishes in the bottom three this season and misses on all three lotteries it will be very unfortunate. However, it is also likely that the following may happen. Currently, combined they only have a 31% chance at a top 3 pick (according to tankathon.com). Even if they fell all the way to 31st they would only have a 50% chance of a top three pick. Essentially a coin flip.
So if the Sens did lose all three and then trade away Karlsson, it would be very easy to see them being in the top three again next season for chances at the pick. This is simply playing the odds game. If you lose all three this season, why not take your chances and go again next season? It would end up being a 75% chance you get a lottery pick if you have already lost (also known as conditional probability). This is simply playing a numbers game. There is a 25% chance you lose out completely on every lottery (if you finish 31st both times of course).
However, if this happens and you lose anyway, it really does not matter what pick you to give up. They would both end up being in the same position. It is all about giving yourself the best odds at the pick and if a rebuild happens, giving up this year’s pick would do that.
The other reason there may be cause for concern next season are the issues in net. Both Craig Anderson and Mike Condon have been dreadful this season. The problem with this is that Anderson was signed to an extension at the beginning of the season. Both he and Condon are on the books for two more seasons. It is possible that there is some rebound, as Anderson is a career .915 save percentage goalie, who has posted closer to .920 in Ottawa and just suddenly dropped to a .901 this year in save percentage. Whether he rebounds next year remains to be seen.
Anderson is already 36 years old and he defies age curves as it is. He is much past his prime for an average goalie but that hasn’t stopped him so far. That said, there are times during this season where he just looked slower. Whether that be a reaction to a clear puck or being beat on a wraparound. Overall, he just looks slower and usually a step behind. This is serious cause for concern for Sens fans. They have seemingly found a goalie for the future in Filip Gustavsson but that doesn’t help solve next years problem.
Condon is certainly not starter material and that has been proven that this year. Even last season he posted a .915 over 40 games, not bad by any means. It also isn’t super impressive considering he played behind a defence that barely let many attempts through. The lack of options in net should be a real concern for the Sens. However, with a rebuild it would not need to be addressed due to their respective contracts.
Now, this brings me to the last reason they may want to give it up. The first overall pick next year once again looks to be very, very good. I know it seems like this is said every year lately, however, Hughes is crushing it in the USNDP (US National Development Program).
Jack Hughes this season in the USNDP has 36 points in 20 games or 1.8 points per game (p/g). Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel in the same league at the same age had 1.00 and 0.77 p/g. In the US Under 17 team, Hughes has 48 points in 24 games(2 p/g). Matthews had 1.33 and Eichel had 0.60 at that time. Hughes also has 33 points in 21 games with the U18’s. Matthews had 17 points in 20 games, and Eichel had 18 in 22 games.
Scouts have compared him to McDavid, saying he is not quite as good, but also not far off. There is already a lot of hype around him and he may be the right one to tank for. Now, this is not saying he is for sure going to be better than Eichel or Matthews. Who knows if he will be or not. However, it is clear he has real skill and potential and very well could be that type of number one center that any team needs to be successful.
Overall, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the Sens may be smart to move this years pick. Of course, this is based on a few things. Things such a losing the lotteries and trading Karlsson. Both things that seem very possible at the moment. Tanking next year may mean giving up these year’s pick. However, the reward next year could be even greater with patience.
Embed from Getty Images