After what may have been one of the worst calendar years in franchise history, the Ottawa Senators and General Manager Pierre Dorion look to rebound in 2019. In 2018 it seemed like Ottawa was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. However, it did see some ups as well. Pieces like Dylan DeMelo provide better than expected returns. Also, youngsters like Colin White, Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot are stealing the show. It is safe to say, Ottawa wants to have a better 2019. Pierre Dorion has made a pair of moves early to try and make that happen.
Pierre Dorion Looks For Better Times Ahead
Tom Pyatt Waived
One of the first moves Ottawa has made in this very early year was waiving veteran forward Tom Pyatt. Pyatt, a favourite of head coach Guy Boucher, was often criticized by fans. Pyatt was often used in a very defensive role despite being a bad player defensively.
The Sens gave up 76.55 shot attempts against per hour while Pyatt was on the ice this year. That is the most of any forward in the entire league. Only 7 players give up 70 or more attempts per hour and 6 of them are Senators. Many others being Pyatt’s common linemates.
The Senators also only generated 40.93 shot attempts per hour while he was on the ice. Once again, the fourth fewest in the league. It was painfully obvious to anyone that he just wasn’t an NHLer. Even when he saw his ice time decrease, he still got too much important time. Time like defending a one-goal lead with a minute left. All of this appeared to be too much for Pierre Dorion as he came to the decision to waive Pyatt. A smart move that hopefully should lead way for younger guys to show what they can do.
Trading For a Backup Goalie
One of the biggest problems is how much Ottawa used Craig Anderson this season. Anderson went down with a concussion and has not skated since. This led to the recall of Marcus Hogberg to split the net with Mike McKenna. The Sens needed to help Andy, and that’s what Dorion did.
One of the benefits of Pyatt clearing waivers is he becomes more valuable in a trade. This is because he can be sent straight to the AHL without needing waivers and recalled later. The Sens dealt him and McKenna to the Vancouver Canucks for goalie Anders Nilsson and forward Darren Archibald. The Sens also threw in a 6th round pick, however, this was a solid trade. It takes pressure off of Hogberg now and also provides a solid backup for when Andy gets back. Hogberg can then return to the AHL and he and Filip Gustavsson can be a tandem working on their game.
Trading away a non-NHLer and an AHL journeyman for a legit backup and a fringe 4th liner is not a bad move at all. Ottawa really should be looking to keep their picks, but a 6th rounder isn’t huge. So, why is this a good trade?
At first glance, Nilsson’s stats may be very off-putting. In all situations, he has a 0.895 save percentage. However, when you dig deeper to them there is a reason for optimism. According to Corsica, Nilsson at 5v5 has a 0.921 save percentage and a goals saved above average of 0.39. Meaning he has actually been an average goalie at even strength. Vancouver’s bad power play is what really killed him.
This should be encouraging for Sens fans because 5v5 is what suggests true talent moving forward. It is more likely his PK Sv% will regress towards the 5v5. Not the other way around. To compare, below is a look at Nilsson vs McKenna.
Mike McKenna (5v5)
— 🇨🇦 (@SensDivision) January 2, 2019
As you can see, this is a huge upgrade for Ottawa. Nilsson will hopefully be able to take some heat while Anderson is off. He should also hopefully be able to take some games from Anderson when he gets back as he has played way too much this season.
It is possible Archibald plays on the fourth line for the short-term future. However, Nick Paul is another option that has looked solid in the little time he has gotten this year. Boucher also loves to run 11 forwards and 7 defensemen so that may be something fans see more of. Ottawa definitely has the means to replace Pyatt in the bottom six and could get younger while doing it.
These are both very small wins but wins nonetheless for Pierre Dorion. As much flak as owner Eugene Melnyk takes, and rightfully so, Dorion is also very responsible for Ottawa’s current situation. Poor asset management, trades, and play judgment have set Ottawa back much further than they ever needed to be. Dorion needs to continue on improving this team if he wants to get a better reputation. This is a good first step to slowly improving the team and for not making a major move, Pierre Dorion has started 2019 off well.