This week, the Ottawa Seantors finally named its new head coach going into the 2011-12 season. Detroit Red Wings assistant Paul MacLean becomes the ninth coach in team history, but the task before he and the organization is a tall one.
In 2007, the Senators made their first Stanley Cup appearance since returning to the NHL in 1992. And the franchise has been in a steady decline since. Poor trades, poor drafting and some bad luck in dealing with their free agents has left a once talented team not so talented.
GM Bryan Murray has put his efforts into rebuilding/retooling a team that went from one of the oldest at the beginning of 2010 to one of the younger squads a few months later. The question remains, how do they get back to the top?
If you look at the last four teams to make the finals, it is fair to say that no real pattern has emerged. The buzzwords during the 2010 finals was you didn’t need elite goalies to win the Cup and to put your money into the team in front of the net. Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton are from from elite, but if you look at the two keepers from this years finals, the opposite holds true. Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo are finalists for the Vezina trophy, and Thomas won the Conn Smythe in leading his Bruins to the championship.
So, do you need a top flight expensive goalie or not? Ottawa signed Craig Anderson to a four year deal and have young Robin Lehner coming up through the ranks.Both are good, neither are elite.
Special teams are always important, and can be the difference in a game. Boston had the 14th best power player during the playoffs at 11%. Vancouver was stronger at 20 percent but only good for eighth overall. The Bruins gave up a kings ransom to get what they believed to be the answer to their man advantage deficiencies when they picked up Tomas Kaberle. The last of the Muskoka Five to leave Toronto proved solid in his own end, but provided no goals and a measly five points on the power play in 25 games.
The Sens are building their team around their defense, and many of those players, Erik Karlsson and David Rundblad, are offensive types. Is Murray to believe these types of players won’t lead the Sens to the promise land?
Once Ottawa determined the focus would be a youth movement and certain veteran players would not be part of the new direction, more attention and priority was given to young players. Chicago was built around its core young players, as was Philadelphia. Both teams added key vets around them to create their nucleus. However Boston and Vancouver, while not old teams, were not built through their own high draft picks. Yes the Sedins were taken inside the top three of their draft, but only two other Canucks were drafted by them in the first. Boston had one player who was drafted by the Bruins in the first in their lineup, Tyler Seguin. Getting high draft picks is great, but it doesn’t guarantee success.
So what is the right answer? How is the organization supposed to turn things around?
It is apparent there is no right way to follow which will ultimately lead to the success desired, but making sure more of your decisions are right enables you the best opportunity going forward. It seems as though the Seantors are on the right path.