Training Camp Battles On The Home Front and Elsewhere

It won’t be long before NHL training camps officially open and our newspapers and favorite hockey websites will become inundated with the familiar stories discussing the various categorizations of players who arrive at camp. The context is always the same. Everyone seemingly has something to prove. There will be those that mention the inordinate number of veterans who are out of excuses and need bounce back seasons. Others will discuss a pipeline brimming with prospects. Prospects that will either start the season with the parent club or jockey for position on the AHL team, trying to leave a lasting impression that will help them earn a coveted promotion should injury beset the NHL roster. Moreover, there will be articles like the one detailing some AHL journeyman’s opportunity to lay claim to the team’s ‘vacant’ second line center position.

Admittedly, it’s an exciting time of year when optimism is plentiful and individual player expectations haven’t been invalidated. For an organization like Ottawa that is expected to feature so many young players, the development of these players is paramount and should be placed ahead of any short-lived interim success that the team may encounter. By putting its young players in a position to succeed and emphasizing player development, the organization hopefully will have the patience to prevent situations similar to what Jason Bonsignore experienced in Edmonton from occurring.

 

Not all teams are afforded this luxury however. In Vancouver, the Canucks are expected to vie for the Stanley Cup. In Phoenix, the playoffs are a mechanism for generating casual fan interest and ticket sales. And in Calgary, Jay Feaster is destined to fulfill his legacy of being a bumbling asshat.

When addressing team building philosophies at a town-hall forum, Feaster reflected on the construction of the Edmonton Oilers, “They’ve had a pick anywhere from No. 1 to No. 10 year after year after year after year, and they still wander in the desert. And they’re no closer to getting out than they were 10 years ago.”

Per ESPN Insider, (the Flames) aren’t going to tear down and build back up, which probably means we won’t see a fire sale anytime soon. But if that’s what team president Ken King wants, Feaster says, “Then Ken can find another manager to do it.”

For these Coyotes/Blue Jackets/Flames/Panthers organizations of the world, Feaster exudes the kind of false-hoping chase of an eighth place to get into the playoffs where anything can happen attitude that ignores the cyclical nature of sports and can cause an organization to flounder in a perpetual state of mediocrity. (Note: the lowest seeded team to win the Stanley Cup since 1990 was the 1995 Stanley Cup Champion Devils. With 52 points in the labor stoppage shortened season, the Devils had the fifth best record in the Eastern Conference.) It’s not coincidence that Feaster’s old club, Tampa Bay, has returned to quasi-prominence because they bottomed out for a few consecutive years while holding onto an elite talent like Martin St. Louis.

I digress.

When short-term success takes precedence over player development, it often has negative effects on the ice-time and development of young draft picks.

At the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Michael Grabner was dealt, along with Steve Bernier and Vancouver’s 2010 first rounder to the Florida Panthers for Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich. Considering the perpetual state of mediocrity that the Panthers are mired in, it would have been fair to assume that Grabner, the 14th overall selection in 2006, would be given an opportunity to play significant minutes. Alas, Grabner was claimed off of waivers by the New York Islanders prior to the start of the 2010-11 campaign and put up 34 goals and 52 points. (Note: For years the Panthers enjoyed the fruits of the Luongo/Jokinen for Kvasha/Parrish trade. Maybe Grabner’s success on Long Island can be attributed to karma?)

For anyone who has frequented this website or our Twitter account regularly (follow us at @6thsens), you’ve inevitably come across some articles (here, here, here) that detailed Dave Tippett’s handling of Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker. Having looked at their even-strength point production proportionate to 60 minutes of ice-time, they have demonstrated some flashes of offensive skill in limited ice-time.

By plucking Nikita Filatov from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a third round pick, Bryan Murray has shown a willingness to exploit this market inefficiency. As a team that can afford to acquire young talent and give it an opportunity to play, it will be intriguing to see whether management keeps a mindful eye on how some training camp battles shake out elsewhere.

Inevitably, some teams will struggle out of the gate and as such, it could give the Senators some leverage to acquire some high-ceiling talent on the cheap.

Cue the rosterbation that’s to come…

Weighty Expectations

Someone should alert Jose Bautista to hashtag this item on Twitter under #beastmode . In some nice attention to detail, a Hfboards user noted that in the recent Sergei Gonchar article featured on the Senators website, it lists Jared Cowen at 240 lbs. Although the numbers reflected in a player’s bio have a tendency to be inaccurate, Yahoo! Sports lists Cowen’s playing weight at 228 lbs.

Corey Locke Second Line Option?

As mentioned earlier in this article, there was a NHL.com article published recently that mentioned the possibility that Corey Locke could finally get a fair opportunity to play at the NHL-level this season.

I’m pretty skeptical given that Locke was originally brought in to supplement Binghamton’s roster and help bring playoff experience to Ottawa’s AHL prospects. (Success!) One would assume that if there was ever an opportunity to see what Locke could do at the NHL-level, it would have happened last year while the team was playing meaningless games down the stretch. Instead, I can infer from the way in which he was utilized – fourth line minutes and an 85% offensive zone mark – that the organization views him as a defensive liability. Having played in only 5 NHL games last season, if management disagreed with the manner in which Cory Clouston utilized Locke, it never showed.

Locke may still be young (27 years old) but his skating and inability to play in the three zones has to place him behind more projectable players – Peter Regin and Stephane Da Costa – on the Senators depth chart.

Calgary Herald Previews the Northeast Division

“Jason Spezza who had his second straight sub-par season with only 57 points will have to be better if the “Sens” are going to stay out of the basement in the East.”

Seriously Jason, step it up. You’re going to have to play in 82 games. Score 40 goals. Be +58 and post a .940 SV% with a GAA of 2.21 for people in hockey circles who don’t watch the Senators to recognize the fact that you’re a reformed player who was absolutely fucking nails down the stretch.

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