After watching the Cup Finals I feel like I was watching a 2003 Sens playoff rerun. The team with more 'skill and 'finesse' lost to the team with the better goaltending and playoff 'system'. Whistles were put away and the boys were left to play. If the game is reverting back to this grinder style hockey then I'm flip flopping on my desire for Ryan Strome and saying Landeskog might be the man. Only two questions: Will he slip to 6th? Will Lehner give us a real chance?
Trevor (in Toronto)
Well Trevor, be grateful that it didn’t feel like you were watching the 2002 Senators team. Then you wouldn’t be frustrated blaming Ricard Persson’s equivalent for boarding a Neanderthal and receiving a match penalty during the first period of an important game that put your team down a defenceman and cost them a 2-0 game six lead that ultimately would have sealed the deal. (My apologies for the run on sentence, it's a manifestation of repressed anger.)
I can understand the concern in seeing the offensive struggles of Vancouver’s elite players but that Conn Smythe Trophy sitting on Tim Thomas’ shelf has as much to do with their lack of production than their inefficient perimeter play due to Boston’s ‘grit’. And even though these skill players demonstrated some Muckaltian finishing touch, it took the Bruins seven games to eliminate the Canucks.
It’s interesting that you bring up Landeskog’s name. He’s one of the few prospects mentioned in the top 10 whose blend of physically maturity, leadership and style of play has drawn comparisons to that of Mike Richards. Once you acknowledge that Alfie’s career is winding down and Landeskog has ‘future captain’ written all over him, it’s pretty easy to understand why so many Senators fans want to see the Kitchener Rangers captain wind up in their lap.
Not everyone shares the same enthusiasm though…
Corey Pronman from Hockey Prospectus recently explained why teams picking early in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft should pass on Landeskog.
Based on my ranking of him as the 13th-best prospect in the 2011 class and this column, some may get the perception that I think he's a bad player, but I don't. And based on evaluation talks I've had with scouts, my talent evaluation on his tools has been more or less in line, but in terms of how valuable the next person thinks he is, that's where my opinion tends to differ. While I think that he is the most NHL-ready prospect in the class and will be great at his role in the league, I ultimately don't see lottery-type value in that role.
There are three terrible mistakes you can make at the top of the draft that can end up biting you in five years:
1. Draft a safe, projectable player instead of a high-upside/potential star player
2. Place a high emphasis on intangibles in your evaluation process
3. Look at premature physical development as a significant plus instead of what it actually is: premature
In talking to Pronman on a recent episode of The 6th Sens Podcast, he indicated that there is absolutely no chance Landeskog will still be available when the Senators pick sixth. However, from all accounts, there seems to be a genuine interest by the Senators to move up in the draft and get the player that they want.
Who that player is? We’re not entirely sure. Personally, I’d prefer to see the team draft a center who can eventually slide into the number two spot within a season. Even if it means signing Ryan Shannon as a one-year stopgap until this prospect is ready.)
Obviously the best case scenario would be a good two-way player who can contribute and play the game using the whole 200' of ice but for all of the laurels and accolades that Landeskog receives, I can’t shake this nagging fear that he could develop into Nick Foligno 2.0. (Although in the event that Ottawa does draft Landeskog, it’d probably take me 0.2 seconds for this fear to be curbed. Go figure.)
Although Bruce Garrioch mentioned the New Jersey Devils as a possible trade partner, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Senators work out a draft day deal with the Panthers instead. Looking at Dale Tallon’s draft record over the course of his time with the Blackhawks, he’s typically drafted with an emphasis on players who have higher ceilings. Instead of choosing a player like Landeskog, they might be inclined to trade down and draft a Ryan Strome – a player whose ceiling might be just as high as any in the draft.
So what could Ottawa offer to move up? I’d look at that 6th overall selection as being the starting point with a young defensive prospect like Wiercioch or some combination of draft picks going the other way.
And will Lehner give the Senators a real chance?
My old man used to joke that a cardboard cutout could have given us a chance to win with the amount of talent that the team had up front during the early 2000 years. But as the traditional media has noted on more than one occasion, Ottawa's become a bit a goalie graveyard in recent years: Mike Morrison; Dominik Hasek; Ray Emery; Alex Auld; Pascal Leclaire; Mike Brodeur; Curtis McElhinney; and the list goes on...
Can Lehner change that?
I sure as hell hope so. The kid has the Midas touch! Through his Calder Cup winning efforts, he's inadvertently turned Jim O'Brien into a winner. Two seasons ago, who could have imagined that?