Welcome to a new feature on The 6th Sens - What if...? Wednesdays. The principle is straight forward. Each week one of us will ask a question and then to the best of our abilities, we will try to answer the hypothetical scenario of how things may have worked out instead.
According to the Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief, the Senators desperately want Landeskog and will try to trade up with Colorado to ensure they get him.
In light of these rumours, our first What if...? Wednesday question will address the question, "What if the Senators didn't trade for Craig Anderson when the team had the NHL's second worst record?"
Well, the immediate consequence of such a turn of events would have been more underwhelming Brian Elliott performances. Often cited by management and a coaching staff as a player who was ill equipped to shoulder the workload given to him once Pascal Leclaire sustained his season ending injury, the likelihood that Elliott would have continued to defecate the mattress was high - much higher than his save percentage of .894.
Is it fair to pin most of last season's disappointing campaign at Elliott's doorstep? No, probably not. Injuries, players trying to rebound off of injuries, the regression of "key" veteran players and the inability of the coaching staff to effectively communicate and handle their players were all contributing factors.
Nonetheless, Brian Elliott's season was such an unmitigated disaster that by the time that he left town, he had soured to the point of rarely talked to the team's beat writers and fans were left wondering how this shell of a man wound up with three shutouts. Here are his numbers from his final season in Ottawa:
From what we know, Leclaire never suited up for another game down the stretch -- although he did make one appearance in Binghamton before going on the LTIR -- and without an Anderson trade, Elliott and heralded rookie Robin Lehner would have been asked to share the duties for the remainder of the season.
Could they have replicated what Anderson did down the stretch?
Looking at Anderson's numbers, the answer is a resounding hells no. (Note: And looking ahead to next season, his save percentage and GAA are unsustainable with the talent that's currently surrounding him. )
When Anderson was brought in, he arrived at a time when the organization was ridding itself of some veteran players like Chris Kelly, Jarkko Ruutu, Alexei Kovalev and Mike Fisher. With the promotion of some AHL-talent coinciding with Anderson's arrival, the complacency that had so noticeably set in was finally removed. And much like an impending UFA in Anderson, this influx of prospects was playing for one-way deals and the result was predictable - better effort, better results.
But without that stability in net, would Ottawa's prized prospects developed the same level of residual confidence and chemistry that they displayed during their Calder Cup winning run through the AHL playoffs?
Probably not and there would be far less public swing for keeping Bryan Murray around. It was just an unforeseen benefit to a trade that Murray was motivated to make for three reasons:
1) To give Craig Anderson an audition for the starter's role and to see how he fares in this marketplace.
2) It gave the organization an exclusive window of opportunity to re-sign the goaltender.
3) Self preservation.
Looking at the third consideration, I think it's reasonable to presume that had Murray not pulled the trigger on that deal and seen improved results, his job could have been in jeopardy. And who knows? Maybe if Murray was fired, his successor might have been may not have had the authority or clout to talk Melnyk out of his first choice of head coach, Dave Cameron.
And what of Anderson?
Had he remained in Colorado for the duration of the campaign and continued to flounder there under Joe Sacco's watch, what would his stock have been on July 1st? Could the Senators have had him for a cheaper cost and shorter term?
Judging by the rumoured monetary figures and term being attributed to an Ilya Bryzgalov extension in Philadelphia, it's tough to say. Like any other village, the NHL circles also have their idiots whenever the free agent signing period begins.
Or, maybe Anderson returns to his 2009-10 form, re-signs with the Avalanche and thereby prevents the Senators from mirroring the Flyers' model by acquiring Anderson's negotiation rights at the end of the season. In consequence, Ottawa would have been left with the decision of non-tendering Elliott and having only Lehner under contract. With such a relatively weak class of free agent goalies, Ottawa would have been lucky to avoid a lottery position next season.
Of course had Anderson continued to struggle, without that sample size of success, it would have been difficult for Senators fans to get behind such a move. Especially after considering the manner in which Leclaire's career flamed out here in the nation's capital.
Considering the circumstances and the manner in which things have worked out, the ascent in standings from 2nd worst to 6th worst is palatable because of the combination of Anderson's extension and the development and success of the prospects in Binghamton (ie. Lehner and Cowen). Barring some ridiculous overpayment to move up from 6th to an earlier draft spot, the Anderson trade was worth it and thus far, has worked out about as well as anyone could have expected.
I don't think the Sens would have really had a crack at getting Anderson as a free agent. Even if there was interest, he is an American player who probably would have stayed south of the border. In coming to Ottawa, getting to play, having some success and finding that maybe playing in Canada isn't that bad is pretty much the only reason he's with the Sens. Also by playing here he showed this team could viably have a future given the play of their prospects and isn't a sad sack organization like say the Panthers.
Ottawa doesn't make the trade, we play out the string and end up with the first overall pick in a year with no clearcut superstar. Given our worst in the NHL standing we would have a tough time signing anything but lower tier goalies and probably would be starting Lehner between the pipes next year. Lehner gets the starters gig too early and his development is stunted while backing up a young and still learning d-corps.
As much as Murray gets flack, he has done a good job of restocking this club with prospects. If he goes, so does Tim Murray and much of the scouting prowess the club currently has. Knowing The Euge he's uber loyal to his guys, so Murray would have failed his way upstairs to the presidents office and vacated the GM position.
Disagree that the Anderson trade is anything but the worst thing ever. First thing -
"But without that stability in net, would Ottawa's prized prospects developed the same level of residual confidence and chemistry that they displayed during their Calder Cup winning run through the AHL playoffs?"
This is 'intangibles' logic, it reminds of arguing a team should pay for "character". And even if it is true, does it really matter that Bingo won the Calder?
Second - Racking up garbage time points at the end of the season hurt the franchise, not sure there's any other way to look at it. We devalued the primary draft asset from this crappy, crappy year for the services of a non-elite goalie (who isn't going to be the tender when we win the Cup) and then compounded the mistake by over-terming his contract. It does seem to have saved BM his job, so I guess you can't blame him for doing it. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a bad move for the franchise long term.
The goal here is winning the Cup right? Ask yourself this "Would Alex Anthopolous have made the Anderson trade?" Seems more like a move the Baltimore Orioles would make.
@Isaac You don't think the organization did a cost-benefit analysis of the Anderson trade? We don't watch these players as often as Ottawa's scouts and mgmt - if they felt there wasn't that large of a gap between the top guys and the guys available in the 3-8 slots, then obviously they gambled and felt that it was a worthwhile risk to take.
Also Isaac, I personally disagree. We're not paying for character, we're paying for him to make standard NHL saves on a regular basis. Or in Ottawa's case, overpay(at least in term IMO), because we have to in our smaller city. Elliott showed he was unable to in a starter's role.
Good article as it reminds me of how important this trade was for this season and the next few. It seems to have affected everything, from who we draft to the development to the prospects who came up after the Kelly, Fisher, and Kovalev trades. I certainly feel they wouldn't have made as much an impact if we didn't have a stellar goalie at the time. All I'm hoping for is him to be solid next year. It'd be nice not to be down 1 or 2 goals by the end of the 1st.