Cory Clouston wasn't fucking around when he told the press that with twenty games left, the goal was to “Piss off our scouts, how’s that? By moving up (in the standings) a little bit. We do that by winning games and playing hard.” Since then, the Senators have positioned themselves into the third worst position in the NHL and remain one paltry point behind the Florida Panthers and two points behind the fifth worst Isles. With one game against the Panthers on Thursday, it's completely conceivable that the Senators could find themselves in 25th place by the time that the week is over.
Considering how unwatchable the team was for the first sixty games of the season, the one saving grace that fans could cling to was the prospect of bottoming out and receiving a lottery pick. It was a concept that wasn't lost upon Nick Foligno.
“If we were in a playoff position, I don’t think people would really care too much about the draft. I understand we’re not in that position and we’re looking for the future here.
“At the same time, there are 20 guys in that locker room that want to win every night. That is our job. With all due respect, we don’t care about that draft position as much as how we’re feeling and making sure we’re playing good hockey.
“Right now, we’re showing that those guys in that room can make a difference.
“I’m sure some fans are worried (about the draft), but in our locker room, we’re just worried about playing hard and it’s worked out really well so far."
Ryan Shannon shared some similar thoughts.
"Ideally, we continue to win and all the teams that are ahead of us continue to win, as well.
"So we play well and win games, but we also get the draft pick. But as an organization, we want to improve as quickly as we can and get into the playoffs.
"That being said, there are jobs to be had and you can't just lay down to get that draft pick. Everybody individually here has to prove where they fit into the future here.
"I'm part of that equation, and hopefully I can prove I want to be here for an extended period of time. Laying down and letting the draft pick come is probably the worst thing that I could do."
After years of mocking the Maple Leafs' late surges and as a Blue Jays fan, I've grown accustomed to watching teams win some low leverage games down the stretch and have management pass it off as some kind of measure for future success. In consequence, I'll never be one to underline the urgency of playing well down the stretch and carrying this momentum into the start of next season. It's just a trap I refuse to fall into. Kyle Wellwood notwithstanding, in this day and age, training camp is a time for optimism. It's rare for player to show up to camp out of shape or not throw out enthusiastic cliches about how this is the greatest they've ever felt or how excited they are to start the season with every team having the same 0-0-0 record.
As important as it is not to get too high with these recent Senators wins, it's equally important not to get too distraught at the possibility that the team will play itself out of a lottery pick position. There simply isn't enough time left in the season for Ottawa to catch a team like Columbus (77 pts), Atlanta (76 pts), St. Louis (77 pts) or even New Jersey (73 pts). As the chart below demonstrates, with a less than 10% chance that one of these aforementioned teams will win the lottery, it's unlikely that Ottawa will finish outside of the top five selections.
Admittedly, the thought of drafting someone who isn't named Larsson, Landeskog or Hopkins doesn't make me feel really warm and fuzzy inside but it's not something I can worry about just now. There are still too many variables in play. Even once the order of the lottery results have been determined on April 12th, it's probably still too early to fret as to who could be available when the Senators make their selection. Reading today's articles by Allen Panzeri and Roy MacGregor that discussed Ottawa's ascension up the standings, I feel like the two neglected to mention an important consideration. Whether it was an intended consequence of their deadline activity, the Senators have insulated themselves well in the event that the team won a few games down the stretch. By parlaying players like Chris Campoli, Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly, the team has accrued a number of draft picks in the first few rounds of this year's draft - six of the top 65 picks.
Reflecting upon the team's selection of Erik Karlsson in 2008 or Pierre Dorion's comments on one of last season's podcasts, the organization has a preference of drafting quality over quantity. Although it would be ideal for the organization to move up in the draft by winning the lottery and avoid having to move any assets, the team is stocked with enough ammunition to move up in the draft to take the player that they want.
To conclude his article Panzeri, left us with the cliffhanging question - 'Can nothing go right for the Senators this season?'
To which I respond, save us the drama. We get enough of that whenever The Euge's chooses to make some public comments on the Fan 590.
Now that the University of New Hampshire's Paul Thompson has signed a two-year entry level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, most of the traditional media attention seems to be focused on Ottawa's pursuit of Merrimack College's Stephane Da Costa. You can read about Da Costa and how Ottawa is a great fit for collegiate players here, here, and here.
As easy as it is to get caught up in the excitement that signing a prospect can bring, it's unfair to raise expectations that a prospect like Da Costa will sign and produce right away. Players like Bobby Butler and Jesse Winchester have demonstrated that it takes time for undrafted collegiate players to make the jump and contribute at the NHL level. At the very least, a cost efficient signing like this could add some depth at the AHL level next season and help compensate for the graduation of prospects like Erik Condra or Colin Greening.