Monday, March 2, 2009

Deadline Day Approaches For Sens Fans

I'm not saying anything new by raising the point that fan interest in the NHL trade deadline is at an all-time high. Rumour sites like Hockey Buzz are booming and people are going to be freaking out over 5th round picks being exchanged for fourth liners on Wednesday.

Ottawa fans are no different and their interest will be piqued because this is the first time since 1996 that the Senators are "sellers" at the deadline. People in Ottawa want to see change and no doubt will be disappointed if Bryan Murray doesn't do a complete makeover by Wednesday afternoon.

But there's the potential for this team to be worse off after the deadline, despite the excitement it may bring in the short term.

Take Chris Neil. If you asked 10 fans, at least 8 would tell you that Neil should be traded.

But those same fans will tell you that Neil would be valuable because of his toughness and his ability to play the game, something that teams like San Jose and Detroit are looking for at the deadline.

So if Neil is such a valuable commodity to upper echelon teams, why would Ottawa fans want him traded in the first place? Would you really prefer the 2nd round draft pick or the unproven prospect that Neil would fetch in a trade?

If other teams desire his exclusive skills, why wouldn't Ottawa desire that as well?

They will tell you that Neil isn't worth 2 million, or especially the 2.5 that his agent is rumoured to be asking for.

But at the same time, most will concede that Neil will get just that on the open market.

So if he's worth that much to other teams, why is he not worth that much to Ottawa?

It's a valid question and one that I'm not sure I can answer. Is Ottawa taking a cue from the Buffalo Sabres and the Harry Sinden-era Boston Bruins by refusing to pay market value for their own players? Murray's decision to let Andrej Meszaros go because he did not want to pay market value for him might be the first indicator.

Neil is one of the players who fulfilled his role this season and there are not many players on the roster you can say that about. He's one of the best at what he does and is respected and feared around the league. He adds another dimension to the Senators that a lot of teams don't have. He is worth that much because he is unique and teams will always pay top dollar for those types of players. He is no different than that elusive skilled defenseman or faceoff specialist. Players like Chris Kelly, Cody Bass and Jesse Winchester are a dime a dozen. But players like Neil don't come around very often.

Neil should be a true fan favourite yet the fans in this city haven't embraced him.

This strange phenomenon can't be explained away so easily. In any other city, players like Neil and Jarkko Ruutu would be revered and celebrated. Ruutu was loved in Pittsburgh and Vancouver but Ottawa fans don't seem to like his antics. Same goes for Neil.

My friend disagrees with me and says that the true fans - the ones who simply go to games and don't write blogs or phone call-in shows – love players like Neil and Ruutu. But I don't understand why the passionate ones who do take part in the public discourse could care less about these types of players. I thought Ottawa fans had a distrust of skilled players. But not heart and soul gritty forwards who give you everything they have season by season. What's going on here?

I have a theory about the Ottawa market but it's probably true of a lot of other cities. It's a form of hockey ADD. The fans are more excited about flashy trades than they are about building a club tradition. They tire of players after just one season and want change for change's sake.

People were excited this past summer when Murray added the likes of Jason Smith, Filip Kuba and Alex Picard but now many would drop these players for draft picks if the opportunity arose.

It's easy to get excited about "draft picks" because those players haven't turned the puck over at the blueline or let in a bad overtime goal. They simply represent hope. But those same people won't be preaching the "hope" theme after another brutal Senators loss while they ostensibly rebuild next year with fresh faces.

Those fresh faces will become the next in line to be traded and so on and so on.

What's the point here?

I think that it's perfectly reasonable to pay Chris Neil 2 million because he provides an exclusive skill that you can't get anywhere else very easily.

In my mind, Neil offers more at his specific role than Chris Kelly does at his. It's all relative. Just because you pay Neil 2 million doesn't mean he has to start scoring a lot of goals. You pay him that money because you need that ingredient for a winning team. You need someone to crash the net. You need someone to protect your star players. You need someone to hit the other team consistently.

Neil is one of the best at all of those things and that's why Murray should fork out the money to keep him instead of gambling on a draft pick or a prospect in his stead.

By trading Neil, you just create another need for this team along with a number one goalie and power-play quarterback.

Why the vocal majority of Senators fans don't see that remains a mystery to me.


phil said...

i agree on neil but comparing his situation to meszaros might not be wise..

meszaros is a good example of why you SHOULD be wary of paying 'market value', where neil's $2 million price tag is, like you said, widely considered to be fully worth it.

Anonymous said...

I cannot agree on signing Neil for 2-2.5M. You need to free up the money for a top notch defensman and/or goalie ..

Anonymous said...

One more note here .. I generally agree with most of what you write .. But throwing money at Neil will lead to lots of regret later ..

Anonymous said...

I don't like this point of view. Yes Neil is a good 3rd liner who can drop the glove and play A BIT, but not for 2 millions a year. Also, you can't compare him to Chris Kelly either. Kelly plays 5 min more per game than him, plays a lot on the PK, faster skater and gets more pts. We are in a cap era and can't afford to keep players for sentimental reasons. They can't keep overpaying there players just to keep them. Look at my Fisher for example, they overpaid him because they said thing as you said, he bring other dimension to is game then scoring. If we think like that for all of are players, are team would score like 100 goals per season. They need the cap space to sign other player namely a offensive defenceman other than Campoli (maybe Matthias Ohlund UFA at the end of the year) and problably a goalie (i don't know who, but a #1 goalie). And give it a rest with Meszaros, yes he was a good young defenceman, but not worth 4.5 millions per year. Look at is season... 2 goals, 14 assists, minus 4 playing top pair minutes and done for the season. We got 3 defenceman for the price of one and problably going to get more things from that trade with Kuba problably leaving.

Anonymous said...

I think keeping Neil has more support that your post suggests. However, I agree that those voices are not being expressed.

The public discourse in this city is pretty strange. On one hand, Murray trades Mez, and people are most excited about the fact that he got a #1 pick in a deep draft. Then, Murray trades that #1 pick for Campoli, and people say that a late first round pick is not that good anyway. Now, people are excited that we could get a second round pick for Neil. If the trade ends up being to San Jose or Detroit, it will be a late second round pick. My bet is that the Ottawa Sun and Senschirp will hail Murray as a hero when that happens.

Just a side note, we trade a #1 for Campoli. We are likely to get a #2 for Neil. My bet is that most GM's would regard Neil as more valuable than Campoli. Our transactions don't make sense.

If we lose Neil, I still think that we have a shot at him in the offseason. The Sens management has to get creative with the offer. I think we should offer him $2M, $2M, $2M, $500K. That's $6.5 over four years. It's about a $1.6M cap hit, but Neil is a $2M man for the first three years. Spezza and Alfie have contracts that are similar in structure.

SoCalSensFan said...

The cap is going to be an increasingly critical issue to the short-term future of the Sens. Things are tight now (yeah, I know, the Swiss miss will be off the books soon enough) and the cap is probably going to drop a bit this summer and a lot next year, so how do you go about addressing the skill deficit on defense and the top 2 lines?

Neil is a good guy, but I understand the math and choices involved if he's dealt.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 12:40pm

I think you are off base about Mez. I think over time, that deal will prove to be a mistake. Mez is still very young, and he is playing for a basket case of an organization

It's tough to argue with you about it now, because his stats are not good. Over time, my bet is that as Tampa stabilizes, Mez's play will improve. He will be an NHL All Star someday.

Anonymous said...

When the facts and stats have clearly stated otherwise over multiple seasons, the mancrush on Redden, Mezsaros and now Neil make this blog close to going over the edge.

Anonymous said...

Reply to anon 1:00pm:

Yes, i know he still that Meszaros has a lot of upside, but in today's NHL 4.5 millions for 1 guy compare to almost the same for 3 others and with problable at least to of those will be decent 3-4 d-man (in ranking). I will say its a pretty good deal. The thing with Meszaros, he will suffer in is devellopement by being in Tampa compare of staying in a system he was use to. For Neil, compare him to Arron Asham and see why is not worth 2.5 millions. Same kind of player, different cap hit. Avantage Phyly!!!!

Anonymous said...


Neil does not bring more then Kelly.

Kelly is on the first PK, checks the other teams best players, and is good at faceoffs,
Neil does nothing but take bad penalties, 2 mill for Neil is 2 mill to much.

Canucnik said...

Where have you guys been?

Neiler played his way out of here last year, with his play on the ice, he's lost a step. Quote the retired pro's pro "I just couldn't get there anymore!"

The clincher for GM/BM, about mid-December #25 starts holding his own with the "BigFellas" and his agent starts to float rumors of Big Money (2.5M) you could just see the Murrays (pl) roll their eyes at each other!

Chris Neil is so gone...He's been a good soldier but we have too many guys who are Corperals and are paid like Colonels.

Anonymous said...

The Sens and other teams are in markets for different types of players right now. The Sharks/Wings etc. want experienced players at their peak who are worth throwing alot of money at right now, to make a cup-run. The Sens are planning to be in that position in (maybe) two years. Neil will be pretty much done by then the way he plays and the way he is dclining. His value is in his grit in the post-season. There is no post-season for the sens. Therefore they should be selling now when his value is high and finding prospects that will be able to fill his boots in a couple of years.

Anonymous said...

Ask Neil to accept a trade to help the franchise and sign him in the summer as a UFA. St.Louis did it with Tkachuk.

Ben said...

Very well written article (It's almost an insult to call this a blog). After what you've written, I'm a bit torn. Fan ADD might also be the reason why we're relieved to have him back. Better to stick with what we've got than to go out into the scary market... either way I'm fine with it :P

Marc said...

Murray was in a tough spot with Meszaros because of the discount guys like Phillips and Volchenkov took. Both have paid their dues in the NHL and while neither have tremendous offensive talent, are you really going to pay a guy who is tremendously inconsistent 1.5-2 million more than your proven leaders? That's a good way to lose your team really fast.

Anonymous said...


Mez's cap hit is $4M over six years. But, his salary is only $2.5M this year. Phillips and Volch would still be higher paid that Mez for two years. I don't think they would have lost the team. Phillips and Volch would have get better deals when their contracts expire.

Anyways, it doesn't matter now, it's already done.

Mark said...

Finally Someone agrees with me in the blogosphere.