In The GM's Chair #2 - Don't Write Off The Binghamton Senators Season, Too!

This is the second in my weekly post series focusing on what I would do if I were in the GM’s chair of the Ottawa Senators.  I was preparing this post before the trade of Jarkko Ruutu, and that trade couldn’t have come at a better time to higlight exactly what I wouldn’t do if I were the Sens’ GM.

TOPIC:  HOW TO JUGGLE THE PLAYOFF ASPIRATIONS OF THE BINGHAMTON SENATORS WITH THE REQUIREMENT FOR CALLUPS TO OTTAWA

Here are the facts:

  • The Ottawa Senators season is a write-off with the team basically playing out the string for the next two months.
  • It is anticipated that as long as takers can be found, current roster  players (with very few exceptions) will be swapped out for prospects and draft picks.
  • The Binghamton Senators are in a playoff position right now, but are in a dog-fight to stay there, and by no means are they assured a playoff spot.
  • There are a number of young prospects in Binghamton that could get their first taste of NHL action while the team is struggling and roster spots open up.

In terms of overall benefit to the organization, is it better to:  A)  Keep Binghamton as competitive as possible, and give the prospects the experience of a playoff atmosphere and competiton; or  B) To give the prospects a long look at the NHL level to see what they have to contribute?

The environment in Ottawa is poisonous right now, and I am not sure that subjecting the Senators’ top young prospects to this environment would help their development.  One has to weigh the experience gained from playing 5-10 games at the NHL level against participating in an intense playoff race at the minor league level.

I am of the opinion that competitive playoff experience, at whatever level, is the greatest benefit.  I would leave as many of the top prospects in the AHL to ensure Bingo make the playoffs and puts them in the best position to make an extended run.  The NHL and AHL seasons conclude on the same day, and when the Ottawa Senators season mercifully comes to an end, hopefully the Binghamton Senators season will continue.  At that point, Ottawa can stock Binghamton with any players on their roster that don’t need to clear waivers (ie. Butler, Lehner) for the playoff run.

Older and more seasoned players, such as David Hale, might be better off being called up instead of the younger players. He has the experience to shrug off the environment and still come out the other side not too much worse for the wear.

It is nice to be able to reward your prospects with a look at the NHL level, but while there are 6 callups from Binghamton (not including Zack Smith) in the Ottawa lineup Friday and Saturday night, the Binghamton Senators are playing two crucial home games at the same time.  The B-Sens are only 4 points clear of missing the playoffs, so every point for them is crucial. Having 1/3 of your roster not available will not help them in their chase for a playoff spot.

This is why yesterday’s  trade of Jarkko Ruutu confuses me, espceically the return gained.  If he is only worth a 6th rd pick, then why not keep him.  He is a roster player and by trading him for a pick, you have weakened your farm team because you have to call up a player who has (presumably) been playing well for them. If you were able to get more for him, then maybe the gains outweigh the losses, but to dump such a relatively small salary as Ruutu’s doesn’t make sense.

The savings from dumping Ruutu’s salary equals about $100,000 based on the amount of time left in the season, and the cost of a repalcement player on the roster.

The sixth round pick is a crapshoot at best. Going into this season, only 72 of 900 players selected in the 6th round or later (between 2000-2009) managed to play 100 NHL games.

I don’t think that the savings is worth writing off Binghamton’s season as well as Ottawa’s.  There should at least be something to salvage from the season.  A playoff appearance and deep run by the Baby Sens could only serve to show the Ottawa fans that there is some hope for the future.  For both the NHL and AHL club to miss out on the post-season could spell disaster and further impact ticket sales in Ottawa.

Small savings now could be very costly in the future.

That is what I would do….what would YOU do?

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