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Who’s in a Better Position in the their Rebuilding Plans: Ottawa or Florida?

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(source: uk.eurosport.yahoo.com)

With the Ottawa Senators and the Florida Panthers playing last night in the Battle for the Basement with the winner most likely ending up last in the Eastern Conference, I wondered which team is in a better position in their rebuilding plans going forward?

With Ottawa shifting their organizational plans as they begin their rebuild this season, Ottawa has shipped out many veterans and is going forward with a more youthful approach. The Panthers on the other hand have seemed to be rebuilding for the last ten years. Lets compare the two teams to see who’ll return to playoff contention first.

Forwards

In terms of forwards, I think both teams match up pretty evenly. Ottawa boasts stars such as Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, while Florida has stars Stephen Weiss and David Booth. With Spezza the biggest star out of the four players, Ottawa also has better complimentary players such as Milan Michalek and Nick Foligno  where Florida has more fillers and role players. With Alfie close to retirement, Ottawa is in need of impact forwards in the very near future. Florida’s stars are younger than Ottawa’s and still have many productive years left in the league. With both teams having a ton of forward prospects, it is yet to be determined which team has the better pool to build with.

Defence

Even though Florida has a better goals against record than Ottawa, mainly in part to their stronger goal tenders, I think Ottawa’s veteran D-unit is better than the inexperienced Panther squad. Ottawa’s defensive unit is led by Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar where Florida’s is led by Dmitry Kulikov and Jason Garrison. Ottawa’s D-duo have a combined 72 points compared to the Panthers duo 42 points. Ottawa D-corps is more offensive than Florida’s unit but the Panthers may have the edge defensively as Ottawa’s D squad have three of the worst plus/minuses in the league. Going forward, Ottawa’s D-corps looks to get younger but are confined to contracts for the next few years. Florida’s D-corps will continue to get younger as they will look for prospects to step in next season and play big minutes.

Goalies

Hands down Florida wins this category. With veteran starter Tomas Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen as their tandem, Ottawa is no match for them as the Sens have had six different starters tend goal for them this season. However, with the trade for Craig Anderson, Ottawa has seen their goal tending go from worst in the league to one of the best. Since arriving in Ottawa in late February, Anderson has posted a 1.92 goals against average and a .944 save percentage. With Ottawa re-signing Anderson for four more years, Ottawa might have more stability in net as Vokoun is a UFA at the end of the season and probably won’t re-sign.

Prospects

Both teams match up pretty evenly in terms of prospects. Both teams have a potential number one Swedish goalie in their system with Ottawa’s Robin Lehner and Florida’s Jacob Markstrom. Ottawa stacks up a little better on the back-end as Ottawa has blue chip prospects David Runblad and Jared Cowen  and a few other potential D-men that could become full-time NHLer’s in the future. Florida’s main D-prospect is Erik Gudbranson and not many others with high potential futures. However, on the forward end of prospects, Florida has more high ceiling forwards that could make an impact in the NHL. With forward prospects such as Nick Bjugstad,  John McFarland and Quinton Howden, Ottawa’s forward prospects are longer-term projects and overage collegiate players such as Bobby Butler and Stephane Da Costa.

Coaching

Coaching cannot be compared as these two teams will most likely replace their coaching staffs in the off-season. Both teams next coaching staff will have a vital role in the future of the franchises as both teams will be very youth driven and will need coaches to teach the youngsters.

Management

Both teams have strong, veteran management teams. With the Murrays, Byran and Tim in Ottawa and Dale Tallon  in Florida, both teams seem to be stable in the GM’s chair. Even though Murray does not have a contract for next season, it is believed that he will get a chance to return to help right the ship. With a reputation as a excellent drafter and scouter, Murray will get a chance to choose the direction of the franchise with 12 picks in the upcoming draft. Tallon was the architect of the Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks  and is also known as a great drafter and keen trader and will also have a big decision in the future of the franchise with ten picks in the upcoming draft. Even though both GM’s are at the helm of their current teams horrible seasons, both GM’s have been through rebuilds in the past and both have had success. I call it a draw until we see what each GM does in the off-season.

Salary Cap

Both teams made it a point this year to unload salary and clear cap space going forward at this year’s trade deadline. Florida unloaded over seven million dollars while Ottawa unloaded over six million dollars off their current salary cap. Going forward, Ottawa has 15  players signed for just under 43 million dollars leaving them with more than 16 million in cap space. Florida on the other hand have nine players signed for almost 17 million dollars. Florida has an unbelievable 42 million in cap space going into this off-season. However, with Florida’s huge amount of cap space, they have to be careful and not to sign free agents to huge contracts to help them reach the cap floor. This category cannot be judged fully until both teams make their off-season moves and see how they spend their valuable cap space.

Franchise

As a franchise, their is no comparison. Ottawa has been a model franchise for expansion teams as they have made the playoffs 11 out of the last 13 years and have drafted and developed players to build their franchise around. Florida on the other hand have not made the playoffs in the last ten years and have been plagued by players fleeing for free agency and being labelled as a hockey waste land. With both teams having ownership problems in the past, Ottawa is now over them with their owner Eugene Melynk, but Florida seems to always have ownership troubles. Attendance has also been a huge issue for the Panthers as they frequently give tickets away just to get people to come to their games where as Ottawa has a strong season ticket base. Ottawa wins this category as Florida is a candidate to be relocated if the team does not improve. 

Conclusion

When I began writing this piece, I fully thought Ottawa was well ahead of Florida in their rebuilding plans. But as I went through each point, the more I found similarities between the two franchises. With Ottawa only holding a real advantage in the status of their franchise, these two teams match up pretty evenly in their rebuilding states. I think this off-season will make the picture clearer for both teams future as both teams have a ton of cap space and draft picks. Either way, it’s an interesting time to be a fan of both of these franchises.

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