Ottawa Senators “Spending Wisely” On The Wrong Players


For years it seems like the mantra for the Ottawa Senators has been to “spend wisely.” Eugene Melnyk has always said that his teams aren’t cheap, but instead they are just smarter than other teams. I think every Ottawa fan knows this unless you have been living under a rock. The Senators are a cheap team, and they don’t like spending money especially if they don’t have to.

For this edition of Tuesday’s Tirade, something quite timely came up. In Bruce Garrioch’s article today, he had a tidbit that mentioned something about Erik Condra:

That’s not encouraging to see him use the word “doubtful” when describing the situation with Condra potentially coming back. Many other Senators fans on Twitter showed this displeasure with that statement, and Nichols at The 6th Sens has some solid thoughts on it.

Erik Condra can be quite the polarizing player, because those who look into advanced stats see the immense value in him, but those who simply look at his point totals see a player who is no better than Colin Greening. I have to side with the people who see the value in him, because he showed this past season just how important he is.

He doesn’t score a lot of points, but he was the driver of possession on the third line with JG Pageau and Curtis Lazar. Here is a “Spider Diagram” of his 5 on 5 shots for vs. his 5 on 5 shots against:

Essentially, anything to the right of the red line is good. It may be a bit hard to see the numbers, but you can click on the tweet if you have to. The only time that he gives up more shots against is when is was playing with David Legwand, Mark Borowiecki, and Eric Gryba. That’s pretty damn good on an average possession team. Also, here is a four-year sample of the shot attempts he gives up in the defensive zone:

So this is over a four-year span, and dark blue is the best you can get (very little shot attempts), and red is the worst (a lot of shot attempts). Of course it will be more congested near the front of the net, as evidenced by David Backes‘ chart. Condra’s graph is the second one on the top, and if you can’t see, his chart is better than Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby.

The only player in that tweet that was better at limiting chances in front of the net was Anze Kopitar, who is a franchise player. If you don’t understand these graphs, that’s fine. But it’s easy to understand the basics that Condra is superb defensively because over the course of his career he has limited shot attempts from the opposing team so well.

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Many fans don’t see the value in Condra, and if you don’t now then they probably never will. If you are someone who likes to dive deeper into the numbers and follow advanced stats, it would be pretty hard to not like him. However, because of Ottawa’s internal budget and the salary cap, it looks like they can’t keep him.

Or maybe they think they can keep him, but they just don’t want to. If that turned out to be the case then I would be very concerned with how this organization evaluates its players. Let’s look at who is under contract with the Ottawa Senators right now instead of an amazing defensive third line winger:

Chris Phillips, $2.5 million

Chris Neil, $1.9 million

-Colin Greening, $2.65 million

-David Legwand, $3 million

Jared Cowen, $3.1 million

-Eric Gryba, $1.25 million

Zack Smith, $1,887,500

Of course not all of these players can be compared to Condra. Three of them are defenseman, but none of them should be in the NHL with the Senators. Greening has shown absolutely nothing the past two seasons, yet he has a fairly handsome contract. Legwand probably wasn’t as bad as fans thought, but he is a waste of $3 million on the fourth line. Then Neil and Smith aren’t terrible options on the fourth line, but there are certainly several players I would play instead of them.

Dec 27, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators right wing Erik Condra (22) skates with the puck in the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The painful thing is that all it takes is for Ottawa to get rid of one or two of those players and Condra could be re-signed. In total these seven players are eating up almost $16.3 million, and none of them are playing important roles on the team. Legwand is probably the biggest contributor, and even he will only get around 25-30 points next year.

The saying that Ottawa “spends smart” is useless now, because it’s not true at all. In fact, Ottawa only has $9.2 million in cap space, and they still have to re-sign Mika Zibanejad, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, JG Pageau, and Alex Chiasson. Some dead weight contracts are going to have to go, and they have simply had some bad asset management.

The Senators plans with players contracts are pretty straightforward. They try to give someone a cheap contract before they become too good and out of their price range. That’s what they did with Kyle Turris hoping that he would become a very good player, and he did. Now he has one of the best contract out there, at a measly $3.5 million for a top centre.

Their wise spending hasn’t worked out recently

However, that philosophy has also failed them at times. They signed Greening and Borowiecki to early deals, and now we’re left thinking why those were ever signed. The thing is, their evaluation of players needs to be better. At the time of the Greening extension, he was 27 and coming off a season where he put up 19 points in 47 games. He had a bit of potential sure, but was it that important to lock him up?

During this season, it would have been smart to sign someone like Zibanejad or Stone to team friendly deals, because we know they are good already and still young. But their wise spending hasn’t worked out recently, and because of that one of their best bottom six forwards will have to go.

All of the players that need to go don’t have massive cap hits, but added up they are extremely harmful to the Senators. The Senators philosophy of spending wisely needs to change, or at least their evaluations need to change. Because it’s unacceptable to lose quality players like Condra while someone like Greening is still in the books.

Next: Cameron Extension Provides Stability Behind The Bench