Senators Must Give Logan Brown One More Chance

BRIDGEPORT, CT - MARCH 23: Logan Brown #22 of the Belleville Senators looks to pass during a game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena on March 23, 2019 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Gregory Vasil/Getty Images)
BRIDGEPORT, CT - MARCH 23: Logan Brown #22 of the Belleville Senators looks to pass during a game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena on March 23, 2019 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Gregory Vasil/Getty Images) /

Out of all the talking points that have surrounded the Ottawa Senators so far this season, it’s the ones surrounding Logan Brown that tend to be the most exhausting. 

Last week, the Belleville Senators resumed play for the first time since the American Hockey League cancelled the remainder of its 2019-20 season in March of 2020. For Logan Brown specifically, it was his first taste of game action since an injury took him out of the fold on February the 15th of that year.

Despite his limited game action, expectations for him were high in training camp. Many fans tended to associate his name with an open top-six centre position, which was eventually won by the current NHL Rookie scoring leader, Josh Norris. Theoretically, the Senators could have had both players on their opening roster, but the writing seemed to be on the wall as soon as they made a trade to acquire veteran Derek Stepan from the Arizona Coyotes.

So what gives with Brown? The former 11th overall pick from the 2016 draft has shown flashes of his potential, using his rare blend of skill and size to dominate at both the junior and AHL levels at times. Just last year, he had 28 points in 25 AHL contests, and was an “Elite AHL player,” as Head Coach Troy Mann described him.

Mann hasn’t hidden his disappointment in Brown’s first two AHL performances of the year, but the Belleville coach does realize that this is a player who hasn’t played a lot of hockey recently. That didn’t stop Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch, who suggested in a Thursday appearance on TSN that it’s time for the Senators to cut-bait with the player – despite the fact that he’s only appeared in 29 NHL games, and is only 22 years old. This, therefore, begs the question: is any of the desire to move on from Brown actually justified?

In his one true NHL stint last year, the American was pretty solid. 1 goal and 7 assists in 23 games don’t exactly jump off the page, but he had solid underlying numbers that showed he wasn’t exactly out of place. His expected goals share (xGF) of 56% was the highest of any Senators centre to play at least 20 games in the NHL last season. He also had positive effects on other Senators forwards (as seen below), mostly helping former Senator Anthony Duclair thrive in a winter period that saw him play his best hockey of last season.

Despite his positive contributions on-ice, Brown was plagued with some pretty poor luck. His 4.3% shooting percentage (S%) was tied for the second-lowest among Senators who again played at least 20 games last season. This mark is less than half of the league average S% of 9.7. So, if Brown had a little more luck, this likely wouldn’t even be a conversation.

If the Senators choose to move-on from Logan Brown in the near future, it would be foolish considering that the player’s value has likely never been lower. If management truly cares about the asset that they have, then they would do anything in their power to either seize it and give him a shot at being a player with this team long-term, or at least try and boost the return.

In the past few years, Ottawa has given up on some first-round talents. Moving on from Curtis Lazar and Matt Puempel hasn’t been something the Senators have regretted, but looking over to New York and what Mika Zibanejad has done with the Rangers since Pierre Dorion deemed him not good enough, should be what cautions Ottawa. The Swede was flipped for an ageing Derrick Brassard and has since gone on to become a premier first-line centre. Not to say Logan Brown will automatically become a 40 goal scorer, but it’s more likely to stick in the NHL with somebody than becoming an AHL-tweener.

The argument that Logan Brown hasn’t actually done anything to earn his spot in Ottawa is somewhat valid. The easy route would’ve been for him to come to camp and outperform some of his peers, forcing his way onto the roster. But, if the Senators really want to judge their team on results then a low-scoring team with only four wins could probably benefit from another offensive-thinking centre. Plus, it’s not like Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov and Austin Watson are exactly helping Ottawa at the moment.

After tonight, the Belleville Senators will have eleven days off before they play another game. So, this now becomes a pivotal time in the story of Logan Brown and the Ottawa Senators. If they’re ever going to call him up and give him a shot, now is the time to do it while he has no AHL commitments. Should Ottawa choose to keep their roster as is for that stretch, then a split will become pretty evident, leaving a pretty stubborn reflection on Pierre Dorion and his management team.

If this is the end for Logan Brown, then there’s no question that plenty of other teams in the NHL would be interested in him, given his pedigree and potential. However, the Senators must caution themselves, as giving up on the player so soon may come back to haunt them once again.

All stats via NaturalStatTrick