“We are rebuilding” – Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators

“We are rebuilding”

The words that fans hate to see or hear from the front office.

Presidents, General Managers, Coaches have taken their turn speaking to the media and fans about their team going into a rebuilding mode.

Rebuilding mode means that the current hierarchy or roster of players has reached a plateau and there is little potential to build a championship squad.

In the National Hockey League, two (beloved Canadian) teams are in the middle of a rebuild – the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators.

The Montreal Canadiens have had a mediocre team over the last ten years. They have failed to reach the Stanley Cup finals (reached the conference finals in 2010 and 2014) and they had amassed a poor record after the 2017-2018 regular season.

The Ottawa Senators have also had a mediocre team over the last ten years. The greatest achievement was reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 2017 and failing to score one more goal in overtime of game 7 to defeat the eventual Stanley Cup champions – Pittsburgh Penguins. They had a very poor regular season record in 2017-2018.

The front office of both teams have announced that they are in rebuild mode and the fans are unhappy.

The Montreal Canadiens have a strong social media following that will be affected by this decision. They currently have 1.5M followers on Twitter, 1.6M likes on Facebook, and 526K followers on Instagram.

The Ottawa Senators are less popular on social media and they can expect to have less of a following. They currently have 570K followers on Twitter, 338K likes on Facebook, and 249K followers on Insta.

Aside from social media followers and fans, rebuilding has a deep impact on the mental health of the players.

In the last year, the Montreal Canadiens have focused on acquiring draft picks and young players that have controllable contracts. They have even given up on cornerstone players such as Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk. I will refrain from discussing the “trade” with the Nashville Predators…

For current players on the Montreal Canadiens, there are greater playing opportunities and less pressure for team success. Greater playing opportunities means that players rise in the hierarchy. They hold a greater spot in the pecking order and they stand to enjoy more ice-time on special teams. These opportunities will allow them to gain experience and reach their greatest levels of production, which will be critical when it comes to contract negotiations. Their production will be an indication of their annual salary and the term of their next contract.

As a counterpoint, talented teammates can help younger players secure greater contracts when they regularly played together on a line or when they received advice about the NHL lifestyle (Battochio, Schinke, & Stambulova, in submission). With talented veterans gone, young players will miss out on their advice and their help on the ice – limiting their productivity.

NHL management needs to understand the importance of veterans and their assistance in the growth of a younger group of players during a rebuild. It means that keeping Shea Weber and Carey Price to provide mentorship is critical.

It remains to be seen who will fill this mentorship gap among the forwards since they are a relatively inexperienced group, aside from Tomas Plekanec. 

In Ottawa, the Senators are facing a rebuild and the need for mentorship looks different. They recently sent one of the greatest players in their franchise’s history to the San Jose Sharks, Erik Karlsson. The remaining group of defensemen are young and they must undergo their development without any mentorship from a veteran defenseman.

Goaltending remains a strength with Craig Anderson in goal.

Among the forwards, there are still a few that remain from the 2017 Eastern Conference finals team. However, they don’t appear to have the reputation of providing mentorship. A recent news article showed that Bobby Ryan purchased a home in an isolated American town with hopes of escaping judgement. The Ottawa Senators have shopped his contract for the past year but there have been no takers. There is no evidence that Bobby Ryan will take on a leadership role or that the team requests that he provides any mentorship. 

There are two other great forwards on the team, Mark Stone and Matt Duchene. They will be unrestricted free agents after the 2018-2019 season meaning that leadership is not a priority for them. They want to set themselves up for lucrative multi-year contracts.

Aside from Bobby Ryan, there are other odd contracts from Marian Gaborik and Clarke MacArthur that seemed to have forced the Ottawa Senators into rebuild mode. The team will have inexperienced players but there is a caveat – young players are keen to prove themselves (ex. First player on the ice, attending optional skates, hit the gym without hesitation)

The team dynamics have declined after finishing in 30thplace last year but there is hope, Guy Boucher. Guy Boucher has coached for 21 years and he has a background in mental health. He understands the significance of playing according to the players’ strengths and it means that the 2018-2019 will be fast. 

In all, mentorship for both teams will ensure that young players gain valuable experience to reach their full potential in terms of productivity.

Without an emphasis on mentorship, and the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators are lacking mentors in certain areas, inexperienced players will play for themselves and fail to learn about the significance of team success and how it increases productivity meaning better future contracts.

Image Author: By Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA – Montreal Canadiens 3, Ottawa Senators 4, Centre Bell, Montreal, Quebec, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68290251

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