The Ottawa Senators have officially been eliminated from the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean they’re finished playing just yet.
In fact, the past few weeks have been some of the Sens’ best this season. In their last ten games, they are 7-2-1, the best in the North Division in that stretch.
The Value of a High Draft Pick Vs. Winning Games
As the end of the season approaches, the Ottawa Senators have nothing tangible to play for. In reality, winning games only harms them by worsening their draft position. As a result, there is a reason to believe that it is better for the Sens to lose their remaining games. However, there are non-tangible reasons for winnings games that could help the Sens down the line.
Wining their final four games of the season could result in the Sens finishing with a draft position somewhere from 6th to 8th. While this is still a great position to get a high-end draft pick, it’s not as good as it could be. However, this year is very different from normal years.
There is not a clear consensus number one overall pick. In fact, the top six to seven picks are all in flux. With that in mind, winning some games to end the season could pay dividends for the team next year.
It is common for rebuilding teams to successfully accumulate young talent and then struggle to establish a winning culture. This is especially true for teams that completely blew things up and lacked quality veteran players from their most recent playoff teams.
Buffalo is a great example of a team that has accumulated an incredible amount of young talent, including franchise players like Eichel and Dahlin, but they cannot seem to make things work. Florida and Carolina are other teams that struggled with this for years before breaking through to contender status recently.
One of the worst things that can happen to a young team is accepting losing as the norm. Winning games to end this season should give them confidence down the road and help them start better next season.
The Phases of a Rebuild
When a team decides to start a rebuild there are different phases. Some phases are easier than others, and some teams have different strengths that make different sections of the rebuild easier.
A rebuild usually starts by trading away the best players you have for high draft picks and high-end prospects. This section of the rebuild is by far the easiest. Yes, there are teams that get better value for their players than others, but ultimately, selling your best players for picks and prospects is not difficult.
The next phase is drafting their future talent with high picks, along with hopefully a few diamonds in the later rounds to help the team out. This is the phase of the rebuild that the Ottawa Senators management is best suited for. For all his faults, Pierre Dorion is an exceptional draft, and it has shown in this phase of the rebuild.
Once a team has accumulated enough young talent it is time to start rising in the standings. This is where the Ottawa Senators find themselves going into next season. They will add another high-end pick at this year’s draft, and then their main focus next season will be to be competitive.
They don’t need to make the playoffs, but they’re in the phase of the rebuild where they need to start building that winning culture. One of the best times to do that is after the trade deadline when veterans have been shipped out. The Ottawa Senators are doing just that, performing better now than they have in years.
The final phase of the rebuild is where the rebuilding team has made the playoffs once or twice, and now they are looking to start contending. To do this teams need to make shrewd signings and smart trades to fill out the roster.
Building a Winning Culture
Drafting first overall in this draft would be fantastic, but in a strange year like this, it is not necessary. At this point, it is highly unlikely that they will get passed by the Sabres, Ducks, or Devils. So, the best position they could be before the draft lottery of fourth overall.
The difference between fourth and eighth is not as big in a year like this, so it is better for the young players to win some games and build confidence. There is still a decent chance that they could jump up into one of the top two spots by winning the lottery.
However, if they don’t, they will still get a good player. There’s no reason for Ottawa Senators fans to feel conflicted about winning right now, it’s better for the long run.