It is one of the most commonly heard lockout phrases (right up there with the two that always warm the heart — ‘hockey related revenue’ and ‘core economic issues’).
The phrase: Nobody wins in a lockout.
True enough, hundreds of NHL and game day employees have already been hurt by the lockout. Players and their families will soon begin losing money as the first paycheques are missed. All 30 franchises are going to suffer in some way, although many southern teams are just as happy not to compete with American football and MLB playoffs this fall.
If everyone loses in some way, all that remains is for hockey fans to search for those small silver linings that may stem from this shutdown.
From a hockey perspective, each team is going to be affected differently, depending on the stage of the hockey program. Generally speaking, teams with mature, contending rosters are going to be hit harder. Not only could an extended lockout potentially rob the best NHL clubs of a chance to win a Stanley Cup, they might find that the window of contention closes quickly after a lost season.
For the sake of discussion, the Ottawa Senators are in a vastly different place than they were for the 2004-05 lockout. (See column file No. 565: How the 04-05 lockout might have cost the Senators a Stanley Cup).
At the time, the Senators assumed they would be contending for years to come. Captain Daniel Alfredsson was just 31, and while the team lost Marian Hossa right after the lockout, his replacement, Dany Heatley, joined with Alfredsson and Jason Spezza to temporarily become the highest scoring line in hockey.
While the Senators did reach the 2007 Cup finals, they haven’t since won a playoff series. By late winter of the 2010-11 season, the retooling was full on, and in 2011-12, the Senators finished a pleasantly surprising 8th in the Eastern Conference with a young roster: 10 Senators aged 25 and under played at least 30 games last season.
All of which brings us around to where the Senators are today, in the early stages of another NHL lockout. A young team, on the verge of getting younger – depending on how some of the recent draft picks pan out – Ottawa is in the relatively enviable position of bering able to give several of its prospects a chance to develop as professionals, without having to make the leap to the NHL.
First to come to mind are the recent and not so recent draft selections in need of North American “seasoning.” (There’s a sports word that has become lost. Broadcasters used to announce that a player was sent down to the minors “for seasoning”).
JAKOB SILFVERBERG: We’ll say it – a lockout could be Silfverberg’s silver lining, if he settles into a nice season in the AHL after scoring more than a point per game with Brynas of the Swedish Elite League last season. Silfverberg, who turns 22 on Saturday, needs time to adjust to hockey and culture on this side of the pond. Maybe he would have jumped into a lead role with the Senators, no prelude required, but this way he can start out with the bus league, with little pressure.
MIKA ZIBANEJAD: If it’s possible to use the word “bounceback” for a player so young, it might be the case with Zibanejad, who had a difficult season with Djurgardens, including concussion issues. Ziba’s early returns (Binghamton pre-season) are encouraging. As Ottawa’s highest draft pick (6th overall, 2011) since Spezza was selected second overall in 2001, Zibanejad’s stock has fallen in the view of some, but let’s not forget he’s still a teenager.
PATRICK WIERCIOCH: After a career-threatening throat injury last season, the lanky defenceman wanted to prove himself at Ottawa’s camp. Instead, this second-round 2008 pick will have a chance to display his off-season strength program in Binghamton. He needs to be an impact player this season to show he’s ready for the next step.
MARK BOROWIECKI: The way Senators general manager Bryan Murray termed it last spring, he hoped one of Wiercioch or Borowiecki would step up up to make the NHL club this season. This was back in those innocent days when hockey people naively imagined there would be a full NHL season. While Wiercioch has made strides with his strength, Borowiecki continues to be a rock on defence for Binghamton, putting up 127 penalty minutes along with 22 points in 73 games last season. Borowiecki aims to be ready to make the jump when the NHL gets back to business.
JARED COWEN: Binghamton is about the last place Cowen wants to be, following a solid NHL rookie season: 82 games played, nearly 19 minutes per game, 17 points, a -4. But considering the 21-year-old has hardly played in the AHL (10 playoff games in 2011), it won’t hurt him to go back and dominate at that level, the way centre Spezza did at age 21 in 2004-05.
We didn’t even get to some others who could make an impression in Binghamton, including two forwards out of junior — J.P. Pageau, who impressed in the pre-season, and Mark Stone, a WHL scorer who will benefit from the challenge of keeping up in the ‘A.’
A good year for Binghamton in 2012-13, could reap rewards for Ottawa in “normal” seasons down the road.