Nick Foligno congratulates Brian Elliott following a win against the Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
In the immortal words of former New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game!”
Not a terribly difficult concept to get your head around, is it? But there are some who have been lamenting the nice little run the Ottawa Senators have going in the late season, whining that it will ultimately cost the team a better draft choice – and presumably a better player – in the NHL draft in June.
That’s a rather myopic view. First of all, the Senators were never going to get their hands on John Tavares or Victor Hedman because it would have taken a run of ineptitude of epic proportions for Ottawa to be worse than any of the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, Atlanta Thrashers and Phoenix Coyotes this season.
It’s unrealistic to expect any team or player to accept losing under any circumstances and the tanking premise works on the logic that if a team can’t be one of the 16 that makes the playoffs, it should lose as many games as possible. Is that the kind of NHL people really want to have?
Plus, what will help the Senators more down the road, a player who might be able to make a tangible contribution in three or four years or the insight, experience and good vibes they’re getting with their late-season run?
If not for their work down the stretch, the Senators might never have discovered what a good coach Cory Clouston could be. There’s absolutely no doubt that will help the franchise going forward. Having a person behind the bench who has the attention of the players, along with some prolonged success, will do nothing but make the Senators feel better about what lies ahead.
Even though Brian Elliott will likely be supplanted as the No. 1 goalie next season in favor of Pascal Leclaire, do you think this latest run won’t help Elliott’s long-term development? Doesn’t a young player and future leader such as Nick Foligno learn more about himself and his team by the run the Senators are on these days?
The answer to those questions is a resounding yes. If the Senators scouts are doing their jobs, the team will still get a good player in this year’s draft. Tavares and Hedman, meanwhile, can continue to make their way as athletes playing for dysfunctional and poor-performing teams for the first couple of years of their careers.
Yes, this will be a good thing. After all, you play to win the game.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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