I have to admit, keeping their draft position in mind, the Senators losses are starting to go down like Buckley's - it's awful but it works.
The fun for the moment is wondering about next year's potential. For example, the Senators' college interns have been extremely impressive. However, I continually hear people say things like,"Bobby Butler, Erik Condra and Colin Greening are all nice young players but they certainly don't have potential to be top six forwards."
Before Bryan Murray goes shopping in free agency, overpaying for someone in the auction, I thought it would be a good exercise to try and define exactly what we mean when we say a player has "top six potential".
Let's tackle the first liners. Many people probably think first liners are all for good for a point-a-game pace. If that were true, we'd have 90 players with 82 points or more.
Know how many there actually are? Ten. Of those who've played 60 games or more, there are only 10 on a point a game pace this season. Ten.
Let's say we held an open draft right now and teams could only draft forwards to make up their top 3, they'd likely whip out the stat page and take the top 90 scorers in the game right now.
Daniel Sedin would be the best top 3 forward. He's on pace for 104 points. Your worst top 3 forward is Scott Hartnell, on pace for just 50. So 50-104 pts makes you a "first liner".
What about the second tier of "top six" forwards? I mean, what kind of offensive dynamo must you be to be a second line forward in the NHL - the 91st to 180th best scorers in the game? Well, 50 points is your best second liner. Your low end guy is on pace to finish this season with just 34 points - Pittsburgh's Pascal Dupuis.
Did you think 34 points would be enough for people to consider you a top six forward in the NHL? Probably not.
Now let's look at the pace of the aforementioned Senators.
Butler - 39pts
Condra - 37pts
So their pro-rated numbers make them players with lower end "top six forward potential" right now. Then factor in comfort level next season - a full camp, feeling like you truly belong, not playing with the deer-in-the-headlights expression. Who knows? Maybe they have even more to offer. They all put up points (grade average and scoresheet) as captains of their NCAA teams and got better every season.
Now, they shouldn't clear off their Bingo cards just yet - it's just too early. I'm not willing to make any guarantees with these guys. But based on their hustle, intelligence and production so far, I'm not prepared to dismiss this college class either. At the very least, they can play on my third line any day.
(Photo courtesy 0f the Ottawa Citizen)