Updated: Sep 22, 2019
Being a hockey coach or a GM is a fascinating process, with so many decisions to make in planning your seasonal performance. Each decision is like chucking a stone in the lake. In the moment, it seems like a singular act, but the coach always needs to concern himself with the ripple effect.
Here on day one of training camp, the Ottawa Senators have decided on their leadership group for the coming season. My top preference would have been to give the letter C out to a veteran, who can wear it for a year or two until a new young leader emerges. I'd also have been just as happy to give it right now to Brady Tkachuk.
As expected, new head coach DJ Smith opted for three of the club's more veteran players in J.G. Pageau, Marc Borowiecki. and Ron Hainsey. No one gets the “C”, they'll all wear “A's.” Again, the Triple A program wouldn't be my first choice but it's certainly not a bad one either.
Pageau is a great selection – a good person, plays the game the way you want it played and I still believe there's still untapped offensive upside there, if he gets consistent linemates and power play time.
Hainsey and Borowiecki are a slightly different story as a lot of Sens fans are ripping those choices today. Their assignment as alternate captains virtually guarantees they'll be getting a great amount of playing time on the left side behind Thomas Chabot. This could certainly affect the playing time of some young stars on that left side.
Hainsey is an interesting choice since he has zero games as an Ottawa Senator. He and Smith were together in Toronto last season so the selection does have a “teacher's pet” feel to it. One would wonder how that plays with a veteran like Bobby Ryan, who's played over 400 games with the Senators. Or Thomas Chabot, who was the 10th best scoring defenceman in hockey last season.
Boro is a great guy and certainly brings maturity, physicality, fighting and leadership to the table. No one is second guessing that leadership. No one is suggesting he shouldn't wear the A. Some are suggesting he should be wearing the NHL jersey, that it's time to turn the page. He still makes a lot of mistakes out there and doesn't have the skill of Brannstrom, Christian Wolanin (now injured) or Max Lajoie.
I've nothing against Boro, but if Brannstrom or Lajoie prove to be better options during camp or sometime during the season – and I think they will – it's for sure going to be tough/weird seeing them in the press box or Belleville. Smith won't be dressing 7 D like his predecessor did. Perhaps the play will be to move Hainsey to the right side and maybe Christian Jaros is affected.
So Boro and Hainsey are both fine, stable choices in the short term. I'll defend Boro in the lineup because I'm old school and I still see value in the presence of a guy who can fight, especially on a bench with so much youth. The reality is, very few hockey decisions please everyone. Someone is always going to be annoyed, someone is always going to point out the possible consequences, or another road you should have gone down instead.
All you can do as a coach is try and minimize that noise, make the best decision you can and keep looking big picture.