Frank Dukes from the Ottawa Herald got an in-depth look into the mind of Ottawa GM Mike Bell after his Senators clinched a playoff spot.
The team that everyone saw as a sure shot non-playoff last place team came together at the mid point of the season and never looked back! Here's the interview, enjoy!
Frank : Let's not lose any time on this, phenomenal job on revamping this team and keeping your promise which was to make the playoffs. Now, when was it that you decided that you needed to make some changes to you team?
Mike : Well, i gave myself 20 games to see what would happen! We all know that we slid down to last in the whole league at around the 20 games mark! I had hopes that around games 10 and up that the leaders in Drew Doughty, Aaron Ekblad, Jacob Markstrom, and Jack Eichel would be able to turn things around! Well at game 20, it was time to change things drastically and all the above mentioned where traded away!
Frank : Yes, I was getting to that question, you moved a good portion of your core team?
Mike : Actually I moved the whole core of the team! To me, a winning team starts at the Goalie position and then a solid D core and then the forwards! 3 good rotating lines with the 3rd line being a good defensive checking line who can score when needed! As much as we liked Markstrom, Doughty and Ekblad, and at one point Seth Jones was with Ottawa, none got the grit and leadership that was needed to make it happen!
Frank : But changing a team is risky no?
Mike : It is when your consistent yes, but when your last in the league, you don't have much to lose!
Frank : True! Tell me about the players you brought in?
Mike : Well every GM in this league knows I'm not one to give away more than is needed in a deal! It took lot's of call's and lot's of late night thinking offers over! But Sebastian Aho was a big piece I got in the Eichel deal. It was important to get a young player back, who could carry this team for years to come and oh did he not disappoint this year.
Then we got Jordan Binnington, who was younger and started to put huge numbers for us and in my book should be considered in the Vezina talks for turning this team around and the number of wins he racked up! Then it was time for the D core! In came Brett Pesce and Erik Johnson which changed the whole dynamic of our D core! Justin Faulk started playing at the level he is accustomed to and young phenom Brandon Carlo started to rack up the points and hits! Late in the year we picked up Johnny Boychuck which gave us 3 solid high DF dman lines who could hurt the opposing teams players and put up some points! Pesce with his +28 and Faulk with what should be a +40 points season are the reason for our success!
Then came the forwards who collectively put the points that where needed to get the wins! The likes of Aho, Teuvo Teravainen, J-G Pageau, Evgenii Dadonov, Jamie Benn, and Cam Atkinson did what needed to be done! But let's not forget the 3rd line where late pickup Brandon Tanev and Scott Laughton with James Neal did a fantastic job in getting the goals needed to win when the other lines had off nights!
And in all honesty, we where looking to move come trade deadline, but I strongly believe that the fact we didn’t move was the best thing to happen! Cause some of the teams that moved started sliding down the standings where we stayed balanced with wins and losses.
Frank : Now, it's playoff time, prediction?
Mike : Simple, the Cup in Ottawa! We called it at the beginning of the year and it's still the goal! I sincerely think and believe that this team is built for the playoffs! 3 strong lines and if Binnington plays like he should, then all is possible! It won’t be an easy task, lot’s of great teams this year, but it's going to be fun to watch, that's for sure!
Frank : It sure will! Thanks for this in-depth view of your past season and very first in the best league in the world, BEARD Hockey! Best of luck in the upcoming playoffs!
Mike : Thanks Frank and best of luck to all teams who will be battling it out come playoff time, what a rush it will be to watch!