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The most besieged GM in the NHL looks on the bright side

It's not easy being Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion. He was just forced to trade a potential 30-goal scorer for pennies on the dollar, faces a staredown with his franchise player and is a likely a year away from giving a very high draft pick to Colorado.

DALLAS -- Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion stood in front of the gaggle of cameras and microphones and smiled politely. He was upbeat and positive, talking about how excited everyone in the organization is to be at the 2018 NHL draft. He talked about getting two very good players in this draft and how much better his team would be next year.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d have no idea that he’s the most besieged GM in the NHL. In fact, if you polled the other 30 directors of hockey departments, there’s a good chance none of them would trade places with Dorion. Not only is his organization in shambles, he was just forced to trade a potential 30-goal scorer for pennies on the dollar, faces a staredown with his franchise player and is a likely a year away from giving a very, very high pick to the Colorado Avalanche. All the media training in the world could not extricate him from this particular rock and hard place.

So we’re going to cut Dorion some slack when it comes to his mixed messages. He was certainly delivering those when it came to talking about the Mike Hoffman trade. On the one hand, he said, “Our dressing room was broken,” but then insisted the deal was not an indictment of Hoffman’s character. “Trading Mike Hoffman was something we needed to do,” Dorion said. “Our dressing room was broken. We have to have a dressing room that wants to win together. The key components moving forward are character, leadership, accountability. And we’re very happy with the return we got on Mike Hoffman.”

Sure makes it sound as though there were character issues beyond the alleged ugly situation that developed between Hoffman’s fiancée and Erik Karlsson’s wife, Melinda. Particularly when Dorion pointed out that his hockey department had no inkling of discord between the two players through the season and only heard “a rumor” about the situation after the players had already departed for the summer. At the time, Dorion said he felt no need to investigate it because if they acted on every rumor they hear, they would not be able to do their jobs. Dorion said no player ever came to him or anyone in management about the situation. He said he has spoken to the team three times in two years and the message has always been that players are free to come to him with any personal or professional matters outside of ice-time complaints.

“It’s disappointing that not one player came to us this year and I can’t blame them,” Dorion said. “We can’t blame them. Maybe we should have been more clear about our open-door policy. Maybe we’re going to have to make sure they really understand that. We care about our players. We want to have success as a group.”

With respect to the situation with assistant GM Randy Lee, Dorion would not directly answer the question of why it took two weeks to suspend him after an alleged incident at the NHL scouting combine in Buffalo that resulted in Lee facing a harassment charge. Lee is alleged to have made lewd comments and rubbed the shoulders of a 19-year-old male hotel shuttle driver on May 30. The Senators did not suspend him despite the fact that part of his job description is to deal with young players. “We, as an organization, had to do our due process,” Dorion said. “At the same time, there has never been one incident recorded against Randy Lee in 23 years and I think we should put that on the record. And before people jump to conclusions we talk about facts because it is a legal proceeding.”

It’s important to note that neither the Hoffman nor the Lee situation was of Dorion’s doing, but the handling of them in the aftermath was definitely partly his doing. Now he faces the situation with Karlsson and whether or not to trade him this weekend at the draft. Although he would not discuss particular players, it has to be an incredibly vexing situation. Dorion said the Senators would almost certainly keep the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft, which means they’ll have to surrender their first-round pick next year to the Colorado Avalanche as part of the Matt Duchene trade. The Senators were the second-worst team in the league this season with Karlsson. How would they do without him? What if they finish last overall and have to hand over the prospect of picking Jack Hughes to the Avalanche? That might be an even bigger disaster than the one he faces now.

Of course, Dorion was hearing none of it. He’s convinced the Senators will be a better team in 2018-19 and said there’s a very good chance the No. 4 pick will be in their lineup next season. In fact, he would not rule out the possibility of the No. 22 pick cracking the lineup as well. Assuming the Buffalo Sabres take Rasmus Dahlin and the Carolina Hurricanes take Andrei Svechnikov with the top two selections, the Senators will be assured of having a chance to take one of Filip Zadina or Brady Tkachuk with their pick.

“All I can tell you and tell our fans is that we’re going to be greatly improved next year,” Dorion said. “We’re really looking forward to this draft. We’ve got two players we know are going to be really good players. I just left a meeting with our scouts and I don’t think that in my over 20 years in the NHL, that I’ve been excited about having two picks. I’m really happy for this organization and the direction we’re going.”

Some might look at Dorion’s comments and think he’s essentially whistling past a graveyard. But as the most besieged GM in the NHL, he really has no other choice in the matter.

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