• Elite Hockey Experience
 

Visiting the Office Of...Jameson Fletcher

2019-05-08

  

Welcome once again to "Visiting the Office Of...", an interview series brought to you by the Elite Hockey Experience.

This time around we caught up with Jameson Fletcher, long-time general manager of the Ottawa Senators, and the first Stanley-Cup winning GM to take part in our series.

Enjoy!


Hello Mr. Phillips. This is an absolute honour, and I thank you for setting up this interview.

No problem Jameson, thanks for taking the time.

So, you've been with the EHE since the very beginning; did you have any experience in sim hockey before joining the league?

I have been involved in sim hockey since 2008, so over a decade in this game.

I started with an organization which has since folded, known as “The Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League”, or TUFHL, as it is normally referred to as. I ran the Minnesota Wild in that league, with great success. I acquired many awards, such as Division Titles, President’s Trophies, Western Conference winning banners, but I was never able to capture the most coveted trophy, the Stanley Cup. I made it to the finals 3 times, but became the Buffalo Bills of TUFHL, never able to hoist the championship, despite many great seasons. Of my ten years in that league, I only missed the playoffs once.

TUFHL is where I met a few of my fellow EHE GMs. Most of those GMs are now gone, but there are three others left in the EHE. Cisco Valle of the Detroit Red Wings was in TUFHL before I started. I have always looked up to Cisco on how to build a strong roster that will last for years. The year I started was the big league reset with the full roster draft, so we started on even ground. I watched and studied how he drafted though, and I was always impressed.

Justin Hill of Tampa Bay was also in TUFHL, so three of the current GMs in the Atlantic were all from TUFHL. Even Florida, Montreal, and Toronto were all run by ex-TUFHL GMs, so the TUFHL brand was very strong in EHE in the beginning. I have also always been impressed with how Mr. Hill has been able to build his roster in both of the leagues as well. TUFHL folded before the big payoff for Hill happened in that league.

The reason that there was such a strong TUFHL presence in EHE would be because of the Founder, CEO and Commissioner of EHE, Kevin Lacy, is also a former TUFHL GM. I believe he started EHE due to frustration with the TUFHL management, and knew he could build a strong league. Mr. Lacy was determined to make the best sim hockey league out there. He recruited me in the beginning of EHE, as he believed I was a strong GM, and could be a strong foundation piece here.

What do you remember about the EHE Inaugural Draft? It must have been a tonne of work, but I bet it was a lot of fun, too.

The EHE Inaugural Draft reminded me a lot of the restart in TUFHL, so I had experience with such a massive draft. It was a little less work the second time around as I had my method and process down. It really is a lot of fun completely building your roster from the ground up. You just have complete control of what you want your team to look like. I really like the fact that the Inaugural Draft is still on the main page, so we can go back and reminisce of what we did. I like to go and analyze whether or not I made the right pick in a specific round.

One thing I specifically remember was when the Islanders picked Nathan McKinnon 4th overall. Most of the other GMs were on the NYI GMs case, because McKinnon had proven nothing yet, and he passed over every other player except Crosby, Stamkos and Tavares, to select him. It took a bit, but McKinnon is now definitely worth that 4th overall selection. He is now the center piece of a young, strong looking Islander roster, which looks to be a major force in the years to come.

My roster looks completely different from that team that I originally drafted, but three of my first four picks, Malkin, Crawford, and Yandle, have been very influential in my success in EHE so far.

Things certainly came together in 2015-16, as the Senators took home the President's Trophy with 117 points. Did you make any major changes to the roster to spark such a big improvement from the previous year?

The 2015-16 was certainly a fantastic season that everything just clicked during the regular season. There were a few factors. 

One was that Henrik Zetterberg and Zdeno Chara, who were acquired during the middle of last season, had a full year with the roster, and had more of an impact. Secondly, we made two acquisitions that really made the whole season. James Van Riemsdyk was acquired for Rick Nash, and Brian Elliot was acquired for Devan Dubnyk.

Now Rick Nash had a very good season with us the year before, getting 19 goals, 2nd most on team, and 37 points, 3rd most on the team. The JVR trade though changed everything. He was placed on a line with Brandon Sutter and Patric Hornqvist, and became one of the best two-way lines in EHE that year. They had an average of +37 and Hornqvist and JVR lead the team in points. Hornqvist was an all-star and the team MVP, while JVR was this added spark that was missing the year before.

The biggest difference however was goaltending. As mentioned before, Brian Elliot was acquired for Dubnyk, and he and Corey Crawford were the best goaltending tandem in the league. Crawford was 44-17-4 with a 2.22 GAA and 0.920 Sv %, and Elliot was 10-1-2 with a 2.21 GAA and a 0.923 Sv %. The year before, the goaltending was decent to downright bad at times.

The positivity of the season all ended in the playoffs, as we were swept by the Washington Capitals. The best two-way line in hockey was a -6 with a combined 2 points, and the goaltending was horrible.

In 2016-17 you reached the pinnacle of the EHE, capturing the Stanley Cup—and with a dominant performance to boot, as the Sens went 16-4 in the playoffs. How awesome does it feel to win the big prize? And is it true that winning the first one just makes you even hungrier to do it again?

I cannot even express how happy I was winning the Stanley Cup. The biggest prize in sim hockey had avoided me for nearly a decade at that point in two different leagues. I had won President’s Trophies, and made it there 3 times like I mentioned before, but I just kept on coming up short.

EHE is such a competitive league, so winning just felt like such an accomplishment. I always want to win every year, and my teams, and management of my teams reflect that. But now knowing that I was able to finally reach the peak of the mountain, makes we want to return to that spot even more.

The funny thing is, that Cup-winning group finished with the fewest points of any Sens team during your five full seasons as GM. Do you think anything can be read into that?

After the debacle of the playoffs for my President’s Trophy winning Sens the year before, I thought my team was going to have to go into a rebuild. I really didn’t want to, but I thought the building blocks of my team were crumbling. Zetterberg and Chara were getting older and I was worried about their production. My defence was not developing as I thought they would when I drafted them with DeKeyser, Scandella, Ceci and Beaulieu. I felt like I had to trade Hornqvist, the player who was MVP of the Sens the year before. Hudler was also moved.

I never gave up though. The Sens were on the outside looking in for most of the season, then the last bit of the season, Brian Elliot took over starting duties and we just kept winning. We went 7-1-2 in our last ten games and snuck into the playoffs with the 6th seed, even though we thought we were DOA a month earlier. The playoffs started and we just kept on that roll. We were like the current NHL Carolina Hurricanes. We had to keep on winning just to make the playoffs, and then once we got in, we just kept up the stellar play. Everyone contributed, all the way through the line-up. Michael Frolik had the 2nd most points for us in the playoffs, which was crazy.

The biggest surprise of the playoffs was sweeping the overwhelming favourites, the Colorado Avalanche, whom most had winning the Cup.

You made a huge splash in free agency last summer, handing Ilya Kovalchuk a three-year, $28 million contract with a $7.75 million cap hit. How would you rate that signing so far?

Definitely a risky signing when we made it, but we had some money to spend and we felt like we weren’t totally out of the championship picture like some of my fellow GMs predicted. Both he and Mike Hoffman have been huge this year, so we are very happy with the results so far.

Having the 4th most points in the league this year feels like quite the accomplishment so far. Though somehow, 2 of the 3 teams ahead of us are in our division, so we have a huge mountain to climb.

But just like our Cup winning year, we were not predicted to do well, and had a ton of challenges in front of us. This group, led by Evgeni Malkin, never stops, never quits, so I know we will be a tough out come playoff time.

Down in the AHL, the Belleville Senators have struggled to live up to their usual high standards this season. Do you think there's any particular reason for that?

The biggest reason is that we haven’t been able to acquire top prospects in the draft due to our pro team usually doing well, and trading prospects away. The other reason, some of our top prospects, like a Max Jones or a Shane Bowers, haven’t developed as quickly as we had hoped. I still felt like the B-Sens were playoff contenders at the start of the year, but that huge lull in the middle of the season really put them in a hole.

I actually see [them] taking an even bigger step back next year. Most likely Jordan Binnington and Anthony Cirelli will be making the pro team. We are not expecting any of our new prospects to come in and make a huge splash. We have also traded one of our two 1st rounders in this upcoming draft to acquire David Perron.

There might be a time going forward where we really try to develop our AHL squad, but for now, our window is still open for the Ottawa club, and success there is always our main priority.

What would you say is the best trade you've ever made in the EHE?

I would say that the most influential trade(s) I ever made were to acquire Henrik Zetterberg and Zdeno Chara, separately. I gave up Jamie Olesiak, Zach Fucale, Sven Andrighetto, and my 1st rounder (William Nylander) and 2nd rounder (Kasperi Kapanen) in 2015. Now those draft picks ended up being huge for NYI because of how that 2015 entry draft was, but the other players we gave up ended up not amounting to much. We were able to have lots of success and a Cup victory because of Zetterberg and Chara. I would make those trades in a heartbeat again, knowing the results.

Probably the best deal I made in terms of not giving a lot back for what we got would be trading Devan Dubnyk and Mike Sgarbossa for Brian Elliot and Rickard Rakell. Elliot both helped us acquire the President Trophy and even made it possible for us to reach the playoffs for our Stanley Cup winning season. Rakell developed into a really good player, and I flipped him and Jiri Hudler for Marcus Johansson and Eeli Tolvanen.

Are there any trades you wish you could take back?

I would say the worst deal I have ever made in EHE was trading Patric Hornqvist for Jack Dougherty and Cole Cassels. Even though I needed to trade Hornqvist that year, neither of those players developed into a pro player. I feel like if I got a do-over, I would have held out for better pieces.

What advice would you give to a GM just starting out in the EHE?

I would say, just have fun with it. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a sim hockey GM, and never allowed myself to get caught up in the politics of it all. I have seen lots of people get kicked out or leave due to disputes with other GMs. I have mostly stayed out of all of that, and just concentrated on building my team.

I mostly enjoy watching the players I have scouted, selected, signed, and traded for, play in the NHL. Watching your players develop in front of your eyes is one of the most rewarding things of sim hockey.

Grab your crystal ball and look at the state of the Senators three years from now. What do you see?

Wow, what a hard question. I honestly haven’t the foggiest. I am hoping to still be competing for the Cup, and continue my consecutive years in the playoffs. In three years time though, most of my current roster will have their contracts expire. I don’t even know who I would Franchise tag, as my FTs so far have been Malkin, Crawford and Yandle, and they are all approaching their final prime years. Chances are, this roster will look nothing like it will 3 years from now.

Well Jameson, that's all the time we have. Thanks again for sitting down to chat, and good luck the rest of the way this season!

Thank you so much Kyle, for having me. Best of luck with the rest of your GM interviews, and with the rest of your season. Take care!

Previous entries in the series;

Doug Waite, Vegas Golden Knights (April 2019)

Gilbert Dubois, Edmonton Oilers (March 2019)

Justin Hill, Tampa Bay Lightning (March 2019)

Travis Fleming, Vancouver Canucks (February 2019)

Duran Size, Montreal Canadiens (January 2019)

Cisco Valle, Detroit Red Wings (January 2019)

Shaun Stephens, St. Louis Blues (December 2018)




Brandyn Errickson

As a somewhat newer GM here, it's fun reading these and getting a bit of a backstory of the league and my fellow GM's. Another great read!

Visiting the Office Of...Jameson Fletcher

• 4 teams Like this  3 months
Cole Bates Totally agree Brandyn! Your work is appreciated Kyle. Nice read Gents
3 months  0 teams Like this
Cisco Valle

Awesome read as always, Great job boys! Also Thxs for the kind words Jameson, appreciate the awesome words.

Visiting the Office Of...Jameson Fletcher

• 4 teams Like this  3 months
Travis Fleming

Great read, as always!

Visiting the Office Of...Jameson Fletcher

• 4 teams Like this  3 months
Harald Geissler

great writing and yes jameson the rakell deal was great

Visiting the Office Of...Jameson Fletcher

• 4 teams Like this  3 months
Jared Mitchell

Good stuff. These are good reads.

Visiting the Office Of...Jameson Fletcher

• 4 teams Like this  3 months
Martins Auzins

Great work. Love reading these.

Visiting the Office Of...Jameson Fletcher

• 4 teams Like this  3 months