You Hit The Ice With The Team You Have, Not The Team You Want.


So, as it is looking more and more likely Heatley remains in the fold (therefore he’ll be traded today, lol), this leaves Murray with some decisions to make.

Up front, with Heatley skating, and presumably performing, Ottawa has the most dynamic offense since the Alfie, Havlat, Spezza, Heatley days.

This is no small improvement.

Long has been the cry for more secondary offense, and with the addition of Kovy, suddenly the Sens have two legitimate scoring lines.

For the sake of argument (and discussion), this is how I see the top 2 lines shaking out;

Heatley – Spezza – Alfredsson

Foligno – Fisher – Kovalev.

That’s pretty impressive.  Sure, the second line lacks the scoring depth of the top line, but what NHL team doesn’t?

Kovalev, or Alfie, on the second line, brings a key dimension of puck control, and play-making, previously lacking.  Now Fisher can focus on puck retrieval, then go to the net, the same for Foligno, while Kovy (presumably) draws the bulk of the defensive attention.  The ability of both Kovy, and Alfie (in many ways, when both at their best, near identical players) to control the play, and create opportunities for line-mates to find open ice, is deadly.  Sure neither Fisher nor Foligno are snipers in the truest sense of the word, but heck, neither is Franzen, but he does some serious damage thanks to the play of Zetts or Datsyuk.

The bottom six is where Ottawa is developing some intriguing depth.  When no longer relied upon to contribute (although they will, with more attention being focused on the top two lines) suddenly these “character” guys can really do what they do best.  Skate, bang and agitate.

One of the biggest victims of the lack of secondary scoring has been Kelly.  He’s no scorer, and, with his contract, when goals were needed, fair or not, he was being looked to for offense.  Well, it wasn’t fair.  Kelly was not signed to be an offensive threat.  He was signed to be a solid 3rd line 2 way guy, who can win face-offs, play physically, and be relied upon in every facet of the game BUT offense.  This may seem like small potatoes, but it’s not.  As Heatley is a great sniper, he lacks in virtually every other department.  Kelly may be no sniper, but in virtually every other facet of the game, he’s average to superior.  Should he be able to return to his “comfort zone”, look to see him also provide more offence, albeit, not more than 15-20 G’s.

Remaining on the bottom six are;

Neil, or “ginger” (hat tip to the6thsens) – A rugged, increasingly reliable banger/agitator/fighter, who can provide 10+ min. a game, with very little maintenance, although he needs to keep his minor PIM’s in check.

Winchester, who, under Clouston, began to find his niche as a straight line checker/agitator, with some intriguing defensive upside.  He’s character guy, and the kind of player that both keeps the opposition looking behind them, and inspires his teammates into playing a few pounds bigger than they really are.  He may not be a fighter, but as a banger/agitator/defender, he’s coming into his own.

Bass, or Neil v.2.  He may not develop into the light heavy-weight Neil once was, but he should become a decent middle-weight, and like any good bottom 6, he can really get under your skin with both his body checks, and his gift of the gab.  I see this being a big year for Bass.

Regin, is this the year he makes the bigs?  Probably depends on what happens with Schoobie, but if he does get his chance I’d expect him to develop into much the same player as Kelly, or possibly even Vermette.

Last but not least, Donnovan.  A little bit of everything, but not enough of anything.  With some youngins’ looking to crack the line-up, Chum will have to step it up, or risk finding himself as the new Schubert.

My bottom six;

Regin – Kelly – Neil

Winchester – Bass – Donnovan

Off this list is Shannon.  I like Shannon, but in order to earn a regular shift he’ll have to prove he’s a bonafide top 6.  Basically, he’ll be competing with Foligno.  He just doesn’t have the size to play bottom six, especially on a team deep in bottom six talent.  If he does earn that top 6 role, look to see Foligno taking Regins slot, and he returning to Bingo and assuming the role of #1 injury replacement forward. At the very least, Shannon will be the #1 top 6 injury replacement player, and that can be steady work in today’s NHL.

Lastly is the defense, and this is where Murray and co. will face their greatest challenge.  I’m under the assumption Smith is either going to retire, or remain on the long-term IR.  I don’t know this, but considering the Sens cap situation, if he is returning, I’m surprised Murray hasn’t yet trimmed pay-roll.  So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume Smith will not be included in the cap.

Volchy, Phillips and Kuba are all locks for 3 of the top 4 slots.  Unfortunately, after that, it becomes a game of musical pairings.  Is Lee ready to assume a top 4 role?  He wasn’t last season, but he is known as a late bloomer at every level.

What about Campoli?  Sure he was brought in to provide transition, and offense, but will he begin to live up to projections and be a legit #4 guy?

Lastly, Picard.  I like this kid, and yes, he struggled at times last season, but he also did some good things.  The fact is, every defenseman struggled last season, and as a new roster member, and a relatively new NHL’er, to expect a stunning performance out of him was beyond reasonable.  This is not to say he will be any better this season, but, if he has become more comfortable, and has less pressure due to playing on a team less offensively challenged, there’s no reason he can’t pull a Preissing and appear better than he really is, thanks to a cherry #6-7 role.  That goes for any of the names mentioned.  The real issue is the #4 slot.  The fact is, based upon historical performances, the Sens lack a legitimate #4 Dman.  But, they do have potential #4 Dmen.

That brings us to Karlsson.  Honestly, I don’t see him making this club.  Not because he lacks skill, but because he lacks experience, and to a lessor degree, size.  To ask a young, small defenseman to leap from the SEL, where he played a limited role, into the NHL, is bordering on development suicide.  The kid’s going to be good, so I say let him get there in a reasonable time frame, and reap the benefits, versus rushing him, stifling his confidence and image, in the long term.  The truth is, with all the hype around him, rightly or wrongly, he’ll be viewed as a difference maker by the fans, and if he doesn’t live up to that billing, he’ll suffer all the more for it.

In goal, no surprises, it’ll be Pascal and Brian.  Hopefully heavy on the Pascal, giving Brian some valuable time in the NHL, without the pressure of having to deliver on a nightly basis.

I’m guardedly optimistic about the season.

What about you?

GN

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12 Responses to “You Hit The Ice With The Team You Have, Not The Team You Want.”

  1. Master of Puppets Says:

    I find it hard to think Shannon will be left off. Speed is the name of the game these days and we’ll need it against the Habs with their little mites running around. I’d put Foligno with Spezza and Alfie for awhile and see if Heater and Kovi could spark the Fish (at least pad his assist totals). Either way Shannon and Foligno (Fisher too) will be in well with the Big 4. I hope to hell they’ve worked on foot speed this offseason.

  2. GN

    Your top six…”Scary!” Offences don’t grow they “leap”…in confidence and productivity.

    Third line, Shannon and Kelly will skate Neiler off the 3rd line and you can’t have Ruutu and Chris on the same line so Ruutu moves up.

    That leaves Chum, the rifle and the light heavy on the 4th line.

    NOTE: I have played on a team with a Shannon type speedster…he’s so fast he makes everyone “look” slow and “feel” bad.

    Lee @ Number 1 with Philippé. Our Western all star has got to show up!

    #4 and #24 book it!

    Campoli from the 5 hole is going to pull a young Corvo…you’ll think you’re watchin’ Bobby Orr. And Picard will be in position to move forward or defend …what ever is required. I shall start to gather tape on him for a “How to” book not for kids but for pro coaches on how to play defence positionally.

    Note 2: 5-6 D-men win a lot of hockey games often the are the difference between evenly matched teams.

    Elliott will show Pascal the trapper…the competition is on. The last time the Senators had goaltending like “this”…it was Alec Connell vs Clint Benedict (both Hall of Faimers) and we won the Stanley Cup.

  3. I also think you are underestimating Shannon. Shannon made Vermette expendable, since they were both similar type of players (fast/ good for the penalty kill) and Shannon seemed to me to have a better scoring touch (albeit, Vermette was useful for faceoffs). Plus, the line at the end of last year with Shannon/Fisher/Alf were fantastic, and will be the 2nd line in my opinion. Foligno will fit in well with the third line. Obviously Clouston saw what he had in Shannon in Binghamton and I think will give him the opportunity to succeed in Ottawa.

  4. Tim Macneill Says:

    I´d like to see Lee with Phillips. When he was one of our best playoff defensemen as a call-up, that´s who he played with and he excelled. He played really well at the end of last season too. I feel like it is his time to show himself as a legitimate top 2 or 4 guy. I hope they can get Shanon in there somewhere, but I agree, it doeas look difficult. And where is Ruttu? It looks like Murray has a few small pieces to move to make this work. I have alot of confidence in a Foligno, Fisher, Kovy line and Shanon is waiting in the wings, so I actually don’t think the way to go is to look for a top-six guy. The bottom six does get a bit complicated, but any way you form it, it has to be one of the nest in the league. Seriously the only change that might be good to make at this point is the freeing up of some space or trading to try and get a top4 d, but with the prospects the team has, this would be just a band-aid move until the young blue-chip guys are ready.

    Is it strange that I don´t see any need to change this team? Is that just wishful thinking? If everybody plays at potential I feel like it is a contender, especially if they save a bit of cap space to grab either top3 foreward or top2 d and the trade deadline. The question, as with any team, is ¨will they play at potential?¨ After the last two seasons, I feel like they will play like they have something to prove, but really it depends on two people: Cloustin and Heatley. If the former can motivate, and the latter can play inspired, non-cry-baby hockey and not be a charma-cancer, then this team is a serious contender in my opinion.

  5. Tim Macneill Says:

    Terry K, I don´t remember Shannon-Fisher-Alf, but I remember Shannon-fisher-Foligno last season, and that line was fantastic. Did they really put that line together at times? Shannon is a right-winger right? Does he play on his off-wing sometimes? Is he effective when he does? I hope so. If he plays on the left, Shannon-Fisher-Alfie/Kovy would be amazing and moving Foligno to the third line as a result would create an amazing Foligno-Kelly-Neil/Ruttu/Regin thing. and fourth line: awesome. Please tell me Shannon plays on the left! If he does, I love this team.

  6. Sheesh, forgot all about Ruutu…hmmm, saya a lot! He was a ghost last season.
    As for Shannon, well, MOP, you’ve got 7 guys taking up 6 spots! Heater, Spez, Alfie, Fish, Kovy, Foligno and Shannon. Somebody has to go, unless you’re excluding Heatley…
    I struggle with the Shannon part too. I do like him, he’s tenacious, a hard worker, and never stops moving, but…size, it precludes him from the bottom six. I dunno, I call it a wait ‘n’ see between him & Foligno.
    Adding Ruutu to the mix makes the bottom six extremely congested…who goes?
    Obviously the fact that Regin is not waiver eligible makes him the easiest to demote, after that…waive Schoobie? Waive Chum? Make a trade for a pick?
    Chum, Schubert are a pick’em on this team. Chum has more off ice character, but Schoobs is more versatile in being a swing man.
    Depth is good, but cap space is at a premium…something will have to give.
    My bet…Schoobs to DAL for a pick or middling prospect.

  7. TM,
    Will they perform…I dunno. But I do know last years SC champs nearly missed the post season until they turned it around, so yeah, optimism is allowed.
    GN

  8. Ya dance with what ya brung! Original accurate Texas Quote! Often re-treaded.

    Zubov with Regin (“diggin”) and Kovy (poachin’)…for two days of two a day, playin’ that high, passive Russian Center game??? Man would that shake it up…Shannon, Fish and Nick as your 3rd line.

    Tim Mac: Originally had #55 and #4 together …chemistry…with Picard with Philippé, cause #17 is good but is everywhere on the ice and takes advantage of Alexandre’s positional play…I want Mr. Kuba to earn his money. Finally 14 and 24 would need some time together they are not a natural pair.

    Now Carvel takes the forwards and the power play…CC gets to grind with our DEFENCE every practice. The Big line goes against the Russians every day so Dany thinks he’s goin’ to score 50 again and everyone is happy.

  9. Erik Karlsson was a top pairing Defenseman for Frolunda towards the end of the year and in the playoffs. I think it would be a must that he has to be paired with a veteran guy like Volchenkov, Phillips, or Kuba, but he could be a passable defenseman for Ottawa next season.

    He wasn’t playing in a limited role and he progressed a great deal before his season ended there. He’s not a very big guy, but he will play the game big. He doesn’t shy away from physical contact and finishes his checks every time. He will be somewhat of a liability because he lacks some experience, but I do feel that he can make important contributions offensively to make up for that. He’d be a fixture on the PP unit, and he could turn our special teams even more lethal with the way he handles the puck.

    Not too many people actually watched him in the SEL, but I did, and what I saw was very positive with the way he finished the year. He’s apparently also added some weight as well and could very well come into training camp weighing 180. I wouldn’t say he’s a lock for the team, but he’s not a longshot as most people were thinking.

  10. Alex:

    Eric Karlsson is a 19 year old man-child…have you ever seen the guy up close…he’s 5’10”, 155 lbs…give the kid a break…he’s one of the few up and coming defencemen who is mentally ready…but if he tries to play it physical, he breaks himself up on the rocks of the NHL.

  11. Karlsson is 5’11”, and is now 175. These were the latest numbers from his physicals he took at the July prospects camp. It’s entirely possible that he could gain some extra weight, before training camp too. He’s been working out all summer and working to bulk up, and on a strict diet to build muscle.

    There are actually some examples of fairly small defensemen doing very well. Tobias Enstrom, Kris Russel, and Alex Gogiloski. There aren’t scrubs either, for young prospects they put in 20-30 pts and move the puck extremely well. If Erik weighs in at 180 come training camp, then there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be given a shot.

  12. Alex: the normal trainer’s inflation rate for the roster/program is 1′ and 10lbs…Example Schub at 6’3″ 230lbs is really 6’2′ 220lbs.

    Don’t get me wrong I think the kid is terrific…@ 21 years and a legit 185 let’s go to the Show…we do not need another defenceman banged up early in his career. Some of the hits Lee has taken and got up has left me holding my breath!

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