Strategic Vs. Tactical.
Tactically speaking, this pre-season has had more losses than wins. The opening game versus the Buds was a pleasant start, particularly considering the competitive comparison between the two rosters, but since then, the Sens prospect laden rosters have suffered back to back defeats. No die hard fan, no matter how sophisticated, can help but cringe at a loss, meaningless or no.
But within these tactical defeats lies a strategic victory. Competition.
Strategically speaking, the twin sole purposes of pre-season are to;
- Help veterans get into game form
- Determine club depth, and roster positioning.
To this extent, the pre-season has been very successful.
At the top six forward level, the Sens are seeking the filling of the L2 position. To date this had been seen as a battle between Foligno and Regin, with outside chances for Butler, Wick and Shannon. Foligno has the lead, as, in the games he has played, he has been an impact player.
By all accounts Regin, who in last night game, had his first opportunity to make an impact of his own, did so. He may not have scored, but was a player of note, on the very line he is hoping to catch on with.
On the defensive side, the Sens are looking to see who will fill the 6th and 7th spots on the blueline. This was further complicated with the recent long term injury to Kuba. Campoli, Lee, Hale, Cowen, Wiercioch and Gryba came into camp with an edge to filling the vacancies. To date, Lee has impressed the most. He has come to camp ready to compete, both mentally and physically. He seems ready to assume a more defensive role, and, most importantly, willing and able to assume a more physical role. This is a huge progression is his development, and Lee deserves a ton of credit for making the improvement. This was done in large part with the guidance of Matt Cullen, with whom Lee spent the off season, in getting prepared for the up coming season. Lee is bigger, stronger, faster, and is showing an impressive edge to his game. Way to go Brian.
Campoli, Hale, Cowen, Wiercioch and Gryba are a mix bag of results. Each has shown some good, and some bad. On the plus, in his one game to date, Gryba was a willing combatant, and showed an ability to bring a physical dimension to a blue-line in need of this particular skill set. But, all in all, most of these players will be given more time to show development as the pre-season progresses. I would expect to see Hale and Wiercioch demoted to the AHL sooner rather than later, where they are expected to be impact players. As Hale finished last season in the NHL, he will be required to pass through waivers…the sooner the better, as with more time will come more injuries, making the likelihood of his being claimed all the greater. None of Wiercioch, Cowen or Gryba are waiver eligible.
Cowen, because of his AHL in-elligibility, is an interesting concern. He, unless he fails to progress, or regresses, will quit likely survive camp, and be awarded a taste of the NHL before being returned to the WHL.
Gryba remains to be seen, as he has competed in only one game.
Campoli will not be demoted, as he would definitely be lost to waivers, but, with the strong play of Lee, he may be on the block should the team not suffer any further injuries before the start of the regular season.
Goaltending was not an area we expected to see much roster competition, outside of who would emerge as the #1, but Lehner made a strong case for himself by posting a tremendous shut-out performance in game one. Combine that with a shaky start by Elliott, and an average start from Leclaire, and you have the rumblings of the “v. 2010/11 Ottawa Senators goaltender controversy”.
I say spare me. It was one game, for all involved, and if Ottawa fans should have learned anything about goaltending, it’s to not make too much of small sample sizes. Lehner performance will have done more to solidify him as a legitimate prospect, and will help to initiate his campaign to be seen as the Sens #3, ahead of Brodeur, but will have no impact on his chances for making the roster right out of camp. This is simply NOT going to happen.
So, am I disappointed thus far in pre-season, well, it depends, are you asking me tactically, or strategically?