For the past two seasons, one of the Ottawa Senators' greatest flaws (along with inconsistent goaltending and the lack of an elite defenceman) has been insufficient offensive depth. The team has relied on the top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley to provide more than the lion's share of the team's offence, which has made it relatively easy for teams to focus their checking defencemen on that line and shut down the Senators. Players including Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, Jesse Winchester, Chris Kelly, Chris Neil, Cory Stillman, Alexander Nikulin, and Mike Comrie have all been given the opportunity, but were unable to provide the consistent offensive support necessary of second-line players. With the emergence of Nick Foligno and Ryan Shannon as two very different and equally dynamic developing players towards the end of the 2008-09 season, however, there may be a light appearing on the horizon in the Senators' search for secondary scoring.
|2008 - Nick Foligno||81||17||15||32||-10||59||7||0||2||0||145||11.7|
Foligno was inconsistent for this first one-and-a-half professional seasons, moving back and forth between Ottawa and Binghamton in the 2007-08 season without offering consistent scoring. The same was true for the first part of 2008-09, until he was a healthy scratch under Craig Hartsburg, and then offered a more significant role under Cory Clouston when Hartsburg was relieved of duty. Of Foligno's 32 points on the year, 19 of them (11G, 8A) came in the final 34 games of the season, not coincidentally the same period he was coached by Clouston.
Confidence has never been an issue with Foligno, and he has the right approach to the game and to his personal development. His attitude has the added benefit of getting under the skin of opposing players, and he is strong on the puck and a good net-crasher at even-strength and on the powerplay. If his inconsistency is behind him and he can continue his development, Foligno will be a significant part of the Senators for 2009-2010 and years to come.
|2008 - Ryan Shannon||35||8||12||20||-1||2||3||0||1||0||61||13.1|
Shannon wasn't really expected to provide for the Senators. Although he won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, he arrived with little fanfare after a late off-season trade with the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for veteran minor-league defenceman Lawrence Nycholat. He stepped into a significant role with the Binghamton Senators lineup early, though, and Clouston brought Shannon to Ottawa when the coach was promoted.
When Shannon was placed on a second line with Foligno and Mike Fisher, he offered the speed and quickness to avoid checks, turn over and recover pucks, find seams and openings and cut to the net in the midst of strong coverage, and backcheck like the dickens when necessary. One of the biggest hits against Shannon, his (lack of) size, allows him to get around opposing defencemen and frustrate them with his quickness in the offensive zone. Shannon is ayoung player on a very reasonable $600k one-way contract for next season. Because it's a one-year deal, one would expect Shannon to continue playing for his job.
Fisher also has some speed, but his main asset is strength. Foligno is a middle man, with less strength than Fisher and less speed and creativity than Shannon, but enough of each to be an effective second-liner playing as a hybrid to bridge the two extremes on that line. What the recipe cooks up, in the end, is an effective second-line that has defensive abilities to shut down opposing forwards, and the speed to kill on any turnovers that they may cause, offering some necessary and long overdue scoring depth in complement to the CASH Line--provided they can play with consistency.