Bryan Murray stated yesterday that he doesn't plan on adding any other players, making any more trades, or giving Jesse Winchester a new deal (video link), meaning that the Ottawa Senators line-up is more or less set. There will certainly be at least one or two rookies who make the team out of camp, but the bulk of the roster will be what we saw last year, with the following changes:
Looking to the prospects within the system, Don Cherry's favourite prospect Jakob Silfverberg seems to be a lock to find his way into the lineup, while any of Mika Zibanejad, Mike Hoffman, Stephane Da Costa or Mark Stone could also force their way into a forward spot. On the blueline, Mark Borowiecki appears to have the best shot at finding a job as a seventh defenseman, while Patrick Wiercioch or Cody Ceci could also impress and push for a spot.
The last remaining question is whether Daniel Alfredsson retires or not, but it seems that most are operating under the assumption that he'll stick it out for one more year.
Taking that into mind, Ottawa's roster might look something like the following:
Silfverberg - Spezza - Michalek
Latendresse - Turris - Alfredsson
Regin - Z. Smith - Neil
Condra - O'Brien - Greening
Methot - Karlsson
Cowen - Gonchar
Phillips - Lundin
Some quick thoughts on this line-up, if it's at all close to what we see on opening night:
- Ottawa may have one of the better bottom six forward groupings in the league. I realize that it's hard to take too much comfort in having the strength of the lineup in the players who play the least minutes, but there's some serious value in it. The bottom six players have a good mix of offense (Regin, Greening), grit (Smith, Neil), and defensive awareness (Condra, O'Brien). Additionally, players like Greening and Regin have shown that they can also plug into the top six when needed and make contributions.
- Ottawa finished 24th last year in goals against per game (2.88), and 29th in shots against (32). The signing of Lundin and trade of Methot, both regarded as steady defensive d-men, are clearly going to help address this. Borowiecki, should he make the team, can also contribute to keeping pucks away from Craig Anderson. At the same time, is there enough puck movement from the back-end with these changes? Given the emphasis Murray put on puck-moving defensemen in the past few years (the Gilroy trade was at least partly a result of Murray's love for PMD), it's interesting to see the team's blueline take such a dramatic shift. Perhaps Murray's just biding his time until Cody Ceci or Wiercioch can step in as puck movers in the coming years.
- The losses of Carkner and Konopka have led to some criticism of the line-up getting soft, but outside of the top six (where that is admittedly a concern), fear of a soft line-up are overblown. Cowen, Methot and Phillips can all provide a physical element from the back-end, as can Borowiecki should he make the cut. Players like Colin Greening, Chris Neil, and Zack Smith will continue to make the forward corps pretty imposing. Furthermore, Carkner and Konopka only added toughness when they played, which wasn't very often: Konopka played 55 games in the regular season, Carkner just 29. Finally, Nichols at The 6th Sens makes a good point about how this helps Ottawa's discipline issues:
For a team that averaged the second-most PIMs per game (14.0), the Senators shed three regulars who were amongst the team’s worst offenders in penalties taken per 60 minutes of ice-time (note: Konopka led team with 2.7 penalties per 60. Carkner led the defencemen with 1.3 penalties per 60 and Foligno was third amongst forwards with 1.5.)
- Kuba's loss is a big one. I realize that Karlsson made him look a lot better than he actually is, but he provided a good mix of steady veteran presence on the blueline while also having enough offensive skill to act as a nice companion to Karlsson's considerable talent. Although Cowen might be able to fill this role in the future, it's hard to see anyone in the current line-up that will be ready to do the same next season.
- Foligno's offensive production will be missed (his 47 points were good for 5th on the team), but the additions of Latendresse and Silfverberg add enough talent to the top 6th that the point production shouldn't be too much of a concern. Given Ottawa was 4th in goals scored but 29th in shots against, losing Foligno's offense in favour of better defense is a move that should benefit the Senators next year, even if there is little chance of them having a top-5 offense in the league again next season.
All things considered, Ottawa's 2012-2013 roster really isn't all that different from it's 2011-2012 roster. The young players will be more experienced and a little better, while the losses of Foligno and Kuba appear to be offset by the additions made yesterday and the probable emergence of rookie talent. Ultimately, Ottawa's roster next season probably puts them in a position to compete again for a playoff spot, but I certainly don't see them in the mix for home-ice advantage in the postseason. A lot of things went right for Ottawa last season, and many of them are unlikely to be repeated -- 78 points for Karlsson, 35 goals for Michalek, and fourth in the league in scoring being three that instantly come to mind.
The most intriguing thing about the lineup, really, will be what happens at training camp. As it stands, there appears to be little room for players in Ottawa's deep prospect pool to find a spot on the team, although you can be sure that Bryan Murray wouldn't hesitate to make room if any of them turn heads in September.