Ottawa's last season was a surprise to most when they managed to achieve what seemed to be improbable, making the playoffs. Most prognosticators and fans had the team pegged to be in the basement of the league duking it out for a chance to draft first overall. In defying those odds many pointed to the strong play of our key players, but one of the real bright spots of last season was the team wide scoring that managed to rank us 4th in the league in that category.
Many teams out there attempt to lock up the best players while neglecting to fill their other lines with quality players, Ottawa has their own star players but have managed to find the right supporting cast to bring them ahead of the curve. What I am talking about is having players that are strong in the role that they play, rather then being miscast at a higher spot in the depth chart. A simple look at having Spezza at 1C vs Bozak at 1C gives you a good idea of what I mean, yes Bozak is a good player but would be better suited to playing at a lower position in the depth chart.
I am going to give a rough breakdown of our forward lines, ranked on a scale from 7.0 - 1.0 corresponding to the rankings below.
Elite - Exceptional - Above Average - Average - Below Average - Reaching - Over their head
As first liners:
Silfverburg - Not Rated - This kid has all the skills to be a 1st line player in the league, but without a proper sample size it is hard to determine where he fits on the scale.
Spezza - 6.7 - Spezza is one of the best centers in the league and has shown his ability to produce while playing with equally skilled and less skilled players alike. As our 1C he provides an important role sitting at the top of the depth chart letting our others players be in their proper positions
Michalek - 5.2 - Michalek is a great scorer but has a little ways to go before being held in the same breath as other stars in the league. He needs to rely on his line mates to help create opportunities for him and could stand to improve his own assists totals. Still a 2 way player who can play great on the PK or PP.
As second liners:
Latendresse - 4.0 - Latendresse has the potential to be more, but he could also crumble and go back to the LTR. As a second liner he has the skill to be at this position, but needs to stay healthy and produce with some consistency.
Turris - 5.5 - With room to grow Turris could become even better as a 2C, but until that happens we can't really say he is all that much better then some of the other options in the league. He has a ton of skill but needs to prove it over an extended period of time with Ottawa going forward.
Alfredsson - 6.9 - As far as second liners go in this league, there are few (if any) I would take over Alfredsson. I would rate him at a perfect 7.0 but he is getting older so there are questions as to his ability to stay in peak form. I think he still has enough gas in the tank, he is still truly a first liner playing on the second line to spread out scoring.
As third liners:
Colin Greening - 6.1 - This guy has all the skills to be one of the best third liners in the league this year. He proved his ability to play up the lineup last season, even though he looked good there he didn't quite have the point totals one would like from a guy playing on your first line. As a third liner we should look forward to Greening dominating his competition and providing valuable secondary scoring.
Zack Smith - 6.5 - All that and a bag of chips, we all know how good Smith is. Physical, fast, and surprising soft hands mean this guy will be a fixture at 3C on our team for years to come.
Chris Neil - 5.8 - Not as big of an offensive threat as his line mates, Neil still knows how to chip in by getting down and dirty. Known for his style of playing on the edge he can create havoc for either team by crashing the net or sitting in the box.
As forth liners:
Condra - 7.0 - This guy is what you like to see in an elite 4th liner. He has amazing skills playing in his own end of the rink and can still manage to contribute on offense, without much flair mind you (although who knows what secret skills he learned in Germany). On most teams he would be considered a good 3rd line option.
O'Brien - 4.3 - A former first rounder who has managed to break into the NHL playing on the fourth line. Responsible with the puck, he has the ability to continue improving in the future. He could possibly become a 3rd line option in the future.
Regin - 7.0 - Why is this guy on the 4th line? Oh right... Depth, injuries, etc.
Daugavins - 5.0 - This guy makes some surprisingly slick moves from time to time, but quite often will get caught in the act preventing the play from developing. Good speed, he could stand to improve his game but he may already be near his ceiling.
Well I may be a homer, but I still feel like our team is so strong not due to our star players being as awesome as they are, but rather the strength our team provides by being strong throughout the lineup.