Most of Ottawa's top six is already set. You can mix and match the pieces however you like, but the guys virtually assured of getting the juicy minutes are Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan, Milan Michalek, Kyle Turris, and Clarke MacArthur. That's a really exciting group of five guys.
But there's an open spot.
It was Daniel Alfredsson's. But he left for what he felt were greener pastures, and now the team has to replace him. If you believe that Michalek will remain on the top line (and the last time both he and Spezza were healthy, Michalek scored 35 goals--production that makes a demotion hard to justify), then the only open spot is on Turris' right side. MacArthur plays the left wing, and offers a significant if so far under-recognized improvement over the departed Guillaume Latendresse. Who should the team look to to fill the hole?
Well, Peter Mueller is available.
But given the in-system talent Ottawa already has, there's no real need to look elsewhere. The team already has a glut of good, young forwards who might be ready to make a jump, which is why they were willing to part with two of them, Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen, to acquire Ryan. There's not much need to add more bodies to an overcrowded pool. So, assuming the Senators choose to fill from within, here are some possible candidates, in no particular order:
Pros: Zibanejad is easily the most talented forward in the organization outside of the five players listed at the beginning of the article. His skill is undeniable and he's shown significant improvement in the past year. It's highly likely that trend will continue if he's given the opportunity to play big minutes with talented linemates.
Cons: Zibanejad is a natural center, and has no experience at right wing, and little experience at left wing. General Manager Bryan Murray is on record preferring to play Zibanejad at center.
Pros: Despite being a natural left wing, Greening has repeatedly shown himself to be head coach Paul MacLean's Swiss Army Knife when it comes to line shuffling. MacLean can--and has--played Greening anywhere because he knows he has the intelligence and physical tools to not be a liability. Greening's strength would complement a shooter like Turris and finisher like MacArthur.
Cons: Despite outstanding size, speed, and strength, Greening is, how shall we put this, productively challenged. While he has all of the tools to be a power forward in the same mold as Ryan, he has not shown nearly the same level of output. He's got top-six measurables and bottom-six production. He's not going to be a consistent scoring threat on that line, limiting the other two's chances as defenses can focus on them more
Pros: For starters, Conacher did pretty well for himself when playing alongside some talented forward--I forget his name--in Tampa Bay. Conacher also has the ability to play on both wings, which means he's not limited to one role in the top six should circumstances change in-game. Has demonstrated some good chemistry with Turris in the past.
Cons: Conacher didn't quite mesh all of the time in Ottawa. Part of that is because he was a rookie trying to adapt to a new system after the trade deadline, but part of that is because he was a rookie. MacLean is a player's coach, but he also expects his players to do things his way. Conacher might not be polished enough yet to play this role nightly.
Pros: Jean-Gabriel Pageau pretty quickly distinguished himself as a guy who could be counted on. Would be freed from any pressure to anchor a line, and could simply focus on making plays, something he seems to be good at. Has scored more hat tricks than the other candidates.
Cons: The hype train is out of control. Pageau was nearly demoted to the ECHL last year. It's highly possible he's not ready to play in the NHL full-time yet--19 games is an absurdly small sample size. Of Pageau's 10 points, 5 game in two games. He had 13 games with no points, and just 3 with multiple points.
Pros: Hoffman is essentially a slightly smaller Clarke MacArthur. Can also play center, so he could probably also play right wing. The Senators believed he was ready to make the jump at the end of last year until he broke his collarbone. Is average at everything, but plays with little sense of self-preservation. A player who succeeds by force of will is usually valuable to his linemates.
Cons: Hoffman might not be talented enough to play in the top six nightly. Could not fill the power forward role if asked to.
Pros: Is a natural right wing, which sets him apart from everyone on this list but Conacher. Has the size to play a physical role if needed, and has shown outstanding offensive instincts in junior hockey. He used those instincts to score a ton of goals. Not a defensive liability despite his average skating. Could be a playmaker if combined with a shooter like Turris and finisher like MacArthur.
Cons: Has almost no NHL experience, and almost no NHL production. Could be in way over his head if immediately given top-six minutes. His TOI so far does not reflect a lot of trust from the Senators' coaching staff. No guarantees that junior scoring translates to pro scoring. Hasn't proven he can have an impact at the NHL level.
Who do you think wins the job?
- Pageau knows he hasn't locked down a job yet. "I’m just working out this summer to make sure that I’ll be the best player." [Senators Extra]
- Ryan is still adjusting to the culture shift that comes with his trade. It's not surprising he wants to get on the ice so badly to feel more comfortable. [NHL.com]
- A mailbag with Radek Bonk's Mullet, where he gets a question about the Buffalo Bills completely wrong. [Bonk's Mullet]
- Stone talking about his experience last year. [Luber's Lounge]
- One week ago, Robin Lehner turned 22. I wonder what he did for his birthday? [Sens]
- The San Jose Sharks signed Joe Pavelski to a 5-year, $30M deal. Kyle Turris' contract looks better every day. [Twitter]
- USA Today's Kevin Allen thinks the Detroit Red Wings are going to thrive in the Eastern Conference. [USA Today]
- Mark Fraser and the Toronto Maple Leafs avoided the salary arbitration process. I would love to be an arbitrator on staff for the NHL. That's free money. [TSN]
- Alex Edler was suspended for the first two games of the Olympics as continued punishment for his knee-on-knee hit of Eric Staal this May. [Puck Daddy]