The Ottawa Senators' top six forwards are pretty well set. We know that Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan, Milan Michalek, Kyle Turris, and Clarke MacArthur are going to do the heavy lifting barring injuries. On Wednesday, we talked about who might fill in that sixth spot.
With no clear consensus, that got me wondering: Could that be an area the Senators' opponents try to target next season? If my choices are Turris, MacArthur, or, say, Colin Greening, I know which of the three I'd choose try to force into a mistake.
Leaving out bit players like Matt Kassian, who else might teams try to attack?
Patrick Wiercioch recently signed an extension that indicated the Senators viewed him as Sergei Gonchar's replacement, but head coach Paul MacLean trusted Gonchar in all situations in all three zones, while Wiercioch was one of the most sheltered players on the team. He's not going to get that luxury in his new role--Erik Karlsson is going to eat up the offensive zone time, and Wiercioch is going to have to make due with what he can.
Despite playing a full 82-games mostly alongside Gonchar in 2011-12, Cowen now sucks because he had a poor series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs this year. It's a "What have you done for me lately?" league, and Cowen hasn't done anything good in more than a calendar year, so this now means that he's never shown he's capable of playing in the top four, or so the story goes.
Except... despite his pleasing size and physical abilities, Cowen hasn't done much. The potential is there, sure, but he's also a player who's missed an entire season of development time--and it showed in his postseason play. Like Wiercioch, Cowen is about to be thrust into a role where he doesn't have the luxury of shelter. It's sink or swim time, and that's the kind of guy you aggressively forecheck.
Oh, I know, so controversial. Robin Lehner is our Swedish Savior of the future! Didn't you see his save percentage? He eats so many vegetables! But he also kind of has a temper. Maybe if I know that Lehner is starting, I do my best to have the only party in the universe in his crease. Maybe he flips out. Maybe I get a power play out of it. Maybe I get a youngster off his game. Maybe I get him ejected and face a tired Craig Anderson instead. Whatever the case, I'm testing Lehner every game to see if this is the night he snaps.
Much like Wiercioch and Cowen, Mika Zibanejad is a youngster who's gotten lots of situational usage. If he anchors the third line, it's an invitation for coaches to play a matchup game with Ottawa. MacLean can give the old, "We'll play anyone against anyone" speech, but you can't imagine he'd want to see Pavel Datsyuk matched up with a kid like Zibanejad. That guy embarrasses All-Stars for a living.
What's interesting is that all of these four choices are young players with high ceilings that will be looked to as big pieces of the franchise in the future. But they're all also lacking in experience and that makes them vulnerable. Who do you think it Ottawa's weakest link this year?
- Kyle Turris defends Daniel Alfredsson. Not surprising, considering what playing alongside a guy like Alfie has meant for Turris' development [Senators Extra]
- Remember when Mark Borowiecki was getting talked up after every development camp? He got a shot at the start of last year and now he's been passed by Eric Gryba and Joe Corvo. And possibly Cody Ceci next year. The NHL is a merciless meritocracy. [SE]
- Over at Radek Bonk's Mullet, a Senators simile battle erupted. [RBM]
- Craig Anderson's Game 3 performance against the Penguins was recognized by the NHL as one of the best performances of the year. No quip about this, it was an awesome game. [Sens]
- As if there wasn't reason enough to love him, Jean-Gabriel Pageau stopped by the Sens Summer Camps to hang out with the kids. He's pretty awesome. [Sens]
- The Buffalo Sabres are rebuilding, but both Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek are UFA after this season. But neither player is tradable. [Pro Hockey Talk]
- The Detroit Red Wings will retire Nicklas Lidstrom's #5 this season. Will Ottawa do the same with #11 one day? [Red Wings]
- The St. Louis Blues signed defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to a 5-year, $27M contract. They still have RFAs Alex Pietrangelo and Magnus Paajarvi to sign. That team is going crush it next season [Blues]
- Bill Daly says there's no plans to expand to 32 teams, and no plans to expand to Seattle. The NHL has a history of integrity and forthrightness, so I believe him. [Seattle Times]