Today, let's look at the Ottawa Senators defence corps for a few minutes. It's going to be a little different than it was for most of last season with the exits of Sergei Gonchar, Andre Benoit, and Mike Lundin, the re-introduction of Joe Corvo, and hopefully a return to full health for Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen.
Presumably the top pairing will be Karlsson and Marc Methot. That was the design that motivated the acquisition of Methot, and it's how things worked out while Karlsson was healthy. It's a lefty and a righty, offence and defence, and a generally balanced pairing. Paul MacLean will play them a lot.
From there, though, it's anybody's guess. Cowen (presumably), Corvo, Patrick Wiercioch, and Chris Phillips are all on one-way NHL deals, so they're going to be on the squad. The final spot is up for grabs, and it seems likely that one of Mark Borowiecki or Eric Gryba will take it--and Gryba's got the inside track, given his experience from last season, the fact that MacLean seems to like him, and his right-handedness.
In terms of TOI/GP last season among those players, the depth chart was Chris Phillips (21:02), Jared Cowen (20:17), Eric Gryba (20:16), Corvo (18:45), and finally Wiercioch (15:41). Given the contract recently signed with Wiercioch, I presume he's going to get a bit more responsibility this season--ideally, he could play with Cowen on the Sens' second pairing. It would require one of the two to play his off-side since they're both left-handed, but I expect that would be feasible.
That leaves Phillips to anchor the third pairing, and alongside him would be one of Gryba or Corvo. Unless Gryba really shines in training camp, I'd expect him and Corvo to take turns sitting out depending on the opposition: If it's a big, physical team then Gryba draws in, while Corvo gets to play against smaller or faster teams.
What do you think the Sens' defence pairings should look like next season?
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