Well, it's time to answer an ongoing question. What will the rosters looks like?
I spy, with my little eye, something wrong with this picture. Spezza will be wearing a 'C' on that jersey next year, not an 'A'. via www.cbc.ca
The Ottawa Senators organization should end up being a force to be reckoned with this year. Even though, the new NHL realignment is making the two conferences uneven, with 16 teams in the East, and only 14 in the West. Even though, Melnyk is even more broke than Charles Barkley after a night at the casino and our payroll is the third lowest in the entire league. Even though, our long time captain, Daniel "Krusty the Clown" Alfredsson, left Ottawa to sign with the Detroit Red Wings over supposed "broken promises". Despite all of these things, Ottawa should and will be a contender this year.
With the loss of Alfie, came the gain of two tremendous talents in Bobby Ryan and Clarke Macarthur (Yeah you heard it right! We actually did gain other players that aren't named Bobby Ryan this offseason!! Wow, like just wow). For those of you who didn't know that we had acquired any other players besides B.Ryan, (Again, WOW) Clarke Macarthur played for the Toronto Maple Leafs (Double WOW) and he was their assistant captain (TRIPLE WOW). Not only that, but Clarke is a great two way player who in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 recorded 62 and 43 points, respectively. At this point, you may be wondering, 'Why on earth would Toronto not want to keep such a talent on their roster?' Welllllllllll they can't afford to. They might not even be able to afford two of their best young players in Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson, so how would they be able to afford an established second line winger? To be quite honest, I couldn't care less about their financial situation but I am thankful that it allowed Bryan Murray to swoop in and steal a great talent.
Let's get to the aforementioned topic, 'What will our Lineup look like?
Offence First Line
Well, we know that the first line is set, no matter what Paul Maclean says about the possibility of playing Bobby Ryan with Turris or Zibanejad, I can't imagine a world where our first line won't be:
M.Michalek- J.Spezza- B.Ryan
That sounds heavenly. Jason Spezza with Bobby Ryan will be reminiscent of the days of the Pizza Line. Now Michalek, in my mind is actually the most important piece here. Not the best and most talented player that our line will revolve around, but the one player who could be the difference maker that could push us to a Stanley Cup. Every Cup team has one, Chicago had Patrick Sharp, L.A had Justin Williams, Boston had Nathan Horton, etc. Every year there are always contenders. But what makes the difference between a contender and the Champion isn't the Erik Karlsson superstar type players (Well, they do make a difference, but every contender team has these kind of players), what makes the difference is the extra players, that little extra strength that can score clutch goals and push you farther and farther. Milan Michalek is that difference. When I heard that the lockout was over, I made a list of players I was excited to watch and the names on that list included Turris, and Silfverberg, among others. However, Michalek topped that list. Michalek, when healthy, can be just as good a dynamic scorer as Bobby Ryan. Just look at the 2011-2012 season, 36 goals is not an easy feat. But, as I said earlier about his skill, it's best "When healthy". Being healthy hasn't exactly remained easy for Michalek over the years, constant knee injuries have resulted in him meeting a specialist in Germany to try Blood serum therapy, which could be a good sign as NBA star Kobe Bryant recently undertook this exact procedure and made a triumphant return, during which he produced amazingly and looked completely rehabilitated. The therapy boasts a 75% success rate, so all we can do now is be positive and hope for Michalek to also make a triumphant return because when healthy, Milan Michalek is an explosive player, as you can see here.
Kinda hard to tell he has a bad knee with that kinda speed, don't you think?
Offence Second Line
Now, lets move on to the second line. As it stands now it is
C. Macarthur- K. Turris- ______
This line is very interesting, personally because I think Turris is a tremendous talent and that Macarthur was a tremendous steal. Turris produced the exact same amount of points last year (29) as he did the year before(in less games), but this time did it against stronger opposition. I don't even need stats to explain it, it's fairly simple. Whenever teams are playing against Ottawa, the opposing teams best defensive groups are given one objective. Cover Spezza and Karlsson. With J. Spezza and King Karl out of the lineup, the best defensive groups can be used against our less talented players, who aren't used to dealing with such constant pressure. Turris actually did pretty decent against the tough opposition and in the last 10 games it seemed he got more and more comfortable on the first line which is good news. It's good to know that if Spezza is ever injured (We're probably fu***d anyways) or pulls an 'Alfie' (Unexpectedly sign with a different team) or a 'Heatley' (Ask for a trade like a whiny little brat) we altleast have a centre we can rely on to play tough minutes. Besides, Turris as a #1 centre isn't that far off. I mean, he WAS drafted 3rd overall in 2007 behind only Pat Kane and James Van Riemsdyk. All Kyle needs to do this year is put on some weight and get stronger and he'll be a strong second line centre. On top of that, Turris possesses a variety of skills, speed, defensive instinct, great passing, and a wicked shot. Sadly, that wicked shot was put on that horrid power play setup. Even worse, since Turris actually managed to score on this shot, Paul Maclean never changed the setup. Now let's be honest here. This shot may be a laser, but how many times will he (or anybody for that matter) actually score on that angle? Seriously?
As you saw earlier, I left a blank for the second line RW. Not because that we have a lack of talent here, rather the opposite. Ottawa has a surplus of talent, but until the season starts we can't really tell who the best fit is, each candidate here has a unique pro and con which is making it difficult to really gauge who would fit better than the other.
Mika Zibanejad: As you probably know, Ottawa has an overload of NHL caliber centres, not exactly the worst problem in the world if you ask me but it raises the question of who plays wing? If it were me I would put DJ Z-Bad at wing just cause he seems to be the only one with prior experience and that I think he'd be an explosive winger with Turris guiding him along. However, his natural position is centre and he might not be as productive as I imagine.
Mark Stone: Mark Stone to me is looking more and more like Guillaume Latendresse by the minute. I'm sorry, but even if you have God-given hands you still need to be able to skate to be a National Hockey League player. Not that he might not fit elsewhere, but I honestly believe that Ottawa does not have room for him. The one advantage he has going is he's a natural RW
Cory Conacher: Another natural RW, many bloggers and writers have been knocking him and saying that he will be a huge disappointment (Well he's a SMALL dissapointment #PUN). I say give the kid a chance. Why not? I mean even if his NHL rookie year was fluky and most of his 29 points were in Tampa Bay and due to a tall man named Vincent Lecavalier. Let's rewind a bit and remember his AHL rookie year. 80 points in 75 games? Hardly fluky. Not to mention that he was AHL Rookie of the Year and AHL MVP in the same year. Let him mesh with our system and we'll see how good he turns out. Problem is that he's only 5'8 and the only short player Ottawa fans have room for in our hearts goes by Jean Gabriel Pageau. Speaking of which,
Jean-Gabriel Pageau: If you asked people one year ago on their opinion of JGP, they would have said "Who, ummmmm, oh yeah that kid, nah he's too short, won't make it." Ask someone the same thing now, you'll most likely get the answer "PAGEAU, PAGEAU PAGEAU PAGEAU, PAAAAAGEAUUUUU, PAAAAGEAU" Jean-Gabriel Pageau was called up unexpectedly during the last 9 games of the season, and no one really paid that much attention. In those 9 games he impressed with 4 points and lots of heart. Not bad, so we'll keep him up for the playoffs. Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoffs vs Montreal Game 3, the Ottawa Senators first home game of the round. I was at that game, and walking into those doors, I had no idea that this game would make history as one of the best Sens games. Ever. Even before the game, I should have gotten an indication that this game would be legendary. Michel Therrien's "No respect" comments, Brandon Prust calling Paul Maclean a "Big fat walrus". This game was set up to be legendary.And then the game actually started, and boy, what a game. A 5v5 line brawl, score of 6-1 (FREE PIZZA), watching Montreal break down and get frustrated therefore receiving penalty after penalty, and best of all, JGP scoring a hat trick. All of this wrapped up in one game, the drunk guys doing the Pageau chants, it was beautiful. That game along with that hat trick, began the Pageau legacy which lives on till now, dominating rookie tournaments and looking like our best prospect. A true diamond in the rough. HIm being short isn't really a problem because he plays so well positionally. Cons: He's not a winger, and his 2-way contract makes him the odd man out. Despite the cons, we drafted him in the 4th round. He's a true diamond in the rough.
Colin Greening: A longshot for this position, as he's not a particularly explosive scorer by any means, and he's more a two-way third line winger, but you know, we've put him on the first line before so I kinda had to put him on this list
Offence Third Line
Well I may have spent a bit too much time on the second line but let's continue. The third line as it stands, well it completely depends on who plays on the second line. Here's what could happen:
C.Greening/M. Hoffman- M. Zibanejad/JGP- C. Conacher/M.Stone/E.Condra
The amount of possibilities is amazing, however any way you put it, this will be a strong third line. I included Mike Hoffman here, but I think that he's quite the longshot. But through injuries he might make it, you never know. I think that the most likely lineup combinations will have either Zibanejad or Conacher on the second line which will have us end up with combinations like these:
C.Greening- JGP- C. Conacher
C.Greening- M. Zibanejad- E. Condra
Either way you put it Colin Greening is on the third line, rightfully so in my opinion, he seems like an established 3rd liner now. Both of these combinations would succeed with the first one being more offence orientated, and the second one being more defence orientated. Either way I'd like them. I personally think it'll be Conacher playing second line and something more like the second combination will occur. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out.
Offence Fourth Line
Well the fourth line depends on how the third line plays out which depends on how the second line plays out. This is my take on the second line:
E.Condra/M.Hoffman-Z.Smith/JGP- C. Neil/Z. Kassian/M.Stone
Again, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone are long shots, I don't think Jean-Gabriel Pageau will make Ottawa this year, only because he's got a two-way contract. I truly think if he had a one-way contract he would be on the Sens permanently, he just has the potential to be a solid player. That being said, I think he's the first call up from injury to a forward. Poor Zach Smith, he's gonna be out of Ottawa soon. Not that I don't like him, but when you have 4 centres that could all play in the top 6 in Jason Spezza, Kyle Turris, Mika Zibanejad, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, you're set. Not to mention the fact that we have lots of prospect depth at centre in Curtis Lazar, Shane Prince, and Stephane Da Costa. He will almost certainly be the odd man out. Speaking of our tremendous depth, I think instead of trying to fit one of our own players to the second line, we could just package a few prospects for a star player. Sorta like the Bobby Ryan deal, except not near as good a player as Bobby. Matt Kassian and Chris Neil are the teams biggest liabilities, however we do need tough players who can deliver a crushing hit from time to time. We also need players who can protect our stars and young talents. That being said, we DO NOT need to put Chris Neil on the power play!!!! Honestly, we need to give the job of organizing our power play to another coach. Seriously, anyone who ever puts Chris Neil on the power play, Coach of the Year or not, should not be running the power play. I think the most likely combination will be
M. Hoffman- Z. Smith- C.Neil
Healthy scratch: Matt Kassian
We've come to expect Zack Smith and Chris Neil on the 4th line, so no shock there. However, you may be wondering why I would be putting Hoffman on the fourth line, when I've been saying he's such a long shot to make it. Well first off, Hoffman is a natural LW so it would make more sense than scrambling the lines around and putting Condra in that position, as Condra is a natural RW. I still think that Jean-Gabriel Pageau is a better player who has more potential. I think that this year, Hoffman has to prove himself, and unless he is absolutely dominant, he won't be in Ottawa. This year should be a year where his play on ice here (If he's on the team) will be an audition of sorts for all other NHL clubs. There is just no room for him here. With Mark Stone, JGP, Curtis Lazar, and perhaps my favourite prospect, Matt Puempel, all coming up and expected to be contending for spots within the next 3 years, there is absolutely no space for Hoffman. There are rumours that we might end up putting Hoffman through waivers to get him down to the farm team and so then any team would be able to pick him up. I sincerely hope he gets to live his NHL dream full-time one day, but we have no space for him here. Now, on to another list where Hoffman might show up,
Centre: Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Shane Prince
LW: Mike Hoffman, Matt Puempel
RW: Mark Stone, André Petersson
Nothing unexpected here, except maybe André Petersson, but his play at the rookie tournament warrants him a chance.
Wow, 2635 words already and I'm just starting defence. ANYWAYS........
Defence First Line
Well, is it even possible that it will be anything other than...
E.Karlsson - M. Methot
Yes. It is indeed possible that the line above might be different. Erik Karlsson will quite obviously still be there, but I'm a firm believer that Patrick Wiercioch has the potential to be a first pairing defenceman. Obviously, Cody Ceci is the most likely to develop into a first pairing D Man, but Wiercioch has all the right skills. Not to say that Marc Methot is a bad defenceman, he's an excellent defenceman. Anybody that can play solid D and also rush the puck up the ice is a great tool to have. And Team Canada has recognized that by inviting him to Olympic Tryouts. Anyways, any player that plays with Karlsson will thrive, so it's not that big a deal who plays with him and who doesn't.
Defence Second Line
This line will be determined by...
P. Wiercioch - J.Corvo
If you guessed Uh Oh Corvo, you guessed right! Wiercioch will be put into a tougher role than last year but I can't think of a reason he won't do well. Hmmmmmm... Oh wait! Playing with Joe Corvo will be tougher than playing with Gonchar, so Corvo's play, whether fantastic or mediocre or bad, will determine the success of this line. Not much else to say about this line, really.
Defence Third Line
If Cowen holds out this team is screwed...
J.Cowen (C. Ceci)- C. Phillips
Not really. Honestly, if Cowen holds out, we have a variety of options to replace him with. And really, we won't miss him if he does. In fact I think that we could do better without him (Gasp) I know, I know, but I believe Cody Ceci is ready this year and if he plays this year, he might make this third line look 10 times better than it should. He has the potential to be that good. His short sample of play in Binghamton and his play during the rookie tournament suggests he could be a star in this league. In a few years of course. If Chris Phillips is named Captain, I'm gonna kill someone. Not that he's not a leader, but Spezza has been ready for this for years and has the best combination of leadership+talent (The latter of which Phillips has none) and is the obvious choice to fill in the blank spot left by Daniel Alfredsson. Thankfully our defence is very established and I don't have to spend as much time talking about the elaborate details which I did with our offence.
Cody Ceci as I mentioned earlier, future superstar, blah blah blah. Eric Gryba, probably won't make it as a full time defenceman in Ottawa, elsewhere maybe. The Ottawa organization loves hometown boy Mark Borowiecki so he'll get a shot in the near future. Buddy Robinson, recently signed college prospect, may get a shot someday, we'll see. And last but certainly not least, Fredrik Claesson. He is the guy on this list who I truly think, (besides Cody Ceci) has the talent to become a strong shut-down defenceman for the Ottawa Senators.
M. Michalek- J. Spezza- B. Ryan
C. Macarthur- K. Turris- C. Conacher
C. Greening- M. Zibanejad- E. Condra
M. Hoffman- Z. Smith- C. Neil
Healthy Scratch: M. Kassian
E. Karlsson - M. Methot
P. Wiercioch - J. Corvo
J. Cowen - C. Phillips
JG. Pageau - M. Hoffman - M. Stone - S. Prince - Matt Puempel - André Petersson - C. Ceci - E. Gryba - M. Borowiecki B. Robinson- F. Claesson
Again, that 'A' you see on Spezza's jersey will be a 'C' via www.cbc.ca
Not a half bad lineup huh?
Well these are my predictions for the year 2013-2014, hope you enjoyed!
Thanks for reading!