Silver Seven 2014 Report Cards: Forwards

Rich Lam

The season is over. The Silver Seven Staff has voted. It's time for the final report cards for the 2013-2014 season!

11 staff members assigned grades for each player on the Ottawa Senators providing us with aggregate final grades. Unfortunately, playoff performances don't count this year.

Up today: forwards.

Matt Kassian D

Last season: C-

Grading fighters is always tough because inevitably the question becomes more about the role of fighters and their deployment. In any case, Matt Kassian dressed in 33 games and fought nine times, second only to Chris Neil for the Senators. Yet he only took four minor penalties. He averaged the least amount of ice time per game of any Senator (4:26 TOI/G) but that was still four minutes more than many would prefer. Strangely enough, the Senators had a great record when Kassian dressed. Perhaps the mostly telling assessment of his performance was Bryan Murray's comment last week: "Matt Kassian's not in our plans and I don't think we're in his plans."

Highest grade: C

Lowest grade: F

Colin Greening D

Last season: B

Colin Greening has the size, strength, and speed to be an effective NHLer. But he so rarely uses those qualities together at the same time. After his overtime heroics against Pittsburgh in the playoffs last season, Greening signed a three-year deal with $7.95 million. Given the team’s budget concerns, that new deal put a target on Greening’s back all season long. He had his worst season in the NHL, scoring just six goals and 17 points in 76 games. At 28 and with 3+ seasons in the NHL, Greening can’t be considered a young player anymore. This is what he is: a marginal fourth liner making $2.75 million next season.

Highest grade: D

Lowest grade: F

Chris Neil D+

Last season: C

Chris Neil had a terrible year. He showed a distinct lack of leadership in his first year wearing a permanent ‘A’. Neil tied for third in the NHL with 41 minor penalties. Simply put, he cost his team in too many games because of his lack of discipline. While Paul MacLean should be criticized for his frequent use of Neil on the third line and power play, Neil still struggled in those roles. Neil averaged over 30 seconds per game on the PP this season and in all that time managed just one point. Love him or hate him, Neil hurt the team more than he defending it in 2013-2014.

Neil will be 35 in two months and it’s unrealistic to expect a player of his ability and age to contribute in a third line or special teams role. It’s also unrealistic to expect him to return to the point totals achieved during the prime of his career (double digit goals, 20+ points). He’s led the team in minor penalties for the last four years, so it’s unlikely his discipline improves. Chris Neil needs to improve in a lot of areas if he’s going to be a useful player for the Sens next season and that seems like a tall order.

Highest grade: C

Lowest grade: F

Jean-Gabriel Pageau C-

Last season: A

It’s safe to say that Pageau’s spring run and postseason heroics in 2013 set some lofty expectations for the player going into this season. It’s also safe to say he had a hard time living up to them. He started the season with Ottawa, but after a difficult October was sent down to Bingo. He was recalled in December and spent another month with the big team before being sent down again. Recalled on March 31 for the second time, he finished the season with the Sens, having quietly played 28 games. He recorded just two goals and played sheltered minutes. In fact, with the exception of Matt Kassian and Derek Grant, Pageau averaged the least TOI/G (10:14) of any Senator.

Highest grade: C+

Lowest grade: F

Milan Michalek C

Last season: C

At least he’s consistent. Michalek had another difficult season. He was hampered by injuries last season and this season, especially in the first half, Michalek was still struggling to regain form after offseason treatment. He looked a little better in 2014, but it wasn’t until the arrival of Ales Hemsky that Michalek got rolling again (7 G and 12 PTS). His late season surge made his totals more respectable (17G, 22A, 39P) but still a far cry from his career-high 35 goals in 2011-2012. His contract is up in June, and unless he takes a serious pay cut, Michalek will most likely move on.

Highest grade: B-

Lowest grade: C-

Cory Conacher C+

Last season: C

The only thing most Sens fans agree on about Cory Conacher was that it was foolish to lose him for nothing to the Buffalo Sabres. Conacher also had the added burden of having been traded for Ben Bishop, who had a breakout year for the Lightning. Conacher played in 60 games for the Senators, scoring four times and registering 20 points. While he had good possession numbers with the Sens, he had a 5.5% shooting percentage and he suffered through a 27-game scoring drought and a 30-game scoring drought that tested the patience of many fans.

Highest grade: B

Lowest grade: D-

Zack Smith C+

Last season: C

Smith has a lot of supporters among Sens fans and with good reason. He’s a durable player who’s missed just one game (as a healthy scratch in 11-12) in the past three seasons. He reached double figures in goals (13) for the second time in his career and is a reliable penalty killer. He averaged 15:31 TOI/G this season, a career-high but consistent with his deployment under Paul MacLean. However, like his linemate Neil, Smith frequently cost the Senators with his lack of discipline. While Neil was frequently the target of those who criticize the penalties he takes, Smith took just three less minors than Neil and was tied for fifth-highest total in the league. Whether the extra penalties were a result of being teamed with Neil so often, Smith needs to show more maturity and control.

Highest grade: B-

Lowest grade: D+

Derek Grant B-

Last season: N/A

Grant was recalled on October 18 and played 20 games with the Senators before being sent back down to Binghamton to finish the season. Limited to fourth line minutes, Grant was primarily used as a penalty killer while in Ottawa, averaging the second-most time on the PK (2:14 TOI/G) of any Sens forward. He was brought up as a defensive specialist and did he job.

Highest grade: B+

Lowest grade: F

Erik Condra B-

Last season: B+

Condra’s inability to hit an open net will always frustrate Sens fans. His scoring rates (6G, 10A, 16P) were lower than what he established in the two previous seasons. Condra is a good possession player and his skillset saw him play on the top lines at various times this season. While that’s not the best fit for Condra, he’s a good bottom-six player and penalty killer.

Highest grade: B

Lowest grade: C

Mike Hoffman B

Last season: N/A

After accomplishing all that he could in Binghamton (51GP, 30G, 37A, 67P) this season, Hoffman was given an opportunity to show if his skills transferred to the NHL level. After a slow start, he started to get more chances and finished with three goals and three assists. His breakout game came early in March against the Winnipeg Jets, when he scored the first goal and assist of his NHL career. Given an opportunity to play with offensive players as well as ample time playing the point on the power play (2:18 TOI/G), Hoffman showed he has the skill and speed to succeed at the NHL level if put in the right situation.

Highest grade: A-

Lowest grade: C-

Bobby Ryan B

Last season: N/A

Ryan’s first season in Ottawa was a difficult one. He got off to a blazing start, showing instant chemistry with Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur on Ottawa’s new first line and continued his strong play throughout the fall. 2014 wasn’t as kind to Ryan. His play dropped considerably and he scored just five goals in his final 29 games. After a fall into the ends boards in Dallas in mid-March, it was revealed that Ryan had struggled with a sports hernia injury since late November. With the Senators playoff chances all but over, Ryan had surgery and sat out the rest of the season recovering. His totals (70GP, 23G, 25A, 48P) aren’t bad, but it’s safe to say more was expected of Ryan. Ultimately, it’s too difficult to assess Ryan’s season because of the injury he suffered. I think it’s safe to say, a healthy Ryan returns to his 30+ goal scoring ways next season.

Highest grade: A-

Lowest grade: D-

Stephane Da Costa B+

Last season: N/A

Da Costa made the team out of training camp over more obvious choices like Mika Zibanejad. He didn’t impress to start the season, failing to record a point in four games. He was returned to Binghamton and was a point-per-game player in the AHL (55GP, 18G, 40A, 58P). His strong play with the farm team earned him another call-up and he rejoined the Senators at the end of January. He had an excellent five-game stretch between January 28 and February 6 scoring three goals and one assist. This stretch is the reason why he’s received such a high grade. The Olympic break happened at the worst possible time for Da Costa; he was returned to the AHL while on a hot streak and never made it back up to Ottawa. Ultimately, he played just 12 games with the Senators this season and it’s hard to conclude he showed enough over those 12 games to secure a regular spot in the NHL.

Highest grade: A

Lowest grade: B-

Jason Spezza B+

Last season: B

It was a difficult year for Spezza. He didn’t find instant chemistry with Bobby Ryan and quickly lost the sniper to Turris and MacArthur in October. He struggled offensively in the first half of the season, often playing on the second line with wingers who couldn’t help him out offensively. He was injured to start the year and looked hampered at times. He had prolonged goalless droughts in November and December. However, Spezza looked much better in 2014. He was skating better and contributed more offensively. He had 10 multi-point games in 2014, four of which came after the arrival of Ales Hemsky. His late season surge brought him closer to the point-per-game pace we’re used to (75GP, 23G, 43A, 66P).

Highest grade: B+

Lowest grade: B-

Mark Stone A-

Last season: N/A

Stone was called up twice in 2014. He played seven games during his first call-up, scoring his first NHL goal and adding an assist. He was called-up again in late March when Bobby Ryan went down for the season. Stone took Ryan’s spot on Turris’s wing, scoring three goals and three assists. Stone looked a lot more like an internal replacement for Hemsky or Michalek should they not be re-signed during his second stint with the big team this season.

Highest grade: A

Lowest grade: B

Mika Zibanejad A

Last season: B

In a surprise move to start the year, Zibanejad didn't make the team out of training camp. Instead, he was sent to Binghamton in the AHL to start the season as buzz words like "compete level" floated around. Zibanejad played six games in Bingo, scoring two goals and seven points before re-joining Ottawa after the disastrous California road trip. Zibanejad notched an assist in his first game back, Ottawa's October blowout victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Zibanejad's TOI was controlled for much of the season, frustrating Senators fans, but allowing Mika to flourish. Playing both wing and centre, he scored 16 goals and 33 points in 69 games with strong possession numbers. His season ended abruptly in April when he missed the final games of the regular season as a precautionary measure.

Highest grade: A

Lowest grade: B+

Ales Hemsky A+

Last season: N/A

Ales Hemsky blitzed the Senators for two goals in his final game as an Oiler and the next day he was traded to Ottawa. His first game with the Senators was quiet, but he notched three assists in both his second and third games playing with Jason Spezza and showed excellent chemistry with the captain down the stretch. Ultimately, Hemsky was almost a point-per-game playing during his time in the capital (20GP, 4G, 13A, 17P) and helped give Ottawa two viable scoring lines.

Highest grade: A+

Lowest grade: A-

Kyle Turris A+

Last season: B+

Last season Kyle Turris did his best to lead the Senators when Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, and Milan Michalek went down with injuries for long stretches during the year. This season, Turris took the next step in his development and became Ottawa’s bona fide number one centre drawing the tough matches. He finished third in team scoring and set career highs in games played, goals, assists, and points. His offensive production was great, but he’s defensive game is started to be recognized as well. Turris also emerged as one of Ottawa’s leaders this season, wearing the ‘A’ for several games when Neil and Chris Phillips were out of the lineup.

Highest grade: A+

Lowest grade: A-

Clarke MacArthur A+

Last season: N/A

Clarke MacArthur was an afterthought when he was signed on July 5, sandwiched between Daniel Alfredsson’s departure and the Bobby Ryan trade. He wasn’t the most sought after free agent that day, but he may have provided the best value. Paired with Turris this season, MacArthur was one of Ottawa’s best forwards and set a career high in goals scored with 24. He was also a key penalty killer and member of the power play for Paul MacLean. The only blemish on his sterling season was his penalty record. At times MacArthur was visibly frustrated, taking 29 minor penalties (a dramatic increase over previous seasons) and he spent more time in the penalty box than ever in his career. Emerging as one of the club’s leaders, he needs to be more disciplined next season.

Highest grade: A+

Lowest grade: A

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