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Silver Nuggets: The Ottawa Senators blue line

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Ottawa's got five D-men on one-way deals, another who's sure to get one soon, and two bruisers who'll fight for the team's final roster spot. How will the blue line shake out?

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Photographic proof that Eric Gryba can be a puck-moving defenceman
Photographic proof that Eric Gryba can be a puck-moving defenceman

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?

Senators headlines:

  • Jason Spezza should be the next Senators captain [Citizen]
  • Mikael Wikstrand is, in the opinion of the Silver Seven editorial staff, the Senators' 19th-most-promising player under 25 years old [Silver Seven]
  • Canada beat Sweden by a 7-3 score in some random world junior tournament yesterday [Globe and Mail] and Curtis Lazar apparently played a solid physical, defensive game [Pronman]
  • A look at the open roster spots there are in Ottawa (spoiler: not many) [SenShot]
  • This is a cool post about Boston Bruins-Ottawa Senators relationships from the olden days [Stanley Cup of Chowder]

NHL headlines:

  • Jacques Martin is the newest assistant coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. [Pensburgh]

Other headlines:

  • Since these are my Nuggets and I can do what I want, here are some adorable lynx kittens. [ZooBorns]