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Email Hot Stove: October Surprises/Disappointments

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In today's installment of the Email Hot Stove, the Silver Seven Staff talk about what they were surprised and disappointed by in October

Kirk Irwin

Question: Who/what has surprised you most so far this season? Who/What has most disappointed?

Sheer Craziness: What is surprised me most? Probably Alex Chiasson. He's obviously no Spezza, but he's a much better hockey player than I gave him credit for coming in. I always thought he'd just got lucky to score in his first 6 NHL games, and rode the coattails of that to fame last season. But he has patience, vision, and sweet hands.

Probably second place here goes to the goaltending. I expected a bounce-back season, but this has been incredible.

What disappointed me most? I'm gonna say Jared Cowen. I expected him to at least look serviceable, and he doesn't. When Karlsson can't drag you into looking good, there are issues.

Second place goes to Marc Methot. Man, we need another top four defenseman.

Michaela: What has surprised me: Goaltending. Not that I didn't think Lehner or Anderson were capable of playing well, but based on the difficulties they had last season, it has been a very pleasant surprise to see the goaltending bounce back this year.

Who has surprised me: Alex Chiasson has been great so far. I had little (if any) expectations for him, as I didn't know much about his abilities as a player before he came here. He's been a staple in our offense, and has found chemistry with a number of other players. Honourable mention in this case goes to Mark Stone. His hockey sense has come to light in the first month of the season, and he's showing people just how good he is.

What has disappointed me: Methot's injury and subsequent slow recovery. This is almost more disappointing than the ongoing contract negotiations and the possibility that he might not be here next year. I really hope we see him in the lineup soon; otherwise management is going to be in a tough spot trade/contract wise.

Who has disappointed me: Jared Cowen would be my first choice, but I know a lot of people will cover this one. I have been rather disappointed with Mika Zibanejad. Sure, he got a pretty big goal against Chicago on Thursday night, but before that he had zero points in eight games. For a second-line centre looking to prove himself as such, this is terrible. This could just be a slow start, and his play will likely improve, but he's at a point in his career where he needs to show the team that he can be a productive NHL player. "Still developing" will no longer be a valid excuse soon. Simply put: He needs to be better.

Amelia: I'm actually more surprised by MacLean's usage of Lehner and Anderson than I am at their play so far.

Mrs. O: Who/what has surprised you most so far this season?

The kids have surprised me the most - Lazar, Hoffman, Stone. I think that they've been holding their own and showing that they deserve spots over some of the veteran guys.

The Senators record, to be honest. They've started the season off better than I expected, which I've very happy about. I didn't think they'd necessarily be horrible, but I didn't think they'd have a 5-2-2 record to start the season.


Who/What has most disappointed?

I have to say Cowen too. I was really hoping he'd prove everyone wrong and come into the season with gusto. Nope. Glad MacLean actually sat him though, that's somewhat of an improvement.

MacLean is still utilizing the wrong players at the wrong time in some cases. He's been a little better, but sending Neil out in the last four minutes of a tied hockey game against the Blackhawks. No.  Same thing with putting cold players on the PP in a tied game. I'm sorry, but if Michalek and Zibanejad aren't generating a lot of chances but Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman are, you play them on the PP.

Michaela: That's a good point re Lehner and Anderson. The "win and you're in" mentality doesn't seem to be in effect here. They are on a simple rotation, which is very interesting. I wonder if he's still trying to figure out who the definitive "number one" is.

Sheer Craziness: Amelia's point is good too though - I didn't expect MacLean to play Lehner as often as he has so far.

Adnan: I too have been surprised by how often Robin Lehner has played this season. When MacLean said that Craig Anderson was the #1 goaltender, I did not expect Lehner to play every other game. MacLean has even chosen to go to Lehner after some great Anderson performances, with the recent 2-1 loss in Chicago coming to mind.

As far as disappointments go, I would go with Cody Ceci. Although he has four points in nine games, I was expecting (or maybe hoping) for him to be able to carry the second pairing this season and he has simply not been up to the task. This might be asking too much from a 20-year old, but nevertheless he has been the biggest disappointment relative to my hopes.

Amelia: I am not surprised so much by Cowen's play but by how quickly MacLean was willing to make him a healthy scratch and how long he was willing to leave him in the press box.

Nkb: I'm with Amelia; Cowen being terrible hasn't really been surprising to me. At some point, he is what he is -- a very large player who for mistaken for a player with a lot of potential because of his size. Anyways, I digress.

I've been pleasantly surprised by how good Chiasson' hands really are. The scouting report was: good size, plus hands and he's been exactly as promised. I'm not entirely convinced he should be in the top 6 ahead of Mark Stone or Mike Hoffman, but the raw skill is there. I like it.

It pains me to say it but I've been most disappointed by Zibanejad. He's cashed goals the last two games but his trio with Chiasson and Ryan was a complete disaster. Part of that might have to do with the line being miss-cast as a play driving, defensive zone starting trio, but the results were nonetheless unacceptable. Mika's still the best choice to centre the second line, but his early season form has been the most discouraging compared to what I expected.

Ian: I've been surprised by Paul Maclean's decisions. On a positive note, he had Cowen on a short leash and wasn't afraid to send him to the press box when things weren't going well. Also, I believe he has effectively managed the two goaltender system by making sure they each get ample playing time and stay hot. On the negative side, on too many nights it seems like ice time isn't being distributed properly. Too often, Neil's line receives more ice time than they should.

So far, I've been most disappointed with Wiercioch. With Cowen's "slow start" (let's hope that's all it is), he was given an opportunity to show that he doesn't belong in the press box. Despite favourable zone starts and decent possession stats, he has only recorded one point on the season. Meanwhile, he's picked up five penalties in his seven games. Really disappointed he hasn't seized his opportunity.

Peter: I've been most pleasantly surprised with Alex Chiasson, I think. When he was acquired, most scouting reports (at least as I interpreted them) as a bit of a Colin Greening type, but Chiasson has had far better offensive instincts and impact than I had expected. I'm really interested to see where he'll end up playing this year, because I think he'll be among the team's best forwards when the year is out.

As for disappointments, Patrick Wiercioch has been the biggest one in my books. With the injury to Marc Methot and Jared Cowen's continued struggles, Wiercioch has been given an ideal opportunity to resuscitate his career--but he's flubbed it. I had high hopes for him based on his past performance, but so far he's been nothing but a disappointment to me. Another year of Wiercioch and two more of Cowen, neither of whom have looked like top-four defencemen, has me scratching my head over what's to be done with the team's blueliners.

Ary: We've collectively covered most of my thoughts on the issue! I've been pleasantly surprised by the play of Anderson + Lehner, who have shown that they can steal games for the Senators. The young forwards Hoffman and Stone have been impressive as well, and both have been integral in winning a couple of games for the Senators while some of the other forwards have gotten off to slow starts.

Unfortunately for the save percentages of Anderson and Lehner, the defense has continued to be atrocious, which is what most of us were worried about when it wasn't addressed in the offseason. I can pick out a few tactical things MacLean and co. have tried to teach the D and it's clear they want to exit the zone with control; the forward back support has been generally okay too. It does seem like it's a personnel issue - many of the current defenders are third pair talent and are being asked to do too much. MacLean has spoken about how shots against is an issue in post-practice interviews so I hope Murray listens and tries to target some of the defenders available for trade. There's a lot of forward talent in the system and there will be some who won't be able to be NHL players for the Sens - the key is to identify who is spare and try to turn them into assets that can help the team now.