With four days off between Senators games, the Christmas break seemed like a good opportunity to take a cursory look at player deployment under former head coach Paul MacLean and his successor Dave Cameron.
There are of course a few caveats. The Sens have only played 34 games this season (27 under MacLean, seven under Cameron). That's not a particularly large sample size, especially for Cameron. With the exception of Marc Methot, the Senators were generally healthy under MacLean. Under Cameron, Milan Michalek, Chris Neil, and Zack Smith have missed several games due to injury. At times, Cameron's been left with only 12 healthy forwards and so hasn't had to make lineup decisions. I only looked at TOI totals and didn't break things down by PP TOI/G and PK TOI/G. I'm sure that would shed some light on player usage, but that's for a follow up post.
Can we draw any conclusions from this? No, it's probably too early to tell. However, there do seem to be some trends in Cameron's usage. Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, and Mika Zibanejad are all getting true top-six minutes. This is a good thing.
Certain veterans are playing less. Phillips' ice time is down by four minutes per game. He was put in a position where he couldn't succeed under MacLean and Cameron at least seems to realize there a limitations to his game at this stage in his career. Phillips has even been a healthy scratch on a few occasions under Cameron.
Phillips isn't the only veteran with a diminished role. Michalek is averaging 1:30 less under Cameron. One of the more interesting developments is the usage of David Legwand under the new coach. MacLean leaned on the veteran a lot, giving him big minutes some nights. Now he's playing on average four less minutes a night. In Neil's only game under Cameron, the veteran tough guy was injured after having played less than three minutes. It's too hard to say how Cameron will use Neil when he returns to the lineup, but the coach's increasing reliance on useful role players like Erik Condra and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, combined with his willingness to scratch respected veteran Phillips leaves me hopeful Neil will also have a decreased role.
Colin Greening's in the lineup but he's playing three minutes less per game under Cameron and it's not like he was playing big minutes under MacLean either. Greening's playing, but it seems like if Cameron had more than 12 healthy forwards at his disposal, 14 wouldn't be one of his options.
Several defensemen (Jared Cowen, Cody Ceci, Mark Borowiecki, and Eric Gryba) are seeing increased minutes. In the case of Borowiecki and Gryba the jump in minutes is significant. It seems like Cameron is trying to rely less on Phillips when he's in the lineup and with Karlsson already among the league leaders in ice time, the remaining minutes have to be picked up by the other defenders.