It goes without saying that this week was a tough one for Sens fans. After a flood of scoring in the wrong direction against Nashville, questions continued to be raised about the Sens blue line. Throw in a fairly big trade rumour, and we've got ourselves something to talk about this week!
1) Blue-Line Changes
We are all aware of the Sens' struggles on the blue line. Outside of Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot, there aren't many good things to say about the defensive play of this team. The game against Nashville was a pretty clear sign that something needs to change. And finally something did... kind of.
Patrick Wiercioch was a healthy scratch for Thursday's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Judging by his play on Tuesday against the Predators, it's hard to disagree with this move. But why him? Jared Cowen and Mark Borowiecki are both surely deserving of a game or two in the press box. Yet they both dressed for Thursday's game. Which begs the question(s): Was this Cameron's decision? Or did he have influence from management? If so, why do they want them both on the ice?
Most fans would love to think that Murray wants to showcase them to other teams who might be interested in a trade. But with the way they are both playing, more ice time might not do much for their case in the eyes of other teams. (Kidding... kind of).
One could make a case for some teams being interested in Jared Cowen. Despite struggling for the majority of his professional career, many people still feel that he will one day be a serviceable NHL player.
It's not unfathomable that some teams would want to take a chance on a young(er) defenseman with the possibility of improvement. His selling price is also pretty low at this point, so they would not have to give up very much to get him. He doesn't have the most appealing contract, at $3.1 million per year, but there are plenty of teams with cap room who might be interested. The Colorado Avalanche, maybe?
2) Trade Rumours
Rumours started swirling around on Thursday that the Colorado Avalanche are shopping Matt Duchene around.
Joe Sakic has reportedly called a number of teams, including the Ottawa Senators, to see if there is any interest in Duchene (which there definitely is). Bryan Murray is apparently very interested in the young forward. We all know Murray has been looking for a top-six forward for a while now. So it's no surprise that his ears perked up during this call. The 6th Sens discussed this trade rumour in more detail here.
The Sens have struggled in many areas so far this season, but offence is not one of them. Averaging about three goals per game, the team has had little to no trouble finding the back of the net. Keeping the puck out of their own net and limiting scoring chances by the other team are both much more of a problem.
Despite the fact that a top-six forward might not help with that, the Sens also need to move a defenseman. Murray likely sees an opportunity to do that here. But with Duchene making $6 million+ per year through to the 2018-19 season, the Sens would likely have to move salary in order to absorb that contract.
In addition to Jared Cowen or Patrick Wiercioch (the two players Bob McKenzie thinks would be a part of this deal), Murray would have to send a forward to Colorado as well. Based on money alone, Milan Michalek would be a good fit in this case. However it's very hard to see Colorado taking that trade. Of course, adding another centre to the lineup means that we would likely have to move either Kyle Turris or Mika Zibanejad. I'd hate to see either player go, and I imagine Murray feels the same way.
Which leads me to my next question: Who do you think would be a part of this trade, if it were to happen? Again, this is all hypothetical at this point, but why not have some fun on a Friday? I've seen Curtis Lazar and Cody Ceci being thrown into the mix here as well. But I would love to know your thoughts.
3) Leave Erik Karlsson Alone
With the Sens' blue line taking a lot of criticism so far this season, their top defenseman and captain, Erik Karlsson, has not been immune to such critiques. Some fans and members of the media have been quick to accuse Karlsson of struggling in the last few games. And while this has not been a fantastic season for many Senators players, Karlsson does not deserve to take the heat for this team's struggles.
Karlsson is by far one of the best defensemen in the league. He is consistently at or near the top in scoring among defensemen, and nothing has changed this season. After a great game against the Canucks on Thursday, he has 16 points in 16 games. If that is a disappointing season for him? I think it's safe to say he's in good shape.
Erik Karlsson has been the best defenseman in literally every single category on the Ottawa Senators this year. pic.twitter.com/v2ChOEK6c9— Callum Fraser (@CallumFraser18) November 12, 2015
While this criticism is not at all warranted, let's try and understand where it comes from. When a team is struggling as bad as the Sens are in a specific area (the blue line), it's easy to blame one of the top players in that position. He is the team's captain, and their best defenseman, so many people are just quickly jumping on the easiest and brightest target. But when you look at Karlsson's individual play, it is not at all representative of this team's play as a whole. It is far better.
His play on the ice is not the only thing to feel good about. Throughout some of the toughest games and post-game interviews this season, Karlsson has remained calm and positive when speaking with the media. A few years ago, in this situation, I would expect him to snap back a little bit here and there. But we haven't seen anything like that yet. He is optimistic and never seems to show frustration towards his team.
Sure, you want your captain to get upset when things aren't going well, but what good will flipping out on camera this early in the season do? Karlsson is doing his best to keep his team focused and not put more pressure on them. That is the sign of a great leader, a top defenseman and a player who does not deserve the criticism that he's received recently.
4) Bobby Ryan: A Ray of Sunshine
If there is one positive thing to come out of the last few Sens games, it's the play of Bobby Ryan. After struggling to find his scoring touch in the first few games this season, it's safe to say that Ryan has found it again. He has 9 points in the previous 8 games, including a goal against Vancouver last night.
Call it puck luck, call it confidence, but whatever it is, it's working for Bobby Ryan right now. Both he and Mika Zibanejad have stepped up their game recently, as Zibanejad has 5 points in the last 6 games. The team is finally getting consistent scoring from their second line, and it is due in large part to the play of Bobby Ryan.
In a time where the team as a whole is struggling, Ryan has been able to step it up and play some of his best hockey. We need something to be happy about this week, and it can be Bobby Ryan.
5) Dave Cameron
Of course, with team inconsistency comes criticism towards the coach. Dave Cameron's choices have been called into question a few times this season. None more so than his decision to continue playing Cowen and Borowiecki together, until recently anyway. The decision to scratch Wiercioch and not the two aforementioned players also inspired a number of questions. But as I mentioned earlier, that may not have been up to him.
Regardless, it's no secret that Cameron has occasionally come under fire this season. But if we looked at where this team is now (under Cameron) and where they were at this time last year (under Paul MacLean), there is not much of a difference. As of November 13, 2014 the Sens had a record of 8-4-4. Right now, the Sens' record is 8-5-3. Both teams suffered from a lack of identity and allowed a very high number of shots against per game.
This may be an indication that the problems on this team are not necessarily due to coaching. Maybe there needs to be a change in the roster before we have another coaching change. My fear is that firing Cameron will become a knee-jerk reaction if the team's struggles worsen. Fortunately, I suspect we'll see a trade before it comes to that. I think Dave Cameron is the right coach for this team, and I would like to see what he can do with the right roster in front of him. Management needs to look at the changes to be made on the team, before they look elsewhere.
Thanks for reading!