Oh boy there were plenty of other topics I could have discussed besides the ones mentioned today. Honestly, there are a few that deserve there own article, but I don't want to touch on certain things as I would feel like I am beating a dead horse. Nevertheless, here is this weeks five thoughts!
Chris Phillips Likely Done
Bryan Murray was interviewed on TSN 1200 yesterday, and he made a few interesting notes. Firstly, he talked about Chris Phillips:
BM on Phillips: "Chris is a ways away still. In my estimation he's a longshot to come back"— Paul (@Sens_Army_) December 10, 2015
I thought this was noteworthy because in the past the team has talked about Phillips coming back at some point and contributing. Whether they truly thought that is besides the point, but now even in public they are admitting that he's most likely played his last game as an Ottawa Senator (and likely in the NHL). Most fans do not even want him back, and he'll be a liability if he's playing 15 minutes a night plus taking someone like Chris Wideman out of the lineup.
This is a sad way for Phillips to end his career, and once he got hurt I knew he was never coming back. It's hard to see a guy who was once part of Ottawa's core that went to the Stanley Cup Finals diminish in value so much over the years. He has been a fantastic leader on the team, great in the community, and by all account a good teammate. Let's not forget that he was a serviceable top-four defenseman at one point too.
Although he never lived up to the first overall pick status, he played an integral part on winning teams in Ottawa. While we think of him as not good enough right now, we can't just forget that he was a useful player in his prime. I really do wonder what his advanced stats would have looked like in the early-mid 2000's, because that could have proved my point even further. He's likely played his last game, but much like Daniel Alfredsson, I doubt we've seen the last of him.
Curtis Lazar Demotion?
Another thing that Murray mentioned was in reference to Curtis Lazar:
Murray admits hockey ops has kicked around idea of sending Lazar to minors to build confidence with puck.— The 6th Sens (@6thSens) December 10, 2015
This is the first negative thing I have heard the team say about Lazar, and it's odd seeing that even if it is true. While Murray did say he has been "great, work-wise, energy wise" as typical, I like that the team has at least realized that he's struggled offensively. I think Lazar can play sound defensively and kill penalties effectively, but at this point in his career there is nothing to suggest that he can be a top-six player. He resembles something much closer to Chris Neil (sans-fighting) than Mike Hoffman.
In 94 career games he has just 8 goals and 12 assists, and in his draft year he picked up 61 points in 72 games in the WHL. As he's approaching 21 in three months, I just don't see him ending up being a big point producer. Perhaps some time in the AHL could help with his confidence and goal-scoring a tad, but I doubt it'll be a life-changer. Considering how much the team likes him overall, I really doubt he'll ever get sent down. He's a fine enough player if he's on the third or fourth line that plays well in his own zone, but I'm not sure we should expect 50 points out of him. The mention of him being demoted was at least eyebrow-raising, as the team sees what we are seeing as well.
Costly Loss Against Tampa Bay
Last night's loss was quite costly for the Senators, as the Atlantic Division (and the East in general) is getting really tight. With the win, Tampa Bay now sits four points back of Ottawa,---but how long do we really expect that to last? Tampa Bay is the better team. I can't see the Senators beating the Canadiens or Lightning in the standings in the long run, but teams that are nearby include the Red Wings, Bruins, and Panthers.
The Red Wings won again last night, so now they are two points up on the Senators, while the Bruins are two back but have two games in hand as well. We can't forget the Panthers who sit only three points back with the same amount of games played. A win would have kept Ottawa tied for second in the division, but instead they are right in the middle of things again.
Ottawa can't slip too much in December, especially if their possession numbers continue to tank. Luckily for them, their "Deathcember" record sits at a reasonable 3-3-0, and I thought they deserved to win against the Lightning. The shot attempts were 47-39 for Ottawa at even strength, so that's a step in the right direction. Still though, the Senators need to keep pace with other teams and a win last night would have given them a bit more distance between them and the teams trailing them.
Put Mark Borowiecki Back
I sort of understand putting Borowiecki at forward if it's only for one game and there isn't really anybody else available. But last night was the third game that he has been up there, and it's getting a little ridiculous. Yes, I know that he only played 8:28 last night, but A) he cost the Senators a goal by taking an insanely obvious hooking penalty, and B) by putting him at forward, Dave Cameron is willingly taking out Shane Prince, who happens to be one of the teams more skilled forwards.
Prince is 3rd on the team in relative corsi and has not been a defensive liability. Yet a 6/7th defenseman is playing at a position he hasn't played at in years over him. Just think about that. Honestly, having Borowiecki play minimal minutes on the fourth line is not that crazy considering some of the forwards that are employed by other teams, but I have an issue when it is at the expense of someone like Prince. Heck, even David Dziurzynski should be out of the lineup before Prince is as well.
Enough already, just put him back on defense. It's common sense.
Chris Wideman Proving His Value
Chris Wideman had one of his best games last night, which is fantastic to see. The Senators need anyone on the backend besides Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot to step up, and he has been solid for the team so far. This looks not too shabby:
Chris Wideman was the best Dman out there, 19-7 in CF. He's really coming into his own now that he's been able to play for a good stretch.— Sens Charts (@SensCharts) December 11, 2015
He also finished with seven (!) shots on goal, which usually only Karlsson can replicate on defense. I'd like to see him get a few more points here and there, but it's hard when he isn't getting that much ice time. Before last night, he was averaging just 14:14 per game, which is the lowest amongst Senators defensmen. He is also 5th on the team in shots per 60 minutes (5 on 5) with 6.41. Furthermore, the stats from last nights game weren't updated just yet, meaning that that number has gone up significantly.
His 1.6% CF% relative sits behind only Karlsson and Patrick Wiercioch amongst defensemen, which is impressive given that he usually plays with Jared Cowen or Mark Borowiecki. The jury's still out if he's the top-four defenseman that we need or not, but he's showing good signs. If he played more often and was paired with someone more competent than Cowen then I think he would thrive.
Ottawa desperately needs him to be the real deal.