With the rookie tournament just on the horizon, and players starting to arrive in Ottawa, the sweet smell of summer is starting to smell a little like the gym. That's right, NHL hockey is almost back! Given that, I thought I'd quickly examine the Sens roster to identify some key battles in training camp, and then ask all of you to rank which is most important to you before I give my opinion on each during Friday's Nuggets.
1. With 12 forwards, 6 defenseman on one-way deals, and Curtis Lazar + Cody Ceci having played regular minutes last year, is there space for any rookies to make the team?
With Shane Prince attending the NHL's rookie showcase after leading the BSens in scoring, Chris Wideman still in the fold after Sens management traded away Eric Gryba to make room, and the Curtis Lazar question looming, it's going to be a big month for some of the Sens (relatively) younger players. Don't forget, Matt Puempel played 13 games in Ottawa last year, and Buddy Robinson's tools (6'5, 230lbs, with speed) are always mentioned around this time of year. That doesn't even mention a surprise with Tobias Lindberg, Nick Paul, or 'Hardest Worker' recipient Max McCormick making the team in a bottom-six role. How many rookies do you think are on the Sens opening night roster, and who deserves to make it?
2. Will the emerging young core take the next step?
I hope that Dave Cameron has a ton of patience for the players who were important parts of the stretch run: Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Mika Zibanejad, Patrick Wiercioch, etc. but if someone has a poor camp, does Cameron re-evaluate? We've seen the Sens make rash decisions due to poor camps before, with the aforementioned Zibanejad losing his opening day roster spot two years ago to Stephane Da Costa after the latter spent a ton of time in Ottawa working out. On the wings, the Sens have experienced players like Clarke MacArthur and Milan Michalek that have been historically top-six players -- do they take ice-time from Hoffman and Stone if either struggles?
3. Who plays on defense?
This is the area with the most question marks, as we're still unsure of a) Chris Phillips' status, b) how Jared Cowen is feeling post-hernia, c) if Chris Wideman will make the team, and d) the health of Marc Methot + Erik Karlsson after both admitted that something was bothering them at different points throughout the year but neither went through surgery. If Cameron decides to go with the top-four that was used in March/April (Methot - Karlsson, Wiercioch - Ceci), and Wideman doesn't make the team, which of the remaining left-shooting defensemen (Cowen, Borowiecki, Phillips) plays the right-side?
4. The fourth line.
Although these players don't have a huge impact on the game, playing ~9-11 minutes a night, we've discussed the fourth line more and more due to cup contending teams having very few *limited-in-skill* players throughout their lineup. The Senators could theoretically roll the nightmarish line of Greening - Smith - Neil, and although Dave Cameron is a different coach than Paul MacLean, that's still a scary proposition. With the exception of Neil, both Greening and Smith are under contract for another year after this, so it's not like the Sens can just wish them away and hope they don't come back. Is it a priority for the team to bite the bullet on one or two of these players so that younger players are given the chance, or can the team afford to wait it out? How important is this battle compared to the previous three?
Feel free to answer the questions in the comments, and I hope to see you participate in the poll! As mentioned, I'll give my opinions, fleshed out with as much evidence as I can, on Friday afternoon.
- We're in the stretch run for the Top 25 Under 25 series! Ross wrote about the player who will always be linked to Jason Spezza, Nick Paul. Trevor looked at NHL hopeful and rookie showcase participant, Shane Prince. Callum examined high-riser Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who climbed from #10 to #6. B_T kicked off our top five with the electric Curtis Lazar, and Ross and Adnan followed suit with a pair of blueliners who should be on the same pairing this year, Cody Ceci and Patrick Wiercioch. [T25U25 - #8, #7, #6, #5, #4, #3]
- Want MORE prospect content? Peter Levi reviews the 2015 Sens draft class pick by pick. [Eye on the Sens]
- Some of us, including myself, have pondered the thought of whether the miracle run to the playoffs was worth it in the long-term. Trevor argues that it'll always be worth it. [Silver Seven]
- Nichols has a piece on Bobby Ryan, and how he'll have to deliver this season with increased expectations after a disappointing year last year, and the weight of his contract extension bearing down on him. Ryan was also the focus of a Citizen offseason column. [6th Sens, Ottawa Citizen]
- Speaking of next season, Chirp has 10 (some surprising and some not) predictions for the 2015-16 season. I hope they all come true! [SensChirp]
- Daniel Alfredsson's return to the organization in a professional capacity is imminent. Trevor asks all of you: what should his role be? I had never thought about it before, but Trevor brings up that Alfie could be really good in a player development role. [Silver Seven]
- Jeff has a column on the BSens 2015-16 schedule, which was released last week. [Silver Seven]
- Peter's regular News and Notes column is always a good read. This week, he touches on the rookie tournament roster, Mikael Wikstrand, and more. Chirp also has a column specifically on the rookie tournament. [Eye on the Sens, SensChirp]
- Trevor was on a roll last week, with a long column detailing why Craig Anderson is the key to the 2015-16 Senators season. [Silver Seven]
- After a controversial injury to end last season, Mark Stone's wrist is supposedly at 100% and he's ready to come into training camp. Here's hoping that he gets first line ice-time. [Ottawa Citizen]
- Callum was on five thoughts duty this week, and as always, it's a go-to for elaborate thoughts on last week's Sens news. [Silver Seven]
- After going through the ten worst games in Senators history last week, Chirp picks out the ten best games. A positive way to end the Sens-specific section of the Nuggets. [SensChirp]
- Want to know what it's like being a Hockey Analyst in the NHL? Go inside the mind of Eric Tulsky, analytics pioneer and current staff member of the Carolina Hurricanes. [Carolina Hurricanes]
- Here's Travis Yost on a stat that isn't really used as much, but can be illustrative in specific contexts: Individual Points Percentage. [TSN]
- A really cool series by Sportsnet on the Jays '92 World Series team. [Sportsnet]
- An interesting piece by Ryan Stimpson, who's applying data from his amazing Passing Project to try and predict future goals. [In Lou We Trust]
- It's prediction time in hockey land. Here's Justin Bourne's guess at the final 2015-16 NHL standings. [The Score]
- Sean Tierney's latest aims to classify NHL centremen by 'player type'. Give it a read! [Today's Slapshot]