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Silver Nuggets: Who Needs to Step Up?

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Who needs to pick up their game in the second half of the season?

Wiercioch isn't sure if Stone's fist-bump is a vote for him or Ceci for "Needs Improvement"
Wiercioch isn't sure if Stone's fist-bump is a vote for him or Ceci for "Needs Improvement"
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Ottawa Senators have had an up-and-down season, but despite a losing record, the loser point has the team only one point out of a playoff spot. For a team that's missed a few players for a few games each, most notably Clarke MacArthur for most of the season, that's not bad. The thing is, Ottawa has a lot of talent at the top of the lineup and could go on a win streak at any point to solidify a playoff spot.

My question to you is, who needs to step up in the second half of the season? This isn't a question about the team's MVP, because we all know it's Erik Karlsson. There's no way Karlsson, leading the NHL in time on ice and the Eastern Conference in points, needs to step up his game at all. Similarly, I'd say Bobby Ryan (36 points in 39 games), Mike Hoffman (35 in 36), and Mark Stone (32 in 38) are all playing about where we want. Shane Prince is not getting enough ice time to be allowed to step up his game, and Craig Anderson is beating his career average in save percentage while facing the most shots in the league. Kyle Turris is tied with John Tavares and Steven Stamkos in points, so I don't think it's fair to question his season. No, my question is about players who either have played better and have disappointed this year, or players we hope can take the next step in their development. Here are four players who in my opinion could have the biggest impact on improving the Sens in the second half.

Mika Zibanejad: We don't know the extent of his eye injury, so this point could be irrelevant. Mika has been alright points-wise, on pace for 48 points, but he hasn't seemed effective. Basically, he's needed two of Ryan, Hoffman, or Stone on his line to look good. Zibanejad looked like he could be a play driver when he was younger, but this season he's left us wanting more.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau: This will be the first season in which Pageau gets the chance to play a full year in the NHL, and he also has left us wanting more. He's slightly off the points pace he showed last season, but most importantly, his line hasn't been a possession driver. As much as Erik Condra was a unique talent, I didn't think that substituting him with Alex Chiasson would lead to such a dramatic drop on that line. To be fair, carting around Dave Dziurzynski on that line recently can't have helped, but I think Ottawa's depth issues could be helped a lot if Pageau improved down the stretch.

Cody Ceci: The Sun reports that Ceci expects to be back in the lineup next week. The hometown boy is in the final year of his ELC, and we'd all like to see him show some realization of his potential before the year is out. He's been fine for putting up points, but his defensive play has lacked. In fact, for most of Ceci's career he's only looked good when paired with someone better - Wiercioch, Marc Methot, or a younger Chris Phillips. It's time for Ceci to be a good defender in his own right, or he may be better served as trade bait.

Patrick Wiercioch: In my opinion, this is the big one. Love him or hate him, you can't deny he had a fantastic end to the season last year. He cemented his place in the lineup, led the team in scoring in the playoffs, and made it to Team Canada at the World Hockey Championships. Many figured this would solidify his spot in the top four forever. Instead, he's been a healthy scratch again a few times this year. The thing is, outside of Karlsson and Methot, Wiercioch is the only defenceman on the team who's shown he can be a top-four d-man. If Ottawa is going to make the playoffs, they're going to need to shore up the defence, and to do that they'll need one of their best defenders to bring his A-game.

Sens Links:

  • Ottawa came from behind to beat the Blues 3-2 in OT last night [Silver Seven, Rank the Performances, SensChirp]
  • That unfortunately came after being shut out by the Hawks, 3-0 [Silver Seven, Rank the Performances, SensChirp]
  • The B-Sens suffered a horrible collapse over the weekend, surrendering a 5-1 lead to Hershey [Silver Seven]
  • Trevor argues that the Sens have waited to trade Jared Cowen until the return is basically nothing [Silver Seven]
  • Two games are done, but you can see what else is coming up in B_T's Week Ahead [Silver Seven]
  • Callum digs deeper into Shane Prince's stats and why he deserves more than five minutes per game [Silver Seven]
  • We asked some question to John Fontana of SB Nation's Raw Charge about the possibility of a Jonathan Drouin trade [Silver Seven]
  • The latest episode of the Chet and Luke Podcast - the first of 2016! [Silver Seven]
  • Chirp has 10 Senators storylines for you to watch in 2016 [SensChirp]
  • Chet's Hater's Guide is out for this week [WTYKY]
  • If you missed it earlier, make sure to check out Kevin Lee's piece on intangibles [Sens Nation]
  • A trifecta of pieces from the hardest working man in Sens business, Graeme Nichols. First, on the Drouin rumours [6th Sens]
  • Second, some notes on the pressure on Dave Cameron [6th Sens]
  • Lastly, transcription of an interview with Pierre Dorion on TSN 1200, including Dorion getting a little too excited about Colin White [6th Sens]
  • Peter Levi's semi-frequent look at the Sens, B-Sens, and IceMen [Eye on the Sens]
  • Some quotes from Kevin Shattenkirk and Ken Hitchcock about how great Karlsson is [Ottawa Citizen]

Other Links:

  • Raw Charge have some great coverage on the Drouin situation, but this one in particular, looking at comparable situations, is of particular interest [Raw Charge]
  • Tom Renney sure did a good job of pointing fingers after the World Juniors, especially after Team Canada said they wouldn't point fingers [Pension Plan Puppets]
  • It looks like the Rangers have decided to give up on Emerson Etem, their return from trading Carl Hagelin over the summer [Today's Slapshot]
  • Frank Seravalli tries his hand at projecting the roster for the All-Star Game - only one Sen made it on his list [TSN]
  • The Ducks are trending up right now, and it's thanks to their young defencemen [Yost - TSN]