No time to waste. There’s thoughts to be had. Five of them. Now!
Puempel’s Last Stand
Tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres could be the final NHL game Matt Puempel plays with the Senators organization.
The 23-year-old is a restricted free agent in the summer of 2017, and it doesn’t feel like Sens management is too keen on extending him. Puempel has looked a step behind the better players during the preseason, and though he has three tallies in six games, the few points that he’s mustered have been tap-ins or served to him on a silver platter.
There were rave reviews of Puempel up until last season. Scouts and fans that watched him with the Peterborough Petes and Binghamton Senators always deemed him a natural goal scorer with an knack for getting open in the slot.
But it didn’t translate to the NHL level when he was called up for multiple stints from 2014 to 2016. In 39 games with the big club, Puempel has managed just four goals. At that rate, Puempel wouldn’t hit double digits in an 82-game season.
And it’s not like he wasn’t given the right tools to succeed, playing alongside Bobby Ryan and Mika Zibanejad for a great deal of minutes in both seasons when Clarke MacArthur’s injuries left a hole in the top six.
Dzingel Here to Stay
Ryan Dzingel has raised some eyebrows within the coaching staff.
Boucher is very high on Ryan Dzingel. Says he will be in the lineup 100% tomorrow and likely to play with Brassard/Ryan.— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) October 6, 2016
And it should come as no surprise.
What is it that Guy Boucher demands from his players? Ah, yes, speed, pace, more speed and more pace.
Dzingel has checked all four of those boxes with a big, fat, bold Sharpie.
The 24-year-old is a speedy, talented winger and has proven that he wants it more then a lot of other so-called ‘tweeners in the Senators organization. He’s struggled to get ice time in the nation’s capital during the past few seasons, but with brand new philosophy behind the bench, Dzingel’s offensive creativity and quick feet will be appreciated a heck of a lot more.
There’s no question that he is ready to play 82 games in the NHL - in fact, he was ready to do that last year - but with Smith, Stone and Lazar set to return from injury (and sickness), it might be difficult for Dzingel to find a comfortable spot in the roster. The Senators’ bottom six is packed with veterans that have already had high praise for their locker room presence and leadership on the penalty kill.
In a lot of people’s mind, Dzingel is a top-six talent. It just might take some persistence and patience for him to solidify himself in the eyes of the coaches as a definite regular.
Can Varone’s Play Translate to Regular Season?
You’ve all heard the Brandon Bochenski jokes, so I’ll save you the eye-rolls.
As of last night, Phil Varone was tied for the league lead in preseason points, recording seven in five games. Although we must address the obvious decrease in quality of competition because of expanded rosters, Varone has been consistently impressive every single night.
The Vaughn, Ontario, native has showed he can distribute the puck on the power play, keep up with the NHL’s high pace of play and he seems to have chemistry with an array of linemates. But, as you know, chemistry is overrated narrative, and more times than not, it simply takes good players playing together to create impactful trios.
But the good news for Varone is that the above means he’s a good player.
It’s unlikely that Varone is above Dzingel or players like Chris Kelly, Tom Pyatt, Chris Neil and Curtis Lazar on the team’s depth chart, but with MacArthur out for the foreseeable future, there will be holes to fill on this roster. Keep putting up points and who knows if renting an apartment in the Westboro area is completely out of the question after all.
Boucher Making Easy Decisions Look Easy
If you were the head coach of an NHL team, would you put your five most skilled players on your first power play unit? You would? Well, good.
First power play unit: Stone-Brassard-Ryan with Hoffman-Karlsson on points. #Sens— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) October 6, 2016
So would Guy Boucher.
It seems so obvious in hindsight to put your best offensive players on the man advantage and your top, all-around players in the top six, but the Senators’ lines and special teams units have been victim to a lot of tampering over the past few seasons. Now, with no tension between the coaching staff and players, knowing that management is completely on board with the suits behind the bench and in turn, the guys with the clipboards are delighted with the pieces in front of them, a lot of the lineup choices become politics-free.
In other words, of course Mike Hoffman will spend the entire season on the first power play unit. Boucher wants to win games.
Chabot to Start Season in Ottawa
After a pretty negative response from management post-development camp in early July, Thomas Chabot has turned things around in a hurry.
Pierre Dorion says: "These are our eight defencemen." Means Thomas Chabot will start season here. #Sens— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) October 6, 2016
The 19-year-old 2015 first round pick has improved thoroughly throughout training camp. His defensive game, though rather dubious in the first couple preseason games, has taken big strides the past two weeks.
The good signs have been with his offensive play. Unlike many young defensemen during their first real shot in an NHL training camp, Chabot has had the confidence to jump into the rush whenever the opportunity presents itself, and has been seen sneaking into the slot on the power play, catching his opponent off guard multiple times.
It was always apparent. that the Saint-Marie, Quebec, native had elite speed and a silky smooth stride. I mean, good God, can the kid ever skate. But we’re seeing that he won’t hold back just because of his lack of experience or rookie status.
Whether he sees nine games or 82, you get the sense that it’s a big positive that the Senators see Chabot as worthy of regular season NHL minutes at such a young age.