With one slash last night, the Sens left D situation got a fair bit shallower. Marc Methot will be out for weeks, which means Fredrik Claesson is likely to draw in to the lineup. The question becomes where, and how the defensive pairings will get shuffled around.
The first, obvious thought is to pair up Claesson with Chris Wideman. At 84 minutes of 5 on 5 together, Wideman has been the most common partner for Freddy this season. They’ve done reasonably well together too. While they have benefited from very favourable deployment, the team is noticeably out-shooting their opponents with the pair on the ice.
The problem here comes from pushing Mark Borowiecki up the depth chart. Boro has been reasonably effective on the third pairing with Wideman, but things start getting sketchy when he gets moved up to play on the first or second pairing. On top of that, Boro-Wideman actually have the lowest goals against rate in the league for regular pairings. Maximizing Boro’s usage with Wideman instead of Claesson’s probably makes a bigger difference.
The next most common partner for Claesson has been Erik Karlsson. It’s a big jump from healthy scratch to top pairing, but the appeal here comes from the minimal impact on the rest of the pairings - Methot is out, so move Claesson in to his spot. They’ve spent almost as much time together this season as Claesson has with Wideman, and they’ve looked pretty good as a pair.
Part of that is surely Karlsson “floating all boats” so to speak, but we can’t really ignore the usage either. Claesson-Karlsson saw more sheltered deployment than Karlsson has with any of the other left shot D. Sheltered time on the third pairing is one thing, but Karlsson and Methot have been largely splitting the heavy load with Cody Ceci and Dion Phaneuf. Slotting Claesson in to the top pairing, and you might have to really bury the second pairing (where there are already concerns) or shelter the third pairing less.
Claesson-Borowiecki was a pairing that was buried, and the team was shelled with them on. It also means playing one of them (probably Boro) on their off hand, which doesn’t make much sense given the team has three healthy natural right D.
That leaves the second pairing with Cody Ceci. Claesson has spent the least time with Ceci - a bit under a third of what he’s spent with Karlsson or Wideman, about 10% of his time in total - but those limited results show promise. As a pairing they had similar percentages to Claesson with Wideman or Karlsson, but also much better overall numbers for Ceci than with either Phaneuf or Methot.
The offensive output goes up. Way up. The shot attempt rate cranks up to 77 attempts per 60 minutes, 17 over Ceci with Phaneuf and 15 over Ceci with Methot. Attempts against drop slightly from with Phaneuf too. They’re higher than with Methot, but obviously Ceci-Methot isn’t an option right now. It’s not just quantity either, with high danger chances coming at a rate of about 20 for per 60 minutes, and only 5 against. All of this with 40% offensive zone starts, too. These guys weren’t sheltered with their face-offs.
One problem - they haven’t taken regular shifts as a pairing. Their time together is spread across 22 games, with a shift here or a shift there. It’s more than just a few seconds during shift changes adding up, but it’s not exactly the best sample to work from.
Really, this whole thing needs a big “small sample size” warning. Claesson has only spent 258 minutes on the ice (242 minutes of 5 on 5), so we’ve only got so much to work with. But with the small sample we do have he’s shown some level of success all the way up and down the lineup. Only time (and coaching decisions) will let us see if that can hold true over longer stretches.