Training camp for the Ottawa Senators has not even officially started yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t begin to preview the upcoming season.
The off-season is essentially over, and barring a late free agent signing (Jaromir Jagr anyone?) or an out of nowhere trade, the Senators roster looks to be set. That does not mean we know for sure who will be in the lineup on October 5th against the Washington Capitals, but we can take a guess.
I find that visualizing lines makes me understand the roster a lot better, and I like mixing and matching with different combinations. So let’s go over the locks, then the bubble players, and to finish off I’ll put down some line combinations.
Forwards (12): Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, Derick Brassard (IR), Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur, Zack Smith, Alex Burrows, Ryan Dzingel, Nate Thompson, Tom Pyatt
Defense (3): Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Ceci.
Goalies (2): Craig Anderson, Mike Condon
Forwards (4): Colin White, Logan Brown, Nick Paul, Chris DiDomenico
Defense (5): Fredrik Claesson, Mark Borowiecki, Chris Wideman, Thomas Chabot, Johnny Oduya
You might be thinking: Claesson and Wideman are bubble players? They are obviously good enough to be on the roster, but with the way the team is set up, it’s unclear who will begin the season in the top-six on defense.
Ottawa does have seven defensemen on one-way deals, but I truly believe Chabot will impress the coaching staff enough that he’ll warrant a spot. Therefore, the defense combos are unclear at this point.
Karlsson, Ceci, and Phaneuf are locked into their spots for now, but it’s undetermined who will play with Karlsson, and who will be on the third pairing. Wideman will most likely be playing because he is right-handed, but that still leaves Claesson, Oduya, Chabot, and Borowiecki battling for two spots on the left side.
Last season, Guy Boucher hardly ever switched the defense pairings, but I have a feeling this year will be much different out of necessity.
The forwards are more locked in than I can ever remember, as 12 of them are on one-way contracts. Brassard will most likely begin the season on the IR, meaning the four bubble players (White, Brown, Paul, and DiDomenico) will vie for the final spot on the fourth line.
Brown still has one more season in junior and is coming off a disappointing season, so it’s unlikely he’ll actually stay the entire season. The 13th spot is White’s to lose, and I expect him to draw into the bottom six to begin the year.
Considering all of the above, here is how the opening lineup could look:
With Brassard hurt, the forwards are pretty much how I would construct the lines, and I think they are realistic. Dzingel, MacArthur, and Smith might be switched around, but the rest looks normal.
As for the defense, this is what I’m predicting will happen. Although Oduya is not a top-pairing guy, he seems like a signing that Guy Boucher was all over. I don’t think the team wants to rush Claesson or Chabot on that top pairing, so Oduya will get that spot initially.
Claesson certainly deserves a spot somewhere in the lineup, but then again it’s difficult for me to envision Borowiecki not playing right away. Are those combinations the ones I would pick? Definitely not. But I’m putting my Boucher thinking cap on, and those are the pairings that seem plausible.
However, by the end of the season, I’m thinking the pairings could look something like this:
Ideally, Chabot and Wideman would be getting more ice time, but if that is the defense come April, I’ll be pretty happy with that. Of course, lots can change between now and then, but I just can’t see Chabot and Claesson not being good enough to stay in the lineup.
Then again, Borowiecki and Oduya might be beloved by the coaching staff, which means Chabot could spend most of the year in the AHL. No matter what, the defense pairings will be interesting to keep track of, as there are no obvious answers.
For the forwards, things will change slightly once Brassard comes back. I’m definitely a fan of White too, so I’m thinking that, much like Chabot, he will become a regular in the second half of the season.
In that case, the new lines could be something like:
I’m not so sure Pyatt would be out of the lineup in this scenario, but the only other obvious choices would be Alex Burrows or Nate Thompson. Then again, there would most likely be a couple injuries at this point, so Pyatt could probably stay on the fourth line.
Looking at this roster, it seems like there are only so many combinations you can make for the forwards. You can switch around some of the left-wingers or put everything into a blender, but the most obvious lines are the ones I have listed. If the lines evolve into what I think will happen by the end of the season, then that will be a solid, if unspectacular group.
For the defense, it’s quite hard predicting what will happen. I’ll stick with my opening night prediction, although I really hope that Chabot and Claesson can become mainstay’s for Ottawa. Even if Chabot stays in the AHL, the Senators will still be dealing with seven one-way defense contracts, and I’m sure there will be plenty of experimenting.
What do you think/hope will happen with the lines this season?