I’ve prepared some thoughts for you all to enjoy this Friday morning, as is the tradition. Get yer thinking caps ready:
On the Red Line Redirect
One of the most frustrating parts of watching the Sens play lately is how often they seem content to run what I describe as the “red line redirect”. There are other names for it, but you’d all know it to see it: the defenseman fires a laser beam pass at the winger on the near boards, who is conveniently standing at the red line, and the winger tips the puck just enough to get it in deep (and typically go off for a change). The play drives me crazy for two reasons: 1) you’re setting the next line up for failure since the opposition almost always collects the puck in their end without any fore-checking pressure and 2) there’s very often the option of just passing it backwards.
Players are drilled from a very young age to move the puck forwards as quickly as possible, and that to change you should get the puck in deep. The Sens are not alone in doing this. But the play is ultimately just a give-away: you’re handing the other team the puck and the opportunity to wind up and skate through the neutral zone with speed. Sometimes, going backwards creates a scoring chance against you when an errant pass gets picked off. You need defensemen who are confident with the puck, and that have been told it is O.K to have a turnover or two, in order to make going backwards a real option but the benefits are there to be had. Next time you’re watching a Sens, game look to see if the defenseman could have just gone backwards with it and retained possession.
On Mike Hoffman’s One-Timer
This isn’t really a thought so much as an appreciation. There are so many things Hoffman does well offensively, but the release on his one-timer is special. The game-winning goal last night was a vintage effort:
Robin Lehner actually reads the play well and pushes off fast enough to cover the bottom half of the net. Nope, doesn’t matter — the shot’s just too good. Savour it while we can, and hope we get to see Hoffman do his thing for years to come.
On the Vision for the Defense:
In the aftermath of the Dion Phaneuf trade, there’s been a fair bit of discussion about how the Sens plan to construct their defense corps for the rest of this season and into the next. There have been a couple of recent developments that might lead one to believe that the future is surprisingly set. Ian Mendes had a piece at TSN.ca on Thursday in which Dorion, unsurprisingly, speaks very positively of Cody Ceci and his future with the organization. Setting aside any evaluations of Ceci’s play, it’s looking increasingly likely that despite the recent trade rumours he is a part of the team’s long term plans. Add in Thomas Chabot and Mark Borowiecki and you have half of a six man unit. Barring unforeseen upheaval, those three will be around. Ben Harpur also signed a multi-year extension last week, so we’d imagine he’ll be a prominent factor for the next couple of years. That leaves two spots to fill. Plan A is, of course, to have Erik Karlsson occupying one of those spots. Plan B is frankly too terrifying to contemplate right now, so we’ll stick to a world in which Karlsson extends with the Sens. That leaves one full-time spot for Fredrik Claesson, Chris Wideman and the slew of potential AHL candidates. Any defenseman taken in this year’s draft seems unlikely to make the big club right away, especially if Guy Boucher continues on as head coach. For better or for worse, the Sens seem to have settled on the outline of their defense for the next two to three seasons; the last third of the year might give us some clues as to whether it’ll work.
On Women’s Hockey:
This is a site whose purpose is to cover the Ottawa Senators, but if you’re a fan of hockey at all you should be watching the Women’s Olympic Tournament because it’s the best thing going right now. Wednesday night’s showdown between Canada and the USA produced all of the drama you’d expect and, unless something goes terribly wrong for the two powerhouses in the semi-finals, we’ll get the rematch we’ve all been waiting for next Wednesday. The USA was the better of the two squads in their meeting, out-shooting the Canadians 45-23 and continuing a trend that has been slowly taking hold for several years now. It took a bit of luck for Canada to prevail four years ago in Sochi, and it’s looking like they might need some of that same magic to take home their fifth consecutive Olympic Gold medal. Either way, make sure you don’t miss it.
On Outlandish Trades:
One trademark of Pierre Dorion’s tenure as GM has been a willingness to make trades; no other team has moved so many significant pieces in the last 18 months as Ottawa. So this got me to thinking: what would be the most outlandish trade that Dorion could make? What could he do that would be shocking, hopefully in a good way? Mark Stone and Thomas Chabot for Connor McDavid? Erik Karlsson for Shayne Gostisbehere and Nolan Patrick? In the tradition of an old fashioned hfboards thread, what do you got? What’s your wildest trade idea?