Five Thoughts: Daniel Alfredsson Edition
Five Thoughts featuring Mika Zibanejad, Paul MacLean, and Daniel Alfredsson's return
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
1. What's going on with Mika Zibanejad? After being scratched with Milan Michalek for Tuesday night's game against the St. Louis Blues, Zibanejad still seems to be on the outside looking in. If it was simply a matter of Paul MacLean not changing his lineup after a win, perhaps the best performances of the season against a very good team in St. Louis, that would be one thing. But all indications from practice yesterday suggest that Michalek would be the one to draw back into the lineup for tonight's game. Zibanejad's underperformed this season in the sense that he hasn't been able to elevate the performance of his linemates, but is a pattern emerging when we consider last season's demotion to Bingo?
2. Paul MacLean continues to be in the line of fire for his roster decisions and line juggling. Some are advocating for a more creative bench boss, someone who's less conservative. I just don't see that many creative options of there. Sometimes we're a little too insular when evaluating our teams and don't see that many of the issues plaguing the organization are actually quite common around the league. Celebrated coaches like Mike Babcock have also shown a curious and longstanding devotion to rapidly deteriorating veteran players. There might not be a quick fix out there who has NHL or AHL experience and who can think in a dramatically different way from MacLean while having the same personnel to work with.
3. Erik Condra had quite a game on Tuesday night. I don't expect that kind of offensive punch in the future from him, but it certainly made a difference against the Blues. Perhaps more importantly, the line he featured on with David Legwand and Chris Neil was effective with Condra on the wing. There's nothing strange about it, Legwand is a good defensive player and Condra is noted for his possession abilities. For a team with such defensive deficiencies that frequently gets outshot, Condra seems like he should be given a run in the lineup.
4. Funny thing about Ottawa's point leaders when you compare their performances this year to their performances last year. Kyle Turris is playing well, but it feels like he hasn't had much puck luck at all. Yet his .67 P/GP this season is just slightly lower than his .71 P/GP from last season. It felt like Clarke MacArthur had a blistering start to the season, and even though he's slowed down of a bit as of late, his .71 P/GP is almost identical to .70 P/GP from last season. While I was somewhat surprised by those numbers, I wasn't surprised to see Erik Karlsson is down significantly from last season. So far this year, he's scoring at a .76 P/GP pace, good enough to lead the team and ninth among defensemen league-wide. Pretty good. But down significantly from last season when he was at .90 P/GP. I think he can make up at least some of the difference but reaching that level again might be difficult this year.
5. I never doubted that the Senators organization and Daniel Alfredsson would reconcile, but I didn't give much thought to him retiring as a Senator or making the announcement in Ottawa. But since word leaked last week that this announcement would be happening in Ottawa it seems to matter a great deal. If you're not sure whether you want to embrace this return or not, go for it. Something special is going to happen on Thursday, enjoy it. With Daniel Alfredsson returning to Ottawa, retiring his number is inevitable. Of course, this has raised the issue of whether to retire the numbers of Chris Phillips and Chris Neil when the time comes. While they certainly qualify in terms of longevity and loyalty, their play was not near Alfredsson's level. I've wanted the Sens to establish a team Hall of Fame for a long time. A team Hall of Fame would allow the organization to honour Phillips and Neil, whose careers are certainly deserving of recognition, as well as other valuable non-playing members who have contributed to the team over the year. Save number retirement for truly great players.