In this week’s five thoughts, we examine the possibility of Matt Duchene to Ottawa, roster decisions ahead of the regular season, plus more. Let’s begin!
Is Matt Duchene the Right Fit?
The hot topic in Ottawa over the past few days has been Matt Duchene, as the Sens are reported to be in hot pursuit of the star forward. Recent word is that Guy Boucher wants him on the team as well, and as we know with recent signings (Pyatt, Thompson, etc.), he’s had a large influence on Dorion’s moves.
But do the Sens even need Matt Duchene? I don’t really think so.
Although it could potentially propel the forward group to new heights, his playing style mirrors that of another Senator: Kyle Turris. Taking a look at their HERO charts, which are a good general measure of a player’s offensive and defensive impact, the two are very similar.
Although Duchene has scored more points over the course of his career (with 2016-17 as the exception), his impact on offence and defence has been very similar to Turris. The similarities don’t stop there either, as their passing data is also a near exact match, with Duchene having a slightly higher tendency to shoot the puck. Using playing styles (the same that was used in last week’s post), both are classified under ‘balanced’. Maybe this move isn’t the right path to take.
Cody Ceci’s Deployment
Unless he gets dealt for Duchene, it appears that Cody Ceci will be the Sens’ #1 defenceman to start the season. Even if you’re a fan of Ceci, that’s probably not a sentence you’d like to hear. Truth is, his stats have been middling over the last few seasons, even when accounting for his heavy matchups and defensive usage, and he continues to get even more opportunities.
Through two preseason games, Ceci’s had a offensive zone start percentage of 30%, which is really low. This continues to baffle me, as he’s been perceived his entire career as an offensively inclined player, using his skating and hard shot as his biggest weapons. Constantly placing him in the defensive zone suppresses those traits, and his struggle to clear the puck has made it difficult for him to use his full skillset.
Truth is, I really want Ceci to succeed, and I’m sure the organization does as well. With the NHL season still two weeks away, these remaining four preseason games are the perfect opportunity to do a bit of experimenting. I’d like to see Boucher start sheltering Ceci a bit more, and see how it works. I bet we’d see a higher overall impact.
The Sens appear to have another legitimate prospect on their hands, and this time it’s a goalie. Marcus Hogberg has been perfect so far this preseason (16 saves on 16 shots), and going back to the rookie tournament, he allowed only two goals on 47 shots (SV% of .957).
The problem, however, is that the Sens have a bit of a goalie logjam. If he continues to prove that he’s deserving of the AHL starter role, he’d be prevented by the recently signed Danny Taylor, who’s also looked good in preseason action. He’s even barricaded from taking the AHL backup role, with Chris Driedger and Andrew Hammond both likely candidates for the spot.
Management has hinted that sending Hogberg to the ECHL is a definite possibility, as no matter what they want to ensure he gets playing time. Although this may be a good idea to work around the situation, I think this would be playing Hogberg below his capabilities.
He’s just coming off a season where he put up a .932 SV% in the SHL, a league that’s comparable in talent to the AHL, if not higher. Sending Hogberg to the ECHL would be playing him below his skill level, which ultimately may not be good for his development. Give him time in Belleville, as it not only would the competition be more suitable, but he’d have an opportunity to work with Kory Cooper, who was recently hired solely for the purpose of developing goalies at the AHL level (a position that not every team has).
Derick Brassard’s Placeholder
Derick Brassard is fortunately getting closer to returning to regular action. Yesterday he was briefly waring the blue ‘no contact’ jersey (although later switched back), and has been ahead of his expected recovery schedule. Big news for a team whose forward depth has been slowly depleting with injuries (Dzingel, Paul, White). This doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be ready for the season opener, and a couple prospects are getting a look at making the NHL roster.
Those two players are Filip Chlapik and Logan Brown, two high picks who have impressed the most from the rookie tournament and training camp. Chlapik has been getting time next to Pageau and Burrows on the third line, which is a good sign that he might have the inner edge. I pegged him as a dark horse to make the opening roster, so it’s glad to see him coming through with his potential.
The big question however, will be if Guy Boucher will be comfortable enough to play them. He’s been extremely hesitant to give prospects any ice time at all, instead picking the veterans. With Chris VandeVelde looming on a PTO, Boucher’s decision will be very telling of his style of roster decisions. Pierre Dorion said half-jokingly in a recent interview that “[Boucher’s] ideal roster would be only 35-year-olds”, so it will be interesting to see whether Chlapik, who has been the most impressive forward prospect in training camp, a legitimate chance to make the roster.
The Wallet is Open
Eugene Melnyk has made it clear in the past: when the time is right, he will open the wallet to bring the Sens out of their budgetary restrictions. The green light was given back in February, although it’s important that we acknowledge the results.
At the beginning of the season in 2015, the Sens’ cap payroll came to roughly $64.8 million. A year later, that rose to $67.0 million. Now? The Sens have a cap hit of $69.3 million, good for 18th highest in the league. It’s not as if the Sens are now amongst the league’s biggest spenders, but it’s still much higher than where it’s been for most of the last decade.
Although the way the cash has been used is debatable, it’s worth acknowledging that this is happening, and that the organization knows that now is the time to win. This is something that fans have been calling for for years, and with Erik Karlsson still in his prime years, it’s great to see them finally taking advantage.
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