Welcome to an afternoon edition of Five Thoughts to kick off your weekend!
Ridly Greig is in the Doghouse:
16:33, 14:00, 13:08, 12:35, 9:33: those are, in order, the number of minutes that Ridly Greig has played in the last five games. You don't have to be a math genius to note the pronounced downward trend. Greig also spent all of the third period yesterday on the team's fourth line while Parker Kelly shuffled into the top nine alongside Shane Pinto and Drake Batherson.
My admiration for Greig's game is well known, so you shouldn't be surprised to learn that I'm a bit perplexed by his decreasing role with the team. Greig, while still firmly a work in progress, is a bonafide two-way contributor on a team with a lot of guys that are a bit too one-dimensional for my taste. Jacques Martin, who has a bit of a history of mistrust of young players, may not be keen on some of Greig's penalties but he's collected just two minors over those five aforementioned games. I'm frankly left scratching my head a bit, because, to my eye at least, when Greig has been playing he's been one of the team's best forwards. It's definitely something I'll be watching tomorrow night.
Vladimir Tarasenko Keeps Trucking Along:
When Vladimir Tarasenko joined the Sens in the off-season, I was mostly pretty positive about his acquisition:
For the Sens, the addition of Tarasenko nicely fills the gaping hole left in the top six by the departure of Alex DeBrincat via trade earlier this month. Much as the team, and some fans, were talking themselves into Dominik Kubalik, this is the real move to replace DeBrincat's lost production. Tarasenko may not be the dominant force he once was, but he can still make incisive plays with the puck; if he is slotted with similarly creative linemates, you can expect Tarasenko to more than hold his own offensively. Importantly, he can still be a big help on the powerplay, where DeBrincat's departure was likely to be acutely felt. If one were in the business of making projections, 25-30 goals and 50-55 points, provided good health, seems like a very reasonable target.
His goal totals are tracking a bit lower than I expected, but all in he's looking like a pretty good bet to hit the higher end of my prediction – he might even be good for 60 points when it's all said and done. While he hasn't seen any sustained time on PP1 this year, he's still contributing offensively and, when he has the time and space, he still looks impactful.
The defensive side of things has been a struggle (he has the worst xGA of any Sens regular forward by a good margin) and thus needs to be sheltered a bit in his deployment but it's also been a breath of fresh air to get some real offensive contribution from the the third line or the second power play unit. The goal he scored last night to tie it up late against Boston was vintage Tarasenko.
I'm not totally sure yet where I land on the prospect of his returning to the team after this season, I still think a long term deal would be a mistake, but he's been pretty much as good as could have been expected when he was signed.
Front Office Normalcy:
Graeme Nichols is one of the great chroniclers of the Senators, and I'm always interested in his Thoughts in Bold feature where he dissects recent media appearances from members of the Sens' organization. Today's piece was good as ever, and you should check out his newsletter Rome in a Day if you don't already, but in reading it I was also struck by just how...normal all of Steve Staios' answers were to questions during yesterday's press conference.
I'm sure at some there will be some moves that I will quibble, or outright disagree, with, but I have to say that it's been a breath of fresh air to feel like the organization is at least being run by competent, professional individuals. Feels nice.
The NHL is Unserious about Player Safety:
This morning, word came down that Brendan Gallagher would face a hearing for his hit on Adam Pelech last night, but that his suspension could not be any longer than five games:
The fact that Gallagher has not been suspended previously is almost certainly playing a role in the decision, but it's hard for me to dream up a "dirtier" hit than this one:
The NHL has long been fundamentally unserious about fostering an environment conducive to player safety. There was a brief shining moment when Brendan Shanahan came in and seemed to actually take the job seriously, but that just led to a lot of teams upset about his harsh discipline and his prompt ouster. In direct reaction to that time, we've been stuck with George Parros for six-and-a-half years and, I'd argue, we're backsliding even worse than before on player safety issues.
I was still a kid when the Sens drafted Alexandre Daigle first overall in 1993, but so big was the hype around him that even I was at least vaguely aware that he was supposed to be special. Obviously things didn't turn out that way for the young prodigy, but I've always felt he got a bit of a bum rap: those Sens teams of the early 90's were heinously bad, and, as has been documented in many places, famously chaotic. The circumstances would have been incredibly difficult!
I haven't watched this yet since it just came out today, but I have to say I am intrigued – there's a lot to the Daigle story: