Ottawa's Lines Are Too Top Heavy So Far
It's only been three games, but so far Ottawa has been too reliant on their top lines. If they want to succeed, Dave Cameron will have to spread out the wealth.
I know it has only been three games. But you can't tell me that you are not worried about Ottawa's depth right now. The Mike Hoffman-Kyle Turris-Mark Stone line has been sensational, and they have scored four of Ottawa's eight regulation goals so far. The other four include an empty netter by Curtis Lazar, a short-handed goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and two power play goals by Alex Chiasson and Milan Michalek (which had players like Erik Karlsson and Turris on the ice).
My point is, the only line that has looked good has been the "HST line", and the pairing of Marc Methot and Erik Karlsson. Those five players have played fantastic and the Senators have other good players, but they aren't being utilized properly. We know that the team has a solid group of top six forwards, but Dave Cameron has mixed them all up and it just doesn't work.
You can call out "sample size!" but I think I'm in the majority here. I love having a top line that can be amongst the leagues best, but it's more important that Ottawa has three (or even four) lines that can score. That's how the team played last year, and they should realize that that is what made them successful in the second half of the season.
Technically Ottawa has nine goals for this season, but one of them is a shootout winner, three came from the powerplay, and one was short-handed. So they have only scored three 5 on 5 goals, and the only players that have points from those goals are Hoffman, Turris, Stone, and Karlsson. Furthermore, three out the top five possession players so far are on the first line. The two players who sit dead last? Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan.
Their possession numbers sit at 32.43% and 31.58% respectively, which is, to put it lightly...not good. They have been playing with Milan Michalek and Curtis Lazar so far, neither of whom are known for their solid underlying numbers. The success from both of them last year came when they were playing with Hoffman. Hoffman can drive play, and he is the perfect compliment to Zibanejad and Ryan. That trio had a CF% of 52.2% and a GF% of 56.8% in 484 minutes last year, so we know they have good chemistry.
Even Clarke MacArthur would be a better fit on the second line, as he sits first on the team with a 51.79% corsi. Zibanejad and Ryan really need someone who can carry them, and Michalek just isn't going to be that player. As much as I love having Hoffman on the first line, imagine how good he would make the second line. It's not as if replacing him with MacArthur on the first line would be much of a downgrade either, because we know how good that trio has been. The Senators have two lines that have had success in the past. Why not use them?
It's not about demoting Hoffman, it's simply just making the Senators top six more lethal. Cameron can either have an unstoppable first line with a sub-par second line, or two above average top lines. I'll take the latter every day, because that also means that Michalek and Lazar can be in the bottom six where they can be utilized properly.
If Cameron keeps the top six like it should be with MacArthur, Turris, Stone, Hoffman, Zibanejad, and Ryan, thats leaves the bottom six looking like this:
I would love to slot Shane Prince in there, which would make the lines even better in my opinion. I would take out either Chris Neil or Alex Chiasson, but I know that Neil will have to play some games in a realistic scenario. Now how about this bottom six?
That would make the Senators have much better depth, as I think Prince could really improve that third line. I think he can bring more upside over Michalek, and it's not such a bad thing to have a guy like him on the fourth line. To me, those lines along with the top-six from last year would make them a much better team.
But right now, the lines just look terrible. Lazar and Michalek have corsi's 34.29% and 35.48%, yet they are getting chances in the top-six. I don't mind having Michalek there in event of an injury, but there's no excuse to have him there over a healthy MacArthur. We've seen enough of him to see that he's a quality top-six forward.
Essentially every team that has won the Stanley Cup recently has had solid depth throughout their lineup. Ottawa could acquire better players to improve that, although they do have the internal roster to make it better. But forwards are playing where they shouldn't be, and the second and third lines aren't nearly as good as they need to be. Bottom line: Zibanejad and Ryan need a better possession player, the first line is too good (if there's such a thing), and the bottom six can be improved with some maneuvering.
Ottawa was supposed to be a top-heavy team, but not this top-heavy. Cameron needs to tinker the lines before they get in a hole.