Silver Nuggets: Thoughts on MacLean's thoughts

Yesterday, the Senators announced the opening night roster made up of 23 players and Marc Methot, who was placed on the IR due to lingering back problems [Ottawa Senators, Silver Seven]. There were not many surprises left, as due to Methot's injury, the tough decision of either a) sending Lazar back to junior or b) making a trade or waiving a player to create a roster spot has been delayed until the blueliner recovers. Bryan Murray's thoughts on the opening night roster can be found over at the Senators 'Inside the Senate' blog, or through Sens_Army_'s recap here, which I highly recommend you reading. Coach MacLean's comments can be found here, and will be the subject of discussion below.

On the final cuts:

Murray, MacLean and co. decided to keep wonderkid Curtis Lazar and AHL star Mike Hoffman over players like Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who Murray and MacLean both called the toughest cut, Matt Puempel, Buddy Robinson, and David Dziurzynski. I think that this was the right decision, as all indications pointed to Lazar at least getting a nine game tryout, and I truly think that despite his lack of production, MIke Hoffman's underlying numbers and AHL production warranted a longer look. Now, this was only the first practice, but both Hoffman and Lazar (who was at centre) were flanked with Chris Neil as their linemate. We all expected Neil to be the 4th line right-wing, despite a number of alternatives, and although he "can play" in comparison to his Leafs counterparts Orr and McLaren (who were both waived yesterday!), is it potentially worth wasting a year of Lazar's entry-level deal in a position where he may not be able to succeed, or could have been filled by a player like Pageau? Murray closed his comments by stating that although Lazar has a "real good" chance of staying past his nine game tryout, it will depend on the minutes he plays. With respect to Hoffman, Murray said:

It would be really unfair for us to not give him an awfully good look going forward. He's a guy who paid his price somewhat in the minors but was very productive player. Now let's find out if he can do it every night in the NHL.

Let's hope that's not saddling him with Chris Neil, especially when the duo of Hoffman and Lazar looked great against a strong Montreal squad with the dependable two-way presence of Erik Condra on the right side.

Interestingly, MacLean talked about their consistency and competitiveness as reasons for why Hoffman and Lazar stayed compared to the others, and that despite how they lined up at practice, he wouldn't be afraid to use Lazar at centre or wing ("gives us great flexibility"), and didn't even commit to having Lazar as one of the top-12 forwards on the team. This interesting divergence is why I talked about Murray's comments a bit above, as both GM and Coach have clearly had conservations on this topic, and this is why Lazar's play and minutes over the first nine games will be paramount in determining whether he stays or not. I can question MacLean's rationale on why he doesn't think Lazar is better now than Greening and Neil, which will probably be answered back with "experience", but I still think that it wouldn't be the worst thing if Lazar dominates junior and captains Team Canada, especially because he doesn't seem like the player to let lazy habits come into his game.

On Roster spots:

Competition level or lack of it has been a big talk in our training camp along with the defensive part of our game. Any time we can create competition it's good for our team. Internal competition is the best way to get better and get more competitive.

This was a really interesting comment from MacLean, and one that I'd say that the decisions made in comparison to the philosophy being stated doesn't quite match up. Case in point: Erik Condra is one of the best two-way forwards on the team. Yes, he doesn't score, but he drives play, is strong defensively in the neutral zone, and can penalty kill. What else could you want in a 4th line right wing spot? He's been on the outside looking in all camp, and if MacLean is really preaching defensive philosophy, but is having Greening or Neil in the lineup over Condra, I don't quite understand. I'm sure Neil is almost guaranteed a spot due to his aforementioned leadership role, but it's a weird way to phrase things in my opinion.

Some of it is going to be who we're playing and another factor is how they've played previously, how their training camp went. The best players play but some guys play better against other teams and sometimes the other team's lineup is going to dictate what we're going to do. The most important thing for us in dictating the lineup is who are the 12 best guys and who are the 12 most competitive guys right now?

Okay, here's my qualm with MacLean's oft-mentioned "best players play statement". The quote right above does not say to me that the best players play, the quote above says "the best players against that particular team play". For example, this is why last season we got Kassian in vs. Toronto, Buffalo, Boston. Is Matt Kassian one of the best players? Not by a longshot. Do the coaching staff think that his presence is needed against those teams, and therefore he's one of the "best players for this situation"? Yes. Now despite that I think this line of thinking is incorrect, I wanted to point this out to you folks before the season started so we have a clear understanding of what really means what MacLean says "the best players play". The last thing I have to say brings in this comment on Jean-Gabriel Pageau's demotion:

You're close, you're very close, your time is going to come, you just have to remember to stay patient and continue to work. When we call down there and need the best player we want them to say it's your name. When you get up here make sure you play well enough that we don't put you out.

The key question I have is how MacLean and co. are determining who are the 12 "most competitive guys right now". I'm sure the answer is multi-faceted and that there are a lot of factors like working hard in practice, overall improvement on the suggestions the coaching staff had for you, etc., but if something like raw point production is a factor, I hope it's minimal. Sometimes, players don't have much control over their shooting % or their goaltender's save % when they're on the ice, and I think that a fantastic example is Mike Hoffman's year last year, as he's a guy who had fantastic possession numbers and put a lot of shots on net, but the team shot a paltry 4.6% when he was on the ice, hence the fact that he's still a "bubble player". Given the position that Pageau was in last year with Greening and Neil as his linemates, he can't be expected to put up points (which is why I don't want Lazar wasted with them), so I hope that playing "well enough" involves looking at possession metrics, zone entry and exit numbers, and the like to identify things that aren't on the scoresheet. I know that these are looked at, but I hope that they're weighted appropriately and hopefully more than raw point production, as doing these underlying things well consistently will lead to point production eventually if given the opportunity.


Sens Links

  • Here are Curtis Lazar's thoughts on making the roster. [Ottawa Senators]
  • The Senators beat the Montreal Canadiens back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, and here are some game recaps in case you missed it! [Ottawa Senators, SenShot, SensChirp]
  • Nichols thoughts on Bryan Murray's comments yesterday. Some similar to mine, but some that are different! [6th Sens]
  • Varada has a column on his most overrated and underrated teams this season. [WTYKY]
  • Jeff has some comments on the first-year Binghamton Senators players as he continues his fantastic work on the AHL franchise. [SenShot]
  • The BSens also had a perfect preseason in France, going 3-0 and beating the Syracuse Crunch twice. [SenShot]
  • Missed this on Friday, but James has his (funny) thoughts on Bobby Ryan. [WTYKY]
  • Bonk's Mullet is rebuilding! We're welcoming four new bloggers to our Sens blogosphere. All of the new bloggers have their first posts up, and they look great so I'd recommend you checking them out! [Bonk's Mullet]
  • As part of that rebuild (?), Silver Seven is the new home of the famous Chet Sellers and Luke Peristy podcast, which I listened to right before entering my drug addiction lecture. I promise that these two things aren't related, but I am pretty addicted to podcasts at the moment. [Silver Seven]
  • Our latest email hotstove focuses on Ryan, Karlsson, and the team veterans. [Email Hotstove]
  • Our weekly question for this week centers around packages for now-Isles defenseman, Nick Leddy. What would you have given up? Let us know! [Weekly Question]/

NHL Links

  • Ian Mendes had a great column last week on how Daniel Alfredsson still has an impact on the Senators captaincy position. [TSN]
  • Ryane Clowe has been concussed multiple times, and knows that he should give up fighting, but he can't. This is part of a cultural issue surrounding hockey right now, and something that has to be fixed soon. The SBN piece linked after is on how the enforcer role itself, and not the act of fighting, is responsible. [Bleacher Report, SBNation]
  • A fantastic article from Pension Plan Puppets (Leafs SBN) on women in sport and broadcasting. [PPP]
  • After a number of notable scares, including the Rich Peverley incident, the NHL will have an Emergency Response doctor at every single game this season. Fantastic news. [Yahoo!]
  • Those of you with GameCentre Live (now a Rogers property) may be in for a treat with new vantage points this season. [Sportsnet]/

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