Zack Smith has started off the season on fire, with 3 points in 4 games and playing an average of 16 and a half minutes a night under new head coach Guy Boucher. Quick detractors will look at the fact that he just has 7 shots on goal for an average under 2 per game, but taken together with his performance last year, it's clear that Smith is a capable fill-in option as a top-six winger. Is he more than that? That's up for the rest of the season to play out as given the Sens recent history with contract negotiations, I wouldn't expect much talking until around the holiday break. A key determining factor, however, could be the health of injured winger Clarke MacArthur.
Thanks to the lovely folks over at CapFriendly, we're able to visualize the Sens cap situation in a quick and easy way. What quickly stands out is that outside of the top-six, there's a ton of decisions to be made at the forward position. I mean, it's extremely feasible to even say that outside of the beloved Jean-Gabriel Pageau, none of the UFAs or RFAs could be brought back next year. Maybe that's why Tom Pyatt and Ryan Dzingel have been playing like possessed players, or that Matt Puempel and Phil Varone scratches mean something -- it could be the last time we see these names in NHL uniforms. Smith is a key part of this discussion as well.
During the summer, Sens GM Pierre Dorion made it clear that the management group seems Smith is a versatile top-nine forward, and even when Clarke MacArthur went down, Guy Boucher initially tried Ryan Dzingel with Brassard and Ryan with hopes of keeping the dangerous Smith - Pageau combination together to provide depth scoring on line three. If MacArthur isn't healthy, though, and the team doesn't want to bring in anyone external that would likely cost more than whatever raise they would give Smith, does the gritty forward end up being a permanent top-six option?
Let's run through the team's prospect depth:
- Curtis Lazar - produced in the WHL, but hasn't yet shown if he can play scoring minutes at the NHL level. Still young, but also a RWer and would be competing with Mark Stone and Bobby Ryan instead. Needs at least one more year as a depth player to establish his offensive game
- Gabriel Gagne - currently in Binghamton after earning a contract during training camp, but still only 19 years old and extremely raw. Likely needs 2 years of AHL seasoning *at least*
- Nick Paul - impressed over the summer, but has a 0.37 PPG in the AHL to go with a 0.73 OHL PPG. Likely a third or fourth line option, and needs a full AHL year first
- Casey Bailey, Buddy Robinson, Mike Blunden - all close to Smith's age without the NHL production. Could be fill-in options at the NHL level, but not 15+ goal players
- Filip Ahl, Logan Brown, Colin White - could all be top-sixers eventually, but with the Sens ready to compete this year and next, they likely can't afford to bring a young player along without some AHL or depth seasoning time. ~2 years away.
Really, the list narrows down to two contenders: Ryan Dzingel and Francis Perron. Dzingel, a left-winger, has been just as impressive as Smith this season and will be expected to play a similar role as Smith this season despite the differences in their game. Perron, the prospect that has the best blend of NHL readiness and top-six skill, is the player that Sens management will be watching closely. If he lights up the AHL like some think that he can, he could be on a fast track to an NHL spot as early as next season.
The contract situation of the current group of Sens bottom-sixers will surely lead to some changes for 2017-18, where players like Lazar, Paul, and Perron could all find themselves very shortly. Will anyone other than Smith be ready to fill-in for top-six duty is a key question moving forward. Chime in your thoughts by answering the poll below and in the comments section!
- Finally, some game recaps! Here are your game stories from the exciting 5-4 OT win vs. the Laffs. [Silver Seven, WTYKY, Bonk's Mullet, SensChirp, Ottawa Citizen]
- Beating Toronto was fun, but Montreal too? Your Saturday night recaps after a 4-3 SOW vs. the Habs. [Silver Seven, Bonk's Mullet, SensChirp, Ottawa Citizen]
- Unfortunately, the winning streak ended at 2 as the Sens were handed their first loss of the season on Monday night against the Red Wings. [Silver Seven, SensChirp, Ottawa Citizen]
- They rebounded nicely on the second half of a back-to-back by trouncing the Coyotes 7-4 for the team's first regulation win of the year. [Silver Seven, SensChirp, Ottawa Citizen]
- What's next? Brad's Week Ahead gets us prepped for Saturday night's affair with one of the beasts of the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning. [Silver Seven]
- Mike Wheeler's video series continued over at Bonk's Mullet, where the Video Killed the Radio Star talked about the team's new additions. [Bonk's Mullet]
- Noticed that scoring is way up this season? So has the Citizen's Ken Warren. [Ottawa Citizen]
- The biggest off-ice news of the week is the absence of beloved anthem singer, Lyndon Slewidge. Of course, everyone noticed when Lyndon wasn't out for the first two games of the trip and two days ago, news broke that he hasn't been offered a contract by the organization. What a way to start your 25th anniversary, Ottawa! [Ottawa Citizen, Silver Seven, 6th Sens,
- The Sens made two roster moves at the beginning of the season, sending down depth defender Freddie Claesson and depth forward Curtis Lazar to the BSens. [Silver Seven - Claesson, Lazar, Ottawa Citizen - Claesson, Lazar]
- Wondering more about the BSens? Our resident BSens analyst, Jeff Ulmer, has you covered! First, check out his BSens season preview here. [Silver Seven - Offence, Defence, Coaching, Goaltenders]
- Then, read his recap of the team's first game of a year - a shutout victory over the Hershey Bears. [Silver Seven]
- The Sens CHLers are lighting it up so far this season. Unlike Logan Brown, no one expected Filip Chlapik to also come out firing. Read about what's changed in the young Czech's game in this wonderful piece from Callum. [Silver Seven]
- Chirp talked about how we can't expect to see all of what Boucher's preaching right away. Boucher himself has given a "six week" mark as when we'd be able to accurately assess his systems. [SensChirp, Ottawa Citizen]
- If you want to examine tactics now, though, Callum has a fantastic piece breaking down what changes the Sens are trying to make on the powerplay under Guy Boucher. [Silver Seven]
- The last two entries of our 'Sterling Predictions' series focused on who the staff thought would be the first Senator to be traded this season, and what the team's final record would be. Have your say! [Silver Seven Sterling Predictions - Trades, Final Record]
- Trevor had five thoughts on Friday, and hit most of the key talking points from the first week of the season. [Silver Seven]
- Have your say on who's up and who's down in Week 1! As always, I'm in agreement with our fearless leader, Ross. [Silver Seven]
- Your end-of-Nuggets audio, courtesy of the Battle of Ontario. This week, Gus Katsaros from McKeen's Hockey stopped by to run through the seven Canadian teams battling for a playoff birth. [Silver Seven]
How many games of solid production will you need from Zack Smith to believe that he should be signed to a contract extension?
|None! He's proved himself - sign him now!||101|
|He has to keep this up for at least a quarter of the season||25|
|He has to keep this up for at least half the season||88|
|A full season of play||66|
|None! Perron, Dzingel, and the high-end group of Sens prospects will soon replace him.||25|