Silver Seven 2015 Report Cards: Defense
The second article in a four-part series of 2014-15 Ottawa Senators report cards. This post takes a look the performances of the defensemen.
Nine staff members assigned grades to each player on the Ottawa Senators, providing us with aggregate final grades.
Up next: Defense
Jared Cowen: D
This season: 54 GP, 3 G, 6 A, 9 P, -11, 45 PIM
Last season: 68 GP, 6 G, 9 A, 15 P, 0, 45 PIM
Last year's grade: D
Despite early-career struggles, fans were (slightly) optimistic about Jared Cowen going into this season. His youth and his style of play made it easy for many people, including me, to give him the benefit of the doubt. Well, we were wrong.
Cowen struggled throughout the season. His limited mobility, lack of speed and poor decision making were evident from day one. He was a healthy scratch early in the season, and his frustration was evident in media interviews. After a late-season suspension, Cowen lost his spot on the team and would spend the rest of the season in the press box. Somehow, during that time, he sustained a sports hernia, requiring surgery. Needless to say, Cowen's struggles are far from over.
Highest grade: C-
Lowest grade: D-
Marc Methot: A-
This season: 45 GP, 1 G, 10 A, 11 P, +22, 18 PIM
Last season: 75 GP, 6 G, 17 A, 23 P, 0, 28 PIM
Last year's grade: B-
Marc Methot started the season with an injury that kept him out of the line up for the first few months. This resulted in Karlsson playing with Phillips, and nothing good came from that. When Methot finally returned from injury, Sens fans, management and players were more than thrilled. He gave Karlsson a decent partner, and helped fill the Sens top pairing on the blue line.
There is debate as to whether or not he is the best partner for Karlsson, but there is no doubt he is the best that the Sens have right now. Methot positions himself in such as way that makes it easy to angle other players out of position. He also has some offensive ability that makes him a perfect complement to Karlsson, making them our best defensive pair.
Highest grade: A
Lowest grade: B
Chris Phillips: D-
This season: 36 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 P, 0, 12 PIM
Last season: 70 GP, 1 G, 14 A, 15 P, -12, 30 PIM
Last year's grade: D+
This was not a great year for Chris Phillips. Despite starting the season on a line with Erik Karlsson and setting the franchise record for games played (1,179), he didn't dress for a game after setting the record in February. After speculation as to whether or not he was injured or just scratched, the team announced that he would undergo surgery during the playoffs. But even without the injury, Phillips continued to struggle during his time on the ice.
Phillips is far from where he used to be as a player, and has been on a downward spiral for a few years. Therefore it's no surprise that he struggled once again this season. He's nearing retirement, yet claims that he will be ready for training camp in the fall. If he comes back next season, he will likely have a very reduced role and possibly see fewer games than this season.
Highest grade: D
Lowest grade: F
Cody Ceci: B-
This season: 81 GP, 5 G, 16 A, 21 P, -4, 6 PIM
Last season: 49 GP, 3 G, 6 A, 9 P, -5, 14 PIM
Last year's grade: B+
In his first full season with the Ottawa Senators, Cody Ceci showed that he can be a very capable second-line defenseman. Paired with a partner like Wiercioch, Ceci looked comfortable breaking out of his own zone and effectively secured the point in the offensive end. Given the fact that he is only 21 years old, it's safe to say he is trending in the right direction.
During the playoffs, Ceci did look a little shaky. This was his first time in the playoffs as an NHLer, so nerves are to be expected. He is key part of the young core that made this team so successful late in the season, and there is no reason to believe he won't continue to play an important role on the blue line going forward.
Highest grade: B
Lowest grade: C
Patrick Wiercioch: B+
This season: 56 GP, 3 G, 10 A, 13 P, +3, 28 PIM
Last season: 53 GP, 4 G, 19 A, 23 P, -1, 20 PIM
Last year's grade: B
Under Paul MacLean, Patrick Wiercioch had a slow start to the season. He was often a healthy scratch, and saw bottom-six minutes in the games that he did play. Then Dave Cameron stepped in, and much to the delight of Sens bloggers, Wiercioch started seeing more ice time. Jared Cowen's suspension and struggles didn't hurt either.
Wiercioch finished the season very strong, as did most of the team. He tied Erik Karlsson for the lead in scoring during the playoffs with four points in six playoff games. Now playing for Team Canada at the World Championship, he has come a long way from someone who was rumoured to be traded at the deadline.
Highest grade: A
Lowest grade: B-
Eric Gryba: C-
This season: 75 GP, 0 G, 12 A, 12 P, +11, 97 PIM
Last season: 57 GP, 2 G, 9 A, 11 P, +9, 64 PIM
Last year's grade: B
Although he took a hit from his previous grade, Eric Gryba met most expectations placed upon him this season. That being said, none of us really expected much from him. He plays the role of third-line defenseman pretty well, although he doesn't offer anything special in terms of offense and is not as brutally physical as many hoped he would be at one point. But he can deliver a big hit from time to time.
He can effectively clear the puck in his own end, especially on the penalty kill. More often than not this season, he was silently effective and just didn't get a lot of recognition because of the role he plays as a shut-down defenseman. Whether or not he is the kind of depth D-man that wins championships is another story, but he served his purpose well for the Sens this season.
Highest grade: C+
Lowest grade: D-
Erik Karlsson: A+
This season: 82 GP, 21 G, 45 A, 66 P, +7, 42 PIM
Last season: 82 GP, 20 G, 54 A, 74 P, -15, 36 PIM
Last year's grade: A+
Other than his improvement in +/-, Erik Karlsson's stats did not change much from last year. He remained as awesome this season as he was last season. As the leading scorer among NHL defensemen and a Norris Trophy finalist, Karlsson maintains his place as one of the elite players in the NHL.
What we saw from Erik Karlsson this season was a shift into the role of leader. It was his first season as the Senators' captain, and he certainly proved that management made the right decision when they gave him the C. When the Sens were down 2-0 to the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs, Karlsson came back with one of his best games to try and get his team back in it. And when Montreal had a 3-0 lead on the series, Karlsson never gave up hope. He remained optimistic in front of the media, and helped his team force a game six.
If character is marked by one's actions in the face of adversity, we now know that Karlsson has what it takes to be a leader in the NHL.
Highest grade: A+
Lowest grade: A
Mark Borowiecki: C
This season: 63 GP, 1 G, 10 A, 11 P, +15, 107 PIM
Last season: 13 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 1 P, -2, 48 PIM
Last year's grade: C
When the Sens' defense lacked an identity in the early days of the season, Borowiecki attempted to give it one of toughness and energy. He is a physical defenseman who can hit and fight. Although this kind of player is becoming increasingly rare in today's NHL, you can't deny that he did everything he could to bring this role back.
Much like his partner Eric Gryba, Borowiecki plays well on the third line. Given his role and style of play, if the Sens can get this kind of production out of him going forward, he will serve his purpose.
Highest grade: B
Lowest grade: D