Sterling Predictions Re-visited Part 3: Boedker & Second-Line Centre

In part three, we re-visit our predictions about Mikkel Boedker’s impact and the question marks that surrounded the team’s second-line centre position.

Question: As the centrepiece of the return in the Mike Hoffman trade last offseason, the expectation was that Mikkel Boedker would shoulder some of the team’s offensive burden. We asked the question: would Boedker top 40 points? Most of the staff weren’t optimistic, and his 35 points in 71 games should classify as a slight disappointment (though kudos to NKB for his Nostradamus-like prediction). To what do you attribute his struggles after a hot start? Is there any reason to believe he might be more productive next season?

Ross: I think the biggest reason Boedker fell off after a “hot start” (6 points in the first 7 games) is partly about ice time — he fell from 16 minutes in most of those games to under 10 minutes in half of his final 13 games — but also because the Sens as a whole got worse, going from bottom-third of the league standings to rock bottom. Boedker was surpassed by younger (better) players, and his opportunities were cut accordingly. That being said, I have a hard time seeing 35 points in 71 games as a letdown since his two previous season in San Jose (a much better team) were 37 in 74 games and 26 in 81. He’s passed 50 points just two seasons in his career. So no, I don’t think he’ll be more productive next year. There’s little reason to expect he’ll have a career year in the season in which he turns 30.

Spencer: The entire team started hotter than we expected so it’s no surprise that Boedker started hot and then fell off afterwards. With the hope that the Sens will bring in a coach that will provide opportunity to the young players, I can’t see Boedker even replicating his 35 points from this season. If he does, that’s the ceiling. I expect he’ll be deployed as a veteran penalty kill specialist for much of this season, perhaps seeing some time on the second powerplay but that’s it.

Ary: Like Ross and Spencer mentioned, I think what Boedker produced this season is basically the type of player he is. Although his point totals were up compared to last year (SJ), on a per-60 basis, he declined in terms of even-strength production (going from a 2nd line to 3rd line player) and powerplay production. Of note, his shot map looks terrible, bleeding attempts against at a high rate relative to his teammates while generating next to nothing. Some of that can be attributed to the drop in teammate quality, both from a SJ -> OTT perspective, and even just in Ottawa as the season wore on. But really, this is just who he is.

I don’t think he’ll be more productive next season, especially if the team does what’s expected and continues to decrease his role. I don’t think he’s the type of player a contending team looks to acquire, even for cheap given his $4M cap hit, but is a candidate to be shipped off for a late-round pick at the deadline.

Brandon: I think Boedker benefitted early from time with Ottawa’s top players (Stone, Duchene, and co.) as well as getting some opportunities on special teams. He overperformed, along with the rest of the team, so it’s no surprise that he eventually cooled off. I think at this point in his career, Boedker is what he is. At best, a bottom-six player with little in the way of offensive upside, and frustrating bouts of inconsistency. Truthfully, I don’t see a reason to continue with him on the roster going into next year, especially with the crop of youngsters coming up, but we all know that the chances of a buyout are slim to none. I don’t expect to see any significant improvement from him next year.

Nada: I forget that Boedker had a ‘hot start’ but it seems that he was outplayed by the young guns. It didn’t help that the star players left and it affected everyone. It’s not a surprise that he was that streaky and I don’t except him to get better next season. If anything, I think his ice time will continue to diminish. I’m hoping they do the smart thing and buy him out but I doubt it.

NKB: My expectations weren’t exactly high for Boedker when the Sens traded for him and he never really did much to change my opinion of him. He’s a strong skater but his underlying shot metrics have been ugly for a few years now and his big scoring breakthrough was seven seasons ago. I agree with what the rest of the staff has been saying: Boedker might inflate his numbers if he’s reading the coattails of better players, but I can’t see him as much more than a depth winger that contributes 30-35 points at most.

Question: We asked the question of who would step into the role of second-line centre after Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s injury and the general staff consensus was that Chris Tierney would be the one. While Tierney played a lot of minutes, Colin White solidified his role in the top 6 even before the Duchene, Stone, and Dzingel trades. What role will Tierney play next season? How about White? Any chance someone else forces their way into the conversation for first or second line centre?

Ross: It’s hard to know what to expect for next season, considering the Sens will have Zack Smith with 612 career games, Jean-Gabriel Pageau with 368, Tierney with 365, and then Colin White as the next-most experienced centre at 94 games (unless they sign a UFA centre). In order, that’s a fourth-line centre, a third-line centre, a second-/third-line tweener, and a sophomore who’s shown that he could be a top-six player. I think that means White will get the chance to be the top-line centre in Game 1, and we could see someone like Logan Brown or even Filip Chlapik get a shot at the second-line spot out of training camp. If I had to guess, I’d bet that by December, we see White as the top-line centre, and Tierney as the second-line centre, with Pageau and Tierney splitting PK centre duties, while someone like Brown plays reduced minutes but centres the second PP unit.

Spencer: With no real top line centre on the roster next season, I’m expecting Tierney to slot into the second line centre role in 2019/20, behind White as 1C. Not that I think White has the offensive prowess to be a true 1C, I just think that’s the best option given the current roster. If there’s someone who will make their way into a 1/2C role, it’ll be Logan Brown. His first pro season with Belleville was a success and he’s been given some time with the big club previously. With the right coach in place, I can see him leap frogging Tierney for some second line minutes.

Ary: I forgot that we were so high on Tierney coming into this season, and given everything, his consistency in both minutes and production can be looked at as a positive in a season where there weren’t very many. Unfortunately, the Senators are a team with a glut of “third-line” players, with Tierney joining Zack Smith, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and even players like Filip Chlapik and Josh Norris as centres who are likely third liners on a playoff team.

I have the centres in the same order as Ross, with White and Tierney getting T6 minutes while Pageau gets tough matchups and the first unit of the penalty kill. As Spencer mentioned, Logan Brown is the best bet in the system to come up and play right away in a top-six role, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start the year in Belleville in order for the organization to get a look at how he’ll do without Drake Batherson on his right side. As he has been since he was drafted, Brown’s the highest ceiling centre in the organization, and the best bet to be the team’s next first-line centre barring a trade. Filip Chlapik and Josh Norris have both shown bursts of top-six potential, but currently, I see them more as tweeners than legitimate top-sixers. Remember: Colin White had a better collegiate and junior career than Josh Norris, even though the latter had his season cut short.

Brandon: I would expect to see Tierney comfortably in the bottom six next year. He’s a frustrating player, as he shows flashes of upside, but tends to go long stretches without any semblance of production. Couple that with some infuriating defensive miscues, and it’s hard to get a read on Tierney. To me, Colin White is this team’s #1 centre, and that will become even more evident after a solid year this season. Pageau is a better two-way player than Tierney, so you can probably expect to see him hold down the #2 spot. With youngsters like Brown and Norris knocking on the door, I think any higher than the third line is a stretch for Tierney, maybe even fourth depending on how the youngsters produce. I would expect Smith to mostly play the wing next year, whenever he makes his way into the lineup.

Nada: I’m a huge fan of Tierney; he was just quietly stable. Reminds me of the likes of Pageau and Smith (in better days). He isn’t flashy or the kind of player that stands out, hence why fans aren’t very sure about him, but he is also relatively young. I think the team is too young to have someone like Brown be at 2C right away so the spot will probably go to Tierney and Pageau by default — and depending on the coach, it may be a spot that they interchange. As for Brown being mentioned a lot here, I’m still skeptical on his ability to make the big club, but maybe this is the time to prove me very wrong.

NKB: As I’ve written several times, White’s performance this past season was one of the very brightest spots amidst a lot of doom and gloom. It’s hard to imagine a situation where he doesn’t start the year as the first line centre. In a perfect world, Tierney and Pageau would anchor your centre depth in the bottom six (and White would be on your second line) but the Sens exist in a far from perfect world at the moment. If Brown is ready to perform in the second line role, there’s certainly an opportunity available to him to prove himself — but if he’s not quite there yet, I expect Tierney will see most of the second line assignments.

Ross: Do people expect Norris to make the team next year?

Brandon: I wouldn’t say I expect it, but it wouldn’t surprise me either. I think Brown makes the team out of camp, though.

Ross: I’ve just seen a couple people bring Norris up, and he’s not on my radar at all to play with the big club this fall. I see about six guys from Belleville having a better shot than him.

Brandon: I think a lot of it depends on how well he recovers from surgery. Shoulders are a nasty one, and the rehab is long and tedious. I know he’s back skating now but it’ll take awhile for his mind to come back too.

Spencer: I expect to be covering Norris in Belleville next year. If guys like Brown and White played in the AHL and benefited from it, it would be odd to have Norris make the jump right away, in my opinion. This is especially true if people don’t expect Norris to be much better than either of those guys in the long run (which I don’t).

Ary: I don’t think there’s any way Norris is in Ottawa next year. Either Michigan because he wants another go at the Big 10, or Belleville because Ottawa convinced him to sign early. I mentioned him because although he won’t factor into the “top six centre” discussion now, him and Chlapik are the only other non-Brown centres in the system that have a chance in my mind at the moment.

It’s why the Sens really need to evaluate the play of White, Tierney, Pageau, and Smith, because maybe, when the team’s ready to make a playoff run, only 1-2 of those players should still be on the roster.

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