If you ask any Ottawa Senators fan about their current forward group, they’d probably say they have the best top-6 since their glory days with the “Pizza” line between Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley. It’s so strange going into a season being this confident about the top of the lineup because we had gotten used to mediocrity mixed in with some good players.
Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Alex DeBrincat, Tim Stützle, and Claude Giroux are their top-6 forwards, which should be two electric lines. Adding DeBrincat and Giroux completely reshaped the makeup of the roster, and now we’re just left wondering how DJ Smith will deploy them this season. Obviously lines are constantly changing throughout the season due to inconsistencies and injuries, but it’s fun to think about the ideal scenarios to begin the season.
I’ll focus on the top-6 just because including the rest of the lineup can get quite complicated, plus the first two lines are the most exciting anyway. Unless players are out of position, there aren’t actually that many possible combinations. If you were at the helm, how would you align the top-6?
Option A: Most Common
This is the most common lineup I’ve seen ever since DeBrincat and Giroux joined the Ottawa Senators, and Smith even confirmed that’s what he’ll try first. Tkachuk, Norris, and Batherson were lethal together last year and it makes sense to keep them together. You can quibble with who the real first line would be because there’s a chance that DeBrincat and Stützle quickly become the Senators best forwards. Regardless, I think the time on ice for these lines would be similar anyway.
Stützle is already excited at the prospect of playing with DeBrincat and Giroux, so perhaps he’s expecting this to be the lines to begin with:
Option B: Swap LW’s
Let’s face it: DeBrincat is a better player than Tkachuk. That doesn’t mean Tkachuk isn’t worthy of the captaincy or that he’s less important, but DeBrincat will be able to produce more for the team, and he should be getting more ice-time thank Tkachuk overall. Norris will probably get a chance to keep that first line centre position to begin with, and you could make the case that this first line includes their best forward at each position (for now).
Splitting up Tkachuk and Norris might be tough given their chemistry, but I feel like none of these options are truly bad. As Ian Mendes outlined, Tkachuk didn’t have a ton of chemistry with Stützle last season as they had a 42.66 xGF% together and were on for 12 goals for and 13 against. Nevertheless, I’m sure we’ll see this combination at some point, especially if they want to get the top line going.
Option C: Swap RW’s
As I alluded to earlier, this is another combination that Smith apparently wants to try out. Giroux and Batherson swap spots, and it creates a scenario where that “second” line would probably actually be their first. Isn’t that a fantastic problem to have? I can definitely imagine these being the lines later in the year, as I feel like that “second” line has the highest potential—I’m talking amongst the league’s best.
Option D: Swap C’s
I haven’t seen this combination too much, although it’s still a good option. I’d say it’s a bit more spread out than other versions, although there is perhaps not quite an obvious fit between the centres and wingers based on their profiles. Sometimes you need to throw something at the wall to see if it will stick!
Option E: Evenly Spread Out
This one includes the third line just to show what it would look like because this is a possibility. NHL coaches sometimes like to have their lines more spread out, and I understand that from time to time. I had seen this suggested elsewhere and it’s an interesting top-9 because each line could be dangerous. This would all depend on Mathieu Joseph being able to keep up some of his play from last year in his short 11-game stint in Ottawa. Having Batherson on the third line could be viewed as a luxury or wasting his talent depending on your point of view.
So which combination do you prefer the most?
What should the Senators top-six look like?
|Option A: Most common||331|
|Option B: Swap LW’s||24|
|Option C: Swap RW’s||91|
|Option D: Swap C’s||3|
|Option E: Evenly spread||63|