So the pre-season is now over, well the games at least, and tomorrow will be a nervous day for many hopeful Senators. When in a rebuild, there are quite a few jobs up for grabs, and with so many young players in camp competing for a place in the show, the race for employment was as competitive as ever for a Sens team. In less than 24 hours, we will know how has made the team to start the year. Here are my thoughts on who's in, who's out and what should happen, but may not.
First off, there are several big prospects in camp who are on the bubble. Some deserve to be here, others don't, but it isn't just talent and production that comes in to play. There are other factors like age, their contract, and most importantly their ego. Let's face it, some guys can handle criticism and some guys will act like a baby if they don't make it. The Sens have to take these factors into consideration as well. I've also excluded the NHL vets who are clearly making the team. These are the guys who are either rookies, new players or have less than a year's NHL experience. So with all that in mind, here are my thoughts.
Who's in: Jared Cowen, Mika Zibanejad, Nikita Filatov, Bobby Butler, Zack Smith, Colin Greening, Erik Condra, Zenon Konopka, Brian Lee (*Stephane Da Costa)
Who's out: Mark Borowiecki, David Rundblad, (*Stephane Da Costa) + all the players recently sent down to Bingo.
Here are my thought's on each player camp/pre-season:
Jared Cowen: He had a great camp and pre-season and showed why he was drafted so high. He finally put it all together and was arguably our best defenceman so far. He has the size to play a full year in the NHL and was a no brainer to make the team in my opinion. He is known for his physical play, and at 6'5 and 225lbs+ it's easy to forget that he has been showing some offensive potential as well. His skating has also greatly improved since we drafted him and should only continue to get better. I see nothing but a bright future for this kid.
Mika Zibanejad: The 6th overall pick in this years draft came into camp with many question marks. Many thought we should have gone with someone like Sean Couturier at #6, but Zibby has improved and shown he also has some serious potential. He skates well, plays very physically and definitely has some offensive flair (see his 3 goals this pre-season). He struggled a bit with faceoffs but that will improve as he gets more comfortable. I like his game and the good part about him is even when not scoring, he contributes in many other areas of the game. I came away very impressed by the young Swede.
Nikita Filatov: The Sens took a gamble on him by acquiring him at the draft and while he has blown me away, he definitely looks like a nice addition, especially for the price paid. He does tend to struggle with inconsistencies, but what young player doesn't? For a team lacking scoring, he is a much welcomed member of the team. Depending where and with whom he plays, he could be a great pick up and should be exciting to watch.
Bobby Butler: He got his new contract in the offseason that was much more than I anticipated and has struggled this pre-season. His ice time has been much less under Paul MacLean and I personally have never really been sold on the kid. He possesses a very good shot, but I don't find his skating or defensive game up to par. Basically if he isn't scoring he isn't contributing, which is never a good thing. Think a poor man's Dany Heatley. Depending how much ice time he gets and who he plays with, he could provide some goals, and I hope he does, but I predict a bit of a sophomore slump. He makes the team based on last year, not his camp.
Zack Smith: It was pretty much a given that Zack, not Zach, would make the team, but the kid never disappoints. He always plays hard, will drop the gloves, has good speed and can chip in with some surprisingly skillful goals from time to time. He is what a hockey player is. Let's just hope he loses that bad habit of taking too many bad penalties this year.
Colin Greening: Once he signed that 1 way deal and with the way he finished up in the NHL last season, it was also pretty much a given that the Newfoundlander would be in the opening day lineup. He looked very solid at times last year but has struggled this year at camp. Perhaps it was the number change from #52 to #14? But seriously, his type of game isn't usually the type to struggle for that long, so the Senators will give him 20 games minimum to sort it out. Let's hope he can since he's as close to a power forward as we have.
Erik Condra: See Greening. Had a great finish last year, got a one way deal and hasn't been as productive so far. Like Greening they will give him games to get it together and I think he will. He isn't spectacular but is a solid player and will come in handy during the year.
Zenon Konopka: I have to admit I barely noticed him this pre-season, but he does have a track record and did come cheaply. He was brought in for some toughness and for his faceoff abilities and that should become very helpful during the long season.
Brian Lee: It seems weird that he appears on the list since he's been around forever, but for some reason or other, he was always the odd man out. Well not this year. He has a fresh one way deal and had a solid pre-season. I've always argued he's been shortchanged unfairly and now he has shown he can contribute. For what he gets paid he could very well be the best deal on the backend we have and I think this is the year to let him play regularly and see what we have. I personally thought he was very good this pre-season.
Stephane Da Costa: It was reported that he was battling Zibanejad for the roster spot, but I'm not really sure how. Da Costa looks slow and one dimensional to these eyes and isn't an elite enough scorer to warrant much ice time in my opinion. They may keep him around as an extra forward to see how he does but he will likely end up in Bingo at some point. Him making the team is likely but hardly a lock.
David Rundblad: He came in with huge expectation and hasn't delivered. The fact that he is even in the conversation still speaks to the fact that the Senators are desperate for him to succeed. He looked slow, makes Kuba look like a heavy hitter and try move after move that make work wonders in the SEL but don't fly in the NHL. He looked lost most of the time and while he scored the winning goal last night, let's be honest, it only went in because it hit a Bruins players stick. He reminds me and everyone else of Erik Karlsson a few years back. He has offensive potential but needs to learn how to play an all around game and his pre-season didn't warrant making the team. He should be assigned to Bingo and learn how to play the North American style, but I hear he plans on going back to Sweden should he not make the team.
Mark Borowiecki: The fact that I'm even discussing him right now is a major accomplishment. The Kanata native came into the organization with little to no fanfare and is climbing up the prospect chain. I have to admit I'm a fan. he plays hard, rough and is a great stay at home defenceman not afraid to mix it up. Look for him to get a call up at some point during the year if a dman gets injured. He improved probably more than anyone since last year.
Here are what I think the lines and defensive pairings should be to start the year:
- (Da Costa and Kenopka are extras)
and pairings will be:
- Kuba-Lee (Matt Carkner is 7th dman)
Do you agree?