Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rundblad Losing Grip On Roster Spot

It's not decision time yet for coach Paul MacLean and GM Bryan Murray, but the Senators are set to enter the home stretch of training camp on Monday afternoon in St. John's against the Jets and a few prospects are running out of steam before the final push.

It's starting to become clear that David Rundblad just isn't going to be ready to start the season in the NHL. The word on the young Swede was promising and he showed great flashes in rookie camp, but so far in exhibition games he seems to be backsliding instead of improving. He's actually pretty good once he has the puck set up in the offensive zone, like on the power play, but the flow of the game is proving to be a little quicker than he is. You have to like his calmness and low-panic level, but the dial may be turned too much the wrong way. He's getting beat to pucks and doesn't seem to anticipate just how fast the counter attack will be once the Senators lose the puck.

Yet nobody should be throwing in the towel on the season for this kid just yet. If he decides to stay in North America, he'll get a chance to get some games in, much like Erik Karlsson did in his rookie year. Karlsson was better than Rundblad at this point in their careers but Rundblad's size and calmness may make up for that as the season goes on and he gets more comfortable.

If this all goes down like it looks it's going to, you can already see the Senators defense taking shape here. Jared Cowen is going to make it. No doubt anymore. He's ready to go. That would leave the Sens with Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson, Matt Carkner, Cowen and Filip Kuba as their top six with Brian Lee ready to fill in from the press box (no chance Lee supplants Carkner in the lineup like I've heard some suggest).

It will be a slight disappointment that Rundblad isn't truly ready because that means the defense is almost the same as it was last season with Cowen swapping in for Chris Campoli. Fingers were likely crossed that Rundblad would provide that extra offensive weapon back there but a comeback season from Gonchar and a continued improvement from Karlsson (who is primed to break out big time) will compensate for Rundblad being in the AHL.

As a last point on Rundblad, even if he goes back to Sweden, it really shouldn't be thought of as a major step back. It would be much preferable for him to stay in the smaller North American rinks but that's still a really good league in Sweden and he'll be playing against men once again. He won't develop as strongly as he would here, but he would still be getting better nonetheless. He'll be a player sooner than later. Fans need to be patient.


Anonymous said...

Not sure what you mean. Lee plays the right side, and in your D scenario there would only be 2 right side d-men. Lee is a lock for a roster spot and he'll play with Phillips.

Anonymous said...

Also there is zero, zilch, nada chance that he goes back to Sweden.

Jeremy Milks said...

Lee is no lock for a roster spot. How do you figure that? The guy sat half of last season. I wish him the best, but I think he's still number 7. Maybe you'll be right. Plus, Gonchar, Karlsson and Carkner can all play on right defense, with Kuba, Phillips and Cowen playing on the left.

Anonymous said...

Lee played really well down the stretch and has been a completely different player since. I think that its alot better for carkner to sit in the press box than Lee,
He obviously isnt living up to his draft potential, but hes still better than carkner. Honestly, if Kuba starts poorly and it is clear hes not going to have a bounce back season to increase his trade value, he should be in the press box every night. Hopefully the player gets precedence over the contract if this is the case

Jeremy Milks said...

Interesting. I sense a lot of love for Brian Lee amongst fans this year. I like to call it the Martin Gerber syndrome. When people start feeling sorry for you, they start thinking an injustice has been done and then inflate that players worth based on emotion rather than facts. Happened to Cheechoo here as well.

Also surprised at the negativity towards Carkner. He's been one of Ottawa's most steady and dependable defenseman since he got here and is the only one who will consistently play physical in the back end. That's an essential element in any NHL backline. Taking him out makes zero sense, especially for a guy like Lee who plays the same type of game as a handful of other Sens defenseman do, but not as well.

Anonymous said...

Comparing Lee with those two is a bit ridiculous. Gerber and cheecho were established veterans on the downside of their careers. Lee is still a young player.
I'm not going to be one of those guys who say that the organization hasnt given him a fair chance, but he was better than carkner down the stretch last season. So far in the preseason he has shown alot more than carkner.
Carkner is a 6th/7th defenceman on a good team. He will never be any more than that. I will always love the guy. But it is what it is. Lee atleast has the potential to become more than that. If u scratch Lee all the time, he wont have a chance to build on it. If you scratch carkner nothing really changes, he wont be alienated by it like Lee would. Its asset management, not being emotional.

Anshu said...

I'm late to this thread but my money is on Lee to make the team and it has nothing to do with feeling sorry for him.

Its more about two things. First, when asked about the defence, Maclean specifically mentioned how happy he was with Lee and that he has great chemistry with Phillips. Second, Lee has been playing really well both late last year and in this year's preseason, with more potential upside than Carkner. While I like Carkner and he's a solid guy, I see him as more the 7th d-man unless someone plays themselves out of a job.

While it may not appear to make sense, I'm thinking the pairings may end up (in no particular order):
Gonchar - Cowen
Kuba - Karlsson
Phillips - Lee

Michael said...

Rundblad's done what he can do in EliteSerien, all he can do is more of it. Trouble is, the AHL is too slow for him, it will hinder his development, not help it.

Are the Senators a developing team or not? If they are, they should let him develop here, and accept the mistakes that a young player will make.

Let's not make the same mistake with Rundblad that Columbus made with Filatov.

hambown said...


Actually, if you compare Lee and Carkner statistically they are almost indistinguishable:

However, it looks like on aggregate Lee was playing with weaker teammates, and against stronger opposition. It's not just a 'Rudy' effect;

I don't claim that leaving Carkner out will make the Sens defense stronger, but I do think that it will be hard for Paul Maclean to make the case of giving more minutes and playing time to Carkner over either Cowan or Lee.

It's a shame that Kuba got the extra years on his contract, as I really think Rundblad would do well in the final 35 or so games of this season. But there's just no room to keep him up this year.

Jeremy Milks said...

Hambown, the one area that distinguishes Lee and Carkner is toughness. Lee has none, Carkner has a ton. MacLean has already stated he likes a tough team in the summer. Carkner is an NHL regular, Lee is far from it. To me, Lee is an inferior defenseman to Carkner but to be fair to Lee, they both play vastly different games. It's apples and oranges. The Sens already have plenty of what Lee offers at his best, they have very little of what Carkner offers. Carks is more in competition with Cowen who plays similar but with much more mobility than Carkner.