Friday, April 27, 2012
Senators Summer 2012 ... Who Goes? Who Stays?
People aren’t even over their hangovers yet after a Game 7 loss for the Senators (hell, some people haven’t stopped drinking), and here we are trying to figure out who’s going to be in Ottawa next season.
Just think of it as a way to ease the pain. Your house might have burned to the ground an hour ago but it helps to go ahead and mow the lawn around it anyways. You might as well sit on the charred remains of the porch with a lemonade and think about the future.
Who’s coming back? Who’s going? Here’s the Black Aces take on the main roster players from this past season, their performance and what role, if any, they have going forward.
(Contract status in brackets)
Jason Spezza (3 yrs) – He took another big step forward this season by getting some Hart Trophy consideration but had it tough against the Rangers in the playoffs and was largely shutdown. The Rangers play a style that was the worst possible match-up for Spezza’s game. He can beat defenseman one-on-one no problem but it’s hard to beat five Rangers who form a wall around their goalie and force him to over-think. Spezza gets it every year from frustrated fans but if they don’t have him, they don’t even make the playoffs. He’s a vital piece going forward and is in his prime point-production years. Coach Paul MacLean has made a big difference in his game and it will pay off down the road if fans can remain patient.
Daniel Alfredsson (1 yr) – Not much else to say here. He was mostly healthy and back to being the same old Alfie. He’s got more than enough skill to play a couple more seasons at a high level but his body might be starting wear down. Everybody wants him back for at least one more year. We’ll have to wait and see what he thinks.
Milan Michalek (2 yrs) – Scored a career high 35 goals and is an essential winger for this team. Tough series against the Rangers where he couldn’t find any room but he’s their purest scorer until someone takes that title from him.
Chris Neil (1 yr) – Had his best year and was the Senators MVP of the playoffs. Cory Clouston didn’t use him properly but Paul MacLean let him play and we all saw what happened. No way the Senators let him go to unrestricted free-agency next summer. He’s a leader on this team and will be for a while longer.
Zack Smith (1 yr) – Hot and cold. When Smith is motivated and into the game at hand, he’s a goddamned bull out there and has a knack for big goals. When he’s not, he skates around doing nothing, looks sullen on the bench and gets frustrated with the refs. Smith should study how Neil plays the game and at least try to approach the same consistent level. He was a non-factor in the playoffs except for one game and the odd shift. He’s still young and has a big future ahead with this team.
Kyle Turris (1 yr) – Just got better and better after the big trade and peaked in the playoffs by being one of the most dangerous forwards on the team. He had a bad rep coming in but you can tell he cares and doesn’t do any floating. I thought this trade was horrible when it went down but I think I might have been wrong on that one. He’s a perfect fit for this team.
Nick Foligno (RFA) – For a guy who scored almost 50 points, Foligno can be a frustrating player to watch at times. He’s most effective when he plays simple and skates to the net but he’s in love with his own stickhandling skills and waffles the puck away just over the blueline on a regular basis. Lots of character and finally locked down a top-six role. He could get 20-25 goals next season.
Bobby Butler (1yr) – Oh boy. Butler came in to this season with some hype after clicking with Spezza under Clouston. Didn’t happen this season and he was a healthy scratch quite a bit. Maybe it was just the sophomore jinx but there’s a lot of kids willing to put him out of a job. Could be moved in the off-season for defensive help.
Peter Regin (RFA) – Nobody knows what shape Regin’s shoulder is going to be in or how much more bad luck he can take before completely disappearing from the Senators plans going forward. Regin’s time may have already passed with guys like Jakob Silfverberg, Mark Stone and Mika Zibanejad getting close but my guess is Murray gives him a qualifying offer and they take another look at him during camp. He could still be a top-six forward next season.
Colin Greening (2 yrs) – Great first half of the season then he started to fade after the all-star break. Just didn’t seem to have the same jump and maybe it has to do with playing a lot of hockey in the past two years after being used to the college schedule. No worries about his potential. He’s a player and his roster spot is safe.
Erik Condra (1 yr) – Great hockey sense but with hands of pure concrete. It’s hard to think of another Senators player who squandered so many scoring opportunities. He might be better off carrying a shovel instead of a stick. Still, he’s a great penalty killer and all-around depth player. He’s a lock to return.
Jim O’Brien (RFA) – We thought this guy was toast, a bungled first-round pick by the previous regime. Instead O’Brien kept momentum from a late audition last season and won the trust of MacLean down the stretch and into the playoffs. I didn’t realize just how fast a skater O’Brien was and he’s like a starved wolverine when chasing down a loose puck. No mystery here. He gets a qualifying offer and will battle for a job in training camp. Doesn’t seem to smile a lot though. All business on the ice.
Jesse Winchester (UFA) – Tough call on this guy. The coaching staff seem to love him and kept a spot open after he got over a concussion. It’s hard to make sense of what Ottawa will do with so many forwards and so many prospects expected to play. Winchester could be pushed out or the Senators might want his defensive prowess back in the lineup. He won’t get you points but he protects a puck along the boards like nobody since Peter Schaefer.
Zenon Konopka (UFA) – A player built for the playoffs if there ever was one. He was in and out of the lineup all season but was indispensable against the Rangers in the first round due to his faceoff ability and a his presence in front of Lundqvist. His body looked completely shot in Game 7 but still played a big role. He may not get an offer from the Senators if they want to keep Winchester or make room for a rookie, but MacLean seems to like him and he’s a big personality who’s perfect on a young team. If the Senators don’t want him, he’ll find another job without any difficulty. I’d keep him.
Kaspars Daugavins (RFA) – Between Daugavins and Konopka, you’d have a pretty good vaudeville act you could take on the road. I love these kind of character driven players who look like dump trucks on skates but manage to make a difference every night. Every team needs them and Daugavins should have been in the Rangers series instead of rookies like Mark Stone and Jakob Silfverberg. Good penalty killer and a terrific goal celebrator with his patented dog bark down the length of the bench. I don’t see a reason he wouldn’t be back to at least try to keep a job in camp.
Erik Karlsson (RFA) – Not even going to bother commenting on the kid. Give him whatever money he wants and put him on the ice for 25-30 minutes every single night.
Sergei Gonchar (1 yr) – The fans are tough on the veteran but Gonchar had a great year under MacLean and has enough in the tank for another strong season. With Filip Kuba likely taking a walk this summer, the Senators will need Gonchar’s smooth presence to eat up minutes on the blueline. He’ll never win over the fans but he’s an important player for this team.
Chris Phillips (2 yrs) – Steady as always and even better when the games mean something. He’s back in a comfortable role of a 3-5 defenseman and part of the leadership group. If you don’t like Chris Phillips, you probably don’t have a heart and hate Christmas.
Filip Kuba (UFA) – He’s likely gone. Had a good season partnered with Karlsson but the Senators might peg Jared Cowen for that role as a natural progression in his minutes. Kuba had a brutal Game 7 which might have sealed his fate – at least with the fans.
Jared Cowen (2 yrs) – Could end up playing with Karlsson and playing over 20 minutes a night next season. Was in the conversation for the Calder and is going to be a beast in this league not long from now. The only fear is the sophomore jinx.
Matt Carkner (UFA) – Tough year with injuries and a new coaching staff who didn’t realize just how steady a force he can be when healthy. He’s the heavyweight of the league and has underrated hands. Makes a good pass out of his zone and tends to get his shots through from the point. The Senators should offer him a two-year deal to stay as a sixth defenseman. He’ll be cheap and well worth the roster spot.
Matt Gilroy (UFA) – The fans were tough on him and Gilroy didn’t really fit in after the trade that sent Brian Lee to Tampa. But Gilroy wasn’t as bad as many made him out to be and he still has the wheels that would be enticing to a lot of teams looking for speed on their blueline. I think the Senators give him a token offer at their preferred price but won’t extend themselves trying to make him stay. Gilroy will probably be looking elsewhere for a home. He’s already a nomad.
Craig Anderson (3 yrs) – Great year, great playoffs and a foundation piece for this team. There’s no question he’s the number one goalie and will get the majority of games next season if he’s healthy. He’s not elite, but he’s perfect for Ottawa at this stage of the rebuild. I can envision a future where his relations with the media get a little prickly if things ever go sour. He’s got an edge to him.
Ben Bishop (1 yr) – He’s huge, if you didn’t know. His acquisition bought some time for Robin Lehner to develop but it may also have signalled that the organization is worried about Lehner’s maturity and attitude. If Anderson goes down to injury or struggles, Bishop can probably handle it. Great pickup by Murray.
Alex Auld (UFA) – This is probably the end of the line for Auld in the NHL. He’s had a good career and almost made himself into a number one goalie for a few years. It’s a tough gig for guys like Auld but he seems to have been well liked wherever he played. He could probably play in Europe if he wanted to.