Another game and another day closer to finding out whether the Senators organization will send Mika Zibanejad back to reindeer land.
Since tomorrow’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes marks Zibanejad’s ninth and final “freebie” game before his ELC kicks in, plenty of attention has been devoted to the decision that the Senators organization will ultimately be faced with and deservedly so. Wednesday looks like it will be Z-Day.
Held to zero goals, one point and a -3 +/- rating through eight games, his stat line resembles something that you’d find on the back of a Radim Bicanek card. His time on-ice numbers aren’t much better. His 5-on-5 TOI per game is 11 minutes and 22 seconds (15th on the team). His short-handed TOI per game is eight seconds and his PP TOI per game is 1:10 (11th on the team). All of these TOI numbers are only marginally better than the amount that Mark Scheifele, who was returned to junior yesterday by the Jets, received in his audition.
Based off of these statistics, pragmatic fans can create a compelling argument that because Zibanejad offers limited production in limited minutes, there’s little value added by an 18-year old that can be returned to Sweden.
They could even augment this point by alluding to the low expectations of this team. Is it worth exposing an 18-year old to the possibility of systemic losing? Will that kind of losing environment negatively affect his development? Moreover, is it in the organization’s interests to ‘stop the clock’ and keep him under team control at (hopefully) a cheaper cost when the team actually stands a chance at being competitive?
Most importantly, the organization has given him an opportunity to succeed. He started the season playing centering the second line and a skilled winger in Daniel Alfredsson. He has also spent some time flanking Jason Spezza. Moreover, in his most recent game against Columbus on Saturday night, after some ineffectual play, Zibanejad was bumped from Alfredsson’s line at the start of the third period to a line featuring Erik Condra and Chris Neil. (Note: Neil has been one of the team’s most energetic and consistent forwards. You can’t blame Paul MacLean for hoping that the right-winger would rub off and get the young Swede going. Then again, maybe it’s a strike against him when we’re counting on Neil to make the rookie more comfortable.)
On the other side of the coin, those in favour of keeping Zibanejad around will point to his physical maturity, his compete level and his calibre of skating and say that he’s NHL-ready. That he needs time to get experience so that he can adapt to the North American game. Bryan Murray himself has said that he has reason to believe that by December, he’ll be a much better NHL player than he is now.
Mind you, that’s the same thing that was once said of Jared Cowen.
Too many bodies...
With all of the focus being placed upon Zibanejad, not a lot of attention has been paid towards the fact that Matt Carkner and Bobby Butler have returned to practice and their respective returns from injury seem imminent. With such a congestion of players on the parent NHL roster who are on one-way deals, it will be interesting to see how management and the coaching staff handle this glut of healthy bodies.
Of course some of this all somewhat complicated by the fact that the organization is hoping that some trade markets can be created for some of its veteran players. It’s part of the reason why Brian Lee has already spent his fair share of time in the press box despite having regularly outplayed a number of his “veteran” teammates. (Conspiracy theorists will believe that the other part being his inability to rid himself of the John Muckler taint and the stigma that comes from not being Marc Staal or Anze Kopitar.)
Yes, it’s all so delightful.
Nevertheless, the return of Carkner, a defenceman who hasn’t played since February 26th of last season, will necessitate moving of one of the blueliners. With the misfortune of having two-way contracts, David Rundblad or Jared Cowen are the easiest to move without having to make a trade or waivers.
Other Stuff of Questionable Importance
Jason Spezza was named as the NHL’s second star of the week.
There’s lots of being given to Milan Michalek and his fast start to the season. Torrid starts aren’t a rare occurrence for Milan in a Senators jersey. To start the 09-10 season, he tallied 15 goals in 25 games. He finished that season with 22 goals...
“They call me Rooster.” According to Sylvain St-Laurent, Kaspars Daugavins is skating at practice in Kanata today. Dogman! He’s been killing it in Binghamton of late, tallying four goals and six points in seven games.
Speaking of practice, here are the line combinations from today’s practice: Michalek-Spezza-Greening, Neil-Smith-Condra, Daugavins-Zibanejad-Foligno, and Winchester-Da Costa-Kenopka.
Gus Katsaros from McKeen’s Hockey pointed out on Twitter (@katshockey) that Ottawa has now played 4 of 5 games as the rested team versus team playing 2nd game on back-2-back nights (3-1-0). They have one more in '11-12. I guess this helps make up for the fact that the organization plays so many of its second games in back-to-back nights against a rested Leafs team.
According to the Senators official Twitter account (@NHL_Sens), Saturday's win was only the 4th time in the last 15 years that a team won in regulation time when trailing in final minute of the 3rd period.
In response to Matchsticks and Gasoline, “Man, it's depressing to watch Jarome Iginla waste his career in Calgary. That and the seeming inability of the Flames hierarchy to get Tim Erixon to sign an ELC are quite infuriating. Anger transference from a Flames fan towards the Senators is high comedy.”
Paul MacLean said that Erik Condra, “has the potential to be an elite penalty killer in the National Hockey League.”