With the Swedish Elite League regular season drawing to a close Tuesday, an interesting question must be raised by Senators management. Mika Zibanejad’s (and Fredrik Claesson’s, obviously, but for the purpose of this debate, he doesn’t really matter) Djurgården are finishing up a terrible year with games on Saturday and Tuesday, playing to avoid the dreaded relegation playoffs.
The two worst teams in the 12-team SEL square off in a mini-series of home-and-homes against the four best teams from SEL-2 for the right to remain or be promoted. Djurgården currently sits one point back of Linköping, these bottom dwellars face the same pair of opponents in their final two games, after which one team will be done for the year, and the other playing for their existence.
This brief lesson of the Swedish league system serves a purpose for Sens fans. If Djurgården can end the season with a few points in the last two games, they’ll be done playing by Tuesday. If they fail to climb ahead of Linköping, then this is a debate that will re-surface in a month or so, when the relegation playoffs are over.
When Mika’s not busy cuddling his puppy, he likes to put his hands to better use, playing hockey. Ending the season in early March might increase the amount of puppy pictures on Zibanejad’s Twitter account, but it’s certainly not what you’d like for one of your top prospects. Even though hitting the gym, stuffing himself with some Swedish meatballs and adding an inch to his 6’3 frame wouldn’t be all that bad. However, seven months without competitive hockey obviously isn’t the ideal situation.
What about the World Championships, one might ask? Well, while Mika is a good prospect, there is little to no chance he’ll be selected for that tournament. Jakob Silfverberg most certainly will, though that'll be after he’s finished his – very good – season chasing a championship with Brynäs.
So where does this leave Zibanejad? Well, since he’s under contract already, it would be no problem for the Senators to bring him back to Ottawa as soon as his season was over, whether it’s on Tuesday or early April. The question is, do they want to? The argument could certainly be made that he’d be an option well worth a shot with so many forwards struggling to produce of late. A young player like Zibanejad would have nothing to lose coming over, just getting the experience of being around an NHL team down the stretch and into the playoffs (knock on wood), even if he doesn’t play a single game. Because, of course, the next shift he takes on the ice in an Ottawa Senators jersey this season, would burn a year of his entry-level contract.
Should the organization just let him stay in Sweden, avoiding any additional pressure and allow him to have a long off-season, coming well-rested and hopefully, bigger, faster, and stronger to camp? Or should they bring him over? If so, should they play him, burning the first year of his ELC? Should they try to work out a brief “conditioning” stint with Bingo and go from there? Should he just be around, learning valuable lessons about the NHL life?
There are lots of questions to be answered, lots of options to be pondered for the Murray’s. In the meantime, Mika will work as hard as he can on some great pictures of pup – err...the SEL existence of the winningest franchise in Swedish hockey history.
- Jakob Silfverberg is riding a 13-game point streak, although it should be noted that the 13th game of the streak was actually one in which he was held scoreless in regulation. IIHF statistics count shootout game-winners as goals. Silfverberg is currently tied for 2nd in scoring with 50 points, having played six less games than most from time sidelined with shoulder injuries.
- With the Ben Bishop trade, the case I made for Viktor Fasth a few weeks ago would seem pointless. The main point of the article was arguing for a more ambitious choice as a backup goaltender, though, so, well, I had my way. Whether it’s Bishop or Lehner platooning with Anderson next year, I think Craig will have a tougher time staying in the net.
- Word out of the Swedish Google offices is that searches for “Binghamton” are up the last few weeks. No word from the travel bureaus if they’ve experienced any increase, though.
- Fredrik Claesson has really been having a solid season on a struggling Djurgården team, in the process becoming an intriguing defensive defenseman prospect to follow. As a wise man once said: “He blocks the shots. He hits the people”.
- Mika Zibanejad has been playing wing all year for Djurgården; he’s shown over the last few years to be equally comfortable on the wing as he is at center. Ultimately it'll just be a question of where the organization wants him, as he won’t have any problems adjusting if asked.
- Also, some people, perhaps confused by sites like Hockey’s Future, have been asking about Silfverberg being listed as a center. He’s been playing wing for years, and that’s where you should slot him going forward.
As always, feel free to comment on the articles, our or other Swedish prospects or anything Sweden in the comment section,or on Twitter (@steffeG).