So one of the first posts I did for the site was an interview with the now world-famous @steffeG. With the season in Binghamton getting underway I thought it'd be fun to pick Stefan's brain again on an issue we're all obsessing about...what position should Mika play?
When the Turris trade went down the implication was clear, if a fit had been found at 2nd-line center, it was likely Zibanejad would need to make it on the wing at the NHL level. Right around this time, or just after the WJC, I remember hearing Dorion suggest that the organization saw Mika as a winger going forward. Fast forward eight months and there was Bryan Murray expressing the same sentiment:
"Because of the type of player he is, he would be an effective player on the wing,” Murray said Thursday. “He seems to be able to play there, with both the (Swedish) world junior team and in the (Swedish Elite League), and the left side might be a need, especially with (Mark) Stone, (Jakob) Silfverberg and (Stefan) Noesen being right-handed shot guys playing right wing."
In the last week both Ken Warren and Garrioch had stories with Zibanejad's thoughts on the assignment, the gist of which seemed to be a feeling of nonchalance with the change.
But what does someone who's watched Mika game in, game out in the SEL think?
We discussed this subject on ICQ last night:
steffeG: Good day. Should I not do chit-chat, will that fuck up the questionnaire?
me: No that's fine, I'm only gonna post the shit people want to see.
steffeG: So it's just gonna be a funny picture?
me: Yes, probably a cat doing cat things. So...prior to the 2011 draft you described Zibanejad as a "very versatile player" who could play center or wing. Now as someone who's seen him play a lot since, do you think he's clearly a better fit at one position?
steffeG: Yes, I do think he's better suited at wing. He likes to rush down the wing and try to beat his defender or fire a hard shot from distance, which might be a good way to create chances for a certain type of player, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the full capacity of the wingers are used if the finishing player is the centre. In addition to that, he's struggled in the face-off circle in Sweden, which usually means he'd have an even tougher time in the NHL in that aspect.
me: So it's more an issue of his offensive vision than his ability to handle the defensive responsibilities?
steffeG: Absolutely, if anything he's shown great maturity and defensive qualities early in his career. Perhaps even more so in his first year, as an SEL rookie, actually.
me: What position was he predominately playing last year with Djurgarden?
steffeG: He was shifted around frequently as the team struggled looking for chemistry from wherever they could find it. Don't have the exact numbers but he played wing for the majority of the games, but definitely a significant amount at C as well.
me: So you're fully endorsing Zibanejad at LW? And my crazy dreams of Zibanejad becoming a Kesler-esque two-way center were just that, crazy?
steffeG: Obviously that's what we'd like, but I don't think he'll be that player.
me: I'll take that as crazy.
steffeG: You are a bit of a loose cannon. I don't think it's crazy, he's got the physical tools for it for sure, powerful stride. I think Kesler has got extremely good mental tools that I don't expect Mika to develop.
me: Graeme was speculating (as others have) that Mika may be able to occupy Alfie's space on the powerplay one day. In NA we saw that look (left half-wall) a little bit at the last WJC. Is this where you think he fits best with the man advantage?
steffeG: Can I answer that I don't think he'll ever be a part of a good PP unit? ... Well, he likes to shoot and his shot is his best PP quality, so if anywhere, that's where he should be. Perhaps as the net-front presence if he can handle that on an NHL power play.
me: IIRC you think he shoots too often when he's on the powerplay, and that his shot isn't as accurate as maybe he thinks it is?
steffeG: I guess that'd be a fair description, he gets it off with ease and it's real hard. Should I rephrase that?
me: Naw, the more double entendres the better.
steffeG: He likes to jerk it around by himself too much, he's got to share it with the boys.
me: I read you loud and clear. Has there been a nationwide run on chocolate milk since his ad dropped?
steffeG: I haven't actually seen it on TV, don't know how much they run it if they even have yet.
me: So kids still drinking Sunny D over there, or its Swedish equivalent?
steffeG: Haha, I think they drink milk, or Coke, or O'boy.
me: Alright, thanks for putting up with this nonsense. Anything else you want to add?
steffeG: No, nothing to add. I really enjoy this format, brings out the narcissist in me even more.
THE SCOUTS continue to state that they have concerns about Zibanejad's finishing skills, that his shot is not as accurate as he thinks it is. The scouts also say he is a good playmaker, a 2way player that is very solid defensively. There are a lot of mixed opinions about his faceoff skills, but that is a secondary skill and one that can be improved through practice and experience.
If Spezza is injured, Turris would move to the top line, who centers the second line? If Turris is injured, same question? Zibanejad could, but if he is playing wing he would have to switch yet again, and some might say it isn't much if an adjustment, but at that level of play, it is. If he is still playing center, it is just a line change, or call up this year.
So where does Zibanejad play? Center, specifically 3rd line center. He has the defensive ability, and with his playmaking ability and with Greening and Condra as (speedy) wingers, he could make his line into a checking line with a scoring threat as well. I think Zibanejad has the ability to put up decent assist numbers, 30-40+, and he is good enough to take over the 2nd line center in case of injury.
So in conclusion, I disagree Zibanejad is best suited for winger. I believe he can play wing, but he would be wasted there. If he is permanently put at wing he will become the next Greening, and by that I mean that Zibanejad will become the winger that is too good for 3rd line wing but not good enough for wing on the top 2 lines. Ottawa has a plethora of winger prospects that would be better suited for those top spots, Silfverberg, Stone, Puempel, & Noesen to name a few, and yes, I think they will all score more then Zibanejad. I don't believe Zibanejad will ever top 20 goals in a season, and if he does, it will be a career year.
One - didn't Silfverberg play last season on LW with Brynas & have the best season a player could have? If yes, then wouldn't it make sense to put him at LW? I do agree that Zibanejad is better suited for the wing though & either side is fine with me.
Two - IMO Derek Grant has a shot at being Ottawa's 3rd line centre next season, he has the size, he is already a good two way player & he has some offensive skill. He would look great centering Greening & Stone on the 3rd line. And with Grant as a possible future centre in Ottawa there is no need for Zibanejad to play centre. Ottawa will need to draft a top line centre soon to eventually replace Spezza, maybe even trading down to get Monohan in the 2013 draft. Murray has lots of prospects he can unload for picks to move up.
Silf played RW last year, although he has played some left before that.
I like what we hear on Grant too, I'm just not sure when he's going to force an NHL spot. And yeah, on Monahan...that would be fantastic *fingers crossed*.
@Wham_City @eyeonthesens @6thSens Sorry--didn't see this until now--I'm still having the same problem (but maybe it's only me)
@Wham_City @eyeonthesens @6thSens Best of luck with the smoothing--I'll let you know when I can access things
@eyeonthesens No worries. It's not just you. The site was updated last night and not everything is running smoothly yet. @6thSens