Friday, August 24, 2007

Roster Problems for the Sens

Barring any major move by GM Bryan Murray before training camp, this is what the Sens will probably look like to start the season on the road in Toronto.

Line 1. Eaves – Spezza – Heatley
Line 2. Vermette – Fisher – Alfredsson
Line 3. Donovan - Kelly – Neil
Line 4. Hennessy – McAmmond – Schubert

Spare: McGratton

Def. Pairings

Redden – Meszaros
Phillips – Volchenkov
Corvo – Nycholat

Spare: Richardson



What becomes clear very quickly is that this team needs another top six forward and probably another physical stay-at-home defenceman.

Eaves is a risky proposition on the first line because the team wants him to blossom into a scorer but the role on that line calls out for someone who is defence first. Maybe Shean Donovan is a better fit but it’s hard to give a career third liner first line minutes every night.

Fisher and Alfredsson are another strange combo who don’t really seem to click together the way they should. Vermette is also a mystery man because he has all the tools but can’t seem to rise above being a penalty killing specialist. His forays into offense always seem awkward and he misses more chances than anyone on the roster. He might be a better fit on the third line.

Kelly and McAmmond look to be locks as third and fourth line centres while it’s probably time for talented youngster Hennessy to make the jump to the NHL. Ideally, the Sens would like to have Schubert back on defense but that leaves too big a hole up front. They obviously don’t want to commit to giving McGratton 82 games and it’s a crapshoot whether or not some of the prospects like Cody Bass, Nick Foligno and Shawn Weller are ready for prime time. Schubert provides plenty of hard hits and muscle on the fourth line while Nycholat looks to be a reasonable solution as a sixth defenseman in lieu of a quality veteran.

On defense, it looks like Redden will be forced to find chemistry with Meszaros. Both of those players were mediocre last season but in reality, there is no other fit currently on the roster. You can’t break up the excellent Phillips/Volchenkov combo and Corvo is too fragile and jittery to command top minutes.

Who should we get?

In an ideal fantasy situation, Bryan Murray would just open the cash drawer and sign Peter Forsberg and Danny Markov. That would solve the roster problem but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. There’s not much left in the free agent pool that would really help the Sens.

Eric Lindros would be an interesting addition but it looks like he is on the verge of retiring to work for the NHLPA full-time. Despite his reputation as being injury prone, Lindros is still a quality player when his body allows him and he would add some size to the wings. Mike Johnson could play effective minutes on the fourth line but something about him is just too ordinary to bother. Dave Scatchard might be the guy some team picks up and gets really lucky with. Ottawa once tried to trade for Scatchard but those executives are long gone.

It looks as if Murray will wait until after training camp to see if some of the youngsters show they’re ready. But one thing is for sure: the current roster has too many holes to be considered a favourite just yet. They will still rely too much on one line to score and the top six forward positions desperately need a seasoned veteran to help Alfie and company. Bill Guerin would have been ideal but perhaps the Sens can entertain some trade options to bolster the group. As you know, almost every team believes they can compete in October but by the time December rolls around, about six teams will be looking to dump bodies overboard.

Sometimes it pays to be patient.

1 comment:

mattbond said...

My line-ups look a bit different.

1. Spezza-Heatley
- you cannot deny the chemistry of one of the most deadly offensive due in hockey
2. Vermette-Alfie
- due to the lack of Foppa, Marleau, or any other new addition to fill our annual second-line center gap, you know Vermette is going to get a few looks. He's dynamite on the draw, and has complimented Alfie well upon occasion.
3. Fisher-Neil
- Mike just looks like a fish (heh) out of water on the second line. Give this guy the third line role he excels in.
4. McAmmond-Donovan
- speed + punishment. A checking line that's not a defensive liability. Gotta like that.

Spare parts:
Eaves - will likely see some top line minutes. could fit on any of the four lines I put together.
Kelly - could get some looks as a second line center for Alfie, or a defensive conscience on that top line.
McGratton - completes that fourth line nicely in my opinion.
Foligno, Hennessy, Zubov, Bois, other prospect - any could fit on the third line with Fisher and Neil. I'd like to see Zubov get a shot.

Phillips - Volchenkov
- no-brainer
This D-corps is a conundrum. As you said, Markov would be ideal, and would yield:
Redden - Markov
Corvo - Schubert

Or, interchange Redden with Meszaros. One of them has to go during, or after the season in my opinion.

Without Markov, our D has at least one line that makes me very nervous:

Redden - Schubert
Corvo - Meszaros (oh nooo!!!!)

Redden - Meszaros (not again!!)
Corvo - Schubert

Its clear that D is an area that could use some attention. I don't think we have any decent callups that could fill the gaps. Nycholat looks like a 6th line guy with speed and offense, but thats not what we need. Richardson won't see 82 games, so I'm not sure what to think there.

In short, I second the sign Foppa and Markov sentiments. Vaananen could be an affordable option.

October can't come soon enough.