Sunday, August 31, 2008

Another Deal Is Likely

With the swap of Andrej Meszaros to Tampa for Filip Kuba and Alex Picard, the numbers no longer add up to Christoph Schubert being able to play as a defenseman for this team.

The Senators now have a glut of 5th and 6th level defenseman and with Schubert somewhat effective as a checking winger, he will probably have to find a new address in order to fulfill his desire to revert back to his natural position.

Here's the likely pecking order on defense:

1. Chris Phillips
2. Anton Volchenkov
3. Filip Kuba
4. Jason Smith
5. Brian Lee
6. Alex Picard
7. Christoph Schubert
8. Brendan Bell
9. Lawrence Nycholat
10. Matt Carkner

With Bryan Murray apparently insisting on Picard in the Tampa deal, it would only make sense that he envisions him on the roster this season. Bell and Nycholat also might have an advantage over Schubert in that they are primarily puck movers whereas Schubert's strengths are already better represented in the top four D-men.

So now you say, well there's always room for Schubert on the fourth line. Really?

Ottawa also has a glut of fourth liners. Where are all these guys going to play?

Putting together some hasty line combinations which I think make some sense, it quickly looks like someone will have to be moved out of town.

Line 1 - C-Spezza, L- Heatley, R- Neil

Putting Neil on that line is a little presumptuous but he would provide a nasty and physical presence on the forecheck and in front of the net, creating tons of space for Spezza and Heatley. Wherever Neil is slotted, it will be on one of the top three lines anyway.

Line 2 - C-Kelly, L- Vermette, R- Alfredsson

Kelly and Vermette have great chemistry and Alfie provides an elite offensive presence on what could be a great line both ways.

Line 3 - C-Fisher, L-Ruutu, R- Foligno

Fisher is much better as a third liner and Ruutu and Foligno are big pieces going forward. They will be mean and nasty with potential for offense.

Line 4 - C-McAmmond, L-Donovan, R- ????????

Here's the problem. McAmmond and Donovan are both bona fide NHL players and putting Schubert on their wing seems to make sense.

But then you are leaving out Cody Bass and Jesse Winchester, both of whom are expected to make the club by management. The Senators made a huge effort to get Winchester signed out of college as a free-agent and they think he can score at this level. Bass played his way onto last year's team with his physical play.

That lineup also precludes any other young prospect making the team such as the two Russians Ilya Zubov and Alex Nikulin or underrated Dane Peter Regin.

And what about a true heavyweight such as Jeremy Yablonski? After losing Brian McGrattan, the Senators boast a plethora of middleweights who will scrap (Neil, Ruutu, Bass, Smith) but what if Eastern Conference players like Georges Laraque or Donald Brashear start taking liberties with Ottawa's star players? You just know Brashear will relish playing Ottawa without McGrattan in the lineup. He's bravest and most effective when playing teams without enforcers.

So then Yablonski has to be considered for at least a handful of games this year if that situation arises (and it certainly will).

To me, logically, it looks like someone on the current roster won't survive training camp and I'd put my money on it being either Schubert, McAmmond at forward and Nycholat on defense.

It would make sense to go with youth on the fourth line even though McAmmond is still an effective and speedy player. Keeping Schubert and/or McAmmond on the team will only stunt the progress of players like Bass and Winchester, or if Schubert were to play on defense, the progress of newly acquired Alex Picard who is already an NHL player.

I think from that perspective, it's almost certain another deal is on the way at some point before the final roster is locked in.


Ben said...

Gotta put Schubert ahead of Picard in the pecking order.

Picard's got less than 100 games of experience and is -33 in the NHL.

Schubert's +41 and has 3 seasons under his belt.

Considering that the Lightning are in need of defence, if Murray wanted to get rid of Schubert, he would have thrown him into the Meszaros deal to yield another forward.

maddog said...

Neil a first liner? Moohaha! They've tried that before - he can't keep up and isn't nearly skilled enough. When you're not in the play, you aren't "creating space" either.

Picard hasn't yet established himself as an NHLer. He has spent part of each year in the AHL. Which isn't to say that he's not ready, but it's not a slam dunk. He's a prospect until he proves otherwise.

Anonymous said...

All these options is exciting!

The D will take time to get used to each other but they will be a nasty group to play against...

Great for pushing around the supposed "all skill Habs and Pens"...

The 3rd and 4th lines are also chalk full of options. And especially some competition which is going to be good for this team.

Icetime as a result of effort!

Looking good!

Anonymous said...

I hope we get to see the potential line combo of Ruutu-Fisher-Neil. We can call it the "Listeriosis Line". Nobody will survive!