Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kuba Joins Solid D Corps ... But Who's Gonna Score?

Editors Note: Before we get started, I'd just like to be the first to call him "Kubes". Now we can proceed...

Ottawa GM Bryan Murray has again acquired a player he once drafted as GM of the Florida Panthers.

Earlier this summer it was goaltender Alex Auld whom Murray drafted in 1999 and now it's defenseman Filip Kuba who was picked by the Panthers in the 8th round of the 1995 draft.

As a bit of a backgrounder on Kuba:

- He's listed as 6'5", 225 pounds on but elsewhere, such as last year's Official Guide and Record Book, he's listed at a much smaller 6'3", 205 pounds. Either he ate his spinach this past year or the NHL has muddled some numbers up.

- Sportsnet has this scouting report:

"Has terrific size and mobility from the back end. Displays both decent offensive instincts and a hard shot from the point.

At 6-3, 205 pounds, he needs to make better use of his imposing frame. Is still lacking in consistency and needs to raise his game to the next level."

- He's been in the playoffs twice in his career and was on the Minnesota team that had a good run in 2003 though K ubina was a minus 8. He also had an impressive 5 points in 6 games for the Lightning in the 2007 playoffs.

- He won a bronze medal with the Czech Republic at the 2006 Turin Olympics and played in the 2004 NHL All-Star game.

- He was twice named team captain in the Minnesota Wild's strange rotational captaincy system.

Spector over at Fox Sports didn't seem to be overly enthused with Kuba when previewing Tampa's season just over a week ago:

"Filip Kuba, a nine-year veteran who would be on a second-line pairing on a deeper defense corps, is their most experienced defenseman. The 6-5, 220-pound
Kuba certainly has size and decent all-around skills, but he's not a particularly physical defender and struggled last season when Boyle was sidelined by injury. "

- Fox Sports

The always very thorough Score Sports Forecaster point out Kuba's shot blocking capability:

"While Kuba is fearless - he led the team with 131 blocked shots - he doesn't use his big frame enough. He should continue to produce good numbers, however, on what is expected to be an improved Tampa Bay power play."

Despite my initial horror upon reviewing this trade, it seems like Kuba will be a capable fill-in for Andrej Meszaros for at least one season. The real problem is that Kuba will be able to leave town after just one year while Meszaros has the potential to blossom in Tampa and be a great NHL defenseman for years to come.

It's clear that management weren't prepared to gamble on Meszaros getting better with age and the fans have long ago stopped having patience for homegrown talent to develop so it's certainly a good situation for Meszaros in Tampa Bay where he'll be more appreciated on both fronts.

They guys over at Illegal Curve have, I think, a fairly accurate take on the situation:

"Although the 4 million per season is likely more than what the Sens felt Meszaros is worth, 4 million is more or less the market for a young and mobile defenseman of his calibre. Meszaros’ absence now signficantly enlarges the void of capable defensemen on the Sens blue line. I can tell you one thing - Filip Kuba is not the answer. "

- Illegal Curve

The Senators have emphatically addressed their need for more toughness on the blueline with Kuba and the hard-hitting Alex Picard and they will now almost certainly block more shots than any other team in the league with Anton Volchenkov and Jason Smith already in the ranks. But after losing Wade Redden and now Meszaros, have they over-corrected the problem and set themselves up to vastly overpay for an offensive defenseman either this season or next summer?

The pressure is now on Brian Lee to step up his development at least a year early, a curious and puzzling situation for this once mighty team to be in just two years removed from an almost successful Stanley Cup run.

It doesn't even seem possible to win a championship without some specific ingredients. A true elite defenseman seems to be one of them.

So does the franchise now have to adjust their aspirations after years of being considered a Cup favourite?

Will mediocrity now be enough for a fan base that is ravenously chewing and spitting out their team's skill players as if they grew on trees or something?


Anonymous said...

So maybe you go to Kuba for the year while Lee gets a cance to grow, then next year you replace Kuba with Lee, and replace Lee with Picard or perhaps even Karlsson.

Ultimately replacing Meszaros with Lee is A-O-K with me!!

The SENS will be fine. Tampa, on the other hand....

Meaghan said...

I love that shot blocking stat! Gerber will never have to touch a single puck this season.