Saturday, September 19, 2009

Peter Regin Trumps Zack Smith In Battle Of Rookies


Going into training camp, there were two young rookies who were going to get every opportunity to make the Ottawa Senators. Erik Karlsson was the smallish but highly skilled 19 year old and Zack Smith was the gritty and tenacious 21 year old who was ready to take the next step after a short apprenticeship in the AHL.

Why am I talking in the past sense? Because, maybe, just maybe, the decisions on these two players have already been made.

Karlsson is now a lock to make the NHL right away. He has probably surpassed expectations and is already the most skilled blueliner the Senators have under contract. There is no doubt that he has already bumped Chris Campoli from his spot with Filip Kuba on the number one power play. He can skate effortlessly, make sick tape to tape passes at nearly every opportunity and has a heavy shot from the point. And so far, his size has proven to be a minor issue in his own zone. He's too crafty to be caught in a vulnerable position on the boards.

On the other hand, Smith has had a relatively quiet camp - not bad, but not great. The Senators clearly covet his toughness but the faster and more skilled Peter Regin is just too good not to keep at this point. It's crystal clear that Regin is NHL calibre now and could end up being one of those surprises that helps teams get over the top. Remember when David Krejci came out of nowhere in Boston last year? A line of Mike Fisher, Nick Foligno and Regin looked particularly dangerous against Montreal on Saturday night and may be kept together, giving the Senators 3 lines that can score.

Regin is a complete player and, unfortunately for Smith, his time is now. Still young and on a two-way contract, it looks like Smith could use another year in the AHL to get more assertive.

So where is that toughness going to come from if not from Zack Smith? If there's one thing the Senators haven't lacked this pre-season, it's toughness. Heart and soul Senator Chris Neil destroyed Nick Tarnasky of Florida while Matt Carkner and Jeremy Yablonski have gotten into multiple scraps - and won every single one of them.

With Yablonski only likely to see spot duty this season in the NHL (and even that is a longshot), the logical candidate is Carkner.

As discussed on the Team 1200 pre-game show, Carkner looks like he may have played his way into Christoph Schubert's job as a "swing man" (Schubert is likely to be put on waivers before the season starts). Carkner is exactly the type of player the Senators need now and have always needed. A tough as nails defenseman who plays the game simple and mean.

He can play forward if needed to but Carkner may get a spot on the blueline as it is now. The pairings could work like this:

Phillips -Volchenkov
Kuba-Karlsson
Campoli - Carkner

Spare: Alex Picard

Or if Picard, who has had a good training camp so far, gets that last top 6 position, Carkner can be one of those guys who plays every other night and fill a valuable role on the team, either at forward or defense.

Just listen to his last name.

Carkner.

You can't help but be reminded of Terry Carkner, Matt's older cousin who played for a long time in the league with teams like the Flyers and the Red Wings while racking up over 100 PIM's nearly every season.

As they say, it takes different ingredients to "bake a cake" and guys like Chris Neil, Jarkko Ruutu, Shean Donovan and Matt Carkner compliment skilled players like Alex Kovalev and Jason Spezza.

Ottawa has never been mean enough, except maybe just after the lockout when they had Zdeno Chara, Brian McGrattan and Vaclav Varada along with Neil and Ray Emery. Only Neil remains from that ornery group but the Senators have a chance now to compete in a tough Eastern Conference that boasts the Chris Pronger led Flyers and the Brian Burke assembled Maple Leafs.

So even if Peter Regin makes the team at the expense of Zack Smith, the Senators have a good character guy in Matt Carkner to keep the opposition honest.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Especially that schubert is a muckler signing , easy to send down !

Canucnik said...

Jeremy:

Your missing a good game.

Schub is gone Karkner gets his swing job...but Volchy is done (hip, knee, hand, toe and both shoulders)...he's hurt already...he can't avoid the forcheckers anymore...Philippé is not strong enough to cary our PUP, so gets Alexandre Picard our best positional D-man (#17... he has asked to play with our youngin)...he knows the gaff)...leaving #14 to lug Karkner.

Trust me it's a passable "D" if the big forwards play I got the puck and you don't!

Pascal going side to side is the best in the business at it...it's his "Forté"!

What to do with "Cheech" he's done and robbing a good kid of a job.

Canucnik said...

Excuse me it's Matt Carkner with "C" I apologize to you and Matt.

Chum and Winny are in deep here also.

Cary 23 and put some guys on the DL.

Anonymous said...

I think Schubert is a much better keep than Carkner. Schubert has proven his worth during our Cup run. He's versatile and a better skater.

I'd keep Schubert.

Regin looks good. You forgot about Brian Lee in your rotation. I think he's better than Picard with more upside.

TheHux said...

Just another post proving why I love this blog. Unique point of view.

PointMeAtTheSky said...

I don't get the hate on Schubert. He's a solid 4th line forward/3rd pairing defenseman. While not the toughest player, he's not afraid to hit or use his size to his advantage.

I really want to see Regin make this team. I also love the Foligno-Regin-Fisher line (Mike insists he's a centre, but he gets shifted to the wing and scores a hat trick, come on Mike and Cory, smarten up and keep Fish on the wing).

The one issue there, is it leaves another centre spot open, most likely with Cheechoo and Kovalev. Kelly could be a defensive presence to anchor Cheech and L'Artiste (who are inept in their own zone). Shannon played there tonight, but while an effective player, his size is a huge detriment to him playing pivot.

phil said...

spot on! completely agree on regin - i think he made the team tonight.

i wish you'd mentioned fisher's performance though - if there was ever an 'i deserve the A' statement, that was it.

on schubert, i feel for the guy - i think we kind of killed his career by leaving him in the press box while a worse team could have had him on their 3rd of 4th line 2 years ago..

canucnik continues to personify everything that's wrong with sens fans. keep it up, bud - if we won the cup you'd complain that the parade route was wrong.

Canucnik said...

Is that you again Phil?

Phil ya don't improve by patting guys on the back...

Identify and "CORRECT" not cover up errors!

Schubert is my fellow countryman...he's my favourite...he should have walked three years ago...I would have gone with Hunt right in the room!

There is nothing personal here...I am the "Imaginary" DEFENCEMAN's Coach...but trust me those gentlemen that count are reading us!!

Peter said...

Yeah, I'm wondering where Lee fits in on that lineup. He's stronger than Campoli and Picard, I would argue, but might be a victim of his two-way contract--again. Next year, though, with him, Campoli, and Picard all unrestricted, I'd guess Lee would be the one to come back. He's not the puck-mover, as most have cast him as since he was drafted, but he could very well be a number four, shutdown defender.

Canucnik said...

Pete:

Ya gotta start watching what's going on on the ice. Brian Lee sensing the situation has given up regressed.

Picard is stronger than all of them and will end up taking care of Philippé Kuba as he meanders into "OLD" age.

Watch Campoli get tough playing with Carkner...and that's OK!

Anonymous said...

Brian Lee was drafted in the top 10. It is stupid and reckless to give up on that. You have to make the guy feel important if you want him to grow. The guy has shown flashes of being so smooth. He hasn't even been given a chance.

I'm really starting to hate this era of managers who seem to care more about their acquisitions than what is right for the team.

As far as Carkner, I thought we went that road last year with Jason Smith. He was tough, but the team suffered due to his lack of mobility. We need four guys who can move the puck back there. Philly and Volch are the shutdown pair. Everyone else has to get the puck to Spezz, Alfie, and Kovy.

Canucnik said...

Two ways aren't fair!

CC loves Carkner from Bingo...it was all he had down there...but we need him this season to hold his own with the mug wumps.(Philly; Tranna, the Habs...etc).

CC had Lee on the send down sulking in Bingo! Bad timing for Brian.

If these "Free way" Forwards, our coaches cannot see Picard (with his one way NHL contract)and how well he fits based with anyone based on his superb positional play. Then it's open war...the propagandists scoffed at us last year...this season...not so much!

Anonymous said...

Carkner is going to make the team. Watched him live Saturday night, and he is going to help Neil, as Neil'er won't have to fight all the time now. Carkner is a much better player than McGrattan was, and is way better than Yablonski.

Fisher was awesome Saturday night, and so was Kovalev, and special nods for Regin, Foligno, Karlsson, and Leclaire.

Hoffman looked alright too, but he is going to get another year in Juniors as an over-ager.


BTW, just bought my season tickets.

Go Sens Go!!

KJ

Anonymous said...

anon @ 11:09pm (KJ)

I don't get the Carkner love-in. Sure, the guy can fight, but he's a soon to be 29 year old career minor-leaguer with a total of 2 NHL games of experience. It's a waste of a roster space when you have a bunch of younger defensemen to develop.

Why take ice time away from Lee, Karlsson, Campoli, or Picard to make room for Carkner. He may spank a few guys for entertainment, but he has no upside.

This is a typical Bryan Murray acquisition. Carkner will do anything to make the team but has limited talent. Now, we'll start hearing about how he's really good in the room, a great character guy, and how he really wants to be here. And he's local.

Can he play defense or score? Of course not, but that will be blamed on the skilled forwards for not back-checking or not feeding him good enough passes.

If this happens, it'll be like the Martin Gerber saga of defensemen.

I say bring him up from the minors when we play the Leafs or any other goon-like team. He'll be a liability against most other teams.

Master Of Puppets said...

I don't expect Carkner to fill the net, or put up points, but he should be given a shot. A definite asset versus the goon squads - look for bouts with Orr, Cote, Carcillo. He looks like a rock, and seemed to have leadership qualities - just watching how he was with the others at Sens Fest open practice on Saturday.

But maybe he is too slow to last long - like Smith. I'd say #7 D or swing guy.

It is too bad about Schub, but he has peaked, and has gotten the short end of the stick. He does make the odd gaff too - not as bad as Kravchuk used to, but he's the closest.

There will likely be a 23 man roster by opening night (not 20,21 or 22) that will fit the cap and I'm betting ...

Michalek, Spezza, Alfredsson
Cheechoo, Shannon, Kovalev
Foligno, Regin, Fisher
Ruutu, Kelly, Neil
Winchester

Kuba, Karlsson
Phillips, Volchenkov
Picard, Campoli
Carkner, Lee

Leclaire
Elliot

That means waiving or trading Donovan and Schubert.

Winchester could be moved as well or instead of Donovan.

I don't like it, #10 is a solid reliable performer, but you can't drop Ruutu or Neil, so WTF do you do?

Canucnik said...

To the Master:

I don't think Cheech can stay in the league...but we are going to have to watch him till xmas...it's the line that will have to cary him that I "feel" for...Kovy will not have him and Alf needs those young legs on left wing...so the job falls again to Fish...WTF...just when he and the kid were going to really rip it up!

Over all you are close!

Anonymous said...

Jeremy:

Probably should tell ya that there will be no goalies this year in the hockey pool. Just trying something different, so dont waste your study time on them. I am pretty sure we are going to go with 1 extra center, right wing, left wing and maybe an extra d-man. It isnt carved in stone and we can discuss all that stuff before the draft on Sunday.

Ry