Time to wonder what new coach Paul MacLean has in mind as he plays with possible forward lines in his head leading up to training camp. I'm certainly no mind-reader, but as a substitute, this is a general idea of what I think could happen, although these lines look uncomfortably similar to what Cory Clouston would have had if everyone was healthy. A new coach brings in a different mindset and some of the duos we've come to take for granted may not even get a look together in training camp with different people in charge.
Anyways, for what it's worth, here's my best shot at what this team will look like in October:
Michalek – Spezza – Butler
Filatov – Regin –Alfredsson
Foligno – Greening - Smith
Condra- Konopka – Neil
Phillips - Rundblad
Cowen – Carkner
To me, you have to keep Butler and Spezza together. They looked dangerous at times down the stretch and Spezza is always best when he has a sniper riding shotgun. Butler may not be Dany Heatley, but he's still got a cannon and a knack for getting open for a chance. Michalek is the sort of hybrid grinder on that line but he can get you 30 goals in a good year when he's not busy breaking every bone in his body.
I see Regin as this team's second line centre and having a big rebound year. It seems natural to put Filatov on a line with Alfie to make sure that the kid is playing the game the right way and gets off to a good start. It's hard not to play well with number 11 on your line as we've all seen in the past. Playing on the second unit may allow Filatov a little more room to breathe at the start instead of facing everyone else's best defenseman shift after shift.
Then it gets tricky. I think Greening could be the big centreman this team needs (while they wait for Mika Zibanejad in Sweden), even if that means both Foligno and Smith continue to play on the wings despite being natural centres. This looks like a grind line but if Foligno can get his game together, they could score a few goals (although I'm not very confident Foligno has that upside anymore).
Konopka has got to take faceoffs so that essentially pushes Winchester out of his spot for now, even though he's one of the best at controlling the puck along the boards. Condra isn't a natural left-winger but he's got to fit in some place, and Neil seems entrenched on the right side.
The big temptation was to imagine a fourth line of Neil, Konopka and Smith, which would create chaos every single game, but they probably want to spread that toughness around a little. It would also mean that one of Neil or Smith play on their wrong side. Neil could shift over to left-wing because he's a right handed shot but his game isn't one-timers, it's digging for pucks along the boards.
Where does Stephane Da Costa fit in? Good question. For now, the AHL seems to be a likely destination, especially with that trio of one way contracts given to Condra, Greening and Butler.
As for the defensive pairings, I can see MacLean loading up on offense with Gonchar and Karlsson as big minute guys, but can they work together? The Senators now have three right-handers in Karlsson, Rundblad and Carkner (four if Brian Lee sticks around) and I can't see them being paired up together. So that's how I came up with these duo's, although Kuba remains a real wild card. If he's healthy and confident, it's hard to keep him out of the top six. It's entirely conceivable that at least one of either Cowen or Rundblad prove they aren't ready for the NHL, and that would bring Kuba back into the mix and leave room for Lee as a spare.
If that's not enough, you have Eric Gryba, Patrick Wiercioch and Mark Borowiecki close to being ready.
It still feels like the Senators may have one more move up their sleeve, and are just waiting to see how Rundblad and Cowen do in training camp before making a trade of some sorts.