It's not decision time yet for coach Paul MacLean and GM Bryan Murray, but the Senators are set to enter the home stretch of training camp on Monday afternoon in St. John's against the Jets and a few prospects are running out of steam before the final push.
It's starting to become clear that David Rundblad just isn't going to be ready to start the season in the NHL. The word on the young Swede was promising and he showed great flashes in rookie camp, but so far in exhibition games he seems to be backsliding instead of improving. He's actually pretty good once he has the puck set up in the offensive zone, like on the power play, but the flow of the game is proving to be a little quicker than he is. You have to like his calmness and low-panic level, but the dial may be turned too much the wrong way. He's getting beat to pucks and doesn't seem to anticipate just how fast the counter attack will be once the Senators lose the puck.
Yet nobody should be throwing in the towel on the season for this kid just yet. If he decides to stay in North America, he'll get a chance to get some games in, much like Erik Karlsson did in his rookie year. Karlsson was better than Rundblad at this point in their careers but Rundblad's size and calmness may make up for that as the season goes on and he gets more comfortable.
If this all goes down like it looks it's going to, you can already see the Senators defense taking shape here. Jared Cowen is going to make it. No doubt anymore. He's ready to go. That would leave the Sens with Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson, Matt Carkner, Cowen and Filip Kuba as their top six with Brian Lee ready to fill in from the press box (no chance Lee supplants Carkner in the lineup like I've heard some suggest).
It will be a slight disappointment that Rundblad isn't truly ready because that means the defense is almost the same as it was last season with Cowen swapping in for Chris Campoli. Fingers were likely crossed that Rundblad would provide that extra offensive weapon back there but a comeback season from Gonchar and a continued improvement from Karlsson (who is primed to break out big time) will compensate for Rundblad being in the AHL.
As a last point on Rundblad, even if he goes back to Sweden, it really shouldn't be thought of as a major step back. It would be much preferable for him to stay in the smaller North American rinks but that's still a really good league in Sweden and he'll be playing against men once again. He won't develop as strongly as he would here, but he would still be getting better nonetheless. He'll be a player sooner than later. Fans need to be patient.