Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cowen Just Needs Time And Patience... Wiercioch More Of An Unknown

Jared Cowen is feeling the heat in this early, miserable, god forsaken Senators season that’s spanned a month but feels like two thanks to a marathon exhibition schedule and crowded training camp that may or may not have contributed to a sloppy disorganized start when the real games began.

In Cowen’s case, it’s starting to look like he hurt himself by missing most of camp sitting in Saskatchewan waiting for his agent to make a deal with GM Bryan Murray on a new contract, and that’s on top of missing almost all of last season with hip surgery.

When you look at it this way, it’s no wonder the guy is struggling. At 22 years old, Cowen really only has one full 82 game season behind him. He just recently passed the 100 game mark and that’s not much when you’re talking about a young defenseman who’s still developing. Not everyone can win a Norris Trophy at 21 years old like Erik Karlsson, who’s more a freak of nature than an athlete.

Maybe, just maybe, the short-term expectations for Jared Cowen from the fans and management was a bit too high. And now they’re both paying for it.

The decision to trade Sergei Gonchar was both financial and hockey related. There was no way they could pay both Daniel Alfredsson and Gonchar and stay within the much publicized “internal budget”. Turns out the Senators lost both players, one purposely and one through a misguided attempt to go cheap on their captain and franchise player. But let’s not get into that again today, at least for humanitarian reasons.

The Senators thought Patrick Wiercioch and Cowen would emerge to take over those important minutes from Gonchar and everything would be smooth sailing, give or take a few rocky moments that all teams experience with young defensemen. Given Murray’s financial constraints, it was a logical move, supplemented by bringing in Joe Corvo as insurance.

Cue the October disaster.

Both Wiercioch and Cowen have been dying out there for the past month, with a new record of shots against threatening to be surpassed almost every night. Wiercioch has been in and out of coach Paul MacLean’s doghouse along with Eric Gryba, another young defenseman going through problems of his own, although expectations for him are a lot less than the team’s other young defensemen.

MacLean has tried everything to get these guys on track. He’s switched their partners and sides of the ice. He’s played them together. He’s bag skated the team and rested them. They recalled Mark Borowiecki who played very well but, almost predictably, still managed to score an own-goal. That’s the kind of luck we’re seeing here.

We even heard the unthinkable from outraged fans, clamoring to trade one or both of Cowen and Wiercioch. Thankfully, we can assume Bryan Murray still has a firm grip on his sanity and the thought has never crossed his mind.

In Cowen’s case, all that’s needed here is time and patience. This guy is going to be a top NHL defenseman for a long time but right now he hasn’t played enough games, especially recently, to play like everyone knows he can. Losing Gonchar has clearly forced Cowen and Wiercioch to play minutes they’re not ready for but Ottawa has no choice but to keep sending them over the boards in the hope they can adjust. I think Cowen will have a much easier time overcoming his early struggles because he’s not directly replacing Gonchar. Cowen’s issues seem more like rust, whereas Wiercioch’s seem more deep rooted.

Is Wiercioch really a top-pairing offensive defenseman? At this time he’s not, but he may be by the end of the season or a few years from now. The Senators will find out one way or another, but it could be a painful process. Cowen’s issues seem more prominent right now because he’s a defensive defenseman and this Senators team can’t keep pucks out of their net. There’s not much trouble on the offensive side of the game and that’s why Wiercioch isn’t hearing it from the fans as much as Cowen is.

There really isn’t much for Ottawa fans to do but watch and hope this all turns around. My hunch is Jared Cowen won’t be a fan target for much longer.

Hey, he is 23rd in NHL shooting percentage. Of course, that’s off just 8 shots.

Gotta start somewhere.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We're not in 2012 anymore Andy.
.906 save percentage, well over 3.00 GA.
If Anderson is a rock, then he's Percé Rock because there's a big hole there letting goals through.

The king is dead, long live Lehner.