Let me first dust off the cobwebs in here. Its been a while, but its tough to write blogs in midterm season (even though its a tempting distraction), and the fact that the Senators didn't get off to the smoothest of starts made it tough to sit down and type something, because Sens fans provide enough negativity.
With that out of the way, let's conceptualize what a healthy Ottawa Senators team looks like.
Now, I understand injuries happen, and heading into the season, they were a big concern for Sens fans. Sure, this team has some talent, but as is beaten to death, that talent is either aging (Gonchar, Alfie, Kovalev, Phillips) or injury prone (Spezza, Michalek, Fisher, Kuba, Leclaire).
Looking closely at these names, you'll see they arent just names. They constitute 5/6 of our top six forwards and 3/4 of our top 4 defencemen, not to mention our "starting" goaltender.
That's nothing to sneeze at (and please, don't sneeze at Pascal, he's delicate). Due to these injuries, the Sens have had trouble finding chemistry and consistency (its no coincidence that our fans "favourite line", the Kelly line, has been together, without injury for most of the last year).
Now, on paper, a healthy Sens team should compete in the East, and finish in the 4-6 spot, or so I believe, but thats not what I want to debate. I just want to excite you with that paper line up. So here is how I see it shaking down when the gentlemen nursing injuries come back.
People have been calling for the Regin-Spezza combination all year, and in the last few games, Regin has started putting up points, which is positive for this team going forward. Kovy always plays better with Regin and has played quite well of late. Spezza is a player who is supposed to elevate those around him, if he can this line becomes crucial to this teams success, because it allows a second line of...
While Spezza was out, this was our top line, and they played like it. They put up strong numbers, and I think Michaleks game is more suited to Fisher than to Spezza. (Oakes always says Michalek is the only 25 goal scorer in the league that can't take or make a pass). While the first line is all creativity, this line generates chances off the cycle, and through hard work. It is also a good line defensively. But this line produced against the top defensive assignment before, think of what they can do against second tier defence. Salivate. Repeat.
The chemistry here is undeniable. They play well together, simple as that. This line brings consistency, hard work, physical play, zone time and occasionally some offence. They are the best third-and-a-half line in the NHL.
Now, in the summer I advocated for Zach Smith, and in the preseason, this looked justified. He just hasn't played his game this year, and thats a shame. I'm hoping this line invokes shades of the famous Foligno-Fisher-Shannon line that got Cory Clouston a job. Winchester doesnt have the offensive skill-set of Fisher, but is a hard worker, north-south type of player. The FFS line were the masters of the cycle and generated off of it. If this line can do the same, this team can be a true 4 line team, which will hopefully minimize the injuries up front.
I've loved Gonchar's game and Phillips has struggled, but these veterans know how to play, and they are our best. Keep them together and let Chris develop some chemistry. Gonchar played best in Pittsburgh with Brooks Orpik (in my mind a similar player to our Big Rig) so, here's hoping Phillips can learn to play with the offensive juggernaught (always wanted to use that word)
Oh sweet Jesus I never thought I'd be so happy to see Kuba back. He is bashed for a lot of things, but he will help stabilize the defense, and hopefully will have a similar effect on Karlsson as Mr. Hale has. Speaking of King K, he is starting to round into form and I'm not worried about him one bit. Period
Really pleased with Campoli this season, and a fine point was made by a commenter on another blog. What if he was playing with someone other than Carkner and on the first unit PP? We would all be talking about him. As is, he is rounding into a fine defenceman. As for Carks, hopefully we'll see the steady Carks we saw last year when he is back playing more comfortable 3rd line minutes.
At this point its a crapshoot. Before Pascal went down he was a lone brightspot and Ells was awful. In the last few games, Ells is winning, and it seems, once again, that Pascal has lost the starting job due to injuries. As long as we aren't losing games because of our goaltending, I don't care who plays here anymore.
So, what do you think? Does this line up presented before you make you a little more excited? Or will you believe it when you see it?