We lost the contribitutions of one our founding members, but the Roundtable carries on this month like a three-legged horse… or something like that. In no particular order, here are the three other key members of the roundtable, who work to bring this Roundtable to life:
Scott Petersen : Fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University, freelance writer, as well as editor of the Hockey’s Future Senators page.
Sean Keogh: More frequently known as ‘Hossa’, Keogh is moderator of the Hockey’s Future Message Board and a knowledgeable fan of the Senators.
Nick Quain: Also better known as his alter-ego, ‘Dr. Sens(e)’ is one of the main contributors to the Message Board and brings a logical look to Senators situations.
Each writer’s response is noted by his initials:
1) Though his love of hamburgers may only be surpassed by former Russian teammate Andrei Medvedev, Anton Volchenkov has a much better body and better game. After a solid rookie season, the round-faced Russian awaits the judgement of the Hockey’s Future panel: Did Volchenkov measure up to expectations with his performance this season?
SK: Yes, if not surpass them. The only problem is that Volchenkov had a few too many little injuries for my liking. He impressed me with his poise, intelligence and hockey sense. His physical play really took off in the middle of the year, where he landed several huge open ice hits. While Chara brings a wealth of physical play, he doesn’t go out of his way to throw big hits in the neutral zone. Volchenkov does. However, the A-Train still needs to work on a few things for next year and it starts with conditioning. I expect Volchenkov to be in much better shape at the start of next year. Still, it was overall a very nice rookie season for Volchenkov.
NQ: Absolutely. Of course, some might be a little less impressed due to his huge preseason (leading the Sens in scoring), but obviously those never should have been realistic expectations. The biggest thing he did was to continually improve as the season progressed. He played much more conservatively in the first half of the season to limit his mistakes, but began taking more chances in joining the rush and stepping up to hit opposing forwards in the last quarter of the season.
2) As two integral components of any future Senators success bide their time in the press box, there remains the question of what role Volchenkov and Jason Spezza should play in the playoffs? So, should they be observers or players in crunch time?
SP: Volchenkov has played in big games before on the international stage, although this would be his first taste of NHL playoff action. Still, that experience does mean something and he has the style of game that lends itself well to hard-hitting action. If Shane Hnidy falters at all, I wouldn’t hesitate to put him in the third defence pairing and keep him there.
Spezza is another story. I think you’ll see the same conservative approach from Martin in sitting the rookie early in the playoffs in favour of the numerous bodies with playoff experience. But, if the power play should sputter or the offence need a kickstart, Martin will likely rearrange his lines to find a way to work the PP whiz kid into the lineup. My opinion is, if given a chance, he’ll stick and be a fixture in the lineup… but at who’s expense would be interesting to find out.
NQ: Volchenkov should be a regular on the third pairing and take a regular shift.
Spezza most likely doesn’t fit into the mix for game one and will probably sit if everyone is healthy, but should be given a game here and there to mix things up as required. He should be the first forward to hit the ice if someone were to get injured.
3) The long forgotten man in this playoff run may be left-winger Petr Schastlivy. His season virtually ended about 50 games ago, and we haven’t heard much from him since. But, the kid has game and was scheduled to make it back from rehab around playoff time. So, if he does make it back to full strength in time for the playoffs, should there be a spot waiting for him in the lineup?
SK: Personally, I don’t see him playing again this season – too many players already. I don’t see Schastlivy displacing any of those 12 guys already in the lineup unless there are injuries. Next year though, he’ll score a lot, with Magnus Arvedsson most likely gone.
SP: Even if he is fast-tracked to return for the playoffs, his role has been filled on the team with other acquisitions. Add on the factor of rust, his limited experience at the NHL level and the myriad forwards ahead of him on the depth charts, and he’ll have to grab a number and wait at the end of the line. He’s proven he can play, but he’ll have to wait till next year to cement that reputation.
4) There’s no question this was a watershed year for Mike Fisher. Now that we’ve seen him play the majority of a full, healthy season and carve out a bit of a niche in the lineup, it’s easier to make some judgments. So, can Fisher develop into the board-shaking power forward the Senators have been looking for?
SK: I think he’s more likely to be a power forward playing on left wing than at center, but I don’t think he’s a prototypical power forward either. I think Fisher’s value is in his ability to do everything very well, while not dominating in any one facet. He has enough skill though, that he can and will be a scoring line player.
NQ: I don’t think Fisher will develop into the quintessential type of power forward in the make of Nolan, Roberts, Tkachuk or Guerin, but he may turn into just a slightly inferior version. I still think he’s more likely to progress into a Peca-type, who may well be equally valuable.
b) Would Fisher and his considerable talents be more valuable on the wing?
SK: If Martin feels he needs a power forward, then Fisher is more of a power forward on the wing than at center. I think the line of Fisher, Smolinski and Hossa, where Smolinski is the center, will continue in the playoffs. I don’t see Fisher playing much center barring an injury, but it’s not only so he can play as a power forward.
NQ: I still like the idea of him as a buzz-saw two-way centerman, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to give him a long look on the wing. If he has the ability to play either position effectively in the future, then all the better.
5) We’ve graded the prospects, but how about the young guys in and out of the lineup at the NHL level? Here’s a taste of how our panel of judges saw the play and development of the following young guns:
-Volchenkov: B+: Needs to improve conditioning, but showed plenty of impressive qualities and potential. Should hit and stick with Sens for years to come.
-Spezza: B: Didn’t stick all year, but progressed fantastically, and erased almost all doubts. Is a smart player who can adjust and is getting better at a rapid pace.
-Havlat: A: Has become a consistent game-breaker and the most dangerous player on the team many nights. Will bury more chances with time but has skill-set to change a game.
-Schastlivy: C+: Showed he could play, and score, then promptly got hurt and missed 50+ games. Scored lower grade because he needs to shake injury bug, but talent is there.
-Fisher: B+: Improved in almost every way and it showed in his better goal totals. Stayed primarily healthy, which provided him the time to show his talent. His edge helps Sens.
6) The Senators won the Presidents Trophy this season – obviously a great accomplishment for any organization. However, like a Mini-Wheat, that honour also holds a “frosted side.” Because of their great finish, the Sens will be picking at the end of each round. How will this affect the Team’s ability to keep pulling diamonds out of the draft and building that way?
SK: It shouldn’t really. Fact is, Ottawa has had drafts where their second round pick is better than their first round pick – last year being a good example. While obviously a team drafting higher has a better shot at getting a better player, Ottawa could easily pull out another good pick late, as their track record has shown. There are plenty of players projected to go later in the first or second round such as Vojtech Polak and Anthony Stewart, who could be great players. Also, the only way Ottawa drafts 30th and not 29th is by winning the Stanley Cup, and that of course would quiet any anxieties I might have had.
SP: It’s been noted several times just how deep this draft is and just how well the Sens do in snagging players later in rounds. The drop in the draft order shouldn’t have a tremendous effect because of these reasons. Still, though a barrage of excellent players will remain when the Sens do pick, it’s sad to see how much talent will be snapped up before they draft in the first round and then again in the second round. There are some amazing players out there and as it stands now, this team will only grab one of the top 58 or 59 of them. Of course the ultimate prize is to win the Cup, which they’re attempting now, but many of those players available early would offer a big help to those aspirations in a couple years.
Future ideas, thoughts and comments are always appreciated. I can be contacted at [email protected]