Friday, August 8, 2008

So many forwards, so few roster spots

With training camp fast approaching, the time for prognosticating may be upon us. With the exception of Andrej Meszaros and his pesky contract holdout, our roster is probably about where it's going to be when the Sens start the season in Sweden a few weeks from now. So how will the lines work themselves out? It's up to Craig Hartsburg, but my complete distance from decision-making within the franchise has never stopped me from making predictions before!

In looking at the lineup tracker in the sidebar to the left, you will notice 13 forwards, even though only 12 will dress in any given game. And if Christoph Schubert were to continue his career at forward, that would leave two game-night scratches each game--which would be unlikely. And that's not including any of our prospects in Binghamton, such as Alexander Nikulin, Ilya Zubov, Peter Regin, Josh Hennessy, and Kaspars Daugavins.

Last season, Brian McGrattan was often the odd-man out. He was the 13th forward, and the healthy scratch most games. Hartsburg doesn't have that luxury, so he'll have to choose from some of the newer or limited players, in all likelihood.

In my opinion, the healthy scratch--pending injuries--will be one of Chris Neil, Dean McAmmond, Jesse Winchester, or Shean Donovan. There are reasons for each, but here is a listing I've compiled in order from (in my opinion) most likely to least likely to be scratched.
  1. Chris Neil: Neiler certainly seems like a respected member of the team. He's been effective in the past, and hopefully can be effective again. But if he plays as he did last season, I don't see him getting much time. Jarkko Ruutu is a step up in terms of pestiness, and Cody Bass is younger, cheaper, faster, and likely as good at fighting. With a cap hit of $1.1M, Neil might even be expendable through trade, if there's a market for him.
  2. Dean McAmmond: I really hope Deaner isn't the scratch. At least now no one can say I'm a blind fan of M-C-Ammer (I make no effort to hide the fact he may be my favourite Senator). He brings a lot of speed and a good offensive ability to the fourth line, and could certainly add something to the second powerplay unit. He's also a proven penalty killer. That said, he isn't a grinder. I think he'll be held accountable, though, and Hartsburg will like that about him.
  3. Jesse Winchester: Winch has really only made this list because he's an unproven commodity. In my opinion, he's got an offensive upside and has some physical ability, and could look very good on the second line alongside Mike Fisher. I doubt that Bryan Murray signed the kid to a two-year contract with the expectation that he'd ride the pine through those seasons.
  4. Shean Donovan: Arguably the Sens' best player in the playoffs last season, Donovan made up for his struggles under John Paddock with his success under Murray. I think his success will transfer over to Hartsburg, and his penalty killing abilities, like those of McAmmond, should keep him in the lineup.
The other option is to pursue a trade. But I won't go into speculation about trades at this point, it's a discussion for another day. What do you think the Sens will do with their extra NHL forwards? And will Nikulin or Zubov ever get a chance to play in the NHL regularly?
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