Is it time to panic?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 · 0 comments

The Sens have stumbled out to an inauspicious 1-4-1 start. Chicken Little has arrived in the nation's capital and it's not even Halloween. Is there still time to turn things around? With 76 games left on the schedule of course there is....but time is shorter than what you might think.

www.shrpsports.com is a website that tracks the standings of various leagues by date. Going back five seasons(every year post lockout) it's amazing to see how little movement there is in the top eight on November 1st compared to the final standings.

05-06
-TOR & FLA had playoff spots on Nov.1. PHI & MTL had them at the end. (2)

06-07
-TOR, MTL & CAR had spots on Nov.1. OTT, TB & NYI had them at the end (3)

07-08
-TOR, NYI & CAR had spots on Nov.1. WSH, NJ & NYR had them at the end (3)

08-09
-TOR & BUF had spots on Nov.1. WSH & PHI had them at the end (2)

09-10
-NYR had a spot on Nov.1. BOS had it at the end. (1)

Thanks to three point games, in the last five seasons combined only eleven Eastern Conference teams have made the playoffs after not being in the top eight by November 1st. (on a side note, be sure to point out to your Leaf fan buddy that Toronto gave up an early season spot 4 of those 11 times :) In a more recent trend it's only happened three times in the last two seasons.

When you compare the final standings to December 1st, the five year number falls to eight, and in the last 2 years it's happened only twice. Both of those times coming last year.

So, is it time to panic Sens fans? Not really, but you might want to at least flip open the plastic cover. With three point games being handed out like candy these days, digging yourself a hole early can be fatal.

Cowen's future

Monday, October 4, 2010 · 0 comments

We had all heard the rumours this off season. Some scouts around the NHL believed that Jared Cowen's stock as a top prospect had taken a hit. By taking the 18 year old 6'5 d-man 9th overall in the 2009 draft the Sens based their evaluation on the 17 year old Cowen. The pre knee inury version that help take Spokane to the Memorial Cup. Unfortunately many negative things have happened since draft day as Cowen struggled to overcome that major knee injury, was benched at the World Juniors and contracted Mono.

However all that negativity slowed as Sens training camp progressed, to the point where it was a legitimately tough call as to whether or not the 19 year old should be in the NHL this season. Cowen's decision making speed picked up and he showed that he doesn't mind using that towering frame to intimidate in front of his own goal. If there was any doubt, Cowen has "regained" that top prospect label.

The fact of the matter is that it's too bad Cowen's birthday wasn't 25 days earlier. That way he would be eligible to start the season in the AHL and no doubt be worthy of at least an injury call-up after he adjusts even more to the pro game. Last year, a 19 year old Erik Karlsson was afforded that chance because he wasn't drafted out of the CHL. All he did was become one of the Sens most valuable d-men after his much needed stint in the minors.

So Cowen is gone for the year. The good is that he should play up to 30 minutes a night and physically dominate the WHL. The bad is that he'll have to wait another year before he resumes his adjustment to the pro game. That wait is where it gets interesting. Don't assume he's a slam dunk to make the big club next year. That's through no fault of his own but a testimate to the potential depth on the Sens blueline.

It's not a stretch to assume the club will at some point re-sign veteran stalwart Chris Phillips. Along with Gonchar, Kuba, Karlsson, Carkner and Lee that would mean 6 blueliners are under contract for the 2011-12 season.

Of course there could be a trade at some point to change the dynamic but also consider this. At the very least Patrick Wiercioch should have a leg up thanks to a year of seasoning in the AHL(and maybe a bit in the NHL) and same could also possibly be said for the likes Eric Gryba (who is more in the Cowen mold). Let's also consider the prospect that David Rundblad is ready for prime time after a year in the Swedish Elite League. In talking to various members of the Sens brass after the draft night deal, it's expected that Rundblad will come over ready to play(or at least be very close to being ready) in the NHL.

Below is the possible NHL/AHL depth on the blueline for the next season. As you can see the question will be how many rookies do you want to break in in one season? That's what could make it even tougher for Cowen to crack the NHL next year as opposed to this year. All because he was born 25 days past 2010.

Phillips Gonchar
Kuba Karlsson
Carkner Lee

Cowen Wiercioch
Rundblad Gryba

About this blog

Welcome to my Healthy Scratches blog. You can hear Jason York and myself weekdays from 3-6 on Team 1200. I use this blog to expand upon some of the things we talk about on the show, and anything else that really pops into my ample head.
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