As I have said before, one of the most disappointing performances in a deep pool of such was the year Filip Kuba had on the Senators blue line. I am on the record as stating that I believe Kuba should have been bought out of the 1 year and $3.7 M that remain on his contract, to make room on the club for the influx of younger defensemen waiting in the wings.
Bryan Murray obviously didn’t agree with my opinion, and the Czech defender will be back with Ottawa next season. After putting up a career high 40 points two seasons ago in his first year as a Senator, he declined to 28 points in Year 2 and fell to 16 last season. Injuries did play a factor as he played fewer games in the second and third season than the first, but the decline in his game was obvious. He was still playing over 20 minutes a game when he did play, so a lack of ice time cannot be to blame. His play in his own end, which is less quantifiable has also declined greatly over his time with the Senators.
So it begs the question; For a player who will be 34 years old when the season starts, is it too much to expect a return to form for Filip Kuba?
The track record for aging player on the decline is not very good. I can’t remember off the top of my head a player who has shown the decline in his game that Kuba has, over multiple years, who has been able to significantly up his game again. With the expected addition of David Rundblad to the club and Sergei Gonchar‘s return to health, Kuba’s presence on the power play could be greatly reduced if not eliminated altogether. Eric Karlsson, Rundblad and Gonchar will be counted on to do a bulk of the offensive work. If Jared Cowen makes the team as expected, even more minutes will be taken away from Kuba.
Last year was especially bad for pretty much all members of the Senators blue line, so how much of Kuba’s struggles were his own or part of the team dynamic is uncertain. Chris Phillips also had a year to forget in 2010-11, but there is a difference between him and Kuba. Phillips’ struggles could be be seen as a one-off, as he had a pretty consistent track record up until last year. Kuba’s numbers have been trending downward for multiple seasons.
Filip Kuba was a very good NHL defenseman in his prime, but he is no longer there. With the expected emergence of younger blueliners in the Ottawa system, he is not likely to maintain his top-4 role and he could very quickly become the target of Sens fans and media looking for the next whipping boy in black and red.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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