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SenShot Report Card: Brian Lee

Over the next month, SenShot will be doing off-season report cards for all your Ottawa Senators. Let’s see each player’s grade for the 2010-2011 season.

Has he finally arrived?

Brian Lee‘s 2010-2011 campaign was a tale of two seasons. Coming into camp with a fresh two-year, one-way deal that all but guaranteed him an NHL gig, Lee found himself having to battle for ice time. As fate would have it, defenceman Filip Kuba suffered a broken leg on the first day of training which opened a spot for Lee to begin the season as the sixth defenceman. But with Ottawa off to a terrible start, Lee lasted seven games on Ottawa’s roster before he was sent to the press box.

With most thinking that his time in the press box would be short lived as the team continued to struggle, then head coach Cory Clouston decided the team was better off with Lee watching the game rather then playing in it. Lee was a healthy scratch for an embarrassing 25 straight games as Clouston had no faith in him.

As the organization and the coaching staff managed Lee horribly, Lee was being shopped around the league by GM Byran Murray. After finding no takers for Lee, mainly due to the second year of his deal (which was a one-way contract), Lee was put on waivers by the club. This was done for two reasons: (1) to get Lee’s NHL money off the cap as Ottawa was close to the maximum, and (2) to give Lee a chance to start his career fresh with a new organization.

But with a huge blow to his ego, Lee went unclaimed by the 29 other teams in the league. Right after going unclaimed, Lee got a chance to get back into the line-up. Never complaining as he spent 25 games on the sidelines, Lee was always a team player and put his work in the gym and was ready when he got the call.

Being put in a different situation, Lee was asked to play a more defensive role then he was used to. Touted as a puck-moving offensive defenceman when he was drafted, Lee has never seemed to be able to put it all together in the other team’s end zone. When put back in the line-up, Lee was paired with defensive defenceman Chris Phillips in a shutdown role. As an effortless skater and decent puck mover, Lee began to excel as a shutdown D-man and started to find his niche that may keep in him the league.

After only playing in seven out of the first 32 games of the season, Lee played 43 of the last 50 games. Always criticized for his lack of intensity and physicality, Lee developed an edge to his game as he ended up with 88 hits and two fighting majors. Still learning how to use his 6’3″, 206 lbs frame, if Lee can continue on this trajectory, he may be able to fill the void left by former Sen Anton Volchenkov. Here is a video of Lee’s new found edge courtesy of HockeyFights.com.

Going into his fifth year as a pro, the 24 yr old Lee is in a make-it-or-break-it campaign. With many blue chip prospects nipping at his heels, Lee will be on a short leash come training camp this fall. As last season proved, having a one-way deal guarantees nothing. If Lee, who is historically a slow starter, can have a strong camp, he may be able to solidify a spot on the blueline as a shutdown pairing with Chris Phillips. But if Lee can’t, he’ll justify his label as a first round draft bust and become a fringe NHL player.

**Our own Derrick Brose recently examined Brian Lee and his future with the team — check it out, it’s an awesome read**

Final Grade

Based on Lee’s first half performance, Lee’s grade would be an “F”. This is due to the fact that he could not crack a basement dwelling team. Lee has all the tools to be an effective NHLer and showed in his second half performance that he can handle himself in the league. Considering he sat 25 straight games, Lee played pretty well when taking into account that he only started his season in December. For his second half performance, I give Lee a “C+” as he played well in a shut down role. Overall, Lee gets a “D+” as he needs to put it together over an entire season.

Contract Status: One year left on his current deal at $875,000, then he becomes a RFA.

Trade Status: Lee was untradeable last season and actually went unclaimed when he was put on waivers. Having craved out a niche for himself as a mobile shutdown D-man, Lee has increase his trade value. However, the ninth overall draft pick in the 2005 draft still is not seen as an everyday NHL’er just yet. If Lee is traded in the off-season, it will be for little value and will be made to make room on the roster for other defenceman. The best bet will be that the Sens hold on to him and hope that his game improves over the season and he can be flipped at the trade deadline next year for future assets.

Check out the Report Cards handed out so far:

Jason Spezza – “B”

Matt Carkner  – “C”

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Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.

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Tags: Brian Lee Byran Murray David Rundblad Filip Kuba GM Byran Murray Jason Spezza Matt Carkner NHL Ottawa Senators Paul MacLean

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