SenShot Report Card: Filip Kuba

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.

Hey, it may be from behind but at least he's hitting someone!

Filip Kuba‘s 2010-2011 season was supposed to be a bounce back year after an injury riddled 2009-2010 campaign. After setting a career high in points his first year in Ottawa (with 40 points), Kuba was resigned to a three-year deal and was expected to be our may point producer on the backend until a then-prospect Erik Karlsson was ready to make an impact in the league.

But after only playing 53 games in the 2009-2010 season due to a number of injuries (mainly a back injury that required surgery in the off-season), Kuba’s 2010-2011 campaign started off on an unlucky break. On the first day of training camp, only a few hours into the season, Kuba got a rut on the ice and broke his leg. Out of action for almost two months, Kuba was never able to find his game.

Only playing in 64 games, Kuba only managed two goals and 16 points as he recorded his lowest point totals since his rookie 1999-2000 season where he played only 13 games. Kuba usually averages between five goals and 25 assists a season and has been pretty consistent with that. In his 10 full NHL seasons, Kuba has hit the 28 point mark or higher six times.

His drop in his point total can be linked to his injury at the start of the year, and to the fact that he could not have the proper training during the off-season as he was recovering from back surgery. Combine the lack of training and an aging body, it spelled disaster for Kuba last season.

However, another alarming stat for Kuba besides his declining point total was his horrible plus/minus. Usually, the plus/minus stat doesn’t hold too much weight to the true performance of a player, expect when the number is extreme. For most of his career, Kuba was a solid yet unspectacular defenceman in his own zone. Hovering around the minus five mark for most of his career, Kuba was a minus 26 last season. Granted, the entire Senators team was bad defensively, but Kuba was near the bottom in the league of 700+ players.

Could this decline in his point totals and horrible plus/minus be the sign that wear and tear has finally caught up with Kuba? Is he on the downward sing of his career after setting a career high just two seasons ago? Will this year be worst then last years performance?

With Kuba on the last year of his deal, becoming a UFA next summer, and turning 35 (the magic number in the CBA) this year, Kuba will need to have a bounce back year if he hopes to be in the league next year. The trend recently is to squeeze out NHL vets over the age of 35 and have them play for peanuts. If Kuba hopes to avoid this trend, he will need to have a huge year.

Just look at Byran McCabe as an example of what could be in store for Kuba next year. McCabe has always been a productive point producer with nine seasons out of 15 in the NHL with 28 points or higher. His last three seasons have seen him notch point totals of 39, 43 and 28 respectively. But as a free agent currently, the 36 year old McCabe is finding no takers and will probably eventually sign a deal close to the league minimum just to be in the league.

The best case scenario for Kuba this year is to stay healthy and get off to a good start for the year. If by January, Kuba is close to the 25 point range, he would become attractive to contending teams looking to solidify their defensive depth for a long playoff run without a long-term commitment. Worst case scenario is Kuba ends up watching the game from the press box as prospects have taken his ice time away.

Final Grade

Kuba’s injury on the first day of training camp really set him back the whole season. As the injuries begin to pile up, Kuba is becoming less and less effective on the ice. Never taking advantage of the assets given to him (6’4″, 229 lbs and only 23 hits last year!), Kuba needs to put up points to be effective. Since he only put up 16 points last season, and couldn’t be counted on in either end of the ice, Kuba earns a “D - for the year. He was only spared an F as he was not the only one that struggled last year.

Contract Status: one year at $3.7 million, then becomes a UFA.

Trade Status: Zero right now. It could increase, but it all depends on what Kuba does on the ice. If he stays healthy and can put up a modest point total, some team may take a chance on him. Right now, the team is not expecting much in return for Kuba, so any offer that does not bring back a salary commitment will do.

Check out the SenShot Report Cards handed out so far:

Brian Lee – “D+”

Jason Spezza – “B”

Matt Carkner  – “C”

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