The Ottawa Senators are now 7 games into the season, and a decision for Bryan Murray looms after next Tuesday’s game in Carolina. That is the point at which Senators brass must make a decision on Mika Zibanejad. When and if he suits up for his 10th game of the season, the first year of his contract will be triggered and he will have one year of service towards arbitration and unrestricted free agency.
Zibanejad still has one year left on his Swedish Elite League team, Djurgårdens IF, and if he is not playing in the NHL he must be returned to Djurgårdens rather than be assigned to Binghamton, as is the case with most NHL rookies coming from Europe.
The Arguements for Sending him Home
There are many reasons why Zibanejad should be allowed to return back to Sweden for the balance of the season. Among them are:
- He has only played part of one season (26 games) against elite competition last season, and 7 games this year. He should not be thrown to the wolves at such a young age
- He would be a key component of Team Sweden in the World Junior Championships, facing elite competition at one of the most competitive tournaments around
- He will not be a huge difference maker this season in Ottawa, and could be better served playing 18-20 minutes in Sweden instead of 12-13 in Ottawa
The Arguement for Keeping Him in Ottawa
Also, there are many compelling reasons why he is best served staying in Ottawa:
- He can learn about the NHL from his countrymen and one of the best leaders in the game, Daniel Alfredsson.
- He needs to adapt to the North American game, and there is no time like the present. If this is indeed a rebuilding year for the Senators, allowing him to learn on the job will not affect team development negatively
- He has shown well enough in his 7 games to warrant remaining on the roster, and with the injury to Peter Regin his chances to play in key roles might increase
- The future core of the franchise is here, and allowing them to gain chemistry (on and off the ice) can only serve to be beneficial to the future of the club. Since he can’t do it in Binghamton, Ottawa is the only option.
Whatever decision is made on Wednesday or Thursday next week, there will be some who second guess Murray, as well as some who agree with his decision. Zibanejad’s stat line consisting of 1 assist, a -3 rating, 11 shots on goal and 12 hits while averaging 12:27 of ice time, is definitely not overwhelming. However, he has not been a liability and although he has a lot to learn about playing with and without the puck, he has the hockey sense to make up for his liabilities elsewhere. I believe that although he could benefit from playing in Sweden and in the WJHC, the time for him to learn to play against the best is now, and although there will be a learning curve, it is best served by staying put here in Ottawa. He does have a supporter in coach Paul MacLean, who is on record that he feels Zibanejad has demonstrated since training camp that he can play in the NHL and be a contributor. Whether this opinion is just for public consumption remains to be seen, but it will likely have some sway with Murray as he makes the decision that could affect the development of one of his prized prospects.
So I put the question to you, Sens Fans. Do you want to see Zibanejad play the rest of the season in Ottawa, or would further seasoning in Sweden be the best for his future?
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