There are two ways to handle filling out your lineup card when it comes to handling an NHL roster. As a coach you can 1) Spread out your top offensive players over two (or in some special cases more) lines; or 2) Amass your 3 top players together on one line and take your chances, which is primarily what led the Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals 5 years ago..
For most of the season, and especially since the arrival of Kyle Turris, Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean has tried to do the former. He separated Daniel Alfredsson from Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek for the most part, playing Alfredsson on the wing with Turris. Turris, who was acquired before the Dec 20th game against Buffal0 to be the clubs answer to the second line centre question, had 13 points in his first 16 games as a Senator, but has cooled off with only 7 points in his last 25 games. (See my previous post questioning Turris’ staus Turris HERE).
Which brings me back to Alfredsson. The Captain has had a nice bounce-back season, but at age 39 can you really expect him to carry a line on his shoulders? I don’t think so, and that is what the Senators are asking him to do right now. Statistically, playing Alfredsson with Turris hasn’t worked at all. Check the stats:
Alfredsson Before Turris – 27 GP - 9G (.33/G), 12 A (.44/G), 21 PTS (.78/G)
Alfredsson After Turris – 41 GP - 13 G (.31/G), 16A (.39/G), 29 PTS (.70/G)
Doesn’t seem like a huge difference in his production, until you break down where the points that Alfie has attained since Turris’ arrival have come from. Of those 29 points, 10 have come on the power play, 18 at even strength and 1 shorthanded.
How many of those points came while Turris was on the ice?
9…or less than 1/3 of Alfredsson’s points accumulated since the trade have come while the club’s supposed #2 centre was on the ice, despite the fact that probably 2/3 of his total ice time is with Turris as his centre. (That figure is purely speculative as I don’t have the exact stats in front of me.)
For me, this club in its current form has 2 legitimate 1st liners (Spezza, Michalek) and one very good 2nd liner (Alfredsson at this point in his career). The rest of the forwards on the roster as it stands right now are 3rd liners. Help is on the way with the likes of Zibanejad, Silfverberg, Prince, Stone etc. but that is in the future.
Right now, Ottawa’s best chance to succeed is to load up the top line with Spezza, Michalek and Alfredsson and try to have them outscore the opposition. If the other lines can play close to even against the players they line up against, the Ottawa has a fighting chance on most nights to come away with a victory. They might not beat the elite, deep teams like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that way, but it gives them a better chance than the alternative.
If its me, I play Spezza, Michalek and Alfredsson for 22 -25 minutes with Karlsson and Kuba as a 5 man unit every shift, including power plays. Turris with Alfredsson hasn’t worked, and neither have any of the options (Greening, Butler) that MacLean has tried on the right wing with Spezza.
Putting all your eggs in one basket can be risky, but the lack of offense lately is staggering and playing the big 3 together addresses a lot of problems. Now if they can only find 3 legitimate 2nd line players in the next couple of weeks, before the playoffs.