One of the Senators’ top prospects, Jakob Silfverberg led his SEL (Swedish Elite League) club to the league championship yesterday, being named the playoff MVP in the process. Rumour has it that Silfverberg will be joining the Senators at some point this weekend, and may get to play as early as Monday’s game 6 at home in Ottawa.
From all accounts, and what I have heard around the fan base, expectations will be high for Silfverberg to make an immediate offensive impact. I don’t think that it is fair to heap expectations on a player who just finished the playoff grind in his home country to come over and do the same thing in a league that he has yet to play a game in during its most competitive time.
Bryan Murray was on the record last summer that the Senators wanted Silfverberg to come to North America at the start of this season, but the player felt he needed one more year in the SEL before taking to the NHL.
When (and if) Silfverberg gets into the Sens lineup in this post-season, he will no doubt be able to play at this level. Whether or not he can put up the offensive numbers to take the pressure off Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek remains to be seen. He might make a nice fit on the right wing on the Sens top line, or he might have to find his way in the new league in a different role to start.
I just hope that if he comes in, without having played with any of the players on the Senators, and never having suited up in an NHL game, that fans aren’t expecting too much. Obviously I hope that he can step in and contribute on the top two lines, but let’s face the facts:
The SEL is a good league, but it isn’t the NHL, and it certainly isn’t the NHL playoffs. Remember David Rundblad? He was the top defenseman in the SEL last year and he couldn’t earn a full time job in the NHL this season, his first year in North America.
If Silfverberg makes an appearance in the NHL playoffs this season, I will be looking for him to contribute and play a role. I will not be looking for him to score every game or be the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. If he does, that is great. I hope the rest of the Sens fans react the same way and don’t get on his case if the adjustment period is not immediate. It will be difficult for him to step up his game to this level after just finishing the grind he did.