As the Senators have reached the mid-way point of the season, it is time to sharpen those pencils and award the grades. As I did last year, I will be putting grades based on what was expected of the players this season versus their actual performance. First, we looked at the goaltenders, now we look at the defensemen. The group as a whole was dealt a huge blow when Karlsson went down with a season-changing injury, forcing every other blueliner to different roles and pull together to pick up the slack left by Karlsson’s absence.
Andre Benoit – B
The veteran minor leaguer finally got a shot to be on the NHL roster full time, and although not an everyday player, has proven to be reliable and has even chipped in a little offensively. He has two occasions t celebrate his first NHL goal, as the first time was cut short due to a phantom goaltender interference call. Has seen time on the power play but must work on keeping his point shot down to be even more effective
STAT LINE: 19GP, 1G, 4A, 5PTS, even +/- rating
Borowiecki started the season with the Senators, and was part of the revolving door at the 5-6-7- spot. When he played he provided a physical element to the game, but isn’t much of a threat with the puck or at the offensive end. Was sent to Binghamton to get playing time but was passed over for Eric Gryba when the call was made after Karlsson’s injury. Showed he will not look out of place at the NHL level when called upon, but not ready for everyday duty and averaged 13 minutes per game when he played.
STAT LINE: 6GP, 0G, 0A, 0 PTS, even +/- rating, 18 PIM, 26 hits
Sergei Gonchar – B
Gonchar was thrust into the role of main offensive weapon from the blue line, a role that has probably passed the 38 year old by. He has contributed to the offense a little bit although this quarterbacking on the power play has left something to be desired. All in all, by default he has been put into a situation that is unfair to him at this point in his career, and he has been adequate at trying to fill a massive hole on the Ottawa blue line.
STAT LINE: 21 GP, 1G, 8A, 9PTS, +3, 24+minutes per game
Eric Gryba – B+
Gryba was passed over when training camp started, but was the player to get the call when Karlsson went down. He is a physical force who has formed a shutdown pairing with Methot that has been largely effective, especially at home when the coach can get them out against the opposition’s best forwards. Struggled the last 4 games, going -5 in the losses to Philadelphia, New York Islanders and Toronto, but is still averaging over 20 minutes per game.
STAT LINE: 10GP, 0G, 2A, 2PTS, -6
Mike Lundin – D
Lundin suffered a hand injury playing in Europe during the lockout so he got off to a late start. He stepped in and was solid if not spectacular, but didn’t really do much to make people take notice and found himself scratched on occassion. Had his season derailed further when he put himself in a vulnerable position and was a victim of headhunting by Harry Zolnierczyk, suffering a concussion.
STAT LINE: 7GP, 0G, 0A, 0PTS, -1, 14:43 ice time/gm
Erik Karlsson – A+
Karlsson was Mr. Everything for the Senators prior to his going down with a lacerated Achilles tendon. 10 games later and he still leads the team in goals and is 4th in points. The trailing off in team offense can be traced back directly to the time he went down, most notably the power play and also the amount of extra time the team now spends in its own zone.
STAT LINE: 14 GP, 6G, 4A, 10 PTS +6 rating, 27:03 ice time/gm
Marc Methot – A+
There were questions raised when Bryan Murray suggested he was a top pair defenseman, and he answered them with his ability to pair with Karlsson and to be a shudown blueliner. His effectiveness hasn’t waned even after Karlsson’s injury. Has logged over 20 minutes in 19 of 25 games so far, proving to be a horse on the blue line. He won’t get much offensive glory, but his physical contribution and sacrifice is noted.
STAT LINE: 24 GP, 1G, 3A, 4PTS, +1, 63 hits, 42 blocked shots
Chris Phillips – A
You know what you are going to get with Phillips night in and night out. The effort is always there, although you keep thinking there should be just a little more, and after 15 seasons I guess that it is what it is. He is a leader and solid at both ends, and is also picking up the slack in ice time created with Karlsson’s injury, he is playing more of a role than was probably expected of him. He is the Senators’ version of Even Steven.
STAT LINE: 24 GP, 3G, 2A, 5 PTS, even +/- rating, 20+ mins per game
Patrick Wiercioch – B+
Showing signs of the player that was expected to be an everyday contributor, but needs to work on consitency. Shows good ability to make the outlet pass and also adept at getting his shot through, or at least in an area that can be deflected by his teammates. Still needs to get stronger in his own end, and that will come with physical maturity.
STAT LINE: 20 GP, 1G, 6A, 7 PTS, +1,
Although not the most consistent group, they have by and large gotten the job done as a group and when the haven’t they have been bailed out by the goaltending. Obviously had Karlsson not gotten hurt, he would make everyone look better and be in their comfort zone.