The OTTAWA SHUFFLE
Kyle Turris is a good young #2 center with potential. But, as a #1 center filling in for Jason Spezza he’s been very ineffective. He went through a very long scoring drought and after scoring a couple goals he appears to have fallen back into that dark hole again. He’s still creating scoring chances but he’s looking as snake-bitten as Peter Regin. With ten games left and a play-off berth at risk, it’s time to give others an opportunity. It’s time to elevate our second line to top line status. What’s the downside? Turris and Alfredsson manage to score a couple of goals and regain some confidence while Zibanejad and Silfverberg step up to see what life’s like as the go-to-guys.
Mika Zibanejad’s also a very good center. As part of the Senator’s current #2 line he’s grown into the role very quickly. One doesn’t have to look back very far to remember that he was struggling at the AHL level with various injuries or ailments. Getting used to the smaller North American ice and the nuances of professional hockey looked like a pretty big hill at the beginning of the AHL season. Some fans were wondering about the draft choice Bryan Murray made when other players chosen later have already had NHL success. When Z-bad got the call to play at the NHL level no one actually felt that he would be staying long. After all, he was just starting to find his game at the AHL level – it’s not like he was ripping it up like teammate Jakob Silfverberg who was almost a point-a-game player.
Fast forward to today. Zibanejad’s now 32 games into his emergency recall and he’s clearly established himself as the #2 center on the injury laden Senators. He’s gone from part-time 4th line player feeling his way around the NHL to full time 2nd line center who’s producing good numbers. He’s had 9 assists in his last 10 games. Is anyone else putting up point-a-game numbers? Definitely not.
And what about Silfverberg? From the start of the NHL season he’s been doing everything very well. The only complaint might have been that his point totals weren’t reflective of his stellar play in the early going. Since being teamed with #93 Silfverberg’s points have been coming on a regular basis; he’s had 7 points in his last 10 games.
HEAD TO HEAD
Last but not least – let’s compare Zibanejad to Turris. Z-bad is 3 points behind Turris while having played 6 fewer games. As well, Z-bad has been outperforming Turris in the faceoff circle. In the last 10 games Z-bad had 7 games at, or above, the 50% mark while Turris has been a disappointment with only 3 games over the 50% mark.
Zibanejad and Silfverberg have been trending upward since being teamed together and have found some real chemistry whereas Turris and Daniel Alfredsson have been trending downward. Looking back in 10 game blocks: Z-bad had 9 pts, S-berg 7 pts, Turris had 5 pts, Alfredsson 4 pts. In the 10 before that Z-bad had 4 pts, S-Berg 4 pts, Turris had 7 pts, Alfredsson 6 pts.
It’s clear that Turris, as the # 1 center, is in over his head. He’s been trying hard but in the end he just hasn’t been getting the job done and every time he sits down on the bench he looks defeated. On the other hand, Zibanejad and Silfverberg are generally all smiles and look to be having a ton fun when out on the ice together.
I believe a case can be made to have Zibanejad and Silfverberg try their luck as the #1 line. They’re producing and Paul MacLean usually rewards his players. If it all works out everyone’s happy. I suspect that Turris/Alfredsson will also get back on track by returning to their regular 2nd line positions. If it doesn’t, the Ottawa Senators are no worse for having tried the switch.