While Jean-Gabriel Pageau grabbed many peoples attention when he suddenly scored an unforgettable hat trick in game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarter finals against rivals, The Montreal Canadiens and continued turning heads one week ago during The annual NHL rookie tournament, has he done enough to make the Senators out of training camp?
Looking ahead to training camp a month earlier their appeared to be a third line Center role in The Senators line-up waiting to be had by the most likely candidate and new fan favorite J-G Pageau. That is until General Manager, Bryan Murray suggested publicly that The Senators would be more comfortable developing young forward Mika Zibanejad at Center rather than on the wing. I, like every Sens fan just want to see the best, most competitive line-up that The Sens can dress but I can’t help but look ahead to the approaching regular season and wonder where Pageau fits in.
Despite the fact that coaching staff will tell us “the best players will play no matter what” I can’t help but consider the 2-way contract that Pageau has, which makes it easy for The Senators to send him down to the AHL to begin his season, just ask Robin Lehner. Lehner was already having an amazing year in Binghamton last season when the shortened NHL season finally began yet he still lost the back-up role with the big club to Ben Bishop. You may argue that The Senators were trying to give Lehner more playing time by allowing him to remain in Binghamton but I would ask that you consider his convenient 2-way contract vs Bishop’s 1 way deal. The same could be said for Pageau, do you really think that The Senators will bench Zach Smith who brings size, grit and a 1 way contract to the table vs undersized local hero J-G Pageau? Remember were talking about a “checking line” and as much as I’m pulling for Pageau reality kicks in and slaps me in the face.
Here’s some of what Head Coach Paul Maclean had to say about Pageau’s chances when confronted with the question during a media scrum today: “If he plays well enough to play on the team we’ll put him on the team and someone will have to move over.” “That’s what hockey’s about, some guys improve, they take people’s spots.” “At this point in time I’m not sure he has done that.”
As I see it right now, I’m convinced Pageau starts in the AHL despite having the heart of a fighter with NHL caliber skill to back it up. One can only hope it’s as simple as Smith moving to the wing to keep Pageau’s Calder trophy hopes alive.