Sep 29, 2013; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators centre Mika Zibanejad (93) during warmup prior to game against the New York Islander at Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Mika Zibanejad To Binghamton – Good, Bad or Necessary Decision?


The biggest surprise in Ottawa, and perhaps the league itself, to come out of the roster shuffling was the demotion of 3rd year centre Mika Zibanejad to the Binghamton Senators of the AHL.

The public reasoning for the demotion was that, according to GM Bryan Murray, that the centre sat there and watched two players come in and take his spot, referring to Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Stephane Da Costa.

While the decision was no doubt a tough one, for both the team to make and the player to accept, there are pros and cons to the move.

 

THE GOOD

Zibanejad is still a 20 year old kid, who is developing his game offensively.  A healthy lineup, combined with the Senators stubbornness to keep him at centre, would have seen Zibanejad get third line minutes at best, playing with non-offensive players. Going to Binghamton makes him pretty much the #1 pivot, and he will get the chance to play with more offensively oriented talents like Mark Stone, Andre Petersson  and Shane Prince. He can continue to develop his game while getting the ice time needed as well as the special teams reps that will help his game in the long run.

 

THE BAD

Zibanejad came up last year when the Senators needed him and he performed well as a 19 year old thrust into a major role.  That was after the Senators denied the player’s participation in the World Juniors and he also battled injuries.  The way the Senators are handling him could be sending a message to the player, and I hope they are right and the player will get the message and take it the right way, lest he be disgruntled and sulk.  I guess if he was to go in that direction with the roadblock put in front of him, the Senators would be better off finding that trait out now.

 

THE NECESSARY

From what I saw, the competition between Da Costa, Pageau and Zibanejad was very close, and although it has been suggested elsewhere that finances might have played a role in the decision, I don’t necessarily buy that.  The fact is, with performance bonuses, Zibanejad could earn as much as the other two combined this season.  Whether or not he would hit those marks in his role we might never know, but when the Senators are already paying Jim O’Brien and NHL salary to play in the minors, the $750,000 (before bonuses) or so they will save could play a small role.

 

THE VERDICT

This sort of reminds me of a couple of situations from the Senators’ past.  First off, the handling of Jason Spezza, but in the opposite way. Spezza came in as a one-dimensional offensive player who didn’t mesh well with Jacques Martin’s system when he first arrived.  That relationship never really thawed and Spezza didn’t reach his potential until Martin was gone.  I am not saying Paul MacLean and Zibanejad have a frosty relationship, but he doesn’t seem to have earned the trust of the coach fully as of yet.  And while Spezza’s offensive game was intact almost from birth, Zibanejad needs to develop in that area. When he first came up, Spezza needed to be introduced to his goalie after the game.  Zibanejad also has some things to learn in his own zone, but is solid in that area.  Different situations, but handled in much the same way. Spezza didn’t like it at the time, nor did I, but it seems to have worked out ok for him in the long run.

The other situation this sort of reminds me of is the Ray Emery situation.  Emery became known more for his off-ice pursuits than his on-ice performance before he was ushered out.  I know players need to have a life outside the rink, but maybe Zibanejad’s much publicized DJ efforts haven’t sent the image that he is making hockey his  #1 priority. Perhaps the Senators privately want to send the message to Zibanejad that hockey comes first, and once that is established, then your extra-curriculars can take shape.  On TSN1200 yesterday Murray indicated that both Pageau and Da Costa did what was asked of them in the off-season, and while not pointing the finger at Zibanejad directly for not doing it, stated that Zibanejad didn’t step up and watched 2 players take his job.  Emery went off the rails, and I think the Senators are sensitive to the situation and want to nip this one in the bud.

 

In the long run, its probably a good decision for both the player and the organization.  If it puts a chip in the Swede’s shoulder and it works out for the best, he will return soon a better player with something to prove. The Senators send a message that if you put the work in, you will be rewarded, and when there isn’t much to choose between players, those that put the work in will get their just desserts.

Zibanejad will be back in the NHL this season, without a doubt.  What he does while he is in Binghmaton, his attitude and the health of the big club will determine how long that demotion lasts.

Tags: Binghamton Senators Jean-Gabriel Pageau Mika Zibanejad Ottawa Senators Stephane Da Costa

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  • Derek Lee

    You made some real valid points but here is my biggest frustration with the decision..

    1. Z-bad was reffered to (publicly) as a guy that wasn’t competing for a roster spot. I don’t think it’s fair to say that he was expecting to have to re earn his spot.

    2. Z was never given the oppprtunity to play with decent line mates like Da Costa was. He was also never granted the opportunity to audition on the wing. The 3 line looks far better like this: 14-44-93 no?

    My biggest worry is that he was offended by this and may chose to walk when his contract expires. I’m also a believer that Z should have been the guy traded in the Ryan deal. The team looks far better with 33 in because they are loaded with centres.

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  • John Newman

    Chances are Zibby came into this camp thinking his spot was secure, and despite the coaching staff saying over and over again that the best players and only the best players would make the team, continued to believe that.
    And in a sense I think it’s true that DaCosta and Pageau earned their spots, but I also think it’s fair to say that it was his contract situation that got Zibby demoted. When you have a logjam of players this closely grouped in talent, players that have had years of development invested in them, why risk losing someone for nothing when the safe option is to send down the guy who doesn’t need to clear waivers?
    No, there’s no room in the top-6 for DaCosta right now, but we all saw what happened to the lineup card last year. I’m guessing this was about getting Zibby quality minutes in an offensive role in Bingo and, just as importantly, not losing DaCosta for nothing on the waiver wire until the team has a much better idea how Spezza’s back is going to hold up.

  • Peter McGrath

    If Zibanejad is upset by his demotion…great! If he isn’t, they should get rid of him asap. If he pouts and wants out then he will have demonstrated he does not possess the right attitude to play professional hockey at its highest level nor deserving of the multi-million dollar salary and the myriad of benefits that accrue to a professional athlete. A position in the NHL is not something that’s given to you…it’s something you take! That being said, if Z wants to play in a man’s league, maybe he needs to man up and TAKE a job the next time opportunity knocks.

  • disqus_iAktyicqoo

    I think Mika’s D.J’ing is not a sign of lack of commitment, or should be taken as anything other than him expressing himself. I think arts and physical activity are two different trees, and anyone who plays an instrument knows you can actually unwind and relax by practicing such things. His D.Jing in fact shows positive traits for his potential, it shows he is smart, creative, and adaptable traits you really want your top draft pick to show.