It is a problem that as recently as one week ago the Ottawa Senators would never have imagined. The question on what to do with Cody Ceci once Marc Methot is ready to get back into the lineup? Ceci was an emergency recall when Methot went down with the flu last Thursday, meaning when Methot is ready to go Ceci either has to be returned to the minors or be called up as a normal player would.
In his three game audition, Ceci has probably done enough to warrant being in the lineup, but when Methot returns is there enough ice time to go around to continue Ceci’s development or should playing more than 20 minutes every night in Binghamton be the place to better his development long-term.
In the past 3 games we have seen the upside of Ceci. He is a smooth skater, with great offensive instincts who is not afraid to jump into the rush or stand in and take a risk at the opposing blue line in order to keep a play alive. Those instincts are what made him a first round pick and why the Senators are so high on him.
We have also seen the downside of rushing a 19 (now 20) year old to the NHL, in that his defensive zone coverage and physical strength are not yet where they need to be at this point in time for a regular NHLer. His -3 in the first period against the Kings on Saturday was not all on him, as Craig Anderson allowed a couple of goals that had no business going in, while Ceci happened to be on the ice
Looking at the depth chart of the Senators when healthy, and Erik Karlsson and Methot are the top pair, and after that it gets dicey. Ceci has developed a good pairing with Chris Phillips in short order, but if that pairing were to continue, then it might be at the expense of the development of players like Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch and Eric Gryba. Keeping Ceci in Ottawa means that the team would be carrying 8 defenseman, and 2 sitting out each night. Joe Corvo has done enough recently to warrant a spot every night, meaning there are two spots for 4 blueliners. Ceci has injected some energy, but his overall development can be done in Binghamtonm whereas nobody else on the defense corps would likely clear waivers.
On the other hand, Ceci’s energy and skill is something that Ottawa has been looking for, and he brings a skill set that Ottawa was looking for on the trade market earlier in the month. As long as Cowen and Wiercioch develop as expected, Ottawa’s blue line looks pretty solid for the future.
Ceci has answered a lot of questions in his time in Ottawa, but for the long term development of both himself and the rest of the young defensemen on the team, Ceci should be sent back to Binghamton until he is needed again. That’s where his game can improve, and when he returns next time he will be much better for the experience and successes he had at the NHL level. I am not sure that he could sustain the level he is at for the long haul at this point in time, and it might be better to send him back on a high rather than because his play had slipped. Ceci doesn’t need to get caught up in a fever like Jean-Gabriel Pageau did in the playoffs last year and then not have that expectation or pressure to repeat that on a nightly basis.
At least the Ottawa Senators know what they have and that he is now at the level where he can play in the NHL when needed.