Why Jared Cowen Is The Key To The Ottawa Senators’ Season


When examining my opening night roster from yesterday, a few things became pretty apparent to me.

  1. The team will score, perhaps not at the level they did last year, but is should be enough to get by.
  2. The goaltending will not be as up and down as they were last year.  They can’t be.
  3. The top pairing of Erik Karlsson and whoever he is paired with (likely Marc Methot) will be fine, as long as Karlsson is healthy.
  4. Jared Cowen is the key to this team.

The fourth item is perhaps the most important in my mind.  Cowen, for this team to be successful, needs to be able to play 20-22 minutes of quality hockey at both ends of the ice.  He has to be able to anchor the second pair, whether it be with Cody Ceci, Patrick Wiercioch or Eric Gryba.  If he can play better defensively than he did last year (and really, it can’t get much worse), it should take some of the burden of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, and will allow Paul MacLean flexibility to deploy his defensemen a little more liberally without worrying about becoming the Keystone kops in their own end.

If Cowen can not have a rebound year, it would force Chris Phillips into a more prominent role than he should have.  Last year showed that the Big Rig is still a gamer, but simply can’t play 20 quality minutes any more.   His role should be 12-15 minutes of handpicked ice time, penalty killing and the occasional even-strength shift against inferior competition.

Neither Gryba nor Mark Borowiecki are capable of handling such a load at this point in their careers either.  So the onus is really on Cowen to step up, put last season behind him and assert himself into the game instead of letting the game run him.   Also, with Jason Spezza gone he is the next in line to become the fans’ whipping boy where every mistake is magnified and under the microscope.  No player can play a perfect game, but if he can limit the mistakes and get the fans off his back, he can have success.

The Senators season and their potential to make the playoffs might just depend on it.