Can Chris Phillips Contribute With The Ottawa Senators Again?


An interesting little piece of news out of Ottawa today, that being that Chris Phillips is set to have back surgery and will require a few months time to rehab in hopes of being ready to go for training camp.

The upcoming season marks the last year on Phillips’ 2-year extension signed in March 2014 and his 18th NHL season. After many had speculated as to whether or not Phillips would be back to play in 15-16, it appears as though undergoing back surgery will help guide Phillips back onto the Canadian Tire Centre ice in hopes of being a full-time player next season.

But as age creeps in, Phillips finds himself in a strange spot in Ottawa. There is no doubt that Phillips has brought tons to the franchise over the past 15+ years, but can he successfully contribute as an every-day player on this Senators team again?


Believe it or not, Chris Phillips was a key part to the Senators’ early play. In just 36 games played this season he averaged 16.1 minutes of ice time (higher than his career average) and spent a large majority of that time with Senators captain, Erik Karlsson (over 300 minutes, to be exact).

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Before Marc Methot returned to the lineup, it was often Phillips who found himself beside Karlsson, and it looked as though it was working for a while.

Former Sens coach, Paul MacLean found a way to squeeze 20+ minutes a night out of Phillips until he dealt with some fatigue issues, forcing him to take a rest. Phillips actually had a few nice games in that stretch, but given his age and apparent back issues, it didn’t last.

The foot speed had fallen, Phillips couldn’t battle for pucks as well and now we know why. Coincidentally, Methot dealt with similar issues earlier this season, as his back problems limited him to just 45 games this year.

As a defender, Phillips has never been known for his flashy offence or finesse, but rather his smooth skating and intelligent defending. While some have questioned that at times, Phillips has the makings to continue to be a bottom pairing defender for the Senators going forward—This is unless he is forced out of a position by others in Ottawa’s never ending bottom pairing log-jam.

The Log-Jam

The Off-Season should clear up a few things, but as it stands today, the Ottawa Senators have a logjam of bottom pairing defenders. Jared Cowen, Eric Gryba, Mark Borowiecki, and Patrick Wiercioch have not shown that they can play top 4 minutes, with Cowen and Wiercioch failing to live up to some expectations. Cody Ceci has had his off nights, but his willingness to jump in the rush and play with and without the puck holds promise that he’ll be able to continue to play in a top 4 spot.

Some moves will be made and if you were to take favourties, it may be likely that Gryba or Cowen are moved as likely salary cap dumps. Whether they are traded for forwards or futures, (I don’t really mind either way) those two might (should) be on the move.

This leaves Chris Phillips in a spot of opportunity. There is a spot for him and if rehab following back surgery goes well, there is no reason to think he can’t slot in on a bottom pair next season and play a good 50 games or so of meaningful hockey. How does that leave Ottawa defensive group heading into 15-16? I’d imagine something like this..

"Methot – KarlssonWiercioch – CeciPhillips – Borowiecki"

There are certainly steps that can be taken to improve what is looking like a weaker defensive group, and acquiring a top 4 defender would make just about any Sens fan happy. That said, Bryan Murray seems serious about Phillips playing next year and if Phillips feels ready to go, let him play.

Phillips has shown he can kill penalties and has been a solid pro for the better part of 20 years now. It will be the last year of his deal and if he feels he can go, Ottawa can make room. That’s likely in a bottom 6 role, or perhaps even a 7th defender role, but Chris Phillips still has some hockey in him.

Next: Dale Weise Puts The Dagger In Ottawa's Playoff Hopes

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