Analysis

Young Sens players try to crack lineup dominated by loyalty

Due to loyalty towards its past draft picks, the Ottawa Senators have left little room for young players to jump into full-time NHL work in the 2014-15 season.

Skilled forwards Curtis Lazar, Matt Puempel see little chance to make team with current roster

Ottawa Senators Erik Condra, far left, and Colin Greening, middle left, were key parts of the "pesky Sens" in the 2012-13 season. But some wonder whether they've reached their ceiling. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

Ironically, the Ottawa Senators are bound by their loyalty.

Let's ignore the departures of Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson after long stays. When the Sens draft a guy they stick to it through that player's complete development.

The Senators are a budget team that lacks in star talent, hoping for their next draft pick or acquisition to be a home run. That hope doesn't wane easily.

Logic suggests, with the trade of Spezza, a new era is underway in the nation's capital.

Calder Cup winners are NHL role players

Bringing in a new era means doing more than just sending out the captain after one season with the "C". It means going after players who won the Calder Cup in Binghamton in 2011.

When healthy, Ottawa Senators' Mark Stone showed he can be an NHL player during last season. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)
Ten former Senators draft picks played some part on that squad who now either play for Ottawa, or hope to this season: Colin Greening, Erik Condra, Patrick Wiercioch, Eric GrybaZack Smith, Mike Hoffman, Robin Lehner, Derek Grant, Mark Borowiecki and Jared Cowen.

Entering a third season since that championship, it's time for Ottawa to realize most of those men will only peak as role players. 

Young players with much larger potential need to be given the NHL opportunity and experience now.

As I write this, the unfortunate problem is this lineup leaves little room for change on either forward or defence due to that aforementioned loyalty.

Contract quandary, again

By signing Grant, Gryba and Hoffman to contracts this summer, the team has a similar look to past years in camp.

One of the young players, Mark Stone, should make the team this year on the second or third line wing. However, the acquisition of David Legwand and Alex Chiasson will take spots vacated by Spezza and Ales Hemsky.

Curtis Lazar, who helped lead the Edmonton Oil Kings to the Memorial Cup in the spring, is hoping to compete for a spot on the Ottawa Senators next season. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)
That means young, gifted forwards like Matt Puempel, Shane Prince and last year's first-round pick Curtis Lazar would be in the minors or juniors unless more changes are made.

When I opined about a search for offence without Spezza, Milan Michalek was as good as gone in my eyes. But his return takes another wing spot that might go to a young player.

That means the only way to free up a spot for those young players would be trading a bottom six forward. One of Condra, Smith and Greening would have to be on their way out.

I have my doubts unless an amazing offer comes the way of the Sens management.

Here's how the lineup looks to me:

Forwards:

MacArthur-Turris-Ryan

Michalek-Legwand-Chiasson

Condra-Zibanejad-Stone

Greening-Smith-Neil

Outside: Lazar, Puempel, Hoffman, Grant, Prince, Pageau

Defence:

Methot-Karlsson

Cowen-Wiercioch

Phillips-Ceci

Outside: Gryba, Borowiecki

About the Author

Jamie Long

Reporter | Editor

Jamie Long is a reporter and editor for CBC Ottawa. He is also the social media editor and presenter for CBC Ottawa. You can tweet him @cbcjlong or reach him at jamie.long@cbc.ca.

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