Missing the 2014 post season and then losing Jason Spezza to a
pretty smart business decision trade has left many an Ottawa Senators fan, like this one, with no choice but to look toward the future. Like an army of miniature Alicia Keyeses we sing to the heavens, “Where do we go from here?” Who fills the void in Spezza’s absence this coming season?
Well, for one, Bryan Murray helped provide a bit of an answer by signing free agent centre David Legwand to a
juicy very reasonable 2 year contract. Legwand will be the perfect insulation for the up and coming Mika Zibanejad as he at long last slots into that vacant second line centre spot and – whoa, whoa whoa Salade Du Chef, 2nd line centre?
Hey, I’ve been seeing peoples ’round the internet penciling him in that way on their opening night rosters. That’s more or less how I had it too because, well, DJ JazZiba Jeff is the new hotness and David Legwand is boring old Uncle “Mugger #2 From Season 1 of New York Undercover.” The more I think about it though, the more likely it seems that Mika will find himself centering line 3 at least at the start of the season.
David Legwand has Nearly 1000 NHL Games Under His Belt.
I cannot imagine a coach coming off his first season missing the playoffs, a season in which he was roundly and deservedly criticized, telling a 21 years young boy to “Shoot his hopes and dreams” on opening night. Especially over a guy like Legwand who’s been known for his combination of speed and reliability for a decade and a half now. I think MacLean plays it safe. Plain and — Plain and … I forget how that saying goes. Plain and Sisqo! There it is.
At 34, Leggz (a nickname is born) is a dependable veteran type but not so old that he’s relegated to bottom six role player duty. This is a guy that was brought on board to lead an injury riddled Detroit Red Wings into the playoffs just mere months ago. He’s spent a career building up a name for himself as a guy who can handle being assigned the West’s toughest competition; think Toews, think Getzlaf, think outside the BUN. It could prove beneficial to Zibanejad’s growth that Legwand can take the pressure off the youngster and go in there and handle the powerhouse Atlantic Division’s superstar centres like, Nick Bjugstad who led the Florida Panthers last year with 38 points. You read that right. Milan Michalek TOPPED the entire Florida Panthers in points last season. K, then there’s this…
Mika Didn’t Even Make the Opening Night Line Up Last Season
*Dodges most of the terrible looking Kyle Turris bobbleheads pelted from all angles*
Hey, listen, I didn’t like the move that ushered in the brief and frightening reign of Evil Paul MacLean either BUT you gotta hear both sides (you don’t): Obviously the coaching staff felt Ziba still had some elements of his game that needed rounding out or something-something entitlement issues just a calendar year ago. Full “Hi haters” marks go to Mika as he pulled the ol’ Karlsson Special of “Oh, a demotion? Let me just go ahead and put up a point per game in Bingo while you guys lose some games without me.” I can’t decide if the credit goes to the coach or Zibanejad for making the 6 games in the AHL look pretty ridiculous, both I guess…so…we ALL win there?
The point I’m trying to make here is that despite the rocky start last season, it was overall a very positive one for Mika’s development. At an impressive 16 goals and respectable 33 points we are beginning to see what the young Swede can do. If Mika can stay healthy and get some C.O.N.S.I.S.T.E.N.T. shifts with quality line mates (I am glaring at you, Ghost of Evil Paul MacLean) it’s not unreasonable to expect 20 goals from him in 2014-15. His 33 point effort was a high of his very young career and something that I am confident he can surpass. Mika’s current career high in points, however, is one that Legwand has pretty much consistently bested from the time Mika was about 7 years old. What’s more is that Legumi is coming off a particularly productive season by his standards. Between Nashville and Detroit he cracked the 50 point mark for just the third time, notching a career high 6 power play goals in the process. Do I think Mika will reach Legwand’s Mike Fisheresque heights? I do. When that is I’m not sure, but a bump of 20 points is a lot to ask a guy entering just his 3rd NHL season.
Again, given the pressure on MacLean to right the ship, I think he goes with the safer bet of Legwand and continues to shelter Zibanejad another season to let him grow.
Or, You Know, Maybe I’m Being More Conservative Than Shane Prince’s Tweets About This Whole Thing
That’s kind of the beautiful thing about sports. Wacky stuff happens. Sure, being safe in your predictions allows you to save the most face when the dust settles. It’s easy to look like an expert by playing the percentages like, “Karlsson’s a Garbage Pick” or Predicting the Sens to win the Stanley Cup in 2013 (thanks for cursing the season, The Sports Forecaster). But seriously, some unpredictable shit always seems to happen along the way and that’s the stuff that keeps us tuning in. Yes, so and so’s shooting percentage is unsustainable and due to regress back down to Earth and blah blah blah but didn’t we have fun while their shooting % was unsustainably awesome?
My dude(tte), sometimes life comes at you fast and a undersized garbage pick becomes one the best players in the world. Sometimes Milan Michalek scores 35 goals. Sometimes a “reclamation project” in Kyle Turris comes here in a risky trade and within a couple of seasons takes the job Jason Spezza’s held for a decade. Sometimes Craig Anderson basically becomes the best goalie in the league and gets a battered team into the playoffs. Sometimes an 5 foot 8 kid who’s played less than 10 NHL games scores a hat trick in said playoffs. Sometimes Cody Ceci makes the big club in his first year of eligibility and forces Joe Corvo to re-join Crazytown, fedora in hand. What I’m saying is, regardless of how you feel going into a season, there tends to be a couple of pleasant surprises no one was counting on along the way. With the off-season addition of David Legwand, it allows for the possibility of Zibanejad establishing himself as 2nd line centre to be a pleasant surprise, not a requirement.