With much of the offseason’s attention naturally being devoted to Ottawa’s reputable prospects, established stars and the new faces that have come into the fold, it’s easy to forget about some of the less-heralded players, like Zack Smith, who are expected to fill out the team’s bottom six.
2011/12 was quite the Jekyll and Hyde season for Smith and maybe it was to be expected. Having played in NHL games in the three previous seasons, it feels like he has been within the organization for a while; even though last season was his really his first full season as a regular.
In his first forty games, he was like a poor man’s Mike Fisher – blending a physical presence with some moderate offensive production. Aided by his 26.1-percent shooting percentage during the second quarter of the season, even with some modest extrapolation, it looked like Smith was poised to crack the 30-point threshold.
Unfortunately, like many of the players that graduated from the 2011 Calder Cup winning Binghamton Senators team, Smith hit the wall. With only 3 goals and six points in his final 41 games played, his production diminished and with it, his ice-time. By the end of the season and in some playoff games, former afterthought, Jim O’Brien, had usurped Smith from the team’s third line center spot.
Having played in 100 professional games between the NHL and AHL Senators in 2010/11 (including playoffs), one has to wonder whether that short offseason coupled with the grind of his first full NHL season caused his game to fade down the stretch.
Entering this season, he’ll be contending with Peter Regin and O’Brien for one of the team’s bottom two center spots. (Note: the Senators may opt to protect Regin’s oft-injured shoulder by moving him to the wing so that he doesn’t have to take draws.) With internal competition being a familiar refrain for this team’s development, one has to hope Smith steps up and can be the effective third line center that this team needs.
Zack Smith Quarterly Splits:
First 20 GP
Second 20 GP
Third 20 GP
Final 21 GP
Special Teams Play
Bottom Six Depth
With Chris Neil, Colin Greening, Erik Condra, Kaspars Daugavins, Regin O’Brien or possibly even Guillaume Latendresse in the mix for bottom six forward spots, Paul MacLean is going to have some interesting choices. A physical, **** disturbing line of Greening, Smith and Neil could create some headaches. A puck possession line featuring Regin and Condra could provide MacLean with another line he can match up against deeper offensive teams so that he doesn’t have to burn out the Turris/Alfie line or put Spezza’s line out against tougher competition.
It feels somewhat odd to be excited about and championing the bottom line depth here in Ottawa. I wonder if this is what being Don Cherry feels like…
Today on Yahoo! Sports’ Puck Daddy blog, our article detailing the Ottawa Senators Essentials was featured. I just wanted to use this opportunity to thank all of the individuals -- Scott, Tim, Creech, my brother and SteffeG -- who helped with the brainstorming and development of the piece and to the Puck Daddy crew for inviting us to participate.
Also, I’d love to hear feedback from you, the reader. Was there something in the piece that I missed? Did you disagree with any of the selections? Do you have any stories pertaining to any of the particular moments that were mentioned in the piece? If so, we want to hear from you. Email the blog and we’ll put together a mailbag piece that publishes what you send in.
Zibanejad Staying in North America
With the offseason winding down and more focus being devoted to the possibility of a work stoppage, Tim Murray spoke to NHL.com’s Adam Kimmelman and reiterated that Mika Zibanejad would be playing in North America next season.
"He's staying no matter what," Murray said. "Whether it's Ottawa or Binghamton, we're not sending him back. So he's here."Not much of a surprise here since Djurgardens was relegated. Ah well, I suppose this passes for news these days.
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