Put Bobby Butler On Ottawa’s First Line

 

I have to admit, it’s a foreign feeling that accompanies putting Daniel Alfredsson anywhere on the depth chart that isn’t the right-wing slot alongside Jason Spezza on Ottawa’s first line.

Had you told me last summer that Alfie would likely be starting the 2011-12 season on the team’s second line, I probably would have scoffed at the suggestion. However, injuries besetting the captain combined with Bobby Butler’s emergence as a young, intriguing scoring threat during the second half of last season point to a situation that should see Alfredsson play in a reduced offensive role starting next fall.

Suspending all beliefs that Spezza can turn Butler into a modern of Bob Kudelski, even if Butler’s rate of production resembles anything close to what it was last season, it would be an incredible boon for the organization. As mentioned on the latest podcast episode and as Scott Cullen illustrated in a piece yesterday on TSN, the secret of Butler’s success can largely be attributed to his efficient even strength goal production.

In the 36 games that he played in Ottawa last season, Butler scored 9 of his 10 goals at even strength. His shooting percentage was a respectable 13.7% but he did finish tied for 27th in the NHL in even strength goal production per 60 minutes of ice-time (1.14 ESG/60). At that rate, over the course of a full campaign, Butler might be good for 20-25 even strength goals.

Now before you go and get all excited like Gordie Wilson, you might want to temper those expectations just a little. Although Butler’s statistics from the 47 games that he played in Binghamton don’t raise any red flags — 14 of his 22 goals came at even strength and his shooting percentage was only 16.2%. We’re still talking about a player here who hasn’t played a full season in the NHL yet.

And even if Butler’s development as a player doesn’t occur in a linear fashion or he doesn’t become the impact goal scoring standard that some demand from a first line winger, if his ESG production isn’t sustainable, it’s not a doomsday scenario. Assuming that Butler can score more frequently on Ottawa’s power play, his offensive production can hopefully compensate for any dip in even strength point production. As such, he should be more than capable of sliding onto the first line for the short term.

If anything, Butler’s development would allow Alfie to move to the second unit which will give the captain limited minutes and hopefully keep him healthy. Almost as importantly, working under the assumption that Nikita Filatov and Peter Regin will get first dibs on the second line, Alfie’s presence will lend some defensive aptitude and a capable veteran to that mix.

Since this season should be designed to maximize the development of its young players than it is to maximize its win totals, hopefully Paul MacLean won’t go all John Paddock on us and succumb to the temptation of frontloading his top line. By putting Regin in a better opportunity to succeed — as opposed to having to center two players whose reputation for playing away from the puck has been questioned — it gives the organization a better opportunity to evaluate Regin as an inexpensive second line option before possibly having to look for an upgrade externally.

But for as much sense as it makes to have Alfredsson play on the team’s second line, I can’t help but feel somewhat sorry him. And it’s somewhat of a shitty deal for him — albeit, this wouldn’t be the first time that he’s put the good of the team ahead of his own best interests. At 38 years of age, he’s entering the second last year on his current contract and in all likelihood, he probably won’t be playing for much longer.

As a bubble candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame, Alfie’s best opportunity to inflate his career totals is to play alongside Spezza. And for anyone who has had the luxury of watching Alfie over the past few seasons, they will know that in four of his past five seasons, he’s managed to produce at close to a point-per-game clip. Obviously last season is the exception but that dip in offensive production can be largely attributed to a nagging back injury that eventually required surgery to alleviate a nerve issue that hampered his skating ability. There is no overwhelming sense of dread that Alfie’s talent is waning significantly due to age.

Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM SOG Pct
2006-07 OTT 77 29 58 87 42 42 240 .121
2007-08 OTT 70 40 49 89 15 34 217 .184
2008-09 OTT 79 24 50 74 7 24 204 .118
2009-10 OTT 70 20 51 71 8 22 168 .119
2010-11 OTT 54 14 17 31 -19 18 96 .146

Health permitting, he’s still an effecitve player. However, that hasn’t stopped some from unfortunately lumping Alfredsson in with the Ed Jovanovskis of the world. 

On yesterday’s Puck Daddy Radio broadcast, the usually exquisite but not in this instance Greg Wyshynski included the “old fart” amongst a group of players whose fame/name value recognition outshines their accomplishments on the ice. (Note: The Alfredsson comments occur shortly after the 37 minute mark of the show. Apologies to Wysh. He’s Alfie. It’s embedded in my Ottawa hockey DNA that I have to stick up for the captain.)

And as such, as a player who spent the bulk of his career playing in a small market without much in the way of American exposure, I wonder if this is the kind of public scrutiny that Alfredsson will face when he eventually becomes eligible. 

Daugavins to Europe?

Daugavins

It’s a sad day to hear that one time 6th Sens Podcast guest and Nacho Libre lookalike Kaspars Daugavins could be headed back to Europe next season. According to the Riga Dinamo’s website — its homepage is graced by one of the only photos of a sober Sandis Ozolinsh — Daugavins will come to training in Ottawa to vie for a spot on the NHL roster.

Via the powers of the TranStar Latvian to English translator:

23-year-old attacker Kaspar Daugavins (height – 183 cm, weight – 93 kg) 30. June ended the contract with the NHL club Ottawa Senator, and although the club has made offers to extend the contractual relationship – the conclusion of qualifying contracts, but hockey is not satisfied with their own distinct supply conditions. That is why the pre-season preparation period, he has decided to withdraw with Dinamo Riga (Dinamo Riga own the rights to Kaspars Daugavins KHL), but for this to happen legally correct, the conclusion of the probationary period the contract. Kevin Daugaviņš is planned in August to participate in the NHL pre-season training camp at which to decide where to continue his career this season. 

Unlike his moustache rides, it’s safe to say that the Daugman isn’t going play in Ottawa for free. Unlike many of the Ottawa forward prospects down in Binghamton, Kaspars was never rewarded with a cup of coffee with the Senators roster last season. It’s a credit to him that he even wants to come to camp and contend for a spot, with the number of forwards who are already armed with one-way contracts, the odds are certainly stacked against him. However, as a charismatic cog in Binghamton’s Calder Cup winning lineup who exhibited some strong PK skills and modest offensive production, I’ll be rooting for him.

Lalime to Retire

According to Renaud Lavoie (@renhockey), Patrick Lalime has announced his retirement and he will be joining RDS as an analyst. It’s a fitting timing for him to retire, now that we’ve spent the past few days discussing Chris Osgood’s candidacy as a HOFer, we can now discuss how much much of a benefactor Lalime was for playing behind a strong Senators team.

There’s been no word yet on when Lalime will make his first appearance on RDS but hopefully they have the wherewithal not to ask him to deconstruct Joe Nieuwendyk’s HOF induction speech.

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