Hedging on Zibanejad

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 14 years since Marian Hossa broke training camp with the Senators and played seven NHL games in his draft year before being returned to the Portland Winter Hawks of the WHL.

Seriously, where does the time go?

Ah well, Senators rookie Mika Zibanejad is set to play in his seventh NHL game tonight and the statistical similarities between the two players does not end there.

  • Hossa: 7 GP, 0 G, 1 Pt, 1 power play assist, -1, 10 shots
  • Zibanejad: 6 GP, 0 G, 1 Pt, 1 power play assist , -3, 10 shots, 38.5 FO %

Unlike Hossa’s status at the time, barring something unforeseen, Zibanejad’s status isn’t dependent upon the health of the roster. (Note: Back in 1997, an injury to Alexandre Daigle was a contributing factor in the decision to keep Hossa around. )

No, Zibanejad is expected to receive a full nine game audition before the organization has to make a decision on whether they will keep him in Ottawa or return him to Sweden.

Back in early September, GM Bryan Murray discussed Mika’s future with the team this season by saying:

I don’t know that he has to be the second line center or not. He just has to see if he can be one of the twelve best forwards. If that be the case, it’s a big step. He played in the (Swedish) Elite League against men. We’d like to think that our league is better. That our team is better than it was last year by a margin and for a young guy to play on it, he just has to be able to compete every day and hopefully develops along the way. We don’t want to retard his development by putting him a position in which he doesn’t get a lot of ice-time.”

Well, amongst Senators forwards, Mika Zibanejad is tied for 10th in average ice-time with Erik Condra at 12:31. Only Zack Smith, Bobby Butler and Zenon Konopka average fewer minutes per game. (Note: amongst rookies, Zibanejad 30 other players average more ice-time – fifteen of which are forwards.)

So what is the organization going to do?

Based off of the recent quotes coming from management and the coaching staff, I’m unconvinced that they’ve reached a decision themselves.

Via Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen, here’s what Head Coach Paul MacLean had to say…

“I think Mika can play in the NHL,” said coach Paul MacLean. “It’s whether we decide it’s going to be right now, for the rest of the year, or is it going to be next year? The final decision hasn’t been made, but I think it’s whether or not we decide there is a good environment or situation here for over 82 games, whether he’s going to be able to do and learn the league and develop his game the way he’s supposed to.”

[…]

“We want everyone to contribute,” he said. “I don’t think we anticipated him leading us in scoring, like he did in the preseason. I don’t think that was ever a realistic thing. We do expect him to be a good player every day and work at his game every day. And he has done that.”

I haven’t seen this much hedging since plans were leaked about a new Senators scoreboard.

Update:

Scott here – just thought I’d tack on this missive from Garrioch when he appeared on Hockeycentral @ Noon this past Tuesday:

“One of the things I think they’re doing here is selling hope, and I think they’re fearful…they can’t send him to Binghamton because he’s got a contract in Sweden. And I think they’d like to control a little bit of what happens to him. So, my guess is…he’ll be here all year.”

Thursday News and Notes:

  • Jesse Winchester has been deemed healthy enough to play and he will suit up for tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. He will start the game on a line flanking Stephane Da Costa and Erik Condra.
  • Sergei Gonchar will also make his return to the lineup tonight.
  • According to TSN’s Brent Wallace, here are the lines for tonight’s game: Foligno-Regin-Alfredsson; Greening-Spezza-Michalek; Winchester-Da Costa-Condra; Smith-Zibanejad-Neil.
  • I created my own personal Twitter account. You can check it out at @GraemeNichols.
  • Craig Anderson and Jonathan Quick are both going for their 100th career win tonight.
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