I have to admit, the
exclusion inclusion of Norm MacIver from SenatorsExtra.com’s 20th Anniversary All-Star poll — that asks fans to vote for the defencemen who are deserving of being the best from the team’s modern history — got me thinking.
Is this the year that MacIver’s record point total for a Senators defenceman falls?
In the 1992-93 season, MacIver played in 80 games and registered 17 goals and 46 assists. While it certainly doesn’t match Kevin Hatcher’s output (34 goals and 45 assists) from that same season, it’s a lofty bar nonetheless.
So who stands a chance of breaking the mark?
Sergei Gonchar posted more than 60 points in consecutive seasons in recent memory but his past three seasons have been marred by injuries. At 37 years of age and without Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin to defer to on the power play, the likelihood that Gonchar will approach the 63 point record is small.
As highly anticipated as David Rundblad’s rookie season may be, the learning curve for a young defenceman in the NHL is typically described as slow and steep. Recent scuttlebutt suggests that Ottawa’s blueline depth may not be resolved before training camp, so it remains to be seen where exactly Rundblad will slot in. If he struggles out of the gate, there are a number of competent veteran defenceman who can take his ice-time away and that two-way contract is something to keep an eye on. With such low expectations for the Senators, Rundblad’s AHL eligibility (or Jared Cowen’s for that matter) could afford the organization the flexibility to wait patiently for trade markets to be created for its veterans.
In light of these circumstances, even the most optimistic of Senators fans should admit that it’s a little unreasonable to project MacIver’esque numbers for the 2011 Borje Salming Trophy winner. Perhaps a line that falls between Erik Karlsson’s rookie season (5 goals, 21 assists) and Cam Fowler’s (10 goals, 30 assists) would be more apt.
Speaking of Karlsson, in his first full season on the Senators blueline, the sophomore overcame a sluggish start to tally 8 more goals and improve his point totals by 19. Having posted 13 goals and 32 assists last season, Karlsson would have to experience another 19 point improvement to break MacIver’s mark.
Can he do it?
I think he’ll do it at some point in his Senators career, but if he’s to do it this season, he’ll need some help.
His supporting cast leaves something to be desired, so he’ll need Alfredsson and Spezza to remain healthy and productive. Paul MacLean could always curb any even strength scoring problems by frontloading the first power play unit. Nonetheless, for that strategy to work, the power play will have to better last season’s pedestrian 17.5% success rate.
Despite management’s best attempts to entice him to play in Ottawa next season, Pierre Dorion’s announced on TGOR this morning that Jakob Silfverberg is definitely returning to Sweden. Interestingly, Dorion attributed his decision to a mentality over in Sweden that Swedish coaches emphasize a team mentality and roll four lines. In consequence, some prospects don’t realize how good they are and fall into a line of thought in which they feel as though they are further away or have to dominate in the SEL before deeming themselves ‘NHL ready’.