Local Recall: Pageau & Ceci Edition

After yesterday’s announcements by the NHL that Senators defenceman Jared Cowen would be suspended and by Ottawa revealing that Mike Hoffman was returned to Binghamton, the organization was put in a position in which it was, at least temporarily, carrying the requisite minimum 20-man roster.

That changed this morning when the Senators announced that they had recalled Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

It’s not like Pageau need any statistics or performance in the minors to substantiate his promotion in the eyes of fans, but it’s worth mentioning that he has tallied six goals and 16 points in 15 games in Binghamton.

Ottawa has developed quite the love affair for the diminutive center.

As a francophone player who was not only born in Ottawa but played a significant role in Ottawa’s quarterfinals series win over the despised Montreal Canadiens, Pageau has built up a ton of equity with this fan base. In fact, I don’t believe there has ever been another player in this franchise’s history who has developed the cachet that Pageau has in such a short sample size of games – including playoffs, Pageau has played in 27 NHL games.

He’s easily one of the most likeable and marketable players that this organization has and with his promotion, you have to wonder what kind of expectations fans will have for him.

After scoring a hat-trick against Montreal and demonstrating a consistent ability to drive puck last season, there is optimism that Pageau can bring some offence to a bottom six that has left a lot to be desired from puck management and production standpoints. More importantly, his presence gives the organization another natural center thus affording the Paul MacLean the flexibility to keep Mika Zibanejad in a top six capacity.

I know much has been made on social about the organization’s flip-flopping on where to play and develop Mika. Going back to this offseason and training camp, the organization repeatedly said that they would like to develop Mika as a center (here and here) even though his underlying numbers and production showed that he should have been in the competition with others for that vacant second line right wing role.

It’s all hindsight now, but there was context for wanting to develop Mika as a center. And given that the organization moved a tangible asset to bring in a guy like Cory Conacher, you can understand why they may have been inclined to give him a look to start the season. Moreover, looking at the organization’s long-term interests, the strength of its system is unquestionably its abundance of wingers. By developing Mika as a center, at least the organization could set itself up for the future, especially if the Senators have difficulty retaining Jason Spezza.

Unfortunately, Conacher’s production has been disappointing and Colin Greening has failed to replicate the numbers that he posted with Spezza two seasons ago. Their inadequacies and production, coupled with the fact that there’s simply no opportunity for Mika to play as a center on one of the team’s top two lines provided Kyle Turris and Spezza remain healthy, has necessitated using a deserving Zibanejad on the wing.

Was this situation foreseeable?

Sure, but at least we have better evaluations of Conacher and Greening and can be more confident that neither player is destined to be a top six forward on a very good hockey club.

Tonight We’ll See Ceci…

Although Pageau’s promotion was not much of a surprise, Marc Methot’s absence from practice – due to recurring bout with the flu – necessitated the “emergency recall” of another local product, defenceman Cody Ceci.

An emergency recall carries some benefits, but most of them do not apply to the Senators or Ceci because Ceci is waiver exempt and the Senators do not have to worry about surpassing any salary cap thresholds. Unless I’m missing something through my cursory scan of the CBA, it appears as though this is an emergency recall in name only – created because the Senators had less than six healthy and eligible (Methot’s flu, Cowen’s suspension) defencemen who could play in tonight’s game.

According to section 13.12.(m)(ii) of the CBA:

Emergency conditions shall be established when the playing strength of the Loaning Club, by reason of incapacitating injury or illness or by League suspension to its Players is reduced below the level of two (2) goalkeepers, six (6) defensemen and twelve (12) forwards. Proof of the existence of the emergency conditions including the incapacity shall be furnished to the Commissioner of the League upon request made by him.

I suppose if we’re looking for an unintended consequence of this emergency recall, it’s that it should strictly be perceived as a temporary promotion that rewards Ceci for his solid play. Using it as a motivational tool to persuade Ceci to continue working hard in preparation of making the jump full-time to the bigs as early as next season.

Ceci will make his NHL debut tonight playing on the right side of a defensive pairing with Chris Phillips.

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