Mike Hoffman, the AHL's second-leading scorer at the time of his promotion, was purposefully recalled to provide a spark to a stagnant Senators offence.
After receiving 13:37 and 13:55 in ice-time in his first two games – playing mostly on a line with Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan, Hoffman was subsequently bumped to the fourth line and received a paltry 4:57 of ice-time during Saturday night's shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And now word comes from this morning's pre-game skate that Hoffman will be spending tonight's game watching from the Canadian Tire Centre's press box.
You read that right. The Ottawa Senators, a team that appears destined to miss the postseason for the first time under Paul MacLean, will be benching a prospect so that Matt Kassian, a goon who has not received more than five minutes of ice-time in a game this season, can dress.
Based off the line rushes from this morning's practice, the line combinations to start tonight's game will be:
I suppose the Philadelphia Flyers have a reputation for being a physical team, but at its core, this a personnel issue created by the organization's unwillingness to carry another capable center on the roster – which essentially forces Paul MacLean to use Mika Zibanejad as a center.
Derek Grant was the embodiment of a great fourth line center, but he was sent down last week because of this organization's strict internal budget. He could win faceoffs, he could skate and when he was on the ice, the Senators would outshoot the opposition.
But, thanks to Matt Kassian's one-way contract and the organization's unwillingness to trade underachieving players because management does not want to risk losing them for nothing on waivers, the Senators sent the waiver-exempt Grant to Binghamton because it simply could not afford to carry an extra forward on the roster.
So now we are in a situation in which Mika, who despite tallying four goals and eight points in his last nine games, will now be saddled on the fourth line by a goon and an underwhelming Cory Conacher. Mika must feel like Job right now.
Given the organization repeatedly reiterating to the media that this team is willing to take on salary, why in the world would fans continue to believe that message when the team is unwilling to carry Grant's paltry prorated $605,000 salary to make this team better now?
Remember, this is a team whose owner once told a Toronto radio station that he gave Bryan Murray a mandate not to acquire a goon years ago, and now the team is saddled with Kassian's six-figure salary for the remainder of the season.
Perhaps I'm looking at this all wrong however. Maybe there is a bigger problem at hand.
A lot of fans will look at the line combinations and wonder why Erik Condra is playing with Spezza. If anything, it's acknowledgment that the Jason Spezza we're seeing right now is nowhere close to resembling the Spezza we saw two years ago.
His skating and defensive aptitude has never really been his forte, but throughout his career, he made strides in both areas of his game. Unfortunately, since undergoing the second operation on his back last season, his skating and two-way game has suffered and perhaps now, we're seeing Paul MacLean insulate him with two of the team's best defensive forwards because he's a defensive liability.
Whatever the case — a lack of money or distrust in Spezza's ability to play a two-way game — this is depressing; especially because it comes at Mika Zibanejad's expense and he doesn't deserve it.