Shortly after being named as Binghamton’s new captain, forward Mike Hoffman has been recalled by the Ottawa Senators and the man who Hoffman replaced, Mark Borowiecki, has subsequently been demoted.
Although the Senators appeared completely content to carry eight defencemen for a stretch, now that Borowiecki has been demoted, the Senators have also opted not to carry two extra forwards and have sent center Derek Grant back to Binghamton as well.
It’s pretty odd to me that the organization would be content to carry eight defencemen but refuses to carry two extra skaters to ensure that Grant could remain entrenched as the fourth line center – a position where the player’s been pretty damn effective.
I mean, any time you can demote a useful center who can skate, win faceoffs, be an effective puck possession player (leads the team in 5v5 CF%) and kill penalties, so that you can continue to carry a one-dimensional goon like Matt Kassian, you just have to do it.
With Grant’s demotion, it leaves a vacancy at the fourth line pivot spot, a role that I'm assuming will now go to Mika Zibanejad because the team only has four natural centers. And if that's the case, it would be a shame since Mika has been one of the team’s few wingers who has demonstrated an ability to produce offensively. His 2.53 points per 60-minutes of 5v5 ice-time is the third highest rate on the Senators, trailing only Bobby Ryan and Jason Spezza.
Of course, there is the possibility that the Senators could give Mika third line center minutes at the expense of the Zack Smith and Chris Neil line, but I have a hard time believing that those veterans will see their ice-time diminished. Similarly, MacLean could continue to use Zibanejad on Spezza’s right wing and simply give Hoffman a chance on that line’s left wing spot. But, I’m pretty skeptical that the Senators would bump Michalek to a bottom six forward capacity. Even if, as Travis Yost indicated in a post entitled ‘What Competition?’, Mika’s been one of the best solutions for the puck possession ailment that has plagued the Spezza line.
I can understand why the Senators would be looking internally to shake things up and to Hoffman’s credit, he’s been producing at a pretty high rate with Binghamton of late. In 21 games, he has totalled a team leading 11 goals and 26 points and those numbers also make him the AHL’s second-leading scorer.
He deserves the promotion and at some point, it’s within the organization’s best interests to give him an extended look with some skillful players to see what he can do at the game’s highest level. However, it’s an outright shame that the Senators have to give him a look at the expense of Grant’s undeserved demotion and us potentially seeing Zibanejad be moved to the fourth line.
It’d be a pretty ridiculous way to punish a few of Ottawa’s more consistent players when it’s the struggles of secondary scorers like Michalek (who’s been better), Greening, Smith, and Conacher who have essentially necessitated the move.
In regards to the Borowiecki demotion, it’s not that much of a surprise. The Senators were carrying eight defencemen and eventually, one of them had to be moved or returned to Binghamton.
Although Borowiecki provided easy to see effects through his big hits and willingness to engage the opposition in a fight, he was the defensive corps’ worst puck possession defencemen. It’s not like he’s been a lynchpin or catalyst for this team’s defensive prowess. He is what he is, a scrappy, tough as nails defencemen who projects as a sixth or seventh guy.
I don’t think the difference between him or an Eric Gryba is that big, and I don’t think his demotion is an indictment of his play. If anything, the decision simply reflects that the Senators appear to be poised to hold onto their current collection of defencemen without having to give any of them *cough, cough* Gryba *cough,cough* away for nothing.
Update From Practice:
Ken Warren updated the Twittersphere on Ottawa's lines from this morning's practice:
MacArthur – Spezza – Zibanejad, Hoffman- Turris – Ryan.
— Ken Warren (@Citizenkwarren) December 2, 2013
Michalek has been bumped down to a line with Smith and Neil, while the fourth line consists of Conacher, Greening, and Kassian/Condra. It's refreshing to see that the Senators have opted to keep Zibanejad in his current spot and instead will use Greening as their fourth line center – a position that I'm assuming he hasn't played since his collegiate career ended.