I missed this last week, but Elliotte Friedman appeared on Sirius XM’s Hockey Night in Canada Radio last Friday and was asked about the situation developing at the Senators’ practice in which Jared Cowen and Chris Neil got into a heated scrap.
“I think (the Senators) are really frustrated. I’m sure (Jared) Cowen is really frustrated. Actually, I was chatting with Bryan Murray this afternoon because (the CBC) has their game tomorrow against Winnipeg, so I was trying to fool people into the fact I do work for this stuff. But the one thing we talked about what Paul MacLean said the other day that how soft (the Senators) were basically, and he said one of things that they were going to do was have a hard practice today. And they had a day off yesterday and they have an afternoon game tomorrow and they’re going to fly from I guess Banff to Winnipeg. It’s an interesting strategy, plus a practice – a hard practice before a game that’s at two o’clock local time. It’s interesting, but I got the sense from talking to Murray that it was going to be a hard practice today, so there’s that. And basically, I think they’re calling out their team and saying that they’re not tough. I have no doubt that the message was delivered a lot more ferociously privately than it was publicly, so I’m sure (Chris) Neil takes that to heart.”
Most importantly, Friedman then touched upon the difficult season that Cowen has had to this point.
“But Cowen too, he’s had a rough year. Like, I’m sure something just boiled over and they went at it. It’s funny, I was talking to Murray about Cowen and whether he still believes in him and he said he got calls about him. And he said that ‘I think it’s too soon to give up on him. I think he needs a summer and that I’m hopeful he will regain his confidence for next year.’”
Bless the NHL where being a big, toolsy defenceman can garner warrant trade interest, despite him having a craptacular season.
Expectations that the Senators would be a better team this season were predicated on the growth of its youngest players and the return of a number of players, including Cowen, who had injury plagued 2012-13 seasons.
After a significant hip injury warranted surgery, the question marks surrounding Cowen’s ability to bounce back physically were sizable. Unfortunately, while Cowen’s skating and agility look at pre-injury levels, it’s the mental aspect of the game that has gone missing.
I would love nothing more than to attribute the blown coverage, missed assignments, brain farts and poor decision making on Cowen’s rust and absence from playing, but these issues have plagued Cowen all season long and the further we are removed from Cowen’s return from injury, the more you have to wonder whether he can rediscover the poise and confidence that he exhibited at times during his rookie campaign.
Perhaps there’s something to be said about the organization’s unwillingness to shelter Cowen’s minutes or hell, maybe it’s just a reflection of how poorly the blue line has played this season that has thrust Cowen into tougher minutes against better competition. And maybe these changes have been too much to absorb and have adversely affected his confidence and play.
Cowen has enough physical tools and edge to his game that tantalizes GMs into thinking that he can be a physical force in the NHL. But, Cowen’s had a difficult time thinking the game and adjusting to the high-level and quick pace that requires a proportionate level of quick and sound decision-making.
Right now, he’s struggling, but there’s still time for him to turn it around. However, if he cannot do that, the longer the Senators hold onto him thinking that he can turn things around, the greater his trade value will depreciate.
It’s a difficult risk to balance, but perhaps if there’s a deal to be made this summer that’s not unlike Toronto’s deal that sent Luke Schenn to Philadelphia for James van Riemsdyk, maybe the Senators will move him. You can just add it to Bryan Murray’s list of difficult decisions that he needs to make this offseason.
You can listen to the audio below. The item on the Senators begins at around the five minute mark.