Why MacArthur’s Latest Head Injury Should Force Cameron to Split Up the HST Line

OTTAWA, ON - DECEMBER 1: Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his second period goal against the Detroit Red Wings during an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on December 1, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

OTTAWA, ON – DECEMBER 1: Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Ottawa Senators celebrates his second period goal against the Detroit Red Wings during an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on December 1, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

Rather than mundanely using this space to discuss Thursday night’s game versus Pittsburgh and emphasize how Ottawa’s shot attempt and scoring chance deficit was bound to catch up to them sooner or later, I’ll spend time instead waxing poetic about Clarke MacArthur – an essential piece of Ottawa’s forward corps.

As the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan noted earlier in the week, MacArthur is on the sidelines again dealing with his third head injury in the past eight months. He suffered a concussion last season in his infamous collision with Robin Lehner that created the opportunity for Andrew Hammond’s historic run. Then in this year’s preseason, he was involved in another inadvertent collision with teammate Mark Fraser.

As innocuous as the collision looked, and MacArthur himself insisted that he did not suffer a concussion in the incident, he was shaken up enough to have his status be deemed questionable for the team’s season opener. Although he would play in that game, MacArthur came out of Wednesday night’s game in Columbus after hitting his head on the ice.

When asked for an update on MacArthur’s status in an article that ran today, Cameron indicated that he had no timetable for MacArthur’s prospective return.

“I don’t have anything,” he said. “I haven’t talked to the trainers today. His recovery is a work in progress.”

Well, that’s just swell.

No one ever wants to see an injury beset a player, but with all of the evidence and new medical research documenting the long-term ill effects of head injuries, it’s awful to see a player have to deal with a series of concussions in such a short period of time.

For his own health’s sake, I hope MacArthur doesn’t return until he gets right and is in the clear, but there’s no question the Senators will miss him on the ice.

As an organization that emphasized the importance in adding a top-six forward for the past, MacArthur is a reliable two-way forward who makes positive contributions at both ends of the ice.

On a team that has struggled with its possession game and has spent an inordinate amount of time within its own end, MacArthur had one of the best possession proxies on the team (54.29).

With Mike Hoffman’s success on the first line with Kyle Turris and Mark Stone coupled with the second line’s (Mika Zibanejad/Bobby Ryan) struggles without a puck possession driving forward like Hoffman, the pressure on MacArthur to develop into THAT guy on the second was critical (note: assuming that the coaching staff ignores the success of Turris and Stone away from Hoffman and moves Hoffman back to the second line to balance things out).

MacArthur’s unavailability complicates matters even more since now the Senators will be forced to move Ryan to his off-wing and move Alex Chiasson up like they did during Wednesday night’s game in Columbus after MacArthur’s injury or they could simply use last season’s alternative, Milan Michalek.

Neither option is particularly sexy, but without MacArthur, I don’t know if there really is an ideal internal solution. Maybe because of Prince’s offensive upside and Hoffman’s success with Zibanejad and Ryan, I’d be inclined to experiment with Prince playing with Turris and Stone while Hoffman could return to the second line to balance things out and give the second line the puck possession driving forward it needs.

It pains me to admit this, but depending on the severity of MacArthur’s injury, the Senators may actually need another top-six forward… to go along with the two or three defencemen that this team desperately needs.

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