By Sylvain Godin | OSJ Staff
Despite scoring 5 goals against Boston last night, one of the concerns people have about the Senators this season is that they simply do not/will not score enough to compete. This has always been a rather curious notion to me, as there are players in the minors right now that may be putting up points in Ottawa. For a team with scoring issues, you would think you'd want to elevate some of your players in Belleville to try to help. But, as we saw recently, the Senators opted to bring up…Jonathan Davidsson.
As my editor and the proud owner of the Steve Warne Project aptly put it: "The Sens circle back to get another look at Belleville’s 17th leading scorer.” My first reaction to this is….”abuh!?” (Take that as ‘utter confusion’).
You’re in a scoring drought and you send down Brannstrom, an offensive defenseman. Brannstrom is having problems with his game as of late and seems a bit lost on the NHL ice (truth be told, I support this move). Meanwhile, they bring up a forward who has a whopping four points in the AHL. (2 goals, 2 assists and a -4 +/- differential). Something’s not adding up here. Today’s article will look at the leading point-getters, see where they could fit with the big club, and maybe help us better understand the Sens' decision making.
The Belleville Defensemen: One of the first things I did was pull out Brannstrom’s stats: 0 goals, 2 assists, -7. Oof. That isn’t great. And you can honestly see it with the eye test while watching the games. The kid has lost his confidence and just not able to catch up to the game. Steve and Jim discuss the player in episode 175 of the SWP podcast about the potential of Brannstrom becoming a superstar. They make a fair point in stating that most superstars tend to show at least ‘something’ at the start of their NHL career that makes you go “Okay, maybe it doesn’t work out right now but boy, I can see this ‘X-Factor’ make him elite.”
While Brady Tkachuk may not exactly get to superstar status, you can see how driven he is, going to the net and being a natural pest. It shows up in every game and you are convinced he’s going to be this way for years to come. You can’t really say the same thing about Brannstrom. Sure, you can look at the AHL videos and see he has some very good skills. But one must wonder if his AHL game will ever translate into the big league.
In any case, coming back to the topic at hand, the following players are in AHL right now as defensemen. The following defensemen are available to the Senators:
Jordan Murray D L 6-0 195 1992-12-17 Moncton, NB
Jack Dougherty D R 6-1 207 1996-05-25 St. Paul, MN
Andreas Englund D L 6-4 205 1996-01-21 Stockholm, Sweden
Christian Jaros D R 6-3 220 1996-04-02 Kosice, Slovakia
Frank Corrado D R 6-0 205 1993-03-26 Woodbridge, ON
Erik Brannstrom D L 5-9 181 1999-09-02 Almesakra, Sweden
Stuart Percy D L 6-1 193 1993-05-18 Oakville, ON
Hubert Labrie D L 5-11 184 1991-07-12 Victoriaville, QC
Jonathan Aspirot D L 6-0 190 1999-05-16 Mascouche, QC
Brannstrom’s point potential isn’t exactly hard to beat here. Jordan Murray, Christian Jaros, Jack Dougherty, Frank Corrado and Hubert Labrie each have more points. Seems like a decent amount of choices. Murray leads the pack with 13 points but he's a -4 and has never been called up to the NHL; with that in mind, after four years, you could assume he’s mostly an AHL'er to help solidify the team. I’m assuming there’s not much interest here.
Dougherty and Corrado are next at 5 points, and honestly, you could lump Labrie into this group to basically come up with the following: There’s no real improvement on Brannstrom with these players. They are projects or AHLers to help solidify the roster and I don’t feel like they're any kinds of long term answers for the Senators.
Belleville forwards: Now here is where it gets both interesting and curious. There are a lot of choices here. I’m not sure why they went with Davidsson at this point if they’re looking to improve scoring. Six players have more than 10+ points: Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, Vitaly Abramov, Alex Formenton, Jordan Szwarz, and Rudolfs Balcers.
Let’s remove anyone who is not a RW, as they brought a RW up to the NHL in Davidsson. One name shines brightly here: DRAKE BATHERSON. I mean, I could argue for a while about this, but my theory behind this is simple: Batherson is having a fantastic year (the current AHL scoring leader); they don’t want to disrupt his play, and want him to keep dominating for the full year (or at least up until the trade deadline where some players may be jettisoned out).
This is also true for D Christian Jaros. Jaros has a lot of games in the NHL and you would think they would want him to come up to replace any defenseman going down, but I believe they also want Jaros to play out of Belleville and dominate. There is nothing wrong with letting a player overripen in the AHL and prove they're worthy of a spot in the NHL.
Because of that, if you’re looking for right wingers, then only Max Verroneau has more points than Davidsson, and that’s by only two points, with a worse minus. So, going with the above, whether they brought Davidsson or Verroneau, they would be getting something of the same player. And I believe, at this point, the plan is not to touch Batherson or Jaros for as long as possible so they can dominate away. I would sooner see them come to the NHL after the trade deadline, anyway, and stay with the team for good.
End Results: It seems the recall of Davidsson does have some merit. While we could technically look at LW and Cs that have more points that Davidsson, they obviously wanted a RW up with the club. Defensively, despite his struggles, you can argue that Brannstrom is still a better option than any in Belleville, with the exception of Jaros. As we get closer to the trade deadline, these players will get their chance, including Batherson. For now, while the recall is rather underwhelming, there seems to be a plan for the recall. One will have to wait and see how they deploy this plan moving forward.
One thing is for sure: The call ups will continue to come fast and furiously as GM Pierre Dorion evaluates what they have and what can be used in trades and upgrades.
Time will tell.