No matter what happens in the final cuts, Scott Sabourin will probably go down as the biggest surprise of Ottawa Senators' 2019 training camp.
Every single analyst, professional or armchair, fully dismissed the Orleans native when they browsed the Senators' roster at the start of camp. Yet here we are, 4 days before the start of the regular season and Sabourin is still standing. I'm sure he can almost taste the satisfaction of getting into his first NHL regular season game at the age of 27.
How did he gets this chance? Well, he and DJ Smith had some great days together in the OHL when Sabourin had 30 goals and 142 penalty minutes for Oshawa. Connections opened the door slightly. Sabourin, a veteran of 52 AHL fights, has since kicked it down.
Meanwhile, I find it interesting to hear how many people are talking about Sabourin in a negative light. Meh, you don't need a goon in 2019. He's taking the job of a younger prospect with better pedigree. That's the guy Auston Matthews was making fun of! (On a side note, that karma thing's a nasty bit of business, eh, Auston?)
This is what I believe. The Sens aren't physical enough and there is still a place in the game for players like Scott Sabourin - guys who pay their dues forever and won't take a second of being in the NHL for granted. They play every shift with relentless energy, finishing every check, setting the tone, changing the tone, and standing up for teammates.
Uh-oh. Yes, I said standing up for teammates. It can be a fight or just the threat of one. It can pick up a team's energy and confidence as much as a goal being scored. It can turn a playoff series around. They're walking talking team builders. Ask any player who's ever had a guy stick up for him or the team and they'll tell you how much they love and appreciate that player.
I think Sabourin is the perfect kind of guy to have on your team to do all those things, and playing limited minutes. You certainly don't want some non-physical, skilled player getting 5-10 minutes per game - although the Sens have so many good young guys in Belleville I'm not sure there are enough big minutes to go around down there either. The Senators aren't going to out-skill anyone this year so they better at least be hard to play against. He's already shown he can get the other team's top players off their game. Matthews and, tonight, Max Domi have already had their fill of him.
I was glad to see Sabourin sign on with the organization. If he doesn't make the NHL, he still has great value in the American Hockey League for all the same reasons, protecting the future Stars down in Belleville.
Sabourin wouldn't have been here this long if the Sens weren't seriously thinking about him making the team. So I think he's got a 50/50 chance right now, but I'm 100% rooting for him.