Monday night must’ve felt good for Mika Zibanejad. After struggling much of this season and being held pointless in his last 4 games, Zibanejad had somewhat of a bounce-back evening against the Los Angeles Kings. In a 5-3 victory for the Ottawa Senators, Zibanejad put up 1 goal and 3 points. For the struggling 2nd line centre, the night was no doubt a boost of some much-needed confidence.
After putting up his first 20 goal season in 2014-2015, Zibanejad signed a two-year $5.25 million contract extension in the offseason. Through 30 games played this season, Zibanejad has scored a mere 5 goals while collecting 15 assists. You can attribute lots of those assists to the credit of winger Bobby Ryan, who after struggling early now has 29 points in 31 games.
Zibanejad’s struggles have some begging Senators’ GM Bryan Murray to trade away the young Swede, but the opinions seem to be all over the map. Zibanejad seems to be that player that is loved by some and hated by others. However, at the young age of 22, the Ottawa Senators still have lots of patience with Zibanejad after drafting him in the first round in 2011.
Something interesting to consider is that head coach Dave Cameron, who has shown no reluctance to juggle lineups, hasn’t shifted Zibanejad around this season. If you notice anything about Cameron’s coaching style, he loves to reiterate the importance of good play away from the puck. And although that may not be quite what you’re looking for from a 2nd line center, Zibanejad’s play might be just what the Senators are looking for while he tries to find his offense.
With how much the Senators have put into Zibanejad’s development to be a top-six forward, don’t expect to see him traded away anytime soon. Sens fans continue to know the pain of the constant “search” for a top-six forward, but with time it could come from within.
Zibanejad at times has shown flashes of brilliance, and Monday night he certainly looked more himself. If he continues to get playing time with players like Mike Hoffman and Bobby Ryan, he’s sure to find his way to offensive success.