Watching his team play from the press box as a healthy scratch for the fourth game in a row, and his fifth during Ottawa’s next game Saturday night against the Boston Bruins, Jared Cowen’s roller coaster ride in the NHL continues as he struggles to reach his potential as a top-10 overall draft pick.
Because of his inconsistency in every aspect of his game, Cowen has been a frustrating player to coach, for both former head coach Paul McLean and current one Dave Cameron.
“Just be a little bit better in 200-foot areas,” Cameron explained his decision to scratch Jared. “Whether it’s [offensive] zone, neutral zone or [defensive] zone.”
Given his defense-first style of play, Cowen should be limiting the amount of turnovers that he allows versus the amount of times he steals the puck away from the opposition. Based on the snapshot below via sportingcharts.com, that has not been the case.
Although Cowen has made it clear that he is not asking for a trade out of Ottawa, his own struggles to be a positively impactful d-man in the lineup may be speaking for him. The trouble is that he currently has next to no value on the market, both due to his inconsistent play and his abilities.
When the Senators drafted him in the first round, ninth overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the game had not fully evolved to the way it is now; the prototypical shut-down defenseman who did not focus so much on the offensive side of things were crucial to taking space away from players who would rack up 90 to 100 and more points in a season.
Now, the big stay-at-home defenseman who specializes in staying in his own zone has trouble playing to the style and pace of the game today, especially if skating and puck transitions is not his strong suit. Guys such as Fredrik Claesson and Chris Wideman, who do not have much NHL experience, have surpassed Cowen on Ottawa’s depth chart, and their styles of play are better suited for today’s NHL than Cowen’s.
Claesson is also a stay-at-home defenseman, but his skating, positioning, and passing seem to be possibly superior to Cowen’s. Wideman plays with a more offensive mindset, using his smaller stature to be nimble with the puck and move it quickly up ice. If these two players continue to develop at their current pace, they will be a better fit on a Senators team that is looking for more players to be able to effectively start the transition beyond Erik Karlsson.
Possible Trade Candidates
So the question lies in if Ottawa does trade him, which other NHL team would be interested in Cowen? Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray should look to the Western Conference to see if any of those teams who already play a big, physical, and bruising style of play would like to add a 6’5” stalwart that can take up a lot of space on the ice.
The Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets could have slight interest. The Los Angeles Kings could have been another option, but it seems that they filled their need in that regard with the trade for Luke Schenn.
Schenn and Cowen are two very similar players; they are both high draft picks that their respective teams had high expectations, but their limited abilities with the puck prevented them from justifying being players that their coaches could count on for important minutes every game.
If the Kings can gave faith in Schenn, there must be teams out there that think Cowen can still be a very useful player. He is still a couple of years away from his prime. It is difficult enough for defenseman to develop quickly, even more so for one whose specialty is in a shut-down role. Considering that he is only 24 years old, no one should consider him down just yet. For a young player, it is often important to allow him to make mistakes and to teach him how to improve upon them. Players such as Marc Methot and Chris Philips should step up and mentor young Cowen on how to play like a veteran.
Due to Ottawa’s relatively young defense core, other players will likely encounter the same valleys as Cowen has. Whether he continues playing for the Senators or another club, he still believes that he can still be a very good player in this league. He can play on a contender’s third defense pairing, making life difficult against lower-tiered forward groups.
If the Senators do indeed decide to trade him, they should do their best to increase his value, because right now it appears to be at an all-time low. Teams may not be willing to offer any more than a low prospect and a late-round draft pick in exchange for Cowen. Ideally, Ottawa should try and find a way to increase that to at least a good prospect or a second-round draft pick.
Unfortunately, they are in the heart of a playoff hunt, so Dave Cameron has to maintain his focus on what’s best for the team right now. If that changes before the trade deadline on February 29, expect Cowen to get more games in to show off for other teams. The last thing general manager Bryan Murray would want to see occur is have Cowen come back and haunt him like Zdeno Chara did.