Senators’ Back End Flexibility Causes More Harm Than Good

Since the Ottawa Senators called up defenceman Fredrik Claesson from Binghamton, they’ve been running a steady diet of eight defencemen on their roster. At first, this flexibility brought options to the club while Cody Ceci was out with injury and gave them the easy choice of scratching Jared Cowen. But, since Ceci’s return, Ottawa has 8 healthy defensemen and the once flexible defensive lineups are now becoming an issue. While it seems that Jared Cowen remains to be the consistent healthy scratch for the Senators  – being confined to the press box in 9 of the last 12 games – one spot on the blue line remains in constant debate.

Chris Wideman VS Fredrik Claesson

That one spot on the back end has seemed to spark a competition between Claesson and Chris Wideman. Since his call up, Claesson has been the one getting the majority of the playing time, most of which alongside Erik Karlsson. Aside from some recent defensive mishaps that inevitably cost the team some goals, he has been mostly reliable on the backend, though hasn’t yet recorded his first NHL point. For a rookie playing alongside Karlsson, there is understandably a certain pressure to simply get the puck to 65 and let him create the play.

Where the once flexibility within the lineup turns sour is when good players, like Wideman, are getting scratched on a much too consistent basis. Having earned his spot on the roster at the beginning of this year, Wideman has shown a strong and consistent presence defensively for the Senators. But, with the two extras in the roster, he’s facing the brunt of the results which have joining Cowen in the press box.

Marc Methot Misses His Normal Defensive Partner

There is no doubt that Karlsson’s favourite defensive partner over his years in Ottawa has been Marc Methot. However, with the “strength in numbers” of the Senators’ defensive end, Methot has found himself being shuffled through the 2nd and 3rd pairings, while others get the chance to play with Karlsson. Since those changes, Methot has struggled on the defensive end, being paired most often with either Ceci (2nd pair) or Mark Borowiecki (3rd pair). With the minutes that Karlsson is putting in (average TOI – 28:39) Methot joins him occasionally on the top pair to spread out the ice time evenly between the younger guys.

This situation has tied the hands of Dave Cameron in his efforts to spread out the defensive talent across the lineup. Whether or not a popular decision, it’s one Methot will need to adjust himself will for the time being until potential change comes.

Will Cowen Be The One To Go?

As the trade deadline approaches, this is one area that Ottawa could be looking to adjust. One deal that the team and its fans are desperate to make is to move Cowen somewhere else. It’s quite clear that the Senators have lost interest in trying to give Cowen more chances to prove himself. A move like this would help Ottawa clear up the confusion on the blue line and give their best players a chance to play, especially if they were able to move two defensemen. Ceci has been the brunt of some trade rumours as well.

As the trade deadline approaches, Ottawa has some decisions to make. This struggling team needs to put their best players on the ice.