Senators Putting Debrincat on Second Power Play Unit a Mistake

The Ottawa Senators have begun working on their power play in training camp, and the line combinations have sparked plenty of debate amongst the fanbase.

The “top” unit is a repeat from last season, with Thomas Chabot quarterbacking it alongside Tim Stützle, Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, and Brady Tkachuk. The “second” unit features four newcomers, with Alex Debrincat, Claude Giroux, Shane Pinto, Mathieu Joseph, and Jake Sanderson playing the point.

Overreacting to training camp groupings can backfire, as there is always a possibility they change before opening night. When asked about the power play personnel decisions, head coach D.J. Smith told reporters that he plans on keeping the top unit the same by saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Debrincat Had Outstanding 2021-22 Power Play Stats

The Senators are making a huge mistake by withholding Debrincat from the top unit given his elite reputation as an offensive talent. According to Hockey Reference, he had 14 goals and 14 assists with the man-advantage last season. His “office” is the left circle, and he remains one of the most lethal options in the NHL from that spot.

Related: Senators News & Rumors: Smith, Batherson, Power Play Units

After investing a handful of valuable assets to acquire him, it would be foolish for the Senators to not maximize his talents by using him on the top power play.

Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The newcomers finding chemistry early in the season is going to be a big factor in whether or not the Senators start the season strong. One of the best ways for the newly formed Debrincat, Giroux, and Stützle line would be playing them together on the power play, as having that extra space would allow them to be creative and learn each other’s strengths on the fly.

Debrincat is the Senators’ Most Established Sniper

No matter how highly you think of Josh Norris, Debrincat has proven to be the most established goalscorer on the Senators heading into the 2022-23 season. His 41 goals last season were the 13th most across the entire NHL. One of the reasons he scores so many is because of his elite one-timer, which would be a huge asset to any team’s power play.

Debrincat’s wins above replacement (WAR) card is one of the best in the NHL and shows how elite he truly is. He ranks in the 94th percentile as a finisher, and in the 92nd percentile in goals per 60 minutes.

Alex DeBrincat
Alex DeBrincat ranks in the 97th percentile in wins above replacement (WAR) among his peers

DeBrincat is the most likely player to lead the team in goal-scoring, but it will be tough for him to accomplish that from the second unit powerplay. Norris is an extremely talented scoring option, but his 20.3 shooting percentage (S%) is likely to regress from last season.

Senators Have Room to Improve With the Man-Advantage

The Senators had the 19th best power play percentage in the NHL last season with a 19.3 percent success rate. While the top unit is still a good group, Debrincat can put them over the top and make them one of the best power plays in the NHL.

Norris scored 16 goals on the power play last season, which was good for fourth-best amongst all NHL players. Between him and Debrincat, the Senators could form a power play line with two elite snipers on either circle. Everyone else’s job would be to get them the puck in a good shooting spot, and the power play would flourish as a result.

Josh Norris Ottawa Senators
Josh Norris, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The top line has already established chemistry from last season and continued their success with a power play goal on Friday against the Maple Leafs. Debrincat would raise the ceiling of the power play and give them the potential to be a top-five unit.

It would be worth it for the Senators to endure a potentially slow start for what the results could look like months later. The old unit has chemistry and would start the season on a higher note, but to achieve the best power play possible, they need to include the 41-goal scorer from 2021-22. The Senators still have four preseason games left to test out different units until it starts to count.

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