For many, this season has brought back a handful of seemingly forgotten memories of former Ottawa Senators’ head coach Paul MacLean. After proving his success and winning the Jack Adams Award in 2013, in the following season MacLean went on to change his ways and drive people crazy with his lineup combinations that seemed to look like he was rolling dice. Now, after Dave Cameron had his fair share of success in the latter half of last season, here we are watching his lineups continually change in his efforts to “shake things up”. Zack Smith has become a prime example of this exhausting parody.
Comparing Zack Smith and Mike Hoffman
At the beginning of this season, the Senators’ had one of the top 1st lines in all of the NHL with the trio of Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, and Kyle Turris. With their last name initials spelling out “HST” they were given the nickname of the “tax” line. However, somewhere along the way, Stone received a suspension, the lines were juggled, and now Smith has moved from his long-time 3rd line centre spot and seemingly found a home on the left-wing alongside Turris and Stone.
At first, some were suspecting that this change might’ve been GM Bryan Murray’s way of showcasing Smith in an attempt to move him, however, as time goes on, this doesn’t look like it’s the case.
In addition to the rise of Smith’s ice time since being added to the top line, he has also recently taken Hoffman’s spot on the #1 power play line for the Senators.
Zack Smith has played more time on the power play than Mike Hoffman in 4 of the past 5 games.
— Sens Charts (@SensCharts) January 4, 2016
Since that change, Ottawa’s power play has been suffering. Take a look at the difference below.
Dave Cameron is basically throwing away goals keeping Hoffman off PP #1. Just look at Smith vs. Hoffman here. pic.twitter.com/tM0cS4NVTZ
— Callüm Fraser (@CallumFraser18) January 4, 2016
Coming up on 400 career NHL games, Smith has played 39 of the Senators’ 40 games this season. In those games, Smith has just eight goals and two assists which is 10 points below the next lowest scoring top six forward in the lineup, Mika Zibanejad. To magnify Smith’s offensive woes, he is tied in points with rookie forward Shane Prince who has played 13 fewer games.
Smith Belongs In Bottom Six Role
Though Smith hasn’t exactly shined on the top line, he had success early in the season playing on the third line. With the Senators’ early offensive success this season, it remains a confusion that Cameron won’t return the lineups back to the way they were, with Smith on the 3rd line and Hoffman on the 1st.
Player Points, Goals, Assists per 60 Minutes Played. Prince has been so, so good. Chiasson has been so, so bad. pic.twitter.com/4W65PEadll
— Sens Charts (@SensCharts) December 31, 2015
Prior to Monday Night’s game against the St Louis Blues, the Senators’ had been shutout in consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 2nd and 4th, 2010. They ended their scoreless drought after 174:24 minutes of play, going on to take the 3-2 win in overtime against the Blues. Hoffman was back on the #1 power play, where he scored the first goal of the game for Ottawa, while Smith was demoted from the top line. Time will tell to see if Cameron is willing to shuffle his lineups back to their early season form for good.