Well, this is something they don’t teach you in all those riveting hockey coaching clinics. When your team is struggling, it’s best to delete 3 of your top forwards. Oh, yeah. Right. It's so obvious.
Since Jason Spezza went down with a knee injury on December 21st (followed shortly thereafter by Mike Fisher - Dec 27 and Antoine Vermette - Dec 30), the Sens have played nine games, taking 15 of 18 points. The latest 2 coming in a 5-2 comeback win over Boston last night.
Why weren’t they playing this way earlier? Why wasn’t Dany Heatley playing this incredible, all-around game before? Why wasn’t the forecheck so relentless before? Even in good times earlier this season, the team wasn't this impressive, this intense. Most likely the answer is this: since the injuries hit, the Sens have fewer players saying, "It's not my role," and more declaring, "It's up to me now. I'll do it."
Clearly, it must now officially be splitsville for Jason Spezza and Heatley. Has to be. Heatley has been crazy good with Chris Kelly and Daniel Alfredsson. I get the feeling Heatley likes being the star. The "go to" guy. Not one half of some dynamic duo. It's also been good for Alfie, a first liner who is so often asked to ply his trade on the second line.
When Spezza and company return in February, this team should truly blossom. If it doesn't, I would worry about some chemistry issues, involving returning players. The question is, who will play where?
I like the following depth chart:
Heatley-Kelly-Alfie (Can't break it up while it has 35pts in 9 games)
McAmmond centreing Eaves and one of Schubert, Hamel or McGrattan
If Kelly starts to struggle, I'd make this adjustment.
Kelly centreing McAmmond and one of Schubert, Hamel, McGrattan
Either scenario, on paper, is as good as or better than any forward depth chart in the Eastern Conference. As a fan, that's all you can ask heading down the stretch.