The seven active Sens defencemen can be classified into three general categories: the young’uns whose hallmark is inconsistency (Wiercioch, Gryba, Borowiecki, Cowen and, yes, even Karlsson), the middle-aged, prime-of-their-career solids (Methot… and that’s it) and the aging veterans (Phillips, Corvo). If there was any true way to quantify quality of play, the graph across those three categories would start low at the first, peak at the second and dip back down at the third.
It’s impossible to stack a team full of prime-of-career players, of course, especially when that point is more nebulous for defenders. But the Sens only have one of these, and this is atypical for a hope-to-contend team. It’s come to the point that Methot was distributed wily-nily among the many younger defenders we have a while back, in an effort to insulate them. Methot was probably feeling as though a turnstile had taken the place of his partner.
The other pairings sans Methot have continued to flail about. Cowen-Gryba and Karlsson-Cowen don’t look good on paper, and they don’t look too good on the ice either. Putting two young defenders together as an established pair is most likely a disaster plan for the long-term. However, with Ottawa’s surplus of twenty-five-and-under D-men, this situation becomes inevitable, and hence so does disaster.
The addition of age does not translate into smart, “veteran play” naturally, and the jury remains out on what degree of “veteran play” Phillips and Corvo bring to each game. It seems to be generally agreed upon that neither is suitable for the 2nd pairing, which makes one wonder exactly why Corvo was brought in. If either one of our first two pairings lack a reliable presence, well, are they really the first two pairings?
At this point, it’s seeming like—depending on the night and MacLean’s fancy—the Senators have at most one top D-pair, and then a mish-mash of third pairings that, regardless of how you work them, will not produce a level of skill that allows them to face top-six forward competition. We’re not even at the point of debating whether we need a puck-moving blueliner or a bruising defensive defenceman: we just need a player who can solidify the top 4 and allow our young players to develop without sacrificing our defensive play.