Sen­a­tors lean on veter­ans, but sprin­kle some youth in lineup

Simcoe Reformer - - SPORTS - Ken Waren kwar­ren@post­media.com

It’s an age-old dis­cus­sion in pro­fes­sional sports.

When does the wis­dom of ex­pe­ri­ence out­weigh the en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm of youth?

We know from a year ago that Sen­a­tors coach Guy Boucher leans to­wards the tried and true. After the suc­cess of the 2016-17 sea­son, we shouldn’t ex­pect the at­ti­tude to change all that much this time around.

Even with teenagers Lo­gan Brown and Alex For­men­ton on the open­ing day ros­ter, the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors will be­gin the sea­son with an av­er­age age of 28.325 — the fifth old­est club in the NHL, be­hind only Detroit, Chicago, Ana­heim and Min­nesota, ac­cord­ing to nhlnum­bers.com.

The Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets, with an av­er­age age of 24.834, are the league’s youngest.

Right winger Mark Stone says the abil­ity to main­tain com­po­sure and con­sis­tency is a hall­mark of an older squad.

“Some­times when you’re a young group, you can have a good game and then a bad game,” said Stone, who will in­herit the “A” left be­hind by the since de­parted Chris Neil.

“We did a good job last year of weathering storms. If you look through the sea­son, the teams that are higher up in the stand­ings, they don’t go through these long los­ing streaks.”

Ul­ti­mately, Stone says, suc­cess isn’t about the high­light plays. It’s about not los­ing fo­cus, about stick­ing to the plan.

“For us, it’s about get­ting points, find­ing ways to get points even when you’re not play­ing your best,” he said.

“We did a good job of that last year. This year is a new sea­son, but we want to build on that. It’s so im­por­tant when you’re not play­ing your best. Are you able to grind it out, get it to over­time, get that big point that can help you clinch a play­off spot?”

It sounds bor­ing, for sure. Yet Boucher has re­minded his play­ers over and over again that they can’t af­ford to get caught up in track meets with higher scor­ing, and of­ten younger, teams.

The Sen­a­tors limped out of the pre-sea­son with some well-timed re­minders of the dan­gers of try­ing to play a run-and-gun game, when New Jer­sey, Win­nipeg and Mon­treal took turns spank­ing the Sen­a­tors by fill­ing the net.

The Sen­a­tors made the play­offs last sea­son largely be­cause of their abil­ity to stay in tight games, go­ing 21-9-10 in one-goal de­ci­sions, pick­ing up 52 points in those 40 games. They were also 6-2 in over­time dur­ing the play­offs.

“We learned valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence about how tough it is to make the play­offs and how tough it is to per­form in the play­offs,” said Stone. “Learn­ing not only as in­di­vid­u­als, but as a group, can help us.”

While Boucher will be care­ful with how he uses Brown and For­men­ton, not want­ing to ex­pose them to too much too quickly — “you don’t give steak to a baby, you give them baby food,” he said ear­lier this week — he won’t hes­i­tate to use Nate Thomp­son in tense sit­u­a­tions.

Thomp­son earned the trust of Boucher when the two were to­gether in Tampa.

“If you can guard against three or four losses in a row dur­ing the sea­son, you’re usu­ally in pretty good shape,” said Thomp­son, a 32-yearold with 550 reg­u­lar sea­son and 58 play­off games be­hind him.

“You’re go­ing to have your times when it’s not go­ing your way. It hap­pens with ev­ery team, even re­ally good ones. That’s just one of those things that hav­ing a vet­eran group with a mix of younger guys that also have ex­pe­ri­ence can help in those sit­u­a­tions.

“If you look at elite teams in the league, there’s usu­ally a pretty good blend. You have guys that have been around and young guys that are pretty fresh, but young guys now on this team have ex­pe­ri­enced a lot. They’ve had some play­off games, gone through the ups and downs and that’s pretty valu­able.”

Down the road, there will be changes. There is le­git­i­mate hope about a new wave of prospects.

De­pend­ing on their suc­cess in the AHL, or be­cause of trades or in­juries, Sen­a­tors fans should see de­fence­man Thomas Chabot and for­wards Colin White and Filip Ch­lapik at some point this sea­son. White is re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing after suf­fer­ing a bro­ken wrist in the Sen­a­tors first ex­hi­bi­tion game.

“After train­ing camp, I’m pretty ex­cited about our youth, too,” Stone said. “We’ve got Brown and White and For­men­ton has played well, too. We have tons of guys in the mi­nors, too. Ch­lapik, and some of these guys are high-end play­ers. There just isn’t enough room right now. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is in pretty good shape in terms of youth.”

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