Building Rome: The Senators and the "Seven Player Profile"

As teams build towards a championship, a lot of talk centers around what's known as the 7

player profile. It suggests that, to win a Stanley Cup, you need the following ingredients to build upon.

1. #1 all-star center

2. #2 all-star center

3. Top power forward

4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/Shut down center

5. All-star offensive d-man

6. Top shutdown d-man

7. All-star goalie



I want to analyze this profile to see a) Is there any merit to it? b) How do the Senators stack up against it?


How have past champions measured up? Not to open an old wound, but let’s start with the only time the modern-day Senators were in the Cup final. They played the Anaheim Ducks.

DUCKS ‘07

1. #1 all-star center – Andy MacDonald

2. #2 all-star center – Ryan Getzlaf

3. Top power forward – Dustin Penner

4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/Shutdown center – Sammy Pahlsson

5. All-star offensive d-man – Scott Niedermayer*

6. Top shutdown d-man – Chris Pronger

7. All-star goalie – Jean-Sebastien Giguere

You could say the Ducks met the criteria loosely. I don’t think of Andy MacDonald as an all-star center. He did have 78 points that season and another 14 in 21 playoff games. What this profile doesn’t mention is leading scorer Teemu Selanne, who had 94 pts in the regular season. He wouldn’t qualify as a power forward and, as such, he doesn’t get a mention in the profile. He was also injured and only played 6 games in the playoffs, yet they won anyway. They were very deep down the middle and the Senators couldn’t deal with it. Giguere may not end up in the Hall of Fame, but he did take the Ducks to the Cup Final twice and won the Conn Smythe the year they lost to New Jersey.

SENATORS ‘07

1. #1 all-star center – Jason Spezza

2. #2 all-star center – Mike Fisher???

3. Top power forward – Dany Heatley???

4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/Shutdown center – Chris Kelly

5. All-star offensive d-man – I got nothing

6. Top shutdown d-man – Chris Phillips

7. All-star goalie – I got nothing

The Senators had 4 solid centers. However, Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly all fit the description of a 3rd line center. First line power play minutes on defense went to Daniel Alfredsson (their point man on the PP) and Ray Emery was not a seasoned playoff performer. Based on the player profile, it isn’t hard to see why the Ducks won despite Alfie’s heroic playoff.


RECENT CUP WINNERS


2020 – Tampa Bay

1. #1 all-star center – Steven Stamkos (injured)

2. #2 all-star center – Brayden Point

3. Top power forward – Alex Killorn

4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/Shutdown center – Yanni Gourde

5. All-star offensive d-man – Victor Hedman*

6. Top shutdown d-man – Ryan McDonough

7. All-star goalie – Andrei Vasilevskiy


2019 – St. Louis

1. #1 all-star center – Ryan O’Reilly*

2. #2 all-star center – Brayden Schenn

3. Top power forward – David Perron

4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/Shutdown center – Alexander Steen

5. All-star offensive d-man – Alex Pietrangelo

6. Top shutdown d-man – Colton Parayko

7. All-star goalie – Jordan Binnington?


2018 – Washington

1. #1 all-star center – Evgeny Kuznetsov

2. #2 all-star center – Nicklas Backstrom

3. Top power forward – Alexander Ovechkin*

4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/Shutdown center – Tom Wilson

5. All-star offensive d-man – John Carlson

6. Top shutdown d-man – Dmitri Orlov

7. All-star goalie – Brayden Holtby


2017 – Pittsburgh

1. #1 all-star center – Sidney Crosby*

2. #2 all-star center – Evgeni Malkin

3. Top power forward – Patric Hornqvist

4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/Shutdown center – Nick Bonino

5. All-star offensive d-man – Kristopher Letang (injured)

6. Top shutdown d-man – Ian Cole

7. All-star goalie – Matt Murray/Marc-Andre Fleury??


2016 – Pittsburgh

1. #1 all-star center – Sidney Crosby*

2. #2 all-star center – Evgeni Malkin

3. Top power forward – Patric Hornqvist

4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/Shutdown center – Nick Bonino

5. All-star offensive d-man – Kristopher Letang

6. Top shutdown d-man – Ian Cole

7. All-star goalie – Matt Murray

*Won the Conne Smythe Trophy


Based on the championship teams I have looked at, there is some validity to the 7 player profile. Just because you have one, it doesn’t guarantee you a championship. However, not having one seems to guarantee you won’t. The profile itself is clearly not enough. Several of the teams above lost significant members for most or all of the playoffs, but they won anyway. This speaks to the 8th player in the profile which would be depth. Having the 7 player profile in place makes it easier to plug in the depth pieces. The 9th and 10th pieces of the profile would be coaching staff and general manager.


The coaching staff uses the players in the profile and the general manager assembles them. It is hard to overlook that. I challenge you to name a Stanley Cup champion who had anything less than an excellent coach and general manager. Perhaps an 11th piece would be that elusive leadership/captain role. I wrote a piece a while back about who would be the next Senators captain. They don’t have one right now. Every one of the teams above had one. Of course, there's also stable ownership which all those teams had/have as well.


HOW DO THE SENATORS STACK UP?


Admittedly, the Senators are still being built. However, what do they have in place that we could see in each of these roles?


1. #1 all-star center – Shane Pinto/Josh Norris

2. #2 all-star center – Josh Norris/Shane Pinto

3. Top power forward – Brady Tkachuk/Alex Formenton

4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/Shutdown center – Alex Formenton/Brady Tkachuk

5. All-star offensive d-man – Thomas Chabot

6. Top shutdown d-man – Artem Zub

7. All-star goalie – Murray/Gustavsson/Daccord/Sogaard/Mandolese


Clearly, there is development to be done. No mention of Tim Stutzle in the profile yet, but he is a key piece of the puzzle. The profile seems to neglect high scoring wingers and views them as pieces to add to the profile.


As for our top 2 centers, it’s just a question of who fills those two holes. I like Pinto, based on what I've seen in the face off dot and all three zones. You have to like what you see in Josh Norris as well.


Brady Tkachuk seems to fill more than one role. It doesn't do him justice to describe him as a utility player or specialist. However, his agitating style is mouth-watering to say the least. That said, Formenton on the forecheck is going to put defensemen on their heels and he loves to finish his checks.


For now, Thomas Chabot is the alpha dog on defense offensively. We don’t yet know what Jake Sanderson will be. He could be the same or trend more defensively. It’s a good problem to have. I do feel better knowing Zub will be back for the next two seasons. The Senators didn’t have a lot to shut down in the first quarter of the season as they trailed in most games badly. Zub didn’t play more than half of them. Jacob Bernard-Docker is also ear-marked for general on the right side. Properly groomed, he may just get there. Zub and even Zaitsev will allow the team to develop him properly.


The real dilemma is in goal. Regardless of our expansion conundrum, we have depth in the crease with no clear number 1. When he's on his game, Matt Murray can be a number 1. He also has 3 years left on his deal. The Sens are married to him regardless. If he can be a number 1 goalie, the Senators can be a playoff team next season. If he can't, that outcome seems unlikely much less making a run at the Cup.


From the rest, I like Gustavsson based on what I saw this year. He has pedigree and showed a lot when the Senators called him up. But it’s too soon to tell. Mads Sogaard will need somewhere to play next year. Based on his late season performance in Belleville, he's AHL ready. What to do with Joey Daccord and Kevin Mandolese? It would seem we won’t have enough chairs when the music stops. None of these goalies belong in the ECHL.


The only thing clear about the Senators 7 player profile is that it's in flux. There are pieces starting to form in the puzzle and who those players might be. Until they settle on the profile, the missing pieces that form the depth are tricky to identify. The Sens have restricted free agents to sign and cap to allocate to profile players before they can make too many commitments to depth players. The club already has Colin White and Matt Murray on multi-year deals along with Thomas Chabot.


In terms of the 9th and 10th pieces of the puzzle, it’s not clear that either DJ Smith or Pierre Dorion will be around to lead this team to the promised land. This coming season will have a lot to say about that.


As for the 11th piece, I would expect a C on someone’s jersey next season, though I don’t view that as an absolute necessity. It will come from the 7 player profile. A lot will depend on what kind of extension Brady Tkachuk signs. If he does a bridge deal to take him to free agency, I would not give him the C. He needs to make a commitment to the team for that and it is the only leverage the team has in the process.


Finally, the stable ownership continues to be elusive. Eugene Melnyk doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. He says the Senators will spend to the cap for a five-year period which would be known as our window of opportunity. I will take him at his word. The question is when will the 7 player profile be firmly in place so supporting pieces can be solidified for that window of opportunity? If he expects our window to start in the next year or two, contracts and money may be handed out in an ill-advised manner.


Based on what I see, our 7 player profile won’t be completed for at least another season and possibly 2. I need to see Jake Sanderson with my own eyes to know where he will fit. I also need to see Shane Pinto, Alex Formenton and Jacob Bernard-Docker play at least one full season in the league. The same goes for Filip Gustavsson and I need to see if there is any hope of the Matt Murray of old returning.


For now, here is what we know. The 7 player profile is valid. If the Senators don’t build one, their chances of winning a Stanley Cup are next to nil. That’s the bad news. The good news is, the club has most, if not all, of the pieces to fill the profile with affordable depth players already in the system. It will take at least another year or two to fully complete the profile, which means the Senators can’t realistically view themselves as a Stanley Cup contender for another 4-5 years.


Rome wasn’t built in a day...but it was built.


By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey


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