Here's the first of a daily segment this week where we're going to look at each defenceman in Ottawa. We'll do a quick historical look, then talk about potential and expectations for the upcoming season, and then give our point prediction.
First off, let's look at lifer Chris Phillips. Phillips has been a stalwart shutdown defenceman in Ottawa and the go-to defensive man since Chara left. Paired together with Anton Volchenkov, Phillips was at his best during the 2006-07 season en route to the Finals in holding top lines in check. He appears to have a lost a stride in the past two seasons, though, and fans are wondering if the game has gotten too fast for a slower defensive player. Phillips is the second in command behind Alfie and is one of the most popular players in the room and in the community. A good season in 2009-10 would go a very long way in restoring the faith of the fans, especially with two years remaining on his $3.5M contract and some young stars like Cowen and Wiercioch about two years from joining the roster.
Best moment as a Senator: Game 6 in 2003 in the Eastern Conference Finals against New Jersey, Phillips scores the winning goal in overtime to send it to a Game 7 back in Ottawa.
Worst moment as a Senator: This one is easy - the own-goal in Game 5 in Anaheim. Let's not talk about it anymore than that. We will not share video of this moment. I know we were losing that game anyway and the goal had little effect on the outcome, but it was a low point for the guy.
2009-10 Expectations: As I said earlier, Phillips needs to have a strong year. I still see him as a lifer in Ottawa, regardless of the accusations that he's 'losing a step'. I'm not pitching this as a 'because he does so much in the community' idea, I just believe that Phillips is very good at what he does. He's a shutdown d-man, not out there to score points and give the breakout pass, but to keep the puck out of our zone. Is he as fast as Ovechkin or Crosby or Malkin or Lecavalier? Absolutely not. But he's an extremely smart player and is rarely caught out of position. Add to this that he can play physical and block shots and he is a foundational defenceman. He is a poor man's Adam Foote and if he can come back this year with a plus season and get around 20-22 minutes a night, then he'll have served his purpose. Let's be honest here - Phillips isn't trade bait and he isn't in danger of not getting renewed when his contract expires in 2011. The sooner a kid like Karlsson can ramp up and hopefully take top pairing time, the sooner Phillips can settle into more of a 16-18 minute/night role. In the meantime, count on Phillips and Volchenkov being counted on for top pairing minutes again this year and a huge bounce back season.
Projection: Phillips isn't a point producer, so keep expectations in check. Count on 6 goals, 18 assists, for 24 points, and a strong +23 plus/minus rating. Statistically not his best season, but a firm step back in the right direction.
Draft Day 1996, for the nostalgic folks