Slated in as either the third defenceman or the best offensive dman we have (take your pick), Filip Kuba is here to stay for the next three years. He is a solid offensive player, doesn't overwhelm anyone, and is pretty strong positionally. He'll rarely have to play critical defensive zone minutes or go up against top offensive players, and that allows Kuba to be our leading puck mover. Whether that is a good thing is still debatable, just because he isn't typically seen as a true puck moving defenceman (PMD, I believe is the acronym that Murray coined last year).
Kuba joined the team last year by chance as Andrej Meszaros negotiated his way out of town. Originally seen as a cross between a toss-in and a guy that could kinda plug a hole, Kuba turned out to be hands down the best player in the trade. According to rumours, Kuba was on the trade block leading into March's trade deadline for the simple fact that we hadn't extended him, but that was put to rest when he signed a 3-year extension at $3.7M a pop.
Best moment as a Senator: Rather than just one game, how about we recognize Kuba for putting on the new threads and opening the season with 11 points in his first 8 games. This quickly put to rest how we did in the Meszaros trade and gave us a bit of comfort on who was going to pass the puck up the ice.
Worst moment as a Senator: Kuba didn't really have a truly awful moment in what was a truly awful season for the team, but I'm sure he'd like to forget the 82nd game of the year in Toronto when he put up his season worst minus-3 in a 5-2 loss to the Leafs. What felt like an uplifting finish to a disappointing season turned out to just be...a disappointing season.
2009-10 Expectations: Seeing as how we didn't sign anyone else on the blue line other than the saviour, Erik Karlsson, Kuba will carry some expectation on his shoulders this year. Whereas last season, Murray hung it out in the media that he was looking to bring in another dman via trade, it is clear that our cap position this year doesn't allow much flexibility on the blue line. With that, we're going to expect Kuba to exceed his performance from last season. He's going to have to get far more pucks in the net (3 last year) and at least match what he put up in assists (37). Face it, he's our top offensive defenceman barring some unbelievable development in the off-season from Campoli or Lee.
Kuba can also take on a leadership role with guys like Lee and Karlsson. Obviously Phillips will help them with positioning and how to take a hit on the backcheck, but Kuba will help them read a defensive system as they carry the puck up the ice. The NHL is going to be much faster than anything Karlsson has seen, so any insight that Kuba can provide will just help with his development. Ironically, it will be Karlsson that slowly takes Kuba's icetime away, but that's not our point here. Now that Kuba has been around the block in Kanata, it is time to speak up in the room and really help Phillips with the defensive leadership.
Projection: Understanding that last season was Kuba's best statistical season, it would be great to see him build on that success with the responsibility that Clouston will give him. Look for 9 goals and 35 assists for 44 points, and a modest +3 in the plus/minus.
Ups and Downs: Week 16
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