Regin may be better cast down Sens’ depth chart

Regin may be better cast down Sens’ depth chart
Peter Regin of the Ottawa Senators speaks to the media before the summer break, at Scotiabank Place, in Ottawa, On, on April 28, 2

In the big picture of the big news in hockey right now, the names Peter Regin and Rick Dudley might seem like small potatoes.

Just the same, I couldn’t help but think of the link between the two on the weekend, even with the National Hockey League’s playoff war of attrition now in its second round and with a hat trick of Ottawa Senators players skating for Sweden at the world championships.

Regin, who has shouldered more than his share of injury problems over the past two seasons — pun definitely intended — rather quietly signed a one-year extension with the Senators on Friday, accepting a $200,000 pay cut to stay with the organization. At first blush, it seemed like an odd move, given that Regin, a 26-year-old centre/winger, is no longer a kid by NHL standards. He has entered into what are the peak years of a player’s career.

While sitting out following his second shoulder injury last season, he saw first hand the optimism greeting the arrival of far younger forward prospects such as Jakob Silfverberg, Mark Stone and Mika Zibanejad. To top that off, Regin’s injury absence last season opened the door for Kyle Turris to skate directly into the vacant second line centre position.

So, where, exactly, does Regin still fit within the organization?

That’s where some previous words from Dudley come into play.

Dudley has been around the NHL block a time or two, serving as a general manager for four NHL teams, including the Senators. He served as an assistant GM to Toronto Maple Leafs boss Brian Burke last season and is expected to be a right hand man to incoming Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin next season. Dudley’s true strength is scouting and he would rather be watching young talent from the stands than worrying about the business side of a hockey operation. He played a big role in the development of the Chicago Blackhawks from a basement team into a Stanley Cup champion in 2010.

When the Senators began their own rebuilding project late in the 2010-11 season, I asked Dudley — who was GM of the Atlanta Thrashers at the time — for any trade secrets about how an organization starts over in pursuit of an NHL championship.

He suggested that players on weak teams are sometimes miscast in the roles they are playing, elevated to elite status simply because there aren’t better players ahead of them. A defenceman may be receiving top minutes because there’s limited skill on the depth chart, but he might still be suitable as a third or fourth blueliner. A guy might be playing out of his element as a first-line right-winger, but if more talent arrives, he could be a valuable third-line right-winger. And so on.

“When you have casual fans, like some owners, that’s hard to explain,” Dudley said at the time. “You have to be realistic. You might have a player in place, but he doesn’t fit where you have him right now. Maybe he’s not at his level.”

After that evaluation has been made, a GM adds and subtracts, fine-tuning the puzzle, he said.

“You start putting the pieces in place, finding players that can play on (elite) teams. But if you don’t have an appropriate amount of time, you’re in trouble.”

Those words seem to mesh with the comments from Senators assistant GM Tim Murray after re-signing Regin on Friday.

“He has had a tough two years with injuries, but when he was not injured, he was certainly a top-nine forward, with good offensive skills,” Murray said.

The Senators now see him fitting in somewhere on their top three lines. At training camp last season, the Senators were pushing Regin to fill the second line vacancy left by the trades of Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly.

Perhaps Regin, who has battled inconsistency as well as injuries, is more suitable on a third line. With Zack Smith and Jim O’Brien appearing destined to hold down the third- and fourth-line centre spots, maybe Regin ends up as a winger in the long run.

Or perhaps there’s a potential for a trade in here somewhere. Trade talk is always welcome during the idle summer months.
One thing is for sure: The more puzzle pieces a team has, the more fun it is to watch.

SATURDAY NIGHT AND NO HOCKEY? The NHL’s increased visibility on NBC is definitely good news for the development of the game in the United States, but it will be interesting to see the CBC’s ratings from Saturday afternoon’s Game 4 between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. I, for one, make no apologies for not watching a single minute of the game live. The sun was out and it finally felt like summer.

Follow Ken Warren on Twitter: @Citizenkwarren

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