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All statistics courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com
The Ottawa Senators have now solidified their top 6 forward core with the addition of Vladimir Tarasenko. The line of Stutzle, Giroux, and Tkachuk was very effective last season. Although it is no secret that the second line of DeBrincat, Pinto, and Batherson was very lackluster. So, with the top 6 being assembled as it has, should the Sens break up last year’s first line to find chemistry? In this article, I will be breaking down some different line combinations for the top 6. I will be using statistics, the eye test, and play styles to break down what I think would be the most effective top 6 lineup.
Players Involved In The Sens Top 6
Assuming that everybody is healthy and ready to go for the season, the top 6 personnel should be clear. I believe that it will consist of Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Claude Giroux, Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, and Vladimir Tarasenko. Some fans may argue that a more balanced approach could be taken and someone like Kubalik/Greig could play in the top 6, but I expect this group of players to take those spots.
First Line A: LW- Brady Tkachuk, C- Tim Stutzle, RW- Drake Batherson
The first lineup combination that I would like to see the Sens roll out is Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, and Drake Batherson. The Sens already know that the duo of Stutzle and Tkachuk has worked extremely well, which is backed up by stats as well. Since the start of the 2021/2022 season, the duo of Stutzle and Tkachuk have put up elite numbers. The two have a Corsi for percentage of 55.38%, an expected goals for percentage of 55.26% and a high danger chances for/against of 56.64%.
All of these numbers are very promising, and they all drop off when the two players are split apart from each other. As a duo, I would be very hesitant to move Tkachuk off of Stützle’s wing.
When you throw Batherson on the right side of these two players, the numbers stay impressive. This line has a Corsi for percentage of 55.68%, an expected goals percentage of 54.90%, and a high danger chances for/against percentage of 56.36%. All of these numbers tell us that on average, this line is going to control play and create more scoring chances than the lines they are up against.
The line also makes sense on paper because you have three players whose games complement each other. Stutzle and Batherson have the offensive skillset and hands to keep up with each other in the offensive zone. Then you have Brady Tkachuk who can serve as the physical leader and finisher of plays. It is also beneficial to have Brady Tkachuk on Tim Stutzle’s wing so that he can help in the faceoff dot. Last season, Stutzle had a faceoff percentage of 41% while Tkachuk had a percentage of 48%.
First Line B: LW- Brady Tkachuk, C- Tim Stutzle, RW- Vladimir Tarasenko
This is the second first-line option that I would like to see the Sens experiment with. As discussed before, we already know how elite the duo of Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle has become. But the big question is how they may perform with Vladimir Tarasenko. Since the players have not spent any time together, we don’t know how their chemistry will unfold. Nor do we have access to line-specific advanced statistics as we do with the duo and Batherson.
Tarasenko is a player that is known for being a finisher to plays. In theory, this should work very well with the duo of Tkachuk and Stutzle as neither player is known as a pure goal scorer. Of course, both guys can fill the net, but their game does not revolve around doing so. I would be very intrigued to see how this line could perform together in a small sample size, although the numbers speak for themselves with the Tkachuk, Stutzle, and Batherson line.
The idea of Tim Stutzle setting up Tarasenko is very exciting and with Brady Tkachuk cleaning up out front the trio could fill the stat sheet.
Second Line A: LW- Claude Giroux, C- Josh Norris, RW- Vladimir Tarasenko
The first version of the second line to discuss is Norris with Giroux and Tarasenko. This is a wildcard line in the sense that all three of the players have spent little to no time with each other. The duo of Norris and Giroux played a total of 8 games together (87 minutes) last season, but the numbers in those games were quite promising. Norris and Giroux had a 56.28 Corsi %, an expected goals for percentage of 57.95%, and a high danger chances for/against of 65%.
While the sample size is very small, the numbers are truly elite. Factor in that Giroux is primarily a playmaker while Norris is a shoot-first centre and the pairing makes even more sense. Also, as was discussed with Stutzle and Tkachuk is that Giroux can help Norris in the faceoff dot as he adjusts back to the NHL faceoff level. As I am sure fans remember, Norris injured his shoulder on a faceoff, just like Shane Pinto. It could be beneficial to have an additional faceoff guy on the line.
As for Tarasenko, he plays a similar game to Norris as both guys are pure finishers. While Norris has a much more complete game, both guy’s bread and butter is to fill the net. For this line to work, Giroux would likely be trying to find either guy open to finish a play. This may not sound ideal, but I believe the players are skilled enough to make it work.
Also important to note is that Norris plays a complete 200-foot game. This would be very helpful to a player like Tarasenko who has never been known as a defensively sound forward. If Norris approached the game from more of a 2-way style, he could cover for Tarasenko’s deficiencies while also contributing to the score-sheet.
Second Line B: LW- Claude Giroux, C- Josh Norris, RW- Drake Batherson
The final line projection for the top 6 that I will discuss is Norris with Giroux and Batherson. As I just discussed, the duo of Norris and Giroux worked extremely well, albeit with a very small sample size. Since the trio of players only lined up with each other for a total of 34 seconds, I will be looking at each set of the duo’s statistics together.
We already discussed Norris with Giroux, so I will move on to looking at the duo of Norris and Batherson. The line of Tkachuk Norris and Batherson worked very well in their time with each other, although the duo of Batherson and Norris has been relatively concerning from the advanced statistics perspective. Over the last two seasons, the duo of Norris and Batherson has a Corsi for percentage of 48.34%, an expected goals for percentage of 47.39%, and a high danger chances for/against percentage of 48.60%.
These numbers jump off the page for the wrong reasons. Each shows that on average, the duo of Batherson and Norris is being out-chanced by their opponents. Although what is important to note is that from a more basic statistical perspective, the duo scored 27 goals while conceding 17. In reality, they were often able to outscore their opponents regardless of the metrics going against them.
What I fear about this is that the law of big numbers makes these totals bound to even out. It is unsustainable to score at such a high rate and concede as little as they have. When the duo is on the ice, they have been getting a .933 SV% from their netminders which is also unrealistic to depend on.
The other duo to discuss is Giroux and Batherson who played a total of 36 minutes together last season at 5v5. This is another Norris/Giroux situation where we have to look at these numbers with the fact in mind that they come from a very small sample size. The duo of Batherson and Giroux had an impressive Corsi percentage of 54.76%, although their expected goals percentage of 48.79% was not as enticing. The duo also had a high danger chance for/against 41.18%.
This tells us that in a very small sample size, the duo of Batherson and Giroux did not control play to the level fans would like of them. Even though the play styles seem to mesh well, the results for whatever reason did not translate. This could change as a trio, and with more of a sample, but from the limited current information we have it does not look ideal.
How I Would Set Up The Top 6
After looking at all of the data available, my ideal setup of the top 6 would be as follows. The first line would be Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, and Drake Batherson. While the second line would consist of Claude Giroux, Josh Norris, and Vladimir Tarasenko. I believe this lineup gets you the most out of Drake Batherson as a player. His best results by a mile come from playing with Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle.
Until the line of Giroux, Norris, and Tarasenko is proven to not work, I believe in their ability to control play. From the small sample size of Giroux and Norris, the results looked very promising. This is just my opinion, but I believe this is the way to get the most out of the Sens top 6.