If the Ottawa Senators are to miraculously turn this ship around this season, they’re going to need all hands on deck. Unfortunately for them, the injury bug is having none of it.
Their top centre, Josh Norris, is out for at least another month, probably longer, with that shoulder injury. Artem Zub, one of their top three defencemen,will miss a month with a fractured jaw. And defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker had played his way onto the NHL roster, averaging almost 18 minutes a night in his last six games before suffering a high ankle sprain.
And now Mathieu Joseph, their third line, swiss-army-knife-winger joins them on the injury list. He’ll be out two weeks with a lower body injury, suffered in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss against the Dallas Stars. The club announced Friday he’s expected miss two weeks with a lower-body injury.
When Senators fans start talking about Joseph, it isn’t very long before the Nick Paul comparisons begin. Joseph was acquired straight up from Tampa Bay last March for the very popular Nick Paul. As if that weren’t enough to link the two, Joseph chose to immediately wear Paul’s number 21 jersey.
Both players immediately paid dividends for their new clubs. Both were responsible, bottom six players; both killed penalties extremely well; and both could be counted on to be good 20 point players.
But because of injury, Joseph was needed for top 6 duty in Ottawa almost right away. He more than delivered, posting 12 points in his first 11 games here. Paul headed south to shine in Tampa, also getting big important minutes, en route to an Eastern Conference title. He even threw the final dagger at the Leafs, scoring both goals in a 2-1, Game 7 victory in round one.
I once asked Hall of Famer Cam Neely why he was able to double his stats in one season, when he was traded from Vancouver to Boston in 1986. His answer was simple: “Ice time.”
Neither of these players are Cam Neely, of course, but they both helped drive home his point.
This season, Tampa continues to give Paul ice time and top linemates and he’s responded with 19 points in 26 games. That includes 12 goals so far. No Ottawa Senator has more.
As for Joseph, he’s been exclusively a third line player and the stats show it, with 9 points in his first 25 games.
Joseph signed a four-year, $11.8-million contract with the Senators in the off-season. Paul signed a seven year deal worth $22 million and his average annual salary is $3.15 million.
Breaking it down further, Paul only makes $200 thousand more per season than Joseph.
The jury is still out on this deal, tut Paul certainly appears to have the edge right now, on pace for 60 points, compared to Joseph’s 29. But you can be sure that if Joseph were on a line with future hall of famers Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, like Paul is right now, things would look quite different.
By Steve Warne