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When the Ottawa Senators signed Guillaume Latendresse to a one-year deal on July 1st, many lauded the move as a low-risk, high-reward type.
After all, Latendresse is just a couple of years removed from a twenty-five goal, twelve assist season with the Minnesota Wild. On a one year deal, Ottawa can experiment with Latendresse on a short and inexpensive contract.
The twenty-five year old's certainly exhibited some signs of top-six talent in both Montreal and Minnesota, but injuries have really slowed his natural progression down as a player. And, with legitimate concern about the quality of his skating, the jury is still out with respect to his long-term future as a National Hockey League player.
See, Latendresse really isn't suited for grind-minutes, and if he's not scoring goals or creating plays in the offensive zone, then his value on the team is pretty minimal. Ottawa signed him as effective insulation for some of the younger wingers (e.g. Silfverberg, Stone, et al.) on the team, but they're going to need him to return to form if they want to return to the post-season next year.
The biggest question right now is where exactly Latendresse slots in with the current lineup. With so many young faces, only a handful of players -- your Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Erik Karlsson types -- are guaranteed roster spots. There's a half-dozen up for grabs, and that certainly includes Latendresse, although one would imagine he's a near-lock to make the team.
Knowing his strengths(that is, goal scoring) and weaknesses(he's a relatively slow skater), what line would he slot in most comfortably on? Should Paul MacLean roll him out with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek on line one, emphasizing a full-attack from his trio of top forwards? Or, would he be better off on Kyle Turris' wing with Daniel Alfredsson, two players who are incredibly defensively competent and could shelter Latendresse in the defensive zone.
Depending on how Paul MacLean utilizes his minutes, and further depending on how some names -- such as Jakob Silfverberg and Colin Greening look -- a third option could be on L3, although playing on the wing of Zack Smith or Peter Regin doesn't appear to be the best of options when it comes to projecting performance.
Latendresse was a necessity on this team due to the question marks on the wings heading into next season, but finding his fit in the lineup could be a bit difficult for head coach Paul MacLean.
If you were calling the shots, where would Latendresse draw in, and why?
Back with more tomorrow.
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