Admittedly, the Ottawa Senators are in a pretty enviable position. They are winning hockey games — sometimes games they shouldn’t win — and they effectively have a full roster of NHL-capable players. The only foreseeable problem is that some of those players aren’t playing.
With Peter Regin, Jesse Winchester and Filip Kuba all out of the line-up for various injuries, the Ottawa Senators showed that they could still win without their full roster. But in the new NHL, winning isn’t everything, and the business side sometimes creeps a little too far into the operational side of things.
Hence the current dilemma for the Senators. With Jesse Winchester now able to return, something has to give. And it may just come down to dollars and cents.
Jesse Winchester vs. Chris Kelly
Jesse Winchester: 6’1, 215 lbs
Chris Kelly: 6’0, 200 lbs
Marginal differences here, but anyone who has watched the two of them play knows that Jesse Winchester tends to play a bit more physical style game. His two fights against Atlanta last season are also a testament to his willingness to drop the gloves, even though he probably has no business being in a fight.
Jesse Winchester: October 4, 1983
Chris Kelly: November 11, 1980
Tough to say what that three year age difference means. Chris Kelly does have 3 more years of playing experience, but Jesse Winchester is not really a rookie in the traditional sense of the term. I would have to say, given that Kelly is almost 30, while Winchester is still 25, this one goes to Jesse. He’s still got a few more years to grow as a player, whereas Kelly has most likely peaked in his role and ability.
Jesse Winchester 2009 Totals: 76 GP, 3 G, 15 A, 18 Pts
Chris Kelly 2009 Totals: 82 GP, 12 G, 11, A, 23 Pts
Clearly Kelly can put up a few more goals than Winchester does, and a lot of those goals tend to come shorthanded. Kelly had an off year last year, but these were the only comparable numbers I could use, given that Winchester played his first full season with the team last year. Seeing that Winchester took a lot of last season to find his role on the squad (moving from 1st line to 4th line), these numbers are pretty good for Winchester. But give this one to Kelly.
Jesse Winchester Cap Hit: $550,000 until 2010
Chris Kelly Cap Hit: $2.125 million until 2012
From a purely financial standpoint, Winchester takes this one by a considerable margin. Kelly is now playing mostly 4th line minutes, so can you really afford a more than $2 million hit on that line?
Jesse Winchester Shorthanded TOI: 39:20 (TOI last season- 804:39)
Chris Kelly Shorthanded TOI: 253:52 (TOI last season- 1,279:12)
This is clearly where the difference between the two players starts to creep in. Kelly–and it would be hard to argue this–is one of the best shorthanded players in the league. This is easily reflected by the amount of time he plays shorthanded. He averages about 3:05 of shorthanded TOI per game. Winchester, on the other hand, averages about 0:31 of shorthanded TOI per game. Give this one to Kelly.
There is a lot of difficulty in trying to replace a player of Kelly’s calibre when it comes to his penalty killing skills. Whether a player like Winchester can step up and play those big minutes remains to be seen. However, Kelly’s cap hit, and softer play doesn’t exactly warm the coddles of the fans’ hearts. Winchester’s age, cap hit, and style of play are probably more noticeable, and he is certainly a swing player that you don’t want to leave sitting on the bench.
Kelly will likely be the whipping boy for this season, largely because of how much money he makes. However, I don’t think you can slot in a Jesse Winchester to play his role. So while I still want to see Winchester in the line-up, I don’t think you can do it at the expense of Chris Kelly.
Stay classy, Chris Kelly and Jesse Winchester.
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