Cody Ceci’s getting a second chance.
The 25-year-old defenseman never truly found his footing with the Ottawa Senators, and after being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier in the offseason, he’ll look to prove his worth and make the most of his opportunity on a one-year deal. But will he be able to find his footing with his new club?
Ceci’s stint in Ottawa was nothing that he thought it would be. Taken 15th overall by his hometown team in the 2012 NHL Draft, Ceci had high expectations entering the Senators’ organization; as a talented, puck-moving right-hand shot, he was expected to not only contribute offensively but improve the defense corps with strong two-way play.
NHL FREE AGENCY 2019: Leafs reportedly eager to get a deal done with Marner
He joined the NHL ranks rather quickly, just after the 2012-13 lockout season, and a couple of years later he was playing top-4 minutes and averaging over 21 minutes a night.
In turn, he struggled as he was prone to turning over the puck and making questionable decisions and mistakes in his own zone. And in the end, he wasn’t the player Ottawa expected him to be.
His highest total production was 26 points. Through 440 NHL games, he has a plus/minus rating of minus-60 and finished with a minus-22 rating in 2018-19. Not to mention, his possession metrics also leave a lot to be desired.
With pressure weighing down on his shoulders, the Ottawa, Ont. native was quickly written off by fans and critics alike, and as he approached restricted free agency, he and GM Pierre Dorion never got close in extension talks. As a result, he was shipped to Toronto in a six-player trade that featured the likes of Connor Brown and Nikita Zaitsev.
“First off we’d like to thank Cody Ceci for his contributions. He received a lot of abuse.” – Dorion
Talks were never close. @sportingnewsca
– Murray Pam (@Pammerhockey) July 1, 2019
Now, with the chance to start anew, Ceci can either go big or go home.
To make a case for Ceci, Ottawa didn’t have the strongest team. Not only did his defensive partners share equal responsibility, but the forward groups weren’t that strong defensively either. Their 3.67 goals against per game was the worst average in the league, while their penalty kill was ranked 23rd with a 79.2 percent success rate.
So, to contribute his overall performance to his ability as a player alone wouldn’t be accurate.
That’s not to say, though, that he’s off the hook; as mentioned, his giveaways and choices in his own zone led to him being on the ice for several goals against and not being reliable in a rather large role. He also never proved to be a top defenseman – despite his ice time – and was unable to pick up on a lot of different responsibilities.
MORE: Zaitsev discusses trade, looking to turn a new leaf in Ottawa
That leaves more to be seen with a team like Toronto, which features a much stronger forward group and defensive corps, which feature Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin on the top-4 left side as potential partners at some point this season.
Not to mention, he likely won’t be thrown into a big-time role right away and does have lowered expectations, which should help take some of the pressure off as he gets to work with a new system.
The 6-2, 209-pound blueliner can play a strong overall game and possesses a lethal shot and strong vision. He can skate well and is starting to learn how to utilize his size and ability, and if he keeps working, he can likely start to find his stride. Whether or not that’ll happen remains to be seen.
There are still ways to go, but ultimately, he needs to show some progress soon, with time for development running out and just one season to show the Leafs what he can do.