Wrapping up Ottawa’s 2013-14 Season

It’s time to clean up the blood and entrails of the Sens 2013-14 season, the one Rob Vollman was convinced would result in a President’s Trophy for the Sens.  Looking back Daniel Alfredsson‘s decision to jump ship for Detroit has paid off, while the Sens inability to release dead weight like Chris Neil and Chris Phillips remains as inexplicable as management trading for Matt Kassian last year (hard to believe he played 33 games this year).

Ottawa finished 37-31-14, putting them fifth in their division, eleventh in the conference, and twenty-first in the league.  The Sens won’t benefit from a top-ten pick as they peddled it for Bobby Ryan over the summer and as the 2014 draft class is considered weak, I’m not sure how much they’ll profit from their other selections.  Assistant GM Tim Murray was allowed to jump ship to Buffalo mid-season, which was good for Tim, but a rather odd move for the organisation given how integral he was for their prospects and system.  This was a season that saw Mika Zibanejad demoted to Binghamton for no particular reason while penny-pinching ownership buried Jim O’Brien‘s one-way contract in the minors (if the guy is such a disturbance loan him to Europe or another AHL team–Binghamton was an odd choice).

Reports that Jason Spezza will be moved seem to have a solid basis and whatever the merits of that decision (assuming they find a dance partner), I can’t help but look at his price tag and wonder how much the motivation to move him is attached to it.  For me, a player with chronic back problems is always an incident away from being out of the lineup anyway, so why not make the transition to Kyle Turris fronting the team (there’s no possibility of the Sens getting a #1 center in return for their captain).  Can the Sens keep Ales Hemsky without Spezza?  Time will tell, albeit Hemsky may not want to stick around for the gong show that is Eugene Melnyk.

The logjam on the blueline going into next season should see some player movement (it still boggles my mind that the Sens bothered signing Joe Corvo over the summer).  A lot of fans have latched onto Mark Borowiecki‘s one-way contract as making him being a lock on the team, which I don’t buy (besides the aforementioned O’Brien they also buried Corvo‘s salary in the AHL).  Murray has to make a decision on Eric Gryba (RFA) and there’s no guarantee Cody Ceci is in the lineup, but whatever the roster is I don’t think they’ll move Patrick Wiercioch who was so poorly used this season.

Speaking of reports/rumours, Paul MacLean may be on the hot seat.  It’s an easy out for management to lay the blame for a disappointing season on the coaching staff, but there actually were a lot of perplexing decisions this year (using the Chris‘ on the powerplay; MacLean’s addiction to the Greening-Smith-Neil line; etc).  Did the Sens miss the playoffs because of MacLean?  I don’t think so–ultimately that responsibility is on the roster and (therefore) management, but perhaps it’s time for a fresh voice.

I’ve included stats below (keep in mind plus/minus is meaningless); it’s bemusing that Erik Karlsson can think of his year as subpar–sure he can be better, but a middling year from EK is better than virtually every other defenseman.  Milan Michalek coming off the books is good–Mr. Glass is a good player, but the years have not been kind to him.  Of the young forwards who spent time in the NHL (Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Stephane Da Costa, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Derek Grant) it looks like Stone is most likely to make the jump next season.  I think Ottawa keeps Hoffman (he’s an RFA), but I can’t figure out if he’s Ryan Shannon or something more.  There’s a lot of talk about Curtis Lazar making the jump directly to the NHL (he can’t play in the AHL), but with a young player I take a wait and see attitude.

A little more generally, this year we saw analytics triumphantly predict Toronto’s failure, allowing older hack journalists (Steve Simmons, Damien Cox, etc) to embarrass themselves the entire season by mocking them.  Corsi, Fenwick, and all the other tools are in place are allowing fans (if not management) to understand what a player like Erik Condra accomplishes, along with exploding various long-held myths (like hits having any importance at all).

 

1. Erik Karlsson (D) 82 20 54 74 36 -15 |
2. Jason Spezza (F) 75 23 43 66 46 -26 |
3. Kyle Turris (F) 82 26 31 57 39 22 |
4. Clarke MacArthur (F) 79 24 32 56 78 12 |
5. Bobby Ryan (F) 70 23 25 48 45 7 |
6. Milan Michálek (F) 82 17 22 39 41 -25 |
7. Mika Zibanejad (F) 69 16 17 33 18 -15 |
8. Marc Methot (D) 75 6 17 23 28 0 |
9. Patrick Wiercioch (D) 53 4 19 23 20 -1 |
10. Zack Smith (F) 82 13 9 22 111 -9 |
.    
11. Cory Conacher (F) 60 4 16 20 34 8 |
12. Colin Greening (F) 76 6 11 17 41 -15 |
13. Ales Hemsky (F) 20 4 13 17 4 -2 |
14. Erik Condra (F) 76 6 10 16 30 0 |
15. Jared Cowen (D) 68 6 9 15 45 0 |
16. Chris Phillips (D) 70 1 14 15 30 -12 |
17. Chris Neil (F) 76 8 6 14 211 -10 |
18. Eric Gryba (D) 57 2 9 11 64 9 |
19. Joe Corvo (D) 25 3 7 10 10 -7 |
20. Cody Ceci (D) 49 3 6 9 14 -5 |
21. Mark Stone (F) 19 4 4 8 4 5 |
.    
22. Mike Hoffman (F) 25 3 3 6 2 -2 |
23. Stéphane Da Costa (F) 12 3 1 4 2 2 |
24. Jean-Gabriel Pageau (F) 28 2 0 2 12 -5 |
25. Matt Kassian (F) 33 1 1 2 63 -1 |
26. Derek Grant (F) 20 0 2 2 4 -3 |
27. Mark Borowiecki (D) 13 1 0 1 48 -2 |
1. Andrew Hammond 1 0.00 1.000 |
2. Nathan Lawson 1 10.00 .800 |
3. Craig Anderson 53 3.00 .911 |
4. Robin Lehner 36 3.06 .913 |

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: April 9th

Both Ottawa and the Leafs were officially eliminated last night, a fact Sens fans have accepted for a while, but Leafs fans are having difficult times coming to terms with.  It’s difficult to encapsulate how badly Ottawa’s management misjudged their roster this year and I’m sure even in a bad draft Bryan Murray wishes he had his pick back.  This doesn’t mean the Sens will be as bad next year, but it should temper expectations.

Manny looks at the reasons why the Sens failed to make the playoffs this year and points to the following: goaltending, possession, penalties, and player usage.  Three of those four are heavily influenced by coaching (Travis Yost also looks at shot blocking, which also falls under this umbrella), so Paul MacLean should be under the microscope.  Will he be fired?  Some are making the financial argument that they won’t want to pay MacLean not to coach (of course, if he’s hired elsewhere that obligation disappears), but a successful team is far more valuable to ownership and if they believe that can happen with another coach, a change will be made.

Elliotte Friedman explores the futures of Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan with the Sens and Nichols (via the link) would rather both be moved than simply maintain the status quo.  Given the organisations odd obsession with veterans (Neil and Phillips), perhaps the status quo is exactly what we’ll get.  I really don’t know what to want from the situation, althoughSpezza is disposable given his chronic back problems.

The Sens are trying to trade the rights of Francois Brassard (6-166/12), although it’s hard to imagine what they would get back if they can find a dance partner (not much presumably).  Brassard is a victim of numbers, behind the just-signed Chris Driedger and 2013 draft pick Marcus Hogberg.

Peter Morrow looks at the Sens Swedish and NCAA prospects where he includes a little scouting information, but not where he got it from (it isn’t noted, so I’d take it with a grain of salt).

Speaking of prospects, here’s an update (signed players are in italics):

SHL
Mikael Wikstrand (Frolunda, D) 20-4-7-11

NCAA
Ryan Dzingel (Ohio, C) 37-22-24-46
Max McCormick (Ohio, LW) 37-11-24-35
Robert Baillargeon (BU, C) 35-10-17-27
Quentin Shore (Denver, C) 33-7-18-25
Chris Leblanc (Merrimack, RW) 23-6-6-12

CHL
Curtis Lazar (Edmonton, C) 58-41-35-76
Vincent Dunn (Gatineau, LW) 50-31-20-51
Ben Harpur (Guelph, D) 67-3-13-16
Jarrod Maidens (injured)
Chris Driedger (Calgary, G) 28-14-7 2.64 .918
Francois Brassard (Quebec, G) 28-12-9 2.95 .909

Allsvenskan
Marcus Hogberg (Mora, G) 5-8-0 2.93 .892

SuperElit
Tobias Lindberg (Djurgardens, RW) 21-6-5-11

USPHL
Tim Boyle (South Shore Kings, D) 35-4-15-19

I’ve never understood all the hate that Alexander Ovechkin gets from traditional media, so I was quite happy when he hit the 50-goal plateau last night (well ahead of Corey Perry which makes him a lock to receive the Rocket Richard trophy). Speaking of production, the NHL’s limp attempts to increase scoring continue to fail as only Sidney Crosby will finish the season with over 100-points.  Fans like points–if defensive hockey sold then the dead puck era would have resulted in remarkable growth.  I don’t expect this to change, but it’s worth noting.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: April 4th

As the Sens season winds down to its disappointing conclusion the organisation has signed a few players to ELC–one expected, one hoped for, and 0ne off the radar:

Goaltender Chris Driedger (3-76/12) has wrapped up his CHL career in Calgary and has signed an ATO to play for Elmira in the ECHL.  Driedger established a career high in save percentage (.918, slightly above the .915 from last year) and has a good chance to back up Andrew Hammond in Binghamton next season if (as I suspect) the oft-injured Nathan Lawson goes elsewhere.  For an extensive scouting report on the goaltender go here.

The hoped-for signee is Ryan Dzingel (7-204/11); the seventh round pick had another year of NCAA eligibility, but choose to turn pro with an ATO with Binghamton where he’s expected to play.  There was nothing left for Dzingel to prove at Ohio State as his numbers have improved in every respect each year (37-22-24-46 this year, leading his team in scoring).  Here‘s a scouting report on him.

The surprising player is collegiate free agent Garrett Thompson; the 24-year old Ferris State grad finished his senior year tied for the lead in scoring (43-16-16-32) and has signed an ATO in Binghamton and is expected to play.  Thompson was not ranked when he was draft eligible nor was he heavily recruited.  Described as a hard-working, meat and potatoes player he doesn’t look like an NHL-caliber player on the surface, but the team wouldn’t sign him to an ELC if they didn’t believe he had that potential, so we’ll have to see what happens.

The addition of two more forwards adds to the glut in Binghamton and we have to assume more roster moves are planned (beyond trading away Andre Petersson and the rights to Jeff Costello), even if purely through attrition (ie, letting contracts expire at season’s end).  The Sens also need to make decisions on Francois Brassard and Jarrod Maidens or lose their rights to them (both were 2012 draft picks)–I suspect neither will be signed (I consider signing Mikael Wikstrand a foregone conclusion).

As for the NHL team itself, rumours have surfaced that Paul MacLean’s head might be on the block.  MacLean’s player usage, assuming it’s completely his decision, is so perplexing even Travis Yost has no idea what he’s doing:

Chris Phillips, Chris Neil, Zack Smith — are regularly being sent over the boards, rewarded with ice-time when things maybe aren’t going in the team’s favor. Why? I have no discernible idea. I hear often how these guys give an “honest shift”, playing hard through and after the whistles. That’s fantastic. They’re killed in the areas where hockey matters, energy or not, and they’ve certainly contributed adversely to this team’s position in the standings more than a lot of the other guys. I have no idea why so much time this season has been spent sending messages and banishing productive players and rewarding guys who just get obliterated against the competition, but that’s more or less what’s occurred here.

He’s not the only one confused.  If MacLean stays presumably this puzzling player usage will continue, but if Bryan Murray shares his coaches philosophy I’m not sure a new voice will be any different.  Time will tell.

A little more Binghamton news: the always disappointing Ben Blood has been sent down to Elmira.  There’s no reason to expect Ottawa to retain his rights once the season (and his ELC) is over.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

A Brief Thought on the Sens Player Usage

I’ve long been puzzled by the love affair the Sens organisation has had with Chris Phillips and Chris Neil (neither of whom I would have resigned–either recently or previously).  The latter fits the old school belief that a team needs tough guys, but I have no idea what Phillips has done in the post-05 lockout that warrants anything other than migraine-levels of frustration.  The same love for Neil seems to blanket poor Colin Greening, who (despite the evidence in analytics) I want to think can be a better player.  Why do these players receive so much ice time (19:42 for Phillips boggles the mind)?  The veterans never get scratched no matter how poorly they perform on the ice–what about accountability?  I really can’t explain it.  The love affair has lasted through different GM’s and a large rotation of coaches.  There are still NHL coaches who buy into “toughness” being relevant, which helps explain Neil, but I keep hoping someone out there will find some concrete reason why the Big Rig hits the ice with regularity.  Sure, Jared Cowen‘s usage also raises eyebrows, but he’s a young player and has had to endure the wrath of the fans all season (something that seems to have affected him), so I don’t see it as quite the same thing.  All I ever hear about #4 is leadership, but surely that’s not enough (and frankly, what leadership?).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: March 17th

St. Patrick’s Day seems like an opportune time to add some thoughts as the Sens season goes into the drink (Varada see’s no reason for hysteria, as the Sens are exactly the bubble team he predicted–I wince a bit when he says “most” people felt that way–Rob Vollman and others were very high on the team).  The off-season is less than a month away (April 14th kids, mark your calendars), and I think obituaries should be held until then.  Regardless, since I last chimed in on the season the Sens have gone 1-3-2 and seen their tiny playoff odds slip to almost non-existent.  It turns out those November musings that the season was over (referenced here) were spot on.  As Nichols points out (props on being paid for your opinion amigo–it’s well deserved), the Sens aren’t that different a team from this year to last, but they aren’t receiving the miracle goaltending of the lockout shortened campaign.  However, I’m not a fan of this thought:

if Bryan Murray can add better two-way forwards

I think Sens have an over abundance of forwards to whom that appellation is given (albeit not by Nichols), eg the lamentable Greening-Smith-Neil (Manny does his best to understand Paul MacLean’s obsession with the trio, concluding its their zone entries that he loves so much).  I actually like the Sens defence, minus the re-signed Chris Phillips (if he’s good in the room, leave him in the room) and Jared Cowen–at least the latter has hope to improve (Manny does a good job describing Eric Gryba, “he’s a serviceable bottom-pairing defenseman”).

-Any move that Don Brennan doesn’t like is going to be a good one, but no one needs his idiotic opinion to realise the acquisition of Ales Hemsky at the deadline was a good move and I hope he isn’t just a rental.   I wasn’t a fan of trading Andre Petersson, but this is the final year of his ELC and clearly the organisation thinks it has more than enough forward prospects to let him go (the much less interesting NCAA prospect Jeff Costello was also jettisoned).  Speaking of undersized forwards, Corey Conacher was gifted to Bryan’s nephew Tim via the waiver wire–while he didn’t score much in Ottawa, his underlying metrics were very good and it wouldn’t surprise me if he blossomed as a Sabre.  Dumping Joe Corvo into the AHL made sense–his addition over the summer seemed pointless to me at the time and it was a mercy for him and the team to move on.

-Manny gives us some analytics on scoring chances and after a lengthy exploration concludes:

Possession is the component that drives even-strength scoring. The results herein further enforce the notion that goal-based statistics do not provide adequate assessments of players’ overall performances, but rather the summation of innumerable factors in constant flux. Though possession drives scoring opportunities and in turn, those opportunities goals, too much becomes lost in translation at the individual level. Given what we know, it’s best to rely on bulk shot-based metrics to provide statistical insight into how a player contributes towards out-scoring opponents.

I recommend reading the entire article.

-Amelia L does a great job looking at the disappointing effort Sportsnet is putting into its planned national broadcast coverage of the NHL (Fox News style–aim for old white men as your audience).  My favourite bit:

Analysts like Friedman have tried to drag HNIC into the 21st century on issues as diverse as player safety and statistical analysis but the show as a whole remains firmly lodged in the past. Too often Friedman, who embraces social media and hockey’s growing online voices, is shouted down by PJ Stock and Glenn Healy, the current embodiments of hockey’s archaic “code” culture. Too often the loudest panelist wins on HNIC, regardless of how well his argument has been articulated.

This is one of the many reasons I don’t watch HNIC unless I have no choice.

-Jared Crozier offers us this:

I have laid the blame on the official before, and will probably do so again, so this might be a little hyppocritcal. But at some point the Senators fan base has to look at the team they support and see that it is more their doing than the guys in stripes.

Put aside Jared’s anger at people blaming officials when he plans on blaming them in the future and go more to the point: simply accept NHL officiating is bad and your lives will be more peaceful.

-Jeremy Milks gets self-reflective:

For some reason I’ve gotten that reputation [of liking tough guys over skilled guys] in the Sens small but fiercely opinionated online community and maybe that’s my own fault. … Even if I’m wrong sometimes, I take satisfaction in defending a player that gets almost unanimous scorn. … I don’t want to turn this into another stats argument and point to a bunch of numbers. We all know they’re good.

I like that Jeremy wants to defend underdogs and not simply bow to the opinion of the majority (albeit his opinions are the majority in print/radio/TV media), but I do find his disinclination to deal with stats amusing.  He has to know that stats are a way of describing and analysing the events he’s seeing, so they (should) provide insight rather than get in the way of discussion.

-Jeff Ulmer continues to provide great coverage of Binghamton’s season (the B-Sens finally getting out of their funk as they reclaimed first place in the East); former beat reporter PuckJoy is also doing a great job on Twitter doing the same.

-Peter Morrow offers us his top-20 prospect list; there’s no real analysis (or rationale for how players are compared–is it fulfilling their potential, against each other’s potential, how ready they are, or what?), but for list-lovers everywhere it creates room for debate and discussion.

-I didn’t cite Travis Yost here, but do yourself a favour and follow him (TravisHeHateMe)

-A very different flavour, but PuckPossessed is also someone to watch on your Twitter dial

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Ottawa at the 62-Game Mark

Ottawa has reached the 62-game mark (I’m two games off my usual twenty-game snapshot, but for the sake of simplicity I’ve gone with how things are now), so it’s time to take stock and see how the team has performed (for the previous segment go here).  The Sens went 12-6-4, which puts them tied for 11th in the conference (one up from 22 games ago) and they remain 6th in the division.  Their 174 goals for has fallen to tied for 7th in the conference, while their 199 goals against has improved to 15th (second worst).  Ottawa has the 15th best powerplay (18.9%), which is one place lower, albeit their percentage is slightly higher, while their penalty killing (80.6%) is 23rd (improving one place and by almost a full percentage point).  Their record is much better than in their previous segment of games, but they’ve barely moved at all in the standings (as predicted months ago).

Player’s stats (AHL=games in the AHL):

Erik Karlsson 22-6-13-19 -6
Jason Spezza 18-4-12-16 -12
Clarke MacArthur 22-8-8-16 -5
Kyle Turris 22-10-5-15 +1
Cory Conacher 22-1-10-11 +3
Bobby Ryan 22-5-5-10 Even
Mika Zibanejad 22-3-7-10 -4
Milan Michalek 22-4-5-9 -4
Marc Methot 20-2-5-7 +8
Colin Greening 22-4-3-7 -6
Zack Smith 22-3-3-6 -3
Chris Neil 16-3-3-6 -5
Erik Condra 22-2-4-6 +2
Jared Cowen 21-0-6-6 -8
Cody Ceci 22-1-4-5 +1
Eric Gryba 17-0-5-5 -4
Stephane Da Costa 8-3-1-4 +1 [AHL 19-4-13-17]
Patrick Wiercioch 13-2-1-3 Even
Mark Stone 7-1-1-2 -1 [AHL 9-5-7-12]
Chris Phillips 13-0-1-1 -6
Matt Kassian 9-0-1-1 Even
Joe Corvo 4-0-1-1 -3
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 6-0-0-0 Even [AHL 18-4-11-15]
Mike Hoffman 2-0-0-0 +1 [AHL 24-16-19-35]

Craig Anderson 10-3-4 3.06 .908
Robin Lehner 2-3-0 3.05 .912
(Andrew Hammond played part of a game, but other than allowing no goals there’s not much to say)

It’s an interesting phenomena to look at a team that remained a collective minus that won the majority of its games (granted, without the loser point things wouldn’t be so impressive, just 12-10).  Karlsson continues to lead the way (including the most assists), with MacArthur continuing his production (most goals) and Turris recovering from a minor slump during the previous twenty games; speaking of slumps, Ryan has struggled offensively, while Conacher has been much more productive than the first half of the season; Michalek bumped his meagre production from awful to middling, but is still a piece that needs moving (assuming anyone will take him); Corvo and Kassian remain on the roster for inexplicable reasons; Gryba got out of the MacLean dog house while Wiercioch went back into it–either Cowen or Phillips belongs there, but the coaching staff has a soft spot for both; Stone and Da Costa played well in limited action.  Spezza was the worst minus (12) on the team, while Methot the best plus (8).  Lehner‘s infrequent appearances have hurt his performances, while Anderson has been okay in net, but his underlying numbers remain below league averages.

The trade rumours still swirl and I’m less excited by who might be coming in (Chris Stewart is name floating around right now) than who might go out.  The Sens have a significant amount of dead weight on their roster that I’d like them see shed for assets (if nothing else).  Bryan Murray’s deadline track record is awful, but we can hope the days of acquiring Martin Lapointe or Mike Commodore are over.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Binghamton at the 50-Game Mark

The Binghamton Senators have passed the 50-game mark and it’s time to take stock and see how the team and the players are performing.  The B-Sens went 5-5-0, keeping them 1st in their division and 3rd in the conference (for their previous ten games go here).  The team’s 191 goals remain 1st in the conference, while their 153 goals has improved to 12th.

Player’s stats (NHL=games in the NHL, ECHL=games in the ECHL):

Mike Hoffman 10-9-9-18 +3
Shane Prince 10-8-5-13 +7
Andre Petersson
9-1-11-12 +12
Jim O’Brien
10-5-5-10 +8
Mark Stone
6-6-3-9 +4
Cole Schneider 10-3-5-8 +2
Jean-Gabriel Pageau
10-2-6-8 +4
Chris Wideman 10-1-7-8 +10
Matt Puempel 8-4-2-6 Even
Corey Cowick 10-3-3-6 +5
David Dziurzynski 9-2-3-5 -1
Daniel New
10-0-5-5 +1
Stephane Da Costa
3-1-3-4 +3 [NHL 8-3-1-4 +1]
Buddy Robinson
9-1-2-3 Even
Mark Borowiecki
10-0-2-2 +5
Wacey Hamilton
9-0-2-2 -3
Michael Sdao
6-2-0-2 +3
Derek Grant
3-2-0-2 +1
Danny Hobbs
2-1-1-2 +3 [ECHL 7-4-2-6 Even]
Fredrik Claesson 10-0-1-1 +3
Darren Kramer 6-0-1-1 Even
Tyler Eckford 5-0-1-1 +3
Ben Blood 9-0-0-0 +6
Ludwig Karlsson [ECHL 12-4-3-7 +1]
Jakub Culek
[ECHL 12-2-4-6 +7]
Troy Rutkowski [ECHL 13-0-3-3 -2]

Andrew Hammond 4-3-0 2.73 .901
Nathan Lawson 1-1 2.68 .917
Scott Greenham 1-0-0 3.00 .917

It was a fantastic stretch for Hoffman, who earned an AHL all-star selection.  This is the kind of dominance expected of him at this level when he arrived, but only in his fourth year has he final reached it.  Prince and the rest of the offence also exploded, so it’s easier to focus on players not producing, amounting to two forwards: Robinson (who has truly fallen off since the start of the season) and Hamilton (who just doesn’t put up numbers at this level).  New continues to play regularly, ahead of actual Sens prospects, and it’s interesting that Blood (who offers nothing offensively) played more than Sdao who has a little more punch (in more than one way) than he does.  Petersson lead the team as a plus, while Hamilton was the worst of only two minuses.  Hammond‘s numbers continue to improve (including earning his first shutout) and Greenham won his first start with the B-Sens; Lawson‘s problems in staying healthy remain.  In the ECHL, Culek and Karlsson‘s production remains erratic, while Rutkowski seems a bit behind where they are in his development (certainly his offensive talent has yet to show itself).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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