Senators News Update (Rookie Camp, Training Camp, Robin Lehner, Brian Lee, Shane Prince, and David Rundblad)

With training camp approaching the amount of stories on the Senators is expanding.  Here are the most interesting ones:

-Sylvain St-Laurent of Le Droit interviewed Robin Lehner (http://www.cyberpresse.ca/le-droit/sports/senateurs-dottawa/201108/30/01-4430226-robin-lehner-ne-cache-pas-son-ambition.php?utm_categorieinterne=trafficdrivers&utm_contenuinterne=cyberpresse_ B9_sports_101983_section_POS1).  There’s not much new in the article other than Lehner mentioning that Tim Murray “came to me 24 hours before my first game to tell me that my turn had come. He told me we would soon see if I had the makings of a star.”   Lehner continues to believe the best thing for his development would be to stay in the NHL.

-Bobby Kelly of The Silver Seven looks at Ottawa’s rookie tournament roster (http://www.silversevensens.com/2011/8/31/2393986/senators-prospects-rookie-camping#storyjump).  He provides a little information on invite Matej Machovsky as well as (I believe) erroneously suggesting the team picked Jordan Fransoo over Craig Schira to attend.  Schira, like Mike Hoffman and others, were excluded both due to the numbers and the fact that he’s attended two prior camps.

-James Gordon of Senators Extra comes to the defence of Brian Lee (senatorsextra.com/main/lee-the-forgotten-man-but-he-deserves-better/), saying “While it seems like Lee has been around forever, he’s still only 24 years old. He stands at 6’3, 208 lbs. with fine speed and possible upside. His cap hit is a very manageable $875,000 for someone who could turn out to be a solid NHL defenceman. Is this the kind of player the Senators want to give up on now?”  I’m not sure there’s any upside left to be explored in Lee, but he can at least play without hurting the team.

-James Mirtle of The Globe & Mail talks about the Swedish movement within the Senators (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/senators-pin-hopes-on-swedish-movement/article2147972/).  Mirtle credits former scout Anders Forsberg for that as well as Bryan Murray.  I’m not sure about the origins of Murray’s Swedish obsession (Mirtle credits it to his days as GM in Detroit, but there’s no similar trend when he was GM in Anaheim).  The primary focus of the article is David Rundblad, with Randy Lee saying “Some people are going to be surprised at his compete level. He’s not that big a guy, but he competes.

-Rob Brodie of the Senators website wrote about training camp (senators.nhl.com/ club/news.htm?id=587464).  It includes an odd quote from Murray “We all know there are certain jobs that are just there. Nobody’s going to take the job (away). But now, with the the direction we’ve gone, we’ve got some decisions to make and these kids aren’t being held back. They feel they have a chance“–is he saying jobs are open or not?  I believe the intention is to say some jobs are open, but not all jobs.  Zibanejad says “I want to give the coaches a hard decision (about whether) to keep me  here or send me back home. Hopefully, I can stay here in  Ottawa.”  Murray also comments on Filatov, “He didn’t have a great (experience) in Columbus’ organization and there were a lot of factors involved. Maybe the first factor was him playing (in the NHL) at 18 years old and the expectations that went with him going sixth overall. They’re huge and they’re out of his control. It probably wasn’t a great fit and he probably has to take some responsibility on why it didn’t work. But we’ve wiped the slate clean here. We’ve told him that we’re going to give him every opportunity to be an important player for us, to play in our six, if he can prove that he belongs there. We’re going to do the right hing and we’re not going to hand him anything. So he’s here now and he’s working out with our veteran guys, and he’s getting a good look at what it takes … to be a good pro. I’m excited to see him (at camp) and hoping for the best.

-Jared Crozier of Senshot has a delightful interview with Shane Prince‘s sister about her brother (http://senshot.com/2011/08/31/prospect-profile-shane-prince-through-the-eyes-of-a-little-sister/).  It includes a brief scouting report at the end of it, with Crozier saying in part “He is a strong skater, good playmaker and possesses an above average shot.  He is not huge, but will get bigger in time.  In his own end he is more than adequate, as you have to be in the 67′s system.

-David Rundblad is blogging for a local Skelleftea newspaper (it is in Swedish): http://norran.se/bloggar/davidrundblad

-The Team 1200 (http://www.facebook.com/TEAM1200) interviewed Mark Stone yesterday (August 30th) and Erik Karlsson today (August 31st)

Ottawa Senators: Rookie Tournament Rosters

The Senators have released their Rookie Tournament roster (senators.nhl.com/ club/news.htm?id=587481&cmpid=rss-News).  The team will play against the rookie teams of Toronto, Chicago, and Pittsburgh in Oshawa.  Here’s the roster (invites are in italics; I’ve put a star next to those on Ottawa’s side who participated last year):

Forwards
Louie Caporusso (3-90 2007, NCAA 41-11-20-31)
Corey Cowick (6-160 2009, AHL 30-1-3-4)*
Jakub Culek (3-76 2010, QMJHL 55-7-15-22)*
Stephane Da Costa (FA, NCAA 33-14-31-45)
Derek Grant (4-119 2008, NCAA 38-8-25-33)
Wacey Hamilton (FA, WHL 67-20-53-73)
Darren Kramer (6-156 2011, WHL 68-7-7-14)
Stefan Noesen (1-21 2011, OHL 68-34-43-77)
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (4-96 2011, QMJHL 67-32-47-79)
Andre Petersson (4-109 2008, SEL 31-8-4-12)
Shane Prince (2-61 2011, OHL 59-25-63-88)
Matt Puempel (1-24 2011, OHL 55-34-33-69)
Mark Stone (6-178 2010, WHL 71-37-69-106)*
Mika Zibanejad (1-6 2011, SEL 26-5-4-9)

Defence
Mark Borowiecki (5-139 2008, NCAA 31-3-8-11)
Jared Cowen (1-9 2009, WHL 58-18-30-48)*
Eric Gryba (3-68 2006, AHL 66-3-4-7)*
Jordan Fransoo (7-186 2011, WHL 63-6-12-18)
Josh Godfrey (2-34 2007 Wsh, ECHL 49-15-12-27)
David Rundblad (1-17 2009 Stl, SEL 55-11-39-50)
Patrick Wiercioch (2-42 2008, AHL 67-4-14-18)*

Goaltenders
Robin Lehner (2-46 2009, AHL 10-8-2 2.70 .912)*
Matej Machovsky (Invite, OHL 7-13-2 2.90 .904)

The Toronto roster (http://mapleleafs.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=585936):

Forwards
Tyler Brenner (FA, NCAA 37-26-15-41)
David Broll (6-152 2011, OHL 65-13-21-34)
Sam Carrick (5-144 2010, OHL 59-16-23-39)
Jerry D’Amigo (6-158 2009, AHL 43-5-10-15)
Jamie Devane (3-68 2009, OHL 63-19-19-38)
Matt Frattin (4-99 2007, NCAA 44-36-24-60)
Mitchell Heard (Invite, OHL 66-19-29-48)
Josh Leivo (3-86 2011, OHL 64-13-17-30)
Greg McKegg (3-62 2010, OHL 66-49-43-92)
Kyle Neuber (7-197 2009 Clb, AHL 15-0-1-1)
Josh Nicholls (7-182 2010, WHL 71-34-53-87)
Sondre Olden (3-79 2010, SuperElit 33-7-15-22)
Brad Ross (2-43 2010, WHL 67-31-38-69)
Kenny Ryan (2-50 2009, OHL 63-22-38-60)

Defence
Jesse Blacker (2-58 2009, OHL 62-10-44-54)
Garrett Clarke (Invite, QMJHL 57-6-23-29)
Dave Cowan (Invite, NCAA 30-1-5-6)
Jake Gardiner (1-17 2008 Ana, NCAA 41-10-31-41)
Stuart Percy (1-25 2011, OHL 64-4-29-33)
Mike Schmidt Mike Schwindt (Invite, OHL 68-0-11-11)
Matt Stanisz (Invite, OHL 61-12-31-43)
Danny Urban (Invite, ACHA 22-14-12-26)

Goaltenders
Mark Owuya (FA, SEL 2.18 .927)
Garret Sparks (Invite, OHL 8-6-1 3.64 .890)

Pittsburgh’s roster (http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=587484):

Forwards
Jessey Astles (Invite, WHL 59-3-3-6)
Brandon DeFazio (FA, NCAA 36-14-12-26)
Stefan Fournier (Invite, QMJHL 67-20-27-47)
Brian Gibbons (FA, NCAA 39-18-33-51)
Tom Kuhnhackl (4-110 2010, OHL 63-39-29-68)
Nick Petersen (4-121 2009, ECHL 40-24-33-57)
Zach Sill (FA, AHL 80-11-19-30)
Ben Street (FA, AHL 36-12-11-23)
Eric Tangradi (2-42 2007 Ana, AHL 42-18-15-32)
Daniil Tarasov (Invite, USHL 57-37-38-75)
Paul Thompson (FA, NCAA 39-28-24-52)
Dominik Uher (5-144 2011, WHL 65-21-39-60)
Kevin Veilleux (2-51 2007, AHL 66-12-24-36)
Ian Watters (Invite, OHL 68-20-22-42)

Defence
Robert Bortuzzo (3-78 2007, AHL 79-4-22-26)
Simon Despres (1-30 2009, QMJHL 47-13-28-41)
Alex Grant (4-118 2007, ECHL 14-3-2-5)
Scott Harrington (2-54 2011, OHL 67-6-16-22)
Reid McNeil (6-170 2010, OHL 62-2-4-6)
Joseph Morrow (1-23 2011, WHL 60-9-40-49)
Joe Rogalski (6-152 2010, OHL 63-7-25-32)
Phillip Samuelsoon (2-61 2009, NCAA 39-4-12-16)
Carl Sneep (2-32 2006, NCAA 42-11-17-28)
Brain Strait (3-65 2006, AHL 75-2-8-10)

Goaltenders
Patrick Killeen (6-180 2008, ECHL 19-16-2 2.87 .901)
Maxime Lagace (Invite, QMJHL 8-4-0 3.59 .884)

Chicago’s roster (http://blackhawks.nhl.com/v2/ext/CHI_RookieTournamentRoster.pdf):

Forwards
Phillip Danault (1-26 2011, QMJHL 64-23-44-67)
Christopher Didomenico (6-164 2007 Tor, ECHL 37-6-19-25)
Rob Flick (4-120 2010, OHL 68-27-30-57)
Byron Froese (4-119 2010, WHL 70-43-38-81)
David Gilbert (7-209 2009, QMJHL 52-28-23-51)
Jimmy Hayes (2-60 2008 Tor, NCAA 39-21-12-33)
Peter LeBlanc (7-186 2006, AHL 57-12-18-30)
Mark McNeill (1-18 2011, WHL 70-32-49-81)
Jeremy Morin (2-45 2009 Atl, AHL 22-8-4-12)
Philippe Paradis (1-27 2009 Car, QMJHL 59-23-30-53)
Ludwig Rensfeldt (2-35 2010, Swe Jr 26-17-19-36)
Brandon Saad (2-43 2011, OHL 59-27-28-55)
Andrew Shaw (5-139 2011, OHL 66-22-32-54)
Paul Zanette (FA, NCAA 35-29-26-55)

Defence
Simon Denis-Pepin (2-61 2006, ECHL 33-3-9-12)
Simon Lalonde (3-68 2008, AHL 73-5-27-32)
Joe Lavin (5-126 2007, NCAA 44-6-11-17)
Neil Manning (Invite, WHL 72-15-36-51)
Dylan Olsen (1-28 2009, AHL 42-0-4-4)
Ryan Stanton (FA, AHL 73-3-14-17)
Ben Youds (FA, NCAA 37-7-14-21)

Goaltenders
Mac Carruth (7-191 2010, WHL 18-7-1 3.08 .913)
Johan Mattsson (7-211 2011, Swe Jr 2.62 .930)

Paul MacLean: A Look at Ottawa’s New Coach

On June 13th Bryan Murray announced the hiring of Paul MacLean as the team’s new coach.  MacLean is Murray’s fourth coach (excluding himself) since becoming GM in 2007.  This is the first coach since Craig Hartsburg (in 2008) who was hired after the usual process of interviews.  Fans and the team have to hope the process has worked.

MacLean was an elite scorer during his NHL career (673 points in 719 games over 10 seasons) before entering the coaching ranks in 1993.  Here’s a brief outline of his performance as a head coach:

1993-94 IHL (Peoria) 51-24-6; lost 1st round
1994-95 IHL (Peoria) 51-19-11; lost 2nd round
1995-96 IHL (Peoria) 39-38-5; lost 2nd round*
1996-97 (Don Hay’s assistant coach in Phoenix)
1997-98 IHL (Kansas) 41-29-12; lost 2nd round
1998-99 IHL (Kansas) 44-31-7; lost 1st round
1999-00 IHL (Kansas) 36-37-9; missed playoffs
2000-01 UHL (Quad City) 55-12-7; Won Colonial Cup
2001-02 UHL (Quad City) 57-15-2; lost 2nd round
2003-11 (Mike Babcock’s assistant coach in Anaheim and Detroit)
* the IHL franchise moved to San Antonio afterward; Mark Reeds was an assistant coach with MacLean for all three seasons (as he will be in Ottawa this year)

Neither the IHL nor UHL exist anymore (they merged with the Central Hockey League (CHL) to form a professional league that’s below the ECHL).  When MacLean coached in the IHL was considered on par with the AHL and was still used as a location for NHL farm systems.  Looking at MacLean’s resume what jumps out to me is: 1) he hasn’t been a head coach in nearly 10 years, 2) he made the playoffs in nearly every season he coached (7 out of 8), 3) he did not enjoy much playoff success.  Needless to say, MacLean wasn’t hired because of the Colonial Cup he won in 2001.

When he was hired Murray talked about the importance of communication and being a winner, “I felt Paul fit the profile (of what the team needed). He’d been a player, been a head coach, been an assistant coach in the National Hockey League. He’s been a winner everywhere he’s been. … I think he brings energy, experience, expertise and people skills, most importantly.” And “He’s got that presence about him of a guy that can take charge” (msn.foxsports.com/ nhl/story/report-ottawa-senators-hire-Paul-MacLean-as-coach-061311).  MacLean himself talked both about communication and his system, “I think it’s important in the NHL today that the coach and the players communicate. Communication with the players is important in empowering them and having them invest in what you’re trying to do and what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s not me against them, it’s us – the Ottawa Senators – against the rest of the league and we have to work together in order to accomplish that goal.” And “I don’t know if we’re going to play the Red Wing way, but we’re going to play a game that’s going to be played with some pace and tempo. You’ve got to play 200 feet, you’ve got to be able to skate, and if you have the puck, you can dictate what’s going on.

Bruce Garrioch talked to a couple of league executives who had this to say: “Paul MacLean deserves the chance.  He’s paid his dues. He’s won at every level. Now, it’s time to find out whether he can coach at this level”, And “He’s won everywhere — including as an assistant. He’s very knowledgeable and he’s very well respected.  He took his time before looking for a head coaching job. He’ll be able to relate to the players. I’m not sure whether he can be the hard guy, but this is probably what they need right now: A teacher and a more patient guy” (www.ottawasun.com/2011/06/13/ report-maclean-new-sens-coach).

My belief is that MacLean was hired primarily because Murray is familiar with him (they worked together in Anaheim) and he admires Detroit’s success in the league.  I don’t know what to expect from MacLean this year; he’s never been an NHL head coach and is long removed from his last coaching gig.  The good thing for both MacLean and the organisation is that there is no pressure to succeed this year, so there’s time for him to find his stride.

Binghamton Senators: Updated Roster and Expectations

Since my earlier article (http://eyeonthesens.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/the-binghamton-senators-roster-changes-and-potential-lineup/) the Senators have re-signed Kaspars Daugavins (Aug 3), lost Lee Sweatt to retirement (Aug 12), and signed three players to AHL contracts (Bobby Raymond, Josh Godfrey, and Jack Downing).  While we can expect a goalie to be signed for Elmira (ECHL), these moves appear to round out the AHL roster.

In my earlier look at Binghamton I mentioned the team had lost 6 of their top-10 scoring forwards, but with Daugavins back in the fold the total is knocked down to 5.  Similarly, the number of goals out of the line up has been reduced to 153 of their 255 goals (60%).  It’s a question mark whether the ECHL blueliners (Raymond and Godfrey) collectively replace Sweatt, but they provide extra depth and mean Craig Schira will be taking a regular shift.  Before I get into the lineup, here’s a reminder of who has departed:

Forwards (9)
Ryan Keller (71-32-19-51) – the UFA signed with the Edmonton Oilers (www.tsn.ca/nhl/ story/?id=370939)
Ryan Potulny (71-21-28-49) – the Sens did not qualify him and he signed with Washington (http://capitals.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=568219)
Erik Condra (55-17-30-47) – he signed a two-year, one-way deal with Ottawa
Roman Wick (70-20-22-42) – although qualified as an RFA, he signed a deal with his former team Kloten of the NLA (http://www.hockeysverige.se/article/12039252/wick-ger-upp-nhl-drommen)
Colin Greening (59-15-25-40) – he signed a three-year, one-way deal with Ottawa
Bobby Butler (47-22-11-33) – he signed a two-year, one-way deal with Ottawa
Cody Bass (58-6-9-15) – the Sens did not qualify him and he signed with Columbus (www.falconsahl.com/index.php?id=1801)
Zack Smith (22-7-5-12) – he signed a two-year, one-way deal with Ottawa
Jason Bailey, RW (43-2-0-2) – the former Ottawa 67 was an RFA who was not qualified; he is currently without a team

Blueliners (5)
Andre Benoit (73-11-44-55) – the UFA signed with Spartak Moscow of the KHL (http://www.spartak.ru/press/news/item6968/)
Derek Smith (71-10-44-54) – the UFA signed with Calgary (flames.nhl.com/club/ news.htm?id=569161)
Geoff Kinrade (78-6-19-25) – although qualified as an RFA, he signed with Plzen of the Czech Elite League (http://www.hcplzen.cz/clanek.asp?id=6075)
David Hale (36-2-4-6) – currently unsigned, the UFA was rumoured to be headed to Europe (http://twitter.com/#!/SunGarrioch for July 6th)
Lee Sweatt (41-5-9-14) – he unexpectedly retired without ever suiting up for Binghamton (twitter.com/#!/NortonSports/ status/102063195795111936)

Goaltenders (2)
Barry Brust (52-29-19-2, 2.53, 0.925) – the UFA signed with the Straubing Tigers of the DEL (www.tigershockey.de/page/news/ article.php?article_file=1310911270.txt)
Mike Brodeur (9-3-5-0, 2.93, 0.903) – the injury-plagued UFA is currently without a team

The additions to the roster:

Forwards (8)
Mark Parrish (56-17-34-51) – the free agent played for the Portland Pirates in Buffalo’s system last year
Stephane Da Costa (NCAA 33-14-31-45) – the college free agent was signed towards the end of last year
Pat Cannone (NCAA 39-14-23-37) – the college free agent was signed towards the end of last year
Derek Grant (NCAA 38-8-25-33) – the 2008 fourth round draft pick left Michigan State after two years to turn pro
Louie Caporusso (NCAA 41-11-20-31) – the 2007 third round draft pick completed his senior year at the University of Michigan
Andre Petersson (SEL 31-8-4-12) – the 2008 fourth round pick was signed after finishing his second full year in the SEL
Wacey Hamilton (WHL 67-20-53-73) – the captain of the Medicine Hat Tigers was signed as a free agent
Jack Downing (NCAA 36-13-5-18) – the big free agent right-winger was signed to an AHL-deal after four years at the University of Vermont

Blueliners (5)
Tim Conboy (70-0-12-12) – the free agent played for the Portland Pirates in Buffalo’s system last year
Jared Cowen (WHL 58-18-30-48) – the 2009 first round pick will play his first pro season
Mark Borowiecki (NCAA 31-3-8-11) – the 2008 fifth round pick left Clarkson a year early to turn pro
Bobby Raymond (ECHL 72-8-26-34) – he was part of Binghamton’s Calder Cup run and was signed to an AHL deal
Josh Godfrey (ECHL 49-15-12-27) – a former second-round pick of the Washington Capitals, he spent the bulk of his three-year ELC in the ECHL; he’s signed to an AHL deal

Goaltenders (1)
Mike McKenna (39-14-20-2, 3.61, 0.886) – the free agent goaltender was signed out of the Devil’s system in Albany

Players returning to the roster:

Forwards (7)
Corey Locke (69-21-65-86) – the reigning AHL MVP returns for the final year of his deal
Jim O’Brien (74-24-32-56) – the 2007 first round pick had a great sophomore campaign and will look to improve on it in the final year of his ELC
Kaspars Daugavins (73-19-35-54) – he enjoyed a fantastic playoff and, after rejecting his ELC, accepted a one-year deal that included a high AHL-salary
Mike Hoffman (74-7-18-25) – the 2009 fifth round pick will look to take a step forward
David Dziurzynski (75-6-14-20) – the 2010 free agent out of the BCHL looks to take another step forward in his sophomore year
Corey Cowick (30-1-3-4) – it was a rookie year to forget for the 2009 sixth rounder
Francis Lessard (36-2-1-3) – the veteran heavyweight will return for another season

Blueliners (3)
Patrick Wiercioch (67-4-14-18) – a rough rookie year for the 2008 second rounder
Craig Schira (67-3-10-13) – the 2009 WHL free agent’s numbers tumbled in his sophomore year
Eric Gryba (66-3-4-7) – Ottawa’s 2006 third round pick was Binghamton’s rookie of the year and is in the final year of his ELC

Goaltenders (1)
Robin Lehner (22-10-8-2, 2.70, 0.912) – the 2009 second rounder will look to build off his incredible playoff run

How players perform in training camp will have a huge impact on all the prospects (I am assuming here that David Rundblad remains in Ottawa while Jared Cowen is sent down), but here are a few reasonable predictions regarding Binghamton’s lineup:
1. Top-six forwards: Locke, DaugavinsO’Brien, and Parrish
2. Top-four blueliners: Wiercioch, Cowen, and Gryba
3. The goaltending situation is obvious: Lehner starts, McKenna backs-up

Of the remaining forwards, Mike Hoffman and Stephane Da Costa are the most likely players to fit into the top-six.  On the blueline, I believe Borowiecki and Conboy will battle it out for the other top-four position.  Given these assumptions, here’s my guess at the starting lineup:

Kaspars Daugavins-Corey Locke-Mark Parrish
Parrish seems like the most logical player to line up on the right side, although I don’t think he’s guaranteed to remain on the top line just because of his experience.
Mike Hoffman-Stephane Da Costa-Jim O’Brien
While I think Hoffman is better at center, given the makeup of the roster I believe he’ll play on the wing.  The team is also short on the right side and there’s no way Da Costa will play there, so I believe O’Brien will slide over.
Derek Grant-David Dziurzynski-Andre Petersson
This line could also have Grant in the middle.  I don’t think Petersson is effective as a fourth-liner and would be helped playing with the big bodies of Dziurzynski and Grant (both of whom are excellent playmakers).
Pat Cannone-Louie Caporusso-Francis Lessard
An interesting mix, as both Cannone and Caporusso bring skill to the table while Lessard adds physicality.  I think it will be tough for Corey Cowick to get into the lineup with all the depth at leftwing (although he’s a more physical option than Cannone), while Wacey Hamilton has more flexibility because he can play center.  I don’t believe Lessard will always be in the lineup, which will allow the scratches to rotate in.  The newly signed Downing remains a potential call-up from Elmira.

Cowen-Gryba
Not a fun combination to play against.  Not the most fleet of foot duo, but particularly in the AHL they should create some havoc.  Both are excellent defensively.
Wiercioch-Borowiecki
While one of them would be playing on his offside here, I’ll give them credit to be able to switch and beat out the veteran Conboy (otherwise I think Borowiecki slides down to the bottom pair).
Conboy-Schira
I’m not sure which is better at playing his weak side, but I believe they make a logical combination (size and toughness paired with skill).  This leaves the AHL-contract blueliners out of the lineup (Raymond and Godfrey).

How the team will perform overall is hard to say given the amount of turnover in the AHL.  The forwards are younger and smaller while the blueline is younger and bigger.  I expect the team will compete for a playoff spot with their fate locked into how their goaltenders perform.  If the organisation can land yet another good ECHL option in goal (like Barry Brust last year or Chris Holt the year before) then I like their chances.

A few related links:
Bobby Butler comments on Robin Lehner‘s growing maturity (July 15th): www.facebook.com/TEAM1200
Tim Murray calls Mark Borowiecki an NHL player (June 28th): www.facebook.com/TEAM1200
Bryan Murray says Mike Hoffman looks like an NHL player: senators.nhl.com/club/ news.htm?id=569478

Early Predictions for Ottawa’s 2011-12 Season

It’s early, but predictions about the upcoming season have started to come out and I thought I’d take a look at the reasoning behind them. [August 30th update: I’ve incorporate Jared Crozier’s new Senshot article.]

The Hockey News predicts Ottawa will finish 15th in the East, saying “After finishing second-last in NHL scoring in 2010-11, it’s clear the Senators have fallen long and hard from their days as a league powerhouse. The team started down the rebuild road and traded away many veterans, but still have Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson to hang their hat on. Ottawa has some tantalizing talent on its way up, namely Erik Karlsson on the blueline, but the future isn’t here yet” (http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/ 41527-The-Hockey-News-201112-NHL-regular-season-predictions-No-8.html).  There isn’t enough analysis here to judge THN’s opinion, but as you will read below the sentiment is a common theme.

The basement destination is also the opinion of Daniel Friedman’s article in The Bleacher Report (bleacherreport.com/articles/761468-if-the-2011-12-nhl-season-began-tomorrow-early-predictions#/articles/761468-if-the-2011-12-nhl-season-began-tomorrow-early-predictions/page/21), which says in part “Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson are still around, but even those two forwards have had their setbacks. Alfredsson’s age is really starting to affect his game, and the Swedish veteran (who turns 39 in December) only managed 31 points in 2010-11. Granted, he missed 28 games last year, but even had he played in those contests, his projected stats wouldn’t even approach the levels we’ve seen him reach for the majority of his NHL career. There’s cause for concern regarding Spezza as well. Despite averaging nearly 80 points between 2005-06 and 2008-09, he’s notched just 57 points and has missed at least 20 games in each of the last two seasons. No doubt, the dip in offensive production could be a byproduct of the lack of surrounding talent, but the injuries and games missed are becoming an issue. Beyond Spezza and Alfredsson, the cupboard is rather bare. Nikita Filatov, who was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets, could prove to be a steal for the Senators if he can produce. The coaching staff and front office might tell you differently, but I think there’s little to no chance he doesn’t make the team out of training camp. Nick Foligno, Peter Regin and Milan Michalek should provide some secondary scoring, but likely too little to make Ottawa a competitive team. Erik Condra had 11 points in 26 games for the Senators last year, and will probably be with the team full-time in 2011-12. The Sens also picked up free agent Zenon Konopka, who will become a fan favorite in Ottawa for his competitive spirit, prowess in the faceoff circle and his willingness to stand up for his fellow teammates. Mika Zibanejad, the team’s top pick in this summer’s draft, will get a shot at the big club during training camp, and perhaps even a nine-game stint in the pros at the start of the regular season, but he’s likely a year or two away. At least things are looking bright on defense. Sergei Gonchar might be a massive disappointment, but youngster Erik Karlsson had 4 points last year, and there are more on the way. It’s not inconceivable to think that Jared Cowen and David Rundblad could make the team. Chris Phillips and Filip Kuba may not be what they once were, but they still give the Sens a veteran presence and some sense of stability. The biggest question mark is between the pipes. Craig Anderson is the front-runner to become the starter, but he’s been inconsistent. Alex Auld and Robin Lehner will compete for the right to serve as Anderson’s backup. Ottawa’s season isn’t looking too bright. Talent-wise, this is definitely the worst team in the conference.

I give Friedman a pass on the Karlsson‘s point total (clearly a typo), but there are problems with his analysis.  He doesn’t address (or doesn’t know) that Alfredsson was playing with his injury all season; Spezza‘s back problems are a problem, but Friedman is blasé about him continuing to average a point per game; his sentiment about Ottawa’s organisational depth is off-base; Condra‘s contract guarantees his presence on the roster; there’s no question that Auld will be the team’s backup.  I think Friedman makes good points about Filatov and Anderson, and his overall prediction is still in line with the general sentiment.

Joining the chorus of the Sens finishing last is Senators Extra (senatorsextra.com/ main/eastern-conference-preview/), saying “The Senators should be better this season than they were last, but the rest of the conference isn’t getting worse. That’s why I see them slipping all the way to the basement. That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world — a top-three draft pick who could step in next season would speed the rebuild along. Could the Senators move up two, three, even four spots? I’d never rule it out. I’ve always been a big fan of Craig Anderson’s game, and we all saw what he did for Colorado a couple of seasons ago.”  There’s not much content to the prediction, so I can’t specifically critique it.

Jared Crozier’s five-part article on how the Sens will do for Senshot (beginning here, http://senshot.com/2011/08/21/part-1-will-the-senators-be-better-than-boston-buffalo-or-carolina/) now has a preface bookending his predictions (senshot.com/2011/08/29/why-the-senators-will-be-better-in-2011-12/).  Briefly, these are his points (which I’ll address as I go through them):

1. The coaching will be better
This remains to be seen.  Paul MacLean hasn’t been a head coach since 2002 and has never run an NHL team.
2. The goaltending will be better
It’s hard to imagine it could be as bad, but let’s not forget Anderson‘s numbers were similar to Elliott‘s when he was traded.
3. The blueline will be better
The team lost only one regular from last year (Chris Campoli); while I do think it will be better, it’s important to remember it hasn’t changed that much.
4. Alfredsson will be healthy
True, but we don’t know exactly how the surgery will effect Alfredsson (has the problem been completely corrected and how will he be effected by the long layoff?).
5. Spezza will be healthy
Keep in mind he’s missed at least 20 games two years in a row because of back problems.
6. They will be buoyed by youthful enthusiasm
This is a little sanguine; the Atlanta Thrashers were buoyed all the way to Winnipeg.
7. The team will be more motivated
I believe professionals are always motivated (for those who listen to The Team 1200, this is something Jason York says repeatedly), but I do agree there will be less pressure on the team this season which usually helps performance
8. The team will have less injury woes
That seems likely, but it can’t be taken for granted.

Crozier’s arguments about an improved team are interesting, but they aren’t directly related to the comparison’s he makes to other teams.  He argues that Ottawa is better than Carolina, Florida, Toronto, the Islanders, and Winnipeg, with a 50-50 shot at being better than Buffalo and New Jersey.  While the article gives a range of potential positions where Ottawa will finish, I simply assumed from his analysis that they will be better than either Buffalo or the Devils and would end in 9th if he is correct.  This is the most optimistic of the early predictions I’ve seen.  In terms of specific’s, Crozier dislikes Carolina’s moves; he believes Florida’s goaltending and lack of top-end talent puts them behind Ottawa; he isn’t a fan of New Jersey’s blueline or aging goaltending; he likes Toronto, but believes their goaltending is a question mark; he doesn’t like Winnipeg’s forward depth.

Jeff Frank of The Ottawa Sun looks at the Northeast division (www.ottawasun.com/ 2011/08/29/burning-northeast-division-questions).  Oddly, Frank spends the least amount of space on the Senators, saying “The Senators will be banking on a number of young guns this season but there are still a few holdovers from the team that reached the 2006-07 Stanley Cup Finals. Injuries and poor play weighed heavily on the Sens last year as Jason Spezza missed 20 games and Daniel Alfredsson played in just 54 with only 31 points. Moreover, defenseman Chris Phillips, who was a plus 36 the year the Senators lost to Anaheim in the Finals, was a minus 35 last year, good for last in the entire NHL. If Ottawa is to avoid a last place finish in the Eastern Conference, all three players must not only remain healthy but improve from dreadful campaigns. BOLD PREDICTION – Nikita Filatov receives top-line minutes and scores 20 goals.”  There’s no doubt the veterans need bounce-back seasons, but his sentiments aren’t really analysis (or even informed opinion; for instance, does Frank think they will have better seasons?).

There are more predictions coming and I’ll continue to examine them as they come in.

Binghamton’s AHL Veterans

Here’s a look at Binghamton’s veterans on two-way contracts.

Corey Locke, C, Contract: 0.550/12 (UFA)
4-113 2003 Mtl (Gainey), 5’9, Shoots L, YOB 1984, Newmarket, Ont
2008-09 AHL 76-25-52-77 60pim
2009-10 AHL 76-31-54-85 44pim
2010-11 AHL 69-21-65-86 42pim

The AHL’s MVP and a two-time Calder Cup winner, assistant captain Corey Locke lead the league in points and assists and is becoming increasingly dominant at the minor league level.  The issue for Locke, besides his size, is his speed.  This summer he’s working out with Zenon Konopka‘s skating coach to try to improve his speed.  There’s a good chance Locke will be called up during the season, but his primary role is in Binghamton and there’s no reason to think he won’t lead them in scoring again this year with 80-85 points.  His old Hockey Futures profile: www.hockeysfuture.com/prospects/corey_locke

Mark Parrish, RW,  Contract: 0.650/12 (UFA)
3-79 1996 Col (Lacroix), 5’11, Shoots R, YOB 1977, Bloomington, MN
2008-09 NHL 44-7-6-13 18pim
2009-10 AHL 56-17-21-38 32pim
2009-10 NHL 16-0-2-2 4pim
2010-11 AHL 56-17-34-51 12pim

Parrish spent 10 years as an NHL-regular before his declining performance landed him in the AHL.  After an indifferent season with Norfolk in 2009-10, Parrish earned himself a contract with a strong year in Portland (finishing 5th in team scoring).  Known for his goal scoring, Parrish helps solidify Binghamton’s weak right side (featuring Andre Petersson and Francis Lessard).  I don’t believe Parrish is a likely call-up.  He has no development left and for a rebuilding team the organisation will want to give younger players NHL experience.  If Parrish stays healthy he should produce 60-65 points.

Francis Lessard, RW,  Contract: 0.550/12 (UFA)
3-80 1997 Car (Rutherford), 6’2, Shoots R, YOB 1979, Montreal, QU
2008-09 58-2-2-4 324pim (27 fights)
2009-10 61-2-2-4 289pim (21 fights)
2010-11 36-2-1-3 187pim (18 fights)
2010-11 24-0-0-0 78pim (4 fights)

A career pugilist, Lessard was able to return to the NHL after a five-year absence due to Ottawa’s roster-cutting.  There’s no question he will spend the year in the AHL, where he will fight and accomplish little else.  He was retained to prevent prospects like Eric Gryba from having to become enforcers.

Tim Conboy, D,  Contract: 0.600/12 (UFA)
7-217 2002 SJ (Lombardi), 6’2, Shoots R, YOB 1982, Farmington, MN
2008-09 AHL 39-1-5-6 127pim (5 fights)
2008-09 NHL 28-0-1-1 37pim (5 fights)
2009-10 AHL37-0-3-3 87pim (5 fights)
2009-10 NHL 12-0-0-0 24pim (4 fights)
2010-11 AHL 70-0-12-12 233pim (21 fights)

A physical, defensive defenceman who is coming off his most productive season since 2005-06, Conboy will help protect the younger players and the crease in Binghamton.  Given the organisation’s blueline depth he has no hope of being a call-up.  To quote an old scouting report on him, “Conboy doesn’t have much offensive upside, as he is content at staying at the redline and wait for the play to come to him, then flatten forwards who get near him. His skating is average, but he is solid positionally, and if players allow themselves to get into the open ice, they can be assured to be flattened in short order” (http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/4717/sharks2002_draft_review/).  A good year would see him putting up 10 points.

Mike McKenna, G, Contract: 0.550/12 (UFA)
6-172 2002 Nsh (Poile), 6’2, Catches R, YOB 1983, St. Louis, MO
2008-09 AHL 24-11-10-1 2.97 GAA .904 SV%
2008-09 NHL 15-4-8-1 3.56 GAA .887 SV%
2009-10 AHL 50-24-17-6 2.47 GAA .921 SV%
2010-11 AHL 39-14-20-2 3.61 GAA .886 SV%

A journeyman goaltender coming off a rough season in Albany, McKenna is playing for his sixth organisation in seven years.  He is no threat to Robin Lehner as the starter and unless the sophomore struggles I’d expect McKenna to get no more than 20-25 starts (winning half his games).

Binghamton Player Profile: Robin Lehner

This is the ninth and final profile on prospects expected to play for the Binghamton Senators.

Robin Lehner, G, Contract: 0.9/13 (RFA)
2-46 2009 (Murray), 6’4, Shoots L, YOB 1991, Goteborg, Swe
2009-10 OHL 27-13-3 2.80 GAA 0.918 SV%
2010-11 AHL 10-8-2 2.70 GAA 0.912 SV%
2010-11 NHL 1-4-0 3.52 GAA 0.888 SV%

Selected by Murray with the pick acquired in the Leclaire-Vermette trade (the only goalie selected by Murray and the first by Ottawa since Ryan Daniels in 2006), Lehner was regarded as the best goaltending prospect in Europe, but was the second picked behind Islander overager Mikko Koskinen (bleacherreport.com/articles/216548-nhl-entry-draft-revealing-the-top-drafted-goaltenders).  He played in the Frolunda system in Sweden, but Senators brass were happy that he was planning to play in the OHL before he was drafted.  He was selected by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and spent a year with them.  Here’s Hockey Futures talent analysis the year he was drafted: “A butterfly goalie with excellent size and good overall skills. Uses his big frame to his advantage and challenges the shooters, although perhaps not with the desired consistency. Rebound control is poor, but overall mobility quite impressive for a big guy. Moves pretty well side to side and is tough to beat down low” (www.hockeysfuture.com/ prospects/robin_lehner).

Lehner took over the starting job at the Sault from the undrafted Bryce O’Hagan and was named both an OHL all-star and the Sault’s MVP.  This past season the intention was for Lehner to be the starter in Binghamton with Mike Brodeur providing support, but the health issues of both Pascal Leclaire and Brodeur played havoc with that plan.  Lehner started the year backing up Brian Elliott and only played one game in the AHL in October.  The following two months were largely spent with Binghamton (12-3-7-1), but Lehner himself was injured for a time.  The Senators loaned him to Sweden to participate in the WJC, but he split time with Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel (Winnipeg fifth-rounder) and lost the semi-final game against Russia in part because of a blown call (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1kmZWCo5CI&feature=related).

When he returned he again needed to backup Elliott and bounced between the NHL and AHL for the next two months.  With the acquisition of Craig Anderson and Curtis McElhinney in February there was no need for Lehner to remain in Ottawa, but he was injured in early March and missed even more time.  When he was finally healthy Barry Brust (signed to an AHL contract and intended to be the team’s ECHL goalie) was well-established as the starter.  Brust was in net for Binghamton in their opening series against Manchester, but Lehner regained the job with the team down 3-1.  He proceeded to go on a ridiculous run (14 wins in 19 starts, 2.10 GAA, .939 SV%), becoming only the fourth teenage goaltender to win a Calder Cup (along with Carey Price, Patrick Roy, and Gordie Bell) and was named the playoff MVP (www.jacketscannon.com/2011/6/8/ 2213043/today-in-the-a-senators-win-calder-cup).

The organisation let Lehner skip this year’s development camp and he returns to training camp as the undisputed starter in Binghamton (backed up by Mike McKenna, www.ottawacitizen.com/sports/Robin+Lehner+learning+curve+over/4917926/story.html).  I believe Lehner will outplay Alex Auld in training camp, but the team wants him to start 50-60 games and that won’t happen at the NHL level.  If Lehner can stay healthy he should improve on last year’s regular season totals and get 30-35 wins.

Lehner interviewed prior to the draft: www.hockeysfuture.com/ articles/11141/2009_prospects_robin_lehner/
Sens scouts interviewed about Lehner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMkg7LSKccY
Lehner interviewed at the 2009 development camp: video.senators.nhl.com/ videocenter/console?id=44936
Highlights from the Leafs/Sens rookie tournament game in 2009: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4Mj3KfkdNU
Fights Ramis Sadikov in the OHL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PX0dYRNxDlE
Interviewed during the Calder Cup run: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okrgPw-X-mU
Bobby Butler comments on Lehner‘s growing maturity (July 15th): www.facebook.com/TEAM1200

With all the prospect profiles completed, in my next article I’ll take a look at the other pieces within the organisation (the AHL veterans like Corey Locke).

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