Senators News: October 31st

-It’s a quiet Halloween on the hockey front, with both Elmira and Binghamton idle until Friday.

-Luke Richardson talked about Binghamton’s last two games:

You know what, we played well on (Saturday). We really did. Refereeing never wins you or loses you games but we had some battles in that game. We had some calls that didn’t go our way and we had a lot of calls that were very deserving – they were lazy penalties. They were tripping penalties and neutral zone penalties and we just took too many penalties against a pretty skilled power play. Even though we scored two shorthanded goals within the game, we gave up two power play goals and basically what we do, is tired out our good players and you take other players out of the game. We played very well and we played hard right to the end and with any luck, we were all over them, we just could not put it in the net to tie it at 3-3 and then they got another goal right at the end to make it 4-2. Sunday, we didn’t have a big break but that’s just the way this league is. We played Saturday night and then Sunday afternoon in Manchester and we did not show up right from the start right to the very end. We just weren’t prepared. We weren’t ready to go. We discussed that (with the team) and we watched some video today. We pretty much watched the whole first period today and there was not a lot of good things on there, aside from maybe one good shift.

So the loss to Portland boils down to officiating and some bad luck as far as Richardson is concerned, while the team simply didn’t show up against Manchester (with a nod to travel playing a part in that).  He also talked about:

The players and the coaches work together here, and that’s the only way that you get things done. It can’t be the players thinking that the coaches are wrong or it can’t be the coaches blaming the players; that doesn’t create a great atmosphere and you don’t really accomplish anything. You don’t fix anything and if you have something going well, you cannot keep it going. I think we have a good communication here and I think that’s going to be a positive going through the season.

All for one and one for all isn’t a bad motto.

We’ll iron these out [scoring] – the power play really moved the puck around well in the first couple of weeks. This weekend was our first time where we started to see a little more pressure and we just haven’t handled it well – whether it be our entries or our battles to get it back and outnumber them to get it back move it quick to get (the opposition to) spread out. That’s our focus for the rest of the week is to really work on some offensive explosions on of the line rushing and definitely (work) on our power play. If we can (improve in these areas) and we can stay out of the box a little bit, that helps too because we use our good players on the penalty kill – like Zibanejad and Silfverberg – and those guys, they have got to be tired when they’re out there. You can’t be tired on the power play, that’s when you have to step it up a notch. It doesn’t mean the man advantage means relax and move it around until there’s an opening. It means you engage even harder and faster and you bury another team when they take a penalty. It takes aggression out of them. If we can do that and we can get on track a little bit on the power play, I think it will help our overall offence and help a little bit with the confidence in some of these players that are ‘so-called’ goal scorers. I think everybody can score goals but these guys are more talented offensively than some. If we can get them going on a regular basis, it will really help our offence as a whole.

I have noted the team’s offensive struggles; I think their injuries have played a significant role.

If we can really be disciplined in our positioning and stick it out, we will come ahead in a lot of these games because we will catch teams out of position. So that’s something that we’re definitely trying to work on and trying to mature our young guys faster than other teams, because if we do that, it will give us more chances to score goals and catch other teams off-guard that way. But you know what, the European guys are doing well. I talked to Zibanejad today and he is playing his off-wing a lot of nights here. We talked about the benefits of that; especially with his speed driving in on his backhand to the net and his reach – but there are some disadvantages. We have got to really have to work on his own zone, when he gets pinched off on the wall, it’s hard. When he’s that close to the wall to shoot it on your forehand, when you’re that close to getting an angle to get it up off the glass and out if you have to because he doesn’t have the extra 6’ to 8’ width on his wing to curl back and… And he talked about that today, he said, ‘I really have played my off-wing over the World Juniors and in a smaller rink but that was really the only time. I played in Europe. There was a lot more time (with the puck). It was a different game.’ It was more of a design where (the Europeans) could skate back with (the puck) and hold onto the puck. I know Silfverberg has battled that as well, so in time, they’re getting stronger and they’re getting better. They’re getting more used to their surroundings and I think they’ll just better and better. They are dangerous players, those two especially – Zibanejad and Silfverberg – they are very dangerous players. Anytime that they are on the ice, they create offensive chances and if they don’t, they create a lot of attention so that other people have a little more room out there.

Nichols (the above link) indulges in some analysis about the team’s scoring, but unfortunately suffers from the Silver Seven syndrome in that he hasn’t “watched many of the Binghamton games”–I’m glad he admits it, but I think he’s stretching in some of his assumptions.  Binghamton’s primary problem is that they are weak at center and (as Richardson mentions) not being consistent in their positioning.  Many of the wild passes I’ve seen are made because other players are not where they are supposed to be.  That lack of flow hurts their offense and tends to lead to individualistic play.

-Stu Hackel goes through the current permutations of the NHL cancelling the Winter Classic; that cancellation would dynamic Bruce Dowbiggin theory that the league did not want to give up the financial windfall attached to it.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: October 30th

-There’s been criticism of Ben Bishop after a rocky first start for Binghamton, but I don’t put that down to fan myopia but rather simple boredom–there’s such a small sample size of current hockey action that people have to write about something, so why not crap on a goaltender for one bad game?  It’s a little like the pointless furor over Robin Lehner‘s fight last week.

-Darryl Dobbs tries to write about how young NHL players who play a season in the AHL in a lockout scenario do better the year after.  I have two problems with this: 1) his sample size is intentionally reduced to players where that’s definitively the case, 2) players should improve year after year irrespective of the league they play in.  It’s an interesting topic, although the limited sample size is so small I’m not sure any useful conclusions can be drawn from it.

-Corey Pronman has made yet another list, this time looking at the top-50 players under 23 (you know, why not?).  I’ve already commented on the general uselessness of these kinds of lists, but I think it is worthwhile exploring the value of this one since his name gets thrown around a lot.  Pronman has been drinking the Ken Hitchcock Koolaid as he has Alex Pietrangelo higher than Erik Karlsson.  Sens who make his list: Karlsson (#7) and Cowen (#50).  Here’s a good reason to not take Pronman seriously:

I’ve talked to scouts who see [RyanEllis as a top of the line prospect and a potential star. While I may not share that degree of optimism, due to his tremendous skill, shot, and hockey sense, I think he could be a top player despite is diminutive frame. The negatives for him are that he has not done much in the NHL as of yet, and of course, his size.

So the guys who actually know what they are talking about (scouts) think he could be a star, but list-maker Pronman see’s him as a bit too small and he wasn’t a star in his NHL rookie season, therefore they are wrong.  There’s no consideration for how Nashville handles its young players (slowly brought up and into the lineup) or the players eating up minutes in front of him.  He’s not offering real analysis here, he’s just saying Ellis is short, which is pretty worthless if you want to understand how players are being differentiated.

-Here’s the weekly prospect update:

CHL
Cody Ceci (OHL Ottawa) 14-5-10-15
Matt Puempel (OHL Kitchener) 14-10-4-14
Stefan Noesen (OHL Plymouth) 14-7-3-10
Jordan Fransoo (WHL Victoria) 10-0-3-3
Jakub Culek (QMJHL Rimouski) DNP
Jarrod Maidens (OHL Owen Sound) (injured)
Francois Brassard (QMJHL Quebec) 10-3-0 2.42 .907
Chris Driedger (WHL Calgary) 6-3-2 2.72 .909

Allsvenskan (Swe)
Mikael Wikstrand (Mora) 14-7-3-10

KHL
Nikita Filatov (Salavat) 21-5-6-11

NCAA
Bryce Aneloski (Nebraska-Omaha) – 6-1-4-5
Max McCormick (Ohio) – 6-1-3-4
Ryan Dzingel (Ohio) – 6-2-1-3
Michael Sdao (Princeton) – 2-0-2-2
Jeff Costello (Notre Dame) – 3-1-0-1
Tim Boyle (Union) – 1-0-0-0

USHL
Robbie Baillargeon (Indiana) – 13-2-6-8

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: October 29th; Binghamton 0, Manchester 4

-I watched Binghamton’s 4-0 loss to Manchester, a no-hitting game the team deserved to lose.  Ben Bishop took the loss and was not particularly good–the third goal in particular was awful.  The Sens had minimal offensive changes, although there were enough in the second period that they might have clawed their way back into the game.  The Pageau experiment as the top center did not last long with Cannone taking over his spot; the lines in general went into the blender as the game progressed (I thought Pageau was better off that line).  Binghamton wasn’t able to sustain offensive pressure throughout the game and most of their chances came off the rush or rare Manchester breakdowns.  I thought Dziurzynski was the best player overall for the B-Sens, while Cole Schneider had the most offensive opportunities.  It seems Binghamton is missing too many key pieces in its lineup and that they need a playmaker (like Da Costa or Stone) to compliment their shooters (like Silfverberg and Zibanejad).

-There have been a host of amusing Tweets from various Binghamton Senators in the face of hurricane Sandy, but Robin Lehner has my favourite:

Haha can’t find any flashlights or lanterns in bingo… Lighting up some candles if the power goes!:) Anyone wanna sell a generator to lehner?:)

-And that folks, is it for hockey news today, other than talk of the NHL cancelling the Winter Classic soon.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: October 28th; Binghamton 2, Portland 4

-I was not able to watch Binghamton’s game last night which featured a number of oddities: both of the B-Sens goals were scored short-handed (Silfverberg and Cowick); Binghamton outshot Portland 40-31 despite being shorthanded nine times; Jessiman received an ever-embarrassing diving penalty; both Borowiecki and Cowick got into fights; Weircioch lead the team in shots with seven.  Highlights of the game have not yet been posted.

-Binghamton plays Manchester this afternoon, but I haven’t seen a lineup yet [Bishop gets the start; no other changes from last night].  The Monarchs pummelled Worcester 5-1 yesterday and are 4-1-0 (first in the Atlantic Division).  Brandon Kozun leads Manchester in scoring (6 points) while goaltender Martin Jones has started every game thus far.

-Elmira defeated Cincinnati 3-2 in overtime last night; New scored; Peltz (now off reserve) and Downing were both kept off the score sheet.  Here’s the recap.

-It blows my mind that Elmira’s website is better than Binghamton’s–I guess the ECHL has to try harder.

-Dave Naylor believes the OHL’s new rule suspending players who exceed more than 10 fights in a year is the reason behind the league’s 32.1% drop from last year’s fighting rate.  I think it’s a factor, but the OHL has other rules that reduce fighting and because of the lockout the league doesn’t have as much space for one-dimensional enforcers.  That cocktail of elements makes it difficult to discern the precise impact of the change–I think next season will be a better indication.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: October 27th

-Tonight Binghamton plays the Portland Pirates (Phoenix’s affiliate), who are 2-2-1 on the season thus far while leading the Eastern Conference in goals scored (averaging 5 per game).  Alexandre Bolduc leads the team in scoring with 9 points; former Sen David Rundblad has four assists, but is behind blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson in defensive scoring (he has 7 points); former Ranger Chad Johnson is the starting goaltender.

-Early reports on tonight’s lineup: Silfverberg-Pageau-Zibanejad, Hoffman-Cannone-Petersson, Dziurzynski-Grant-Jessiman, Schneider-Caporusso-Cowick; Wiercioch-Benoit, Claesson-Eckford, Blood-Borowiecki; Robin Lehner gets the start.  This allows me to correct an error I made yesterday where I mentioned that Caporusso and Blood were sent back to Elmira–that is not the case.

-Elmira faces Cincinnati again tonight in ECHL action.

-Randy Lee talked about some of Ottawa’s prospects:

Matt Puempel

We’ve gotten some really positive feedback from (Kitchener head coach Steve Spott) about Matt’s approach. This is a young guy that had to handle some injury issues, concussion issues, a suspension (last season) —  that set him back a bit, but he never made excuses. Every time we talk to him we see a much more mature, professional young man. The Kitchener team is just overjoyed with the impact he’s had on their team.

Stefan Noesen

He’s got that real confidence level that you like to see. He wants to be the guy, he want to be the shooter to make a difference in games. Great improvement in his maturity over the years, and I think he had his eyes opened at a couple of development camps where he realized how hard pros have to commit to make themselves better. He has a great skill set, and that took him pretty far, but he’s bought in to the fact there are other things he needs to do to supplement his skill set to make himself a better player.

Jakub Culek

He had a very good camp (in Binghamton). He’s a guy that, early on, we had some concerns about his game, but he’s addressed them, and he’s grown up. Some kids get it and some kids don’t, and he’s starting to really get it. He understood when we assigned him back to junior that it was a numbers game and he was basically a victim of the NHL lockout.

Cody Ceci

We’re very lucky that we get to be hands-on with Cody, we have Jason Smith as a speciality coach on our staff who will get to work one-on-one with him. He’s another good player for us with the way the game is going, as a skill game and a puck possession game, for us to add another guy like him, the future on our blueline is very bright.

Francois Brassard

We talked to Patrick Roy (on a recent Remparts visit) and he couldn’t say enough good things about the kid. We asked him tough questions, and he said some great things about how he’s approaching the game, how he’s handling pressure, how he keeps himself focused, and how he steps up when he’s called upon. You can tell talking to a coach whether he believes in a player, and that’s the vibe I got from (Roy).

Michael Sdao

He’s a hard-nosed defencemen, a leader. He’s a yes-sir, no sir-type of guy who just goes to work every day. He needed to improve his skating and he’s done that and made some huge strides. He’s real competitive, a hard player to play against. He’s in his senior year, so he’s looking forward to honing his skills either in the AHL or pushing for a spot here in Ottawa [next season].

The most interesting elements of this are his comments that Culek would be playing in the minors (probably in Elmira) were it not for the lockout-created logjam of players; he confirmed that Michael Sdao is on the radar and someone considered to have NHL-potential (something dismissed by Riley Forsythe yesterday for reasons that remain unknown), and the positive comments from Patrick Roy about Brassard are interesting although I’d expect a coach to praise his starting goaltender.

-Speaking of prospects, I’m always happy to help out Bobby Kelly‘s posts: Marcus Sorensen is no longer Sens property.  I wonder if Bobby is unaware that freshman players in the NCAA are not automatically inserted in the lineup, given his surprise that Tim Boyle has not dressed for Union College yet.

-Here’s part two of D. J. Powers ECAC preview, which includes comments on Michael Sdao:

[He] emerged as one of the best rearguards coming out of the ECAC last season. Sdao doubled his point totals from his sophomore year, finishing with 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) to lead Princeton in defensive scoring. Not surprisingly, he also led the Ivy League with 87 penalty minutes. Sdao’s excellent junior campaign earned him spots on the All-Ivy League First Team and on the All-ECAC Second Team. In addition to his increased point totals, Sdao made some very good strides in his development last season; two of the most notable areas were in his overall maturity and improved decision-making with the puck. While Sdao continues to make his mark as an ultra-aggressive competitor, he’s also playing smarter and with a bit more discipline as well. That, in turn, has made him more effective in all situations. And if Sdao can continue to strike a balance between his tough-as-nails style of play and being more disciplined, he will be an even bigger threat to opposing teams.

-Allan Muir dynamites the CHLPA as an organisation, but says they serve the purpose of pushing the league into dealing with some of its outstanding issues:

While a few players grumble about the weekly stipend — ranging from $35 to $60, based on experience — many have taken issue with the strict limitations placed on the education packages that are offered as part of their contracts. Ideally, a player graduates from junior hockey and goes on to a long and lucrative career smashing records, signing trading cards and appearing on video game box covers. Realistically? The dream dies here. And with just 18 months to take advantage of the education option, the vast majority are left to face a stark choice: Either continue on to play in a lower minor league or overseas with at least a  faint hope of moving up the ladder, or head off to school before that avenue is closed off as well. The time limitation precludes doing both. Anyone can see that’s a lousy choice to put on a kid who has devoted his whole life to the game. It’s a flaw that can and should be addressed.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: October 26th

-The NHL has decided to cancel all scheduled games in November because …they can?  There’s no reason why the league can’t just do two weeks at a time, but they’ve extended the cut this time around.  I presume the idea is to put pressure on the players, but I can’t see how any additional pressure can be added unless the entire season is threatened.

-Brand Finance estimated the value of sports franchises from the NHL, NBA, NFL, international soccer leagues, and the Indian Premier League (cricket), with Ottawa valued at $201 million and ranking 159th out of 250 teams.  Not surprisingly, the company says the NHL has hurt the power of its brand:

The NHL’s frequent strikes and lockouts have resulted in more missed games than any of the other major leagues in North America.

-A Binghamton transaction: Chris Wideman has been recalled to join the B-Sens.  In four games with Elmira Wideman has 4 assists and is +5.

-Riley Forsythe assesses the Sens prospects, but he’s vague and makes pronouncements without providing reasons (Michael Sdao doesn’t have NHL potential because…reasons?).  Hockey’s Future Ottawa coverage has been mediocre for quite some time and I have no idea why.  You’d think with the market of Ottawa-based hockey people they wouldn’t have a problem finding the right fit.  There’s plenty of time for Forsythe to improve, but it’s not an auspicious beginning.

-Elmira plays Cincinnati tonight; the Cyclones are 2-0-1 on the season.

-CHL players are threatening to sue for wages and I see no reason why they shouldn’t be paid.  I’m sure the league will fight the action , but if so it’s a cynical action to protect profit margins.  I’ll be interested to see how things unfold.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: October 25th

-Luke Richardson talked about Robin Lehner‘s performance in Binghamton’s 2-1 win against Hershey:

We gave him [Lehner] the opportunity to return and he ran with it. I think he felt bad (about Saturday). You could hear him in the dressing room. He was very verbal before the game, telling everyone how important the game was. It was a big win. We were banged up.

Adding:

He felt he let the team down, but the whole team let the team down. We win as a team and we lose as a team, but he wanted another crack at it and we gave him an opportunity, and he stood tall on Sunday. The guys played very hard defensively; especially on the penalty kill and in our (defensive) zone. They only gave them one crack at it. There were no rebound shots, really, but Robin was real solid and he made one or two really timely, big saves. And they’re hard to do. As a goaltender, if you stand around for a while and then you get a hard shot, and then you stand around for a while and you get a hard shot, that might be the toughest game to play rather than a 45-shot night. Robin was big and he talked big before the game. He was very vocal in the room. We could hear him down in the coach’s office. He said, ‘I really want to win this one guys.’ He was saying all the right things and taking on a leadership role, so that’s a big step for him. He’s been like that from day one this year. I talked a bit at the practice today about Saturday and he’s learned from it.

Richardson also talked about Ben Bishop:

He’s on some antibiotics [for strep throat]. Maybe with the move and getting into the hotel and maybe not eating the best, he’s run down a bit. Hopefully he can get a couple of practices in soon.

He also discussed the play of Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg:

Zibanejad has probably been our most consistent and best forward up until Sunday. Sunday, he really showed that he was a bit tired but he’s been skating a lot. He kills penalties for us and (plays on the) power play. He’s been doing a great job defensively. A lot of Swedes are really good and take pride with good sticks and tracking hard and he’s been doing that as a young player, so I’m not going to complain because those players will find their touch. We’ll help them along for sure and try and get them in the best combinations possible offensively. But, they’ve been tracking it and Silfverberg has been the same – playing power play and penalty kill. I think the game really wore both of them out on Saturday. Zibanejad, we play him on the left wing when he’s a right wing; a lot of it is on his off side. He’s so strong, he can glide to the net and shoot through traffic – kind of like an Ovechkin. Silfverberg, same thing – he’s playing on his right wing but he’s a smart player. Sometimes he hangs onto the puck too long because he’s still figuring out smaller ice surface but Zibanejad, he has been probably our best skating forward – up and down and through the middle; especially playing at center, he was really good on Saturday night. Those guys, it’s concerning if you don’t see them play because you don’t see the point production but I think as the year moves along, you will see that become more consistent.  I think they have been playing great. I think Silfverberg may be a bit frustrated with the time of the puck on his stick without pressure. He’s just used to having the puck on his stick more with the bigger ice surfaces. He’s a great kid who works hard and both of them have been really good for us, so I’m really happy. As long as we can get better as a team, and they can get better as individuals, I think the points will come as the year settles in.

In the first link Richardson also praised the play of Mike Hoffman.  What to take away from all this?  The comment about finding the best offensive combinations for the two Swedes is a reminder that neither Jean-Gabriel Pageau nor anyone else has been able to bring the noise offensively with them.

-For those looking for a Jakub Culek update, L’Avantage reports that Culek cannot play for Rimouski because the team is at their overage and European limit.  The only options for Culek are a trade within the QMJHL or having him play in the ECHL.

-Grant Sonier has Mika Zibanejad 16th on his list of top-50 prospects, but the most meaningful point about his list comes from Nichols:

None of these rankings really mean anything beyond: a) creating a topic of discussion to dissect and critique; b) offering assurance that some other respected member of the hockey community recognizes the abundance of talent that has been stockpiled at the AHL and junior levels; and c) offering a humbling reminder that not everyone is as enamoured with the Senators pipeline as  you would to believe.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: assessments that don’t come from the scouting community are educated guesses at best and simply sources for discussion.  I’m not even sure how useful the various top lists are–it’s more important to know if a prospect is NHL-caliber and at what level than if they are slightly better or worse than another prospect.

-I have to think Nichols is kidding when he describes Darren Millard, Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean as three of the most brilliant minds in hockey.  MacLean believes Melnyk is in financial difficulty because he might be selling a team (apparently in his mind you only sell if you are losing money–following that logic the Maple Leafs are losing money because they are for sale).  So are the Senators in financial difficulty?  I have no idea and it’s hard to take it seriously when Doug MacLean is the source of the rumour (Melnyk has already denied it).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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