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):

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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)

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)

Senators News: February 2nd

-The Sens have gone 3-3-2 since I last checked in, giving up a pile of goals and playing erratically.  This leaves them in the morass of teams on the outside looking in, with a tantalizing chance to make it.  Incomprehensibly, the team recalled Stephane Da Costa back on January 20th–Paul MacLean must have a hard-on for seeing the Frenchman struggle with limited minutes on the fourth line (his two goals against Columbus earned him only 2 more minutes of playing time the following game).

-The team continues to kick the tires for a playoff rental, but Murray’s track record in doing so is largely abysmal so I’d prefer they stayed the course (unless they can remove some dead weight at the same time).

-Binghamton is 6-2 over the last couple of weeks and while both losses were ugly (5-1 to Manchester and 5-2 to Rochester) they’ve played quite well.  Jeff Ulmer’s excellent recaps of those games can be found over at SenShot.  Interestingly enough, the team choose to recall Danny Hobbs rather than one of Ottawa’s prospects (he did well in his first game, picking up a goal and an assist).  Scott Greenham, now back in the ECHL, finally did get an AHL-start with Bingo and won it (against Albany).

-Here’s my look at Binghamton at the forty-game mark.

-In Elmira, Jakub Culek has returned to the lineup and put up good numbers (6-1-6-7); Ludwig Karlsson has gone cold (8-2-4-6) with only one point in his last five; Troy Rutkowski (9-0-1-1) continues to struggle.

-Peter Morrow looks at the Sens pro prospects, but unfortunately it’s a mere summary rather than offering specific insight, scouting reports, or projections for those players.

-Fans may not want to hear about the economics of the team, but money impacts the organisation whether fans like it or not, so its worth tracking.  TSN, having given up on national coverage, locked up regional coverage of the Sens a few days ago.  Travis (via the link) raises the most interesting question: will the extra money Ottawa receives be pumped into the hockey team or into Melnyk’s other business ventures?  The owner isn’t required to do the former, so it will be interesting to watch.

-Here’s a look at how the various players in the Sens system are doing (the ranking in brackets is their position in team scoring for the team or among defenseman, depending on the position of the player):

Curtis Lazar (WHL) 38-29-25-54 (2nd)
Vincent Dunn
(QMJHL) 36-20-17-37 (3rd)
Ben Harpur (OHL) 20-3-13-16 (4th)
Jarrod Maidens (OHL) injured
Chris Driedger (WHL) 20-12-6 2.55 .918
Francois Brassard
(QMJHL) 23-9-6 3.00 .908

US Junior
Tim Boyle (USPHL) 29-5-13-18 (2nd)

Swedish Junior
Tobias Lindberg (SuperElit/Allsvenskan) 21-6-5-11/3-0-0-0 (7th)

Ryan Dzingel (NCAA) 24-17-19-36 (1st)
Max McCormick (NCAA) 24-10-14-24 (2nd)
Robert Baillargeon
(NCAA) 25-6-12-18 (2nd)
Quentin Shore (NCAA) 23-6-13-19 (2nd)
Jeff Costello (NCAA) 27-8-6-14 (7th)
Chris Leblanc (NCAA) 21-5-5-10 (3rd)

Swedish Pro
Mikael Wikstrand (SHL/Allsvenskan) 10-2-3-5 (5th)/27-4-16-20 (1st)
Marcus Hogberg (Allsvenskan) 5-7-0 2.86 .897

Not much has changed among the junior prospects, although Driedger and Brassard‘s numbers have declined and Hogberg‘s have improved.  On the college side a number of players have moved up a little in terms of where they sit in team scoring, but no one has had a meteoric change in their numbers.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Binghamton at the 40-Game Mark

The Binghamton Senators have passed the 40-game mark so it’s time to take stock and see how the team and the players are performing.  The B-Sens went 7-3-0 (roaring out of their losing streak), keeping them 1st in their division and 3rd in the conference (for their previous ten games go here).  The team’s 145 goals remain 1st in the conference, while their 122 goals are next to last.

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

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

Nathan Lawson 3-1-0 2.52 .923
Andrew Hammond 4-2-0 3.20 .898

The recall of Mark Stone to Ottawa didn’t slow Binghamton’s production at all.  Petersson, Prince, and Cowick‘s numbers took a leap forward from the previous ten games, while Grant‘s took a dive.  Claesson continues to be a dominant plus player and his production continues to improve as well (despite that he doesn’t play on the powerplay).  Puempel and Eckford were at the bottom of the minus pile–the veteran defenseman looks completely done, but given that Blood is also on the roster keeps getting rotated in.  New has been a solid addition, but his fit into the lineup is more of an indictment of a weakness of depth than anything else (certainly Rutkowski is not AHL-ready; Borowiecki‘s numbers are also far off his norm).  Hammond‘s numbers continue to slowly improve, but Lawson is the rock of consistency (Richardson had the option of giving Scott Greenham his first start, but choose to go with Hammond).  With Ottawa playing well there’s less likelihood of call-ups, but assuming there isn’t the default of a Pageau recall (so recently returned), Schneider continues to make his case and the aforementioned Claesson might warrant a reward on the blueline.

With a little over half the season completed it’s worth putting these numbers into context, so here’s the overall player stats thus far (rookies have a * next to their name, players beyond their ELC’s are in blue, and those currently in the NHL are in italics):

Mike Hoffman 38-18-27-45 +5 [NHL 3-0-0-0 -2]
Stephane Da Costa 37-12-25-37 +11 [NHL 4-0-0-0 +1]
Cole Schneider 36-14-18-32 +13
Chris Wideman 38-5-24-29 -5
Andre Petersson 32-15-10-25 +7
*Matt Puempel 40-14-7-21 -10
Fredrik Claesson 40-2-19-21 +27
Shane Prince 34-8-12-20 +9
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 17-6-13-19 +7 [NHL 21-2-0-2 -5]
Mark Stone 19-9-9-18 +2 [NHL 7-1-1-2 -1]
*Cody Ceci 24-2-15-17 +8 [NHL 17-1-4-5 +5]
Jim O’Brien 31-6-10-16 +3
*Buddy Robinson 34-7-7-14 +10 [ECHL 1-0-0-0 -1]
Corey Cowick 37-7-6-13 -8
David Dziurzynski 36-3-8-11 +1
Wacey Hamilton 35-2-8-10 -1
Derek Grant 18-4-4-8 +2 [NHL 20-0-2-2 -3]
Mika Zibanejad 6-2-5-7 +1 [NHL 39-10-9-19 -9]
*Michael Sdao 33-2-5-7 +9
Daniel New 15-1-5-6 +1 [ECHL 22-2-9-11 -12]
Darren Kramer 20-2-1-3 -9
Tyler Eckford 25-0-3-3 +5
Mark Borowiecki 27-1-1-2 -2 [NHL 13-1-0-1 -2]
Ben Blood 30-0-2-2 +3
*Troy Rutkowski 8-1-0-1 -5 [22-0-6-6 -7]
*Ludwig Karlsson 8-0-0-0 -3 [22-6-9-15 -6]
*Jakub Culek 2-0-0-0 -2 [ECHL 25-6-12-18 -1]

Nathan Lawson 22-14-5-0 2.52 .923
*Andrew Hammond 21-11-7-3 3.20 .898

Claesson and Schneider are the most improved players from last year, with the two first-round picks (Ceci and Puempel) the most impressive rookies.  Of the trio of rookies who have spent most of their time in the ECHL only Karlsson looks like he might be getting ready for AHL play.  In terms of disappointment, Eckford‘s complete descent from competent veteran defenseman to third-pairing alternate is shocking, while Cowick‘s drop in offensive production is less surprising.  Hoffman and Da Costa‘s dominance is to be expected (especially the Frenchman’s), albeit I had begun to wonder if Hoffman could really bring the noise at the AHL-level.

What remains to be seen is how Binghamton will do in the playoffs and if they can thrive in the many absences of Lawson.  To my mind they could use a defenseman and (possibly) a veteran back-up, but whether or not the organisation agrees or would make such a move is up in the air (if so, I’d expect it over the next 6 weeks or so).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: January 16th

-Ottawa rounded out its road trip with a 3-0 over hapless Minnesota.  Robin Lehner picked up the shutout in a game where he wasn’t challenged much.

-Jean-Gabriel Pageau was returned to Binghamton after being outplayed by Matt Kassian.  Just kidding.  Pageau‘s second tour of duty in Ottawa was as unremarkable as his first (13-1-0-1 -2, getting less than ten minutes TOI in roughly half those games).  This isn’t to say that the Pageau hype prior to the season is completely unwarranted, but he’s a young player who I never expected to produce and perform at the same pace as the end of last season.  Time down in Bingo won’t hurt him and he should dominate there.

-Randy Lee talked about his promotion to assistant GM and the comment that stood out for me was this:

We have one of the smaller staffs in the NHL, to be very honest

This is on top of the fact that it was even smaller under John Muckler.  Full credit goes to the organisation for being able to do what it does with so few people.

-Travis Yost looks at which NHL teams are improving/sliding via score-adjusted Fenwick.  New Jersey, Tampa, and Boston (in the east) as the best over the last 20 games or so, while Toronto, Buffalo, and the Islanders are the worst.  Ottawa gets the most improved score under that metric (Pittsburgh has the biggest decline).

-Binghamton fell 5-3 to Adirondack last night, despite Corey Cowick‘s three points.

-Jeff Ulmer offers us his second quarter grades for Binghamton and see’s the following players improving: Fredrik Claesson, Chris Wideman, Cole Schneider, Mark Stone, Jim O’Brien, David Dziurzynski, and Tyler Eckford.  On the regression front he has Buddy Robinson, Shane Prince, Corey Cowick, Stephane Da Costa, Ben Blood, Andrew Hammond, and Nathan Lawson.  He has Michael Sdao, Matt Puempel, Andre Petersson, Mike Hoffman, and Wacey Hamilton at the same level, while all other players either have no point of comparison from the first quarter or else not enough sample size to judge.  The only real surprise for me in either of these lists is Prince, who for whatever reason hasn’t been able to put it together this season (sophomore jinx?).  I imagine Blood will find his way to Elmira whenever the team is happy enough with its depth at the AHL level.  Shedding Eckford‘s large salary will have to wait for the off-season it would seem.  I’ll have my own look at Binghamton on Sunday after they hit the 40 game mark.

-Prospect Curtis Lazar‘s stock is on the rise, albeit I’m not sure what impact that really has in the grand scheme of things other than the Sens being unwilling to move him (which itself is no surprise).  For those who want in-depth scouting reports on Lazar go here.

-The call-up of Scott Greenham to Binghamton had me wondering about his numbers so here’s a detailed look.  He’s 6-10-2, 3.08, and .909 (these are better numbers than Devil’s prospect Maxime Clermont, who he shares the net with), with a .900 or better save percentage in 11 of 19 starts.  He’s given up 4+ goals in 7 of those games, but I think GAA is a less important stat given how dependent the number and quality of chances are a result of the team in front of you.  Last year (with Bakersfield) in 36 games Greenham was .900 or better in 20 games (finishing with an overall number that’s almost identical to what he has this year, .908).  Has he improved?  It’s hard to tell.  His ratio is slightly better than last season and in each case he played on awful teams, but the margins are too close to be sure.  It will be interesting to see how he performs with Binghamton.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: January 13th

-Ottawa played two games since my last post, choking away a game to Colorado in overtime (4-3), and then beating Nashville in a shootout (2-1).  The Sens keep picking up points which irrespective of how they play is a good thing (and for those of you who don’t like the three-point games–it keeps the standings close and believe me, having grown up in the previous era, it’s a much better system).

-Travis Yost looks at Ottawa’s playoff chances and he sums it up this way:

The math’s [to make it is] still not good, but what Ottawa’s done in the last month or so has almost certainly given their fan base a reason to believe that they may have an inside track on a playoff berth — something I never would have suggested during those ugly November games.

I was a little more optimistic than Travis early in the season, but I’d almost given up before the Sens began to climb.

-The always engaging Amelia L offers some thoughts and I wanted to comment on two of them: Erik Karlsson‘s physical play (as evidenced in the Colorado game)–I think it’s easy to forget that before he came to Ottawa Karlsson threw big hits, but largely cut that out of his game in the NHL after getting hurt hitting Ryan Kesler in his rookie season.  As a smaller player he has to pick his spots, but I’m not surprised to see it crop up in his game from time to time.  Amelia also asks the pertinent question of whether or not Cody Ceci can keep playing at his current level given the sophomore jinx and how easily players (ala Jared Cowen) can slip early in their careers.  It’s good food for thought.

-My favourite part of Tim Murray’s news conference after he was announced as Buffalo’s new GM was this:

And obviously ownership allows you to do your job. It allows you to spend money when the time is right, but that’s on the ice.

There’s only one interpretation of this: my previous owner (Melnyk) wasn’t allowing the organisation to spend money.

-The shakeup has Varada in a thoughtful mood:

With all the hand-wringing about money, and Melnyk’s propensity for playing with the sentiment of fans to pressure city council, I am not looking forward to a prolonged—years-long, potentially—debate with my city councillor, my mayor, my family, my boss, my girlfriend, my colleagues, James’ dog, etc. about the role of the sports franchise as a public institution and its right (or lack thereof) to public funding. Personally, I tend to fall on the side of “a few tax breaks” rather than “tens or hundreds of millions in public dollars,” but I think the latter is where we’re headed. That’s the precedent, and Melnyk will say “me too” when the time is right. Fair-weather fan Ottawa will slap on the chastity belt, and the debate will go on for-fucking-ever.

I’m with Varada in not wanting to open the public purse for the team, but a cash-strapped Melnyk is certainly going to push for that.  On the plus side, it’s pretty clear that the NHL itself won’t allow his shenanigans to get too crazy (ala threatening to move the team), given the tenacity with which Bettman has shown in keeping franchises where they are no matter what.  I don’t think there’s much public sentiment to fund Eugene’s plans, but the public has little to do with political decisions.

-Speaking of the organisation, an extension for Bryan Murray is all but done.  There’s not much to say about it other than it is a good move for the franchise.

-Binghamton went 2-1 since I last wrote, beating Rochester (3-1) and Hershey (4-2) before losing to Adirondack (4-1) and losing Nathan Lawson to injury (again).  At the end of the stretch Ludwig Karlsson was returned to Elmira (having not produced during his stay), which indicates there are enough healthy forwards in Binghamton to do so.  In the meantime the team has recalled Scott Greenham to back-up Andrew Hammond; they have also summoned Troy Rutkowski after improved (albeit not productive) play in Elmira.

-Speaking of the Jackals, they are in the midst of a tailspin, losing three straight on the weekend and only scoring three goals.  Jakub Culek did not play in the last two games and I may or may not be injured.

-Joy Lindsay writes about Fredrik Claesson and there’s a lot of good material, starting with comments from Luke Richardson:

But he’s a really good kid, he doesn’t get frustrated, he doesn’t get down on himself — even after a mistake. You show him the video, and he listens and he learns. This year, he came in with a little more confidence, and … every shift when I put him on the ice, I can count on him. Because of our younger defence this year, we rely on him more … he’s really taken the opportunity and run with it. Sometimes guys take a little longer and they feel their way in. He’s really made the step and jumped at it and really taken a hold of it in all situations and done really well.

Assistant coach Steve Stirling adds:

Even though he’s only a second-year pro, with the young defence that we have, we’re counting on him to be a veteran. Most nights, he’s playing with Mike Sdao or Benny Blood, and those are two really young kids who are right where Freddy was a year ago. He’s been a mainstay, and it’s helped those two progress, slowly but surely.

Digest that comment a little: two four-year college grads, one of whom (Blood) is in his second pro season, are learning from the younger Claesson.  It’s a great compliment to Freddy, but an interesting one for his partners (especially Blood).  It’s all good news for the Sens and the odds look good that they have a future safe, third-pairing blueliner in the making.

-Mark Volain takes a look at the Eastern Conference in the AHL and remarks upon Mike Hoffman‘s fantastic first half of the season (mostly summarizing).

-D. J. Powers looks at the NCAA scene through December and only comments on one Sens collegian, Ryan Dzingel:

Dzingel is quietly having a career year with the Buckeyes. In December, he posted two goals and six assists in Ohio State’s three games during the month. The Wheaton, IL native has been the driving force behind the Buckeyes offense this season. After finishing with 38 points last season, Dzingel is on pace to top the 40-point plateau this season. He has appeared in all 16 games for Ohio State so far and leads the team with 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists).

No analysis here, just a stats summary, but worth keeping in mind and is the kind of thing Pierre Dorion was referencing when he talked about NCAA prospects being ready for the pro game.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: January 7th

-The Sens continued to win since my last post, beating Winnipeg (4-3) and then Montreal (4-3) in overtime.  Neither game was a Picasso, but Ottawa has to be happy with every win they can get.  Mark Stone scored after being called up, which can only help his chances of staying with the team (I don’t think he has a future as a checker–his skating just isn’t strong enough to play that role).

-Travis Yost provides the data the illustrates how good a penalty killer Erik Karlsson is.  Given his talent this comes as no surprise, although Travis may have a point that ideally he shouldn’t be on the PK.

-Speaking of Travis, he illustrates how much better Ottawa’s third line is with Neil replaced by Condra, yet another piece of evidence that the dreaded Neil-Smith-Greening combination just doesn’t work.

-Nichols put on his transcribing hat to give us the goods on Paul MacLean’s recent interview and he had a lot to say about Cody Ceci:

Well, during the lockout when Cody was here with the 67s, I went to watch him and I would go home. Like, I wouldn’t even watch the whole game. I’d be like, ‘Oh, it can’t be. He can’t be… how could we pick this guy? Our scouts are way better than this.’ But he was playing a different game and a different type of system. And every once in a while you could see it. (Our scouts) told me he could really skate, but you never really saw that with the 67s that year, whether or not beforehand they must have saw it but that year. And then I saw him play with Team Canada in Halifax in the summertime. My son Adrian and I went up to Halifax to watch one of those Russian/Canada things and he had a bad night that night too. So my (report) card on Cody wasn’t very flattering coming into training camp to begin with, but I said, ‘He’s a young player. He has all these tools to put into the toolbox, so don’t overrate him too early.’ And I thought that in training camp, he came in and played very well. He skated and we (said) to him, ‘You need to skate. If you’re not going to defend by using your feet and skate, then you’re not going to have any chance to play in the league.’ And he took to coaching like a duck to water and then he went down with Luke (Richardson) and obviously continued to do the same things down there. He turned himself into, arguably, the best player in the American Hockey League over the strength of October and most of November before we called him up. He was like, the best player in the league and that says a lot. It’s a pretty good league when you get down there and get playing. And he’s come up here and he’s continued to do what he did down there. Obviously he had it in him and we just had to find the right tap to open up and get it to come out.

Calling him the best player in the AHL is (as Nichols points out) high praise (albeit likely hyperbole), and I agree that Ceci‘s play has allowed Murray to stop trying to force a trade for a defenseman.  MacLean also talked about Mika Zibanejad:

his strength and his size is one of his strengths and he’s been good. He’s been through the middle of the rink, like 200 feet, like impressively. He’s really done a good job of getting through the middle of the rink and when you have a centerman that can do that, it makes a huge difference in your offence and what they can bring and how the other team has to defend you and what they need to do to be able to counter what you’re doing. He’s just taken the bull by the horns a little bit now and you’re starting to see him, when he’s playing good, he’ll start getting against better players and challenging them a little bit. But, he’s stepped up and he’s answered those physical challenges when people have tried to get up in his face and tried to get him to back off a little bit. To his credit, he’s come back out and put his foot on the gas pedal and gone right through them.

This isn’t news to most Sens fans, but given MacLean’s reluctance to play him a lot this season it’s an encouraging thing to hear.

-Erik Karlsson has (not surprisingly) made Sweden’s Olympic roster; more surprisingly, Milan Michalek made the Czech team.  It’s a good thing for the team that so few players will be going to Sochi, as there’s less chance for injury or fatigue.

-The flap regarding Brian Burke’s comments on Bobby Ryan has been covered extensively and all I’ll add is that his exclusion from Team USA is a plus for the other squads.

-Binghamton went 2-1 over the weekend, beating Manchester (5-4) and Syracuse (6-5 OT), before falling to Hershey (4-1).  From all reports the B-Sens pooped the bed in their final game, but after winning seven straight a letdown isn’t surprising.

-Since I last looked at Sens players in Elmira, Jakub Culek has posted average numbers (5-2-1-3), while Troy Rutkowski has pulled out of his offensive drought (5-0-2-2).

-Pierre Dorion offered his thoughts on the Sens prospects at the WJC (Curtis Lazar, Marcus Hogberg, and Quentin Shore):

Curtis is going on a real good trend right now. I think he’s having a great season with his Edmonton team and that carried over to the World Junior team. I think the way the coaches used him, I think he was a key part of the team, I think he’s a high character kid. The way he handles the puck, the way he puck with pace, the way he drives offensively, the way he goes to tough areas — he can score goals just with his release but he can also score goals in tight — he makes plays off the cycle, I think he is very responsible defensively, he’ll block shots, he’ll do all the little things you need to do to win and I think we got a high character there.

It’s tough to say when someone [Hogberg] doesn’t play a lot and they weren’t really tested. In that game [10-0 win over Norway] I think he had to make two or three big saves, I think one went off the shoulder. He looked big in his net, he looked comfortable. I think Rick Wamsley going over there spending time with him, with his team, was very beneficial for him and I think he is headed in the right direction.

I think his [Shore] development has been going really good, I think we drafted a good player there, especially in the late rounds. I think he understands the game, I think he has got to get stronger and quicker and I think Randy (Lee) has addressed that with him as far as those things. He is smart, he knows how to play above the puck, he knows how to get in lanes to check, he has got good skills for a role player. I think down the road, I don’t think we’re going to see someone who is going to come in here and get a lot of points, but I think with his progression and development he has a chance to be an NHL player one day.

Dorion also briefly spoke about the system in general:

I think obviously the first two guys that we drafted last year, Lazar and Hogberg, are having — Lazar has been having a good season and Hogberg has been up and down. I think we’ve got a few guys that are coming out in major junior this year that we’re going to have big decisions to make on with Chris Driedger and Francois Brassard. We also have some college players on their way that could be good pros.

Assuming Dorion’s college comment is specifically on those close to turning pro, this could reference any or all of Jeff Costello (09), Max McCormick (11), and Ryan Dzingel (11).

-The boys at WTYKY (who cluttered up Twitter this morning by spamming movie titles, to the consternation of anyone who wanted to see anything else on their Twitter feed) made the excellent choice of bringing Puck Possessed into the fold to feature her always entertaining illustrations.  Check them out if you haven’t already.

-To any StarCraft fans who follow the blog, I’ve created a separate one for it.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: January 2nd

-We’ve all rung in the New Year and the Sens have to hope 2014 starts the same way 2013 did.  Since my last post, Ottawa has gone 3-2-1, with wins over Pittsburgh (5-0), Boston (4-3), and Washington (3-1), with losses to Florida (4-2), Phoenix (4-3 OT), and Boston (5-0).  While underlying trends might be improving (you can judge for yourself where things are at), the bottom line remains as erratic as the rest of the season.  The injury bug has hit the team, unintentionally removing many of Paul MacLean’s irrational love affairs for veteran players: Jason Spezza (hip, 28th), Chris Neil (leg muscle, 30th), and Chris Phillips (foot, 28th)–Travis Yost delves into the changes it forced in how players were being used and why they were good for the team.  The carnage has resulted in the recall of Mark Stone from Binghamton.

-Speaking of Spezza, Nichols does a great job looking at the expectations for him coming into this season and what’s happened to him since.  For those beating the trade drums (and Nichols only says there were good reasons to do so before the season started), I wish them good luck with that this season.  No one who might want him has the cap room, so he’ll be around through the rest of the season.

-Another veteran player who had a rough start to the season gets some love from Jeremy Milks, who points out much of Craig Anderson‘s struggles are due to him getting destroyed by Western Conference teams.  This idea would carry more weight if he’d compared it to Robin Lehner‘s numbers with the same distinction, but comparative analysis isn’t Jeremy’s strong suit (even if correct he’s also damning with faint praise–while losing to the West is understandable, getting obliterated by them does not mesh with Andy being an elite goaltender).

-Amelia L provides her top-ten headlines for the Sens through 2013 (alas, Melnyk’s CSI investigation was not referenced).

-Despite the season seemingly lost in terms of playoff possibilities, rumours continue to swirl that the Sens are taking a run at Ranger defenseman Michael Del Zotto (passim, along with some fuel for the fire).  The same problems that confronted that effort earlier in the season haven’t changed and now that we’re half way through the season I don’t see what the point is.  The team should let their your young blueliners develop and leave it at that.

-Here is my look at player performances through games 21-40.

-Binghamton has won five straight games since my last post, defeating Syracuse (5-2), Albany (3-2), Hershey (4-1), Utica (4-3), and Norfolk (3-2).  The primary difference for the B-Sens was the return of Nathan Lawson from injury, but is also a compliment to their no-name blueline given the absence of Cody Ceci (resulting in Danny New being in Bingo).  The loss of Stone has meant Binghamton has recalled Ludwig Karlsson from Elmira (Cowick and Grant are also injured).

-My review of Binghamton’s performance through games 21-30.

-Former B-Sen Louie Caporusso has left Reading (ECHL) to join Augsburger in the DEL.  It’s a good move for the college grad who just doesn’t have the chops to be a regular AHL player.

-It has been awhile since I posted a prospect update, so here’s a look at how the various players in the Sens system are doing (the ranking in brackets is their position in team scoring for the team or among defenseman, depending on the position of the player):

Curtis Lazar (WHL) 27-21-15-37 +22 (2nd)
Vincent Dunn
(QMJHL) 29-16-11-27 +4 (3rd)
Ben Harpur (OHL) 36-3-11-14 +25 (4th)
Jarrod Maidens (OHL) injured
Chris Driedger (WHL) 15-7-5 2.32 .927
Francois Brassard
(QMJHL) 15-7-6 2.47 .907

US Junior
Tim Boyle (USPHL) 27-5-12-17 n/a (2nd)

Swedish Junior
Tobias Lindberg (SuperElit) 21-6-5-11 -4 (7th)

Ryan Dzingel (NCAA) 16-10-13-23 +7 (1st)
Max McCormick (NCAA) 16-7-11-18 -1 (2nd)
Robert Baillargeon
(NCAA) 17-5-8-13 +7 (1st)
Quentin Shore (NCAA) 17-3-10-13 -4 (t-2nd)
Jeff Costello (NCAA) 18-5-4-9 +3 (9th)
Chris Leblanc (NCAA) 15-2-4-6 -1 (t-4th)

Swedish Pro
Mikael Wikstrand (SHL/Allsvenskan) 3-1-1-2 Even (n/a)/27-4-16-20 +5 (1st)
Marcus Hogberg (Allsvenskan) 4-5-0 3.14 .891

Both Lazar, Shore, and Hogberg are on their respective World Junior squads (the latter serving as Sweden’s backup).  Not many surprises here, although Costello‘s numbers are low for a fourth-year college player, while Baillargeon‘s are excellent for a freshman.  I wonder if Dzingel will feel tempted to turn pro at the end of this year (his third), as I’m not sure what he has left to prove at the college-level.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


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