Senators News & Notes

I wasn’t surprised at the Alex Chiasson arbitration ruling–it’s a good one for the team.  We can hope Mike Hoffman will be given a similarly palatable deal for the organisation if they don’t settle prior to the hearing (for those interested you can read Nichols‘ breakdown of the former).

Amidst a humdrum Pierre Dorion interview was a comment I’m happy to hear from him:

we’ve always fallen into traps that, I think we over-evaluate some guys that are decent NHL players but not great NHL players and I think Bryan (Murray) talked about it on July 1st. We’ve drafted and we’ve developed well here. We’re going to give some of our kids chances. Show us what you can do here. If you’re not good enough, we’ll just bring someone else in. But I think with what we’ve done here in the past, I don’t always see it being fruitful for us to go out and sign free agents

All that’s missing from this for a full mea culpa is an admission that the organisation hangs on to failing veterans for far too long.

Adam Coombs talks about potential red flags for prospects due to how they looked during Ottawa’s latest development camp, seeing concerns for Miles Gendron (decision-making), Ben Harpur (speed and lack of production–something I’ve brought up in the case of many players and for those who want a bit of evidence for why that’s bad go here), Alex Guptill (a plethora of reasons, and somehow I missed him being charged with assault and battery last summer).  On the flipside, Coombs looks at positives from the camp, making the obvious Max McCormick nod, along with Nick Paul (size and speed), Tobias Lindberg (size and speed), Mikael Wikstrand (consistent and does everything well), with honourable mentions for Matt O’Connor and Marcus Hogberg.  It’s important to note what a small sample size such a camp is (even though Coombs references their past seasons), but the opinions mesh with mine and most people’s (except perhaps for Harpur–there are fans of the big player out there, and honestly, almost no one knows who Gendron is).

B-Sens signings continued as they added development camp attendee Ryan Penny (LW, QMJHL 66-32-38-70) and veteran minor league defenseman Nick Tuzzolino (ECHL 55-2-21-23), who played 10-games with Binghamton last season.  I’d expect both to play in Evansville, although the organisation does like big players with no hands.

Speaking of Binghamton, Jeff Ulmer offered up a retrospective on the 2011 Calder Cup championship, which seems like an opportune time to do a “where are they now” snapshot.  I’ve left out two players who briefly suited up (Brennan Turner, now retired, and Patrick Couloumbe, now in France); the players are listed by scoring (those who have played/will play 100+ NHL games are in blue; those currently in Europe are in green; in the one case where both apply I’ve included both colours):

Ryan Potulny – went on to Hershey where after two productive seasons injury saw that drop off and after moving to Hartford last season he’s signed to play in Finland
Ryan Keller
 – went to Oklahoma and then to the NLA where he remains
Kaspars Daugavins – spent the next season in Ottawa, was then traded to Boston the following season before going to Europe (the NLA and KHL)
Zack Smith – became a full time player in Ottawa immediately following
Andre Benoit – split the next season between Ottawa and Binghamton, subsequently signed with Colorado and is coming off a miserable season in Buffalo (which meant he had to accept a two-way deal from St. Louis)
Erik Condra – immediately became an NHL player in Ottawa (now signed with Tampa)
Bobby Butler – spent the next year in Ottawa where he was a disaster; bounced between New Jersey and Nashville before returning to the AHL; signed in Sweden for the upcoming season
Corey Locke – had an injury-plagued return to Binghamton following, then bombed out of the Finnish league (getting loaned to the DEL); retuned to the AHL for one season, but then back to Germany last year
Roman Wick – returned to the NLA where he’s been dominant
Mike Hoffman – spent the bulk of three more seasons in Binghamton before finally making Ottawa full-time
Jim O’Brien – split the next season between the NHL/AHL; full-time the following year before being dumped back to Binghamton the next season; he then bounced out of the KHL and is slatted for full-time AHL action in the upcoming season
Colin Greening – three full seasons with Ottawa were followed by last year’s temporary demotion to Binghamton and the organisation expressing a desire to be rid of him–he remains under contract
Geoff Kinrade – spent most of the following season in the Czech league, then two full seasons in the NLA before splitting between it and the KHL; he’ll be back in Russia this year
Cody Bass – three years in Springfield were followed by one in Rockford last season and Milwaukee in the upcoming season
Jared Cowen – for better or for worse he’s been with Ottawa since
David Dziurzynski – has remained in Binghamton since
Derek Smith – spent two seasons on Calgary’s roster before returning to the AHL; bombed out of the NLA last season and will be with Springfield in the upcoming one
Derek Grant – remained with Binghamton until he signed with Stockton for the upcoming season
Bobby Raymond – split the next season with Binghamton before moving on to Charlotte; since then he’s bounced around the DEL
Mark Borowiecki – spent three more seasons in Binghamton before graduating to Ottawa last year
Patrick Wiercioch – spent the next season in Bingo; split the next between it and Ottawa before becoming a full time NHL-player
Craig Schira – one more year with Binghamton before going to Norway, Finland, and now to Sweden
Eric Gryba – spent another year in Binghamton, split the next between it and Ottawa before becoming a full time NHL-player; traded to Edmonton
David Sloane – retired after the championship
Robin Lehner – spent two more years in Binghamton before graduating; traded to Buffalo
Barry Brust – went to Germany, then back to Abbotsford, and since has played in the KHL

That’s 11 players who went on to at least 100 games of NHL action, a testament to the talent on the roster, although it’s worth noting that as few as three of them are top-end talents (for my money Lehner, Wiercioch, and Hoffman).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

internet-statistics_1

Ross A goes through hockey stats 101 for those confused or intimidated by them.  It’s worth reading, although I don’t think the audience he’s attempting to reach are particularly receptive to olive branches.  Like most new things, younger fans will largely embrace it and as time goes on that will become the norm.

journalism

Speaking of Ross A, he tackled an excellent topic regarding media influence in sports, but unfortunately only pilloried Steve Simmons at the Toronto Star–as much as Simmons deserves it for inventing a story about Phil Kessel, I was hoping Ross would dive into the moribund journalism practiced in this city.

Binghamton_Senators_svg

Binghamton signed undersized Oshawa General defenseman Chris Carlisle (68-7-37-44); he’s almost certainly bound for Evansville.

Somewhat related, I’d speculated a couple of weeks ago that the Sens had cut ties with prospect Tim Boyle; that suspicion was confirmed today as he signed with Wichita in the ECHL.  This make’s Boyle‘s journey in becoming a pro quite bizarre, as he was drafted out of US high school, spent one year in the NCAA, returned to the junior system in the US, went to tier-2 college, and is now going to the ECHL  Ultimately he’s a wasted pick, a player that no scouting source liked prior to the draft who crashed and burned very quickly.  We can only hope the scouting staff learned something from it.

Wrong

I was surprised to discover the legendary Nichols reads this blog.  I can’t recall interacting with him before, but the truism that people gravitate towards perceived negative comments rings true as Nichols hit me up on the Twitter machine:

your comments in regards to my own analysis are ridiculously reductive

He continued his comments in his latest post (I think he liked the alliteration), apparently still blissfully unaware of why I wrote what I wrote (despite a not very subtle hint that he was taking the comments far too seriously–it’s funny how some people respond to these things–good old Bobby Kelly always took things with good humour).  One positive was Nichols spelling out his approach to prospects for anyone who wasn’t aware and the key point is this:

The thing about lower draft selections is that they’re selected lower because they have some perceived deficiency which in turn creates tempered expectations for their future because of the associated risks or lower projected ceilings. That does not mean that low draft picks aren’t valuable either. There will always be value in finding NHL-calibre talent that can play games at the highest level.

It’s admittedly a bit obvious, but clarity is a good thing.  Incidentally, he’s started up a Patreon to support The 6th Sens podcast, so if you have even a few bucks lying around I highly recommend doing so.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

The Sens Development Camp has wrapped up.  It’s always a fun event for those who get the chance to attend, although admittedly you have to love hockey, the Sens, and prospects (RIP Nichols) to get full value from it.

Randy Lee offered comments about performances in the black and white game and besides blowing the usual smoke up the asses of top-picks (and using unfortunate terms like “compete level”), he did offer some insight:

On Ryan Dzingel

Dzingel was really able to show off his speed with a couple of breakaways too. He had a good year in Binghamton last season but it was a transition year where we put him at a different position so that was a bit of a challenge for him. I thought he got better as the season went on and it was great to see how well he did last night.

Changing position in your rookie season at the pro level is not easy and worth keeping in mind in regards to Dzingel‘s occasional struggles in Bingo this past season.

On Mikael Wikstrand

is a guy that you don’t appreciate until you see him in a game. He really thinks the game at a high-level, he moves the puck really well, good offensive instincts and he’s a guy that’s going to be a pretty good player for us.

In a way this is more of the same in terms of comments made about the Swedish defenseman; there’s no question he has an NHL threshold, the only unknown is whether his offensive game will translate at that level.

On Chris Driedger

he had a different season last year but as the season went on, he got better and he played with a lot of confidence last night.

“Different” is the most polite way I can think of to describe Driedger‘s season in Evansville, but he certainly did better in Binghamton and fans can hope he continues to improve.

On Marcus Hogberg

you can see he’s got great feet, really good down low

I’m quite high on the Swedish goaltender, although with Matt O’Connor now as the anointed one it’s a good thing he’s going to spend another year in the SHL.

As usual, Sens TV has little vignettes about the camp, but also footage of the entire scrimmage (about which Lee’s comments above were in response too).  The 3-on-3 tournament today was won by Team Blue (Dzingel, Wikstrand, and free agents Penny and Goff).  Not surprisingly, Max McCormick was named the hardest worker for the entire camp.

I haven’t given my specific thoughts on the Sens picks at the draft, so here are my pick-by-pick thoughts:

Thomas Chabot (1-18) – selected right in the wheelhouse of the scouting consensus so I’m happy with the pick–there’s no guarantee how good he’ll be, but he has the upside to be an excellent addition
Colin White (1-21) – the pick acquired in the Robin Lehner trade (notably not Buffalo’s own pick, but one they acquired from the Islanders); he’s not related to the former NHL-defenseman; there were only two players slotted higher than him when he was selected (Merkley and Jeremy Roy), so there’s no real objection to the selection
Gabriel Gagne (2-36) – acquired from New Jersey in return for a second-rounder (the Dallas pick from the Jason Spezza trade; the Devils picked goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood); this pick has the most questionmarks around it and it’s puzzling that the Sens felt the need to trade up to grab him–no source had him listed this high which suggests they could have waited and that he’s a hit or miss selection
Filip Chlapik (2-48) – the first Czech picked by the Sens since Jakub Culek in 2010 (let’s hope that’s not foreshadowing); like him he comes from the QMJHL; he was selected slightly after projections; the two notable players ranked more highly than him were Kylington and Bracco
Christian Wolanin (4-107) – acquired from Edmonton in the Eric Gryba trade (who got the pick from Toronto via Pittsburgh); another odd player to trade for, as the overage son of the unremarkable NHL defenseman wasn’t ranked by anyone to be taken in the draft; the Sens have done pretty well with overage selections out of the USHL, but I’d take him as another hit-or-miss selection
Filip Ahl (4-109) – the only Swede taken in the draft by Ottawa, he was picked after projections (slightly after for the most part) so he’s a solid pick-up
Christian Jaros (5-139) – the first Slovak ever picked by Murray since becoming Ottawa’s GM, he comes via the Swedish league; projections for him are all over the place so he’s clearly a hit-or-miss pick
Joey Daccord (7-199) – only listed by Central Scouting; as a seventh-rounder he’s by-definition a let’s-hope selection; there were a number of higher ranked players (picked and not picked) available, granting that since the goaltender is slatted for the NCAA they can wait longer on him than (say) a player from the CHL or Europe

The Sens third-round pick wound up with the Rangers (via Edmonton in the Gryba trade), who picked Russian defenseman Sergey Zaborovskiy; Ottawa’s sixth-round pick wound up with Carolina (via Winnipeg to get the pick they used to select Kelly Summers), and they took David Cotton.

Ross A looks at the Sens history with players who file for arbitration and the main takeaway from it is that (under Bryan Murray) Ottawa has always settled prior to the hearing date.

Nichols laments the departure of Erik Condra–I bring it up simply because he’s exactly the kind of late round pick Nichols derides consistently.  Nichols’ general, dismissive attitude towards prospects is mostly sensible, but I think the shorthand of always being dismissively of later picks is a little ridiculous.

There were a number of veteran AHL signings for the BSens and here’s a look:

Matt Kostka (29, AHL 63-5-25-30) – the undrafted NCAA grad’s name may ring a bell as the Toronto media fell in love with him back in the 2012-13 season (when he played half the year with the Leafs); he was subsequently signed and waived by Chicago, picked up by Tampa, and spent last season in the Ranger organisation; a right-handed shot, I think he’s a good addition to the BSens

Eric O’Dell (25, AHL 37-14-15-29) – a former second-round pick by Anaheim (2-39/08; Brian Burke’s drafting record with the Ducks is awful); Anaheim never signed him and the Atlanta (now Winnipeg) franchise picked him up; he’s been a very productive forward for St. John’s (180-72-76-148).  Assuming he doesn’t tank like Carter Camper this past season, he’s a solid addition to the top-six in Bingo.

Zack Stortini (29, AHL 76-13-12-25) – picked by the Oilers in the Dead Puck Era (3-94/03), when the one-dimensional goon was finally let go by Edmonton he’s bounced around the AHL (this will be his fifth team in five seasons); I’m not a fan of this kind of player, but the one good thing he does (or should do) is take some of the fighting pressure off of players like Max McCormick and Michael Sdao and give space for them to develop their game.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

As I put the finishing touches on my review of the draft there’s plenty to catch up on in Sens Land.  For those desperate for draft thoughts, Nichols has finally stolen my idea of typing up scouting reports so you can see those here, here, and here–he also spends time drooling over Corey Pronman’s draft review, so for those who share his fetish, enjoy!

What can I say about the Robin Lehner trade?  The only way the Sens win the trade is if Lehner fails to live up to his potential–otherwise, the value they got back is never going to measure up.  Fans have to hope Matt O’Connor is the real deal because Andrew Hammond and an aging Craig Anderson are not going to get it done.  As for Eric Gryba being moved, I’m fine with it, although any of Chris Phillips, Mark Borowiecki, or Jared Cowen might have been better.  I expect nothing from Travis Ewanyk, but at least he only has one season left on his ELC.

The Sens have started to finish their bookkeeping when it comes to pending free agents, inking Chris Wideman to a generous two-way deal (his 400k AHL salary is both a reward for his achievements and also a bit of a poison pill for any team sniffing around him should he be sent through waivers).

I’m a bit lost on the B-Sens retaining Patrick Mullen; the deal makes me wonder if the Sens intend on keeping Wideman (or Wikstrand) with the parent club come fall–but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

There was finally full clarification on the Mikael Wikstrand situation (I heard it via Randy Lee on TSN 1200)–apparently he never signed a new deal, instead his club team traded his contract (which had a year remaining).  Wikstrand has no issue at all in playing in the AHL.

I’d forgotten that Clarkson grad Kevin Tansey, a player the Sens are apparently interested in, attended their development camp before (last year).  Ryan Kennedy, incidentally, believes the defenseman is one of the top-ten undrafted players at an NHL development camp.  It’s clear the Sens aren’t afraid to take defenseman with poor puck-handling skills (comments made by Randy Lee show that they feel it’s an area that can be improved upon enough to make the investment worthwhile).  Personally, I don’t think turning a poor puck-mover into a middling one is enough at the NHL level.

Speaking of development, I want to quote Nichols (link above) with a sentiment I echo:

If anything, Ottawa’s successful development makes me question why the organization has willingly boxed out a number of its prospects from bottom six or bottom pairing roles by re-signing or acquiring redundant vets.

Amen, although the answer is pretty simple–loyalty to veterans and an old school belief by Murray that bringing in older players helps the “mix” on the roster.  After all, think of how well David Legwand, Martin Lapointe, Mike Commodore, and so on have done here….

Other unsigned players attending the development camp: Neal Goff (unremarkable defenseman coming off his first year in the NCAA–put up a career high 11 points in the US high school four years ago), Scott Moldenhauer (another Western Michigan defenseman with just slightly better hands), Jordan Murray (CIS defenseman who once put up good stats in the QMJHL), and Ryan Penny (QMJHL forward who has finished his junior eligibility and needs a contract).

[An additional observation: Tim Boyle, the Sens 2012 draft pick, wasn’t even invited to camp, suggesting the org believes him to have already failed as a prospect.  Robbie Baillargeon isn’t there either, but I’m inclined to think there are health or other reasons behind that.]

Every once and awhile the NHL reminds me of why I find the league frustrating.  Allowing the Chris Pronger trade to occur is utterly ridiculous–he’s not “sitting out with an injury” like Nathan Horton, he’s working at NHL head office!  The whole idea is absurd.

[Just one another addition that’s particularly pertinent on the cusp of free agency: no one cares about the total value of a player’s contract–fans want to know the yearly average and I wish sports sites would give up on the former and embrace the latter.]

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

alex chaisson

Ary M has a great article looking at Alex Chaisson and what he brings to the Sens.  I also thought Chaisson was a bottom-dwelling failure, but the analytics presents a decent top-nine player.  It’s well worth reading in detail.

wikstrand

In a lengthy discussion with Ian Mendes, Pierre Dorion added some clarity on the Mikael Wikstrand situation:

He’s under contract with us next year. I heard that he signed somewhere else [Farjestad], but we want him to play for us. We think he’s very close to the NHL. If Erik Karlsson played a month in Binghamton, I don’t think it’s a bad thing for Mikael Wikstrand. If Cody Ceci played a few months in Binghamton, we don’t think it’s the worst thing for him to adjust to North American hockey and we think he’s really close to (playing in) the NHL

It sounds like Wikstrand is reluctant to join Binghamton, but as he’s under contract with the Sens and apparently signed with Farjestad without their impute, I don’t see that he has any choice.  I don’t think B-Sens fans should take offense at Wikstrand‘s possible attitude–a lot of people are reluctant to leave home and he likely knows next to nothing about the city.

A48U8530.jpg

Dorion also talked about the newly signed Tobias Lindberg:

Yeah, obviously a lot of credit has to go to Randy (Lee) to get that deal done under a certain deadline that we had. As far as Tobias at the Memorial Cup, I think Tobias took great strides this year. I think coming over to play the North American game in Oshawa with a team that plays hard was so beneficial for him. Obviously, Tobias has NHL speed and NHL skill. We obviously see him more as a winger than a centerman with his up-and-down play. Obviously he’s still got to get more involved and keep on improving and always playing at a high pace. We definitely see someone that can play for us down the road. Now obviously when I say ‘down the road’, it’s not… I’m not saying that Tobias couldn’t play games for us this year, but when he’s ready to contribute, I think we’re going to see someone that can play in the NHL.

I think Pierre should be fined for how often he said “obviously”, but that aside, they understandably like his upset.  I’d remind fans that they should take his production in Oshawa with a grain of salt given the very talented linemates he had there.  He’ll definitely be a welcome addition to Binghamton’s lineup in the fall.

Ryan Wagman offers a look at drafting tendencies and there’s something he said that I think is worth emphasizing:

the wholesale turnover in the Buffalo and Boston organizations, looking at their historical draft records is not just useless, but counterproductive

The point here isn’t the specific teams mentioned, but the turnover.  So often people will talk about historical trends for a team with no reference to the brain trust in charge–it’s irrelevant what a team did five years ago if the same people are no longer in charge.  This might seem like an obvious point, but I see it ignored over and over again so it’s worth drilling home.  Going back to Wagman’s article, it’s an excellent breakdown of the Pacific division and their drafting trends based on those in charge (he also looks at the Atlantic division–Nichols and others will enjoy how hesitant he is to call Jared Cowen a draft “success”).

Craig Smith presents a wide range of players that the Sens might draft.  I’ve normally posted a completely separate post with something similar, but given time constraints I’ll simply list who would go as per my NHL mock draft:
1-18 Jeremy Roy, although if the Sens may want to dip their toe into Sweden with Joel Eriksson Ek who is listed next
2-42 Zachary Senyshyn
2-48 Guillaume Brisebois
4-109 Jonne Tammela, although the Sens under Murray don’t draft Finns so perhaps Will Borgen (listed next)
5-139 Christian Jaros
7-199 Mikhail Vorobyov lands here, but the Sens don’t draft Russians so the next listed non-Russian would be Kevin Davis
I don’t take these predictions too seriously, but the above includes four defenseman and just two forwards (3 and 3 if they take Ek), so it’s more than a little impractical (with six picks I’d be surprised by more than two blueliners); it does contain Ottawa staples such as a QMJHL player and a Swede (two in fact).  Regardless, it’s fun to speculate.

There was another European FA signing as Pittsburgh inked Sergei Plotnikov (the 25-year old has put up consistent, solid numbers with Lokomotiv).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

I’ve been quite busy with various draft efforts (which has been met with some drama for the first time–more about that below), but enough news has accumulated for a post at last.

Nichols, while re-hashing the teams self-inflicted goaltending drama makes a point that’s worth re-iterating:

I guess I could understand the reasoning behind management putting its short-term interests ahead of an uncertain future that may be more fruitful. I mean, management has been operating this way since 2011, so it shouldn’t come as a shock if they decide to continue down this path.

Just let that sink in for a moment.  Has there been any sign since the 2011-12 season that this team is going to push for a Stanley Cup?  All those deals made to solve short-term goals (Ben Bishop comes to mind) resolved absolutely nothing and in the midst of that the organisation has been public in illustrating how poorly it understands its own talent (Patrick Wiercioch, Mike Hoffman, etc).  I’d like to think that constantly failing with short-term fixes would eventually sink in, but there’s no evidence that’s the case.  At this stage fans can only hope Murray does minimal damage with whatever deals he makes in the off-season.

Speaking of Nichols, he presents three different strategies he thinks the organisation might take in the off-season, all of which are taking a look at:
1) move Hoffman and Wiercioch or Cowen to Colorado in exchange for Ryan O’Reilly; move Lehner and one of Colin Greening/Zack Smith/David Legwand somewhere for a pick and a short-term bad contract; finally, move one of whichever dud forward is left for a pick
I can’t say I like this scenario and I’m not convinced brass has given up on Smith, but it is within the realm of possibilities that the Sens make deals like this.  I don’t mind the acquisition of O’Reilly, incidentally, but I wouldn’t see the moves as a net win.
2) Lehner and Cowen go to Edmonton for the 16th overall pick; Hoffman and the Sens first-rounder for San Jose’s pick (9th); Legwand moved for a pick
While the first element is possible (albeit not one I’d be thrilled with), I don’t see the Sharks giving up a top-ten pick
3) Anderson plus Smith to St. Louis for Oshie/Goc or Anderson plus Cowen to Buffalo for Ennis/Moulson and some confetti; then a trade to remove some of the dead weight for a pick
Nichols considers this his least likely scenario, but it would make the most sense going forward.
It’s hard for me to judge all this as I see Murray as a conservative GM with a lot of loyalty to players who don’t contribute; that fact combined with most of the assets being offered aren’t particularly exciting (apparently Lehner is only considered the third best goaltender on the market–perhaps adding a bit of fuel to the Anderson alternative) makes the potential return pretty muted.  Regardless, it’s interesting food for thought.

There was finally confirmation that Marcus Hogberg is going to spend another year in Sweden (something of an inevitability at this point, but I like clarity).  Speaking of prospects, Fredrik Claesson has been extended with a one-year, two-way deal, while Tobias Lindberg (the only tangible asset remaining from the Bishop trade) has been signed and will be in Bingo next season.  [A few hours after I posted the Sens re-signed Jean-Gabriel Pageau to a two-year, one-way deal.]

For those of us hoping the organisation had lost its addiction to big defenseman without puck skills, we can put those hopes to bed as the Sens are apparently pursing Kevin Tansey; the Clarkson grad has even less puck-skills than Mark Borowiecki and seemingly no discernable NHL upside.

It was a little surreal seeing former 2012 Development Camp invitee Trevor Van Riemsdyk win a Stanley Cup ring after being pressed into service with the Blackhawks.  The undrafted New Hampshire player signed with Chicago last year and he’s the first invitee I can think of who has wound up with a ring in his career.

There was a fairly odd signing out of the European free agent market, as Pittsburgh signed Swedish veteran (and former LA draft pick) Niclas Andersen.  I have to think this is some sort of tryout agreement, as the Swede is in the midst of a three-year contract with Brynas; the defender is coming off a career-year after six unremarkable ones previously.  New Jersey made a slightly more comprehensible signing with Vojtech Mozik.  

I’d initially written at some length about the Phoenix saga, but as that’s been beaten to death everywhere I’ll spare going into it in detail.  All I’ll say is that it’s hard to imagine how the NHL can stay in Phoenix if the city (and by that I mean the people and the council) don’t want them there.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Why Trading Robin Lehner Is a Bad Idea

We know for a fact that the organisation is going to trade one of Robin Lehner or Craig Anderson, with virtually all the speculation focussing on the young Swedish goaltender.  The reasons for Lehner to be the target is he’s much more marketable–he’s cheap, young (23), and accomplished (see below).  While Anderson has better numbers (and NHL track record), he’s older (34), injury-prone, and expensive.  From an organisational standpoint, if you have to move a goaltender, you’ll get more for Lehner, so why do I think this is a bad idea?

A starting goaltender, especially a good or elite one, has more impact on team performance than any other player.  Sens fans don’t have to be convinced of this as Ottawa’s best seasons since the 2007 Cup run have been founded off remarkable (sometimes record-setting) performances by goaltenders.  While it’s possible for a team to win a Cup without an elite goaltender (Chris Osgood always comes to mind), it’s rare and requires an elite team in front of him to do so, so in general it’s a requirement for any team to have an elite goaltender to win it all.

Is Lehner an elite (or good) starting goaltender?  The truth is we don’t know yet.  He’s played in 81 NHL games and never more than 36 in a single season–it’s simply not enough evidence for what he can or can’t do.  He’s also extremely young for a goaltender–it’s a cliché that ‘tenders develop later, but it’s absolutely true (see the link).  Lehner‘s pedigree is very good–he was considered the second best goalie in his draft year (2009), and won a Calder Cup as a teenager (2011), so why have the Sens thrown all their eggs into the Matt O’Connor basket?  (Anyone who thinks they are depending on Hammond needs to read Pierre Dorion‘s comments on him and look at his record outside the NHL.)

My guess is that Lehner‘s declining save percentage and his perceived ‘failure’ to grab the reins the few times he’s been given them have soured Murray on him.  While the GM has infinite patience for floundering veterans long past their prime, he expects young players to be excellent immediately (thus they waived Mike Hoffman before the season started and tried to trade away Patrick Wiercioch before truly giving him an opportunity–oh, and how has trading Jakob Silverberg worked out for them?).  It seems like Murray is tired of waiting and his staff likes O’Connor well enough to move on (the undrafted NCAA player participated in their development camp back in 2011).  Why, beyond what I’ve mentioned here, do I think trading him will fail?

If, as I expect, Lehner is a good or elite goaltender, it’s not possible for the Sens to get value for him.  The asking price is a top-six forward or top-four defenseman, so let’s make it clear the kind of player this organisation thinks that would be: Chris Phillips was a top-four blueliner for half this season (only injury and a coaching change altered that); they thought Bobby Butler was a top-six forward (as they did with Cory Conacher when they traded Ben Bishop for him).  Let’s say the pro scouts do a better job this time and we get a legitimate player in that category–perhaps a Benoit Pouliot, Teddy Purcell, or a Jeff Petry–are any of them really worth a starting goaltender?  Pick any half-decent starter, Jimmy Howard for example, or pick an elite ‘tender like Tuukka Rask (let’s never forget Toronto gave up on him early for a flash-in-the-pan)–what’s a couple of seasons out of Pouliot for one of those players long-term?  It’s a joke when you think about it.

When the trade happens Sens fans are going to have to pray long and hard that O’Connor really is the real deal, because we’ve seen highly touted NCAA stars crash and burn (the aforementioned Butler and Stephane Da Costa to name just two).  Other than Marcus Hogberg (assuming he’s signed) there’s nothing in the pipeline behind O’Connor if he fails, which means Anderson‘s wonky health and Hammond‘s tiny sample size is all that stands between an awful 2015-16.  Food for thought going into next season, although ultimately the trade will have to be judged in the long-term.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.