Belleville 5, Binghamton 2

Wednesday night’s home opener was a fun one for the BSens, particularly in the early going before the game was completely out of hand. Just like the previous game against Manitoba the talented top line dominated and  scored three of the five goals before largely being sat out for much of the second half. Prior to the game we solved the mystery of the Aaron Luchuk scratches in Brampton, as the FA signee is apparently suffering from a concussion.

Belleville 5, Binghamton 2
Shots: 25-40
PP: 2-5
PK: 7-8
Goaltender: Mike McKenna (38-40)
Beauchemin (Batherson, Sieloff)
Wolanin (Paul, Balcers)
Balcers (Batherson, Paul) (pp)
Paul (Batherson, Balcers) (pp)
Rodewald (LaBate, Murray) (sh)

Context
Binghamton arrived with a 3-1-0 record–wins over Toronto, Hartford, and Laval (their only loss was against Laval). Goaltender Cam Johnson was in net for three of those games and despite two wins did not have great numbers.

Lines
There was only one change to the lines, with Filip Chlapik out (injury) and Nick Paul in (returned from Ottawa). Christian Jaros had also been sent down, but was held out with the flu.

Special Teams
Other than the aforementioned switch nothing was different on the powerplay. The team is now 5-21 (23.8%), with four of those goals coming from the first unit.

The PK continues to give up goals, allowing one in each game this season. The personnel didn’t change much between games other than Chlapik‘s absence, Paul‘s addition, and the removal of Balcers from the rotation.
Much like Kurt Kleinendorst’s team last season, Troy Mann is leaning heavily on the Sieloff-Burgdoerfer pairing on the blueline for the tough minutes, with an ever-changing rotation otherwise (Wolanin is the only blueliner who is largely removed from the equation). At forward Rodewald and LaBate generally start the kill with the former getting the largest share of TOI.

Other Notes
-It was another great game from Drake Batherson, who didn’t play much in the second half once the game was essentially over–he has seven points in the last two games (eight on the year)–exactly the start you want to see from a top prospect in the minors
-It’s important to note how top-heavy the scoring is from the BSens: of the 13 goals scored this season 9 are from the top line (5-on-5 and PP), with only 2 from the other three (the remaining two goals are from the second unit PP and shorthanded). Long term I don’t think that’s sustainable and the team needs more production from the rest of the lineup (injuries and callups, clearly, are a factor)
-It’s a strange development that Rodewald has become an excellent faceoff guy–having spent his career on the wing and, in my memory, taking few faceoffs previously, I’m not sure where the skill came from, but it makes him a more useful player
McKenna continues to impress–when he was signed I thought we’d be going down the road of seasons past when the org signed a veteran goaltender on a downward slide (Danny Taylor last year, but there’s plenty more historically)–thus far he’s been excellent

All-in-all a fun game and I hope we see more of the same going forward. Given how trigger-happy the org is in pushing prospects into the NHL, I think the clock is ticking for how long we’ll get to enjoy Batherson at this level.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Belleville 6, Manitoba 2

For those who missed it I covered the previous game here. Last night the BSens exploded, or rather, their top-line did, against the Moose (scoring the first five of six goals). It was an entertaining game, a nice win for Filip Gustavsson (who had some work to do despite the score), and it was simply an entertaining game to watch (other than AHL Live freezing late in the first period). A caution before celebrating too much: as I’ll go over below, the Moose are not a very good team right now, so beating them doesn’t mean the BSens have shrugged off all their problems.

Belleville 6, Manitoba 2
Shots: 34/35
PP: 3-7
PK: 3-4
Goaltender: Filip Gustavsson (33-35)
Balcers (Chlapik, Batherson)
Batherson (Bergman, Chlapik)
Chlapik (Rodewald) (pp)
Balcers (Batherson, Wolanin) (pp)
Batherson (Chlapik)
Murray (Tambellini, Percy) (pp)

Context
Moose backup Ken Appleby was getting his first start of the season. The Moose, other than their win the night before against Belleville, had logged back-to-back losses to Iowa (losing 4-1 and 8-1 respectively). Manitoba has now scored just six goals in four games while giving up nineteen–it’s a team with a lot of issues.

Lines
We only had one change from the previous night, with Ryan Scarfo scratched in favour of Francois Beauchemin (who played slightly more, largely due to the lopsided score).

Special Teams
The powerplay was completely unchanged and both units scored (two from the first, one from the second). The first unit was the effective threat and the second still needs tweaking. With that said, overall the team is now 3-16 (18%)–funny how one good game can bump you up to respectable this early in the season.

As for the penalty kill, Mann still can’t resist using the PK to pump minutes into marginal players, although he is doing it less. Here are the combos:
Forwards: LaBate-Rodewald, Balcers-Chlapik, Balisy-Rodewald, Ciampini-Beauchemin, Tambellini-Balisy,  Beauchemin-Rodewald
Defense: Sieloff-Burgdoerfer, Percy-Englund, Englund-Bergman, Percy-Murray, Wolanin-Sieloff
I have no idea why Murray is on the PK rotation–defensively he’s a nightmare–and a guy like Ciampini isn’t doing any favours in that role either. Thus far the team’s PK is Kleinendorstian in its numbers (6-9, 66%), and if Mann is reflective at all he’s got to be less cavalier about his units.

Coaching Decisions
There’s not much to say here since very little changed between games. I hope Mann isn’t putting too much stock in Rodewald‘s game tonight–he’s historically a streaky player and while he was effective taking draws for the first PP unit that’s not where he belongs. Mann deserves credit for removing Leier from the PP, but he still doesn’t want to give Bergman any rope to do the kinds of things he did for San Jose the previous three years.

Corsi is apparently coming on Monday–when it arrives I’ll add it in.

Other Notes
-Despite scoring a very nice goal late in the game, it was an awful game for Murray (the unforced turnovers are a nightmare), and were it not for the thin depth on the BSens I’d rather he sit
Chlapik got slammed into the boards in the second and missed a couple of shifts–he’s taken a lot of punishment in the first three games and is clearly a target for other teams
-I mentioned the previous game that Wolanin was attempting tough passes through traffic that weren’t working–he’s adjusted to pick his spots more carefully and made a great pass through a defender to give Balisy a partial break in the first
-The team had been getting killed in faceoffs and bizarrely Rodewald has been quite good at them (despite not being a center)
-A couple of fantastic opportunities resulted in shots wide from marginal players–Ciampini had the best with an open side in the second which he missed from five feet out
Englund still can’t complete simple passes when he has time and no pressure; another guy who ideally sits out

All in all a fun game to watch when the talent was on the ice–great passing from the elite players. Hopefully the Sens can get healthy so more talent will return to Belleville to give the team a real shot of being competitive this season.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 1, Manitoba 2

The BSens played a better and more entertaining game against the Moose, despite having less talent to put on the ice, but are still struggling offensively to start the season (some of that I believe is coaching–see below). I will happily eat some crow by saying Mike McKenna has been excellent thus far (nothing like Danny Taylor last season). One final note: the BSens broadcaster’s persistent miscalls of players is driving me bananas–just a warning for those listening to the audio, he will make mistakes and doesn’t always correct them–trust your eyes not your ears. The breakdown:

Belleville 1, Manitoba 2
Shots: 31/30
PP: 0-6
PK: 3-4
Goaltender: McKenna (28-30)
Goal: Balcers (Batherson, Chlapik)

Context
The Moose were coming off back-to-back losses to Iowa, losing 4-1 and 8-1 respectively. Goaltender Eric Comrie played the bulk of the minutes in both games and would start against the BSens where, despite a lot of rubber, he didn’t face that many quality scoring chances.

Lines
The team’s lineup changed considerably after the loss against Utica, with Nick Paul and Christian Jaros recalled to Ottawa, and Marcus Hogberg, Logan Brown, and Andrew Sturtz injured. This resulted in the recall of Filip GustavssonRyan ScarfoFrancois Beauchemin, and Daniel Ciampini from Brampton (who was signed to an AHL-contract). Line changes noted in italics:
Balcers-Chlapik-Batherson
Tambellini-Balisy-Gagne (was the third line)
Leier-LaBate-Rodewald (was the fourth line)
Ciampini-Scarfo

Wolanin-Burgdoerfer
Percy-Murray
Sieloff-Bergman-Englund

Essentially two-thirds of the second-line were gone, so Batherson was moved up, Rodewald moved down, and the third-line became the second. Mann elected to go with seven defenseman, which makes sense since both Murray and Englund are very weak in different areas.

Special Teams
The powerplay continued to struggle and just like in the Utica game, Mann didn’t make any tweaks to it during the game (unlike the PK where there was some rotating). These are, however, radically different lines (those in italics are new to the line).
Balcers-Chlapik-Leier/Wolanin-Batherson
Gagne-Balisy-Tambellini/Percy-Murray (basically was the first unit)

Balcers moves from the point up to forward, Batherson slides back, and Chlapik is the only part of the first unit from Utica that remains (everyone except Leier was on the second unit previously). Balisy also migrates from the blueline to forward, but four of the five players were part of the first unit in Utica (with Murray added). I have no idea why Bergman, with three seasons as a powerplay quarterback in San Jose’s affiliate, is not being given the opportunity. Mann clearly isn’t a fan of his because he doesn’t play much, but with a proven track record and a flailing PP, why not put him there? As for the general performance: obviously the team didn’t score, but it did look a little better than in the previous game.

As for the PK, there were more rotations so we can take a look at the units:
Forward pairings: LaBate-Rodewald, Chlapik-Balisy, Balisy-Rodewald, Chlapik-LaBate, Tambellini-Scarfo, Ciampini-Chlapik
Defense pairings: Englund-Burgdoerfer, Sieloff-Bergman, Sieloff-Burgdoerfer, Englund-Percy, Englund-Bergman, Percy-Murray

If you’re looking at that and thinking, wait, Murray and Ciampini were killing a penalty? And at the same time? Yes, and that’s the shift that resulted in the PP-goal against. It seemed like, along with Bergman, Mann is using the PK to shovel ice time to benchwarmers outside the opening and closing rotations, which is a very strange approach.

Coaching Decisions
-The Rodewald-on-the-first-line experiment (which was right out of the Kurt Kleinendorst’s playbook) was dropped he was much more effective playing away from top-checkers on the third line
Leier on the top-PP unit is bizarre; he had a poor game against the Moose (a pair of key turnovers in the first, one of which lead to a goal against) and he did not gel very well with his PP partners; he’s not a good enough player to face top checkers
-The bizarre decision to slot Murray with Percy on the second D-pairing when Bergman is available (and a righthand shot)
-Correctly limiting Scarfo‘s TOI (his only notable play in the entire game was a brutal unforced turnover in the second)

Corsi etc still hasn’t been posted–I will add that information as soon as it becomes available.

Other Notes
-The first half of the game Wolanin was persistently attempting tough passes into traffic that weren’t working; he adjusted later in the game
Englund still can’t make a simple, five-foot pass
Tambellini hit the crossbar in the second–had he scored it’s a very different game
Percy had good moments in the game, but his two most notable were a suicide pass to Chlapik that got him leveled and the turnover that lead to the game winning goal against

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Brampton Beast

brampton

There have been a lot of changes since I initially went over the team’s roster just a few weeks ago. Let’s walk through the team as it stands now just one day before their season opens (highlighting changes I haven’t covered previously; the new ECHL website layout is a nightmare at the moment, incidentally):

Goaltenders
Jake Paterson (AHL-deal)
Anthony Dumont-Bouchard (undrafted, with most of his time spent in the Q other than his final year in the O with Kitchener)

Leonid Lazarev was released

Defense
Macoy Erkamps (ELC)
Chris Martenet (Dallas ELC; not someone the Stars want even on their ECHL affiliate in Idaho)
Mathieu Gagnon
Reggie Traccitto
Jordan Henry
Mike Folkes
Matt Petgrave
Austin McEneny
Jonathan Racine
Chase Golightly

Hugo Enock was released

Forwards
Aaron Luchuk (ELC)
Daniel Ciampini (AHL-deal)
Francois Beauchemin (AHL-deal)
Anthony DeLuca (claimed off waivers; played in Denmark last year, but was on the BSens Wichita affiliate back in 15-16 for half a season)
David Vallorani
Artur Tyanulin
David Pacan
Chris Leveille
Anthony Beauregard
Erik Bradford
Brandon MacLean
Nathan Todd
Jackson Leef
Alexandre Mentink (I believe this is a PTO because he was playing in a senior league last year after three seasons away from hockey completely)

Lucas Venuto and Kris Newbury were released; Jake Wood was claimed off waivers

Filip Gustavsson, Ryan Scarfo, and Boston Leier were all assigned to Brampton earlier, but all have been recalled due to injuries and NHL-recalls. Leier played in the BSens first game and Gustavsson is likely to play in Manitoba. This flood of roster moves pushed the BSens into signing Daniel Ciampini to an AHL-deal and I’d expect him to play ahead of Scarfo.

Aaron Luchuk remains in Brampton and I think that’s largely to ensure he gets lot’s of ice time. If, over time, others are recalled ahead of him than that’s an indictment of his performance.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

The Milkman Returns

Image result for milkman

Jeremy Milks, one of the original Sens bloggers, came out of the woodwork after three years of dormancy. What brought the milkman back to the blogosphere? Was it ownership? The Karlsson trade? Excitement over the youth movement? Nope, it was Cody Ceci.

For those of you unfamiliar with Jeremy, he’s an old school fan–likes ’em gritty–good in the corners–and he’s not comfortable with all those fancy stats (math and sports don’t mix). I haven’t blogged as far back as Jeremy has, but we were both blogging at the same time for years. Despite that I rarely had reason to comment about him because his opinions were echoed by the Ottawa media. However, given today’s post by him, I did want to reference the last time (in 2014) I discussed him because it’s relevant to what he posted today:

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.

So how has Jeremy evolved in the four years since he wrote the above? What’s changed–what brought the inestimable Sens blogger back to the keyboard to share his views? Well, as we’ll see, nothing. The milkman has returned to fight the same battles.

I want to boil Jeremy’s piece down to his main points (you can read the entirety of his article via the link above)–I want to look at his argument, which he sets out as a comparison between Ceci and Thomas Chabot:

Ceci had one of those mediocre games that would go largely unnoticed in most NHL cities

Jeremy likes using strawmen in his discussions and this is a classic–if he’s being honest with us, is there a Canadian market that doesn’t pay attention to this sort of thing? There were more angry articles written about Kenny Jonsson in his rookie season with Toronto more than 20 years ago than we saw angry blog pieces about Ceci over the same time period, so let’s not pretend he’s playing in an especially hostile environment, particularly given the incredibly tame media here.

Not many teams can stop the Bruins first line … but the sight of Bergeron’s hat-trick goal bouncing in off of Ceci’s skate launched a thousand and one “I told you so” tweets. Never mind that Ceci was (awkwardly) doing the right thing…. All of that doesn’t matter. At least not to Ottawa fans and Mr. Ceci. For many, Ceci will never measure up, even though nobody really knows what that measure is supposed to be.

This is a pretty bizarre statement–the org has told us incessantly what he is and what the expectations for him are. That aside, Jeremy says Ceci was bad against the line because everyone is bad against them (no need to back this up–we need to trust that Jeremy knows that’s true–all defensemen are equally bad against this so criticism of his performance isn’t fair). What’s interesting is the “I told you so”–so fans knew better than the coach how this would turn out? And Ceci can’t live up to fan expectations? I wonder, Jeremy, who set those expectations? And how do fans know better than a professional organization and coach? But we’ll come back to that.

Analytics-minded fans say they know the measure, and it’s possession time among other stats. And they may very well be right

Let’s note they may be right–not that they are right. Jeremy is gracious by not offering an explanation of what that means.

Ceci, miscast as a shutdown defender on a thin Senators blueline, has to face Bergeron

How does Jeremy know he’s miscast, exactly (eyeball test? tarot cards? how?)? It fits the “poor me” defence, but let’s see what reasons he has for this.

he’s skating backwards more often than handling the puck, and when he does get it on his tape, it’s probably going high off the glass and through the neutral zone so his team can make a line change. Doesn’t make for a very compelling set of numbers. For many, he also fails the eyeball test

The description makes it sound like he fails the Jeremy eyeball test–the generalization about what Ceci does has to come from somewhere, after all.

We watch with our eyes but we also watch with our prejudices. We want to see what we already know, which is why analytics has cut through some of the traditional views and made everybody mad on both sides of the divide. It challenges everything we think we know and therefore it’s a threat. On the other hand analytics dismisses intangibles too easily and the eyeball test probably takes too much of it into account.

This is fascinating to me–what two sides? Analytics only makes people upset who reject it and the number who do shrinks annually. He’s absolutely correct that those who focus purely on the eyeballs make too much of it (something demonstrably proven over and over again in sport–you can start with Moneyball and work your way forward).

We see a minor miscue [by Ceci] and it brings to mind hundreds from the past and suddenly that bad bounce turns into the blooper that should see him traded for a draft pick

Jeremy remembers hundreds of miscues from Ceci–that seems problematic.

We don’t see the routine plays that a veteran makes to be in position to halt a breakout or that vital routine pass to break out of the zone. Not the home run pass to create a breakaway, but the simple chalkboard play to get out of your zone. Ceci, and most vets, make these unremarkable plays more often than not

We’re safely back in strawman territory as Jeremy knows anyone criticizing Ceci is incapable of recognizing what he does well. Thank god Jeremy is here to inform us!

It’s a bit reminiscent of Jason Spezza, who was well-liked by more fans than Ceci, but still took so much heat that he wanted out of town shortly after being named captain

Last I checked fans don’t make trades. Jeremy leaves it unsaid that the Sens were eager to get out from under Spezza‘s contract (particularly given Melnyk’s financial woes)–the fact that Bryan Murray made a terrible deal isn’t the fans fault (something people in analytics knew was a disaster from the start). If fan pressure truly resulted in trades, Ceci would have been jettisoned years ago.

That [more offensive] role has been offloaded to even younger players

We’re stumbling into Jeremy’s logic a bit here–the coaches that understand how important those simple plays are (that fans are too dumb to recognize) apparently don’t think Ceci can take that next step and fill-in for Erik Karlsson. So who understands his value? Not the coaches, from what’s said here, but not the fans either? Is it just Jeremy?

Meanwhile, Chabot is the fan’s new golden kid.

Wow, that sounds undeserved right? Probably anointed by his GM as an amazing player–one of the best he’s seen in 20 years–and despite all his numerous mistakes and cries from the analytics community, he still plays a ton. Or wait, my mistake, I just described Ceci. Moving on!

There’s long been a sentiment that Ottawa management favoured local prospects for marketing reasons over more skilled options, but in the case of Ceci, he was one of the most highly rated defensemen in his 2012 draft class.

We can forgive Jeremy for not following the draft very closely (none of them have veteran savvy so how good could they be?), but I can fill in some details for him. The 2012 draft was a weak one, but he’s correct that Ceci was ranked highly. Not many people read those draft reports, however, they just look at the ranking, but if you do read them you’ll see all the warning signs scouts had for him at that stage–you’ll note most had him topping out as a top-four blueliner–not a guy for the top-pairing. Those are opinions from days of yore, but let’s be careful with this narrative that he was anointed at the draft which somehow leaves the org no choice about what to do with him.

Ceci’s only crime is having a “standard” hockey personality

How his personality is reflected in his play is a mystery only Jeremy can resolve.

He’s well liked in the locker room

This is Sens org PR 101–he’s good in the room goddamn it!

In a fair world, Ceci would probably be seen as a “fair” player

I don’t think even Jeremy knows what ‘fair’ means removed from the abstract. What’s fair? Does it mean average? Above average? Which other players are ‘fair’? I don’t know and I don’t think Jeremy does either–I’m assuming he means he’s not bad, but that’s simply an assumption.

For Cody Ceci, the intense scrutiny will continue until something breaks, either for management or the player. He probably deserves better

This makes me curious–why does he deserve better? Why does he deserve anything? This isn’t a league with participation trophies–it’s competitive where you need to be better than other players or you lose your job. I assume he wants the player treated better, but other than the fanbase he couldn’t get better treatment and for Ceci what’s more important? Love from your bosses, or from random fans online? The answer is pretty clear.

These attacks have real ramifications. Just ask Jared Cowen, or other high draft picks before him who didn’t measure up to expectations

Sport is entertainment and entertainers have to put up with a lot of shit–that comes from being a public figure and for athletes this usually begins as teenagers. Despite that, how is it relevant to Ceci in a way that impacts his play? Does he bauble the puck due to comments in The Silver Seven (if he does, where’s that mental toughness the ‘good-in-the-room’ guys are supposed to have?). And is Cowen the hill Jeremy wants to die on in relation to Ceci? The problem with this idea is that players run out of organizations are almost always skilled guys–ones who weren’t good in the room, or weren’t tough enough, or didn’t work hard enough. Those are the players who receive unfair criticism (typically from management) and then blossom elsewhere. The guys like Ceci, the ‘good in the corners’ guys, they are afforded every opportunity and given every excuse (as, indeed, Ceci demonstrates).

Let’s try to sum up Jeremy’s argument. As it turns out, despite his opening, it’s not a comparison between players, but rather a defense of Ceci from public criticism. Jeremy doesn’t reflect at all on the walls put around the guy by the organization, the coach, most of the media, and his teammates. Cody Ceci needs even more protection apparently–fans need to stop being so mean–stop pointing out his flaws and trying to make their favourite team better. There’s no real structure to this argument, but you can sum it up in just two points:

1. Ceci’s performance isn’t very good, but he’s being utilized poorly

No one would argue this point.

2. Fans are being overly negative because they’ve already made up their minds that he’s not very good.

The problem here is that Jeremy doesn’t think he’s very good either–he’s a ‘fair player’–a term that I think means average. How does Jeremy know this? I have no idea–he doesn’t tell us–but because he’s a fair player we shouldn’t criticize him because he’s being used inappropriately.

This is convoluted and nonsensical. Jeremy is not a bad guy, but he clutters up what is an emotional statement with an attempt at an argument. Do fans have a right to criticize Cody Ceci? Absolutely. As long as they aren’t crossing the line of actual harassment, it’s justified–especially given the org’s refusal to accept any of the foibles even Jeremy himself admits. If Ceci was a rookie or sophomore you could argue that fans need to be patient (although demotion to the AHL or returned to junior is a legitimate discussion), but that’s simply not the case here. I think the reason why Jeremy put up this post is because he’s frustrated with arguments he’s having with other fans. If Jeremy can’t argue facts, he can try to shut down criticism entirely by saying people are being too mean (something we aren’t hearing from Ceci, certainly). Jeremy isn’t intentionally being disingenuous–I’m sure he believes everything above (even the contradictory parts), but as an argument it’s simply ridiculous.

Welcome back Jeremy. You’ve generally been a Don Brennan clone over your blogging career, but you are entertaining and I hope you keep posting.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 1, Utica 3

I’m a little late with my impressions of the game, but better late than never. I prefer seeing games live and cramming this one in late at night definitely took away from the experience–with that said, it was not an entertaining game. Just a note about AHL Live: the quality of the stream was good, so we can hope that’s a trend for this season. Let’s start with the basics.

Utica 3, Belleville 1
Shots: 29/32
PP: 1-1/0-3
Goaltender: Mike McKenna (26-28)
Goal: LaBate (Leier, Percy)

Context
The Comets were playing their second of back-to-back nights after getting thrashed by Toronto 7-3 the night before. The team features former Sen pick Jonathan Dahlen (discarded in the Alex Burrows trade). The only change made to the lineup was swapping 19-year old Lind for 21-year old Palmu–goaltender Richard Bachman played both games.

Lines
I’ve mentioned previously that Mann’s decisions when it comes to TOI are going to dictate what kind of success he’s going to have and I was curious what lines he would utilize–keeping in mind that both Jim O’Brien and Ben Sexton are hurt (with Paul Carey and Max Lajoie in Ottawa), circumstances that threw off my line-predictions:
Balcers-Chlapik-Rodewald
Paul-Brown-Batherson
Tambellini-Balisy-Gagne
Leier-LaBate-Sturtz
Wolanin-Burgdoerfer
Percy-Jaros
Sieloff-Bergman

How off were my predictions? Removing the roster situation, not that far (I had Chlapik centering the first line, Brown and Batherson on the second, Tambellini and Gagne on the third, and LaBate and Sturtz on the fourth). On defence I had all the pairings correctly predicted, but I had the first and second swapped. It’s very clear Mann wanted ‘veteran savvy’ on each defense pairing, although in practice with the exception of Percy it was the prospects who had to make up for their veteran partners.

What about special teams? Who did Mann use? Well the team enjoyed a long powerplay due to Brendan Woods losing his mind and punching Chlapik repeatedly for no reason (the AHL, in its wisdom, thought that was just fine).
Tambellini-Chlapik-Gagne/Percy-Balisy
Paul-Brown-Batherson/Wolanin-Balcers

Because of the length of the one of the PP’s we did see a little variation, but these were the set combinations and they make my head explode. Why the hell is Tambellini on the first unit? Why is Balisy? The second unit looks like it should be the first, but it wasn’t. Neither unit generated many opportunities as they both looked disjointed.

As for the penalty kill, we only saw it for a few seconds as Utica scored off the opening faceoff. The unit was: Paul-Balisy/Percy-Jaros. It’s worth noting that last season Jaros was not very good on the PK–doesn’t mean that won’t change, but it’s something to keep in mind.

There were a few eye-catching coaching decisions which elicit groans of disappointment:
Rodewald on the first line: This is a horrendously inconsistent player who drags down whoever he plays with (as, indeed, he demonstrated on the night). Any of the other RW’s would have been a better choice and Mann made no adjustment to this unit throughout
Burgdoerfer on the first pairing: something I guessed we’d see after his selection as captain, but illustrative of Mann’s inability to recognise his flaws (all related to his instincts); Wolanin helped him out, but he’s a drag on whoever he plays with
-No Jaros or Bergman on the powerplay: the latter has historically been good with the extra man and the former has the biggest shot on the team–they only appeared once (as a duo of all things) during seven minutes of wasted powerplay time

On Twitter a fan is tracking Corsi along with zone starts, entries, and exits (part of my delay in posting this was a desire to see that info). Analysts have been moving away from Corsi, but it does have its uses (as a reminder: that’s measuring shot attempt differential while at even strength). What we can take away from that information:
-the Paul-Brown-Batherson line dominated (in relative terms), although they were never given a defensive zone start (most of which were split between the 1st and 4th line)
-the fourth line did well, the third line was roughly even, and Rodewald dragged down his partners on the first line (this isn’t obvious from the Corsi data by itself, incidentally)
Wolanin and Jaros (unsurprisingly) had the strongest games; Sieloff was awful, although that doesn’t jump out at you as much via Corsi
-You get a sense of just how magical Burgdoerfer is by looking at his zone exit numbers (12 attempted, just 7 completed)

The numbers are very kind to Sieloff, who was guilty of some horrendous giveaways in his own zone–three in particular stood out, including passing to the wrong team in front of his own net late in the first. This is not typical of his play (which isn’t to say he’s a great player, just that these kinds of unforced errors were not typical of him last season), so I’m not sure what the issue was.

Chlapik‘s numbers aren’t overwhelming, but he continues to do things not many other players can do at this level (there was a fantastic pass in the second period that stands out to me); he and Balcers are clearly still figuring each other out, but having a useless player (Rodewald) on the other wing dragged both down.

We’ll hope for better things in game two, which will also give us insight into Mann. Is the coach someone who adjusts or is he, like Kleinendorst, very slow to figure things out? Time will tell.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville Senators: Predictions

Image result for nostradamus

The BSens play tonight (a game I’ll have to catch after the fact), so this is my last chance to make predictions in a timely fashion. I did so last year and on the whole I did pretty well. While we aren’t yet sure of the lines/combinations, we can bemoan Burgdoerfer‘s selection as captain–it’s not that I think the selection matters for individual or team performance, but it does show who the coach has faith in and putting that mantel on the turnover-machine (stay safe kids and don’t play the drinking game) means he will get significant ice time.

Putting that aside, let’s dig in, shall we? I’ve gone over most of the players previously sans predictions and I’ve linked those breakdowns below.

Division/Schedule

As covered previously the BSens have an easier road to success this year with a softer division to play in (I highlighted the teams they play the most–blue at the top, pink second, and green third):

Schedule (76) 29-42-5
North Division (54, 71%)
Toronto (Tor) 12 54-18-4
Syracuse (TB) 6 46-22-8
Rochester (Buf) 4 37-22-17
Utica (Van) 6 38-26-12
Binghamton (NJ) 6 25-38-13
Cleveland (Clb) 8 25-41-10 (Central Division)
Laval (Mtl) 12 24-42-10
Atlantic Division (14, 18%)
Lehigh (Phi) 2 47-19-10
Charlotte (Car) 4 46-26-4
Providence (Bos) 2 45-26-5
Bridgeport (NYI) 2 36-32-8
Hartford (NYR) 2 34-33-9
Hershey (Wsh) 2 30-37-9
Central Division (8, 10%)
Grand Rapids (Det) 4 42-25-9
Manitoba (Wpg) 4 42-26-83

The BSens have four less games against Rochester, two less against both Binghamton and Syracuse, and no games against Wilkes-Barre or Springfield; they’ve added eight games against Cleveland (vs none last year) and four games against Grand Rapids (also none last year). On paper this is a better schedule, removing a net 8 games against better teams and replacing them with 8 against a worse team. Deserved or not the team should see a bump in performance (which, in turn, should help bump their individual production).

Coaching

I previously look at Troy Mann in Hershey, but it’s buried in a larger article so it’s worth going over again:

  • 2014-15 46-22-8 .658 pugilist Dane Byers remained the captain
  • 2015-16 43-21-12 .645 pugilist Garrett Mitchell was the captain
  • 2016-17 43-22-11 .638 same captain
  • 2017-18 30-37-9 .454 same captain

Mann had Jim O’BrienBurgdoerfer, and Carey previously. He relied heavily on vets for scoring, although it’s difficult to separate what was made available to him vs who he played. His rewarding of non-players as captain is, however, right up the org’s alley (and echoed this year).

The Roster

Let’s look at the changes from the disastrous 17-18 to now to get a better sense of just how much better the roster really is (listed in order of performance).

Deleted

  • Forwards: Colin White (NHL), Max McCormick (NHL), Ethan Werek (unsigned), Mike Blunden (EBEL), Max Reinhart (unsigned), Francis Perron (T-AHL), Daniel Ciampini (ECHL), Nick Moutrey (ECHL), Kyle Flanagan (retired), Eric Selleck (AHL PTO), Tyler Randell (AHL)
  • Defense: Ben Harpur (NHL), Ville Pokka (KHL), Cody Donaghey (T-ECHL)
  • Goaltenders: Danny Taylor (KHL), Chris Driedger (ECHL)

This is not a who’s-who of minor league greats. So how about the influx of talent (I’ve largely excised the AHL-contracts from this list, although I detail them below)?

Added

  • Forwards: Carey (NHL), Balcers (AHL), Tambellini (AHL), Balisy (AHL), LaBate (AHL), Brown (OHL), Luchuk (OHL), Batherson (QMJHL), Sturtz (NCAA)
  • Defense: Percy (AHL), Bergman (T-AHL), Wolanin (NCAA)
  • Goaltenders: Mike McKenna (AHL), Filip Gustavsson (SHL)

It’s a lovely list, but what does it mean? Let’s look at what’s tangibly been lost and added.
Forward Goals Lost/Gained: 65/76 (+11)*
Defense Goals Lost/Gained: 5/17 (+12)
Total Points Lost/Gained: 192/220 (+28)*
Goalie Wins Lost/Gained: 21/17 (-4)
*For Carey, since he played in the NHL last season, I took his average output over the three previous seasons (17); I did the same for his points (40)

Without factoring in production from new prospects we can already see it’s a more talented group offensively with the difference most starkly seen on the blueline (which could hardly have been worse last season).

Back to projections: what follows is explaining how I arrived at my numbers–for those who just want the list it’s at the bottom. I should note that I’ve aimed conservatively across the board–we could (even should) see better numbers from some of the players. The (AHL) in brackets means their career average in the league. Players are very roughly organized in how much I think they will play (as opposed to perform).

Defense

Stuart Percy DL 1993; 1-25/11 Tor 2017-18 67-7-27-34 0.51 (AHL 0.38)
Projection: 0.40
His totals are going to be heavily impacted on Lajoie or Wolanin being in the NHL and where he plays on the powerplay (first or second unit), but there’s no reason to doubt he’ll at least park himself around his average production (his number above is arrived at by removing his anomalous season in Wilkes-Barre).

Erik Burgdoerfer DR 1988; FA 17 66-5-12-17 0.25 (AHL 0.25)
Projection: 0.25
It’s clear Captain Turnover is going to play quite a bit, although if Mann has a brain it will be less than under Kleinendorst; he should hit his usual targets.

Christian Jaros DR 1996; 5-139/15 44-3-13-16 0.36
Projection: 0.50
Probably belongs in the NHL and may not stay in Belleville for long. If he’s given the right opportunities I expect his numbers to improve significantly (he was much-hindered by Kleinendorstian coaching). It was extremely difficult to find a comparable defender (physical D out of the SHL with some skill)–the best I could do was Carl Dahlstrom, but he struggled in his first AHL season which is unlike Jaros. In the end I gave him an increase that’s hinged on him playing on the top-PP.

Max Lajoie DL 1997; 5-133/16 AHL 56-1-14-15 0.27*
Projection: 0.38
*Currently in the NHL
Ironically last year I compared him to Dylan DeMelo (along with Reese Scarlett); because of his weird usage he wound up below targets, but when/if he returns to the BSens I expect him to be about that figure (since I don’t think he’ll get top-PP time)

Christian Wolanin DL 1995; 4-107/15 NCAA 40-12-23-35 0.87
Projection: 0.58
There’s a good chance he doesn’t spend much time in Belleville, but there’s a logjam of players in Ottawa at the moment and so long as Lajoie is doing well he’s not going anywhere. I used his former teammate Tucker Poolman as the comparable.

Julius Bergman DR 1995; 2-46/14 SJ 65-10-10-20 0.30 (AHL 0.32)
Projection: 0.30
I’m uncertain how he’ll be used; I expect he’ll see less TOI 5-on-5 (due to perceived defensive weakness), but will still see PP time; the question is whether Mann wants to use a forward on the point, because if he does and Jaros is here, he won’t get much special teams time. Given the uncertainty I’ve put him at the same levels as last season (so slightly below his career average).

Patrick Sieloff DL 1994; 2-42/12 Cal 58-1-9-10 0.17 (AHL 0.18)
Projection: 0.17
Assuming he stays healthy and plays there’s no reason at all why he won’t be in the usual range of his numbers, which he’s hovered around every season (even though I expect him to play less, which is why I matched last year’s total rather than his career average).

Jordan Murray DL 1992; FA 17 58-8-15-23 0.40
Projection: 0.19
Received a ton of special teams time and TOI because of how weak the blueline was last year; I expect a sharp reduction as he should be a part-time player at best (his number is via cutting out the powerplay points and then a further 25% reduction due to fewer opportunities).

Andreas Englund DL 1996; 2-40/14 69-1-9-10 0.14 (AHL 0.14)
Projection: 0.14
Absolute rubbish last season and I wouldn’t expect him to play in the regular rotation. His puck skills are awful so he could regress further from his usual abysmal numbers.

Macoy Erkamps DR 1995; FA 16 46-1-3-4 0.08 (AHL 0.11)*
Projection: ECHL
*Currently in the ECHL
He’ll need a number of circumstances to occur to get another sniff of the AHL-level; if so he’ll have miserable production numbers.

Forwards

Paul Carey CL 1988; FA 18 NHL 60-7-7-14 0.23 (AHL 0.63)*
Projection: 0.60
*Recalled to the NHL
I took his production from his three most characteristic seasons (excising his best-ever in 16-17 and a down year in 13-14).

Ben Sexton RW 1991; 7-206/09 Bos 30-11-10-21 0.70 (AHL 0.45)
Projection: 0.62
His last two seasons seem the most characteristic, so I excised his seasons in Providence. Keep in mind he’s very injury-prone, having played more than 40 games just once in four AHL-seasons (which could mean not just missed time but possible regression).

Rudolfs Balcers LW 1997; 5-142/15 SJ AHL 67-23-25-48 0.71
Projection: 0.71
Played on a team with the same offensive challenges as the BSens last year, so there’s no reason to expect him to be any worse, although he was also getting top TOI which isn’t guaranteed here (thus I kept him around the same numbers).

Filip Chlapik CL 1997; 2-48/15 AHL 52-11-21-32 0.62
Projection: 0.71
Last year I used a combination of players as comparables and was almost picture-perfect in my prediction. I’ve cut it down to two of those four, putting him between Ondrej Palat and Marek Zagrapan. I very much doubt, incidentally, he’ll spend the entire season in Belleville.

Drake Batherson RW 1998; 4-121/17 QMJHL 51-29-48-77 1.51
Projection: 0.55
As I’ve mentioned before that I think there are similarities between Batherson and Tanner Pearson–both were passed over in the draft, both known for offense–so I’ve used the latter’s numbers as the starting point, but scaling it back in reference to where they were drafted as a measure of some separation of talent (1st vs 4th round, so I chopped the number by 25%). I’m being very conservative with him and I take this as the low end of what I expect.

Logan Brown CL 1998; 1-11/16 OHL 32-22-26-48 1.50
Projection: 0.75
Finding a direct comparable for Brown proved impossible–no other big center out of the CHL was picked mid-first round and sent to the AHL in the recent past–the closest parallel I could find was Anthony Mantha (Joe Colborne is another big, mid-first round center, but he went to the NCAA first). Mantha was a bit buried on a talented Grand Rapids team in his rookie season (14-15), so I’m taking his sophomore numbers as the better comparable. If he performs very well I’d expect him to be brought up to Ottawa.

Nick Paul CL 1995; 4-101/13 Dal AHL 54-14-13-27 0.50 (AHL 0.47)
Projection: 0.47
On the one hand we can throw out Paul’s rookie year in the AHL as an aberration in terms of numbers, but on the other hand we have to question if he’ll get the favourable TOI he received from Kleinendorst. To split the difference I’ve settled on his AHL-average (assuming he’ll slip to the second PP unit while seeing some time in the top-six).

Gabriel Gagne RW 1996; 2-36/15 68-20-5-25 0.36 (AHL 0.28)
Projection: 0.50
After last season it’s neigh on impossible to find a similar player (Hunter Smith was what I used last year, but that’s a guy who flamed out into the ECHL); Gagne had a chaotic season, split between opportunity and afterthought and he was wildly inconsistent. There’s plenty of opportunity for him to continue to grow however, but how much prime time will he get? I’m expecting growth, but not at the same pace as from rookie to sophomore–I’ve gone with a reasonable improvement.

Adam Tambellini C/LW 1994; 3-65/13 NYR 69-16-16-32 0.46 (AHL 0.47)
Projection: 0.43
He’s unlikely to spend much time in the top-six and isn’t guaranteed PP time either, which would push down his numbers considerably. I’ve settled him at his rookie season ratio to figure in whatever vagaries of usage we’ll see.

Andrew Sturtz RW 1994; FA 18 NCAA 37-14-26-40 1.08
Projection: 0.48
He doesn’t seem targeted for a lot of ice time or PP-time, so if that remains the case it hurts his potential output. Comparisons weren’t easy–undrafted, smaller forwards with similar numbers–Trevor Moore is the closest to that pattern and I’ve taken his slightly lower, sophomore numbers as the baseline (keeping in mind that if he’s not given opportunities they could be much lower).

Chase Balisy C/RW 1992; 6-170/11 Nsh 67-14-21-35 0.52 (AHL 0.53)
Projection: 0.49
Much like Tambellini he’s likely to receive less ice time and limited PP time, depressing his production–I’ve given him roughly the same kind of reduction.

Jack Rodewald RW 1994; T-16 AHL 62-14-11-25 0.40 (AHL 0.38)
Projection: 0.32
After two seasons of favourable usage from Kleinendorst he’s been reduced to a bit part; I expect his numbers to plummet with part-time usage (I gave him Ciampini’s levels from last season).

Joseph LaBate LW 1993; 4-101/11 Van AHL 39-6-8-11 0.28 (AHL 0.32)
Projection: 0.25
Consistently falling production won’t improve here and I’m expecting career lows.

Jim O’Brien C/RW 1989;  1-29/07 AHL 60-13-16-29 0.48 (AHL 0.54)*
Projection: 0.45
*Injured and expected to miss the bulk of the season
Received top TOI last season along with limited PP usage and, if healthy, I think the former would be reduced, cutting down his numbers. I’ve given him his 16-17 production.

Boston Leier LW 1993; FA 18 CIS 27-15-24-39 1.44
Projection: 0.28
Had a better camp than Luchuk which is why he was the first recalled from Brampton. There aren’t a lot of templates for Leier, who was a good (but not great) CHL player and a great (but not elite) University player. The two comparisons I’ve found are Philippe Maillet and Eric Faille–the former was a better CHL/CIS player, while the latter is about on par and therefore our basis for projection. While Faille now plays in Slovakia, I’ve used his AHL numbers, keeping in mind Leier is certainly going to receive limited minutes (and games), so the rookie season is my go-to.

Aaron Luchuk CL 1997; FA 18 OHL 68-50-65-115 1.69*
Projection: 0.33
*Currently in the ECHL
Given that he didn’t make the BSens and the clogged lineup that’s in front of him I have Tyler Donati’s rookie season as his AHL-baseline (I feel like when he does play he’ll get better minutes than Leier).

Ryan Scarfo CL 1994; FA 18 NCAA 38-20-16-36 0.95*
Projection: 0.22
*Currently in the ECHL
I wasn’t thrilled with this signing–Scarfo had mediocre numbers until his senior year (clearly boosted by teammates) and he was unimpressive in a lengthy showcase in Belleville. It was difficult to find a parallel, but Dominik Shine seems close enough (a slightly better career, but reasonably close otherwise). I’ve taken his rookie season and shaved 20% off because Shine was a regular and Scarfo will not be (ergo, less TOI and opportunities).

Francois Beauchemin RW 1996; FA 18 AHL 31-5-4-9 0.29*
Projection: ECHL
*Currently in the ECHL
He’s the least likely player to be recalled so if he see’s any playing time at all it will be extremely limited.

Goaltenders

Mike McKenna G 1983; FA 18 AHL .909 2.64
I didn’t indulge in predicting wins/losses for goaltenders last year and I won’t this year either–it’s a bit of a fools errand since coaching has a much more dramatic impact on goaltenders vs other players. McKenna is an older guy whose numbers the last two seasons have been mediocre–were it not for his playoff run it would be hard to explain signing him. We should expect him to continue his decline and he shouldn’t play more than a typical backup.

Marcus Hogberg G 1994; 3-78/13 .899 3.27
After an erratic rookie season where he was bounced around and stuck behind two veteran goaltenders for half the year, Hogberg will at least get a chance to prove himself. As impatient as the org is, goaltenders can take a long time to develop and it will be interesting to see if he’s given the opportunity to work on his game. It’s extremely difficult to find a parallel for Hogberg–a Swede with good numbers in the SHL who struggled in his first AHL season and spent time in the ECHL. Oscar Dansk is about as close as I can get, although he went via the OHL to a rough first pro year, back to the SHL (where his seasons were middling), before becoming a decent AHL-goaltender. Hogberg should be better this year, but the question is how much better–can he be more consistent?

Filip Gustavsson G 1998; 2-55/16 Pit SHL .918 2.07*
As mentioned above very few Swedish goaltenders, particularly ones with solid numbers in the SHL, ever go to the ECHL. He should do well there, although the quality of the team in front of him will make a difference. I don’t expect him to remain with the Beast for very long–certainly not the whole season–although assuming he performs well I have no idea what the BSens will do with yet another three-headed monster in net (McKenna should be pushed to the pressbox, but coaches like their veterans, so who knows?).

Jake Paterson G 1994; 3-80/12 Det ECHL .899 3.71*
Projection: ECHL
*Currently in the ECHL
Even in circumstances where he’s called up to the AHL he won’t start unless there is no other choice.

The List

Logan Brown 0.75
Rudolfs Balcers 0.71
Filip Chlapik 0.71
Ben Sexton 0.62
Paul Carey 0.60
Christian Wolanin 0.58
Drake Batherson 0.55
Gabriel Gagne 0.50
Christian Jaros 0.50
Chase Balisy 0.49
Andrew Sturtz 0.48
Nick Paul 0.47
Jim O’Brien 0.45
Adam Tambellini 0.43
Stuart Percy  0.40
Max Lajoie 0.38
Aaron Luchuk 0.33
Jack Rodewald 0.32
Julius Bergman 0.30
Boston Leier 0.28
Joseph LaBate 0.25
Erik Burgdoerfer 0.25
Ryan Scarfo 0.22
Jordan Murray 0.19
Patrick Sieloff 0.17
Andreas Englund 0.14
Francois Beauchemin ECHL
Macoy Erkamps ECHL

Keep in mind this list is by points-per-game; it could look radically different just based on total points due to games played. We should see some booms (and busts) with younger players, but those with a few years in the league should have relatively stable production.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)