Belleville Senators Season Review: Part Two

Kleinendorst

Here we are with Part Two of my season review (you can see part one here). The first part was largely an overview of the team’s performance. In this part I’ll be exploring special teams and player usage–the two areas most impacted by coaching. As mentioned in Part One the BSens were awful on special teams (30th, aka last, and 28th respectively), and those struggles are related in part to player usage–something reflected in team performance. Let’s start with special teams and specifically the powerplay:

Powerplay (13.4%)

The BSens score 40 goals on the powerplay, heavily relying on their first unit (33-7 in goals scored). There was variation in performance throughout the season, although goals-scored remained steady:
October (9gp): 6-49 12.2%
November (13gp): 6-50 12.0%
December (12gp): 8-52 15.4%
January (12gp): 6-38 15.8%
February (12gp): 7-39 17.9%*
March (12gp): 5-47 10.6%
April (6gp): 2-24 8.3%
*all goals scored by Paul-Sexton with either White or Gagne as the third forward; Chlapik played the point (mostly with Harpur or Pokka)

When it comes to powerplay points, here are the leaders (GP noted to provide some context; prospects in green):
Chlapik 12-52
Paul 11-54
Sexton 9-30
White 9-47
Murray 8-58
DiDomenico 7-25
Jaros 7-44
Werek 7-58
Pokka 6-23
Chabot 5-13
Harpur 5-19
Lajoie 4-56
Burgdoerfer 4-66
Gagne 4-68
Perron 3-44
McCormick 3-49
O’Brien 3-60
Reinhart 3-67
Rodewald 2-62
Moutrey 1-16
Blunden 1-45
Sieloff 1-58

A more useful way to look at it is production per shift–as in, how many goals was the player on-ice for (I excluded small sample sizes) vs their usage (how often they played)? We’ll have separate graphs for forwards and defense to avoid visual clutter:
PP usage and effectiveness
D PP usage and effectiveness
It’s a bit hard to see the variation with the forwards on the graph, but the trajectory gives you the idea. A few things are clear: prospects and talented vets (Sexton and DiDomencio) were the only productive forwards on the powerplay. On the D-side Chabot didn’t play many games (13), but I’ve included him because I know there’s a lot of interest. There aren’t many surprises on the D-side. How is this represented in terms of first/second line usage? Let’s look:
PP shifts 1st2nd
D PP shifts 1st2nd

Clearly playing on the second unit hurts overall productivity, but who was on that unit is also part of the problem. What is a talented player like Max Lajoie supposed to do with a group of forwards like BlundenReinhart, and McCormick in front of him on the powerplay? You may have noticed, incidentally, that there proportionally fewer defense shifts for the first unit than there should be–the reason for this is as the season progressed Kleinendorst began putting forwards on the point (usually just one), thus cutting down on the first PP-time for blueliners on the top unit. As for the forwards, you’re left wondering: why were Chlapik and Paul ever on the second-unit? Why was Murray given so much top-unit time? Why stick with players on the second unit who aren’t producing (eg Blunden)? Why was Burgdoerfer ever on the first unit? Why play McCormick so much? It’s these kinds of decisions that hurt the powerplay throughout the season. I mentioned back in November how effective the Lajoie-Jaros unit was on the powerplay (the former doing an excellent job at setting up the latter’s big shot, and both capable of carrying the puck up the ice effectively–one of Murray‘s biggest problems on the powerplay), but the duo rarely appeared.

Looking over the evolution of who was on the powerplay it’s possible to see the painfully slow realizations that Kleinendorst did make–in the last couple of months he shifted Murray away from the top unit, kept talented forwards like Chlapik on the first unit, and kept ineffective grinders like Blunden buried on the second. The reluctance to accept the evidence in front of him is Kleinendorst’s primary issue–the X’s and O’s of the powerplay aren’t an issue (there’s nothing fancy or flawed about the way the Sens used the umbrella), but how he used the personnel to execute them remained the problem. What’s mindnumbing is the endless tinkering with the special teams units–a successful group would be randomly changed and he showed great reluctance to ever go back to an original formation–as few goals as the powerplay scored they were produced by a bewildering number of different combinations.

Penalty Kill (77.0%)

Here, the org must have believed, they would see some improvement over last season. Randy Lee doubled down on grinding players–“good in the room” guys like Tyler RandellErik Burgdoerfer, Patrick Sieloff, etc, and when the chips were down…it was awful. The PK was terrible throughout the season with only a few players truly helping the situation. Here are the monthly numbers:
October: 39-47 82.9%
November: 41-54 75.9%
December: 42-56 75.0%
January: 38-51 74.5%
February: 34-42 80.9%
March: 37-48 77.1%
April: 21-26 80.7%

The usage/effectiveness numbers:
PK usage and effectiveness
D PK usage and effectivness

While the defense isn’t that far off what you’d expect given their results there are obvious issues with the forwards. Org sweetheart McCormick, along with sentimental addition of Chris Kelly, weren’t effective despite how much they played. Other than Sexton the other three most effective PK forwards (WhiteO’Brien, and the oft-injured Flanagan) were not played commensurate with their performance. O’Brien‘s numbers are particularly surprising since, 5-on-5, Kleinendorst couldn’t get enough of him (see below).

For those who haven’t seen them play, Blunden and late-season addition Selleck can’t skate, so having them on the PK (sometimes as a duo) was a nightmare to watch. Their numbers aren’t as awful as they should be because of protective pairings along the way (talented players like White and Sexton doing the work for them).

This is one area where Kleinendorst didn’t adjust to match reality–he kept throwing out the same personnel regardless of the result–relying on veterans and “grit”. The only system tweak that occurred began in January when he started playing his D-pairing the entire PK (or nearly all of it). This didn’t appreciably help, but he kept at it until April when he threw everything into the blender.

It’s hard to tell from the graph, but the kiss of death on the PK came in the form of Andreas Englund. The big Swede was actually on-ice for the most goals against (by a considerable margin) and he sewered Sieloff‘s numbers towards the end of the season (up until March he was well ahead of all defensemen in goals-per-shift). Burgdoerfer looks better than he was (conversely) because he generally benefited from playing with a superior partner. Just for the sake of clarity, here are the actual on-ice goals against numbers (with games played):
Englund: 38-69
Burgdoerfer: 31-66
Sieloff: 28-58
Jaros: 13-44
Harpur: 8-19
Murray: 5-58 (not included above due to low volume of play)
Lajoie: 3-56 (ibid)
Chabot: 2-13
Erkamps: 2-46 (ibid)

5-on-5

Here we are at how the majority of hockey games are played: even strength. My interest is player usage–how players were used in the lineup. In the absence of the AHL tracking ice time we are left with line combinations which, by and large, Kleinendorst stuck too (he rarely juggled his lines in-game). While I’ll have individual player breakdowns in Part Three, I did want to go over which players were used on various lines to give a sense of how Kleinendorst distributed his ice time.

Top-Six UsageBottom-Six Usage
There is a lot to unpack here. Why sign AHL free agents to play them on the fourth line? Randy Lee spent good money on Randell and Reinhart and having them flail about in the bottom-six did nothing to help the team. Why are prospects like Gagne and Perron wasting their development time on the fourth line? On the other side of things, why aren’t White and Chlapik spending all their time in the top-six? 43-games of Jim O’Brien as your first-line center is a bad joke–at no time in his career at any level did he warrant shifts on the first-line–he’s not that kind of player (he’s a solid top-nine AHL-forward who can kill penalties–that’s it). Whatever anyone thinks of Jack Rodewald why the guy was stapled to the top-six for most of the year despite lengthy droughts in production is a head-scratcher. Why was Blunden ever in the top-six? It goes on and on. All of this is due to Kleinendorst’s conservatism–trusting players he knows, trusting veterans, and taking forever to wake up to the results of doing so (no doubt his reluctance being applauded by his clueless GM).

Things were a little different on defense, where the pairings are a bit more important than just ice-time in terms of performance. I’ll have individual breakdowns in Part Three, but in broad strokes, these were the most common combos this season:

Englund-Jaros (28 games)
Murray-Erkamps (21 games)
Sieloff-Burgdoerfer (20 games)
Lajoie-Murray (16 games)
Lajoie-Burgdoerfer (15 games)
Englund-Burgdoerfer (13 games)
Sieloff-Pokka (11 games)
Sieloff-Harpur (11 games)

What’s interesting was Kleinendorst’s disinterest in trying to protect young players with veterans–instead, he insulated his favourites (particularly Sieloff) with talented players. Most of the PTO’s were shuttled off to play with Erkamps–essentially loading up the bottom pairing with disaster. It’s a puzzling approach unless you’re happy with rotating two pairs which, sometimes, Kleinendorst did. There was certainly no consideration given for loading up a pairing offensively–we only saw Chabot-Jaros once, and Lajoie-Jaros/Lajoie-Pokka four times each (Harpur only played with the favourites). This mindnumbing adherence prevented what could have been a more dynamic back-end, rather than Englund endlessly banking pucks off the boards or Burgdoerfer‘s hilarious and incessant turnovers.

Fear. That’s what I took away from Kleinendorst this season. He’s a man motivated by a fear of mistakes–a fear of losing–which ironically has made him prone to both. Remove his Calder Cup season (2010-11) from his recent coaching record and this is what we get (via win percentages):
2011-12 Binghamton .428 (left for the NCAA)
2012-13 Alabama-Huntsville .140 (fired)
2013-14 Iowa .441
2014-15 Iowa .167 (fired)
2015-16 ERC Ingolstadt (mid-season replacement) .578
2016-17 Binghamton .395
2017-18 Belleville .414
Other than his brief foray in the DEL he’s had horrendous seasons wherever he’s gone and at this stage you have to call it like it is: he’s not a head coach–not at the AHL level at least. His slowness to react to what works and overdependence on certain players leaves him susceptible to the problems we’ve seen with the BSens.

In Part Three we will dissect the performances of individual players. I’ll go over their general strengths and weaknesses, what they did, with whom, what I’d do with them as an asset and then what I expect Randy Lee/Pierre Dorion to do.

A final note to bring attention to my patreon and donations in general. I’ve been writing about the Sens for eleven years now (seven on this platform). The work, especially with the BSens, is unique and requires a huge investment in time and analysis. I do it because I’m passionate about it, but it requires purchasing AHL Live (not worth it for any other reason) as well as my personal time–any and all support really helps me continue to do what I’m doing. Thanks to those who have supported me in the past–its greatly appreciated!

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Belleville Senators Season Review: Part One

The inaugural Belleville Senators season is over and its time to take a palate cleanser and girdle yourself because we are reviewing it (for my review of the last season in Binghamton go here). I’m embracing a slightly different format from previous installments because of just how much data I collected this year (which is to say I’ve divided it up into parts to avoid a giant wall of text), but we’ll start with the basics.

Team Performance

Most fans are interested in individual performances, but we can’t forget the team itself–one which Randy Lee has been pile-driving into the ground ever since he took over from Tim Murray at the end of the 2013-14 season (I have an article about that forthcoming–I’ve been calling for him to be fired for awhile). For context we’ll put this season side-by-side with the last:

 

BSen comparison

Looking at this and there really is no change (special teams excluded, see below)–the nibbles at the margins are simply the tides of random variation (which is to say, exactly duplicating any season is virtually impossible). Belleville also benefited from playing in an awful division (the Binghamton Devils were just as bad and the Laval Rockets were even worse)–as I went over in the summer, the BSens play an enormous amount of divisional games including 20 against the aforementioned (26% of the entire season), so it’s not like the team was in an especially hard division (even though the Toronto Marlies had the best record this year).

What about individual performance? The AHL is a development league, so how did that go? Some prospects, like Thomas Chabot and Ben Harpur, were barely in Belleville, but others spent more than half their season with the BSens. Let’s take a look at the scoring list arranged by points-per-game (green = rookie, blue = ELC or re-signed RFA, red = veteran (qualifies for that status, although players on AHL contracts or PTOs aren’t slotted into the category officially and thus don’t count against the AHL-limit–you can read about how veteran status is determined here; those names that are run through were either traded or promoted such that they missed most of the season; PPP = powerplay points):

Boston Leier (ATO) 8-4-2-6 0.75
Ben Sexton (FA) 30-10-11-21 0.70 PPP 9
Filip Chlapik (2-48/15) 52-11-21-32 0.62 PPP 12
Ben Harpur (4-108/13) 19-2-9-11 0.58 PPP 5
Colin White (1-21/15) 47-11-16-27 0.57 PPP 9
Chris DiDomenico (FA) 25-5-9-14 0.56 PPP 7
Max McCormick (6-171/11) 49-8-19-27 0.55 PPP 3
Thomas Chabot (1-18/15) 13-2-5-7 0.54 PPP 5
Nick Paul (T) 54-14-13-27 0.50 PPP 11
Andrew Sturtz (FA NCAA) 6-1-2-3 0.50
Ville Pokka (T) 23-3-8-11 0.48 PPP 6
Jim O’Brien (FA*) 60-13-16-29 0.48 PPP 3
David Dziurzynski (PTO) 9-1-3-4 0.44
Ethan Werek (AHL) 58-10-15-25 0.43 PPP 7
Jack Rodewald (**) 62-14-11-25 0.40 PPP 2
Jordan Murray (CIS FA) 58-8-15-23 0.40 PPP 8
Gabriel Gagne (2-36/15) 68-20-5-25 0.37 PPP 4
Mike Blunden (FA-yr 2) 45-6-10-16 0.36 PPP 1
Christian Jaros (5-139/15) 44-3-13-16 0.36 PPP 7
Max Reinhart (FA) 67-11-12-23 0.34 PPP 3
Francis Perron (7-190/14) 44-4-11-15 0.34 PPP 3
Daniel Ciampini (AHL) 49-7-9-16 0.33 (ECHL 15-4-12-16)
Ryan Scarfo (NCAA FA) 13-2-2-4 0.31
Nick Moutrey (T) 16-2-3-5 0.31 PPP 1
Maxime Lajoie (5-133/16) 56-1-14-15 0.27 PPP 4
Erik Burgdoerfer (FA) 66-5-12-17 0.26 PPP 4
Kyle Flanagan (AHL-yr 2) 17-1-3-4 0.24
Vincent Dunn (5-138/13) 17-0-4-4 0.24 (ECHL 31-10-8-18)
Eric Selleck (T) 18-2-2-4 0.22
Parker Kelly
(FA CHL) 5-1-0-1 0.20
Patrick Sieloff (2-42/12 Cal) 58-1-9-10 0.17 PPP 1
Andreas Englund (2-40/14) 69-1-9-10 0.14
Tyler Randell (FA) 57-3-5-8 0.14
Chris Kelly (PTO) 16-0-2-2 0.13
Macoy Erkamps (FA CHL) 46-1-3-4 0.09
Alex Formenton (2-47/17) 2-0-0-0
Cody Donaghey (T) ECHL 54-9-7-16
* O’Brien was signed to an AHL-deal after a PTO (just like Ethan Werek and Daniel Ciampini), but partway through the season was inexplicably given a two-year NHL deal
** Rodewald’s situation is a strange one–a CHL FA with Toronto he was signed out of the ECHL (16-17), then signed a two-year AHL-deal in the summer which was torn up and replaced by a 2-year ELC a month into the season

Filip Gustavsson (T) .912 3.01 2-4-0
Danny Taylor (FA) .900 3.15 11-15-3
Andrew Hammond (yr 3) .900 3.34 8-6-2
Marcus Hogberg (3-78/13) .899 3.27 6-12-0 (ECHL .915 3.10 8-7-1)
Chris Driedger (3-76/12) .885 4.04 2-5-0 (ECHL .922 2.55 9-7-1)

Looking at this it’s safe to (mostly) ignore performances by players who clock in under 10-games (the sample size is just too small). There are positive results for prospects, although none that truly jump out at you (Chlapik, tied at 31st in the league, was the most productive rookie). The names near the top of the leader board aren’t particularly surprising, although (as we’ll get into later) they certainly weren’t deployed as their production would suggest. In the previous season (Kurt Kleinendorst’s first) he had a pair of stud offensive players in Phil Varone (who lead Lehigh Valley in scoring this season) and Jason Akeson (who struggled with Syracuse and jumped to play with Mora IK in the SHL), both of whom put up better PPG than anyone listed here–the switch to scoring by committee didn’t help the team.

One interesting facet which remained largely unchanged was goaltending. If you look at Binghamton’s last season Chris Driedger was the top goalie with a .900 save percentage (one of the many reasons Matt O’Connor was allowed to walk). Regulars Danny TaylorAndrew Hammond, and Marcus Hogberg essentially echoed that performance, while Filip Gustavsson‘s brief performance is mirrored negatively by Driedger himself (and from the former’s last couple of starts you could see his numbers begin to regress to the mean). Seeing consistent numbers like this is a strong indicator that an awful defense is a contributor.

Speaking of team defense, Randy Lee doubled down on his beloved grinders this season–signing the utterly useless Tyler Randell and then trading for washed-up goon Eric Selleck. It made no difference.  Of the signings made prior to the season (remembering that WerekO’Brien, and Ciampini were all signed via tryout PTO’s), the only success was Ben Sexton–a smaller, skilled player who (when he wasn’t injured) was very effective.

While I’ll delve into coaching more in the next part of the review, this season Kleinendorst threw away whatever good will he’d engendered with me by benching Zack Stortini (who barely played for Charlotte this year) because of his obsessive use of veterans despite an avalanche of evidence that it wasn’t helping. His primary heroin was named Max McCormick and Jim O’Brien and he pumped those needles dry whenever they were available (which, as we’ve noted, had no apparent positive effect on the team whatsoever–they were better without either, 12-14-1 .463 minus McCormick, and 6-8-2 .437 without O’Brien–both of whom pale to how good the team was without Mike Blunden: 14-12-2 .535). This addiction was also reflected in Erik Burgdoerfer and Patrick Sieloff on defense, two players who received heaps of praise by doing absolutely nothing new within their very limited scope of capabilities (Burgdoerfer didn’t miss much of the season so his with or without you numbers aren’t significant; without Sieloff the team was 6-11-1 .361, but I’m suspicious of that because the second extended period he was out they were 5-7-1 .423, suggesting on the whole there was no real impact).

Speaking of coaching, its effect is often felt most on special teams and Kleinendorst has been horrendous on that front–actually getting worse this season on both fronts (the PP was last in the AHL and the PK third worst). Assistant coaches Paul Boutilier (hired largely for Chabot) and Tony Cimellaro (along with Shean Donovan) are supposed to help on these fronts, but it’s clearly not working. The struggles on the powerplay were largely a matter of the personnel used (or not used), something echoed by the PK, but it had other issues (including a generally weak D-corps).

So that’s the team at first blush. Poor management, poor coaching, and a lackluster group of veterans meant contributions from a few talented prospects were either stifled or taken to Ottawa, limiting their AHL-contributions. Coming up in Part Two we’ll explore special teams and player usage in detail, and then in Part Three we’ll assess each player’s season.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 4, Rochester 6; Belleville 3, Utica 1; Belleville 3, Toronto 4

power outage

My post on the final games was delayed by the power outage in Ottawa (a suitable metaphor for the season, as it happens). The BSens wrapped up their season with a 1-2-0 triple set of games, blowing a lead against Rochester and losing, putting in a strong effort against Utica, and bowing out to a stronger team in Toronto. Kleinendorst ended the season with a heavy dose of his favourites–Mike Blunden back from injury and Eric Selleck because…I have no idea–he’s a big Tom Selleck fan? My look at the entire season is forthcoming, but let’s go through the games first.

Belleville 4, Rochester 6
Boxscore
Shots: 30-38
PP: 0-4
PK: 2-2
Scoring chances: 12
Key saves: 6
The Goals
1. Scarfo bangs in Werek’s rebound
2. Moutrey keeps on a 3-on-1 and scores low far side
3. Chlapik scores five-hole from the slot
4. Rochester – shot through a crowd (think it went off Dizzy’s stick)
5. Rochester – Burgdoerfer passes to the wrong team and Amerks score shelf from the slot
6. Gagne roofs it from the slot
7. Rochester – Amerk allowed to walk out from the corner and scores between the pad and glove
8. Rochester – breakaway goal
9. Rochester – score on a 3-on-2
10. Rochester – empty net

Notable plays: Selleck can’t complete a pass on a 2-on-1 (first); Kelly keeps on a 2-on-1 and misses high (first).

Belleville 3, Utica 1
Boxscore
Shots: 27-38
PP: 0-3
PK: 2-2
Scoring chances:
Key saves: 11
The Goals
1. Pokka gives Blunden a gimme by drawing out the goaltender so that he has an empty net
2. Utica – D-man walks through the team and scores high backhand glove-side
3. Scarfo bangs in a rebound
4. Rodewald with a wrister from the top of the circle off a clean faceoff win

Notable plays: Chlapik falls awkwardly into the boards on his first shift and doesn’t return until the final minute of the period (first); Lajoie hits Gagne with a shot (first; he was okay); Selleck can’t make a play on a 2-on-1 (first).

Belleville 3, Toronto 4
Boxscore
Shots: 33-29
PP: 0-2
PK: 7-9
Scoring chances: 8
Key saves: 3
The Goals
1. Ciampini scores on a deke on a turnover
2. Toronto – wrister through a crowd
3. Toronto PP – Gustavsson beat clean high
4. Sturtz scores on a wrap-around (required review)
5. Toronto PP – Englund can’t block a pass, the shot, or lift the stick as the Marlies bang in a quick pass from behind the net
6. Paul with a wrister on a turnover
7. Toronto – bank it in off Gustavsson from behind the net

Notable plays: Selleck gets run over, which leads to a powerplay against (first)–he seeks revenge later that period leading to another powerplay against the results in a goal against; Toronto hits the crossbar (first); Pokka hits the post (second).

All three games were pretty entertaining to watch. Things of note:
-The luster on Filip Gustavsson dulled a bit in his final two games (his save percentage was .863)
-On the flip side Marcus Hogberg’s final two starts were more like what was expected of him (.971); the question is, given how arbitrary the org is, what will they do with him? Have they soured on him already?
-Mike Blunden scored his first goal since January 19th (having gone 21-games without a goal); he also wrapped up the latter part of his season 11-1-1-2
-Daniel Ciampini broke a 10-game pointless streak with a pair of points in the final game
-Nick Moutrey, who was unimpressive since being acquired, finally put up some points after being shoved down the throat of the lineup (four points in his last five)–the production should not convince the org to re-sign him
-I was surprised the org wanted to see Macoy Erkamps play, as he appeared in three of the last four games after being scratched for nine in a row–nothing about his performance was different

I have a couple of articles in the work–the first will probably be the season review–lot’s to explore!

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thoughts on the Sens Town Hall

 

melnyk
So many hilarious things came out of the town halls held by Eugene Melnyk and Pierre Dorion that I felt compelled to go through at least a some of them. Let’s preface this with a few reminders:
-Melnyk left his company Biovail in 2007 due to SEC legal action for fraud where “Biovail actively misled investors and analysts about the reasons for the company’s poor performance”
-then in 2011 he was banned for five years from senior roles at public companies in Canada by the OSC in relation to the same issues

This is not someone with shinning integrity and his unintentionally hilarious visits to Toronto radio just add to the perception of him being completely clueless.

Town Hall Highlights

confused

As Beata Elliott points out (link above) it’s more than a little odd that the org attempted to limit coverage of their town hall when the goal was to communicate with the fans. However, the brain trust is very old fashioned and I think they have a hard time understanding how modern media works and, ergo, how easily recordings of the event would slip out

EK

The comments about Erik Karlsson, however inconsistent, illustrate that it’s gotten through Melnyk’s head that trading him might be a financial debacle in terms of season tickets; I don’t mean that they won’t eventually trade EK, but it might be delayed until the trade deadline next season hoping fan outrage will have died down by then

excuse

Melnyk’s struggle to apologize for his own comments were fantastic–not that he struggled, but that the simple act of an apology was so difficult for him that he had to fabricate false reporting when his comments are readily available for anyone to check and see that he did say what was reported

fake news.jpg

It’s no surprise the org believes in “fake news” and think the media is attempting to distort things; Ottawa’s media is among the tamest imaginable (which is why I almost never cite it anymore)–the tactic of blaming the media is meant to deflect blame, which is a strong part of how both Melnyk and Dorion operate, but there’s also bitterness on Melnyk’s part for his various foibles being exposed (see below)

travisyost

I think Melnyk’s comment about “bloggers” is, if not simply generic, aimed at Travis Yost from his days on Hockybuzz (in 2013 specifically)–not that others (like Nichols) haven’t written hard-hitting pieces on the team, but in terms of impact on the team I suspect his pieces from back in the day on Melnyk’s financial struggles did not sit with equanimity (I seriously doubt Melnyk/Dorion read blogs as a normal part of their routine)

lebretonaerial

I’ve rarely discussed the Lebreton Flats arena because I thought it unlikely to ever happen–no mayor wants to take a bath on a second arena and then have to deal with an empty one in Kanata. Back in 2014 I thought the team was simply looking to leverage further concessions at Scotia Bank Place, and when I realized the move was something desperately desired that the threat to leave was leverage for that purpose. His promise to keep the team in Ottawa is irrelevant since I think it’s the NHL that’s insisting the team stay

scapegoat

It’s funny how far he had to reach to find ancillary things to blame and the picked something that’s been within his power to change the entire time (parking)

GroupThink

The comments from Dorion were more disheartening (if not surprising), saying he feels a smaller hockey ops staff has a stronger say (which is simply ridiculous), and while “numbers doesn’t equal quality” is sometimes true the corollary of that isn’t ‘less is more’

moola.png

In terms of the budget there was no suggestion they will spend more where they need it (scouting, pro and amateur, in particular), with comments only about how great pre-existing facilities are and Dorion spending money on players (I know we all feel better with Tom Pyatt and Alex Burrows on the roster).

Is any of this surprising? For the most part I think the answer is no, although I am surprised they are backtracking on moving Karlsson (at least with their rhetoric), which must indicate how much that’s impacting season ticket sales.

dumpster fire

I’ve had this bit of news floating around for quite awhile, but didn’t have any particular place to put it. The Sens talking about the media is the excuse I’m using. Back in late November Postmedia shut down a bunch of community newspapers after acquiring them from Torstar (21 of the 22)–the latter also shut down 11 papers it received in the deal. This story resonated with me because of the research I did about a year ago over newspaper circulation and ownership (at the time talking about how Postmedia’s Paul Godfrey injected his conservative opinions into the papers he ran and the potential impact that had on their sports coverage). While I think newspapers are like the dinosaurs waiting for their Chiczulub Crater it’s sad to see hard working journalists lose their jobs.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

 

Belleville 1, Springfield 2; Belleville 5, Rochester 1; Belleville 3, Laval 2 (OT)

Kleinendorst

Three more games are in the books for the BSens and, with Kleinendorst forced to play prospects, the team’s results are improving (4-4-0 in their last eight). The coach’s erratic decisions still impact special teams, but with his fate sealed one way or another (I think Randy Lee will let him go to provide a scapegoat for yet another year of incompetence in the AHL) there’s less need for Kurt to ram underperforming vets down our collective throats (for those who missed it, incidentally, check out my March report on the team). Here’s a look at the games:

Belleville 1 Springfield 2
Boxscore
Shots: 34-26
PP: 0-7 (including a short 5-on-3)
PK: 3-5
Scoring chances: 15
Key saves: 4
The Goals
1. Springfield PP – top-shelf through a crowd
2. Springfield PP – shot floats between Gustavsson’s arm and body
3. Gagne bangs in a loose puck in front with the goalie pulled

Notable plays: Formention driving the net to draw a penalty (first); Sieloff can’t make a pass so Formenton misses the opportunity for a breakaway; Rodewald takes a puck to the face and goes down (second; stays in the game); Springfield hits the post (second); Paul hits the post (great feed from Formenton; third)

Belleville 5 Rochester 1
Boxscore
Shots: 29-33
PP: 2-6
PK: 4-5
Scoring chances: 9
Key saves: 12
The Goals
1. Rochester PP – through the legs from the slot
2. Kelly scores on a breakaway shorthanded
3. Leier tips in a one-timer from the point
4. Paul bangs in a loose puck in front
5. PP Rodewald scores from the slot
6. PP Paul scores short side top-shelf from the dot

Notable plays: Formenton injured (first); Sturtz pulled down on a partial breakaway (second); Amerks hit the crossbar (second); Ciampini boarded (second; he was okay); Leier can’t make the pass on a 2-on-1 (third)

Belleville 3 Laval 2 (OT)
Boxscore
Shots: 33-45
PP: 0-2
PK: 3-3
Scoring chances: 9
Key saves: 9
The Goals
1. Leier scores using the D as a screen
2. Lajoie’s floater bounces in off two Laval D
3. Laval with a tip in front
4. Laval off a draw (wrister through traffic)
Rodewald with the shootout winner (deke)

Notable plays: Laval hits the crossbar (second); great pass by Paul to Moutrey who can’t connect his stick to the puck (second); terrible turnover by Selleck requires a great save from Gustavsson (third); Rodewald hits the post (third); Sturtz accidentally clips Moutrey with his stick (third)

Shootout
Gustavsson stops deke
Leier loses control of the puck on the deke
Gustavsson stops deke
Gagne stopped on slapper
Gustavsson stops a shot for the five hole
Paul loses control on the deke
Gustavsson stops deke
Dziurzynski stopped on a wrister
Gustavsson stops a shot high far side
Rodewald scores on a deke

Thoughts: both goaltenders played well (Gustavsson didn’t have much to do in the loss, but was very good in his win; Hogberg had his best start since shutting out Rochester way back in February). Since Mike Blunden‘s injury the forward groupings on the PK have been incredibly varied and that’s become the case both on the powerplay and with the defense on the PK as the pressure to play younger players continues.

Individual notes:
Ryan Scarfo continues not to impress (12-0-1-1) despite a ton of opportunity
Boston Leier, who I was iffy on to start with, was rounding into form offensively (8-4-2-6) when the team released him so he could finish school; definitely needs work defensively, but there’s more potential there than I thought initially
-Four periods of Alex Formenton left me wanting more–the BSens are a slow team and his speed made a big difference
-I’ve been happy with Parker Kelly thus far–hard to judge a guy whose center is Dizzy, but good speed and hands in the limited viewing thus far
Andrew Sturtz looked good playing with Formenton, but since has been largely invisible
Daniel Ciampini has been playing regularly down the stretch and done his future prospects in the AHL no favours as he’s slumped horribly (no points in eight games)
-Speaking of disasters, you can see why Columbus was eager to dump Nick Moutrey (13-1-1-2), who despite all sorts of opportunities has no offensive ability whatsoever
-Org favourite Tyler Randell was happily out of the lineup for four games, but re-emerged to do nothing against Laval (he was, at least, kept off the PK)
Eric Selleck continues to play like Eric Selleck (15-2-1-3) and for a supposed enforcer has remained invisible when other teams take shots at his teammates (most notably in the game that cost Ben Sexton the rest of the season)–he’s still getting PK time for reasons unknown
-I thought Macoy Erkamps had been banished from the lineup forever, but inexplicably he played against Laval after being scratched the last nine games (he can’t skate and has no hands, so I’m not sure why they bothered)
-I was happy to see Max Lajoie finally get a goal–well deserved in game 53 for a guy with talent who has been jerked around much of the season
-Poor Christian Jaros–he was on for both powerplay goals the team scored against Rochester, but then barely played on the PP vs Laval
-I mentioned when the team acquired David Dziurzynski that he doesn’t really move the needle and despite an ocean of ice time he’s had just one assist in his last five games
Nick Paul continues to lobby for a future contract as his hot streak continues (24-11-7-18)–I’m not convinced that’s enough for us to ignore his horrendous first half
-Kleinendorst appears to be working hard to help Jack Rodewald out by giving him a ton of ice time which has him finally pulling in slightly better numbers (16-6-2-8)
Andreas Englund‘s recall made no sense, but didn’t impact the team

Just three games remain in the season and the questions about what will happen going forward abound. My guess is that we’ll be stuck with Randy Lee for yet more terrible GMing at this level, but with what coach is (I think) an open question. Randy is only happy with coaches who share his outdated notions however, so I’m not anticipating an enlightened hire.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville Senators: March Report

sinking ship

The last full month of games is in the books for the dundering BSens. I mentioned in my last review just how delightfully incompetent GM Randy Lee has been and let’s keep that fresh in our minds (I shed some tears realizing the ebullient Kevin Lee hasn’t been reading):
2014-15 34-34-8 .500 (Richardson)
2015-16 31-38-7 .454 (Richardson)
2016-17 28-44-4 .395 (Kleinendorst)
2017-18 26-39-5 .407 (Kleinendorst)
The org has that magic talent of combining a clueless GM with a clueless coach (don’t be distracted by Richardson’s “better” performance, as he had more talented rosters). Prospects are, to a large extent, a product of amateur scouting, but the horrific pro signings and play time are down to the org and they fail harder than most.

As for the month itself, the team was 5-6-1, which is identical to their January record and on par with most of the months this year (December and February are the months that dragged the team well below the .500 mark). As for the underlying numbers: some continued to improve (as they did in February), with the team giving up the fewest goals in a month this season (3.08) along with the lowest goal differential (-3) and the most shots-per-game since December (27.3). The team would have also had its smallest shot deficit in any month were it not for the disastrous game against Toronto March 4th where they were outshot 51-16. Special teams are a different story, with the moribund PK dropping back down to its usual efficiency (77.08%) while the PP crashed down to 10.63% due to a mix of injuries/call-ups and Kleinendorst’s erratic decisions.

The Roster

Kyle Flanagan and Francis Perron missed the entire month due to injury (the former has only managed to play 17-games all season); Mike Blunden’s injury is one of the few that actually benefits the team (3-3-0 without him in March and 12-11-2 all season)–he’s one of several veterans Kleinendorst can’t help but overplay despite his many deficiencies. Gabriel Gagne and Christian Jaros were the only other significant players who missed a lot of time. Unlike Blunden, Jaros’ absence has hurt the team (9-21-2; with him 17-18-3). On the call-up side of things, Max McCormick and Ben Harpur spent the entire month in Ottawa, while Jim O’Brien (!), Filip Chlapik, and Eric Burgdoerfer (!) spent significant time there.

Additions to the lineup included former BSen David Dziruzynski (who had failed out of Utica). The team also added ATO’s Boston Leier and Ryan Scarfo. In the former case Leier is yet another Canadian University product (ala Jordan Murray)–his cousin Taylor is a Flyer draft pick. It’s not common for University products to pan out in the AHL much less the NHL, but at least offense is the reason he was taken (he finished second on his team in points and points-per-game). As for Scarfo, who played most of the month, he arrives after a career senior year at Union College where he lead his team in scoring. Neither player has been particularly impressive (despite oceans of TOI), although Leier has (statistically) showed more.

Finally we get to the five-headed monster in goal thought we were getting. Andrew Hammond, who hadn’t started since January 10th, was sent down to Colorado’s affiliate towards the end of the month, removing him from the situation. Chris Driedger, who hasn’t dressed since February 24th, has been banished down to Brampton in the ECHL and regular starts have slowly chipped away at what were incredible numbers. Filip Gustavsson, who arrived after Lulea’s season ended, was then simply the third head of a three-headed monster. While Kleinendorst would clearly like to start Danny Taylor every game the org has mandated he play the rookies such that Taylor was actually called up to Ottawa to make some space (Marcus Hogberg has been shuttling between Belleville and Brampton all season). Gustavsson has had a solid start, but Hogberg remains incredibly fragile and clearly needs the summer to clear his head (something reflected in him bombing out in his last three starts in Brampton).

It’s worth noting that both O’Brien and Sexton had season-ending injuries in the final game in March. Sexton’s absence can’t really be replaced, while O’Brien’s was always a mixed bag (a great penalty killer at this level, but Kleinendorst couldn’t help but overplay him).

Stats (arranged by points-per-game; ELC’s in green, ATO’s in blue)

Filip Chlapik 7-2-5-7 1.00
Colin White 9-3-4-7 0.77
Ben Sexton 11-3-4-7 0.63
Nick Paul 8-1-4-5 0.62
Boston Leier 5-2-1-3 0.60
Ville Pokka 12-3-4-7 0.58
Jack Rodewald 12-5-1-6 0.50
Max Reinhart 12-2-4-6 0.50
David Dziurzynski 4-1-1-2 0.50
Ethan Werek 9-1-3-4 0.44
Daniel Ciampini 12-2-3-5 0.41
Max Lajoie 12-0-5-5 0.41
Gabriel Gagne 6-2-0-2 0.33
Jordan Murray 12-2-2-4 0.33
Christian Jaros 7-1-1-2 0.28
Erik Burgdoerfer 7-0-2-2 0.28
Eric Selleck 11-2-1-3 0.27
Tyler Randell 10-0-2-2 0.20
Jim O’Brien 5-0-1-1 0.20
Macoy Erkamps 5-0-1-1 0.20 (ECHL 1-0-0-0)
Pat Sieloff 12-0-2-2 0.16
Mike Blunden 6-0-1-1 0.16
Andreas Englund 7-1-0-1 0.14
Nick Moutrey 9-1-0-1 0.11
Ryan Scarfo 9-0-1-1 0.11
Cody Donaghey ECHL 12-3-2-5

Danny Taylor 3-1-1 .929 2.59
Filip Gustavsson 1-1-0 .923 2.61
Marcus Hogberg 1-4-0 .878 3.48 (ECHL 1-2-0 .877 4.09)
Chris Driedger ECHL 4-5-1 .909 3.01

Chlapik had just enough time to surpass O’Brien as the team’s scoring leader as well as become second on the team in points-per-game (behind Sexton) before being brought up to the NHL. Ciampini’s five-points are the most he’s had any month this season. Sieloff broke a 32-game pointless streak, Englund a 59-game goalless streak (the entire season), and Werek a 20-game pointless streak. Both Gustavsson and Taylor had similar numbers in goal, while Hogberg’s declined slightly (not being that different than his numbers in January).

Special Teams

Powerplay 10.63%
The worst percentage of the season is coming off the heels of the best in February. The major change precipitating the fall was Chlapik being recalled to Ottawa and being replaced by Murray on the point. The second unit continues to struggle, although it did break a 21-game goalless streak thanks to Kleinendorst demoting Pokka to it for two games.
Forward Usage Frequency: Sexton, Chlapik, White, O’Brien, Paul, Gagne/Blunden
Defense Usage: Pokka, Murray, Lajoie, Jaros
On-ice for Goals Scored
Forwards: White, Chlapik, Paul, Sexton/O’Brien
Defense: Pokka/Jaros, Murray

Looking at the results we can see the specter Blunden’s unfortunate regularity on the PP matched by his inability to produce on it. O’Brien’s small sample size mean his numbers can’t be taken at face value.

Penalty Kill 77.08%
Forward Usage: Sexton, Blunden, White, O’Brien, Paul
Defense Usage: Burgdoerfer, Sieloff, Englund, Lajoie
On-ice for Goals Scored
Forwards: Sexton, Paul, O’Brien, Moutrey, White
Defense: Lajoie, Burgdoerfer, Sieloff, Englund

The Blunden addiction continues to be illustrated above (usage vs performance). Kleinendorst’s very narrow deployment on the blueline (with one pairing playing all or most of a penalty) makes it more difficult to parse the numbers. Englund proved to be an enormous drag on Sieloff’s normally reliable numbers and while Burgdoerfer is an improvement neither is as effective on longer shifts. Lajoie’s sprinkling has been sporadic and limited.

5-on-5

The bizarre forward lines continue, although slowly Kleinendorst has been assembling either a competent first or second line. After putting lumbering goon Selleck on the first or second line in four of his first five games (beginning in February) he’s been banished to the bottom-six since (the pressbox is where he belongs, but this is a Randy Lee team, so useless players need to play); leading scorer Chlapik only spent half the time on the third-line (ahem); Sexton and White, at least, were consistently on the top lines. This mild improvement, however erratic (Scarfo had four games on the first-line?), is one of the reasons the team’s overall numbers (shots, goals) improved. On defense there’s still far too much Burgdoerfer, Sieloff, and Englund, but at least Lajoie and Jaros are getting more ice time (Lajoie in particular). Kleinendorst has also considerably cut back on Murray’s TOI, which contributed to a lot of the chaos defensively. Just to highlight some of the goofy lines in March:
(2nd) Selleck (0.13)-Reinhart (0.35)-Blunden (0.36) March 3rd/4th (both losses, no goals)
(2nd/1st) Moutrey (0.21)-O’Brien (0.48)-Rodewald (0.40) March 23rd-25th/30th (2-2, but no goals)
It’s not just the players on the lines, but who isn’t that’s always puzzling (Chlapik was on the third line, for example, while Selleck was playing on the second on what must have been the slowest line in the AHL).

The arrival of various prospects for the final few games of the season will be a breath of fresh air for the team, but it’s difficult to get excited about next season since: 1) Randy Lee will be in place, 2) even if Kleinendorst is let go they’ll likely hire someone just as bad, 3) good prospects will be rushed to Ottawa. Regardless, there’s no harm in hoping for positive change.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 1, Syracuse 4; Belleville 2, Leigh Valley 4

It was been a busy weekend for me so I caught both of these games on replay. Blurry vision in Syracuse below (screen capture of “best quality”).

AHL Live Best Quality

Boxscore
Shots: 28-30
PP: 0-5
PK: 3-3
Scoring chances: 5
Key saves: 7
The Goals
1. Leier with a move right in front
2. Syracuse – 2-on-1 scores with a move to the backhand
3. Syracuse – one-timer from the top of the slot
4. Syracuse – off a won faceoff a wrist shot from the slot goes in high short side
5. Syracuse – cross-ice one-timer from the faceoff dot
Notable plays: Selleck misses the net from two-feet in front (second); Paul stopped on a penalty shot (third)

AHL Live Best Quality

Boxscore
Shots: 29-23
PP: 0-2
PK: 2-3
Scoring chances: 7
Key saves: 3/0
The Goals
1. LV – 2-on-1 keeps and scores low far side through Hogberg
2. LV PP – dribbler goes through Hogberg’s legs (a really bad goal to give up)
3. LV – 2-on-1 keeps and scores low far side
4. Murray scores on a 4-on-2 while Sexton is down from a blind hit to the head
5. Rodewald bangs in his own rebound
6. LV – empty-netter

Notable plays: Sexton gets drilled with a hard hit and struggles to get up (first); Burgdoerfer gets away with boarding a Phantom (second); O’Brien hit in the corner and slow to get up (third); Sexton takes a hit to the head and has to be helped off the ice (third); needing a goal with the net empty Kleinendorst puts on…Sieloff (again!)

Hogberg was pulled for the fourth time this season, having given up one really bad goal and another that was iffy. Gustavsson, who relieved him, didn’t have much to do in the third, but was (to my mind) better in the game he lost to Syracuse than his opening win over Toronto. The hit to the head on Ben Sexton was hard to watch and you worry more about his long term health than anything hockey related.

Things of note:
-Kleinendorst’s cluelessness on the powerplay continues as PP dud Jordan Murray has put the breaks to the first unit’s efficiency; there’s also a collection of underperforming forwards making the second unit a joke
-I mentioned on Twitter that it’s clear that Marcus Hogberg has lost his confidence; it’s difficult to say exactly why (you can point to a lot of reasons), but he should be better than he has been. My feeling is either you give him a clean slate next season (preferably with a new coach and as part of the regular AHL-rotation) or you move him on
Jim O’Brien‘s return has been met with the usual mountain of TOI resulting in…basically nothing for the first-line center (5-0-1-1)
Nick Paul has been valiantly using the garbage end of the season to impress someone (21-9-6-15), but I’m not buying the production as a sign that anything has fundamentally changed yet
-The misplaced praising of Burgdoerfer never does stand-up to scrutiny and despite an ocean of playing time since his return he’s as lackluster as ever (7-0-2-2)–do yourself a favour and do not play the Burgdoerfer-turnover drinking game
Max Lajoie quietly had his most productive month of the season (12-0-5-5), largely aided by increased playing time
-The BSens weird losing streak when they are tied or lead in shots continues (0-4-1); prior to it they were 7-4-0 when in that situation (well above their normal winning percentage)
-Acquisition dud Eric Selleck continues to clog up the lineup–beyond not serving his supposed role of intimidating teams into not running his teammates, he’s 13-2-1-3 and the team’s record with him in the lineup is a horrendous 4-8-1 (the one game he missed was their 4-2 win over Toronto)

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)