Senators News & Notes


I wasn’t a fan of the trade that brought Patrick Sieloff to the Sens, and now beyond the reasons outlined at the time we have another reason to dislike the Calgary discard, as the failed prospect concussed Clarke MacArthur right on the heels of Mark Stone also suffering a concussion.  For an organisation that wants to win now a lot of off-season decisions have stopped making any sense.  I agree with Nichols that there’s a good chance that MacArthur‘s injury could be career-ending, and given the kind of damage concussions cause that may not be a bad thing for his future health.  In classic Sens fashion Pierre Dorion has talked about exploring the trade market, but he’s in a situation where he’ll have to give better than he gets and I think the org has been generous enough (granting that a directive to win may give him no choice).


I’m at a loss when it comes to defenders of Mark Borowiecki at times–the latest from B_T is another headscratcher, where in a piece admitting that the lumbering blueliner isn’t very good his argument is that he does what he’s told.  Does what he’s told?  No one is complaining about Borowiecki‘s intentions, the problems are the results.  Look, if fans aren’t interested in winning–if big hits are what they want–then have at it.  On the other hand, if we’re talking about what makes the team better, there’s no excuse to dress him–he’s just not an NHL defenseman (regardless of attitude).  For me the real question remains: how long will the organisation deny the obvious?  In my opinion is there’s still a long way to go before that happens.


The long-expected announcement that Ottawa was moving their AHL franchise from Binghamton to Belleville has come.  In terms of marketing it’s a smart move for the Sens, as it provides penetration into a market that’s more traditionally amenable to also becoming Ottawa fans.  The shorter drive to Ottawa strikes me as largely meaningless, but when I think of the change I think less of those technical details and more about the impact on people.  In the years that I’ve posted this blog I’ve had very good interactions with fans in Binghamton, so it’s a bitter pill losing that.  I don’t think the Sens were particularly good to their affiliate, although a Calder Cup is probably enough for fond memories in the years to come.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

I haven’t posted in awhile, but enough material has accumulated that it’s time to weigh in.

Credit where credit is due: when it comes to underwhelming news, the Sens are among the best.  Matt Bartkowski‘s PTO is one of those things that makes my head want to explode–let’s bring in a guy who is basically Mark Borowiecki and have him compete with him.  Do I think the Sens will pick Bartkowski over the Borocop?  No, but the prospect of him winning that spot makes no real difference to the blueline (via the link you can see Nichols go through all the numbers).  In theory I love the idea of competition during camp, but I don’t think it’s real (I can’t recall a PTO ever beating out a roster player in Ottawa).  Speaking of the blueline, Travis Yost brings up this salient point:

Is Ceci good? I think that’s a legitimate question to ask at this juncture, considering (a) he’s played more than 200 games; and (b) will turn 23 years of age this season. Generally, this is where we see strong defenders start to enter their prime, beating the opposition back into their defensive zone and consistently making life easy on teammates and goaltenders. We haven’t seen that at all from Ceci. In fact, what we’ve really seen is a replication of Phaneuf.

Trevor Shackles wonders which Sens players might regress to the mean, with the Zack Smith leading the charge.  It’s pretty straightforward stuff and I certainly expect Smith and Pageau‘s numbers to drop (barring a full season with Mark Stone for the latter), Turris to return to normal, and I have no clue how MacArthur will perform given his concussion issues.

Callum Fraser offers his point projections for the various Sens players (sadly with no explanation at how he arrived at those numbers).  Overall the tallies seem on the high side, but without understanding his methodology it’s difficult to truly criticise.


The rookie tournament wrapped up a few days ago with the Sens finishing 2-1 (1-2, 1-0, 6-3).  There were no surprise performances (the roster is here), although fans (and possibly the org) have to be pleased the team was able to generate offence in the final game (against Montreal’s rookies).  I’ve always thought the mini-tourney was a lot of fun, but not the place to draw conclusions about particular players.

Ary M has a prospect preview up, but sadly there’s little substance to expectations or projections (I’m at a loss for what he means when he writes “I’ve tried to set expectations on the goals for each player in the Sens system for the 2016-17 season” – I guess rough goals of where they will be next year is what’s meant by projections?).


Travis Yost tries to find a link between blueliners and team save percentage, but comes up empty, saying:

For now, there is simply zero evidence that a player can truly impact his team’s save percentage over long periods of time

In the same vein, Yost determines that coaches do impact team defense (which makes a great deal of sense, forgiving the vagaries of the rosters involved).


Somehow I missed that Hockey’s Future shutdown on July 1st.  A long time fan institution (despite it’s painfully poor Sens coverage), it’s something I’ll miss (particularly articles on the European leagues).  Anecdotally it seems to be part of a larger trend of shrinkage of online hockey spaces, as the aging fanbase gets consolidated on fewer sites.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes


I started writing my thoughts about the Mika Zibanejad trade when it happened, but I wanted to give it some time before I actually posted them to see if a little time changed my mind.  It hasn’t.  It’s a painful trade–so typically Ottawa–the franchise as it has been since the Melnykian budget and Murray’s own tendencies (apparently continued under Dorion) became apparent.  Trade an emerging talent (23) for an older one (29)–this time with a local angle, throw in a completely unnecessary 2nd round pick (well, for cash), and bring with it all kinds of warning signs about Brassard‘s performance.  He’s coming off a career high shooting percentage, his stats boosted by playing with immensely talented linemates, and giving up a player already on pace to be better (just look at the compared Pts/60 as well as their 5-on-5 production).  Even the idea that he’ll improve the PK doesn’t wash given that Zibanejad was among the better Ottawa forwards in that respect.  While both were 6th overall picks (2006 and 2011 respectively), there’s no question that at best Brassard has hit his peak whereas there’s plenty of room for Zibanejad to improve.  The Senators save a little money, but this is another “win now” deal for a team that’s in no position to win now. Removing  Zibanejad and adding Brassard does not suddenly transform Ottawa into a contender–while you can argue maybe he’s a slight upgrade in the short-term, Ottawa’s forwards haven’t been the problem.  The Sens aren’t only giving up on a bonafide young, talented roster player, giving up the 2018 pick means they are surrendering future talent as well.  It’s all so painfully typical of the organisation and eliminates any faint hopes I had that a Pierre Dorion regime would somehow turn over a new leaf.  Even in reading pieces that are meant to be positive (like here) there’s no specifics that make me think it’s going to help short or long term.


On the positive side the Sens gave up their posturing on Mike Hoffman and actually signed him to a four-year deal.  I’m very happy about it, although I know the org and local media will be critical of any and all defensive miscues or offensive slumps that he goes through from here on out.  There’s not much to say when the organisation gets something right, but Nichols (link above) goes through all the reasons why it’s the correct decision.


A couple of analytical pieces have dropped that are worth noting (both from Travis Yost):
-the first explores shot-blocking and asks the question: is there a minimum threshold for it?  Travis doesn’t think the data proves things one way or another, but does think there’s a correlation between between teams that emphasize shot-blocking on the PK and those that don’t
-the second looks at which team gets the bigger offensive boost from its blueline and to me what stands out is how much more the Rangers derive from their defense corps (as Travis points out, this may be due in part with the risks they can take given their goaltending)


There hasn’t been a lot of activity for Binghamton given that they are nearly at the limit of their veteran signings.  With that said, a couple of AHL deals have been inked:
Alex Krushelnyski (son of the former NHLer)–the 25-year old NCAA grad has been a productive ECHL player (130-42-75-117)
Chris Rumble (also the son of a former NHLer), the 26-year old enjoyed a solid rookie season in the ECHL (64-11-28-39)
I’d expect both players to spend the bulk of the year in the ECHL, although with a soft blueline Rumble could see time in the AHL.
On the flipside a number of former B-Sens (or Bingo property) have gone elsewhere: the unfortunate Danny Hobbs signed with the Danish league; veteran David Dziurzynski signed in Germany; call-up Matthew Zay signed with Elmira (ECHL), and Alex Wideman (Chris’ brother) signed with Indy (ECHL); none of the changes are meaningful to the AHL roster

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

The summer is typically slow for news–I assumed I’d spend my free time playing Factions (the multiplayer for The Last of Us–a great team game with terrible matchmaking) and watching StarCraft.  Instead, despite a dearth of bonafide signings, there’s a steady dribble of analysis to comment on.



Travis Yost posted a link to a 2014 article I missed from Kent Wilson where he outlines the NHL’s disinclination to change and accept analytics:

The league is also notoriously insular, with the vast majority of executives coming from the ranks of ex-players, family members of past decision makers and lawyers/player agents. In addition, the amount of open positions in a system with a given number of teams is also more or less fixed. The result is the NHL as a business is less likely to experience new, disruptive models that challenge established ways of thinking.

As a result, there is a distinct lack of intellectual diversity. In fact, there are disincentives to stepping too far outside of the box. Just about everyone who rises to power in the league has been steeped in the same “hockey culture” for decades. There is an implicit antipathy towards things that don’t conform to NHL norms, and therefore an inherent risk to being “too different” for those whose career aspirations lie within league walls. Although there is significant attrition and relatively low career security in NHL position from coaches all the way up to the GM chair, there is also significant churn and intra-team recycling done within the confines of the NHL. Meaning one can fail, but fail successfully (ie; retain legitimate employment options) by not colouring too far outside the lines. It’s one thing to lose by perfectly conventional means. It’s quite another to fail while being stigmatized as odd by the rest of the league.

This is all too true–and also one of the reasons the league has been so reluctant to improve the entertainment value of the game; it’s why you’ll see people in the NHL seek out confirmation bias information–eg, one player had good Corsi numbers, but they sucked, ergo Corsi is irrelevant.  The general point, by the way, afflicts more institutions than just the NHL.  Continuing:

There is also a distinct difference in information flow between NHL teams and the sort of de facto, crowd-sourced peer review that produced corsi stats. NHL clubs are separate and disconnected, particularly when it comes to chasing strategic insight that will confer competitive advantages. As such, any particular insights that are gleaned from work inside individual franchises are horded and protected as state secrets. In effect, NHL teams are the proverbial collection of blind men trying to describe the elephant by feeling a single portion of the animal: they each have bits of information that are only portions of the whole.



Speaking of articles of faith, Yost looks at the mythical big man–the Milan Lucic, the Tim Kerr, the Phil Esposito–a player who can dominate the front of the net and bang in rebounds.

There’s some mysticism surrounding this type of player, but they do exist. An effective guy in and around the crease area can make quite the difference for an offence at both 5-on-5 and with the man advantage. The guys who can win pucks back after a primary attack and generate secondary attempts from premium scoring areas will find the back of the net at relatively high rates. The trick is finding the player who has this skill and isn’t an anchor for the team in other facets of the game.

Well said.  Travis digs into the numbers to see who fits this coveted archetype in the here and now by looking at shot attempts via rebounds.  It’s an interesting list (no current Sens on it, although Jason Spezza is there).  Oddly enough, Lucic himself does not rank very high on the list.


I was mentally kicking the tires on Chris Kelly in an effort to anticipate what he’ll bring to the Sens if he can stay healthy.  I’ll trust Nichols and others to look at his Corsi-trends, but I was curious about his production.  Historically his points-per-game sits at 0.37, although at the peak of his career (05-12) it was 0.45.  The last four seasons he’s dropped to 0.31 (over a 30% drop), so the usual decline due to age is well in progress.  Related to Kelly, the latest Point-Per-Cost podcast points out that his signing is a “win-now” approach, which makes little sense with the current roster.


Trevor Shackles speculates on the Sens 2017-18 roster in an effort to be positive about where the Sens could be (his speculation relies a lot on prospect projection–both in terms of their ceiling and it happening quickly).  It’s delightful speculation, but it intentionally airs on the positive side.  Realistically, not all the prospects will reach their ceiling or reach them at the same rate. I can understand the desire from fans to get hyped about prospects –the organisation has encouraged it and as anyone knows from reading this blog I like the prospect cycle (who doesn’t like diamonds in the rough?).  It isn’t that long ago that I was singing the praises of Alexander Nikulin on the HFBoards (something not entirely unique to me–the now defunct Sens Army Blog saw him as a key prospect), but experiences like that provide necessary caution: 1) org-hype is meaningless, 2) one good season isn’t a trend.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

It is hot and humid in Ottawa and the news is slow.  That said, there are always a few things to comment on, so here we go:


Back in April I talked about the rumours that the Sens might move their AHL-affiliate from Binghamton to Belleville.  Nichols and Ross A both talk about an Ottawa Citizen story where Debbie Preston (Broome County Executive) confirms it–the comments don’t seem that radically different from what was said in May, but it’s added confirmation of the move.  All signs point to the affiliate playing in Belleville for the 2017-18 season, leaving this upcoming year as quite bittersweet for BSens fans.


Randy Lee talked about the Development Camp, but it’s hard to take him seriously when he praises dead weight like Vincent Dunn and Chris Leblanc–“works hard” doesn’t make up for a lack of skill (for those of you who think I’m engaging in hyperbole, I watched Dunn‘s entire season in the ECHL and it wasn’t pretty).  Nichols (whose transcript I’ve linked) talks about Lee trying to light a fire under Thomas Chabot without referencing how badly that gambit turned out with Nick Paul (I don’t think him being named Hardest Worker is a coincidence)–admittedly Nichols doesn’t pay much attention to Binghamton, but some players don’t respond well to the cliched “kick in the butt” the Sens reserve for their skilled players (whereas they bend over backwards to forgive the foibles of their “character” players–as illustrated above).

Speaking of prospects, Callum Fraser writes about Logan Brown–it’s more of a human interest piece than an analytical look at him, but it does bring up how talented his teammates in Windsor are and that’s always something to keep in mind about his numbers (how much is generated by him and how much is due to circumstances).

In the midst of fan questions Ary M compares Fredrik Claesson to Mark Borowiecki, which is the kind of thing that makes you ask: do we need either at the NHL-level?  Hopefully Freddy is better this year and I can get back on board with him, but if his peak performance is ala Borocop it’s not a good sign.

Via the same link NKB tries to explore the struggles of Curtis Lazar, but rather than look at the analytics and compare his to similar players, he looks at draft history based on where he was picked–I’m not sure there’s anything to glean from that route of inquiry (although as a matter of draft trivia it’s fun to do).  Lazar was never a prospect I was excited about and the projections for him (responsible third or fourth liner with no hands) seem on-target (not the sort of thing you need from a first-round pick).  Does he have time to show us more and develop?  Of course, but I wouldn’t hold up much hope for an offensive explosion.



So what do you do in mid-July when not much is happening?  Read whatever happens to be available and occasionally see something that raises an eyebrow:

There is no reason to think he [Chris Kelly] won’t fill the role … At 35, Chris Kelly is certainly not a spring chicken anymore. He only played 11 games last season

I’ve deliberately switched around Michaela Schreiter’s response to a reader question because to me she refutes herself–both facts she opens with are reasons to think he might not fulfill his role.  It doesn’t mean that he won’t, but there’s certainly reason for skepticism.

Speaking of free agent signings, Trevor Shackles bemoans the Sens not landing better bargain players without speculating on the relative appeal of signing in Ottawa.  The Sens are both a small market team and suffer from an internal budget, making winning all the more difficult–it’s the sort of situation that appeals most to older players with nothing left to achieve (ahem, Kelly, along with the laundry list of players Murray saddled the team with over the years).

I want to emphasize something Ross A said in passing:

possession metrics aren’t widely used

Sad but true.  When normally sensible people like Elliotte Friedman are still unsure of them you know the league (and its aging fanbase) are a long way away from embracing it.

Andrew writes a long piece about the dumb decision-making by GM’s in free agency.  There’s nothing new here, but he includes some funny lines.  I do think if NHL GM’s were more progressive and believed/embraced analytics most of the silly signings would stop, but we’re a long way from that ever happening.

I don’t usually read comment sections, but I did dive into a thread on The Silver Seven where I learned that (for some) calling your opponents losers was how you win an argument (very Donald Trump, now that I think about it).  I remain amazed that, not just in sports, but in all contexts how so many people seem unwilling (or unable) to engage in discourse.  It’s okay to be wrong or to make mistakes–it happens–it’s part of learning.  You can respect people who disagree with you.  There’s an inclination to say this sort of behaviour comes from younger people, but I know plenty of adults who engage in it too–I find it all bizarre.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes


About a week ago Nichols floated the idea of the Sens signing 35-year old, broken down Chris Kelly.  I thought the idea was verging on the ridiculous, but pointed out it would be a typical Bryan Murray signing (a player past his prime with a local connection).  Sadly this idea has come to pass as today the Sens signed their former draft pick to a one-year deal.  Kelly played all of 11 games last year after fracturing his left femur, but when healthy with the Bruins the year before put up typical numbers.  NHL players who aren’t goalies only decline in their 30s so to expect a performance akin to that wouldn’t be reasonable (Nichols sounds delightfully naive in learning Kelly hasn’t been great in the faceoff circle in years).  For those of you who want to read a positive spin on the signing both Nichols and Ross A are here for you–neither bothers to include substance behind what makes it a good move (analytics etc; in fairness to Ross his is basically a news blurb), with the former mostly being about the struggles of Curtis Lazar (and yes I agree time in Binghamton would be good for him).  Can I be persuaded this is a good move?  Maybe (with the appropriate numbers).  Could the move work out?  It’s possible, but to me it comes across as cheap fan-service to placate an aging and nostalgic fanbase.


The Sens announced a new ECHL affiliate agreement with the Wichita Thunder.  As Ross A points out they are not conveniently located for Binghamton (or Belleville for that matter).  The term wasn’t listed (their deal with Evansville was for two years), but Witchita was actually worse than the IceMen this past season (second last in the league), so it’s not even necessarily an upgrade.  From what I can tell there’s no fan website or blog devoted to the team (unlike Evansville), so it appears news about the Thunder will only be available from official organs.


I decided to look back at my prognostication of the European free agent pool (posted back in March), so below includes all the NHL-signings (including players from previous lists) along with any other player-movement from the current crop:

Marcus Sorensen – signed by San Jose
Linus Hultstrom – signed by Florida
Lukas Bengtsson – signed by Pittsburgh
Anatoli Golyshev – drafted by the Islanders
Tim Heed – signed by San Jose (2015 list)
Jere Sallinen – signed by Edmonton (2013 list)

John Norman – KHL
Juuso Ikonen – signed by Djurgardens
Otso Rantakari – signed by Tappara
Sami Rajaniemi – signed by Jukurit
Konstantin Komarek – SHL

Understandably the question posed looking at lists like this is: how often do these signings work out?  The answer is sometimes (3-7): Panarin, Donskoi, and Brunner are or were solid signings (the jury is still out on Ronalds KeninsDennis Rasmussen and Borna Rendulic, although it’s likely they will land on the failure side).  What I will say is the odds of a European FA in this age category panning out is better than signings from the NCAA–whether that’s due to just how many college kids are signed (flooding the numbers) or something else I couldn’t say.  The above, incidentally, doesn’t include players like Melker Karlsson (SJ) who I never listed.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes


While Ottawa added no players to its NHL roster on the first day of free agency, they did add a lot to the AHL lineup, so let’s take a look (I’m ignoring the RFA’s they signed, just the FA’s):
-re-signed Michael Kostka (50-5-24-29); the 30-year old defenseman was serviceable last season (keeping his partner, ECHL defenseman Guillaume Lepine, afloat); he’s not a true #1 or #2 blueliner at this level, but for a team this thin on the blueline he’s a needed asset
-re-signed Phil Varone (65-19-36-55); he’s averaged 0.84 points-per-game over the last three seasons in the AHL, which makes him a top-20/25 scorer in the league, so he fills a definite need
-signed Chad Nehring (76-22-26-48) via Hartford; the 29-year old enjoyed a career year, leading the moribund Wolf Pack in scoring; it’s very strange for a player this old to peak like this; I’m not sure what need is being filled here (the org could have just kept Pat Cannone and had the exact same thing), particularly as he isn’t a big, bruising player (5’11 with minimal PIMs)
-signed Mike Blunden (49-21-17-38) via Syracuse; this is much more the kind of signing I expect from the org; the 6’4 29-year old’s AHL stats are solid and he’s coming off a good year (0.77 vs his career 0.54; I think his three year average of 0.64 is more around what we can expect)

I was asked where Binghamton stands in terms of veteran contracts and for those unfamiliar with the AHL’s rules, let’s take a brief look:

Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a game, at least 13 must be qualified as “development players.” Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season. (source and source)

It’s important to note that ECHL games do not count towards veteran status.  A team can ice at most 6 veteran players, not including goalies, with their status determined by games played (rather than age).  Here’s a look at signed players who fit this definition:
-Zach Stortini (700+ AHL/NHL games)
-Tom Pyatt (600+ AHL/NHL/NLA games)
-Michael Kostka (500+ AHL/NHL games)
-Mike Blunden (500+ AHL/NHL games)
-Phil Varone (370 AHL/NHL games)
This leaves the BSens with one veteran spot left, but it must fit the sub-320 mark (Chad Nehring has only 129 AHL games counting against him, so the rule doesn’t apply)


Development Camp is not a great place to assess players, particularly when it comes to scrimmages (posted up on the Sens website for those who missed it), but a couple of thoughts:
-watching Matt O’Connor give up a weak goal short side (c.16:50 into the period, or c.8:35 into the video) felt like deja vu for the season that was (the 6’5 ‘tender also was beat high by Nick Paul, but saved by the crossbar, he then gave up a soft 5-hole goal from the blueline); it’s such a sharp contrast to better prospects (I remember the year Brian Elliott didn’t give up a goal in the final day of 3-on-3 competition)
-looking at Marcus Hogberg it’s tough to think we’ll have to wait another season before we see him across the Atlantic (he looked great in the 5-on-5 and fantastic at 3-on-3, maintaining a shutout for himself)
-as you’d expect Francis Perron stood out offensively (Brown and Dahlen as well)
-funny (in a sad way) that Ben Harpur struggled to defend even this level of competition (granted he did make a nice pass to start a tic-tac-toe scoring play for the second white goal)

A bit of a tangential but related note, Chris Carlisle is in camp, but as far as I know has not been re-signed by the Sens.



Roy MacGregor doesn’t pull any punches:

While there has been much to criticize in HNIC – the panelists playing ministicks far and away the most foolish – the plummeting viewership is not something to be blamed entirely on tight suits. Or, for that matter, adding in the unfortunate happenstance of no Canadian team in this year’s postseason. … The game, as it is played these days, is more often unwatchable than enjoyable. There may be no available statistic for those “hard-core” fans – including those who played the NHL game and covered the NHL – who have tuned out, but they are legion.  Why? Because it’s boring.

His conclusion is that the problem is coaching, but I think that’s far off the mark.  The idea that coaches in the 70s and 80s (when hockey was a growing sport) weren’t coaching to win or teaching systems is ridiculous.  What’s changed primarily is: 1) goalie equipment, 2) permissible interference.  The latter in particular is what gave us the Dead Puck Era, but while it’s been cut back we still suffer from absurd goaltending equipment (we’ve heard promises that it will change in the upcoming season, but I’ll believe it when I see it).

Hockey, like any other sport, is ultimately repetitive–99% of the games you watch unfold in very similar ways.  To draw in fans you need some other layer of excitement and what that used to be when I was growing up were players challenging records or milestones–it’s hard to imagine now, but there were legitimate threats to all the records people care about (goals and points) once upon a time.  Since then offensive numbers have regressed and outside the first few months of the 2005-06 season players haven’t come close to challenging anything.  In that absence, there’s nothing to bring fans in other than winning and very few teams win or win consistently.


Chris Stewart quietly signed in Minnesota and I bring him up simply because I remember all the hype surrounding him in Sensland not long ago (ahem 2014, February (Ottawa Sun and TSN), May (Travis Yost, thankfully arguing against) July (Senshot), October (6th Sens, arguing against it), November (THW), and December (Hockey Insider)).  These are just some of the pieces that came out–a solid year of the organisation (and some of the fanbase) pinning after the former first-round pick in 2014.  So what happened?  The org certainly didn’t consult the analytics, but it became clear that Stewart‘s offensive production was never going to take another step, but the price for him remained high.  He was supposed to be the power forward the Sens needed to make the next step, but thankfully Murray never pulled the trigger on a deal.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)