Sens at the Trade Deadline

I went over the Duchene trade right after it happened, but the dealing wasn’t done and I wanted review the rest of what Pierre Dorion accomplished. We’ll go from the smallest to largest trades:

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Patrick Sieloff (AHL 45-1-8-9) to Anaheim for Brian Gibbons (NHL 44-2-3-5)

Spare part for spare part, but Sieloff (acquired from Calgary in the Chiasson trade) is a dead end player–probably best known for essentially ending Clarke MacArthur’s career. He peaked as a prospect with the Flames; a solid PKer with no offensive abilities and term left on his deal (I mentioned in the off-season that re-signing him was a mistake). In Gibbons the Sens acquired an undrafted, 31-year old college grad whose performance has been in decline for quite some time–a spare part the team isn’t committed too.

Assessment: It’s a good move–there’s simply no room for Sieloff on the BSens roster, so keeping him would be pointless.

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Ryan Dzingel (57-22-22-44) and a 2019 7th to Columbus for Anthony Duclair (53-11-8-19) and two 2nds (2020, 2021)

I was surprised how happy most Sens fans were waiving goodbye to Dzingel; Nichols broke down the stats for Dzingel, but not Duclair in his analysis, which was disappointing (you can find that info here). The consensus seems to be that Dzingel has been benefiting from linemates and a high shooting percentage, and that, even if Duclair (whose rights the Sens control at season’s end) bombs out, they have two picks to play with.

Assessment: Duclair does not replace Dzingel, so despite the latter’s expiring contract the trade boils down to the picks. We have a limited track record for Dorion’s 2nd-rounders: his first (Gabriel Gagne) was an expensive bust, the second (Jonathan Dahlen) was traded away for Alex Burrows–since then there’s been a declining perception of his potential. Fans are happy with Alex Formenton (concerns about his offensive potential remain), but it’s far too early to judge Jonny Tychonick. It’s safe to say none of the first three players is Dzingel’s equivalent, although one can certainly hope for Tychonick. If either future pick turns out to be a good player, this is a win–if not, the trade isn’t terrible since Dzingel is a rental, but it’s still not value-for-value.

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Mark Stone (59-28-34-62) and Tobias Lindberg (AHL 44-5-7-12) to Las Vegas for Erik Brannstrom (AHL 41-7-21-28), Oscar Lindberg (35-4-8-12), and Dallas’ 2020 2nd-rounder.

There’s no question Vegas got the best player, although they need to re-sign him to get the most out of the trade. Lindberg is an unremarkable player on an expiring contract, so it’s really down to the pick (see above for Dorion’s 2nds) and Brannstrom. The Swede (1-15/17) was highly touted going into his draft, but concerns about his size pinned him to the middle of the first round. The question that is yet unanswered is what his offensive potential will be at the NHL-level

Assessment: If Brannstrom is as Pronman suggests (the link)–an all-around top-four blueliner–that’s a very weak return for a player like Mark Stone. The Sens really need to maximize the pick as well as get a lot from Brannstrom to make this trade tolerable.

One of the most interesting things to me from the slate of recent moves is that Dorion has acquired a lot of smaller players. I applaud the change, as the Sens have notoriously overvalued bigger players. With that said, let’s combine the various component parts of all these deals:

In
Erik Brannstrom (1-15/17; ELC, AHL)
Vitali Abramov (3-65/16; ELC, AHL)
Jonathan Davidsson (6-170/17; ELC, SHL)
Anthony Duclair (3-80/13; upcoming RFA)
Oscar Lindberg (27; expiring contract)
Brian Gibbons (31; expiring contract)
Picks
1st – 2019 (Clb)*
2nd – 2020 (Clb, Dal), 2021 (Clb)

Out
Julius Bergman (23, expiring contract)
Tobias Lindberg (23, expiring contract)
Patrick Sieloff (24, signed for 19/20)
Mark Stone (26, expiring contract)
Ryan Dzingel (26, expiring contract)
Matt Duchene (28, expiring contract)
Picks
7th (2019)

*There are a billion conditions on this one, but this is the most likely result

The Sens have collected a lot of assets–three prospects and a young player whose rights they control, along with four high (but not top) picks. Abstractly this would be great, but they are losing two first-line forwards along with a player who has at least produced in the top-six. There’s nothing on their plate that replaces that nor are their picks so high that you can be sure such replacements are coming. Could the org package some of these picks to move up, like they did for Gabriel Gagne or Matt Puempel? Of course, but from those examples we can see that there are no guarantees.

I said on trade day that I thought Dorion lost all three trades–I may have been a little harsh–but on the scale of quality vs quality, all are absolutely losses in the short term and the odds suggest that the Sens will never get equal value back in the long term either. It’s admittedly not that simple–the Sens painted themselves into a corner with three players who were going to walk, so given the circumstances it’s not a terrible return. However, this position–top players on expiring contracts who will walk–is the scenario Dorion put himself in. The Melnykian budget isn’t new or a surprise; the scenario of the Sens bottoming out and needing a rebuild was foreseen by some of us long ago. In essence, the org is the one who put a gun to its head. It all boils down to Dorion habitually overvaluing the talent on hand (along with some fundamental misunderstandings of the modern game).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

 

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You Deserve Better

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Two days ago Ian Mendes said something that I’ve been saying about the local press since I started blogging, “As a broadcasting partner, we’re doing them a disservice by enabling them” (in the thread a fan said Mendes told him off for echoing this two years ago, but even if it took Ian a long time to come to this realization I welcome him). While the slant above is different, Mendes’ made a similar statement just six months ago when he told fans “You deserve better,” but I don’t think that comment resonated as much then and I think the reason for that is the hardcore fans are only now just waking up to the fact to how incompetent the org is (admittedly Dave still wants to put all the blame on the ownership). One of the key problems is summed up by Nichols when he says that the org has never accepted responsibility for its mistakes, instead blaming the fans and media. This echoes another of my common refrains–Randy Lee might have been the most overt “It’s everyone else’s fault!” guy in the org.

It’s not difficult to either obfuscate the situation or simply look at it and draw the wrong conclusion–Flat Earthers never quite see the curve on the horizon. For Varada, everything looks pretty flat to him:

“Teams that are lucky enough to draft good players, and lucky enough to develop them into good players, and lucky enough to still have them on their roster in their prime do not typically trade those players unless it’s for other players with the same or higher potential.”

It would not surprise me if the org shares this belief, but the idea that luck is the only factor when it comes to drafting and developing is simply nonsense (entering Milkman territory)–the same applies to GMs peddling away assets. ‘Luck’ is how you abdicate responsibility–suddenly Fate is dictating events rather than the human decisions behind them. Funnily enough, even though Varada gives the org a free pass for their many painful mistakes, he still arrives at the conclusion across the fanbase that things are as bad as they’ve ever been.

I want to give Chris Stevenson credit for having a better grasp of the big picture than Pierre Dorion when he says he’d rather Drake Batherson and Logan Brown remain in Belleville to help that team play meaningful games. This would have been the perfect time for the org to call-up players with no future like Adam Tambellini or Darren Archibald–leaving the excellent prospects to reward the fans in Belleville.

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So what do I think about the trade? Pierre Dorion has a horrendous track record when it comes to trades (something acknowledged here by including Julius Bergman as part of it–an asset he’d just acquired in the disastrous Mike Hoffman deal who spent his time in Belleville in Troy Mann’s dog house), but we have to judge each trade by its own particulars.

To Columbus
Matt Duchene (expiring contract, 49-27-31-58)
Julius Bergman (expiring contract, 33-0-6-6)

Duchene is in the midst of a career year undoubtedly boosted by having Mark Stone on the team; he was never going to re-sign with Ottawa because he wants to play on a contender, so moving him was inevitable. Bergman is in the midst of a career worst season in the AHL, granted that he’s been given no opportunity with Belleville.

To Ottawa
Conditional 2019 1st-round pick (if it’s a top-three pick it reverts to Columbus); conditional 2020 1st-round pick (triggers if Duchene re-signs a long-term extension); if the 2019 pick is protected, but Duchene re-signs, Ottawa gets a 2021 1st-rounder
Vitali Abramov (3-65/16 rookie ELC AHL 52-12-10-22)
Jonathan Davidsson (6-170/17 ELC SHL 35-10-10-20)

Both tangible assets are prospects, so what are the Sens getting? Abramov was projected as a late first-rounder, but size pushed him down to the third-round; overager Davidsson was not projected to be picked in his draft. What did scouts have to say about them?

Abramov is smaller than the org usually likes (5’9), although we’ve seen a gradual shift away from the “Big is Better” philosophy with the FA signings of Aaron Luchuk and Andrew Sturtz. He was highly touted in his draft year, with the emphasis on his offensive production. The concerns were the usual ones for offensive and smaller players: he needed to work on his defensive play and to bulk up. So what about the context of his rookie season? He played on the offensively challenged Cleveland Monsters (lead by former NHLer Nathan Gerbe), where he was eighth among forwards in scoring. The Monsters are a bad team that has continually struggled offensively under coach John Madden (who has yet to make the playoffs in three seasons). I doubt Abramov was receiving a ton of ice time, but with that said his numbers are simply average for a player of his pedigree as a rookie–we have to lean on the scouting reports until we’ve seen him in action for awhile.

I only have one scouting report on Davidsson (from Hockey Prospects), who landed on their radar after a good rookie season in the SHL and participating in the U20 camp that year. They thought he was a pass-first, offensively focused player who makes good decisions, but who needed work on his defensive play, was weak in one-on-one battles, and whose production was a bit lower than expected for the kind of player he is. Davidsson was signed, but loaned back to Djurgardens where he’s essentially at the same pace as his previous season; he’s sixth among forwards in scoring, with Djurgardens generally struggling to score. There’s nothing currently that suggests Davidsson has outgrown the general scouting sentiment when he was picked and he’s a long shot to develop into a productive NHL-player.

In the end this trade is about the picks (likely just one pick this year) and Abramov. Ottawa needs one of those assets to be a very good player or else they haven’t maximized their asset–the price to acquire Duchene in the first place (possibly the first pick overall) can never be fully recouped, but they need something important in the pipeline to avoid it being an unmitigated disaster.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Pierre McGuire and the Sound of Silence

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On Wednesday, January 30th, Olympic gold medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield was broadcasting on NBC with Pierre McGuire. This is notable to a degree, but isn’t the usual kind of ‘first’ that would trend in the news cycle since Cassie Campbell-Pascall has been calling games since 2006. So why am I talking about it? Pierre McGuire did what he does best by acting like he’d missed the last thirty years (something echoed in his hockey opinions, incidentally). His antics briefly trended on Twitter and lead to articles from the CBC, Globe and Mail, The Athletic, and on and on (as one would expect), but with no real consequences (an expected apology and that’s it).

Everyone who reads this blog is aware of both the event and the coverage, so why bring it up here? It isn’t that the event itself is surprising (sadly), or that the coverage from the media was unusual, or that Schofield let McGuire off the hook (I have no doubt she wishes to continue calling games for NBC). What did surprise me is the utter radio silence from the Ottawa blogging community (something I brought up at the time). All I can find is silence. You can work your way through the entire Sens blogging community and there’s nothing there–from The Silver Seven, The 6th Sens (which I think Nichols is letting die–nothing posted since November?), Senchirp, Senshot, WTYKY (a name change any time soon guys?), etc. I find this enormously puzzling, particularly with McGuire remaining a regular on Ottawa radio. I don’t have to go back that far (2015) to find WTYKY’s Andrew reading the riot act about behaviour from those involved with the league and his sentiments are hardly unique to him.

I have no conclusion to this. I’ve talked to a few people and the summary is simply: they didn’t notice it wasn’t covered. Are we simply at a point where this is expected of McGuire? Is it simple indifference? I really don’t know, but I bring it to you to share my puzzlement.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville Senators: December Review

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Another month is in the books for the Belleville Senators and, as I’ve done all year, let’s look back and see how the team performed (for November’s dossier, go here).

Roster Volatility

If there’s one thing the org loves it’s excuses and this is especially at the AHL-level. The refrain is always in regards to players not being available (due to injury or having been called up), so let’s deal with that first. Drake Batherson was unexpectedly returned from the NHL towards the end of the month, but it’s not a demotion I expect to last. Nick Paul inexplicably spent almost the entire month in Ottawa (I guess why not?). Also seeing NHL time was org-darling Erik Burgdoerfer, along with Paul CareyJack RodewaldStefan Elliott, Marcus Hogberg, and Christian Wolanin. Coming back to Belleville was Binghamton fan-favourite Max McCormick–another org darling who received a one-way deal because he was ‘good in the corners/room.’ Unfortunately for Max, he wasn’t good anywhere else at the NHL-level, and I’ll give Dorion credit for finally biting the bullet and sending him back where he belongs (the AHL, that is).

On the injury front Jim O’Brien remains out, as does Mike Condon. Otherwise no one missed the entire month, but Filip Chlapik has been out for quite some time (three weeks now). Also missing time were CareyAaron LuchukRodewaldAndrew SturtzJulius BergmanJordan MurrayPatrick Sieloff, and Wolanin.

As for demotions/promotions from the ECHL, the aforementioned Luchuk got the call and remains in Belleville; Daniel Ciampini, Jonathan Racine, and Francois Beauchemin were demoted; FA duds Ryan Scarfo and Macoy Erkamps were traded away while still in Brampton.

Speaking of trades, the Sens dealt Ben Sexton away and in return received Elliott and former BSen Tobias Lindberg. They also signed hulking non-entity Justin Auger to a PTO and before being returned he established that yes, there is a pro with worse skating than Logan Brown. Former BSen Chris Carlisle was also brought up under similar circumstances. The trade that brought in Darren Archibald occurred in January so won’t be discussed here (this also applies to the PTO-signing of Alex Breton).

Stats

The Team (November shown in red, differential in blue)

6-7-0 (6th division, 12th conference) 5-6-1 dropped from t-4th and 11th respectively
GF 38/2.92 (10th conference) 39/3.25 -0.33 dropped from 7th
GA 39/3.00 (12th conference) 47/3.91 +0.91 dropped from t-10th
PP 9-50/18.0% (11th conference) 10-57/17.5% +0.5% dropped from 9th
PK 35-47/74.4% (13th conference) 52-68/76.4% -2.0% dropped from 12th
Shots 24.3 -2.9
Shot Differential 5.1 -5.5

The song remains the same for Mann’s squad, as seemingly no matter what happens to the roster or what the coach does, they slowly drift down in the standings and in comparative indicators. The horrendous GAA improved, largely due to Hogberg‘s return; the GF dropped below 3.00 for the first time this season, while their powerplay remained roughly even with November (but far lower than October). The PK continues to slide, while Shots and Shot Differential also dropped–the former being particularly alarming (Batherson‘s timely return helped both it and GF before the month was out).

Players

(Arranged by points-per-game; rookies in green, ELCs in blue, AHL-contracts in italics, NHL-deals in red)

Carey 9-3-8-11 1.22 PPP 5
Rodewald 8-4-5-9 1.12 PPP 3
Balcers 13-7-6-13 1.00 PPP 5
Batherson 6-1-4-5 0.83 PPP 1
McCormick 6-2-3-5 0.83 PPP 2
Wolainin 8-1-5-6 0.75 PPP 2
Percy 13-1-7-8 0.61 PPP 3
Brown 13-2-5-7 0.54 PPP 1
Chlapik 4-1-1-2 0.50
Elliott 8-1-3-4 0.50 PPP 2
Tambellini 13-1-4-5 0.38 PPP 2
Lindberg 8-2-1-3 0.37
Sturtz 6-1-1-2 0.33
Murray 3-1-0-1 0.33 PPP 1

Carlisle
3-0-1-1 0.33
Sieloff 10-0-3-3 0.30
Gagne
11-1-2-3 0.27
Luchuk 8-2-0-2 0.25
Leier 8-1-1-2 0.25
Burgdoerfer 8-1-1-2 0.25
Englund 13-1-2-3 0.23
Ciampini 5-1-0-1 0.20
LaBate 13-2-0-2 0.15
Balisy 13-1-1-2 0.15
Paul 1-0-0-0 0.00
Sexton 1-0-0-0 0.00
Auger 2-0-0-0 0.00
Bergman 5-0-0-0 0.00
Racine 5-0-0-0 0.00
Beauchemin 7-0-0-0 0.00
O’Brien Injured

Gustavsson 4-3-0 89.76 3.14
Hogberg 2-4-0 91.46 2.38
Paterson Did Not Play

Player Usage

We’ll separate forwards from defensemen. For the first time all season Mann has done some limited juggling (both at forward and on defense)–it’s very specific and I’ll get into it where applicable.

Forwards

(Notations in brackets are when the player was on a different line than assigned when they registered the point)

First Line (8 goals, including empty-netter)
Carey (8-9) Goal, 2 Assists (goal)
Balcers (6-13) Goal, 2 Assists
Tambellini (6-13) Goal
Brown (5-13) Goal
Chlapik (4-4) Goal, Assist
Balisy (4-13)
Batherson (3-6) Goal, Assist
Rodewald (3-8) 2 Assists

This line, no matter who is on it, has produced roughly the same amount of goals each month (7, 8, 8), but given the number of games played this represents a decline (0.70, 0.66, 0.61). A couple of things should spring out at you immediately: why weren’t Balcers and Batherson stapled to the top line (Mann’s quirk with the latter is something I called out last time)? Yes, Carey also plays the left side, but he can play center. Secondly, what is Chase Balisy doing anywhere near a scoring line? He received the more TOI this month than any other and produced his worst results–he cannot center a line that needs to score. I’ll note that I said in my November review that Balcers numbers would rebound, and they have.

Second Line (10 goals)
Balcers (7-13) 3 Goals, 2 Assists
Brown (7-13) Goal, 4 Assists
Tambellini (5-13) 2 Assists
Luchuk (4-8)
Batherson (3-6) 2 Assists
Rodewald (3-8) Goal, 2 Assists
Balisy (3-13)
McCormick (2-6) Goal, Assist
Carey (1-9) Goal, Assist
Paul (1-1) Assist
Leier (1-8)
Lindberg (1-8)
Sturtz (1-6)

Production from this line has been steadily improving (4, 8, 10; 0.40, 0.66, 0.77), but this is largely a product of putting first-line players on the second-line. What stands out are the players that don’t belong here: Balisy, Luchuk, Leier–the first and third have no business in the top-six, while the rookie isn’t ready for prime time yet.

Third Line (4 goals)
LaBate (7-13) Goal
Balisy (6-13) Assist
Gagne (5-11) Assist
Luchuk (3-8) 2 Goals
McCormick (3-6) Assist
Sturtz (2-6) Assist
Tambellini (2-13)
Rodewald (2-8)
Leier (2-8)
Brown (1-13)
Ciampini (1-5)
Auger (1-2)
Sexton (1-1)

An ineffective line all season (3, 5, 4; 0.30, 0.41, 0.31). I have no idea why LaBate plays so much here–we can argue all day about the other things he brings to the game, but he’s sitting at a miserly 0.17 points-per-game–that’s a player who should worry about being scratched, not centering the third line. I brought up this issue last month as well, but Mann’s affection for him is a hard thing to overcome. With the two centers for the line being ice cold (Balisy is the other) there’s no surprise that no one, other than Luchuk, accomplished anything here.

Fourth Line (3 goals)
Beauchemin (7-7)
Gagne (6-11) Assist (Goal)
LaBate (6-13) Goal
Leier (5-8) Assist
Lindberg (4-8) Goal
Ciampini (4-5) Goal
Sturtz (3-6)
McCormick (1-6)
Luchuk (1-8)
Auger (1-2)

Not much is expected offensively from a fourth line and that’s what’s been delivered (4, 2, 3; 0.40, 0.16, 0.23). Beauchemin played himself out of the line–his early season production does indeed seem to have been a fluke. It’s a strange assortment of players being put here–a mix of those with some talent and those with none. This should be the place for Mann to dump his checkers, but he can’t bring himself to do so consistently.

I referenced the line juggling above: this didn’t occur very often with the forwards, but especially as the month progressed players like Lindberg would sometimes barely play–some time on the PP, but not much else–with that spot on the roster taken by someone like McCormick or what have you.

(There’s a penalty shot goal from Rodewald not included above, as well as three other goals whose forward groups were a complete mishmash of players that couldn’t be reduced to a line–these are goals by Lindberg during a 4-on-4, and Sturtz and Leier during some rare juggling by Mann)

Defense

(Notes in brackets are points when not on the ice with the usual partner for that game; this doesn’t include OT goals)

Top-pairing (13 goals)
Burgdoerfer (9-9) Goal, Assist
Wolanin (8-8) 4 Assists
Sieloff (6-10) Assist
Percy (1-13)
Carlisle (1-3) Assist
Racine (1-5)

The production from the first unit was similar to November (16), with a slight drop due to the absence of Wolanin for part of the month (despite missing games he still easily lead players in production). I want to point out that neither Racine nor Carlisle played consistently on the top-unit when they appeared here and that’s a positive (they shouldn’t be exposed that way regardless).

Second-pairing (9 goals)
Elliott (8-8) Goal, Assist
Percy (7-13) Goal, 2 Assists
Englund (7-13)
Murray (2-3)
Sieloff (1-10)
Racine (1-5)

This is also consistent production vs November (8). Percy enjoyed a very productive month and did so playing his usual minutes (all that production came alongside either Elliott or Sieloff). Why Englund is here is hard to fathom, but it is worth noting that for the first time this season Mann would slide the big Swede down to third-pairing minutes, especially if the team needed offense. This is a welcome change. I don’t think I need to say anything about Racine being placed here–the point is obvious.

Third-pairing (6 goals)
Bergman (6-6)
Englund (6-13) 2 Assists (Goal)
Percy (5-13) 2 Assists
Sieloff (3-10) Assist
Racine (3-5)
Carlisle (2-3)
Murray (1-3)

This is a significant bump in production, but much of that is due to the prolonged amount of time Percy spent as part of this unit. I keep waiting for Englund‘s offensive ‘explosion’ to simmer down–regress to the mean–but at least for two months he’s clicking along at a pace that’s good for what he does.

I touched on the line juggling above, but to reiterate: regardless of the combinations Mann leans heavily on core players for minutes–PercyElliottSieloffBurgdoerfer, and Wolanin. Other defensemen will lose shifts depending on the situation. This kind of flexibility was not apparent earlier in the year and, to some extent at least, is a welcome change.

Goaltending

After a disastrous November where Gustavsson struggled with the starting role, Hogberg returned from injury and brought relief. While the younger Swede finished with a better winning record, there’s no question that Hogberg was the superior goaltender. Both were pulled once, but this is the most consistent we’ve seen Hogberg since he came to North America. It seems unlikely that he’ll maintain such a solid save percentage with the anemic defense in front of him, but as long as it doesn’t fall too much we can consider his season a success. As for Gustavsson, he seems to have recovered his confidence and I expect his numbers to continue to improve. All things considered, the BSens struggles are not a result of goaltending in December.

Special Teams – The Powerplay

Despite a great deal of tinkering, particularly on the second unit, the overall numbers remained about even (ie, near the bottom of the league). As I pointed out last timeBatherson‘s presence makes all the difference (6-28, 21.4% with him in the lineup, and 3-22, 13.6% without, which is just as anemic as in November in the same circumstance). I don’t know why a talented player like Sturtz doesn’t get more opportunities, but Mann is clearly out of patience with Gagne. Here are the raw scoring numbers:

Carey, Balcers 5
Rodewald, Percy 3
Wolanin, McCormick, Tambellini, Elliott 2
Batherson, Brown, Murray 1

Here’s the scoring by specific units (shift count included; arranged by goals/effectiveness):

1st: Carey-Brown-Rodewald/Percy-Balcers 3-5
2nd: Carey-Luchuk-Rodewald/Percy-Tambellini 1-2
2nd: Tambellini-Luchuk-McCormick/Rodewald-Elliott 1-3
2nd: McCormick-Luchuk-Tambellini/Percy-Elliott 1-4
1st: Balcers-Brown-Carey/Wolanin-Batherson 2-10
1st: Balcers-Brown-Batherson/Percy-Wolanin 1-6
1st: Carey-Balisy-Brown/Balcers-Wolanin 0-9
1st: Balcers-Paul-Rodewald/Percy-Carey 0-5
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Brown/Chlapik-Bergman 0-4
2nd: Tambellini-Luchuk-Rodewald/Percy-Elliott 0-4
1st: McCormick-Brown-Batherson/Balcers-Wolanin 0-3
2nd: Lindberg-Luchuk-Tambellini/Percy-Carlisle 0-3
2nd: Auger-Luchuk-Lindberg/Percy-Tambellini 0-3
1st: Balcers-Balisy-Auger/Brown-Wolanin 0-2
1st: Balcers-Brown-Batherson/Percy-Tambellini 0-2
2nd: McCormick-Balisy-Tambellini/Murray-Elliott 0-2
2nd: Lindberg-Luchuk-Gagne/Percy-Tambellini 0-2
2nd: McCormick-Lindberg-Sturtz/Murray-Bergman 0-2
1st: Balcers-Balisy-Tambellini/Brown-Wolanin 0-1
1st: Balcers-Luchuk-Brown/Percy-Wolanin 0-1
2nd: McCormick-Lindberg-Sturtz/Murray-Elliott 0-1
2nd: Carey-Luchuk-Rodewald/Burgdoerfer-Elliott 0-1
2nd: Carey-Luchuk-Rodewald/Tambellini-Elliott 0-1
2nd: Rodewald-Lindberg-Sturtz/Percy-Elliott 0-1
2nd: Carey-Balisy-Leier/Tambellini-Wolanin 0-1
2nd: Auger-Luchuk-Gagne/Lindberg-Tambellini 0-1
2nd: Tambellini-Balisy-Gagne/Elliott-Bergman 0-1
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Brown/Chlapik-Murray  0-1

Just like in November (but unlike October), it’s a bewildering number of combinations, albeit much more confined to tinkering with the second unit. What about individual performance irrespective of line? Here are their percentages via per-shift (increases/decreases noted in either red or blue where applicable; bracketed are first/second unit shifts):

Burgdoerfer 1-1 100% (0/1)*
Rodewald 5-22 22.7% (10/12) +15.3%
Murray 1-6 16.6% (0/6)* +11.4%
Percy 6-38 15.8% (19/19) +2.0%
Carey 5-34 14.7% (29/5) +4.5%
Batherson 3-21 14.3% (21/0) -0.7%
Balcers 6-44 13.6% (44/0) +5.5%
Brown 6-44 13.6% (39/5) +7.2%
McCormick 2-15 13.3% (3/12)
Luchuk 3-25 12.0% (1/24)
Elliott 2-18 11.1% (0/18)
Wolanin 3-33 9.1% (32/1) -1.3%
Tambellini 2-35 5.7% (3/32) -12.0%
Carlisle 0-3 (0/3)
Sturtz 0-4 (0/4)
Gagne 0-4 (0/4) -22.2%
Paul 0-5 (4/1) -6.0%
Sexton 0-5 (1/4) -11.3%
Chlapik 0-5 (0/5) -9.6%
Auger 0-6 (2/4)
Bergman 0-7 (0/7)
Lindberg 0-13 (0/13)
Balisy 0-16 (12/4) -4.7%
*Both players on-ice success came during player changes, so not part of their assigned lines

Sample size plays a large role in many of these numbers, but it’s also due to how few penalties the team draws (they’ve dropped from 4.75 powerplays-per-game in November to 3.84). Other things that stand out: what’s Auger doing on the powerplay (much lest the first unit)? Why was Balisy on the first unit at all? And let’s keep McCormick off the top line–the devastation he caused last year in that position is still a painful memory. While the second unit is never going to score as much as the first, I think the constant meddling makes it almost impossible for there to be any kind of consistency–I’d rather Mann use set lines and stick with them for awhile.

Special Teams – The Penalty Kill

Down down down goes the penalty kill–80.4%, 76.4%, to 74.4%. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: special teams are where a coach makes the most impact and this isn’t pretty. Here are the various forward combinations (arranged by volume):

Carey-Balisy 25-25
Balcers-LaBate 19-21
Balcers-Balisy 15-16
Balcers-Chlapik 8-9
McCormick-Balisy 7-8
LaBate-Sturtz 6-6
LaBate-Balisy 3-5
Balisy-Sturtz 4-4
LaBate-Rodewald 4-4
Balisy-Leier 4-4
LaBate-Beauchemin 3-3
Carey-LaBate 3-3
Balisy-Rodewald 2-3
Sexton 2-2
Carey-Rodewald 1-2
Brown-Batherson 1-1
LaBate-Sturtz 1-1
Rodewald-Sturtz 1-1
Carey-Beauchemin 1-1
McCormick-LaBate 1-1
LaBate-Leier 1-1
Balcers-Sturtz 1-1
Balcers-Carey 1-1
Beauchemin-Balisy 1-1
McCormick-Luchuk 1-1
McCormick-Carey 1-1
Beauchemin-Leier 1-1
LaBate-Sexton 1-1
Paul-Rodewald 1-1
Paul-Chlapik 1-1
Carey 1-1
Luchuk-Balisy 0-1
Sturtz-Leier 0-1
Luchuk 0-1

In my experience there’s always more variety on the PK than the PP, but this exceeds even what we saw in November. It’s easy for a player’s actual ability to be masked by a partner, which is why I look at individual shift count numbers (yearly totals in brackets with differences from November in red or blue if changed and in italics if the sample size was small):

Beauchemin 6-6 100% even (26-26)
Sexton 3-3 100% traded (39-42)
Paul 2-2 100% +3.5% (34-37)
Brown 1-1 100%
Batherson 1-1 100%
Carey 34-35 97.1% +4.3% (99-105)
Balisy 47-50 94.0% +4.5% (164-177)
McCormick 11-12 91.6%
LaBate 42-46 91.3% +2.2% (124-136)
Chalpik 9-10 90.0% +18.6% (16-21)
Balcers 58-65 89.2% +1.7% (65-74)
Sturtz 13-15 86.6% -5.0% (24-27)
Leier 6-7 85.7%
Rodewald 9-11 81.8% -4.4% (71-81)
Luchuk 1-3 33.3%

The sample size at the top is too small to be significant, so the list truly starts with Carey (who was excellent and has been all season). Looking at these numbers nearly all seem to be going up, so why is the PK going down? Well, it only went down marginally, but with that said, those players at the bottom truly tanked the number. I think Sturtz suffered some bad luck, but otherwise the bottom three players struggled (Luchuk‘s brief tenure was simply to win faceoffs–that experiment did not last long). Rodewald, as I’ve brought up before, is a below average PKer and Mann seems to have finally recognized this (much as Kurt Kleinendorst did last year)–cutting both his shift count and putting him on as the second or third rotation. What Boston Leier is doing on this list is beyond me. Incidentally, let’s add some context to those Balisy numbers: take away his time with Carey and Balcers and suddenly he’s just 7-9 (77.7%). This is something that was apparent in November, but I did not point it out then. Speaking of Balcers, let me credit Mann: I questioned putting him on the PK, but he is improving far more than I would have guessed. Moving on to the blueline:

Sieloff-Burgdoerfer 20-23
Sieloff-Percy 11-12
Englund-Elliott 7-8
Percy-Burgdoerfer 6-7
Englund-Percy 6-6
Englund-Burgdoerfer 5-6
Sieloff-Elliott 5-5
Englund-Racine 4-5
Percy-Elliott 4-4
Englund-Percy 4-4
Englund-Sieloff 4-4
Englund-Murray 3-4
Wolanin-Elliott 2-2
Englund-Bergman 2-2
Percy-Murray 1-1
Sieloff-Racine 1-1
Percy-Wolanin 1-1
Englund-Wolanin 1-1
Murray-Elliott 1-1
Murray-Burgdoerfer 0-1
Englund-Sturtz 0-1*
Englund 0-1
* during a change Englund was the only defensemen on

The large number of combinations are partially Mann’s doing–smacking, perhaps, of desperation. Let’s look at individual shift count numbers (yearly totals in brackets with differences from October in red or blue if changed and italics if the sample size was small):

Wolanin 4-4 100% even
Bergman 2-2 100% +4.6% (40-44)
Elliott 19-20 95.0%
Percy 29-31 93.5% +27.5% (61-69)
Sieloff 41-45 91.1% +5.4% (158-176)
Englund 36-42 85.7% -4.6% (108-122)
Burgdoerfer 31-37 83.7% -9.1% (94-105)
Racine 5-6 83.3% -4.2% (12-14)
Murray 5-7 71.4% -20.1% (67-76)

Unlike the forwards above there’s a much larger split in those improving and those who did not. I’ve long been suspicious of Burgdoerfer‘s effectiveness on the PK and he struggled mightily in that capacity (from memory at least two of the six goals against were a direct result of him turning it over). Clearly Elliott (small sample size, admittedly) and Sieloff are providing consistent performances, but things start to wobble after that. Englund, despite all the org’s praise of his defensive abilities, has never had good PK numbers, but what else are you going to do with him? I have no idea what Murray is doing on this list, but the org isn’t rational about him in any context.

Concluding Thoughts

Let’s start off with me eating some crow: Rodewald‘s success has lasted longer than I expected (and longer than his pro career suggests). I still feel like the bottom is going to fall out, and while he’s benefiting both from usage/teammates and the percentages, I have to credit the guy for what has been a very consistent streak of productivity. I’m happy to see Hogberg playing better this year–he suffered a barrage of criticism in his rookie year that I think was above and beyond what was deserved. As for coaching, Mann is still showing signs of player favoritism that is not justified by the numbers. Guys like LaBateLeierBeauchemin (before his demotion), RacineAuger–the ‘rough around the edges’ players whose production is never there–receive far more ice time than makes any sense. There’s no room for them to develop and they don’t help the team win. I want to see more talented players given more opportunity to succeed–give them genuine opportunities for success before dumping them into the Bergman dead zone. The team isn’t making the playoffs and it’s a development league, so rather than third-line minutes for guys who throw the occasionally hit, let the skilled players play. This is a mantra I’ve had for years–going back through Kleinendorst to Luke Richardson–if you aren’t going to win you need to do something productive and guys like Sturtz sweating it out on the fourth line isn’t going to tell you much.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thoughts on Belleville’s Roster Moves

What a fascinating couple of days it has been. The BSens sit at 10-12-1 in the standings, almost a mirror image of where they were under Kurt Kleinendorst last season (10-10-2 at the end of November)–that has to be worrying for an org that signed Troy Mann to change the fate of their moribund AHL-franchise. Pierre Dorion can’t just blame call-ups or injuries because Kleinendorst had the exact same problems. There’s supposed to be more talent in Belleville this season, but the results aren’t changing, so what to do?

With Randy Lee out of the org some of his ugly roster decisions can be reversed and the trigger was pulled to send assorted detritus to Wilkes-Barre. The Sens managed to move out 2013-failure Vincent Dunn to Pittsburgh last year and have now dumped two terrible signings (Macoy Erkamps and AHL-contract Ryan Scarfo) along with a useful but injury-prone player (Ben Sexton) to the Penguins in return for former BSen Tobians Lindberg and long-time AHL-defensemen Stefan Elliott.

I like this trade a lot for the BSens. I have no idea how either acquisition will perform, but it eliminates two useless players from the org (one of whom counts towards the Sens 50-contract limit) as well as an older player who has struggled to find a place among a strong forward lineup. Let’s briefly go over the departed:

Ben Sexton, RW 1991; 7-206/09 Bos 30-11-10-21 0.70 (AHL 0.45)
2018-19 17-0-9-9 (0.52)

There’s no question that Sexton is a talented, useful AHL-player, but there’s no room for him to play center and clearly Mann prefers Jack Rodewald over him (I wouldn’t, but Jack is a more durable player). He’s a sacrifice, but the BSens actually have options on the right side (Balisy, Rodewald, Gagne, and Tambellini can all effectively play that side–as can Jimmy O’Brien when he returns)

Macoy Erkamps, DR 1995; FA 16 46-1-3-4 0.08 (AHL 0.11/ECHL 0.41)
2018-19 ECHL 21-1-5-6 (0.28)

To say the CHL FA is a flop is an insult to flops–whoever was responsible for signing him in 2016 ought to be out the door. That aside, he’s producing at a lower rate in the ECHL. This guy, especially as he’s on an ELC, just has to go.

Ryan Scarfo, CL 1994; FA 18 NCAA 38-20-16-36 0.95
2018-19 AHL 6-0-0-0 (0.00)/ECHL 10-1-1-2 (0.20)

The warning signs for me were apparent last season, when I saw nothing impressive about him. That’s apparent in the ECHL and even if he’s just an AHL-contract keeping him wasn’t helping the BSens or Brampton.

Clearly, as much as I like Sexton, these are pieces the BSens can comfortably move. What about the return?

Stefan Elliott, DR 1991, 2-49/09 Col SHL 34-4-17-21 0.61 (AHL 0.47)
2018-19 AHL 20-1-7-8 (0.40)

Entering the year at 254 AHL games played (just below the veteran-status bar) the former WHLer actually addresses a vital need on the right side. I complained that the Falk signing added nothing the BSens needed (he can’t score and plays the left), but here we have both a producer and someone who fills a need (while I hope his addition mercifully means an end to seeing Racine in the lineup, I know realistically Bergman sits, because why play someone with talent when you can play someone without it?).

Tobias Lindberg, W 1995, 4-102/13 Ott AHL 64-10-13-23 0.36 (AHL 0.44)
2018-19 AHL 15-2-4-6 (0.40)

I was a big fan during his brief tenure under the lamentable Luke Richardson regime (15-16)–my thoughts then are summed up nicely here. He wound up getting buried in the talent-ladden Leafs system and subsequently in Las Vegas and Pittsburgh respectively. The productivity that seemed to be there in his first two seasons may never be realised, but he’s a great possession player (as Colin Cudmore points out) and adds value however he’s used. He could very easily slide onto the third line, but I suspect Mann will put him on the fourth and move Gagne there (org-love creates opportunities).

Let’s give credit to whoever did the work to make this trade (I have no idea–there’s no actual GM in Belleville). However it turns out, the BSens are getting more out of the deal.

A final note: for anyone who missed it, I posted my November review for the BSens recently–there’s lot’s of numbers and analysis to chew on.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville Senators: November Review

November was a disaster for what had been my usual routine of game-by-game reports. This change is due to my schedule getting busier such that I have to watch most games on replay. Despite that, I have a mountain of notes and I’ll share what’s pertinent below. You can read October’s review here.

Roster Volatility

Drake Batherson was finally summoned to the NHL and it’s very unlikely he’ll ever return (joining Max Lajoie and Christian Jaros in that respect). Inexplicably Erik Burgdoerfer was briefly called up. Due to injuries Mike McKenna spent the entire month in Ottawa, while Nick Paul and Jack Rodewald had cups of coffee in the NHL (virtually a complete repeat of what happened to them last season). On the injury front Jim O’Brien remains out, while Marcus Hogberg missed almost all of November before making his debut as the month ended; Logan Brown, Andrew Sturtz, Stuart Percy, Christian Wolanin, and Burgdoerfer also missed time with injuries. Mike Condon, demoted to the AHL, only played one game before being felled by injury. Despite a weak, wobbly blueline the minimizing of Julius Bergman continues as he was a healthy scratch for four straight games–apparently Roy Sommer (San Jose Barracuda head coach) understands how to utilize the Swede, but Troy Mann does not.

As for various presumed Brampton players, Ryan Scarfo‘s unremarkable run in Belleville has ended and he’s been just as bland in Brampton (8-1-1-2). Equally unremarkable Boston Leier also received a brief demotion (1-1-0-1), as did the inexplicably signed Jonathan Racine (2-0-1-1). Injuries had goaltender Jake Paterson spend a significant amount of time with Belleville, but Aaron Luchuk (12-0-4-4), Macoy Erkamps (12-0-3-3), and Daniel Ciampini (12-3-7-10) remained in the ECHL throughout (it has not been a pretty debut for CHL FA Luchuk). The BSens signed Colorado cast-off “he’s big” Justin Falk (failed Minnesota pick, 4-110/07), just before the month ended–his AHL career PPG of 0.16 is not what the team needs (yet another lefthand shot as well).

Stats

The Team (October shown in red, differential in blue)

5-6-1 (t-4th division, 11th conference) 5-5-0 dropped from 3rd and 7th respectively
GF 39/3.25 (7th conference) 30/3.00 +0.25, remain 7th
GA 47/3.91 (t-10th conference) 27/2.70 +1.21, drop from t-6th
PP 10-57/17.5% (9th conference) 10-43/23.2% -5.7%, drop from 5th
PK 52-68/76.4% (12th conference) 33-41/80.4% -4.0%, drop from 8th
Shots 27.2 27.1 +0.1
Shot Differential +0.4 -6.1 +6.5

The team’s results aren’t that dissimilar to the month before, but there are worrying signs. Clearly Gustavsson was not ready for prime time as much of the huge bump in goals allowed rests squarely on his shoulders (interestingly I’m not seeing the panic from the fanbase that happened last year when Hogberg struggled). The team actually improved their shot differential, but defensively remained a sieve. Special teams, where the hands of the coaching staff are most obvious, dropped substantially. The impact of Batherson on scoring both at even strength and on the powerplay can’t be overestimated. With Chlapik playing at about 60% for much of these season, there’s less elite talent to cover up Mann’s coaching eccentricities.

Players

(Arranged by points-per-game; rookies in green, ELCs in blue, AHL-contracts in italics)

Batherson 4-3-4-7 1.75 3 PPP
Wolanin 11-3-6-9 0.81 3 PPP
Sturtz 5-1-3-4 0.80 1 PPP
Rodewald 10-4-4-8 0.80 3 PPP
Carey 12-2-7-9 0.75 4 PPP
Brown 7-3-2-5 0.71 1 PPP
Burgdoerfer 6-1-3-4 0.66
Tambellini 12-5-2-7 0.58 4 PPP
Sexton 12-0-7-7 0.58 3 PPP
Chlapik 12-5-1-6 0.50 2 PPP
Balcers 12-3-3-6 0.50 2 PPP
Murray 12-3-3-6 0.50 2 PPP
Percy 8-0-4-4 0.50 1 PPP
Paul 8-0-4-4 0.50
Balisy 12-0-5-5 0.41
Englund 12-2-2-4 0.33
Racine 3-1-0-1 0.33/ECHL 2-0-1-1
Leier 5-0-1-1 0.20/ECHL 1-1-0-1
Beauchemin 11-2-0-2 0.18
LaBate 12-0-2-2 0.16
Sieloff 12-0-2-2 0.16
Gagne 9-0-0-0
Bergman 8-0-0-0
Scarfo 1-0-0-0/ECHL 8-1-1-2
Ciampini ECHL 12-3-7-10
Luchuk ECHL 12-0-4-4
Erkamps ECHL 12-0-3-3
O’Brien Injured
Falk (signed on the 30th and did not play)

Gustavsson 9-3-5-1 .854 4.19
Hogberg 1-1-0-1 .926 2.00/ECHL 1-0-1-0 .935 1.89
Paterson 3-0-1-0 .895 2.05

Player Usage

We’ll separate forwards from defensemen, but just like the previous month Mann doesn’t do much line juggling (if any) during games. We did see more volatility with the lineup between games.

Forwards

(Notations in brackets are when the player was on a different line than assigned when they registered the point)

First Line (8 goals, including empty-netter)
Balcers (12-12) 2 Goals, 2 Assists
Chlapik (12-12) 4 Goals
Sexton (7-12) 3 Assists
Batherson (4-4) Goal, 3 Assists (Assist)
Rodewald (1-10)

To start the month the first line was set; once Batherson was recalled Sexton took his place for all but the final game (with Rodewald plugged in). Neither alternative proved a good fit on the line and Balcers production without Batherson plummeted (two points in eight games). The Latvian is too good a player for that to be normal so there’s a chemistry issue on the right side that hasn’t been fixed. A final point: after the call-up this line generally played less than the so-called second line (reduced TOI impacting production). With Batherson the first line scored 11 goals in 13 games, without him just 4 goals in 9 games.

Second Line (8 goals)
Carey (12-12) Goal, 3 Assists (2 Assists)
Paul (8-8) 4 Assists
Rodewald (7-10) 3 Goals, 2 Assists
Balisy (4-12) Assist
Sexton (3-12)
Sturtz (1-5) Assist
Tambellini (1-12) (Goal)

A much more productive line with Carey in the lineup. When Paul and Rodewald returned from Ottawa they were put on this line and the streaky Rodewald enjoyed an explosion of productivity before settling into a more typical cold streak (Paul simply hasn’t been that effective, with all his points confined to just two games).

Third line (5 goals)
Tambellini (10-12) Goal, Assist
Balisy (8-12) Assist (2 Assists)
Brown (7-7) 2 Goals, 2 Assists
Beauchemin (3-11) (Goal)
Sexton (2-12) Assist
Rodewald (2-10)
LaBate (2-12)
Sturtz (1-5) (Assist)
Gagne (1-9)

Nearly all the productivity on this line is attributable to Logan Brown, which begs the question: what’s he doing on this line? While he can barely skate, he should have been swapped with Paul on the second unit, but org favourites get a lot of rope before changes are made. I have no idea why either LaBate or Beauchemin were given time on this line–both are fine on the fourth, but have no business on the third.

Fourth line (2 goals)
LaBate (10-12) Assist (Assist)
Beauchemin (8-11) Goal
Gagne (8-9)
Leier (5-5) Assist
Sturtz (3-5) Goal
Scarfo (1-1)

This line was much less productive than in October and Sturtz is too talented to be buried here. As for Gabriel Gagne–could his stock fall further? After getting almost half a season on the first line last year it looked like he’d turned a corner, but outside a three-point game on October 20th he’s produced exactly one point in eighteen games and is on a ten game pointless streak–yikes!

(There’s a floating goal that’s from a Frankenstein combination of players (forwards from three different lines and defensemen from two different combinations; this is the Racine goal from November 14th that occurs just after a penalty kill); there’s also an overtime goal from November 16th that’s a complete mix and a 4-on-4 goal from November 30th with a set D-combination but miss-matched forward pair)

Defense

(Notes in brackets are points when not on the ice with the usual partner for that game; this doesn’t include OT goals)

Top-pairing (16 goals)
Wolanin (11-11) 2 Goals, 3 Assists (Goal, Assist)
Burgdoerfer (6-6) Goal, 3 Assists
Sieloff (4-12)
Murray (2-12) Goal
Racine (1-3)

Christian Wolanin can make virtually anyone look good–Sieloff being the exception this month. I’m not a fan of Murray on the first-pairing, but we’re beyond the point of the org being rational about him.

Second-pairing (8 goals)
Percy (8-8) 3 Assists (Assist)
Sieloff (8-12) Assist (2 Assists)
Murray (6-12) Goal, 2 Assists
Racine (2-3) (Goal)

The entire month Mann went with two lefties on this unit. Murray was more useful here this month than last (offensively at least), but Percy is the one who makes the unit tick.

Third-pairing (3 goals)
Englund (12-12) 2 Assists (2 Goals)
Bergman (8-8)
Murray (4-12) (Goal)

Mann does not care for Bergman at all (despite being on the ice for all three third-pairing goals), scratching him four straight games (the team went 1-2-1 without him). Englund and Murray are both awful defensively, so while Bergman isn’t Norris Trophy material he at least helps (I have a pet theory that Mann believes in plus/minus and that this why he won’t utilize him as you’d imagine). The signing of Falk should mean changes here–I’d love for Englund to sit again, but I’m not expecting it.

Goaltending

With the injuries to Condon and Hogberg we got to see where goaltender-of-the-future Gustavsson was in his development–it wasn’t pretty. Badly shelled in five straight starts before leveling out, it was simply too much too soon for the rookie. There’s no need for panic and Hogberg‘s return means there can be a genuine rotation. It will be interesting to see how the latter plays given his inconsistencies last season, but certainly Gustavsson‘s performance provides useful context for those who panicked over Hogberg‘s struggles last year.

Special Teams – The Powerplay

The recall of Batherson has massively impacted powerplay production (just 5-37, or 13.5% without him, which is 13th in the conference). Mann’s bizarre tinkering makes things worse (what genius slides Wolanin down to the second unit?). Let’s start with the raw scoring numbers:
Tambellini/Carey 4
Batherson/Rodewald/Wolanin/Sexton 3
Chlapik/Balcers/Murray 2
Percy/Sturtz/Brown 1

Scoring by specific lines (shift count included; arranged by goals/effectiveness; brackets separate out 1st/2nd line usage):

1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Batherson/Wolanin-Tambellini 3-7
1st/2nd: Carey-Sexton-Rodewald/Percy-Tambellini 2-8 (3/5)
2nd: Tambellini-Carey-Gagne/Percy-Murray 1-3
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Gagne/Carey-Percy 1-3
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Brown/Chlapik-Wolanin 1-4
1st: Brown-Paul-Balisy/Carey-Percy 1-4
1st/2nd: Balcers-Chlapik-Sexton/Paul-Wolanin 1-6 (1/5)
1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Batherson/Wolanin-Murray 0-1
1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Batherson/Wolanin-Bergman 0-1
1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Rodewald/Wolanin-Tambellini 0-1
2nd: Carey-Paul-Balisy/Sexton-Murray 0-1
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Brown/Percy-Carey 0-1
1st: Tambellini-Chlapik-Rodewald/Carey-Percy 0-1
1st: Carey-Paul-Sexton/Brown-Wolanin 0-1
1st: Carey-Paul-Sexton/Rodewald-Wolanin 0-1
1st/2nd: Carey-Paul-Rodewald/Tambellini-Percy 0-2 (1/1)
1st/2nd: Balcers-Chlapik-Brown/Sexton-Wolanin 0-2 (1/1)
1st: Balcers-Sexton-Chlapik/Wolanin-Batherson 0-3
2nd: Gagne-Balisy-Tambellini/Carey-Murray 0-3
2nd: Balcers-Chlapik-Tambellini/Sexton-Wolanin 0-3
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Brown/Chlapik-Murray 0-4
1st/2nd: Carey-Rodewald-Tambellini/Brown-Percy 0-6 (5/1)
1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Batherson/Wolanin-Balisy 0-6
2nd: Carey-Balisy-Sturtz/Murray-Sexton 0-6
1st: Balcers-Paul-Rodewald/Percy-Carey 0-8
1st/2nd: Balcers-Paul-Brown/Chlapik-Wolanin 0-9 (6/3)

4-on-3: Chlapik-Balisy-Batherson/Wolanin 0-1
4-on-3: Carey-Chlapik-Batherson/Wolanin 0-1
4-on-3: Balcers-Paul-Chlapik/Murray  0-1
4-on-3: Carey-Rodewald/Wolanin-Paul 0-1
4-on-d: Balcers-Chlapik/Percy-Sexton 0-1

This is a bewildering number of combinations, far and above beyond what’s necessary due to roster changes. Unlike October, where the powerplay was fairly stable (and successful), here we have the coaching equivalent of throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks (without consistently keeping with what sticks). This is something Kleinendorst did most of last season.

Individual player percentages via per-shift (increases/decreases noted in either red or blue, ignoring those who had negligible time in October, namely Sexton and Brown):
Gagne 2-9 22.2% +9.7%
Tambellini 8-45 17.7% +5.2%
Batherson 3-20 15.0% +0.4%
Percy 5-36 13.8% -1.8%
Sexton 5-44 11.3%
Wolanin 5-48 10.4% -4.3%
Carey 5-49 10.2% -6.4%
Chlapik 5-52 9.6% -2.9%
Balcers 4-49 8.1% -6.5%
Rodewald 2-27 7.4% -14.8%
Brown 2-31 6.4%
Paul 2-33 6.0% -11.6%
Murray 1-19 5.2% -5.9%
Balisy 1-21 4.7% -7.8%
Sturtz 0-6

We can safely ignore Gagne’s numbers (which are a mix of luck and sample size). You’d think given his production that Tambellini would be stapled to the top unit, but no, for whatever inscrutable Mannish reason he bounced back and forth between units (as, indeed, did every player). I mentioned in my October review that both Rodewald and Paul‘s numbers would regress to the mean and as predicted the bottom fell out for both (Rodewald is not, at this level, a consistent powerplay producer). Paul was the kiss of death with the man advantage–his lines barely scored and he had zero points when they did. On the positive side Mann (eventually) identified Balisy‘s lack of productivity and removed him; he also, somewhat, cut Murray‘s time. While there’s no replacing Batherson, there are more sensible approaches to his absence. The mix of Balcers, Chlapik, Wolanin, and Tambellini works–I’d put either Sexton there (only tried briefly) or Brown or Percy. The other change is to play that line as the first unit consistently. A final note: for those wondering Sturtz‘s powerplay point came on a line change, which is why he sits at 0-6 on his line despite an assist.

Special Teams – The Penalty Kill

Any hope that Mann was the magic elixir to solve the PK woes the franchise has had forever were stamped out this month. I mentioned some worrying signs in October, so let’s dig into the numbers. Here are the various forward line combinations we’ve seen (arranged by volume):

Carey-Balisy 55-58
LaBate-Paul 19-20
LaBate-Rodewald 14-16
Balisy-Rodewald 9-11
Balisy-Sexton 5-8
Carey-LaBate 4-6
LaBate-Balisy 5-5
Balcers-Chlapik 4-5
LaBate-Sexton 4-4
Beauchemin-Sexton 4-4
LaBate-Sturtz 3-4
Paul-Sturtz 3-3
Balcers-Sturtz 2-2
Paul-Rodewald 2-2
Carey-Paul 2-2
Carey-Sexton 2-2
Beauchemin-Sturtz 1-1
Carey-Sturtz 1-1
Carey-Beauchemin 1-1
Balisy-Sturtz 1-1
Balcers-Balisy 1-1
Chlapik-Sexton 1-1
Paul-Sexton 1-1
Paul-Balisy 1-1
Chlapik-Balisy 0-1

In my experience there’s always more variety on the PK than the PP, but this is far beyond what we saw in October (some of which was dictated by injuries etc). It’s easy for a player’s actual ability to be masked by a partner, which is why I look at individual shift count numbers (yearly totals in brackets with differences from October in red or blue if changed and in italics if the sample size was small):

Beauchemin: 6-6 100% (20-20)
Paul: 28-29 96.5% (32-35) +29.9%
Carey: 65-70 92.8% (79-85) -0.5%
Sturtz: 11-12 91.6%
Balisy: 77-86 89.5% (117-127) -8.0%
LaBate: 49-55 89.1% (82-90) -6.1%
Balcers: 7-8 87.5% (7-9) +87.5
Rodewald: 25-29 86.2% (62-70) -4.0%
Sexton: 17-20 85.0% (36-39) -15.0%
Chlapik: 5-7 71.4% (7-11) +21.4%

Via last year’s numbers Paul is an average penalty killer, Rodewald below average, and Sexton quite good; through the early part of this season Carey, Balisy, and LaBate have all been solid. As the volume increases and you look at combinations, the lead weight for most of the better penalty killers when it comes to goals against is Rodewald. His percentages aren’t terrible, but it’s clear going through his impact on his partners he is the key element that drags them down (this was true last season as well). This impact was something Kleinendorst actually figured out eventually, but thus far Mann has not. One thing that’s continued from October is Mann’s preference to put skilled players who don’t normally kill penalties out late in powerplays (ie Balcers/Chlapik). Moving on to the blueline:

Murray-Sieloff 26-29
Sieloff-Burgdoerfer 24-26
Englund-Murray 21-22
Englund-Sieloff 13-16
Englund-Bergman 14-14
Percy-Sieloff 4-6
Murray-Bergman 5-5
Wolanin-Bergman 3-3
Englund-Racine 3-3
Sieloff-Bergman 2-3
Sieloff 2-3
Englund 2-3
Racine-Bergman 2-2
Englund-Burgdoerfer 2-2
Racine-Murray 1-2
Englund-Percy 1-2
Racine-Sieloff 1-1
Percy-Murray 1-1

The large number of combinations are due more to roster issues than Mannish variation. Let’s look at individual shift count numbers (yearly totals in brackets with differences from October in red or blue if changed and italics if the sample size was small):

Wolanin: 3-3 100%
Bergman: 21-22 95.4% (38-42) +10.4%
Burgdoerfer: 26-28 92.8% (63-68) +0.3%
Murray: 54-59 91.5% (62-69) +11.5%
Englund: 56-62 90.3% (72-80) +1.5%
Racine: 7-8 87.5%
Sieloff: 72-84 85.7% (117-131) -10.0%
Percy: 6-9 66.6% (32-38) -23.0%

The obvious question here is: if the team’s PK is going down, why are so many of these percentages going up? When going by shift count pure volume can sometimes disguise a drop in overall success. Sieloff had a slump like this last season (parts of February-March) when Kleinendorst had he and Englund kill off entire penalties (his numbers with Englund here are his worst). Keeping in mind that Bergman tends to play the second shift on a PK, what does he have left to prove here? Mann’s approach to him remains immensely puzzling. I have a feeling that one of the reasons Falk was signed was to fix the PK (whether he helps or not remains to be seen).

A few game-by-game things to note:
-One note from the second Syracuse game that I missed was Sturtz coming to Chlapik‘s aid when being worked on by the Crunch
-The entire fourth line was benched most of the 7-6 win over Toronto
Murray, defensively, was particularly awful in the 8-2 loss to Toronto
Racine targeted the head of a Utica player in the team’s 5-4 win (no call)
-In the same game Rodewald hilariously botched a 2-on-0 (deciding to pass but putting the puck into the corner somehow)
-During the shootout of that game both Balcers and Tambellini scored while Gagne hit the post
-The BSens blew a regulation win vs Toronto by giving up a goal with 14-seconds left (Wolanin would win it for them in OT)
Sexton was run from behind in the 5-1 win over Charlotte
-The BSens not only blew a regulation win over Charlotte in the following game (the Checkers scoring 6-on-5 with over two minutes to go), but then lost the game in OT on a Burgdoerfer turnover
-I’ve noted repeatedly that the tough guys the BSens sign do not step up to protect skilled players; in the 4-2 loss to Utica, Chlapik (of all people, who is still nursing an injury) stepped into to protect Sexton
-There was a ton of 4-on-4 in the 2-1 loss to Laval
-While the BurgdoerferMurray combo was on the ice for three of the BSens goals in the 4-2 win over Utica, they were awful defensively and simply fortunate that more goals weren’t scored against

Concluding Thoughts

I’ve got concerns about the coach. There’s still time for things to improve, but the indicators (special teams, player usage) are trending into Kleinendorst/Luke Richardson territory. Mann has more talent than KK so the team isn’t likely to completely sink through the floor like they did last season, but there are definitely things to watch for. I want the powerplay units sorted out, more consistency on the PK, and recognition of what does and doesn’t work on the blueline. Whether any of that happens remains to be seen.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Uber Sens

Image result for ottawa senators uber video

When the uber video came out (the Sens are a proud sponsor of Uber), I was undecided if I should write about it. The hesitation wasn’t because I lacked an opinion, but simply because there wasn’t much that was shocking about it (albeit it’s amusing). The prevailing sentiment I’ve seen from the local media is that it’s much ado about nothing–these kinds of conversations go on with most teams in candid moments, but we simply don’t see/hear them. Others, such as Nichols, took a slightly different approach:

For some reason, they were stupid enough to put their team on blast while riding in an Uber.

Is this stupid? While there seems to be no law in Arizona preventing Uber drivers from recording their passengers in this fashion, I think its at least somewhat understandable that the players assumed privacy (although you should tip your drivers)–after all, we’ve had plenty of years go by without videos like this featuring NHL players. The org attempting to get the video taken down was a hilariously misguided move, but one I expected given how it handles things. Castigating the players for speaking their minds in this context is a bit much as far as I’m concerned, as I’ll get into below.

What did the players say that’s so inflammatory? There’s not much to it, really:

Marty Raymond, the only coach in NHL history to have the worst power-play and the worst PK within a calendar year

This is just a fact–an uncomfortable fact for Raymond and the couching staff, and he should be fired for that accomplishment–but it’s not something unknown to the public.

Here’s the other thing, too. We don’t change anything, ever. So why do we even have a meeting?

Inflexible coaching is a historic problem for the org and, again, not something that’s private–publicly we can watch Guy Boucher (and all coaches) use their systems and adapt (or not) on the ice.

More was said, but these are the ‘spiciest’ parts of it. My takeaway? At least the players care. These are not guys just happy to collect a paycheque–they recognize the team’s flaws and want them to be improved. I’d be far more concerned if they weren’t upset. The narrative about how all of this should be internal doesn’t move the needle for me–they are a terrible team in the midst of a rebuild, so if things aren’t changing internally then making statements publicly isn’t a bad idea.

The result of all this was entirely predictable: the players apologized; Marty Raymond was embarrassed but will keep his job; there was finger-wagging at both the Uber driver and the players; and in a week or two the story will slip away as yet another in the bizarre saga of the Melnykian regime.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)