Reviewing the Performance of the BSens Roster

Back in August I took a look at the BSens lineup and with the regular season over it’s time to look back and reflect. The players below are organized by age, followed by points-per-game in their previous season, their career average ppg in brackets, and then this season after the dash. Those in red are either no longer with the team or missed the season due to injury, while those in green were added after the original article.

Veterans – Forwards

Andrew Agozzino 0.77 (0.77) – 0.65
The now 31-year old vet played in most of the team’s 72-games; his drop in production is perhaps a sign that he’s in decline, but it’s still a solid season and he was a worthwhile acquisition.

Scott Sabourin 0.33 (0.25) – 0.43
In terms of points-per-game this was a career year for the veteran (just a nudge over his 0.37 rookie campaign); he also had the most fights since the 2016-17 season (granted, he had just one less in 18-19). For Trent Mann he’s been a regular contributor and performed better than I expected.

Tyrell Goulbourne 0.11 (0.20) – traded CGY Mar.21 0.06
One of the puzzling off-season acquisitions–how many ‘tough’ fourth-liner veterans can an AHL team afford? It took the org quite some time to offload him–he only played in 9 games (in which he had no points).

Pontus Aberg 0.38 (0.68) – released Dec.5 0.65
This is one of the weirder situations (I couldn’t find any comments about acrimony, so the parting was presumably mutually agreeable); the Swede’s numbers are within his averages, but he returned to Timra after just 17-games with Belleville.

Logan Shaw 0.62 (0.49) – 0.66
My prediction that Shaw wouldn’t see much time in Ottawa was wrong (17 games), but otherwise he continued the production he demonstrated last season and managed to stay healthy for the first time in three years.

Jake Lucchini 0.21 (0.31) – trade MTL Oct.12 – 0.71
I’m often critical of the trades the org makes, but this was an inspired move, as acquiring him from Laval cost the team nothing and paid huge dividends (leading the team in scoring). The NCAA grad had failed to find his footing with either Pittsburgh or Montreal, but with Belleville, outside a rough 8-game streak mid-season (8-0-1-1), his production remained excellent. Full credit to those behind the acquisition.

Clark Bishop 0.62 (0.31) – 0.34
Managed to get back to his career average at the end of the season, but I still have no idea why the Sens signed the AHL fourth-liner to a two-way contract (presumably they thought his brief spike in production last year was meaningful; mercifully they are off the hook after this season).

Rourke Chartier 0.36 (0.55) – PTO Oct.4 – 0.76
Another inspired pick-up, even though he’s been limited to 33-games (Chartier has only played a full AHL season once in his 5-year career). Like Lucchini above, he had a cold spell (in February, 7-0-0-0), but otherwise contributed regularly when healthy.

Kole Sherwood 0.38 (0.38) – traded NSH Nov.30 0.25
Much like Goulbourne above, I have no idea what the point of signing him was and the BSens seemed to realize their error fairly early, as Sherwood was gone after 13-games.

Chris Wilkie 0.59 – trade CHI Nov.13 – 0.54
A solid pick-up whose production fell off as the season progressed (7-0-1-1).

Zach Senyshyn 0.72 (0.45) – trade BOS Mar.21 – 0.51
An asset I doubt the Sens were interested in, but acquired as part of the process of getting rid of Josh Brown. Senyshyn has been awful with Belleville (16-0-3-3) and I suspect isn’t a lock for regular play in the playoffs (nor will he be around next year).

Cedric Pare 0.59 – PTO Oct.3 – 0.24
Clearly the Sens were expecting more from Pare, who suffered from horrendous cold spells (18-1-1 to end the season). Whatever hope the former Boston pick might have had to carve a niche for himself has failed.

Matthew Wedman 0.23 (ECHL) – PTO Oct.2 – 0.24
An Atlanta Gladiator signee (and former Florida pick) who was invited to camp and, despite horrendous skating, carved a niche for himself playing on the fourth line–he’s not part of the future in Belleville.

This is primary area of roster change. Coming into the season, Sens brass had eagerly added grinders to the roster who underperformed and were thankfully moved. The injury to Crookshank (below), as well as Aberg returning to Sweden, is part of the reason why so many players were added (both would have been penciled in as top-six forwards). Of those additions, the most significant was Lucchini (it’s difficult to imagine the roster making the playoffs without him), and to a lesser extent Chartier (keeping in mind he only played 33 games). It wasn’t all wins for the org, as both Pare and Senyshyn performed below expectations. Beyond additions, most of the performances were within expected parameters, albeit clearly the Sens did not think Bishop would regress to the mean.

Veterans – Defensemen

Zac Leslie 0.33 (0.35) – 0.42
A full season from the veteran saw a modest improvement on his typical production; he was an adequate addition.

Colby Williams 0.37 (0.26) – 0.16
The ‘truculent’ blueliner saw his production completely crash after a career year with the BSens (some of the drop would be due to usage, but that change alone wouldn’t explain over a 50% drop).

Dillon Heatherington 0.17 (0.28) – 0.29
I didn’t think much of the addition, given his limitations, but he is what he is and produced at that rate (only playing 45-games).

Broadly there’s nothing to get excited about here, as Leslie slightly overachieving is more than balanced by Williams underachieving. There’s an excellent chance none of these players are back next season.

Prospects – Forwards

Mark Kastelic 0.32 – 0.44
Ottawa journalists and the org are big fans; he saw a solid statistical bump and his 5-fights are second only to Sabourin’s; I think he’s overvalued, but growth is growth.

Viktor Lodin 0.85 (Allsvenskan) – 0.80
I was not overly impressed when he was drafted in 2019–lacking scouting reports, his numbers did not stand out; however, the Sens let him get plenty of seasoning in Sweden and it seems to have paid off in AHL-terms, with Lodin playing a key role in the playoff run.

Angus Crookshank 0.84 – injured
What an unfortunate turn of events for Crookshank, who was poised for a huge season in the AHL and missed it all with an injury.

Parker Kelly 0.54 (0.37) – 0.42
Another player the Sens are very high on; he played only 33-games in Belleville as he bounced back and forth between it and Ottawa; his numbers shrank, but some of that is usage.

Cole Reinhardt 0.36 – 0.43
As in my preview, I have no idea what sort of player he’s meant to be. The modest increase in production suggests he’s not going to be a producer, but he also isn’t much of a grinder, so what is he?

Yegor Sokolov 0.71 – 0.78
I think fans expected a breakout from the affable Russian, but the modest increase isn’t a disappointment. Sokolov isn’t a dynamic player and his skating still needs work, so there’s nothing wrong with spending another season in Belleville.

Roby Jarventie 0.52 (Liiga) – 0.47
The 19-year old slowed considerably at the end of the season (11-0-1-1), which isn’t surprising given the length of the season, his age, and a change in usage during the playoff push. I think it’s been a good year for him and there’s plenty of time left for growth.

For the forward prospects there were no surprises other than Lodin being better than expected.

Prospects – Defense

Jonathan Aspirot 0.41 – 0.38
I’m still not sure why the Sens signed him to an ELC, as there’s no room for him in the NHL (now or in the future). With that said, he echoed his production from last season (playing a little over half the season, 47-games).

Jacob Bernard-Docker 0.66 (NCAA) – 0.16
Fans and the org expected a lot more from the high pick, but he was not ready. That doesn’t mean his season is a disappointment, just that it’s unlikely he’ll be a contributor for the Sens next year.

Lassi Thomson 0.37 – 0.59
This is excellent growth from Thomson who, in terms of points-per-game, lead the blueline; I don’t think there’s anything left for him to prove at this level and I’d expect him to be with Ottawa next season.

Maxence Guenette 0.61 (QMJHL) – 0.40
A solid season from the rookie who carved a path into a clogged blueline. It’s too early to guess his trajectory at this stage, although as I pointed out in my preview, there are similarities to Max Lajoie.

The things that jump out most are Thomson taking a significant step forward and Bernard-Docker not being ready for prime time (the latter was part of the discussion for the blueline during the summer). The evolution of Thomson will make buying out Zaitsev easier, since they play the same side.

Prospects – Goaltenders

Filip Gustavsson .910 (.894) – .915 (11-6-1)
Coming into the season, Gustavsson was supposed to challenge for the back-up spot in Ottawa or be the default starter in Belleville–neither of those things occurred, as he struggled in the NHL and fell behind Sogaard in the AHL. I’ve long held that Gustavasson has always been inconsistent–brilliant in small doses, but over time his numbers regress.

Kevin Mandolese .888 – .901 (9-5-0)
Came into the season as the third-wheel in Belleville and that hasn’t changed; in limited action his numbers saw some improvement (including in the ECHL, .916).

Mads Sogaard .917 – .908 (19-14-1)
The big Dane surpassed Gustavsson as the starter for the team (and, seemingly, on the depth chart with the brass), although there’s no need to rush him into the NHL next season.

For the goaltenders there’s no real surprises here–I correctly predicted that Mandolese would spend time in the ECHL, Gustavsson‘s erratic play would continue, and that Sogaard‘s development would be positive.

Team Performance

I didn’t spend a ton of time on projecting the team in my summer assessment, but I will go over what I did bring up (primarily offense in comparison to the rest of the league). Andrew Poturalski lead the league in scoring again, with T. J. Tynan also repeating as the ppg leader (1.58 vs 1.30 last season); within the BSens division rookie J. J. Peterka was the leader in total points (10th overall), but behind ppg champ and teammate Jack Quinn (1.36, 3rd overall). The top-scoring blueliner was Jordan Gross (who also lead ppg 1.07), while the tops in the division was Toronto’s Joseph Duszak (2nd, who also lead in ppg 0.85, 4th). In both cases, the BSens top performer (and we’re ignoring Del Zotto’s brief appearance) was well down the list. As for the team, which struggled offensively last season (2.9 goals per game), they saw only a slight increase (3.04), remaining second worst in their division and 17th overall. Their goals against improved vastly (13th vs 26th) and is largely the reason why they made the playoffs (that can be put down to better goaltending and defensive play overall).

Final Thoughts

To sum up, I think the org created its own problems prior to the start of the season with questionable signings, however, unlike the NHL side of the operation, it was able to right the ship enough to make progress (not all the moves worked out, but enough did). In terms of the prospects, there was broad improvement, albeit no standout (Thomson comes close; Lodin simply didn’t play enough to be judged). It sounds like a broken record, but pro scouting remains a giant weakness in the org (the acquisition of Lucchini and Chartier clearly leaned on prior amateur scouting).

[May 11th update: Spencer has put out his own grades for the BSens, but unfortunately there’s nothing in depth provided for the grades, so there’s no information I can use to tweak my own opinions. The only significant variance, perhaps, is how much weight he gives Heatherington‘s impact on the team.]

This article was written by Peter Levi

Pierre Dorion’s Recent Trades and Other Thoughts

If my memory is correct, be it a trade or the draft, Pierre Dorion’s response to fan backlash about a roster move is don’t judge me now…and if the move remains a disaster, hey, let’s not talk about the past, let’s move forward. I’m not suggesting all his moves have failed, but that on the pro side there are a lot of issues. Given that I discussed the trade deadline last time, let’s talk about Dorion’s overall moves post-draft to now, keeping in mind what the Sens are trying to accomplish long-term (becoming playoff contenders):

Evgeni Dadonov for Nick Holden and a 3rd (Van) ~ 3rd (Van) for Travis Hamonic
Largely a money move, but the Russian has been better with Vegas (0.55) than he was with the Sens (0.36). As for Ottawa, Holden is a solid, bottom pairing defender, but the soon-to-be 35-year old isn’t part of the future, so what does having him for a couple of seasons actually do for your roster? Dorion used the 3rd-round pick to add a money dump from Vancouver (Hamonic). The veteran blueliner has one more year left on his deal which, much like Holden, begs the question, how does this build your team for the future? The Sens won’t be in contention next year, so where this take you? Unless Hamonic is retained and remains an important piece or is moved for something better, Dorion loses out on both deals.

Logan Brown and a conditional 4th (retained) for Zach Sanford ~ Sanford for a 5th (Win)
The former first-rounder wanted out and the Sens opted for a rental while risking a pick to move him; fortunately, the Blues voided the condition, but ultimately Dorion gave up Brown for a 5th-round pick, something unlikely to yield anything for the future. That’s terrible management of the asset that was Brown (who had much more value a year or two ago).

7th (SJ) for Dylan Gambrell
I have no idea why the Sens wanted the player, who isn’t an NHLer, or why they gave up an asset (even if it is a 7th) for him.

Kole Sherwood for a bag of magic beans (Nsh)
When he was signed I had no idea why (as has long been the case for the BSens, their signings are often baffling). I won’t give Dorion credit for figuring out that it was a bad idea, as he should have known that beforehand, but we can be thankful Nashville took him.

Nick Paul for Mathieu Joseph and a 2024 4th (TB)
This isn’t a bad trade, as long as Joseph‘s garbage time production doesn’t go to Dorion’s head–Paul wasn’t staying, so it was important to move him, and a pick in 2024 is probably better given how late TB’s picks will be this year and next. How good Joseph actually is remains to be seen (and he has to be resigned), but this is the best move on this list.

Josh Brown and a conditional 7th (retained) for Zach Senyshyn and a 5th (Bos)
A player the Sens needed to dump (lest we forget, Dorion gave up a 4th to acquire him), but they picked-up a terrible prospect in Senyshyn in return, so what the Sens have really done is get two unremarkable NHL seasons from a depth blueliner and a 5th rather than keep a 4th in 2020.

Bag of magic beans (Ott) for Michael McNiven (Cgy)
The Sens did Calgary a favour acquiring the dead asset (who got him from Montreal for their own bag of magic beans), and he’s been awful with Belleville in limited appearances. Acquiring him cost the team nothing, so it’s an irrelevant move for assessment.

Assessment: we have to hold final judgement on Dadanov/Hamonic, but the odds strongly lean one way more than the other. We have four clear fails and an irrelevant pickup from Calgary, leaving just the Joseph acquisition as a wait-and-see. There are no definitive wins here, so it’s an 0-4-2 record as it stands. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Sens pro scouting is terrible as are Dorion’s pro deals.

Let’s offer some balance to this, just to be fair, and look at some prospects I thought had potential that the team flipped and haven’t panned out:
Christian Jaros – While the Sens acquired a useless player in return and the 7th they flipped for Gambrell, it does seem like Jaros is not going to be an NHL regular. Now 26, he couldn’t stay in San Jose’s lineup when moved and has seen limited action with New Jersey. Did they maximize the asset? No, but they did make the correct determination on his potential.
Christian Wolanin – Here again the Sens acquired nothing worthwhile for him, but the 27-year old hasn’t been able to establish himself in LA’s lineup.

Just Dorion Things

–Remember those articles about how great Victor Mete was before the start of the season? Not so much
–I have no idea what the logic of keeping Mads Sogaard in the NHL for a couple of weeks was when the BSens are trying to make the playoffs (speaking of that race, shoutout to Viktor Lodin‘s performance for the BSens since coming over from Timra)
–What was the point of trading for Clark Bishop? He’s now patrolling Belleville’s fourth line–it’s one thing if the logic was simply moving Max Lajoie, but re-signing Bishop is another example of poor asset management

Goals Goals Goals

I’ve been surprised by the offensive explosion in the NHL (one of the impediments to popularity for the league), but I’m not the only one. TSN (Yost) offers this:

“One of the key evolutions of the sport in the past two decades or so is a realization that talent and skill at depth positions isn’t just nice to have; it’s of critical importance and what separates genuine Stanley Cup contenders from the rest of the pack. Teams have, over time, hunted the opportunity to displace specialists with more skill.”

This wasn’t a difficult conclusion to arrive at, but be that as it may, I think Yost’s other point (that some teams have separated themselves out significantly in terms of talent, thus having more skilled depth) is probably the most relevant factor. NHL brass have spent decades suppressing scoring, so I’m curious to see how long the trend lasts, but it’s a good trend for the sport and we can hope that it will continue.

Boring Playoff Races

The NHL hasn’t expanded playoff spots since it was a 21-team league, such that for many there are no meaningful games to play for months. This season has lacked dramatics in the playoff race, illustrating just had badly the NHL is in dire need for something to make the long regular season worth investing in. I’m all for expanding the playoffs in general (as in, more teams make it), but if that’s off the table, giving the 50% who are not participating something else on the line to keep fans interested. Every major sport outside of baseball does it better than the NHL right now, so it’s high time for the league to figure this out.

I got stuck listening to TSN 1200 recently and was forcibly reminded of how dull Chris Stevenson is–if the man has a thirty-second opinion it’s going to take him fifteen minutes to spit it out and not be worth the listening regardless. I realize radio is for old people, but outside of Shawn Simpson it feels like the program director at just has given up. I’ve complained about media coverage of Ottawa since I started writing about the team, but throughout most of that time there were shows on the radio that were worth listening too. Is legacy coverage simply in its death throes, or are we at a pivot point where the need to attract listeners creates changes? Not surprisingly you can get more interesting coverage on Youtube and elsewhere.

This article was written by Peter Levi

Thoughts Post-Deadline and Post-Melnyk

I started writing this a week ago after the trade deadline, but the news of Eugene Melnyk’s unexpected passing has pushed me to complete it. My only interest in commenting on him here is wondering what this means for the future–will the family take over the team, or will the NHL manage as it seeks a new owner? I think even if the team remains in the family, Pierre Dorion’s days as GM are nearing an end–whatever one thinks of Dorion, a new person will want to inject ‘their guy’ in charge of the operation. Time will tell, but if I was going to guess Dorion will manage the draft and off-season, but 2022-23 will be his last as Ottawa’s GM.

Here are my scattered thoughts on the Sens with another season down the drain. Let’s state the obvious: this team was always going to sit near the bottom of the league (cf and cf). And now, trade deadline stuff:
—I’m happy the team got rid of Josh Brown. As per usual they overpaid for him in the first place and he failed to pan out, but at least they moved him.
—I’m also happy with moving Nick Paul, if for different reasons. He’s always been a nice enough support player, but the team needed him to do too much and, at 27, he is what he is (I’d rather have him off the books to make space for someone else).
—Is the ‘someone else’ Mathieu Joesph? I have my doubts, but it’s less of a risk and commitment (RFA) should they keep him (and at least they got a pick with him, even if it will be a 4th in 2024).
—Getting rid of Zach Sanford also made sense–an unimpressive veteran they weren’t going to keep.
—I don’t think much of Zach Senyshyn or Michael McNiven, but there’s no commitment to either and I assume they will be out the door at the end of the season.
—The big move is overpaying for Travis Hamonic. This is a classic Pierre Dorion trade–pick up a declining, gritty veteran that no one else wants. What I think this means is they’ve realized they have to move or buy out Nikita Zaitsev and I suspect that’s truly who Hamonic is replacing. In that sense, he is both cheaper and an improvement, but whether Melnyk’s successor will eat the former’s salary remains to be seen. I think the Pierre’s are also realizing Jacob Bernard-Docker won’t be ready next year and that Lassi Thomson (if he’s ready) will have to be protected stepping in.
—What does re-signing Anton Forsberg mean (and three years)? Either that they are giving up on Matt Murray (a very expensive idea, but sensible), or more likely Filip Gustavsson. Gus, who has slipped back to his expected erratic performance, I think has been put on the funeral pyre for the more reliable Mads Sogaard and the team will simply wait out Murray‘s contract for him.

To move beyond the trade deadline, the continued inability to assess talent remains front and center. Let’s note that Victor Mete hasn’t performed as advertised and Michael Del Zotto is a problem they seem unable to figure out. Adding marginal players like Gaudette and Gambrel, scrambling to get rid of Colin White (someone I predicted would cause them issues years ago), being unable to move Chris Tierney–it’s the flailing of a man in Pierre Dorion who thinks he knows what he’s doing, but spends most of his time trying to put out the fires he started. Who could have guessed these moves wouldn’t turn out? As it happens, virtually everyone. Speaking of Dorion….

Let’s quickly review his asset management post-2021 draft. We’ll start with draft pick management:
Picks-in:
2022 3rd Vancouver (Dadonov trade, subsequently moved back to Vancouver in the Hamonic trade)
2022 5th Boston (Josh Brown trade)
2022 5th Winnipeg (Zack Sanford trade)
2024 4th Tampa (Nick Paul trade)
Picks-out:
2022 3rd Vancouver (Hamonic trade)
2022 4th Ottawa (Logan Brown trade)
2022 7th San Jose (Gambrell trade)

The net result is the Sens gave up higher assets than they received (3rd, 4th, and a 7th vs a future 4th and two 5ths).

Bodies in/out:
In:
Nick Holden (Vegas)
Zack Sanford (St. Louis–subsequently traded to Winnipeg)
Adam Gaudette (Chicago–waivers)
Dylan Gambrell (San Jose)
Travis Hamonic (Vancouver)
Mathieu Joseph (Tampa)
Out:
Evgeni Dadonov (Vegas)
Logan Brown (St. Louis)
Kole Sherwood (Nashville)
Nick Paul (Tampa)
Josh Brown (Boston)
Zack Sanford (Winnipeg)

The Sanford rental is a failure and the Sens ultimately turned Logan Brown into a 5th-round pick (not good asset management for your former first-rounder). Josh Brown and Kole Sherwood were problems they imposed on themselves, although collectively getting a 5th for them is probably the best one could do. What really stands out is how marginal all the assets involved here are–with the exception of the outgoing Dadonov, these are all bottom-nine forwards and depth defensemen (although admittedly the Pierre’s likely believe Hamonic is a top-four).

There’s nothing in terms of players or picks that are going to solve Ottawa’s problems going forward, meaning an entire season’s worth of work hasn’t changed the Sens dependence on the draft. Instead, all of these moves are fires Dorion is trying to put out–Dadonov’s salary, Logan Brown wants out, Sherwood didn’t pan out, Paul can’t be resigned, Josh Brown didn’t pan out, and Sanford won’t resign. There’s nothing here that’s a straight hockey trade to improve the team. None of this is a surprise to those of us who have followed Dorion over the years, but maybe (just maybe) the fanbase has finally caught on.

I have thoughts on how Belleville has performed as well as the various prospects in the system, but I’d rather get this out now and wait for the AHL season to end before doing that. Any thoughts, corrections, and comments are welcome.

This article was written by Peter Levi

The Declining Popularity of Hockey: Re-visited

Three years ago I wrote an article about hockey’s declining popularity, putting it in the context of a general decline in traditional sports. It was around that time that the NHL finally saw scoring increase after seven years of stagnation (an increase whose cause is difficult to point too; you can look at historical scoring levels here). In that article I said that most of the arguments to explain the decline were about inter-sport competition, but that’s no longer the argument being made. Forbes blamed Millennials for lower participation in sport and altered viewing habits (cutting the cord with cable, etc). I think there’s some truth to that, but my point was that the interest in competitive games has not changed, but has shifted to things like e-sports. What sparked this discussion in the media was information put out in 2017 by Market Watch about the aging trend. Let’s briefly look at that data (the data points are 2000, 2006, and 2016; the number represents the average age of the fanbase):

Golf N/A-59-64
Tennis 51-56-61
NASCAR N/A-49-58
MLB 52-52-57
WNBA 42-49-55
Olympics 45-50-53
NCAA football/basketball 47/44-48/48-52/52
NFL 44-46-50
Boxing 45-47-49
MMA N/A-N/A-49 (see below)
NHL 33-42-49
NBA 40-40-42
MLA N/A-39-40

MMA was not included on the Market Watch list, presumably because of how niche it was during the first two data points, but Sports Business Journal did the research in 2017 and pegged it at 49. In the key demographic the number of avid sports fans has dropped from 42% to 34% over the past decade. In the original article the leagues were all warned by social psychologists that they were in trouble, but they were ignored because it was believed that once younger people hit 35+ they would re-engage (something that has not happened).

When it comes to the NHL, we know that typically hockey fans are white, affluent/educated, and male. What’s occurring to the league is their traditional fanbase is aging out (20 years ago it was nestled in the key 18-34 demographic, but no longer)–so younger white men aren’t as attracted to the sport–and they’ve failed to attract anyone else (this issue isn’t unique to the NHL as can be seen from the trends above even though other sports have much more diverse demographics). The only tangible effort the NHL has made to change that is expansion, which doesn’t address the underlying problems.

How are the various sports cartels trying to increase profits given the circumstances? They are following the esports model of promoting gambling–ethical concerns aside, there’s no better way to hook people (the lifeblood of the NFL and horse racing). The other is investing in reality TV content–videos about the players and their lives (how well this works is unclear to me). One of the major issues, I believe, is simply how long the games and seasons are, but there’s no good way to significantly change that. Covid shutdowns and limitations simply exasperated the issue (Samba numbers show all leagues shrinking except the NFL in 2021), as all the leagues are losing out on younger fans who might otherwise be attracted to sport through participation or viewing. I’m not arguing the NHL or sport is going to collapse or disappear, just that the shrinkage is likely to continue locking leagues into particular niches.

I want to emphasize the point about esports because I feel like in many ways it directly competes with traditional sports for fan time and attention. The chart above is from 2018, long before Covid, and already it was drawing more fans than any sport in the US other than the NFL. But we can dig deeper:

Global Esports Audience by Age July 2019 DataReportal
Global Audiences Interested in Watching Conventional Sports by Age July 2019 DataReportal

Looking at that you might say, hey, in 2019 conventional sport was still overall ahead, but let’s look at more data:

Percentage of Internet Users Watching Live Streams of Other People Playing Video Games by Age Group July 2019 DataReportal
Esports viewership continues to grow. - Insider Intelligence

Keep in mind that the US (and North America) is the smallest part of the eports market currently–Asia is first and then Europe–but the trend is obvious. The advantage video games have over sport is accessibility, both in terms of affordability and the fact that you can participate from home and watch from anywhere (esports stars also fit the ‘everyman‘ category–something that feels more easily aspired too). Traditional sports lag far behind when it comes to making themselves accessible digitally. Old approaches of a paywall make little sense when esports events are free (they are also much more common and shorter–multiple seasons a year, allowing for greater drama than the one-and-done yearly festival of traditional sports). I don’t know that there’s a solution for sport given their dependence on both physical attendance in stadiums as well as long term deals signed with cable TV providers–that limits their options–so in the short term the pain is only going to continue.

Does any of this impact the average sports fan? No, but if you are concerned with the health of your sport, the alarm bells should be ringing, as there’s little sign the aging trend is going to stop any time soon.

This article is written by Peter Levi

Sens News & Notes

What Is The Defense In Hockey?

Despite my lack of posts I have been working on various things (some of which I’ll fold into digests like this)–I want to update my article on hockey’s popularity from three years ago and when I finish that it will be its own thing. I still intend to give a (very belated) preview for Belleville, but I’m unsure when that will appear. That out of the way, I wanted to catch-up on a few things, some of which are from the distant past at this point:
-In terms of player performances, most of what we’ve seen this season is as expected–Stutzle will eventually score, so his goalless streak doesn’t concern me; Ennis‘ initial hot streak has cooled down, but he’s been a useful addition thus far; Paul and Formenton have deflated hype and performed as expected; Sanford has been underwhelming and I’m not sure what his issue is
-I think the Sens slightly overpaid Tkachuk, but getting that deal done is ultimately a good thing and as long as he doesn’t unexpectedly crash and burn in the next 3 years it’s worth it even with a decline at the end of the contract
-I thought sending Brannstrom to the minors to start the season dynamited D. J. Smith’s declaration that the best players play; I’m glad he’s back, although expectations need to be kept in check
-I’m not sure why, other than for financial reasons, Gustavsson was returned to Belleville–why not play him until he regresses to the mean (if he does)? While the BSens need help between the pipes, surely the Sens need it more [Turns out it’s a roster-limit issue]
-Playing at a .318 pace through eleven games reveals just how silly it was for Pierre Dorion to declare that the rebuild over; I always thought that was for marketing reasons, but by creating the expectation we’re now seeing the awkward conversations about how realistic it is to have said that. I expect the team to have a better record by the end of the year, but the result isn’t a huge surprise to me
-Travis Yost has a short piece praising Zub (nothing new to Sens fans I think, but some numbers to back-up what they see)
-Nichols goes over the horror of the Sens D and poses the question (without answering) if coaching is part of the problem–given how weak that D-core is, I’m willing to give Smith a pass to some extent (I think the order from on-high, ie Melnyk, that one-way contracts play, has added a caveat to ‘the best players play’ moto)
-I’ve enjoyed Shawn Simpson making fun of the Del Zotto signing–I suspect he knows who is responsible (McGuire?) and, given that he’s not wrong, it has to rankle the Sens’ brass
-Remember four years ago when the Sens had Pius Suter at their rookie/main camp? He’s having a solid sophomore season in Detroit and you have to wonder why the Sens didn’t take the plunge at the time and invest in him
-A story I missed was Anders Nilsson alleging the Sens hid a concussion he suffered; there’s been no follow-up to this so it’s difficult to say much more about it (if true it’s obviously terrible)

Secondary Jersey Logo - Belleville Senators

What’s been the story of the 4-6-0 BSens? Lack of scoring, struggling D-corps, goaltending inconsistency, and injuries. While the org made an inspired pick-up to land current leading scorer Jake Lucchini from the Leafs, they’ve seen a parade of ECHL filler accomplishing nothing while veteran signings have been underwhelming (Agozzino has underproduced and Aberg‘s production is buffed by some meaningless second assists on empty net goals). In my earlier preview I was concerned by the limp veteran signings and thus far that’s largely been borne out (albeit Clark Bishop has been injured and Logan Shaw is in Ottawa). It’s worth emphasizing that injuries have meant a lot of roster juggling and I think the team is better than their current record.

As for the most exciting prospects, the young blueliners have been a mixed bag thus far–you expect more from both Brannstrom and Bernard-Docker (Thomson, in limited action, has been on-point), although in fairness to them you have to have someone to pass the puck too. On the forward side Sokolov had a slow start (pointless in 5 games) before heating up; Jarventie also started slowly (1 point in 4 games) before performing as expected–as a rookie, the latter adjustment is completely understandable. All these players should continue to get better, so it’s the core around them that’s could be the stumbling block. As for the goaltenders, both Sogaard and Mandolese have been erratic, but as young ‘tenders this is not unexpected–given the team in front of them, they have to be excellent or else things fall apart.

Blackhawks scandal: Cheveldayoff apologizes to Kyle Beach | CTV News

I followed the Blackhawks/Brad Aldrich scandal and Chicago’s actions (or, largely, inaction) does not surprise me (I still vividly remember the Penn State sex abuse scandal from ten years ago). I do think this is a tipping point for the NHL and that we’re unlikely to see something similar occur again–that doesn’t mean scandals from the past won’t come to light, however. Whether Kevin Cheveldayoff should have resigned or not seems to be the one lingering issue. With so little to go on, there’s blame to lay on Cheveldayoff for not after the fact pursuing the matter (when it became clear that the Hawks’ promise to look into it was false), but I think it’s clear the actions (or in-actions) taken by the org cannot be laid at his doorstep. What the proper move is considering that, I’m not sure, although it seems like on his own Cheveldayoff would not have acted like Stan Bowman et al, so the NHL not punishing him is something I can live with.

NHL 22 - This is Breakthrough Hockey - EA SPORTS

I haven’t written about an EA NHL game in a long time (2018?). I’ve never played them consistently and, for me, what’s most enjoyable is Franchise Mode (formerly called GM Mode). I decided to jump back into the pond this year and I do have some thoughts. Keep in mind I’m playing on a PS4 and that the experience, particularly on PC, is likely different.

The gameplay itself seems slightly better. NHL 20, which I’d experimented with recently (I did not play it when it came out–I got a free copy of it awhile ago), doesn’t feel that different from its prior iterations. NHL 22 seems to have made a small step to feel more like how hockey is played. One specific change I appreciate is that you aren’t locked against the boards as easily as in the past, allowing you to skirt them more effectively.

The drafts continue to be unrealistic, although investing in better scouts does seem to lead to better results (albeit the process of gathering good scouts is tedious since quality scouts get released on the market in a slow dribble). There’s really no other way to get accurate scouting beforehand and allowing the game to sim the scouting for you is less reliable than controlling it yourself (which makes sense in a way, but is a laborious process). While scouting will tell you a player’s attributes at the time, it has an indirect relation to their future potential, such that the potential itself is the only factor that really matters (so it’s the only thing to bother looking into).

Other issues that have carried over: the number of prospects for the draft magically shrinks as soon as the IRL players are gone, emptying some regions completely (the Allsvenskan and the Rest of the World). There’s also a very weird situation where a player drafted will be immediately released to become a free agent by AI teams–I have no idea why this is the case since unsigned players don’t count against the limit. The special trade deadline feature seems pointless, as AI teams continue to offer horrendous trades while rejecting perfectly valid ones. I also have no idea why there’s no option to stop the AI from adjusting your trade parameters.

A broader issue are the limitations in searching for players. Let’s say I want to sign a free agent and I’m looking for a depth player who is both physical and can skate–you can’t search for both–it’s one category with very minimal filters. For most gamers this is fine as they chase a Stanley Cup and are looking for established players (who cares about the AHL team or future?), but for me it’s a constant irritation until my rebuild (how I always start) truly gets going.

The player editor remains a joke, with the only meaningful option being beard or no beard. I have no idea why this is the case–presumably it’s a technical issue, but if so, I’d rather it was completely removed or at least renamed (call it a Facial Hair Editor).

An improvement is that when you see what a player wants for a contract he actually seems to mean it, whereas previously you’d offer that amount and have it rejected (which was pointlessly irritating).

This is a rambling set of observations, I realize, rather than a review. At the end of the day I don’t think the game has changed much–if you enjoyed prior iterations, this will please you, but if you didn’t EA hasn’t done enough to change your mind. Hockey is probably too small a market to ever get proper investment, so that all we’ll see are tweaks and few (if any) of those will impact the narrow way I like to play the game. EA’s focus is most certainly on microtransactions and other forms of monetization, so the sorts of changes I’d love to see aren’t likely.

This article is written by Peter Levi

Sens News & Notes

pierre dorion

I was thinking of updating my old article about Pierre Dorion’s trade track record, but it turns out CapFriendly conveniently already tracks that. Looking through his moves since my exploration in 2018, my impression is largely the same: Dorion does reasonably well when dumping players for assets, but his efforts to acquire talent to help the team win is awful (ie the amateur scouting is pretty good, while the pro scouting is not, which is nothing new for the org). Where my tracking cuts off in that article was prior to the summer trades of 2018, and it’s hard not to be slapped in the face with how much acquiring Matt Duchene cost versus how little they’ve received in moving him (it’s already down to Lassi Thomson for Duchene), or how there’s no hope of equal value from the Mark Stone trade (even if Erik Brannstrom and Egor Sokolov achieve their potential), or cluelessly acquiring Derek Stepan, and on and on. There are also baffling decisions like giving up a pick for Josh Brown‘s signing rights–a player who won’t be in the NHL in a few years. Ultimately, all Dorion has to do is make his owner happy, but as a fan I don’t know how there can be any trust left in him from the fanbase at this point (apparently there still is).

full image

Speaking of bad deals, Travis Yost has a good article looking at why defensemen who don’t perform well get rewarded with contracts/ice time. Yost’s basic argument is that reputation plays a big role in how this happens, and I would add that size and physicality also matters.

Colin White (b.1997) Hockey Stats and Profile at hockeydb.com

While I think a buyout for Colin White was inevitable (due to how they work for a player his age), his shoulder injury makes that decision even simpler. I, along with others at the time, thought the contract he was given was ridiculous and that it serves as an example of how much Dorion struggles to project pro talent (I seem to be one of the few who understood how limited White‘s abilities were–we can see Nichols and Dom Luszczyszyn both fumbling with their estimations at the time–an impression I gained by watching him in the AHL , cf). With that said, he’s still a useful NHL player and it will be interesting to see how much impact his absence has.

Where the Sens Stand with McGuire's 7-Player Model - Silver Seven

I won’t dwell on this much, but I came across a good (and succinct) video about Pierre McGuire and his past as a coach. For some fans there’s not much new here–McGuire is an old school guy who, when given an opportunity, was unable to thrive in his era. I don’t think he has much (if any) useful insight to offer the org, but I also don’t think his involvement is going to cause additional damage (Dorion is quite capable of that on his own).

This article is written by Peter Levi

Senators News & Notes

Brady Tkachuk Hockey Stats and Profile at hockeydb.com

The Sens roster is pairing down, but without Brady Tkachuk signed I fully expect the Sens to keep extra bodies to be cap-compliant in case the negotiations drag on into the regular season. Logan Shaw, Andrew Agozzino, and Parker Kelly should be sent down sooner than later. I don’t expect Tyler Ennis to be signed, but the club will likely keep Scott Sabourin on the roster until the Tkachuk situation is sorted out (he plus Filip Gustavsson gets you to the cap as things stand without Brady). Once that happens I’d imagine both get sent down. D. J. Smith keeps talking about how the best players will play, but I don’t think the ego of Pierre Dorion could handle sitting newly minted FA-signee Del Zotto. It does seem, however, that Smith has yielded to the obvious in putting Pinto as the second-line pivot (as opposed to shoehorning in Tierney or the always disappointing Colin White).

As for who was sent down there were no surprises. From my point-of-view Lassi Thomson did the most to make his case that he’s taken a step forward–he was assertive with the puck and his defensive work was solid. On the flip side, a number of players were utterly invisible (FA signees Aberg and Goulbourne, for instance). I will have to revise my hypothetical AHL lineup given injuries and because Pinto is not being sent down, which I’ll do when I preview Belleville’s season (the top two offensive forwards are gone as it stands).

Mark Kastelic - The Athletic

Pre-season is basically meaningless, but watching Mark Kastelic play for the first time I came away unimpressed. I don’t see the hockey sense necessary to be a full-time NHL player–when he has the puck he seems to have no idea what to do with it. Maybe he just had a poor performance in pre-season games, so I don’t want to draw firm conclusions, but in terms of showing what he can do I don’t see future fourth-line potential. I bring this up because Shawn Simpson (among others) have imagined him in that position for this season, so I have to think that’s a projection based on his performance at practice and his reputation as opposed to the pre-season games. Regardless, sending him back to Belleville was the correct decision. Speaking of Simpson, he had praise for Kole Sherwood and I have no idea why (Simmer loves hitting, so it may be as simple as that)–he’s another player who doesn’t seem to understand why the puck is on the ice (cf). He’s on waivers, but I can’t imagine him being claimed.

Secondary Jersey Logo - Belleville Senators

The Bsens training camp roster is out and I wanted to look at the names I haven’t looked at yet (the bulk of the signed ECHL Atlanta roster is via the link as is the one remaining Ottawa invitee serving as the fourth goalie):
Defense
Randy Gazzola, 28, DR, ECHL 0.71 (ECHL 0.72)
It’s not often a 6’3 righthanded blueliner with offensive skills goes undrafted, but clearly there are enough deficiencies in Gazzola’s game that no one was willing to take a chance on him. He went through the QMJHL (0.79) then five years in Canadian University hockey (0.78) before spending his first pro season in tier-2 Italy followed by an ECHL season last year. He’s already signed with the Toledo Walleye, so he’s hoping to impress the brass for call-ups (offensively he’s a better option than anything currently in Atlanta).
Matt Murphy, 26, DL, ECHL 0.39 (ECHL 0.39)
The undrafted QMJHLer (0.52) spent four years playing Canadian University hockey (0.54) before having a cup of coffee in the Slovakian league when he turned pro–completing that season in ECHL Fort Wayne (earning a brief call-up to AHL Chicago). He would be hoping for an AHL contract, but it’s more likely that talent-starved Atlanta is his destination.
Vincent Sevigny, 20-21, DL, QMJHL 0.73 (QMJHL 0.37)
The undrafted QMJHLer on an ATO will likely be returned to Victoriaville once the BSens roster fills out (I’m not clear what other option he has, since an AHL-contract seems very unlikely).

Forwards
Rourke Chartier, 25-26, AHL 0.31 (AHL 0.55)
WHLer was a fifth-round pick by San Jose and he’s the only man in this group who has both never played in the ECHL and had a cup of coffee in the NHL (13 games in 2018-19); he spent last year with the Marlies and needs a contract–I don’t know if there’s a specific need for him on the roster, but he can certainly play at this level (perhaps the injury to Crookshank is his opportunity).
Andrew Sturtz, 27, ECHL 0.84 (ECHL 0.77)
This is a familiar name, as the undersized NCAA grad (0.94) was an Ottawa FA signing out of college back in 2018 when the org still did that routinely (looking for the next…Jesse Winchester?–none of them have ever turned out; brief comments by me about him are here). The Sens later packaged him with a pick to acquire Mike Reilly, who was then flipped to Boston for a 3rd in 2022. That aside, he’s a familiar face to the brass, can play at the AHL-level to some degree (0.31), and could certainly help out Atlanta (which is likely where he’s bound if he’s signed).
Alexis D’Aoust, 25-26, Slovakia 0.44 (AHL 0.33)
The undrafted former QMJHLer (0.81) has put up good numbers in the ECHL (0.87) and spent time in the AHL (0.33) in every pro season; he already has a contract with Trois-Rivieres, so would be looking to land himself an AHL-deal (or make a good enough impression for a call-up).
Cedric Pare, 22-23, ECHL 0.60 (ECHL 0.60)
QMJHLer (0.73) was a sixth-rounder back in 2017, but the Bruins elected not to sign him and he had a mediocre rookie season in the ECHL last season. It’s difficult to imagine him forcing his way into an AHL-contract, but Atlanta could use more talent up front.
Kameron Kielly, 24-25, ECHL 0.50 (ECHL 0.50)
Undrafted QMJHLer (0.66) went on to play three seasons of Canadian University hockey (1.41) before turning pro last year. He inexplicably bounced through three ECHL teams which hints at drama, but he certainly has enough talent for that league (his most likely destination if he isn’t cut completely).
Philippe Daoust, 19-20, QMJHL 1.33 (QMJHL 0.72)
I’m not entirely sure what the Sens sixth-rounder is doing in camp–he’s unsigned, but I thought he was required to go back to the Q this season–maybe he’s old enough to play in the AHL at this stage, although the roster looks too stuffed to accommodate him.

This article is written by Peter Levi

Senators News & Notes

Logan Brown Stats and News | NHL.com

My previous post went up just hours before Logan Brown was traded to St. Louis for Zach Sanford (you can read Nichols’ breakdown here; he goes over Sanford‘s numbers and concludes he’s a solid addition who offers options on the left side for the bottom-six). Put aside the return for a second and think about the departing prospect. To me, Brown is a boom or bust player. He is either going to blossom in St. Louis to the point where Sens fans bemoan the move, or else he’s going to crash and burn and the deal will be lost in the shuffle. One funny thing to note about Brown‘s draft year is the old axiom of ignoring smaller players seems to have returned to the NHL–all the good players who dropped were undersized.

Image

While I don’t think the Sens will do this, I do like Shawn Simpson‘s early ideas for a lineup:
Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson
Stutzle-Pinto-C. Brown
Formenton-Tierney-Paul
Sanford-White-Watson
Chabot-Zub
Mete-Zaitsev
Holden-Brannstrom
The top-six likely isn’t different than anyone else’s, but there’s definitely a unique slant to everything else beyond the top-pairing. I think there’s no chance this is what happens on opening night, as I don’t believe the org would be comfortable with two smaller blueliners and sitting FA signee Del Zotto and coach-favourite Josh Brown. I think the blueline as presented is about the best one can do with the collection of low-ceiling veterans and ‘tweener prospects that fill out the bottom four positions.

Don Cherry's Firing Was Overdue—but the Problems He Represented Remain -  The Ringer

There’s not much reason to discuss pre-season games, but I will point out that the limp, pathetic effort the Sens offered in their 4-0 loss to Toronto featured a roster filled with truculent, ‘good in the corners’ players: Bishop (now hurt), C. Brown, J. Brown, Goulbourne, Paul, Sabourin, Sanford, and Sherwood. I didn’t see the game, but the sentiment is that beyond Parker Kelly no one put in a good effort. Yes, half of these players are AHL-bound, but all of them were either signed as free agents or extended after the season–as marginal players, where’s the energy they are supposed to bring to the lineup? Food for thought.

Atlanta Gladiators

More Atlanta Gladiator signings:
Anthony Florentino – The righthanded blueliner was a 5th-rounder for Buffalo in 2013; his play in the ECHL has been so unremarkable that he’s struggled to stay in it
Gabe Guertler – Undrafted former OHLer went through the Canadian University system and spent last year playing in the SPHL (the ECHL’s feeder league)
Like most of the Atlanta signings, there seems no likelihood these players would be called-up by the BSens. I have a hard time understanding some of the signings, but perhaps these are largely depth signings rather than top regulars.

This article is written by Peter Levi

Senators News & Notes

Superspreader events': Experts worry hockey arenas a toxic formula for  COVID-19

I watched the two rookie games between Ottawa and Montreal, as well as the inter-squad scrimmage today. Neither event is particularly meaningful, so I won’t offer a full breakdown, although the former is more competitive (as Angus Crookshank can attest–he’ll miss more than half the season after getting hurt). Performances in these things rarely mean anything, but I was happy with what I saw from Roby Jarventie offensively (particularly in the second game against Montreal). Otherwise nothing struck me as surprising.

33 Most Savage AF Sports Fan Signs Ever - Funny Gallery

Dom Luszczyszyn’s season preview for Ottawa dropped for The Athletic and I think it is spot-on (his predictions last season performed very well, particularly with the Sens; the basic ideas echoed, in brief, by Travis Yost). Dom thinks it’s most likely that the Sens will be in the bottom-10 of the league (but not bottom-5), held back by poor goaltending, a shallow defencecorps, and an intriguing but thin forward mix. His player analysis broadly fits my own, although I’d quibble with Batherson‘s (see below). I want to include a couple of comments about specific players since they run contrary to the chatter one gets from the local media:
Zaitsev – “Zaitsev’s biggest issue is that he can’t move the puck. At all. Not a single defender had a worse zone exit rate than Zaitsev’s 11 percent meaning there were a lot of pucks off the glass when he was on the ice. In the offensive zone, he tends to just chuck pucks at the net rather than make a play and he is genuinely where offence goes to die.
Josh Brown – “I guess someone has to babysit the incapable [Josh Brown]
Zaitsev and Del Zotto as a shutdown pair – “one of the worst ideas for a shutdown pair in recent memory
Tkachuk – “He’s a frustrating power forward who hasn’t been able to bury nearly as many chances as he’s expected to. There’s a dispute between public and private data over how valuable his chances actually are, but at the end of the day you still have a player who led all players in shots-per-60 last season who finished 100th in goals-per-60. That’s not good enough.
Batherson – “He was a mess in 2019-20 at both ends of the ice and even in last year’s improvement only jumped up to 1.43 points-per-60 at five-on-five. That’s third line calibre and it doesn’t feel like he can be a future top line player.
White – “it’ll be hard to succeed with Nick Paul and Austin Watson on either side of him

My quibble with Batherson is the sample size, but Dom is following where the analytics are pointing. The comments about the defense and Watson aren’t new outside the Ottawa bubble, but inside the community Paul has been highly praised and here we see dismissal–it’s worth noting.

The Sens Panel: Sens ownership speculation - YouTube

Besides the two year break I took from this blog, I hadn’t paid much attention to the NHL going back much further (for many reasons, as I’ve gone over before). To that end I’d largely stopped listening to TSN 1200 and reading the local coverage (which I found broadly vapid, predictable, and awash with platitudes and repetition). Coming back to it, other than Shawn Simpson (and Ian Mendes, but The Athletic isn’t local), the radio and print coverage is unchanged. These are people terrified of analytics, serving up the same sets of tired opinions. The fan sites aren’t much better (that includes Youtube channels), and even the legendary Nichols has largely retired out of analysis (Travis Yost was always too good to be limited to Sens coverage–check out his archive here). It’s a funny thing to see that local hockey coverage would have fit in the vapid, platitude-filled days I remember from the 1980s. Some of that entropy undoubtedly comes from the org itself–the fount of access–since neither management nor ownership understand modern analysis of the game, but it’s more than a little puzzling that none of the fan sites has tried to separate themselves in their coverage (excluding The Silver Seven‘s prospect material from Ary and Colin). In a way I get it, as those graduating from fan sites to traditional media have been are among the most bland content producers imaginable.

Speaking of the local scene though–there’s a beef between Shawn Simpson and one of the local hacks? Is it really Garrioch? I’m so out of the loop, but bless Simpson for wanting to move beyond it.

Finally, a little pat on the back to myself for having included a broken link to my Twitter on this blog since I returned–you’d think I would have checked it, but no, I didn’t.

This article is written by Peter Levi

Senators News & Notes

Best Hockey Smiles: Bobby Clarke - YouTube

One thing that’s been clear about the org since Trent Mann was promoted in 2017 is, above and beyond seeking certainty over potential, looking for character and truculence. We can (and I do) make fun of the latter–something I associate with Brian Burke and an approach that failed him after its solitary success with Anaheim in 2007 (a team largely built by his predecessors, Al Coates and Bryan Murray). Putting aside its efficacy, what I do think drafting and trading for players like this does is appeal to the fanbase–not casual fans (who are interested in wins and scoring)–but the hardcore. In a strong hockey market, focusing on these fans is a bit like MMO’s targeting whales–the big spenders, the people who commit. To that end, I think it’s a good economic strategy. The concern that remains is production–they can agitate, they can hit, but can they score? It remains an open question.

Jake Sanderson Hockey Stats and Profile at hockeydb.com

When you go against the grain there’s always resistance. I’ve briefly discussed the high opinion (shared by the org) of Jake Sanderson and I think my comments have been misunderstood by some. I compared him to players like Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker, not because I think they are literally the same kind of player, but in reference to the potential they were given by scouts when drafted (there’s rarely universal agreement and you can see the opposite opinion here, but I mean the consensus of what I’ve seen). All three prospects had worries about their offensive upside and were slotted as top-four blueliners–that’s all I meant by the comparison. This isn’t my opinion of the player (I’ve haven’t seen any of them play), but a reflection of worries held by scouts–that doesn’t make them right, it’s simply food for thought. Does Sanderson have more potential than the other two? I would hope so, because he was picked far higher in the draft (meaning his talent is considered better), but that wasn’t the point. I’d like nothing better than the guy to be a hall of fame defenseman for Ottawa, but the org habitually over praises their prospects (Jared Cowen comes to mind–someone we now know was riding the coattails of Jared Spurgeon), so I take a wait-and-see approach.

While it’s clear the Sens want to move Logan Brown (something that may prove impossible), more and more I wonder if the same fate awaits Erik Brannstrom. There’s no chance at that they want Brannstrom and Mete in the lineup at the same time, so either the former is intended for the BSens or will get traded (perhaps in an effort to fill one of Pierre McGuire’s 7-man formula).

Speaking of the BSens, one of the fascinating things about the upcoming season is how much the team’s success will depend on their record against just four teams. While almost 70% of their season is played within their division, most of that will be taken up by Laval and Toronto (each 12 games), and Syracuse and Rochester (8 games each). That’s 40 of 72 games (55%). When it comes time to preview the BSens, I’ll take a look at what’s expected for those teams as well.

Scoring in the NHL has started to increase the last four years [based, it seems, on coaching more than anything else], which is an obvious good thing after remaining stagnant for seven (an unprecedented length of time in the NHL to lack variation). This small change comes long after other major leagues took steps to ensure their own games became more entertaining. With that said, it remains below where it needs to be, still lagging behind all historical eras save the primordial pre-Original Six (specifically 23-24 to 40-41). The ten highest scoring games in NHL history are within a twenty-year period (1977-1996), with nine of them ten in the first half of that; the most points recorded in a season stretch from the 70-71 to 95-96, again clustering from the late 70s into the early 90s. This isn’t to say the NHL needs to consistently hit the highs of that era, but a league where major records can’t be challenged has no chance of breaking through the static of the other high profile sports they compete with (outside the homerun chases in the 90s, the MLB has been sliding towards oblivion for decades, cf). Where is the sweet spot for hockey? It’s hard to say, but let’s look at the numbers:
Original Six (42-43 to 66-67) 2.93
Expansion (68-69 to 78-79) 2.96 (+0.03)
1980s to Pre-Lockout (79-80 to 93-94) 3.71 (+0.75)
Dead Puck Era (94-95 to 03-04) 2.76 (-0.95)
Post Lockout Era (05-06 to present) 2.85 (+0.09)
The first era was long enough that it has its own internal structure, with higher scoring both at the beginning and end, with a ten-year long Dead Puck Era of its own (from 48-49 to 57-58). The actual high point is 1981-82 (not for the league however, as 43-44 holds that record for the eras we’re sampling). The most popular time for hockey was during the 70s and 80s and, despite continual expansion, the NHLs unwillingness to open the game up has lead to it sinking back down into a regional phenomena heavily impacted by winning. With only 50% of teams playoff bound (unlike the 66% in the Original Six or 76% of the 1980s), soft fanbases quickly checkout when their team is going nowhere–there are just so many other options for their entertainment dollars. I’m happy that the NHL is finally trending in the right direction, but entropy is a powerful force and I feel like a renewed slide towards low scoring affairs could be just around the corner.

HFBoards (@hfboards_) | Twitter

I’m surprised HFBoards is still around. A website from an Internet era of two decades earlier, many of the same people post on it and I suppose that fits the older demographic associated with sports. The boards are something that made an impact on me back when I started writing about hockey (for The Hockey Herald in 2007), although I rarely visited the site once I started writing here.

Atlanta Gladiators - Wikipedia

Another Atlanta signing, as goaltender Chris Nell has been signed. The 27-year old NCAA grad failed out of the Rangers organization as an FA-signing and has put up poor numbers in the ECHL.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)