Senators News: March 3rd

Robin Lehner didn’t throw his teammates under the bus after their abysmal performance last night, saying “They’re a good team with lots of skilled players and obviously they were flying from the start. It’s too bad we came up short, I think we came back real good in the third and got some good chances, it just wasn’t there and now we’ve got to move forward.”  Daniel Alfredsson commented, “Robin played another great game, made some really spectacular saves and we just couldn’t come up with that extra goal for him.”

-Paul Maclean described the performance succinctly, “Their skilled players had the puck a lot and when that happens, you end up chasing them around.”

Wayne Scanlan writes an interesting article at the decline of Hobey Baker winners as NHL players.  He quotes Pierre McGuire’s theory on why this is the case, “1. Top players are leaving college early to turn pro; 2. Major junior leagues in Canada are keeping more of their prospects, in part because of education packages; 3. NCAA hockey is watered down somewhat through expansion.”  Bryan Murray agreed with the first two points, but couldn’t comment on the third.

-In the same article Murray said he thought they could replace one of their traded 2nd round picks (one went to Phoenix and the other to St. Louis) via free agency, meaning a college free agent.

John MacKinnon writes about the efforts of David Branch and Bob Nicholson to eliminate fighting in Canadian junior leagues, “You fight, you will be ejected. It’s best to be cautiously optimistic about this if you’re one who believes fighting cheapens the sport and exposes the combatants to needless risk of brain trauma and a variety of long-term conditions associated with that, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can lead to early onset of dementia.”  MacKinnion notes that USA Hockey executive director David Ogrean is also moving in that direction, but despite all this momentum MacKinnon rightly believes it will be a long time before these efforts impact the NHL.  He ridicules those who defend fighting, “The notion that fighting fulfils some sort of regulatory function in the sport  has always struck me as bully-boy rationalization: You’d better let me fight you  or I just may go berserk with the stick, or worse.”  He points out that in the most important games (the playoffs and the Olympics) no one fights.  One element of the discussion that he doesn’t mention, but I find immensely irritating, is that as soon as the topic comes up the media asks current and former fighters what they think–what answer do they expect?  If you want to gauge opinions ask a broad swath of people around the game.  Regardless, the article is well worth reading in its entirety.

Pat Hickey writes that Brian Burke dismisses the value of Moneyball-like statistics in hockey and is even offended at its possibilities, “This whole Moneyball thing aggravates me anyway. . . . Nobody has ever won a championship with Moneyball. I can prove a player is a statistical twin of a  player who is twice the player he is because of the other things that he brings.”  Burke is clearly exaggerating, because he understand statistics mean something or they wouldn’t be tracked, but as Hickey didn’t specify the kinds of data Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was presenting I can’t really judge what he said.  Statistics can lead you astray, in part because they can often be argued, but whatever the NHL scouting community uses they do see hockey players in a very similar way.

-Speaking of Burke, he made the obvious move last night to fire Ron Wilson and replace him with Randy Carlyle.  I think the length of deal he gave to Carlyle is ridiculous and I’ll be interested to see how players react to him (in effect the Anaheim players fired him this year), but he might be enough of a shock to the system to put the Leafs back in the hunt.  Normally I’d say the league is an imitating one and that the Carlyle hire follows other hard-nose changes such as Darryl Sutter in LA, Dale Hunter in Washington, and Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis, but clearly Burke is going with a known quantity in Carlyle.  On a personal level, I would have liked to see Marc Crawford hired in order to remove him as a TSN analyst.

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