Senator News: July 31st

-The news I’ve expected for months has finally come down the wire with Daniel Alfredsson deciding to play another season in Ottawa.  It’s great for the organisation because there is no one to replace AlfieLuke Fox added an interesting tidbit “It’s been four years (or one Olympics ago, for those of you stricken with the fever) since Alfie has been able to train properly in the off-season and have his muscles respond the way he wants them to. A bad back, bouts of rehab and last summer’s surgery left him at a crossroads.”

Brochenski goes to the Corsi bat in support of Erik Condra (apparently lifting the idea from Travis Yost who compared him to Ville Leino) where he uses stats to show just how good Condra is at the possession game.  This is certainly what I noticed over the season and is what makes him an effective player.  Peter Raaymakers has jumped onto the bandwagon and adds this salient point, “I think advanced statistics like Corsi or CF% or what-have-you are only as useful inasmuch as they can be used to explain or challenge preconceived notions we make while watching a player.”

Varada provides a puzzling argument for retaining Bobby Butler.  He begins by saying the Sens need him to reach the cap floor (a canard that has been exploded many times), then conflates his numbers from this season and last season, as if they are one and the same thing (limited success on a terrible team versus no success on a competitive team).  Then he suggests they need Butler in case of injury, apparently not thinking much of the parade of forward prospects (Silfverberg, Zibanejad, Stone, and others) Ottawa has waiting in the wings.  He ends by saying this is an indication that Murray is planning a big move…or Melnyk wants to save money.  There’s no basis for the former, while the latter isn’t changed with or without Butler.  Putting aside the confusing arguments, I’m not sure why Varada wants to keep a one-dimensional player who was unable to produce.  He’s essentially Ryan Shannon without the passion, and Shannon is now out of the NHL playing in Switzerland.

Tim Conboy signed a deal to play with ERC Ingolstadt in the DEL.  A free agent after spending last season with Binghamton, I thought there was a slight chance he would be retained up until the Sens signed Andre Benoit.

Chet Pickard, the primary piece to Nashville via the Erik Karlsson trade at the 2008 draft, has parted ways with the Predators and signed with Djurgarden in the Allsvenskan.  If there needed to be any more evidence that Bryan Murray won this trade, this is it.

-For those of you buying season tickets for the Phoenix Coyotes, Stu Hackel provides us with the expected problems with the current sale.  Prospective owner Greg Jamison is short 20 million to purchase the franchise, which is why Shane Doan is trying to extort crazy money from other NHL teams.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


Senators News: July 28th

-As expected the Sens bought out Bobby Butler; he joins a long list of college free agent signings who have crashed and burned in the NHL.  He produced enough as a pro that he’ll sign somewhere else, but it seems likely it will be a two-way deal.

-Capgeek confirms Stephane Da Costa‘s contract numbers (800k)

Marc Methot talks about becoming a Senator:

I’m still really excited. The whole overwhelming feeling, because I had never been traded, has kind of faded. Now, I’ve got the Sens’ gear, I’m wearing it in practice and I’m getting used to it. It really feels like I’m becoming part of the team now. I’m around (some of the guys) and I’m getting comfortable. I believe it has sunk in, but until I don’t think it really will until I start skating with the team and have to go to Scotiabank Place to practise with the team. You can absolutely call it a fresh start. I’m going to get a chance to play in front of my family and friends. I don’t think the situation could be any better. I’ve been taking the situation pretty serious this summer with regards with my training and preparing so I don’t let people down. I better play good hockey, right? When I’m focused I’m not concerned with that stuff. When you’re playing in a market like this, you’re going to get criticized. It’s part of the game. Do I ignore it? Yes. I try not to listen to it. Does it bother me? I’d be lying if I said I just shrugged it off. Sometimes it will piss you off. You’ve got to deal with it. My parents, family and friends, understand it’s not always going to be peaches and cream. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: I have the utmost respect for the fans there. It’s just sometimes during the week we wouldn’t get a packed house and we’d be playing a team like Chicago or Detroit and it sounded like half the building were from those markets or were fans of the other team. We were losing a lot of games, people weren’t happy and it wasn’t a great atmosphere. I do know I’m playing in a bigger hockey market here and that’s something I’m really looking forward to being a part of. I’m starting to come into my prime as a player. I’m at the age where I feel like I can actually be a factor on a team and play some big minutes. It was just icing on the cake that it was my hometown that I got traded to. I’m ready to be a factor here. My only focus is playing in the playoffs. I’d watch all the games on CBC and all I’d say to myself is how badly I want to be a part of that. All the attention guys get for playing in the playoffs and the buzz around the city. I saw it for myself when I was around the city. That’s something I’m really looking forward to being a part of.

-Here’s my assessment of Bryan Murray‘s tenure as the Senators GM

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Assessing Bryan Murray (updated)

On April 8th, 2011, with one game remaining in a failed season, the Ottawa Senators re-signed GM Bryan Murray to a three-year deal.  The most obvious question at the time was why?  Clearly ownership saw Murray as the best man to rebuild the team that crumbled beneath him in 2010-11 and this past season indicated that belief was well-founded.  There’s no guarantee the Sens rebuild will continue in a positive direction, but it’s worth looking back at the work Murray has done as Ottawa’s general manager.

Bryan Murray took over from John Muckler on June 18th, 2007, just six days before the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.  I’ve read criticism of Murray regarding that draft, but there’s no question that the selections were made with Muckler’s scouting staff and guided by their philosophy.

2007 Draft

Considered a weak draft at the time (see McKeen’s, for a more optimistic view here’s Sports Illustrated; for a look at the overall success of the draft go here), Ottawa made four selections, trading away their final three picks to Tampa for a fourth round pick in the 2008 draft (Derek Grant).

1-29 Jim O’Brien (NCAA)
Looked like a failed pick after his rookie season in Binghamton, but by the end of his ELC proved he could be a useful fourth-liner
2-60 Ruslan Bashkirov (QMJHL)
A bust who was never signed and now plays tier-2 hockey in Russia
3-90 Louie Caporusso (OPJHL)
The undersized forward spent his rookie year largely in the ECHL and as a four-year NCAA grad it doesn’t look like he has NHL-potential
4-120 Ben Blood (USHS)
Big blueliner completed his final year in the NCAA and joins Binghamton as a rookie in this upcoming season; looks like a depth player

2007-08 Contracts

June 22 – Dean McAmmond – 2 years/1.4; a solid player, but his numbers dropped considerably before he was shipped out to the New York Islanders
July 3 – Matt Carkner – 2 years/0.5; made his way from the AHL to the NHL level
July 24 – Ray Emery – 3 years/3.166; re-signing the starting goalie in the Cup run seemed like a no-brainer, but was bought out the next year
July 31 – Chris Kelly – 1 year/1.263; based on his strong play when Spezza and Fisher were injured
August 7 – Luke Richardson – 1 year/0.5; a depth signing who never quite delivered
September 17 – Mike Fisher – 5 years/4.2; I thought at the time it was too much money and too much term; traded to Nashville in 2011
October 3 – Dany Heatley – 6 years/7.5; thought to be solid signing at the time (link), forced a trade to San Jose (2009) and is now in Minnesota (2011)
October 16 – Randy Robitaille – 1 year/0.625; a depth signing out of Russia, the Sens hoped he would provide some scoring depth (link), but he did not.  The following season saw him playing in Switzerland
November 2 – Jason Spezza – 7 years/7.0; I liked the contract at the time and still do

2007-08 Coaches

Murray hired John Paddock, who had been his assistant the past two years and was a long time AHL coach (with a distant and lousy NHL coaching record from his days with Winnipeg, 281-106-138-37).  Paddock got the team off to a fantastic start (15-2), but wore out his best players and the team quickly slid down the standings. Paddock was fired February 27th, after two embarrassing back-to-back shutout losses, finishing with a 36-22-6 record (he’s since struggled to get head coaching positions in the AHL).  Murray took over and the team barely made the playoffs where they were promptly swept by the Penguins.

While the Paddock hiring may have seemed like a logical step to Murray—a solid minor league resume  and his assistant—he was hardly the best coach available, so Murray deserves criticism for the hire (as he has suggested himself since).


June 20 – Ottawa waived and then bought out Ray Emery; his play was only partially the issue.  Because of his age the cost of the buyout was reasonable.  Emery had to go to the KHL to salvage his NHL career, which now seems solidified as a quality backup.

2007-08 Trades

June 23 – Ottawa’s 5th (Matt Marshall; was not signed by Tampa after four years in the NCAA), 7th (Torrie Jung; was not signed by Tampa and has spent the past two seasons in the CHL), and 7th (Justin Courtnall; finished his third unremarkable season in the NCAA) to Tampa for a 4th in 2008 (Derek Grant; completed his rookie season with Binghamton last year). The thought here was that the following year’s draft was much stronger and deeper and it appears as though Murray was right.  This is a win for Murray.
July 17, 2007 – Traded Peter Schaefer to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Shean Donovan. Muckler overpaid Schaefer, whose cumbersome contract wound up being buried in the minors and then bought out by the Bruins.  Donovan was a solid soldier for Ottawa, although there wasn’t much gas left in the tank.  This is a win for Murray.
February 11, 2008 – Traded Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves to the Carolina Hurricanes for Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman.  Corvo demanded a trade, so Murray didn’t have many options; Eaves struggled with injuries.  Commodore turned out to be a complete bust for the Sens (and subsequently for Columbus, who bought him out), but Stillman was an adequate rental.  None of the four players are still with the teams they were traded too.  Given that the trade failed to help the Sens in the playoffs this is a loss for Murray.
February 26, 2008 – Traded a sixth-round draft pick in 2008 (6-169, Ben Smith, who has 19 NHL games under his belt and is a solid prospect) to the Chicago Blackhawks for Martin LapointeLapointe was supposed to provide grit for the Sens, but his best days were long behind him and he was a disappointment.  Lapointe subsequently retired.  This is a failure on Murray’s part.

2008 Draft

Considered a good draft year (link) and the selections can be said to truly reflect Murray’s philosophy.  All the players selected have been signed except for Emil Sandin (who is now a UFA).

1-15 Erik Karlsson (SuperElit) – won the Norris Trophy this past season
2-42 Patrick Wiercioch (USHL) – lanky blueliner experienced his second straight inconsistent season in Binghamton
3-79 Zack Smith (WHL) – gritty center enjoyed his first full season as an NHL-regular
4-109 Andre Petersson (SuperElit) – skilled winger had a strong rookie year in Binghamton
4-119 Derek Grant (BCHL) – lanky center had an up and down rookie season with Binghamton
5-139 Mark Borowiecki (CJHL) – punishing blueliner enjoyed a fantastic rookie season with Binghamton
7-199 Emil Sandin (SuperElit) – smallish winger failed to be a regular player in the SEL and hasn’t been retained

2008-09 Contracts

March 25 – Jesse Winchester – 2 years/0.55; signed as a free agent out of college, Winchester didn’t produce offensively as planned, but turned into a solid grinder; he’s currently a UFA
June 21 – Chris Kelly – 4 years/2.125 million; signed prior to becoming a UFA, Kelly continued to put up his usual numbers before being traded to Boston (2011)
July 2 – Jarkko Ruutu – 3 years/1.3 million; signed after reaching the Cup final with Pittsburgh, he didn’t deliver what was expected while he was with the Sens and was eventually traded to Anaheim (2011) for a 6th round pick (Max McCormick); he’s played in Finland since
July 2 – Shean Donovan – 2 years/0.65; a cap friendly contract, but Donovan had nothing left in the tank and only played 90 games over those two seasons; he’s now retired
July 8 – Jason Smith – 2 years/2.6; a bad contract for a player who didn’t have gas left in the tank, he retired before the second year of his deal and now works for the organisation
July 31 – Antoine Vermette – 2 years/2.75 million; unable to produce enough as a top six player in Ottawa, he was traded to Columbus in the first year of his deal for Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round pick (Robin Lehner); he’s now with Phoenix
September 27 – Luke Richardson – 1 year/0.5; unable to stay in the lineup, he retired November 27th and stayed with the organisation.  He’s now Binghamton’s head coach
October 30 – Daniel Alfredsson – 4 years/4.875 million; an excellent contract that should see Alfie through to retirement

2008-09 Coaches

Murray hired Craig Hartsburg, who was coming off back-to-back World Junior wins.  Hartsburg had a good track record in junior, but his NHL record was mediocre (albeit more extensive than Paddock’s, 443-184-184-69).  Hartsburg was not a strong systems coach and the team struggled under his regime.  Finally, on February 1st, Hartsburg was fired after accumulating a 17-24-7 record (he went back to junior for two season and is now an NHL assistant coach).  Cory Clouston, enjoying a strong season in Binghamton, was brought up as the interim coach.  The team responded well under Clouston’s more structured approach and he was signed to a two-year deal.

Murray deserves criticism for the Hartsburg signing, who again was not the strongest candidate available.  The team struggled all season long and the coach was allowed to linger longer than was needed.  The Clouston hiring was much like the Paddock hiring–done without competition.

2008-09 Trades

June 20, 2008 – Traded their 1st round pick (Chet Pickard; has struggled as an ECHL goalie) and their 3rd round in 2009 (Taylor Beck; is coming off a solid rookie campaign in the AHL) for the 15th pick (Erik Karlsson). The Sens desperately needed an upgrade on their blueline, particularly on the right side; making a splash when the draft was in Ottawa likely helped the decision.  This is a huge win for Murray.
June 25, 2008 – Traded Brian McGrattan to the Phoenix Coyotes for the Boston Bruins’ fifth-round draft pick in 2009 (Jeff Costello). McGrattan’s substance abuse problems and declining effectiveness made him an asset that needed moving.  This is a win for Murray.
August 29, 2008 – Traded Andrej Meszaros to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard and San Jose’s 1st round draft pick (previously acquired) in 2009 (which was subsequently traded to the Islanders). Meszaros and the team could not come to terms on a contract, so Ottawa did well in bringing in a solid veteran and prospect.  Meszaros never did find success in Tampa, but when moved to Philadelphia responded in a supporting role.  The Sens got more out of the trade (Kuba), so I’ll give this one to Murray.
September 2, 2008 – Traded Lawrence Nycholat to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Ryan Shannon.  Nycholat demanded a trade, so Ottawa exchanged their problem for one the Canucks had (Shannon had a one-way contract the following season).  The Sens definitely won the trade, as Shannon was a solid soldier while he was with the organisation.
November 10, 2008 – Traded Alexander Nikulin to the Phoenix Coyotes for Drew FataNikulin demanded a trade and rather than simply losing the asset to the KHL Ottawa brought in an AHL veteran.  Nikulin struggled with San Antonio and returned to play in the KHL afterward.  Fata signed with Providence after his year in Binghamton, but Ottawa received more tangible value than Phoenix, so it’s a win for Murray.
February 20, 2009 – Traded Dean McAmmond and San Jose’s 1st round draft pick in 2009 (1-26, Kyle Palmieri; after two pro seasons he looks to solidify himself as a regular NHLer) to the New York Islanders in exchange for Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli. The Sens had no room for McAmmond, so took on Comrie’s onerous and expiring contract to get Campoli on a very cap friendly deal.  Comrie subsequently signed with the Oilers, while Campoli had an up and down career with the Sens before being traded himself (the acquired pick was used as part of the trade to draft Matt Puempel).  The final assessment of the trade is yet to be made, as it has boiled down to Palmieri vs Puempel.
March 4, 2009 – Traded Antoine Vermette to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round draft pick in 2009 (Robin Lehner). Vermette had flat-lined as a player in the organisation; the Sens had to choose between he and Mike Fisher, and while Vermette had more offensive prowess, Fisher was the tougher player to play against.  The trade (including the pick) was intended to solidify the Sens between the pipes.  Vermette had two good seasons with Columbus before being traded, while Leclaire completely failed as a Senator.  Lehner may make Murray a genius, but in the short term this is a loss.

2009 Draft

Considered a deep and talented draft, Ottawa had its first top-ten pick since the 2005; every non-college player has been signed.

1-9 Jared Cowen (WHL) – big blueliner enjoyed a solid rookie season in the NHL
2-39 Jakob Silfverberg (SuperElit) – two-way forward won awards and a championship in the SEL and should start in the NHL next season
2-46 Robin Lehner (SuperElit) – big goaltender suffered through a tough sophomore year in Binghamton
4-100 Chris Wideman (NCAA) – undersized blueliner finished his collegiate career and will be in Binghamton
5-130 Mike Hoffman (QMJHL) – skilled forward lead Binghamton in scoring in his sophomore year
5-146 Jeff Costello (USHL) – gritty winger had an up and down year in the NCAA
6-160 Corey Cowick (OHL) – gritty winger struggled with consistency in his sophomore year in the AHL
7-190 Brad Peltz (EJHL) – sniper played his first NCAA games; beginning to look like a bust
7-191 Michael Sdao (USHL) – tough blueliner had a great year in the NCAA and this coming season will be his senior year

2009-10 Contracts

March 4 – Filip Kuba – 3 years/3.7 million; signed after a career year with Ottawa, he’s suffered repeated injury setbacks and became a lightning rod for criticism in 2010-11; enjoyed a strong year this past season and has signed with Florida as a UFA
July 1 – Chris Neil – 4 years/2.0 million; signed after an awful year, was up and down, but was back to form this past season
July 6 – Alexei Kovalev – 2 years/5.0 million; a surprise signing at the time that failed utterly (if my memory is correct, the reaction at TSN to this was hilarious, but I can’t find the video of it); he was traded to Pittsburgh (2011) for a 7th round pick (Ryan Dzingel)
August 3 – Brian Elliott – 2 years/0.85; a cap friendly deal for a likeable player; unfortunately he lost his confidence in 2010-11 and was traded to Colorado for Craig Anderson; he rebounded with a great year in St. Louis this past season
October 20 – Matt Carkner – 2 years/0.7; a solid rookie season in the NHL was followed by diminishing returns; he signed with the Islanders as a FA
March 29 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/0.9; the highly sought-after NCAA free agent signed a deal similar to Winchester‘s in 2008; he won a Calder Cup in his first full pro season

Re-Entry Waivers

October 2 – having no room for Christoph Schubert on the roster, Murray was unable to trade the big defensemen; he was picked up by Atlanta on waivers and had a decent season with the Thrashers, but his NHL career is now apparently over (he’s now playing in Europe).

2009-10 Coaches

The first season for Murray where who was coaching was not a question; Clouston got the team into the playoffs and was generally given good grades for his performance (Puck Daddy).

2009-10 Trades

June 27 – Traded their 2010 6th round pick (6-166 Drew Czerwonka; was not signed by the Oilers) to Edmonton for their 2009 7th round pick (7-191, Michael Sdao). The Sens considered the 2010 draft to be weak and were high on Sdao, so they made the move.  This is a win even though Sdao‘s pro prospects aren’t yet clear.
July 8, 2009 – Traded Alex Auld to Dallas for San Jose’s 6th round pick (6-178 Mark Stone).  With Elliott established as an NHL player, there was no need for Auld on the roster.  Stone has proven a very valuable prospect so this is a big win.
September 4, 2009 – Traded Shawn Weller to Anaheim for Jason Bailey. A minor-league exchange of disappointing prospects; Weller was in the final year of his rookie contract, while Bailey’s continued through 2010-11.  Neither asset remains with their new organisation.
September 12, 2009 – Traded Dany Heatley and a 5th round draft pick (5-136 Isaac Macleod; he finished his sophomore year at Boston College) in 2010 to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and San Jose’s 2nd round pick (subsequently moved to the Islanders and then Chicago, 2-58 Kent Simpson; he’ll begin his pro career this upcoming season) in 2010. Heatley had demanded a trade at the end of the season and this was the best deal Murray could get for him.  Cheechoo proved to be a complete bust and was bought out.  Murray was never going to “win” the trade, particularly with a public trade demand from Heatley, but Michalek is at least a tangible asset who is signed long term.  Heatley spent two seasons in San Jose before being moved to Minnesota.
February 12, 2010 – Traded Alexandre Picard and their 2nd round pick in 2011 (subsequently moved to Edmonton, 2-46, Martin Marincin; an excellent WHLer; he’ll begin his AHL career this coming season) to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Matt Cullen. Murray paid a steep price for Cullen, who played well in the playoffs, but the team didn’t win and he wasn’t retained.  While Picard wasn’t important, giving up a 2nd round pick makes this a loss for Murray.
March 2, 2010 – Traded San Jose’s 2nd round pick (Kent Simpson) to the New York Islanders in exchange for Andy SuttonSutton never fit in with the Sens (rather like Mike Commodore two years before) and he wasn’t retained, so this is a loss for Murray.
June 25, 2010 – Ottawa traded their 1st overall pick (1-16 Vladimir Tarasenko; he’ll begin his NHL career this coming season) to St. Louis for prospect David Rundblad (1-17/09; subsequently traded to Phoenix for Kyle Turris). Sens scout Anders Forsberg was very high on Rundblad, who wound up dominating the Swedish Elite League the following season.  Assessing this trade is still three or four years away, but is likely a net loss for Murray.

2010 Draft

Considered a weak draft (link), the Senators had already traded away many of their picks so only made four selections.  Sorensen is no longer in the system while Culek and Stone are signed.

3-76 Jakub Culek (QMJHL) – defensive forward signed with the Sens after a mediocre career in the Q
4-106 Marcus Sorensen (SuperElit) – undersized energy forward was unable to secure time in the SEL; he was not signed and is now a FA
6-178 Mark Stone (WHL) – big skilled winger finished a spectacular WHL career; he’ll begin his pro career this upcoming season
7-196 Bryce Aneloski (USHL) – offensive blueliner enjoyed a solid sophomore season in the NCAA

2010-11 Contracts

July 1 – Sergei Gonchar – 3 years/5.5; considered the best available UFA blueliner, Murray won him over with term; considered a great signing at the time (link), it’s been much more controversial since
July 1 – Jesse Winchester – 2 years/0.75; there was still belief that he had untapped upside, but I thought a one-year deal would have made more sense; he’s now an unsigned UFA
July 14 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/1.05; had an awful first full season in the NHL and was subsequently bought-out
July 21 – Nick Foligno – 2 years/1.2; never did establish himself as a top-six forward, he was traded to Columbus for Marc Methot as an RFA
July 29 – Peter Regin – 2 years/1.0; after a solid rookie year and a great playoff, big things were expected; instead he struggled in his sophomore season and then was injured most of last year; was re-signed to a cap-friendly, one-year deal
March 31 – Stephane Da Costa – 2 years/1.325; the highly sought-after NCAA free agent signed a deal similar to Butler‘s in 2010; he wasn’t ready for the NHL and was inconsistent in the AHL; he was re-signed as an RFA


June 29 – Jonathan Cheechoo was bought out.  I don’t think Murray deserves much criticism here, as no one anticipated Cheechoo as being as completely finished as he has proven to be.

2010-11 Coaches

Cory Clouston was seen as an up-and-coming coach who had worked some magic to get the team into the playoffs.  Not everyone was a believer (The Hockey News), but the team entered the season with a lot of optimism (link).  Everything went wrong for Clouston.  When his goalies played well the team couldn’t score.  When the goalies didn’t play well the team still couldn’t score.  Players were disagreeing with him publically (look at November 30th link).  For a time it looked like Ottawa would be the worst team in the NHL.  With the season clearly over and a rebuild beginning, the team’s play picked up, but Clouston’s fate was sealed.  There was a lot of criticism over Clouston’s inability to communicate with players as well as his varying standards for how play effected ice time.  I believe the former trait made the latter worse.  For Clouston to get another chance in the NHL he’s going to have to find a new approach to handling NHL players (he spent last year in the WHL).

After Clouston was dismissed the Senators looked for a new coach.  Calder Cup winning Kurt Kleinendorst was among the top contenders, but Murray ultimately went with a man he knew from his days in Anaheim–Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean.  MacLean had spent eight years as Mike Babcock’s assistant, with previous head coaching experience in the IHL and UHL (winning the Colonial Cup in the latter in 2000-01).  Kleindorst had better winning pedigree (ECHL, BISL, and AHL championships to go along with his U-18 gold medal), but MacLean proved himself in his rookie campaign by leading the Sens into the playoffs and making them a tough opponent for the Rangers in the first round.

2010-11 Trades

February 10, 2011 – traded Mike Fisher to Nashville for a 1st round pick (1-21 Stefan Noesen) and a conditional 2nd round pick in 2012 (voided). The trade kicked off the rebuild.  At the time the Senators were 17-30-8 and going nowhere.  Fisher had a big contract with term left (two more years).  It will be years before the trade can be assessed.
February 16, 2011 – traded Chris Kelly to Boston for a 2nd round pick (2-61 Shane Prince). The likeable Kelly was better served on a team that was in contention and went on to help Boston win the Stanley Cup.  His contract (too much for a third-line center) and age brought about the move.  He’s re-signed with the Bruins.  As with the previous trade, this one can’t be assessed yet.
February 17, 2011 – traded Jarkko Ruutu to Anaheim for a 6th round pick (6-171 Max McCormick). Ruutu never found a comfort zone in Ottawa and getting something for the impending UFA was better than nothing (Ruutu remains out of the NHL). This is a win for Murray.
February 18, 2011 – traded Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson. The trade that gave the team hope also dashed their chances for a top-three pick.  Anderson was in the midst of a horrible funk in Colorado and needed a change in scenery, while Elliott had completely lost his confidence.  This is a win for Murray.
February 24, 2011 – traded Alexei Kovalev to Pittsburgh for a conditional 7th round pick (7-204 Ryan Dzingel). Getting something for Kovalev was an achievement for Murray and makes this a win.  Kovalev subsequently played in the KHL.
February 28, 2011 – traded Chris Campoli and a conditional pick (voided) to Chicago for Ryan Potulny and a 2nd round pick (2-48, later traded to Detroit to select Matt Puempel; Detroit selected Xavier Ouellet). Campoli was no longer in Ottawa’s plans and they picked up an AHL-asset in Potulny who would help Binghamton win the Calder Cup.  Chicago walked away from Campoli‘s arbitration award and he then signed with Montreal (he’s now a UFA).  This is a win for Murray.
June 24, 2011 – traded two 2nd round picks (their own, 2-35 Tomas Jurco, and the one acquired from Chicago, 2-48, Xavier Ouelette) for Detroit’s 1st round selection (1-24 Matt Puempel). The Sens were high on Puempel, who they considered for the 21st overall pick, so jumped at the opportunity to get him.  Time will tell on the trade.
June 25, 2011 – traded their 3rd round pick (3-67 T. J. Tynan) to Columbus for Nikita Filatov. Filatov wanted out of Columbus, but there wasn’t much interest in the NHL.  I liked the gamble, but Filatov was unable to stick in the NHL line-up and returned to Russia.  The Sens have retained his rights, but assessing the deal will depend on Tynan‘s development.


February 24, 2011 – picked up Marek Svatos from Nashville on the waiver wire.  Desperately in need of NHL bodies, Svatos didn’t achieve much before being concussed by Jay Rosehill.  There was never any intention of keeping him and he did not play last season.
February 28, 2011 – picked up Curtis McElhinney from Tampa on the waiver wire.  McElhinney allowed Robin Lehner to stay in the minors and he was decent as the season wound down.  There was never any serious consideration of keeping him and played for Portland in the AHL last year (he’s since signed a two-way deal with Columbus).

2011 Draft

The draft lacked the high-end talent of previous years, but was considered to have good depth.  Because of Ottawa’s trades they had a plethora of picks to re-stock the organisation.

1-6 Mika Zibanejad (SEL) – big forward played 9 games for the Sens before being loaned back to Djurgarden; this season he’ll play in Ottawa or Binghamton
1-21 Stefan Noesen (OHL) – power forward enjoyed a strong year in the OHL; expected to return for his final year of junior
1-24 Matt Puempel (OHL) – sniper suffered from suspension and concussion problems; expected to return for his final year of junior
2-61 Shane Prince (OHL) – undersized skilled forward has been signed by the Sens and is expected to play for Binghamton or Elmira
4-96 Jean-Gabriel Pageau (QMJHL) – undersized skilled forward is signed by the Sens and will likely be returned to junior
5-126 Fredrik Claesson (SEL) – defensive defenseman spent the year in Sweden, but is now signed and will play in Binghamton
6-156 Darren Kramer (WHL) – brawler finished his junior career and will play in Binghamton
6-171 Max McCormick (USHL) – gritty forward had a solid rookie season in the NCAA
7-186 Jordan Fransoo (WHL) – big blueliner showed improvement, but is still a long way away; he’ll play another year in junior
7-204 Ryan Dzingel (USHL) – skilled forward enjoyed a solid rookie season in the NCAA

2011-12 Contracts

March 21 – Craig Anderson – 4 years/3.1875; far too much term for my liking, but Anderson was good enough this past season
May 19 – Zack Smith – 2 years/0.7; enjoyed a strong first full season in the NHL
May 19 – Colin Greening – 3 years/0.816,667; excellent rookie season for the NCAA grad
July 1 – Alex Auld – 1 year/1.0; was even more terrible than expected; his NHL career is likely over (signed in Austria)
July 5 – Zenon Konopka – 1 year/0.7; the popular forward didn’t play much and signed with Minnesota this summer
July 6 – Erik Condra – 2 years/0.625; had a solid rookie campaign, although he suffered through a terrible dry spell in the second half
July 14 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/1.05; was awful in his first full NHL campaign and was subsequently bought out

2011-12 Trades

December 17 – Traded David Rundblad and their 2nd round pick to Phoenix (subsequently moved to Philadelphia, who picked Anthony Stolarz) for Kyle Turris.  The Sens were desperate for a second-line center and Turris was demanding out of Phoenix.  This trade has to be measured against both Rundblad and Tarasenko, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out, but it really does address an organisational need (assuming Turris develops as expected).
February 26 – Traded their 2013 2nd round pick to St. Louis for Ben Bishop.  At the time Craig Anderson was hurt and the team was desperate to add goaltending depth as Robin Lehner was having an off-season.  Time will tell on the trade, but it’s clear that Bishop will be given the opportunity to back-up Anderson this upcoming season.
February 27 – Traded Brian Lee to Tampa Bay for Matt Gilroy.  Two players who were failing in their respective organisations, given that the Lightning have re-signed Lee and Gilroy was allowed to walk, this is a loss for Murray.
July 1 – Traded Nick Foligno to Columbus for Marc MethotFoligno was an RFA and clearly the Sens were not sure that he would ever become a full time top-six forward, so they exchanged him for a defensive defenseman.  I haven’t seen Methot play enough to judge the trade, so I’m taking a wait and see attitude, but I would not have signed Foligno to the deal the Blue Jackets gave him (3 years/3.083)

2012 Draft

Thought to be a weak draft, the Sens made seven selections with no second round pick for the third year in a row; none of the prospects are expected to crack the lineup this upcoming season (for full scouting reports for each player go here).

1-15 Cody Ceci (OHL) – offensive defenseman helps fill an organisational need after the departure of Rundblad
3-76 Chris Driedger (WHL) – one of two goaltenders added to the organisation
3-82 Jarrod Maidens (OHL) – skilled forward coming off a serious concussion, as a pick he’s a swing for the fences
4-106 Timothy Boyle (USHS) – an off the radar selection who is expected to spend four years in college
5-136 Robbie Baillargeon (USHL) – a talented forward expected to spend four years in the NCAA
6-166 Francois Brassard (QMJHL) – the second goaltender taken in the draft by the Sens
7-196 Mikael Wikstrand (Allsvenskan) – defensive defenseman is expected to spend a couple of years in Sweden

2012-13 Contracts

May 4 – Peter Regin – 1 year/0.8; coming off an injury-plagued year the Sens rolled the dice on him staying healthy
June 19 – Erik Karlsson – 7 years/6.5; the Norris Trophy winner signed a cap-friendly, long-term deal with the club which serves both well so long as he can stay healthy
July 1 – Mike Lundin – 1 year/1.15; the injury-prone, offensively limited blueliner is a questionmark going into next season
July 1 – Guillaume Latendresse – 1 year/2.0; injury-prone and with conditioning issues, he’s a gamble
July 11 – Chris Neil – 3 years/1.9; a good deal for both sides
July 18 – Jim O’Brien – 2 years/0.637; a solid deal that fills out the bottom of the lineup
July 23 – Kaspars Daugavins – 1 year/0.635; similar to O’Brien‘s, but with less commitment


This summer saw the end of the road for highly touted college free agent Bobby Butler.  Despite ample opportunities he struggled badly enough that no other team would take a chance on him at his current salary.  It’s hard to criticise Murray for giving him the deal, but with all the prospects in the wings there was no room for Butler.  He joins a now lengthy list of free agents signed out of college post-lockout who have failed in the NHL (Gilroy, Hanson, Wellman, etc), making me wonder just how much talent is really hidden there.


As it stands, that is the complete record for Bryan Murray.  He has been the GM for five years during which he’s made the playoffs three times (losing in the first round each time), hired four coaches, and seen the core of the 2007 Stanley Cup final wither away.  So, by category, here’s how I assess him:

The Draft: A, excellent.  The cupboard was bare when Murray took over and now it is starting to overflow.  The 2008, 2009, and 2011 drafts were considered excellent, while 2010 is largely disappointing.  The pump is primed and the Senators should have successive waves of quality players filtering into the organisation for years to come.
Contracts: C, mediocre.  I have his score at 12-15-14 (with the third column representing either results that are yet to be determined or that were neither good nor bad).  Murray has made poor decsions with contracts for older, veteran players, although as the team rebuilds he’s stepped away from that.
Trades: B, average.  I have his score at 13-7-9 (very few are draws, most in the third column are unknowns).  Murray’s deadline deals for players in his lineup are the most frequent failures.
Coaches: D, below average.  Three failed coaches haven’t yet been made up for with one good hire.
Overall: B, average.  Murray has been improving in all categories, although I think it will be hard to repeat the achievements from this past season.

Senators News: July 25th

-Ottawa signed their last RFA today as they gave Stephane Da Costa and one-year, two-way deal (reportedly for 800k).  Tim Murray said “We just feel if he can get stronger, get used to playing with higher competition and become a more consistent player away from the puck, that he’s got a chance to play in the National Hockey League.”  It’s a good deal for both sides as Da Costa has talent and deserves another season to see where he can take it.

Mike Hoffman talked about how he sees himself in the organisation:

I think I’m right there. Once training camp comes around (in September), time will just tell. If you don’t have confidence playing hockey, you’re not going to play up to your potential. Confidence is a huge part of the game and if you have it, that helps you out that much more. You always want to get better, you always want to work on things. You’re never going to be perfect so if you can do that, you help yourself out a lot … I thought last year’s training camp was pretty good. I thought I played pretty well. Then I got a game (against Carolina) and I thought I fit in pretty good. I’ve just got to work hard (this summer) and just get bigger and stronger.

Randy Lee added:

What’s attractive about him is that he can score, he’s got a great shot, he sees the ice pretty well and he’s got really, really good speed. And he’s not afraid — he played with an edge. In his exit meeting after playing with the Black Aces, I think he made an impression on both Bryan and Paul with his real seriousness, that he’s committed to being a pro and wants to play for the Senators sooner rather than later. It was a change in his work ethic (that made the difference). Rather than thinking he was entitled to play, he realized that he had to work toward it and I think he did that. He’s shown that he’s willing to work hard and he showed with conviction that ‘I want to be a pro player and I want to help this team win.’ That made a real impression on those guys. He is willing to stick his nose in there and that’s what he’s got to do. Sometimes, you have guys with good speed who become perimeter players just because they’re able to (do that) with their speed. He’s got to learn that’s one of his threats, to go wide with speed, but other times he’s got to drive and get in the dirty areas. He can finish in tight and he’s got a great release. He’s got that flexibility to play the point on the power play, which he does on a big-time basis down (in Binghamton). He’s got a great one-timer, he moves the puck really well and he can move laterally pretty well. And he’s not a real detriment defending if he gets caught out there. He can skate well enough to defend.

Those are high words of praise.  I think the challenge for Hoffman is making a niche for himself as a third-line player, as it doesn’t look like his offensive talents are enough to make him a top-six forward.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau talked about his chances of playing in Binghamton:

That’s my goal. I want to be in Bingo and help the team win. For me, it’s my personal goal. I’m going to work hard this summer to make sure that goal is going to be achieved. Mentally, I’m ready (to make the move), but I can improve more physically. I’m going to train hard this summer, come here with Chris and make sure I’m 100 per cent ready to go. Getting more strength is going to help my shot and my explosion on the ice, so for sure gaining more strength (is a goal) and it’s what I’ll work on this summer. I’m confident in myself and who I am. I know what I can do to help the team win. There is a great example in the NHL in Danny Briere and that’s what I try to follow. He’s a great example for me … We play hockey together in a league for fun (during the summer). He gives me good tips and I try to apply them when I can. He just tells me never to give up. People will say ‘you’re too small, you’re not going to make it.’ But he said if you just keep believing in your dream and keep working hard, it’s going to happen for you one day.

Randy Lee added:

He’s just got to prove that he can make the jump. It’s a huge jump — we always say they’ve got to respect that jump to the American league — and he’s got to prove he can make that jump and sort through the competition. Other guys ahead of him on the depth chart have got that one year (of pro) experience. We’ve taught him to look at guys like Wacey Hamilton, who went from being a 20-year-old (captain of the Medicine Hat Tigers) in the Western Hockey League to being in Binghamton, where he had to pay his dues and got stuck on the fourth line quite a bit. He had to deal with that frustration and we looked at how he handled that, and it was a good reflection on Wacey‘s character. We’ve talked to Jean-Gabriel about that, that it’s a harder transition than people think. You don’t just go on the top two lines (right away) and he’s a skilled, top-two line guy. So it’s going to be an adjustment for him. He’s worked hard. He’s made the commitment to come in with Chris Schwarz every day, and to be around Mark Borowiecki and Chris Neil and all those guys who are real workhorses in the gym. So that’s going to pay huge dividends for him. You overcome the size differential with compete, and he does that. In the Quebec league, he takes a beating. What we want to see is once teams start playing tough on you and targeting you, does your game change? And if your game doesn’t change, you’ve got what we like to make that transition to the pros. I think Jean-Gabriel can compete when the going gets tough.

These are cautionary words and do nothing to persuade me that Pageau won’t be sent back to the QMJHL for another season in junior (especially with all the forwards the Sens have signed).  There’s no need to rush and turn him pro.

Bruce Garrioch engages in a lot of speculation but excluding the absurdities (like Dallas moving Brendan Morrow) he confirms the Sens have tried to trade Bobby Butler.

Varada and Scott assess the Rick Nash speculation and I’m on board with Scott’s feelings that the rumoured package Ottawa was giving up for the Blue Jacket star was ridiculous.  It’s all moot regardless, since Nash was never interested in coming north.

Stu Hackel doesn’t see the  Nash trade as completely disastrous for Columbus, but while I agree with him that the hyperbole over the deal is a little ridiculous his reasoning ultimately doesn’t change the fact that the Rangers did not give up much to get a certifiable top-line player.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: July 24th

-The Sens avoided arbitration with Kaspars Daugavins and signed him to a one-year, one-way deal (635k).  Tim Murray said:

Both sides got a number they thought was fair. We don’t have to go through the process of criticizing a player that you want in your organization and he doesn’t have to hear that or not understand the process completely. It’s good to get it done at a number that we liked and they obviously liked the one-way contract. Let’s hope he comes into camp ready to go. He has to come in like last year when he got called up. He has to be a responsible player. He has to play hard and he has to be effective on the penalty kill. If those things happen, maybe his role can grow from that situation. I think the coaches respect his game and aren’t afraid to put him on the ice certainly. Hopefully, he can grow his game from being a defensive player and a penalty killer to showing some of the skill that he has shown at every league except the NHL.

With the crowded forward group Bruce Garrioch echoes my speculation that Bobby Butler will be moved (bought out in Garrioch’s case, as Ottawa has a 48-hour window to do so).  James see’s the signing as an indication that the organisation doesn’t want the team to be full of rookies and agrees with my prediction back in May that only Jakob Silfverberg is likely to suit up with any regularity.

-We can finally say goodbye to all those absurd Rick Nash to Ottawa rumours as he was traded to the Rangers yesterday.  Howson is getting ripped for the deal, but he was never going to “win” the trade and I think he acquired more tangible assets (Anisimov, Dubinsky, Erixon, and a first-rounder) than Ottawa did in the Dany Heatley trade.  Senschirp wastes his time explaining his version of the process and why he kept bringing up the possibility of an Ottawa move, which seems pretty pointless.  Nash was never going to come to Ottawa, so whatever management did was completely irrelevant.  I’ll give Senschirp credit for admitting no one really knows what Ottawa offered–all the individuals named in the speculation seem to have come from Ottawa Sun reporters.

-Hockey stats geeks have much to comb through in The Legion of Blog‘s analysis of a Mike Gillis radio appearance.  Gillis was talking about hockey analytics and had a lot to say:

It’s different for different positions. For forwards it’s a combination of shots on net, quality of shots on net, location of shots on net versus time on ice. You know, there’s a number of stats that go into it, but one of the reasons that Moneyball was intriguing to me, was that—I taught about it at law school and talked about it a lot—was what happens when a team is forced to look at something differently. And forced to go against the grain and forced to change the rules to their benefit so they can be competitive. And the biggest thing that I got from Moneyball was not statistical analysis but it was that ability to think differently when you’re not forced to, when you want to. And when you want to create a different culture and a different environment. And the fact that they were successful that leads me to believe that you can be successful doing it without being forced to do it.
We do use advanced analytics to some measure. It’s more difficult in hockey than in baseball because baseball is a defined event. You’ve got 100 different things that go into player success. Who they play for, match ups they constantly play against. Their age. Injury history. So you’ve got lots of things that are determinant factors in hockey that can’t be properly analyzed just through analytics.In baseball you can. What we’ve done is look at things and try to design success, particularly for younger players, based on where they’re starting. And who they’re playing with and what situations they’re playing with and the number of minutes they play. And I’ve become convinced that you can really begin to enhance a young player’s ability by putting them in situations where they’re going to be able to succeed almost all the time and the only way you can do that is if you have the luxury of having a good team. If you don’t have, if you’re in a rebuilding stage or something that might not have the luxury to design those ice times the way you’d want, but here we’re fortunate, we have a good team, we can do what we want.
Well oddly enough we have looked at [passing efficiency] in soccer. And we put that in a very different context, we’ve looked at it relative to fatigue and conditioning and how you’re percentage of passing success is relative to your conditioning and the time in the game when you do it and how many minutes you’ve played. There are studies that we’ve looked at that indicate that passing percentage in soccer goes dramatically down depending on the time in the game or depending on the conditioning of the player. That’s through practice, that’s through defined, you know, not in the spontaneity of the game and so there are things from other sports that we’ve been trying to utilize as much as we can. The problem in our sport is that when you combine hitting and you combine puck battles, that takes it away from every other sport. We’re trying to define fatigue levels in those circumstances and as you know, a player usually gets hit twice when he gets hit once. He gets hit by the player and then hits the boards. How you can attribute that to success and how you attribute that to fatigue levels is instrumental in finding out when a player in the third period makes a mistake. And something happens and I think that as we’ve found, in a dynamic, competitive contact sport that fatigue levels are really a lot of the determining factor in success or failure.
You need defencemen who can handle big minutes because they’re constantly in today’s NHL being challenged, hit, challenged speed-wise in their own zone and then they have to make really good passes, outlet passes, and that’s what differentiates those great defencemen from the ones that are really good.

The blog points out that Gillis has experimented with boosting the stats of young players through offensive zone deployment. The Canucks have an unprecedented zone-start discrepancy.  It also talks about Pythagorean Expectation, a win-loss estimator based on goals for and against (which I’d never heard of), which Vancouver dominates in third periods.  It’s worth reading in full, although like the Corsi system it’s worth keeping in mind (as the blogger points out) that hockey analytics is in its infancy.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: July 22nd

Nichols shells out some cash to glance behind ESPN’s paywall to see how Grant Sonier assesses the Sens prospects:

The Sens had a breakthrough season in 2011-12, and now expectations are high for more of the same success. To that end, their prospect pool is going to be a key down the road. Cody Ceci (Ottawa-OHL), the Sens’ first-rounder from 2012, could play sooner rather than later on the blue line. However, after Jared Cowen got the call to the big club and David Rundblad was dealt away — leading to the Sens’ drop down these rankings — most of Ottawa’s prospect strength derives from the forward position. Mika Zibanejad (SWE) had a bit of a rough season after failing to crack the Sens’ roster last fall, but he’ll join top hopes Stefan Noesen (Plymouth-OHL), Matt Puempel (Kitchener-OHL) and Mark Stone (Brandon-WHL) as prospects with a legitimate chance to eventually make the Sens’ lineup. Stone actually made his debut in the first-round playoff series against the Rangers, recording an assist in his one game.

Sleeper Prospect: Max McCormick, LW, (Ohio-NCAA) (sixth round/2011) McCormick has so much character that he will look to prove everyone wrong. Underrated skills make a nice pair to go along with his coachable approach to the game.

If this is the kind of insight people pay for, save your money!  It would hard to be more generic, but Sonier echoes what was said about McCormick when he was drafted.  Sonier gives the organisation a B- ranking for the draft related to them not having a second round pick (which is an odd form of assessment).  Nichols correctly points out the Sonier doesn’t mention many of the Sens other prospects which is either an oversight on his part or he doesn’t view them as legitimate (which, in the case of Silfverberg and Lehner at least requires an explanation).

John Henkelman posts a belated review of Ottawa’s draft.  “As typical under the Bryan Murray regime there was considerable weight placed on character when making their choices with an underlying emphasis on skill.”  He offers the following analysis of the picks:
Cody CeciThe best attributes Ceci has are his ability to carry and pass the puck out of his own end, his control of the blue line from the point, and the naturally high tempo of his transition game. The size and skating ability are there as is his willingness to commit to improving.  He surmises that Ceci will be returned to junior (for actual scouting reports go here)
Chris DriedgerHe’s quiet in his movements and has a calm demeanor which gained him attention at the CHL/NHL top prospects game (actual scouting reports are via the above link)
Jarrod Maidens – When healthy he contributes with a solid two-way game along with a nice blend of skill and toughness. An excellent worker along the boards, he has good skating ability, can score effectively with his shot and can hold the puck to make a play (for actual scouting reports click the link above)
Timothy Boyle –  exceptional puck-moving ability, particularly along the blue line (for actual scouting reports click the link above)
Robbie Baillargeon –   slick playmaker and good skater with great hockey sense, his ability to create offense either through finesse or power is his top attribute (for actual scouting reports click the link above)
Francois Brassardarmed with a competitive nature and good butterfly technique (for actual scouting reports click the link above)
Mikael Wikstrandplays a smart, steady game with good skating ability and decent puck skills, although his upside may be limited (for an actual scouting report here is the link again)

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: July 20th

-Here are the Capgeek numbers for Jim O’Brien (637.5k) and Eric Gryba (562k).

Nichols jumps into the Corsi pool to see if Kyle Turris will become the second line center the Sens have long needed.  The numbers are interesting, but I’m not sure how much a half-season illustrates.  What it does illustrate is how much the team needs Daniel Alfredsson back.

Stefan Noesen talked about his approach going into training camp:

I think I’m ready to take that step. I’ve had a good summer so far training wise. The main thing they wanted me to do was get stronger and I think I have so far. Skating wise, I feel like I’m getting better and better each day I go on the ice. I was very angry [about the world junior snub]. It really fired me up and basically made me want to prove them wrong. That’s what I tried to do (the rest of the season) … I wanted to show that my kind of style can put the puck in the net, can make plays and can do all the things they don’t think I can do, I guess you could say. It was their choice, their decision … I respect it and all, but I just wish I could have been there to help the team. I don’t see [training camp] it as pressure, I see it as an opportunity. I thrive on pressure as well, so if that’s considered pressure, that’s a good kind of pressure … There is pressure to make the team but at the same time, if I don’t, I can go back to Plymouth and put up numbers this year and help our team win.

-This is off topic, but what is going on in Nashville?  I have to think the financial situation there is worse than is generally known.  There has been an exodus of players this off-season:
Ryan Suter, UFA, Minnesota
Jordan Tootoo, UFA, Detroit
Francois Bouillon, UFA, Montreal
Jack Hillen, UFA, Washington
Shea Weber, RFA, offer sheet by Philadelphia
Anders Lindback, RFA, traded to Tampa Bay
Alexander Radulov, RFA, Moscow (KHL)
Other important players have yet to be signed (the Kostitsyn brothers and Jonathan Blum), the team is at the bottom of the salary barrel and doesn’t have anything close to a true NHL lineup.   Stu Hackel has a good breakdown of the Weber situation and what it means for the Predators (I do not expect them to match Philadelphia’s offer).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

An Eye on European Leagues (summer redux)

I wrote about European leagues back in January and March with an eye on potential signings (prospects and veterans).  I thought I’d revisit the article.  Of those listed only one (Damien Brunner with Detroit) has signed a North American deal, but the 11 players who appear in green have moved to different leagues or higher levels of competition.  Besides Brunner very few free agents were signed out of Europe this off-season (Roman Cervenka with Calgary and Viktor Fasth with Anaheim are the only other ones who are definitely going to play in the NHL, other older players–like Christopher Nihlstop in Dallas, Harri Pesonen in New Jersey, Daniel Bang in Nashville–have no such assurances).

The SEL and Allsvenskan:

Richard Gynge, RW, AIK, 36-28-16-44 (undrafted 24-year old; 6th in league scoring) – signed with Dynamo Moscow (KHL)
John Norman, LW, Djurgarden, 55-4-13-17 (21-year old; #174 CSE 2009) – signed with Karpat (SM-Liiga)
Niclas Burstrom, D, Skelleftea, 51-6-6-12 (20-year old undersized blueliner; #153 CSE 2009) – remains with Skelleftea
Nils Andersson, D, Vaxjo, 45-1-7-8 (20-year old defenseman; #72 CSE 2010) – signed with Djurgarden (Allsvenskan)
Oscar Fantenberg, D, HV71, 37-3-4-7 (20-year old defenseman) – remains with HV71
Frederik Styrman, D, Skelleftea, 19-1-3-4 (20-year old undersized blueliner; #46 CSE 2009) – remains with Skelleftea
Adam Pettersson, C/RW, Sundsvall (Allsvenskan), 52-10-19-29 (20-year old; #9 CSE 2010) – remains Skelleftea property
Alexander Hilmerson, C/RW, Mora (Allsvenskan), 52-18-11-29 (21-year old) – remains with Mora
Victor Backman, LW/RW, Boras (Allsvenskan), 44-10-16-26 (20-year old; #39 CSE 2011) – remains Frolunda property
Jesper B. Jensen, D, Rogle (Allsvenskan), 50-6-13-19 (20-year old; #84 CSE 2010) – remains with Rogle (now promoted to the SEL)

The Finnish league (SM-Liiga) and Mestis:

Sakari Salminen, RW/LW, KalPa, 53-23-23-46 (undrafted 23-year old) – remains with KalPa
Jesse Mankinen, LW/RW, SaiPa, 58-16-13-29 (20-year old undersized winger; #182 CSE 2009) – remains with SaiPa
Julius Junttila, LW/RW, Karpat, 56-13-15-28 (20-year old undersized winger; #41 CSE 2010) – remains with Karpat
Charles Bertrand, LW, Lukko, 54-11-11-22 (20-year old; #104 CSE 2010) – remains with Lukko
Juha-Pekka Pietila, D, Pelicans, 17-0-6-6 (20-year old blueliner with good size) – remains with the Pelicans
Olavi Vauhkonen, RW, Jokipojat (Mestis), 42-24-11-35 (big 22-year old; #159 CSE 2008) – signed with SaiPa (SM-Liiga)
Toni Jalo, C/LW, TuTo (Mestis), 45-5-30-35 (22-year old) – signed with Sport (also in Mestis)
Samuli Virkkunen, C/RW, Sport (Mestis), 41-10-21-31 (21-year old) – signed with Assat (SM-Liiga)

The Swiss league (NLA) and the NLB:

Damien Brunner, RW, Zug, 4525-35-60 (25-year old was never drafted; 1st in league scoring) – signed with Detroit (NHL)
Simon Moser, LW/RW, Langnau, 50-18-16-34 (22-year old; #154 CSE 2009) – remains with Langnau
Ronalds Kenins, LW, ZSC, 47-6-12-18 (20-year old) – remains with ZSC
Anthony Huguenin, D, Biel, 50-0-15-15 (20-year old undersized blueliner) – remains Biel
Jeremie Kamerzin, D, Lausanne (NLB), 44-12-25-37 (23-year old blueliner) – remains with Lausanne
Marco Pedretti, C/LW, Ajoie (NLB), 39-12-22-34 (20-year old) – remains in Ambri-Piotta organisation

The German league (DEL):

Daniel Pietta, LW, Krefeld, 52-17-30-47 (undrafted 25-year old, 10th in league scoring) – remains with Krefeld
David Wolf, LW, Hamburg, 46-12-23-35 (big undrafted 22-year old) – remains with Hamburg
Laurin Braun, RW, Eisbaren, 47-9-14-23 (20-year old undersized forward; #109 CSE 2009) – remains with Eisbaren

The Czech league (Extraliga):

Jan Kovar, LW/C, HC Plzen, 52-18-33-51 (undrafted 21-year old, 7th in league scoring) – remains with HC Plzen

The Austrian league (Erste Bank Liga):

John Hughes, C, Olimpija, 50-21-47-68 (undrafted 24-year old, 1st in league scoring) – signed with Villacher (EBL)
Istvan Sofron, RW, Szekesfehervar, 50-31-21-52 (undrafted 23-year old, 6th in league scoring) – signed with HC Lev Praha (KHL), but was released

The Slovakian league (Extraliga):

Martin Bakos, LW, Bratislava, 53-13-22-35 (21-year old; #148 CSE 2008) – remains with Bratislava
Michael Vandas, C, SKP, 36-10-23-33 (20-year old) – currently unsigned
Andrej Stastny, C, Trencin, 50-11-18-29 (big 20-year old; #42 CSE 2009) – Trencin is now in the KHL

The Danish (AL-Bank Ligaen) and Norwegian (Get Ligaen) leagues:

Fredrik Killi Csisar, C, Valerenga, 44-16-35-51 (21-year old) – signed with Neman Grodno (Belarus)
Mats Rosseli Olsen, LW, Valerenga, 35-17-30-47 (20-year old) – signed with Frolunda (SEL)
Andreas Martinsen, C/RW, Lillehammer, 45-17-26-43 (21-year old) – signed with Dusseldorf (DEL)

The KHL:

Vadim Shipachyov, C, Severstal, 54-22-37-59 (undrafted 24-year old, 3rd in league scoring) – remains with Severstal

Senators News: July 18th

-The Sens re-signed Jim O’Brien to a two-year, one-way contract and also re-signed Eric Gryba to a two-year, two-way contract.  Both signings were expected, although I think the Sens did well to lock both up for two years.  Tim Murray talked about Gryba:

He made big strides last year. I thought last year, the second half of the year, on some nights he was our best defenseman in Binghamton. A huge improvement over his rookie season, so we just expect him to get better and better. I think the two years gives us an opportunity to work with him some more. I believe he can come to training camp and compete for a job at the National League level. If he doesn’t make it right out of camp, we expect him to go to Binghamton and be a leader, play hard and at least be a depth guy until he achieves his goal of becoming a full-time National League player. He hope he translates into being a big, shut-down defenseman who’s hard to play against. That’s the type of style that he is playing in Binghamton. He’s got decent skills with the puck, but I think his role will be hard to play against … I think if he’s going to have success at the NHL level, that’s the style he’s going to have to play. And that’s the style we want him to play. That’s the style that he showed us in the second half last year that he can play.

And then O’Brien:

Well, very pleased to get Jimmy signed. His agent and I had a lot of talks, and they were willing to work with us to get the one-way contract, so I think we got a deal done that suits us from a money point of view, gives him two years more in the organization, gives him a little bit of stability in that he got a one-way and gives us money that we like for our young NHL players to have — so a good contract on both sides. Jimmy made huge strides last summer, came in and battled for a job in training camp but wasn’t quite there. But again, he shows our young guys, the rest of our young guys in the organization, that if you work hard and you’re a good citizen and do what we ask you to do in Binghamton, then we certainly will call you up and give you a chance. That’s what happened to Jimmy last year, and when he got up here, he showed he belonged here. He plays a bottom six role, good faceoff guy, very good penalty killer, very good speed up and down the ice and works hard — very good work ethic. So he does have an offensive game. It’s not there yet at the National Hockey League level. But we think that that, with this new contract, gives him the next two years to refine his offensive game and still do the things that our coaching staff likes about him, and that’s do the little things right and check and win draws and very good on the PK. I think, yeah, that helped him, obviously, the championship run. He was an important guy in that run at different times, so learning how to win is never a bad thing. I think the big thing with him was getting stronger. He was a long, even skinny kid if not lean, that you knew would take more time to put on muscle and put on bulk. It has taken time, so it’s just an example of, some guys are ready right out of the draft, some guys need a year or so, and some guys need a little longer. And there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. But he shows that if you stick to it and work hard, and you get the right direction, you do have a chance. He certainly has put in the time, and hopefully the improvement just continues to go on

Murray is spot in describing both players.  I don’t think O’Brien has enough skill to move out of a fourth-line position, but he’s a useful player for the Sens.  Gryba likely tops out as a six or seventh defenseman assuming he can maintain a consistent level of play.

Red Line Report‘s issue wrapping up the draft is out and offers reasons why some highly touted players were not selected, with both Anton Slepyshev and Alexei Bereglazov declaring their disinterest in coming to North American in the near future, while Dane Fox apparently has well-documented off-ice issues that scared NHL clubs away.  The issue only discussed the top-eleven teams in terms of a successful draft and Ottawa did not make the list (none of their players appear in the best or worst value pick list either).  I have to infer that they thought it was an average draft for the Sens.

Senators News: July 17th

-The Sens have signed Nathan Lawson to serve as the backup in Binghamton.  He was in Hamilton last season.  Tim Murray said:

Well, he’s a depth guy for us right now, but we know he can certainly start at the American Hockey League level. He’s put up good numbers there in the past, so he’s at least that. He’s played games in the National Hockey League. We’ve had guys in the past here who have come up in a pinch — like Robin has in the past, like Mike Brodeur has in the past — so we feel that this kid could, with a couple injuries or if we were stuck, he could come up here and help us not to lose games. That’s what we’re looking for. But the main point right now is, he could, we think he’s a real good American League goalie and could certainly start at that level if need be.

-Murray indicated the Sens are essentially done signing players for Binghamton:

Yeah, it looks like we’re done. We’ve got lots of bodies. I hope we have a lot of quality. We certainly have a lot of quantity right now. I think to just cap it all off, a fifth goaltender that can start in the East Coast League, and again, add depth and come up in the American Hockey League and play well if need be, so that will get done shortly, I’m sure.

-Sens goaltending coach Rick Wamsley was on The Team 1200 this morning and talked about Robin Lehner:

Obviously winning the Calder Cup was a good experience, and you learn that you can play championship-type hockey and give championship-type goaltending. I think young kids have a problem with different types of hangovers, and I thought Robin went through a hangover last year. He didn’t come into camp in the best of shape, didn’t come in with the best of attitudes, and I thought his play was very reflective of that. Robin has, during the two years I’ve been with him, has had tremendous short-term success where you see glimpses of what this guy can do, what he can be with the way he’s played in short periods. What he needs to do is just continue to even out the ride a little bit. Right now, it’s just too much of a roller coaster, where the highs are really high and the lows are too low. If he can even out that ride, I think he has a real good chance of being what we think he can be, and that’s a quality No. 1 guy.

The comments reflect Lehner‘s performance and I wonder how much his attitude was due to the Sens having Alex Auld (of all people) beat him out as a back-up in the NHL.  By all accounts Lehner was in much better shape at this year’s development camp and I suspect the idea of being able to compete with Ben Bishop means he’ll carry that through to training camp.  The question for me is what will happen when he loses out to Bishop‘s one-way deal?

-Here’s my profile of Nathan Lawson.

Rob Brodie has an article on NCAA free agent signee Cole Schneider.  Tim Murray said

We saw him night after night at UConn and he was the best player there. We just like his skill set and we think he brings an offensive dimension to our team down the road … We had our guys identify him early in the year and we followed up on him a couple of times in the last couple of months (of his season). We watched him play a lot and we just liked what we saw.

Schneider said:

My agent said that the staff around here was really good and thought this was the best fit for me. I’m more of an offensive player. But when I got there, I didn’t want to not play defence. So I kind of played a lot more defensively when I got up to Binghamton. It [the AHL] was a lot different, a lot faster, a lot stronger I guess. It’s not that I can’t handle it, but you’ve just got to get used to (the pace). They just said they wanted me to work on my skating and become a better skater.

He is one of many Sens prospects (like Mark Stone) who have been added to the organisation despite footspeed problems.

Nichols joins the chorus of those who think (like me) that the idea that the Sens aren’t tough enough is ridiculous (or “horseshit”, as he says).

It’s not like any of these Northeast Division teams are without their flaws. The Habs were one of the worst teams in the league last season. The Buffalo Sabres are so weak down the middle that their first line center is… Steve Ott. And perhaps most importantly, Senators killer Tim Thomas has hung the Bruins out to dry. At the very least, blaming Ottawa for a perceived lack of toughness is a discredit to the assembled talent that projected to be on the NHL roster. With names like Neil, Greening, Smith, Cowen and Borowiecki filling out the ranks, it’s not like the roster is without a number of candidates who should be more than willing to chuck knuckles in the event that liberties are taken against one of the team’s more talented offensive players. Of course, having some tough role players means nothing unless the team’s best players are willing to pay the price, stick up for their teammates, engage the opposition or go to the high traffic areas. I suppose as the offseason buzz created by Andre Benoit’s signing continues to diminish with each day, there needs to be some kind of narrative to distract fans and maintain some level of hockey discussion in this city. Like a Mike Fisher wrister, whining about a lack of toughness however, misses the mark.

Everything here is spot on.  The argument that the Sens aren’t tough enough is absurd, but perhaps it just gives beat writers something to talk about.

-The boys at Welcome to Your Karlsson Years wrote a farewell for Nick Foligno, but what I enjoyed about it was the deconstruction of inept Columbus GM Scott Howson.  Read and enjoy:

It all starts at the top for Columbus, with General Manager Scott Howson. Here’s a pretty thorough summary – it ain’t pretty. There seem to be a few commonalities: total lack of prospect development; disjointed philosophies between coaching and drafting; allowing critical decisions to linger for far too long, like the firing of coach Scott Arniel; taking what spending leverage was afforded by ownership and blowing far too much of it on terrible free agent acquisitions like Mike Commodore, Kristian Huselius, and maybe Wisniewski (if it’s not too soon to judge there); he outs Rick Nash’s trade request, throwing him under the bus, and then doesn’t trade him for months; he goes on radio shows and makes his demands for Nash public. Not to mention that his demands for Nash – some NHL ready forwards – are also terribly stupid. Why make a lateral move? What’s lateral to last place? Most baffling of all is the firing of the entire scouting staff just days after the 2012 draft. In doing a little bit of reading about that move, I discovered that this same staff had been in place since 2001! That’s insane. A team that has drafted in the top ten every single year of its existence except one, and has only made the playoffs that one year, should probably have looked at swapping out some staff a little bit sooner. I’m not even close to being current on this, but it bears saying again: if you have no faith in these scouts, why allow them to run not only your draft, but one of the most important drafts in the franchise history, one in which you’re launching your rebuild?