Senators News: September 30th

-It has been a weird day as the Sens make their final roster cut by sending Mika Zibanejad down to Binghamton; it’s impossible to not see this as a financial move given Melnyk’s comments that the team was already over budget yesterday.  While the much cheaper Jean-Gabriel Pageau outplayed Zibanejad in the pre-season, that’s not the case for Stephane Da Costa (or the bench-warming weight of Matt Kassian).  It’s transparent enough that even Ken Warren figured it out.  I agree with Travis Yost that the demotion will only be temporary; as he says:

he team has to figure out what they want to do with Da Costa

That does seem to be the crux of the move.  I imagine Da Costa will have a short (5-10 game) stay with the team after which he’ll either be moved or sent down to Binghamton.  Looking at the move from the team’s perspective it’s not going to help Ottawa–Zibanejad is just too good a player to not suit up.

-I did not see either of the Sens split squad games against the Islanders yesterday, but Ottawa dropped both (5-2 in Barrie and 4-1 in Ottawa).  Both Pageau and Cory Conacher scored in seeking the coveted Brandon Bochenski trophy; I think the latter scored more, but honestly I’m not sure.

Varada worries about pre-season statistics and how they impact the regular season.  There used to be a bevy of articles each year that looked at how team performances compared them to the regular season, but those seem out of fashion these days.  To ease Varada’s mind I’ll give him someone else who netted himself a Bochenski trophy for the purpose of comparison: Mariusz Czerkawski (yes, the same guy who scored back-to-back 30 goal seasons on awful Islander teams) had a dynamite pre-season with Montreal in 2002, but wound up with Hamilton after a dismal half-season in the NHL.  Czerkawski was a decent enough NHL-player (unlike Bochenski), but the point is that production in the pre-season is largely irrelevant to the actual season.  Players aren’t facing full NHL rosters, consistent NHL goaltending, or veterans giving their full effort–it’s just not good grounds for comparison.

The Silver Seven staff make trade-bait predictions and the only names that come up consistently are Zack Smith and Joe Corvo–at least with the latter I imagine there will be calls to move him throughout the season.

-Former Sens prospect Emil Sandin was released by Almtuna (his Allsvenskan) team–apparently by mutual consent.

-I updated my Eye on Europe article from March (looking at the undrafted free agent pool in Europe)–a couple of players have been signed from the list.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


Senators News: September 29th

-Today’s split squad game expected lineups are out.  Ottawa: Bobby Ryan, Milan Michalek, Shane Prince, Erik Condra, Stephane Da Costa, Curtis Lazar, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Danny Hobbs, Corey Cowick, David Dziurzynski, Mike Hoffman, Mika Zibanejad; Marc Methot, Erik Karlsson, Chris Phillips, Cody Ceci, Michael Sdao, Eric Gryba; Craig Anderson, Nathan Lawson.  Barrie: Kyle Turris, Colin Greening, Zack Smith, Clarke MacArthur, Jim O’Brien, Chris Neil, Matt Puempel, Matt Kassian, Buddy Robinson, Derek Grant, Mark Stone, Cory Conacher; Jared Cowen, Chris Wideman, Patrick Wiercioch, Ben Blood, Mark Borowiecki, Joe Corvo; Robin Lehner, Andrew Hammond.  Amusing (to me) is the absence of Jakub Culek, who even in these circumstances can’t get a game.

-The waiver process continues as the Sens put Mike Hoffman and David Dziurzynski on the wire yesterday for the purpose of getting them to Binghamton (I expect both to make it through).  The move puts the final nail in the coffin of speculation that Hoffman might land a spot on the Sens roster (something Jeremy Milks at last accepts along with the obvious conclusion that Cory Conacher is going to make the team).

Paul MacLean made an interesting comment about Stephane Da Costa:

We believe now he can play in the NHL at any position, whether it’s a top-six role or bottom six. We’ve asked him to have a better fitness level, a better competition level, and play better defensively. And he’s done all those things. And if people are doing things that you ask them to do, I think you have to acknowledge that and then give them the opportunity. He’s made those things and he’s making it difficult for us to make decisions, which is what we like. He’d be one of (camp’s surprises). For Stephane, it was good to see he took direction and brought it, but we knew he’d come in and be ready to compete for a job. So it didn’t surprise me, no.

MacLean also offered comments on other players:

For me, I had never seen Mike Sdao play, I’d never seen Buddy Robinson play. Those guys to me, we were excited to see them play, and they were surprises because you didn’t know what they were.

The implication is that the coach was happy with both players.  Don Brennan (whose article I’m quoting) implicitly links Jason Spezza‘s groin injury with Da Costa‘s presence, but that seems to be his inference as opposed to some insider knowledge via the team.  Is there a long-term plan to keep Da Costa with the Sens?  I have my doubts–without a trade the roster will be bursting.

Amelia L ponders the expectations for Craig Anderson and concludes he only needs to be good this season for the Sens to do well because of their roster improvements (she points out that Anderson‘s career numbers over a full season of play have been around the league average).

Jared Crozier explores the possibilities for Jim O’Brien now that he’s cleared waivers, but I have to agree with his colleague Jeff Ulmer that the obvious solution (Binghamton) is the only one for now.  The Sens would love to move him anywhere else, but there aren’t any dance partners for JOB.

Allan Muir looks at the Atlantic Division and offers these thoughts on Ottawa:

The abrupt departure of Daniel Alfredsson and bold acquisition of Bobby Ryan won’t define Ottawa’s season. The ability to stay healthy will. The Sens were decimated by injuries in 2013, as Jason Spezza (50 games), Erik Karlsson (31) and Milan Michalek (25) each spent lengthy stretches on the shelf,  leaving a shell of an offense that struggled to find the net. Fully loaded this time around with the addition of Ryan, the four-time 30-goal scorer from Anaheim, the feisty MacArthur on the second line, and some gritty, tenacious  kids in depth roles, Ottawa won’t finish 27th overall in goals-per-game again. The trick for the Sens will be to replicate their defensive success. They finished second in the league in goals-against last season, primarily on the strength of their goaltending. Craig Anderson, who missed 18 games himself, was brilliant, posting a 1.69 GAA and .941 save percentage. Given his career averages, those will be hard numbers to match, but if he falters, the 22-year-old Robin Lehner ranks as one of the game’s top backups. There’s some mixing and matching to do on the back end, especially as the Sens try to account for the loss of Sergei Gonchar on the power play, but coach Paul MacLean has  pieces to work with. After seeing what he did last season with much, much less, the Sens are a legitimate threat to capture the East.

Luke Richardson did a Q&A with Matt Weinstein and here are a few of his comments:

The most important is to pass on the wealth of experience in 20-plus years of pro hockey. I like to be approachable to players, make them comfortable to come to me with problems. Share things they’re feeling and help them with their journey. The Xs and Os just fall into place. More importantly, it’s about communication. Sometimes the players feel like just a number, so you try and relate on a personable level. I believe in myself and our whole coaching staff. Steve Stirling is a wealth of knowledge, and we also brought in a new video coach, Tim Marks. He’s a smart guy, played in the AHL and worked at Princeton. I really am happy and confident in my staff, and we will be supplied with a great number of prospects again. I think I’m always learning. I want to push the guys hard so they learn to push themselves. Try to empower them to control the locker room. It’s a bit of a teacher’s mentality but I want the players to feel like they are in control of their own destiny. I always have advice, but really I want to empower them and make them feel confident.

That’s one of the biggest things you have to deal with [players who think they should be in the NHL]. I think for me, I try to take pride in being honest. Sometimes those conversations are tough and you try to help the players through that. I’ve seen young players go through it. You just pass on that support. Help them and ask them what I can do to help them to get through this tough part and play great hockey. That’s my approach — just try to help the individual player in about 20 different ways. Everybody is treated and talked to the same, and relationships now have expanded since we see these guys practically all year. Our goal is to help them to get what they want to achieve.

The most rewarding thing is to tell a player he’s going to the NHL. To take it one step further, not only watch guys go up but then to have success when they do go up. Jean-Gabriel Pageau is a great example of that. He was a guy who worked hard since AHL training camp, got an opportunity with Ottawa toward the end of the year and contributed at the end of the regular season and in the playoffs, even getting a hat trick. We were high-fiving each other after watching his success. The players we had last year was a special group to me — what they sacrificed for their teammates. I’ll never forget that first team, even though it was like two teams with all the injuries. To see those players go up and do well, that is the key for me.

These sentiments here aren’t necessarily new, but surely Richardson’s approach makes him a popular coach for the players.

Eugene Melnyk continues to flap his gums and Nichols provides a transcript along with his thoughts on it.  As is typically the case when Melnyk opens his mouth, Nichols has a hard time making sense of what he’s saying:

The Senators are already over budget on the money allocated for paying player salaries? To put this in perspective, the team has the 28th lowest salary cap payroll and the 27th lowest real money being spent. Although they’re not a cap floor team per se (note: the salary floor is set at $44 million), relative to their peers, they are definitely on the low-end of the scale. Whether it’s been management or the owner, the organization has repeatedly said that it can spend and add to payroll if it sees fit. However, what are they going to say otherwise? Every time Melnyk opens his mouth, it turns into a mild PR disaster and it’s not like the organization is going to send a message to its fan base that it’s unwilling to spend the money necessary to build this once-rebuilding franchise into a contender.

I agree with Nichols that:

As justified as Melnyk’s vitriol towards City Council’s decision to single source the casino bidding process has been, I reserve some skepticism whether the Senators owner would reinvest the revenue generated by a casino back into his hockey team’s payroll. The greatest fear in all of this is isn’t that the Senators aren’t financially viable and are destined to move. They simply won’t. Moving the team won’t happen because Gary Bettman won’t let it happen.

And I agree with this:

At the time that Hockey Central broke news that Melnyk was looking at possibly selling some stake of team and Bruce Garrioch reiterated to Hockey Central’s panel that Melnyk told him that ‘He’s not that kind of guy (to take on a partner).’ So far, everything that Hockey Central said back in October of 2012 has checked out, so why should we believe Melnyk when he says that no one has shown interest in coming on board as a minority owner now? Even at the time, Melnyk may have been the last one standing but he was far from the only one who showed interest. He may continue to try and build up equity in the fan base by portraying himself as the white knight who saved the franchise, but we can’t pretend like he was the only one who was interested. Nelson Peltz, described as a notorious tire-kicker by Elliotte Friedman, was another prospective buyer. Having attended a Senators game during the preliminary process, Bettman said of Peltz at the time, “This doesn’t mean anything is imminent and I really don’t want you to think something is going to happen just because he’s here. He’s taking a look at (the Senators), but he’s not the only one.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: September 27th

-The Sens and Habs played back-to-back games, with the home team playing a largely NHL lineup and the away team going with younger players.  Not surprisingly, Ottawa steamrolled Montreal 5-2 last night in a sloppy game.  Andrew Hammond earned the win and all the Sens goals came from high profile players.  There isn’t a lot to take away from the game (although Karlsson was very lucky not to get hurt from a knee-on-knee from Tinordi; Travis Yost continues to love the pre-season).  In last night’s game the Habs came away with a 3-1 win, dominating after the first period. Conacher continued his push for the Brandon Bochenski trophy, Cody Ceci continued to struggle defensively, and neither Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman (players supposedly auditioning for the top-six) didn’t stand out (granted Stone was better than Hoffman).  I have liked Buddy Robinson‘s play throughout the pre-season, but there isn’t (as yet) production to back it up.  Paul MacLean said:

We didn’t get the win but I thought we got a lot of pretty good results. I thought we played pretty hard as a team for 60 minutes and we had an opportunity to win the game. We didn’t win, but I thought a lot of players gave a very good account of themselves.

Amelia L offers some thoughts on the Sens and here are my thoughts on some of them:
1. Gryba is ahead of Corvo on the depth chart – even without Gryba playing I agree with this; I have no idea why the Sens brought Corvo back
2. Jim O’Brien has been given a lot of opportunities because he was a first round pick – agreed
4. The Sens will always have an enforcer on the roster because of the tendencies of the Murray’s – I disagree (the team had to go get Kassian, which means they didn’t think they needed a player like that beforehand); I think it’s all based on NHL trends

-Ottawa placed Jim O’Brien, Corey Cowick, Tyler Eckford, and Nathan Lawson on waivers.  The latter three are clearly intended to play in Binghamton, while in the case of O’Brien (whom Scott reminisces about) it was likely hoped that another team would take him, but that did not happen.  Binghamton’s crowded forward group is even more so now.

Allan Muir includes the Sens among the six teams that are keeping an eye on their Stanley Cup window, writing:

The surest sign that the Senators are on the right path is the recognition that they won’t catch anybody by surprise this time around. Last season played out like a feel-good movie. They were a projected cellar dweller struck by a litany of injuries that should have left them battling the Avalanche for the top spot in the draft. But instead of folding, the Sens banded together under Adams Award-winning coach Paul MacLean to earn a playoff spot, relying on the sort of all-hands-on-deck mentality that will serve them well as they learn to play as contenders. The loss of captain Daniel Alfredsson to Detroit will be felt more by the fans than the team, which should end up being stronger up front with the addition of steady sniper Bobby Ryan and the maturing of promising youngsters like J-G Pageau and Mika Zibanejad. And with a back end led by a healthy Erik Karlsson and all-world stopper Craig Anderson, they’ll hold the fort as well as anyone. There’s always the chance that the Sens will fail to match last season’s success, or maybe even take a step back. That happens sometimes to teams on their way. But it’ll be just a bump in the road, a temporary setback. Ottawa is on the verge of something big.

He writes in another article that he expects Bobby Ryan to have a great year offensively:

While four 30-goal seasons disqualify him as a classic breakthrough player, Ryan is on the verge of a special season in Ottawa. Always cast as a complementary scorer while with the Ducks, he’ll be the primary finisher with the Sens, and with premier playmakers like Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson putting it on the tee for him, Ryan should top his previous career bests of 35 goals and 71 points. To get there, though, he’ll have to do significantly more damage on the power play, where he had just 10 goals in his last 210 games with Anaheim. It should help that he’ll be a fixture on the top unit in Ottawa after being used primarily in the second grouping with the Ducks.

He also includes Patrick Wiercioch in his 12-man list:

Sergei Gonchar took his talents to Dallas, leaving an opening on what should be a lethal power play in Ottawa. Wiercioch, a 6′-5″, 210-pound beast of a defender, seems likely to inherit the enviable position as Erik Karlsson’s partner with the extra man. It’ll require some adjustment — he’d have to switch to the right side after playing on the left all his life — but he has the tools to make it work. “He can really bring it from the point,” our scout said. “Just a great shot. He’ll give that unit a whole different look.”

Mark Parisi re-visits The Silver Seven‘s predictions from last year.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: September 25th

-Here is the projected lineup for the Sens tonight: Michalek-Da Costa-Ryan; MacArthur-Turris-Conacher; Greening-Zibanejad-Condra; Kassian-Pageau-Neil; Methot-Karlsson; Phillips-Corvo; Claesson-Wiercioch; Nathan Lawson will play the full game.  As others have pointed out, this is very close to a full NHL lineup (although part of me cringes with the defensive abilities of a Phillips-Corvo pairing).

-Last night the Sens beat the Leafs 3-2 in a game heavily populated with Binghamton players.  The quality of play was sloppy, but the game was entertaining and Ottawa dominated.  Performances were good in general with the exceptions of Cody Ceci and Joe Corvo who struggled defensively.  Patrick Wiercioch continued his strong pre-season, Jared Cowen was rusty in his debut, Jim O’Brien tried to buff his trade appeal, Corey Cowick had a good night, and Stephane Da Costa and Andre Petersson continue to generate a lot of scoring chances.  Here’s the boxscore (Travis Yost also looks at the game, focussing on Da Costa‘s future).  Paul MacLean said afterwards:

They are making it hard. That’s great to see — the competition level of the camp has been very good and it increases every day. I thought there were a lot of guys that had very good games.

Wayne Scanlan says roleplayers Chris Neil and Zack Smith will increase in value down the road (in the season), writing:

Wait till the fur flies on the regular season, and see if these two physical forwards don’t find themselves playing valuable minutes for the Senators once again.

Wayne points out both played more last season than previously, but doesn’t associate it with injury problems.  Did the players thrive with their increased role?  No thought is given to it.  It’s not a sophisticated piece by Scanlan and while it touches on an interesting question he doesn’t even try to answer it.

Nichols takes a look at the ESPN team rankings that got the organisation and media in such a buzz and thinks that what ESPN was assessing is poorly understood:

The rankings aren’t necessarily a blanket assessment that examines the best or most successful franchises in sports; instead they combine fan perspectives with an objective measure of how well teams turn dollars into wins. The problem is that in essence, these ESPN rankings reward cost-efficient franchises that provide their fan base with relatively affordable entertainment and a winning product. In fact, ESPN indicated that of the fans they polled, “affordability was about 40 percent more important than stadium experience, for example, our formula reflects that.”

I understand Nichols’ point here, but I don’t like how he’s framed it.  A better question (in general) is what makes a franchise successful, but that’s not the question ESPN was trying to answer and this is what Nichols is pointing out.  This doesn’t detract from the fact that the Sens have offered a positive experience (as defined by the criteria) for fans for the last couple of seasons.  At any rate, Nichols ploughs into details ESPN did not consider while compiling their list:

It’s all fine and good to brag about high attendance figures but without knowing what percentage of the seats are comp’d or how Ottawa’s gate revenue is relative to the rest of its peers, it’s difficult to take these rankings seriously. Moreover, affordability is a relative thing as well. In a city like Ottawa that doesn’t enjoy the corporate support that larger cities receive, a higher percentage of its fan base will inevitably be paying out their own pockets for season tickets. And in turn, that has an impact on keeping season ticket prices down.

These are all good point, albeit beyond the scope of what ESPN was trying to do (which is, by and large, simply to generate conversation).  To Nichols’ point, it’s like looking at raw attendance numbers in any sport: they means nothing without context (if a team is giving away tickets, then bums in the seats are only indirectly generating revenue through hoped-for concession sales etc).  Finally Nichols wonders about the organisation’s excitement in placing ninth on the list:

it strikes me as odd that in the wake of a report that says the Ottawa Senators have lost $94M over the past ten years and Eugene Melnyk’s pleas to City Council to allow for the property adjacent to the Canadian Tire Centre to be considered as a site for a prospective casino, the Sens would pimp an arbitrary ranking from a news source who neglected to include Bobby Ryan in a list of the top 100 forwards in the NHL. I mean, weren’t the Sens just trying to rally fans to their side of the casino debate by insinuating that adding an additional revenue stream for ownership would allow them to allocate these revenues into the team’s payroll to help them compete?

The pimping comes from a desire to inflate the reputations of the battered Melnyk more than anything–it’s a feeble exercise, but gives defenders of the Euge something to talk about.

-Speaking of ESPN, Pierre LeBrun picks the Sens to win the Atlantic Division (other ESPN experts see them from third to first); he likes their coaching, goaltending, and Jason Spezza‘s “motivation”; the negatives are their scoring.  The first two are points I see everywhere, the latter doesn’t seem particularly useful.

Bryan Murray talked on The Fan 590, but sadly said nothing new.

-Here is the second part of Hockey’s Future‘s look at the SM-Liiga.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: September 24th

-Here is the Sens lineup for tonight’s tilt against Toronto: MacArthur-Turris-Stone; Dziurzynski-Smith-Neil; Greening-DaCosta-Petersson; Cowick-O’Brien-Robinson; Cowen-Wiercioch; Borowiecki-Ceci; Sdao-Corvo.  Toronto’s lineup has yet to be finalized.

Travis Yost takes issue with yesterday’s ESPN column declaring the Sens the 9th best sports organisation:

But, Canada’s Ultimate Team? That’s, uh, a tough thing to sell right now. Ownership has been regularly noting that the team is allegedly bleeding money, as much as $94MM in the last decade, with that number expected to climb. Tangentially-related, a knifefight between ownership and the city over the location of a new casino, one that’s alleged to be a necessary third revenue stream for the Ottawa Senators to survive.

And that’s just it–the column has to be taken with a grain of salt.  Better ownership might justify that rating, but the state of that ownership means the team has real problems.

-I don’t listen to The Team 1200 much anymore–I’m not a fan of the talent there–but I hadn’t heard much from Shawn Simpson until yesterday.  I’m not sure what the attraction of ex-players is to sports radio–the skills are completely unrelated–but the guy clearly has a few screws loose.  He was arguing players should have the right to crosscheck other players in the face if they feel threatened (in the context of the John ScottPhil Kessel incident)–what?  Beyond the obvious problem of legality (assault with a weapon is a very different kettle of fish–just ask Marty McSorley), how does that address the issue?  The problem is that the league does nothing to prevent players from physically taking advantage of one another–allowing crosschecks or stick swinging doesn’t solve anything.

Scott Greenham, who has been attending Sens camp on a PTO, had his ECHL rights traded from Bakersfield to Elmira for future considerations.  I expected Greenham would wind up with the Jackals, but the fact that he was given away for nothing makes me wonder about his value.  The Condors’ Troy Mann said:

The Ottawa Senators wanted to have Scott in their system and with Elmira being their affiliate, we were able to accommodate their request. We like our goaltending situation, knowing that we’re getting assigned a goaltender from Edmonton/Oklahoma City and excited about what (Paul) Karpowich can bring to our team.

For those who may not remember, Greenham was a free agent invite to the Sens 2011 development camp, so he has a relationship with the team that goes back a couple of years.  The twenty-six year old is an NCAA grad who played for the Ottawa Jr. Senators a million years ago; he’s likely pencilled in as the starter for the Jackals (he has much more pedigree than tryout goaltender Mike McDonald).

Allan Muir talks about the inconsistency of the NHL’s suspensions (nothing new, but worth remembering).

-Mark Spector is like the bulk of journalists covering the NHL: most of what he writes is generic and banal, sprinkled with the utterly absurd and, occasionally, mildly sensible.  Today is a trip into loony land as he praises the Oilers’ acquisition of Steve MacIntyre.  This is the same MacIntyre who has failed Edmonton twice beforehand; it’s his third tour of duty with the Oilers who waived him in 2009 and let him walk in 2011.  This is a guy who Florida let walk and the Penguins just waived.  If what MacIntyre provides is so important, why can’t he stick anywhere?  Spector has no answer because he doesn’t question his preconception–he believes something and doesn’t need the facts to get in his way (for the true value of toughness check out the links here).

-Every year Hockey’s Future does an excellent job previewing the SM-Liiga (the most recent preview is here).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: September 23rd

Marc Brassard writes about Stephane Da Costa and the most interesting comment comes from Paul MacLean:

I think he [Da Costa] is in better shape … His strength and his skating is good, while his vision of the game has never been questioned. It is stronger and consequently faster, so it can  ‘compete ‘ at a higher level . He is very close [to being an NHL player].

Which reminds me of one of my favourite comments about Da Costa when he was in the NCAA:

he looks like McLovin’ with his shirt off

If his conditioning is actually where it should be I expect him to have a big year in Binghamton.

Travis Yost talks about Paul MacLean favouring pairs of players on lines with a rotating third.  It was pointed out to Travis is that the 80s Oilers and 70s Canadiens did the same thing, so the idea goes back to Scotty Bowman, but seems to be firmly attached to talented lineups.

ESPN offers its Ultimate Team Rankings by:

[surveying] 1,011 sports fans across North America in the spring to determine what they want most in return for the emotion, money and time they invest in their favorite clubs. Our poll covered 25 topics, from “has likable players” to “provides an avenue for fans to give feedback to the franchise.” Next, through and NetReflector, a Seattle opinion research company, we asked fans to rate their favorite teams online in each category. (Thanks to the 59,298 of you who responded!) We grouped the grades into seven of the eight subjects you see at right. For the remaining category, bang for the buck, we relied on calculations we’ve developed with researchers at the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center to figure out how efficiently teams convert revenues from fans into performance on the field (including postseason victories). Finally, we combined each team’s score across all eight categories into a weighted average, based on the results of our national poll. Since fans said affordability was about 40 percent more important than stadium experience, for example, our formula reflects that.

The Sens were 9th overall (3rd best among NHL teams–Pittsburgh was first; Ottawa was 82nd last year).  Full details are here; the stadium experience was the lowest ranked, while coaching was highest.  The lovely Leafs appeared as the worst team (in all leagues) for both affordability and bang for the buck–congrats!

Mark Parisi offers his ups and downs for the pre-season and my favourite comment is this:

Michael Sdao: This kid is all over the place. Shooting, fighting, hitting… he needs some coaching to help settle him down. Like the potential, though.

Mark brings up a good point–the last thing the Sens need Sdao doing is shooting, fighting, and hitting.  The coach probably wants to get Chris Neil and Zack Smith to cut out that crap too.  Shooting seems like a particular problem the team should avoid.

Jeremy Milks offers his thoughts on the Sens-Leafs pre-season game, but I’m less interested in his comments than him calling Jean-Gabriel Pageau a “kid”–no doubt channelling his inner (outer?) Don Cherry.

Greg Wyshynski looks at the purpose of captains in the NHL and concludes:

It tells you where a franchise is headed, or where it wants to go. It gives you a psych evaluation of the roster. It reveals who the leaders are, and who’s along for the ride.

This is an interesting theory, but Greg doesn’t justify the statement.  I think what he’s trying to say is that (for example) if a star player is awarded the captaincy it’s based on the hope that the player will justify the move by providing leadership, whereas a non-star is given the C in the hopes that their work ethic/intangibles will spur on imitation.  It seems like a reasonable enough conclusion, although I’d be more interested in seeing someone trying to discern how effective it really is.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: September 20th

-Ottawa fell to Toronto 3-2 in pre-season action in a game I thought was pretty entertaining (TSN broadcasts are so much better than the alternatives).  As always, we must remind ourselves that pre-season action only matters for prospects and bubble guys and is an awful way to project into the regular season, so keep that in mind.  The best Sens line of the night was the midget-trio of Andre Petersson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Shane PrincePetersson had the most chances of the trio and scored on a wicked backhand (tying the game 2-2), but JGP was the best of the trio.  Pageau went after Nazem Kadri, who spent the game running around at Sens players until injuring his hand blocking a shot (I thought his worst offense was running Fredrik Claesson), which ultimately resulted in a Kadri powerplay goal.  Speaking of the popular, hardworking Claesson, he scored the first goal of the game with Jonathan Bernier deflecting his shot into the net.  Mika Zibanejad played a strong game, his best moment came walking around the pylon known as Dion Phaneuf.  The first line was mediocre at best, with Bobby Ryan the best and Milan Michalek still shaking off the rust.  Craig Anderson was average, while Nathan Lawson (left hung out to dry a few times in the third) was excellent.  Patrick Wiercioch had a strong game and Erik Karlsson seems to have his speed and mobility back.  Other notes: Chris Wideman‘s ill-advised pinch led to the Leafs second goal; Matt Kassian fought Jamie Devane after the latter let up on Derek Grant who had his head down–since the hit was fine I assume Kassian just wanted to get his fight in.  In the post-game Paul MacLean thought JGP and Wiercioch were the best players.

-During the broadcast Ray Ferraro guessed that the NHL’s ridiculous “tuck” rule might be a forerunner to advertising on the jersey’s, but I’m not so sure (Ferraro, like the rest of us, thinks the rule is absurd).

-After the game Erik Karlsson said this about JGP: He’s here to stay.

Nichols peaks behind ESPN’s paywall to look at Corey Pronman’s organisational prospect rankings:

Unlike his organization prospect rankings that were made available on Hockey Prospectus earlier this summer, Pronman opted to lump organizations into six tiers (note: I’ll put the number of teams fitting each tier in parathenses): The Top Tier (3); Up-and-Comers (10); Staying Power (2); Middle of the Road (5); Need a Little Extra (7); and Trouble on the Way? (3)

The Sens fit into the Up-and-Comers tier which includes teams that are not the very best regarding young talent, but they are just a step below. They have enough young high-end players to spark an organizational turnaround, and that has already started for some.

Pronman, who had rated Ottawa’s current group of prospects –defined as a player who has 25 or fewer regular season games played during the last NHL season, or 50 or fewer career NHL regular season games played – as the 19th best in the NHL earlier this summer, gave the Senators a more favorable rating here.

Mika Zibanejad was a top pick a couple of seasons ago and is trending toward being a top-line, do-it-all type of player. He has the skill, hockey sense and grit to be a great player for quite a while. Jared Cowen hasn’t put it all together yet, but the new extension Ottawa gave him is a testament to its belief in his physical tools. On the prospect front, Cody Ceci is a very gifted offensive player from the back end, Robin Lehner is an elite goaltending prospect, Jean-Gabriel Pageau had a very strong first pro season, while Curtis Lazar and Mark Stone are notably above-average prospects. The Sens also have a few other high-risk/high-reward prospects in their organization. The trade of Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen was a blow to their young core, but the reward of getting Bobby Ryan in return was deemed to be worth it.

This is reasonable enough.  Nichols then looks at a second paywall article where ESPN attempted to project success three years down the line (with a fairly involved method–check it out via the link above).  The Sens wind up eighth because:

The Senators would be higher if it weren’t for a surprising 6.0 given to the management team.  That low score has to do more with Eugene Melnyk than it does Paul MacLean

This, as much as anything, illustrates how across the league Melnyk’s antics are believed to hurt the team.  I have my doubts this sentiment will be discussed by the local media.

Mark Parisi offers up five thoughts and I just want to talk about the first on his list:

I’m probably talking out of my ass here, but I think it’s probably much harder to trade in the NHL than we think it is–especially when you’re talking about kids who can’t crack your own lineup. If I’m Jay Feaster of the Calgary Flames and Bryan Murray calls me to talk about Stephane Da Costa, my first question is, “I have Sean Monahan and Max Reinhart in my system right now. Why would I give up anything for a guy so similar to what I already have?” What’s Murray going to answer? “Uh… prospects?” Thanks, but no thanks, Bryan.

The Sens aren’t going to ask for bodies back if they move prospects–they’ll want picks–Ottawa has enough prospects.

Varada takes a look at EA Sports NHL 2014 with a focus on my favourite way to play the game: GM mode.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: September 19th

-The Sens roster for tonight’s game against Toronto has been released and the lines are: Michalek-Spezza-Ryan, Greening-Zibanejad-Neil, Prince-Pageau-Petersson, Kassian-Grant-Schneider; Karlsson-Methot, Claesson-Wiercioch, Wideman-Phillips; Anderson will get the start, with Lawson playing a period.  The Leafs feature: Raymond-Bolland-Kulemin, Broll-Kadri-Abbott, Van Riemsdyk-Colborne-Clarkson, Devane-McClement-Ashton; Percy-Phaneuf, Gunnarrsson-Marshall, Rielly-Ranger; Bernier gets the start.

Bobby Ryan repeatedly says there are no hard feelings towards former coach Randy Carlyle and that whatever friction once existed was all part of his maturation process.

Nichols transcribes Bryan Murray’s latest interview on The Team 1200 and there isn’t much to take from it save the following comments:

We’ve got a couple young guys that are just starting – they’ve played part of one year or a full year in the American (Hockey) League only – that look like they’re kicking at the door [this presumably applies to Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Mark Stone, and Shane Prince]. (Buddy) Robinson looks like he is a candidate. He’ll probably have to start (in the minors) at this point, but he sure looks like a player to me so… There are is a good number of young people here that are going to play games at some point during this year. You want players to have the chance to play in the National Hockey League and it’s not fair to hold people back after you’ve worked with them and they’ve worked really hard within your organization to be recognized and become members. But, because of numbers, you can’t do it for them right now. It would be very hard to lose them, but we’ll try to do what’s right for the organization and then hopefully, if it doesn’t work out for an individual, hopefully get him to a place where he gets a chance to play in the league.

It sounds like an acknowledgement that the logjam at forward will ultimately be resolved by player moves, as well as confirming that Robinson (and likely all of the other names bandied about) will start the year in Binghamton.  Nichols references Murray not getting much back if he has to move a player, the reasoning for which comes from the quote here:

The GM [Murray] said he’d look to trade these guys for a ‘soft pick’ and look for teams that may have injuries, or where they may address a need

Travis Yost (the link above) speculates the most likely candidate to be moved is Stephane Da Costa and I have to agree.  He was a late signee and Binghamton is brimming over with forwards.  I’m not sure how much value he has as trade bait, but definitely more than the other waiver-eligible players on the roster.

Travis talks about how much he likes Kyle Turris‘ contract and in the midst of that posits these points which I fully agree with:

This is one or more of: (a) textbook late-bloomer; (b) a player more comfortable in a new, expanded role; (c) a player maybe misused in his previous role; (d) a player who decided to grow-up.

Darryl Dobbs looks at roster battles in the Eastern Conference and hits the nail on the head for Ottawa:

J-G Pageau vs. the numbers game

Brian McGrattan unintentionally explains one of the reasons why enforcers are a dying breed:

I’m always willing, it’s just that there’s not anybody willing to fight me.

If he runs out of dance partners, what will he do?

Ryan Kennedy writes about the non-suspension of Jordan Nolan and gives us this chestnut:

But could he not have at least let up a little bit, still separating Klesla from the puck, but not from the Czech’s senses? I’ll let an expert on the subject weigh in: Raffi Torres

I love that that’s who Ryan turned too–the guy with every reason in the world to tell people no one has any choice when it comes to making hits (it’s a great example of confirmation bias, cf Mark Parisi yesterday).  There’s no point in browbeating Kennedy on the subject, but it’s worth bringing up his sentiment because it’s so common in hockey media.  The way to get hits like this out of the game is to suspend them heavily–they will disappear overnight.

-Elmira news: they’ve signed defenseman Dylan Quaile, who played for them briefly last year after finishing his CIS career; they also signed Alexandre Carrier, a QMJHL tough guy who spent last season in Trenton (after a year of pummeling players in tier-2 Austria).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: September 18th

-Ottawa defeated Calgary 4-2 in a pre-season game no one saw.  I’m not sure why the marketing geniuses that work for Ottawa, Calgary, and the NHL can’t figure out that it’s worthwhile to show the games (even if only by streaming it online).  Alas!  Prospects scored all the goals for the Sens (Buddy Robinson is working on his Brandon Bochenski award) and Michael Sdao had to fight twice after delivering a big hit–not that anyone has seen either the hit or the fights.

-The Sens had their first cuts at camp, sending Chris Driedger, Francois Brassard, Ben Harpur, and Vincent Dunn back to junior; there’s nothing surprising about the moves.

-Speaking of junior age prospects, Curtis Lazar signed his ELC.

-A number of stories have appeared discussing which Sens prospects are not waiver exempt (Cory Conacher, Eric Gryba, Mike Hoffman, Stephane Da Costa, and David Dziurzynski), wondering how it will impact roster decisions.  I think the simple answer is not much, at least to start the season.  The Sens have a bloated NHL roster which I think already includes Conacher and Gryba; the other three players will sail through to Binghamton along with dozens of other players.  The threat of a waiver claim is much larger during the season and that could impact call-ups, but that’s about the only impact I foresee.

Mark Parisi writes an interesting piece about how fans scapegoat players, but includes a defence of Matt Kassian which doesn’t make a lot of sense.  It’s too bad, because Mark’s general point about how fans indulge in confirmation bias when looking at players is spot on.  Unfortunately, Kassian doesn’t fit the criteria.  Kassian does one thing: he fights–that’s all he brings to the table.  Most people who object to Kassian do so under the belief that his skill set doesn’t belong in the NHL and his roster spot is better used–which is an entirely different kind of criticism.  Even in the context of enforcers he’s not really established (Minnesota buried him in the AHL for the bulk of his five and a half seasons there).  Part of me wonders if Parisi simply picked Kassian to provoke a reaction.  I wish he’d picked someone like Chris Phillips who, despite incredibly positive coverage in the media, is often a lightning rod for criticism among the fanbase.

Amelia L writes an excellent piece about Bryan Murray (perhaps spurred on by Jeremy Milks‘ blog a few days ago), looking at his time with Ottawa and his background (although I don’t see the link between his handling of Paul Kariya/Paul Coffey/etc and Daniel Alfredsson‘s departure–none of the other moves involved murky finances).

Peter Morrow joins the endless list of would-be Hockey’s Future writers attempting to cover the Sens (replacing, I presume, Jason Menard).  He gives us the updated list of the Sens top-20 prospects according to HF:

1. Mika Zibanejad
2. Robin Lehner
3. Curtis Lazar
4. Cory Conacher
5. Cody Ceci
6. Patrick Wiercioch
7. Mark Borowiecki
8. Jean-Gabriel Pageau
9. Matt Puempel
10. Chris Driedger
11. Mark Stone
12. Shane Prince
13. Mike Hoffman
14. Fredrik Claesson
15. Stephane Da Costa
16. Derek Grant
17. Marcus Hogberg
18. Andre Petersson
19. Mikael Wikstrand
20. Vincent Dunn

I won’t get picky about the order of the players here, but there’s one comment I’ll address: Peter suggests Borowiecki could wind up in the lineup, but without a trade I don’t see that happening this season (presumably he’d be replacing Gryba).

-Here’s my updated look at post-lockout AHL Success Stories.

ESPN continues “expert” rankings, this time looking at forwards: Jason Spezza clocks in at #33, Kyle Turris #68, Milan Michalek #71, and Mika Zibanejad #94.  Yes folks, there’s no Bobby Ryan (but Chris Kunitz is #44!).

-Some Elmira news: the Jackals signed CIS grad Justin Gova; the winger spent five seasons at Guelph where he was a very productive player.  The Jackals now have ten players signed along with three on PTOs.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

AHL Success Stories

Continuing my updates of undrafted success stories (post the 04/05 lockout), here are the players who made their way from being AHL professionals into the NHL.  The way I’ve separated out minor league pros from other undrafted players is the time they spent in the minors; logging either 200+ minor league games or at least spending three full seasons before seeing action at the NHL level (this is by necessity arbitrary, but seems like a reasonable way of making the macro decision on players en route to the highest level).

2005 (6)
Matt Carkner
(D) 184 NHL games
Spent an eternity in the AHL (246 games) before getting his shot; now a regular in the midst of a three-year deal with the Islanders
Keith Aucoin (C/RW) 143 NHL games
Played 310 minor league games (including the UHL and ECHL) before getting his shot with Carolina; he signed a one year, one-way deal with St. Louis
Jeff Hoggan
(W) 107 NHL games
Played 189 games (three seasons) in the AHL before getting his shot; he’s now retired
Mike Glumac (RW) 40 NHL
NCAA grad played 196 minor league games (ECHL included) over three seasons before seeing spot duty with St. Louis; after three years in Germany he’s playing in the KHL
Mark Cullen (C/LW) 38 NHL games
College grad played 189 AHL games through three seasons before getting the call; entering his second season in Austria
Rob Collins (C/RW) 8 NHL games
Played 231 AHL games before getting his shot with the Islanders; spent seven years in Germany before joining Brampton in the CHL
2006 (1)
Jesse Schultz (RW) 2 NHL games
Undrafted WHLer played 204 games in the minors before Vancouver gave him a shot; he’s begun his fourth season in the CHL
2008 (1)
Jared Ross (C/LW) 13 NHL games
208 games in the minors (including the UHL and ECHL) before getting a cup of coffee with Philadelphia; in his third season in Germany
2009 (2)
Maxim Noreau (D) 6 NHL games
QMJHLer played 205 games in the minors before getting the call; in his third season in Switzerland
Charles Linglet (LW) 5 NHL games
Undrafted QMJHLer played 331 AHL games before getting his cup of coffee with Edmonton.  He’s entering his fourth season in the KHL
2010 (2)
Andrew Desjardins (C/LW) 135 NHL games
Played 223 games in the minors before establishing himself with San Jose; signed a two-year, one-way deal with the Sharks
Stephen Gionta (C/W) 13 NHL games
Played 258 AHL games before seeing action; in the second year of a deal with Jersey which is two-way this season
2011 (4)
Pierre-Cedric Labrie (LW) 33 NHL games
QMJHLer played 255 minor league games before Tampa called him up; on a one-year, one-way deal with the Lightning
Mike Angelidis (C/LW) 7 NHL games
Played 339 games in the minors before getting his cup of coffee with Tampa; on a one-year, two-way with the Lightning
Bracken Kearns (C) 5 NHL games
CIS grad played over 400 minor league games before getting a call-up from Florida; he’s in the last year of a two-way deal with San Jose
Greg Rallo (C) 1 NHL game
Played over 300 AHL games before getting his one call-up with Florida; he remains with the Panthers organisation on a two-way deal
2012 (3)
Mike Kostka (D) 35 NHL games
College grad played 307 AHL games before seeing action with Toronto; on a two-way contract with Chicago
Steve Pinizzotto (RW) 12 NHL games
NCAA grad played over 260 games in the minors before the Canucks gave him a shot; now on a two-way deal with Florida
Matt Anderson (RW/C) 2 games
Played 312 minor league games before getting a call-up from Jersey; now in the KHL

That’s only 19 players over eight years (nearly a third of whom appeared in the aftermath of the lockout), which is the smallest group of undrafted players to reach the NHL outside the CIS.  Among these players only four are regular NHLers and all of them are of the depth, support variety.  While the road through the AHL to the NHL exists there are no diamonds in the rough above, just hard-working support players who eek out their existence on the margins of the league.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)