Senators News: November 28th

-Ottawa overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat Washington 6-4 last night (boxscore and Amelia L‘s excellent recap), where the team overcame a mediocre start from Craig Anderson and received scoring from a variety of players (including Colin Greening) who have struggled this season.

-With Anderson getting the start against Vancouver tonight Travis Yost reminds us of Eric T‘s article looking at the statistical decline of goaltenders when they make back-to-back starts.  I’m not sure what to make of Eric Gryba and Mark Borowiecki sliding into the lineup for Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch.  No one has an issue with Cowen sitting, but I’d prefer to keep a puck-mover like Wiercioch in the lineup.  Travis offers some thoughts ahead of the game.

Scott jots down Bob McKenzie’s rumour-that’s-not-a-rumour from the radio last night where Evander Kane‘s name came up in connection with Ottawa.  I agree with Scott that Melnyk doesn’t have the peso’s for the deal (although the team does have the assets to get it done).  Could such a thing happen?  It seems unlikely, but this is the same Jets management that signed Olli Jokinen and chased Alexander Burmistrov to the KHL, so who knows?

-Binghamton continued to roll as they defeated Syracuse 5-1 last night (boxscore, highlights,  and Jeff Ulmer‘s recap), but lost Nathan Lawson to injury in the process (no word on the severity yet).  Andre Petersson (whom some fans left for dead in the off-season–as the organisation nearly did as well) scored a pair in the win.

Jeff offers up his quarterly grades for Binghamton and I have a few questions: I’m not sure (from what’s written) why Buddy Robinson gets a B-; Shane Prince‘s grade (A-) doesn’t reflect his early struggles in the season; not sure Stephane Da Costa has improved enough to warrant an A; why is Wacey Hamilton a veteran player (a season & a half?).  It’s a good overview and I agree with the bulk of the grades.

Mark Volain writes about the AHL’s Eastern Conference, but other than praising Mike Hoffman has nothing to say about Binghamton.

-Elmira lost 4-3 in a shootout; Jakub Culek picked up a pair of assists, while Ludwig Karlsson was held pointless.

Nichols transcribes the last Eugene Melnyk interview and for once the Euge didn’t insert both feet into his mouth so there’s not much to comb through.

Michael McCann looks at the concussion lawsuit facing the NHL and concludes:

The NHL may adopt a similar strategy [to the NFL]. NHL lawyers probably feel confident they will convince a judge to dismiss Leeman v. NHL. Some NHL owners, however, will probably prefer a more risk-averse strategy and will encourage settlement talks. A settlement could take on the features of the NFL’s concessions: improved benefits for retired NHL players and funding for research to make the sport safer. Don’t expect settlement talks anytime soon. The NHL concussion litigation has just begun and will probably take months, if not years, before there is any resolution.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Senators News: November 27th

-Ottawa faces Washington (12-10-2) tonight and Craig Anderson will get the start.  Here are the projected lineups.

Kevin Westgarth received a two-game suspension for his elbow on Mark Borowiecki.

-The Michael Del Zotto rumours have died as fans learned the Sens were only offering Eric Gryba, Colin Greening, and Erik Condra as bait.  I sound like a broken record, but this is the problem all the trade speculation of late has: no one wants what Ottawa is willing to give up (The Raaymaker has thrown Martin Erat into the mix for his own Raayish reasons).

Varada offers a lot of sensible advice to fans who are disappointed with the team and a couple of things stand out:

There will be plenty of people who don’t watch a whole lot of Senators hockey but who are expected to produce thousands and thousands of words about the league. They will survey the standings, look at the lineup, and make a pronouncement about the state and direction of the franchise that is largely disconnected from reality. None will use trend analysis, or even drill down to individual players.

Good god Varada, save yourself the torment if you really are reading thousands of words like that!  Pick and choose buddy!

most of the players are on affordable deals, or their shortcomings are more than made up for in other areas

This is worth remembering (albeit I’m not onboard with Varada’s desire to keep Chris Phillips).  Moving on, I also don’t think there’s a way for a budget team like Ottawa to attract good free agents without performing well.

-Travis Yost reminded me that Jesse Spector looked at the value of first-rounders traded before their ELC’s expired towards the end of last year.  I think Jesse is a bit hasty making calls on some of the most recent players, and he doesn’t differentiate between players picked early in the round and those selected later, but it’s interesting food for thought (the gist is that the players moved rarely turn out).

-TSN lost out on NHL national coverage, leaving fans saddled to the farce that is Sportsnet next year and beyond.  Unless Rogers decides to dump the dead weight that their current group consists of, it’s going to be a painful 12-years for fans.

-Nichols (link above) discusses a number of things (the impact of the deal on the Sens among others), but one thing I’ll specifically echo is his (well, Elliotte Friedman’s) mentioning that Erik Karlsson‘s stride has not yet recovered and that it likely won’t be completely back until next season.

Travis provides the counter to Mark Parisi notion a few days ago that money isn’t connected to winning in the NHL.

-Binghamton plays Syracuse (9-6-2) tonight and here’s Jeff Ulmer‘s preview.

-I don’t listen to TSN 1200 much, but it was amusing to hear Ian Mendes try to get an explanation out of his co-host (name escapes me) for why Alexander Ovechkin shouldn’t be a Hall of Fame inductee when his career is over.  Whatever you think about the player, his numbers alone are enough to make him a lock (as Ian pointed out over and over).

-I probably stand alone in being unimpressed by the Sens heritage jersey.  I’ve been lukewarm about Ottawa’s jersey’s in general although I do like the red one.

-Former NHL players are suing the league for its inaction on concussions.  Expect the legal action to grind along for quite some time.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: November 25th

-It was an eventful weekend for Ottawa, as they beat Detroit 4-2 (boxscore and Mark Parisi‘s summary–which includes a delightful rant about how awful it is to see Chris Phillips on the powerplay), and then lost to Minnesota 4-1 (boxscore with Mark‘s summary).  Robin Lehner played both games and his numbers (at least) were good in both (Travis Yost wonders what the back-to-back starts say about Paul MacLean’s opinion of Craig Anderson).  I haven’t seen an update on Mark Borowiecki was elbowed by Kevin Westgarth in the Carolina game and the latter is having a phone chat with the NHL–there’s no rhyme or reason to discipline (ala the non-suspension for Jared Cowen for elbowing Pavel Datsyuk), but as Borowiecki is injured there might be a suspension.

-Speaking of Lehner, Nichols points out that Robin‘s numbers have been consistently good in the NHL since he made his first appearance.

-Nichols (link above) also delves into trade speculation, but like all such speculation this season can’t find any reasonable option that fits Ottawa’s budget (which dovetails into Bryan Murray saying the solution was going to be internal).  There are rumblings on Twitter that the Del Zotto deal might happen soon, but we shall see.

Travis (link above) casts doubt on the recent Forbes article suggesting the Sens made a ton of money last year (citing Tyler Dellow‘s attacks how Forbes comes up with numbers from last year–which he does spectacularly).

Nichols believes Jason Spezza‘s play has to improve for the team to improve and he goes through the captain’s general struggles this season and wonders if the solution is to put Clarke MacArthur on his wing.

-Binghamton went 2-1 on the weekend, beating Adirondack 6-2 (boxscore and Jeff Ulmer‘s recap), losing to Hershey 5-2 (boxscore and Jeff‘s recap), and then beating the Bears (boxscore and Jeff‘s recap).  Nathan Lawson played in the first two games, while Andrew Hammond played in the third.  The team continues to score at a prodigious rate and their combination of goaltending and blue-collar defence has been fantastic thus far.  It’s quite a contrast to the NHL club and I wonder if the contrast is simply the different starts they got off too or if something else is afoot.

-Elmira went 1-2 on the weekend, with Ludwig Karlsson picking up a goal and assist, Troy Rutkowski two assists (he was recalled after the first game), and Jakub Culek two goals and an assist.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: November 22nd

-The Sens lost 4-3 to Minnesota (boxscoreDave Young‘s summary, and some comments on stats from Travis Yost) where a mediocre performance from Craig Anderson didn’t help matters.

Nichols transcribes Bob McKenzie’s latest chat about the Sens and while there’s nothing particularly new in what Bob has to say (although I encourage you all to check it out), he did offer this gem:

I don’t think they think too much of Eugene (Melnyk), to be honest.

This isn’t intended quite as it seems, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

Travis talks about Bryan Murray declaring that team problems will be solved internally.  As Travis says, Murray has no real choice–he can’t trade right now given the team’s internal budget.  I agree that the solutions from Binghamton on the blueline don’t really exist.  If I were MacLean I’d keep playing Patrick Wiercioch until he rounds into form (ala Cowen, see below), but in the meantime we’ll apparently get the unending rotation.

Amelia L offers up five thoughts and I think she makes a good point that Paul MacLean may be playing Jared Cowen so much for development purposes.  Why that doesn’t apply to Mika Zibanejad remains an open question (as Travis wonders as well).  Her critique of TSN’s coverage of the Sens is on point, but they are still miles ahead of the garbage provided by Sportsnet.

Mark Parisi is convinced that spending money doesn’t equal winning in the NHL…except that he doesn’t actually look at where Stanley Cup winners sit when it comes to spending (or more generically looking at the records of the teams who spend more, ie here).  The issue has been explored before and I think Mark made the mistake of thinking spending equals winning versus spending being a necessary part of winning.

Greg Wyshynski offers various thoughts and I like this comment about Ottawa:

What the heck happened with Ottawa? The Sens are 8-10-4 in the Atlantic Division, and the defense that ranked second in the NHL last season is 24th overall with a 3.09 GAA. Who knew Sergei Gonchar was the lynchpin?

I don’t think we’ll see a mea culpa from the media who spent so much time criticising Gonchar while he was here.

-Binghamton plays Adirondack tonight (7-6-2).  Here’s Jeff Ulmer‘s preview.

Ludwig Karlsson and Jakub Culek have both been sent to Elmira (the former after injury, so it may be purely a conditioning stint).  The Jackals place Kalamazoo (4-4-1) tonight.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: November 20th

-Ottawa lost again last night (5-2 to Philadelphia, here’s the boxscore).  The Sens rallied from an early 2-0 deficit only to give up two quick goals after their own third was called off upon video review (the final goal was into an empty net).  As seems the norm this season, about half of the lineup showed up for the game, which wasn’t quite enough to beat the Flyers.

-The Sens face Minnesota (13-5-4) tonight; the Wild are coming off a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of Montreal.

-I would love to see someone explore what Paul MacLean thinks he’s achieving with the lamentable Greening-Smith-Neil line as well as why he plays Eric Gryba as much as he does.  I’d like to think it’s more sophisticated than the obvious (“big & physical”)–MacLean and his coaching staff are pretty savvy people–is it simply a matter of there’s no better option or does he think he’s achieving something that’s alluding me?

Darren M tries to put his finger on the team’s struggles:

So where did the Senators go wrong? After all, they gained a bunch of healthy bodies, and the losses of Alfredsson and Silfverberg were offset by Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur, who have been two of Ottawa’s best players so far. The loss of Peter Regin was offset by, well, the fact that it was just Peter Regin. Realistically, the biggest holes left unfilled were those of Sergei Gonchar and Andre Benoit, but Benoit was rarely used and the return of Erik Karlsson, even on one leg, should have made up for the loss. Yet something’s different than last year: this year’s team is terrible.

Darren’s conclusion is that:

The very simple problem facing the Senators is that they are shooting less than other teams and being shot on more than other teams. This is the difference between good clubs and bad ones, hence last year’s club was a good team and this year’s is a bad one.

That’s definitely a key factor, but I’d bring up three more (one of which Darren touches on): regression of the goaltending (not a significant one, but a slight drop from the insane performance from last season), not being taken seriously for part of last season (a rebuilding team), along with a reminder that the Sens did not have to play Western teams–something they (and the rest of the East) have struggled with.

Varada reminds us that the Sens have given up the first goal in 70% of their games–needless to say, the percentage of NHL teams who win after scoring first is absurdly high.  He also points out that the players the Sens might like to move aren’t particularly tempting to anyone.

-I think the clock on Derek Grant may be nearing midnight; the main asset he brought to the team was his faceoff acumen, but he’s struggled badly three of the last four games and it may be enough for him to be returned to Binghamton in exchange for someone else (perhaps the return of Jean-Gabriel Pageau).

-Trade rumours continue to swirl as we’ve migrated from Nikitia Nikitin, to Anton Stralman, to Martin Havlat (he of the no-move clause and giant salary), and now Michael Del Zotto.  Putting aside the relative merits of all these players, who are the Sens going to give up for them?  The assets to be sent remain unstated (and as Bob McKenzie pointed out on TSN 1200 last night, given Ottawa’s internal budget it would have to be a dollar-for-dollar trade–very much like the 05-06 season when the cap was introduced).  Is anyone a little gun-shy at acquiring depth defenseman from the Rangers (Matt Gilroy anyone?).  Regardless, I don’t think there’s any trade that serves the organisation long-term that’s worth making–it’s better to suffer through the growth of a young blueline.

-Here’s my look at the Sens at the twenty-game mark.

Peter Morrow writes about the Sens prospects and despite some errors (Andre Petersson is 23, not 24, David Dziurzynski plays the wing, not center, etc), but he does a decent job describing them all.

-I wonder what’s in the water for Nashville and Anaheim’s European goalie scouts?  The Predators Marek Mazanec (a sixth-round pick in 2012 who didn’t make my (or really anyone’s) 2012 draft predictions, Central Scouting had him tenth among European goaltenders the previous year), has been phenomenal in his rookie season, and there’s little need to dwell on Anaheim’s fantastic crop of goaltenders (including some of the best undrafted free agent signings in the NHL).  Goaltending is the hardest position to predict, but clearly these are two organisations who seem to have figured it out.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators at the 20-Game Mark

Ottawa has reached the 20-game mark, so it’s time to take stock and see how the team has performed.  The Sens went 8-8-4, which puts them 9th in the conference and 6th in the division.  Their 58 goals for is 4th in the conference and their 62 goals against is 13th.  Ottawa has the 21st best powerplay (16.1%), and their penalty killing (81.8%) is 18th best.  As shocking as the Sens mediocre record may be for fans, it’s actually on par with their final 18 games of the lockout shortened season (they went 9-9-0).  Despite this being a slightly different lineup, I think there’s something to take from that continuity–how much of Ottawa’s success last season can be attributed to an amazing start during a lockout year?  How many steps forward were genuinely taken?  It will be interesting to find out as the remaining three-quarters of the season unfold, although I think long-term the prognosis remains good.

Player’s stats (INJ=games missed due to injury, SUS=suspended, AHL=games in the AHL):

Bobby Ryan 20-10-10-20 +10
Erik Karlsson 20-7-13-20 +2
Jason Spezza 19-9-9-18 -3 INJ 1
Kyle Turris 20-4-14-18 +9
Milan Michalek 20-3-9-12 -5
Clarke MacArthur 19-3-9-12 +12 INJ 1
Chris Phillips 19-0-6-6 Even INJ 1
Patrick Wiercioch 14-0-6-6 +1
Mika Zibanejad 12-4-1-5 -2 [AHL 6-2-5-7 -1]
Joe Corvo 8-1-4-5 +1
Jared Cowen 20-3-1-4 +3
Zack Smith 20-3-1-4 Even
Marc Methot 20-2-2-4 -2
Cory Conacher 20-2-2-4 +5
Erik Condra 14-1-3-4 -5 INJ 6
Chris Neil 20-3-0-3 Even
Eric Gryba 12-1-2-3 +6
Colin Greening 20-0-3-3 Even
Mark Borowiecki 7-1-0-1 Even [AHL 9-0-0-0 -2]
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 8-1-0-1 -3 [AHL 6-3-8-11]
Derek Grant 13-0-1-1 -3 [AHL 3-2-0-2 +2]
Stephane Da Costa 4-0-0-0 +1 [AHL 11-4-9-13 +1]
Matt Kassian 11-0-0-0 Even

Robin Lehner 3-2-2 2.13 .945
Craig Anderson 5-6-2 3.26 .904

The Sens wanted an elite player in Bobby Ryan and he has delivered–leading the team in goals and he’s tied with Erik Karlsson for the lead in points.  As poorly as Jason Spezza is performing, his numbers are still fine so when we look for the weaknesses in the team it’s less about their upper echelon and more about Ottawa’s vaunted depth (and goaltending).  In terms of secondary production, no one other than Zibanejad is anywhere near where they should be, which makes the team much easier to defend as there’s no offensive threat outside the top two lines.  As poorly as the Sens blueline has played (along with, arguably, Craig Anderson) I have to wonder how different their season would be if they had a third line that produced.

Speaking of Anderson, he’s had a truly up-and-down start to his season, looking brilliant in his victories, but struggling in his losses.  As simple-minded as that statement can seem, Robin Lehner has strong stat lines even when he loses.  With Andy, it’s feast or famine (thus far)–this isn’t to say Andy is getting much support, but he hasn’t been able to overcome the team’s struggles the same way his goaltending partner has.  Speaking of disappointments, the Stephane Da Costa train did not remain long in the station, while Jean-Gabriel Pageau struggled out of the gate (granting that his return is much more likely than Da Costa‘s this season).  Derek Grant has been better than I expected, but really isn’t ready for prime time.

Further up the lineup Cory Conacher is making the case that he’s a classic tweener–a player too good for the AHL, but not quite good enough for the NHL.  The sample size is still too small, but if his trends continue I can’t imagine he’ll remain on the roster for long.  Colin Greening is clearly struggling with his confidence, something that afflicts a lot of players who sign big new contracts.  As for the much lamented defensecorps, I don’t think much needs to be written about their struggles here, although a few things stick out to me: clearly Paul MacLean thinks Jared Cowen has to play his way through his troubles, whereas Patrick Wiercioch can be motivated by benching.  Both Eric Gryba and Mark Borowiecki are placeholders in the lineup (especially the former) and their performance (along with that of Joe Corvo) has been largely as expected.

There is good news (beyond what’s mentioned above), such as Lehner‘s ridiculous numbers.  Kyle Turris has been phenomenal, as has his linemate Clarke MacArthur.

Looking ahead the Sens have to hope for things to improve internally (I don’t think a minor trade, ala Anton Stralman, is enough to change things).  There is good news on the farm (Pageau‘s performance along with Mike Hoffman‘s come to mind), but whether that can be translated at the next level remains to be seen.  I do think Lehner should play more–he gives the team a chance to win every night despite their lacklustre play which, for whatever reason, Anderson has not.  Rearranging the bottom six seems akin to doing the same with deck chairs on the Titanic (and intervention may be needed to keep MacLean from constantly throwing Smith-Neil-Greening at opposing teams).  I do think the team will improve their play, but by how much and whether that impacts the standings or not remains to be seen.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: November 16th

The Sens beat Boston 4-2 last night (boxscore and Amelia L‘s summary), as Craig Anderson picked up his first win since his injury.  Ottawa overcame a 2-0 deficit and dressing Matt Kassian to earn the victory.  Bobby Ryan took an elbow to the head from Dennis Seidenberg late in the third and I agree with Travis Yost that unless Ryan misses time a suspension is unlikely.

Bob McKenzie talked about Ottawa’s trade possibilities:

I don’t think there’s any question that they’re looking for a defencemen. They’re also, I think, looking for a winger that maybe can play with Jason Spezza. But, keep in mind, anything that happens in Ottawa right now comes back with a lot of financial concerns and staying on budget and making sure that you’re not pumping the budget up too high. So, we’ll see where all that goes. I see part of (carrying eight defencemen) too is that sometimes when you’ve got eight, it’s cause you can find six or seven that you like and the extra guy gives you a little flexibility here and there. You know, Borowiecki came up and did a real good job of injecting a little life through the lineup and scored a goal – his first NHL goal. He’s kind of been a little bit of a catalyst there when they did go on a little bit of a run.

It’s difficult to find a blueliner or a scoring winger when you don’t want to add salary, so if the Sens make a move they have to swing for the fences–a player they hope can improve in Ottawa or else a player they think can shake out of a slump that has them on the outs with their current team.

Cyril Leeder talked about the Sens attendance–is he concerned?

No. No, we’d like to be full obviously every night, but we’re right where we thought we’d be at this point of the year. And as I’ve said in two of the interviews this week that our revenues on tickets are up this year, year-over-year and compared to last year and compared to the last full year (in) ‘11/12. Just to change some of the promotions, and the discounting, and the policies we’ve had have really attributed to that. We’ve always had a realistic goal for us is to really get a 13,000 season ticket holders and sort of make that our base and hopefully grow from there. We got there one year in 2007/08, the year after the Stanley Cup Final run. And we’ve made great progress the last two years now. I think we’re a little over 12,000 season seat owners now and that’s coming off of the last two full years – ‘11/12 and this year—(We’ve had) double-digit growth in season seat owners, so we’re in a pretty good spot there and we’ve got a good product. The team is really solid on the ice and we’ve got a bunch of good, young players and I think that people can see that there is a future with this team. (Fans) like this team a lot and we’re making the progress we need to on the season seat side and we just need to stay at that

So…nothing to worry about as far as Leeder is concerned, at least publically.  There’s a lot more about the future in Nichols’ link above, but I’m not going to get too excited about that (the LTR etc) at this point.

Binghamton defeated Adirondack 4-2 last night (boxscore and Jeff Ulmer‘s summary), behind Nathan Lawson‘s 48-saves.  They face Rochester (7-3-4) tonight.

Jakub Culek scored the only goal as Elmira got crushed by Wheeling 5-1 (Scott Greenham took the loss).  Elmira gets the chance for revenge tonight.

Brian Cazeneuve echoes my sentiment that tragedy is likely going to be what pushes fighting out of the NHL.  I bring up his article not for that, however, but this:

Without fighting, the game’s traditionalists argue, dirty players who swing sticks and hunt for kneecaps wouldn’t be held accountable for their misconduct. Perhaps, but the prospect of brawling never stopped players such as Ken Linseman, Claude Lemieux, Ulf Samuelsson and Sean Avery from playing dirty.

Exactly.  It’s never been a deterrent.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)