Senators News: November 14th

-I did not see Ottawa’s 5-0 loss to Philadelphia (boxscore), as the Sens laid an egg in Craig Anderson‘s return.  The loss has allowed trade talk to continue to fester (Jeremy Milks wants more toughness added–to make Ottawa the Vityaz Podolsk of the NHL–and hopes to land someone likes Wayne Simmonds without suggesting who would go the other way).  On the other hand, Nichols simply vents his frustration, while Travis Yost looks at the Sens poor possession numbers.  I have to wonder, given Ottawa’s struggles getting out of their own zone, how much extra water Sergei Gonchar pulled while he was here.  I still believe Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch will be fine over time, but at the moment they aren’t ready to fill the 3-4 spots on the roster.

Amelia L writes a long piece about Paul MacLean and it’s a nice refresher on the coach’s background as well as on his approach with his players.

Ryan Classic reminds us of the Sens goaltender controversies of years past (and the here and now).

Nichols writes about an interview with former Sens scout Anders Forsberg and how the scout convinced the Sens to aim for Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the 2009 draft (Phoenix, unexpectedly, took him early however).  The interesting part for me is that Forsberg is now on the hunt for an NHL scouting job and it would be great to see him back with Ottawa.

-The B-Sens sent Jakub Culek back down to Elmira (the Jackals play tonight).

Pierre LeBrun outlines the discussions at the GM’s meeting, but with nothing decided it’s simply food for thought.  Other than a change to overtime I don’t think much will happen in the near future.

Mike G. Morreale talks to NHL scouts about how they assess prospects and here’s a quote:

If he can’t skate, he can’t play. You have to decide if a player has a skill set of a pro prospect; can he skate or is his stride good enough that he will improve with strength.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: November 11th

-Ottawa hung on to defeat Florida 3-2 on Saturday (boxscore and Mark Parisi‘s summary) as Robin Lehner picked up another win (and was named the NHL’s #1 star of the week).  There’s a moderate amount of debate about goaltending because Craig Anderson will start in the Sens next game, but it’s a little silly–Anderson needs his reps and the staff needs to see where his game is at.

Travis Yost continues to talk trades, but doesn’t speculate on what that might consist of other than being meant to help the blueline.

-On the funny side of things, I apparently started a blog for October 24th and somehow missed finishing it–the corpse remains however and here it is: The Sens steamrolled the Red Wings 6-1 last night, shelling Jimmy HowardMika Zibanejad picked up an assist in his season debut and it will be interesting to see how Paul MacLean tweaks his lineup against Anaheim.  I think as long as Derek Grant continues to win faceoffs he’ll stick in the short-term.  Here’s the boxscore (there were no full summaries of the game, but Travis Yost offers some thoughts).  Mike Babcock said:

Their team came prepared to play and skated us into the ground. We didn’t play at all.

-Binghamton crushed Rochester 7-3 (boxscore and Jeff Ulmer‘s summary) in Nathan Lawson‘s and then they beat Hershey in a shootout 5-4 (boxscore and Jeff‘s summary) with Andrew Hammond racking up 41-saves for the victory.  The B-Sens are 9-4 on the season now and assuming the roster remains relatively intact (and healthy) looks in good shape for a playoff run at season’s end.  Stephane Da Costa was named the AHL player of the week (largely based on his performance against Rochester).

-Here’s the latest Sens prospect update, which doesn’t contain anything particularly weighty other than Chris Driedger‘s sub par numbers.

Aaron Gordon writes an excellent piece on how sports teams get tax payers to fund their buildings.  The key thing here is persuading public officials to spearhead the effort (public opinion, as Aaron points out, is irrelevant).  Public funding is, of course, a terrible idea for the public.

Eric Duhatschek wonders what the NHL will do about fighting:

Knowing the slow pace of change on this particular issue – and the fact that even if the league wants to move on it quickly, they will receive stiff resistance from the NHL players association, which has a lot of important voices defending fighting – makes you hold out little hope that much of any consequence will be resolved this time around.

Nothing new really, but he echoes my sentiment.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: November 9th

-Ottawa faces Florida (3-9-4) this afternoon in yet another poor scheduling decision (I mean, the Panthers for an afternoon game?).  Robin Lehner gets the start and Patrick Wiercioch draws back into the lineup.

-After panic had begun to set in amongst the fanbase the Sens rattled off consecutive 4-1 wins over Columbus (boxscore and Dave Young‘s summary) and Montreal (boxscore; none of the recaps I saw were particularly engaging, although the praise for the goaltending was well deserved), both wins earned by Lehner.  The wins certainly don’t spell an end to the many issues the team has, but are encouraging nonetheless.

-Speaking of fan panic, Elliotte Friedman threw some gasoline onto the fire by noting that:

if you’re four points out of the playoffs after games on that date [Nov.1], you are in a brutal spot to make it.  The Nov. 1 stat being, “from 2005-06 through 2011-12, just three of 32 teams who were four points out of a playoff position on November 1 recovered to make it.

It’s an interesting state, although without context I’m not sure how useful it is (the Sens are just on the edge of it, but how many teams were exactly at that point previously–if it’s just a few it’s not particularly meaningful).

Jeremy Milks addresses the attendance problem and echoes what I said two weeks ago in that the negativity created around the team by Eugene Melnyk plays a major role.

-I can’t mention Jeremy and not think of “toughness”, which Derek Zona has some fun with by pointing out the “softest” players in the NHL (as measured by George Roop) are among the best in the league.

Bryan Murray spoke and Nichols transcribed, but there weren’t any tasty morsels for me in what he said other than praising Zack Smith (something Paul MacLean has already done this season) and that the Sens want to win now (something I think is pretty self-evident via the Bobby Ryan).

Travis Yost examines trade possibilities to help Ottawa’s blueline without getting into specifics (and adds nothing new really), but I enjoyed this:

It always unnerves me a bit when there’s absolute agreement on a particular subject within a fan base

Apparently I stand alone–I’m fine with the Sens holding off on making a trade.  Eric Gryba and Joe Corvo are nothing more than placeholders in the lineup so I don’t get too excited over their middling play.  Were it not for Murray’s desire to win now I’m not sure anyone would (or should) be worried about the team’s defensive struggles.

-Binghamton beat Rochester 4-3 in a shootout (boxscore and Jeff Ulmer‘s recap), with Andrew Hammond earning the win and Cody Ceci picking up his second overtime winner of the season.  The B-Sens play Rochester (5-2-2-1) again tonight.

-Elmira has gone 1-2 through the week, with Scott Greenham going 1-1 (and looking a bit more human in the process), but none of the Sens prospects played in the games.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: November 5th

-As some of you have noticed I haven’t been posting daily for the last little while.  Part of the reason for the change is work-related, but the other is simply me getting tired of the generic coverage the team receives.  I’ve been blogging about the Sens for six years and there are days where nothing engaging is happening or being discussed.  Paid bloggers (and journalists) often fill such days with trade speculation and what not, but I don’t find that kind of thing particularly engaging to write about.

-The Sens play Columbus (5-8-0) tonight–in fact, the game is under way.  Robin Lehner gets the start while Patrick Wiercioch sits in favour of Mark Borowiecki so that Paul MacLean can continue to tweak the blogosphere by playing Jared Cowen.

-Ottawa lost 4-3 in a shootout to Dallas (boxscore and Ryan Classic‘s summary) with Craig Anderson leaving on a stretcher late, but he’s apparently just day-to-day.  The other good news is that Ottawa fought back from a two and one goal deficit and grabbed a point.

Paul MacLean offered some thoughts on Cowen‘s season:

Jared‘s game is coming around, it’s been a little slower maybe than we anticipated it would, but we have to remember he did miss a whole year and he did miss some of training camp. Any time you miss that much it takes time to get back up to speed and get back into the rhythm of the game. I think his last two games have been better than his previous two games to that, but again, it still needs to be better. I think when he concentrates on the physical side of the game and being hard to play against, that simplifies his game and he’s a much better player.

Missing training camp and the injury are good reasons and worth keeping in mind.

Travis Yost provides some zone-entry data for the Sens–no real surprises for me, but worth a look.

Nichols re-visits the Sens attendance issues that Amelia discussed a week earlier.  There’s not much new here, although I do like his theory that:

If season tickets are rising but attendance figures are in the decline, what’s really going on?  Perhaps the most likely explanation is that the Senators have simply stopped giving away as many discounted or free tickets as they have in the past. I mean, with Melnyk crying poor and using the Senators financial situation as a rallying cry for fans to get onboard the idea of putting a casino adjacent to the Canadian Tire Centre, wouldn’t it make sense to make the ticket sale issue as transparent as possible?

I’m less convinced by Nichols’ idea that tailgating or a better developed Kanata would help the numbers (oddly, no one I’ve seen has studied the issue–or at least, not in a hockey context).  Those elements seem to have little to no impact on attendance in other Canadian cities, so it seems a farfetched.

Scott makes the case for the Sens to acquire Nikita Nikitin (for those who missed Varada do the same thing last week).  Scott includes that the Blue Jackets are trying to move the Russian defenseman, but doesn’t offer up much in the way of trade bait to get him (Stephane Da Costa, Mike Hoffman, and/or Colin Greening?!), although I don’t know Columbus’ organisational needs well enough to complete dismiss the idea (god knows, there have been worse trades made in the NHL).

-Here’s my look at the Binghamton Senators ten-games into the season (link).

Justin Azevedo wonders if size matters in the NHL and after looking at the numbers his conclusions don’t surprise me:

It’s no secret that teams covet players with size. Everyone is trying to find “the next Milan Lucic” or “the next Zdeno Chara“. Unfortunately, the stunningly obvious reality is that not every player with size will make any sort of an impact at the NHL level. So then why do GMs continue to reduce their odds at finding NHLers? It’s simple: the pursuit of the outlier is a much more attractive option to the average person than it is to settle for the medial. To me, that doesn’t really make sense – the point of an NHL draft is to maximize the amount of NHLers you can get your hands on. The farther away you go, the harder it is to find an NHLer. Thus, draft players who are already equipped with point scoring and skating ability before you draft for size.

Allan Muir tries to defend fighting by insulting the anti-fighting crowd and providing no argumentation for his own position other than:

There has to be an element of honor to fighting. If someone like Emery chooses to abandon it, he should pay a price.

Er, there does?  He should?  Just saying it doesn’t make it so.  The fly in the ointment for the pro-fighting crowd is they have no arguments to support the practice–they can only stand by their personal enjoyment, which is why the debate becomes redundant.  Ultimately fighting will disappear, but as I’ve said many times before it will take a long time.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Binghamton at the 10 Game Mark

The Binghamton Senators have reached the 10-game mark so it’s time to take stock and see how the team and the players are doing.  The B-Sens went 6-4-0, good for 4th in their division and 7th in the conference.  The team’s 31 goals are 7th in the conference and their 31 goals against are tied for 10th (Matt Weinstein offers a few more stats).

Player’s stats (INJ=games missed due to injury, SCR= scratched, SUS=suspended, NHL=games in the NHL, ECHL=games in the ECHL):

Mike Hoffman 10-5-5-10 +1
Cody Ceci 10-1-7-8 +2
Mika Zibanejad 6-2-5-7 +1 [NHL 6-3-1-4 -2]
Chris Wideman 9-1-6-7 -5 INJ 1
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 2-0-5-5 +2 [NHL 8-1-0-1 -3]
Stephane Da Costa 7-1-4-5 Even [NHL 4-0-0-0 +1]
Cole Schneider
9-4-1-5 +3 SCR 1
Matt Puempel 10-3-2-5 -4
Andre Petersson 5-2-2-4 Even INJ 5
Shane Prince 8-2-2-4 -2 SCR 2
Buddy Robinson 9-2-2-4 +2 SCR 1
Derek Grant 3-2-0-2 +2 [NHL 7-0-1-1 -2]
Corey Cowick 10-1-1-2 -3
Troy Rutkowski 4-1-0-1 -5 [ECHL 3-0-0-0 +2]
Ben Blood 6-0-1-1 +1 SCR 4
Tyler Eckford 6-0-1-1 +5 SCR 4
Darren Kramer 8-1-0-1 -4 SCR 2
Jim O’Brien 8-1-0-1 -4 INJ 2
David Dziurzynski 9-0-1-1 +1 INJ 1
Wacey Hamilton 10-1-0-1 -1
Mark Stone 1-0-0-0 Even INJ 9
Jakub Culek 2-0-0-0 -2 [ECHL 3-0-2-2 +3]
Ludwig Karlsson 3-0-0-0 -2 [ECHL 2-1-0-1 -1]
Michael Sdao 6-0-0-0 -1 SCR 4
Mark Borowiecki 9-0-0-0 -2 [NHL 1-0-0-0 -1]
Fredrik Claesson 10-0-0-0 +3

Nathan Lawson 5-1-0 2.22 .931
Andrew Hammond 1-3-0 4.45 .842

Hoffman and Ceci paced the B-Sens offensively, the latter moving relatively seamlessly from the CHL to the AHL.  Despite limited play Eckford leads the plus/minus charge (+5) while Wideman and the now demoted Rutkowski sit on the opposite side at -5.  Both Petersson and Stone have been struck by the injury bug yet again, while Prince and Schneider initially struggled out of the gate before finding their form.  Jim O’Brien did nothing to help his cause (his only point coming via an empty net goal) before suffering an injury.  Lawson has been excellent in net, while Hammond continues to adjust to the pro game.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: November 3rd

-The Sens play Dallas (5-6-2) this afternoon in a game that’s likely to have sparse attendance (NHL schedule makers have not been kind to Ottawa this season).  Craig Anderson will start and MacLean has put combinations into the blender again for this game (Travis Yost does a good job exploring what MacLean might have been trying to accomplish).

-Ottawa lost 5-4 to the Islanders in a game where Robin Lehner was left to fend for himself (he made 53 saves) while the Sens blew two different two goal leads (boxscore).  The loss has led to more and more bloggers questioning of Paul MacLean’s lineup decisions (see above).  I still think it’s a little too early to panic.

-The Sens called up Mark Borowiecki to help shore up their porous blueline and this seems either a comfort move for MacLean (he knows Borowiecki) or a shot across the bow to marginal players like Eric Gryba.  The B-Sens captain has been average thus far in the AHL, so it’s not specifically a performance-based decision for Boro.

-Binghamton dominated Adirondack on Friday, but lost 3-1 (boxscore with Jeff Ulmer‘s recap), with Andrew Hammond taking the loss.  The B-Sens bounced back and beat Syracuse 4-2 (boxscore and Ulmer‘s recap) last night as Nathan Lawson picked up the win and Jean-Gabriel Pageau enjoyed a 4-point night.  Now ten games in, Binghamton is 6-4-0.

-Elmira went 1-1 on the weekend, with Scott Greenham picking up the shutout win on Friday, while he was shelled the following night.  Jakub Culek had an assist in each game.

John Buccigross writes a naïve article about violence in hockey (the kind that earns suspensions) where he argues the plays can be coached out of the game.  Right.  If we’re all nice to each other there will be no wars or crime either.  The problem with this kind of simplistic reasoning is that as long as someone in the game thinks that going over the edge will help their team win they will continue to do so until the league makes that strategy unviable.  We all function based on incentives and given that in winning is everything Buccigross’ notion is simply untenable.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: November 1st

-It’s a funny thing about the blogosphere, but the best of times in terms of articles, debate, and provocative thought is when things are bad.  I don’t see Ottawa’s rough start as a sign of Armageddon (see below), but it creates a bonanza of engaging reading material.

-Ottawa plays the Islanders (4-5-3) tonight and Robin Lehner will get the start.  Joe Corvo will sit in favour of Eric Gryba; more interesting to me is that Milan Michalek will start on the third line which while well-deserved is something of a surprise.  Travis Yost writes at length about the lineup and his thoughts are (as always) interesting.

-The Sens blew a 4-2 lead and lost 6-5 to Chicago (boxscore and Amelia L‘s excellent game summary) and now even sensible fans are on the panic ledge getting ready to leap.  Nichols says all the team’s current problems were in the tea leaves before the season started (not that anyone apparently saw them, other than a regression from Craig Anderson):

For as much success as the team had without the likes of Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Jared Cowen, and Erik Karlsson in the lineup, when the team not only puts these players into the lineup but requires them to log significant minutes against tough competition, expectations that these players would play at a level in which they were pre-injury are unfair.

This is absolutely correct.  Nichols also makes the point that team defense doesn’t simply involve the defensecorps (also spot on), and that handing the reigns to Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch and expecting them to thrive was a little naïve.  Travis meantime, examines the problems, but other than offering a possible improvement to the forward arrangement has no suggested answer for the blueline.

So what do I think?  People need to take a deep breath and relax.  The hype coming into the season was way too high and time needs to be given for young players to mature into their roles while players coming off long-term injury will take awhile to find their rhythm.  Ottawa has had an awful schedule, but they are through the murderers row from the Western Conference and can settle in to more standard play in November.

Amelia L wonders if the criticisms of Chris Neil are justified and provides the proof that he does without answering the question.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau was sent down to Binghamton at last and Roger the Shrubber thinks there should be the same debate that accompanied Mika Zibanejad‘s demotion.  Roger hits upon the reason why this is not the case in his own question:

Maybe the difference is that Pageau was looking pretty overwhelmed, whereas Zibanejad never did

Exactly, thus the lack of debate.

Nichols ponders the struggles of Colin Greening and I’m less interested in his specific comments than the topic itself.  Did the Sens over pay for Greening?  As a team with a megaton of cap space the answer is simply “no”, even if they went over his current market value it’s irrelevant given the way they manage their money.  His pay raise doesn’t mean his play was expected to improve, simply that the organisation likes what he is now–a big north-south skater who will go to the net, is responsible defensively, and can play on any line that isn’t made up of Zack Smith and Chris Neil.  He’ll put up his usual numbers and remain useful but largely invisible.

-Binghamton faces Adirondack (3-4-2) tonight.  I haven’t seen the lineups, but there was speculation that Andrew Hammond would get the start.

-Elmira faces Greenville (3-2-0).  Jakub Culek and Troy Rutkowski will play.

Kirk Luedeke, who scouts for Red Line Report, is circulating a potential trade rumour with Florida.  Excluding deadline deals, Bryan Murray is a pretty astute trader, so if there’s any substance to the rumour it will be interesting to see what move gets made.

Future Considerations has their latest 2014 draft rankings posted and here’s the top-30:

1). D Aaron Ekblad, Barrie (OHL), 6-4, 215
2). C Sam Reinhart, Kootenay (WHL), 6-1, 185
3). LW Sam Bennett, Kingston (OHL), 6-0, 180
4). C William Nylander, Rogle (Allsvenskan), 5-11, 170
5). C Leon Draisaitl, Prince Albert (WHL), 6-2, 210
6). C Michael Dal Colle, Oshawa (OHL), 6-2, 180
7). C Jake Virtanen, Calgary (WHL), 6-1, 210
8). LW Nick Ritchie, Peterborough (OHL), 6-2, 230
9). D Roland McKeown, Kingston (OHL), 6-1, 200
10). D Haydn Fleury, Red Deer (WHL), 6-3, 200
11). LW Brendan Perlini, Niagara (OHL), 6-2, 205
12). LW Ivan Barbashev, Moncton (QMJHL), 6-1, 185
13). C Jared McCann, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL), 6-0, 180
14). RW Conner Bleackley, Red Deer (WHL), 6-1, 195
15). RW Anton Karlsson, Frolunda J20 (SuperElit), 6-1, 190
16). RW David Pastrnak, Sodertalje (Allsvenskan), 6-0, 170
17). RW Kasperi Kapanen, KalPa (SM-Liiga), 5-11, 170
18). C Adrian Kempe, Modo J20 (SuperElit), 6-2, 190
19). LW Spencer Watson, Kingston (OHL), 5-10, 165
20). LW Sonny Milano, USNTDP U18 (USHL), 5-11, 185
21). D Brycen Martin, Swift Current (WHL), 6-2, 185
22). D Julius Honka, Swift Current (WHL), 5-10, 170
23). C Dylan Larkin, USNTDP U18 (USHL), 6-1, 190
24). G Thatcher Demko, Boston College (NCAA), 6-4, 180
25). D Anthony DeAngelo, Sarnia (OHL), 5-11, 175
26). C Jakub Vrana, Linkoping J20 (SuperElit), 5-11, 185
27). LW Nikolaj Ehlers, Halifax (QMJHL), 5-11, 165
28). C Nick Schmaltz, Green Bay (USHL), 5-11, 170
29). D Jack Dougherty, USNTDP U18 (USHL), 6-1, 185
30). RW Nikolay Goldobin, Sarnia (OHL), 6-0, 175

Allan Muir looks back at the month that was in the NHL and the element that stood out to me was discipline:

You were, in fact, treated to an uglier brand of hockey in October than in previous opening months.

Muir points out there were more suspensions this month than any comparable start to the season and that it’s bad enough that even the NHL has noticed:

one positive to come out of this string of concussions and fractured jaws is that the league’s general managers will consider adding a new layer of discipline at their meetings later this month. That could include fining organizations for the reckless actions of their players.

I don’t see it happening (or if it does, imagine that it will be enforced), but at least it’s a plodding step in the right direction.

-A little trip down memory lane: the lamentable Mark Spector thought Edmonton’s acquisition of Steve MacIntyre would help this season.  Bravo Mark!

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)