Ottawa at the 40-Game Mark

Ottawa has reached the 40-game mark (excluding last night’s 4-3 win over Boston), so it’s time to take stock and see how the team has performed (for the previous segment go here).  The Sens went 7-10-3, which puts them tied for 12th in the conference and they remain 6th in the division.  Their 111 goals for is tied for 3rd in the conference and their 131 goals against is 16th (last).  Ottawa has the 14th best powerplay (18.7%), and their penalty killing (79.3%) is 24th.  Their poor record is a dip from their first 20-games and virtually confirms this as a lost season.

Player’s stats (AHL=games in the AHL):

Erik Karlsson 20-3-14-17 -12
Clarke MacArthur 20-8-8-16 Even
Bobby Ryan 20-7-7-14 -1
Jason Spezza 19-2-10-12 -9
Kyle Turris 20-4-6-10 +5
Mika Zibanjad 18-4-6-10 -7
Patrick Wiercioch 13-2-5-7 Even
Zack Smith 20-4-3-7 -4
Chris Phillips 19-1-5-6 Even
Cory Conacher 18-1-4-5 -1
Marc Methot 15-1-6-7 -5
Colin Greening 20-3-2-5 -6
Milan Michalek
20-3-2-5 -16
Joe Corvo
13-2-2-4 -5
Erik Condra 20-2-1-3 +3
Chris Neil 20-2-1-3 -4
Cody Ceci 8-1-1-2 -1 [AHL 9-0-4-4 +3]
Jared Cowen
17-0-2-2 -1
Eric Gryba 8-0-1-1 Even
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 8-1-0-1 -2 [AHL 8-3-2-5 +1]
Derek Grant 7-0-1-1 Even [AHL 9-1-5-6 +1]
Mark Borowiecki 5-0-0-0 -2 [AHL 8-1-0-1 -2]
Matt Kassian 6-0-0-0 -1
Mike Hoffman 3-0-0-0 -2 [AHL 13-6-8-14 +1]

Robin Lehner 2-7-1 2.68 .922
Craig Anderson 5-3-2 3.26 .901

Many obvious truths are borne out by the basic numbers: MarArthur has been a fantastic free agent acquisition, his season largely wasted amidst a struggling lineup; Michalek‘s career has completely come off the rails as his production has vanished and he sports the worst plus/minus on the team by a large stretch (I’m aware of the weakness of plus/minus as a stat, but think it means something in this case); Spezza‘s struggles continue; Karlsson‘s big minus number seems largely based in trying to do too much, but his production remains astounding; Turris‘ offensive numbers are back in their normal range; Conacher continues to look like a Brandon Bochenski clone in terms of production; there’s no apparent reason for Paul MacLean’s love affair in having Phillips and Neil on the powerplay (or the latter playing much at all); it’s difficult to suss out the reasoning behind some of the rotation on the blueline, albeit Gryba and Corvo seem to have drawn the short straws most of the time (which makes sense); Kassian remains on the roster for no reason whatsoever; the team’s inability to win with Lehner in net remains puzzling; Anderson‘s numbers are starting to return to normal.  Ceci‘s addition, if it remains permanent, should involve moving either Gryba or Corvo–I don’t see a market for either, so I’d guess sending the former to the minors.  It looks as though the coaching staff has finally accepted that Zibanejad should play with better players, although their reluctance to do so in general makes me hesitant to say they’ve seen the light.  I’d like to see Wiercioch regularly in the lineup, but MacLean’s love of Cowen makes that unlikely.  Spezza‘s TOI should reflect the fact that he’s the team’s second best center, but I don’t think the coaching staff is willing to go down that path.

Despite the glut of blueliners on the team and in the organisation, rumours continue to swirl around acquiring Michael Del Zotto and I just don’t see the point in making that move (putting aside the fact that the Sens have to go dollar-for-dollar to get him).  At this point I think a good portion of the team’s struggles are directly related to poor coaching decisions.  It’s an odd thing to say about what’s considered a great coaching staff, but there are things apparent both to simple observation and via various analytical measures that make me see it this way.  One of the most obvious things is the long rope MacLean gives to his veterans, even after it’s clear they simply aren’t capable of improving their play.  Can the team improve?  I think they can (their underlying numbers have), but the playoffs seem out of reach at this stage.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)