A Brief Thought on the Sens Player Usage

I’ve long been puzzled by the love affair the Sens organisation has had with Chris Phillips and Chris Neil (neither of whom I would have resigned–either recently or previously).  The latter fits the old school belief that a team needs tough guys, but I have no idea what Phillips has done in the post-05 lockout that warrants anything other than migraine-levels of frustration.  The same love for Neil seems to blanket poor Colin Greening, who (despite the evidence in analytics) I want to think can be a better player.  Why do these players receive so much ice time (19:42 for Phillips boggles the mind)?  The veterans never get scratched no matter how poorly they perform on the ice–what about accountability?  I really can’t explain it.  The love affair has lasted through different GM’s and a large rotation of coaches.  There are still NHL coaches who buy into “toughness” being relevant, which helps explain Neil, but I keep hoping someone out there will find some concrete reason why the Big Rig hits the ice with regularity.  Sure, Jared Cowen‘s usage also raises eyebrows, but he’s a young player and has had to endure the wrath of the fans all season (something that seems to have affected him), so I don’t see it as quite the same thing.  All I ever hear about #4 is leadership, but surely that’s not enough (and frankly, what leadership?).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Senators News: March 17th

St. Patrick’s Day seems like an opportune time to add some thoughts as the Sens season goes into the drink (Varada see’s no reason for hysteria, as the Sens are exactly the bubble team he predicted–I wince a bit when he says “most” people felt that way–Rob Vollman and others were very high on the team).  The off-season is less than a month away (April 14th kids, mark your calendars), and I think obituaries should be held until then.  Regardless, since I last chimed in on the season the Sens have gone 1-3-2 and seen their tiny playoff odds slip to almost non-existent.  It turns out those November musings that the season was over (referenced here) were spot on.  As Nichols points out (props on being paid for your opinion amigo–it’s well deserved), the Sens aren’t that different a team from this year to last, but they aren’t receiving the miracle goaltending of the lockout shortened campaign.  However, I’m not a fan of this thought:

if Bryan Murray can add better two-way forwards

I think Sens have an over abundance of forwards to whom that appellation is given (albeit not by Nichols), eg the lamentable Greening-Smith-Neil (Manny does his best to understand Paul MacLean’s obsession with the trio, concluding its their zone entries that he loves so much).  I actually like the Sens defence, minus the re-signed Chris Phillips (if he’s good in the room, leave him in the room) and Jared Cowen–at least the latter has hope to improve (Manny does a good job describing Eric Gryba, “he’s a serviceable bottom-pairing defenseman”).

-Any move that Don Brennan doesn’t like is going to be a good one, but no one needs his idiotic opinion to realise the acquisition of Ales Hemsky at the deadline was a good move and I hope he isn’t just a rental.   I wasn’t a fan of trading Andre Petersson, but this is the final year of his ELC and clearly the organisation thinks it has more than enough forward prospects to let him go (the much less interesting NCAA prospect Jeff Costello was also jettisoned).  Speaking of undersized forwards, Corey Conacher was gifted to Bryan’s nephew Tim via the waiver wire–while he didn’t score much in Ottawa, his underlying metrics were very good and it wouldn’t surprise me if he blossomed as a Sabre.  Dumping Joe Corvo into the AHL made sense–his addition over the summer seemed pointless to me at the time and it was a mercy for him and the team to move on.

Manny gives us some analytics on scoring chances and after a lengthy exploration concludes:

Possession is the component that drives even-strength scoring. The results herein further enforce the notion that goal-based statistics do not provide adequate assessments of players’ overall performances, but rather the summation of innumerable factors in constant flux. Though possession drives scoring opportunities and in turn, those opportunities goals, too much becomes lost in translation at the individual level. Given what we know, it’s best to rely on bulk shot-based metrics to provide statistical insight into how a player contributes towards out-scoring opponents.

I recommend reading the entire article.

Amelia L does a great job looking at the disappointing effort Sportsnet is putting into its planned national broadcast coverage of the NHL (Fox News style–aim for old white men as your audience).  My favourite bit:

Analysts like Friedman have tried to drag HNIC into the 21st century on issues as diverse as player safety and statistical analysis but the show as a whole remains firmly lodged in the past. Too often Friedman, who embraces social media and hockey’s growing online voices, is shouted down by PJ Stock and Glenn Healy, the current embodiments of hockey’s archaic “code” culture. Too often the loudest panelist wins on HNIC, regardless of how well his argument has been articulated.

This is one of the many reasons I don’t watch HNIC unless I have no choice.

Jared Crozier offers us this:

I have laid the blame on the official before, and will probably do so again, so this might be a little hyppocritcal. But at some point the Senators fan base has to look at the team they support and see that it is more their doing than the guys in stripes.

Put aside Jared’s anger at people blaming officials when he plans on blaming them in the future and go more to the point: simply accept NHL officiating is bad and your lives will be more peaceful.

Jeremy Milks gets self-reflective:

For some reason I’ve gotten that reputation [of liking tough guys over skilled guys] in the Sens small but fiercely opinionated online community and maybe that’s my own fault. … Even if I’m wrong sometimes, I take satisfaction in defending a player that gets almost unanimous scorn. … I don’t want to turn this into another stats argument and point to a bunch of numbers. We all know they’re good.

I like that Jeremy wants to defend underdogs and not simply bow to the opinion of the majority (albeit his opinions are the majority in print/radio/TV media), but I do find his disinclination to deal with stats amusing.  He has to know that stats are a way of describing and analysing the events he’s seeing, so they (should) provide insight rather than get in the way of discussion.

Jeff Ulmer continues to provide great coverage of Binghamton’s season (the B-Sens finally getting out of their funk as they reclaimed first place in the East); former beat reporter PuckJoy is also doing a great job on Twitter doing the same.

Peter Morrow offers us his top-20 prospect list; there’s no real analysis (or rationale for how players are compared–is it fulfilling their potential, against each other’s potential, how ready they are, or what?), but for list-lovers everywhere it creates room for debate and discussion.

-I didn’t cite Travis Yost here, but do yourself a favour and follow him (TravisHeHateMe)

-A very different flavour, but PuckPossessed is also someone to watch on your Twitter dial

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Ottawa at the 62-Game Mark

Ottawa has reached the 62-game mark (I’m two games off my usual twenty-game snapshot, but for the sake of simplicity I’ve gone with how things are now), so it’s time to take stock and see how the team has performed (for the previous segment go here).  The Sens went 12-6-4, which puts them tied for 11th in the conference (one up from 22 games ago) and they remain 6th in the division.  Their 174 goals for has fallen to tied for 7th in the conference, while their 199 goals against has improved to 15th (second worst).  Ottawa has the 15th best powerplay (18.9%), which is one place lower, albeit their percentage is slightly higher, while their penalty killing (80.6%) is 23rd (improving one place and by almost a full percentage point).  Their record is much better than in their previous segment of games, but they’ve barely moved at all in the standings (as predicted months ago).

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

Erik Karlsson 22-6-13-19 -6
Jason Spezza 18-4-12-16 -12
Clarke MacArthur 22-8-8-16 -5
Kyle Turris 22-10-5-15 +1
Cory Conacher 22-1-10-11 +3
Bobby Ryan 22-5-5-10 Even
Mika Zibanejad 22-3-7-10 -4
Milan Michalek 22-4-5-9 -4
Marc Methot 20-2-5-7 +8
Colin Greening 22-4-3-7 -6
Zack Smith 22-3-3-6 -3
Chris Neil 16-3-3-6 -5
Erik Condra 22-2-4-6 +2
Jared Cowen 21-0-6-6 -8
Cody Ceci 22-1-4-5 +1
Eric Gryba 17-0-5-5 -4
Stephane Da Costa 8-3-1-4 +1 [AHL 19-4-13-17]
Patrick Wiercioch 13-2-1-3 Even
Mark Stone 7-1-1-2 -1 [AHL 9-5-7-12]
Chris Phillips 13-0-1-1 -6
Matt Kassian 9-0-1-1 Even
Joe Corvo 4-0-1-1 -3
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 6-0-0-0 Even [AHL 18-4-11-15]
Mike Hoffman 2-0-0-0 +1 [AHL 24-16-19-35]

Craig Anderson 10-3-4 3.06 .908
Robin Lehner 2-3-0 3.05 .912
(Andrew Hammond played part of a game, but other than allowing no goals there’s not much to say)

It’s an interesting phenomena to look at a team that remained a collective minus that won the majority of its games (granted, without the loser point things wouldn’t be so impressive, just 12-10).  Karlsson continues to lead the way (including the most assists), with MacArthur continuing his production (most goals) and Turris recovering from a minor slump during the previous twenty games; speaking of slumps, Ryan has struggled offensively, while Conacher has been much more productive than the first half of the season; Michalek bumped his meagre production from awful to middling, but is still a piece that needs moving (assuming anyone will take him); Corvo and Kassian remain on the roster for inexplicable reasons; Gryba got out of the MacLean dog house while Wiercioch went back into it–either Cowen or Phillips belongs there, but the coaching staff has a soft spot for both; Stone and Da Costa played well in limited action.  Spezza was the worst minus (12) on the team, while Methot the best plus (8).  Lehner‘s infrequent appearances have hurt his performances, while Anderson has been okay in net, but his underlying numbers remain below league averages.

The trade rumours still swirl and I’m less excited by who might be coming in (Chris Stewart is name floating around right now) than who might go out.  The Sens have a significant amount of dead weight on their roster that I’d like them see shed for assets (if nothing else).  Bryan Murray’s deadline track record is awful, but we can hope the days of acquiring Martin Lapointe or Mike Commodore are over.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)