Senators News & Notes

I caught parts of Ottawa’s 5-4 shootout win against Calgary last night (the Raaymaker offers a full review), with nothing occurring to change my opinions on players (although Erik Karlsson was struggling at times–perhaps putting too much pressure on himself to do too much).  It’s nice for the team to get the win, but there were no signs that we’re going to see an overall improvement in their play.

dean brown

I try to avoid listening to TSN 1200, but I caught part of the pre-show before last night’s game where Dean Brown not only took Bryan Murray’s stance on Mikael Wikstrand using spurious arguments (it’s not how he or people he knows would behave–for those scoring at home, that’s a logical fallacy–anecdotal in this case), but adding in unsubstantiated rumours to bolster them–that’s beneath him.  Clearly it’s in Brown’s interest to support the choices of the organisation, but adding in unsubstantiated rumours is stooping pretty low.

jared cowen

it’s hard not to think about the man-bun any time Ottawa plays (Raaymaker above has comments, incidentally), and I have to wonder how much of Jared Cowen‘s supposed upside was derived from playing with Jared Spurgeon back in Spokane.  While I think many of us believe that Bryan Murray will never give up on the guy, Murray can be very funny about how he feels about a player–if he ever turns on Cowen he’ll shit all over him and attempt to move him ASAP–I just don’t know what it will take for him to get there.  GMs have a hard time swallowing their egos when it comes to their own first-round picks.

STATS

Ray Ferraro (around the 19 minute mark) gives his description and rationale over why puck possession (ergo advanced stats) matter:

To get the puck on net, to go get it, to control it, and to play defense in the other team’s end.  That’s puck possession.  I think initially when people first heard puck possession the image came you know of a big strong forward that cycled the puck in the corner and just kind of held it over there, but I guess that’s one way of possessing the puck.  The other way is to shoot it on the goalie and go get it and keep it in their zone so that by the time the other team gets it they’re so tired they get to the red line and just chip it into your zone and you come right back at them.  That’s puck possession. … My view of the people that don’t acknowledge what some of the advanced metrics might look like–I think they believe in them anyway, they just don’t want to read a chart or a graph about them.

He goes on to talk about Patrick Roy and Todd McLellen’s comments about analytics and it follows the same line.  It’s funny to think that he could be completely spot on that people are simply intimidated or annoyed by the presentation of the facts (either in form or by who presents them).

Binghamton_Senators_svg

I watched Binghamton’s 4-3 lose to Wilkes-Barre in an entertaining game they could have won.  The lineup was shook up by roster moves and Richardson scrambled all of his lines (Greening-O’Dell-Schneider, Lindberg-Dzingel-Robinson, Wideman-Paul-Dziurzynski, Guptill-Ewanyk-Hobbs; Fraser-Mullen, Claesson-Carlisle, Harpur-Tuzzolino).  Here are the highlights:
-poor defensive coverage by Alex Wideman leads to the Penguins first goal
-terrible coverage by Tuzzolino nearly costs another
-Richardson put the fourth line on one of the powerplays and the only moment of note was nearly giving up a shorthanded goal
Mark Fraser made an ill-advised hit attempt that lead to a 3-on-1 and the Penguins second goal
Danny Hobbs lost his defensive assignment that lead to a wide open chance in front of the net
Nick Paul missed a wide open net off a rebound
Chris Carlisle made it 2-1 on the powerplay with a one-timer top-shelf
-a terrible line change and a slow Tuzzolino made it 3-1
Cole Schneider roofed it off a face-off win on the powerplay
-BSens tied it on a late second period powerplay as the Penguins own-goaled off Schneider‘s centering feed
Patrick Mullen made a great pass to Alex Guptill in traffic to give him a mini-breakaway (nothing came of it)
Tuzzolino made a good defensive play during a trainwreck in front of the net
-Pens score on a shot off the rush simply beating Chris Driedger
Wideman had a great chance off the rush, but couldn’t handle a bouncing puck
-BSens didn’t generate much of anything in the final 90 seconds with the goaltender pulled

General observations: Carlisle played very sparingly, as Richardson mostly rotated the other five defensemen; I can see why the smallish defenseman wasn’t drafted despite good offensive numbers–he doesn’t have great speed; the usual players were the best for the BSens again–I can’t emphasize enough how good Tobias Lindberg‘s hands are (great game for Ryan Dzingel as well–lot’s of chances); Greening should not be on a scoring line (I’d rather see Paul in his place); Robinson also shouldn’t be on a scoring line–he seems to have only a binary function: shoot or throw the puck into the corner.  It’s amazing how competitive the BSens have been with weak depth at forward (icing essentially a full ECHL fourth line) and a talent-starved blueline–if there are any key injuries or more callups the team is going to crash and burn.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Senators News & Notes

matt_puempel

The Sens recalled Matt Puempel due to various injuries; his addition makes more sense than Max McCormick, but he’s still not the most deserving BSen to be recalled (so much for the organisations vaunted claim of rewarding their best players in the minors).  Binghamton has also recalled Chris Carlisle–perhaps the gong show that is Tuzzolino will end.  I think Troy Rutkowski was more deserving, but Carlisle is an adequate pick.

Ross A makes the case (and he’s preaching to the choir here) that Shane Prince deserves some top-six consideration–or at least freedom from the lead weights that are Chris Neil and Zack Smith.  At least for tonight it appears as though Cameron agrees, although he’s scratching Chris Wideman and giving us the gruesome Cowen-Borowiecki combination again (perhaps Calgary is bad enough to get away with it–we shall see)–granted some believe he has little choice here with the directives coming from on high.

wikstrand

We finally know the real Mikael Wikstrand story both for why he left the team and why he wanted to stay in Sweden.  In an interview he revealed his brother is suffering from leukemia and also talked about the situation with Ottawa (this is via Google translate):

Why did you not tell me anything about this earlier in the conversation you had with Ottawa?

“I do not know … It’s really bad of me. It’s me terribly sorry that I did not. I should have taken it up in a prettier way and told me why I wanted to play at home. But I’m a guy that keeps a lot of things for myself, keep it in the family. My agent did not know about it before.”

Do you regret that choice in retrospect?

“It’s done. I should have said it to the agent, Ottawa and Farjestad how it is – and why I wanted to play closer to home. There is a big factor.”

It’s very easy to wag one’s finger at Wikstrand and tell him he could and should have handled things better, but to my mind it’s pretty understandable that larger concerns made him lose sight of the proper way to handle it (I certainly echo Nichols points on the matter).  My hope is this allows some rapprochement between he and the organisation.

Binghamton_Senators_svg

I missed watching Binghamton’s 4-1 loss live and haven’t had the time to pour over the game in detail, but I have a few observations to supplement Jeff Ulmer‘s recap:
-the BSens lone (powerplay) goal came off a terrible line change by the Devils with Puempel banging in Nick Paul‘s rebound
-prior to that, Puempel took a selfish double minor
Zack Stortini‘s boarding penalty was less malevolence and more his own stupidity (which is still no excuse)
-the first goal on O’Connor was a stinker as the 6’5 goaltender was deep in his net and beat five-hole at a terrible angle
-the second Devils goal rests on the shoulders of Mike Kostka who was caught watching the play
-the third goal was much the same as Travis Ewanyk had no idea there was a player behind him in the slot
-I have no idea why Eric O’Dell felt the need to instigate a fight after the hit on Tobias Lindberg–it was a bit low, but not particularly dirty (low to the hip, not at the knees)
-the fourth goal was a rocket one-timer, so no chance for O’Connor
-Jeff points out that the powerplay has been awful and the key problem (as I’ve said continually) is putting Stortini on it (he has the #1 and #2 powerplays reversed in his post on special teams–he also missed PK regular Cole Schneider, who has one of Binghamton’s two shorthanded goals; I agree with him on who has been the better goaltender thus far–Driedger)

The league has done the BSens a favour by suspending Stortini for a couple of games.  A quick additional note: Buddy Robinson is healthy again and will join the lineup tonight.

EA NHL hockey simmed the NHL season just prior too (not very meaningful, but for those curious, they had the Sens just squeaking into the playoffs).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

I didn’t watch the Sens 4-1 loss to Arizona, but Ary M provides a blow-by-blow recap.  I’m curious to see who (if anyone) the Sens recall to replace Curtis Lazar (I’d guess Matt Puempel, although he isn’t the most de serving).  Bryan Murray is overly fond of meat & potatoes players (ergo the Max McCormick recall), but at some point he needs players who can put the puck in the net.

Binghamton_Senators_svg

The BSens beat Toronto 5-1 last night.  There were two lineup changes from their previous game, as Chris Driedger got the start and Alex Wideman replaced the recalled McCormick (Greening took the latter’s spot on the third line while Wideman played on the fourth).  Prior to the game Luke Richardson praised Tuzzolino‘s performance which is appalling.  As for the game itself (Jeff Ulmer also offers a breakdown), here’s a quick look at the goals and a few other moments of note: the scoring opened with Cole Schneider giving Matt Puempel a tap-in on a 2-on-1; David Dziurzynki made it 2-0 when his shot simply sailed through Garret Sparks from just inside the blueline; Tobias Lindberg made a great pass to Eric O’Dell to make it 3-0; right after Mark Fraser fought Richard Clune as payback for a hit on Ryan Dzingel, the Marlies scored as Josh Leivo fired through a screen; Schneider scored with a backhand move on a breakaway; there was a nice give & go between Puempel and Schneider (latter with the goal).  Other items of note: Nick Paul missed on a first period breakaway; the aforementioned Tuzzolino fell asleep in front of his own net early in the second and nearly gave up a goal; Lepine almost managed an own-goal in front of his net (2nd); Lindberg made a great pickoff in his own zone leading to a 2-on-1; Fraser took a needless penalty (2nd); Lindberg missed high backhand on a breakaway (3rd).  Despite the final score the Marlies dominated in the early 2nd period when the score was 2-0 and 3-0 (where the poor defensive plays and bad penalty above are mentioned).  The first-line was again the best, with the second continuing to improve.  [A look at the goals:
1. Shortly after Mullen saved a goal in front with a timely stick check with a Marlie all alone in front, Schneider creates the turn over and he feeds Puempel for the empty net on a 2-on-1
2. Dziurzynski scores with an innocent wrist shot from a long way out
3. Nice little pass by Lindberg who creates the turnover and O’Dell makes no mistake from in close
4. Hobbs turns it over and Ewanyk loses his check so Leivo is all alone in the slot to shoot through a crowd
5. Puempel springs Schneider on a breakaway and he makes no mistake with a deke
6. Paul gets the puck out of danger and Puempel gives Schneider the empty net on a 2-on-1]

I agree with Jeff that Wideman was invisible; I think the porous Marlies defense Jeff mentioned occurred when they got far behind and defensemen were gambling; Jeff agrees with me that Zack Storini doesn’t work on the powerplay–he can’t stake, he can’t pass, and he can’t shoot–his stats last year were an aberration (with that said, I don’t expect Richardson to remove him); a lot of BSens fans are praising Fraser, particularly for defending his teammate, but I’m still on the fence about him–in the first five games of the season he’s taken selfish penalties in two of them (tonight and against Albany), along with being guilty of an atrocious turnover leading to a goal (the first game against Saint John).  The latter will happen to any blueliner at some point, but there’s no excuse for the dumb penalties.  Fraser has no offensive upside, so he has to be excellent in all other facets of the game and he needs to police himself better.

EvansvilleIceMenCHL

The IceMen played their second game of the season last night against last year’s Kelly Cup champs Toledo, with a similar result to game one (a 2-1 loss).  The lineup changes were Swede Sebastien Strandberg replacing Mark Anthoine and he was a big improvement; Samuel Noreau replaced Dieude-Fauvel which didn’t help the team at all.  The individual play continued, being particularly bad from veterans Matt Hussey and Daultan Leveille.  The first goal against Scott Greenham was due to poor defensive coverage and on the second Noreau screened him; Evansville’s lone goal was a Fawcett tip off a point shot.  Zarbo played well again; Troy Rutkowski had a strong game (as did Greenham).  Most of the game Toledo dominated and was clearly more talented, but the IceMen did put on great pressure after their goal (so the final half of the third period).  It’s just two games in, but a lack of talent may be the downfall of Evansville.

STATS

I’m puzzled by fans (and professionals) who simply reject analytics.  Hockey people like Patrick Roy, John Tortorella, the Sens organisation, and others express dismissive views despite showing little to no understanding of the material.  This kind of rejection isn’t unique to hockey–there are many instances where conventional wisdom is used as “evidence” to reject actual evidence.  In the case of the NHL I don’t believe there’s any perniciousness here, instead I think those trying to break down the game into usable data are fighting two separate problems: 1) the struggle to understand analytics (and what their numbers mean), and 2) the weight of decades of hyperbole and conventional wisdom that’s accumulated from the era before analytics.  The issues are interrelated, because the media has done a poor to non-existent job in addressing it–part of that, surely, is because accepting the importance of the data would promptly unemploy a huge swath of TV and radio personalities.  Secondly, while the proof that analytics is legitimate continues to pour in, it’s new enough that challenges to it can still be seen as reasonable–despite the fact most of them boil down to ‘hockey can’t be understood purely by numbers.’  It’s basically a battle of faith at this point (people believe something is true to the point that they are not open to it being wrong).  Once the media (and NHL) fully embrace analytics that opposition will vanish, but it may be another ten years or so before we see that happen.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

jared cowen

The Sens lost an entertaining game 5-4 shootout loss to New Jersey last night (losing despite being up 4-2).  Andrew Hammond wasn’t sharp, but I’d put the loss firmly on the shoulders of Dave Cameron and the odious play of Jared Cowen and Mark Borowiecki (why are they ever on the ice in the last minute of a period?).  Ross A provides a blow-by-blow breakdown while he also reminds us of how bad the two aforementioned defensemen are.

Travis Yost talked about the worst contracts in the league and one thing I wanted to pull from that is this:

Philadelphia and Toronto ignored innumerable warning signs and abysmal underlying statistics, and paid a dear price.  This, of course, is not hindsight. And it’s probably not a coincidence that three of the most out-spoken critics of these signings (including Cam Charron, Tyler Dellow, and Eric Tulsky) are all now gainfully employed by NHL teams.

I bring this up in an Ottawa context because, despite having an analytics consultant, there’s no strong evidence the organisation pays any attention to it.  This is exactly the reason why the Sens consistently bring in broken down, over valued veterans and overvalue terrible but physical defensemen.

Binghamton_Senators_svg

I watched the BSens 3-2 loss to St. John’s on Wednesday (the second of their back-to-back with the IceCaps).  The only lineup changes were O’Connor in net and Tuzzolino on the blueline (replacing the injured Ben Harpur).  The game was less entertaining and eventful than Tuesday’s OT win.  The BSens got down 3-0 early, as O’Connor gave up two bad goals and an unlucky one (all in the first period).  Once again it was the top line (O’Dell-Lindberg-Dzingel) that brought the team back, with O’Dell cashing in after Lindberg missed a half-open net.  Max McCormick made it 3-2 by banging in a loose puck, but that was it for the scoring.  McCormick also took a really dumb, selfish roughing penalty in the second, but it didn’t wind up hurting the team.  Binghamton had very little sustained pressure, although with the goalie pulled they had a couple of great chances.  I liked the team’s resilience, but I’m still not happy with some of Richardson’s choices.  Tuzzolino, incidentally, was not very good and really belongs in the ECHL. [A look at the goals:
1. O’Connor is simply beat by the shot from the point
2. O’Connor gives out a huge rebound and puts the puck in his own the net
3. A weak shot goes in off Tuzzolino
4. Just after failing to score on a double minor Lindberg misses an empty net, but a backwards between the legs pass to O’Dell right in front gets banged in
5. McCormick is left alone at the side of the net and bangs in a rebound]

EvansvilleIceMenCHL

I was listening to the Evansville podcast the other day and while I enjoyed it I have no idea what made them think Tyson Fawcett played well in the team’s opener–he did nothing useful.  Speaking of the IceMen, P. J. Fenton (claimed on waivers) has signed with Sonderjysk in Norway so he won’t be suiting up in the ECHL any time soon.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

Along with discussing the news that Clarke MacArthur and Marc Methot are both suffering from concussions, Nichols brings up Mikael Wikstrand‘s situation in which Bryan Murray said this:

Well, supposedly his brother is sick and he’d like to be closer to home, but I think the team he hopes to play for is three hours away. We’re about eight hours away on an airplane, so I don’t think there’s that big of a difference in the impact that he might have. But I do understand if there’s an illness. I understand that part of it. The point being that he made a commitment to play here. We signed him to a contract and paid him accordingly to our obligations and we’re asking him to honour that contract at this point in time.

Why Murray included “supposedly” here is beyond me.  Nichols believes the Sens would be better off allowing him to play in Sweden, but for me I’d only indulge him on that point if he signs a favourable extension that precludes him from playing anywhere else (with bonuses due only after he’s reported and started playing).  There’s really no point in letting an asset disappear and that’s entirely possible if they leave him buried in Sweden all year long.  Time will tell if Murray’s hardline stance works or not.

The NHL is remarkably resistant to change and the newly hired John Tortorella illustrates one of the reasons why:

There are so many red flags going on with analytics. … we were 10th in puck possession [in Vancouver] and finished 25th.  Last year LA was fifth and didn’t make it.

Those isolated examples do not refute the theory–the fact that Torts doesn’t understand that is incredibly.  Incidentally (and amusingly), he offered different numbers on the exact same point when asked about it on Prime Time Sports back in September.  I liked Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen as a scout, but it’s clear he’s large lost in his current position.

Incidentally, on the PDOcast (episode 8) they reference the difference between dump and chase hockey versus entering the zone with possession, with the latter creating twice as many scoring chances.

Binghamton_Senators_svg

I watched Binghamton’s 5-4 OT win over Saint John’s yesterday.  There were no lineup changes other than Chris Driedger getting the start in net.  Lamentably Zack Stortini continued to be used on the powerplay, although his dumb penalty of the night (offensive zone hold) was not with the man advantage.  The BSens dominated the first period, but were on their heels in the second.  Colin Greening opened the scoring on a bad angled shot; Mark Fraser‘s terrible turnover beside his own net tied the game, while a missed defensive assignment from Ben Harpur gave Saint John a 2-1 lead.  The third IceCap goal was via a weird bounce off the boards.  The BSens scored late on a defensive turnover (O’Dell), before Saint John made it 4-2 on a harmless point shot in the third that went straight through Driedger.  The BSens stormed back with a great shot from Matt Puempel and then tied is via a Travis Ewanyk (!) deflection.  Offensive maestro Fredrik Claesson won the game in OT with a wrap around effort.  Once again the O’Dell line was by far the best.  God knows what Greening is supposed to do with his linemates–I’d prefer Stortini play with Ewanyk and Hobbs while the aforementioned two-million dollar man lines up with Dziurzynski and McCormick.  At any rate, it was a fun game to watch. [A look at the goals:
1. Greening blocks a shot after an unforced turnover by Fraser and scores off Mullen‘s rebound SH
2. A soft call on O’Dell–when he lifted the stick the St. John’s player let go and it flew through the air–and on the PP 3 BSens lose a puck battle against one player, Fraser takes the man and not the puck leaving Holloway alone to score
3. Claesson turns it over and Driedger is beat cleanly on the bad-angle shot
4. Harpur‘s clear around the boards is deflected out to Dumont alone in front who makes no mistake
5. Dzingel creates the turnover, Lindberg sends O’Dell in all alone who makes no mistake
6. Harpur passes to the wrong team and a tip off the point shot goes in
7. Puempel scores from a shot from the dot on the PP
8. Ewanyk tips in Mullen‘s point shot
9. Claesson scores banging in his own rebound after a wrap around in OT]

prospects

SHL
Andreas Englund (Djurgardens) – 10-0-0-0
Filip Ahl (HV71) – 7-0-0-0 (SuperElit 7-9-5-14)
Marcus Hogberg (Linkoping) – 1.93 .921
Mikael Wikstrand – suspended

Allsvenskan
Christian Jaros (Asploven) – 9-1-1-2

CHL
Francis Perron (Rouyn-Noranda) – 10-9-10-19
Filip Chlapik (Charlottetown) – 10-3-7-10
Thomas Chabot (Saint John) – 7-1-2-3
Gabriel Gagne (Victoriaville) – has not played

USHL
Joel Daccord (Muskegon) – 4.02 .842

NCAA
Colin White (Boston College) – 3-2-0-2
Robbie Baillargeon (Boston U) – 2-0-0-0
Quentin Shore (Denver) – 4-2-0-2
Chris Leblanc (Merrimack) – 2-1-0-1
Shane Eiserman (New Hampshire) – 3-0-2-2
Kelly Summers (Clarkson) – 4-0-2-2
Miles Gendron (Connecticut) – 2-1-0-1
Christian Wolanin (North Dakota) – 2-0-0-0

Josh Weissbock takes a look at the success of NCAA defensemen in the NHL in reference to when they leave college.  He makes the somewhat obvious point that those who leave earlier are the more highly prized players by NHL teams and therefore have a greater chance to succeed.  I wish he hadn’t included Dead Puck Era data, but presumably to get a decent enough sample size he felt he had no choice.  Anyway, interesting reading.

STATS

Ross A offers up a beginners breakdown of analytics (Torts take note), so for those looking to get their feet wet and learn what Corsi and Fenwick are all about, check it out!

The Statstrack app is something being offered by former NHLer Drake Berehowsky and while the utility is targeted at coaches and managers its an interesting development.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

I didn’t catch much of the Sens 4-3 shootout loss to Nashville, but you can read Michaela Schreiter‘s breakdown that includes the highlights.  I did see enough to know that Ottawa’s lamentable two defensemen continued to make bad decisions, but I’m not sure what’s left to say about that at this point.

Nichols believes that in the absence of Clarke MacArthur that the HST line needs to be broken up to solidify the second line.  I agree with him wholeheartedly that Alex Chaisson (or Curtis Lazar or Milan Michalek) aren’t the answer, so perhaps that’s one way to go, but I’m uncertain about Cameron’s ability to make good choices at this point.

Binghamton_Senators_svgThe Binghamton lineup for their 2-1 loss to Syracuse was unchanged from the previous game except that Matt O’Connor was in goal.  As for the game itself, Luke Richardson’s addiction to putting Zach Stortini on the powerplay came back to haunt him as the lumbering enforcer took two stupid penalties with the man-advantage, the second resulting in Syracuse’s winning goal.  I hope Richardson will change how he’s using him, but I doubt it.  On the whole I thought the Crunch held the edge in play, particularly dominating the first period.  As for the BSens, they had another strong performance from the first line (LindbergO’DellDzingel); it was also Nick Paul‘s best game thus far (and Matt Puempel‘s). [A look at the goals:
1. Fraser makes an inexplicable check attempt in the offensive zone leading to a 2-on-1 where Tambellini keeps and beats O’Connor short side
2. Schneider picks the pocket of Richard and score SH on the deke
3. Just after a PP had expired Tambellini scores off a weak one-timer through O’Connor‘s legs]

EvansvilleIceMenCHL

It was Evansville’s opening game of the season last night (a 3-1 loss to Indy) and they proceeded with the following lines (with Scott Greenham in goal):
Hussey-Leveille-Zarbo
Penny-Zay-MacDonald
Dunn-Lukin-Fawcett / Anthoine (extra forward)
Dieude-Fauvel-Carlsson
Carlisle-Rutkowski
Himelson-Humphries

I watched the game (broadcast in better quality than the AHL), and it featured a lot of individual play and lack of structure by the IceMen–clearly linemates need to develop chemistry.  In general they seemed to be less talented lineup than Indy, although one game isn’t enough to be sure about that conclusion.  As for players on AHL contracts or ELC’s, Joe Zarbo performed the best (although he didn’t stand out); Chris Carlisle, in contrast, was pretty bad (despite getting an assist on the only goal). [goals: 1. Zay turns it over creating a 2-on-1, 2. On the PP Greenham is beaten high short side, 3. On the PP Zarbo walks out front and scores high with the backhand, 4. Dunn turns it over leading to an empty-net goal.]

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

The Sens 7-3 win over Columbus was a lot closer than the score suggests.  I echo Trevor Shackles sentiments about the lamentable Jared Cowen-Mark Borowiecki pairing, which continues to be awful.  At this point you have to question Cameron’s ability to assess his players–lending some credence to Nichols concern that Cameron’s enlightened player usage last season was simply fortuitous circumstances.  As a side note, the bad Karma from signing Mark Fraser had its ripples in the game as Clarke MacArthur was out of the lineup after an innocuous fall to the ice.

There’s not much to say about the Sens lifeless 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh (Callum Fraser reminds us that the dreaded pairing is still awful–Trevor providing the numbers for both).  The players who have performed well thus far this season continue to do so, and those that haven’t still aren’t.  It was nice to see Shane Prince dressed, but other than brief moments when he wasn’t buried on the fourth line he wasn’t that visible.  Incidentally, Nichols recaps the team’s first three games and a lot of what he says involves line and lineup changes (all the ones you’d expect).

Binghamton_Senators_svg

Matt O’Connor was returned to Binghamton now that Andrew Hammond is healthy, resulting in Scott Greenham being sent to Evansville (expect both to start tonight for their respective teams).  Tony Androckitis offers a preview of the North Division, but it’s largely just a list of the prospects who will play.

EvansvilleIceMenCHL

Roster changes continue as the team released Branden Komm, Donnie Harris, and Stephen Pierog (only the former is surprising).  The IceMen claimed P. J. Fenton off waivers from Fort Wayne (30-year old spent the last two season in tier-2 Germany), but he’s not signed so may never play; they also traded for goaltender Keegan Asmundson (from Orlando; he’s a rookie NCAA grad out of Canisius); and acquired the ECHL rights to Samuel Noreau (a failing Rangers prospect).  The final roster posted by the team will likely continue to change, but it’s how the team will open (12 forwards, including one on IR, 9 defensemen, and 3 goaltenders).

STATS

Pension Plan Puppets gave a lukewarm review of Rob Vollman‘s latest Hockey Abstract volume.  According to PPP if you are already firmly into analytics there’s nothing new, but it’s newbie friendly.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

The Sens beat the Leafs 5-4 in a shootout on Saturday.  I caught some of the game (Callum Fraser has a full recap), and as expected Jared Cowen and Mark Borowiecki continued their Keystone Cops routine from the pre-season.  I missed the Sunday night game (inexplicably the NHL does not schedule around my gaming night), but Ross A provides a summary of their 3-1 loss.  Trevor Shackles worries the team is too reliant on its top line and besides arguing that players should be shifted brings up that Shane Prince should be inserted and Chris Neil deleted–whatever else happens, I’d love to see that.  I also think that playing Curtis Lazar in a top-six role makes little sense.

STATS

Micah Blake McCurdy has an interesting prediction model for the season, with a preview that’s worth looking at–keeping in mind the following shortcomings:

Roster changes for skaters are not considered. To do so would require a much more sophisticated model that estimated team talent from estimates of individual player talent. New players, such as McDavid and Eichel, are not included for this reason. Similarly, aging effects are not considered. Coaching effects and in-game dynamics are obviously not considered, so things like relative sensitivity to score effects are not included. Penalty drawing and taking are not included.

Those are big issues, but it’s interesting to look through.  He has Ottawa just squeaking into the playoffs.

Mike-Richards

For those following the Mike Richards case I think James Mirtle does a great job summarizing the worrying elements that have come out of it.  Particularly egregious, in my mind, is the behaviour of King’s GM Dean Lombardi:

There’s no indication – and certainly not after the arrest – that the Kings tried to help Richards with his problem. And had he been performing at a higher level, on a more reasonable contract, it’s unlikely the team would have been so quick to nullify his deal. (Especially given there was talk this summer that the Kings were considering welcoming defenceman Slava Voynov – who pleaded no contest to domestic assault in July – back into the fold had he not returned to Russia amid immigration issues related to his jail time.)

The piece is well worth reading in full.

Binghamton_Senators_svg

Binghamton announced its opening roster (already changed as Ryan Penny has subsequently been sent down to Evansville), which includes two extra defensemen and four (now three) extra forwards.  Part of the logjam exists because of the injuries to Buddy Robinson (back sometime in November), Alex Guptill (I believe it’s short-term), and Michael Sdao (out long term), as well as the demotion of Colin Greening.  The team named Zack Stortini as captain, which fits Luke Richardson’s love for veterans.  I think the captaincy is overvalued by fans, so I’m not sure how much that matters.

I watched Binghamton’s opener against Albany and largely agree with Jeff Ulmer‘s summary.  It’s worth noting that the supposed fourth line actually received third line minutes (and vice versa).  Among the prospects playing Tobias Lindberg was by far the most impressive–I’m not sure if his talent will translate at the next level, but my own concerns that his numbers were inflated by teammates in Oshawa have largely melted away.  A few other notes: Mark Fraser took a really dumb/selfish unsportsmanlike penalty that could have caused Binghamton all kinds of trouble (they spent most of the first half of the second period in the box); Ben Harpur launched a few grenades up ice from his own zone; Stortini was better than I expected, but doesn’t have enough speed for the powerplay and Richardson took an unnecessary risk putting him there (resulting in a number of shorthanded opportunities against) when the score was 3-1 (he also embarrassed himself in a non-fight with Raman Hrabarenka); Chris Driedger was excellent; the blueline (with the exceptions of Mike Kostka and Patrick Mullen) struggled to move the puck up the ice.
[Specific look at the goals:
1. Greening tips in Mullen‘s shot on the PP
2. O’Dell takes a dumb penalty and on the PP which is compounded when Greening gets a soft boarding call and on the 5-on-3 Blandisi‘s pass bounces in off a defenseman
3. Lindberg passes on the 2-on-1 and O’Dell makes no mistake
4. Great pass by Kostka finds Dziurzynski by himself in the slot
5. Behind the back pass by Lindberg to O’Dell gives him an open net]

EvansvilleIceMenCHL

As mentioned above Ryan Penny has been added to the IceMen’s lineup (he did not participate in Binghamton’s opener), but he’s only one part of a number of transactions for the team: Matt HarlowRadoslav IlloJ. P. Labardo, and Robin Soudek were all released, while 36-year old Matt Hussey (who didn’t play last year after spending six seasons in the DEL) was signed.  The decision to sign Hussey and release Soudek puzzles me and I’m curious what the explanation for each will be.

Tidying up a few details from Evansville’s FHL affiliate the Berlin River Drivers: much of their roster (12) is made up of players from defunct FHL teams (the Watertown Wolves, the Dayton Demonz, and the Berkshire Battalion).  Besides those players, they’ve signed last year’s FHL MVP Cody Dion (who comes via the SPHL/CHL), Russian goaltender Dmitri Ryazhinov (who failed out of the MHL and is coming from the Kazakhstan league), veteran LNAH goon Neil Posillico, and veteran Czech player Andre Niec (the 33-year old has bounced around European tier-2 and tier-3 leagues most of his career).  Interestingly, goaltender Dustin Carlson participated in Columbus’ training camp, which is a compliment to the 29-year old who has spent most of his career in the SPHL.  I’ve heard of Nicolas Matejovsky before, as I think he was briefly ranked when he was draft eligible (he’s a rookie coming out of tier-2 college), but outside possible fill-ins for Evansville’s roster, none of these players are going to show up in Binghamton.

NWHL_Logo

The NWHL is enjoying its inaugural season (with four teams in Boston, Buffalo, New York, and I think Hartford–they’re called Connecticut so it seems like a safe guess).  While unrelated to the previous NWHL (99-07), it seems like its spiritual successor.  The salaries, with a few exceptions, won’t be living wages, but it’s a start for women’s professional hockey.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)1

Senators News & Notes

matt_puempel

As expected Matt Puempel lost his roster battle with Shane Prince.  I think it’s a good move both for the Senators and for Puempel himself, who needs to dominate at the AHL-level before graduating to the NHL.  He does add to an overloaded forward group in Binghamton that needs trimming, but that’s a good problem for the B-Sens to have.

macarthur-clarke

Everyone outside the organisation knew signing Mark Fraser was a dumb idea and when he accidentally injured Clarke MacArthur the karma came home to roost.  The Sens are lucky that MacArthur may not miss any regular season time because of it.  Speaking of the regular season, the lineup is out and not only are we getting the comedy duo of Borowiecki-Cowen but we also have the decision to put Curtis Lazar on the second line–I’m not sure if he’s intended as a defensive conscience of the line or if Dave Cameron thinks he has untapped offensive potential.  Regardless, we’ll see how much trouble the third defensive-pairing gets the team into.  Incidentally, Travis Yost explores what happened to Bobby Ryan last season via the numbers.

6th sens

Nichols broke out his stenotape machine to break down Bryan Murray’s latest interview and I’ll echo his sentiment that Shane Prince is going to struggle in the NHL if he has to lug around the dead weight that is Chris Neil and Zack Smith (he’s admittedly kinder to Smith than I am).  Murray has (for the moment at least) finally acknowledged that Mike Hoffman is his missing top-six forward–I don’t think there’s a lot of rope for him, but at least this means in the short-term we shouldn’t see him stuck on the fourth line.  I’m not sure this is news anymore, but Ian Mendes tells us that the Sens decided to part with Robin Lehner because they think Matt O’Connor will be better.  Trevor Shackles offers some excellent reasons for Sens fans to be cautious about the team this season.

Binghamton_Senators_svg

Binghamton has made some cuts and they include no surprises.  The only Sens prospects included were Troy Rutkowski and Vincent Dunn.  I expect that Alex WidemanRyan Penny, and Nick Tuzzolino will be sent down shortly.  When Michael Sdao returns to the lineup either Guillaume Lepine or Ben Harpur will also go.  Jeff Ulmer offers his thoughts on the Sens pre-season games as well as on some of the players (with his usual love of pugnacity; I agree with him wholeheartedly on Dunn).  The blueline for the B-Sens is woefully weak in terms of puck movement, which could create real problems for the team at both ends of the ice.

EvansvilleIceMenCHL

Cuts have been made at training camp as tryouts Danny Elser and Doug Reid were released and rookie Kyle Just was waived (I’m assuming he’s being sent to Berlin River Drivers in the FHL).  I missed some earlier cuts, as defensemen Dan Sova and Mike Kavanagh are no longer listed, as are forwards Adam Stuart and Thomas Gobeil.  Apparently in my delusion I indicated Robin Soudek and Jarret Lukin were defensemen, when both are forwards.

I’d noted that Evansville has an unusually large European contingent for an ECHL team (6; there are only 40 in the entire 28-team league) and I have to wonder how much international marketing for the franchise has to do with that–it may seem absurd, but in their press release about ECHL TV they say:

In addition to providing crystal clear sound quality, the new platform will allow the IceMen to control the broadcast and commercial breaks on-site and provide a global reach for its growing fan base. Evansville’s Training Camp roster features a large number of players from European countries and Canada and the organization has seen an increased amount of interest from those areas in recent months.

Perhaps it’s simply happy circumstance with the roster, but it’s not a bad idea for Evansville to try and broaden it’s market–there’s certainly plenty of players in European leagues capable of playing, assuming they can be convinced to cross the pond.  Oddly enough, for those interested in Internet subscriptions, it’s the same price to watch Evansville as it would be to watch Binghamton.

The bloggers who cover Evansville talked about the roster on their podcast and along with an old-fashioned desire to have more toughness in the lineup, they fear there’s not enough scoring in the lineup.

playersafetylogo_DL

Waste of space Raffi Torres was given a 41-game suspension for concussing Jakob Silfverberg.  I’ve seen all sorts of reactions to this, but no judgement by the NHL was ever going to overcome the fact that Torres shouldn’t be in the league in the first place.

travisyost

I hadn’t realized that Travis Yost was on Tumblr, but indeed he is and his post from a few weeks back on the Patrick Kane rape case is worth quoting at length:

I can’t emphasize enough, though, how little Kane’s guilt or innocence matters to the instant matter…. Specifically because it pertains to an act of domestic violence. Domestic violence prosecutions are extremely complex. In many instances the victim is extremely gun-shy about seeking justice. And for myriad reasons, may not want to testify. This isn’t, of course, my opinion. This is a well researched phenomenon that exists across the globe. Domestic violence is but a part of the reason why major sports leagues … have policy in place to impose discipline for illegal conduct or actions that appear detrimental to the league. in the NHL’s case, the CBA offers plenty of latitude to protect the brand and reputation of the business. One of these mechanisms (18-A-5) allows the NHL to send a player home with his paycheck if the league’s reputation is at harm. You might remember 18-A-5, since it was just recently used against Kings defenseman Slava Voynov in a similarly situated manner. It’s this kind of power that affords the NHL the luxury of being able to combat a societal epidemic while waiting for the criminal justice system to opine on a player’s guilt. It’s also the kind of power that affords the NHL the luxury of being able to combat a societal epidemic without infringing on elements of employment law. (…) What I immensely struggle with here is the rationale behind the NHL’s decision to not intervene. Surely it isn’t the threat of litigation, since 18-A-5 was collectively bargained and would be vigorously defended if a suit materialized. It would appear to me the NHL either believes their player is wrongfully accused in an arena where wrongful accusations are between slim and non-existent, *or* that the NHL simply doesn’t believe domestic violence to be a serious issue. It would also appear to me that the NHL prioritizes things like revenue and, uh, nothing else. Patrick Kane drives major ticket sales. Patrick Kane drives major merchandise sales. Patrick Kane was, at one point, the face of hockey in America. Slava Voynov was none of these things. He, of course, was sent home pending the outcome of his matter. *With* pay, per the terms of the CBA.

There’s nothing to really add to this, although I will say the (limited) coverage I’ve seen of Kane in the press has been pretty good (granted, I’m selective in who I read).

Travis had a much earlier post about getting rid of the draft that’s well worth reading, albeit I think the idea (which I like) has no legs whatsoever.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

Binghamton_Senators_svg

We’ve had more expected Sens cuts as newly signed Thomas Chabot was returned to the QMJHL and Nick PaulFredrik ClaessonEric O’DellZack Stortini, and Michael Kostka were all sent down to Binghamton (Mark Fraser followed the next day and Andrew Hammond‘s injury has kept Matt O’Connor with the team).  Let’s hope Bryan Murray was joking when he talked about Kostka getting a number of games with the Sens as a call-up.  Colin Greening also hit waivers, but I don’t know ihe’s going to stay in Binghamton all that long (I’m sure Murray is hoping someone claims him).  Incidentally, Michaela Schreiter offers up a season preview for the Sens.

Ottawa Senators Official NHL Headshots

Going back to Hammond, he’s apparently tweaked his groin (out for two weeks), which means the Sens did well to create some goaltending depth.  There’s not enough juice in the system to survive another injury to either Anderson or O’Connor at this point, but just Hammond is fine–all hail the Scott Greenham safety valve in Bingo.

jared cowen

Callum Fraser sums up the sideshow that was the Mark Borowiecki-Jared Cowen pairing last night:

When it was all said and done, Cowen and Borowiecki were side by side at the very bottom of the stat sheet, posting ugly possession numbers. At even strength, they both had Corsi ratings below 21 percent, Fenwick ratings below 17 percent and shot for ratings below 12 percent. … While Borowiecki took his obligatory minor penalty for the night – the Canadiens scored as he was exiting the box – Cowen looked anything but condifent with the puck and was getting beaten to the outside numerous times.

Does Callum know that Cowen is big or that Borowiecki is tough?  Er….  It’s scenarios like these, and the fact that Murray has at times wanted to get ride of Mike Hoffman and Patrick Wiercioch, that makes you wonder where his head is at.

Speaking of Murray (link above), he continued his faint praise of Cowen prior to the contest:

with his size, if he just accepts what he is, and what he is is a big, strong guy that has a little bit of a (mean) streak, can defend reasonably well and use his stick a little bit better, and then with the puck – keep it simple.

This sounds pretty desperate to me and it’s telling that “big and mean” are the main positive attributes given to the defenseman.  The AHL (and ECHL) is full of big and mean players–it’s not a difficult attribute to find.  If that’s what excites Murray then he might as well dress Michael Sdao when he’s healthy–he’d fight more than Cowen and wouldn’t require as much ice time.  As Nichols says in his comments, what’s disturbing is Murray’s insistence that he see’s no issue with a Borowiecki-Cowen pairing–we can only hope Dave Cameron is aware of the disaster and avoids it in the regular season.

wikstrand

Elliotte Friedman‘s 30-thoughts included this:

GM Bryan Murray unloaded on Mikael Wikstrand after the young defenceman went back to Sweden because of family concerns. I can totally understand Murray’s frustration. They are intrigued by Wikstrand’s potential and he probably would play some NHL games this year. But, when cooler heads prevail, I’d expect the Senators to try and see if there is still a future for Wikstrand in the organzation. He’s only 21. Remember that Ottawa has a long association with the agent, Todd Reynolds, through Mike Fisher, Chris Neil and Matt O’Connor. That can help.

Indeed, cooler heads should prevail and the Sens should keep lines of communication open.  It would be pointless to be petulant about his behaviour and waste a talented asset.

analysis

When you read theories and analysis there’s a lot to keep in mind: is the information provided sourced? Are the sources credible? Is quality data being used? What’s been left out (if anything)?  In many cases you can’t know all the answers to those questions, so you want other data to correlate things.  All this is pertinent in my response to Joss Weissbock’s PCS work.  I think the formula has a critical flaw in one of its criteria (of three), with its inclusion of height as a determinate factor.  Correlation does not equal causation–a self-evident truth, but just to give you an example of it at work: fans will recall that once upon a time whenever Chris Phillips scored a goal a stat would be dragged out about Ottawa’s winning percentage when he scored.  On the surface that seems pretty simple–Big Rig scores, the team wins.  If this were literally the case then Phillips would be played in all scoring situations–you’d see him on the first powerplay unit, perhaps lining up with Daniel Alfredsson, or in whatever ideal offensive arrangement you can imagine over his career–all the coach would need is just that one goal and the win would be secured.  This is obviously absurd and broadcasters used it tongue-in-cheek, but the point remains.  Besides the height problem I think using data pre-lockout (the one that ended the Dead Puck Era) is also problematic–not only did the game change in how it was played, the cap was also introduced which meant the emphasis on the draft (and therefore scouting) changed considerably–no one is nabbing Hall of Famers like Pavel Datsyuk in the sixth round anymore.

Masculinity

Andrew posted another lengthy blog on gender discrimination and while I wish there were far more posts about the topic, I’m disappointed that the post comes across not as a persuasive argument to bring people around to his point of view, but rather an expression of anger and frustration that would only appeal to people who already agree with him.  Other than catharsis I don’t see the point in preaching to the choir–if there were enough people who agreed already there would be no need to preach.  However, because he’s discussing an important issue that is underrepresented in regular sports journalism, his piece deserves a response.  Ostensibly he discusses the history of organised play in women’s hockey (mostly via anecdotal experience), with the central point being that women need to be allowed a more central place in the hockey world.  On its surface there’s nothing controversial or inflammatory about that–anyone with half a brain would agree and I’d love something like a functional pro women’s league to exist.  The problem is, the way Andrew discusses the issue doesn’t promote consensus or discuss a plan of action, instead it’s sprinkled with inflammatory elements that I think are counterproductive:

And yet mainstream hockey culture still actively discourages female fandom and resists cultivating spaces of inclusion.

Andrew can’t mean there are official policies that discriminate, so how is this occurring?  When harassment happens there should be an administrative response (by the team, forum, etc) or else the authorities should get involved–where that’s not happening, the specific institution has to be identified and rallied against.  If the problem is the laws themselves then political action needs to occur, but none of this is discussed in the piece.  There’s no onus on corporations to change their policies unless public pressure is significant (or laws are changed), so you need a public consensus that can’t be ignored to force the change.  I’m lost on what “spaces of inclusion” means–where are women being excluded from, and how?  When systematic exclusion occurs it’s something to report as above. What’s needed here is more explanation and examples that illustrate systematic discrimination which can lead to action.  Moving on:

Hockey’s contempt for women is seen in the NHL’s (and minor and junior leagues) atrocious handling of issues of violence against women and sexual assault. It’s illustrated plainly in hockey marketing and media.
Many men who love hockey hate what they perceive as the intrusion of women into their domain.

I’m not sure what the personification of “Hockey” implies–is it all hockey fans? Is it all hockey institutions?  The former would be ridiculous, so I assume he means the latter–he should be clearer.  Hockey leagues (and most sports leagues) are backwards in their handling of violence against women and they deserve criticism for how they handle it (as does the largely compliant media that covers them).  That said, the final comment is absurd–Andrew can have no idea what percentage of men “hate” the “intrusion” of women in hockey.  That’s the problem with using anecdotal evidence to justify your arguments–it just takes one other person to say none of their friends have had that problem and your argument goes up in smoke.  Regardless, anyone who does have an issue with women in hockey needs their head examined.  Next:

We continue to brand fandom space as male. … Hockey culture reinforces the centrality of men at the expense of women. Women exist on the fringes, the periphery, marginalized by the toxic masculinity that is pervasive in fan culture.

Who is “we”?  The next conversation I have with a hockey fan that begins with them demanding the women leave the room will be the first (I really hate broad sweeping statements that aren’t backed by evidence).  If he simply used facts to back up his statements–polling data, some articles, something, he’d make a much more persuasive argument.  As it stands, people who already agree with him will continue to do so and those that don’t won’t change their minds.

Many male fans think discrimination in the game has decreased in recent years.

I think he should write “many people”, as presuming he can speak for all women is a little ridiculous (as is assuming there’s an absolute gender line in opinions about anything).  Apparently Andrew can’t or doesn’t accept that the reason people think the situation is  improving is because there’s evidence that it has–bemusingly Andrew provides some of that evidence at the beginning of his article:

In Canada, female registration in minor and rec hockey has grown almost 1000% since the 1990-91 season

So clearly women are doing almost a 1000% better than 25 years ago.  To deny any progress serves no purpose–it just detracts from his argument–you’re far more likely to persuade people by talking about what’s changed for the better and then talking about the next step (god knows, the doom and gloom approach for those who are trying to push for climate change legislation has failed utterly–people simply tune out things that are only negative).  Finally:

Some refuse to acknowledge domestic violence and sexual assault at all.

Some people refuse to believe that the world is round (I endured a lengthy speech by a Flat Earther back in university–I wish I’d recorded it for posterity, but alas there were no iPhones back in 1996).  There are always going to be idiots, bigots, and sexists in the world–it’s not possible to enlighten everyone.  The best response to people like that is to both ignore them as well as putting policies in place that prevent people like that from having an impact on the sport (which requires enforcement).  No one not on the league’s payroll is going to seriously argue that hockey has kept up with the times–the league and their media lapdogs should be pushed harder, but the way to change that is to change public attitudes.  At any rate, that’s just my opinion–I encourage you to read the piece and form your own.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)