Senators News & Notes

I watched the beginning of Ottawa’s 4-3 loss to Arizona–Ross A provides the blow-by-blow.  Having watched a ton of AHL (and ECHL) games this year it’s much more striking how structured and crisp even mediocre NHL teams are in comparison.  Patrick Wiercioch was a healthy scratch because reasons–maybe Cameron has a crush on the man-bun?  As was said today (different context but it applies), who knows with this org?

Binghamton_Senators_svg

With Evansville in Alaska the shorthanded BSens signed Darian Dziurzynski (David‘s younger brother) to a PTO.  Darian was a 5th-round pick by Arizona back in 2011, but was released by the team when his ELC expired and wasn’t able to make an AHL roster this fall–he’s been plying his trade in the ECHL, having been traded by Tulsa to Greenville already (16-3-7-10; his career AHL stats 181-26-17-43).  He’s basically a warm body so I don’t think there’s a need to deep-dive on his abilities, but he’s essentially a less talented version of his older brother.

Coming off the team’s worst loss not just of the season but in franchise history, Richardson jumbled the lines, putting talented Tobias Lindberg on the fourth line (for those who haven’t figured it out, Richardson isn’t a fan of the Swede–I thought Tyler Ray had a great line comparing him to the way Mike Hoffman was treated), lining up the younger Dziurzynski with his brother, and pushing Schneider to the second line and elevating McCormick to the first and Robinson to the second–this is all extremely random.  Inexplicably the same D-combinations were kept, although in-game Richardson finally changed things up as the expected disaster unfolded (Carlisle wound up playing almost exclusively as a defensemen).  The play-by-play:
-great chance for Dzingel on the doorstep off a nice turnover by McCormick
-Paul with a nice chance at the top of the circle via Schneider
A rush for the fourth line is ended by Lepine deciding to have a pointless fight behind the play
Darian was hit in the face with a puck so Lindberg took his spot while repairs were going on (he missed about ten minutes of game action)
-Great chance for Puempel in close
1. Tuzzolino is deked out of the play and Paul can’t catch his check off a bad line change; Greenham is beat up high
-BSens took a penalty on the next shift with a pointless interference call via Harpur
2. Greenham is beat up high on a point shot (on the PP)
McCormick takes a dumb holding call while on the PP
3. Off the ensuing faceoff (scrambled) neither Lindberg nor Harpur are able to block the shot from just above the hashmarks
Lindberg turns it over leading to a 2-on-1 which is foiled by Carlisle
Second
4. Dziurzynski passes to the wrong team and Greenham is beaten by a howitzer
Mullen with a great shot block in front
McCormick picks up a dumb penalty in a shoving match
5. Sens give up a 2-on-1 and Lepine takes neither the shot nor the pass and Rochester bangs in the rebound off the post
Stortini turns it over requiring a nice stop by Greenham
-O’Connor comes into the net
-Nice little play by Lindberg leading to an Ewanyk wraparound attempt
6. Tuzzolino and a flat-footed Lepine both go for hits leading to a 2-0 against with the puck wobbling through O’Connor‘s legs
7. Mullen steals the puck and makes a slap-pass to a wide open Stortini in the slot
-Nice offensive sequence by the second line, but no quality scoring chance from it
Third
-Both Tuzzolino and Harpur sat this period with Carlisle getting the lions share of their ice time
8. Dzingel steals the puck and Puempel scores from the goal line
9. Lindberg flubs his pass but it somehow it gets to Dzingel who passes on a 2-on-1 and Darian scores (for some reason Mullen was given the assist instead of the Swede)
10. Carlisle bangs in Lindberg‘s rebound on the PP
11. Lindberg makes a nice backhand saucer pass in front and Robinson makes no mistake
Carlisle makes the save with the net empty

Don’t let the 6-5 score or the five-goal comeback fool you–Binghamton was not very good (Grady Whittenburg said on the broadcast that the blueline and goaltending hasn’t been good all season–I think the latter isn’t fair to Chris Driedger, but you can’t argue with the former).  If you’re wondering how the BSens suddenly played so much better in the third, putting aside that Rochester is an awful team and that they thought the game is over, it’s because Richardson benched a pair of terrible players (Tuzzolino and Harpur) and gave more ice time to productive players.  This is something he should be doing all the time, not just when his back is against the wall.  Chris Carlisle isn’t Bobby Orr, but compared to the dead weight on the blueline he should be a regular there instead of the fourth line.  Richardson needs to stop jerking Lindberg around, put Stortini on the fourth line (and take him off the powerplay), and so on.  Where’s the accountability?  I like Nick Paul, but he hasn’t had a point in 7-games and hasn’t scored all season–why is he permanently on the second line?  Slide him to the third to take the pressure off, or try him on the wing–something.  Stable lines would help as well, but they need to be intelligently put together (the same goes for defensive pairings).  I’m sympathetic to the plight of a team that’s dressing five ECHL-caliber defensemen, but there are smarter ways to pick and choose where and when they play.

EvansvilleIceMenCHL

Evansville lost their first of back-to-back games against Alaska 4-1 (yes they play them three times in a row), making only one roster change (putting the lamentable Himelson back in and pulling Dieude-Fauvel).  They were badly out shot again (46-27).  A look at the goals:
1. Humphries passes to the wrong team and while Reichard stops the initial rush to the net he’s beaten on the ensuing sequence off a rebound
2. Just after their PP expires Reichard is beat up high through a fantastic screen (Penny took a really dumb tripping call)
3. Soft call on Zay and on the PP Reichard is beat high on a weak wrist shot from the top of the circles (it’s a bad goal)
4. On the PP Fawcett scores on a backhand spinorama
5. Reichard is beat off a weak wrist shot from the point through the legs (another bad goal)

I have to wonder how tempted the coaching staff will be to put Reichard in net again given how abysmal Asmundsen has been–we shall see tonight.  On the Sens side of things Dunn was a healthy scratch.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

pierre dorion

Pierre Dorion spoke to the media and Nichols provides the transcript, but he had virtually nothing to say–just stating the obvious that the team gives up too many shots and that he likes Shane Prince.

prospects

I don’t find Randy Lee‘s comments about prospects particularly interesting anymore, but they do serve to provide insight in what the organisation (publicly) thinks.  For those interested he talks about Andreas Englund (strong, no puck skills), Marcus Hogberg (he’s good), Filip Ahl (nothing interesting), Colin White (he’s good), and finally about Binghamton call-ups.  What he says about Max McCormick is worth fully digesting:

But then we try to really reward the right guy and that’s why Max McCormick, who we went and saw in St John’s play 2 games and his numbers weren’t great. He had a couple of points and was a -4 but he was the best, most competitive guy out there. He deserved the call-up and I think he did a really good job here. People started to understand that Max McCormick can take that energy and competitiveness and play at the NHL level.

This is pretty stupid–being competitive doesn’t make you an effective hockey player–its required, but it’s right up there with “giving 110%” and all the other useless cliches–every pro tries.  What it does illustrate is the organisation’s obsession with physicality–being “good in the corners” as opposed to actually controlling the play and having good puck skills.  I like McCormick, but he wasn’t the most deserving call-up and the move hasn’t noticeably improved his play in Binghamton.  Lee referencing the plus/minus isn’t a great sign either–no one takes those numbers seriously anymore (at best, a huge variation from your teammates might mean something).

Binghamton_Senators_svg

I had a few things written before Binghamton’s game against Albany but before I get to that I have to say their 4-0 loss is the worst performance in a professional game of hockey I’ve ever seen (before the game Luke Richardson talked about the team having too many passengers–this seems to have been their reaction to that).  Richardson needs to go–being out shot 32-6 and continuing to play his brand of garbage hockey is unacceptable.  Back to my pre-game comments: I’m never sure how many fans realize why teams that take a lot of penalties are bad teams–its not about style of play, it simply reflects that the penalized team never has the puck.  What genius puts Lepine and Tuzzolino together as a pairing?  And why Hobbs on the third line instead of Robinson?  Onto the play-by-play:
1. Harpur pinches, loses the battle, and Ewanyk doesn’t skate hard enough to stop the pass to a wide open Devil in front
-Another Harpur special as, unpressured, he tosses a grenade to Lepine in his own zone and the puck bounces out to center ice to the Devils
Lepine takes a stupid tripping call
Schneider has a 2-on-1 shorthanded but loses the puck without shooting or passing
McCormick takes an unnecessary crosschecking call in the offensive zone
-14 minutes before the BSens had a shot on goal (from outside the blueline)
Stortini passes to the wrong team giving the Devils a 3-on-2
-Nice defensive play by Carlisle lifting the stick of a Devil in front
-Fourth line spends their shift running around in their own zone and when they finally get the puck Ewanyk shoots it over the glass
2. Tuzzolino can’t stop the pass and Claesson has no idea someone is behind him to take it
Harpur, unpressured, throws a backhand pass 15-feet wide of Dzingel forcing a scramble to defend the net
Second
-Brutal turnover by Mullen behind the net gives the Devils a great chance in front
McCormick decides to go for a hit instead of the puck in his own zone leading to a long Devils sequence with three quality scoring chances
3. O’Connor gives up a juicy rebound and Lepine has neither the man nor the puck giving the Devils get a tap-in
4. No one takes the trailing Devil and Ewanyk provides a great screen in front
Dziurzynski takes an unforced delay of game penalty
-Great chance for McCormick as Schneider saucers him the pass on a 2-on-1
Scott Greenham comes in
Lindberg with a bad neutral zone turnover, but the defense bails him out
-For some reason Lepine turns to watch Tuzzolino instead of the puck as Dzingel loses a puck-battle and the Devils have a chance right in front
-Great little deflection by Lindberg to set Stortini up in front on the PP, but his shot is blocked
-Fourth line spends another shift running around in their own end
-Goaltending coach Rick Wamsley was on during the second intermission and he wasn’t impressed by O’Connor‘s performance in the game; he also said the first period of the game was one of the worst he’s ever seen in professional hockey (amen Rick)
Third
Robinson had replaced Hobbs on the third line (the latter did not play in the period–he may have missed the second as well [turns out he’s injured])
Fraser takes a dumb boarding penalty (injuring the Devil player); Richardson put no one in the box to serve the penalty and should have been called for illegal substitution when it expired, but the officials had  mercy
Greenham with a couple of great saves in two different sequences
Nice defensive play by Claesson to break up a rush
Schneider takes a dumb penalty
-15 minutes in and the BSens have 3 shot attempts and none on goal
Carlisle was put back on the blueline for the final five minutes
-Nice little sequence with Puempel and Dzingel both having chances off a rush

This was a truly terrible game–unwatchable and with no silver lining for Binghamton.  O’Connor was subpar (which is better than his normal awful), the team took too many penalties (as usual), the fourth line was abysmal, the ECHL pairing (Lepine-Tuzzolino) was awful, Harpur was awful, Matt Puempel was invisible despite playing with the two best BSens forwards in the game (Dzingel and Schneider), etc.  To me it looked like the team quit after going down 2-0 and nothing Richardson tried changed that.  There’s a multitude of reasons why Richardson needs to go, but losing the room is yet another one.  Can the organisation give up on one of its favourites?  I have my doubts.

EvansvilleIceMenCHL

The IceMen won their second game in a row for the first time this season, beating the Alaska Aces 4-2 behind 38-stops by Cody Reichard.  Before celebrating a turnaround to their season, Evansville was out shot 40-21.  There were a number of lineup changes as Dieude-FauvelLukin, and Zay returned from injury (pushing out StrandbergHimelson, and Anthoine).  A look at the goals:
1. One-timer down low beats Reichard five-hole on the PP
2. MacDonald steals the puck and scores on the backhand high on a wraparound
3. Rumble has his pocket picked behind the net and Reichard is beaten on the wraparound
4. Penny scores on a wrist shot from the top of the circle
5. Moon makes a nice cross-crease pass gives Sims a tap-in
6. Leveille tips in Rumble‘s shot on the PP

The team benefited from two bad goals and survived via great goaltending.  The blueline is still pretty bad (Humphries in particular), but scratching Himelson helps.  Both Zay and Lukin help balance out the offence, although I would have liked Strandberg to stay in the lineup.  Incidentally, Dunn was a healthy scratch again.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

I caught some of Ottawa’s 5-3 win over Colorado and Ross A provides an excellent recap.  Shane Prince had a fantastic game and fans can both cheer and wonder why it took Dave Cameron this long to truly given him an opportunity.  I hope this gives Prince some rope to truly establish himself–time will tell.  Sens fans need to keep in mind that the team gave up 43-shots and without a great performance from Craig Anderson they don’t win this game.

don brennan

I haven’t written about Don Brennan in years–it seems pointless as the talentless hack is easy to ignore–but he shouldn’t be let off the hook when he says things like this:

Something else to like about the Stars — they are one of the remaining teams to still have ice girls scraping the rink during TV breaks

Absolutely disgusting, although Brennan is truly bulletproof so he can write and say just about anything and The Sun (and Postmedia) will back him up.

Kypreos

Somewhat related, in Andrew‘s latest piece he has a list of items the latter two of which relate to Patrick Kane and specifically comments made by Nik Kypreos:

Nick Kypreos made some pretty offensive comments regarding Patrick Kane during Saturday night’s Chicago-Vancouver game. Kypreos was referring to Kane’s offensive totals this season when he said Kane “wants to shove it down peoples’ throats”. It’s a totally inappropriate phrase given the rape investigation surrounding Kane to start the season but it highlights larger issues in the hockey broadcasting community. … But it also illustrates what too many in the broadcasting community believe: that assault victims lie and the true victim is Kane in this specific case.

Does it?  I’m not a fan of Kypreos, but I can’t pretend to get inside his head andI seriously doubt the domestic abuse allegations were the reason he picked that phrase.  That said, someone (John) commenting on the post made some salient points that I have to quote in full:

I enjoy a great deal of your commentary, mostly when you stick to hockey, but even when you go on a rant there’s generally at least one or two ideas therein that give me pause to think. Unfortunately that gets overridden far too often when you go way over the line and start indulging a passion for gross generalization: TV hockey experts think all women are liars; the NHL hates women, etc.
However, the biggest issue I have is the way you’ve succumbed to a very dangerous trend in which a specific incident is used to redress (or begin to redress) a widespread injustice. Women who report sexual assaults to the police or other authorities have always faced a long and difficult road to get justice and the odds have always been against them. Is this because of a societal misogyny that skews the justice system? Or is it an inevitable result of the circumstances under which the vast majority of sexual assaults take place (i.e. no witnesses, he said-she said)? No doubt it’s a combination of both.
This is a shitty situation, nobody’s debating that; however, that situation can not be rectified simply by blithely assuming the guilt of every man accused of sexual assault.
Is Patrick Kane guilty? I don’t know, and I’d go so far as to say that there are only two people in the whole world who do.

Well said.

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I watched the BSens 4-3 OT loss to Wilkes-Barre in a game where Matt O’Connor only shares the blame for the loss (the team being outshot 41-21 is the other).  The first line produced all the offence and the team continued to take too many penalties.  Here’s a blow-by-blow recap:
Paul with a great chance all alone in front
1. O’Connor let’s in a goal from a terrible angle short side
2. Carlisle with a brutal giveaway that leads to a 2-on-1 and O’Connor is beat five-hole (not a great goal); Carlisle sat for the rest of the period
Paul tried to pass while right in front of the net, turning it over (I took it as a sign that he lacks confidence)
Schneider misses the net from the hashmarks
Mullen with a good stick to deflect a pass to an open Penguin in front
-a couple of bad turnovers by Lindberg (he had a rough first period)
Puempel with a great chance in front
Schneider with a steal gets a breakaway
-Great chance in the slot on the PP by Puempel
3. Fantastic cross ice pass by Schneider to O’Dell on the PP
Second
Claesson with a chance in the slot
Fraser with a brutal giveaway resulting in a point-blank shot from in front
O’Connor throws the puck away and the resulting chaos requires a big save
-Nice little defensive play by Lindberg taking the puck out of danger from in front the net; a good shift overall as he kept possession in the offensive zone despite being repeatedly double-teamed
4. Great re-direct by Schneider to score five-hole on the PP
Robinson takes a dumb tripping call while the BSens are already shorthanded
-Great stop by O’Connor point-blank (Fraser out of position)
Harpur demonstrating one of his flaws: with no pressure behind his own net he ices the puck
Fraser lobs a grenade at Hobbs who can’t handle it and on the ensuing play Ewanyk takes a dumb penalty
Third
-Great pass by Lindberg to Dziurzynski in front
5. O’Dell knocks the puck to a wide open Dzingel in front who makes no mistake
Lepine loses track of the man behind him requiring O’Connor to make a great save
Mullen gets undressed and O’Connor makes another great save
Stortini turns it over and the Pens hit the post
Puempel moves down to the third line as McCormick takes his spot on the second
6. Weak shot goes through O’Connor short side; after the goal the lines went back to normal
Dziurzynski gets the puck out of danger with a traffic jam in front
OT
-Great pass by Mullen to spring Dzingel
Lindberg undresses the D but neither he nor Paul on the rebound can score
7. Fraser moves out of the way to give O’Connor the shot and he’s beaten low far side

The teams blueline continues to be a major problem, with Fraser the main (but not the only) issue.  Taking Stortini off the first unit powerplay has helped a lot.  The fourth line remains pretty bad and I still want Robinson on the third and Stortini on the fourth.  O’Connor did make some saves, but he continues to give up terrible goals that are due to him being either out of position or small in net–Wilkes-Barre continually shot at bad angles knowing he can be beat on them.  Otherwise the usual players played well.

EvansvilleIceMenCHL

Turns out Vincent Dunn was a healthy scratch in Evansville’s last game–something that doesn’t happen to actual prospects that often.  Mathieu Brisebois, on the other hand, had been recalled to the AHL.

FHL

The Berlin River Drivers, Evansville affiliate, is the worst team in the FHL (following the lead of both the ECHL and AHL teams above it), and one of the weird things isn’t so much that they’ve turned their roster over, but where their players are coming from–the Czech Republic.  Five players, all from the 2nd and 3rd division, have been brought over.  It’s a strange thing to see and I assume there’s some sort of Czech-connection with ownership.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

I’ve had this post in the works for a couple of days now, but interesting things keep happening.

Ary M takes a look at the Sens PK struggles and sifting through the numbers points the finger at a general decline from both the defensecorps as a whole along with forwards Milan MichalekCurtis Lazar (no surprise) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (surprising).  I agree with him that switching Lazar‘s usage with Alex Chiasson is a good idea as things stand.

This brings up something I’ve been wondering about for quite some time–is Lazar really earning his NHL spot?  Would he benefit from time in the minors?  I feel like for both he and Cody Ceci were rushed and the organisation can see no evil, hear no evil about them.  The oft trotted out mantra about being patient with prospects seems out the window when it comes to these particular players.

sensnation

Kevin Lee (via my old stomping grounds) picks up the question of whether the Sens blogosphere is being too negative.  Points of interesting:

At the end of the day we’re all Sens fans who want the team to win. From that perspective we should be supporting every player on the team, from the crease outwards. That’s what made the miracle run last season so fun. Winning makes it easy to do that, for both bloggers and fans alike.

I think the first point (support) doesn’t make much sense (only a cult mindlessly supports every aspect of something), but I agree with his latter point–everyone loves winning.

One of the more common responses I see to bloggers is that the team isn’t ready to win yet anyways, just enjoy what we have now, and when the time is right the team will make their moves. Well, when is the winning window?

The only time I get resistance from readers is if I criticise someone who is “good in the corners”, but that aside, Kevin’s point is on target (I think Nichols brought this up last week as well–something that seems likely given Kevin echoing the belief that the prospect cupboard is bare… somehow…sort of…er, moving on).

Personally, I think it’s within the next two to three years.

I don’t agree with this, as I don’t think the roster has a window with the current talent.  For me, what I want to see is the best possible performance given what’s available.  Constantly wanting a Cup win seems more than a little unrealistic to me–winning a championship really boils down to some luck at the draft followed by having an excellent org to build around it, and the Sens have neither the organisation nor the elite talent to do it.

I think this is a major reason why fans are seeing so much negativity in the Sens blogosphere

I disagree with Kevin here: I think the reason for all the criticism is that the blogosphere finally has the information (analytics) necessary to properly criticise what the organisation does.  We are in a rare period where some fans do know better than management and that gets very frustrating when that knowledge is widely disseminated.  It’s worth pointing out that the actual media doesn’t perform its critical role anymore either, leaving a vacuum for the blogosphere to fill.

ROSTER MOVES

Michael Kostka was recalled by the Sens after the injury to Patrick Wiercioch.  Is he the most deserving call-up?  No (Fredrik Claesson has been better), but he’s second on the list and I don’t mind giving preference to a puck-mover.

Speaking of roster moves, Matt Puempel was returned to Binghamton (he played in the loss to Toronto).  Has Dave Cameron finally realised (11 games in) that he may not be NHL ready?  And will this at last give Shane Prince an opportunity?  I also wonder if Luke Richardson’s whining about callups contributed to this decision.

In yet another move Chris Driedger was called up after Binghamton’s game against Toronto.   It seems like Andrew Hammond is coming down on a conditioning stint while Matt O’Connor is simply being returned (presumably Scott Greenham will be sent back to Evansville as a result).  Also returning to Ottawa is an undeserving Colin Greening (see below).

pierre dorion

The Nichols’ ditto-tape machine was back in action transcribing the words of Pierre Dorion and amongst some pretty rather drab patter were comments on Binghamton rookies Nick Paul and Tobias Lindberg:

Nick’s been good, but not great. I think there’s an adjustment when you go to the pros. Nick was such a dominant junior. I thought he was a big part of Canada winning the World Juniors, a big part of North Bay’s success over the last few years that I think there’s an adjustment there. Realizing that you’re going up against 25, 26 and even 30-year olds that are so much stronger. So there’s a bit of an adjustment there. We’ve seen in little sequences or in some good sequences, some flashes of what he can do well offensively and defensively. For a guy who shoots the puck so well, I don’t even think he’s got a goal yet. Luke (Richardson) had to sit out Nick one game just because he had to realize that you have to work at everything here. It’s just the pro game: you have to work at it. With Tobias, he’s been a pleasant surprise. He’s stepped in. He’s probably on our top line and I think, if I’m not mistaken, he sat out one game too. Which is alright. We have no problems with that as far as development and realizing that you have to earn it at whatever level you’re at — whether it’s the American League or the NHL — you have to earn it. His skill set and his skating is good NHL, not just NHL, even very good NHL(-calibre). We think both players will be here. No, we know that both players will be Ottawa Senators. It’s just a process that they have to go through to do their time in the American Hockey League

You don’t need to read between the lines very hard to tell Dorion has no idea why Lindberg sat for a game (as indeed he did again last night), but more importantly, for him to say both that Tobias has very good NHL-calibre skill is remarkable–even more so that the organisation didn’t anticipate it.  I agree with him, incidentally, but it speaks to the multiple blind-spots the org has with skilled players.  Dorion also stated the obvious that Chris Driedger has been much better than Matt O’Connor, but that the latter was recalled largely so he could get some coaching and get his game in order (which makes sense).

I didn’t think I’d see the day that Nichols would start pining for the “good old days”, but he wants ties back in the NHL–ties!  Unless the NHL is going to adopt 3-point wins in regulation (which I deem impossible under Gary Bettman), ties are an abomination.  Give me 3-on-3, give me 2-on-2, give me fans coming out of the stands to play five minutes of beer hockey to determine the winner–anything but the tedium of freaking ties.  Yes it would be better if games were determined 5-on-5, but for good reasons that’s not possible in the regular season and at least 3-on-3 gives us goals (something the NHL doesn’t know how to do otherwise).

Binghamton_Senators_svg

This is old news now, but my puzzlement over Scott Greenham‘s injury status has been cleared up as he is healthy enough to play and could suit up for Binghamton whenever they need him.

Something I haven’t mentioned before but I’ve had in mind since the beginning of the season is that Richardson is trying to follow Paul MacLean’s old third line formula when he used to trot out Zack Smith-Chris Neil-Colin Greening–a “tough” checking line, albeit one that failed miserably–Richardson uses Greening-Dziurzynski-Stortini.  The latter works a bit better in the AHL, but a better player than Stortini would help it quite a bit (McCormick would be ideal).

I watched Binghamton’s 3-0 win over the red-hot Wilkes-Barre Penguins on Friday.  As nice as the score looks, the BSens were outplayed and out shot (finishing 31-41) and benefited from a pair of bad goals given up by Pens goaltender Matt Murray (the third goal was into an empty net).  Here’s a fairly lengthy blow-by-blow:
-a nice Mark Fraser moment: the first line creates pressure and he shoots a one-timer over the net with no traffic in front (Murray grabbed it anyway)
1. Kostka (PP) shoots through Murray with a shot between the wickets from the point
-the following shift Stortini turns it over creating an icing call and on the subsequent play Dziurzynski is forced to take a holding call as the third line runs around in its own end
Hobbs was guilty of a brutal turnover on the PK leading to a 3-on-1, but the Pens missed a wide open net
Mullen turnover, but he blocks the shot on the play
-a stupid boarding penalty from Ewanyk
-beautiful pass by Lindberg springs McCormick who can’t cash in on a breakaway
Lepine throws away a PP-opportunity by pointlessly punching Uher after the whistle and giving the Pens a PP
Fraser watches his check in front bang away at the puck
-Inexplicably the Sens put no one in the box for Lepine, leading to shorthanded play after the PP was over
2. Schneider floats a puck in from the point (looked like it hit the Pens defenseman)
-pretty soft hooking call on Paul
Second
Fraser did his second “watch-and-pray” trick, this time on the PK in front of the net
Schneider had a great chance in the slot
Harpur appears on the PP?  Don’t get that one–not something he did much in the OHL; Stortini returns too, although his teammates never gave him the puck (for obvious reasons)
-great save by Driedger after the powerplay
-with Lepine ejected for the aforementioned punching we got to see the nightmarish defensive pairing of Fraser-Harpur
Dzingel shot a rolling puck over the net with it wide open, getting hurt subsequently when O’Dell hit him with a slapshot; Mullen blocked a shot with his chest not long after and looked hurt, but both continued to play
3. Claesson loses his check and Stortini is caught watching the play as the lead is cut into via a nice pass from behind the net
Third
-inexplicably Greening replaced Lindberg on the PP (the Swede had one shift in the period)
-a good shift by the first line draws a penalty and then draw another on the PP for a 5-on-3 which accomplishes nothing
Greening wastes a 2-on-1 with Robinson with an ill-advised shot
-some frantic action via the fourth line in front with a couple of scoring chances
-third line gives up a 2-on-1 forcing Mullen to take a hooking penalty; Robinson is called on the kill leading to a 5-on-3 against
Dziurzynski pots the empty-netter

It was a strong effort from Driedger, but if the BSens hadn’t gotten lucky this game would have gone down the road of most this season.  There was no reason to sit Lindberg, but with the talented Swede Richardson doesn’t see reason (see below).

Luke-Richardson

Richardson’s cluelessness continued as he scratched Lindberg against Toronto (replacing him in the roster with Puempel).  Apparently giving ice time to players like Danny Hobbs trumps the best prospect on the team (it reminds me of when he’d trot out the now retired Brad Mills while scratching Ryan Dzingel last season).  With Kostka recalled Carlisle returned to the lineup.  The BSens paraded to the penalty box for the 6-4 loss; here’s a look at the goals:
1. Fraser gets a soft call for pushing too hard (a reputation call I think) and on the ensuing PP McCormick gets a little out of position leaving Kapanen open in the slot
2. Greening floats a wrist shot towards the net that deflects in off the D
3. Schneider steals the puck behind the net and throws it out to O’Dell who makes no mistake in the slot
4. Lepine doesn’t take the man, his stick, or the shot, so Driedger is beaten off a rebound
5. Puempel makes a terrible pass to Mullen who was speeding through the neutral zone–it results in a 2-on-1 against and Toronto makes no mistake
6. Greening loses the battle along the boards and then loses his check who is wide open for a cross ice pass
7. Claesson throws the puck into a crowd on the PP and it goes in
8. Paul gets a delay of game for the puck going over the glass and just after the PP ends (but before he can get into the play) Greening covers no one and the player right behind him scores
9. With Driedger pulled Schneider scores on a backhand in the slot
10. Empty-netter

The score was flattering to the BSens who spent a lot of the game chasing the puck.  It’s a little horrifying watching players like Lepine try to make passes–throwing wobbly grenades up the middle of the ice.  Greening was by far the worst player on the ice so gets rewarded with an NHL call-up (!).  Without Lindberg in the lineup what little possession the BSens can manage was hurt and that’s evident both in the slant in play and the all the penalties taken.
EvansvilleIceMenCHL

Bad news on the Christoffer Bengtsberg front as his injury is described as “week to week”, meaning the IceMen were initially at the mercy of Keegan Asmundsen.

Evansville lost 6-4 to Orlando, as the Asmundsen/Carlson goaltending combination failed for the second game in a row (the latter getting the start).  The goals:
1. A weak backhand somehow beats Carlson
2. MacDonald scores from behind the net as his pass bounces in off the goaltender
3. Carlson is beat off the ensuing faceoff with a bad angle shot top-shelf
4. Carlson is beat on a soft wrist shot high that he simply misses; he’s pulled after the goal
5. Fawcett creates a turnover behind the net and Leveille beats the goaltender high to the short side
6. Dunn converts a great pass from Penny shooting from the slot
7. Fawcett shoots through a screen to give the IceMen the lead
8. Trebish gets a pretty soft slashing call and on the PK after Dunn took an idiotic unsportsmenlike call, leading to a 5-on-3 and just as it ended Orlando bangs in a rebound
9. Trebish falls leading to a 2-on-1 and Asmundsen is beaten five-hole
10. On the ensuing faceoff Asmundsen is beaten off a tip in front

Fawcett has been really improving and that’s boosted Leveille‘s production; MacDonald has also been heating up.  For BSens interests Rutkowski has been fine, but his production has slipped, while Penny has been solid, but on the third line he’s not going to score much.

On Saturday Evansville finally put up another win, beating Kalamazoo 3-2 behind the goaltending of Cody Reichard (called up from I don’t know where–I can’t find him listed, so it’s possible he wasn’t playing anywhere this season).  Dunn did not dress for this game–I’m not sure if he was a healthy scratch or not (when I find out I’ll put it here).  The goals:
1. On the PP Kalamazoo was able to bang in a rebound on a scramble in front
2. Nice 3-on-1 passing play ends with Penny scoring
3. MacDonald is allowed to walk in from the blueline and scores five-hole
4. On the PP Leveille bangs in Fawcett‘s rebound
5. Trebish doesn’t see the player behind him who cashes in on a rebound

Given Reichard‘s performance I assume he’ll start the next game unless Bengtsberg is healthy–while Asmundsen was a little better in the previous game, he doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.  In terms of BSens related results, Alex Guptill finally hit the scoresheet–he has decent speed, but not much in the way of hands.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Binghamton Senators Season Overview

Binghamton_Senators_svg

Binghamton is far enough into the season for me to take a snapshot of how the year is going.  Clearly the team is tumbling over a precipice–awful special teams, questionable player usage, and a lack of talent have all contributed to a 4-9-1 start (worst in their division).  Their 41 GF is 3rd in their division and tied for 7th in the conference, while their 50 GA is 5th and tied for 11th respectively.  Let’s break it down player-by-player (I’ve been tracking player mistakes that have lead to goals and they are mentioned below–I couldn’t think of a good term for it, so for now I’ll call them Bad Goals, or BG); I’m not a huge fan of using grades, but it’s a simple way to reflect how I think they’ve played (A=above and beyond expectations, B=exceeds expectations, C=meets expectations, D=below expectations, F=god awful):

Cole Schneider 14-7-2-9 SOG 42 Grade: B
The winger has strong numbers despite mostly playing with the Paul as his center (who isn’t quite ready to set the world on fire); as a player who historically picks up a lot of assists, his numbers are indicative of limited support (since Puempel‘s call-up his wingers have been Greening and McCormick).  Most of his points have been a result of individual efforts or sudden breakdowns by the other team–virtually none are from strong offensive pressure

Eric O’Dell 14-6-3-9 SOG 31 BG 3 Grade: C
His numbers are solid, but a lot of it was front loaded and courtesy of cerebral plays by Lindberg; lately he’s been guilty of poor decisions with the puck and some temperamental (selfish) play taking idiotic penalties

David Dziurzynski 14-4-5-9 SOG 21 Grade A
Is way ahead of his normal production and at 25 it’s still possible (albeit unlikely) for him to break out offensively at this level (he’s helped by the fact that Richardson plays the third line a ton); that said, the fact that he’s scoring is a bonus, as he’s been a positive contributor to the team in general, helping carry the dead weight that is Stortini most of the season

Tobias Lindberg 13-3-6-9 SOG 22 Grade A
The rookie is by far the best new addition to Binghamton’s lineup, directly generating almost all of O’Dell‘s production; he was inexplicably scratched for a game by Richardson and karma repaid the coach with the worst beat down of the season; he’s a big part of the possession advantage the first line has in comparison to the rest of the roster (see below)–able to move and carry the puck; if there’s a criticism of him it’s that he prefers to pass than shoot, but that’s a small issue

Ryan Dzingel 14-3-6-9 SOG 47 Grade B
Leads the team in shots; he’s played with Lindberg in all but one game this season, but unlike O’Dell I don’t feel like he’s dependent on him for production; almost half of Dzingel‘s points come from one game (where he notched 4), so he’s been less consistent than the Swede, but less streaky than O’Dell

Colin Greening 14-3-5-8 SOG 30 BG 1 Grade C
At about his usual AHL productivity; he had a rocky start to the season (in terms of his play), but has improved; inexplicably Richardson experimented with him on the first line and that was an absolute disaster–he seems locked into a third line role now

Max McCormick 10-4-2-6 SOG 29 Grade B
He benefited tremendously from his NHL call-up (which I didn’t think was deserved, but had the desired effect), with five points in the six games since his return; he’s moved around in the lineup, but seems to have found a home on the second line; much like his linemate Schneider a lot of his production is a result of individual efforts or sudden breakdowns–there isn’t the offensive zone pressure you see with the first line

Patrick Mullen 14-1-5-6 SOG 18 BG 2 Grade C
A solid start for the veteran given that he’s been anchored the entire season with the the disaster that is Fraser; there’s nothing remarkable or awful in his play thus far

Nick Paul 13-0-6-6 SOG 17 Grade C
He’s still waiting for his first goal and I don’t think randomly scratching him did much for his confidence (4-0-1-1 since vs 9-0-5-5 before); he’s centered the second line with Schneider most of the season, playing like the rookie he is, with flashes here and there; one significant plus is that he’s been defensively responsible

Matt Puempel 6-3-2-5 SOG 20 Grade C
He was good enough in limited duty; a bit selfish at this level, he has enough talent to produce; certainly not the best player on the BSens when recalled

Zack Stortini 12-2-2-4 SOG 19 Grade F
He can’t skate, he can’t move the puck, he takes bad penalties, and yet he plays a ton including on the PP–clearly Richardson has a soft spot for his captain and can’t resist sending him out there to fumble around; among the team leaders in selfish/pointless penalties, he has cut it down a bit of late, but his example has had no impact on his teammates; I think he could be a useful fourth liner, but he’s only played there once as Richardson insists on using him on the third; final note, because of his terrible skating he’s guilty of taking shifts that are far too long

Fredrik Claesson 14-1-3-4 SOG 12 Grade B
A good start to the season for Freddy, despite his partners (three games with Tuzzolino, eight with Harpur, and three with Carlisle whom he meshes with best); forced to handle the puck more and cover for poor defense play, it’s been a strong start and all credit to him for doing this well given the circumstances

Michael Kostka 12-0-4-4 SOG 29 BG 2 Grade C
He’s been okay thus far–not as impressive as I hoped, showing a willful, selfish side that most of the team’s vets have displayed this season–dumb penalties etc; that said, he can make a pass and carry the puck and given how scarce that is for Binghamton’s blueliners he’s a key asset; he’s spent all but one game this season carrying the load for Lepine

Buddy Robinson 6-1-2-3 SOG 10 BG 1 Grade C
Missed the start of the season due to injury and then was scratched randomly for two games because…well no one really understands it; he should be playing on the third line (at least) given his talent, but he’s been stuck on the fourth the last couple of games because Richardson wants Stortini on the third–no one can shine with Ewanyk and Hobbs as linemates

Travis Ewanyk 14-1-1-2 SOG 14 BG 1 Grade C
He should probably be in the ECHL, but on the whole he hasn’t been the disaster I was expecting–he needs to not take stupid penalties, but while he adds nothing to the roster he can (at best) not hurt the team

Danny Hobbs 14-1-1-2 SOG 23 BG 2 Grade F
The ECHL-forward has scored one less goal than he’s caused against and doesn’t really belong in the AHL (that said, I don’t think we’ll see him sent down); he’s played the entire season with Ewanyk

Guillaume Lepine 11-0-2-2 SOG 18 Grade C
Exactly what you’d expect–no hands, no real talent, but he has played pretty safe and avoided the dumb penalty plague; he’s not an AHL caliber player, but with Kostka to carry the load for him it hasn’t been awful–better than Harpur and Tuzzolino this season, but that’s faint praise

Alex Guptill 3-0-1-1 SOG 6 Grade F
He didn’t take bad penalties or make critical defensive errors, but he doesn’t do anything positive either, so the ECHL is a good place for him (sadly, he’s been worse in Evansville)

Chris Carlisle 8-1-0-1 SOG 8 Grade C
After two games in Evansville he was called up–it was a decision to bring him up because Binghamton has plenty of defensemen, but he’s stayed in the lineup (playing as a fourth line forward for three games); he hasn’t showboated in the AHL like he did in the ECHL and for the most part stayed within himself; Rutkowski would have been a better option to bring up, but it’s clear Richardson doesn’t care for him so Carlisle was the only other option with hands

Ben Harpur 9-0-1-1 SOG 8 BF 3 Grade F
He’s been as awful as predicted, turning the puck over and generally putting a strain on his defensive partners (mostly Claesson); on the positive side, as a non-physical player he hasn’t contributed much to the penalty parade; he makes bad decisions and can’t pass or carry the puck; time in Evansville might help

Mark Fraser 14-0-1-1 SOG 8 BG 5 Grade F
Unquestionably the most disappointing player on the team; while he can skate and hit, he has no hockey sense whatsoever and zero hands; by my count he’s directly caused five goals against (five!), along with leading the team in idiotic penalties; a completely useless player, unfortunately the organisation loves him so he’ll be plaguing the team for the whole season; he’s played with Mullen all season

Nick Tuzzolino 5-0-0-0 SOG 9 BG 1 Grade F
The ECHL-defensemen was awful in limited duty and Richardson praising him was ridiculous, but thankfully he’s no longer being dressed; he should be sent down to Evansville; when in action he was paired with either with Claesson or Harpur

Alex Wideman 4-0-0-0 SOG 0 BG 1 Grade F
I have no idea why he wasn’t immediately sent to the ECHL; he has good speed, but he doesn’t bring anything else and he accomplished nothing in limited playing time (how does a forward have no shots in four games?)  Even at the ECHL-level it’s not clear he has the hands to produce and if he’s not offensively productive he’s not adding anything; inexplicably he spent two of his games on the third line

Chris Driedger 4-4-0 2.89 .905 BG 4 Grade B
By far the better of the two goaltenders in Binghamton; while he has allowed some bad goals this year, he’s also played very well and confirmed that his play at the end of last season was no fluke

Matt O’Connor 0-5-1 4.14 .859 BG 9 Grade F
He’s been absolutely awful; 9 of the goals he’s allowed have been soft which is a ridiculous number; for a big man he’s small in his net and his confidence is clearly shaken; I think starting a few games in the ECHL would be good for him, but I don’t think the organisation will let that happen; it’s normal to preach patience with goaltenders and I think his problems are a mix of confidence and technique, both fixable, so we can still hope to see him play well

Some Notes on the Team’s Performance:
-Binghamton has lost every single game the Dzingel-O’Dell-Lindberg line has been split up (0-4-0), scoring just one goal in two of those games (overall outscored 20-10, so yes kids, they help defensively too)
-Since Matt Puempel was recalled the BSens are 1-6-1, although that includes the period above when the first line was split up
O’Connor has allowed four or more goals in his last four starts
-Despite an over abundance of “defensive defensemen” FraserClaesson, HarpurTuzzolino, and Lepine) the BSens PK has been awful (30th in the league at just 73%); despite these struggles, none of the players who take stupid penalties have been scratched

Coaching
What impact has Luke Richardson had on this team?  All I see are negatives: splitting his dynamic top line was not only disastrous, but he stuck with it long after that was apparent; He sat Lindberg for no reason whatsoever (it even raised the eyebrows of Pierre Dorion); his team takes a ridiculous number of penalties, but despite talking about cutting down on them he’s done nothing to punish players for continuing to do so; his special teams are terrible–the PP percentage is higher than it deserves and there’s no reason for Stortini to be trotted out there to fumble around on the ice; the PK is inexcusable; he doesn’t understand the talent he has: Alex Wideman isn’t an AHL player, but he inserted him into the lineup; Tuzzolino isn’t an AHL player, but not only played but was praised while in the lineup; even though he’s stuck with Fraser there’s no reason to play him top minutes; Robinson has both been scratched and played on the fourth line when he’s far better than other players who haven’t missed a game.  Need more be said?  He even offered up a turkey of an excuse for the team’s awful record by complaining about callups and suspensions rather than errors (particularly his own–the buck should stop with him).  You have a guy who doesn’t force his players to be responsible and doesn’t understand how to use his players–the jury is in and it’s time for Richardson to go (although I don’t believe that will happen).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

 

Senators News & Notes

jared cowen

The delight that is Jared Cowen continues–he’s like the gift that keeps on giving.  We know that Bryan Murray (and, one assumes, Dave Cameron) gives Cody Ceci and Mark Borowiecki a free pass on their play (which has been awful), but Murray has publicly criticised both the Man-Bun and Patrick Wiercioch.  When asked about it today, the two players had very different responses.  First, let’s go to the professionalism of Wiercioch:

I think that’s fair. I think my play last year probably raised the expectations of what everyone would expect from me on a daily basis. And that’s the level I’m trying to achieve and that’s what I’m working towards. … I think Dave [Cameron] and I have a terrific relationship. He’s understanding of my situation in Ottawa and what I’ve gone through and I think he’s been up front and honest. I think that communication is something that we’ve lacked here in years past. With him, there’s an open-door policy where you are watching video clips and even the negative ones, they are there to make you a better player and a better teammate

Now let us experience the wit and wisdom that is Jared Cowen:

I don’t hear it [Murray’s criticism]. I don’t pay attention to that stuff because it doesn’t really matter. I think you could say the same thing about a lot of guys, so I don’t take it too personal. It’s hard to play when you’re thinking about getting pulled out of the lineup and all that kind of extra junk. I haven’t missed a game yet so it’s not like it’s been bothering me, so I haven’t had to think about sitting out. So hopefully, this is a one-and-done thing.

It’s not surprising to hear how clueless Cowen is, but if somehow Murray hasn’t figured out what who this guy is yet he should by now.  It’s time to pull the trigger on a deal–a pick, an asset, virtually anything.  Hit the eject button and move on–there’s nothing worthwhile to be gained by trotting this guy out night in and night out.

STATS

One of the funny things that’s been going on the last couple of months is the criticism by the analytics community of NHL.com’s numbers.  Pucky Daddy recaps this and what really stands out to me is Chris Foster (of NHL.com)’s repeated assertion that:

We’re not in competition. We’re not trying to take traffic away from other sites or shut down other sites. We want to be part of the conversation as well. And we have a big voice

Really?  The official site of the NHL, the league’s own site, isn’t trying to compete?  It just wants to be another blog?  Millions of dollars spent to share the limelight with War on Ice–that’s what Gary Bettman approved?  It doesn’t sound like their press release in:

The new NHL stats platform goes beyond data to offer insights that will help avid fans go deeper and help casual fans understand the game better. There are also unlimited storytelling opportunities as we provide our fans with a personalized and interactive experience.

The league wanted the broadest possible audience as well as to be the place to go for serious stats honks, so Foster’s assertion is more than a little ridiculous.  Clearly he’s trotting out some face-saving rhetoric after being caught with innumerable errors which, while fixable, required Travis Yost and others from the analytics community to notice (Yost puts the blame on SAP and not the NHL, incidentally).  I’m glad it’s being fixed, but I find the obfuscation amusing.

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An embattled Luke Richardson (who I think should be fired–my post on that isn’t finished yet) trotted out a very lame excuse for his team’s poor performance:

We had a combination of some call ups, some injuries and a suspension and it just seemed to put us in a funk. That’s not an excuse

If it’s not an excuse, why bring it up?  It certainly sounds like justification and it gives his players a way out–we’re not struggling, we’re just missing some key pieces and feeling a little down.  It’s absurd.  While the roster Richardson has will never light the world on fire, a lot of the blame for how its performed lies on his shoulders–player decisions in terms of who plays where and who sits have made no sense whatsoever.  That said, I think there’s plenty of rope for Richardson to remain throughout the season even at this pace.

EvansvilleIceMenCHL

Evansville got blasted Wednesday night, losing 6-2 to Alaska as Deegan Asmundsen continues to struggle in net (the Aces were coming in on an eight game losing streak).  A look at the goals:
1. Humphries launches a grenade up the boards that gets turned over and Asmundsen is beaten on a mini-break (five-hole)
2. Goal off a deflection from the point via a faceoff win
3. Asmundsen is scored on from behind the goal line as the puck is deflected in off himself
4. A wrist shot from the top of the circle (faceoff win) simply goes over Asmundsen‘s shoulder and he’s pulled
5. Off a faceoff scramble Carlson is beat on a rebound in tight
6. Fawcett bangs in Leveille‘s deflected pass on a broken play in front
7. Fawcett tips in a point shot
8. Lazy coverage in front by Brisebois leaves Traversa with a wide open net after Carlson over commits to a shot and winds up out of his crease

Evansville is a bad team, but one whose model is quite similar to Binghamton and Ottawa’s–great goaltending (when healthy) permits a lineup with limited talent to compete.  The main difference is the IceMen don’t have any dominating offensive players–it looks like they got fleeced by trading Zarbo for Moon and their blueline remains something of a nightmare.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

trevor daley

It’s very Bryan Murray to be chasing an older defensemen (Trevor Daley) [reactions to which you can imagine], but Chicago’s asking price makes no sense for the organisation (a pick and either Shane Prince or Matt Puempel)–a defensemen has to go back the other way.  I don’t doubt the Sens would peddle a 2nd round pick as that’s what they do almost every year, but as for the asset?  Between the two I think the org is more likely to give up on Prince, but as I said, they have to move a defensemen if they are going to add one (I’d put the odds on Patrick Wiercioch going).

murray-bryan-00495982

Speaking of Murray, he continues to play the role of grumpy old man when it comes to Mikael Wikstrand as he recently rejected the Swede when he reached out to him (essentially it’s play in Binghamton or sit–so the same story).  This sort of lackadaisical approach, which seems based on his “tough love” approach with Samuel Pahlsson in Anaheim, is pretty lazy–the situations aren’t the same at all–and it’s hard not to think that at season’s end Wikstrand (no longer bound to a contract) will simply disappear into the SHL or KHL and the Sens will lose a useful asset for nothing.

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One thing I’ve wondered about with the recall of Scott Greenham is whether he can actually play or not.  He’s still within the 21-day IR Evansville put him on (from November 2nd), although I don’t believe that period has to be respected at the AHL level.  Given Binghamton’s schedule it may not matter, as Driedger can easily play both the Friday and Sunday games.

EvansvilleIceMenCHL

Some Evansville roster moves: the disappointing Matt Hussey has been waived–I’m not sure why they signed a player who didn’t play last year, but he’s gone after eight games of selfish and unproductive play.  With Scott Greenham recalled the team has brought in former Sens draft pick Francois Brassard on emergency recall–he’s been playing in Peoria in the SPHL (1-0-0 2.00 .905).  Evansville also received Mathieu Brisebois (AHL 9-1-1-2) on loan from Norfolk, via a trade by the Rangers of the useless Samuel Noreau to Chicago.  Brisebois has a good ECHL track record and should help shoulder the offensive load that’s largely been Troy Rutkowski‘s to carry.  Brassard has been the backup in Peoria and assuredly will play behind Asmundsen until Bengtsberg gets healthy. [A subsequent correction–Brassard had visa problems of all things, so instead Peoria starting goaltender Dustin Carlson was called up.]

On the coaching side there’s been a development as well, as assistant coach Johan Lundskog has had to leave the team indefinitely for personal reasons, returning to Sweden.  This comes on the heels of owner Ron Geary battling for a new arena deal, but the two are unrelated.

FHL.png

I was asked this week what the Federal Hockey League was (Evansville’s affiliate).  While I’d discussed it briefly back in August, I didn’t go into it figuring there was no interest whatsoever.  For clarifications sake, the FHL (just like the SPHL) is the tier below the ECHL.  The FHL operates primarily in the northeastern/midwestern United States and this is its sixth season in operation.  The SPHL is the same tier, but operates in the south, is older, larger, and has a slightly better pool of players.  These leagues are how ECHL teams fill holes in their lineups–there are no “hidden gems” here, but they’re an important part of the hockey ecosystem.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)