Senators News & Notes

Holiday madness and computer problems have delayed me posting, but here we are at last.

Nichols offers a long (long) piece critical of the Bryan Murray regime and rejecting the old excuse that at least he’s better than John Muckler.  I agree with the general thrust of his opinion (cf here), including Murray’s continuing crutch of blaming his coaches when things go wrong.  Where I disagree with Nichols is where we always disagree–prospects and the draft.  The problem remains the same (a mix of never defining his criteria and boundaries of whatever theory he’s operating under, along with an admitted limited understanding of the prospects themselves).  I don’t have an issue with Nichols’ indifference to prospects (Travis Yost trumpets his ignorance all the time, for example), but I wish he’d join Travis in avoiding the topic because of it.  Anyway, before going more into what I agree with, here are my issues:

or the fact that the organization got so lucky drafting and developing talents who were taken so late in the draft, Ottawa’s body of work over the last seven years isn’t as impressive as you would think

Three assumptions here: 1) the organisation was lucky that late picks developed, 2) developing late picks is lucky, 3) their record isn’t as impressive as “we” (the fans presumably) think.  This kind of generalization only seems to happen when Nichols talks about prospects and the draft and there’s really no excuse for it.  To take the above seriously you have to back it up with something and there’s no attempt to do so–this is common in sports journalism, but Nichols is better than that.  I know Nichols reads this blog and the numbers for recent draft success are available–why not look at what the data supports?  Next up:

early round selections like Jared Cowen, Stefan Noesen, Matt Puempel, Shane Prince, Curtis Lazar, Andreas Englund, Cody Ceci, Patrick Wiercioch, Jakob Silfverberg and Robin Lehner have all struggled to assert themselves at the NHL level

Andreas Englund isn’t even signed!  I get the feeling Nichols just looked at a list of Ottawa’s drafts and then copy-pasted the names he saw from the 1st and 2nd rounds.  This looks like a rushed composition–he should have left Englund out, Prince out (who hasn’t had enough NHL-time to say anything about him), Noesen out (his injury-problems means he hasn’t had NHL opportunities), and perhaps Lehner where you can argue he hasn’t truly had the opportunity to start at the NHL-level.  It’s also early to call Silfverberg or Ceci busts (IMO), and Nichols doesn’t reference the percentages of success where those picks occur (ergo, which should succeed; eg see my link above).

Obviously it’s great to be able to draft and develop players who can play games at the NHL level in the event of injury or because their organization is trying to parlay quantity for quality, but lately, it feels like Ottawa has struggled to draft and develop talented prospects who can play important roles and help take this team to another level.

This is a sentiment Nichols has expressed repeatedly without ever attempting to fully explain it–I’m not sure if he thinks it’s so obvious he shouldn’t have too, or if he has a hard time elucidating it.  We again have two assumptions here: 1) Ottawa is now struggling to develop prospects that can play important roles (in contrast to an unspecified past, which Nichols has already called terrible above, ie, the Muckler era), 2) Ottawa develops a lot of NHL-caliber prospects who can fill-in or play depth roles (which runs against his narrative that Ottawa has struggled at the draft under Murray).  We again run into the problem that we don’t have a coherent argument from Nichols on this point.  Next up:

part of the problem stems from the variance in the year-to-year talent levels of the draft and when you’re drafting in the middle of the first round every season, the likelihood of finding elite talent in that region is much smaller

Then what really is his argument?  Either Ottawa hasn’t been situated in the draft well-enough to get elite talent (as the above implies), or they’ve drafted poorly and missed elite talent (as the quote above this implies).  It can’t be both because those are separate arguments–where they finish isn’t the same as how they draft.

With those criticisms aside, let’s talk about some specifics I agree with wholeheartedly:

If there is a recurring theme that can characterize Bryan Murray’s eight-year reign as GM, it’s that there has always been an excuse. … Rarely is management publicly scrutinized by the media within this city. … It also doesn’t help that the Senators are the only major sports team in this market and have a broadcasting partnership with the only local sports radio station in the city.

This is all sadly true–the buck never stops with management and there is no actual journalism vetting the organisation.  This lack of responsibility trickles down to the coaching staff where players are blamed for how the team does.

It’s one thing to be young, it’s another to have projectable upside that these young players can safely reach. Unfortunately, with the exception of guys like a Stone or a Hoffman, it appears that most of Ottawa’s youth has plateaued or seen their development stagnate.

If Nichols’ is referring to players on the NHL-roster then I largely agree with him.  If he’s talking about the organisation I disagree, as there are players who could replace the deadwood currently on the roster (if Nichols is only referring to top-six, top-four players, then the replacements are fewer, but he never attempts to explain what an acceptable prospect pool would be or how he knows via whatever data he’d be using).

After eight-years of this management group being in power, the Senators are still mired in mediocrity.

This is unquestionably true.  Basically all the non-prospect stuff from Nichols is his usual, solid self and well worth reading.

Some Ottawa housekeeping notes: due to injuries Fredrik Claesson and Michael Kostka were recalled to Ottawa.  The former dressed in Ottawa’s 2-0 loss to New Jersey and was solid in his debut (playing with Erik Karlsson helps).  Kostka has already been returned.


It’s been a super busy time of year for me, but I’m finally caught up on Binghamton’s last two games.  The first was a 2-1 shootout win over middling Leigh Valley (a .500 team; Matt O’Connor was injured in the game, so Driedger picked up the win).  The goals:
1. O’Dell takes a dumb hooking penalty (who hooks someone’s face?); on the PP Ewanyk fails to clear and O’Connor is beaten off a deflection from the blueline
2. Just after Fraser passes to the wrong team leading to a shot wide of the goal, Kostka keeps the puck in the zone and Puempel deflects his shot in
3. Puempel scores in the shootout

This was not the most entertaining of game to watch (thus the lack of play-by-play), although the goaltending was excellent.

Binghamton beat St. John’s 3-2 at home.  The IceCaps are a good team, but were not playing their top lineup, along with playing their rookie/backup goaltender.  With O’Connor‘s injury Greenham was recalled (with Driedger getting the start); Michael Sdao was finally been cleared to play (he hasn’t played a game since April 11th of last year); Hobbs was a healthy scratch for the first time this year (Penny took his spot).  The play-by play:
Paul with a great chance in front via a pass from Lindberg from behind the net
1. Robinson scores from a bad angle at the bottom of the circle (yet another behind the net pass, this time from Dzingel)
Flanagan with a good chance from the dot
Carlisle‘s dump-in is blocked leading to a good save by Driedger the other way
Stortini still on the powerplay, which continues to be painful to watch
2. Puempel‘s PP shot dribbles through the goaltender and O’Dell whacks it in after Schneider‘s initial attempt
Paul shoots the puck over a half-empty net
Carlisle loses a battle behind his own net while on the PP leading to an excellent shorthanded chance in front for St. John’s
Fraser takes a dumb penalty in his own zone (Grady complained about the call, but it was high and potentially dangerous hit)
Schneider loses his check who is wide open in front requiring a great save by Driedger
3. Paul picks up an errant St. John’s pass and centers to a wide open Lindberg in the slot who makes no mistake
O’Dell with a great chance in front
Schneider has a chance in front and then centers to Lindberg with the net empty, but two defenders prevent him from receiving the puck
4. Centering feed gets out to a wide open St. John’s forward who makes no mistake (neither Stortini nor Greening collapsed when Flanagan went deep to chase)
5. A tip from a point-shot dribbles in
O’Dell steals the puck for a 2-on-1, but Stortini can’t receive the pass
Driedger makes two great stops on the rush–one where Kostka can’t block the shot and the rebound where O’Dell is late on the backcheck
Puempel had two attempts at the empty net blocked
Driedger makes a nice save off a shot from the dot

A fun game to watch and one of the few this season where the goaltender did not have to be great for Binghamton to win.  The defensive combinations were a bit scrambled as the Sdao-Carlisle pairing only played intermittently; the rest of the time Mullen was paired with Sdao and Fraser with Carlisle.

Two trends to note: since Stortini has been moved to the fourth-line the team is 5-0; after scoring zero powerplay goals in seven straight games, the team now has goals in three of four (all from the new first unit–removing McCormick and Mullen and adding Kostka and Dzingel).  Stortini‘s presence on the second PP unit continues to drag it down.


Evansville won the first of their back-to-back games against Quad City 3-2, with the returned from injury Bengstberg picking up the win.  The forward lines were unchanged, but with Rutkowski recalled the team brought up SPHL defenseman Chris Joseph on the strength of his incredible production (20-0-1-1); this lead to the reuniting of the IceMen’s worst blueline pairing (Humphries-Himelson).  The goals:
1. MacDonald steals the puck in his own zone and Sims finishes off a nice pass from Moon
2. Humphries loses the battle for the puck and a pass from behind the net finds a wide open Mallard who makes no mistake
3. On a delayed penalty call on Moon the Mallard’s score from the point off a one-timer
4. Less than two-minutes later Guptill finds Duco open in the slot and he makes no mistake
5. A minute later Moon bangs in MacDonald‘s rebound

A solid game from the Swedish netminder.

The IceMen would lose the next game against the Mallards 6-4, this time with Zenzola in net (no lineup changes).  The goals:
1. Three-way passing play beats Zenzola (as Fawcett doesn’t skate to cover his check)
2. On the PP after a huge melee the Mallards pounce on a rebound
3. Wideman scores on the rush from the top of the circle
4. On a delayed penalty call Guptill scores via a backhand in the slot
5. Rumble steals the puck and Guptill finds Dunn wide open who makes no mistake
6. Zenzola is beaten off a tip
7. Zenzola is beat on a clear breakaway as Rumble was out of position
8. Just after their PP expires Humphries can’t contain his check who bangs in a pass from the corner
9. Mallards score on the empty net from center ice
10. Duco is left all alone in front and makes no mistake

Evansville took far too many penalties (shorthanded six times) and paid the price.  A few trends to note: the IceMen have now had an edge in shot differential the last three games; they haven’t scored a powerplay goal in four games; the powerplay goal against was the first in four games.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)