Senators News & Notes

HPK

A unique set of Finnish visitors came to the site the other day reading my ancient Nathan Lawson profile from four years ago.  Someone (“Rinksu”) on the HPK end of the Jatkoaika Keskustelu boards linked it and I hope fans there got something useful out of it (HPK has lost one of its goaltenders, former Edmonton pick Samu Perhonen, while the other ‘tender, Jere Myllyniemi, had an awful season; presumably Lawson is in the rumour-mill after spending a couple of years in the Austrian league).

I also appreciate the RT from Nichols yesterday–it’s gratifying when poppabear gives you a little love.

borowiecke

Ary M has a piece discussing potential options for Ottawa’s bottom-pairing (something likely moot since the current options are already signed), but what grabbed my attention were these two comments:

Fredrik Claeasson has been Binghamton’s best defender for quite some time but likely caps out as a 6th defender.

Can you just state that as fact?  It’s certainly something that gets tossed around by fans a lot, but internally the organisation rewarded the god awful Mark Fraser (?) and I feel like Freddy has showed some worrying signs (such as his on-ice numbers for powerplay goals against).  My feeling is that Ary M has watched very few Binghamton games and is simply repeating sentiments he’s heard.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to save Luke Richardson

Why is this unfortunate?  As above there’s no effort to justify the statement–for those of us who’ve watched the trainwreck that was Richardson this was a welcome relief (about which I discussed here; and about the coaching staff in general, here).

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Speaking of Binghamton, Nichols breaks down the rumour that Ottawa might be looking to move it’s AHL affiliate to Belleville.  There are two hurdles to this (the Bruce Garrioch report suggests the team wants the move for the 2017-18 season), and let’s look at them quickly:
1. The Sens signed an agreement with Binghamton through the 2018-19 season
I wasn’t able to find an example of an NHL team breaking it’s affiliate agreement, but I imagine it’s not an insurmountable hurdle (there are likely mechanisms within the contract allowing it to happen)
2. Millions of dollars are needed to renovate the the arena and the city council has yet to approve the money
Belleville lost it’s OHL team to Hamilton last year in part to city council refusing to invest in arena improvements; however, there was a recent report that suggests the changes required are already underway:

During closed door talks Thursday, council approved spending $510,000 (contract worth $450,000) for an Ottawa-based firm to commence drawings and designs aimed at rejuvenating the antiquated arena.

What it will do is convince a pair of current suitors the city is serious about bringing hockey back to Belleville. The mayor is holding “healthy discussions” with those clubs, one of which the city has signed a non-disclosure agreement with and the second interested party inking a “letter of intent with a party that we’ve been discussing for the last four months and we’ve extended that for 30 days. It’s a party that has interest in our community in a hockey capacity.”

We know the non-disclosure agreement is with the Senators, but not who the second suitor is.  Garrioc’s report means Ottawa’s management wants the notion floated, but it remains to be seen if an actual deal will be finalised.  (In researching this, incidentally,  I came across an old blog by AHL President Dave Andrews which is worth reading.)

For those who missed it I provided my breakdown of Binghamton’s season yesterday.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Binghamton Season Review

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Another long and disappointing season is in the books for Binghamton and it’s time for my review (you can read last year’s here).  Let’s start with the basics: the team finished 31-38-7 (14th in the conference), falling out of serious contention at the beginning of the season then muddling along the rest of the way.  How does this compare to last season?  Let’s compare them side-by-side (2014-15/2015-16):
34-34-8/31-38-7 (-3 wins, -7 points, -3 places in the conference (14th))
242 GF/204 GF (-38, dropping from 1st in the conference to 9th)
358 GA/341 GA (+17, moving up two places in the conference to 13th)
PP 20.6/17.8 (-2.8, dropping seven places from 2nd)
PK 81.1/81.8 (+0.7, moving up four places from 24th)

What’s evident is that Luke Richardson can’t coach defense.  The team’s goal scoring is a reflection of talent rather than strategy, but it’s staggering how awful they’ve been defensively (including on special teams) for the past two seasons.  There are plenty of excuses to be made for this fact which I’ll address below.

The AHL regular season consists of 76 games, so the most convenient way to divide it up is in four 19-game intervals (notable streaks in brackets):
5-12-2 (Oct.10-Nov.28; 5 straight losses, front end of 5 straight losses)
10-8-1 (Dec.4-Jan.16; back end of 5 straight losses, 4 straight losses, 5 straight wins, front end of 5 straight losses)
First half: 15-20-3 (33 points)
7-11-1 (Jan.22-Mar.5; back end of 5 straight losses, 4 straight wins, 4 straight losses)
9-7-3 (Mar.8-Apr.17; 4 straight wins, 7 straight losses)
Second half: 16-18-4 (36 points)

This is a remarkable number of streaks, tallying 13 of the teams total wins (41%) along with 30 of their losses (66%).  What’s apparent is how things never improved–no matter what happened to the roster, Binghamton failed more often than not–saddled with a coaching staff and management group unable to foster any solutions.  A lot of excuses have been made for these results because of the roster, so we’ll look at that next.

The players below are listed by points-per-game (PPG), with a minimum of 15 games played (this applies to ECHL stats as well); rookies are in italics; players in blue were 25 and older at the start of the season; AHL season totals are in brackets for traded players (additions to the roster during the season are underlined):

Phil Varone 21-6-17-23 (1.09) [65-19-36-55 (0.84)]
Jason Akeson 21-5-17-22 (1.04) [73-13-39-52 (0.71)]
Matt Puempel 34-17-13-30 (0.88)
Ryan Dzingel 44-12-24-36 (0.81)
Cole Schneider 54-17-25-42 (0.77) [73-21-35-56 (0.76)]
Eric O’Dell 50-18-19-37 (0.74) [67-27-23-50 (0.74)]
Casey Bailey 30-7-14-21 (0.70) [68-11-28-39 (0.57)]
Tobias Lindberg 34-5-17-22 (0.64) [56-11-23-34 (0.60)]
Michael Kostka 50-5-24-29 (0.58)
Max McCormick 57-15-15-30 (0.52)
David Dziurzynski 43-8-12-20 (0.46)
Kyle Flanagan 44-6-14-20 (0.45)
Jerome Leduc 22-4-6-10 (0.45) [76-11-15-26 (0.34)]
Patrick Mullen 36-1-15-16 (0.44) [65-3-27-30 (0.46)]
Ryan Rupert 30-7-6-13 (0.43) [59-13-12-25 (0.42)]
Buddy Robinson 62-13-10-23 (0.37)
Nick Paul 45-6-11-17 (0.37)
Michael Keranen 21-4-3-7 (0.33) [66-12-18-30 (0.45)]
Colin Greening 41-7-6-13 (0.31)
Conor Allen 17-1-4-5 (0.29) [66-3-11-14 (0.21)]
Zack Stortini 66-8-8-16 (0.24)
Ryan Penny 24-2-3-5 (0.20) [ECHL 33-10-13-23 (0.69)]
Guillaume Lepine 69-4-9-13 (0.18)
Chris Carlisle 65-4-8-12 (0.18)
Fredrik Claesson 55-3-7-10 (0.18)
Danny Hobbs 50-3-4-7 (0.14)
Travis Ewanyk 68-5-4-9 (0.13)
Ben Harpur 47-2-4-6 (0.12)
Mark Fraser 60-2-5-7 (0.11)
Michael Sdao 17-0-2-2 (0.11) [29-0-6-6 (0.20)]
Nick Tuzzolino 27-1-0-1 (0.03)

Scott Greenham 3-1-0 2.19 .928 [ECHL 11-9-3 2.78 .920]
Chris Driedger 18-15-4 2.83 .912
Matt O’Connor 10-20-3 3.31 .895

ECHL Prospects (players on ELCs)
Troy Rutkowski 61-6-24-30 (0.49)
Vincent Dunn 55-13-14-27 (0.49)

I was curious what the with-or-without you numbers were in terms of wins–which players had a noticeable drag on the lineup or gave it a boost.  With the team’s overall winning percentage serving as the baseline (0.40) and understanding this kind of breakdown favours or punishes players with fewer games played, here are the numbers (those in green are above the line, those in red are below):
Sdao 0.58
Lindberg, Keranen, Flanagan 0.47
Bailey, Rupert 0.46
Leduc 0.45
Puempel 0.44
Lepine 0.43
Kostka, Varone, Akeson, Hobbs 0.42
Greening 0.41
team 0.40
O’Dell, Paul, Carlisle, Claesson, Stortini 0.40
Schneider, Dzingel, McCormick, Harpur, Mullen 0.38
Penny, Tuzzolino 0.37
Ewanyk, Fraser 0.36
Robinson 0.35
Dziurzynski 0.32
Allen 0.29

The most obvious thing here is that players added late in the season are slightly above the average while those who did not play then are slightly below.  SdaoAllenLeduc,  Keranen, Varone, and Akeson did not play enough games to really establish their effect.  Anything within .03% of the team average is within the margin of error.  With that in mind Lindberg, Flanagan, BaileyRupert, and Puempel stand atop the list, while Dziurzynski, Robinson,  Ewanyk, and “top-defenseman” Fraser sit along the bottom.  How many wins or losses do these percentages translate too?  At the top it’s 3-5 more wins, while on the bottom it ranges from 3-6 losses.  In my opinion the difference relates to puck-possession (or lack thereof).

There is a lot to unpack with all the information that is on-hand, so let’s start with a few general observations:
-the team was awash with veterans, so making the excuse that the team’s results were due to a “youth” doesn’t wash
-Binghamton traded seven players to no noticeable effect on team performance (despite claims from others that there was improvement)
-however much some fans might want to make the excuse that a lot of the best prospects on the team were away in Ottawa, when they were in the AHL there was no tangible difference in team results
-the garbage-time production of Varone and Akeson (and Bailey) can’t be taken at face value (the tallies for the entire season seem right for their expected production)

Selected thoughts on individuals:
McCormick‘s numbers made a solid jump in his sophomore season (0.32 to 0.52), but much of that was due to Richardson jamming him down the throat of productive lines and the PP (places he doesn’t belong–I’d keep him on the third line and off the PP)
Robinson was jerked around all season and that impacted his totals (0.45 to 0.37); his worst struggles were at the end of the season with just 1 point in his final 12 games
Paul‘s production was awful; he never recovered from being irrationally scratched early in the season
Stortini was unable to replicate his career numbers from the previous season (0.32 to 0.24), despite getting enormous amounts of PP time (he finished with just 1 point in his final 16 games)
-Career ECHLer Lepine spent the entire season being carried by partner Kostka, so don’t let his numbers fool you
Claesson did not have a great season, with particular struggles on the PK
-While Penny is not the most talented prospect out there, it boggles the mind that he was passed over for the likes of Ewanyk and Hobbs
Driedger, while clearly the best of the tandem, he did have his struggles (particularly in January); he finished tied for 19th in the league in save percentage (third among AHL rookie goaltenders–while it’s not his rookie season as a prospect, it’s his first full season in the AHL); it’s a solid showing for him playing behind an atrocious defensecorps
O’Connor struggled mightily in his rookie campaign, and while he stabilized with the team firmly out of the playoff race (only 3 sub-.900 games in his last 15 starts), it remains to be seen if that’s a trend or what his ceiling really is (he finished 44th in the league in save percentage)

What can we conclude?  The lineup in Binghamton was never going to light the world on fire, but the coaching staff only achieved the baseline of its potential.  Lineup choices were unimaginative, young players were stifled, and older players of limited talent were given far too much leeway.  None of the rookies who remain in the organisation had good seasons and none of the player movement had any impact on results–all the significant problems rest on the shoulders of management and coaches, none of whom were willing to accept it (instead blaming the players).  Thankfully Luke Richardson has moved on and we can only hope that Randy Lee is removed from his GM position going forward.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thoughts on Bryan Murray’s Performance as GM

I thought about going ham and doing a complete retrospective of Murray’s career, but rather than that massive wall of text I decided I’d pick a few idiosyncrasies that I think illustrate his struggles in Ottawa (and however much fans might want to give him a pass because of Eugene Melnyk’s interference, what we’re about to see is pure Bryan Murray).  For those who prefer retrospectives that are  roses and puppy-dogs, Senschirp is here for you.

Aging Veterans

If there’s one thing Murray loved it was players well past their prime:
2007-08 (1st round sweep)
Luke Richardson (38) – 76-2-7-9 (re-signed then retired early)
Cory Stillman (T) (34) – 24-3-16-19 (played 3 more seasons)
Martin Lapointe (T) (34) – 18-3-3-6 (retired)
Dean McAmmond (33) – 68-9-13-22 (played 3 more seasons)
Randy Robitaille (32) – 68-10-19-29 (6 more seasons in Europe/AHL)
Shean Donovan (T) (32) – 82-5-7-12 (2 more seasons)
2008-09 (missed playoffs)
Jason Smith (35) – 63-1-0-1 (retired)
Jarkko Ruutu (33) – 78-7-14-21 (2 more seasons)
2009-10 (1st round in 6)
Alex Kovalev (36) – 77-18-31-49 (2 more seasons)
Andy Sutton (T) (34) – 18-1-0-1 (2 more seasons)
Matt Cullen (T) (33) – 21-4-4-8 (active player)
Jonathan Cheechoo (T) (29) – 61-5-9-14 (6 seasons in Europe/AHL)
2010-11 (missed playoffs)
Sergei Gonchar (36) – 67-7-20-27 (4 more seasons)
(Francis Lessard) (31) – 24-0-0-0 (1 more AHL season)
2011-12 (1st round in 7)
Alex Auld (30) – 3.35 .884 (1 more in Europe)
Zenon Konopka (30) – 55-3-2-5 (2 more seasons)
2013-14 (missed playoffs)
Joe Corvo (36) – 25-3-7-10 (retired)
Ales Hemsky (T) (30) – 20-4-13-17 (active player)
2014-15 (1st round in 6)
David Legwand (34) – 80-9-18-27 (active player)
(Todd Bertuzzi) (39) – did not play (retired)
2015-16 (missed playoffs)
Scott Gomez (36) – 13-0-1-1 (theoretically “active”)
Dion Phaneuf (T) (30) 20-1-7-8 (active player)

Ostensibly you add veterans to make a Cup run, but there’s no corollary here.  It’s worth noting that the one season Murray didn’t add an aging vet (12-13) is the only season his team won a round in the playoffs.  Lessard is in brackets because he was on a two-way contract, but who signs a guy like that to a two-way and then plays him in the NHL?  Bertuzzi is also in brackets because he ultimately got hurt before he ever played with the Sens, but the hope was that he would.  A few of these players delivered in one way or another, but many of these signings are well beyond the keen of any sense whatsoever–Richardson, Smith, Lapointe, Donovan, Cheechoo, Auld, Konopka, Corvo, Legwand, and Gomez were all players who were done–there was nothing left in the tank and that was obvious to even casual fans on the outside.  One of Murray’s main problems was his outdated belief that veterans brought magical “character” to the room and would help in the playoffs–a bit like wearing a lucky rabbit’s foot–something that might have been true 20 years ago, but has been irrelevant since the end of the Dead Puck Era.

College/CHL Free Agents

Next let’s look at various swings at the fences when it comes to signing college and junior free agents (he did not sign any free agent players from Europe to ELCs):

2008
Jesse Winchester (NHL 285-20-50-70; technically on Colorado’s roster)
2009
Bobby Butler (NHL 130-20-29-49; bombed out in Europe)
Craig Schira-WHL (last four seasons in Europe)
2010
Stephane Da Costa (NHL 47-7-4-11; last two seasons in the KHL)
David Dziurzynski-BCHL (NHL 26-3-3-6)
2011
Pat Cannone (no NHL games played)
Wacey Hamilton-WHL (no NHL games played)
2012
Cole Schneider (NHL 2-0-0-0)
Buddy Robinson (NHL 3-1-1-2)
2013
Andrew Hammond (NHL 49 games played)
Ludwig Karlsson (career ECHLer)
Garrett Thompson (split his time between the ECHL/AHL)
Troy Rutkowski-WHL (career ECHLer)
2015
Matt O’Connor
Macoy Erkamps (WHL)

While we can’t judge the latter two yet, this is an atrocious record.  It’s a collection of marginal to poor talent with no bonafide NHL players other than perhaps Andrew Hammond (I think you could argue maybe Da Costa could have played in the right situation and the jury is still be out on Schneider, but that’s it).  The sad thing is there’s no real sign of improvement here–no noticeable trend–just shots in the dark over and over again (and their Western junior scouts need their heads examined).

I bring up these two particular elements in Murray’s playbook because they are all within his control.  There was a gradual reduction in signing older players, but that change is also tied to budgetary constraints, so it’s not clear he actually learned his lesson (despite repeatedly saying it’s “a young man’s game” he also continuously kept and signed aging vets).  As for free agents, getting one backup goaltender out of so many ELCs is a poor track record (you might count Winchester is another “success”, but I felt he was shoehorned into the NHL), and it’s sometimes difficult to understand the thinking behind the signings (Karlsson and Thompson are particularly egregious).  These self-inflicted wounds hampered the organisation and are one of the reasons Ottawa struggled so hard to just make the playoffs.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

geralt

I’ve been a little distracted lately, but while not a lot has happened in the last week for the Sens there’s enough to sink my teeth into.  I’m not that excited about who the Sens interview for coaching positions however–we’ll discuss what I think of who they hire when that happens.

fight

 

Fans love their Old Time Hockey–nothing quite like grown men punching each other in the face to send a message or deal with their emotional equilibrium.  Amazingly, fighting has declined to it’s lowest point since 1968, which will come to as a shock to Rock ’em Sock ’em fans.  This isn’t surprising to anyone outside the org and Brian Burke, but it’s always worth noting.

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On the Hockey PDO podcast a week ago or so NBA analyst Seth Partnow compared where the NHL is now with analytics to where the NBA was back in 2003, which is an interesting observation of just how conservative the NHL is when it comes to numbers.

Analysis

Travis Yost looks at success in pulling goaltenders late in the game and concludes that the earlier the pull the better.

Luke-Richardson

At long last the bell has rung for Luke Richardson as he and the Sens agreed to part ways.  It’s a sensible move, albeit one that comes long after his shortcomings were readily apparent.  There’s an immense reluctance among bloggers to criticise Richardson that I find curious.  Let’s go to my old buddy Jeff Ulmer first:

His only knock in my book, and it’s a big one, was not advancing in the post-season

Really?  That’s the only knock on him–everything else is sunshine and rainbows?  It’s hard to believe this is Jeff’s opinion, but I think it is (truculence carries you a long way apparently, as does being employed by the team).  Here’s the typically more analytical Nichols:

Binghamton’s decline is not all on Richardson however. … I only wish Richardson and his family the best. As they move on, I hope that this community continues to promote mental health awareness and Richardson’s Do It for Daron (D.I.F.D.)  initiative.

I’ve arranged the quote this way because I believe the latter is the primary reason we get the kid gloves from Nichols (that and the fact that he doesn’t watch Binghamton).  No one looking at either how the BSens have played or their numbers could think the coach has done a good job, but Richardson the human being has become a bigger persona than Richardson the coach.  This assessment should have nothing to do with his personal life–a lot of excellent professionals are terrible people in their personal lives and a lot of wonderful people are lousy professionals–I have no difficulty in separating them out.

The worrying signs for me about Richardson started last year, when I concluded the team would be better off without him (his flaws the first two seasons were largely hidden behind a wall of talent).  This feeling was compounded when Richardson blamed his first difficult year on a lack of experience, despite a lineup filled with veterans, and this habitual decision to pass the blame and refuse responsibility continued throughout this season’s difficult run.  I always thought tough guys were the ones to say “the buck stops here”, but in this case the buck never reached the top.  I called for him to be fired in November, but alas he was left to linger the rest of the year (I have to wonder if Melnykian cash restraints are part of the reason).

For anyone paying attention to how Richardson ran his lines and ran his team he was a complete disaster.  He consistently failed to learn from his mistakes, praised the wrong players, and failed at his most important job: development.  As an AHL coach there are always going to be players so talented that the coach is irrelevant, and there will always be players so awful no one can save them, but there’s no example of a marginal player who got better under Richardson.  Prospects flatlined or declined under his ministration, as Richardson favoured grinders and aging veterans over talent and this season was by far the best example of that.  I could go on about his poor choices and unwillingness to learn or accept responsibility for anything, but there’s no point in beating a dead horse (I go over some of it here).  Richardson will have no problem getting assistant coaching jobs around the league, but no one with any sense is ever going to give him a head coaching position again.

Binghamton_Senators_svg

Binghamton finished playing out the string going 4-1-1 in garbage time.  I’ll do a full season breakdown in a separate article, but here are the stats for those final games:

Phil Varone 5-1-6-7
Jason Akeson 5-2-4-6
Casey Bailey 6-2-4-6
Max McCormick 6-3-2-5
Jerome Leduc 6-1-4-5
Matt Puempel 3-2-2-4
Ryan Rupert 6-2-2-4
Danny Hobbs 6-1-1-2
Michael Keranen 6-0-1-1
Buddy Robinson 3-0-1-1
Ben Harpur 3-1-0-1
Nick Tuzzolino 6-1-0-1
Chris Carlisle 6-0-1-1
David Dziurzynski 2-0-0-0
Mike Borkowski 2-0-0-0 (released)
Andrew Miller 2-0-0-0 (released)
Kevin Morris 2-0-0-0 (released)
Mark Fraser 3-0-0-0
Guillaume Lepine 6-0-0-0
Travis Ewanyk 6-0-0-0
Nathan Todd 6-0-0-0
Nicholas Trecapelli 6-0-0-0
Kevin Tansey 6-0-0-0
Chris Driedger 2-0-1 2.83 .912
Matt O’Connor 2-1-0 3.31 .895

These are garbage-time numbers, but what’s remarkable is how outside the top two lines (and a brief flurry from Leduc on the blueline) there’s absolutely nothing generated from anywhere else (I’m a little amused that Richardson, who has struggled with European players, managed to completely asphyxiate Keranen–2 points in his last 14 games).  I can only hope Pierre Dorion (or whoever makes decisions for Binghamton next season) jettisons the vast swath of ECHL talent BSens fans were forced to watch this season.  Excluding the ATO and PTO players, there are six players above who belong in the ECHL.

A few more free agent signings to note: Malte Stromwall (Rangers), Mantas Armalis (San Jose), Troy Stecher (Vancouver), Nick Ellis (Edmonton), Alex Lyon (Philadelphia), Sam Anas (Minnesota), and Justin Scott (Columbus).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Sens Coaching Changes

Pierre Dorion made his first moves as GM firing most of the coaching staff (Dave Cameron, Andre Tourigny, and Rick Wamsley); Jason Smith was also removed, but offered another position which he may or may not take.  Only Chris Schwarz and Tim Pattyson remain (for now) at the NHL level.  I hope we see a similar cleansing at the AHL level, but one thing at a time–and frankly, keep in mind this is the most obvious and easy move Dorion can make.

The only potential surprise in all this is Wamsley, who has received a lot of credit for goaltending development since he joined the organisation in the summer of 2010, so let’s look at his results and see if that praise is earned:
2010-11
Brian Elliott – the worst season of his career and is traded to Colorado; has had fantastic numbers in his five seasons in St. Louis (3rd in save% this season)
Pascal Leclaire – utter disaster; retired after the season
Craig Anderson – regained his form after being acquired from Colorado (full breakdown of him below)
2011-12
Alex Auld – worst season of his career sending him to Europe before he retired
2012-13
Ben Bishop – had decent numbers, but is traded to Tampa; now the Lightning’s #1 goaltender (4th in save% this season)
2013-14
Robin Lehner – worst numbers of his career; doesn’t improve much the following season; now Buffalo’s #1 goaltender (9th in save% this season)
2014-15
Andrew Hammond – career numbers, which came back to earth this season

Wamsley has been unable to get the most out of three #1 goaltenders (we can argue about Lehner, but he’s a projected #1 goaltender and that’s how Buffalo is treating him), while ushering out the careers of two others.  What he can hang his hat on is basically Craig Anderson, and as much as fans love him he’s been all over the place with Ottawa (I’ve excluded the 2010-11 mid-season numbers as I don’t see what impact Wamsley could have had):
2011-12 .914
2012-13 .941
2013-14 .911
2014-15 .923
2015-16 .916
If you remove 12-13 this is not particularly impressive.  I don’t see anything here that suggests the Sens are truly losing something of value in Wamsley.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

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The big news is Bryan Murray stepping down as GM (into an advisory role) while Pierre Dorion takes the reigns.  This has been expected for quite some time, with the only question being would it be this year or next year.  Nichols worries that whatever gratification fans might feel to see the old fashioned Murray removed, we have no idea whether or not Dorion will modernize the organisation or not (Ian Mendes is pretty vague in trying to pump up what he’ll do).  In general, of the various people within the org, Dorion makes the most sensible comments about players, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to move away from the team’s outdated affection for grinders.  The positive signs I want to see from Dorion are to clean house in Binghamton, remove Randy Lee (or demote him), and actually embrace analytics and modern thinking.  It’s entirely possible none of that will happen and only David Cameron will exit stage left (any failed season needs someone to take the blame).  Since Dorion said nothing specific there’s no indications (yet) of what he’ll do (praising Ben Harpur is a bad sign however).

By any metric you want to use Bryan Murray finishes his tenure in Ottawa as a failure.  He tried to push the team he inherited from John Muckler into a playoff contender and failed, then tried to rebuild, but refused to follow through, leaving his team permanently mired in mediocrity.  His draft record, while better than Muckler’s, is only average and it’s an open question how much of his success was derived from the work done by his nephew Tim Murray.  In the end Bryan Murray was a stubborn, old fashioned GM, unable or unwilling to move forward with the times and his record is rife with short-term thinking and a poor ability to assess talent.  The only good question he was asked at the press conference was about his repeated failure in picking coaches (his answer paraphrased by Ary M):

He pointed that he’s been hands on with coaching because stuff bothers him systems-wise. Often, he’s tried to give an opportunity for people in the organization [assistant coaches, staff in Binghamton] who seem to fit when they’re interviewing and evaluating as people who can “step up and fill a role”. Despite this, he notes, coaching in the NHL is really difficult, especially for an assistant or minor league coach who hasn’t dealt with the day-to-day process as you do in the NHL. He’s been disappointed in a couple of his hires, and touched on the fact that maybe they were too quick to hire because they needed to rebound quickly to make the playoffs.

There are all kinds of problems with this–from his interference (and thus abrogating the authority of his coaches) to believing somehow people “deserve” a chance as opposed to using actual metrics for figuring out what works.

For those of you who have read this blog since the beginning (or in Jeff Ulmer’s case, have read my thoughts for much longer), I used to be a fan of Murray’s.  He seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to Muckler, but time has not been kind to Murray’s accomplishments and it’s simply a relief to see him give up his post.

prospects

Ary M put up an interesting prospect post which, while a mixed bag on specifics, is well worth checking out.  Things I quibble with:
-there’s no inherent value in keeping either Phil Varone or Jason Akeson; both players have topped out in the AHL and if you can’t crack weak Buffalo or Phildelphia lineups it doesn’t speak well to your ability to transition–they’re more likely to be Martin St. Pierre clones than late blooming Mike Hoffman‘s
-I wouldn’t sign Quentin Shore; unremarkable college numbers do not transition to the NHL at all (and only sometimes at the AHL-level)
Buddy Robinson‘s limitations are those of a north-south player who belongs in the bottom-six; his numbers in the AHL have been hurt by how Luke Richardson uses him, although his ability to do anything at the NHL-level remains an open question
Ben Harpur isn’t an AHL defenseman, much less an NHL one
Andreas Englund doesn’t have the puck skills to be anything other than a depth defenseman, although the fact that he was signed by the org is no surprise

travisyost

I wrote a piece about coaching a few weeks ago and Travis Yost put up some narrower analysis for just this season looking at various tendencies.  It’s an interesting read exploring what coaches emphasize (shot production, shots-against reduction, etc), although the sample size is far too small to draw any large scale conclusions.

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The unintended farce that is the Binghamton Senators continues as GM Randy Lee flails ineffectually in signing NCAA grads.  He cut Mike Borkowski loose while adding a pair of even less impressive players: Kevin Morris (who was toiling away in the ECHL after graduating) along with Andrew Miller.  The BSens season is essentially over (3 games remain) and I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish by seeing a few games from these guys.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

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The Nichols stenography machine was in action again and his analysis of Bryan Murray’s patter is excellent.  It’s baffling that Murray thought this team was playoff worthy (on the bubble maybe), but an indicator of how poorly the organisation assesses talent these days.  It’s also bizarre that the man responsible for this mess is being put in charge of fixing it.  Let me quote a related point by the inestimable stenographer:

I don’t think there’s any question that the Senators could use an upgrade on Dave Cameron, but if this offseason goes by without introducing any significant changes to the hockey operations department that will allow for self-improvement or help mitigate the risk of making mistakes, then it’s a wasted season that should have brought about positive change.

Amen.  I am a bit higher than Nichols is on Ryan Dzingel and Nick Paul, and he’s kinder to Matt O’Connor than I would be, but that’s largely splitting hairs.

Analysis

Analysis

Ary M has a good memory and referenced my exploration of the success of NCAA free agents from a couple of years ago, drawing a large number of people to the site.  It’s one of a number of pieces I’ve written about on topics that remain largely unexplored and I’m glad he remembered it.  Updates to it and other things like it have been slowed due to a lack of time, albeit I did set up a Patreon in the hopes that it might free things up to allow me to go full bore with articles like that.

prospects

Kristopher Bras posted a Senators prospect piece for Hockey’s Future and it’s problematic (his fondness for Ben Harpur is inexplicable (maybe he’s from the Ryan Wagman school of “he’s 6’6 and…er…”)–I can only hope he’s never seen him play; Chris Driedger‘s rating fell despite having a better season, Gabriel Gagne went up despite showing no improvement, etc).  I’m not sure what it is about HF, but their Ottawa coverage has been poor for a very long time.

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Since my last update the BSens have gone 5-5-3 through garbage time as they play out the string.  Their 188 GF for the season continues to see a drop in production (2.68 from 2.75), while their 229 GA represents a slight improvement (while still being awful); their powerplay has correspondingly dropped (17.6 from 18.2), while their PK has also dropped (80.4 from 81.1).  There are some who want to blame roster moves for these results, but this isn’t just an organisational flop, but also a sign of abysmal coaching (as you can see in the precipice the best newly acquired talent has gone over since fully under Richardson’s thumb).  Here’s the individual performances over this period:

Jason Akeson 13-2-11-13 (3 points in his last 7)
Phil Varone
 13-4-8-12 (1 point in his last 6)
Casey Bailey 13-3-6-9
Max McCormick 13-2-6-8
Ryan Rupert 13-4-3-7
Kyle Flanagan
 6-1-5-6
Michael Keranen
13-4-1-5 (1 point in his last 8)
Jerome Leduc 13-2-2-4
Guillaume Lepine 13-1-3-4
Mike Borkowski
 10-2-1-3
Chris Carlisle
 13-0-2-2
Ben Harpur 11-0-2-2
Mark Fraser
 4-1-0-1
David Dziurzynski
 7-1-0-1
Zack Stortini
 12-1-0-1
Buddy Robinson
13-0-1-1
Travis Ewanyk 13-1-0-1
Danny Hobbs 13-0-1-1
Nathan Todd 1-0-0-0
Nicholas Trecapelli 1-0-0-0
Kevin Tansey 6-0-0-0
Nick Tuzzolino 10-0-0-0

Matt O’Connor 3-3-1 3.41 .890
Chris Driedger 2-2-2 2.93 .906

It’s the usual routine in a Luke Richardson world–talented players are stifled while unproductive grinders clutter the lineup.  The team has other options (Troy Rutkowski or Chris Rumble are better than a number of the blueliners above, for example), but there’s no ability to judge talent in Binghamton, so it is what it is.

The BSens signed defenseman and local hero Kevin Tansey to an ATO.  He spent four unremarkable seasons at Clarkson in the NCAA (151-12-22-34) showing no signs of improvement (he actually regressed).  He attended one of the Sens development camps and one of the things he’s noted for is poor puckhandling skills.  Fortunately he’s on an ATO, not actually signed, and we can hope the 6’4 defender will fade off into the sunset.

Speaking of ATO’s, CIS grad Nick Trecapelli was called up from Evansville to aid Binghamton’s moribund blueline.  He had good numbers at Guelph, but it’s highly unlikely his skills will translate at this level.

Another local hero, Ottawa 67 Nathan Todd, signed an ATO (the center has decent OHL numbers, 53-17-33-50, but is nothing to get excited about).

There was also an ELC signing out of the CHL as Ottawa inked Macoy Erkamps from Brandon in the WHL (where Sens scout Bob Lowes has deep roots).  The 21-year old attended Ottawa’s 2013 development camp; he was ranked for that draft (expected to be a late round pick), but was passed over.  Smallish for a defender (6’0), he put up consistent but unremarkable numbers in the WHL until this season when he set career highs (72-13-58-71) across the board.  He got to ride shotgun with top draft pick Ivan Provorov and there’s little reason to doubt that he (and Erkamps being an overager) contributed to the offensive explosion (as Nichols echoes).  Ottawa under Murray hasn’t often handed out ELC’s to CHL players, but it has happened before: Craig Schira (09), David Dziurzynski (10), Wacey Hamilton (11), and Troy Rutkowski (13).  This is not an impressive list and indeed the CHL is a poor way to find NHL talent.

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Binghamton seems to largely ignore it’s affiliate, but I figured I’d update it anyway.  The team is 6-6-1 as they tread water towards oblivion.  Their 198 GF is about the pace they’ve been on for awhile (2.86), while their 230 GA is a slight improvement (3.33 vs 3.39); their powerplay continues to be in free-fall (10.1 from 11.9), while their PK remains abysmal (79%).  A look at the players:

Nathan Moon 13-2-8-10
Alex Wideman 13-4-8-12
Jordan Sims
 13-4-5-9
Chris Rumble 13-2-7-9
Spencer Humphries 8-0-6-6 (2-0-0-0 with Evansville)
Matthew Zay 12-3-3-6
Tyson Fawcett 13-2-4-6
Andrew Harrison 13-5-1-6
Ryan Penny 8-3-2-5
Sebastian Strandberg
 8-1-4-5
Mike Duco 4-3-0-3
Daniel Turgeon
10-1-2-3
Troy Rutkowski 12-1-2-3
Andrew Himelson 13-1-2-3
Curtis Leonard 13-1-2-3
Vincent Dunn 12-1-1-2
Nick Trecapelli 2-1-0-1 (in Binghamton)
Michael Trebish
4-0-1-1
Casey Thrush 5-1-0-1 (3-1-0-1 with Evansville)
Mychal Monteith 8-0-1-1
Scott Morongell 8-0-1-1
Daultan Leveille 1-0-0-0 (in Binghamton)
Mac Olson
3-0-0-0
Frank Schumacher 7-0-0-0

Scott Greenham 4-3-1 2.63 .923
Christoffer Bengtsberg 2-3-0 2.99 .905

There’s not a whole lot to say here; the team has suffered through injury problems, but above and beyond that they’ve had a weak blueline and inconsistent scoring from their depth players.

On the FA signing front: Ethan Prowe (Pittsburgh), Kevin Boyle (Anaheim), Kalle Kossila (Anaheim), Brandon Tanev (Winnipeg), Adam Chapie (Rangers), and Charlie Lindgren (Montreal)

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)