Senators News & Notes

apathy

Nichols penned a post that, among other things, mentions the apparent apathy of the fanbase.  He rejects the idea that this is related to Daniel Alfredsson‘s departure (I completely agree), instead suggesting:

For many, it begins and ends with ownership. The sad reality for many is that they have waning confidence in Eugene Melnyk and his ability to deliver a winner. This goes beyond the simple focus on Ottawa’s player payroll.  A lot of fans refuse to accept the reality of Ottawa’s internal budget

He talks to a lot more fans than I do, so I’m sure some are unwilling to accept the team’s internal budget, but it’s not the only problem with the team.  While Melnyk’s use of the franchise to prop up his own business mistakes is annoying, that’s not at the core of what bothers me.

In Ottawa’s case, the call to win is intense because of the demands ownership places on management to reach the postseason. Thanks to one of Canada’s smallest season ticket bases and rumours about the owner’s liquidity problems, the belief is that short-term competitiveness and playoff gate revenues are put ahead of everything because Melnyk desperately needs this team to be profitable.

This is where ownership causes problems.  It’s easy for a fanbase to embrace a plucky, underdog franchise, but budget + win now is insanity.  Despite that, it’s still not what really bothers me about the organisation.  Nichols adds one final (and for him, surprising) point:

Fortunately, the performance of the team’s prospects — Jonathan Dahlen, Thomas Chabot, Colin White and Filip Chlapik and Filip Ahl — at the World Junior Championships has helped fuel some optimism for the future.

I’m shocked to read this, as it’s not long ago that Nichols was among the biggest complainers about “prospect porn.”  Has he changed, or does he really embrace these players?  I have to think it’s the latter, but I’m not sure what’s changed for him–I hope it’s not merely the presence of these players at the WJC, as neither those appearances or performances are meaningful predictors in terms of future success.

So what bothers me about the Sens?  Management.  My eventual disillusionment with Bryan Murray and subsequent realization that Pierre Dorion is just more of the same has me resigned to short-term decisions based on outdated modes of thinking.  The team’s assessment management has been horrible and their drafting record is simply average.  You cannot manage a budget team without both good drafting and development and that’s not happening here.  Whenever that changes I’ll be a lot more enthusiastic.

Nichols talk of apathy dovetails into something I was looking into recently.  I’ve had the impression for awhile that the Sens blogosphere is shrinking, so to test that idea I took a look at where it stands:
The Black Aces – shutdown in 2014 (even the archives are gone now); the oldest Sens blog, Jeremy Milks offered rough and tumble opinion back in the day
613WPG – deleted by journalist James Gordon after just a few posts last year; great content for the five seconds it existed
Sens Nation – hasn’t posted regular content since 2015, with extremely sporadic posts last year; opinion-based material
WTYKY – just two posts the last two months, with irregularity going back quite a ways; a smorgasbord of material depending on the content provider, but also opinion-based
Senshot – Joel Vanderlaan brought it back from the dead a couple of weeks ago, but there were four months of silence after Ian Smith departed; current content seems to be just be news summaries (nothing you can’t find elsewhere)
The 6th Sens – erratic of late, it’s the only consistent analytics-focused blog (with Travis Yost leaving Hockeybuzz for TSN there’s no other regular provider of said content)
Senschirp – daily content; mix of news summary and opinion
The Silver Seven – daily content; what it provides varies by contributor, but it’s mostly opinion (some analytics from Ary M)

This doesn’t include the daily posts on Hockeybuzz by Jared Crozier, but that’s not a Sens exclusive site so it doesn’t require the fanbase to support it (Crozier is opinion-based and doesn’t hold a candle next to his predecessor Yost).

For a Sens fan looking for content online there’s not much variety (most of the opinion pieces are entirely generic–backed up by little to no analysis).  BSens coverage continues to be almost non-existent (right now it’s Vanderlaan’s news blurbs along with Jeff Ulmer’s Black Aces-esque pieces on The Silver Seven).  Prospect coverage is almost completely dead, although Ary M just adopted performance breakdowns which I applaud (and hope continue).  If the org was selling hope (which is what a budget team should do) I’d imagine there would be a greater focus on prospects.

So to answer my own question: is there blogger shrinkage?  I can’t say from the above–the sample size is just too small.  Readership numbers would be more telling, but I don’t have access to them.  Certainly from my point of view the blogosphere isn’t as dynamic as it was a couple of years ago–nothing comes close to replacing the daily dose of Yost and Nichols reduced production means there’s very little substance to comb through.

prospects

Speaking of prospects Pierre Dorion said this:

The organization would never look at a Russian and not draft him because he’s Russian. Have to look at the individual.

I don’t believe this at all.  The Sens haven’t drafted a Russian out of Russia since 2005 (Muckler regime) and they haven’t drafted a Russian from anywhere else since 2007.  As the easiest for-instance of their attitude, Bryan Murray (and Pierre Dorion) gave up the chance to draft Vladimir Tarasenko in order to get David Rundblad in 2010–saying at the time that they had no interest in the Russian.  Dorion’s first draft showed no radical departure from Murray’s approach–yes, they picked their first Finn since 2005 (Nurmi), but I always thought that absence was purely a fluke rather than policy (the same thing applying to Czech, Slovak, etc players–it has been clear for a long time that the Sens only pay for serious scouting in Sweden when it comes to Europe).  Drafting Russian players often mean you have to pay more because of their KHL-option, and the Sens are cheap, so I think the purpose of Dorion’s comments is to pretend his options are open (the same reason, I believe, he was talking about being able to spend money last year).  While the Sens might sign established Russian NHLers as free agents, there is no chance this regime is going to draft one out of Russia (or even, I’d guess, the CHL).

tort-face

The NHL always coughs up some weird stories and this one reminds of me Patrick Roy’s miracle run with Colorado back in 2013-14.  Who would have thought someone as clueless as John Tortorella would be leading the oddly-built Columbus Blue Jackets to romp through the league?  I’ve looked at coaching before and the collective analysis over the years broadly concludes that 1) results are mostly due to the roster, but that 2) younger coaches, coaches with historical losing records, and Cup winners (other than Randy Carlyle) have positive impacts when brought in.

Analysis

Jonathan Willis writes an interesting article looking at where analytics stands in hockey at the moment, talking about its diversification and the rise of microstats.  An interesting specific he offers is this:

It’s long been a truism in conventional hockey thought that handedness matters—think of P.K. Subban’s difficulties making Team Canada—but it had long been underexplored on the analytics side. Domenic Galamini’s work, published in March, helped change all that. Galamini found that defence pairings in which a player played on his off-side (i.e. a left-shooting defenceman playing on the right side of the ice) suffered a massive disadvantage compared to tandems with two players on their strong sides.

He also mentioned something I missed including here from a few years ago:

Others have pushed further. It’s long been known that shooting from the off-wing increases the chance of scoring (any doubt was erased by a Matt Cane paper in 2014). Yet there’s more to it than that. Tyler Dellow, most recently a consultant for the Edmonton Oilers, has helped drive forward the conversation about how left-shot/right-shot combinations work on power plays, seeing what kind of groupings best drive goals for.

It’s a great summary and I highly suggest reading the entire piece.

wichita-thunder-logo

Wichita jettisoned Daultan Leveille to Brampton, who accomplished nothing after they acquired him from Elmira (10-0-3-3).  Whatever voice in the Sens org that encouraged the move can’t have made Thunder GM Joel Lomurno very happy.

As for the team itself, the bottom has dropped out and they’ve gone 2-9-0 since my last update (11-16-1 on the season).  Sens org favourites Leveille and Nathan Moon have not helped (the team also acquired former Anaheim draft pick Brett Perlini for a couple of games before moving him along).  Here’s a look at top-scorers as well as all Sens/BSens property (arranged by points-per-game, PPG):

Alexis Loiselle 25-14-10-24 (0.96 PPG)
Vincent Arseneau 13-6-4-10 (0.76)
Gabriel Gagne 15-5-4-9 (0.60)
Nathan Moon 16-4-5-9 (0.56)
Louick Marcotte 27-6-9-15 (0.55)
Matt DeBlouw 23-3-8-11 (0.47)
Nick Trecapelli (D) 24-3-8-11 (0.45)
Gerrad Grant 23-3-7-10 (0.43)
James Melindy (D) 28-2-9-11 (0.39)
Macoy Erkamps (D) 21-0-8-8 (0.38)
Landon Oslanski (D) 27-2-8-10 (0.37)
Vincent Dunn 19-1-3-4 (0.21)

Scott Greenham 8-4-0 2.95 .925
Drew Owsley 3-8-0 3.27 .904

No surprises as yet, although certainly the Sens must have hoped for more from Erkamps (Dunn remains a lost cause–it’s amazing to think Randy Lee praised him this summer).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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5 Comments

  1. I hope it’s not merely the presence of these players at the WJC, as neither those appearances or performances are meaningful predictors in terms of future success.

    In general, I would agree with this comment. But seeing Chabot dominate the tournament like very few have done before him, with his decision making, skill and speed is a pretty good indicator of ability. He does things with the puck that few defensemen are capable of doing. This isn’t a guy lucking into points from a hot streak. He’s also the first defenseman to win tournament MVP since the award was started in 2002, and was more dominant in my opinion as a defenseman than Karlsson was at the WJC in 2009. Injuries notwithstanding, Chabot will be an excellent NHL defenseman.

    • I was referring to prospects at large, as Nichols referenced all the players at the WJC (not just Chabot)

  2. […] Senators News & Notes […]

  3. Re: Disillusionment with Sens management
    I agree with your reasoning wholeheartedly, it’s what I’ve been saying for a while now, and in the process garnering a predominantly hostile response.
    I stopped attending NHL games a couple of years ago for the simple reason that I hated feeling as though the moment I stepped into the arena a giant hand was being thrust into my wallet with the sole intent of removing every last possible cent. What I realized is that the relationship between fan and team in the NHL is overwhelmingly one-sided: the team takes, the fan gives. But it is only during the last couple of years when I’ve been openly critical of Sens management for their atrocious asset management and blatant satisfaction with a mediocre result that I’ve realized that not only is this one-sidedness accepted by a great many fans, it is also actively espoused and promoted.
    Far, far too many fans accept everything the team says at face value. Far, far too many pay no attention whatsoever to anything the team says and simply support their Sens no matter what. For a great many fans unquestioning loyalty is seen as a positive, indeed as a measure of one’s character as a fan.
    When you have a customer base as docile and unquestioning as this why on earth would management possibly deviate from the path of least resistance which they have trod with depressing predictability lo these many years. Who on earth is going to pressure Sens management into taking analytics seriously if the fanbase won’t? Who is going to force Sens management to change it’s outlook and to finally accept that simply making the playoffs is not acceptable as an organizational goal?
    When every suggestion that Melnyk has only limited interest in seeing the team’s on-ice performance improve is shouted down by a fanbase who see such a viewpoint as needlessly negative what reason is there to believe that Melnyk will ever change his ways?
    The sad truth is that Eugene Melnyk is making more money from this team as a bubble team than he would if he invested in the on and off-ice personnel needed to bring it more in line with the real front runnersof today’s NHL. Fortunately for him he has a front office whose 20 years behind the times mentality virtually guarantees the status quo will continue unabated. And until the fans begin to demand more nothing is going to change.

    • Agree wholeheartedly. It’s clever misdirection in sporting circles that genuine criticism is dismissed as “negativity”, albeit failing attendance numbers show its limited effectiveness if a team isn’t succeeding. In many ways the Sens are reaping what they sow as when Melnyk took over the franchise he boisterously and loudly proclaimed he was here to win. With his financial troubles he *needs* to make the playoffs, preventing a necessary reboot. Why he sticks with current management is a mystery–presumably like many owners he’s not hockey savvy so whoever butters him up enough and can deliver (or seem to deliver) what he wants fiscally is going to remain. This state of affairs can’t last forever–at some point either failures on ice or financial problems for Melnyk will force change of some sort (for better or worse remains to be seen).


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