Senators News & Notes

It’s draft prep time for me which is both enormously fun and an enormous amount of work (there’s also a BSens piece in the pipeline).  That said, there are plenty of Sens things to talk about, so without further ado, here we go.

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I’ve never been a fan of BLT‘s, but BLT offers The Silver Seven‘s primer on the expansion draft (it’s pure information rather than Sens speculation).  Looking at SensChirps article about the same it’s funny/horrifying to see how his polls reflect the org’s backwards thinking so accurately–presumably it’s where the Mark Borowiecki fan club hangs out.

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Speaking of SS7, I want whatever Colin4000 is smoking, as his piece assessing the organisation includes this gem:

Then came the trade deadline, which is what really pushed Dorion into NHL Awards territory. He recognized the Sens’ gaping need for depth, and contrary to the years of Bryan Murray, he went out and got it. Brought into the lineup were Tommy Wingels, Alex Burrows (albeit at a steep price), Viktor Stalberg and Jyrki Jokipakka, who all helped solidify the Sens’ lineup.

I remember those Jokipakka games vividly.  Remember that time he…?  No, wait, there was that other time he…?  Clearly Guy Boucher forgot he was on the roster just like the rest of us.  None of WingelsStalberg, or Burrows achieved anything during the playoffs–the only arguments you’ll get to the contrary is that they were better than the alternatives, which isn’t much of an argument.

One other thing I want to talk about from his article (since I’ve seen versions of it from many others) is this:

It’s easy to remember the poor decisions and criticize

Actually, it’s far easier to praise.  Criticism is difficult to do, which is why good critical content is so hard to find (I’m not sure The Ottawa Sun has ever produced any).  So no, there hasn’t been “too much” criticism of the Sens this year (as the saying goes, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations”–for those curious as to the source of this quote, have fun going down the rabbit-hole).

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Ryan Stimson posted a fascinating document that includes analytics highlights as he proposes a new system for NHL teams to follow (while recognizing the arch-conservative league is unlikely to do so).  Something in particular that stands out to me is Stimson’s emphasis on offense when so many coaches focus on defense (Guy Boucher certainly fits that category).  Another thing that struck me was a Dawson Sprigings piece from the fall where he talked about the benefits of spreading out elite players in the lineup, which is a complimentary but slightly more evolved take on Alex Novet’s that I mentioned back in April.  The idea is that if you have more than one elite player (so this wouldn’t apply to Ottawa), it’s better to spread them out as opposed to having them on the same line (you can see this operating in Pittsburgh, for example).

Speaking of analytics, it was nice to hear Peter Laviolette pays attention to it now. The NHL is an imitative league and if Nashville wins the Cup a few more dinosaurs in management will be forced to listen to reason (not in Ottawa, however).

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Travis Yost is very excited about the Jake Guentzel‘s playoff run, and while all the signs for him being a productive NHL player are there (good NCAA stats, good AHL stats), it’s worth pointing out that playoff stats, even extraordinary ones, are not necessarily predictors of the future (especially if that player is being supported by a superstar).  The simplest examples are Chris Kontos (1989) and John Druce (1990).  Kontos scored 9 goals in 11 games riding shotgun with Wayne Gretzky in LA; he had one good NHL season with Tampa afterwards before fading away completely. Druce‘s season was with Washington (14 goals in 15 games); his career slipped away more gradually, as he was able to function as a depth player before finally leaving to play in Germany.  I’d take the performance with a grain of salt.

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Two more free agents were signed off my list, as forwards Henrik Haapala (Florida) and former King pick Tomas Hyka (Vegas) were signed.  Also signed (by Chicago) was 26-year old Czech defenseman Jan Rutta.  This brings the total up to twenty (8 forwards, 11 blueliners, 1 goalie), which is approaching the usual NCAA high tide.  In terms of which teams are dipping into the EU pool:
Arizona: 1
Buffalo: 1
Chicago: 2
Detroit: 2
Florida: 1
LA: 1
LV: 2
Montreal: 1
Nashville: 1
NJ: 1
NYR: 1
San Jose: 2
Toronto: 3
Vancouver: 1
That’s 14 of 31 franchises

For comparison, these are the NCAA FA’s signed this season (22): defenseman Neal Pionk (NYR), Alex Iafallo (LA), goaltender Hunter Miska (Ari), goaltender Shane Starrett (Edm), goaltender Angus Redmond (Ana), Mike Vecchione (Phi), defenseman Nick Desimone (San Jose), C. J. Smith (Buf), Justin Kloos (Min), Griffen Molino (Van), Joe Gambardella (Edm), defenseman Michael Kapla (NJ), defenseman Vince Pedrie (NYR), Vinni Lettieri (NYR), John Stevens (NYI), defenseman Josh Healey (Cal), goaltender Chris Nell (NYR), Mitch Hults (Ana), Tim Clifton (SJ), Sam Vigneault (Clb), defenseman Gavin Bayreuther (Dal), and Zach Aston-Reese (Pit).  The list includes 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 4 goaltenders.  By franchise:
Ana: 2
Ari: 1
Buf: 1
Cal: 1
Clb: 1
Dal: 1
Edm: 2
LA: 1
Min: 1
NJ: 1
NYI: 1
NYR: 4
Phi: 1
Pit: 1
SJ: 2
Van: 1
That’s 16 of 31 franchises

Seven teams appear on both lists (Ari, Buf, LA, NJ, NYR, SJ, and Van), meaning that a combined 23 of 31 teams availed themselves of free agents from either source. The teams on the outside looking in include Ottawa, Boston, Carolina, Colorado, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Washington and Winnipeg.  There are, of course, a small number of junior league free agents signed (5): goaltender Matiss Edmunds Kivlenieks out of the USHL (Clb), Dawson Leedahl (NYR), Antoine Waked (Mtl), Giovanni Fiore (Ana), and defenseman Jalen Chatfield (Van) from the CHL, but all of these come from the group of teams that signed FA’s from the usual sources.  The question remains: are the eight teams shooting blanks doing so intentionally or are they simply unable to compete with what the other franchises are offering?  I suspect the latter.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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