Belleville Senators at the Forty-Game Mark

mediocre

The above is probably unfair to the word “mediocre”, but I’m in a glass half full mood. Typically I do these assessments on a monthly basis (like I did in November), or in 19-game increments (the quarterly mark for the season), but because my schedule was thrown into chaos by the passing of my father now seems as good a time as any to catch up and look at where the team is as well as how things have changed over the last month and a half.

The BSens are 16-21-3, which puts them 28th in the league. This is actually a slightly better winning percentage than how they finished last season (0.43 vs 0.39), but not a point of pride and certainly not what the organisation expected when they spent money on questionable talent in the off-season. As the inaugural season in Belleville the org wanted a winning, or at least competitive, team, and they just haven’t delivered.

Speaking of that winning percentage, it has dropped from where it stood after two months of the season (10-11-1), having gone a miserable 6-10-2 since. As much as coach Kurt Kleinendorst likes to make excuses for his team (injuries and call-ups), they’ve actually lost less man-games over this period compared to the start of the season (91 due to injury and 58 on call-ups in the first two months, versus 58 and 57 since).

On special teams there have been tiny improvements on the powerplay–it remains 27th in the league, but has gone up to 13.6% from 12.5% in November (they are 10-69, or 14.5%, of late). Officially the PK has also gone up a little to 29th (to 76.6% from 75.9% in November), but my numbers have them 57-77 (74%) over this period–how this causes an increase I don’t know, but it does match the team’s overall numbers (I have them at 137-178 on the season, while the AHL has them at 134-175–we both have 41 goals against and the same overall percentages).

Other team numbers: the BSens continued to be consistently outshot (4-17-1 in games prior to this segment, 4-13-1 in it)–over the latter period they gave up 109 more shots than they took (6.05 per game) versus 127 previously (5.77 per game), with the team averaging 25.77 shots per game (versus 28.36 to start the season). As for goals per game, the team scored an anemic 39 (2.16), a huge drop from 2.77 in November (and 3.00 in October). The team has given up 76 goals (4.22) versus 77 previously (3.5).

Individual Performance (December-January)
[Arranged by points-per-game, minus empty-net points which are noted in their totals, with their relative performance increasing/decreasing noted by colour–green is increasing, red is decreasing; players with 6 games or fewer are in italics]
White 0.62 16-5-5-10 (+0.16)
Jaros 0.53 13-1-6-7 (+0.2)
Harpur 0.5 6-1-3-4 (EN) (even)
Werek 0.5 12-3-3-6 (-0.13)
DiDomenico 0.5 16-2-6-8 (-0.5)
McCormick 0.5 18-2-7-9 (+0.05)
Chlapik 0.44 9-3-1-4 (-0.13)
Murray 0.44 18-2-6-8 (+0.04)
Blunden 0.4 15-4-3-7 (EN) (+0.15)
Ciampini 0.4 5-1-1-2 (ECHL 6-1-5-6) (+0.03)
O’Brien 0.38 18-2-5-7 (-0.22)
Gagne 0.31 16-3-2-5 (-0.14)
Paul 0.3 10-2-1-3 (-0.02)
Perron 0.27 18-2-3-5 (-0.18)
Flanagan 0.25 4-0-1-1 (n/a)
Reinhart 0.25 16-2-2-4 (-0.13)
Englund 0.17 17-0-3-3 (+0.04)
Rodewald 0.16 18-1-2-3 (-0.75)
Burgdoerfer 0.16 18-1-2-3 (-0.11)
Randell 0.16 12-0-2-2 (+0.16)
Kelly 0.11 9-0-2-2 (EN) (n/a)
Lajoie 0.06 15-0-1-1 (-0.32)
Erkamps 13-0-0-0 (-0.09)
Sieloff 6-0-0-0 (-0.13)
Dunn 5-0-0-0 (ECHL 6-2-0-2) (-0.33)
Doornbosch 1-0-0-0 (n/a)
Melancon 2-0-0-0 (n/a)
Donaghey (ECHL 13-0-0-0) (n/a)

Many of these players suffered through long scoring slumps and some of the positive/negative comparisons are related to small sample size or slight changes. The biggest changes come from Rodewald, DiDomenico, Lajoie, and O’Brien (on the negative side) and Jaros and White on the positive. For context, here are the season-to-date totals (minimum 10 games played, prospects in blue, veterans in purple):

DiDomenico 0.6 20-5-8-13 6 PPP (empty-net)
Werek 0.58 31-9-10-19 6 PPP (empty-net)
White 0.55 29-8-8-16 5 PPP
Chabot 0.53 13-2-5-7 5 PPP
Chlapik 0.53 30-6-10-16 7 PPP
Harpur 0.5 10-2-4-6 2 PPP (empty-net)
O’Brien 0.5 38-9-10-19 3 PPP
McCormick 0.47 38-5-15-20 3 PPP (2 empty-net)
Rodewald 0.46 30-6-8-14 1 PPP
Jaros 0.42 28-2-10-12 5 PPP
Murray 0.42 33-5-9-14 5 PPP
Gagne 0.39 38-12-3-15 3 PPP
Ciampini 0.38 21-3-5-8
Perron 0.36 38-4-11-15 3 PPP (empty-net)
Blunden 0.36 19-4-4-8 1 PPP (empty-net)
Paul 0.33 24-2-6-8 2 PPP
Reinhart 0.32 37-7-6-13 2 PPP (empty-net)
Burgdoerfer 0.22 40-3-6-9 3 PPP
Lajoie 0.21 28-0-6-6 4 PPP
Dunn 0.21 14-0-3-3
Englund 0.15 39-0-6-6
Sieloff 0.1 28-1-2-3
Kelly 0.08 12-0-2-2 (empty-net)
Randell 0.06 32-1-2-3 (empty-net)
Erkamps 0.04 24-0-1-1

For any Nick Paul fans out there…yikes! I’m not sure he’ll ever be more than he is (an occasional call-up). This isn’t his rookie or sophomore season, this is year three of his ELC, and he just can’t put up the numbers.

On a more positive note, let’s look at a couple key players who have spent much of the season in Ottawa and see what impact they’ve had on the team when they’ve been in Belleville (Chabot and Harpur have never been in the lineup at the same time, incidentally):

Thomas Chabot 4-8-1, PP 8-63 (12.7%), PK 48-60 (80%), GF 34 (2.61), shots 381 (29.3)
Ben Harpur 7-3-0, PP 7-30 (23.3%), PK 23-32 (71.8%), GF 32 (3.2), shots 267 (26.7)

Don’t get too excited about data from the small sample size (the winning percentage for Harpur is an excellent illustration of that), but there are a few interesting nuggets here: Chabot adds more shots, as you’d expect, but his impact on the PK versus Harpur is interesting (he didn’t play much on the PK, but his presence meant the blueliners who did were kept in their role).

Finally, let’s take a look at goaltending. None of the men between the pipes have played especially well over this period, although they’ve all had their moments:
Marcus Hogberg 2-2-0 .882 3.75 (ECHL 3-2-0 .939 2.13)
Danny Taylor 1-3-0 .878 3.33
Andrew Hammond 2-4-1 .868 4.37
Chris Driedger 1-2-0 .859 4.50

These are all terrible save percentages, but the fact that they are all low indicates problems with team defense as much as issues with the goaltenders themselves.

I’ve criticized the coaching all season long, but I want to make it clear that better usage wouldn’t make the BSens a good team, it would just be a little better and prospects would get more opportunities–the latter is what’s most important in a year where the team has no chance of making the playoffs.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 4, Hartford 2

Hartford rolled into Belleville as the worst team in their own division with only marginally better numbers than the BSens. This “battle of the basement” meant a competitive and entertaining game. Before we get into the specifics, here are the basics (the boxscore):
Shots: 28-32
PP: 0-2
PK: 1-1 (five-minute major)
Goaltender: Danny Taylor was given his first start since a 3-1 loss December 20th and he put up his best performance of the season (seven key saves). Marcus Hogberg sat as the back-up while Andrew Hammond remained with Colorado and Chris Driedger was the healthy scratch. If this can drum up some interest in Taylor, whose veteran presence serves no purpose on a bottom-tier AHL roster, perhaps the Sens can move him so the prospects can play out the string and develop (neither Hammond or Taylor will be with the BSens next season, so they might as well decide what they want to do going forward–if you’re going to let Driedger go it’s far better to establish some value and trade him).

The Roster
Ethan Werek and Max Reinhart were out of the lineup from the blowout loss to Wilkes-Barre (I didn’t catch if they were scratched or hurt–with the latter at least I’m guessing hurt), creating space for Gabriel Gagne and Kyle Flanagan to slot back in.

The Lines
Paul-O’Brien-Rodewald
McCormick-Kelly-Blunden
Perron-White-Gagne
Flanagan-Chlapik-DiDomenico
Harpur-Burgdoerfer
Englund-Jaros
Lajoie-Murray

Kleinendorst took his veteran needle and stuck it deep in his vein for this one–it panned out and going by the usual confirmation bias that plagues the Sens’ org I think we’ll see this again next game. Anyone who thinks this result justifies the instinct needs to look at the BSens record to understand how often it has failed in general.

Special Teams
Powerplay
McCormick-Paul-DiDomenico/Harpur-Chlapik
Gagne-Perron-Blunden/Murray-Jaros
Penalty Kill
Kelly-Blunden, McCormick-O’Brien, Perron-Flanagan
Harpur-Burgdoerfer, Englund-Jaros

McCormick back on the powerplay is simply a symptom of the veteran heroin Kleinendorst was mainlining on the night. This is the first time all season the BSens have only given up a single powerplay, albeit was a five-minute major, but this is less about the team learning discipline and the vagaries of individual referees having their own standards (Darcy Burchell riding solo on the night). I intend to put up a post about the PK this season, something put on hold with my father passing away, but I’m hopeful I can get it out sooner than later.

The Goals
1. Hartford – Kelly and Harpur get confused on coverage leaving a man wide open in the slot
2. White scores off a sweet pass from Perron on a 2-on-1
3. Hartford – a tired Perron can’t keep up with his check who walks into the slot and scores
4. O’Brien bangs in Jaros’ rebound
5. Blunden deflects in McCormick’s pass
6. Blunden into an empty net

Scoring chances (9): O’Brien (x2), White, Blunden, Harpur, Jaros, Perron (pp), Gagne, McCormick (sh)

Notable Plays
Flanagan with a terrible giveaway that leads to breakaway (first); Chlapik guilty of over passing–he’s right in the slot and passes it off (second); White gets tossed for a hit from behind (second); Chlapik skates through two guys…but not the third and losses the puck (third).

Player Notes
Chris Kelly picked up his first two points of the season, but before uncorking the champagne it has to be said that one was a secondary assist and the other a helper on an empty net goal–however long he’s with the BSens he’s going to remain a drag on the offense. As for Blunden, the goals are nice, but he’d been pointless his previous six games and it’s unlikely this is a sign of regular production from him. I’m far happier with Jaros picking up a couple of points–I’m keen on him getting top PP time and this is a step in that direction. Lajoie, who I quite like, is in the midst of a terrible twelve-game pointless streak, but I think a good part of that is usage and bad luck. Speaking of pointless streaks, Gagne’s has hit eleven games–first unit PP time would help, as well as more ice-time and better linemates. Paul also continues to struggle to produce (one point in his last seven) despite favourable usage.

I haven’t talked about the guys in the ECHL in quite some time–once Hogberg was freed from Brampton and Donaghey’s season was clearly a failure I haven’t paid as much attention to it. Daniel Ciampini, who deserves to be playing with the BSens, is humming along at a point-per-game clip (6-1-5-6); Vincent Dunn is playing like Vincent Dunn (6-2-0-2); and Cody Donaghey’s struggles continue (28-2-2-4). If Ben Harpur stays in Belleville or Patrick Sieloff gets healthy I’d expect Macoy Erkamps to go down to Brampton sooner than later. It doesn’t seem like sending either Hogberg or Driedger down again is in the cards, so the ridiculous four-goalie situation will remain until someone is moved.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)