Belleville Senators: February Report

Randy Lee

Another month is in the books for the BSens disappointing season. Randy Lee’s firm stamp of failure continues:
2014-15 34-34-8 .500
2015-16 31-38-7 .454
2016-17 28-44-4 .395
2017-18 21-33-4 .397
This is a pretty obvious decline, but making changes is not how the Sens’ org operates and his continued ineptitude will remain.

After a middling January the team (in the midst of divisional games important to their opponents) tanked, going 3-9-0. Funnily enough many of the underlying numbers improved or remained unchanged: the team’s shot differential dropped to its lowest level since November (and without the ridiculous 5-1 loss to Binghamton it would be by far the lowest of the season); the powerplay continued to improve; the PK was at its best efficiency since October; the anemic offense was unchanged; and the overall goals against was on par with January–so why all the losses? It’s pretty simple: they lost more of the close games.

The Roster

Chris DiDomenico played exactly one game before being recalled to Ottawa and then traded. Colin White, Ben Harpur, and Max McCormick spent at least half the month with Ottawa (the former two matter quite a bit to the BSens, the latter does not). On the injury front Francis Perron and Christian Jaros missed all of February, while Kyle Flanagan missed over half of it. Also missing multiple games were Jack Rodewald, Max Lajoie, and Jordan Murray. Vincent Dunn was finally traded off the roster (dumped on Pittsburgh as part of the Brassard trade). Returning from injury was Ben Sexton (out since early November), and the team acquired Ville Pokka from Chicago via the DiDomenico trade (who has been an immense help to the powerplay–21% since his arrival). The only other roster changes were: human meat-puppet Eric Selleck (inexplicably acquired from the Rangers) and failed Columbus prospect Nick Moutrey (part of the Ian Cole trade). Both came right as the month ended and other than Selleck helping his team lose last night neither have made an impact.

Stats (arranged by points-per-game; ELC’s in green)

Sexton 11-5-7-12 1.09
Paul 12-7-2-9 0.75
Chlapik 12-2-5-7 0.58
White 6-0-3-3 0.50
Harpur 6-0-3-3 0.50
O’Brien 11-2-3-5 0.45
McCormick 5-1-1-2 0.40
Blunden 10-0-4-4 0.40
Rodewald 8-1-2-3 0.37
Dunn 3-0-1-1 0.33
Pokka 6-0-2-2 0.33
Reinhart 12-2-2-4 0.33
Randell 11-2-1-3 0.27
Lajoie 8-0-2-2 0.25
Murray 9-0-2-2 0.22
Flanagan 5-1-0-1 0.20
Gagne 12-1-1-2 0.16
Englund 12-0-2-2 0.16
Erkamps 8-1-0-1 0.12
Burgdoerfer 10-0-1-1 0.10
Ciampini 11-1-0-1 0.09
DiDomenico 1-0-0-0
Moutrey 1-0-0-0
Selleck 2-0-0-0
Werek 10-0-0-0
Sieloff 12-0-0-0

Driedger 0-1-0 .906 5.00 ECHL 2-1-0 .946 1.36
Hogberg 1-4-0 .894 3.40 ECHL 1-0-0 .968 1.00
Taylor 2-4-0 .893 2.93

Sexton enjoyed the most productive month of the season for the BSens, anchored by two big games (both losses) in the latter half of February. Nick Paul, who has had an awful season, enjoyed his best month, doubling his total numbers. None of the goaltenders were good, but in general their numbers are all quite similar–the primary difference is Taylor is aggressively mediocre while both Hogberg and Driedger are inconsistent at this level.

Streaks of note: Sieloff is on a 28-game pointless streak; Englund has gone 57 games without a goal (the entire season); Werek is pointless in 14-games (I warned back in October that he’d regress to the mean); Ciampini broke a 12-game goalless and 10-game pointless streak.

Special Teams

Powerplay 17.94%
This is the highest percentage of the season on a per-month basis; all the production has come from the first unit, as Kleinendorst’s tendency to populate the PP with unproductive favourites continues. So why the boost in production? The team has finally front-loaded the unit with the most creative players (Pokka’s addition, as mentioned above, has also been a godsend). The only question is: does Kleinendorst know that’s what he’s done?
Forward Usage: White, Sexton, Chlapik/Paul, Gagne
Defense Usage: Pokka/Harpur, Murray, Lajoie

On-ice for Goals Scored
Forwards: White, Sexton/Chlapik, Paul, Gagne
Defense: Pokka, Harpur, Murray

Penalty Kill 80.95%
The second highest monthly percentage of the season (just behind October); why the improvement? The defensive rotation didn’t really change, so the primary difference is at forward and Sexton and Flanagan (when healthy) are significant upgrades; McCormick’s absence has also helped (whatever his abilities are as a penalty killer, they haven’t been on display this season).
Forward Usage: White, Sexton, Blunden, McCormick/Flanagan
Defense Usage: Burgdoerfer, Sieloff, Englund, Harpur

On-ice for Fewest Goals Against
Forwards: Flanagan, White, Blunden, Sexton
Defense: Burgdoerfer, Harpur, Englund, Sieloff

The stubbornness of Kleinendorst is evident on special teams despite the improved results. He continues to ram Blunden, McCormick (when he’s in Belleville), and Reinhart onto the powerplay, while he overplays McCormick, Englund, and Burgdoerfer on the PK. One thing I was critical of in the past that’s improved, however, is the impact of forwards on the point for the PP–it improves when the forward’s partner is not Murray (only 30% of the goals he’s been on the ice for are sharing the point with a forward).

5-on-5 Kleinendorst has put together effective second lines, but continues wonky and bizarre first units (they’ve included Selleck, Blunden, Ciampini, McCormick, Rodewald, and Werek). Why talented players like White, Chlapik, and Sexton aren’t getting those top spots is beyond me. In terms of defensive combinations Kleinendorst refuses to load up his pairings, saddling talented players with those who can’t move the puck effectively.

Looking forward it will be interesting to see who remains (or comes) to Belleville and what sort of impact/usage they’ll get. This should be a time to play prospects a ton, but Kleinendorst can’t get that veteran needle out of his arm.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 1, Binghamton 4

After giving up 53 shots to Binghamton just a few days ago the BSens managed to make life easier for their goaltender, but otherwise played a listless game and got the result they deserved.

Boxscore
Shots: 20-25
PP: 0-1
PK: 0-1
Scoring chances: 4
Key saves: 1
The Goals
1. Binghamton – low shot through a crowd
2. Chlapik with a great one-timer via Lajoie
3. Binghamton PP – wide open wrist shot from the slot
4. Binghamton – Taylor isn’t set right and he’s beat far side through a screen
5. Binghamton – empty-net

Notable plays: Pokka turned into a pylon (first); Reinhart ruins a breakaway pass by putting himself offside (second); pointless fight by Selleck where he takes an extra penalty that results in a goal against (second); Binghamton beats Taylor five-hole from the blueline on the powerplay, but the ref doesn’t see it and they score 30 seconds later so it ultimately doesn’t matter (second); Paul can’t complete the pass on a 2-on-1 (second); Paul misses the net from the slot (third); Moutrey makes a nice power move to the net for a scoring chance (third);  Blunden throws a hit that hurts Sieloff (third; he’d stay in the game)

Nick Moutrey, who was shoehorned into the the Ian Cole trade by the Blue Jackets, made his debut. A brief, former teammate of Nick Paul’s in North Bay, he was a fairly average OHL player and hasn’t blossomed in the AHL (0.25 points-per-game to date)–scouts did not read the tea leaves very effectively with him. He’s big with decent speed, but doesn’t have great hands or head for the game and is someone the Sens should walk away from when the season is done.

Kleinendorst continued his bizarre distribution of ice time, playing rental goon Eric Selleck far too much and waiting until very late to push offensively (putting hands-of-stone Patrick Sieloff with these units due to defensive fears). It wasn’t a very entertaining game and there’s really nothing from it to get excited about.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)