Belleville Senators: March Report

sinking ship

The last full month of games is in the books for the dundering BSens. I mentioned in my last review just how delightfully incompetent GM Randy Lee has been and let’s keep that fresh in our minds (I shed some tears realizing the ebullient Kevin Lee hasn’t been reading):
2014-15 34-34-8 .500 (Richardson)
2015-16 31-38-7 .454 (Richardson)
2016-17 28-44-4 .395 (Kleinendorst)
2017-18 26-39-5 .407 (Kleinendorst)
The org has that magic talent of combining a clueless GM with a clueless coach (don’t be distracted by Richardson’s “better” performance, as he had more talented rosters). Prospects are, to a large extent, a product of amateur scouting, but the horrific pro signings and play time are down to the org and they fail harder than most.

As for the month itself, the team was 5-6-1, which is identical to their January record and on par with most of the months this year (December and February are the months that dragged the team well below the .500 mark). As for the underlying numbers: some continued to improve (as they did in February), with the team giving up the fewest goals in a month this season (3.08) along with the lowest goal differential (-3) and the most shots-per-game since December (27.3). The team would have also had its smallest shot deficit in any month were it not for the disastrous game against Toronto March 4th where they were outshot 51-16. Special teams are a different story, with the moribund PK dropping back down to its usual efficiency (77.08%) while the PP crashed down to 10.63% due to a mix of injuries/call-ups and Kleinendorst’s erratic decisions.

The Roster

Kyle Flanagan and Francis Perron missed the entire month due to injury (the former has only managed to play 17-games all season); Mike Blunden’s injury is one of the few that actually benefits the team (3-3-0 without him in March and 12-11-2 all season)–he’s one of several veterans Kleinendorst can’t help but overplay despite his many deficiencies. Gabriel Gagne and Christian Jaros were the only other significant players who missed a lot of time. Unlike Blunden, Jaros’ absence has hurt the team (9-21-2; with him 17-18-3). On the call-up side of things, Max McCormick and Ben Harpur spent the entire month in Ottawa, while Jim O’Brien (!), Filip Chlapik, and Eric Burgdoerfer (!) spent significant time there.

Additions to the lineup included former BSen David Dziruzynski (who had failed out of Utica). The team also added ATO’s Boston Leier and Ryan Scarfo. In the former case Leier is yet another Canadian University product (ala Jordan Murray)–his cousin Taylor is a Flyer draft pick. It’s not common for University products to pan out in the AHL much less the NHL, but at least offense is the reason he was taken (he finished second on his team in points and points-per-game). As for Scarfo, who played most of the month, he arrives after a career senior year at Union College where he lead his team in scoring. Neither player has been particularly impressive (despite oceans of TOI), although Leier has (statistically) showed more.

Finally we get to the five-headed monster in goal thought we were getting. Andrew Hammond, who hadn’t started since January 10th, was sent down to Colorado’s affiliate towards the end of the month, removing him from the situation. Chris Driedger, who hasn’t dressed since February 24th, has been banished down to Brampton in the ECHL and regular starts have slowly chipped away at what were incredible numbers. Filip Gustavsson, who arrived after Lulea’s season ended, was then simply the third head of a three-headed monster. While Kleinendorst would clearly like to start Danny Taylor every game the org has mandated he play the rookies such that Taylor was actually called up to Ottawa to make some space (Marcus Hogberg has been shuttling between Belleville and Brampton all season). Gustavsson has had a solid start, but Hogberg remains incredibly fragile and clearly needs the summer to clear his head (something reflected in him bombing out in his last three starts in Brampton).

It’s worth noting that both O’Brien and Sexton had season-ending injuries in the final game in March. Sexton’s absence can’t really be replaced, while O’Brien’s was always a mixed bag (a great penalty killer at this level, but Kleinendorst couldn’t help but overplay him).

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

Filip Chlapik 7-2-5-7 1.00
Colin White 9-3-4-7 0.77
Ben Sexton 11-3-4-7 0.63
Nick Paul 8-1-4-5 0.62
Boston Leier 5-2-1-3 0.60
Ville Pokka 12-3-4-7 0.58
Jack Rodewald 12-5-1-6 0.50
Max Reinhart 12-2-4-6 0.50
David Dziurzynski 4-1-1-2 0.50
Ethan Werek 9-1-3-4 0.44
Daniel Ciampini 12-2-3-5 0.41
Max Lajoie 12-0-5-5 0.41
Gabriel Gagne 6-2-0-2 0.33
Jordan Murray 12-2-2-4 0.33
Christian Jaros 7-1-1-2 0.28
Erik Burgdoerfer 7-0-2-2 0.28
Eric Selleck 11-2-1-3 0.27
Tyler Randell 10-0-2-2 0.20
Jim O’Brien 5-0-1-1 0.20
Macoy Erkamps 5-0-1-1 0.20 (ECHL 1-0-0-0)
Pat Sieloff 12-0-2-2 0.16
Mike Blunden 6-0-1-1 0.16
Andreas Englund 7-1-0-1 0.14
Nick Moutrey 9-1-0-1 0.11
Ryan Scarfo 9-0-1-1 0.11
Cody Donaghey ECHL 12-3-2-5

Danny Taylor 3-1-1 .929 2.59
Filip Gustavsson 1-1-0 .923 2.61
Marcus Hogberg 1-4-0 .878 3.48 (ECHL 1-2-0 .877 4.09)
Chris Driedger ECHL 4-5-1 .909 3.01

Chlapik had just enough time to surpass O’Brien as the team’s scoring leader as well as become second on the team in points-per-game (behind Sexton) before being brought up to the NHL. Ciampini’s five-points are the most he’s had any month this season. Sieloff broke a 32-game pointless streak, Englund a 59-game goalless streak (the entire season), and Werek a 20-game pointless streak. Both Gustavsson and Taylor had similar numbers in goal, while Hogberg’s declined slightly (not being that different than his numbers in January).

Special Teams

Powerplay 10.63%
The worst percentage of the season is coming off the heels of the best in February. The major change precipitating the fall was Chlapik being recalled to Ottawa and being replaced by Murray on the point. The second unit continues to struggle, although it did break a 21-game goalless streak thanks to Kleinendorst demoting Pokka to it for two games.
Forward Usage Frequency: Sexton, Chlapik, White, O’Brien, Paul, Gagne/Blunden
Defense Usage: Pokka, Murray, Lajoie, Jaros
On-ice for Goals Scored
Forwards: White, Chlapik, Paul, Sexton/O’Brien
Defense: Pokka/Jaros, Murray

Looking at the results we can see the specter Blunden’s unfortunate regularity on the PP matched by his inability to produce on it. O’Brien’s small sample size mean his numbers can’t be taken at face value.

Penalty Kill 77.08%
Forward Usage: Sexton, Blunden, White, O’Brien, Paul
Defense Usage: Burgdoerfer, Sieloff, Englund, Lajoie
On-ice for Goals Scored
Forwards: Sexton, Paul, O’Brien, Moutrey, White
Defense: Lajoie, Burgdoerfer, Sieloff, Englund

The Blunden addiction continues to be illustrated above (usage vs performance). Kleinendorst’s very narrow deployment on the blueline (with one pairing playing all or most of a penalty) makes it more difficult to parse the numbers. Englund proved to be an enormous drag on Sieloff’s normally reliable numbers and while Burgdoerfer is an improvement neither is as effective on longer shifts. Lajoie’s sprinkling has been sporadic and limited.


The bizarre forward lines continue, although slowly Kleinendorst has been assembling either a competent first or second line. After putting lumbering goon Selleck on the first or second line in four of his first five games (beginning in February) he’s been banished to the bottom-six since (the pressbox is where he belongs, but this is a Randy Lee team, so useless players need to play); leading scorer Chlapik only spent half the time on the third-line (ahem); Sexton and White, at least, were consistently on the top lines. This mild improvement, however erratic (Scarfo had four games on the first-line?), is one of the reasons the team’s overall numbers (shots, goals) improved. On defense there’s still far too much Burgdoerfer, Sieloff, and Englund, but at least Lajoie and Jaros are getting more ice time (Lajoie in particular). Kleinendorst has also considerably cut back on Murray’s TOI, which contributed to a lot of the chaos defensively. Just to highlight some of the goofy lines in March:
(2nd) Selleck (0.13)-Reinhart (0.35)-Blunden (0.36) March 3rd/4th (both losses, no goals)
(2nd/1st) Moutrey (0.21)-O’Brien (0.48)-Rodewald (0.40) March 23rd-25th/30th (2-2, but no goals)
It’s not just the players on the lines, but who isn’t that’s always puzzling (Chlapik was on the third line, for example, while Selleck was playing on the second on what must have been the slowest line in the AHL).

The arrival of various prospects for the final few games of the season will be a breath of fresh air for the team, but it’s difficult to get excited about next season since: 1) Randy Lee will be in place, 2) even if Kleinendorst is let go they’ll likely hire someone just as bad, 3) good prospects will be rushed to Ottawa. Regardless, there’s no harm in hoping for positive change.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)