Belleville Senators Season Review: Part One

The inaugural Belleville Senators season is over and its time to take a palate cleanser and girdle yourself because we are reviewing it (for my review of the last season in Binghamton go here). I’m embracing a slightly different format from previous installments because of just how much data I collected this year (which is to say I’ve divided it up into parts to avoid a giant wall of text), but we’ll start with the basics.

Team Performance

Most fans are interested in individual performances, but we can’t forget the team itself–one which Randy Lee has been pile-driving into the ground ever since he took over from Tim Murray at the end of the 2013-14 season (I have an article about that forthcoming–I’ve been calling for him to be fired for awhile). For context we’ll put this season side-by-side with the last:

 

BSen comparison

Looking at this and there really is no change (special teams excluded, see below)–the nibbles at the margins are simply the tides of random variation (which is to say, exactly duplicating any season is virtually impossible). Belleville also benefited from playing in an awful division (the Binghamton Devils were just as bad and the Laval Rockets were even worse)–as I went over in the summer, the BSens play an enormous amount of divisional games including 20 against the aforementioned (26% of the entire season), so it’s not like the team was in an especially hard division (even though the Toronto Marlies had the best record this year).

What about individual performance? The AHL is a development league, so how did that go? Some prospects, like Thomas Chabot and Ben Harpur, were barely in Belleville, but others spent more than half their season with the BSens. Let’s take a look at the scoring list arranged by points-per-game (green = rookie, blue = ELC or re-signed RFA, red = veteran (qualifies for that status, although players on AHL contracts or PTOs aren’t slotted into the category officially and thus don’t count against the AHL-limit–you can read about how veteran status is determined here; those names that are run through were either traded or promoted such that they missed most of the season; PPP = powerplay points):

Boston Leier (ATO) 8-4-2-6 0.75
Ben Sexton (FA) 30-10-11-21 0.70 PPP 9
Filip Chlapik (2-48/15) 52-11-21-32 0.62 PPP 12
Ben Harpur (4-108/13) 19-2-9-11 0.58 PPP 5
Colin White (1-21/15) 47-11-16-27 0.57 PPP 9
Chris DiDomenico (FA) 25-5-9-14 0.56 PPP 7
Max McCormick (6-171/11) 49-8-19-27 0.55 PPP 3
Thomas Chabot (1-18/15) 13-2-5-7 0.54 PPP 5
Nick Paul (T) 54-14-13-27 0.50 PPP 11
Andrew Sturtz (FA NCAA) 6-1-2-3 0.50
Ville Pokka (T) 23-3-8-11 0.48 PPP 6
Jim O’Brien (FA*) 60-13-16-29 0.48 PPP 3
David Dziurzynski (PTO) 9-1-3-4 0.44
Ethan Werek (AHL) 58-10-15-25 0.43 PPP 7
Jack Rodewald (**) 62-14-11-25 0.40 PPP 2
Jordan Murray (CIS FA) 58-8-15-23 0.40 PPP 8
Gabriel Gagne (2-36/15) 68-20-5-25 0.37 PPP 4
Mike Blunden (FA-yr 2) 45-6-10-16 0.36 PPP 1
Christian Jaros (5-139/15) 44-3-13-16 0.36 PPP 7
Max Reinhart (FA) 67-11-12-23 0.34 PPP 3
Francis Perron (7-190/14) 44-4-11-15 0.34 PPP 3
Daniel Ciampini (AHL) 49-7-9-16 0.33 (ECHL 15-4-12-16)
Ryan Scarfo (NCAA FA) 13-2-2-4 0.31
Nick Moutrey (T) 16-2-3-5 0.31 PPP 1
Maxime Lajoie (5-133/16) 56-1-14-15 0.27 PPP 4
Erik Burgdoerfer (FA) 66-5-12-17 0.26 PPP 4
Kyle Flanagan (AHL-yr 2) 17-1-3-4 0.24
Vincent Dunn (5-138/13) 17-0-4-4 0.24 (ECHL 31-10-8-18)
Eric Selleck (T) 18-2-2-4 0.22
Parker Kelly
(FA CHL) 5-1-0-1 0.20
Patrick Sieloff (2-42/12 Cal) 58-1-9-10 0.17 PPP 1
Andreas Englund (2-40/14) 69-1-9-10 0.14
Tyler Randell (FA) 57-3-5-8 0.14
Chris Kelly (PTO) 16-0-2-2 0.13
Macoy Erkamps (FA CHL) 46-1-3-4 0.09
Alex Formenton (2-47/17) 2-0-0-0
Cody Donaghey (T) ECHL 54-9-7-16
* O’Brien was signed to an AHL-deal after a PTO (just like Ethan Werek and Daniel Ciampini), but partway through the season was inexplicably given a two-year NHL deal
** Rodewald’s situation is a strange one–a CHL FA with Toronto he was signed out of the ECHL (16-17), then signed a two-year AHL-deal in the summer which was torn up and replaced by a 2-year ELC a month into the season

Filip Gustavsson (T) .912 3.01 2-4-0
Danny Taylor (FA) .900 3.15 11-15-3
Andrew Hammond (yr 3) .900 3.34 8-6-2
Marcus Hogberg (3-78/13) .899 3.27 6-12-0 (ECHL .915 3.10 8-7-1)
Chris Driedger (3-76/12) .885 4.04 2-5-0 (ECHL .922 2.55 9-7-1)

Looking at this it’s safe to (mostly) ignore performances by players who clock in under 10-games (the sample size is just too small). There are positive results for prospects, although none that truly jump out at you (Chlapik, tied at 31st in the league, was the most productive rookie). The names near the top of the leader board aren’t particularly surprising, although (as we’ll get into later) they certainly weren’t deployed as their production would suggest. In the previous season (Kurt Kleinendorst’s first) he had a pair of stud offensive players in Phil Varone (who lead Lehigh Valley in scoring this season) and Jason Akeson (who struggled with Syracuse and jumped to play with Mora IK in the SHL), both of whom put up better PPG than anyone listed here–the switch to scoring by committee didn’t help the team.

One interesting facet which remained largely unchanged was goaltending. If you look at Binghamton’s last season Chris Driedger was the top goalie with a .900 save percentage (one of the many reasons Matt O’Connor was allowed to walk). Regulars Danny TaylorAndrew Hammond, and Marcus Hogberg essentially echoed that performance, while Filip Gustavsson‘s brief performance is mirrored negatively by Driedger himself (and from the former’s last couple of starts you could see his numbers begin to regress to the mean). Seeing consistent numbers like this is a strong indicator that an awful defense is a contributor.

Speaking of team defense, Randy Lee doubled down on his beloved grinders this season–signing the utterly useless Tyler Randell and then trading for washed-up goon Eric Selleck. It made no difference.  Of the signings made prior to the season (remembering that WerekO’Brien, and Ciampini were all signed via tryout PTO’s), the only success was Ben Sexton–a smaller, skilled player who (when he wasn’t injured) was very effective.

While I’ll delve into coaching more in the next part of the review, this season Kleinendorst threw away whatever good will he’d engendered with me by benching Zack Stortini (who barely played for Charlotte this year) because of his obsessive use of veterans despite an avalanche of evidence that it wasn’t helping. His primary heroin was named Max McCormick and Jim O’Brien and he pumped those needles dry whenever they were available (which, as we’ve noted, had no apparent positive effect on the team whatsoever–they were better without either, 12-14-1 .463 minus McCormick, and 6-8-2 .437 without O’Brien–both of whom pale to how good the team was without Mike Blunden: 14-12-2 .535). This addiction was also reflected in Erik Burgdoerfer and Patrick Sieloff on defense, two players who received heaps of praise by doing absolutely nothing new within their very limited scope of capabilities (Burgdoerfer didn’t miss much of the season so his with or without you numbers aren’t significant; without Sieloff the team was 6-11-1 .361, but I’m suspicious of that because the second extended period he was out they were 5-7-1 .423, suggesting on the whole there was no real impact).

Speaking of coaching, its effect is often felt most on special teams and Kleinendorst has been horrendous on that front–actually getting worse this season on both fronts (the PP was last in the AHL and the PK third worst). Assistant coaches Paul Boutilier (hired largely for Chabot) and Tony Cimellaro (along with Shean Donovan) are supposed to help on these fronts, but it’s clearly not working. The struggles on the powerplay were largely a matter of the personnel used (or not used), something echoed by the PK, but it had other issues (including a generally weak D-corps).

So that’s the team at first blush. Poor management, poor coaching, and a lackluster group of veterans meant contributions from a few talented prospects were either stifled or taken to Ottawa, limiting their AHL-contributions. Coming up in Part Two we’ll explore special teams and player usage in detail, and then in Part Three we’ll assess each player’s season.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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4 Comments

  1. […] Belleville Senators Season Review: Part One […]

  2. […] Belleville Senators Season Review: Part One […]

  3. […] Belleville Senators Season Review: Part One […]

  4. […] Belleville’s season over (my multi-part review begins here) I decided to update my article from last year looking at how Ottawa has handled its AHL affiliate […]


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