Rookie Camp and Radio Encounters

Rookie Camp

The Sens have announced their rookie camp roster which, beyond prospects, includes a number of players from the development camp along with two other invites:

Prospects: Filip Gustavsson, Jordon Hollett, Kevin Mandolese; Macoy Erkamps, Christian Jaros, Maxime Lajoie, Christian Wolanin; Drake Batherson, Logan Brown, Filip Chlapik, Alex Formenton, Parker Kelly, Boston Leier, Aaron Luchuk, Ryan Scarfo, Andrew Sturtz, Brady Tkachuk, Colin White

Development Camp: Jonathan Aspirot, Charles-Edouard D’Astous, Brady Lyle, Chase Stewart; Luka Burzan, Robert Lynch, Gregor MacLeod

Invites: Nicolas Mattinen; Jordan Stallard

You can read breakdowns of the development camp invitees via the link (that they brought Stewart back boggles the mind while being exactly what I expect the org to do). How about the other two? Let’s take a look:

Nicolas Mattinen DR DOB 1998 6-179/16 Tor OHL (Flint/Hamilton) 64-8-22-30
Big blueliner was a late round flyer for the Leafs two years ago, but he wasn’t signed (I didn’t rank him for that draft–only Hockey Prospects did–an early third-rounder which, in retrospect, seems insane–they presented him as a physical blueliner with an NHL-caliber shot). The trade to Hamilton was a good one for Mattinen as outside undrafted Ben Gleason there was very little punch from the defense–despite that he was fourth in production for them. There’s nothing here to get excited about.

Jordan Stallard CL DOB 1997 5-127/16 Win WHL (Prince Albert) 72-44-47-91
Parker Kelly’s teammate did what an overager is supposed to do in his final year: dominate, but it wasn’t enough to impress the Jets (he was fairly highly regarded when drafted–only ISS didn’t care for him). Stallard was the top scorer for his team, but numbers like this aren’t always good indicators for overagers. In his case they didn’t come out of the blue for him (like they did for, say, Jermaine Loewen who was drafted this year)–he averaged 0.86 points-per-game in his previous two seasons. I’m a fan of talent, so I like that they invited a player whose core ability is producing–will it earn him a contract? It’s doubtful given how bloated the BSens lineup is, but maybe there’s room for him in Brampton.

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It’s not often a journalist or scout reaches out to me–typically when it happens it’s related to my draft or AHL coverage. Yesterday, after posting my thoughts on prospect hype I’d heard on The Team 1200 (or is it just TSN 1200 now?), John Rodenburg, a man I’ve literally never mentioned in eleven years of blogging, Tweeted at me in response. It’s as random as Lyle Richardson responding to an offhand comment I made back in 2012. Rodenburg didn’t seem happy with how I framed what I’d heard (maybe he thought he was being targeted?) and perhaps thought I was either being hyperbolic or misrepresenting what I’d heard given his comment:

Curious to know the host or show you heard “parroting” the org. hype and talk of “unprecedented crop of prospects”. Since you “generally don’t listen” it should be easy to remember. Thanks in advance

Understandably Rodenburg has no idea who I am or what the content of this blog is like (I very much doubt he consumes much blogging material). I don’t normally pay much attention to local coverage (be it in print or radio)–it largely disappears from this site after 2012. The kind of coverage that interests me is investigative journalism, analytics, and scouting material. That said, occasionally while driving I turn on the radio and get a dose of the local stuff–even after all this time the personalities haven’t changed much (RIP Jungle Jim).

Going back to Rodenburg: I remembered the context of what I’d heard (otherwise why comment on it?), although I didn’t mention the specific people involved other than Gord Wilson (whose comments were tangible to the discussion). As these things go because I mentioned Steve Lloyd by name in my response (he was hosting–researching it after the fact I discovered it’s the August 27th broadcast of “In the Box“), he has now responded:

Hi Peter. Nice context. Glad you listen to “Team 1200”. The jumping off point of the discussion was if Sens fans are looking for a little positivity in the avalanche of valid negativity, their pool of legit NHL prospects at this year’s rookie camp is as deep as its ever been.

I don’t recall that framing of the discussion because I missed the opening of the first segment (the third of the show) and conclusion of the second (fourth), but I’m sure Lloyd is correct. It’s a clever distinction to say both “as deep” and “at this year’s rookie camp” rather than simply “deepest ever” (as I subsequently responded to him, without the benefit of hindsight the 2011 camp was easily as deep as this one, but as I argued in my original post that’s not a comparison the org wants because virtually none of that potential came to fruition). To me the implication remains that it is the deepest prospect pool the Sens have ever had (or, for Gord Wilson, as deep as the late 90s/early 2000s) and I just don’t think that’s true for the reasons I detailed in the post. Without bonafide elite talent–a top center, a #1 defensemen, etc–it simply can’t hit that threshold.

To be clear: I’m very happy with the Sens group of prospects. While the org’s pro scouting has generally been awful, despite cutbacks their amateur scouting has continued to find quality players at the draft (with some notable misses in 2012 and 2014). My point isn’t that the sky is falling and the end is neigh (that sentiment would be about the owner and GM), but simply that the hype is overboard and there was no contrasting opinion given in the broadcast (the only caveats I heard were that not everyone will turn out, which isn’t really saying much). I’m not expecting either Rodenburg or Lloyd to reappear in reference to me, but if it means we get clearer context in these discussions then some good has come out of it.

If there’s enough interest, btw, we can go through a point-by-point comparison between eras to look at ‘the best’ prospect pool ever.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

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Thoughts on Org Prospect Hype and on Randy Lee’s Departure

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I was randomly listening to The Team 1200 recently (something I generally don’t do) and encountered the org narrative being parroted by the media: don’t worry about the failures, player changes, or drama, because the Sens have an ‘unprecedented’ crop of prospects and all will be well–if not now, in the near future. This is a card the Sens have played before and I wanted to explore that (those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, after all, as I butcher George Santayana).

The summer of 2011 is what I immediately thought of when I heard the above. It’s not that long ago, but I remember the exact same hype being generated about the prospects at the time. The org had just picked three players in the first round (including Mika Zibanejad) along with local 67 Shane Prince; won the Calder Cup with 19-year goaltender of the future Robin LehnerDavid Rundblad, acquired for the pick that became Vladimir Tarasenko, was arriving from Sweden after breaking the SEL record for points by a defensemen; Jared Cowen was still a thing; Patrick Wiercioch and Derek Grant were being touted; Jakob Silfverberg was in the offing; Andre Petersson was coming over from Sweden; etc, etc. Look at all that talent–don’t worry about the 2010-11 season and promises of a Stanley Cup contender from the owner–all will be well soon enough.

This approach worked very well–at least in the fandom–but as we’ve seen none of the aforementioned players became elite talents (Silfverberg is arguably the best of the lot). In the subsequent seven seasons the team missed the playoffs three times and had just one good (very good) playoff run (when all the aforementioned pieces were gone). If the summer of 2011 is a story of anything it’s a story of missed opportunities and overblown expectations.

dean brown

I think because the above is well-remembered Gord Wilson (in his segment) didn’t make that comparison. Instead he reached far back in time to reference when Martin Havlat and Anton Volchenkov were playing in rookie tournaments (they only played one together, 2000). Despite the Sens ultimate failure with this crop of players, it’s a more successful group and touches on the greatest nostalgia for Sens fans. As strategies go for hyping the future, it is the best approach.

Both of these comparisons are problematic. In 2011, despite the ultimate failure of what was promised, the team had an all-world player on his way up in Erik Karlsson–there is no player of similar talent playing on the roster right now once EK is traded (as seems inevitable).  As for the turn of the millenia there was another established star in Daniel Alfredsson who was accompanied by arguably an even more elite talent in Marian Hossa. Today’s team? There just isn’t definitive elite talent like that. Comparing the quality of prospects is difficult, but it’s safe to say the ceilings of the talent assembled in the late 90s/early 2000s is above that of either 2011 or currently. As for the current crop (you can view scouting sentiments for 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 via the links–something I wish all the writers at The Silver Seven would do for their prospect profiles–as well as the AHL breakdowns where appropriate), it’s a collection filled with hope–hope that some might be good second-liners, average first-liners, or a solid, supporting top-pairing blueliner–there’s just no definitive elite talent. Maybe that will change–maybe there’s a Mark Stone out there waiting, but it’s very unlikely (for those who don’t remember the only reason he was such a late pick was because his draft-season was derailed by injury). Free agents are even less likely to pan out given the Sens abysmal track record with them.

I admit that I can’t think of any other way for the org to try to pump enthusiasm into the team or the upcoming season. While they’ve finally addressed the Randy Lee situation (see below), the specter of trading Karlsson remains and the general stink of negativity around the team remains. The point of the above was simply to take the rhetoric seriously and explore how justified it is–the valid comparison is, I think, to 2011, so the expectations for this collection of prospects should be along those lines rather than the heyday of talents from the days of yore.

Image result for randy lee arrest

On August 21st we learned that Randy Lee had resigned his position. The timing of the move seemed odd–he’s not due in court again until September 13th, and if he was going to resign because of the charges why wait so long? My guess is his resignation was forced or demanded by the org–the team doesn’t want his trial hanging over training camp and the regular season–there’s enough negative press as it is.

For those who haven’t kept tabs on Lee’s legal problems it’s worth keeping the timeline in mind:

  • May 30th – Lee was on a bus in Buffalo which is the source of the harassment charges against him (details can be found here)
  • June 1st – the Senators released a statement (revised the next day) about the charges, but neither they nor Lee took the obvious action of removing him from his position with the draft approaching (either temporarily or permanently)–instead Eugene Melnyk did what he did best by sticking his foot in his mouth and vigorously defending Lee (including hiring a lawyer to defend him)
  • June 15th – the Sens suspend Lee–speculation (see the link) that new COO Nicholas Ruszkowski was behind the move seems probable, given that he’s the only new voice in an org which was otherwise content to do nothing
  • June 27th – an additional charge of harassment was made against Lee (from the same incident)
  • July 5th – Lee tried to get the charges dismissed (which failed)
  • August 21st – Lee resigned his position with the Sens

I have no idea what the validity of the charges are–the courts will weigh in on them soon enough (on the positive side they haven’t been followed by an avalanche of accusations ala Jerry Sandusky at Penn State)–but the incoherent approach by the org is blindingly evident above. The limited (and late) damage control with his suspension seems even more pointless given his resignation. Until he resigned Lee showed no intention of reacting or responding to what’s happened (such as, on his own accord, removing himself from his position while the criminal process was ongoing), which is why I think his departure was forced.

One of the questions on my mind is: if he’s acquitted, do they immediately re-hire him? It would be a terrible PR move, but the org has shown no ability to judge public sentiment so if that happened I wouldn’t be surprised.

 

Image result for tide goes in tide goes out

Putting aside the criminal charges for a moment, for those of us who have watched Randy Lee’s bungling tenure as AHL GM (see here and here) there’s relief in seeing him gone. Unfortunately, those responsible for putting and keeping Lee in charge are the same ones replacing him, so we should expect roughly the same approach going forward. There’s likely no true evolution in BSens land until the people in charge are replaced en masse in Ottawa (something likely requiring a change in ownership).

Analysis

I wanted to tag this article covering the move away from Quality of Competition (along with the issues with Corsi) by the analytics community and why. It’s well worth reading and there’s no special knowledge is required to understand it.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

 

Belleville Senators Roster Speculation

With summer lumbering along I felt like speculating on the BSens lineup for this upcoming season. I wanted to begin with some positives:

  • Randy Lee’s suspension – it took longer than it should have, but the absence of the hockey dinosaur is reaping rewards in the AHL hockey ops–a lot of the foibles surrounding Lee’s tenure as GM have been avoided
  • No roster spot has been wasted on an enforcer [Joseph LaBate was signed after I initially posted this–see below] – the team has played at least two enforcers every AHL campaign with Lee in charge (Darren Kramer/Guillaume Lepine; Zack Stortini/Lepine; Stortini/Lepine; Tyler Randell/Eric Selleck)–these players have used up valuable ice time and done nothing to improve the team’s performance or protect the org’s assets
  • Avoided signing obviously declining/terrible players (ala Brad Mills; Stortini/Mark Fraser/Nick Tuzzolini; Mike Blunden/Chad Nehring; Randell/Max Reinhart)
  • Let Nick Moutrey walk – big guy with decent wheels, he’s the kind of raw material the org fawns over regardless of numbers (or lack thereof)
  • Hired a coach with a winning AHL track record – while I have some concerns about Troy Mann, he’s the first coach with these kinds of credentials hired since the Murray regime arrived back in 2007

Making/avoiding these choices is not how the org has operated in the past and I applaud them dodging their usual pitfalls.

What about the moves I’m not fond of–what’s happened in the off-season that we can concretely critique? There’s not much (yet):

  • Re-signing Patrick Sieloff–he has his uses, but they are extremely limited (32-game pointless streaks require a special kind of talent) and create artery-clogging congestion on the left side (he’s better than Andreas Englund, I’ll grant you, but that’s not saying much)
  • I’ve talked about the org’s risk-averse approach before and this is what’s behind the signing of Mike McKenna (see below)–he’s a half-measure that illustrates their fear of going with two prospects while not wanting to invest in an actual starting goaltender (I would much rather the org make a decision one way or another)
  • [Signing LaBate–while it’s an AHL-contract, so he’s easily benched or banished to the ECHL, he’s not a productive forward, he’s simply big]

Prospects Not Signed

There were a number of players–NCAA graduates and those playing in Europe–that the Sens could have signed to join the squad in Belleville and chose not too. It was a foregone conclusion that NCAA dud Shane Eiserman would walk (yet another “energy player“), but local kid Kelly Summers was more surprisingly allowed to walk (probably not an NHL talent, but potentially useful at the AHL-level). Swede Filip Ahl didn’t have a good season in the Allsvenskan, so has one final chance to impress, while Finn Markus Nurmi (who did have a good year) will be allowed more time to develop.

Rookies

I’ve been assuming Christian Wolanin and Logan Brown will be in Ottawa this upcoming season (along with BSen eligibles Colin White and Thomas Chabot) and if that assumption is correct the most exciting rookie in Belleville is Filip Gustavsson. The Pittsburgh pick is yet another in a long line of ‘saviours’ for the BSens and it will be interesting to see how well he adjusts given Marcus Hogberg‘s struggles last year (Gustavsson had a hot start before he began to regress to the mean, but he wasn’t here long enough to show if he would share the Jekyll & Hyde element that plagued Hogberg‘s rookie year).

Besides the Swedish goaltender there’s a plethora of rookie forwards: 2017 pick Drake Batherson, CHL FA Aaron Luchuk, NCAA FA’s Andrew Sturtz and Ryan Scarfo (the latter on an AHL-deal), and CIS FA Boston Leier (also on an AHL-deal). I’m a well-known fan of players with offensive acumen/potential, so I’m chuffed by the Luchuk signing (you can read scouting sentiments here and here) as well as seeing Batherson at the pro level (scouting thoughts here). I wasn’t impressed with Scarfo (about whom I have no scouting material to work with), but with an AHL-contract he’s not someone the team needs to rely on; I was happier with Leier, but the sample-size was very small (while never ranked for the draft Hockey Prospects did write a profile of him in 2012 which I’ll include below).

Non-Rookie Prospects

Hogberg arrived highly touted due to fantastic numbers in Sweden, but struggled in his rookie year (which wasn’t great, but not as bad as his numbers suggest). His performance played a role in the signing of McKenna. On the defensive side two disappointing players return: Englund, who despite org praise was a disaster this past season (see also here), and Macoy Erkamps, whom I’m sure the team will try to package in any future deal they make (as they did by dumping Cody Donaghey on San Jose, for example, or Vincent Dunn on Pittsburgh during the season, or Ludwig Karlsson on Dallas long ago). More positively, Max Lajoie returns and we can expect more growth from him; Christian Jaros (who was fantastic as a rookie) will hopefully stay healthy and give us a full season of play. Jordan Murray also returns–he played entirely too much this past season, but I’d expect him to ride the pine barring injuries (how much he plays is one of the litmus tests for Troy Mann).

At forward it’s a make-or-break year for Francis Perron, who missed almost half the season due to injury; Filip Chlapik, who is unlikely to spend an entire season in Belleville, is less likely to be jerked around by the coaching staff and it will be interesting seeing him given proper ice time/opportunities (despite bizarre usage he outperformed every other forward on the team besides oft-injured Ben Sexton); Gabriel Gagne is coming off a very strange sophomore season–scoring 20-goals on an offensively awful team is impressive, but producing only 25 points leaves the question open about his NHL-potential. Jack Rodewald is on an ELC I think the Sens wish they could rip up already–they had him on a safe, AHL-contract, but a hot start got Randy Lee excited and they gave him a true ELC–it’s clear the 24-year old is what he is at this point–I suspect he won’t play as much, at least.

The Rest

In an effort to shore up their goaltending the Sens brought back 35-year old McKenna (who played for the BSens in 2011-12). He’s coming off a poor regular season, but a hot playoff; clearly the vet’s best days are behind him. There’s no upside here–nothing unexpected–you just hope he won’t decline much more.

Julius Bergman arrives from San Jose via the Mike Hoffman trade–he’s coming off a down year (fueled in part by the Barracudas’ 20% drop in total offence)–he provides stability for the right side on defense which was dominated last season by turnover machine Erik Burgdoerfer. The aforementioned veteran remains, but we can hope Troy Mann will cut down on his TOI (he had him in Hershey in 2015-16). On the left side failed first-rounder Stuart Percy means the team won’t be forced to play Murray or Englund as much. That said, with Patrick Sieloff retained it’s difficult to see any room for Lajoie (mentioned above)–a move is necessary I think (were it up to me I’d dump Englund).

At forward Nick Paul returns, coming off a bizarre third-year where he was either hot or ice cold (as I go over here)–there’s plenty of talent there, so is he held back by linemates or is inconsistency what he is at this stage? The oft-injured but excellent Sexton remains, as does Jim O’Brien–the #1 center for much of last season for no particular reason. Jimmy is a solid penalty killer, but he’s offensively limited and I hope we see much less of him (Mann had him in Hershey, 2014-15, where he played a lot). Added this season are Adam Tambellini and Chase Balisy (profile below), along with potential #1 scorer Paul Carey (who couldn’t convert AHL-success into NHL-success with the Rangers). [LaBate brings us back to earth–a big player who hasn’t produced at any level–he’s absolutely a Randy Lee-type player.]

Here’s a list of all these players by position organized from youngest to oldest (rookies are green, prospects are blue, veterans-status players are bold; junior/European/ECHL stats are in italics; players with 4+ seasons in the AHL have their career PPG in brackets):

Goaltenders (3)
Filip Gustavsson DOB 1998 (t-Pit) SHL/AHL .918 2.07/.912 3.01
Marcus Hogberg DOB 1994 (3-78/13) AHL/ECHL .899 3.27/.915 3.10
Mike McKenna DOB 1983 (FA) AHL .909 2.64

Defense (9)
Maxime Lajoie (L) DOB 1997 (5-133/16) AHL 56-1-14-15 0.26
Christian Jaros (R) DOB 1996 (5-139/15) AHL 44-3-13-16 0.36
Andreas Englund (L) DOB 1996 (2-40/14) AHL 69-1-9-10 0.14
Julius Bergman (R) DOB 1995 (t-SJ) AHL 65-10-10-20 0.30
Macoy Erkamps (R) DOB 1995 (CHL FA) AHL 46-1-3-4 0.08
Patrick Sieloff (L) DOB 1994 (t-Cal) AHL 58-1-9-10 0.17
Stuart Percy (L) DOB 1993 (FA) AHL 67-7-27-34 0.51 (0.38)
Jordan Murray (L) DOB 1992 (CIS FA) AHL 58-8-15-23 0.39
Erik Burgdoerfer (R) DOB 1988 (FA) AHL 66-5-12-17 0.25 (0.25)

Forwards (16)
Drake Batherson CR DOB 1998 (4-121/17) QMJHL 51-29-48-77 1.51
Filip Chlapik CL DOB 1997 (2-48/15) AHL 52-11-21-32 0.61
Aaron Luchuk CL DOB 1997 (CHL FA) OHL 68-50-65-115 1.69
Gabriel Gagne RW DOB 1996 (2-36/15) AHL 68-20-5-25 0.36
Francis Perron C/LW DOB 1996 (7-190/14) AHL 44-4-11-15 0.34
Nick Paul C/LW DOB 1995 (t-Dal) AHL 54-14-13-27 0.50
Adam Tambellini CL DOB 1994 (FA) AHL 69-16-16-32 0.46
Andrew Sturtz RW DOB 1994 (NCAA FA) NCAA 37-14-26-40 1.08
Ryan Scarfo CL DOB 1994 (NCAA FA) NCAA 38-20-16-36 0.94
Jack Rodewald
 RW DOB 1994 (t-Tor) AHL 62-14-11-25 0.40
Boston Leier RW DOB 1993 (CIS FA) CIS 27-15-24-39 1.44
Joseph LaBate LW DOB 1993 (FA) AHL 39-6-5-11 0.28
Chase Balisy
C/RW DOB 1992 (FA) AHL 67-14-21-35 0.52 (0.53)
Ben Sexton C/RW DOB 1991 (FA) AHL 30-10-11-21 0.70 (0.45)*
Jim O’Brien CR DOB 1989 (FA) AHL 60-13-16-29 0.48 (0.54)
Paul Carey CL DOB 1988 (FA) NHL 60-7-7-14 0.23 (0.63)

*I have no idea if Sexton has recovered from the injury that ended his season at the end of March (which I think is a concussion), but I’m pre-supposing he will have by the time Belleville begins playing or at least early in the season

My Lineup Expectations

The season will start with a McKennaGustavsson rotation–Hogberg might go to Brampton to begin with (as he did last year). For the latter I think he’ll have to wait for injuries to get his opportunity (which is also what happened last year when he was buried behind Danny Taylor and Andrew Hammond).

On defense it should be Jaros and Bergman as the top two on the right side with Burgdoerfer as the third–this is another test for Troy Mann, because Kurt Kleinendorst would have given the latter the top spot. On the left side Percy gets the nod followed by Sieloff and Englund (that’s not my preference, but what I think will happen given the above–I’d have Lajoie as my second with Sieloff in the bottom pair to take care of Burgdoerfer). Listing it out, what follows is what I expect:

Percy-Bergman
Sieloff-Jaros
Englund-Burgdoerfer
Extras: Lajoie, Murray (Erkamps to the ECHL)

Forwards are a much more difficult puzzle box. I’m assuming that Troy Mann is like all previous BSens coaches in giving preference to veterans/experienced players, thus I’ve buried talented newcomers on the fourth-line. I’ve also slipped Chlapik down to the second line because he’s generally played center, but he could easily be flipped with Paul (who also generally plays center). I don’t think Tambellini is a true top-six forward, but I think he begins there and that Gagne will at least get the opportunity to start there as well because the org is high on him (it’s certainly possible Balisy is here instead, or even Luchuk, but we’re following a conservative trend with prospects). The third line is composed of various veterans/experienced prospects. As for my personal preference, the top line is fine (with the aforementioned swap also working), but I’d try out one of the offensively gifted rookies on the second line, shifting Tambellini down. I’ve kept Rodewald out of the lineup because when healthy I just don’t see where he’d fit-in. Perron is more effective at center, but that means playing on the fourth line–the decisions aren’t easy. One of the weird things Ottawa has done is signed/drafted shooters almost exclusively–Gagne, Rodewald, Leier, Luchuk, Batherson, Sturtz, Paul, Tambellini, Sexton, Carey, O’Brien–shooters–only Chlapik and Perron are true playmakers (Batherson and Balisy’s numbers are a little less slanted than the others). So what I expect:

Paul-Carey-Sexton
Tambellini-Chlapik-Gagne
Perron-O’Brien-Balisy
Luchuk-Batherson-Sturtz
Extras: Rodewald, Leier, Scarfo, LaBate

A look at Chase Balisy: C/RW; 6-170/11 Nsh
2015-16 69-9-17-26 0.37 10th
2016-17 76-17-28-45 0.59 3rd
2017-18 67-14-21-35 0.52 6th

This is another player who is what he is–his most productive AHL-season was his first (2014-15)–he adds a certain amount of offense (marginal top-six production or good top-nine) and functions as insurance for injuries. When I saw that he’d been signed I wondered what that meant given the general crowding of the BSens lineup, but I think this is a sign that the org is moving on from Rodewald (Gagne, Batherson, and Sturtz’s are prospects on that side who will be given a chance, while Sexton was the most productive players on the team last year, so where really can he play?). If I’m right I think this is the correct move. He might also be insurance if Sexton is still injured.

And Joseph LaBate: LW; 4-101/11 Van
2015-16 AHL 66-10-10-20 0.30 13th
2016-17 AHL 38-6-10-16 0.42 8th
2017-18 AHL 39-6-8-11 0.28 17th

Drafted out of the US high school system (fairly highly ranked in the draft, I had him in the third round), he arrived in the NCAA and his progression simply halted–his senior year being his least productive. The Canucks signed him anyway and his middling performance continued (I’m guessing he had favourable linemates his first couple of seasons, but not the last). What he does do regularly is fight (7 in just 39 games last year, 6 the year before). There isn’t much fighting in the AHL anymore (Tyler Lewington lead the entire league with just 10), so LaBate is one of the most frequent pugilists. These days it’s broadly understood how useless fighting is in terms of winning, but the org carries the Luddite torch for this being important and that’s reflected in their continued insistence to sign such players. The only positive is that he’s on an AHL-deal, minimizing their commitment to him.

As promised here’s the Boston Leier 2012 profile:

A two way forward who drives to the net hard and picks up a majority of his points around the dirty areas. Leier is not a great offensive player, but will provide good secondary support. He creates good chances by keeping plays simple. Leier is an average skater, and must improve that aspect of his game. He is of average stature, so he needs to be faster to have more impact during the course of a game. Offensively, Leier is at his best around the net. He seems to get pushed around often around the boards, but around the net, he has shown some good hands to finish and a good ability to find loose pucks and bang them home. He has below average vision and will not be a great playmaker by any means, and nor does he have a wicked shot that commands respect from his opponents. Defensively, Leier plays a tough game and is a good contributor in his own end. He sacrifices his body to block shots, and reads the play at an above average level. Leier can get caught puck watching at times and lose his position. He can recover by sliding to block a point shot, but smart opponents will fake a shot, go around him and have a better chance to score. He needs to stay patient, wait for the puck to come to his area and ensure that he takes away the option to his check with an active stick.

The description of his playing style fits my limited exposure, with the caveat that his speed seemed fine.

Where Former BSens Have Landed

For the sake of curiosity, here’s where roster players who finished with the team last season have wound up (excluded those who were traded):

  • Danny Taylor – Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL); he returns to the Russian team he played for prior to signing with Ottawa
  • Chris Driedger – Springfield (AHL); Florida’s affiliate where he’ll compete for the backup position
  • Ville Pokka – Avangard Omsk (KHL); after almost 300 AHL games he presumably wants to cash in while he’s still young
  • Mike Blunden – HC Bolzano (EBEL); this is the same team where another failed BSen (Chris Carlisle) landed after his contract finished
  • Tyler Randell – Rochester (AHL); Buffalo’s affiliate; presumably coach Chris Taylor thinks the team needs “toughness” or “veteran savvy” after going 0-3 in the first round of the playoffs
  • Ethan Werek , Max Reinhart , Daniel Ciampini, Kyle Flanagan , Nick Moutrey, Eric Selleck – all remain free agents

So that’s my very early BSen speculation. I’m sure things will change over the next month and a half before Belleville’s training camp opens, but I don’t think we’ll see the large number of PTO’s that hit the roster as they did last season. There’s more talent on this roster and fewer obvious problems (the blueline remains weak and goaltending remains a questionmark), but coaching is going to play a large role in the results.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Exploring the BSens Veteran FA Signings

I’ve been curious how the BSens would spend their limited free agent budget–as I’ve previously gone over, since Tim Murray’s departure those decisions have been particularly awful, so would we get a repeat this off-season? Before we take a look at the latest signees (I’ve profiled Adam Tambellini and Stuart Percy below), it’s worth noting that my Kelly Summers profile was presumptuous because he remains unsigned (so the org appears to have decided against signing him–there’s nothing preventing him from getting an AHL-deal, of course).

Randy Lee (charges pending) likes his grizzled veterans when it comes to FA’s–older players on the downside of their careers who bring the intangibles that have helped the BSens miss the playoffs every season he’s been in charge. Let’s briefly go over his track record (this excludes re-signings or players acquired through trade):
2014-15: Aaron Johnson (31), Brad Mills (31), Carter Camper (26)
2015-16: Zack Stortini (30), Mike Kostka (30), Mark Fraser (29), Nick Tuzzolini (29), Guillaume Lepine (28), Eric O’Dell (25)
2016-17: Mike Blunden (30), Chad Nehring (29), Kyle Flanagan (28)
2017-18: Danny Taylor (31), Erik Burgdoerfer (29), Ben Sexton (26), Tyler Randell (26), Max Reinhart (25)

There’s a little restraint in Lee’s first year, as other than PED-user Mills these are reasonable additions, but afterwards it’s dominated by mostly useless players (a significant percentage have subsequently retired or gone on to lesser European leagues, giving you an idea of how the rest of the AHL regarded their abilities). Lee’s inability to recognize or understand talent is painfully obvious.

So what about this off-season? Ignoring re-signings, this is what we have: Mike McKenna (35!), Paul Carey (30), Stuart Percy (25), and Adam Tambellini (23). I’m on record as not a fan of adding McKenna (Nichols found criticism of this signing amusing for reasons I don’t think even he knows–my advice to him: 1) if you don’t watch/follow the minors, best not comment on it, 2) if you are going to criticize you’re better off explaining why). Fortunately, it doesn’t matter if the old ‘tender bombs out because there are two prospects to fill in. Carey and Stuart are better signings because both have a solid track record in the minors. Tambellini I have mixed feelings about because his numbers seem more a product of teammates than his own abilities.

Adam Tambellini
C/LW DOB 1994 6’4; 3-65/13 NYR
2015-16 74-17-15-32 0.43 6th
2016-17 68-13-22-35 0.51 5th
2017-18 69-16-16-32 0.46 7th

His goal to assist ratio reminds me of Jim O’Brien (and yes, this is Steve’s son and Jeff’s brother). The Sens haven’t had much luck plucking players out of the Ranger system, but the expectations for him wont be too high. His numbers suggest a shoot-first mentality and it’ll be interesting to see if there are enough playmakers to compliment him.

Stuart Percy
DL DOB 1993 6’1; 1-25/11 Tor
2015-16 58-4-20-24 0.41 2nd
2016-17 37-1-7-8 0.21 8th
2017-18 67-7-27-34 0.51 3rd

The failed former first-rounder has had stable AHL-production outside of one quirky season with Wilkes-Barre. As I mentioned on Twitter he’s not a true #1 defenseman and that means on paper the team is (again) without someone in that role (Bergman isn’t that guy, so unless Wolanin is in the minors it’s offense by committee).

Is this better than previously? I think it’s the best Lee’s done since his first year (assuming he’s had much say given his legal issues), although the proof is in the pudding. Throughout Lee’s tenure, regardless of coaching, his teams have been awful defensively (despite adding innumerable “defensive defensemen”) and struggled to score in all but his first year.  Adding Percy (along with the addition of Bergman) will help the blueline move the puck and Carey can add offense from the front. This doesn’t mean poor coaching couldn’t erase the potential benefits–O’Brien isn’t a #1 center and Burgdoerfer shouldn’t receive #1-#2 D-TOI, but decisions like that would mean yet another season of misery in Belleville.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)