BSens Update

Image result for belleville senators logo

There’s a variety of BSens news to catch up on, so let’s get to it.

The team has played two exhibition games, both wins over Laval (5-0 and 4-2). This is a great start, although let’s temper excitement noting two things: 1) it’s the pre-season, and 2) it’s against Laval, a team that was actually worse than Belleville last season. I’ll discuss the lineups below (the games weren’t streamed so I was unable to watch them).

On the negative side, we have coach Troy Mann praising Erik Burgdoerfer. Mann had him in Hershey years ago, but let’s hope he doesn’t give the turnover machine the prominent minutes that Kurt Kleinendorst did.

Roster Moves

My predictions for where rookies would wind up have been a mixed bag thus far, although a lot can change in a month or two. Both Logan Brown and Christian Wolanin, who I thought would start in Ottawa, have been sent down. I correctly predicted Colin White would remain, just as I had Drake Batherson and Filip Chlapik sent down. I wasn’t expecting Max Lajoie to last in camp for so long, but either he or Christian Jaros (possibly both) will be coming down at some point just due to the numbers in Ottawa (the team doesn’t have the wherewithal to demote Ben Harpur).

As for those sent down to Brampton, Macoy ErkampsFrancois Beauchemin, and Jake Paterson were expected. Boston Leier isn’t a huge surprise either (although I would have preferred Ryan Scarfo go down instead of him), but Aaron Luchuk does surprise me–I wonder if it’s a matter of playing time or performance that’s behind that decision.

The team outright released Daniel CiampiniChase Stewart (thank god), Jonathan Racine (thank god), Jordan Stallard, and former draft-pick Kelly Summers. Some or all of them might get looks in Brampton (Ciampini can certainly perform at that level, if nothing else). 24-players remain on the AHL-side with more expected to arrive from Ottawa.

I don’t think the lineups from the pre-season games mean much (since a lot of players are being given test-drives by Mann), but let’s look at them (Hogberg got the shutout for game one, Gustavsson the win in game two):
Forward Combinations Game One
Forwards Combinations Game Two

Defense Combinations Game One
Defense Combinations Game Two
Murray- Wolanin

The fourth-lines can be thrown away–they are clearly experimental–as are the Luchuk lines now that he’s been demoted. The Paul-Brown-Batherson combination seems locked in (probably as the second line), while Sturtz being paired with O’Brien seems set on the third-line. As for the defense nothing at all seems set other than how far Englund has finally fallen.


I wanted to comment on the BSens schedule this year. Cleveland has joined their division, migrating from the Central (where they were the worst team last season). This move was necessitated by the addition of the Colorado Eagles to the league (bringing the AHL up to 31-teams).

Schedule (76) 29-42-5
North Division (54, 71%)
Toronto (Tor) 12 54-18-4
Syracuse (TB) 6 46-22-8
Rochester (Buf) 4 37-22-17
Utica (Van) 6 38-26-12
Binghamton (NJ) 6 25-38-13
Cleveland (Clb) 8 25-41-10 (Central Division)
Laval (Mtl) 12 24-42-10
Atlantic Division (14, 18%)
Lehigh (Phi) 2 47-19-10
Charlotte (Car) 4 46-26-4
Providence (Bos) 2 45-26-5
Bridgeport (NYI) 2 36-32-8
Hartford (NYR) 2 34-33-9
Hershey (Wsh) 2 30-37-9
Central Division (8, 10%)
Grand Rapids 4 42-25-9
Manitoba (wpg) 4 42-26-83

How does this compare to last year? They have four less games against Rochester, two less against both Binghamton and Syracuse, and no games against Wilkes-Barre or Springfield; they’ve added eight games against Cleveland (vs none last year) and four games against Grand Rapids (also none last year). On paper this is a better schedule, as it removes a net 8 games against better teams and adds 8 against a worse team. Deserved or not the team should see a bump in performance.


The Beast have signed yet another pugilist:

Josh Soares W DOB 1982 Nor 40-9-25-34 (0.85) [ECHL 73-47-56-130 1.41]
The undrafted 36-year old punched his way from the CCHL into a successful NCAA career that landed him an AHL-gig that he bombed out of and headed to Europe (with stops in Germany, Sweden, Austria, and finally Norway). He was an effective ECHL player ten years ago, but I can’t think the mileage has done him any favours.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


BSens Sign Francois Beauchemin and Jake Paterson

I started writing about Zack Smith on waivers this afternoon–Dorion reaping what he sowed by signing him to a ridiculous contract last year and finding no one dumb enough to take him for picks–when the news of a couple of new AHL-contracts emerged. While the Sens need a goaltender for the ECHL (to play alongside rookie Leo Lazarev and, I presume, Marcus Hogberg), the last thing they need is another forward with around sixteen already slated for Belleville. Regardless, here are profiles for both.

Francois Beauchemin RW DOB 1996
2016-17 QMJHL 69-45-52-97 1.40
2017-18 AHL 31-5-4-9 0.29/ECHL 22-7-5-12 0.54

Never ranked for the draft (HP has one game report from 2016 where they liked his smarts and he threw a big hit); he’s a cautionary tale for players putting up big numbers in their final junior year–unlike FA Aaron Luchuk his production was unexpected (his previous season he scored only at a 0.60 pace). He signed an AHL-deal with Florida’s affiliate, but spent as much time with their ECHL team as with Springfield–his numbers weren’t remarkable in either case. I’m not at all sure why the Sens gave him an AHL-contract when there are already so many bodies in Belleville.

Jake Paterson GL DOB 1994 3-80/12 Det
2016-17 ECHL .918 2.28 34-13-2
2017-18 ECHL .899 3.71 11-10-2

The former Detroit-pick has quite a few scouting reports on him from when he was drafted in 2012:

McKeens: Not blessed with an abundance of speed or lateral quickness
ISS: needs to improve is his rebound control, seems to have trouble at times fighting pucks
HP: [has] trouble with shots midway into the zone and off the wall and has did let in some unorthodox goals over the course of our viewings. Paterson is a tough one to project

The Wings signed him, but he spent most of his ELC playing in ECHL Toledo. His monster final season with Toledo earned him an AHL-deal with Milwaukee, but he quickly bombed out with the team (along with former BSen Matt O’Connor) and bounced between three ECHL teams, putting up awful numbers. While he’s surely bound for Brampton, the Sens have to be hoping and praying last season was an anomaly. Without a trade or serious injury troubles he’ll never play for the BSens.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Brampton: Ottawa’s ECHL Affiliate


When the BSens were in Binghamton I covered their ECHL affiliate in Wichita, but that affiliation was dropped when the franchise moved to Belleville; the Sens shared an arrangement with Montreal in Brampton last year. The org no longer shares the team, which is a boon for Belleville as they can use the Beast as both a resource and a dumping ground. Last season Brampton did not provide relief when the BSens were short on players (two of the three ECHL players who served the most time, Dziurzynski and Vaive, were drawn from other teams), serving only as a place to dump underperformers (basically Vincent Dunn, who was sent to Pittsburgh in the Derick Brassard trade).

The Beast were 28-34-10 last year (by far the worst in their division) and coach Colin Chaulk and GM Cary Kaplan remain (the former since 15-16, the latter since 13-14). Here’s a look at the Beast’s roster thus far (arranged by productivity and position, with returning players in blue and rookies in green; I’ve included career points-per-game where appropriate):

Artur Tyanulin DOB 97 ECHL 39-18-24-42 1.07
Former OHLer (and 67)
Brandon Marino DOB 86 ECHL 72-20-42-62 0.86 [ECHL 327-103-234-337 1.03]
NCAA grad has been a high performer at this level
Chris Leveille DOB 87 ECHL 64-18-33-51 0.79 [ECHL 132-31-65-96 0.73]
CCHL grad has good ECHL and lower league numbers
David Pacan DOB 91 6-177/09 Svk 52-12-25-37 0.71 [ECHL 320-99-182-281 0.88]
OHLer, prior to his year in Slovakia, he’s posted good ECHL numbers
David Vallorani DOB 89 ECHL 46-10-20-30 0.65 [ECHL 255-83-148-231 0.91]
NCAA grad has bounced around between various European leagues and the ECHL
Nathan Todd DOB 95 ECHL 34-8-7-15 0.44 [ECHL 46-8-11-19 0.41]
Another former OHLer/67 who was with Brampton last season
Jackson Leef DOB 92 ECHL 44-5-9-14 0.31
NCAA division III grad has been unremarkable in the SPHL and ECHL
Jake Wood DOB 93 ECHL 19-1-3-4 0.21
NCAA grad has underperformed at every level
Kris Newbury DOB 82 5-139/02 DEL 45-11-25-36 0.80 [AHL 826-199-383-582 0.70]
Once a high-end AHL performer his German numbers are only average; he’ll presumably be looking for an AHL-deal with someone
Lucas Venuto DOB 94 Swe Div I 41-16-28-44 1.07 [ECHL 36-2-5-7 0.19]
Former OHLer has spent most of his pro time in Sweden, but did have an unremarkable half-season with Brampton two years ago
Anthony Beauregard DOB 95 CIS 28-19-41-60 2.14 [ECHL 21-5-5-10 0.47]
Former QMJHLer who went to the ECHL, left early to the CIS, and left university hockey early to turn pro again

Jordan Henry DOB 86 ECHL 56-9-20-29 0.51 [ECHL 263-51-88-139 0.53]
WHLer has logged 300 AHL games, but hasn’t had a real sniff since the 12-13 season; this will be his fourth year with Brampton
Reggie Traccitto DOB 89 ECHL 66-13-19-32 0.48 [ECHL 193-26-49-75 0.39]
CIS grad has slowly carved out solid ECHL numbers–this will be his fourth season with Brampton
Chase Golightly DOB 92 ECHL 55-1-11-12 0.21 [111-3-24-27 0.24]
NCAA grad hasn’t done much at this level
Mathieu Gagnon DOB 92 EIHL 54-2-9-11 0.20 [ECHL 150-8-17-25 0.17]
QMJHL pugilist has continued to punch things wherever he’s gone (he was with Brampton two years ago)
Mike Folkes DOB 88 ECHL 46-0-7-7 0.15 [ECHL 186-3-20-23 0.12]
In five professional seasons he’s scored four times–gives you an idea of what he brings to the table
Hugo Enock
DOB 97 Allsvenskan 45-1-4-5 0.11
Unimpressive Swedish numbers and at 5’8 he’s an unusual signing
Austin McEneny DOB 97 OHL 61-6-24-30 0.49
Undrafted OHLer

Leo Lazarev DOB 97 OHL .898 3.23 32-16-0
OHLer has a 67 connection

There are a few players in Belleville’s camp without contracts who might be fodder for the Beast:

Chase Stewart DR DOB 97 QMJHL (Rimouski) 53-5-35-29 (0.54)
After failing out of the OHL he wound up in the Q playing with Thomas Chabot; beyond a career year in his final stint in junior he also increased how much he fought (going from 4-5 fights a year up to 7). He was second on his team in scoring, well behind D’Astous (another development and rookie camp invite). The Beast already have tough guys so he’s going to have to show another dimension to earn a spot.
Kelly Summers DOB 1996 DR 7-189/14 NCAA (Clarkson) 40-6-24-30 (0.75)
I did a full breakdown of him this summer; while the Sens didn’t sign him I did think it was possible he’d be invited to camp. When looking at his comparables he seemed most similar to James de Haas, who spent half a season with Lehigh Valley last year (33-1-10-11, or 0.33)
Jonathan Racine DL DOB 1993 ECHL (Manchester) 20-1-3-4 (0.20)
While he’s played a ton of AHL games (259) it was only for one reason: fighting (27 at that level over his career). However, averaging a pathetic 0.11 points-per-game has finally shuttled him down to the ECHL, where he’s not been much better. As mentioned above the Beast have plenty of fighters so it’s hard to see room for him.

Jordan Stallard CL DOB 1997 5-127/16 Win WHL (Prince Albert) 72-44-47-91 (1.26)
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–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.
Daniel Ciampini CL DOB 1990 AHL 49-7-9-16 (0.32)
You can read a full breakdown of his season in Belleville via the link, but in essence: he’s been an excellent ECHL-player, but a lack of speed and consistency is what keeps him from being an AHL-regular.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

There hasn’t been this much to write about the Sens in pre-season since the 2011 rebuild (comparisons I’ve made previously). Almost daily news of interest is coming out and I don’t expect that to truly die down until the season starts. In the last few days I’ve posted comprehensive looks at the Sens two new prospects, looked at Pierre Dorion’s track record, and even looked at what toxic fandom might mean for Sens fans.

Pierre Dorion

Two things stood out from Dorion’s comments to various bloggers:

sometimes when you get [into] the fifth, sixth, seventh rounds sometimes you try to hit a home run with a skill guy. We’re going to do less and less of that now. Just because at the end of the day most of them don’t ever pan out

This confirms what I’ve said the last two drafts (about the team drafting ‘safe’); it’s also a terrible idea that’s refuted from the team’s own history. One Mike Hoffman is worth hundreds of Max McCormick‘s–the team puts far too much weight on ‘character’ players who can easily be obtained (if required) via free agency at low cost (ask the San Jose Sharks). To briefly go over the relative failure since Dorion has been involved (excluding the 2007 draft since that was put together by John Muckler’s team):

Skill Fails (10)
Andre Petersson (08)
Emil Sandin (08)
Brad Peltz (09)
Jakub Culek (10)
Bryce Aneloski (10)
Matt Puempel (11)
Shane Prince (11)
Robbie Baillargeon (12)
Tobias Lindberg (13)
Kelly Summers (14)

Character Fails (14)
Jared Cowen (09)
Jeff Costello (09)
Corey Cowick (09)
Mike Sdao (09)
Darren Kramer (11)
Jordan Fransoo (11)
Tim Boyle (12)
Curtis Lazar (13)
Ben Harpur (13)
Vincent Dunn (13)
Chris Leblanc (13)
Quentin Shore (13)
Andreas Englund (14)
Shane Eiserman (14)

While the proportions are similar what value, really, are you getting from grinding third and fourth-liners, or bottom-feeding defensemen? It’s a puzzling approach that doesn’t wind the wheel of adding talent.

The next comment:

You can have as many big names as you want but sometimes it doesn’t bring Cup after Cup after Cup

No Cup has ever been won by a team without ‘big names’–the closest you can come to that is the 1995 New Jersey Devils, but even that team had Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, and Scott Niedermayer. I’m not sure if the comment is delusion on Dorion’s part or if he’s making a virtue of necessity.

The Rebuild

I have some additional thoughts to my previous article on the rebuild (which got some love from scout Craig Smith, which is always gratifying) via Nichols:
-Even after all this time Dorion is unaware that using ‘character’ to promote players isn’t effective outside a very narrow part of the fanbase who are already onboard
-Dorion: “it’s unfortunate that Josh Norris is not at his peak because then maybe fans would be more excited … whether he’s a second or third line guy or whether he’s a seventh forward or a fourth forward, we feel comfortable he’ll be a good player for us.
I entirely agree with Nichols’ response to this: “There’s nothing wrong with drafting or developing good third line players, but for the Senators’ rebuild to ultimately be successful and take a lot of the pressure off of management, the Senators will need to procure some elite prospects to build around.
I didn’t mention in my Norris profile that one of the problems with him being a combine warrior is that it leaves him no place to go–every single player taken in that draft has room to improve, but Norris is at his physical peak already, so how much better can he be?
-Nichols: “Ceci may be a great guy and a fantastic teammate, but as frequent observer, I don’t believe he has the hockey IQ to ever thrive in the roles that the Senators have used him in.
I want to say this is inarguably the case, but the org would argue it. The org loves secondary characteristics–playing through pain, a good team guy, great tan, etc–it takes a long, long time for them to embrace the wider reality (think of how late the org was trying to lock-up Jared Cowen).
-Nichols: “What I struggle with is that if the Senators decided to rebuild in February and were permitted to talk contract with Karlsson leading up to July 1st before they could their formal offer, why play up the fact that they would make an offer on July 1st? Surely, they would have had some kind of understanding of Karlsson’s intentions for wanting to stay or negotiate terms before then? And if Karlsson was that unwilling to talk terms, why wouldn’t the organization set its own drop date for negotiations before the trade deadline so that it could maximize the return by giving teams two prospective playoff runs and an extended window of negotiation to talk contract? To me, at its base level, everything just sounds like spin and this rebuild seems designed to lower expectations, explain the decision to cut payroll and put an uncertain timeline on when fans can expect this group to be competitive again.
I agree wholeheartedly with him. As I went over in my theory about when the decision to rebuild I think what we’ve heard about it now is simply spin. It boggles the mind that the team didn’t speak to EK since November–not a word to your team captain. It does lend credence to them wanting to move him, but I don’t think the intent was a rebuild until much later.

Rudderless Ship?

Mike Kelly laid down the thunder on the org going over basic analytics:

In 2016-17, at even-strength, the Senators ranked last in offensive zone puck possession, 2nd last in offensive zone turnover rate, which measures how often a team turns the puck over per puck possession, and 3rd last creating shots from the slot.

Defensively, Ottawa spent the second most amount of time defending in its own end, had the worst defensive zone turnover rate in the league and yet its goaltenders still posted the 8th best save percentage in the NHL. The Senators finished with the 2nd best team save percentage on shots from the slot and ranked 1st on shots from the inner slot.

And on and on it goes. None of this is new for those of us who keep an eye on this sort of thing, but having it spelled out so starkly in the midst of a rebuild is refreshing.

the Senators clearly don’t know what they don’t know. It bit them last season and it’s going to bite them again this season.

This is exactly the same sentiment I have and I made the same point in my rebuild article. A captain without a compass isn’t going to arrive at the desired destination.

I happened to catch Jeff O’Neill weighing in on TSN:

When the owner is a dope, like they have, it’s awful all the way down. … I think Eugene Melnyk is bad for the league–I think he’s the worst owner in pro sports.


Gus Kastaros (of McKeen’s) is yet another who didn’t think much of the EK trade (outside of the org I haven’t seen a positive opinion of it yet).

Image result for mark stone

Louis Jean got dog-piled on social media after reporting that Mark Stone won’t resign until the org gets its house in order. This isn’t a radical thought–I certainly don’t think he’s going to stay anymore than Matt Duchene is, but I feel for the guy with the reaction to it.

belleville sens

The org has hired an AGM to replace Randy Lee, but Peter McTavish is apparently going to be more of a numbers guy rather than running the BSens as Randy Lee did. There remains the dreaded possibility that failed Leaf AGM Claude Loiselle will be foisted on the team, but that’s still up in the air.

While Sens camp has largely gone as planned we do have one surprise thus far: Logan Brown was sent down to the BSens camp. This doesn’t mean he won’t be recalled or will spend much time in Belleville (I think a season in the AHL would be good for him), but in my roster speculation article back in August I thought he’d stay with the Sens for marketing reasons and because the Sens like to rush top-picks into the lineup (Curtis Lazar, Cody Ceci, Mika Zibanejad, Jared Cowen, etc). He may have been sent down purely due to the numbers game, or perhaps the team has decided he needs more minutes to develop–either way, I think it’s a good decision. Also a good decision: PTO Jack Skille was released. Jim O’Brien, incidentally, seems to be injured but has apparently already passed through waivers so once healthy can go down.

There’s nothing exciting about the BSens invites, especially as the roster is bloated: Brampton Beast players Anthony Beauregard and Austin EcEnemy (profiles forthcoming) are there along with pugilist Chase Stewart (from whom there seems no escape as the org seemingly loves him), rookie camper Jordan Stallard, former BSen Daniel Ciampini, former 2014-pick Kelly Summers, and yet another fighter in Jonathan Racine. All of these are likely heading to Brampton (or being released).


A couple of more free agents to add to the NHL-pile from the CHL: Yegor Zamula (Phi) and Joel Teasdale (Mtl).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Toxic Fandom?

Image result for power outage

What an interesting time it is. Friday night I was driving home from Kingston unaware of the severity of the damage here in Ottawa and when I arrived it certainly upset the apple cart of my immediate plans. I’m grateful I only had one night without power and suffered no damages–others have certainly suffered more than I.

I couldn’t help but remember similar situations. I vividly recall the 1998 ice storm (watching transformers explode from my apartment balcony, never losing power in my building), and the 2003 blackout, which happened just as I was leaving work–I remember walking through a sea of people as the entire downtown core was emptying (then enjoying some barbecue with my roommates when I got home). On a personal level this blackout has had the most direct impact on me, minimal as it was. I never lost power during the ice storm and during the blackout it was only down overnight. Relatives of mine, living in the country, faced actual hardships during both events and my sympathies go out to everyone facing loss or simply being without power (I can’t help but recall James Burke’s 1978 series Connections “The Trigger Effect” where he talks about how dependent society is on technology). But I digress.

Image result for toxic fanbase

I first encountered the term ‘toxic fanbase’ when it was applied to video game players, but over the last couple of years it has been used for franchise fandoms like Star Wars. I was quite surprised when WTYKY’s Varada used the term for hockey fans, especially without any context. I think it’s well worth delving into what the term means because wherever it is used it becomes a destructive, polarizing part of the rhetoric and I don’t want to see it infect Sens discourse.

Part of the problem with the term is it has no set definition (the one in Urban Dictionary is less than a year old and even it’s definition of toxic has only been around for two years; Wikipedia has no entry related to it at all, reflecting that the culture hasn’t decided what exactly it means, although clearly the word ‘toxic’ is borrowed from toxic masculinity and I suspect it’s something ultimately lifted out of the GamerGate fiasco from 2014–if you aren’t a fan of Milo Yiannopoulos you can thank the Streisand Effect from that for him). Applying the term to a group just adds to that confusion because what, exactly, makes someone toxic in reference to a hobby they enjoy?

When I think of current parlance the most common place I hear it is debate about entertainment franchises, beginning with the hubbub over the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. It then jumped to 2017’s Star Trek: Discovery and from there over to Star Wars for The Last Jedi and beyond–becoming an ingrained piece of rhetoric within that fanbase (I remain mystified about how liking or disliking a piece of entertainment has any value-added judgement to it–the fact I don’t like The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t mean I think less of someone who does–we just enjoy different things about that kind of film).

I’m very cynical about the term because I think it both lacks substance and it fails to advance or enrich whatever is being debated. There’s no case where someone calling a group ‘toxic’ has lead to a fandom changing to lose that label–if it has any impact at all it simply polarizes debate. Fans have happily bickered over the things they love from time immemorial, but you can trace modern discourse back to the letter columns of pulp magazines at the turn of the century–H. P. Lovecraft owes his literary career, in part, to this specific element of fandom. Let’s be clear that the term ‘toxic fandom’ can’t simply be applied to fans disagreeing–you might believe the Sens (or BSens) need an enforcer and I do not, but our opinions aren’t toxic, we simply have a different view of what matters in the game–arguing vigorously is part of the fun so long as we remain respectful of one another.

The term didn’t arrive organically from the fans themselves. Corporate people–those involved in franchises being criticised–and people in the media push it (directly and indirectly they both profit from it–hey, my movie failed but it’s because of toxic fans, or hey editor, look at all the clicks I’m getting–intentionally or unintentionally the debate helps those who propagate it). The suits only use the term when their product (or employee) is facing criticism, which should ring alarm bells. To me it comes across as Orwellian doublespeak, or more specifically Newspeak, because it’s meant to prevent someone from having an opinion (ie don’t listen to X because they are toxic). We can argue about whether this is the intent or not (I think it is inarguably about limiting opinions, but there are media and creative people who truly believe it represents something beyond how I see it), but I’m very suspicious of things like this whose outcomes are about selling product. You don’t see the term used by successful franchises (the MCU is the easiest example, as its corporate speakers never attack the fanbase which absolutely gets into silly debates).

Bringing this back to the Senators I haven’t heard the term used by them in their battle against criticism–I doubt they are aware of it and generally they borrow rhetoric from the right not the left–but it’s something I’ll keep an eye on going forward. Criticism of the org or the rebuild is perfectly valid so long as there is evidence or reasonable arguments behind it–I feel the same way about those who defend both. Emotional expressions of support and criticism are also perfectly valid if, again, it’s done respectfully of other fans. I don’t want discussion to become polarized like it has in the aforementioned franchises or like we see in politics–nothing good comes from it. The whole point of vigorous debate is learning and avoiding being trapped in your own bubble. I have been and will continue to be wrong about things (Alexander Nikulin and Tobias Lindberg as prospects are the two clearest examples when it comes to hockey–in both cases, if memory serves, Jeff Ulmer’s opinion was on-target), and I’m never going to learn from my mistakes if I simply reject opposing opinions as ‘toxic.’

This was an unplanned article and we can thank Varada’s Twitter feed for it (or, more precisely for me, Ary who re-Tweeted it). I still have a much delayed post about the Sens ECHL affiliate in Brampton to finish as well as a substantial news digest/opinion piece in the hopper. We’ve had one surprising cut in Ottawa’s NHL camp thus far which I think is related to an injury to Jim O’Brien and I’ll get into that next time.

Best wishes to everyone in Ottawa-Gatineau during this difficult time.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Pierre Dorion’s Trade Track Record

pierre dorion

Despite having worn the GM-mantle for less than three years, Dorion has amassed a long list of trades. Given that his biggest deal is fresh in everyone’s memory, I think it’s worth diving into his history, even if the ultimate result of several deals remain up in the air.

Generally speaking the ‘winner’ of a trade is the team that gets the best player, but context does matter so it’s not always that simple (a playoff rental, for example, even if he is best player, may not ultimately return the most value). For each trade I’ve gone through why I think the trade was either won or lost and for visual clarity I’ve colour-coded those thoughts (green are wins, red are fails, equal value have no colour, and italics represent those which remain undetermined):

Dance Partners (18 trades)
Calgary (Brian Burke) x 3
San Jose (Doug Wilson) x 3
New Jersey (Ray Shero) x 2
Pittsburgh (Jim Rutherford) x 2
New York Rangers (Jeff Gorton) x 1
Los Angeles (Rob Blake) x 1
Vancouver (Jim Benning) x 1
Carolina (Don Waddell) x 1
Colorado (Joe Sakic) x 1
Chicago (Stan Bowman) x 1
Columbus (Jarmo Kekalainen) x 1
Minnesota (Paul Fenton) x 1

2016 (4)
1st (Michael McLeod) & 3rd (Joey Anderson) picks for 1st (Logan Brown) from New Jersey
The Devils picked McLeod slightly ahead of projections and Anderson after them; the Sens landed Brown slightly after projections
Alex Chiasson for Patrick Sieloff (Calgary)
Chiasson: 81-12-12-24 (playoffs 4-0-0-0) > Wsh
Sieloff: AHL 110-3-19-22, NHL 1-1-0-1
The Flames got a single middling season from Chiasson before he left to win a Cup with Washington (he’s now on a PTO with Edmonton); Sieloff has been an unremarkable blueliner at the AHL-level who is going into his third season with the org–while it’s spare part for spare part, the Flames got 80 more NHL games than Sieloff will ever get with Ottawa
Mika Zibanejad & 2nd (Jonatan Berggren) for Derick Brassard & 7th (Luke Loheit) from NYR
Zibanejad: 128-41-43-84 (playoffs 12-2-7-9)
Brassard: 139-32-45-77 (playoffs 19-4-7-11) > Pit
Mika is the better player and the Sens didn’t even get two full seasons from Brassard–his numbers aren’t even as good as Zibanejad’s in the playoffs; the pick wound up with Detroit (who picked Berggren slightly early); Loheit will almost certainly never be signed
5th (Jan Drozg) for Mike Condon (Pittsburgh)
Condon: 71-24-31-11 .908 2.81
I’m not a huge Condon fan, but he’s played a lot and Drozg wasn’t expected to be drafted; we still can’t truly start to judge it until the latter’s career is sorted out, but it’s a likely win

2017 (7)
Buddy Robinson, Zack Stortini, & 7th (Matthew Hellickson) for Tommy Wingels (San Jose)
Wingels: 36-2-2-4 (playoffs 9-0-0-0) > Chicago
Robinson: AHL 33-10-9-19 > Winnipeg
Stortini: AHL 26-1-0-1 > Carolina
Wingels was acquired for the playoffs where he accomplished nothing, but the pick was flipped to New Jersey and Robinson signed with the Winnipeg afterwards, so while I think it was a useless trade technically the Sens received more value
Future Considerations for Marc Hagel from Minnesota
Hagel: AHL 27-0-3-3 > Norway
Whatever the Wild got for Hagel–cup of coffee, slab of bacon, etc–is of equal value to Hagel bungling around Binghamton’s lineup for 27 games (he’s now playing in Denmark)
Jonathan Dahlen for Alex Burrows (Vancouver)
Burrows: 91-12-13-25 (playoffs 15-0-5-5) > buyout
This trade was always for the ‘now’ and after providing nothing in the Sens playoff run Burrows had to be bought out after he was re-signed–losing this deal is less about Dahlen’s projections and more about just how irrelevant Burrows was
3rd (Evan Barratt) for Viktor Stalberg (Carolina)
Stalberg: 18-2-2-4 (playoffs 17-0-2-2) > NLA
Trading for the playoff run Stalberg was generally useless; Barratt was taken early, so final evaluation hangs in the balance of him getting a cup of coffee in the NHL or not
Curtis Lazar & Mike Kostka for Jyrki Jokipakka & 2nd (Alex Formenton) from Calgary
Lazar: 69-3-12-15 (playoffs 1-0-0-0)
Kostka: AHL 15-2-10-12 > SHL
Jokipakka: 3-0-0-0 > KHL
Dumping Lazar and getting Formenton in the return is a win (Koskta’s partial season in the minors is a wash with Jokipakka essentially not dressing for the Sens)
Future Considerations for Brandon Gormley (New Jersey)
Much like Hagel above, the box of donuts exchanged for Gormley is equivalent value
Kyle Turris, Andrew Hammond, Shane Bowers, 1st (2019) & 3rd (Justus Annunen) for Matt Duchene (Colorado)
Turris: 65-13-29-42 (playoffs 13-0-3-3) <Nsh>
Hammond: 1-0-1-0 .939 2.07 (playoffs 3-1-1 .933 2.63) > Min
Duchene: 68-23-26-49
The Sens hugely overpaid for a player who is likely to leave the org with less than two full seasons in the books and zero playoff appearances; Annunen was taking just slightly later than expected, but the 1st-rounder could blow this out of the water

2018 (7)
Dion Phaneuf & Nate Thompson for Marian Gaborik & Nick Shore (Los Angeles)
Phaneuf: 26-3-7-10 (playoffs 4-0-1-1)
Thompson: 26-1-5-6 (playoffs 4-0-0-0)
Gaborik: 16-4-3-7 > LTIR
Shore: 6-0-1-1 > Cal
The Sens got a handful of games from both players while the Kings have an asset (of sorts) in Phaneuf
Chris DiDomenico for Ville Pokka from Chicago
DiDomenico: AHL 22-8-15-23 > NLA
Pokka: AHL 23-3-8-11 > KHL
While both players left for Europe at the end of the year, DiDomenico had a much larger impact in the minors (putting up great playoff numbers for Rockford)
Derick Brassard, Vincent Dunn, & 3rd (Jesper Eliasson) for Ian Cole, Filip Gustavsson, 1st (Jacob Bernard-Docker), & 3rd (2019) from Pittsburgh
Brassard: 14-3-5-8 (playoffs 12-1-3-4)
Dunn: <loaned back to ECHL Brampton>
Gustavsson: 2-4-0 .912 3.01
Detroit got the pick (Eliasson wasn’t highly regarded), Cole was flipped (see below), so it’s going to boil down to Brassard, Bernard-Docker, and the 3rd
Nick Shore for 7th (2019) from Calgary
Shore: 9-1-2-3 > FA
It’s 9 games of Shore for the Flames versus whomever the Sens draft (the odds favour Calgary, but one never knows)
Ian Cole for Nick Moutrey & 3rd (2020) from Columbus
Cole: 20-2-5-7 (playoffs 6-0-3-3) > Colorado
Moutrey: AHL 16-2-3-5
Cole played 20 games for the Blue Jackets and Moutrey was allowed to walk after doing nothing in the minors, so it comes down to the pick (this favours Columbus)
Mike Hoffman, Cody Donaghey, & 5th (2020) for Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergman, & 6th (2020) from San Jose
Because Hoffman was immediately flipped to Florida for picks tracking this trade gets messy, but there’s no question the best player involved is Hoffman and there’s no one remotely comparable in the return
Erik Karlsson & Francis Perron for Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, Rudolfs Balcers, 1st (2020), & 2nd (2019) + two conditional picks from San Jose
Unless the 1st-round pick they get from the Sharks turns out to be the first overall there’s no chance they even close to a match in return

Dorion’s Win/Loss/Even (Undetermined) Record (18): 2-8-3 (5)

It’s clear from the above that this is not a man who makes smart trades–you might quibble with one or two of the above, but the general picture is a man who can’t deliver the goods when the stakes are high. What’s truly scary is the trades have been getting worse over time. I’ve long complained that the Sens pro scouting is terrible and these scenarios are evidence of that.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris Profiles


It’s a crazy time of year to write about the Sens (there’s so much material so I’m very behind on my MCU stuff). Beyond what follows I have a much delayed post about the Sens ECHL affiliate in Brampton (now no longer shared with Montreal), an article looking at Dorion’s trade history, and another post filled with general bits of news mostly about the rebuild (additional material from my initial post about the subject). This, however, is a look at the org’s newest prospects.

Ary posted a breakdown of newly acquired Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris (my own Coles Notes version was out a week ago). Ary’s article is an excellent read, although he admits he’s leaned towards the positive with Norris because he didn’t want the player facing fan wrath and he’s certainly received more negative press than Balcers (for pretty obvious reasons)–Varada has mentioned toxic fans, but we clearly go to different places for Sens opinions as most of what I see/hear are org apologists (I’ve seen nothing toxic, frankly). What new information has Ary brought to light in his article and how has it impacted my opinion?

Rudolfs Balcers

In my original article I simply summarized the scouting material on-hand (prior to the draft and afterwards); Ary quotes some of that, including one opinion from a scout I hadn’t seen before. Beyond that he provides some statistical data (beyond just the obvious numbers). He spends a lot of time on Emmanuel Perry’s NHLe numbers and given that I have little familiarity with that I can’t make much comment on it (other than saying translating minor league or junior production to pro is extremely difficult).

The aforementioned scouting report (written in June, 2016, the year after he was drafted) praises a few things: speed, shot, elusiveness; suggesting his primary need is strength. I didn’t specifically quote the Hockey Prospects appraisal from 2015, so let’s see how it compares:

In both competitions [IIHF U18 and U20] he was able to display his talent, and against his peers in Switzerland he was still dangerous offensively while facing the top nations in the World. Rudolfs is an impressive skater, possesses deceptive speed and he is able to hit another gear apparently without further effort. His skills and skating allow him to get into good shooting positions and his wrist shot is legit. However, too often he doesn’t look determined enough to take his chances as soon as they come up. He looks weak physically and not overly competitive, getting softer as the game gets tougher, even if in April he did show some improvement in that area. He is a prospect that will need a long development path, but given his talent level he might be worth the wait.

It’s clear the only exposure HP had to him were the three international tournaments referenced above (no one is paying scouts to watch games in Norway), but the talent profile is exactly the same. His unusual route to the draft, btw, echoes Alexandre Texier’s from 2017 (playing in the French men’s league but noticed via international tournaments).

What about opinions post-2016? Blogger favourite Corey Pronman wrote about Balcers as part of his San Jose prospect profile on August 15th (prior to the trade) and said the following:

Balcers had a great first pro season, as the best player for the Barracuda, and had a decent World Championships with Latvia. Balcers is a skilled forward, but what stands out the most to me is his hockey sense. He has great vision and overall offensive instincts. He can play at a pro pace and show the intellect to make plays at both ends of the rink. He’s not a big forward and only an average skater, but he makes defensive plays due to his work ethic and hockey IQ. I have some skepticism on his overall upside when I pick apart his skill set, but he keeps producing at a high level.

Pronman then revisited the profile in the wake of the trade:

All he’s done is produce, though, at various levels and events. … Scouts love his skill and IQ, and while they acknowledge he’s not a very fast skater for his size, I’ve heard the term “darting” and “shifty” used more than once in describing how he gets around the ice. I think he plays and he could play soon in the NHL. He’s got talent and is versatile. His biggest backers in the scouting community think he can be a top-six forward. I’m more of the top-nine area right now with the caveat that he’s had some impressive moments in the past year that have made me reconsider. I’d just like to see a tad more speed in his game to get him to that range.

Clearly (like most scouts) Pronman’s only exposure to him in his draft year and the subsequent season was via international tournaments. Once Balcers made the jump to the CHL it became much easier for scouts to see him. One of the things that’s changed is the opinion about his speed: it’s gone from blazing to just average–with agility emphasized. The love of his shot continues unabated. The comment about his work ethic is new and refutes HP’s 2015 opinion (or, to be generous, illustrates a change).

I don’t think Pronman is wrong about his speed and that is of some concern. As long as he has the hands as advertised and is elusive, however, his NHL-potential remains. Pronman plays it safe projecting him as a top-nine forward, but certainly the top-six remains a possibility.

Josh Norris

I’m not that keen on Norris, as was undoubtedly clear in my summary about him, so what new insights do we have via Ary? Let’s first go to a comparison Ary doesn’t make that occurred to me after posting my initial thoughts: he and Johnny Gruden‘s remarkably similar numbers at the same stage of their development:

Norris (16-17): USDP 61-27-34-61/USNTDP 25-12-14-26
Gruden (17-18): USDP 61-28-32-60/USNTDP 25-15-19-34

I projected Gruden to be a marginal pro, but like Norris there are positive underlying numbers despite the underwhelming projections (the underpinning for Norris is the theory of reliance–betweenness–attempting (via numbers) to ascertain how dependent players are on their teammates (the metric being used seems a little simplistic to me, but it is interesting). There is, of course, a much higher ceiling provided for the first-round pick, so why is that? Reading the scouting reports I think its easy to figure out:

Steve Kourniasos (via Ary):

plays physical, is matched up against top players … plays a heavy game and uses his size and determination to win puck battles … Playing in traffic isn’t a problem for Norris … A talented, mature leader with an NHL-ready build


Big center is a rugged banger who can do a little of everything … Goes hard to the net both with and without the puck. … Strong physical force who is also good on faceoffs and responsible defensively – strong on the backcheck and kills penalties. High character, you win with guys like him

International Scouting Service (ISS):

Very competitive, he is willing to play in traffic and to battle for possession … [Bryan Smolinksi] uses [his] body well with a little nastiness

Future Considerations:

He is strong on puck and works like a mule … tough to deal with along the boards and effective in the cycle game. … has the ability to throw a hit to create turnovers … his two-way game at a premium position should make him a nice compliment to a team’s bottom-six.

Hockey Prospects:

shows good compete and grit to his game when needed … plays physical … [NHL scout] I like that he makes himself a bit of a pain in the ass to play against

And what about Pronman in the here & now?

[First link] has good athletic traits

[Second link] [how] great an athlete he is and how coaches trust him in all the tough situations

The theme is: he plays a hard, safe game. This is pure adrenaline for the org who, especially since Trent Mann took over their amateur scouting, is the poster child for safe picks (indeed, an anonymous NHL scout quoted by HP literally calls Norris ‘a safe pick’ and Dorion himself has just mentioned a preference for safe picks). Norris has, in short, the sort of ‘truculence’ Brian Burke used to yammer about. This isn’t to say he’s a one-dimensional prospect, as Ary thoroughly explores his offensive skills, but concerns remain:


There is a lot to like in his game yet not a pure goal scorer with immense creativity and high-end skill [NHL scout] his big issue is consistency


He has a good shot but has to do a better job of finding an open lane before attempting a shot, as it gets blocked a lot leading to the puck clearing the zone … He doesn’t have high-end offensive potential


3rd line center with offensive upside … [Dennis MacInnis] Not a lot of flash to his game


Doesn’t have the slick moves and puckhandling wiggle to beat defenders off the rush


First link: has skill, but I wouldn’t call it high-end. There are stretches where he can fade into the background offensively … doesn’t have a ton of pace to his game

Second link: they [scouts who like Norris] also acknowledge his skills aren’t standout and he needs work. .. The more pessimistic scouts just don’t buy him having enough offense and projects out as a third-liner — tops. I tend to fall in the latter camp

Summarizing: he may lack talent–there are concerns that he doesn’t have the puck skills to provide more than third-line output, and you don’t need to trade (or draft) for that (especially when you have arguably a more talented player with the same profile in Colin White). Its clear one of the major motivations for San Jose in taking him so early (I had him ranked 43rd for the draft) was because of how good he was at the combine. This is a terrible way to assess a player and clearly San Jose had no problem jettisoning him as part of the deal–the Sharks have been very adept at finding third-line talent for free in Europe for years (Joonas Donskoi, Melker Karlsson, Marcus Sorensen, etc), so it’s not a talent threshold of concern.

The Revised Prospect List

With all that information available, where do I two slot into the Sens prospect pool? Balcers slides in after Chlapik at #4 in the middle-six category (while he had a better rookie season the latter has better draft pedigree), while Norris gets the #9 slot behind Alex Formenton in the top-nine category. The forward top-ten would be:
1. Logan Brown
2. Brady Tkachuk
3. Filip Chlapik
4. Rudolfs Balcers
5. Drake Batherson
6. Gabriel Gagne
7. Colin White
8. Alex Formenton
9. Josh Norris
10. Andrew Sturtz

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

The Rebuild

Image result for bring the hammer down

This is a long post folks, so strap in and enjoy.

I’ve been beating the drum for 2011 rebuild comparisons for quite some time (not because I predicted a rebuild, but because of the rhetoric I was hearing on TSN 1200); in that spirit the mighty Nichols has begun the colonoscopy of that comparison in his usual bold letters. The focus of his latest piece is much broader than that (I was looking at the prospects themselves–specifically the hype generated about them), but he rightly takes to task the ridiculous idea Gord Wilson was floating that the current prospect pool is comparable to that of the 1990s. Nichols succinctly dissects how quickly Melnyk and Bryan Murray gave up on a full rebuild to chase the dream of a Cup (or, more accurately, playoff gates for the cash-strapped owner). He hits the nail on the head when he says:

there is always going to be this nagging suspicion that the Senators will change course as quickly as it did following the Duchene trade and perhaps most importantly, there is also the question of why fans should trust the owner and front office that put this organization in this position to begin with.

Unfortunately, the path to contention isn’t simply a matter of which team accrues the most talent at the top of the draft. Organizations like Buffalo and Edmonton are illustrative of the problems that can be created by poor asset management. Teams can’t simply rely on early first round picks, there needs to be an emphasis on analytics, scouting, recognizing the signs of when it’s time to sell high on players (or walk away) and cap management. 

Preach brother, preach. I’m not sure if it’s ironic or sad that both Edmonton and Buffalo are/have been headed by former members of the Senators org (Peter Chiarelli, who left during the Muckler regime, and Tim Murray).


Speaking of the rebuild process, I’ve mentioned I don’t believe the plan to rebuild goes back to February, but Dorion is sticking to the narrative, repeating that timeframe and saying the only indecision was which piece to move–deciding on Karlsson after contract negotiations weren’t progressing as hoped. Like Nichols, I don’t buy this story at all–the offer made to EK wasn’t at market value and as the Don himself reports:

He [Karlsson] believed, or was led to believe, that Eugene Melnyk was close to selling the team. He was told that his good friend, Daniel Alfredsson, would become the Senators’ president. And he was banking on being presented a contract offer to keep him in Ottawa colours for at least another eight years, followed by one more that would make him a Senator for life.

Nichols points out the org is attempting to place the blame on Karlsson rather than themselves (just as the org did with Daniel Alfredsson). I think Nichols is absolutely right that the intent in hiding the rebuilding plan was to protect the flagging season ticket base, since on the trade front being open about it would make much more sense.

Why do I believe the rebuild hadn’t been decided in February? The most obvious reason: you don’t trade for Matt Duchene in November and just give up on everything three months later (Dorion’s ego is much too big for that kind of cold rationalism). Beyond that, if that decision had been made then we would have seen more trades characteristic of that process–not just big names, but bit parts that have some appeal to contenders that are of no use to a rebuilding team. We already know how the org behaves in a rebuild because we saw it in 2011–moving out favourites like Chris KellyMike Fisher, etc–trading away popular character pieces. That’s not what Dorion did–he moved a couple of fat contracts (Phaneuf and Brassard) and spare parts. The moves were applying a new coat of paint rather than stripping down the engine for a rebuild. The other indicator that the decision hadn’t been made was that they made no moves either leading up to the draft or at the draft itself (save the Hoffman deal, which was forced by the public relations disaster). Given that, if I’m right, why are we getting a rebuild now?

The Melnykian dictum since his SEC issues forced him out of Biovail (2007) has been make the playoffs–fulfill that short-term need and don’t worry about the future. Eugene needs the money from playoff gates to prop up his other activities (Travis Yost doesn’t get enough credit for bringing his financial struggles into the public eye). This is part of the reason why the 2011 rebuild quickly turned into a soft reboot and that we’ve heard that sentiment any time the Sens have had a subpar season up until now (chatter about how quickly a team can turn things around–Todd White was spouting that off today, for instance). What’s changed?

Melnyk can’t afford the lineup he has that’s meant to generate playoff gates. The weight of the internal budget means that the org’s string of short-term fixes (Bobby Ryan in 2013, Derick Brassard in 2016, Duchene in November, etc) aren’t feasible anymore. They also can’t rely on a hometown discount or try and deflate Karlsson‘s price with surrogates in the media whining about his ‘deficiencies’–two Norris trophies and a broad consensus that he’s a generational talent meant he was about to get paid.

The above theory could still fit the February timeline, so what’s my objection to it? I think Melnyk (and probably Dorion) couldn’t accept that the team that nearly made it to the Cup final just a year ago wouldn’t make another deep run. While the rationalists among us understood how fluky that feat was, the org itself was happily drinking its own Koolaid. All that talk we heard in February about them trying to attach Ryan to a Karlsson trade wasn’t just hot air–it was a transparent attempt to free up the money required to re-sign the other stars who could drag Dorion’s collection of detritus (Tom Pyatt et al) back into the playoffs. The org was desperate to maintain the model of mediocrity they’ve repeated ever since they lost the 2007 Cup final. To be blunt, I think Dorion is lying about when the decision to trade EK was made–if he could have moved him in February along with Ryan he would have.

So what happened? The deadline proved no one would swallow the poison pill of Ryan‘s contract, but this wasn’t enough for a philosophical change. It took the Hoffman situation, with the usual unimpressive return, followed by an inability at the draft to get what they wanted for Karlsson. They were left looking down the barrel of a terrible roster with no easy/quick fix.

Dorion and Melnyk were in a no-win situation of their own devising. EK would be moved for a bag of magic beans (how do you let yourself get fleeced by the same guy twice?)–that was apparent long before the trade was made–leaving the org with very few tangible assets. One of the worst teams in the league was going to be much, much worse–there was no high end free agent to sign (internal budget), no first round pick (recklessly traded away), and the prospect cupboard lacked the star power to garner a good return (no Jonathan Dahlen or Shane Bowers or Jakob Silverberg etc). In essence the team painted itself into a corner such that they had no choice but to rebuild.

To summarize: the decision to move Karlsson was made no later than February, but the decision to rebuild didn’t firm up until after the draft in June. All their decisions make sense within that framework.

The Rebuild Comparison (2011 and 2018)

Image result for comparison 2011 2018

I’m going to be fairly reductive in this rather than comprehensive because I’m making a pretty basic point. To narrow it down I want to focus on the prospects at the time, following the criteria I outlined in my prospect rankings a couple of weeks ago (excluding players with 50+ NHL games, 4+ AHL seasons, and those on AHL-contracts). I think it would be fairly simple to point out the established pieces in place in 2011 (established NHLers) were a better group than those who exist now (EK, Alfie, and Spezza vs Stone/Duchene), but for a rebuild I think that’s less relevant which is why I’m looking at the prospects.

2011 Prospect Pool

2011 Draft  (all who have or will play 200+ games are highlighted; this still with the org are in blue)
Mika Zibanejad
Stefan Noesen
Matt Puempel
Shane Prince
Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Fredrik Claesson
Darren Kramer
Max McCormick
Jordan Fransoo
Ryan Dzingel

Top-tier: Mark StoneJared Cowen, Jakob Silverberg, Robin LehnerMike HoffmanPatrick Wiercioch, Andre Petersson, Derek Grant, Jim O’Brien, Stephane Da Costa, Bobby Butler, David Rundblad, Nikita Filatov
Also-ran: Jakub Culek, Marcus Sorensen, Bryce Aneloski, Chris Wideman, Jeff Costello, Corey Cowick, Brad Peltz, Mike Sdao, Mark Borowiecki, Emil Sandin, Louie Caporusso, Ben Blood, Eric Gryba, Kaspars Daugavins, Erik Condra, Cody Bass, Colin Greening, Craig Schira, Pat Cannone, David Dziurzynski

The two-part division may seem arbitrary, but it’s based on thoughts at the time and a synergy of the conventional opinion (you can check out Corey PronmanHockey Futures (John Henkelman), McKeen’sThe Hockey News and Hockey Prospectus‘ lists from back in the day)–briefly:

1. Rundblad
2. Zibanejad
3. Filatov
4. Da Costa
5. Cowen
6. Silfverberg
7. Wiercioch
Lehner (fourth-best goaltending prospect in the league)

1. David Rundblad
2. Mika Zibanejad
3. Nikita Filatov
4. Jared Cowen
5. Robin Lehner
6. Jakob Silfverberg
7. Patrick Wiercioch
8. Stefan Noesen
9. Colin Greening
10. Matt Puempel

1. David Rundblad
2. Jared Cowen
3. Mika Zibanejad
4. Robin Lehner
5. Jakob Silfverberg
6. Matt Puempel
7. Nikita Filatov
8. Bobby Butler
9. Patrick Wiercioch
10. Colin Greening

Hockey Prospectus
1) David Rundblad
2) Mika Zibanejad
3) Nikita Filatov
4) Stephane Da Costa
5) Jared Cowen
6) Jakob Silfverberg
7) Patrick Wiercioch
8) Derek Grant
9) Matt Puempel
10) Robin Lehner

We have the benefit of hindsight and can say players like Rundblad and Filatov were overvalued, but my point isn’t who did or didn’t turn out but the caliber of prospects the org had (as in their value as assets around the league). Guys like Rundblad and Cowen were thought of as top defensemen; Lehner was an elite goaltending prospect (he’d just won the Calder Cup as a teenager); players like ZibanejadSilfverberg, and Da Costa were projected as top-six forwards or better. When I went through the 2018 prospects there was no elite goaltender, no first-line forwards, and no top-pairing defensemen. Zero. That doesn’t mean no one will become that kind of player, but it does mean the prospect pool of today doesn’t measure up to the last rebuild (which itself doesn’t hold a candle to the early days of Ottawa in the 1990s, as Nichols goes over in his post).

My point isn’t to demean current prospects–there are a lot of players to like–but they are all complimentary players–guys who round out top-flight talent which the team largely lacks. My intention, frankly, is perspective. The absurd hype I’m hearing needs context–fans need to be realistic about what they have and where the org currently stands. Losing out on that first overall pick (likely this year) means there’s no elite relief in sight until the 2020 draft rolls around. That means it’s time to buckle up and prepare for the long haul of losing.

Public Relations

One of the funnier/sadder things about the org is how out of touch they are with the fanbase. There are a small number of hardcore folks who buy-in with the team no matter what, but by and large Melnyk and Dorion habitually put their foot in their mouths when attempting to discern the mood of the public.

Ruszkowski’s comments only serve to alienate [upset fans] and reinforce the idea that the front office is comprised of like-minded individuals who serve their boss for better or worse. (Mostly worse.)

I absolutely agree with this and it’s interesting to me that comments like this are so rarely heard anywhere else. It’s been clear for quite some time that the org is a poster child for confirmation bias and I have no idea what (if anything) can shake them from it. Dorion’s response to unhappy fans is to talk about parking improvements and concession prices, which is so tone deaf I’m at a loss to make a coherent response to it–how could either matter if those fans simply don’t show up? The org is in no position to turn its nose up at any part of the fanbase and advertising defense-first hockey doesn’t lend itself to an entertaining product. Melnyk has long assumed eroding attendance was due to performance, not him, and I doubt he’d allow any subordinate to suggest otherwise.

Summary and What to Do

I’m making four basic points:
1) The organization is being disingenuous (or, at worst, lying) about how we arrived at the rebuild
2) The org has demonstrated neither the patience, will, or understanding to conduct a proper rebuild
3) The org is clueless about its own fanbase
4) We begin the rebuild in much worse shape than the aborted 2011 rebuild

None of this comes as a surprise other than the decision to rebuild itself. I wasn’t sure Melnyk would ever allow it given his financial difficulties, but there really isn’t a choice now that they’ve traded away their only superstar.

So what, as fans, are we to do? My approach won’t change. I’m still a Sens fan, but I gave up on this incarnation of the org quite some time ago, which is one of the reasons most of my coverage is on prospects and the AHL team–I can enjoy them regardless of the Luddites in charge. In that respect I’m quite keen on Belleville’s upcoming season (depending, a little, on how many prospects are rammed into the NHL lineup). In respect to the NHL side of things: until there is change at the top it’s just not realistic to expect the nonsense to stop. Removing Pierre Dorion wouldn’t change things because Melnyk would simply hire someone just like him. Melnyk has to go before the Ottawa Senators can truly evolve and compete.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thoughts on the Karlsson Trade

Image result for chris evans laughing

So the trade we’ve long expected and dreaded has arrived and just like when the Sharks fleeced the Sens in the Mike Hoffman trade they’ve done it again. Doug Wilson doesn’t laugh very much, but adding Erik Karlsson must have put a smile on his face. We’d all accepted that the Sens were going to lose the trade–you can’t get proper return for a generational player–but the question remained if they were going to get burned as badly as Bryan Murray did in the Jason Spezza trade (for whom the Sens got nothing in return). I don’t think Dorion’s deal is as bad as that, but it’s not a good deal either (as The Athletic has just gone over in interviews with scouts/execs).

What did the Sens get for their best player (and Francis Perron)? Four bodies and some picks. No elite players–none with high upside–but two seemingly decent NHLers and a couple of okay prospects.

While the analytic breakdowns for both Chris Tierney (82-17-23-40) and Dylan DeMelo (63-0-20-20) haven’t come out yet (I figure Nichols or Yost will do it), we can take a quick look at them: Tierney has played 284 NHL games while the latter has logged 133–both have decent numbers for depth players and are young enough that there might be some upside, but they were easy for the Sharks to give up (for perspective: the former was behind Boedker in points-per-game, so not part of the top-six; the latter was fourth in blueline ppg’s).

So that’s two competent if unexciting NHLers, but what about the prospects? Again the Sharks did not give up the guys at the top of their prospect list. Instead we got the kind of prospects the Sens have in abundance–middle of the road players without elite potential:

Rudolfs Balcers 21 LW (5-142/15; 19-20) AHL 67-23-25-48 (0.71)
The Latvian was drafted out of a Norwegian league so only Hockey Prospects profiled him (no one ranked him)–HP liked his skill set but thought he was too soft and not competitive enough (a pretty generic criticism in scouting circles–Pronman shared this view until his numbers just didn’t go away). Kuddos to the Sharks for finding the guy as, if nothing else, he can play at the AHL level (leading the hapless Barracudas in scoring in his rookie season–none of his teammates were even close to his production).
No one made projections for Balcers when he was drafted, but he’s produced offensively in every league he’s played in and his tally would have lead the BSens last year–if nothing else he will help Belleville’s anemic offense and there’s always the hope those puck skills can translate at the next level. [In the aftermath of the trade Pronman projected him as a top-nine forward.]

Josh Norris 19 CL (1-19/17) NCAA 37-8-15-23 (0.62)
Every scouting resource I saw projected him as a third-line checking center with good character and offensive limitations (a taller Colin White, at least by description). Why San Jose used a first-round pick for that, I have no idea, but losing him doesn’t cost them anything. There should be no rush by the Sens to get him out of the NCAA environment.

The picks: the Sens will get a late 2019 or 2020 first-rounder (almost certainly the latter because the former is conditionally owed to the Sabers if the Sharks make the playoffs), a late 2019 second-rounder [this is actually the better of San Jose or Florida’s picks, so might be decent], and there are two conditional picks (which even if triggered will be late in whatever round they’re in). While it’s possible to turn the two guaranteed picks into good NHLers, the Sens have not had great luck with their top-picks, so while the picks are better than nothing there’s no chance of a Karlsson replacement (or near-replacement) from them.

In the end the trade comes across as a salary dump–a victim of the internal, Melnykian budget, and it’s a move that the Sens are going to have a very difficult time recovering from for years ahead. In the short term the move might actually help the BSens as the two players who came back means one less prospect will be shoved into the NHL lineup and Balcers adds a genuine offensive threat. Glass half full, right?

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Ottawa Senators Rebuild: Part Deux

Image result for hot shots part deux

[About an hour after I posted this the Karlsson trade went down–revisions in progress!]

Dylan DeMelo 25 DR (6-179/11; 19-20) 63-0-20-20
Rudolfs Balcers 21 LW (5-142/15; 19-20) AHL 67-23-25-48
After the hilarious late night Twitter message from Eugene Melynk declaring a rebuild to the player who has taken the most headshots on the roster, fans were alerted to the Second Coming of a Melnykian rebuild (something Pierre Dorion claims has been underway since February–a statement I simply don’t believe given how leaky the org is to the media–my guess is they made the decision as late as July). That this is Part Deux seems to have gone over the heads of most people (barring Nichols and a few others), with the only meaningful difference in the circumstances between now and 2011 being the perception fans have of the owner and the org: twinned incompetency.

Ian Mendes has offered information about the Sens rebuild that came via a Dorion presentation to select members of the media (I have to wonder if preparing this was what occupied Dorion all summer, as he’s been remarkably quiet in the off-season, or if it was an emergency reaction to how poorly the Twitter video was received).

The Lineup

Mendes says according to Dorion this is the projected lineup this season (sadly it’s not written out as a lineup, but it can be pieced together from his article) [I’ve left the original projections with the trade-revisions below it in bold]:

Dzingel-Duchene-White (Batherson)
McCormick-Brown (Chlapik)-Pyatt
No mentioned: Paajarvi
LTIR: Gaborik and MacArthur

Wolanin (Harpur)-Ceci


Paajarvi (Tkachuk)-Brown-Pyatt
Extra: McCormick

Wolanin (Harpur)-Wideman/DeMelo

What’s clear is that not everything is decided, but most of the high end prospects are penciled in for Ottawa (making sense of the overloaded roster in Belleville). When I wrote my roster speculation about the BSens a month ago I assumed Brown, Wolanin, and White would be in the NHL (I didn’t consider Tkachuk because he can’t play in the AHL, but I mentioned both he and Formenton as possibilities on Twitter). Chlapik was always a possibility, but I thought the roster glut would keep him out–the same for Batherson (who I don’t expect to be on the team for a full season). Putting that aside for a moment, where the hell is Paajarvi? Did Dorion forget him or did Mendes? Presumably he slots in on the fourth-line more than McCormick does (I’m thinking Max picks up the coffee for the boys in the morning).

How close to reality is the above? Barring a trade I think it’s pretty close (Travis Yost takes a look at how common a big roster turnover is).  Harpur will be a spare part on the defense, but otherwise it’s hard to imagine any other combinations (given the Karlsson rumours [ahem, Karlsson trade] we have to take it with a grain of salt–remove Karlsson from the top pairing and replace him with Ceci and we can pencil the Sens in for 31st in the league). As for the forwards, Boucher likes safe, defensively responsible players, so White will certainly be on the team, leaving no room for Batherson. Brown is more marketable than Chlapik (he’s a first-round pick), which means the latter will spend at least part of the year in Belleville. Tkachuk will get his nine games and then a decision will be made–the bar for him is low given that its a rebuild (not Brett Lindros low, we can hope).

Team Approach

Dorion made two other comments that are worth looking at–one completely in-line with expectations, the other not. The first:

Dorion also indicated the team needs to play with a defence-first philosophy — something that cost the team dearly last season. He added that head coach Guy Boucher would be changing his tactics on things like the power play and forechecking. In particular, Dorion said, the club would move away from a passive approach and deploy an “unrelenting” forecheck.

Boucher has always been a defence-first coach and Dorion (and the org) have always liked an aggressive forecheck, so while this indicates Boucher will move away from the 1-3-1 (the only style that’s ever given him success), the overall purview is right in line with what the org wants to do anyway (Boucher’s long term tenure on any team has always been poor: TB .628, .512, .435; Bern .690, .455; Ott .598, .409–clearly his approach cannot be sustained).

We will embrace the power of data and insights to measure our impact

I find this hard to believe. The org is notoriously dismissive of analytics (as is the Borocop) and their revolving door of analysts have had no discernible impact on decisions. Despite the avalanche of evidence that analytics can help the Sens, the org wants to see the game through the bifocalss of the fight-happy 70s & clutch-and-grab 90s/00s–eras that required fighters, toughness, size–a philosophy that impacts both their rhetoric and impacts their drafting tendencies. Until I see some evidence that analytics is behind a personnel decision, I’m just not going to believe it.

Image result for steve yzerman

This is a crazy thought, but when Steve Yzerman stepped down from the Tampa job, committing to remaining as an adviser until the end of the season, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’s thinking of a return home to Ottawa. It’s a pipe dream–he became a US citizen for his wife years ago and Ottawa ownership here is insane, but a guy can dream.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)