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)