Belleville Senators: Reviewing Predictions

It’s time to look back at my predictions for the 2018-19 BSens and see what I got right, what I got wrong, and give some thoughts on the season that was.

Coaching

As with every coach the org has ever hired, Troy Mann was going to come in and provide structure, teach the kids, and put a competitive team on ice. Since the rhetoric never changes we can ignore it and simply look at what he accomplished (the crunchy stats below are compared to the BSens last year, while the overall record is compared to Mann’s previous season as a coach).

Troy Mann (17-18) 30-37-9 .454 -> (18-19) 37-31-3 .539
228 GF (+34) 228 GA (-38) PP 18.3 (+3.3%) PK 75.7 (-2.2%)

These are almost across the board improvements, granting that it’s hard to imagine worse results than the last three years (two under Kleinendorst and one under Richardson). My biggest concern was how much Mann would play younger players, since his predecessors leaned heavily on veterans. Mann showed the same tendencies, but without equal rigidity. This tendency clearly reflects a preference from the org because they continually hire coaches who follow that program.

As for the nuts and bolts, while goals for/against saw a positive swing of seventy-two, this was largely due to a better roster (for the first time in at least three years the BSens didn’t have the worst blueline in the AHL). Why am I giving the roster most of the credit? Because the PK, the area that coaching impacts the most, somehow got worse. The PK was last in the league–actually worse than the Kleinendorst era, which I thought was impossible. They gave up seventy-five PP goals, basically one a game. We can’t blame this on the team being poor defensively because 5-on-5, they weren’t that bad (150 GA, or just under 2 goals per game); we also can’t blame the goaltending since, in general, it was fine; the final knock is that acquired players tended to do worse or no better under Mann (particularly elite talent).

So what can I say for Mann? He was fine–not awful, but not great. I don’t think he’s the kind of coach who can fix the technical issues of younger players, he’s just an adequate, but uninspiring AHL coach (Chris Stevenson thinks highly of him, but Stevenson has barely seen the BSens play this season, so is relying on the org’s narrative).

Player Predictions

Link above (I considered anything within 0.03 of my points-per-game number within the margin for error), with blue meaning the result was higher than expected and red lower (players traded away are in italics):

Defense
Christian Wolanin 0.58 -> 0.78
I was conservative with him and he blew away my expectations; I think he would have been better served by a full season in Belleville, but you can’t complain about his production; his AHL season can be divided into three chunks between call-ups (26-5-13-18; 9-1-7-8; 5-1-4-5), with the latter two segments showing Mann had stopped fussing about with his usage
Christian Jaros 0.50 -> NHL (0.16)
I wasn’t expecting the Sens to pull the trigger on him so quickly, but given their struggles on the blueline and his physicality it’s not a complete surprise
Stuart Percy 0.40 -> 0.46 traded (0.35)
Because Lajoie and Jaros were in the NHL, he received more special teams time than expected; traded away to Providence for absolutely nothing (Fyten), which was by far the worst AHL-deal of the season (meant to help the playoff push–oh-uh!)
Max Lajoie 0.38 -> NHL (0.26)
Not sure keeping him in Ottawa for a full season was the right move–time will tell
Julius Bergman 0.30 -> 0.18 traded (0.20)
Completely crashed and burned away from the Sharks system; wasn’t given much of a chance by Mann, but didn’t improve in Hartford (he was dumped in the Matt Duchene trade, with the Blue Jackets promptly sending him to the Rangers)
Erik Burgdoerfer 0.25 -> 0.28
Not a fan, but he put up his expected numbers (when the games mattered he was 19-0-3-3, his worst numbers of the year, which tells you something)
Jordan Murray 0.19 -> 0.48
I thought his production last season (0.40) was inflated by usage, but clearly at this level he can produce when given the opportunity; he is a nightmare defensively and why he winds up on the PK at times I have no idea
Patrick Sieloff 0.17 -> 0.20 traded (0.07)
A wholly unremarkable player who, outside the PK, offers nothing–completely bottomed out once dumped on the Ducks in the Gibbons trade
Andreas Englund 0.14 -> 0.21
The mild uptick in his numbers doesn’t undercut the fact that he has hands of stone (down the stretch, when it mattered, he was 14-0-0-0, his worst stretch of the season); for those hoping he’s good on the PK, he’s not
Macoy Erkamps ECHL -> traded (0.16)
Yet another CHL FA boondoggle; he was dumped on Pittsburgh in the Ben Sexton trade

Forwards
Logan Brown 0.75 -> 0.75
I hit this prediction out of the park–it’s a solid rookie season for him (despite a lot of coaching goofiness early in the year)–I can only imagine how eager the org is to rush him into the NHL
Rudolfs Balcers 0.71 -> 0.72
I wasn’t a fan of keeping him in Ottawa for such a long time
Filip Chlapik 0.71 -> 0.60
I’m fond of Chlapik and was hoping for a nice jump in production, but he essentially matched his rookie numbers (part of the reason was his production dropped the final 27 games (27-5-7-12)
Ben Sexton 0.62 -> 0.53 traded (0.38)
The oft-injured forward went on a slump that dragged through his trade to Pittsburgh (the org acquiring some much needed blueline help at the time in the form of Elliott)
Paul Carey 0.60 -> 0.93 traded (1.10)
It turns out his 16-17 season wasn’t a fluke, nor is Carey beginning to decline, as the veteran had a career year; he was another sacrifice to shore up the blueline (Goloubef)
Drake Batherson 0.55 -> 1.05
I was very conservative in my prediction here (it was feasible that Mann could have buried him on the third line, ala prior coaches and players like Francis Perron); while I think I picked a solid comparable for him (Tanner Pearson), I would have been better off simply using his rookie number (0.73) as-is; he’s such a great player to watch, I hope BSens fans soaked it in because I don’t imagine he’ll be back; btw, lest we forget, Dorion has said he doesn’t want to take risks on skilled players in later rounds anymore (yikes!)
Gabriel Gagne 0.50 -> 0.27 traded (0.31)
The big question coming into the season was whether last year was a fluke or not–turns out, it was, as Gagne couldn’t match his modest production (0.36) and is a draft gamble that didn’t pay off (he was dumped for former first-rounder Morgan Klimchuk)
Chase Balisy 0.49 -> 0.29
I wasn’t a fan of the signing, but assumed he’d follow his career norm–instead, he completely bombed out despite many early opportunities
Andrew Sturtz 0.48 -> 0.40
NCAA FA had an injury-plagued season compounded by bizarre usage, but I wasn’t that far off his production (as I warned in the prediction post, TOI would be a major factor)
Nick Paul 0.47 -> 0.91
This was very unexpected, as for three years the one consistency with Paul was his inconsistency; the question is, how much of this is a result of him versus the talent around him? I’m hesitant to jump on the bandwagon; he only played 43 games and went ice cold when they mattered most (11-0-3-3)
Jim O’Brien 0.45 -> 0.27
Missed most of the season so I think you can throw out his totals–I don’t want him resigned, however
Adam Tambellini 0.43 -> 0.44
You know what you’re getting with Tambellini–is that worth keeping?
Aaron Luchuk 0.33 -> 0.33
I’m quite pleased with this prediction–he’s a work-in-progress and its possible he’ll crash and burn, but I like the org throwing the dice on talented players
Jack Rodewald 0.32 -> 0.80
Speaking of unexpected, these are his best numbers since junior four years ago; always a streaky player, I feel like this is an outlier and he’ll regress to the mean (he disappeared down the stretch, 18-4-4-8, which is very close to his usual production)
Boston Leier 0.28 -> 0.18
It’s always tough predicting numbers for low-end players; Leier played less than I expected and the more I saw him the less I liked him
Joseph LaBate 0.25 -> 0.19
This signing bothered me quite a bit and LaBate delivered even less than expected–yet another ‘gritty’ player who failed to deliver
Ryan Scarfo 0.22 -> traded (0.28)
Included in the Sexton trade, where he was unremarkable, but better than his brief time with the BSens
Francois Beauchemin ECHL -> 0.15
Played far more than made any sense (40 games!)–for whatever reason Mann is a fan (grit, again)

Marcus Hogberg .899 improved -> .917
Last year I talked about how he was a victim of bad luck with his numbers and that he’d be better this year, as indeed he was, wrestling the starting position from a struggling Gustavsson; he had no sustained poor streaks throughout the season (only once did he have subpar back-to-back games), which is an excellent sign
Mike McKenna .909 decline -> .914 traded (.896)
Didn’t actually play in Belleville for long and was flipped to Vancouver in one of Dorion’s better deals (as he bombed out in Philadelphia, where the Canucks sent him)
Filip Gustavsson .918 decline -> .887
An ugly season, even more so than imagined, but I did warn that he was beginning to regress to the mean last year; for those jumping off the bandwagon, remember that many did so with Hogberg and he’s rebounded–there’s no reason to give up on Gustavsson yet
Jake Paterson ECHL -> ECHL
Road the pine occasionally, as expected

Acquisitions
Erik Brannstrom 0.68 -> 0.44
The main piece of the Mark Stone trade, his numbers dropped, albeit bouncing back and forth between Ottawa and Belleville didn’t help
Cody Goloubef 0.75 -> 0.40
Acquired in the Carey trade, he did not maintain the same level of production and while he wasn’t terrible, this was not good value for what was surrendered
Stefan Elliott 0.40 -> 0.45
A solid acquisition via the Sexton trade–doesn’t blow your socks off, but added some stability to what was an awful blueline
Justin Falk 0.25 -> 0.28
I hated this signing–he was awful in the NHL and didn’t do anything in the AHL
Darren Archibald 0.70 -> 0.61
Part of the McKenna trade; his production dropped, but not precipitously
Vitaly Abramov 0.42 -> 0.39
The rookie is clearly still trying to find his footing–far too soon to pass judgement on him
Morgan Klimchuk 0.47 -> 0.15 -> 0.63
A great pick-up for Gagne, as in limited action he put up more typical numbers (8 games isn’t enough to say he needs to come back, however)
Jean-Christophe Beaudin 0.31 -> 0.15
Why did he play so much (20 games!)?
Austin Fyten 0.20 -> 0.17
This was a classic Dorion move–get a tough guy to help with the playoff run…by acquiring a player who can’t actually help you get to the playoffs
Tobias Lindberg 0.40 -> 0.20 -> 0.23
Bombed out completely–I don’t know what the issue is with Lindberg–so much talent, but his game lacks structure and limits his production

And that, as they say, is that. I’m quite happy with my prognostication. As for the season that was, the BSens were a better team and the org was willing to make difficult decisions (difficult for the org I mean) by jettisoning some of the regressive players they get so attached too (RIP Max McCormick, who put up career worst numbers after he was traded–no longer protected by favourable usage). The Fyten trade, however, brings us back to earth and its clear that even after all this time Dorion still has bad tendencies and struggles to accept the reality of how hockey has changed.

What do I want to see in the upcoming season? Letting go of any player labelled ‘gritty’ and focusing on talent. I don’t expect them to do that wholesale, but we did see some positive signs. The BSens have an atrocious record of signing AHL vets and that needs to change (especially on the blueline). The trades weren’t as bad as at the NHL-level, but even where Dorion won a trade none of his acquisitions were better than the prospects (who carried the team). Essentially the org has to evolve, so that’s where fans have to put their hope. As for the Sens, given the ownership and GM I’m not optimistic, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be positives next season.

I have a couple of more articles in the hopper–I’ll be taking a look at prospects and at some point looking at the possible 2019-20 BSen roster.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

4 Comments

  1. Hi Peter, I have read your blog for the past 3 or 4 years and have enjoyed your B Sens coverage quite a bit this season. Though, I do wish you wrote more frequently.

    A few questions for you:
    1. Do you think Englund can be a regular NHLer?
    2. Is Paul ready to be an everyday NHLer?
    3. Who do you think is the most under-rated prospect in the Sens org?

    Keep up the good work. It is appreciated.

    RDB

    • Hey RDB,
      I appreciate the kind words! Sadly the level of interest doesn’t equal the amount of work I put into it (at least, not on this platform), which does lead to more erratic posts (as I’ve said periodically before, virtually anything else I write about gets more views). These days I think only The Silver Seven and SensChirp actually generate much traffic, which is why most smaller Sens blogs have either disappeared or become incredibly infrequent (for example Nichols has folded up The 6th Sens in favour of freelance work for The Athletic).
      As for your questions:
      1) No, but that doesn’t mean the Sens won’t try him out in the NHL. Given Englund’s limitations he *has* to be a monster defensively, but all the indicators are he’s a drag on the PK and not very good 5-on-5–the org gets blinded by size/physicality sometimes and if he’s kept that’s the attraction
      2) I’m very suspicious of Paul’s season because nothing from his first three suggested this kind of output–I think it’s mostly a product of him playing with very good players, however, there’s a small chance he’s a rare Mike Hoffman-type prospect who, for whatever reason, needed more time in the oven (a very small chance–most of the time productive prospects show that within the framework of their ELC)
      3) I so rarely see prospects outside the AHL that I’ll confine my comments to it: the one guy I didn’t think was given the opportunity he might warrant was Andrew Sturtz–I’m not sure where his threshold is because he wasn’t put in prime offensive opportunities (unlike basically every other prospect this season)
      I hope that answers your questions fully! If not, let me know.
      Cheers,
      Peter

  2. […] much of the fanbase, I’m quite conservative in my feelings about the big seasons from Rodewald and Paul, particularly with both fading down the […]

  3. […] that assessment. The BSens were an awful team defensively in his rookie season, and while they weren’t that much better last year Hogberg was by far the best goaltender between the pipes. Among AHL goaltenders who […]


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