Sens News & Notes

Recently former Sens and current commentator Marc Methot commented (46:40, since the YTers don’t timestamp their podcast) that Artem Zub is a bottom-pairing player and the Sens will regret his contract extension. This is interesting, because just in December Methot called the signing ‘a steal’. In context, his comment seems based on his estimation of the kind of player Tyler Kleven will be (which would explain the abrupt about face, since the tiny sample of Kleven and Zub‘s injury-plagued year are paired in Methot’s head). It’s also highly amusing how fearful Methot is of analytics (see below). If you’re asking what separates the two players in Methot’s mind, given the context (the Sens content is largely about Brannstrom), it’s that Kleven is a more physical player–we all know how much Methot values the physical dimension (look at how a big, physical team like Calgary is dominating in the playoffs right now). What’s funny to me is how easily Methot flipped the switch on someone who was one of his favourite players, which he blames on this season (and given his Tweet, clearly very late in this season). As for my opinion, I do think Zub was overpaid for what he does, however I think it’s a less ridiculous contract than others Dorion has signed and it’s more easily moved if the Sens decide he doesn’t fit into their plans (since defensive defensemen are overvalued in the league).

Jiri Smejkal, LW/C, Nov/96, 6’4, SHL 49-23-20-43 0.87
I was surprised when the Sens signed Jiri Smejkal out of the SHL (1yr/950k), although perhaps I shouldn’t be since they did something similar with Olle Alsing in 2019. The Czech forward was 6th overall on Pronman’s list of FAs and 2nd out of Europe. An older player (26), it’s uncommon for an NHL talent to be found at that age, but it does happen. Smejkal bounced around early in his pro career, but found his footing in Finland and was able to translate that production into the SHL this past season. He’s not an unknown quantity, as he spent two years in the WHL (2014-16) playing for Moose Jaw and Kamloops. According to Pronman he’s a: “Big, powerful winger with good skills who can help on both special teams. His skating is just OK and whether he will score in North America is a question.” The Sens have never been shy about poor skating, although watching the speed in the playoffs you have to wonder how much that approach will hurt them. More importantly, let’s try to unpack his successful seasons:

20-21 Liiga (Tappara) 48-9-17-26 0.54 6th
The 6th most productive forward on a team, but the most productive import (ahead of Charles Bertrand); former Sens prospect Ben Blood (4-120/07) was on the roster, which is funny to see
21-22 Liiga (Pelicans) 44-25-20-45 1.02 2nd
Played on the top line lead by former Vancouver prospect Lukas Jasek (6-174/15) and there’s a further connection as Jasek has signed with Oskarshamn for next season; as a prospect in the AHL Jasek was unremarkable save his last (half) season in his fourth year (he never played in the NHL)
22-23 SHL (Oskarshamn) 49-23-20-43 0.87 3rd
Finished well behind the team’s top two players, Patrik Karlkvist and Antti Suomela (the latter spent time in San Jose and Toronto’s organizations, playing 51 games for the Sharks with middling AHL numbers), but he was able to remain productive despite a step-up in competition

What can we expect from Smejkal? He’s on a two-way contract and there’s a good chance he spends most of his time in Belleville. His offensive output in European leagues is solid, but not spectacular. He should be productive in the AHL, but his NHL window is as a depth forward. While he’s big I’m not expecting him to crash and bang, but that’s not what’s required. I think he’s a reasonable gamble for the Sens to make, even though they are loaded on the left side. If we want to go into conspiracy theories, perhaps the Sens grabbed Smejkal in order to trade some of their prospects on that side–time will tell.

Back to Methot: I haven’t seen him in quite some time (he left Coming in Hot in the fall, which is the only hockey show I sometimes watch) and I was amused to see how much he complained about people arguing with him on social media about his opinions. The problem for Methot is that his arguments are based on feelings–he’s not a numbers guy–so it’s a bit like religion. If the world was made in six days and you don’t think evidence for that to be true is required, it’s going to get really annoying when people keep asking you about all those fossils lying around. I think Methot is a fun guy to hear from, but like a lot of ex-players he struggles to understand that just playing the game does not make your opinions bulletproof (nor is it a get-out-of-jail-free card in arguments). I think he’d be a a better commentator if he became comfortable with analytics and learned how to incorporate that into what he experienced and sees. Just a thought.

This article was written by Peter Levi