Senators News & Notes

hoffman

What a ride its been for the Senators, foisted on the backs of a one-legged Karlsson, the league’s new playoff format, and the modern version of the trap–it’s the wackiest Ottawa run ever.  The fans who want to embrace the organisation as geniuses for getting the team this far need look no further than the man who won game six (Mike Hoffman) to have that balloon burst.  It’s less than four years ago that Hoffman was put through waivers, and the former QMJHL MVP didn’t magically become a better player because of it (and yes, 29 other NHL teams were asleep at the switch).  How much of this success is traced to scouting and how much through management moves? (I’ve put series scoring in brackets):
Erik Karlsson (1-15/09) 18-2-14-16 3 PPP (6/7/3)
The Sens rarely draft undersized defensemen and he’s miles ahead of the many other first-rounders taken since (Jared Cowen, Mika Zibanejad, Stefan Noesen, Matt Puempel, Cody Ceci, Curtis Lazar, etc)
Bobby Ryan (t-2013) 18-6-9-15 8 PPP (7/2/6)
A disappointment in all four regular seasons with Ottawa, his second Sens playoff is the first (and sadly, likely the last) time the move has paid dividends
Mike Hoffman (5-130/09) 18-6-5-11 2 PPP (3/4/4)
A late pick on his second time through the draft (not good in the corners apparently); as mentioned above the org nearly gave up on him, but once he truly arrived in the NHL he’s been everything you could have asked for from a guy with great speed, hands, and shot; he’s a good example of the results of being patient with prospects
Derick Brassard (t-16) 18-4-7-11 4 PPP (8/1/2)
Much like Bobby Ryan the Sens gave up a younger, talented player to acquire the veteran; he showed up against Boston but has been largely invisible ever since
Jean-Gabriel Pageau (4-96/11) 18-8-1-9 (1/6/2)
A smaller, offensively talented player who forced his way onto the roster
Kyle Turris (t-11) 18-4-5-9 3 PPP (2/4/3)
Acquired in the David Rundblad trade (who himself was acquired because the Sens didn’t want Vladimir Tarasenko, so let’s not get too excited over fleecing the Coyotes), this hasn’t been a great playoff for him, but there’s no doubt he represents one of Murray’s best trades
Clarke MacArthur (FA 13) 18-3-6-9 4 PPP (2/4/3)
Given his concussion problems I think many of us wish he wasn’t playing, but when healthy he’s been as advertised
Mark Stone (6-178/10) 18-4-3-7 (2/4/1)
Dropped like a stone in the draft due to injury (and his skating), the Sens scouts scored huge in picking him, albeit he’s had his struggles in this year’s playoffs
Zack Smith (3-79/08) 18-1-5-6 (1/4/1)
From what I read in blogs and in the paper he’s one of the best players in the league; picked by the team on his second trip through the draft he’s enjoying an improbable NHL career (given middling AHL numbers); he did get his second ever NHL playoff goal on the run, so that’s something
Dion Phaneuf (t-16) 18-1-4-5 (3/2/0)
Acquired from the Leafs and sentenced to a lifetime of watching Ceci attempt to play hockey; he’s been as underwhelming as advertised, but I suppose he has been as advertised; by some quirk all his points have come in just two games
Alexandre Burrows (t-17) 15-0-5-5 1PPP (1/3/1)
The fifth player on this list acquired through surrendering a talented Swedish prospect, the senior citizen broke down during the run after accomplishing nothing memorable
Marc Methot (t-12) 17-2-2-4 (0/2/2)
Acquired in the Nick Foligno trade and when healthy he’s been a great partner for Karlsson
Chris Wideman (4-100/09) 14-1-3-4 1 PPP (2/2/0)
Undersized defenseman worked his way from dominant AHL-blueliner to a useful NHL player, albeit one who has sat a few games
Fredrik Claesson (5-126/11) 13-0-3-3 (0/1/2)
One of the few Swedes to survive the org’s periodic purges, but who doesn’t love Freddy? While he occasionally struggled under Luke Richardson’s clueless regime in the AHL, he’s been solid in the NHL and on this run
Tom Pyatt (FA 16) 13-2-0-2 (0/1/1)
Signed out of the Swiss league for reasons unknown, he’s been awful when he’s played in the playoffs
Ryan Dzingel (7-204/11) 14-1-1-2 2 PPP (1/1/0)
Nichols had his doubts, but while he hasn’t had a great playoff those intangible elements are there and the future is bright for the seventh-rounder
Ben Harpur (4-108/13) 9-0-2-2 (0/2/0)
I had and still have my doubts over the lumbering blueliner, but early in the playoffs he kept things simple before returning to his puck-bumbling form
Viktor Stalberg (t-17) 16-0-2-2 (2/0/0)
The former Lear was picked off the Carolina scrapheap for a 3rd-rounder; he’s not someone you expect to score, but the defensive-minded player probably shouldn’t be at the bottom of the plus/minus heap (whatever you think of that stat)–his TOI clearly shows Boucher isn’t that happy with him
Cody Ceci (1-15/12) 18-0-1-1 (0/1/0)
How was he ever a first-round pick?  Watching him handle the pick is like a two-year old tossing a grenade, and his defensive play is worse! How Boucher can put up with him is beyond me
Tommy Wingels (t-17) 9-0-0-0
It’s amazing to me that anyone would trade for Wingels
Chris Neil (6-161/98), Chris Kelly (3-94/99), Mark Borowiecki (5-139/08)
Three guys who can’t play in the league (anymore in the case of the first too, or at all in the case of the third); in their collective five games played they accomplished nothing positive
Colin White (1-21/15) 1-0-0-0
At this stage I have no idea why the Sens burned a year off his ELC–he played two regular season games and now has 2:39 of NHL playoff action under his belt–why? Play him or not, although given the alternatives I suppose him warming the bench isn’t the worst idea
Craig Anderson (t-11) 11-7 2.36 .922
Acquired to help the Sens tank in 2011 and failed to deliver, he’s been solid in the playoffs (his save percentage is the average for all playoff goaltenders), but particularly good against Pittsburgh (if you look through the numbers he’s had seven middling to bad games–2 vs Boston, 4 vs the Rangers, and 1 against the Penguins), although I think the folks at The Silver Seven are a little over the top praising him, granted that Travis Yost agrees

So after the long list what can we pull out of it?  Fourteen drafted players (I included Kelly), ten acquired by trade, and two free agents.  Naturally the whole lineup isn’t equally significant, so in terms of prime contributors (top nine scorers and the starting goaltender) it’s 5 drafted, 4 trades, and 1 free agent.  It’s a bit of a Frankenstein collection, but frankly it all boils down to Erik Karlsson.  Without him, none of the other pieces actually matter.

Incidentally, while doing research for this I stumbled across Nichols calling Jakob Silverberg a bust last year–oops!

don brennan

Generally speaking a hotstove, be it on TV or via bloggers, is only as good as it’s analysts. The Silver Seven‘s prior to game six included Callum going full Don Brennan:

Callum: More urgency and better protection in and around the crease will help immensely. But overall, just come to play in Game 6.

Words like “urgency” are things I hate in sports writing, because they imply players (for some inexplicable reason) stopped trying or didn’t care.  That’s not Callum’s intent and he’s likely picked up the language from reading and listening to other sports columnists, but it’s useless verbage. Far better to pick something tangible and specific–defensive coverage and schemes (ie, crease protection) is what you want to stick with.  Sadly, Callum doubles down:

Callum: yes, it’s about effort.

This is something Callum can’t know so it’s a useless observation.  I don’t even think it’s what he means–he’s likely thinking about decision-making–players trying things that they shouldn’t or forcing plays–but he’s far better off using that kind of phrasing.  Thankfully, everyone else who participated (Colin, Ary M, NKB, and Ross A) avoided that kind of hyperbole.

Print

Speaking of Callum, his piece on the limited appeal of Ottawa’s run outside the area serves up as anecdotal proof of what I said in my last post about the inability of human interest stories to serve as meaningful fuel in sports.  Specifically he notes:

You’d think that the overwhelming number of heartwarming storylines within this organization would win over national media outlets and gain some respect from fanbases outside of Toronto and Montreal.

Indeed, even winning isn’t always enough.  The lack of excitement is partially due to Guy Boucher’s system, but it’s also related to the lack of a superstar outside of Erik Karlsson (and he’s someone only fully embraced by pundits this season).

garrioch

Speaking of pointless, Nichols is still reading Bruce Garrioch.  I gave up on local newspaper coverage a long time ago because it doesn’t provide anything useful.  If I need official news about the org, I go to the org; if I need roster moves, I go to roster sites; if I want analysis I get that from analysts; etc.  There’s nothing coming from someone like that of any value at all.

senshirp-simple6

Actually, SenShot, but that site feels like SensChirp Light (Diet SensChirp?), and I have that logo handy, so we’ll stick with it.  I don’t often check out the site, but I did look at Alexander O’Reilly‘s article leading into tonight’s game and this is what stood out to me:

The Penguins are the more skilled team but that doesn’t mean they’re the better team. The Senators are a team that is greater than the sum of their parts. This series is far from over but as of now the Sens are in the lead.

This is fantastic–this is HFBoards-worthy stuff–assertions piled on to predictions with no effort at justification whatsoever.  Why isn’t being more skilled better?  How are the Sens greater than the sum of their parts?  Why are the Sens in the lead?  Normally I encourage bloggers to avoid this kind of thing, but I want Alex to go further–be more vague–it’s more entertaining.

freeagent

Two more EU FA’s were signed (not on my list).  The first by San Jose, an organisation that has made such free agents it’s business, signing 5’9 Swedish forward Filip Sandberg (he was expected to be a late 2013 pick).  Detroit then signed Czech defenseman Libor Sulak (#86 for CS back in 2012).

[Andrew posted after I did with a story so laden with sweetness it’s either genius or sickening, depending on your tastes.]

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

In a game where the Sens only showed up for about 30 minutes it’s amazing that they almost came back to tie it (the overall numbers are generous to them in my opinion).  While Ottawa was able to pull off remarkable comebacks against both Boston and especially the Rangers, I don’t think they can afford going down more than a goal against Pittsburgh.  Now that Marc-Andre Fleury is stapled to the bench, even with the Penguins limited defensecorps, it’s not the kind of team you can open the floodgates on (neither the Bruins or Rangers had counterpunchers like Pittsburgh).  That said, the Sens confidence should be high as that was a winnable game and they can certainly play better.

varada

Varada de-mothballed himself and wrote a long piece in response to this week’s Ross A article that echoes what I wrote back in January (thanks for reading boys!).  He argues that part of the problem in Ottawa is that the traditional hockey narrative of rebuilding or competing doesn’t work here (because of ownership) and that this requires a new narrative framework for those writing about the team.  He suggests that:

Ian Mendes does this all the time, covering the incredible story of Jonathan Pitre, or Kyle Turris’ involvement with the Capital City Condors

This is one way to go, although I think the appeal of human interests stories are limited within a sports context.  Personally team performance and particularly team building are what’s interesting (I think the former is the predominant interest for most fans).  To my mind a major reason for the dearth of blogging is the struggle many have in tackling the nuts & bolts of the numbers. Opinion pieces are what paid journalists supply in spades (as does every hockey forum in existence), so for bloggers to replicate that is simply redundant (Senschirp and The Silver Seven get away with it in part because they produce mountains of material–but why read Jeremy Milks talking about “good in the corners” when it’s what Don Brennan writes every column?).  For fans to seek out a blog it needs to be providing something they can’t find elsewhere and I think that played a role in the fading away of much of the Sens blogosphere.  Fortunately for bloggers, winning creates interest, so at least in the short term now is a good time to get back at it (ergo the resurrection of SenShot).  The ebbs and flows of what’s popular are irrelevant to me–this is something I do for fun–if I want viewership I write about anything else (eg here, here, here, etc–all far more popular avenues than writing about the Senators).

pierre dorion

It’s not surprising that Pierre Dorion was nominated for GM of the Year given where the team is in the playoffs.  As Nichols points out the nomination isn’t remotely meaningful in terms of actually assessing him (it’s about as relevant as Paul MacLean winning coach of the year in 2013).  I am bemused by the fans upset with Nichols about his very mild critique.

freeagent

Another EU FA was taken off my list as Nashville signed 6’5 Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell, who had a monster season in the Allsvenskan for BIK Karlskoga.  Not from my list, the Leafs signed a couple of Swedish defensemen (23-year old Calle Rosen and 21-year old Andreas Borgman)–the latter was fairly highly ranked by CS in 2013 (#36).

journalism

I’m not a fan of hearing the anthem at sporting events, aside from international ones like the Olympics.  Putting aside the history of why it happens (we can thank America), it always struck me as bizarre–my team isn’t representing Canada (other than in the convoluted sense that it’s the only Canadian based team left in the playoffs), the team certainly isn’t comprised only of Canadians, and both anthems don’t cover all who are involved.  There’s nothing inherently patriotic about watching an NHL hockey game–it neither values or devalues what our nation (or any other nation) is about.  The league does not represent a state–it’s simply a corporation doing what businesses do.  Despite all of this the topic of removing it rarely comes up and is never popular.  Julian Garcia was one of a couple of people who raised it last year (granting his article isn’t a particularly engaging piece), but it’s generally a dead letter.  Having the anthem played is such a part of the sporting tradition fans don’t want it to change, so I’m not expecting it to go away any time soon.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

charlie

The Sens earned their 2-1 overtime win last night, riding the coattails of Erik Karlsson and a strong performance from Craig Anderson.  What I don’t see is the team surviving four powerplays in the first again; speaking of the man advantage, I’m not a fan of Alex Burrows on the powerplay.  Other positives: Chris Neil in the pressbox (where he belongs); the end of the Ben Harpur experiment (I take him over Mark Borowiecki, but that’s not saying much).  There wasn’t a lot of the silly chippiness the Penguins are known for (a couple of dangerous hits, but very little of the after whistle nonsense).  Fans should soak in the win–I’m not sure how long this ride will last, so best enjoy it while it does.

broadcast

It has been a long time since I talked about hockey broadcasts (five years in fact)–the painful noise that generally pollutes viewing an NHL hockey game. It’s sad to note that the lineup hasn’t really changed since then, other than Glenn Healy is off my TV.  Briefly, here’s what we have (split by play-by-play and colour, best-to-worst):
PBP
Gord Miller – good; can add insight and excitement to the broadcast
Chris Cuthbert – good; a touch less insightful than Miller, but it’s close
Mike Emrick – generic; defines average
Paul Romanuk – generic, but a little less of a dinosaur than Hughson
Jim Hughson – boring; hasn’t evolved at all since he broke in with TSN (yes, I’m old enough to remember)
Bob Cole – I can’t believe he still broadcasts; I’ve never heard a man sound more bored than during the Pittsburgh-Washington series; plays favourites, doesn’t understand the game, etc, etc
Colour
Ray Ferraro – the best colour guy (NBC saddling him with Olczyk is painful)
Garry Galley – good; has actual insight
Greg Millen – generic, but solid–neither adds nor subtracts from my enjoyment
Ed Olczyk – not good; hasn’t evolved
Pierre McGuire – awful; you’d think he’d be at the bottom of the list given the hyperbole and self-aggrandizement, but he’s still actually better than the two that follow
Craig Simpson – terrible; out of touch and plays favourites
Louie DeBrusk – terrible; out of date and out of touch

The sad thing is, the people making decisions don’t actually know who is or isn’t good.  Grey Wyshysnki says that NBC likes Mike Milbury, which is a sign of lunacy.  The folks at Sportsnet also keep trotting out neanderthals like Don Cherry.  Is it ignorance?  Or do they think these are the kind of personalities hockey fans want?  Elliotte Friedman (among others) have defended some of the inanity (I’m not sure he really has a choice)–Dave Shoalts is drinking the Koolaid (for Shoalts never forget and of course his opinion on analytics).  Generally speaking the primary broadcasts are not something I look forward too–Hughson and Simpson?  Awful.  Emrick and Olczyk?  Bland at best.  Is there relief in sight?  Absolutely not.  Low ratings have led to retrenchment.

apathy

Ross A brought up something I mentioned back in January:

I also saw it [complacency] in the blogging world. The usually vibrant world of Sens news was quiet this year.

He goes on to note the state of various blogs and how the playoffs have breathed a tiny bit of life into WTYKY (which is really just Luke P writing more).  Another thing I’ve noticed is a decrease in The Silver Seven citing other bloggers, although that seems to boil down to who is writing the piece.

belleville sens

Back when Kurt Kleinendorst was brought back to coach the AHL team I didn’t mention that he signed a two-year deal; I wasn’t sure if Binghamton’s season would put that in jeopardy or not (I thought he did well with what he had, but I don’t make decisions for the org), but a Tweet from the Belleville Sens seems to indicate he’ll be around to finish out that contract (something that makes sense for the cash-strapped Sens anyway).

tort-face

I was not surprised Barry Trotz was unable to get the Washington Capitals into the third round, as he’s been unable to get any roster beyond that point [not pictured above: Trotz, but Torts is a wonderful poster boy for incomprehension].  It is amazing to so how far a good roster can carry a clueless coach (Randy Carlyle), but that roster needs to be truly superlative to overcome the inadequacies in charge of them.  I looked at the impact of coaching a year or so ago (something still poorly understood; my link in that piece to Nick Emptage’s article is broken, so one that works is above).

NWHL_Logo

I haven’t talked about the NWHL in awhile (which differs from the CWHL in that its players are paid).  The league has struggled with it’s second season, forcing its players to accept as massive 50% pay cut in order to remain solvent (bringing the $10,000 minimum salary down to a miserly $5,000).   The change does not bode well for the future and I have to wonder if any paid women’s league can survive without the active support of the NHL (ala the WNBA, which took 13 years to turn a profit).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

Roger-Neilson-White-Flag

There’s a lot to celebrate in the Sens moving on to the third round of the playoffs.  It hasn’t happened in 10 years, it’s been hard fought (both series’ could have gone the other way), and it’s been great watching an elite player like Erik Karlsson drag his team to unexpected heights.  Last night as I was watching Cody Ceci fumble around and enjoying the sight of Chris Neil stapled to the bench, I couldn’t help but temper my enthusiasm with some thoughts about what this run might mean going forward.

Roger Neilson and the 1982 Vancouver Canucks are pictured above.  For those who don’t know, the Canucks went on a miracle run to the Cup in ’82.  What was refreshing then is that people understood it was miraculous–maybe not quite as miraculous as it truly was (the franchise wouldn’t win another round until 10 years later), but there was an understanding that the run did not guarantee the Canucks would see something remotely similar for quite some time.  This level of awareness seems lacking among fans, management, and owners.  Fans feelings aren’t what’s relevant here, my concern is with the latter.  There’s no reason to doubt that Pierre Dorion see’s this run as validation for his various moves and decisions; it also serves as additional fuel for Eugene Melnyk to resist spending more on his team (McKeen‘s-own Craig Smith understands this as he RT’d my sentiments).

There are, of course, differences to what happened 35 years ago and now.  The ’82 Canucks were enormously fortunate in who they faced (the Kings knocked off the Gretzky-era Oilers in the Miracle on Manchester; Chicago knocked out previous Cup finalists Minnesota in the first round, etc)–they didn’t play a team with an above .500 record until the finals.  While the newly installed playoff system is the same as what Vancouver benefited from, the caliber of teams Ottawa has faced is better and the Senators are have a truly elite player in their lineup (you can argue between Richard Brodeur or Thomas Gradin for the Canucks, but none of those players hold a candle to Karlsson).  The difference Karlsson makes cannot be overemphasized (eg), as neither Boston or New York had an answer for him.  In many ways there is no answer for Karlsson, but he can’t play 60 minutes a night and the other 30 or so minutes he’s off are terrifying.  Ottawa’s victories certainly feed into Alex Novet‘s theory about a strong link game (ie, the team with the best player wins), but as I said in my response to that piece I don’t think it’s enough to hang your hat on yet.

I’m not going to predict their next series until we know who they are playing and despite the preceding I’d love nothing better than a run to the Cup for Ottawa–you never know how much longer you’ll have to wait for another one.

[A bit of trivia, incidentally, in looking back at the Canucks run: Sens assistant coach Marc Crawford was on that team; Dallas GM Jim Nill was as well; director of hockey ops Colin Campbell played; Czech national coach (and Pittsburgh coach) Ivan Hlinka was an important player; disastrous Atlanta head coach Curt Fraser played; Gradin is now a long-time Vancouver scout (as is Lars Lindgren).]

freeagent

The expansion Vegas Knights have finally pried KHL star Vadim Shipachyov (50-26-50-76) out of that league and into the NHL (I identified him way back in 2012).  It’s probably two or three years late to get him at his peak (he’s 30 years old), but it’s a worthwhile risk for the franchise.

grit

Grit–what is it good for?  (You might also say toughness, good-in-the-corners, character–whatever you prefer–the same meaning is intended–intangibles related to physicality.)  My long contention is that it’s irrelevant in this era and in a recent piece Stories By Numbers throws up his/her hands:

You go in, collect the data, and you find certain players are more gritty than others but the team already knows that. Now what? You don’t have access to grit scores for players on other teams. You know from existing research that grit is relatively stable and cannot easily be taught. I collect data on psychosocial dynamics for a living and I write reports on my findings as a key part of that process, and I have no idea what value a report on grit scores on a hockey team could possible have beyond satisfying personal interest

There’s a lot more information in the piece and I think it runs into problems by providing a definition for grit that no one would agree (GM’s really do mean a Steve Ott irritant when they discuss it).  While creating a definition is the only way to squeeze something out of it, it’s going to create confusion when the definition created does not match what’s commonly associated with it (what the article really seems to be exploring is perseverance and dedication, which isn’t what anyone would argue against–it’s pretty hard to become a pro athlete without that in spades).  The other issue I have is that only players with superlative talent can get away with a lack of dedication, and those players are so rare as to be statistically meaningless–this isn’t the 1970s when players could afford to be lazy–essentially every NHL player is in great shape and works hard on their game (they literally have no choice if they want to stay in the league).

Despite my disagreement the article is a fantastic and I highly recommend it.

randomness

Our lord and saviour Corey Pronman (in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti) has learned:

from 1990 and 2010, NHL teams were neither consistently good nor bad at drafting. Mostly just luck

It’s an interesting timeframe to assess given that the NHL underwent massive changes in how teams approached the draft (and thereby scouting).  I’m not drawn in by his conclusions since there are demonstrable differences in draft success depending on who is picking (something impossible if it was all luck).  For example, this statement would need to be true comprehensively if approaches weren’t relevant:

Jessop and Weissbock found that 19 of the 30 NHL teams would have fared better using the simplistic algorithm [forwards from the CHL leagues based solely on points in their first draft-eligible season] than by their actual selections

If it’s purely random, then no methodology alters results.  Granting that the general analysis is correct, we might conclude that NHL teams do a poor job understanding who the best scouts and GM’s are.  We see evidence of that in redundant tendencies like the continued preference for size.

Stats Sports Consulting (cited above) posted an interesting piece on scouting back in February and reading it I feel like they could have used more data (although I wholeheartedly empathize with how difficult it is to get hold of).  It’s well worth a read, coming to the conclusion I did years ago that scouting does have added predictive value, but that’s mitigated by the bias of particular teams.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

Senators News & Notes

Gnomes_plan

In case Sens fans worry that they have the only organisation that still embraces “good in the corners” guys despite contrary evidence, have no fear: the New York Rangers support Ludditism just as wholeheartedly as the Senators as Travis Yost demonstrates:

So goes the story of most rugged ‘defensive defencemen’ as they accumulate mileage on the body – they can’t move the puck or skate well, so they end up spending just about every shift trying to survive in the defensive zone. The Rangers have curiously kept Girardi playing big rotation minutes despite the red flags. Perhaps the Rangers don’t see those flags. Perhaps they feel that despite those issues, he’s still one of the best six options the team has. Perhaps they think he complements Ryan McDonagh’s game, and vice versa.

Much like South Park‘s underpants Gnomes, old school NHL GM’s and coaches operate under the following formula: acquire toughness + ? = profit.  Their hardheaded resistance to see things any other way continues to boggle the mind.

Ryan Lambert wrote a piece that makes some good general points about the Sens attendance (alas, he worships at the cult of Pronman for reasons that remain inexplicable–particularly when we recall Ryan’s comments from a couple of years ago):

you can safely say there’s plenty of evidence the team wants to do little more than than cynically point to the barest of successes and have local media say, “What else do you want from them?” while pocketing a few extra playoff games’ worth of gate and concessions revenues.

This is absolutely the case–the local media does give that message and Melnyk absolutely needs that gate money (it’s hard to believe that Yost’s work is already four years ago).

freeagent

A couple of signings to note: Chicago signed 22-year old European FA David Kampf (52-15-16-31) out of the Czech league; he didn’t make my FA list (or my 2014 draft list), but he was once a reasonably touted prospect (as per Central Scouting).  Also from the Czech league but not making my list is 23-year old Matej Machovksy (2.25 .925), whom Detroit signed (he sailed through the 2011 draft).

travisyost

Travis Yost’s seemingly dead Tumblr account has a piece from this summer that I thought I’d mentioned, but apparently did not.  In it he discusses the NHL’s terrible broadcasts.  Here are the key points for me:

It seems as though every 5-10 minute segment is chock full of cliche after cliche after cliche. I can’t think of the last time I genuinely learned something from a national broadcast … I, obviously, would prefer to be educated than entertained. But if you can give me the latter, no doubt I’m sticking around. The problem is that hasn’t ever been delivered either. … there are frustrating examples of really talented, really smart people being placed in secondary or tertiary roles … The other truly grating things on hockey broadcasts … is when completely junk analysis is passed off.

There’s no doubt that all of this is true.  I actually think Travis is being too kind–hockey broadcasts are worse now because fans understand just how dumb much of the “analysis” is.  I’ve watched more of this year’s playoffs than I have in years and it’s mindnumbing how poor most of the colour work and analysis is.  Most of the opinions offered on broadcasts are carbon copies of what was said thirty years ago–hockey has moved on, but the talking heads have not.  This really boils down to who does the hiring and manages talent on TV, because you could easily have a top-notch broadcast.

masterton

I don’t generally write about NHL awards, but I know many people get excited about them.  I noted that the Sens own Craig Anderson is a top contender for the Masterton Trophy as Alexander P breaks down the odds of who will win what.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

Senators News & Notes

There’s always a lot going on this time of year and news & thoughts start to pile up.  Before getting into the specific hockey stuff I thought I’d briefly go over something I see regularly (in hockey and other circumstances): confirmation bias.  I think the term is broadly familiar, but not the application (or, perhaps, the concept).  The dry-as-dust definition: “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses.”  So let’s take this (ignore who posted it, as I think David Johnson understands this concept–I’m interested in the reaction to it).  The link is related to Corsi as a predictor (CF% teams have not done well in the playoffs this year).  There are a lot of people (including Sens management) who are uncomfortable with analytics–it’s new, it’s math, it’s dominated by nerds, and it tends to dismiss old ways of thinking.  This makes people uncomfortable, and who wants to be uncomfortable?  A natural reaction is to reject the new information and look for any evidence that it’s wrong (cf classic Tortorella comments).  When you don’t like something–when new information makes you uncomfortable (or in the case of business, costs you money or threatens your job)–there’s a natural tendency to want to find reasons to dismiss it.

travisyost

Travis Yost picked the Sens to win in 7, saying the series is “brutally close; I have no reason to believe EDM/OTT are any better than ANA/NYR. But Best Skater Theory marches in” (this, I think, is partially in reference to the Alex Novet piece below).  I certainly hope he’s right, but I lean the other way.

negativeno

There was a lot of chatter about the attendance for game one against the Rangers. Nichols goes through all the nuance of why it’s not a sellout, but to me the main point is this one:

every effort should be made to exhaust ways to help the front office efficiently get the most out of its [limited] resources — which is where it feels that Melnyk’s playoff mandate does not work in concert with a long-term vision that brings a championship to the nation’s capital.

It does not, nor does his over reliance on old school thinkers like current management.

pierre dorion

Speaking of management, Nichols’ most recent stenographic expedition looked at recent comments from Pierre Dorion and what stood out to me is this:

The numbers express confirmation bias in that the organization strictly relishes or emphasize the numbers that they want to know or hear about

This is exactly right.  While Nichols tries to squeeze a positive in the Sens not just employing yes-men, having contrary opinions makes no difference if you are going to ignore them.

STATS

Ross A made me happy writing this about the Sens/Rangers stats:

some people might have wanted me to include such as blocked shots, faceoffs, and hits, but those haven’t shown any strong correlation to winning, so I found it a bit unnecessary to include them

Absolutely; including these stats, often thrown out by broadcasters, would be pandering.  Ross knows these numbers, while fun, are irrelevant, and rather than including them as if they matter, he excluded them–bravo.

Ross also linked Alex Novet‘s article from March where he attempts to demonstrate that hockey is a strong link game (more akin to basketball than soccer).  What is a strong link game?  Novet breaks it down as follows:

  • the team with the best player usually wins

  • Therefore, teams should prioritize acquiring the very best elite talent, even at the cost of having weaker depth than opponents

  • This is important for roster construction now and has the potential to become even more important as teams get better at assessing talent and market inefficiencies become less common

My gut, which isn’t involved in thinking processes at all, rejects the second point.  I like depth and I’m aware of teams that have failed due to a lack of it, but Novet is looking at and overall numbers and sometimes teams will buck a trend.  The stats he sampled are from 08/09-15/16, so for old warhorses like me I have to throw out impressions from the old days when considering it.  After going through these numbers, he concludes:

Getting the very best players is essential to success. Phrased this way, it sounds obvious. But the above shows that this is the case even at the cost of creating weaknesses elsewhere in the lineup. This has implications for many of the major decisions that general managers make.

Novet does admit a lot more work needs to be done to solidify his theory:

it would certainly benefit from attention from a real statistician. I have tried my best to be rigorous and transparent, but my statistics knowledge is limited and it is possible that this work is flawed. … more work on the effect size of roster imbalances would help define exactly how much the tradeoff for elite talent is worth. Second, Jack Han suggested splitting this work into offense and defense to see if the weak link / strong link distinction is clearer in one side of the game, and this sounds like a worthwhile investigation. In addition, it would be nice to find a compelling method for including goalies in this analysis. Finally, more work should be done to better understand the marginal cost of improving each part of the roster.

I agree wholeheartedly about the need for more work.  On the surface one elite player is not enough for a Cup; adjusting for position (forward/defense), adjusting for goaltending, and finally, determining if there’s gradations of depth (just how bad can it be before it goes beyond the pale of elite players to solve).  Regardless, it’s an interesting data set and not one I would have surmised (I always knew elite players were required, but assumed there was a baseline of depth needed).

prospects

I didn’t comment on this at the time, but let’s talk about the Sens signing Maxime Lajoie (5-133/16) and ask ourselves: why the rush? They’d just drafted the Swift Current Bronco, so they had two full years to make their decision, and because he’s from the CHL there’s no possibility of him jumping to Binghamton–so why? Is he a highly regarded prospect? No–while a universal pick from drafting sources, no one saw him as particularly remarkable (you can read my post-draft breakdown here). So why the rush? I can’t find any similar case outside of universally accepted top prospects for the Sens. It’s a puzzling decision–why not wait and see how he performs? Ottawa burns enough contracts on players who don’t pan out (like Vincent Dunn).  It’s a head-scratcher.

belleville sens

The Belleville Sens made their first roster move, signing 24-year old CIS grad and defenseman Jordan Murray to a two-year AHL deal.  Needless to say the CIS is not a common route for even AHL-players to be signed (and I have no idea why it’s a two-year deal).  The former QMJHL player (three seasons, the last with Drummondville, 64-13-43-56), finished with a career year for the University of New Brunswick (30-14-26-40).  He spent 5 games with Binghamton at the end of the season (5-1-1-2), which seems to have sealed the deal.  I have no idea what to expect from Murray–I have no issue with the Sens signing players from unusual leagues, but the commitment to him is strange, particularly given how many blueliners are already signed for next season.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens