Sens Sign Olle Alsing

The Sens have notoriously avoided signing free agents out of Europe going back to the days of Bryan Murray. Instead we had an endless stream of NCAA and CHL players, none of whom have ever panned out. Pierre Dorion finally took a shot in the dark and signed Swedish defenseman Ollie Alsing, so let’s take a look at him.

Olle Alsing, DOB 96, DL
2016-17 SHL 45-1-7-8 (0.17, 6th)
2017-18 SHL 51-7-14-21 (0.41, 2nd)
2018-19 SHL 49-4-11-15 (0.30, 3rd)

These aren’t overwhelming offensive numbers, but as a young player he’s been near the top of his team’s defensive production the last two seasons. So what did scouts think when he was available for the draft? Among the scouting sources I track only Hockey Prospects included a scouting profile for him in 2015 when he was eligible. Here’s what they said:

… a slight defenseman with quick feet that effectively starts up plays from the back end, often before the opponents have the time to shut down his best option or put pressure on him. He has decent puck skills, his head up and he immediately recognizes the best passing lane available. When no good one is available straight away, he has the notable capability of waiting an extra split second for a lane to open up. He takes some risks, but overall his passing game is excellent and certainly his main strength. He doesn’t mind joining the play in the offensive zone, but doesn’t possess great acceleration to make up for it when he gets caught.

… Olle doesn’t look intimidated by bigger opponents, but inevitably his size [5’11] somewhat limits his defensive efficiency. How he would fare against the most talented forwards in the top Swedish league is a question mark, and he certainly will have to bulk up to increase his chances to succeed at the next level.

We can boil this down to: decent puck skills, a good passer, solid defensively, but concerns about his board/body play.

It’s notoriously difficult to project European production to North America (you can find plenty of people who do, but the averages tend to fail miserably when applied to individuals), but nothing screams out at me to say he’s going to be particularly productive–his numbers are similar to Christian Jaros, but they are very different players so I’m not sure how far you can take that. He’s almost certainly going to be an effective AHL player, but fans will want to know about the next level. I think the ceiling is pretty limited here–he’d be a very safe, depth defenseman, although there’s no harm in hoping for more. Nichols has an article looking at the signing as well (paywall), as does Ross A, whose prediction that lumbering dud Andreas Englund will be resigned is, I hope, some sort of fever dream.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

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Prospect Signings and Overview of Current Prospects

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Since signing Max Veronneau the Sens have added two more players–one expected, the other a surprise. We’ll start with the former.

Joey Daccord (G, DOB 96)
2016-17 .892
2017-18 .909
2018-19 .926
The Arizona State ‘tender spent his first couple of seasons getting his head kicked in with an awful team in front of him, but everything turned around this year. He wasn’t ranked by anyone other than Central Scouting when drafted, but his father is a well-known goalie coach who played in Europe and the org loves bloodlines (as well as Joey’s smarts and hands). So why sign him? After Marcus Hogberg‘s strong sophomore season (and Filip Gustavsson‘s rookie struggles), there’s room in Belleville for another prospect. I expect Daccord to push the young Swede for playing time and, if necessary, mind the net in Brampton.

Johnny Gruden (LW, DOB 00)
2017-18 25-15-19-34
2018-19 38-3-12-15
He was picked slightly after projections, but digging into the scouting material there were a lot of red flags for me. I have no idea what the urgency in signing him now was, as his numbers in the NCAA are unremarkable. I hope Colin’s idea that this is a way for him to jump to the OHL is right, rather than seeing him getting his head kicked in as a pro.

Prospects in the System

This only lists players who have not played a season in the NHL/AHL (those in green are signed; scoring rank is via points-per-game, with defensemen compared to defensemen); they are listed by draft date/FA sign date.

Miles Gendron DL (3-70/14) NCAA 30-3-4-7 (0.23; 2nd) signed AHL-deal
Filip Ahl W (4-109/15) Allsvenskan 42-11-9-20 (0.47; 5th)
Joey Daccord G (7-199/15) NCAA .926 2.35 signed ELC
Todd Burgess C/RW (4-103/16) NCAA 36-7-9-16 (0.44; 6th)
Markus Nurmi W (6-163/16) Liiga 60-1-11-12 (0.20; 23rd)
Alex Formenton LW (2-47/17) OHL 31-13-21-34 (1.09; t-4th) signed ELC
Jordan Hollett G (6-183/17) WHL .895 3.50
Parker Kelly C/RW (FA 17) WHL 64-35-32-67 (1.04; 5th) signed ELC
Jacob Bernard-Docker DR (1-26/18) NCAA 36-5-12-17 (0.47; 2nd)
Jonny Tychonick DL (2-48/18) NCAA 28-0-4-4 (0.14; 6th)
Johnny Gruden LW (4-95/18) NCAA 38-3-12-15 (0.39; 7th) signed ELC
Angus Crookshank LW (5-126/18) NCAA 36-10-13-23 (0.64; 5th)
Kevin Mandolese G (6-157/18) QMJHL .895 2.87
Jakov Novak C/LW (7-188/18) NCAA 37-7-8-15 (0.40; 8th)
Luke Loheit RW (7-194/18) BCHL 43-8-16-24 (0.55; 9th)
Josh Norris C (T-SJ 1-19/17) NCAA 17-10-9-19 (1.11; 1st)
Jonathan Davidsson RW (T-CLB 6-170/17) SHL 37-10-11-21 (0.57; 6th) ELC via CLB
Max Veronneau RW (FA 19) NCAA 31-13-24-37 (1.19; 2nd) signed ELC

The Clock is Ticking

Filip Ahl is the last man standing from the 2015 draft, but after yet another disappointing season in the Allsvenskan I expect the power forward to be let go
Jordan Hollett the WHL ‘tender has flatlined, unable to reach the middling numbers of his draft year–he too will be let go

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One of the least surprising things in the off-season has been the org’s stated desire to bring back perennial dud Cody Ceci–the guy they could have traded straight up for Taylor Hall (something which continues to boggle the mind). I want to go through Chris Stevenson’s article (link with a paywall) just to point out how silly the defense of him is which Stevenson offers:
1. He eats up tough minutes
All this requires is the coach to say “get out there champ,” meaning you, me, or your grandfather could also skate around during those tough minutes. That aside, what the org means is they feel like he’s effective playing these minutes, but we know from analytics that he’s not
2. An unnamed director of player personnel said he’s a 4-6 “with a good partner”
If I were Stevenson, I’d want to know what they thought he was with an average partner–Tom Preissing looked good when protected by a good partner, so that qualifying tag isn’t saying Ceci is good even as a bottom-end blueliner without assistance
3. He’s never had gifted partners
I think this reflects Stevenson’s lack of comfort with analytics, because Ceci‘s horrendous reputation takes into account the performance of his partners–this isn’t a deliberate obfuscation on Stevenson’s part, it’s simply ignorance (not in the pejorative sense, I mean he literally doesn’t know)
4. He needs to be re-signed to meet the cap floor
Actually, the team could sign a good player to meet the floor, so retaining Ceci is irrelevant in this respect

None of these are actually arguments that show Ceci is a good player. The org says he is, but just saying something doesn’t make it so. I’m not picking on Stevenson here–most reporters his age (and older) aren’t comfortable with analytics and lean on opinions from NHL people and the various cliches about hockey they grew up with, but that doesn’t excuse the laughable reasoning he includes here.

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I don’t typically write about the odds, but I know people get excited about them (The Hockey News etc do this sort of thing before every season). SBD gives the Sens 33% chance of climbing out of the bottom five of the NHL next season (which seems oddly generous to me, barring further roster changes and without knowing who the next head coach is).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

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)

Max Veronneau (and other recent FA Signings)

There was a time, years ago, where I would have been excited about the Sens signing a college free agent, but given the org’s long history of failure with NCAA (from John Muckler through Byran Murray to Pierre Dorion) it’s hard to get excited. There was a time when these players were at least top AHL-talent, but even that assessment has become iffy under Dorion’s regime. With that said, let’s take a look at Max Veronneau.

Max Veronneau (RW, DOB 95)
15-16 30-11-6-17 (0.56) 2nd team scoring
16-17 33-11-24-35 (1.06) 1st
17-18 36-17-38-55 (1.52) 1st
18-19 31-13-24-37 (1.19) 2nd

The local boy (Dorion’s favourite) spent his entire career playing with Ryan Kuffner (signed by Detroit) and their numbers are extremely close, with the younger Kuffner being ever so slightly better (1.15 over his career vs 1.11). This means we have to ask the question of how much Veronneau benefited from his teammate. Unlike most college FA’s there are no scouting reports from when he was draft-eligible, so we only have the historical record to go by which (for NCAA free agents) is not particularly encouraging. The odds of him being a significant contributor are very small, so the optimistic appraisal is that he becomes a useful bottom-six forward.

There were two other BSens related signings I wanted to quickly go through.

Miles Gendron (3-70/14, DL, DOB 96)
17-18 33-1-8-9 (0.27)
18-19 30-3-4-7 (0.23)

The career 0.26 NCAA performer was picked a bit early at the time and his production and performance since has not changed (keeping in mind he was selected to be an offensive defenseman)–he was an unremarkable player in the BCHL and just as unremarkable in the NCAA. He’s been signed to an AHL contract and barring a miracle will disappear into the ECHL next season.

Chris Clapperton (5-122/13 Flo, LW, DOB 94)
17-18 23-16-17-33 (1.43) 1st
18-19 30-14-33-47 (1.56) 1st

Another player from the Canadian University system and another smaller player (5’9); signed to an ATO he’s a safe risk and I’m happy with this kind of signing. Unlike Veronneau there are scouting reports on him from 2012 and 2013. Here’s what Hockey Prospects said in his draft year:

He’s a hard worker and doesn’t shy away from the physical game and will go in the tough areas of the ice. Solid in all three zones and he’s a smart player that doesn’t put his team in trouble. His smarts help him get open for goals as he follows the play really well and finds soft ice easily. Like last season, his skating will hurt him come draft day, he has quick feet but lacks high end speed, something you like to see from a small player. His offensive game would be limited at the next level as he doesn’t have big strengths: his skill set is pretty average, lacking size and high end speed, he doesn’t possess a particularly lethal shot, his passing game is simple and effective but again just average.

At the University level Clapperton had no problem producing, but whether he can carry that over in the AHL remains to be seen.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Sens at the Trade Deadline

I went over the Duchene trade right after it happened, but the dealing wasn’t done and I wanted review the rest of what Pierre Dorion accomplished. We’ll go from the smallest to largest trades:

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Patrick Sieloff (AHL 45-1-8-9) to Anaheim for Brian Gibbons (NHL 44-2-3-5)

Spare part for spare part, but Sieloff (acquired from Calgary in the Chiasson trade) is a dead end player–probably best known for essentially ending Clarke MacArthur’s career. He peaked as a prospect with the Flames; a solid PKer with no offensive abilities and term left on his deal (I mentioned in the off-season that re-signing him was a mistake). In Gibbons the Sens acquired an undrafted, 31-year old college grad whose performance has been in decline for quite some time–a spare part the team isn’t committed too.

Assessment: It’s a good move–there’s simply no room for Sieloff on the BSens roster, so keeping him would be pointless.

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Ryan Dzingel (57-22-22-44) and a 2019 7th to Columbus for Anthony Duclair (53-11-8-19) and two 2nds (2020, 2021)

I was surprised how happy most Sens fans were waiving goodbye to Dzingel; Nichols broke down the stats for Dzingel, but not Duclair in his analysis, which was disappointing (you can find that info here). The consensus seems to be that Dzingel has been benefiting from linemates and a high shooting percentage, and that, even if Duclair (whose rights the Sens control at season’s end) bombs out, they have two picks to play with.

Assessment: Duclair does not replace Dzingel, so despite the latter’s expiring contract the trade boils down to the picks. We have a limited track record for Dorion’s 2nd-rounders: his first (Gabriel Gagne) was an expensive bust, the second (Jonathan Dahlen) was traded away for Alex Burrows–since then there’s been a declining perception of his potential. Fans are happy with Alex Formenton (concerns about his offensive potential remain), but it’s far too early to judge Jonny Tychonick. It’s safe to say none of the first three players is Dzingel’s equivalent, although one can certainly hope for Tychonick. If either future pick turns out to be a good player, this is a win–if not, the trade isn’t terrible since Dzingel is a rental, but it’s still not value-for-value.

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Mark Stone (59-28-34-62) and Tobias Lindberg (AHL 44-5-7-12) to Las Vegas for Erik Brannstrom (AHL 41-7-21-28), Oscar Lindberg (35-4-8-12), and Dallas’ 2020 2nd-rounder.

There’s no question Vegas got the best player, although they need to re-sign him to get the most out of the trade. Lindberg is an unremarkable player on an expiring contract, so it’s really down to the pick (see above for Dorion’s 2nds) and Brannstrom. The Swede (1-15/17) was highly touted going into his draft, but concerns about his size pinned him to the middle of the first round. The question that is yet unanswered is what his offensive potential will be at the NHL-level

Assessment: If Brannstrom is as Pronman suggests (the link)–an all-around top-four blueliner–that’s a very weak return for a player like Mark Stone. The Sens really need to maximize the pick as well as get a lot from Brannstrom to make this trade tolerable.

One of the most interesting things to me from the slate of recent moves is that Dorion has acquired a lot of smaller players. I applaud the change, as the Sens have notoriously overvalued bigger players. With that said, let’s combine the various component parts of all these deals:

In
Erik Brannstrom (1-15/17; ELC, AHL)
Vitali Abramov (3-65/16; ELC, AHL)
Jonathan Davidsson (6-170/17; ELC, SHL)
Anthony Duclair (3-80/13; upcoming RFA)
Oscar Lindberg (27; expiring contract)
Brian Gibbons (31; expiring contract)
Picks
1st – 2019 (Clb)*
2nd – 2020 (Clb, Dal), 2021 (Clb)

Out
Julius Bergman (23, expiring contract)
Tobias Lindberg (23, expiring contract)
Patrick Sieloff (24, signed for 19/20)
Mark Stone (26, expiring contract)
Ryan Dzingel (26, expiring contract)
Matt Duchene (28, expiring contract)
Picks
7th (2019)

*There are a billion conditions on this one, but this is the most likely result

The Sens have collected a lot of assets–three prospects and a young player whose rights they control, along with four high (but not top) picks. Abstractly this would be great, but they are losing two first-line forwards along with a player who has at least produced in the top-six. There’s nothing on their plate that replaces that nor are their picks so high that you can be sure such replacements are coming. Could the org package some of these picks to move up, like they did for Gabriel Gagne or Matt Puempel? Of course, but from those examples we can see that there are no guarantees.

I said on trade day that I thought Dorion lost all three trades–I may have been a little harsh–but on the scale of quality vs quality, all are absolutely losses in the short term and the odds suggest that the Sens will never get equal value back in the long term either. It’s admittedly not that simple–the Sens painted themselves into a corner with three players who were going to walk, so given the circumstances it’s not a terrible return. However, this position–top players on expiring contracts who will walk–is the scenario Dorion put himself in. The Melnykian budget isn’t new or a surprise; the scenario of the Sens bottoming out and needing a rebuild was foreseen by some of us long ago. In essence, the org is the one who put a gun to its head. It all boils down to Dorion habitually overvaluing the talent on hand (along with some fundamental misunderstandings of the modern game).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

 

You Deserve Better

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Two days ago Ian Mendes said something that I’ve been saying about the local press since I started blogging, “As a broadcasting partner, we’re doing them a disservice by enabling them” (in the thread a fan said Mendes told him off for echoing this two years ago, but even if it took Ian a long time to come to this realization I welcome him). While the slant above is different, Mendes’ made a similar statement just six months ago when he told fans “You deserve better,” but I don’t think that comment resonated as much then and I think the reason for that is the hardcore fans are only now just waking up to the fact to how incompetent the org is (admittedly Dave still wants to put all the blame on the ownership). One of the key problems is summed up by Nichols when he says that the org has never accepted responsibility for its mistakes, instead blaming the fans and media. This echoes another of my common refrains–Randy Lee might have been the most overt “It’s everyone else’s fault!” guy in the org.

It’s not difficult to either obfuscate the situation or simply look at it and draw the wrong conclusion–Flat Earthers never quite see the curve on the horizon. For Varada, everything looks pretty flat to him:

“Teams that are lucky enough to draft good players, and lucky enough to develop them into good players, and lucky enough to still have them on their roster in their prime do not typically trade those players unless it’s for other players with the same or higher potential.”

It would not surprise me if the org shares this belief, but the idea that luck is the only factor when it comes to drafting and developing is simply nonsense (entering Milkman territory)–the same applies to GMs peddling away assets. ‘Luck’ is how you abdicate responsibility–suddenly Fate is dictating events rather than the human decisions behind them. Funnily enough, even though Varada gives the org a free pass for their many painful mistakes, he still arrives at the conclusion across the fanbase that things are as bad as they’ve ever been.

I want to give Chris Stevenson credit for having a better grasp of the big picture than Pierre Dorion when he says he’d rather Drake Batherson and Logan Brown remain in Belleville to help that team play meaningful games. This would have been the perfect time for the org to call-up players with no future like Adam Tambellini or Darren Archibald–leaving the excellent prospects to reward the fans in Belleville.

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So what do I think about the trade? Pierre Dorion has a horrendous track record when it comes to trades (something acknowledged here by including Julius Bergman as part of it–an asset he’d just acquired in the disastrous Mike Hoffman deal who spent his time in Belleville in Troy Mann’s dog house), but we have to judge each trade by its own particulars.

To Columbus
Matt Duchene (expiring contract, 49-27-31-58)
Julius Bergman (expiring contract, 33-0-6-6)

Duchene is in the midst of a career year undoubtedly boosted by having Mark Stone on the team; he was never going to re-sign with Ottawa because he wants to play on a contender, so moving him was inevitable. Bergman is in the midst of a career worst season in the AHL, granted that he’s been given no opportunity with Belleville.

To Ottawa
Conditional 2019 1st-round pick (if it’s a top-three pick it reverts to Columbus); conditional 2020 1st-round pick (triggers if Duchene re-signs a long-term extension); if the 2019 pick is protected, but Duchene re-signs, Ottawa gets a 2021 1st-rounder
Vitali Abramov (3-65/16 rookie ELC AHL 52-12-10-22)
Jonathan Davidsson (6-170/17 ELC SHL 35-10-10-20)

Both tangible assets are prospects, so what are the Sens getting? Abramov was projected as a late first-rounder, but size pushed him down to the third-round; overager Davidsson was not projected to be picked in his draft. What did scouts have to say about them?

Abramov is smaller than the org usually likes (5’9), although we’ve seen a gradual shift away from the “Big is Better” philosophy with the FA signings of Aaron Luchuk and Andrew Sturtz. He was highly touted in his draft year, with the emphasis on his offensive production. The concerns were the usual ones for offensive and smaller players: he needed to work on his defensive play and to bulk up. So what about the context of his rookie season? He played on the offensively challenged Cleveland Monsters (lead by former NHLer Nathan Gerbe), where he was eighth among forwards in scoring. The Monsters are a bad team that has continually struggled offensively under coach John Madden (who has yet to make the playoffs in three seasons). I doubt Abramov was receiving a ton of ice time, but with that said his numbers are simply average for a player of his pedigree as a rookie–we have to lean on the scouting reports until we’ve seen him in action for awhile.

I only have one scouting report on Davidsson (from Hockey Prospects), who landed on their radar after a good rookie season in the SHL and participating in the U20 camp that year. They thought he was a pass-first, offensively focused player who makes good decisions, but who needed work on his defensive play, was weak in one-on-one battles, and whose production was a bit lower than expected for the kind of player he is. Davidsson was signed, but loaned back to Djurgardens where he’s essentially at the same pace as his previous season; he’s sixth among forwards in scoring, with Djurgardens generally struggling to score. There’s nothing currently that suggests Davidsson has outgrown the general scouting sentiment when he was picked and he’s a long shot to develop into a productive NHL-player.

In the end this trade is about the picks (likely just one pick this year) and Abramov. Ottawa needs one of those assets to be a very good player or else they haven’t maximized their asset–the price to acquire Duchene in the first place (possibly the first pick overall) can never be fully recouped, but they need something important in the pipeline to avoid it being an unmitigated disaster.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville Senators: December Review

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Another month is in the books for the Belleville Senators and, as I’ve done all year, let’s look back and see how the team performed (for November’s dossier, go here).

Roster Volatility

If there’s one thing the org loves it’s excuses and this is especially at the AHL-level. The refrain is always in regards to players not being available (due to injury or having been called up), so let’s deal with that first. Drake Batherson was unexpectedly returned from the NHL towards the end of the month, but it’s not a demotion I expect to last. Nick Paul inexplicably spent almost the entire month in Ottawa (I guess why not?). Also seeing NHL time was org-darling Erik Burgdoerfer, along with Paul CareyJack RodewaldStefan Elliott, Marcus Hogberg, and Christian Wolanin. Coming back to Belleville was Binghamton fan-favourite Max McCormick–another org darling who received a one-way deal because he was ‘good in the corners/room.’ Unfortunately for Max, he wasn’t good anywhere else at the NHL-level, and I’ll give Dorion credit for finally biting the bullet and sending him back where he belongs (the AHL, that is).

On the injury front Jim O’Brien remains out, as does Mike Condon. Otherwise no one missed the entire month, but Filip Chlapik has been out for quite some time (three weeks now). Also missing time were CareyAaron LuchukRodewaldAndrew SturtzJulius BergmanJordan MurrayPatrick Sieloff, and Wolanin.

As for demotions/promotions from the ECHL, the aforementioned Luchuk got the call and remains in Belleville; Daniel Ciampini, Jonathan Racine, and Francois Beauchemin were demoted; FA duds Ryan Scarfo and Macoy Erkamps were traded away while still in Brampton.

Speaking of trades, the Sens dealt Ben Sexton away and in return received Elliott and former BSen Tobias Lindberg. They also signed hulking non-entity Justin Auger to a PTO and before being returned he established that yes, there is a pro with worse skating than Logan Brown. Former BSen Chris Carlisle was also brought up under similar circumstances. The trade that brought in Darren Archibald occurred in January so won’t be discussed here (this also applies to the PTO-signing of Alex Breton).

Stats

The Team (November shown in red, differential in blue)

6-7-0 (6th division, 12th conference) 5-6-1 dropped from t-4th and 11th respectively
GF 38/2.92 (10th conference) 39/3.25 -0.33 dropped from 7th
GA 39/3.00 (12th conference) 47/3.91 +0.91 dropped from t-10th
PP 9-50/18.0% (11th conference) 10-57/17.5% +0.5% dropped from 9th
PK 35-47/74.4% (13th conference) 52-68/76.4% -2.0% dropped from 12th
Shots 24.3 -2.9
Shot Differential 5.1 -5.5

The song remains the same for Mann’s squad, as seemingly no matter what happens to the roster or what the coach does, they slowly drift down in the standings and in comparative indicators. The horrendous GAA improved, largely due to Hogberg‘s return; the GF dropped below 3.00 for the first time this season, while their powerplay remained roughly even with November (but far lower than October). The PK continues to slide, while Shots and Shot Differential also dropped–the former being particularly alarming (Batherson‘s timely return helped both it and GF before the month was out).

Players

(Arranged by points-per-game; rookies in green, ELCs in blue, AHL-contracts in italics, NHL-deals in red)

Carey 9-3-8-11 1.22 PPP 5
Rodewald 8-4-5-9 1.12 PPP 3
Balcers 13-7-6-13 1.00 PPP 5
Batherson 6-1-4-5 0.83 PPP 1
McCormick 6-2-3-5 0.83 PPP 2
Wolainin 8-1-5-6 0.75 PPP 2
Percy 13-1-7-8 0.61 PPP 3
Brown 13-2-5-7 0.54 PPP 1
Chlapik 4-1-1-2 0.50
Elliott 8-1-3-4 0.50 PPP 2
Tambellini 13-1-4-5 0.38 PPP 2
Lindberg 8-2-1-3 0.37
Sturtz 6-1-1-2 0.33
Murray 3-1-0-1 0.33 PPP 1

Carlisle
3-0-1-1 0.33
Sieloff 10-0-3-3 0.30
Gagne
11-1-2-3 0.27
Luchuk 8-2-0-2 0.25
Leier 8-1-1-2 0.25
Burgdoerfer 8-1-1-2 0.25
Englund 13-1-2-3 0.23
Ciampini 5-1-0-1 0.20
LaBate 13-2-0-2 0.15
Balisy 13-1-1-2 0.15
Paul 1-0-0-0 0.00
Sexton 1-0-0-0 0.00
Auger 2-0-0-0 0.00
Bergman 5-0-0-0 0.00
Racine 5-0-0-0 0.00
Beauchemin 7-0-0-0 0.00
O’Brien Injured

Gustavsson 4-3-0 89.76 3.14
Hogberg 2-4-0 91.46 2.38
Paterson Did Not Play

Player Usage

We’ll separate forwards from defensemen. For the first time all season Mann has done some limited juggling (both at forward and on defense)–it’s very specific and I’ll get into it where applicable.

Forwards

(Notations in brackets are when the player was on a different line than assigned when they registered the point)

First Line (8 goals, including empty-netter)
Carey (8-9) Goal, 2 Assists (goal)
Balcers (6-13) Goal, 2 Assists
Tambellini (6-13) Goal
Brown (5-13) Goal
Chlapik (4-4) Goal, Assist
Balisy (4-13)
Batherson (3-6) Goal, Assist
Rodewald (3-8) 2 Assists

This line, no matter who is on it, has produced roughly the same amount of goals each month (7, 8, 8), but given the number of games played this represents a decline (0.70, 0.66, 0.61). A couple of things should spring out at you immediately: why weren’t Balcers and Batherson stapled to the top line (Mann’s quirk with the latter is something I called out last time)? Yes, Carey also plays the left side, but he can play center. Secondly, what is Chase Balisy doing anywhere near a scoring line? He received the more TOI this month than any other and produced his worst results–he cannot center a line that needs to score. I’ll note that I said in my November review that Balcers numbers would rebound, and they have.

Second Line (10 goals)
Balcers (7-13) 3 Goals, 2 Assists
Brown (7-13) Goal, 4 Assists
Tambellini (5-13) 2 Assists
Luchuk (4-8)
Batherson (3-6) 2 Assists
Rodewald (3-8) Goal, 2 Assists
Balisy (3-13)
McCormick (2-6) Goal, Assist
Carey (1-9) Goal, Assist
Paul (1-1) Assist
Leier (1-8)
Lindberg (1-8)
Sturtz (1-6)

Production from this line has been steadily improving (4, 8, 10; 0.40, 0.66, 0.77), but this is largely a product of putting first-line players on the second-line. What stands out are the players that don’t belong here: Balisy, Luchuk, Leier–the first and third have no business in the top-six, while the rookie isn’t ready for prime time yet.

Third Line (4 goals)
LaBate (7-13) Goal
Balisy (6-13) Assist
Gagne (5-11) Assist
Luchuk (3-8) 2 Goals
McCormick (3-6) Assist
Sturtz (2-6) Assist
Tambellini (2-13)
Rodewald (2-8)
Leier (2-8)
Brown (1-13)
Ciampini (1-5)
Auger (1-2)
Sexton (1-1)

An ineffective line all season (3, 5, 4; 0.30, 0.41, 0.31). I have no idea why LaBate plays so much here–we can argue all day about the other things he brings to the game, but he’s sitting at a miserly 0.17 points-per-game–that’s a player who should worry about being scratched, not centering the third line. I brought up this issue last month as well, but Mann’s affection for him is a hard thing to overcome. With the two centers for the line being ice cold (Balisy is the other) there’s no surprise that no one, other than Luchuk, accomplished anything here.

Fourth Line (3 goals)
Beauchemin (7-7)
Gagne (6-11) Assist (Goal)
LaBate (6-13) Goal
Leier (5-8) Assist
Lindberg (4-8) Goal
Ciampini (4-5) Goal
Sturtz (3-6)
McCormick (1-6)
Luchuk (1-8)
Auger (1-2)

Not much is expected offensively from a fourth line and that’s what’s been delivered (4, 2, 3; 0.40, 0.16, 0.23). Beauchemin played himself out of the line–his early season production does indeed seem to have been a fluke. It’s a strange assortment of players being put here–a mix of those with some talent and those with none. This should be the place for Mann to dump his checkers, but he can’t bring himself to do so consistently.

I referenced the line juggling above: this didn’t occur very often with the forwards, but especially as the month progressed players like Lindberg would sometimes barely play–some time on the PP, but not much else–with that spot on the roster taken by someone like McCormick or what have you.

(There’s a penalty shot goal from Rodewald not included above, as well as three other goals whose forward groups were a complete mishmash of players that couldn’t be reduced to a line–these are goals by Lindberg during a 4-on-4, and Sturtz and Leier during some rare juggling by Mann)

Defense

(Notes in brackets are points when not on the ice with the usual partner for that game; this doesn’t include OT goals)

Top-pairing (13 goals)
Burgdoerfer (9-9) Goal, Assist
Wolanin (8-8) 4 Assists
Sieloff (6-10) Assist
Percy (1-13)
Carlisle (1-3) Assist
Racine (1-5)

The production from the first unit was similar to November (16), with a slight drop due to the absence of Wolanin for part of the month (despite missing games he still easily lead players in production). I want to point out that neither Racine nor Carlisle played consistently on the top-unit when they appeared here and that’s a positive (they shouldn’t be exposed that way regardless).

Second-pairing (9 goals)
Elliott (8-8) Goal, Assist
Percy (7-13) Goal, 2 Assists
Englund (7-13)
Murray (2-3)
Sieloff (1-10)
Racine (1-5)

This is also consistent production vs November (8). Percy enjoyed a very productive month and did so playing his usual minutes (all that production came alongside either Elliott or Sieloff). Why Englund is here is hard to fathom, but it is worth noting that for the first time this season Mann would slide the big Swede down to third-pairing minutes, especially if the team needed offense. This is a welcome change. I don’t think I need to say anything about Racine being placed here–the point is obvious.

Third-pairing (6 goals)
Bergman (6-6)
Englund (6-13) 2 Assists (Goal)
Percy (5-13) 2 Assists
Sieloff (3-10) Assist
Racine (3-5)
Carlisle (2-3)
Murray (1-3)

This is a significant bump in production, but much of that is due to the prolonged amount of time Percy spent as part of this unit. I keep waiting for Englund‘s offensive ‘explosion’ to simmer down–regress to the mean–but at least for two months he’s clicking along at a pace that’s good for what he does.

I touched on the line juggling above, but to reiterate: regardless of the combinations Mann leans heavily on core players for minutes–PercyElliottSieloffBurgdoerfer, and Wolanin. Other defensemen will lose shifts depending on the situation. This kind of flexibility was not apparent earlier in the year and, to some extent at least, is a welcome change.

Goaltending

After a disastrous November where Gustavsson struggled with the starting role, Hogberg returned from injury and brought relief. While the younger Swede finished with a better winning record, there’s no question that Hogberg was the superior goaltender. Both were pulled once, but this is the most consistent we’ve seen Hogberg since he came to North America. It seems unlikely that he’ll maintain such a solid save percentage with the anemic defense in front of him, but as long as it doesn’t fall too much we can consider his season a success. As for Gustavsson, he seems to have recovered his confidence and I expect his numbers to continue to improve. All things considered, the BSens struggles are not a result of goaltending in December.

Special Teams – The Powerplay

Despite a great deal of tinkering, particularly on the second unit, the overall numbers remained about even (ie, near the bottom of the league). As I pointed out last timeBatherson‘s presence makes all the difference (6-28, 21.4% with him in the lineup, and 3-22, 13.6% without, which is just as anemic as in November in the same circumstance). I don’t know why a talented player like Sturtz doesn’t get more opportunities, but Mann is clearly out of patience with Gagne. Here are the raw scoring numbers:

Carey, Balcers 5
Rodewald, Percy 3
Wolanin, McCormick, Tambellini, Elliott 2
Batherson, Brown, Murray 1

Here’s the scoring by specific units (shift count included; arranged by goals/effectiveness):

1st: Carey-Brown-Rodewald/Percy-Balcers 3-5
2nd: Carey-Luchuk-Rodewald/Percy-Tambellini 1-2
2nd: Tambellini-Luchuk-McCormick/Rodewald-Elliott 1-3
2nd: McCormick-Luchuk-Tambellini/Percy-Elliott 1-4
1st: Balcers-Brown-Carey/Wolanin-Batherson 2-10
1st: Balcers-Brown-Batherson/Percy-Wolanin 1-6
1st: Carey-Balisy-Brown/Balcers-Wolanin 0-9
1st: Balcers-Paul-Rodewald/Percy-Carey 0-5
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Brown/Chlapik-Bergman 0-4
2nd: Tambellini-Luchuk-Rodewald/Percy-Elliott 0-4
1st: McCormick-Brown-Batherson/Balcers-Wolanin 0-3
2nd: Lindberg-Luchuk-Tambellini/Percy-Carlisle 0-3
2nd: Auger-Luchuk-Lindberg/Percy-Tambellini 0-3
1st: Balcers-Balisy-Auger/Brown-Wolanin 0-2
1st: Balcers-Brown-Batherson/Percy-Tambellini 0-2
2nd: McCormick-Balisy-Tambellini/Murray-Elliott 0-2
2nd: Lindberg-Luchuk-Gagne/Percy-Tambellini 0-2
2nd: McCormick-Lindberg-Sturtz/Murray-Bergman 0-2
1st: Balcers-Balisy-Tambellini/Brown-Wolanin 0-1
1st: Balcers-Luchuk-Brown/Percy-Wolanin 0-1
2nd: McCormick-Lindberg-Sturtz/Murray-Elliott 0-1
2nd: Carey-Luchuk-Rodewald/Burgdoerfer-Elliott 0-1
2nd: Carey-Luchuk-Rodewald/Tambellini-Elliott 0-1
2nd: Rodewald-Lindberg-Sturtz/Percy-Elliott 0-1
2nd: Carey-Balisy-Leier/Tambellini-Wolanin 0-1
2nd: Auger-Luchuk-Gagne/Lindberg-Tambellini 0-1
2nd: Tambellini-Balisy-Gagne/Elliott-Bergman 0-1
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Brown/Chlapik-Murray  0-1

Just like in November (but unlike October), it’s a bewildering number of combinations, albeit much more confined to tinkering with the second unit. What about individual performance irrespective of line? Here are their percentages via per-shift (increases/decreases noted in either red or blue where applicable; bracketed are first/second unit shifts):

Burgdoerfer 1-1 100% (0/1)*
Rodewald 5-22 22.7% (10/12) +15.3%
Murray 1-6 16.6% (0/6)* +11.4%
Percy 6-38 15.8% (19/19) +2.0%
Carey 5-34 14.7% (29/5) +4.5%
Batherson 3-21 14.3% (21/0) -0.7%
Balcers 6-44 13.6% (44/0) +5.5%
Brown 6-44 13.6% (39/5) +7.2%
McCormick 2-15 13.3% (3/12)
Luchuk 3-25 12.0% (1/24)
Elliott 2-18 11.1% (0/18)
Wolanin 3-33 9.1% (32/1) -1.3%
Tambellini 2-35 5.7% (3/32) -12.0%
Carlisle 0-3 (0/3)
Sturtz 0-4 (0/4)
Gagne 0-4 (0/4) -22.2%
Paul 0-5 (4/1) -6.0%
Sexton 0-5 (1/4) -11.3%
Chlapik 0-5 (0/5) -9.6%
Auger 0-6 (2/4)
Bergman 0-7 (0/7)
Lindberg 0-13 (0/13)
Balisy 0-16 (12/4) -4.7%
*Both players on-ice success came during player changes, so not part of their assigned lines

Sample size plays a large role in many of these numbers, but it’s also due to how few penalties the team draws (they’ve dropped from 4.75 powerplays-per-game in November to 3.84). Other things that stand out: what’s Auger doing on the powerplay (much lest the first unit)? Why was Balisy on the first unit at all? And let’s keep McCormick off the top line–the devastation he caused last year in that position is still a painful memory. While the second unit is never going to score as much as the first, I think the constant meddling makes it almost impossible for there to be any kind of consistency–I’d rather Mann use set lines and stick with them for awhile.

Special Teams – The Penalty Kill

Down down down goes the penalty kill–80.4%, 76.4%, to 74.4%. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: special teams are where a coach makes the most impact and this isn’t pretty. Here are the various forward combinations (arranged by volume):

Carey-Balisy 25-25
Balcers-LaBate 19-21
Balcers-Balisy 15-16
Balcers-Chlapik 8-9
McCormick-Balisy 7-8
LaBate-Sturtz 6-6
LaBate-Balisy 3-5
Balisy-Sturtz 4-4
LaBate-Rodewald 4-4
Balisy-Leier 4-4
LaBate-Beauchemin 3-3
Carey-LaBate 3-3
Balisy-Rodewald 2-3
Sexton 2-2
Carey-Rodewald 1-2
Brown-Batherson 1-1
LaBate-Sturtz 1-1
Rodewald-Sturtz 1-1
Carey-Beauchemin 1-1
McCormick-LaBate 1-1
LaBate-Leier 1-1
Balcers-Sturtz 1-1
Balcers-Carey 1-1
Beauchemin-Balisy 1-1
McCormick-Luchuk 1-1
McCormick-Carey 1-1
Beauchemin-Leier 1-1
LaBate-Sexton 1-1
Paul-Rodewald 1-1
Paul-Chlapik 1-1
Carey 1-1
Luchuk-Balisy 0-1
Sturtz-Leier 0-1
Luchuk 0-1

In my experience there’s always more variety on the PK than the PP, but this exceeds even what we saw in November. It’s easy for a player’s actual ability to be masked by a partner, which is why I look at individual shift count numbers (yearly totals in brackets with differences from November in red or blue if changed and in italics if the sample size was small):

Beauchemin 6-6 100% even (26-26)
Sexton 3-3 100% traded (39-42)
Paul 2-2 100% +3.5% (34-37)
Brown 1-1 100%
Batherson 1-1 100%
Carey 34-35 97.1% +4.3% (99-105)
Balisy 47-50 94.0% +4.5% (164-177)
McCormick 11-12 91.6%
LaBate 42-46 91.3% +2.2% (124-136)
Chalpik 9-10 90.0% +18.6% (16-21)
Balcers 58-65 89.2% +1.7% (65-74)
Sturtz 13-15 86.6% -5.0% (24-27)
Leier 6-7 85.7%
Rodewald 9-11 81.8% -4.4% (71-81)
Luchuk 1-3 33.3%

The sample size at the top is too small to be significant, so the list truly starts with Carey (who was excellent and has been all season). Looking at these numbers nearly all seem to be going up, so why is the PK going down? Well, it only went down marginally, but with that said, those players at the bottom truly tanked the number. I think Sturtz suffered some bad luck, but otherwise the bottom three players struggled (Luchuk‘s brief tenure was simply to win faceoffs–that experiment did not last long). Rodewald, as I’ve brought up before, is a below average PKer and Mann seems to have finally recognized this (much as Kurt Kleinendorst did last year)–cutting both his shift count and putting him on as the second or third rotation. What Boston Leier is doing on this list is beyond me. Incidentally, let’s add some context to those Balisy numbers: take away his time with Carey and Balcers and suddenly he’s just 7-9 (77.7%). This is something that was apparent in November, but I did not point it out then. Speaking of Balcers, let me credit Mann: I questioned putting him on the PK, but he is improving far more than I would have guessed. Moving on to the blueline:

Sieloff-Burgdoerfer 20-23
Sieloff-Percy 11-12
Englund-Elliott 7-8
Percy-Burgdoerfer 6-7
Englund-Percy 6-6
Englund-Burgdoerfer 5-6
Sieloff-Elliott 5-5
Englund-Racine 4-5
Percy-Elliott 4-4
Englund-Percy 4-4
Englund-Sieloff 4-4
Englund-Murray 3-4
Wolanin-Elliott 2-2
Englund-Bergman 2-2
Percy-Murray 1-1
Sieloff-Racine 1-1
Percy-Wolanin 1-1
Englund-Wolanin 1-1
Murray-Elliott 1-1
Murray-Burgdoerfer 0-1
Englund-Sturtz 0-1*
Englund 0-1
* during a change Englund was the only defensemen on

The large number of combinations are partially Mann’s doing–smacking, perhaps, of desperation. Let’s look at individual shift count numbers (yearly totals in brackets with differences from October in red or blue if changed and italics if the sample size was small):

Wolanin 4-4 100% even
Bergman 2-2 100% +4.6% (40-44)
Elliott 19-20 95.0%
Percy 29-31 93.5% +27.5% (61-69)
Sieloff 41-45 91.1% +5.4% (158-176)
Englund 36-42 85.7% -4.6% (108-122)
Burgdoerfer 31-37 83.7% -9.1% (94-105)
Racine 5-6 83.3% -4.2% (12-14)
Murray 5-7 71.4% -20.1% (67-76)

Unlike the forwards above there’s a much larger split in those improving and those who did not. I’ve long been suspicious of Burgdoerfer‘s effectiveness on the PK and he struggled mightily in that capacity (from memory at least two of the six goals against were a direct result of him turning it over). Clearly Elliott (small sample size, admittedly) and Sieloff are providing consistent performances, but things start to wobble after that. Englund, despite all the org’s praise of his defensive abilities, has never had good PK numbers, but what else are you going to do with him? I have no idea what Murray is doing on this list, but the org isn’t rational about him in any context.

Concluding Thoughts

Let’s start off with me eating some crow: Rodewald‘s success has lasted longer than I expected (and longer than his pro career suggests). I still feel like the bottom is going to fall out, and while he’s benefiting both from usage/teammates and the percentages, I have to credit the guy for what has been a very consistent streak of productivity. I’m happy to see Hogberg playing better this year–he suffered a barrage of criticism in his rookie year that I think was above and beyond what was deserved. As for coaching, Mann is still showing signs of player favoritism that is not justified by the numbers. Guys like LaBateLeierBeauchemin (before his demotion), RacineAuger–the ‘rough around the edges’ players whose production is never there–receive far more ice time than makes any sense. There’s no room for them to develop and they don’t help the team win. I want to see more talented players given more opportunity to succeed–give them genuine opportunities for success before dumping them into the Bergman dead zone. The team isn’t making the playoffs and it’s a development league, so rather than third-line minutes for guys who throw the occasionally hit, let the skilled players play. This is a mantra I’ve had for years–going back through Kleinendorst to Luke Richardson–if you aren’t going to win you need to do something productive and guys like Sturtz sweating it out on the fourth line isn’t going to tell you much.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)