Senators News & Notes

 

charlie

Ottawa signed Johnny Oduya, the kind of depth move you make when pushing for a Stanley Cup–this fits what the org thinks it’s doing, but makes little sense outside that bubble. I don’t mind the addition so long as it means a subtraction, but who are they really going to move? The primary benefit I see is that it means it’s more likely that Tomas Chabot is given time to grow in Belleville (albeit, as a realist, the Sens have shown no patience with North American prospects, so he’ll likely be in Ottawa sooner than later).

Ottawa Senators Official NHL Headshots

Speaking of the roster, where are we at with Andrew Hammond? I feel like he’s hit Christoph Schubert limbo (09) where the team was only able to shift him through waivers (Oct.2) to hapless Atlanta–sadly, Don Waddell isn’t a GM anymore, so I’m not sure there’s a sucker dumb enough to do the Sens that favour.

belleville sens

The BSens posted their new logo, which is fine (it’s like the Bruins “B” stamped across a version of the Sens jersey). More importantly, the AHL schedule was released awhile ago and I thought I’d take an early look at it:

76 total games
Division (54 games, 71% of the total schedule)
Laval Rockets (Mtl) 12 games
Toronto Marlies (Tor) 12 games
Binghamton Devils (NJ) 8 games
Rochester Americans (Buf) 8 games
Syracuse Crunch (TB) 8 games
Utica Comets (Van) 6 games

Outside Division (22 games)
Manitoba Moose (Win) 4 games
Charlotte Checkers (Car) 4 games
Hershey, Hartford, Providence, Springfield, Leigh Valley, Wilkes-Barre, Bridgeport 2 each (14)

The franchises division is unchanged outside of location moves (Binghamton to Belleville, St. John’s to Laval, and Albany to Binghamton), which results in a slightly different balance of games against whom. One interesting note is that Belleville starts the season on a 9 game road trip (all their October games are on the road), undoubtedly so improvements to the arena can be finished.

There’s still no ECHL affiliate announcement and at this point one seems unlikely. As it stands only two franchises currently have no affiliation outside of declared independent Fort Wayne (Adirondack and Tulsa). If the Sens choose not to have an affiliate they are not alone, as six other NHL clubs also have none announced.

Speaking of the ECHL, former Sens pick Robbie Baillargeon (5-136/12) signed with South Carolina (the Washington affiliate).

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The Rangers signed goaltender Alexandar Georgiyev (who I included on my list of free agents months ago–he’s the seventh off that particular list and possibly the last from it to go), while Chicago signed goaltender Collin Delia. Since I posted the big list of signed free agents over a month ago, they are the second and third added to it (putting us at 21 players from Europe, 23 from the NCAA, and 6 from NA junior hockey)–the Rangers lead the pack with 7 such signings, followed by San Jose with 5; no other team has more than 3, with 23 of 31 franchises signing at least one.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Senators News & Notes

Analysis

Varada blew my mind with a series of Tweets that included these gems:

they know about scouts, right? Dorion used to be one … I just think that they’re valuing different things that, in a vacuum, telegraph pretty poorly to fans. … I would love if, for example, instead of us saying “Thompson = they’re stupid” we really explored what could justify that price tag … Is there something about their strategy we’re not seeing? Maybe not

Explore what justifies signing Thompson? Something we’re not seeing in their strategy? These are not questions that need asking because they’ve been answered. The reason their approach is derided is because it’s bad. We know what they’re doing–the org can’t shut up about it–so there’s no mystery surrounding their decisions. The reason I (and others) criticise what’s done is because in understanding we know that it’s terrible. This is an organisation that operates as if it’s 1999–the clutch & grab era–they think they need tough guys, big guys, older players–nebulous things that will put them over the top as opposed too, say, talent. We know from years of research that their assumptions are wrong, operating on the accepted wisdom of the league from decades ago (they aren’t the only team to do so, but that’s hardly a justification). Criticism isn’t a matter of people not giving the org a fair shake–this has been their approach for ten years–we know it and we reject it because it doesn’t work. If Varada wants to bathe himself in optimism that’s his prerogative (SensChirp is available any time you want to escape reality into a warm bubble of optimism), but he can’t peddle that critiques are coming from a lack of understanding.

stayorgo

A second buyout window opened up when two players (Pageau and Dzingel) filed for arbitration, but Andrew Hammond doesn’t make enough cash for the Sens to take advantage of it. While I agree the Sens were unlikely to ever buy him out (surely they would have already done so), it’s an open question whether they understood the rules for this second window (ie, the boondoggle of them not understanding how to recall Thomas Chabot earlier this year).

Ottawa Senators Official NHL Headshots

When the Sens signed Danny Taylor it seemed like the death knell for Chris Driedger, but the prospect has been re-signed to a one-year deal and the org says he’ll compete with Marcus Hogberg for the backup role. The org hasn’t had competition like this in quite some time (not since the 12-13 season when Nathan LawsonBen Bishop, and Robin Lehner were in Binghamton–you could argue that wasn’t planned either). Driedger has already out-competed Matt O’Connor (who signed with Nashville) and should be a step ahead of Hogberg in his first year in North America. That said, I suspect the Sens have already decided to send Driedger down (when the org talks about deserving players playing it’s generally nonsense). What I wonder is: will the Sens actually have a decent ECHL team in front of whoever gets sent down? For those who don’t know Ottawa’s affiliate in the E has been godawful for years and goaltenders have been annihilated–to what benefit is beyond me. At the moment there isn’t an announced Ottawa affiliate, so there’s no ECHL roster to look at and speculate about.

small sample size

Speaking of signings, it had initially slipped under my radar that Jack Rodewald was re-signed while at Development Camp–getting a two year deal (an AHL deal). For those who weren’t watching Binghamton this past seasonRodewald‘s season was carried by a two-month hot streak which apparently made a very strong impression (we’ve seen this happen many times before with the org). This is the second straight multi-year AHL deal signed by Randy Lee (the first was unproven CIS grad Jordan Murray), a contract rarely handed out previously (Kyle Flanagan is the only other one I can think of, also by Lee) and I wonder what the logic is (fill me in Varada!). Back to Rodewald, he’s a Toronto find (signed out of the WHL) who was included with the general detritus sent to Ottawa in the Dion Phaneuf trade (this after he failed to crack the Marlie lineup in his rookie season). For those keeping track Cody Donaghey is now the only other piece remaining from the collection of prospects stuffed into that trade.

patrick williams

I can’t remember the last time I talked about AHL beat writer Patrick Williams (never?), although I talked to him briefly in 2006 when he wrote for the Sun chain (long before I started blogging). I bring him up because of his recent peon to new Sabre GM Jason Botterill’s self-serving comments about how Pittsburgh’s approach to its AHL franchise helped the NHL team win. Ahem: Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin. Two generational talents playing on the same team is what matters for the Penguins–without them what happens in the AHL is completely irrelevant. Randy Lee could have helmed the Penguins’ AHL-side and those players would still push for a Cup. Williams has an understandable need to emphasize the positive about the AHL, and I respect a lot of what he says and does, but this is ridiculous as “evidence” for a vague approach helping the NHL-side of things.

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San Jose signed yet another undrafted free agent (their fifth; ostensibly out of the USHL, but when draft-eligible he was in Europe), inking Czech goaltender Josef Korenar to an ELC.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

A Look at the Belleville Senators

belleville sens

I’ve written a few pieces about the upcoming season for the Belleville Senators (from a pre-draft look at its potential roster, to Ottawa’s history of AHL veteran signings, and finally assessing this year’s free agents). Providing content for the AHL-franchise doesn’t mean that people use it and unfortunately Trevor Shackles’ piece shows no knowledge of my content or anything else in-depth about the AHL. On the positive side of things it gives me an excuse to re-visit where the affiliate sits at the moment.

Let’s start with the most sensible thing Trevor says:

But those players [free agents] aren’t going to be the real difference makers in 2017-18. Instead it will be Ottawa’s prospects who still have a legitimate chance to become NHLers.

This is true. The AHL is dominated by veterans (high-end prospects typically get moved to the NHL), but in order for Belleville to have a good season it needs prospects to do most of the work. This pressure exists because as per usual Randy Lee has provided them with a smorgasbord of middling to poor veterans (with the possible exception of their goaltender). I will note Lee can still sign a veteran, so the final verdict on the roster awaits. Here’s the team sorted by position and roughly by expectations (veteran signings are noted):

Goaltenders (3)
Danny Taylor (1986, 7-221/04 LA, 6’0, L) FA/veteran 1 year
KHL (Sibir Novosibirsk/Medvescak) 1.93 .931
Taylor is a true journeyman, never spending more than two seasons with any particular organisation since he was drafted. His numbers from his mid-20s have been solid, having the 14th best save percentage in the KHL last year (among ‘tenders who played at least 10 games–for reference the KHL had 29 teams this past season). The last time he was in the AHL (12-13 season) his .922 placed him 8th in the league. His playoff history is unimpressive, but that’s hardly a concern at this point. If he plays up to his potential he could fill in during the inevitable injury to Craig Anderson or if Mike Condon implodes.
Chris Driedger (1994, 3-76/12, 6’4, L) RFA/1-year
AHL (Binghamton) 3.22 .900
A forgotten man in Ottawa’s system, he survived getting buried in the ECHL his rookie year and then he outplayed highly touted NCAA FA Matt O’Connor, pushing him out of the org; in the two years he’s spent in Binghamton the team has played better in front of him than whatever other prospect he was paired with, but in both those years he’s collapsed late in the season (after Binghamton was eliminated from any contention), impacting his final numbers significantly. Apparently he’s supposed to be competing against Hogberg for the backup position, but the Sens typically just say that with their minds already made up so he’ll likely be sent to the ECHL to start and from there it will depend on how the Swedish rookie performs (you can read old draft reports on him here–FC’s comment about consistency seems prescient).
Marcus Hogberg (1994, 3-78/13, 6’5, L) ELC/2-year
SHL (Linkoping) 1.89 .932
The second best young goaltender out of Sweden (behind Islander pick Linus Soderstrom), he played a few games in Binghamton at the end of the season where he got crushed. There’s a lot to like about Hogberg (big and athletic), so the question will be how long it takes him to adjust to the AHL and just what his ceiling is when he makes that adjustment. Fans need to remember that of all positions goaltenders tend to take the longest to develop, so patience is a virtue with him (you can reading scouting reports on him when he was drafted here).

Defense (10)
A note to start: Binghamton has had an atrocious blueline for years, much impeded by horrific coaching (Luke Richardson) and poor management decisions (Lee)
Thomas Chabot (1997, 1-18/15, 6’2, R) ELC/3 years
QMJHL (Saint John) 34-10-35-45
Given Ottawa’s habit of rushing prospects I don’t think he’ll suit up in the AHL, but if he does he’s a huge boon to the team and takes a lot of pressure off what otherwise is a mediocre group. While the Sens inflate expectations for prospects, he is a good one and for fans in Belleville I can only hope they get to see him. I can’t emphasize enough how he’s the only excellent puckmover on this blueline. You can read scouting reports when he was drafted here–the sainted Pronman didn’t like his defensive play.
Ben Harpur (1995, 4-108/13, 6’6, L) ELC/final year
AHL (Binghamton) 63-2-25-27
You’d be forgiven if, reading org comments, you thought Harpur was the reincarnation of Larry Robinson, Bobby Orr, etc. The big man did show improvement under Kurt Kleinendorst’s coaching (Richardson had made things worse, as you’d imagine), which was a surprise to everyone who watched him play the previous season. Can that production continue? Does he have the ability to push the offense at this level? Belleville is going to have to count on it (scouting reports–link above–saw him topping out as a 5-6 D who kills penalties)
Christian Jaros (1996, 5-139/15, 6’3, R) ELC/3 years
SHL (Lulea) 36-5-8-13
The big Slovak has spent much of his junior and all of his pro career in Sweden; the org keeps comparing him to Mark Borowiecki due to his physical play, but how truly apt that is remains to be seen. My concern with Jaros is his ability to move the puck, but at least against his peers in the SHL he showed improvement this last season (scouting reports, link above, also compared him to the Boroflop, although not universally).
Erik Burgoerfer (1988, undrafted, 6’1, R) FA/1 year
AHL (Rochester) 52-1-16-17
Every year the Sens sign someone for reasons that no one can understand and this is one of them. An NCAA grad who worked his way through the ECHL (Edmonton’s system) to the AHL. There’s nothing remarkable about his numbers at any stage of his career–he’s not a scorer, he’s not a fighter–he could trademark his career under “generic” pretty safely. The only reason I can see him being signed is that he’s a right-hand shot, otherwise this is just crickets crickets crickets
Patrick Sieloff (1994, 2-42/12 Cal, 6’1, L) RFA/qualified (ergo, 1 year)
AHL (Binghamton) 52-2-10-12
Acquired via the Chiasson deal, the former USDP player’s production flatlined in junior; that said, he’s fairly safe defensively and a “tough” player; the Sens didn’t have to qualify him (although it’s something I thought was likely), but they did, so he adds some unremarkable depth
Andreas Englund (1996, 2-40/14, 6’3, L) ELC/2 years remaining
AHL (Binghamton) 69-3-7-10
Classic Sens defensive defenseman–big, “tough”, etc. He had an adequate rookie year given those parameters, but he’s basically just a cog in the wheel–decent support if his partner is going to take care of the puck, but not much else (scouting reports largely put him in the same category of Harpur).
Macoy Erkamps (1995, undrafted, 6’0, R) ELC/2 years remaining
ECHL (Wichita) 58-6-19-25
The org has a lousy trackrecord signing FA’s out of the CHL, but got excited by Erkamps’ inflated production in his final junior year. He was among the better defensemen on Wichita’s (ECHL) abysmal blueline, but couldn’t crack Binghamton’s equally awful defensecorps, so can he be a regular in Belleville? It’s an open question.
Maxime Lajoie* (1997, 5-133/16, 6’0, L) ELC/3 years
WHL (Swift Current) 68-7-35-42
Ottawa signed him with alacrity after they drafted him (the urgency remains inexplicable); I believe they could return him to junior, but because of his DOB he’s eligible to play in Belleville. As a prospect there’s nothing inherently exciting about him, nor are there red flags, so it’s hard to guess what he’ll bring to the table as a pro (scouts‘ praise and criticism was muted when he was drafted).
Cody Donaghey (1996, FA Tor, 6’1, R) ELC/2 years remaining
QMJHL (Charlottetown/Sherbrooke) 52-11-29-40
A CHL FA that Toronto signed and then included as part of the Phaneuf trade, the Sens burned a year of his ELC to send him back to junior and as he’s not someone brought up by them he remains on the fringes of the roster–right now I’d peg him as the most likely blueliner to be sent to the ECHL; I do like that he’s primarily a puckmover.
Jordan Murray (1992, undrafted, 6’1, L) AHL deal (2 years)
CIS (U New Bruswick) 30-14-26-40
The CIS grad had a short (five game) stint with Binghamton and apparently that was enough for the org to lock him in for two years. I have no idea what the need for the longer deal was and they are free to bury him in the ECHL if they want, but it’s an odd decision. I do like that he’s an offensively minded defenseman.

Forwards (14)
Colin White (1997, 1-21/15, 6’1, R) ELC/2 years remaining
NCAA (Boston College) 35-16-17-33
The Sens quite foolishly burned off a year of his ELC; much like Chabot above there’s a good chance he never suits up in Belleville, but if he does he’s a top-six forward who adds a great deal to Belleville’s chances (scouts, link above, questioned his ability to score at the NHL-level, otherwise seeing him as a good two-way forward)
Chris DiDomenico (1989, 6-164/07 Tor, 5’11, R) FA/veteran 1 year remaining*
NLA (SCL Tigers) 48-10-28-38
The Sens signed him to a phantom 2-year deal, the first of which burned away while he played with the black aces during the playoffs; he’s an interesting player in that he failed out of the AHL and has rebuilt his career in Europe; on-faith the Sens are assuming his production in Switzerland will translate at a level he’s never experienced success in (74-2-15-17), so for the org and Belleville’s sake let’s hope they’re right as he’s being depended on for top-line production
Nick Paul (1995, 4-101/13 Dal, 6’2, L) ELC/2 years remaining
AHL (Binghamton) 72-15-22-37
A lot of people are down on Paul, including the org and people who don’t watch him play (for those who don’t watch the AHL, org comments and reality are often very different things), but he was much improved this past season (better than org-darling McCormick) and given the veteran detritus sprinkled onto the roster he’ll need to continue to grow offensively to help the team.
Max McCormick (1992, 6-171/11, 5’11, L) RFA/1 year
AHL (Binghamton) 66-21-15-36
The Sens have loved him for quite some time–a physical, grinding player–and I think in an AHL-context he’s very useful (albeit, generally misplaced on the powerplay); while I don’t see an upside (his production has flatlined), I’d expect him to get calls to Ottawa throughout the year
Ben Sexton (1991, 7-206/09 Bos, 5’11, R) FA/2 years
AHL (Albany) 54-19-12-31
Son of former Sen exec Randy, he failed out of the Boston org and was forced to sign an AHL-deal with Albany where he played a top-nine role. Somehow this translated into a two-year deal for big (in AHL terms) money–this is a huge risk as there’s every reason to fear he’ll regress to the mean.
Max Reinhart (1992, 3-64/10 Cal, 6’1, L) FA/veteran 1 year
DEL (Kolner Haie) 52-6-17-23
While a fairly pedestrian AHL player, Reinhart is someone you’d expect to fill a top-nine or top-six role, albeit bombing out in the German league is cause for alarm–at least the Sens only gave him a one-year deal.
Mike Blunden (1986, 2-43/05 Chi, 6’4, R) FA/veteran 1 year remaining
AHL (Binghamton) 67-14-15-29
A bust last year (reminded me a lot of Mark Parrish‘s year with Binghamton), but as a “tough character player” he doesn’t need to produce to get Randy Lee excited. I’d expect similar production from him this year, hopefully in the bottom-six role he’s suited too.
Francis Perron (1996, 7-190/14, 6’0, L) ELC/2 years remaining
AHL (Binghamton) 68-6-20-26
It was a quiet season for the QMJHL star, but a fairly consistent one where we can hope for growth this coming season (assuming he doesn’t get buried behind free agents). He has a lot of skill and the question is simply whether those tools can translate at this level and beyond (scouting reports, link above, decried his size & nothing else).
Kyle Flanagan (1988, undrafted, 5’9, L) AHL deal/1 year remaining
AHL (Binghamton) 68-9-20-29
I’m not sure what it is the org likes about Flanagan–I don’t think he’s a bad player, but he’s not someone they needed to commit too. That said, he can play on either the third or fourth line in a useful way at this level, so having him doesn’t hurt the team.
Filip Chlapik (1997, 2-48/15, 6’1, L) ELC/3 years
QMJHL (Charlottetown) 57-34-57-91
Was able to prove he can produce without Pittsburgh pick Daniel Sprong, although not nearly as much. His upside as a pro is up in the air and as a rookie I wouldn’t expect too much this year, but I like his presence simply because he’s a player who brings offensive creativity to the table; scouts (link above) were most concerned about his skating.
Gabriel Gagne (1996, 2-36/15, 6’5, R) ELC/2 years remaining
AHL (Binghamton) 41-2-4-6
The Sens rushed him into turning pro thinking it would help, but that was not evident at all. Even at the ECHL level he struggled to produce (19-6-5-11) meaning it’s quite difficult to know what to expect out of him this season–he was drafted as a scorer but that hasn’t manifested yet (when drafted, link above, there were red flags about him virtually everywhere).
Tyler Randell (1991, 6-176/09 Bos, 6’1, R) FA/1 year
AHL (Providence) 59-1-9-10
Coming off one of his worst AHL-seasons the Sens are paying him a hefty AHL salary (200k!) to…punch people (he’s among the most active fighters in the league). I can’t tell you how much I hate this signing–it’s so very Randy Lee and so completely pointless. The only positive is, unlike when they signed Stortini, we won’t see Randell on the powerplay and it’s just a one-year deal, but this is a guy who finishes the year as a regular healthy scratch, mark my words.
Jack Rodewald (1994, FA Tor, 6’2, R) AHL contract/2 years
AHL (Binghamton) 66-18-9-27
Signed by Toronto as a CHL FA (much like Donaghey above), an early recall from the ECHL and a two-month hot streak were enough for a two-year deal; why the Sens felt the urgency (even at the AHL-level) for such a commitment I have no idea, as his second half production (37-6-2-8) seems like what’s reasonable to expect from him (I can pat myself on the back for predicting his stay I suppose).
Vincent Dunn (1995, 5-138/13, 6’0, L) ELC/1 year remaining
ECHL (Wichita) 47-4-8-12
The Sens rushed to sign the QMJHL pest and have regretted it ever since. He’s shown no ability to play at the AHL-level and he got worse in his second ECHL season. He has a history for not getting along with teammates and coaches and it’s possible the Sens simply can’t get rid of him, but I’d loan him elsewhere before the season starts–elsewhere in the minors or Europe (scouts, link above, had all sorts of issues with him–suspension for racial epitaphs among them).

There’s room for a veteran forward on the roster, so while the goaltending and defense are set we can hope to see an offensive star (at this level) added. Here’s what we know is lost from the previous roster: Phil Varone signed with Philadelphia, Matt O’Connor signed with Nashville, Chad Nehring left for the DEL, neither Casey Bailey nor Ryan Rupert were qualified; Jason Akeson and Chris Rumble remain FAs, while I think Kleinendorst’s refusal to play Guillaume Lepine means we’re finally free of the bumbling blueliner; it’s also clear from the number of contracts above that Chris Carlisle isn’t in the picture. I’m not sure if long-time ECHL goaltender Scott Greenham will be back in that role for them, although he’s surely available. Speaking of the ECHL, we still have no word on who will be the Sens affiliate (if anyone), but presumably if they want control of their third goaltender it would have to be through an affiliation (since they’d want them to start as much as possible)–if I were to guess, I’d pick Adirondack due to its proximity and the fact that it currently has no affiliation.

Looking at the team as-is what’s notable is the lack of offense–most of that punch will have to come from prospects and it remains to be seen which can translate their production and who remains with the team.  In terms of slotting players, goaltending is pretty obvious, with Taylor starting, Hogberg backing up, and Driedger in the ECHL. Here’s how the blueline shakes out (assuming top prospects are in the AHL):
Harper-Chabot
Englund-Burgoerfer
Sieloff-Jaros
Lajoie-Erkamps
Murray-Donaghey
There’s room for quibbling here–I imagine that these pairings will be in major flux to start the season as Kleinendorst finds out what works–ensuring there’s a puckmover on each is going to be extremely difficult. I’ll emphasize that on paper this is not a good blueline–better than last year’s, certainly, but still not good.

Forwards is harder equation to figure out, since generally speaking veterans are given preference (at least to start the season). Here’s an early guess:
Paul-DiDomenico-White
McCormick-Reinhart-Sexton
Chlapik-Perron-Blunden
Flanagan-Gagne-Rodewald
Randell
While the combinations could easily be different (including which centers play wing), this is pretty close to the divide between top-six forwards and the bottom six (I’m sure the org thinks Blunden is a top-six player and that he’ll slide up if White is in Ottawa). On the positive side, Kleinendorst showed little hesitation in benching org favourites (to the benefit of the team), so while it might take a month or two he’ll get to the best possible lineup given the tools he has. To my mind this group lacks offense–arguably as much as last year’s punchless outfit–but it’s definitely a much more talented group of prospects so there’s more reason for fans to watch.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

mediocre

The geniuses responsible for Ottawa’s roster decisions reached into their magic bag of tricks and pulled out…Nate Thompson! Yes, the same Thompson who…there was that time that he…no wait, is he related to Garrett Thompson? No? There’s literally no way to dress this up as anything other than a terrible deal (two years!). Nichols breaks down the painful numbers to illustrate that yet again, Pierre Dorion doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. The only credit I can give the org is that I had no idea Thompson was still in the league, so points for obscurity.

As a side note: I absolutely agree with Nichols that the league interest in Dion Phaneuf was limited (to non-existent), which is likely why the Sens backed away from trading him.

bill-oreilly-tide-goes-in

I’ve long been calling for Randy Lee to be fired (eg), even though I understand that’s not going to happen. True to form he managed to find yet another useless body to shove into the team’s AHL lineup. The BSens signed 26-year old winger Tyler Randell (59-1-9-10) to a one-year deal. If you’re asking yourself, who the hell is that? I don’t blame you. The Boston pick (6-176/09) took his unremarkable OHL career of punching people into the AHL, where he unremarkably punched people. In 231 AHL games he has a total of 18 goals and 25 assists (0.19 points-per-game). On a Belleville roster starved for talent he provides absolutely nothing–he’s just an expensive fourth-liner. My guess is that mid-season Kleinendorst benches him and, like Stortini last year, forces Lee to trade him. What a waste of time–but I’m sure he’s “good in the room/corners”.

Not long after this signing a slew of expensive detritus was added to the AHL roster in what looks like an attempt to prop it up for its first year. 31-year old goaltender Danny Taylor (7-221/04) is the only one with some sort of pedigree (as in results), having spent the last four years in Europe with solid numbers (.940 in the KHL this past season). His addition looks like the writing on the wall for Chris Driedger, which strikes me as an odd decision given that they qualified him.

Along with the veteran ‘tender they signed Ben Sexton (7-206/09), yes, the son of former Sen exec Randy, who hasn’t shown much in the AHL after leaving Clarkson (54-19-12-31). He finished sixth in scoring on a fairly punchless Albany roster and it was the first season (of three) where he’d put up any numbers at all. He slots in as a top-nine forward.

Also signed was former Calgary draft pick Max Reinhart (3-64/10), who had one good AHL season (out of four) before bombing out in the DEL (52-6-17-23; a league where a good AHL player should dominate). Its apparent in his one good season (13-14) he benefited from teammates Markus Granlund and Ben Street. He slots in as yet another top-nine forward.

Finally, a righthand defenseman was added in the form of undrafted 28-year old Erik Burgoerfer, who had an unremarkable NCAA career which has translated into unremarkable ECHL and AHL numbers (52-1-16-17). I’m at a loss as to what he brings to the team–veteran savvy? He’s probably a better option than Macoy Erkamps and Cody Donaghey, but what does that say really?

That’s five players signed (two of which, Taylor and Reinhart, qualify as veteran signings), none come close to replacing the lost offense of Phil Varone and Jason Akeson (combined, if you include Reinhart‘s last AHL season, the four skaters scored 44 goals; Varone and Akeson tallied 35 last year). The BSens still need a good puck-moving defenseman (I’m assuming Chabot will see little to no time in the AHL) and a good AHL-scorer. This is a collection of middling to poor forwards, a 4-5 blueliner, and a good goalie. That’s it. I can understand why they’re paying Taylor as much as they are (250k with a 300k guarantee), but 200k for Randell? 150k/165k for the rest is also high but a bit more tolerable.

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The Development Camp scrimmage is available to watch for those who didn’t attend (my advice is to mute the play-by-play unless you want 20 minutes of how much Christian Jaros is like Mark Borowiecki).  Briefly:
First Half (virtually unwatchable–about 4 scoring chances)
-team white goal: Topping shot from above the circle through a crowd beats Hogberg
Second Half (much more entertaining)
-team white goal: Donaghey turns it over between the circles and Paul is left wide open in the slot and buries it behind Hollett
-team white penalty shot (no goal): Donaghey pulled down Perrson to avoid a breakaway, but he misses high
-team red penalty shot (goal): puck over the glass and White scores five-hole on Lavigne
-team white goal: Topping passes from behind the net to a wide open Paul who beats Hollett
3-on-3 OT
-team white goal: Jaros goes for the big hit giving Batherson a breakaway and he scores with a nice deke

Team red ran around looking to be physical and they paid the price by giving up the majority of scoring chances. What conclusions can you draw from this? None really, but in terms of players you’d expect to do well who were invisible, they are: Andreas EnglundFilip ChlapikGabriel Gagne, and Francis Perron. Again, this means basically nothing.

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I was ready to pat myself on the back for predicting that Stephane Da Costa is looking to return to the NHL (not with Ottawa, naturally, as their rights to him have expired), but apparently I didn’t write it down anywhere. I have no idea if Da Costa can thrive in the league, but I don’t think the Sens ever gave him a real shot (as I’ve said before).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

The Problem With Signing Mike Condon

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I didn’t think I was going to have to write this post, but it’s become apparent that further explanations are required for why I (and Nichols and others) have a problem with signing Mike Condon to this kind of extension. Lets go through it, shall we?

Everyone agrees the Sens need a backup goaltender (I’m not sure how a team could function without one). Neither signed prospect (Chris Driedger nor Marcus Hogberg) is ready for the task, but prior to Condon‘s signing it was still possible former hero Andrew Hammond could take the gig–he has a year left on his deal after all. So this, then, is our first dilemma: what do we do with Hammond? There are four choices:
1) Keep him and have him play out his contract as the backup
You hope he regains the form that had when the team signed him to his overly optimistic deal (I mean, who gives a guy a 3-year deal after just one good pro season, right?)
2) Keep him, but bury him in the minors
This only costs money, although it does mean Hogberg (or Driedger) has to play for an ECHL affiliate throughout most of the season (barring the team being able to loan Hammond to another AHL team), which is hardly ideal
3) Buy him out
This also only costs money, but there’s no value returned to the team, so it’s the least appealing option
4) Trade him
The ideal choice, although it’s difficult to do particularly with goaltenders since back-ups are a dime-a-dozen; as a devalued asset with just one good half-season on his resume, the pot might have to be sweetened with a draft pick, but Ottawa’s never shirked from surrendering those assets

So much for the hypothetical. Clearly the Sens pushed the button on #4 sometime during this season, but rather than trying to move Hammond then, they left him hanging until now. On the plus side, there was no urgency in acquiring a backup goaltender. While starting goaltenders are extremely difficult to find, there are always more qualified backups than positions. On numerous occasions in Sens history (including both the discussed ‘tenders), Ottawa has been forced to use someone other than their planned backup and had no difficulty doing so. So, urgency level is zero. This would be different, incidentally, if the team didn’t have a firmly established #1–then you want true competition with two talented players–that’s not the case here, these are benchwarmers.

Why the complaints about Condon specifically? His numbers, as Nichols delves into (link above), are below average. Take away his hot start and he’s nothing to run a temperature over (.908, 2.64). This, and his career as a journeymen, sound alarm bells–the same alarms that went off before they signed Hammond to his 3-year deal. If you want to argue Condon is a known quantity and the org feels comfortable with him, that’s fine, but signing him for three years, especially at such a high cost (2.4/year), is a pointless risk that will almost inevitably blow up in their faces. The comparison between he and Hammond is particular apt–both were 26/27 when they had their one good season, both are NCAA grads, neither was drafted, and both have worrying underlying numbers and track record. The only way to justify the deal is to suggest Condon is going to maintain a performance level that’s happened just once, briefly, in his career. It’s implausible and that’s why I (and others) dislike the move.

The other point that I made was that by signing Condon every NHL team now knows the Sens are desperate to trade Hammond (you can argue that they knew before, but there’s a difference between guessing and certainty and Ottawa has given them certainty). This means they have no leverage whatsoever in moving him–they’re guaranteed a bad deal, assuming they can even make one. While I doubt Hammond has much value, there are well-established ways of pumping the tires of the trade market–be ambiguous about keeping Condon, talk about Hammond‘s run and how he’s been derailed by injury, but now that he’s healthy he’ll be back on track! Have The Ottawa Sun talk about external interest, etc.  In this scenario any value back for him is a bonus, but now that’s impossible. If an NHL team actually wants Hammond they’ll just wait for the Sens to buy him out, or else force them to include something else (a pick, an asset), or demand Ottawa take a bad asset in return. There’s no good scenario with how Ottawa has handled it. The only “positive” that can be argued here is to suggest it was impossible to move Hammond earlier (or at all) and that the team desperately needed to sign Condon since there’s no other player who could fulfill his role. Even if the former is true the Sens never actually made the attempt until it was too late and the latter point needs a hell of a lot more justification than I’ve seen.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

methot

Marc Methot, just traded to Dallas, has been the subject of a great deal of conversation ever since Las Vegas took him in the Expansion Draft.  There was all sorts of speculation (here as well) that he might be coming back to the team via whomever acquired him. While that possibility remains up in the air, Stefan Wolejszo writes a long overview of Ottawa’s decisions on defense that lead them to this particular predicament. Unlike Stefan I have no emotional attachment to Methot, and don’t think replacing him (or Phaneuf) is particularly difficult (although I don’t think the org will do so effectively), his piece is an interesting and entertaining read.

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Flavour of the month Mike Condon is apparently getting some interest from other teams, but my sentiment about him echoes Nichols (whose link is above)–backup goalies come and go and losing Condon makes no real difference to the Sens going forward. It’s amazing just how many goaltenders the org has fallen in love with only to give up on soon after. Only the Mark Borowiecki‘s of the world can continually fail and be given free passes.

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Nichols writes a lengthy retrospective on the season that covered not just the events of the season but also all the hubbub around it and about it. There’s a lot of thoughtful substance and I recommend reading it in full. I have just a few things I want to highlight:

At their best, these Senators are still a pseudo-contender whose success is predicated more on good luck than it is on innate talent.

This is absolutely the case and what happens when your owner demands the team make the playoffs year after year. That being said, with the management that’s been in place I’m not sure even a good owner could put Ottawa in a position to win a Cup.

As it turns out however, the Senators appear poised to retain Ceci. … For all of Ceci’s physical talents, his hockey IQ and ability to make good decisions under duress leave something to be desired.

However obvious it seems to thoughtful fans that Cody Ceci is not a top-four defenseman, the organisation simply does not see it that way. He’s Jared Cowen all over again–a first-round pick that management is delusional about and won’t cut bait until he’s completely devalued as an asset.

The problems stem from the fact that the Senators boast the smallest hockey operations department in the league and their amateur and professional scouting staffs are proportionately small. … The Senators’ front office hasn’t brought in an outside voice since Eugene Melnyk bought the team in 2003 and in the 14 years since, so the worry is that organization is particular in how it has to operate. … The fear is that this hiring from within cycle simply promotes a culture of yes-men and like-minded individuals who are afraid to voice a different perspective.

It’s painfully clear that the Sens are resistant to new approaches. This is evident in their personnel decisions. If you were to remove the names “Murray” and “Dorion” and then present the moves from the last 10 years to someone unfamiliar with the team, they’d be hard-pressed to see any difference since the transition. Arguably the team became more conservative once Tim Murray left. Just like an addict, they have to be willing to change before change can occur and I’ve seen no sign of that at all. While we can blame re-signing Tom Pyatt on Guy Boucher, Max McCormick is pure org.

Tell Randy Lee to refrain from signing the next Zack Stortini or whatever six-figure veteran shitbag that he wants to bring into the fold in Binghamton.

Lee is one of the major problems in the org. His mindset is stuck in the physicality of the 1980s and the clutch & grab of the 1990s–he wants big, lumbering players to patrol an NHL that doesn’t exist anymore. He’s been a catastrophe at the AHL level, but with no accountability (either from him or for him) he’s free to blunder along.

belleville sens

Sometimes I get to pat myself on the back and today is one of those days.  Among the names including among the Sens qualifying offers was former Calgary second-rounder Patrick Sieloff (picked up in the Alex Chiasson deal–the latter of whom was not qualified by the Flames). I mentioned in my season review that the Sens could do worse than keep him and reiterated it earlier this month. He’s not a remarkable defenseman, but at the AHL-level he’s competent depth.

wikstrand

Another name on the qualified list was Mikael Wikstrand, but before anyone imagines the Swede suiting up for the team this is nothing more than the org making sure he stays buried in Sweden. They did the same thing to Roman WickGeoff Kinrade, and others who dared to jump to Europe. In none of these cases did they do anything useful with the asset so I expect the same here.

prospects

Development Camp begins tomorrow, an event that I used to attend regularly. I’m always interested in who the camp invites are, as the Sens have shown a tendency to later sign them to ATO’s or PTO’s (or more; Matt O’Connor is just one example).  Here they are (I gave their ages by YOB, just fyi):
Hayden Lavigne 21, GL (Michigan, NCAA) 2.92 .912
He split duties with Zach Nagelvoort and Jack LaFontaine after spending his junior career bouncing around the USHL
Charles-David Beaudoin 23, RD (CIS/AHL) CIS/AHL 17-3-6-9/6-0-2-2
Went to the CIS after an unremarkable career in the Q; left early to turn pro and didn’t show much in limited ECHL and AHL duty
T. J. Melancon 21, RD (Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL) 67-19-25-44
The top-scoring defenseman on his team who also had a good playoff, he’s someone looking for an AHL or ECHL contract
Jordan Murray 25, LD (CIS/AHL) CIS/AHL 30-14-26-40/5-1-1-2
After a decent QMJHL career he spent four full years at the University of New Brunswick before his short audition with Binghamton (somehow earning him a two-year AHL contract)
Brayden Pachal 18, RD (Victoria/Prince Albert, WHL) 65-3-12-15
Eligible for this year’s draft, he’ll get another shot in 2018
Andrew Peski 20, RD (North Dakota, NCAA) 29-0-3-3
A decent CCHL career turned into a lousy USHL season with not much different in college
Michael Babcock 22, RW (Merrimack, NCAA) 36-5-4-9
Son of the coach; an unremarkable player at all levels; he was at the camp last year
Matteo Gennaro 20, CL (Calgary, WHL) 69-43-37-80
Former Winnipeg pick (7-203/15), he’s looking for a pro contract after impressively leading the Hitmen in scoring
Jake Gaudet 21, CL (Kemptville, CCHL) 31-12-19-31
Finished his CCHL career with a commitment to UMass; he was the fifth most productive player on Kemptville so I wouldn’t expect much
Kelly Parker 18, CL (Prince Albert, WHL) 72-21-22-43
Draft eligible this year, he’ll be looking to improve his stock for 2018
Cole Maier 22, CR (Union College, NCAA) 38-15-10-25
Went from US High School to the BCHL before reaching the NCAA; he finished fifth in scoring on his team
Nick Master 22, CL (U-Mass, NCAA) 40-4-11-15
A middling USHL player who had a down year after his freshman season
Carl Persson 22, CL (Karlskoga, Allsvenskan) 51-26-18-44
Struggling the previous two seasons he had an excellent year riding shotgun with FA signee Victor Ejdsell and former ECHLer Alex Lavoie; he’s signed with Karlskrona in the SHL for the upcoming year; I don’t recall a Swedish player ever coming to development camp who wasn’t drafted, so I’m not sure the circumstances behind this
Jack Rodewald 23, RW (AHL) 66-18-9-27
WHL grad was actually a Toronto signing who came over with the general detritus in the Phaneuf trade; played his way out of the ECHL early last season, but his production crashed quickly and he’s very much on the bubble to earn himself an AHL-deal
Jordan Topping 20, LW (Tri-City/WHL) 43-28-25-53
Draft eligible player will be looking to to get picked next year

There is an astonishing number of righthanded blueliners above (four!), suggesting the org wants to supplement what they have in their system. The other player that stands out is Perrson, primarily because I can’t recall the Sens ever having an undrafted Swede (or someone from a European league) show up to their development camp.

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Derek Ryan (CIS) needs to be added to the list of undrafted success stories.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

hockeyscouting

It’s always gratifying to get RT’d by someone you recognise in the hockey world, so thanks to Aaron Vickers who picked my unhashtaged Tweet out of the ether assessing NHL Draft Guides; Andy Levangie (who scouts for HP) also somehow found it; while Craig Smith (who scouts for McKeens) chimed in yet again.

Speaking of scouting, Lowe Tide put out something similar to my big draft list, but he cut his listing to just 150 players and seems focused on doing talent assessment via a conversation calculator (ie, translating points from various leagues), something whose value I’m not sold on (as I’ve explored previously).  I still think it’s worth checking out and recommend doing so.

Also on the scouting front, someone Nichols is a big fan of (Grant McCagg) looks at what the Sens need at the draft, but I think he missed an opportunity to reflect on what they might actually do (he makes no attempt to do so).

vegas

It’s a funny thing that the Expansion Draft was set-up to permit Vegas to have a decent NHL roster to start, but the team chose to have an expansion roster instead.

Speaking of that draft, I didn’t think there would be anything interesting about Ottawa’s protected list, but a few things did stand out:
1. Ottawa still has Stephan Da Costa‘s NHL rights
Admittedly only until July 1st, but in typical Ottawa fashion they’ve done nothing useful with them and he’ll be able to sign where he wants when that time is up
2. Ottawa exposed Mikael Wikstrand
You’d hardly expect them to protect him, but why retain his rights at all?
3. Ottawa has lost the rights to Geoff Kinrade and Roman Wick
Both were members of the 2011 Calder Cup team who left (or in Roman’s case, returned) for Europe afterwards; I must have missed a clock being added to such players in the CBA, because in days of yore you could maintain such rights forever

prospects

Sens prospect Filip Ahl is headed back to Europe, spendin the upcoming season in the SHL playing for Orebro.  He had a decent but unremarkable season in the WHL and will likely have to show more to earn an ELC.

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In a sign of changing times digital ad revenue has passed TV revenue for the first time. Given how dependent sports are on the latter it will be interesting to see how the leagues adjust. What the NHL will do, given that as a business it doesn’t really innovate, will be interesting to follow.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)