Ottawa Senators Draft Trends

I was going to wait for Ary M and Colin’s draft series to conclude before putting out anything of my own, but as that’s going to stretch on for quite some time I decided to move ahead. The Senators have followed particular trends since John Muckler was fired in 2007, and ignoring that specific draft (since Bryan Murray’s people were not in place for it), let’s look at the trends from 2008 until the present.  Before we dig into the numbers, here are the current picks for Ottawa: 28th, 47th (Cal), 121st, 183rd (their 2nd is with Tor, 3rd to Chi (via Car), 5th to Pit, 7th to SJ).

First Round
1-6/11 Mika Zibanejad – 6’2; Djurgardens (SuperElit/SHL/WJC-18)
1-9/09 Jared Cowen (D) – 6’5; Spokane (WHL)
1-11/16 Logan Brown – 6’6; Windsor (OHL; WJC-18)
1-13/13 Curtis Lazar – 6’0; Edmonton (WHL)
1-15/08 Erik Karlsson (D) – 5’ll; Frolunda (SuperElit/WJC-18)
1-15/12 Cody Ceci (D) – 6’2; Ottawa (OHL)
1-18/15 Thomas Chabot (D) – 6’2; Saint John (QMJHL)
1-21/11 Stefan Noesen – 6’1; Plymouth (OHL)
1-21/15 Colin White – 6’1; USDP (WJC-18)
1-24/11 Matt Puempel – 6’2; Peterborough (OHL)

Second Round
2-36/15 Gabriel Gagne – 6’5; Victoriaville (QMJHL)
2-39/09 Jakob Silverberg – 6’1; Brynas (SuperElit)
2-40/14 Andreas Englund (D) – 6’3; Djurgardens (SuperElit; WJC-18)
2-42/08 Patrick Wiercioch (D) – 6’5; Omaha (USHL)
2-42/16 Jonathan Dahlen – 5’11; Timra (Allsvenskan)
2-46/09 Robin Lehner (G) – 6’3; Frolunda (SuperElit)
2-48/15 Filip Chlapik – 6’1; Charlottetown (QMJHL)
2-61/11 Shane Prince – 5’10; Ottawa (OHL)

Third Round
3-70/14 Miles Gendron (D) – 6’3; The Rivers (USHS)
3-76/10 Jakub Culek – 6’3; Rimouski (QMJHL)
3-76/12 Chris Driedger (G) – 6’4; Calgary (WHL)
3-78/13 Marcus Hogberg (G) – 6’5; Linkoping (SuperElit)
3-79/08 Zack Smith – overage; 6’2; Swift Current (WHL)
3-82/12 Jarrod Maidens – 6’1; Owen Sound (OHL)

Fourth Round
4-96/11 Jean-Gabriel Pageau – 5’9; Gatineau (QMJHL)
4-100/09 Chris Wideman (D) – 5’10; Miami (NCAA)
4-100/14 Shane Eiserman – 6’2; Dubuque (USHL)
4-102/13 Tobias Lindberg – 6’2; Djurgardens (SuperElit)
4-103/16 Todd Burgess – 6’2; Fairbanks (NAHL)
4-106/10 Marcus Sorensen – 5’11; Sodertalje (SuperElit)
4-106/12 Tim Boyle (D) – 6’2; Noble & Greenough (USHS)
4-107/15 Christian Wolanin (D) – 6’1; Muskegon (USHL)
4-108/13 Ben Harpur (D) – 6’6; Guelph (OHL)
4-109/08 Andre Petersson – 5’10; HV71 (SuperElit; WJC-18)
4-109/15 Filip Ahl – 6’3; HV71 (SuperElit; WJC-18)
4-119/08 Derek Grant – 6’3; Langley (BCHL)

Fifth Round
5-126/11 Fredrik Claesson – 6’0; Djurgardens (SHL)
5-130/09 Mike Hoffman – overage; 6’1; Drummondville (QMJHL)
5-133/16 Maxime Lajoie (D) _ 6’0; Swift Current (WHL)
5-136/12 Robert Baillargeon – 6’0; Indiana (USHL)
5-138/13 Vincent Dunn – 6’0; Val-d’Or (QMJHL)
5-139/08 Mark Borowiecki (D) – 6’1; Smith Falls (CJHL)
5-139/15 Christian Jaros (D) – 6’3; Lulea (SHL; WJC-20)
5-146/09 Jeff Costello – 5’11; Cedar Rapids (USHL)

Sixth Round
6-156/11 Darren Kramer – overage; 6’1; Spokane (WHL)
6-160/09 Corey Cowick – 6’3; Ottawa (OHL)
6-161/13 Chris Leblanc – 6’3; overage; South Shore (EJHL)
6-163/16 Markus Nurmi – 6’3; TPS (U20; WJC-18)
6-166/12 Francois Brassard (G) – 6’1; Quebec (QMJHL)
6-168/13 Quentin Shore – 6’2; Denver (NCAA)
6-171/11 Max McCormick – 5’11; Sioux City (USHL)
6-178/10 Mark Stone – 6’2; Brandon (WHL)

Seventh Round
7-186/11 Jordan Fransoo (D) – 6’3; Brandon (WHL)
7-189/14 Kelly Summers (D) – 6’1; Carleton (CCHL)
7-190/09 Brad Peltz – 6’0; Avon (USHS)
7-190/14 Francis Perron – 6’0; Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
7-191/09 Michael Sdao (D) – 6’4; Lincoln (USHL)
7-196/10 Bryce Aneloski (D) – overage 6’2; Cedar Rapids (USHL)
7-196/12 Mikael Wikstrand (D) – 6’2; Mora (Allsvenskan)
7-199/08 Emil Sandin – 5’10; Brynas (SuperElit)
7-199/15 Joel Daccord (G) – 6’2; Cushing (USHS)
7-204/11 Ryan Dzingel – 6’0; Lincoln (USHL)

So, basic numbers first (through 9 drafts):
CHL (OHL, WHL, QMJHL, tier-2): 28
US systems (USHS, USHL, NCAA): 18
Europe (Sweden, Finland): 16
Goaltenders: 5 (2 CHL, 2 Sweden, 1 US)
Defensemen: 20 (9 CHL, 7 US, 4 Sweden)
Forwards: 37 (17 CHL, 10 Sweden, 10 US)

Thoughts: in general there’s not much preference, other than the restriction of CHL, US, and Swedish systems.  There are trends within those limitations, but I’ll get to them later.

First-rounders (10): 7 CHL, 2 Sweden, 1 US; 4 Defensemen
Second-rounders (8): 4 Sweden, 3 CHL, 1 US; 1 Goalie, 2 Defensemen
Third-rounders (6): 4 CHL, 1 Swede, 1 US; 2 Goalies, 1 Defenseman
Fourth-rounders (12): 5 US, 4 Sweden, 3 CHL; 4 Defensemen
Fifth-rounders (8): 4 CHL, 2 Sweden, 2 US; 4 Defensemen
Sixth-rounders (8): 4 CHL, 3 US, 1 Finland; 1 Goalie
Seventh-rounders (10): 5 US, 3 CHL, 2 Sweden; 1 Goalie, 5 Defensemen

Thoughts: with few exceptions, the top-90 picks will be either from the CHL or Sweden; there has been a shift towards the CHL for the first-round (5 straight selections are from Canadian junior), but otherwise this preference is unchanged. The org also likes to stash various players in college or Europe from the fourth-round onwards (all tier-2 picks are within this range as well as 15 of the 18 US selections; in total 27 of 38 have more time on the development clock). What’s also clear is that goaltenders are not first-round material (we haven’t had even a second round selection since 2009).

Size*
6’0: Peltz (09), Claesson (11), Dzingel (11), Baillargeon (12), Lazar (13), Dunn (13), Perron (14), Lajoie (16)
Under 6’0: Karlsson (08), Peterson (08), Sandin (08), Wideman (09), Costello (09), Sorensen (10), Prince (11), Pageau (11), McCormick (11), Dahlen (16)
Goalies 6’0 and under: none
Defenseman under 6’0: Karlsson (08), Wideman (09)
*we can quibble over size all day long, since teams tend to “grow” players, but for the sake of simplicity I’m using what’s listed on Elite Prospects

Thoughts: it’s painfully obvious that whatever tolerance the organisation had for smaller players has ebbed away.  Since 2011 only one player under 6’0 has been drafted (Dahlen), and he was subsequently moved.  Five players at the bubble height have been taken in that time, with one already moved (Lazar), one failed (Dunn), one unsigned (Baillargeon), and the other two undetermined (Perron and Lajoie). In essence the Senators will not take a smaller player outside of extraordinary circumstances.

Trends:
-First-round players are from the CHL and will not be a goalie
-Rounds 1-3 are from the CHL or Sweden
-No goaltenders until round 3 at the earliest
-Always 1 player from Sweden and 1 from the US systems taken; there’s also been at least one French-Canadian player picked since 2008
-Despite having done so in the past, it’s unlikely the Sens will take a tier-2 or NCAA player (just 1 in the last 8 years and 1 in the last 7 respectively)
-Despite taking a Finnish player last year, Ottawa does not draft from anywhere in Europe outside of Sweden
-Russians are not drafted regardless of circumstances
-Size is important; just one player under 6’0 has been taken the last five drafts; no goalie 6’0 or smaller has ever been drafted by this org; there hasn’t been a D under 6’0 since 2009
-The org has relied more on the Q than the OHL and WHL of late (4 of the 6 players drafted from the CHL in the last 3 years have been from the Q)
-As much as Dorion/Lee still overvalue toughness, they haven’t drafted a bonafide goon since Kramer (2011); they may also be moving away from drafting agitators/pests, as neither Dunn (13) nor Eiserman (14) have panned out; perhaps they’re settling on big as opposed to targeting aggression

I’ll get into my specific picks for Ottawa subsequently, but with all the mock drafts out there (and more forthcoming) I think remembering the tendencies of what the org actually does will get you closer to what’s actually likely.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thoughts on the Senators Handling of its AHL Team

A conversation I was having about the upcoming season for the Belleville Senators got me thinking about roster decisions made by Ottawa under its current apparatus (which is to say, since John Muckler was fired).  No one would argue that Ottawa has struggled to properly support the development side, so I thought I’d go through that looking at both the good and the bad.  This isn’t about drafted players and free agent prospects, rather the pieces that are put around them to support development.

Bryan Murray/Pierre Dorion AHL Seasons
07-08 25-32-23 225 248 missed playoffs
08-09 31-30-19 232 238 missed playoffs +9pts, +7 GF, -10 GA
09-10 32-35-13 251 260 missed playoffs -10pts, +19 GF, +22 GA
10-11 42-30-8 255 221 Calder Cup +11pts, +4 GF, -39 GA
11-12 24-40-12 201 243 missed playoffs -27pts, -54 GF, +22 GA
12-13 38-24-14 227 188 first round +31pts, +26 GF, -55 GA
13-14 42-26-8 206 185 first round -4pts, -21 GF, -3 GA
14-15 24-34-18 242 258 missed playoffs -16pts, +36 GF, +73 GA
15-16 31-38-7 204 241 missed playoffs -7pts, -38 GF, -17 GA
16-17 28-44-4 190 266 missed playoffs -9pts, -14 GF, +15 GA

AHL GM’s (from 07-08 to now)
Tim Murray (07-14)
Left mid-season to become Buffalo’s GM (since fired)
Randy Lee (14-present)
Has littered the media with comments about toughness (tide goes in, tide goes out, eh Randy?)

AHL coaches
Cory Clouston (07-08 to 08-09)
Mid-season NHL replacement in Ottawa (Craig Hartsburg!), then failed out of two orgs in the WHL (Brandon and Prince Albert) before winding up in the DEL (Kolner Haie)
Curtis Hunt (09)
Mid-season replacement for Clouston when he went up to Ottawa; wasn’t retained and bounced from Regina (WHL) to Fort McMurray (AJHL) to GMing Prince Albert
Don Nachbaur (09-10)
Came from the WHL and went back subsequently (still coaching Spokane)
Kurt Kleinendorst (10-11 to 11-12)
Left after losing the Ottawa job to Paul MacLean
Luke Richardson (12-13 to 15-16)
Left the org when Guy Boucher got the Ottawa job, becoming an assistant for NYI
Kurt Kleinendorst (16-17)
After he left he went to the NCAA (Alabama, fired), AHL (Iowa, fired), then a mid-season DEL replacement (Ingolstadt) before returning to Binghamton

None of the above are superior coaches and I think you could argue that Clouston, Hunt, and Richardson are poor ones (while Nachbaur was out of his depth at this level). Kleinendorst has had his own struggles, but he’s at the least competent (and I say that after the BSens got annihilated this season).

Roster Additions (those acquired by trade are in italics, veteran signings are in bold; in brackets next to their numbers are what they did the previous season; grades are based entirely on how well the players fulfilled expectations)
16-17 – 28-44-4 190 266
Jason Akeson (re-signed after failed KHL jump) 57-20-31-51
Phil Varone (re-signed) 65-15-36-51
Casey Bailey (re-signed) 62-21-16-37
Mike Blunden 67-14-15-29 (49-21-17-38)
Mike Kostka (re-signed) 46-1-11-12 (traded)
Chad Nehring 50-3-15-18 (76-22-26-48)
Brandon Gormley 17-2-3-5 (39-4-2-6)
Zack Stortini (second year of his deal) 22-2-1-3 (traded)
Guillaume Lepine 54-1-2-3 (re-signed)
Marc Hagel 27-0-3-3 (53-4-15-19)
FA’s: Grade C-
Trades: Grade F
Best move: Akeson
Biggest flop: Nehring

Only the top two had solid seasons (you can read my full review of the season here), with both slightly above their career averages (by 0.06 and 0.02 respectively); all the rest underperformed to varying degrees (some catastrophically), with neither of the “big” FA signings (Nehring and Blunden) coming close to what was expected of them.

15-16 – 31-38-7 204 241
Eric O’Dell 50-18-19-37 (37-14-15-29) (traded)
Mike Kostka 50-5-24-29 (63-5-25-30)
Phil Varone 21-6-17-23 (55-15-29-44)
Jason Akeson 21-5-17-22 (57-23-30-53)
Casey Bailey 30-7-14-21 (NCAA 37-22-18-40)
Zack Stortini 66-8-8-16 (76-13-12-25)
Patrick Mullen (re-signed) 36-1-15-16 (traded)
Ryan Rupert 30-7-6-13 (57-15-12-27)
Guillaume Lepine 69-4-9-13 (38-1-3-4)
Jerome Leduc 22-4-6-10 (76-6-19-25)
Travis Ewanyk 66-5-4-9 (69-3-5-8)
Michael Keranen 21-4-3-7 (70-10-27-37)
Mark Fraser 60-2-5-7 (NHL 34-0-4-4)
Conor Allen 17-1-4-5 (71-11-23-34) (traded)
Nick Tuzzolini (AHL contract but spent the season with the team) 27-1-0-1 (36-1-2-3)
FA’s: D-
Trades: C
Best move: Akeson/Varone
Biggest flop: Stortini

This is an even weaker assemblage of talent (my full season review go here). Only the garbage time numbers from late acquisitions (Akeson, Varone, Bailey, and Leduc) exceeded expectations, but as can be seen in the next season the three who were retained regressed to the mean (Leduc had a disastrous season in the Czech league). Kostka and O’Dell (before he was traded), performed as expected, but Stortini and Fraser were expensive busts (both were obviously terrible signings (eg)); Mullen’s production was never replaced when he was moved, and various acquisitions completely bombed (Ewanyk, Keranen, and Allen in particular).  Tuzzolini was kept on the roster almost the entire season for perceived “toughness” which served no purpose whatsoever.

14-15 – 24-34-18 242 258
Carter Camper 75-15-37-52 (60-12-49-51)
Aaron Johnson 73-6-29-35 (75-4-36-40)
Alex Grant (re-signed) 58-6-27-33
Patrick Mullen (re-signed) 54-5-24-29
Brad Mills 34-4-10-14 (28-8-6-14)
FA’s: C
Trades: N/A
Best move: Johnson
Biggest flop: Mills

Subpar year for Carter, while Grant and Mullen both struggled to stay healthy and PED-user Mills was inexplicably given ice time over actual prospects (my full review here).

13-14 – 42-26-8 206 185
Patrick Mullen 20-1-11-12 (69-13-28-41)
Alex Grant 19-2-8-10 (46-4-16-20)
Tyler Eckford (second year of his deal) 32-0-4-4
Nathan Lawson (re-signed) 3.05 .908
FA’s: F
Trades: B+
Best move: Mullen/Grant
Biggest flop: Eckford

Both vets who started the year were terrible (Eckford) to below average (Lawson); deadline acquisitions were good, but nothing could overcome Richardson’s incompetence as a coach (my full review here).

12-13 – 38-24-14 227 188
Hugh Jessiman 68-10-19-29 (67-27-17-44)
Andre Benoit 34-9-16-25 (KHL 53-5-12-17)
Brett Ledba 32-3-15-18 (NHL 30-1-3-4)
Tyler Eckford 59-7-6-13 (75-10-15-25)
Nathan Lawson 2.19 .938 (2.57 .914)
FA’s: C
Trades: B
Best move: Benoit
Biggest flop: Eckford

Benoit and Lawson were good signings for this season, but Jessiman and Eckford were awful and while Ledba was a decent acquisition, “veteran savvy” didn’t do anything for the team in the playoffs when it mattered.  My full review is here.

11-12 – 24-40-12 201 243
Corey Locke (second year of his deal) 38-10-31-41
Rob Klinkhammer 35-12-33-35 (76-17-29-46)
Mark Parrish 51-15-15-30 (56-17-34-51)
Tim Conboy 53-2-9-11 (70-0-12-12)
Josh Godfrey (AHL contract) 38-2-6-8 (ECHL 49-15-12-27)
Mike Bartlett 58-3-4-7 (72-8-10-18)
Francis Lessard (re-signed) 43-1-1-2
Shaun Heshka
10-0-1-1 (Austria 50-6-18-24) (traded)
Lee Sweatt DNP (41-5-9-14) (retired after getting his signing bonus)
Mike McKenna 2.98 .918 (3.61 .886)
FA’s (Sweatt not included): D
Trades: A
Best move: Klinkhammer
Biggest flop: Heshka/Sweatt

Klinkhammer was an inspired acquisition and Locke performed as expected, but otherwise this is a complete mess (as is reflected in the team’s results–my full review here).

10-11 – 42-30-8 255 221
Corey Locke 69-21-65-86 (76-31-54-85)
Ryan Keller (re-signed) 71-32-19-51
Andre Benoit 73-11-44-55 (78-6-30-36)
Ryan Potulny 13-3-5-8 (NHL 64-15-17-32)
David Hale (demoted from Ottawa) 36-2-4-6
Francis Lessard 36-2-1-3 (61-2-2-4)
Barry Brust (AHL deal) 2.53 .925 (2.46 .908)
Mike Brodeur (re-signed) 2.96 .903
FA’s (Hale not included): B
Trades: A
Best move: Potulny (lead the team in playoff scoring)
Biggest flop: Lessard

The Calder Cup season!  I wasn’t blogging regularly at the time, so there’s no retrospective review to link, but the only questionable things here were the signing of Lessard and retaining of Brodeur.

09-10 – 32-35-13 251 260
Martin St. Pierre 77-24-48-72 (61-15-51-66)
Ryan Keller 72-34-34-68 (Liiga 54-21-34-55)
Denis Hamel (re-signed) 73-22-29-51
Jonathan Cheechoo (demoted from Ottawa) 25-8-6-14
Drew Bannister (D) 57-4-10-14 (DEL 34-2-15-17)
Paul Baier (D) 62-2-8-10 (62-3-8-11)
Jeremy Yablonski (re-signed) 27-1-0-1
Chris Holt (G) (AHL deal) 2.95 .905 (1.73 .931)
Andy Chiodo (G) 3.28 .901 (KHL 3.66 .866)
Mike Brodeur (G) 3.06 .899 (2.45 .920)
FA’s (Cheechoo not included): D+
Trades: N/A
Best move: Keller
Biggest flop: Chiodo/Brodeur

Forwards performed as expected (although retaining Yablonski was pointless), but the defense choices were obviously terrible before the season began; signing Chiodo was puzzling and Brodeur underperformed.

08-09 – 31-30-19 232 238
Greg Mauldin (re-signed) 80-24-27-51
Denis Hamel (re-signed) 63-25-25-50
Marc Cavosie 64-10-13-23 (ECHL 41-12-18-30)
Matt Carkner (D) (re-signed) 67-3-18-21
Drew Fata (D) 68-7-9-16 (71-3-11-14)
Brendan Bell (D) 15-6-9-15 (69-7-24-31)
Chaz Johnson 48-1-5-6 (ECHL 60-23-24-2-47)
Jeremy Yablonski (re-signed) 64-1-2-3
Geoff Waugh (D) (re-signed) 27-0-2-2
FA’s: C-
Trades: C
Best move: Mauldin
Biggest flop: Yablonski

Bell’s acquisition would have been great if he’d stayed on the roster; as-is retaining Yablonski and Waugh were obviously bad decisions, acquiring Fata was pointless, and neither Johnson nor Cavosie added anything meaningful to the roster.

07-08 – 25-32-23 225 248
Denis Hamel 67-32-23-55 (NHL 53-5-3-8)
Lawrence Nycholat (D) 77-12-37-49 (29-3-25-28)
Niko Dimitrakos 64-20-20-40 (62-19-23-42)
Justin Mapletoft 78-18-22-40 (DEL 10-2-3-5)
Greg Mauldin 71-15-18-33 (Allsvenskan 32-6-10-16)
Matt Carkner (D) 67-10-15-25 (75-6-24-30)
Matt Kinch (D) 73-9-16-25 (DEL 51-4-20-24)
Jeremy Yablonski 76-3-10-13 (ECHL 41-3-3-6)
Geoff Waugh (D) 71-3-3-6 (ECHL 56-1-12-13)
Greg Amadio (D) 50-0-2-2 (previous season 58-3-5-8)
FA’s: B-
Trades: N/A
Best move: Nycholat
Biggest flop: Amadio

Tim Murray’s first stab at the gutted Muckler system, most of the decisions were solid, albeit none performed above expectations; Yablonski, Waugh, and Amadio stand out as head-scratching decisions.

Going through all this let’s briefly break it down by GM:
Tim Murray
FA’s: B-, C-, D+, B, D, C, F, C (avg C-)
Trades: n/a, C, n/a, A, A, B, B+, n/a (avg B+)
Randy Lee
FA’s: D-, C- (avg D)
Trades: C, F (avg D)

While both men struggled to sign appropriate free agents in the off-season, Murray has a much better track record of adding useful pieces during the season.  A problem both share is (or was) the need for an enforcer, “toughness” in the lineup, and the belief that veteran leadership was as important as finding skilled vets.  I’ve long thought the Sens pro scouting was poor and this is evident here–while good players have been signed, it seems largely a matter of chance with the org going back to familiar faces (or attempting too) over and over again (Benoit’s two tours of duty, Akeson’s return, the attempt to bring back Mullen, retaining Brodeur, etc).  What bothers me are the obvious poor decisions–terrible players signed because of “character”.  No GM is going to have a perfect track record, but the BSens are particularly awful in setting themselves up for success. While you want to credit Murray for the Calder Cup, you have to call it a fluke given the results of all his other seasons and Lee has been worse.

This attachment to toughness is something Tim Murray may have overcome, as this season’s Rochester team lacked a pugilist.  It doesn’t appear Randy Lee has learned this lesson–Kleinendorst forced him to move Stortini (by not playing him), but given how often Lee brings up fighting as a positive that clearly continues to matter to him.

What does all of this mean for the 2017-18 Belleville Senators?  If history repeats itself we’ll likely get middling to poor free agents with at least one “character” signing who is of no use whatsoever.  Hopefully Lee can get with the times and do better than expected.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

wtf

I fired up the Nichols stenography machine to work through Pierre Dorion’s season-ending media scrum and from it I picked my own highlights:
-I don’t think there’s any evidence that having a young player like Colin White sit in the pressbox for a playoff run has any impact on their future; it’s a bit like the belief that winning a championship leads to more winning–it’s a lovely sentiment, but it’s an article of faith rather than something you can actually demonstrate
-Dorion aggressively asserting that the team will protect Craig Anderson in the expansion draft is so ridiculous it boggles the mind–what other goaltender is there to protect?  While the clock is ticking on the 36-year old, there’s not even a stable backup option to him right now (everyone has given up on Andrew Hammond, I don’t believe in FA Mike Condon or RFA Matt O’Connor, and neither Chris Driedger nor rookie Marcus Hogberg are anywhere near ready, so yes Pierre, water is wet!  You’ll protect your only goaltender!)  I fear that Nichols is prescient when he says:

Ideally, a player like a Marcus Hogberg can elevate his game and become a factor, but the Senators may have to look at the draft or outside the organization to address this position

The Sens have been incredibly impatient with goaltenders and are far more likely to make a trade for someone they feel is further along than wait for the normal development curve
-if Bryan Murray was still GM Chris Neil would be retained without question–Murray is immensely sentimental and attached to his veterans–it remains to be seen if that’s Dorion’s feeling as well (signing a broken down Chris Kelly in the off-season certainly signals he might be)
-there’s not much to say about Dorion blowing smoke up Max McCormick‘s behind, even though he’s already peaked as a player; Nick Paul, while improving last season, got a mention largely because the press knows who he is and no other forward prospect could possibly be considered; Dorion pumping Harpur‘s tires goes back to when he was drafted (he’s big!) and despite improving he needs more time in the AHL; Chabot…it’s hard to say if he can directly make the jump (although if you believe the hyperbole Dorion certainly thinks so)
-Nichols is exactly right that Dorion will try to maintain most of the roster, convinced that the run this year is confirmation that he’s making the right moves (as opposed to benefiting from fortunate circumstances)–the overhaul Nichols wants is unlikely to occur

I’d hate to see the Senators romanticize this playoff run and the results believing that their situation can replicate itself across subsequent seasons

I think this is exactly what the org will do–it’s certainly what Bryan Murray would–but I’ll hope to be wrong
-Dorion doesn’t appreciate the irony when he says:

As much as we could probably trade Chabot for a lot of good players, but probably the players that we could get for him, probably the impact wouldn’t be as good as some of the players that we already have here. Sometimes you always think the grass is greener on the other side, but sometimes people don’t respect what you have here

The Sens can’t wait to trade away promising prospects for veterans who they think will help them now.  That lack of patience stretches all the way back into the Muckler regime and while sometimes they get away with it, in real terms it’s never truly paid off for them–zero Cup appearances in ten years and missing the playoffs four times.

Overall there was nothing surprising from Dorion.  We can still hope for positive changes and some luck with the expansion draft, but it’s more than likely next season starts with a roster with the same handicaps as the current one.

Free_Agent_logo_2

I neglected to write about the Leafs signing Miro Aaltonen (in March, despite Tweeting about it), whom I identified in my list of potential European Free Agents.  He was an Anaheim pick in 2013 (6-177), but either he or the Ducks weren’t interested in signing and Toronto signed him from Vityaz Podolsk (a teammate of former Sens prospect Alexander Nikulin, incidentally).  Similarly, I Tweeted rather than wrote about Czech defenseman Jakub Jerabek getting picked up by the Montreal Canadians in May (he also had a strong season with Vityaz).  Undersized by NHL standards (5’11), he’s been on my radar since 2015.  Swedish defenseman Oscar Fantenberg (on my radar since 2012) was signed by LA after a solid season with HK Sochi (KHL).  San Jose signed Czech defender Radim Simek (never ranked when draft-eligible); Arizona signed former Flyer draft pick (5-122/07) Mario Kempe (the Swede was playing in the KHL); Rangers signed KHL defenseman Alexei Bereglazov (I had him slatted as a late pick in 2012 on the strength of Corey Pronman and RLR, but at the time he had no interest in playing in North America and has since been unremarkable in the KHL).

Dissecting the EU FA’s that have been signed so far (17) there’s a clear preference in position:
Forwards (6): Aaltonen (Tor), Sandberg (SJ), Ejdsell (Nsh), Shipachyov (Veg), Kampf (Chi), Kempe (Ari)
Defensemen (10): Antipin (Buf), Holm (Van), Sulak (Det), Rosen (Tor), Borgman (Tor), Dyblenko (NJ), Simek (SJ), Bereglazov (NYR), Fantenberg (LA), Jerabek (Mtl)
Goaltenders (1): Machovksy (Det)

The preference for blueliners is clear–the number of forwards signed is on par with what I’m used too, but this is a huge increase in defensemen.  How much the top-performing EU blueliners (Karlsson, Hedman, Josi, Klingberg, etc) have to do with the trend I’m not sure–it might also be related to how many NCAA busts there have been–the push to sign college FA’s is nowhere near as strong as it was five years ago. Another change is how many players are being signed out of the KHL (formerly a difficult proposition): 8 of the 17 players come from that league (there’s also 5 from the SHL, 3 from the Czech league, and 1 from the Finnish Liiga).

senshirp-simple6

This isn’t about SensChirp, but he serves as the Mount Rushmore of generic Sens sites.  I stumbled across a Sens blog I’d never heard of, The System, which I assumed would be about prospects and the AHL, but scrolling through it’s a carbon copy of virtually every other Sens site (which might be why there haven’t been any posts since March, despite all the playoff excitement).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

hoffman

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

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

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

don brennan

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

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

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

Callum: yes, it’s about effort.

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

Print

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

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

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

garrioch

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

senshirp-simple6

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

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

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

freeagent

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

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

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

varada

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

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

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

pierre dorion

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

freeagent

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

journalism

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

charlie

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

broadcast

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

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

apathy

Ross A brought up something I mentioned back in January:

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

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

belleville sens

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

tort-face

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

NWHL_Logo

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

bush mission

There’s no doubt relief from Sens management as Eugene Melnyk squeezes a few more playoff gates out of the franchise.  As happy as I am with Ottawa’s win over Boston (for the record I picked the Bruins, but I’m happy to be wrong), their defense-first, no attacking if you have the lead approach is worrisome.  A few thoughts:
Erik Karlsson was dominant while fighting through injury–can he carry the team further?  It’ll be fun finding out
-it’s a feel-good story for Bobby Ryan to produce, but I’ll echo Nichols‘ in saying this is about the only way the Sens can ever move his horrendous contract
-it was a good series for Derick Brassard (Karlsson ripping him a new one aside–and yes, I’ve seen that questioned, but it’s funnier this way), albeit he needs to keep it up against the Rangers
-I was glad the Chris Kelly experiment lasted just one game–I hope Tommy Wingels has a similar lifespan in the lineup (give me Colin White!)
-the fates intervened to save us from Mark Borowiecki, but the Sens blueline remains problematic any time Karlsson is off the ice
Alex Burrows was invisible
Callum Fraser-favourite Zack Smith added an assist to his good-in-the-corners playoff totals (32-1-3-4)
My final thoughts?  The Sens spend too much time playing not to lose–it doesn’t bode well, but the Rangers are a beatable opponent.

murray-bryan-00495982

Buffalo fired Tim Murray (yes that’s Bryan above, but probably his expression when he heard), along with former Sens scouts Greg Royce, Rob Murphy, and “I owe my career to Sidney Crosby” coach Dan Bylsma.  There was immediate speculation that Tim would be back with the Sens, but whether there’s bad blood with Pierre Dorion or not, I don’t think Melnyk would be willing to spend the money to hire him.

freeagent

 

This is largely a rant about the Sens’ inadequate scouting–their mindnumbing focus on NCAA and CHL free agents to no effect.  Here are a couple of examples from the playoffs I want to point out:
-anyone could have drafted Viktor Arvidsson, but he kept being passed over because he was “too small” (Nashville picked him when he was 21); the Sens are notorious for favouring big players and you look at a guy who scored 30 goals in the regular season and a point-per-game in the playoffs you just shake your head
-the San Jose Sharks are one of the only teams that makes a point of signing free agents out of Europe–searching not for superstars but for quality depth players; in doing so they’ve discovered Melker Karlsson (signed when he was 23), Joonas Donskoi (drafted by Florida but never signed, also signed at 23), and Sens-pick Marcus Sorensen (signed at 24)
The point here isn’t that European leagues produce players that are inherently better, but that the NCAA (and CHL) are more heavily scouted and picked over–there’s much heavier competition for those players and the results aren’t tangibly better.  Why not invest a few dollars in pro scouting the SHL and other leagues?  This does not mean randomly signing players (as the Devils seem to do–picking up defenseman Yaroslav Dyblenko from the KHL, whose accomplishment is that he played for the WJC team back in 12-13, is up there with their inexplicably Sergei Kalinin signing–another WJC grad, incidentally).  I know the reason is money, but the investment cost is really quite small and for a team that’s struggling for depth throughout the organisation it would be well worth it (not that I expect it).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

Binghamton Season Review

Binghamton_Senators_svg

It’s a bittersweet feeling to know this is the last season where I’ll be writing about Binghamton.  The fans I’ve met have been among the best people I’ve interacted with in hockey fandom.  It’s not easy saying goodbye, but I believe the franchise that is arriving is in better hands, so they have great hockey to look forward too.  The last few seasons have not been kind to the dedicated folk there, but that doesn’t mean we can’t squeeze out a few positives.  Let’s dig into the numbers, shall we?

Comparing this season to last season the decline that began in the Luke Richardson-era has continued, with the team finishing a disappointing 28-44-4.  Here’s how last season and this one compare (2015-16/2016-17):
31-38-7 (0.45)/28-44-4 (0.39) -3 wins, -9 points, remaining second worst in their conference
204 GF/190 GF -14 goals dropping to last in their conference
341 GA/266 GA +75 improvement, but dropping from third-worst to second-worst in the conference
PP 17.8%/15.0% -2.8% dropping from 9th to 26th overall
PK 81.8%/79.0% -2.8% dropping from 24th to 27th overall

Despite considerably less talent at his disposal, coach Kurt Kleinendorst was able to get his middling blueline to vastly improve, but had no magical solution to squeeze any more offense out of it, nor improve special teams (the PK in particular crashed and burned later in the season).  The problems for Binghamton involved depth–there just weren’t enough talented players to go around.  In terms of roster movement, the only positive additions came from Europe, with Jason Akeson arriving via the KHL and a failed attempt to get Patrick Mullen the same way.

The AHL season consists of 76 games (excluding the wonky-Pacific division), so the most convenient way to split it up is into four 19-game segments (notable streaks in brackets):
5-12-2 (0.31; Oct.15-Dec.2) 4 straight losses, front end of six straight losses
11-7-1 (0.60; Dec.3-Jan.15) back end of 6 straight losses, beginning of the 13-5-1 run that included a 4-game unbeaten streak and 4 straight wins
7-12-0 (0.36; Jan.20-Mar.3) end of 13-5-1 run, 4 straight losses, beginning of 7 straight losses
5-13-1 (0.28; Mar.4-Apr.15) end of 7 straight losses, 4 straight losses

I noted last year that Binghamton was streaky, but that was less the case this season (66% of Richardson’s losses last season were in streaks, while Kleinendorst’s make up for 56% of the total (25 of the 44)).  If you’re wondering what the primary lineup for the BSens hot streak was, here it is: Akeson, McCormick, Paul, Rodewald, Nehring, and Rumble played every game. Remaining Forwards: Gagne (13-4-1), Perron (12-3-1), Varone (11-5-0), Krushelnyski (11-5-0), Robinson (10-5-0), Flanagan (9-3-1), Blunden (9-4-1), Bailey (7-4-1), Loiselle (2-1-0), Stortini (0-1-1); defensemen: Sieloff (12-3-1), Lepine (12-3-1), Harpur (11-4-1), Kostka (11-5-0), Englund (10-5-1), Erkamps (3-0-1); and goaltenders: O’Connor 8-2-0 (almost two-thirds of his wins this season), Driedger 5-3-1

I tracked a variety of other numbers this season.  Here’s the impact of shots-on-goal for the team:
Outshot opponent: 9-17-2 (0.35)
Outshot by the opponent: 18-26-2 (0.41)
Even shots: 1-1-0 (0.50)
I don’t think there’s much to conclude here as both numbers are fairly close to the team average (0.395); maybe the higher shot games represent looser defense, but I think more digging would be required to confirm that.
Special teams:
Scored on the powerplay: 14-19-2 (0.42)
Scored against on the powerplay: 18-22-2 (0.45)
No powerplay goals in the game: 5-13-1 (0.28)
These are pretty strange numbers, but if they say anything I think it’s that Binghamton was such a weak team ultimately special teams weren’t significant enough to tilt wins and losses strongly one way or another.

Moving on to player performances (which are arranged by points-per-game, with those who played under 10 games listed at the bottom); players in italics are rookies while those in blue were 25 or older when the season began; traded players are crossed out while new arrivals are in green (I’ve included season totals for traded players in square brackets; ECHL numbers are in the Wichita discussion below):

Jason Akeson* 57-20-31-51 (0.89)
Phil Varone 65-15-36-51 (0.78)
Casey Bailey 62-21-16-37 (0.60)
Max McCormick 66-21-15-36 (0.55)
Nick Paul 72-15-22-37 (0.51)
Chris Rumble-D 56-6-21-27 (0.48)
Kyle Flanagan 68-9-20-29 (0.43)
Mike Blunden 67-14-15-29 (0.43)
Ben Harpur-D 63-2-25-27 (0.43)
Jack Rodewald 66-18-9-27 (0.41)
Francis Perron 68-6-20-26 (0.38)
Chad Nehring 50-5-13-18 (0.36)
Buddy Robinson 33-7-5-12 (0.36) [66-17-14-31 (0.46)]
Curtis Lazar 13-3-1-4 (0.31) [did not play in the AHL for Calgary]
Brandon Gormley-D 17-2-3-5 (0.29) [52-4-11-15 (0.29)]
Michael Kostka-D 46-1-11-12 (0.26) [61-3-21-24 (0.39)]
Patrick Sieloff-D 52-2-10-12 (0.23)
Chris Carlisle-D 74-3-13-16 (0.22)
Ryan Rupert 33-3-3-6 (0.18)
Macoy Erkamps-D 11-0-2-2 (0.18)
Alex Krushelnyski 43-3-4-7 (0.16)
Gabriel Gagne 41-2-4-6 (0.15)
Andreas Englund-D 69-3-7-10 (0.14)
Zack Stortini 22-2-1-3 (0.14) [48-3-1-4 (0.08)]
Marc Hagel 27-0-3-3 (0.11) [53-2-8-10 (0.19)]
Guillaume Lepine-D 54-1-2-3 (0.06)
Colin White 3-1-2-3
Zach O’Brien 1-1-0-1
Jordan Murray-D 5-1-1-2
Charles-David Beaudoin-D 6-0-2-2
Vincent Dunn# 8-0-2-2
Fredrik Claesson-D 9-0-1-1

Chris Driedger 12-19-2 3.22 .900
Matt O’Connor 14-18-2 3.23 .895
Andrew Hammond 2-3-0 3.24 .884
Marcus Hogberg 0-3-0 4.34 .865
Scott Greenham 0-1-0 7.09 .765

(I excluded ECHL call-ups and ATO/PTO’s Steve McParland, Greger Hanson, Mike Cazzola, Alexis Loiseau, Triston Grant, Kevin Lough, Jordan Boucher, Jamie Doornbosch, and Chris Leblanc, as none produced in any games they played)

*Akeson started the season in the KHL (Admiral Vladivostok 17-1-4-5)
#while it’s technically Dunn’s second year as a pro, he’s still considered an AHL-rookie

What about even-strength production?  The leaderboard doesn’t change much:
Akeson 33 (0.57)
Varone 32 (0.49)
Paul 31 (0.43)
McCormick 27 (0.40)
Bailey 24 (0.38)
Rumble 19 (0.33)
Blunden 22 (0.32)
Flanagan 21 (0.30)
Rodewald 20 (0.30)
Harpur 19 (0.30)
Perron 17 (0.25)
Nehring 12 (0.24)
Sieloff 10 (0.19)
Carlisle 12 (0.16)

Top powerplay performers:
Akeson 18
Varone 15
Bailey 13
Perron 9
Rumble 8
Rodewald, Harpur, Blunden, Kostka 7
Paul 6
McCormick, Flanagan 5

Shorthanded: McCormick/Varone 4, Flanagan 3, Nehring 2

What about goaltending?  What was the difference in how the team played depending on who was in net?  I think it’s best demonstrated with shot-support (which is to say, whether the team outshot their opponent depending on the goaltender):
Driedger 14-18-1
O’Connor 10-24-1
Hammond 3-2-0
Hogberg 0-3-0
Greenham 0-1-0

Plus/minus is a terrible stat at the best of times, but oddities sometimes are indicative, so here’s best-to-worst (with a minimum of 40 games played):
Harpur Even (63 GP)
Gagne -3 (41 GP)
Sieloff -5 (52 GP)
Rumble -7 (56 GP)
Nehring -8 (50 GP)
Krushelnyski -9 (43 GP)
Perron -11 (68 GP)
Rodewald -13 (66 GP)
Varone -14 (65 GP)
Bailey/McCormick/Flanagan -15 (62/66/68 GP)
Paul -17 (72 GP)
Englund -18 (69 GP)
Lepine -21 (54 GP)
Akeson -23 (57 GP)
Carlisle -29 (74 GP)
Blunden/Kostka -33 (67/46 GP)

Last year I took a look at the with-or-without-you numbers in terms of winning percentage (a rough way to gauge the impact of players being in & out of the lineup).  The team’s overall winning percentage is 0.395, which means anyone playing close to that total has their effect disguised by the overall ratio (so Carlisle, who played the most games of anyone (74), is essentially invisible here), but as you move away from 76 games played you can get an inkling of impact.  Here’s the list (excluding anyone who played 11 or fewer games):
Robinson 0.48
Gagne, Krushelnyski 0.46
Nehring 0.44
Kostka 0.43
Akeson, Sieloff, Harpur 0.41
Paul, McCormick, Carlisle, Rodewald 0.40
TEAM AVERAGE 0.395
Perron, Varone, Rumble 0.39
Blunden, Englund 0.38
Bailey 0.37
Flanagan, Lepine 0.36
Hagel 0.35
Lazar 0.34
Stortini 0.29
Gormley 0.26
There are a few things to note: as an inverse to last season, players who were with the team late suffered more than those who were around during earlier part of the season.  I wouldn’t get too excited about anyone within a couple of points off the average–it’s within the margin of error.  With that being said, I noted repeatedly last season that both Stortini and Lepine were drags on performance, but both played enough games to be hidden by the numbers–this year there was no hiding.  The high numbers for both Gagne and the now departed ECHLer Krushelnyski are less about their individual performance and more about how much worse their replacements were in the lineup (it’s worth noting both started with extremely high winning percentages that declined as the season went on–the latter’s number was saved by being returned to the ECHL, while Gagne missed early season struggles).  I’d also take Gormley‘s number with a grain of salt, as he played every game after he arrived–Binghamton was simply that bad, so his impact is difficult to discern.  As a footnote to this, Erkamps is at the 11-game cutoff (it’s imposed because of him)–the team is .500 when he’s in the lineup, but I don’t think you can conclude from the sample-size that he’s the reason for that.

There’s a lot to dig into when it comes to individual player performance:
Jason Akeson 57-20-31-51 (0.89) 33 ESP 18 PPP
The undrafted 26-year old played his fifth pro season this year, returning to the team in December after jumping to the KHL at the end of last season; he hit his usual AHL production numbers (his career average is 0.83) and while his arrival was a plus to the team it wasn’t enough to improve the team around him (for reference, among players with 30 or more games, he was 18th in the AHL in points-per-game)
Phil Varone 65-15-36-51 (0.78) 32 ESP 15 PPP 4 SHP
26-year old former San Jose pick (5-147/09) completed his sixth pro season; he was acquired from Buffalo last year and signed a one-year extension in the off-season; he hit his usual production numbers (his AHL career average is 0.76)–I mentioned in last years review that the gaudy numbers he, Akeson, and Bailey put up when they arrived from Toronto would regress to the mean this season, as indeed they have
Casey Bailey 62-21-16-37 (0.60) 24 ESP 13 PPP
Undrafted 25-year old finished his second pro season after being acquired from the Leafs last year and signing an extension in the off-season; his numbers are similar to his rookie season (0.57)
Max McCormick 66-21-15-36 (0.55) 27 ESP 5 PPP 4 SHP
24-year old Sens draft pick (6-171/11) is an organisational favourite finishing his third pro season; his production is similar to last season (0.52), but he made a significant cut in his penalty minutes (as, indeed, the entire roster did under Kleinendorst); I’m not sure there’s another gear for Max, but right now he’s a borderline top-six AHL forward who might be able to make the jump as a depth NHL forward
Nick Paul 72-15-22-37 (0.51) 31 ESP 6 PPP
The sophomore season for the 22-year old former Dallas draft pick (4-101/13), who improved over last season (0.37)–his production at even strength is particularly notable (beating out McCormick both in total and percentage)
Chris Rumble 56-6-21-27 (0.48) 19 ESP 8 PPP
Undrafted son of former NHLer Darren, the 27-year old was discovered by Evansville Iceman GM Jim Riggs last year and he signed an AHL contract with the BSens over the summer; after a brief stint in Wichita (3 games) he spent the rest of the year in Binghamton; he was the most consistently productive defenseman on the team
Kyle Flanagan 68-9-20-29 (0.43) 21 ESP 5PPP 3 SHP
The undrafted 28-year old completed his fourth pro season; he became a Binghamton regular last season when he was loaned to the team from ECHL Adirondack (having bounced out of the SEL the year before); he produced around his AHL-average (0.41) and surprisingly has another year on his AHL-deal
Mike Blunden 67-14-15-29 (0.43) 22 ESP 7 PPP
30-year old former Chicago pick (2-43/05) finished his 11th pro season; he’s a classic org signing–favouring “character” over skill; it was a below-average season for him (career average is 0.52), as he needs skilled players around him to be effective; he was a team worst -33
Ben Harpur 63-2-25-27 (0.43) 19 ESP 7 PPP 1 SHP
Sophomore season for the 22-year old Sens draft pick (4-108/13); a lot of people (myself included) thought there was no hope for him after his disastrous rookie season, but under a real coach there were positive signs of growth as his production is well-above his CHL norm (0.29; approaching his career high there) and after a slow start he was fairly consistent (plus/minus is a terrible stat, but he was well ahead of most of his teammates); his progression is encouraging, but it isn’t time to spit-shin a Norris trophy just yet
Jack Rodewald 66-18-9-27 (0.41) 20 ESP 7 PPP
The undrafted 23-year old completed his second pro season after spending the last buried in the Toronto Marlie depth chart; he began the season in Wichita but was signed to an AHL-deal after a hot-start when he was recalled; his numbers dipped strongly in the second half (37-6-2-8), making it an open question about what kind of AHL-player he is
Francis Perron 68-6-20-26 (0.38) 17 ESP 9 PPP
The rookie season for the 20-year old Sens pick (7-190/14), who was consistent if not overwhelming in his debut; no warning signs yet and plenty of room for growth
Chad Nehring 50-5-13-18 (0.36) 12 ESP 4 PPP 2 SHP
Undrafted 29-year old finished his sixth pro season; the Sens signed him after a career year in Hartford (0.63), but he reverted back towards his career average (0.44) and was a huge disappointment (something I warned was likely when he was signed)
Buddy Robinson 33-7-5-12 (0.36) 12 ESP
Yet another hyped NCAA FA signing by the Sens (from 2013); after four seasons with the org the team finally gave up on the 25-year old, sending him to San Jose; I think Buddy is an excellent support player at the AHL-level, but there’s no evidence he’ll ever be more than that
Curtis Lazar 13-3-1-4 (0.31) 2 ESP 2 PPP
Sens first-rounder (1-17/13–picked ahead of so many better options), the 22-year old was finally jettisoned to Calgary; his limited time in Binghamton was just as unimpressive as his time in Ottawa (his primary impact is how low the team’s winning percentage was when he was in the lineup)
Brandon Gormley 17-2-3-5 (0.29) 3 ESP 2 PPP
Speaking of poorly thought out first-round picks, the 25-year old former Coyote pick (1-13/10) completed his fourth pro season, acquired late in the season from New Jersey for future considerations, his production was unchanged from Albany, although it’s below his AHL-average (0.40)
Michael Kostka 46-1-11-12 (0.26) 4 ESP 7 PPP 1 SHP
Undrafted 31-year old was traded in his ninth pro season amidst a subpar year in Binghamton (perhaps the weight of carrying around Lepine finally got to him); he went beyond his traditional numbers (0.52) once he arrived in Stockton (0.80)
Patrick Sieloff 52-2-10-12 (0.23) 10 ESP 1 PPP 1 SHP
The reward for dumping Alex Chaisson, the 22-year old former Calgary pick (2-42/12) wrapped up his third pro season with virtually identical numbers to his second (52-2-9-11); expectations weren’t high for him and if the Belleville Sens want some depth on defense he isn’t a bad option
Chris Carlisle 74-3-13-16 (0.22) 12 ESP 4 PPP
Undrafted 22-year old was signed to an AHL contract two seasons ago; he had similar numbers to his rookie season (0.18) and clearly the coach was a fan as he played virtually the entire season
Ryan Rupert 33-3-3-6 (0.18) 5 ESP 1 PPP
22-year old former Leaf pick (6-157/12) was part of the general detritus forced upon Binghamton as part of the Phaneuf deal; finishing his third pro season he was well below his AHL-average production (0.39), spending much of the year banished to Wichita
Macoy Erkamps 11-0-2-2 (0.18) 1 ESP 1 PPP
22-year old undrafted CHL FA signing’s rookie year, which was mostly spent in Wichita; his time in Binghamton was far too short to properly assess him (although as a quirk of his call-ups the team was .500 when he was in the lineup)
Alex Krushelnyski 43-3-4-7 (0.16) 7 ESP
26-year old undrafted son of former NHLer Mike, this was his third pro season; the BSens signed him to an AHL-contract in the summer and after starting in Wichita he spent four months with the team before being loaned to the Allen Americans (ECHL); he’s excellent at the East Coast level, but AHL-consistency alludes him
Gabriel Gagne 41-2-4-6 (0.15) 4 ESP 2 PPP
20-year old Sens pick (2-36/15) and org favourite struggled in his rookie season, with middling ECHL numbers and non-existent production in the AHL; there’s still plenty of time for him and he was responsible defensively, so I wouldn’t let the numbers be too discouraging
Andreas Englund 69-3-7-10 (0.14) 10 ESP
21-year old Sens pick’s (2-40/14) rookie season; he’s not expected to score and as these things go it was a solid year for him
Zack Stortini 22-2-1-3 (0.14) 2 ESP 1 PPP
31-year old former Oiler pick (3-94/03) was finally moved in his 12th pro season; without Richardson protecting him his minutes were cut and then he was benched altogether until he was moved to San Jose; how anyone in the org thought he was worth an expensive two-year AHL deal is beyond me
Marc Hagel 27-0-3-3 (0.11) 3 ESP
I have no idea who in the org knows the undrafted 28-year old veteran, but clearly he has a connection with someone or he wouldn’t have been acquired from Iowa; I’m not sure he’ll get a fifth AHL season after this one as he completely tanked in Binghamton (well below his 0.35 production average)
Guillaume Lepine 54-1-2-3 (0.06) 3 ESP
Undrafted 30-year old org favourite arrived via Evansville three seasons ago and until this season coasted along via favourable partners; exposed this year, hopefully this ninth pro season with Binghamton will be his last with the org
Chris Driedger 12-19-2 3.22 .900 SO% .750 pulled 3 times
22-year old Sens pick’s (3-76/12) third pro season, which came off the rails the last month of the season (2-6-0 3.97 .878); 18 of his 33 games had a save percentage of .900 or more and while I like Driedger I’d hoped for more consistency; both he and O’Connor were abysmal in brief ECHL duty
Matt O’Connor 14-18-2 3.23 .895 SO% .667 pulled 3 times
25-year old NCAA FA signing finished his second pro season with mirror image numbers (0.895 last year as well); he was erratic all season, just as he was in his rookie year; 18 of his 34 games had a save percentage of .900 or more; he was awful in his brief Wichita stint; what do you do with him at this point?  Goaltenders can develop late, but being a few years older than Driedger and with Hogberg in the fold I think you have to let him walk
Marcus Hogberg 0-3-0 4.34 .865
The 22-year old signed an ATO in order to come over and play after Linkoping lost in the first round of the SHL playoffs; he got shelled in his three starts, but in fairness to him he received little support (just three goals for) and was behind a terrible defensecorps; there were signs of improvement in his last start, but this isn’t the time to judge him

Conclusions: while this was a bad season for Binghamton, there are positives to take away from it.  Whatever you think of the job Kleinendorst did, prospects did improve–there was growth across the board with younger players, along with accountability, something absent under Richardson’s regime.  Being a veteran did not make you invulnerable to scrutiny, and the dead weight that carried over from the previous season was moved, benched, or saw their playing time limited.  On the flipside the org did little to help the team–callups, after the very first wave, were unwhelming, roster moves hurt more than they helped, and the veterans on the team were disappointing to average–Stortini failed and was moved, Kostka struggled and was moved, Nehring and Blunden disappointed, so only Varone (and Akeson when reacquired) performed as expected.  As I said last year, the best thing for the future of Ottawa’s AHL franchise is to remove Randy Lee from his GM position, but I don’t expect that to happen.

wichita-thunder-logo

Last season the Sens affiliate was in Evansville (whose franchise subsequently moved), and they finished 29-33-10.  Wichita became the new affiliate, coming off an atrocious 18-41-13 year, and they finished essentially the same this season (21-44-7, three more wins, but the exact same number of points).  It’s a terrible result by any measure (second worst in the league, with the second fewest goals for and third most goals against; they were also among the most penalized teams), and I don’t expect the Sens to maintain the affiliation next season.  I’ll list the numbers for the players with a BSens connection.

Ryan Rupert 29-9-12-21 (0.72)
Probably should have spent the entire season here, he was adequate offensively and will likely return to the ECHL next year once the Sens let his ELC expire
Gabriel Gagne 19-6-5-11 (0.58)
The rookie was less productive than expected with a long cold streak in November (he had three separate stints in Wichita: 14-3-4-7, 1-2-0-2, and 4-1-1-2)
Macoy Erkamps 56-6-19-25 (0.43)
Rookie finished second on the roster in points by a blueliner (behind brief BSen call-up Jamie Doornbosch); while I don’t put much stock in plus/minus he had the best among players who spent 40+ games with the Thunder (-8)
Vincent Dunn 47-4-8-12 (0.26)
Was worse in his second season in the ECHL and the Sens really need to get him out of the organisation
Scott Greenham 10-13-4 3.59 .898
Had a terrible back-half to his season, slipping behind goaltending partner Drew Owsley in both stats categories (but not wins)

Jack Rodewald (6-5-3-8), Darren Rumble (3-2-1-3), and Alex Krushelnyski (6-2-5-7) all started the season here, while BSens ATO and Sens pick (6-161/13) Chris Leblanc (7-0-5-5) finished the season with the Thunder.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

Senators News & Notes

Gnomes_plan

If there’s one thing you can count on with the Sens it’s inconsistency.  They balked at signing prospect Colin White to an ELC for fears of burning off a year of his eligibility…and then signed him to an ELC as injuries began to mount.  The bizarre mix of needing to make the playoffs and save money creates a lot of wonky situations for the org.  As everyone has pointed out White is an upgrade to the Sens bottom-six forward group and his arrival in Ottawa at this time of year is an echo of Jakob Silverberg‘s playoff debut back in 2012–let’s hope a terrible trade for a fading star isn’t also in the his future.

Speaking of prospects, remember how Thomas Chabot wasn’t ready for the NHL? In typical Dorion fashion he’s now the best defenseman outside the NHL (!). I wish the org would cut down on the hyperbole–it does them no favours.  I agree with Nichols (his link above) that the Sens never should have sent him back to the QMJHL…or at least should have looked into the rule on recalling players from the CHL before the trade deadline (pretty embarrassing that they had to ask the league for how that worked when it was already too late).

I want to reflect a little on the Nichols’ piece cited above: the august delineator mentioned how little impact AHL call-ups have had for Ottawa (with the exception of Freddy Claesson), and that parallel’s what ECHL call-ups have done for Binghamton: excluding Jack Rodewald these players are an accumulated 74-4-4-8 (I know Chris Rumble started the season in Wichita, but he was on an AHL-contract). As I’ve said many times before, the org struggles to assess talent.  Here’s a great example of Dorion (and Randy Lee) being off their rocker for what’s important from a player:

The thing where he’s [Ben Harpur] improved the most is his level of compete. Last Wednesday when we were there, he fought twice

This idea that fighting matters at all is painfully outdated, but it does give you an idea of what Sens management thinks “competing” is (and also why they have much more rope for bigger/”meaner” players than those with skill)–thus irrelevant praise for Michael Blunden whose in the midst of a very disappointing season.

travisyost

Travis Yost looked at round-one playoff match-ups and concluded the Sens want to avoid Washington and Toronto, but should want Montreal.  For entertainment value I’d take either rival, albeit each would have louder fans in Ottawa’s arena than their own.

Binghamton_Senators_svg

With the call-ups to Ottawa the BSens have had to do some roster moves, adding ECHL (South Carolina) forward Steve McParland (59-19-29-48) and a pair of defensemen: ECHLer (Adirondack) Kevin Lough (51-4-14-18) and CIS grad (New Brunswick) Jordan Murray (30-14-26-40).  Along with this trio Marcus Hogberg has arrived to play in what will be an interesting trial by fire for him.  Other roster moves: from a couple of weeks ago they loaned call-up Alex Krushelnyski back to the ECHL (but to the Allen Americans rather than Wichita); about a week later the always disappointing Ryan Rupert was returned to Wichita.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

Iron-Fist-splash-2-1024x514

This post has been in process for quite some time–interrupted first by my powering through Iron Fist (despite a critical pounding it’s worth watching if you like the Marvel Netflix properties–a tip of the hat to actor Tom Pelphrey for his performance as Ward Meachum), and subsequently Mass Effect: Andromeda (something else taking a critical beating, but I enjoyed it).  But back to hockey.

The always engaging Ary M penned a piece speculating on which NCAA free agents the Sens might target, and in the midst of that referenced Ottawa’s relative success in both that market and the CHL (Ottawa has not looked to Europe under the Murray/Dorion regime).  Although I briefly went through the Sens record of failure in this regard last April, I thought it would be worthwhile doing it again in more detail so we can gauge the relative success of the org (for those with long memories, NCAA defenseman free agent Derek Smith was actually a Muckler signing, so isn’t included below; numbers in brackets are a player’s point-per-game average):

NCAA (10)
Jesse Winchester (2008) – NHL 233-11-41-52 (0.22); Result: marginal fourth-line NHLer
Signed with the a great deal of hype as a potential top-six forward (!), the Sens forced him into the NHL and kept him there for three seasons; he spent one more year in Florida before injury destroyed his pro career
Bobby Butler (2009) – NHL 94-16-21-37 (0.39); AHL 47-22-11-33 (0.70); Result: top AHLer
Had even more fanfare with the org (another top-six forward!) and won a Calder Cup his rookie year; but the Sens bought him out just two years later and after putting up strong AHL numbers subsequently he’s stumbled around the European leagues in search of better paycheques
Stephane Da Costa (2010) – NHL 47-7-4-11 (0.23); AHL 159-44-88-132 (0.83); Result: uncertain (definitely top-tier AHLer)
Did I mention fanfare?  Another top-six forward in the org’s mind; to me he’s the most talented player listed here, but the Sens didn’t want to guarantee him a roster spot so he jumped to the KHL (94-46-50-96)
Pat Cannone (2011) – AHL 152-30-40-70 (0.46); Result: top-six AHLer
No fanfare, thankfully, and after two middling seasons with Binghamton the Sens sent him packing; he’s remained a useful AHL player
Cole Schnieder (2012) – AHL 263-83-108-191 (0.72); Result: undetermined, at least top AHLer
Limited fanfare; despite consistently putting up numbers with Binghamton he was never rewarded with a call-up, so Tim Murray plucked him away last season; while at 26 it’s unlikely he’ll carve out an NHL space for himself, he certainly warranted the opportunity with Ottawa
Buddy Robinson (2012) – AHL 245-49-55-104 (0.42); Result: top-nine AHLer
Because of his size there was both fanfare and opportunity for Buddy, but he simply never grew from the player he was in his rookie season; he’s in San Jose’s org now
Andrew Hammond (2013) – NHL 27-14-4 2.31 .922; AHL 34-37-5 3.08 .903; Result: AHLer of some degree
Limited fanfare (Robin Lehner was still with the org when he was signed) and while some will argue his spectacular run in 2015 is enough to make him a success (very Steve Penny of him), I don’t think it did either the team or his career any favours; he’s always been terrible in Binghamton, but I suspect he’d be at least a decent AHL goaltender elsewhere
Garrett Thompson (2013) – AHL 65-6-8-14 (0.21); Result: ECHLer
How do you miss this badly?  Thankfully there was no hype, but he’s not even an AHL player
Ludwig Karlsson (2013) – ECHL 39-11-13-24 (0.61); Result: ECHLer
Speaking of misses; he’s big so there were a few squeaks from the org when signed, but he was such a disaster he was pawned off to Dallas in the Jason Spezza trade
Matt O’Connor (2015) – AHL 22-37-5  3.29.894; Result: AHLer
Received a ton of fanfare and we can argue about whether it’s too early to declare what a goaltender is at 25, but his numbers in both pro seasons are mirrors of one another and it’s clear from all the Driedger recalls this season what the org thinks of him

CHL (5)
Craig Schira (2009) – AHL 208-15-32-48 (0.23); Result: bottom-pairing AHLer
No fanfare and didn’t really evolve from when he arrived; he’s been better in Europe, although he’s had less success in Sweden than he did in Finland
David Dziurzynski (2010) – AHL 351-46-81-127 (0.36); Result: third-line AHLer
No hype for the BCHLer, but a lot of Bingo fans have a soft spot for Dave; as a prospect he essentially arrived as a third-line player and never evolved from there; he suffered through a terrible season in Germany this year and will likely be back this side of the Atlantic in the fall
Wacey Hamilton (2011) – AHL 175-13-26-39 (0.22); Result: fourth-line AHLer
Lacked fanfare and, as with the above players, arrived and simply never evolved; has marginal AHL-talent, but his ability as an agitator has kept him in the league
Troy Rutkowski (2013) – ECHL 156-12-51-63 (0.40); Result: ECHLer
No org hype; actually drafted by Colorado (but sensibly discarded), the Sens lost faith in him very early (not cut in the Luke Richardson mold) and he barely appeared in Binghamton (just 30 games over three years); Jeff Ulmer and I argued about him quite a bit last year, but my point then was that the BSens blueline was bad enough that he was a sensible alternative; he’s playing in Norway now (the same route, incidentally, that Schira used to graduate to better European leagues)
Macoy Erkamps (2016) – ECHL 57-6-19-25 (0.43); Result: undetermined
No fanfare; Far too early to decide his fate at this point, although being unable to break through Binghamton’s weak blueline this season is not a good sign

Conclusions: while the org has largely dialed down the hype for these kinds of players, the results have actually been getting worse, not better.  Their CHL efforts have all been pointless in the long run (unless getting Dziurzynski concussed in the NHL is a win), while none of the NCAA trials have actually achieved a true NHL roster player (we can argue about Hammond, but it would be an argument).  Of these 15 players the best potential result was Da Costa who maybe was a useful third-line player (with second-unit powerplay duty), but neither the org nor the player had the patience for it to turn out.  Ultimately this collection was (mostly) good for the AHL and not much else.  I think those of us who follow the org see the decreasing frequency in signing these players being due to Tim Murray’s absence, but a better question (and I have no answer) is why the talent-level of these prospects has been in such rapid decline.  What voice (or voices) are no longer there to eliminate the duds here?  Clearly the minds assessing talent that signed people like Garrett Thompson or Zack Stortini face little opposition these days (speaking of the latter, the AHL-veteran signings under the Murray/Dorion regime have been pretty bad as well, but that’s a separate topic).

prospects

Randy Lee talked prospects recently (view the Nichols stenography service): the attempt to sign Colin White (who has signed an ATO with Binghamton), the team is bringing Christian Jaros and Marcus Hogberg over from Europe next season as well (they’ll help a lot), and Ben Harpur being the next Bobby Orr; an fyi to Nichols if he’s reading: Randy Lee thinks players fighting is a sign of character.  I’d expect Cody Donaghey to be signed as well–he came over in the Dion Phaneuf trade and the system needs defensemen.  The org doesn’t need to make any other decisions on signing prospects.

It has been awhile since my last prospect update; regular seasons have ended; here’s a look at how Sens prospects are doing (sorted by league and arranged by points-per-game):

CHL
Filip Chlapik (Charlottetown; 2-48/15) 57-34-57-91 (1.59)
Finished first in scoring on his team, although he’s behind teammate (and Penguin pick) Daniel Sprong in PPG (who is also the only player in the Q with a higher PPG, albeit Chlapik’s production has been slipping lately)
Thomas Chabot (Saint John; 1-18/15) 34-10-35-45 (1.32)
Lead the league in PPG by a defenseman
Logan Brown (Windsor; 1-11/16) 35-14-26-40 (1.14)
Finished second on his team in PPG (behind Gabriel Vilardi), and 24th in the league in PPG
Filip Ahl (Regina; 4-109/15) 54-28-50-48 (0.88)
Finished seventh in points and PPG on the high flying Pats
Cody Donaghey (Charlottetown/Sherbrooke; T-16) 52-11-29-40 (0.76)
First in points and PPG among defensemen on his team; tied for 10th overall in the Q; has much lower production with Sherbrooke (0.33)
Maxime Lajoie (Swift Current; 5-133/16) 68-7-35-42 (0.63)
Finished second in points and PPG among blueliners (behind Artyom Minulin); he’s 25th overall in the WHL

NCAA
Colin White (Boston; 1-21/15, sophomore) 33-16-17-33 (1.00)
First in PPG
Robert Baillargeon (Arizona; 5-136/12, senior) 28-9-12-21 (0.75)
Finished ahead of Anthony Croston for the PPG lead (he was not signed)
Christian Wolanin (North Dakota; 4-107/15, sophomore) 37-6-16-22 (0.59)
Well behind Jet-pick Tucker Poolman for points and PPG among blueliners
Chris Leblanc (Merrimack; 6-161/13, senior) 27-5-10-15 (0.55)
Finished 7th on the team in scoring and 6th in PPG; signed an ATO with Binghamton
Shane Eiserman (New Hampshire; 4-100/14, junior) 27-5-8-13 (0.48)
Finished ninth in scoring and seventh in PPG
Kelly Summers (Clarkson; 7-189/14, junior) 39-3-14-17 (0.43)
Finished third on the team in PPG among blueliners (well behind Detroit pick James De Haas)
Miles Gendron (Connecticut; 3-70/14, sophomore) 36-4-7-11 (0.30)
Finished second in scoring and third in PPG among blueliners
Todd Burgess (RPI; 4-103/16, freshman) (injured)
Joel Daccord (Arizona; 7-199/15, freshman) 3-8-1 4.03 .892
Finished second in both GAA and save percentage

Europe
Christian Jaros (Lulea; 5-139/15) 36-5-8-13 (0.36)
Finished fourth in scoring among blueliners, but is tied with three other players in PPG (second among players 21 and under behind the undrafted Sebastian Aho); his season is over
Markus Nurmi (TPS Jr/TPS/TUTO; 6-163/16) 27-12-16-28 (1.03); 5-0-0-0; 11-2-0-2 (0.18)
After playing his way out of the junior system he bounced from the Liiga parent team to TUTO in the Mestis (the Finnish second division); he’s the only teenage forward on the team and played limited minutes
Marcus Hogberg (Linkoping; 3-78/13) 19-14-0 1.89 .931
He finished fourth in the league in save percentage and well ahead of his partner in both categories; was second to Islander pick Linus Soderstrom in both categories among those in his age group

travisyost

Travis Yost looks at the defining characteristics of a Cup contender and concludes good offence along with goaltending are what matter most (as opposed to the usual conventional wisdom about great defense).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)