Belleville 0, Syracuse 6

The BSens had a week between games to practice and prepare and that was not in evidence on Saturday as they looked hopelessly outmatched by the Crunch (they finished the game with just four scoring chances, a season low, including just one via eight powerplays). Before I get into specific observations, here are the basics (the boxscore):
Shots: 18-26
PP: 0-8 (includes a lengthy 5-on-3 and 4 minutes of a double minor)
PK: 2-4
Goaltender: Danny Taylor (!) got the start and his abysmal season continued as he was pulled after two periods (14-18)–by my count he made 4 key saves; backup Chris Driedger wasn’t much better with the game out of reach (6-8, making 2 key saves), but didn’t get much support in the third. Andrew Hammond, the only consistent goaltender this season, watched from the pressbox while Marcus Hogberg remained in Brampton (winning 4-3 on Sunday in a shootout while making 33 saves). I know Taylor has a fat AHL contract which applies pressure to play him, but they should really sit him out for awhile until he gets his game back in order (or move him, even if you have to loan him back to Europe).

The Opposition
Unchanged from a week ago; the Crunch are 12-9-3 and on an eight game winning streak when they arrived (they once again played their backup against the hapless BSens).

The Goals
1. Syracuse – Sieloff is too deep to effectively react to a 2-on-1 down low and the Crunch score on a one-timer
2. Syracuse – bangs in the puck on a scramble (broadcasters said the play was offside–I’m not so sure, but it might explain why the officials were so generous to the BSens with powerplays)
3. Syracuse PP – goal from the point
4. Syracuse SH – Randell turnover at the blueline becomes a breakaway
5. Syracuse PP – Burgdoerfer makes the same mistake Sieloff did in the first and a wide open Crunch player scores from the slot
6. Syracuse – Driedger beat low (seemed surprised by the shot)

Scoring chances (4): Rodewald, Chlapik, White, Jaros (pp)

The Roster
After inexplicably scratching Gabriel Gagne and Maxime Lajoie last week, Kleinendorst upped the ante by scratching Ethan Werek (Macoy Erkamps was also scratched). On the plus side the team finally sent lumbering pylon Justin Vaive back to the ECHL, but also sent useful depth forward Daniel Ciampini to Brampton. I want to say there’s no reasoning behind the coaching decisions, but there is, it’s just faulty reasoning–like the coaches in Ottawa (and the org generally) Kleinendorst favours veterans who are supposedly defensively responsible and, if possible, gritty–as such, skilled players and prospects suffer.

The Lines

There were no radical changes made to the lineup from the week before–Gagne replaced Werek on the fourth line and Lajoie replaced Erkamps on the third defensive pairing. Neither Kelly nor Randell deserve to be in the lineup, but overall the lines could have been worse.

Special Teams
The week of practice changed nothing; Kleinendorst simply won’t reconstitute formations that have worked in the past and can’t resist inserting ineffective veterans into his special teams. The BSens have completely fallen off a cliff when it comes to performance (through the last nine games the PP is 4-43 (9.3%) and the PK 28-40 (70%)).
Paul-O’Brien-Rodewald/White-DiDomenico (used for the 5-on-3 as well)
McCormick-Chlapik-Randell/Murray-Jaros (one shift where Gagne replaced Randell because he was in the box) (scored on)
Perron-Reinhart-Gagne/Murray-Jaros (once)
McCormick-Chlapik-Randell/Lajoie-Jaros (once)
Perron-Paul-Rodewald/Lajoie-Burgdoerfer (once)
Penalty Kill
Kelly-Randell (scored on), Perron-Randell, McCormick-O’Brien, Perron-Rodewald, Perron-Kelly (scored on), McCormick-Paul
Englund-Jaros (scored on), Englund-Burgdoerfer (scored on), Englund-Murray, Murray-Burgdoerfer

While my frustrations with the powerplay continue (it looks like there was experimentation from the list above, but not nearly as much as you’d expect given the struggles). The only effective PP shift the entire game was early in the third when Kleinendorst reunited Lajoie with Jaros on the blueline (an effective pairing from October), but he put Murray back on that unit the next time out–it boggles the mind. Why Tyler Randell is being shoved down our throats is a mystery–you want to hope they’re trying to showcase him for a trade, but I genuinely believe that Kleinendorst thinks Randell is doing something useful (what, I have no idea). The irrationality that began with the PP has now infected the PK, as for about the last month Kleinendorst has refused to stick with groupings that worked earlier in the season. It’s almost like he wants to be fired, but then, in the constricted workings of the Melnykian economy, he’s likely safe for the season.

Notable Plays
Early in the first the BSens managed zero shots with four straight minutes of PP time; Sieloff threw a big hit in the first, but took the worst of it and didn’t play the rest of the game; Gagne made a great rush (first), but missed the net; Randell not only does nothing useful with the puck he also hasn’t won a fight this year (getting beaten late in the first); Kelly passed to the wrong team on the rush (second); Murray got crushed into the boards and hobbled off (second), but remained in the game; Rodewald missed the net on a shorthanded breakaway (second); Jaros was boarded, but seemed okay (third); the first faceoff for a Syracuse powerplay was in the neutral zone (third), which is something I’ve never seen before.

Player Notes
Murray: despite an enormity of PP time this season he has no points with the man-advantage this season–why the hell is he still playing on it?
Lajoie: would love to see him play more, especially on the PP
Jaros: solid game, but playing with Englund stifles his offense
: let’s walk through his game, shall we? Five shifts on the powerplay, where his only contribution is giving up a shorthanded breakaway (and goal); two shifts on the PK, where he was on-ice for one of the goals against; got into a pointless “we need to fight to justify our existence” situation and lost. Why is he playing? Blackmail? Does he know where the bodies are buried? It makes you want to rip your hair out.
Rodewald: has gone ice cold (one point in his last five); I’m not sure how well he fits with Chlapik as his center (going back to my player usage piece he’s functioned best with Nick Paul as his center)
Kelly: no points in six games–why isn’t he on the fourth line (if you’re going to play him at all)? He’s stifling the offensive potential of his talented linemates

I’ve talked a lot about player usage (link above, with what works and what hasn’t) and I thought I’d just point out some prolonged pointless streaks (we’ll again ignore Randell’s empty net goal because why count it?):
Randell: 23 games (all season)
Sieloff: 13 games
Burgdoerfer: 9 games
Murray: 7 games
Kelly: 6 games (all season for him)
Reinhart: 5 games

You might argue that a player like Sieloff isn’t on the ice to produce, but putting aside whether that’s a good argument or not, none of the others have that excuse (Kelly doesn’t at the AHL-level). This isn’t including Nick Paul’s 1 goal in 17 games, incidentally. While I think there’s a pretty steep dropoff in the BSens talent, a lot of these problems (and others) boil down to coaching–I hate to say it because Kleinendorst won a Calder Cup for the franchise and warmed my heart last season by benching Zack Stortini, but at this stage he just has to go. Unfortunately, the org (even if it did replace him) would simply give us someone similar, so I’m not sure where to look for hope. My expectations for the team were never high (I’m in it for the prospects):

This humdrum lineup will struggle to score and despite a modest improvement to the blueline and a better situation in net, I don’t see them being that much better than last season (albeit, possibly more entertaining).

You can see my review of last season here. The only thing I didn’t foresee was Kleinendorst’s coaching struggles, which have exasperated the problems.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


Belleville 4, Syracuse 5 (SO)

For just the second time in the last eight games the BSens scored more than three goals, with the return of Chris DiDomenico playing a key part in that (albeit in terms of opportunities it was not an unusual night), but a rough night from Andrew Hammond and a poorly timed penalty by Jack Rodewald contributed to the team losing. Before I get into specific observations, here are the basics (box score):
Shots: 24-32
PP: 2-5 (including two 5-on-3’s)
PK: 4-5
Goaltender: Hammond got the start, but had what was his worst start of the year (he made seven key saves); Chris Driedger backed up, while Danny Taylor wasn’t dressed. Marcus Hogberg remained in Brampton where 48 saves weren’t enough in the Beasts 4-3 OT loss (he was subsequently recalled to Belleville, probably just to practice as the team has almost a week off).

The Opposition
The Crunch entered the fray at 9-9-3, but on a five-game winning streak; the team was missing their top-scoring forward and defenseman; goaltending had been atrocious until the acquisition of Louis Domingue, but he did not play.

The Goals
1. Syracuse – Hammond overreacts to a wide shot and can’t get back into position
2. Chlapik scores on a 2-on-1 with McCormick
3. Syracuse – terrible goal on Hammond (low shot through him from the side boards)
4. PP – White one-timer from Perron (final seconds with the 3rd line on the ice)
5. Syracuse – Sieloff flubs clearing the puck in front of the net and the Crunch bang it in off the miscue
6. PP DiDomenico one-timer on the 5-on-3
7. DiDomenico steals the puck and centers to a wide open Paul
8. Syracuse PP – with the goaltender pulled it’s deflected in
Hammond beat on a deke
Didomenico shoots and is stopped
Hammond stop (exact same move as the same shooter)
Chlapik shoots and is stopped
Hammond stops the deke
White scores five-hole
Hammond stop going five-hole
Perron tries to slip the goal in far side, but is stopped
Hammond stops low far side
Paul stopped going five-hole
Hammond doesn’t need to make a stop (shoots high and wide)
Rodewald stopped on a deke
Hammond beat five-hole
Werek stopped trying to out wait the goaltender

Scoring chances (8): Paul (x2), O’Brien (x2), Chlapik, White (pp), DiDomenico (pp), Murray (pp)

The Roster
DiDomenico’s return resulted in Dunn being loaned to Brampton (he was subsequently recalled); oddly both Gagne and Lajoie were scratched (the former had an assist the previous game), with Erkamps replacing the latter.

The Lines

Special Teams
Paul-O’Brien-Rodewald/White-DiDomenico (scored)
Perron-Kelly-White/Murray-Jaros (scored)
Penalty Kill*
Kelly-Randell, McCormick-O’Brien, Paul-White
Englund-Burgdoerfer, Englund-Jaros, Sieloff-Burgdoerfer, Murray-Sieloff; McCormick-Perron-O’Brien/Jaros (scored on)
* I changed up how I list this to keep the PK lists from reaching absurd proportions–I’ve listed D and F combinations since those are the focus for the coaches

Why Tyler Randell was on the powerplay is beyond me (clearly the idea was to have someone go to the front of the net, but maybe that shouldn’t be someone with no points on the year). Changing the previous combinations made sense (and, to a degree, were forced by DiDomenico’s return), but there were still some odd Kleinendorstisms within them. Putting Chlapik back on the PP (after being off it for two games) meant the second unit had good zone entries, but miscues from Murray and Randell made them pretty ineffective once they were in the zone. As for the PK, it was standard combos–the group scored on is a pretty unique configuration presumably made to help with the 6-on-4 scenario.

Notable Plays
Not many this game: in the second Perron was hit hard into the end-boards (side-on) and got up slowly, but seemed okay afterwards–he later missed the net on a golden opportunity in the slot (third).

Player Notes
Rather than noting every player as I have previously, I’ll just list those who I think were above or below their standard game play or were in some other way notable.
Jaros: while he played well overall (two assists, his first points since October), he did have some struggles on the powerplay, particularly in the third period
Paul: his first goal of the season after being goalless in fifteen games; benefited from playing with DiDomenico
DiDomenico: looked just as good as he did when he was with the team in early October; smart plays with the puck which took the pressure off his linemates
McCormick: mercifully pulled from the first line after 11 straight games; I’d mentioned not long ago that he and Chlapik had shown chemistry in their one previous game together (back on October 28th against Manitoba) and that was apparent again
Chlapik: freed from the fourth-line doghouse had a strong game which might have been more successful if the second-unit PP made more sense
Werek: still buried on the fourth-line with no PP-time
Reinhart: dumped from the second-line after five-games there and was completely invisible

The BSens only had seven shots through the first two periods so in many ways you could say the better team won, but Belleville certainly could have and probably should have won the game having the lead so late in the third. This is not the first game where such a lead has been blown (they did so against Providence on October 21st), albeit just twice in a season isn’t a trend. The lineup changes are a positive start for the team, but both Gagne and Lajoie should be playing and Kleinendorst needs to give up on Randell–I’m not expecting it, however.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


Belleville Senators: Assessing the Team (November)

This is the second part of my look at how the BSens performed in November (you can see the same thoughts for October here). This isn’t so much how individual players performed, but rather about the team. The basics first: the BSens were 6-6-1 for the month, which is an exact continuation from October (4-4-1). They only scored 36 goals (2.77), while allowing 46 (3.53), which is a 0.23 drop on the former and a 0.09 increase on the latter. The team is giving up an average of 35.4 shots against (roughly the same as in October), while firing 28.3 themselves (again, roughly the same). So the same number of shots, but fewer goals–this tells you the wrong people are getting more shots. As for powerplay and shorthanded situations, they were 6-48, or 12.5%, and 41-54, or 75.9%. These are both atrocious numbers giving them the worst PP in the league and the 27th PK in the league–you ask what areas coaches impact most and this is it.

Scoring Chances
By my count the team had 130 chances throughout the month (or 10 per game), which is very similar to what they produced in October. Here’s the list of the players who had the most chances per game with goals scored in brackets (minus empty-netters; minimum of 0.5 per game):
O’Brien 1.45 (6)
Gagne 1.3 (5)
Rodewald 1.14 (2)
McCormick/White 1.0 (1/3)
Reinhart 0.84 (4)
Paul 0.83 (0)
Werek 0.69 (3)
Perron 0.53 (2)
Murray/Ciampini 0.5 (3/1)

The prevailing theory when it comes to scoring chances is that players will ultimately produce at their normal level so long as they keep getting chances–so despite how atrociously McCormick has been when it comes to goal-scoring, if he continues to get chances he should finish within his usual parameters (0.14 currently, very close to his rookie average, versus 0.31 last season). You worry when a player stops getting chances and the biggest drop comes from Filip Chlapik, who went from 1.5 per game in October to 0.46, much of which is related to ice time (playing less on scoring lines and getting dropped to the second PP unit).

Breaking Down Special Teams

Both have been absolute garbage this month, so let’s look first at the players given the most prominent roles and then look at combinations (only those who played a minimum of 5 games are considered); it’s organised by shifts-per-game with their on-ice for a goal noted as well as the number of points; I’ve divided it between forwards and defensemen.

White 3.84 (3/0)
Rodewald 3.14 (2/0)
Chlapik 3.07 (3/2)
Gagne 3.00 (2/2)
Paul 3.00 (1/0)
McCormick 2.84 (3/3)
O’Brien 2.54 (3/2)
Perron 2.46 (1/1)
Reinhart 2.38 (1/1)
Werek 0.92 (0/0)

Chabot 4.5 (2/2)
Jaros 3.16 (0/0)
Murray 2.5 (2/0)
Burgdoerfer 1.84 (2/0)

This doesn’t differentiate between first and second unit usage (each scored 3 goals), so what about units? What were the common combinations? Here are the most frequent by shifts (minimum of five shifts together) with goals scored in brackets and an indication if it was a first or second unit:
McCormick-Reinhart-O’Brien 15 (1) 1st
Gagne-Chlapik-Perron 13 (1) 2nd
Gagne-Chlapik-Rodewald 7 (1) 2nd
McCormick-O’Brien-Rodewald 7 (1) 1st
Chlapik-White-Sexton 6 (1) 2nd
Paul-White-Sexton 5 (0) 1st
Werek-Reinhart-Rodewald 5 (0) 2nd

Here are the defense pairings with the same organisational model:
Chabot-White 20 (1) 1st
Murray-Burgdoerfer 9 (1) 2nd
Murray-Perron 7 (0) 2nd
Murray-Jaros 6 (0) 2nd
Chabot-Perron 5 (1) 1st

The odd insistence on putting O’Brien, McCormick, and sometimes Reinhart on the first PP unit has resulted in a major throttling of offense.

Penalty Kill
Beginning with individual players, here’s who has played on the PK the most (again going by shifts with goals against noted–minimum of five games played):
McCormick 3.53 (5)
O’Brien 3.3 (2)
Paul 2.83 (1)
White 2.76 (4)
Rodewald 2.71 (4)
Perron 2.46 (6)
Randell 1.27 (1)

Sieloff 3.76 (4)
Englund 3.61 (5)
Burgdoerfer 3.07 (5)
Jaros 3.0 (5)
Murray 1.41 (3)

Both Perron and Murray standout as being victimized proportionally (albeit via a small sample size). There’s a lot more consistency in the pairings (as you’d expect), organised by shifts (goals against).

McCormick-O’Brien 23 (1)
Perron-White 15 (1)
McCormick-Sexton 11 (0)
Paul-O’Brien 9 (0)
McCormick-White 8 (1)
Perron-O’Brien 5 (1)
Paul-Sexton 5 (2)

On defense:

Sieloff-Burgdoerfer 24 (3)
Englund-Sieloff 20 (1)
Englund-Burgdoerfer 16 (1)
Englund-Jaros 9 (2)
Sieloff-Jaros 6 (1)
Englund-Murray 6 (2)
Sieloff-Harpur 5 (0)
Murray-Jaros 5 (1)

The top-four forward combinations listed have all been very good, as have the top-three defense combinations. The coaching staff’s experimentation seems like a mix of attempting to develop prospects (particularly Perron and Jaros) and rewarding favourites (Randell, whose combinations don’t make this list).

Since I posted an article on lines recently, I’ll simply say November was a frustrating month for ideal usage.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 1, Toronto 3

The third game against the Marlies this season went just like the others, as the BSens struggled to stifle Toronto’s offense (don’t let the shot totals fool you). Before I get into specific observations, here are the basics (box score):
Shots: 25-23
Powerplay: 0-7 (includes a 4-on-3 that became a 5-on-3)
Penalty Kill: 1-7 (includes a 5-on-3)
Goaltender: Danny Taylor got the start and kept most of his key saves until after the result of the game was no longer in question (8 key saves); Chris Driedger backed up, Andrew Hammond was scratched, and Marcus Hogberg remains in Brampton (he was the back-up for the game played by the Beast).

The Opposition
The talented Marlies arrived first in the division (16-4-0), whose only flaw is their powerplay (the team being guilty of over-passing, something they did 5-on-5 against the BSens as well). With some of the best goaltending in the league the team feels free to take chances, which means they surrender them too.

The Goals
1. Toronto – terrible change (Murray and Lajoie came off for Sieloff and Burgdoerfer; the latter should/could have turned around) leaves a Marlie wide open who walks in and scores
2. Perron bangs in a loose puck in front
3. Toronto – Burgdoerfer doesn’t see the man behind him who beats Taylor up high
4. Toronto PP – low shot through the crowd

Scoring chances (14): White (x3), Werek (x3), Lajoie (pp), McCormick (pp), Randell, Rodewald, Gagne, Reinhart, Paul, Perron

This is a high volume of chances for the team and particularly remarkable for Werek who barely played.

The Roster
The BSens went with the identical lineup that beat Laval in overtime, meaning two of their best players (Werek and Chlapik) barely played all game despite being very effective when they were on the ice.

The Lines

As mentioned above these are completely unchanged from the last game.

Special Teams
Paul-White-Rodewald/Burgdoerfer-Jaros (Burgdoerfer was the man in the box, thus joined the 4-on-3 unit)
Penalty Kill
Perron-Kelly/Englund-Jaros (scored on)

The powerplay was unchanged and while the addition of Lajoie to the first unit helps a lot, much of the talent with him isn’t conducive to regular production. The second unit lacks a consistent presence to get the puck into the zone with control. Despite all the seeming combos on the PK it was fairly consistent, with the most notable changes being Randell’s return to it and O’Brien playing less. I’d read nothing into the 5-on-3 defense, as the Marlies spent the entire time trying to get their teammate a hat-trick.

Notable Plays
Perron misses the net from the slot on a nice steal (first); Rodewald, right after a great opportunity to score, got into a fight that he lost pretty badly (second); Reinhart and Chlapik had a 2-on-1 in the second, but the former couldn’t connect his pass to the latter for a tap-in; a wide open Randell missed the net from below the dot on a great feed from Chlapik (third).

Player Notes
Murray: invisible most of the night (which is both good and bad–other than the bad line change there was nothing particularly awful)
Lajoie: kept setting up McCormick with open lanes on the PP to shoot, but the latter just didn’t want to shoot; a good game for him outside a brutal turnover in the second
Jaros: unfortunately playing with Englund, while better for him defensively, stifles his offense (he does much better when paired with a puck-mover like Lajoie or Chabot); only snafu was taking a double minor trying to pound on Kapanen for no particular reason
Englund: solid game for him (nothing exciting, but nothing bad)
Burgdoerfer: the Turnover Meter was at zero tonight, which is a big plus for him, but he was guilty of lack of awareness on the game winning goal, so one can’t get too excited
Sieloff: outside of throwing a big hit in the second and having to fight because of it, was his simple, defense-first self
Chlapik: barely played, but when he was he created chances; he and Werek had a particularly dominant shift early in the third and were reward edwith…their regular rotation–coaching!
Werek: to get three scoring chances when you barely play is pretty remarkable; he has to be frustrated
Randell: speaking of frustration, it’s frustrating to see a player with no hands be given golden opportunities and do nothing with them; he’s been okay on the PK
Kelly: he is what he is–adds nothing offensively, but is solid defensively (he’s been pretty bad on faceoffs, incidentally)
Perron: I’m always happy when he scores; not sure he belongs on the PK (his on-ice numbers for goals against are very high)
White: most of his scoring chances are generated individually, as he still hasn’t been given regular linemates who gel with him
Reinhart: has been playing on the second line long after he cooled off; outside bungling the 2-on-1 with Chlapik he was invisible
Rodewald: does not work well with Reinhart as his center (I’d much rather see Paul lining up in the middle with him)
Paul: largely invisible; his goalless streak has reached 15-games
Gagne: his line doesn’t generate much offense–most of what he gets comes off individual rushes into the zone
McCormick: clearly has lost his confidence as he passed up numerous opportunities to shoot on the powerplay
O’Brien: while he’s probably the team’s best penalty killer he’s had his shifts reduced (I’m not sure why precisely)

At this stage the frustrations are less about the players than the coaching. Last season I was happy that Kleinendorst moved away from some of Luke Richardson’s stubbornness with the lineup (Stortini in particular), but we can see this year he has many of the same tendencies. Will this loss make him change things up? Certainly Chris DiDomenico’s return (re-claimed off waivers) will have an impact.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


Belleville Senators: Assessing the Players (November)

Another month is in the books for the BSens, so it’s time to take a look at performances through November (I’ll do team stuff separately). For the October review, go here.

Before I get into individual breakdowns, here’s the leaderboard for points-per-game and shots-per-game (with a minimum of 5 games played):
Rodewald 1.00
O’Brien 0.63
Chlapik/Perron/McCormick 0.61
Reinhart/Werek 0.53
Chabot 0.50

Even Strength PPG (minus empty-netters)
Rodewald 0.85
Perron/Werek 0.53
Chlapik 0.46
O’Brien 0.45
Murray 0.41

Powerplay Point Leaders
McCormick 3
O’Brien/Chlapik/Chabot/Gagne 2

O’Brien 3.09
Chabot 2.75
Gagne 2.69
White 2.53
McCormick 2.3

Players below are arranged by points-per-game (with the previous month’s noted in brackets). Acronyms: PPP=powerplay points, SHP= shorthanded points [there were none in November], ENP=empty-net points, SHPG= shots per game, vet=veteran contract status; career=PPG before this season

Ben Harpur 1-1-1-2 2.0 (0.00) SHPG 2.0
Contract: 17-18; 3rd pro season; career 0.30; last season 0.42
A Jekyll and Hyde ELC his first two years, where he didn’t look like even an AHL player his rookie season and then seemed reasonably effective last year. Coming off injury he was atrocious in his Belleville debut, but in his solitary November game he was fine. Boucher is a big fan so I think the BSens are safe from seeing him play 30 minutes a night for awhile.

Jack Rodewald 7-2-5-7 1.0 (0.80) ENP 1 SHPG 1.71
Contract: 18-19; 3rd pro season; career 0.35; last season 0.41
An undrafted WHLer, he was signed by Toronto, but couldn’t crack a talented Marlies lineup. The BSens picked him up as part of the general detritus shipped in the Dion Phaneuf trade, but an early hot streak last season saw him stick around and in the off-season earn a 2-year AHL deal. Since then the org has seen enough to rip up that deal and sign him to a 2-year ELC and brought him up to Ottawa for a considerable amount of time (he played in four games). As nice as his numbers look it’s important to note that he had a four-point game, meaning his production wasn’t quite as regular as it appears (that’s a minor caveat at this point however, as he’s having a strong season).

Maxime Lajoie 3-0-2-2 0.66 (0.33) PPP 1 SHPG 0.66 ECHL 1-0-0-0
Contract: 19-20; rookie; last season 0.61 (WHL)
Missed a lot of the month with a foot injury and that absence was heavily felt. While there’s plenty of room for growth in his game, he’s one of the safest passers on the blueline and, along with Chabot, about the only defenseman who can consistently set-up point shots for others.

Jim O’Brien 11-6-1-7 0.63 (0.33) PPP 2 SHPG 3.09
Contract: 17-18 (AHL); 9th pro season (vet); career 0.55; last season 0.45
Former first-round bust for the Sens (drafted in DiDomenico’s year), he’s spent the last three seasons drifting about the hockey world–an aborted KHL attempt that brought him to Hershey, then New Jersey signed him, and finally San Antonio. His numbers have declined precipitously the previous two seasons and no one should expect O’Brien to put significant totals. Kleinendorst coached him previously (10-12) and that familiarity has seen him play O’Brien far too much. He has good speed, is solid defensively and has a decent shot, but he can’t distribute the puck and doesn’t make players around him better.

Filip Chlapik 13-2-6-8 0.61 (0.63) PPP 2 SHPG 1.15
Contract: 19-20; rookie; last season 1.59 (QMJHL)
After a promising start he’s been getting jerked around by the coaching staff–played all over the lineup–and despite it all he’s remained quite consistent in his production. The biggest impact of him playing less is fewer shots on goal and, should it continue, his points will eventually drift downward.

Francis Perron 13-2-6-8 0.61 (0.43) PPP 1 SHPG 1.61
Contract: 18-19; 2nd pro season; last season 0.38
Offensively gifted, I don’t know what his AHL-ceiling is, but despite being buried on the third-line his numbers are back around where you’d expect them in his sophomore season. While Kleinendorst doesn’t trust him enough for top-six playing time, he spent the month experimenting with him on special teams–a lot of PK time (to mixed results) and a lot of second-unit PP time (to mixed results). Finding the right linemates for him has proven a major problem.

Max McCormick 13-2-6-8 0.61 (0.43) PPP 3 ENP 1 SHPG 2.3
Contract: 17-18; 4th pro season; career 0.42; last season 0.54
I’m pretty sure Randy Lee has his poster over his bed–plays far, far too much for a player with his limitations. Given top 5-on-5 minutes and top-PP time, his production has not increased commensurately, and yet this has had no impact on how he’s being utilized. He’s a very good third liner and a decent second line player at this level, but has no business on the top line (or top PP).

Max Reinhart 13-4-3-7 0.53 (0.25) PPP 1 ENP 1 SHPG 1.84
Contract: 17-18; 6th pro season (vet); career 0.59; last season 0.44 (DEL)
Former Calgary pick (3-64/10) and son of former NHLer Paul, he failed out of Calgary, had a middling season with Milwaukee, and then a disastrous season in Germany. After an underwhelming start to the season a few points seems to have prompted an overreaction from the coaching staff who are forcing him into a scoring role he’s really not suited for (he’s more of a third-line, second-PP unit kind of guy). Doesn’t really distribute or carry the puck, so needs linemates who can do that for him.

Ethan Werek 13-3-4-7 0.53 (1.00) SHPG 1.84
Contract: 17-18 (AHL); 7th pro season (vet); career 0.36; last season 0.49
A second-round pick by the Rangers (2-47/09), the former OHLer was traded to Arizona (during the happy days of Don Maloney’s tenure as GM), where he failed to establish himself. Stops in Providence, Charlotte, and Texas proved he has enough talent to hang around the AHL, but not beyond that. Initially signed to a PTO after not making the team, he got off to a hot start, but the moment he started regressing to the mean his ice-time was cut. Despite that, the team signed him to an AHL-deal and, frankly, they need his offense and to use him better.

Thomas Chabot 8-1-3-4 0.50 (0.60) PPP 2 SHPG 2.75
Contract: 19-20; rookie; last season 1.32 (QMJHL)
Has played well, but November wasn’t as kind as October. A lot of that has to do with his partners in my opinion, as well as the bizarre first PP units he’s been put on. Currently in Ottawa, given Boucher’s eccentricity I won’t be surprised if he’s returned.

Gabriel Gagne 13-5-1-6 0.46 (0.44) PPP 2 SHPG 2.69
Contract: 18-19; 2nd pro season; last season 0.14
At the start of the season he barely played and saw virtually no powerplay time. In November he’s played an absolute ton, but with roughly the same level of production. The issue is less about his limitations and more about the limitations of his linemates.

Colin White 13-3-3-6 0.46 (n/a) SHPG 2.53
Contract: 18-19; 1st pro season; last season (NCAA) 0.94
The Sens unwisely burned a year of his ELC last season for no real reason. This year he was injured throughout October and his first month with the BSens has been a disappointment–despite an abundance of skill these are poor numbers (with no points amidst considerable PP time). Much of this struggle is down to linemates.

Jordan Murray 12-3-2-5 0.41 (0.33) SHPG 1.66 ECHL 1-1-0-1
Contract: 18-19 (AHL); rookie; last season 1.33 (CIS)
Undrafted QMJHLer spent four years in Canadian University before a 5-game audition earned him a two-year (AHL) contract with the org. Does one game make a season? He has the team’s only hat-trick this season (including an OT winner), but if you slice out that game he’s just 11-0-2-2 (0.18) for the month and not been impressive. As an offensive player he’s been a detriment on the PP–right now I’d rather have Erkamps playing in the six spot, but the coaching staff still has visions of that one game dancing in their heads.

Daniel Ciampini 10-1-2-3 0.30 (0.43) SHPG 1.0
Contract: 17-18 (AHL); 3rd pro season; career 0.25; last season 1.00 (ECHL)
Undrafted collegiate signed with Worcester after college, but couldn’t stick with the org and spent time with Rockford and Ontario subsequently (largely in their ECHL affiliates). He was a late signing by the BSens to add some forward depth and was initially loaned to Brampton, but a shortage in forwards meant he hasn’t played in the ECHL yet. On the whole he’s been a positive contributor in limited time, particularly once he was firmly kept on the fourth line.

Vincent Dunn 7-0-2-2 0.28 (0.25) SHPG 0.85
Contract: 17-18; 3rd pro season; career ECHL 0.38; last season 0.25 (ECHL)
Former QMJHL pest is still considered an AHL rookie because of how few games he’s played. In watching him his problem is pretty clear–beyond the lack of puck skills, he just can’t skate. Sadly he’s a better option than lineup-regular Randell, but that’s less about him being useful and more about the latter being useless.

Nick Paul 6-0-1-1 0.16 (0.50) SHPG 1.66
Contract: 17-18; 3rd pro season; career 0.46; last season 0.51
Dallas pick (4-101/13) that came over in the disastrous Jason Spezza trade. He struggled in his rookie season with Binghamton, but was better as a sophomore. Paul is big, rangy, good at both ends of the ice, and can beat players one-on-one, but struggles with confidence and to function without a possession-heavy winger. He hasn’t looked good since Rodewald’s initial call-up in late October (there were signs of life in his last game, however). I don’t think he’s earned any of his NHL call-ups, incidentally.

Eric Burgdoerfer 13-0-2-2 0.15 (0.44) SHPG 0.84
Contract: 17-18; 8th pro season (vet); career 0.24; last season 0.32
Unsigned RPI grad (career high of 7 points) made his way onto ECHL Bakersfield’s roster and four so-so seasons with them cracked Hershey’s lineup for two seasons and then Rochester. He’s a great example of regressing to the mean, as his numbers have tumbled hard despite copious amounts of time with Thomas Chabot and on the PP. I ought to set up the Burgdoerfer Turnover Meter–no other player so consistently has catastrophic turnovers that rarely turn into goals–it’s a skill.

Macoy Erkamps 7-0-1-1 0.14 (0.00) SHPG 1.14 ECHL 1-0-0-0
Contract: 18-19; 2nd season; last season 0.43 (ECHL)
A CHL free agent signing by the org (none of which have ever turned out), he was buried in the ECHL most of last season. Played a lot more this month, although in one of his games got exactly one shift (November 22nd). Oddly, despite having pretty good PK numbers, he saw almost no time there this month. Incidentally, the AHL website has corrected their error in listing him for 5 games in October.

Patrick Sieloff 13-0-1-1 0.07 (0.22) SHPG 0.84
Contract: 17-18; 5th pro season; career 0.18; last season 0.23
Former Calgary pick (2-42/12) who came up through the US Development program. Offensively limited at every level, he was traded as an RFA to Ottawa in exchange for Alex Chiasson. He’s exactly what you expect–a very safe player with basically no offensive ability at all (he’s actually below his usual targets for the month).

Andreas Englund 13-0-1-1 0.07 (0.22) SHPG 1.07
Contract: 18-19; 2nd pro season; last season 0.14
He played very much as advertised, albeit a little under his meager offensive expectations: dependable defensive defenseman with limited offensive instincts and abilities. I’m not sure if there’s another gear for him or not–right now he’s basically Sieloff who threws a few extra hits.

Ben Sexton 3-0-0-0 (0.50) SHPG 1.0
Contract: 18-19; 4th pro season; career 0.39; last season 0.57
Son of former president and GM of the Ottawa Senators, the undersized collegiate player was drafted by Boston (7-206/09); he failed out of the organisation, signing an AHL-deal with Albany where he had a career year. This earned him a two year deal with the BSens. Looked like a solid addition in October, albeit the lack of results in his November games are a bit worrying for a guy who plays as much as he does.

Chris Kelly 3-0-0-0 (n/a) SHPG 0.66
Contract: PTO; 17th pro season (vet); career 0.54 (last AHL season 04-05); last season 0.14 (NHL)
The signing is incredibly puzzling, but fits the org’s attachment to both known-quantities and defense-only veterans. He’s been exactly what you’d expect–solid defensively, useless offensively. He doesn’t improve the team at all and just eats up ice time better used for younger players.

Justin Vaive 4-0-0-0 (0.00) SHPG 0.25
Contract: PTO; 7th pro season; career 0.24; last season 0.13
Son-of-Rick was an Anaheim draft pick long ago (4-92/07, the O’Brien year), but as a collegian accomplished nothing and that’s how things have continued for him. He’s big, but he has ECHL-level hands so has accumulated games in the AHL largely based on size. There’s no chance the BSens actually sign him, but the fact Kleinendorst dressed him on the second line twice boggles the mind.

Tyler Randell 11-0-0-0 (0.11) SHPG 0.72
Contract: 17-18; 6th pro season; career 0.18; last season 0.16
Boston actually wasted a draft pick on the OHL pugilist (6-176/09) and he spent parts of six seasons punching people. I was not a fan of this signing which stinks of Randy Lee. Through 20 games he still has no points versus a goaltender and I have no idea what it will take for him to be healthy scratch.

Christian Jaros 6-0-0-0 (0.63) SHPG 2.0
Contract: 19-20; rookie; last season 0.36 (SHL)
Has his month derailed by a concussion and only in the last game did he truly look like himself. Great speed, cannon of a shot, physical, but needs the right partner to maximize his potential.

Cody Donaghey 1-0-0-0* (n/a) ECHL 10-0-1-1
* did not play a shift in the game he was dressed
Contract: 18-19; rookie; last season 0.77 (QMJHL)
The org seems keen on getting rid of the CHL FA ever since they acquired him; Toronto signed him and included him with the assorted detritus involved in the Dion Phaneuf trade. He’s spent virtually the entire season in Brampton and while his numbers in October were decent he hasn’t produced much in November. Will he ever see time in Belleville? Barring injuries I’d guess not.

Andrew Hammond 5-1-0 .916 2.62
Traded to Colorado; 5th pro season (vet); last season .837 4.08 (NHL)
The team finally got his salary off the books with the Matt Duchene trade, but the Avalanche have two prospects playing for San Antonio (Ville Husso and Spencer Martin), so he remains with Belleville when in the AHL. He’s been rock solid for the team and is responsible for virtually all their wins in November.

Chris Driedger 1-2-0 .909 3.04 ECHL 1-0-0 .933 2.00
Contract: 17-18; 4th pro season; last season .900 3.22
Missed most of October due to injury and may not have played if Hammond hadn’t been recalled; has been much better than Taylor when he’s played, but clearly should play behind Hammond when he’s with the team

Danny Taylor 0-3-1 .860 4.59
Contract: 17-18; 12th pro season (vet); last season .931 1.93 (KHL)
Has been an absolute disaster this month and he wasn’t much better in October. I’m honestly surprised as Taylor’s track record prior to this was quite good, but what can you do with him now? He has a fat AHL-salary and done nothing to make another team want him. With Colorado loaning Hammond back to the team it looks like he’s going to rattle around as the second and third goaltender until he either finds his game or is permanently locked into the pressbox.

Marcus Hogberg ECHL 3-1-0 .937 2.45
Contract: 18-19; rookie; last season .932 1.89 (SHL)
Had a rough start with the inept Beast, but is looking much more like the promising prospect he is this month. Unfortunately for him there’s no room in Belleville for him barring a roster move. The move that makes the most sense is dumping Taylor, but he may well be unmovable (the second choice could be Driedger, but I’m not sure they are ready to give up on him). It wouldn’t be the worst thing for Hogberg to spend the season in Brampton, but if he can keep his play at this level he’ll deserve some time in the AHL.

Overall numbers dropped across the board, with minor inflation for both McCormick and O’Brien whose ice time increased exponentially. The coaching staff clearly has issues trusting the younger forwards and that’s throttling the team’s offensive potential (on the BSens broadcast last night Kleinedorst was talking about wanting the team’s shots to increase, but looking at the lineup he put out I’m not sure how he imagined that was going to happen). Things aren’t as dire on the blueline, but that’s largely because the prospects are the only ones who can generate any offense. When I post about the team I’ll look at special team’s play etcetera and take a look at what’s worked and what hasn’t.

As a terrible self-promoter I wanted to bring attention to my patreon (the approach of “leave a link, they will come” doesn’t really work). I just have the bare bones for it up (I’m not sure what people would want–access to rough notes perhaps?). I put a lot of hours into this and it’s a lot easier to continue to do that with support. Before I started writing about hockey I was disappointed by the bland, cliche-driven coverage I was getting and while that’s improved somewhat at the NHL-level, it’s still a mess in the minors. If my work is something you enjoy and you have a few spare coins in your pocket your support is greatly appreciated.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 3, Laval 2 (OT)

I went over the BSens player usage the other day, but there was no sign of any awareness of that dynamic in the team tonight, which carried on its season-long trend of being outshot and playing not to lose. While they came out with two-points, they gave up a point to their division rival by surrendering two separate one-goal leads. Before I get into more specific comments, here are the basics (the box score):
Shots: 25-33
PP: 1-3
PK: 2-3
Goaltender: Andrew Hammond got the start (his first since Colorado returned him) and was his usual solid self (he made six key saves by my count); Chris Driedger actually backed up, with Danny Taylor scratched (Marcus Hogberg remains in Brampton).

The Opposition
Laval came into the game 9-7-5, having beat the BSens in both their previous meetings. The Rocket are a very talented, but porous team; they didn’t dominate as much as in the two October matches, but still held the edge both in possession and offensive pressure.

The Goals
1. White scores on a breakaway
2. Laval – Paul gets caught puck-watching and doesn’t take his man who scores top shelf from just above the dot
3. PP O’Brien one-timer off the Lajoie pass (this is the BSens first PP goal in five games); the set-up is exactly what Lajoie and Jaros used to do earlier in the season
4. Laval PP – low shot through a screen from just above the dot
5. Rodewald on the wrap around (great individual effort in the midst of a Laval line change)

Scoring chances (14): Paul (x3), O’Brien (x3), Rodewald (x2), Gagne (x2), White, Werek, Perron, Englund

This is the most scoring chances they’ve had since they last played Laval, but is less an indication of how dangerous they were and more about how loose the Rocket defense is even when granting limited opportunities.

The Roster
O’Brien returned from injury with Ciampini drawing the short straw (rather than the completely useless Randell, who is now 0-20 in points vs goaltenders). We also saw Lajoie return to the lineup as Chabot was called up to Ottawa.

The Lines

The ineffective top line returns (now with 3 goals in 9 games), as all the lines from the 5-1 loss to Toronto were tweaked (it’s difficult to say how much of that was actual adjustment and how much a forced tweak via the return of O’Brien)–pretty bizarre combinations on the whole, as the team’s two-top scorers entering the game lined up with Randell on the fourth line and were not on either PP unit. Needless to say, none of these combinations were particularly effective.

Special Teams
McCormick-O’Brien-Rodewald/Lajoie-White (scored)
Penalty Kill
Kelly-Rodewald/Sieloff-Burgdoerfer (scored on)
Chlapik-Paul/Englund (Rodewald jumped on for Paul in the midst of the first line change and scored)

The PP was tweaked with O’Brien’s return and Chabot’s departure; Lajoie made a positive impact on the first unit and was responsible for its goal (but it’s not a good combination in general); the second unit was completely ineffective. Unlike the game against Toronto, Kelly played a lot on the PK, but in combinations not used before. Also of note: Randell was removed from the PK.

Notable Plays
Murray almost own-goaled by batting at the puck in front of his net (first); he then couldn’t get a shot off right in front of the net (nice passing play by White-Perron to get him the puck; also first period); Burgdoerfer turnover lead to a scoring chance against (bizarre play from the blueline where he fired a pass along the boards to no one with Werek right in front of him; also first period); McCormick shot the puck over an empty net (first); Jaros hit the post (first); Burgdoerfer hit the crossbar (first). McCormick hit the crossbar (second). The first period, as you can see, was the most eventful from a Belleville point of view.

Player Notes
Murray: benefited from having Lajoie do most of the puck-work for him, but on his own didn’t accomplish much
Burgdoerfer: normal number of catastrophic turnovers from him (three) and, in general, pretty typical performance
Sieloff: solid if unremarkable game
Jaros: finally seemed himself, fully recovered; made some nice plays offensively (besides the post he hit) and defensively (particularly in the second); took a stick in the face early but was fine
Englund: had a bonafide chance to win the game in overtime in the slot, otherwise routine safe game from him
Lajoie: also seemed fully healthy for the first time since his injury; lot’s of great puck-movement and simple plays
Randell: what does this guy do for the team, really? Despite a mountain of opportunities he has no points through 20 games (ignoring his empty-netter); he’s not particularly physical, hasn’t fought much…why Kleinendorst won’t bench him I really don’t know
Werek: the team’s top-scorer barely played as he was buried on the fourth line
Chlapik: it’s the same story as Werek, except he was put on the ice in OT and he and Paul dominated in that context
Kelly: his shortcomings offensively held back his linemates
White: other than his individual effort to get a goal still hasn’t been given an effective niche in the lineup
Perron: bit of a mixed bag offensively/defensively, but mostly positive given the limitations of the line he was on (no special teams time for him, which is quite rare)
Reinhart: no idea why he’s on the second line as he was completely invisible
Paul: played a better game than against the Marlies, but seeing him with Chlapik I wonder if we’ll see that combination subsequently
Rodewald: not a great fit with Reinhart as his center, but a great effort on the winner
Gagne: speaking of poor fits, his line continues to accomplish nothing, but as usual he had a couple of exciting offensive bursts unrelated to his linemates
O’Brien: Jimothy picked up a goal on his return, so good for him; it was a solid effort overall
McCormick: he’s now played 20 games and only scored 2 goals against goaltenders; the assists are nice, but he has to be better

The Sens are lucky to come out of this with two points and the longer their struggles go on the more the finger has to be pointed at the coaching staff. While the overall talent on the team isn’t particularly high, they could be used more effectively than they are.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


Belleville Player Usage

However you assess the talent in Belleville the one thing that’s within the control of the organisation is how to use that talent. I’ve complained about some of the decisions before, but it’s worth going through the numbers so that you can get a sense of who is or isn’t performing given that usage. We don’t have things like TOI recorded in the AHL, but we do have lineups and while adjustments happen in game at the least they tell us a coach’s intentions and how he adapts the lineup from game-to-game in hopes of better results. I have excluded players who have played less than 10 games–anyone eager for Chris DiDomenico’s information etc let me know in the comments. I’m also addressing defensemen differently since the order in which Kleinendorst’s combos are listed rarely means anything other than the third pairing. Below I’ve listed players in order of who has played most on the top lines (21 total games; 1st/2nd/3rd/4th):

Games Played by Line
McCormick/O’Brien 13/5/1/0
Gagne 8/4/8/1
Paul 6/7/0/0
Werek 5/9/4/0
Rodewald 4/7/0/0
White 3/8/1/0
Chlapik 2/5/10/3
Perron 0/4/13/2
Reinhart 0/4/7/9
Ciampini 0/0/7/10
Randell 0/0/6/13
Dunn 0/0/0/11

So what does this mean? It illustrates who Kleinendorst trusts–not to score, as we’ll get into, but to play responsibly–to play safe. For over two-thirds of this season the tandem of Max McCormick and Jim O’Brien have been on the top line–both players best known for their defensive play, which isn’t conducive to consistent or regular production (they are, in fact, producing at the same rate they have previously as second or third-line players). On the flip side of this are two offensively gifted prospects, Filip Chlapik and Francis Perron. Each has spent more than half the season playing third-line minutes despite their offensive gifts. I’ve picked these four for a very deliberate reason, as given the rather large difference in ice time between them here’s their production thus far this season:

Chlapik 20-3-8-11 4 PPP
O’Brien 19-6-4-10 1 PPP
McCormick 19-3-7-10 2 PPP 1 SHP 2 empty-net points
Perron 19-2-8-10 2 PPP 1 empty-net point

Virtually identical production, which shouldn’t be the case given the ice time disparity. The coaching staff aren’t idiots and recognise they are surrendering offense in doing this, but why then put the vets on the top powerplay unit as well (which continues to struggle)? It’s puzzling to say the least.

What about even-strength scoring–who is doing it–both collecting the points and on-ice for the production? The raw numbers first (again, excluding those who’ve played less than 10 games; games with points noted first; I’ve excluded empty-net production; in brackets are the on-ice per game averages):

Rodewald 11-8 10 OI (0.91)*
Paul 13-4 10 OI (0.77)
Werek 18-10 12 OI (0.66)
O’Brien 19-9 12 OI (0.63)
Gagne 21-8 12 OI (0.57)
Perron 19-7 11 OI (0.57)
McCormick 19-5 11 OI (0.57)
Chlapik 20-7 11 OI (0.55)
Reinhart 20-7 10 OI (0.50)
White 12-5 6 OI (0.50)
Ciampini 17-6 7 OI (0.41)
Dunn 11-3 4 OI (0.36)
Randell 19-0 3 OI (0.16)

*amusingly Rodewald was given an additional three assists in Belleville’s 5-2 win over Charlotte after the game was completed, something I didn’t realise until I was putting this together

A few things stand out–on a per-game basis both Nick Paul and Jack Rodewald are way ahead of the curve, albeit Paul’s actual point totals are poor and both are on the low end of games played. Beyond that it’s fairly even across the board, which does not correspond to how ice time is being handed out. White’s tallies are below expectations and Randell’s indicate he shouldn’t be dressing.

These are all in isolation however–it’s a team game, there are linemates, so what about lines? Which lines are producing? This was fascinating to dive into. I’ve thrown out DiDomenico’s data (for obvious reasons), as well as the empty-net goals (the BSens have three), but what’s interesting is that of the 33 5-on-5 goals scored, 9 (or 27%) are by lines that have never been formerly been put together and virtually none of the scoring lines have been kept together for more than two or three games. Roster movement plays a part in this, but only a part. I’ve organised this list by how often the line has been in the lineup card:

McCormick-O’Brien-Gagne – 8 games, 3 goals (0.37)
Perron-Chlapik-Gagne – 3 games, 3 goals (1.00)
Werek-Reinhart-Rodewald – 3 games, 2 goals (0.66)
Werek-Chlapik-Perron – 3 games, 1 goal (0.33)
Werek-O’Brien-Sexton – 2 games, 2 goals (1.00)
Werek-Paul-Rodewald – 2 games, 1 goal (0.50)
Werek-Paul-O’Brien – 2 games, 1 goal (0.50)
Werek-Chlapik-White – 2 games, 1 goal (0.50)
Perron-Chlapik-White – 2 games, 1 goal (0.50)
Dunn-Reinhart-Randell – 2 games, 1 goal (0.50)

And that’s it. No other scoring line has played together for more than a single game (this despite the fact that Paul-White-Rodewald scored three times or that McCormick-Chlapik-Ciampini scored twice, both in single-game combinations)–that doesn’t mean they haven’t occasionally been formulated again within a game, but it’s awfully strange to stick with something that isn’t producing (the first line listed for example) and move away from ones that are.

What about duos–which pairs are most productive (these are on-ice for goals rather than points, compared to GP together)?

White-Paul 3/2 (1.5)
McCormick-Werek 3/2 (1.5)
Rodewald-Paul 6/5 (1.2)
Chlapik-Gagne 4/4 (1.0)
Werek-Rodewald 4/4 (1.0)
White-Rodewald 3/3 (1.0)
Chlapik-Perron 7/8 (0.87)
Reinhart-Werek 3/4 (0.75)
Perron-Gagne 5/8 (0.62)
O’Brien-Werek 3/6 (0.5)
Reinhart-Ciampini 3/7 (0.42)
O’Brien-Gagne 3/9 (0.33)
McCormick-Gagne 3/10 (0.3)

The nightmarish numbers at the bottom illustrate the problems of putting three shooters together. The headscratcher in all of this is: why isn’t there more follow through on this and other results? It’s not rational for a team that often struggles to score (2 or fewer goals in 11 of 21 games) to avoid combinations that work. Why not play McCormick with either Werek or Chlapik (or both), where most of his production has come from, rather than sticking him with O’Brien? Why not put the Paul-White-Rodewald line back together to see if they can replicate their success? Etc–it’s the kind of thing that can make you crazy.

There are similar signs of conservatism, of playing it safe, on the blueline. With the injuries and call-ups there have been a bevvy of combinations, but we’ll look first at individual numbers and then combinations (I’ve excluded Harpur because he’s only played in 4 games; the on-ice per-game ratio is in brackets):

Chabot 13-7 11 OI (0.8)
Burgdoerfer 21-6 15 OI (0.7)
Murray 14-6 9 OI (0.6)
Sieloff 21-3 13 OI (0.6)
Jaros 14-5 7 OI (0.5)
Lajoie 11-4 6 OI (0.5)
Englund 21-2 11 OI (0.5)
Erkamps 11-1 6 OI (0.5)

In terms of ratios it’s fairly close other than Chabot. What about pairings? Once again we see a lot of the 5-on-5 production comes from little used combinations (8 of 33, or 24%). There’s also a reluctance to pair offensive blueliners together:

Sieloff-Burgdoerfer 12 games, 5 OI goals (0.41)
Englund-Jaros 9 games, 4 OI goals (0.44)
Chabot-Burgdoerfer 6 games, 6 OI goals (1.0)
Murray-Erkamps 5 games, 4 OI goals (0.80)
Lajoie-Jaros 4 games, 1 OI goal (0.25)
Chabot-Englund 4 games, 1 OI goal (0.25)
Sieloff-Englund 4 games, 1 OI goal (0.25)
Lajoie-Murray 2 games, 1 OI goal (0.50)
Chabot-Murray 2 games, 1 OI goal (0.50)

Everything else is in single games; the most productive non-unit is oddly Englund-Burgdoerfer (3 OI), despite neither being particularly gifted offensively. Sieloff-Harpur, incidentally, played 4 games together (4 OI). Offensive combos like Chabot-Jaros and Lajoie-Burgdoerfer, despite success, simply aren’t used except on the powerplay or in desperate circumstances. One particular oddity is that Erkamps has proven a productive partner with virtually everyone except Englund.

What we can hope for through all of this is a change in mindset where Kleinendorst unglues his favourite veterans from the top-line and let’s the lineup breath. I’m not sure that will actually happen, but I can’t see a positive change unless he does.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)