Senators News & Notes

Several times a year I get a flood of visitors from a totally random source–recently someone from The Hockey Forum (UK) linked my Belleville post and a bunch of traffic came in from England. It’s a funny thing, but gratifying to know that the content can be found for those who look.

prospects

The Silver Seven‘s prospect countdown continues. I mentioned last time that I find the lack of rationale for the list more than a little perplexing, but I won’t keep harping on it:

#18 Gabriel Gagne (NKB)
C/RW, 20-21, 2-36/15, AHL 41-2-4-6
NKB is drinking the org koolaid, because after a Ludwig Karlsson-like debut he’s looking for positives (the idea that he’ll play ahead of Mike Blunden is pretty ridiculous). The team paid a high price to draft him, giving up a 2nd round pick (MacKenzie Blackwood) and a 3rd in 2016 (Joseph Anderson) to move up a few spots to draft him. He’s supposed to be a scoring power forward, but his production in the Q after he was drafted flatlined and he was abysmal in his rookie season as a pro. At the least he should be blowing up the ECHL, but he was mediocre there as well. There were plenty of red flags from scouts when he was drafted and this is a make-or-break season for him (although at this point I think we can safely give up on him ever being a scorer in the NHL).

#17 Chris Driedger (Trevor)
GL, 23, 3-76/12, AHL 12-19-2 3.22 .900
Driedger is one of those prospects that if you talk about him without context you don’t get a clear picture. Trevor is right that this is a make-or-break season for him, but sadly there’s no context given to his performances. By the numbers alone Driedger would be an awful prospect–so why is he still with the org (who re-signed him)? Because his numbers are better than his partner’s, essentially–when on a bad team you have to make that comparison and whatever his flaws he consistently outplayed Matt O’Connor (.912 vs .895 in 15/16 and then .900 vs .895). That said I believe (as I’ve expressed before) that Hogberg will get the initial nod over him in Belleville simply based on potential.

#16 Filip Ahl (Ross)
LW/RW, 20, 4-109/15, WHL 54-28-20-48 (7th scoring)
I think Ross is right that Ahl made the correct decision to play in North America, but his numbers are disappointing and he’ll need a better season in Sweden to get signed. Scouts were split on him when he was drafted (link above) and it was anyone’s guess whether his potential was high enough for the NHL–you get the sense that, as they have many times before, the Sens saw a big player and simply hoped they’d evolve. While it’s not unheard of for a European import to have an average season in the CHL and then become a solid NHL player, it’s not common, so expectations should be low.

#15 Maxime Lajoie (Callum)
DL, 19-20, 5-133/16, 68-7-35-42 (2nd d-scoring)
I was hoping that Callum would have some insight on why the org loves him so much, but all I got was this:

the 19-year-old arrived to his first training camp in Ottawa, and there were few he did not impress. … …his departure was rather quick – cut in the opening exhibition games

So he had a decent camp, albeit not up to Brandon Bochenski standards, and…he’s fast? As much as I want to criticise Callum’s vagueness, when you read the scouting reports on him there’s a collective shrug of the shoulders–he doesn’t do anything particularly well, but he doesn’t do anything particularly badly, so…maybe he can play? Callum tries to hype up his performance this past season, but his marginal improvement (+0.02 points-per-game) are statistically meaningless. The Sens signed him last fall and he’s old enough that he could play in Belleville, but the BSens are so overstuffed with blueliners I don’t see a spot for him.

#14 Shane Bowers (Trevor)
CL, 18, 1-28/17, USHL 60-22-29-51 (4th scoring by points-per-game)
The best thing in Trevor’s piece is the Ryan Biech article he links too, which adds a little more panache to what is a lackluster first-round pick (breaking down his points in terms of primary assists and what not). A quibble I have with Trevor is him listing Bowers as the 10th highest scorer in his league–it’s tied-for, and more importantly he’s 21st in points-per-game (for those with 20+ games played), and you have to wonder how much of that production was helped by teammates. The scouting reports on him are not kind and make him sound more like an elite AHL/European league player rather than someone who genuinely makes an impact in the NHL. When scouts are telling you at best he can center the third-line it looks like a wasted pick–players of that ilk can be found throughout the draft. It is, however, very early, and at this stage there’s always room for hope

#13 Andreas Englund (NKB)
DL, 21, 2-40/14, AHL 69-3-7-10 (6th d-scoring)
NKB’s lack of enthusiasm matches my own; a player with a lot of limitations, I think noise from the org inflates people’s expectations. As I said in my early Belleville review, he’s basically Ben Harpur–someone who tops out as a 5-6 blueliner who kills penalties, but that’s about it. As a young player we can’t say for certain how limited his offense is, but if it is as projected he’s not a prospect to get excited about

#12 Christian Jaros (Colin)
DR, 21, 5-139/15, SHL 36-5-8-13 (3rd d-scoring)
Colin is understandably eager to put aside comparisons to the Borocop (made not just by the org, but by scouts when he was drafted); it was gratifying to see Colin cite something I noted back in March, which is that Christian had the second highest points-per-game for blueliners 21 and under (behind 2017 overage draft pick Sebastian Aho). He includes a quote from Brad Phillips about how terrible Lulea was offensively (the league itself is low-scoring), which makes it harder to interpret his output. What encouragement there is about Jaros are the numbers from this past season, because in terms of scouting sentiment when he was drafted he’s Borowiecki 2.0

#11 Nick Paul (BLT)
LW/C, 22, 4-101/13 (Dal), AHL 72-15-22-37 (5th ppg-scoring)
There’s not much substance to BLT’s piece, although he points out that Paul had a much better year this past season. Remember all the hype about him when he was included as part of the Jason Spezza trade? His rookie season in Binghamton wiped all that away, but without the hype what is he? When he was drafted scouts saw him as a potential depth power forward–barring an offensive explosion this coming season it’s doubtful he can fulfill that, but it’s not too late for that to happen–Mike Hoffman was a slow burn when it comes to AHL-output after all

#10 Ben Harpur (Callum)
DL, 22, 4-108/13, AHL 63-2-25-27 (2nd d-scoring)
Callum’s piece has no substance to it, leaving me holding the bag to say something. One of my favourite expressions is “regressing to the mean” and after Harpur’s explosive season where he was well above his junior production, there’s every reason to expect him to regress. It remains a possibility he’ll buck trends and remain around this unremarkable level, but I don’t think it translates to the NHL and he’s yet another player who tops out as a 5-6 D with a short career ahead of him (exactly how scouts slotted him when he was drafted)

One of the things that becomes apparent when going through lists like this is the limited ceilings of many of these prospects–meant to be safe, conservative picks, with an emphasis on physical and defensive play. Just briefly I’ll go through all the players listed thus far who fit this description:
Forwards: Bowers (#14), Ahl (#16), Formenton (#19), Nurmi (#23), Eiserman (NR), Dunn (NR)
Defense: Harpur (#10), Jaros (#12), Englund (#13), Summers (#24)

Why the Sens don’t aim higher is beyond me. They’ve had far more successful taking chances on players who were offensive dynamos when picked (Ryan Dzingel, Erik Condra, Mike Hoffman, etc).

A final, unrelated note: former BSen Chris Carlisle signed in Italy, which doesn’t speak well to how he’s perceived in European leagues.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

prospects

August is a rough time for hockey blogs, so what can you do? Lists and polls, generally, and the more drawn out you can make the former the better. In that spirit The Silver Seven are counting down their top-25 prospects, which in turn gives me something to work with. It’s a list in progress, but I’ll offer thoughts as it goes (I’ve listed the author next to the player’s name).

#25 Macoy Erkamps (Colin)
DR, 22, CHL FA 16, ECHL 58-6-19-25 (2nd d-scoring)
First to note: Colin is understandably not that familiar with ECHL play (as in seeing it), nor does he reflect on Ottawa’s relative success in signing players out of the CHL (you can read about that here), so understandably he can only speak from the stat sheet about the awful Wichita team Erkamps played for (having seen him play there, I can say he was a solid rookie in the ECHL, but not a great one). Colin correctly identifies that Erkamps and Cody Donaghey are in direct competition for the third-pairing spot on the right side (Chabot and Burgoerfer presumed 1-2), but I think that’s more up in the air than he does. The odds are Erkamps is a version of Troy Rutkowski (another CHL-signing by the org from 2013, who is playing in Norway now), where he’ll be good in the E but questionable in the A; there’s time for that assessment to change

#24 Kelly Summers (Ary M)
DR, 21, 7-189/14, NCAA (junior) 39-3-14-17 (3rd ppg d-scoring)
Neither Ary or I have seen much of the NCAA blueliner’s play, so interpretations are based on scouting reports and stats (these are nicely combed through in the piece). There’s nothing that stands out about Summers either way and Ary observantly points out how badly the Sens NCAA picks have turned out between 2012-14; Summers needs a big season at Clarkson this year to be signed or he’ll join the rubbish heap of other failed selections; what makes him more promising than Erkamps? The direct comparison isn’t made (here or elsewhere), but I’ll presume it’s based on potential ceilings (scouts topped him out as a 5-6 D)

#23 Markus Nurmi (NKB)
RW/LW, 19, 6-163/16, Finn Jr 27-12-16-28 (1st ppg)
Given that NKB doesn’t site scouting reports on him (I reference them here), he’s completely dependent on the stat sheet. The org doesn’t seem to know what he is either (other than “big”), which creates something of a bind. Nurmi do well to play a year in the CHL (as Tobias Lindberg and Filip Ahl did), but he wasn’t taken in the import draft so that’s not an option. Because he’s a bigger player he’ll get a lot more rope from the org than others (ie, Marcus Sorensen, now with San Jose), but is his ceiling higher than Summers? Scouts saw him topping out as a checking forward with limited offensive potential–I think a depth forward loses to a depth blueliner, but Nurmi is younger so perhaps there’s more hoped for growth

#22 Cody Donaghey (Raaymakers)
DR, 21, CHL FA 14 (Tor), QMJHL 52-11-29-40 (1st d-scoring)
The Raaymaker has never seen him play, making for a short and ephemeral write-up. Because Erkamps is more responsible defensively it’s quite possible Donaghey will be the one sent to the ECHL (the org seems to have little interest in him, burning a year off his ELC when Binghamton had a weak blueline and never bringing him up when discussing prospects). He was signed by the Leafs based on skill, so the hope has to be that that will translate–is that potential putting him ahead of others? Presumably

#21 Drake Batherson (NKB)
CR, 19, 4-121/17, QMJHL 61-22-36-58 (3rd scoring)
We have the exact same vagaries as the Nurmi piece above. The best thing about the write-up is the link to Ian Tulloch’s post on drafting overagers, which is itself indebted to the work of others.  Tulloch writes:

Although overagers appear to become NHL players more often than those in their draft year, it’s important to note that they tend to have a lower ceiling.

Then adding something the Sens never seem to take to heart:

scoring (in conjunction with traditional scouting) is the best predictor we currently have for future success

Batherson beats those above presumably based on potential; as I said in my review of the 2017 draft, whatever happens at least he was drafted based on skill

#20 Christian Wolanin (Colin)
DL, 22, 4-107/15, NCAA (sophomore) 37-6-16-22 (2nd d-scoring)
All the usual caveats apply in terms of the basis for the assessment. Colin points out Wolanin began life as a forward (switching to D in the USHL), although the listed competition for him whenever he turns pro is off (Patrick Sieloff is just a warm body and Maxime Lajoie’s pedigree is nothing to get excited about). He cites Vollman’s translation factors to guesstimate the kind of performance Wolanin had this season, but I remain skeptical about these translations (as I’ve gone over before). I like Wolanin’s potential, but he’s benefited from good teammates so we’ll see how his junior year goes without them

#19 Alex Formenton (Trevor)
LW, 17, 2-47/17, OHL 65-16-18-34 (11th in scoring)
Trevor compares him to Ryan Dzingel, which is problematic on two fronts: 1) as a seventh-round pick there were no expectations for Dzingel, 2) Dzingel was drafted for skill. Trevor bends over backwards trying to add some sizzle to what is a very safe, low-ceiling prospect, but with the information we have (scouting reports etc) he’s nothing to run a temperature over as all scouts questioned his offensive creativity

echl

I had a reader tell me the Sens will still use Wichita as their ECHL dumping grounds, despite it no longer being their affiliate (Edmonton has that connection). S/he cited Malcolm Cameron (Wichita’s coach) as the source for this info, which seems to come from an article in The Sin Bin calling Ottawa an “unofficial partner” (the Wichita website calls them a “partner”), with Cameron saying the Sens will supply at least one goaltender (with how overstuffed the BSens roster is I’m sure more will be sent down–Vincent Dunn should be apartment hunting right now). Edmonton is believed to be supplying three forwards, two defensemen, and a goaltender. The ECHL has a 4-veteran rule (260+ professional games, with players on AHL or NHL contracts exempted). The professional rule includes most European leagues, but not the Austrian league (EBEL), which I point out for reasons apparent below. As for Wichita itself, these are their current players (vets in blue):

Blueline
Jeremy Beaudry (DR) CIS 26-9-11-20 – former QMJHL player had a brief audition with Wichita last season
Etienne Boutet (DL) CIS 7-2-2-4 – another former Q player
Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin (DL) QMJHL 68-6-10-16 – known for his fists
Jamie Doornbosch (DL) ECHL 44-10-20-30 – former CIS and OHL player; got an audition with the BSens this past season
Justin Hammonic (DR) ECHL 38-0-2-2 – no relation to Travis; former WHL player with no hands

Forwards
Justin Crandall (RW) ECHL 66-22-36-58 – college grad signed away from Reading
Matt DeBlouw (CL) ECHL 64-14-24-38 – college grad and former Calgary pick (7-186/12) who had a middling rookie season
Travis Ewanyk (CL) ECHL 74-20-27-47 – former Oiler pick (3-74-/11) who bombed out as a BSen
Louick Marcotte (RW) ECHL 62-18-20-38 – Q grad was decent last season
Shaquille Merasty (LW) CIS 26-8-13-21 – switched from tier-2 college to CIS hockey
Istvan Sofron (RW) EBEL 49-15-15-30 – Hungarian vet has spent most of his career in the Austrian league–presumably he wants to test himself across the pond (or maybe the money was better); given his struggles in the DEL it’s hard to know what to expect
Dyson Stevenson (CR/RW) ECHL 53-10-19-29 – former WHLer known for his fists

Given how much more of the roster is coming from elsewhere it’s hard to judge what’s here, although I’m not sure how many goons the team really needs. Regardless, with two NHL franchises feeding in talent it should help the team escape the doldrums of last year.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

matt o'connor

I’ve been beavering away at my NHL draft piece for quite some assuming that we wouldn’t get much Sens news until after the Expansion Draft.  How wrong I was.  While all the recent news was expected on some level, it remains significant:
Dion Phaneuf was asked to waive his NMC for the Expansion Draft and refused (this doesn’t mean the Sens couldn’t try to move him, but with his contract, even if they wanted too, good luck)
Erik Karlsson will miss 4 months after undergoing foot surgery (as Nichols points out, this is the second surgery announced after Pierre Dorion told us no one would need surgery)
Chris Neil was told his services are no longer required (in my opinion this is less a management decision and more Guy Boucher letting management know he wasn’t going to play him)
-The Sens did not qualify goaltender Matt O’Connor (something I’ve anticipated repeatedly, most recently here); he becomes the tenth straight NCAA FA dud going back to 2007; this suggests we can expect Chris Driedger and Marcus Hogberg to be the tandem in Belleville
[-late add: Ryan Rupert was also not qualified, which is as I expected]

2017_NHL_Entry_Draft_logo

Speaking of the draft, Ary M and Colin Cudmore have begun a series of articles looking at what the Sens might do at the draft (this is the first).  The player selection they present is pretty reasonable abstractly, but in detail I have one major problem with most of them: size.  The Sens have tenaciously valued size throughout drafts going back to Bryan Murray and while there have been exceptions they are few and far between.  The pair list 5’10 Aleski Heponiemi, 5’10 Joni Ikonen (I’ve seen him listed at 5’11, incidentally), 5’10 Antoine Morand, 6’1 Jason Robertson, and 5’8 (!) Kailer Yamamoto.  In addition to the size concern, the org has drafted exactly one Finn since 2005, so while it’s not impossible, it does make it more unlikely.

internet-statistics_1

Larry Brooks penned a piece about NHL labour negotiation, but for me the most interesting part of the article is this:

The NHL will have done that by generating essentially no revenue growth over the past year.

Other than the Vegas expansion fee the NHL has not grown this season at all.  This is not a surprise to me (ie the piece I wrote about the aging fanbase for sports in general), but it’s another indicator that the ultra conservative NHL cannot figure out that for the sport to grow it actually has to take steps to increase scoring.  It also needs a better superstar to promote than Sidney Crosby (has any league has had a less less appealing star than Crosby?–twelve years of heavy marketing and he can’t draw numbers outside of Pittsburgh).

clutch

Stefan Wolejszo writes a long (long) piece trying to see if there’s substance behind defining a clutch player, concluding:

even if you could miraculously isolate one player’s clutchiness based on in-game event data I still think doing so largely misses the point in at least two important ways. First, the “elevating performance” standard is largely a crock. Considering the negative potential impact of pressure on performance I would be thrilled to have players on my team who can simply maintain their usual standard of play when pressure begins to mount. Second, the biggest bang for the buck for hockey teams is probably identifying who chokers are and figuring out interventions that can help those players.

Indeed.

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

It’s draft prep time for me which is both enormously fun and an enormous amount of work (there’s also a BSens piece in the pipeline).  That said, there are plenty of Sens things to talk about, so without further ado, here we go.

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I’ve never been a fan of BLT‘s, but BLT offers The Silver Seven‘s primer on the expansion draft (it’s pure information rather than Sens speculation).  Looking at SensChirps article about the same it’s funny/horrifying to see how his polls reflect the org’s backwards thinking so accurately–presumably it’s where the Mark Borowiecki fan club hangs out.

jyrki-jokipakka-2017-43

Speaking of SS7, I want whatever Colin4000 is smoking, as his piece assessing the organisation includes this gem:

Then came the trade deadline, which is what really pushed Dorion into NHL Awards territory. He recognized the Sens’ gaping need for depth, and contrary to the years of Bryan Murray, he went out and got it. Brought into the lineup were Tommy Wingels, Alex Burrows (albeit at a steep price), Viktor Stalberg and Jyrki Jokipakka, who all helped solidify the Sens’ lineup.

I remember those Jokipakka games vividly.  Remember that time he…?  No, wait, there was that other time he…?  Clearly Guy Boucher forgot he was on the roster just like the rest of us.  None of WingelsStalberg, or Burrows achieved anything during the playoffs–the only arguments you’ll get to the contrary is that they were better than the alternatives, which isn’t much of an argument.

One other thing I want to talk about from his article (since I’ve seen versions of it from many others) is this:

It’s easy to remember the poor decisions and criticize

Actually, it’s far easier to praise.  Criticism is difficult to do, which is why good critical content is so hard to find (I’m not sure The Ottawa Sun has ever produced any).  So no, there hasn’t been “too much” criticism of the Sens this year (as the saying goes, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations”–for those curious as to the source of this quote, have fun going down the rabbit-hole).

STATS

Ryan Stimson posted a fascinating document that includes analytics highlights as he proposes a new system for NHL teams to follow (while recognizing the arch-conservative league is unlikely to do so).  Something in particular that stands out to me is Stimson’s emphasis on offense when so many coaches focus on defense (Guy Boucher certainly fits that category).  Another thing that struck me was a Dawson Sprigings piece from the fall where he talked about the benefits of spreading out elite players in the lineup, which is a complimentary but slightly more evolved take on Alex Novet’s that I mentioned back in April.  The idea is that if you have more than one elite player (so this wouldn’t apply to Ottawa), it’s better to spread them out as opposed to having them on the same line (you can see this operating in Pittsburgh, for example).

Speaking of analytics, it was nice to hear Peter Laviolette pays attention to it now. The NHL is an imitative league and if Nashville wins the Cup a few more dinosaurs in management will be forced to listen to reason (not in Ottawa, however).

travisyost

Travis Yost is very excited about the Jake Guentzel‘s playoff run, and while all the signs for him being a productive NHL player are there (good NCAA stats, good AHL stats), it’s worth pointing out that playoff stats, even extraordinary ones, are not necessarily predictors of the future (especially if that player is being supported by a superstar).  The simplest examples are Chris Kontos (1989) and John Druce (1990).  Kontos scored 9 goals in 11 games riding shotgun with Wayne Gretzky in LA; he had one good NHL season with Tampa afterwards before fading away completely. Druce‘s season was with Washington (14 goals in 15 games); his career slipped away more gradually, as he was able to function as a depth player before finally leaving to play in Germany.  I’d take the performance with a grain of salt.

Free_Agent_logo_2

Two more free agents were signed off my list, as forwards Henrik Haapala (Florida) and former King pick Tomas Hyka (Vegas) were signed.  Also signed (by Chicago) was 26-year old Czech defenseman Jan Rutta.  This brings the total up to twenty (8 forwards, 11 blueliners, 1 goalie), which is approaching the usual NCAA high tide.  In terms of which teams are dipping into the EU pool:
Arizona: 1
Buffalo: 1
Chicago: 2
Detroit: 2
Florida: 1
LA: 1
LV: 2
Montreal: 1
Nashville: 1
NJ: 1
NYR: 1
San Jose: 2
Toronto: 3
Vancouver: 1
That’s 14 of 31 franchises

For comparison, these are the NCAA FA’s signed this season (22): defenseman Neal Pionk (NYR), Alex Iafallo (LA), goaltender Hunter Miska (Ari), goaltender Shane Starrett (Edm), goaltender Angus Redmond (Ana), Mike Vecchione (Phi), defenseman Nick Desimone (San Jose), C. J. Smith (Buf), Justin Kloos (Min), Griffen Molino (Van), Joe Gambardella (Edm), defenseman Michael Kapla (NJ), defenseman Vince Pedrie (NYR), Vinni Lettieri (NYR), John Stevens (NYI), defenseman Josh Healey (Cal), goaltender Chris Nell (NYR), Mitch Hults (Ana), Tim Clifton (SJ), Sam Vigneault (Clb), defenseman Gavin Bayreuther (Dal), and Zach Aston-Reese (Pit).  The list includes 12 forwards, 6 defensemen, and 4 goaltenders.  By franchise:
Ana: 2
Ari: 1
Buf: 1
Cal: 1
Clb: 1
Dal: 1
Edm: 2
LA: 1
Min: 1
NJ: 1
NYI: 1
NYR: 4
Phi: 1
Pit: 1
SJ: 2
Van: 1
That’s 16 of 31 franchises

Seven teams appear on both lists (Ari, Buf, LA, NJ, NYR, SJ, and Van), meaning that a combined 23 of 31 teams availed themselves of free agents from either source. The teams on the outside looking in include Ottawa, Boston, Carolina, Colorado, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Washington and Winnipeg.  There are, of course, a small number of junior league free agents signed (5): goaltender Matiss Edmunds Kivlenieks out of the USHL (Clb), Dawson Leedahl (NYR), Antoine Waked (Mtl), Giovanni Fiore (Ana), and defenseman Jalen Chatfield (Van) from the CHL, but all of these come from the group of teams that signed FA’s from the usual sources.  The question remains: are the eight teams shooting blanks doing so intentionally or are they simply unable to compete with what the other franchises are offering?  I suspect the latter.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Early Look at the Belleville Senators

belleville sens

With both the expansion and entry draft ahead there’s roster uncertainty ahead for the nascent Belleville Senators, but there’s a lot we do know about the Sens affiliate, so it’s worth going through it.

First, let’s start with some basic AHL information: teams are permitted six “veteran” players (veteran status is determined this way: only five players can have more than a combined 320 AHL, NHL, or European league games under their belt, with the sixth vet at 320 and under; CHL players must turn 20 in that calendar year (as in the first half of the season), or else have played in 4 CHL seasons.

Historically Ottawa’s AHL affiliates have frittered away their veteran contracts with useless “character” players (examples from the last ten years: Zack Stortini (x2), Brad MillsTyler EckfordHugh JessimanMark ParrishFrancis LessardJeremy YablonskiGeoff Waugh, and Greg Amadio), and Pierre Dorion has shown the same tendency in his short tenure (so keep that in mind).  Here’s the list of signed players who can or will play for Belleville next season (broken down by position, rookies in italics, veterans in bold, I’ve given their current age as well):

Goaltenders (1)
Marcus Hogberg (22, 2 year ELC)

Defensemen (8)
Thomas Chabot (20, ELC)
Cody Donaghey (21, 2 year ELC)
Macoy Erkamps (22, 2 more years)
Andreas Englund (21, 2 more years)
Ben Harpur (22, 1 more year)
Christian Jaros (21, ELC)
Maxime Lajoie (19, ELC) – while AHL-eligible he could return to junior
Jordan Murray (24, 2 year AHL contract)

Forwards (9) [Logan Brown is signed but isn’t AHL-eligible]
Mike Blunden (1 more year)
Filip Chlapik (20, ELC)
Chris DiDomenico* (28, 1 year)
Vincent Dunn (21, 1 more year)
Kyle Flanagan (28, 1 more year on his AHL contract)
Gabriel Gagne (20, 2 more years)
Nick Paul (22, 1 more year)
Francis Perron (21, 2 more years)
Colin White (20, 2 more years)
* I’m assuming his time in Italian leagues count

Theoretically the Sens have two other draft picks to make decisions on (both NCAA grads: Chris Leblanc (6-161/13) and Robert Baillargeon (5-136/12)), but at this point it seems unlikely they will be signed (other than, perhaps, the former getting an AHL or ECHL contract).  Among the other draft picks the only conceivable signing (to my mind) would be Filip Ahl (4-109/15), but it’s more likely they’ll let him play another year before making a decision on him.

Here are the RFA and UFA situations from the 2016-17 roster (again, broken down by position):

Goaltenders (3)
Chris Driedger (23, RFA)
Scott Greenham (30, had an AHL contract)
Matt O’Connor (25, RFA)

Defensemen (5)
Chris Carlisle (22, had an AHL contract)
Brandon Gormley (25, UFA)
Guillaume Lepine (30, had an AHL contract)
Chris Rumble (27, had an AHL contract)
Patrick Sieloff (23, RFA)

Forwards (8)
Jason Akeson (27, had an AHL contract)
Casey Bailey (25, UFA)
Marc Hagel (28, UFA)
Alex Krushelnyski (26, had an AHL contract)
Max McCormick (25, UFA)
Chad Nehring (29, UFA)
Jack Rodewald (23, had an AHL contract)
Ryan Rupert (23, RFA)
Phil Varone (26, UFA)

Here are my thoughts by position:

Goaltenders

Signing Marcus Hogberg (3-78/13) signals that one of Matt O’Connor (NCAA FA 2015) or Chris Driedger (3-76/12) is on their way out.  While the difference between the two isn’t large, O’Connor is older and shown little sign of improvement, so I’d guess Driedger will be retained (he’d also be cheaper).  There’s the possibility Andrew Hammond could be buried in the AHL this season, but I doubt Melnyk will tolerate his salary rotting away, so I expect the org to remove him one way or another.  On the ECHL side of things it would be easy to retain Scott Greenham, despite a subpar year, but they could easily sign another ‘tender to replace him.
Expectation: Driedger/Hogberg; ECHL Greenham 50/50

Defensemen

I suspect Chabot (1-18/15) will play in the NHL, but even so it’s a crowded blueline, as such I suspect that Lajoie (5-133/16) will be returned to junior for his final WHL season.  There’s no chance former Arizona first-round pick Gormley (1-13/10) sticks around and we can hope that we’ve seen the last of ECHLer Lepine.  The org could keep Sieloff–he’s an unremarkable defensive defenseman, but decent AHL depth (my guess is no, but the possibility remains). I suspect Carlisle will be retained (both Richardson and Kleinendorst liked him), especially if he’s willing to accept an AHL contract, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rumble walked (he could make good money in Europe).
Expectation: Donaghey, Erkamps, Englund, Harpur, Jaros, Murray, Carlisle, plus a FA signing (a veteran)

Forwards

As large as this group seems, Dunn (5-138/13), assuming he’s not moved, will be buried in the ECHL.  I also believe White (1-21/15) will remain in the NHL, leaving us with seven players signed.  I suspect the org would like to keep Varone, but he may decide to explore his options (I believe Akeson will leave on his own accord, just as he did last season–his return to the team early last season was unplanned).  Of the remaining players the org will fall over itself to re-sign McCormick (6-171/11), with the possibility they’ll give him a one-way deal (something I see as likely).  We could see Rodewald get another AHL-contract and the team might try to keep Bailey, but the rest are gone.
Expectation: Blunden, Chlapik, DiDomenico, Flanagan, Gagne, Paul, Perron, Rodewald, Varone; four or five other players will be signed including at least one veteran

This would make for a very inexperienced roster, particularly on the blueline and in net, but with more talent than the previous season.  What Belleville really needs is scoring and it remains to be seen if DiDomenico can show the touch he had in Europe (he’ll need support regardless).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

karlsson

The miracle run is over for Ottawa and the team has everything to be proud of–a one-legged Erik Karlsson almost willed the roster into a Stanley Cup final.  For some fans the double over time loss to Pittsburgh will bring back memories of 2003 when the Sens lost to New Jersey in seven (it’s the logical parallel–one win away from the Cup, losing 3-2 in both game sevens).  That’s not the feeling for me however, as losing 14 years ago was much more frustrating since I had no doubt whichever team won would beat Anaheim in the final.  Ottawa making the final this year would have been fantastic, but I had no expectation that they would beat a very deep and talented Nashville team (in terms of sentiment for me it was most similar to Ottawa’s seven game loss to Buffalo in 1997).  The 2003 team was young and I knew there would be another opportunity for them to challenge for the Cup–that’s not the case with the current roster.  Next year they will likely be on the bubble just like they have been since 2007 (Nichols outlines their good fortune in the post-season).  There’s a ton of positivity in the blogosphere right now and that’s what winning does–the envelop of good feelings from the fanbase may last well into next season.

bush mission

Pretty sure that’s a picture of Melnyk above.  Anyway, as the eulogies come pouring in (there’s what, five other Sens blogs? We’ll call it a pour anyway), I can’t ignore the organisational issues that exist behind it.  Pierre Dorion and his cronies aren’t likely to have learned much from this experience (except, perhaps, that Guy Boucher won’t always play crappy veterans when it matters), and Eugene Melnyk is still a crazy, cash-strapped owner who can’t keep his mouth shut.  There’s even some reason to be concerned with Boucher himself, who enjoyed a very similar run with Tampa Bay in his initial season (2011) and then couldn’t get the Lightning back into the playoffs.  Let’s briefly look at the various things this year that were significant on the critical side:
Cody Ceci (do I need to say anything else at this point?)
-What was the point of signing Chris Kelly?  He only (barely) played in two playoff games, both of which the Sens lost in double overtime
Tom Pyatt, another head-scratching signing, got annihilated in the playoffs
-Was Derick Brassard really an upgrade over Mika Zibanejad?  He disappeared in the playoffs after the Boston series (3 points in 13 games) and was outperformed by Mika in both the regular and post-season (PPG 0.48 vs 0.66 in the regular, 0.57 vs 0.75 in the playoffs)–I thought the trade sucked when it happened and nothing this year says otherwise
-Losing a year of Colin White‘s ELC in order for him to play 2 regular season games and a couple of shifts in one playoff game was remarkably stupid for a budget team
-Not knowing the call-up rule from the CHL and thus being unable to recall Thomas Chabot when they desperately wanted too is inexcusable for an executive like Dorion who has been in the league forever
-Acquisitions Viktor StalbergAlex Burrows, and Tommy Wingels collectively scored zero goals in the playoff run (when you’re outscored by Oleg Saprykin you’ve got problems)
-the cupboard down in Binghamton was very bare this year; dumping Luke Richardson and replacing him with Kurt Kleinendorst was a positive move, but let’s remember that it wasn’t Dorion’s choice for Richardson to move on, so it’s not like he figured out Luke was clueless

The cup isn’t always half-empty, as there are a lot of things I like on the roster, but it’s difficult to see this org actually improving upon those foundations.  While there will be fans who point to all the gloom & doom for this season and then talk about results, but let’s not forget Colorado’s miracle season in 2013-14 as just one example of how a team can temporarily buck underlying numbers before regressing to the mean the next year.

freeagent

The European free agent signings continue (it feels like a lot more have been signed this year, but I haven’t looked back at the numbers yet): Buffalo signed 24-year old Russian defenseman Viktor Antipin (an overage candidate back in 2013); Vancouver signed 25-year old Swedish defenseman Philip Holm (he was never ranked for the draft); while Columbus signed Latvian netminder Matiss Edmunds Kivlenieks with the 20-year old sailing through the last two drafts (no one had him ranked).

2017_NHL_Entry_Draft_logo

I mentioned Grant McCagg‘s new draft site back in March and his first draft preview product is available to order.  Sadly, from my perspective, he’s only looking at the top 100 picks (with scouting reports on only the top 62), which isn’t much value even for such an inexpensive product (as I mentioned in my draft review last year, there’s general consensus on the top-90 or so players and scouting reports on the first two rounds are widely available through free media).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)