Belleville Senators: December Review

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

Roster Volatility

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Player Usage

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Special Teams – The Powerplay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Teams – The Penalty Kill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding Thoughts

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)


Thoughts on Belleville’s Roster Moves

What a fascinating couple of days it has been. The BSens sit at 10-12-1 in the standings, almost a mirror image of where they were under Kurt Kleinendorst last season (10-10-2 at the end of November)–that has to be worrying for an org that signed Troy Mann to change the fate of their moribund AHL-franchise. Pierre Dorion can’t just blame call-ups or injuries because Kleinendorst had the exact same problems. There’s supposed to be more talent in Belleville this season, but the results aren’t changing, so what to do?

With Randy Lee out of the org some of his ugly roster decisions can be reversed and the trigger was pulled to send assorted detritus to Wilkes-Barre. The Sens managed to move out 2013-failure Vincent Dunn to Pittsburgh last year and have now dumped two terrible signings (Macoy Erkamps and AHL-contract Ryan Scarfo) along with a useful but injury-prone player (Ben Sexton) to the Penguins in return for former BSen Tobians Lindberg and long-time AHL-defensemen Stefan Elliott.

I like this trade a lot for the BSens. I have no idea how either acquisition will perform, but it eliminates two useless players from the org (one of whom counts towards the Sens 50-contract limit) as well as an older player who has struggled to find a place among a strong forward lineup. Let’s briefly go over the departed:

Ben Sexton, RW 1991; 7-206/09 Bos 30-11-10-21 0.70 (AHL 0.45)
2018-19 17-0-9-9 (0.52)

There’s no question that Sexton is a talented, useful AHL-player, but there’s no room for him to play center and clearly Mann prefers Jack Rodewald over him (I wouldn’t, but Jack is a more durable player). He’s a sacrifice, but the BSens actually have options on the right side (Balisy, Rodewald, Gagne, and Tambellini can all effectively play that side–as can Jimmy O’Brien when he returns)

Macoy Erkamps, DR 1995; FA 16 46-1-3-4 0.08 (AHL 0.11/ECHL 0.41)
2018-19 ECHL 21-1-5-6 (0.28)

To say the CHL FA is a flop is an insult to flops–whoever was responsible for signing him in 2016 ought to be out the door. That aside, he’s producing at a lower rate in the ECHL. This guy, especially as he’s on an ELC, just has to go.

Ryan Scarfo, CL 1994; FA 18 NCAA 38-20-16-36 0.95
2018-19 AHL 6-0-0-0 (0.00)/ECHL 10-1-1-2 (0.20)

The warning signs for me were apparent last season, when I saw nothing impressive about him. That’s apparent in the ECHL and even if he’s just an AHL-contract keeping him wasn’t helping the BSens or Brampton.

Clearly, as much as I like Sexton, these are pieces the BSens can comfortably move. What about the return?

Stefan Elliott, DR 1991, 2-49/09 Col SHL 34-4-17-21 0.61 (AHL 0.47)
2018-19 AHL 20-1-7-8 (0.40)

Entering the year at 254 AHL games played (just below the veteran-status bar) the former WHLer actually addresses a vital need on the right side. I complained that the Falk signing added nothing the BSens needed (he can’t score and plays the left), but here we have both a producer and someone who fills a need (while I hope his addition mercifully means an end to seeing Racine in the lineup, I know realistically Bergman sits, because why play someone with talent when you can play someone without it?).

Tobias Lindberg, W 1995, 4-102/13 Ott AHL 64-10-13-23 0.36 (AHL 0.44)
2018-19 AHL 15-2-4-6 (0.40)

I was a big fan during his brief tenure under the lamentable Luke Richardson regime (15-16)–my thoughts then are summed up nicely here. He wound up getting buried in the talent-ladden Leafs system and subsequently in Las Vegas and Pittsburgh respectively. The productivity that seemed to be there in his first two seasons may never be realised, but he’s a great possession player (as Colin Cudmore points out) and adds value however he’s used. He could very easily slide onto the third line, but I suspect Mann will put him on the fourth and move Gagne there (org-love creates opportunities).

Let’s give credit to whoever did the work to make this trade (I have no idea–there’s no actual GM in Belleville). However it turns out, the BSens are getting more out of the deal.

A final note: for anyone who missed it, I posted my November review for the BSens recently–there’s lot’s of numbers and analysis to chew on.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville Senators: November Review

November was a disaster for what had been my usual routine of game-by-game reports. This change is due to my schedule getting busier such that I have to watch most games on replay. Despite that, I have a mountain of notes and I’ll share what’s pertinent below. You can read October’s review here.

Roster Volatility

Drake Batherson was finally summoned to the NHL and it’s very unlikely he’ll ever return (joining Max Lajoie and Christian Jaros in that respect). Inexplicably Erik Burgdoerfer was briefly called up. Due to injuries Mike McKenna spent the entire month in Ottawa, while Nick Paul and Jack Rodewald had cups of coffee in the NHL (virtually a complete repeat of what happened to them last season). On the injury front Jim O’Brien remains out, while Marcus Hogberg missed almost all of November before making his debut as the month ended; Logan Brown, Andrew Sturtz, Stuart Percy, Christian Wolanin, and Burgdoerfer also missed time with injuries. Mike Condon, demoted to the AHL, only played one game before being felled by injury. Despite a weak, wobbly blueline the minimizing of Julius Bergman continues as he was a healthy scratch for four straight games–apparently Roy Sommer (San Jose Barracuda head coach) understands how to utilize the Swede, but Troy Mann does not.

As for various presumed Brampton players, Ryan Scarfo‘s unremarkable run in Belleville has ended and he’s been just as bland in Brampton (8-1-1-2). Equally unremarkable Boston Leier also received a brief demotion (1-1-0-1), as did the inexplicably signed Jonathan Racine (2-0-1-1). Injuries had goaltender Jake Paterson spend a significant amount of time with Belleville, but Aaron Luchuk (12-0-4-4), Macoy Erkamps (12-0-3-3), and Daniel Ciampini (12-3-7-10) remained in the ECHL throughout (it has not been a pretty debut for CHL FA Luchuk). The BSens signed Colorado cast-off “he’s big” Justin Falk (failed Minnesota pick, 4-110/07), just before the month ended–his AHL career PPG of 0.16 is not what the team needs (yet another lefthand shot as well).


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

5-6-1 (t-4th division, 11th conference) 5-5-0 dropped from 3rd and 7th respectively
GF 39/3.25 (7th conference) 30/3.00 +0.25, remain 7th
GA 47/3.91 (t-10th conference) 27/2.70 +1.21, drop from t-6th
PP 10-57/17.5% (9th conference) 10-43/23.2% -5.7%, drop from 5th
PK 52-68/76.4% (12th conference) 33-41/80.4% -4.0%, drop from 8th
Shots 27.2 27.1 +0.1
Shot Differential +0.4 -6.1 +6.5

The team’s results aren’t that dissimilar to the month before, but there are worrying signs. Clearly Gustavsson was not ready for prime time as much of the huge bump in goals allowed rests squarely on his shoulders (interestingly I’m not seeing the panic from the fanbase that happened last year when Hogberg struggled). The team actually improved their shot differential, but defensively remained a sieve. Special teams, where the hands of the coaching staff are most obvious, dropped substantially. The impact of Batherson on scoring both at even strength and on the powerplay can’t be overestimated. With Chlapik playing at about 60% for much of these season, there’s less elite talent to cover up Mann’s coaching eccentricities.


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

Batherson 4-3-4-7 1.75 3 PPP
Wolanin 11-3-6-9 0.81 3 PPP
Sturtz 5-1-3-4 0.80 1 PPP
Rodewald 10-4-4-8 0.80 3 PPP
Carey 12-2-7-9 0.75 4 PPP
Brown 7-3-2-5 0.71 1 PPP
Burgdoerfer 6-1-3-4 0.66
Tambellini 12-5-2-7 0.58 4 PPP
Sexton 12-0-7-7 0.58 3 PPP
Chlapik 12-5-1-6 0.50 2 PPP
Balcers 12-3-3-6 0.50 2 PPP
Murray 12-3-3-6 0.50 2 PPP
Percy 8-0-4-4 0.50 1 PPP
Paul 8-0-4-4 0.50
Balisy 12-0-5-5 0.41
Englund 12-2-2-4 0.33
Racine 3-1-0-1 0.33/ECHL 2-0-1-1
Leier 5-0-1-1 0.20/ECHL 1-1-0-1
Beauchemin 11-2-0-2 0.18
LaBate 12-0-2-2 0.16
Sieloff 12-0-2-2 0.16
Gagne 9-0-0-0
Bergman 8-0-0-0
Scarfo 1-0-0-0/ECHL 8-1-1-2
Ciampini ECHL 12-3-7-10
Luchuk ECHL 12-0-4-4
Erkamps ECHL 12-0-3-3
O’Brien Injured
Falk (signed on the 30th and did not play)

Gustavsson 9-3-5-1 .854 4.19
Hogberg 1-1-0-1 .926 2.00/ECHL 1-0-1-0 .935 1.89
Paterson 3-0-1-0 .895 2.05

Player Usage

We’ll separate forwards from defensemen, but just like the previous month Mann doesn’t do much line juggling (if any) during games. We did see more volatility with the lineup between games.


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

First Line (8 goals, including empty-netter)
Balcers (12-12) 2 Goals, 2 Assists
Chlapik (12-12) 4 Goals
Sexton (7-12) 3 Assists
Batherson (4-4) Goal, 3 Assists (Assist)
Rodewald (1-10)

To start the month the first line was set; once Batherson was recalled Sexton took his place for all but the final game (with Rodewald plugged in). Neither alternative proved a good fit on the line and Balcers production without Batherson plummeted (two points in eight games). The Latvian is too good a player for that to be normal so there’s a chemistry issue on the right side that hasn’t been fixed. A final point: after the call-up this line generally played less than the so-called second line (reduced TOI impacting production). With Batherson the first line scored 11 goals in 13 games, without him just 4 goals in 9 games.

Second Line (8 goals)
Carey (12-12) Goal, 3 Assists (2 Assists)
Paul (8-8) 4 Assists
Rodewald (7-10) 3 Goals, 2 Assists
Balisy (4-12) Assist
Sexton (3-12)
Sturtz (1-5) Assist
Tambellini (1-12) (Goal)

A much more productive line with Carey in the lineup. When Paul and Rodewald returned from Ottawa they were put on this line and the streaky Rodewald enjoyed an explosion of productivity before settling into a more typical cold streak (Paul simply hasn’t been that effective, with all his points confined to just two games).

Third line (5 goals)
Tambellini (10-12) Goal, Assist
Balisy (8-12) Assist (2 Assists)
Brown (7-7) 2 Goals, 2 Assists
Beauchemin (3-11) (Goal)
Sexton (2-12) Assist
Rodewald (2-10)
LaBate (2-12)
Sturtz (1-5) (Assist)
Gagne (1-9)

Nearly all the productivity on this line is attributable to Logan Brown, which begs the question: what’s he doing on this line? While he can barely skate, he should have been swapped with Paul on the second unit, but org favourites get a lot of rope before changes are made. I have no idea why either LaBate or Beauchemin were given time on this line–both are fine on the fourth, but have no business on the third.

Fourth line (2 goals)
LaBate (10-12) Assist (Assist)
Beauchemin (8-11) Goal
Gagne (8-9)
Leier (5-5) Assist
Sturtz (3-5) Goal
Scarfo (1-1)

This line was much less productive than in October and Sturtz is too talented to be buried here. As for Gabriel Gagne–could his stock fall further? After getting almost half a season on the first line last year it looked like he’d turned a corner, but outside a three-point game on October 20th he’s produced exactly one point in eighteen games and is on a ten game pointless streak–yikes!

(There’s a floating goal that’s from a Frankenstein combination of players (forwards from three different lines and defensemen from two different combinations; this is the Racine goal from November 14th that occurs just after a penalty kill); there’s also an overtime goal from November 16th that’s a complete mix and a 4-on-4 goal from November 30th with a set D-combination but miss-matched forward pair)


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

Top-pairing (16 goals)
Wolanin (11-11) 2 Goals, 3 Assists (Goal, Assist)
Burgdoerfer (6-6) Goal, 3 Assists
Sieloff (4-12)
Murray (2-12) Goal
Racine (1-3)

Christian Wolanin can make virtually anyone look good–Sieloff being the exception this month. I’m not a fan of Murray on the first-pairing, but we’re beyond the point of the org being rational about him.

Second-pairing (8 goals)
Percy (8-8) 3 Assists (Assist)
Sieloff (8-12) Assist (2 Assists)
Murray (6-12) Goal, 2 Assists
Racine (2-3) (Goal)

The entire month Mann went with two lefties on this unit. Murray was more useful here this month than last (offensively at least), but Percy is the one who makes the unit tick.

Third-pairing (3 goals)
Englund (12-12) 2 Assists (2 Goals)
Bergman (8-8)
Murray (4-12) (Goal)

Mann does not care for Bergman at all (despite being on the ice for all three third-pairing goals), scratching him four straight games (the team went 1-2-1 without him). Englund and Murray are both awful defensively, so while Bergman isn’t Norris Trophy material he at least helps (I have a pet theory that Mann believes in plus/minus and that this why he won’t utilize him as you’d imagine). The signing of Falk should mean changes here–I’d love for Englund to sit again, but I’m not expecting it.


With the injuries to Condon and Hogberg we got to see where goaltender-of-the-future Gustavsson was in his development–it wasn’t pretty. Badly shelled in five straight starts before leveling out, it was simply too much too soon for the rookie. There’s no need for panic and Hogberg‘s return means there can be a genuine rotation. It will be interesting to see how the latter plays given his inconsistencies last season, but certainly Gustavsson‘s performance provides useful context for those who panicked over Hogberg‘s struggles last year.

Special Teams – The Powerplay

The recall of Batherson has massively impacted powerplay production (just 5-37, or 13.5% without him, which is 13th in the conference). Mann’s bizarre tinkering makes things worse (what genius slides Wolanin down to the second unit?). Let’s start with the raw scoring numbers:
Tambellini/Carey 4
Batherson/Rodewald/Wolanin/Sexton 3
Chlapik/Balcers/Murray 2
Percy/Sturtz/Brown 1

Scoring by specific lines (shift count included; arranged by goals/effectiveness; brackets separate out 1st/2nd line usage):

1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Batherson/Wolanin-Tambellini 3-7
1st/2nd: Carey-Sexton-Rodewald/Percy-Tambellini 2-8 (3/5)
2nd: Tambellini-Carey-Gagne/Percy-Murray 1-3
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Gagne/Carey-Percy 1-3
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Brown/Chlapik-Wolanin 1-4
1st: Brown-Paul-Balisy/Carey-Percy 1-4
1st/2nd: Balcers-Chlapik-Sexton/Paul-Wolanin 1-6 (1/5)
1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Batherson/Wolanin-Murray 0-1
1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Batherson/Wolanin-Bergman 0-1
1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Rodewald/Wolanin-Tambellini 0-1
2nd: Carey-Paul-Balisy/Sexton-Murray 0-1
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Brown/Percy-Carey 0-1
1st: Tambellini-Chlapik-Rodewald/Carey-Percy 0-1
1st: Carey-Paul-Sexton/Brown-Wolanin 0-1
1st: Carey-Paul-Sexton/Rodewald-Wolanin 0-1
1st/2nd: Carey-Paul-Rodewald/Tambellini-Percy 0-2 (1/1)
1st/2nd: Balcers-Chlapik-Brown/Sexton-Wolanin 0-2 (1/1)
1st: Balcers-Sexton-Chlapik/Wolanin-Batherson 0-3
2nd: Gagne-Balisy-Tambellini/Carey-Murray 0-3
2nd: Balcers-Chlapik-Tambellini/Sexton-Wolanin 0-3
2nd: Tambellini-Sexton-Brown/Chlapik-Murray 0-4
1st/2nd: Carey-Rodewald-Tambellini/Brown-Percy 0-6 (5/1)
1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Batherson/Wolanin-Balisy 0-6
2nd: Carey-Balisy-Sturtz/Murray-Sexton 0-6
1st: Balcers-Paul-Rodewald/Percy-Carey 0-8
1st/2nd: Balcers-Paul-Brown/Chlapik-Wolanin 0-9 (6/3)

4-on-3: Chlapik-Balisy-Batherson/Wolanin 0-1
4-on-3: Carey-Chlapik-Batherson/Wolanin 0-1
4-on-3: Balcers-Paul-Chlapik/Murray  0-1
4-on-3: Carey-Rodewald/Wolanin-Paul 0-1
4-on-d: Balcers-Chlapik/Percy-Sexton 0-1

This is a bewildering number of combinations, far and above beyond what’s necessary due to roster changes. Unlike October, where the powerplay was fairly stable (and successful), here we have the coaching equivalent of throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks (without consistently keeping with what sticks). This is something Kleinendorst did most of last season.

Individual player percentages via per-shift (increases/decreases noted in either red or blue, ignoring those who had negligible time in October, namely Sexton and Brown):
Gagne 2-9 22.2% +9.7%
Tambellini 8-45 17.7% +5.2%
Batherson 3-20 15.0% +0.4%
Percy 5-36 13.8% -1.8%
Sexton 5-44 11.3%
Wolanin 5-48 10.4% -4.3%
Carey 5-49 10.2% -6.4%
Chlapik 5-52 9.6% -2.9%
Balcers 4-49 8.1% -6.5%
Rodewald 2-27 7.4% -14.8%
Brown 2-31 6.4%
Paul 2-33 6.0% -11.6%
Murray 1-19 5.2% -5.9%
Balisy 1-21 4.7% -7.8%
Sturtz 0-6

We can safely ignore Gagne’s numbers (which are a mix of luck and sample size). You’d think given his production that Tambellini would be stapled to the top unit, but no, for whatever inscrutable Mannish reason he bounced back and forth between units (as, indeed, did every player). I mentioned in my October review that both Rodewald and Paul‘s numbers would regress to the mean and as predicted the bottom fell out for both (Rodewald is not, at this level, a consistent powerplay producer). Paul was the kiss of death with the man advantage–his lines barely scored and he had zero points when they did. On the positive side Mann (eventually) identified Balisy‘s lack of productivity and removed him; he also, somewhat, cut Murray‘s time. While there’s no replacing Batherson, there are more sensible approaches to his absence. The mix of Balcers, Chlapik, Wolanin, and Tambellini works–I’d put either Sexton there (only tried briefly) or Brown or Percy. The other change is to play that line as the first unit consistently. A final note: for those wondering Sturtz‘s powerplay point came on a line change, which is why he sits at 0-6 on his line despite an assist.

Special Teams – The Penalty Kill

Any hope that Mann was the magic elixir to solve the PK woes the franchise has had forever were stamped out this month. I mentioned some worrying signs in October, so let’s dig into the numbers. Here are the various forward line combinations we’ve seen (arranged by volume):

Carey-Balisy 55-58
LaBate-Paul 19-20
LaBate-Rodewald 14-16
Balisy-Rodewald 9-11
Balisy-Sexton 5-8
Carey-LaBate 4-6
LaBate-Balisy 5-5
Balcers-Chlapik 4-5
LaBate-Sexton 4-4
Beauchemin-Sexton 4-4
LaBate-Sturtz 3-4
Paul-Sturtz 3-3
Balcers-Sturtz 2-2
Paul-Rodewald 2-2
Carey-Paul 2-2
Carey-Sexton 2-2
Beauchemin-Sturtz 1-1
Carey-Sturtz 1-1
Carey-Beauchemin 1-1
Balisy-Sturtz 1-1
Balcers-Balisy 1-1
Chlapik-Sexton 1-1
Paul-Sexton 1-1
Paul-Balisy 1-1
Chlapik-Balisy 0-1

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

Beauchemin: 6-6 100% (20-20)
Paul: 28-29 96.5% (32-35) +29.9%
Carey: 65-70 92.8% (79-85) -0.5%
Sturtz: 11-12 91.6%
Balisy: 77-86 89.5% (117-127) -8.0%
LaBate: 49-55 89.1% (82-90) -6.1%
Balcers: 7-8 87.5% (7-9) +87.5
Rodewald: 25-29 86.2% (62-70) -4.0%
Sexton: 17-20 85.0% (36-39) -15.0%
Chlapik: 5-7 71.4% (7-11) +21.4%

Via last year’s numbers Paul is an average penalty killer, Rodewald below average, and Sexton quite good; through the early part of this season Carey, Balisy, and LaBate have all been solid. As the volume increases and you look at combinations, the lead weight for most of the better penalty killers when it comes to goals against is Rodewald. His percentages aren’t terrible, but it’s clear going through his impact on his partners he is the key element that drags them down (this was true last season as well). This impact was something Kleinendorst actually figured out eventually, but thus far Mann has not. One thing that’s continued from October is Mann’s preference to put skilled players who don’t normally kill penalties out late in powerplays (ie Balcers/Chlapik). Moving on to the blueline:

Murray-Sieloff 26-29
Sieloff-Burgdoerfer 24-26
Englund-Murray 21-22
Englund-Sieloff 13-16
Englund-Bergman 14-14
Percy-Sieloff 4-6
Murray-Bergman 5-5
Wolanin-Bergman 3-3
Englund-Racine 3-3
Sieloff-Bergman 2-3
Sieloff 2-3
Englund 2-3
Racine-Bergman 2-2
Englund-Burgdoerfer 2-2
Racine-Murray 1-2
Englund-Percy 1-2
Racine-Sieloff 1-1
Percy-Murray 1-1

The large number of combinations are due more to roster issues than Mannish variation. Let’s look at individual shift count numbers (yearly totals in brackets with differences from October in red or blue if changed and italics if the sample size was small):

Wolanin: 3-3 100%
Bergman: 21-22 95.4% (38-42) +10.4%
Burgdoerfer: 26-28 92.8% (63-68) +0.3%
Murray: 54-59 91.5% (62-69) +11.5%
Englund: 56-62 90.3% (72-80) +1.5%
Racine: 7-8 87.5%
Sieloff: 72-84 85.7% (117-131) -10.0%
Percy: 6-9 66.6% (32-38) -23.0%

The obvious question here is: if the team’s PK is going down, why are so many of these percentages going up? When going by shift count pure volume can sometimes disguise a drop in overall success. Sieloff had a slump like this last season (parts of February-March) when Kleinendorst had he and Englund kill off entire penalties (his numbers with Englund here are his worst). Keeping in mind that Bergman tends to play the second shift on a PK, what does he have left to prove here? Mann’s approach to him remains immensely puzzling. I have a feeling that one of the reasons Falk was signed was to fix the PK (whether he helps or not remains to be seen).

A few game-by-game things to note:
-One note from the second Syracuse game that I missed was Sturtz coming to Chlapik‘s aid when being worked on by the Crunch
-The entire fourth line was benched most of the 7-6 win over Toronto
Murray, defensively, was particularly awful in the 8-2 loss to Toronto
Racine targeted the head of a Utica player in the team’s 5-4 win (no call)
-In the same game Rodewald hilariously botched a 2-on-0 (deciding to pass but putting the puck into the corner somehow)
-During the shootout of that game both Balcers and Tambellini scored while Gagne hit the post
-The BSens blew a regulation win vs Toronto by giving up a goal with 14-seconds left (Wolanin would win it for them in OT)
Sexton was run from behind in the 5-1 win over Charlotte
-The BSens not only blew a regulation win over Charlotte in the following game (the Checkers scoring 6-on-5 with over two minutes to go), but then lost the game in OT on a Burgdoerfer turnover
-I’ve noted repeatedly that the tough guys the BSens sign do not step up to protect skilled players; in the 4-2 loss to Utica, Chlapik (of all people, who is still nursing an injury) stepped into to protect Sexton
-There was a ton of 4-on-4 in the 2-1 loss to Laval
-While the BurgdoerferMurray combo was on the ice for three of the BSens goals in the 4-2 win over Utica, they were awful defensively and simply fortunate that more goals weren’t scored against

Concluding Thoughts

I’ve got concerns about the coach. There’s still time for things to improve, but the indicators (special teams, player usage) are trending into Kleinendorst/Luke Richardson territory. Mann has more talent than KK so the team isn’t likely to completely sink through the floor like they did last season, but there are definitely things to watch for. I want the powerplay units sorted out, more consistency on the PK, and recognition of what does and doesn’t work on the blueline. Whether any of that happens remains to be seen.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Uber Sens

Image result for ottawa senators uber video

When the uber video came out (the Sens are a proud sponsor of Uber), I was undecided if I should write about it. The hesitation wasn’t because I lacked an opinion, but simply because there wasn’t much that was shocking about it (albeit it’s amusing). The prevailing sentiment I’ve seen from the local media is that it’s much ado about nothing–these kinds of conversations go on with most teams in candid moments, but we simply don’t see/hear them. Others, such as Nichols, took a slightly different approach:

For some reason, they were stupid enough to put their team on blast while riding in an Uber.

Is this stupid? While there seems to be no law in Arizona preventing Uber drivers from recording their passengers in this fashion, I think its at least somewhat understandable that the players assumed privacy (although you should tip your drivers)–after all, we’ve had plenty of years go by without videos like this featuring NHL players. The org attempting to get the video taken down was a hilariously misguided move, but one I expected given how it handles things. Castigating the players for speaking their minds in this context is a bit much as far as I’m concerned, as I’ll get into below.

What did the players say that’s so inflammatory? There’s not much to it, really:

Marty Raymond, the only coach in NHL history to have the worst power-play and the worst PK within a calendar year

This is just a fact–an uncomfortable fact for Raymond and the couching staff, and he should be fired for that accomplishment–but it’s not something unknown to the public.

Here’s the other thing, too. We don’t change anything, ever. So why do we even have a meeting?

Inflexible coaching is a historic problem for the org and, again, not something that’s private–publicly we can watch Guy Boucher (and all coaches) use their systems and adapt (or not) on the ice.

More was said, but these are the ‘spiciest’ parts of it. My takeaway? At least the players care. These are not guys just happy to collect a paycheque–they recognize the team’s flaws and want them to be improved. I’d be far more concerned if they weren’t upset. The narrative about how all of this should be internal doesn’t move the needle for me–they are a terrible team in the midst of a rebuild, so if things aren’t changing internally then making statements publicly isn’t a bad idea.

The result of all this was entirely predictable: the players apologized; Marty Raymond was embarrassed but will keep his job; there was finger-wagging at both the Uber driver and the players; and in a week or two the story will slip away as yet another in the bizarre saga of the Melnykian regime.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville Loses Back-to-Back Games Against Syracuse

Coming into the games against the Crunch the BSens were .500 and seemed to be fixing some of their systemic issues (PK and goals against). Positive trends came to a screaming halt as Syracuse won both penalty filled games, getting Filip Gustavsson pulled in each of them (a feat that didn’t happen last year to any BSen goaltender–the closest was Marcus Hogberg being pulled in consecutive starts back in January). The 6-1 defeat is also the most lopsided of the season (apparently Troy Mann screaming at his players mid-game was not the solution).

Belleville 4, Syracuse 5
Shots: 32-16
PP: 2-9
PK: 4-7
Goaltenders: Gustavsson (8-13); Paterson (3-3)
Sturtz (LaBate, Leier)
Tambellini (Murray, Percy) (pp)
Tambellini (Carey, Murray) (pp)
Batherson (Balcers, Sieloff)

Belleville 1, Syracuse 6
Shots: 27-21
PP: 0-3
PK: 5-6
Goaltenders: Gustavsson (9-13); Paterson (6-8)
Englund (Balisy, Sturtz)

The Crunch arrived with just a 2-5-0 record, sitting at the bottom of the North Division. Both goaltenders played (having split the season thus far). Former Sen Cory Conacher plays for the team and had four points in the second game.

Both Filip Chlapik and Andrew Sturtz returned from injury; the former took his usual place on the top line while the latter bumped Scarfo off the fourth. On defense Wolanin replaced the recalled Burgdoerfer on the top-pairing. In the second game alterations were more radical as Percy was out of the lineup (he took a crosscheck to the back of the head, but I don’t definitively know if that’s why) and inexplicably the team decided Jonathan Racine was worth a PTO (my thoughts on him here, but in brief he does not help them move or possess the puck). This meant the blueline looked like this:

Mann gave TOI to an ECHL PTO over Julius Bergman. The arrangement in general is pretty bizarre. There was uncustomary tinkering with the forward group as well by Mann, with Beauchemin out (I’m assuming sickness/injury), LaBate moved up to center the third line and the rightwing of all lines save the first (I’ve highlighted the moving parts) were changed:

I don’t think the forward changes were the primary issue with the second game (you can blame that on the blueline and goaltending), but it’s a curious juggle given a loss by a single goal previously.

Special Teams
In the first game Mann took Murray off the top unit and replaced him with Balisy; otherwise nothing changed (besides the absence of the recalled Nick Paul, replaced by Chlapik). Both goals scored were about Tambellini’s shot rather than something his unit was doing. In the second game Balisy returned to the second unit and Sexton was moved to the first.

The PK in game one was pretty similar to the previous game, except that Sturtz was added to the mix. The Balisy-Sexton duo was on the ice for all three PP-goals against so they were split up in the following game. The other changes made in game two is that Balcers returned to the PK, playing the final part of kills, and on defense Racine essentially took Percy’s usual rotations.

Other Notes
-Gustavsson had back-to-back poor performances, showing a weakness of being beat high (a problem most BSens goaltenders had last season–something I feel is related at least tangentially to the coaching they are getting)
-Problems from the blueline continue–Sieloff had a turnover that directly lead to a goal in the first game; I lost track of Murray’s turnovers in the second game, etc
-Englund got what I expect will be his only goal for the year
-Sturtz has looked good in his return, not just because of the goal and the assist but his play overall (although I’d rather see him on the powerplay than the PK)
-Gagne has gone back to sleep–he only has one 5-on-5 point this season and has been largely been invisible
-For those who missed it I did a full review of the season through October for the BSens

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville Senators: October Review

Image result for troy mann belleville

The first month of the Belleville Senators under Troy Mann’s regime is in the books (thankfully without the interference of former BSen GM Randy Lee), and it’s time to look at it in its entirety. You can read my predictions prior to the season. Let’s begin with the roster.

Roster Volatility

The initial surprise was Max Lajoie making the NHL roster (and not simply for a game or two); veteran Paul Carey joined him initially. Prior to the season Jim O’Brien was knocked out of the lineup long term–he’ll miss months. Ben Sexton and Aaron Luchuk also missed the start of the season (the latter surprisingly sent to ECHL Brampton). This state of affairs was compounded when Logan BrownMarcus Hogberg, and Andrew Sturtz were all hurt in the first game; the team also lost Christian Jaros and Nick Paul to call-ups (temporarily for Nick). All these changes meant many of the players initially sent to Brampton were recalled (Filip Gustavsson, Francois BeaucheminRyan Scarfo, and the late-signee Daniel Ciampini).


The Team (last October shown in red)

5-5-0 (3rd division, 7th conference) 4-4-1
GF 30/3.00 (t-7th conference) 27/3.00
GA 27/2.70 (t-6th conference) 31/3.44
PP 10-43/23.2% (5th conference) 6-49/12.2
PK 33-41/80.4% (8th conference) 39-47/82.9
Shots 27.1 28.4
Shot Differential -6.1 -7.5

Comparing Kurt Kleinendorst’s team last year to this one is an interesting process because on the surface many of the numbers are similar. The team is winning at roughly the same rate, scoring the same number of goals-per-game, and killing penalties at a commensurate rate (each gave up eight powerplay goals, albeit this year’s team is taking fewer penalties). The biggest differences are the powerplay (not just the percentage, but goals and opportunities) and the goals against–the difference between 2.7 per game and 3.44 is massive. The defensive difference, I believe, is largely due to goaltending: the previous October Andrew Hammond enjoyed a very respectable .929 save percentage, but he only played in three games and Danny Taylor was a miserable .903. Starter Mike McKenna‘s number isn’t massively different (.914), but it is better, and Filip Gustavsson‘s is much higher (.931) and he’s played more. Both iterations of the team gave up a ton of shots and I think if that continues this season they won’t be able to continue to score themselves out of the problem.

The BSens are slightly above .500 (3-2) within the North Division. The five games they’ve played outside the North is actually a significant percentage of that total (22% versus just 9% within the division), meaning the focus will be the local teams. I don’t think the playoffs are likely, but if there’s any hope it has to be via this route.


(Arranged by points-per-game; rookies in green, ELCs in blue, AHL-contracts in italics; previous AHL-season, where applicable, in brackets)
Batherson 10-4-8-12 1.20 5 PPP
Chlapik 5-1-5-6 1.20 2 PPP (0.61)
Paul 6-2-4-6 1.00 3 PPP (0.50)
Rodewald 8-3-4-7 0.88 3 PPP 1 SHP (0.40)
Balcers 10-4-4-8 0.80 3 PPP (0.71)
Carey 4-0-3-3 0.75 1 PPP
Balisy 10-4-2-6 0.60 1 PPP 1 SHP (0.53)
Tambellini 10-3-3-6 0.60 3 PPP (0.46)
Murray 9-1-4-5 0.56 2 PPP 1 SHP (0.39)
Percy 10-1-4-5 0.50 2 PPP (0.38)
Sexton 4-0-2-2 0.50 1 SHP (0.70)
Wolanin 7-1-2-3 0.43 1 PPP
Gagne 10-1-3-4 0.40 3 PPP (0.36)
Beauchemin 8-2-1-3 0.38 (0.29)
Sieloff 9-1-2-3 0.33 1 SHP (0.17)
Bergman 10-0-2-2 0.20 (0.30)
Burgdoerfer 10-1-1-2 0.20 (0.25)
LaBate 10-1-1-2 0.20 1 SHP (0.28)
Leier 9-0-1-1 0.11
Englund 8-0-0-0 (0.14)
Ciampini 5-0-0-0/ECHL 3-2-0-2 (0.32)
Scarfo 5-0-0-0
Brown 1-0-0-0
Jaros 1-0-0-0 (0.36)
Sturtz 1-0-0-0
Erkamps ECHL 7-1-2-3
Luchuk ECHL 5-2-0-2
O’Brien INJ

Gustavsson 2-2-0 .931 2.54
McKenna 3-3-0 .914 2.72
Paterson ECHL .912 3.34
Hogberg INJ

Player Usage

What about lines/pairings? How is Mann utilizing the players at his disposal? We’ll separate forwards from defensemen, but generally he doesn’t adjust during games nor does he play around with the lineup much between games. The lineup has shifted more around player moves (injuries, call-ups) than coaching decisions (at least for 5-on-5).


(Notations in brackets are when the player was on a different line than assigned when they registered the point–most of these are during the 7 D games when the fourth pairing was joined by someone else; players are arranged by line-playing frequency)

First Line (7 goals)
Balcers (10-10) 2 Goals, 2 Assists (Assist)
Chlapik (5-5) 4 Assists
Batherson (9-10) 4 Goals, 2 Assists (Assist)
Paul (5-6) 3 Assists
Rodewald (1-8)
The story here is very simple: in the opening game Paul centered the second line (with Batherson) and Rodewald played the wing on the first line; since then it’s been Balcers/Batherson with Chlapik (when healthy) or Paul.

Second line (4 goals)
Carey (4-4) 2 Assists
Sexton (4-4) 2 Assists
Brown (1-1)
Balisy (8-10) 3 Goals, Assist
Tambellini (5-10) (Assist)
Gagne (4-10)
Paul (1-6)
Rodewald (1-8) Goal
Batherson (1-10)
LaBate (1-10)
Mann transitioned from Balisy with Tambellini/Gagne (which was not very effective) to Carey/Sexton when they returned to the lineup (a much more effective trio).

Third line (3 goals)
Rodewald (6-8) Assist (Assist)
Leier (6-9)
Tambellini (5-10) Goal, Assist
LaBate (5-10)
Beauchemin (3-8) Assist
Balisy (2-10)
Gagne (2-10)
Early in the season the line was LaBate centering Leier/Rodewald, but it’s evolved to Beauchemin-Tambellini with a variable third (the move down the lineup helped the latter). Until recently this was the least productive line on the team.

Fourth line (4 goals)
Scarfo (5-5)
Ciampini (5-5)
Beauchemin (5-8) 2 Goals
LaBate (4-10) Goal
Gagne (4-10) Goal
Leier (3-9) Assist
There were four straight games early in the season when the team dressed seven defensemen, such that the fourth line was Ciampini plus one. The line currently is LaBate/Scarfo plus another. Due to the injury/call-up situation this has been the most talent-starved trio.


(Notes in brackets are points when not on the ice with the usual partner for that game)

Top-pairing (2 goals)
Burgdoerfer (10-10) Goal, Assist
Wolanin (7-7) Goal, Assist
Murray (3-10) Assist
This unit has been very stable, with the switch on Burgdoerfer’s left side only coming when Wolanin was recalled to Ottawa. It hasn’t been a particularly productive duo and that’s due to Burgdoerfer’s offensive limitations–for whatever reason Mann doesn’t want to utilize Bergman’s abilities and besides him there are no other offensive options on the right side (Percy could play here, as he often plays his offside, but there seems to be no desire to do that).

Second-pairing (1 goal)
Percy (10-10) Goal, Assist (Assist)
Murray (6-9) (Assist)
Sieloff (3-10)
Jaros (1-1)
After Jaros’ recall Percy cleaned up Murray’s messes until Wolanin was also called-up and Sieloff was elevated to the line. Neither Murray nor Sieloff have been helpful in generating offense.

Third-pairing (0 goals)
Bergman (10-10) Assist (Assist)
Englund (8-8)
Sieloff (6-9) Assist (Assist)
Mann went with 7 D in four games which meant this became a threesome (Sieloff being used primarily to kill penalties with very limited 5-on-5 time). Despite the limitations of TOI and Englund it’s been reasonably productive thanks to Bergman.


I have to wonder if injury and circumstances (Condon‘s demotion) will conspire to rob Marcus Hogberg of his chance to rebound with the BSens. Time will tell, but for the moment Gustavsson has been fantastic and McKenna solid. Among AHL goaltenders with at least 4 games played Gus is 4th in the league with McKenna 12th (amusing side note: Chris Driedger is 2-0-1 with a .923 playing for Springfield, granting that’s a very good team). The BSens are getting their best goaltending since 2012-13 (albeit not quite at that exalted level).

Special Teams – The Powerplay

Overall the powerplay has been both good and balanced (the first line has six goals, the second four). It’s important to note, however, that eight of those ten goals came in a four-game span (October 13th-20th). In the other six games the team is 2-20 (10%), so it’s quite possible for the production to flatline to some degree. These are the raw scoring numbers:
Batherson 5
Balcers/Paul/Rodewald/Gagne/Tambellini 3
Chlapik/Murray/Percy 2
Wolanin/Balisy/Carey 1

Scoring by specific lines (shift count included; arranged by goals/effectiveness):
1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Rodewald/Wolanin-Batherson 3-19
2nd: Tambellini-Balisy-Gagne/Percy-Murray 3-21
1st: Balcers-Paul-Rodewald/Wolanin-Batherson 2-6
1st: Balcers-Paul-Rodewald/Percy-Batherson 1-2
2nd: Carey-Balisy-Gagne/Percy-Tambellini 1-5
Combinations with no goals:
1st: Balcers-Paul-Sexton/Murray-Batherson 0-5
1st: Balcers-Chlapik-Leier/Wolanin-Batherson 0-5
2nd: Tambellini-Chlapik-Gagne/Percy-Balisy 0-4
2nd: Paul-Brown-Batherson/Balcers-Wolanin 0-4
2nd: Carey-Balisy-Gagne/Murray-Tambellini 0-1
2nd: Leier-LaBate-Sturtz/Bergman-Jaros 0-1
2nd: Tambellini-Balisy-Gagne/Sieloff-Burgdoerfer 0-1

Individual percentages (ignoring those with single shifts):
Rodewald 6-27 22.2%
Paul 3-17 17.6%
Carey 1-6 16.6%
Percy 5-32 15.6%
Wolanin 5-34 14.7%
Balcers 6-41 14.6%
Batherson 6-41 14.6%
Chlapik 3-24 12.5%
Tambellini 4-32 12.5%
Gagne 4-32 12.5%
Balisy 4-32 12.5%
Murray 3-27 11.1%
Sexton 0-5
Leier 0-5
Brown 0-4

Your eyes do not deceive you: Leier was on the top PP unit for a game. Something else that stands out is Percy’s effectiveness (his pairing contributing to half the team’s powerplay goals), yet somehow he’s almost never on the first unit (yielding to Murray of all people–the org’s love affair with Murray remains inexplicable to me). Don’t let Rodewald’s numbers at the top fool you–he’s benefiting from a small sample size and a bit of luck (something very evident in his season numbers from last year). Paul’s are also a bit inflated (as the season winds on he should drift down to Balisy/Tambellini territory). And what does Bergman have to do to be given an opportunity to play? He has 9 career PPG’s and 20 assists–apparently that’s not enough to earn him a look (Tim Heed clearly contributed to his production in San Jose to some extent, but still).

Special Teams – The Penalty Kill

The BSens PK has been awful for quite some time, due to a mix of poor defense, middling goaltending, and inflexible coaching. The overall numbers this season aren’t that different from Kleinendorst’s, but the big picture hides nuance so let’s dig into it. Here are the various forward line combinations we’ve seen (arranged by volume):

LaBate-Rodewald 18-20*
Balisy-Sexton 17
Carey-LaBate 10-11
Tambellini-Balisy 10
Balisy-Rodewald 7
Beauchemin-Rodewald 5
Rodewald 3-4
Beauchemin-Balisy 3
Tambellini-Paul 2
Tambellini-Rodewald 2
Carey-Balisy 2
Tambellini-Beauchemin 1
Paul-Balisy 1
LaBate-Chlapik 1
Ciampini-Beauchemin 1
Chlapik-Rodewald 1
Beauchemin-Leier 1
Leier-Rodewald 1
Carey-Beauchemin 1
LaBate-Sexton 1
Carey-Sexton 1
Paul-Beauchemin 1
LaBate-Beauchemin 1
LaBate 1
Balcers-Chlapik 0-1
Ciampini-Chlapik 0-1
Paul-Rodewald 0-1
Paul-Balisy 0-1
*One of these goals LaBate had just left the ice (Bergman on) when scored upon

This is a bewildering number of combinations, but one thing that’s clear is how quickly Mann abandons them early if they don’t work–four of the eight goals were against one-and-done forward pairings, which is pretty remarkable. I’ll get into the individual stuff below, but he does have a pretty good eye for what’s working on the PK at forward.

Arranged by individual shift count:
Balisy: 40-41 97.5%
Rodewald: 37-41 90.2%
LaBate: 33-35 94.2%
Sexton: 19-19
Tambellini: 15-15
Carey: 14-15 93.3%
Beauchemin: 14-14
Paul: 4-6 66.6%
Chlapik: 2-4 50.0%
Leier: 2-2
Ciampini: 1-2 50.5%
Balcers: 0-1

There are some puzzling decisions here: Daniel Ciampini is a lot of things, but a penalty killer he’s not–the same can be said for Balcers. Paul (and Chlapik) can’t really be judged with so little usage, but the latter is not usually a penalty killer and the former had at least decent numbers the previous year. Rodewald’s numbers are a bit better than last year, but despite the high shift-count he’s only seventh best among the forwards. Sexton, who was excellent last season, and Balisy (excellent this year) typically start PK situations. It’s clear that Mann wants players on the PK who can threaten offensively and this is in sharp contrast to Kleinendorst who simply wanted the puck down the ice. Moving on to the blueline (arranged by volume).

Sieloff-Burgdoerfer 31-33
Englund-Bergman 12-14
Sieloff-Percy 11
Englund-Percy 7-8
Murray-Percy 6-7
Englund-Burgdoerfer 4
Sieloff-Bergman 3
Murray-Bergman 2
Percy-Burgdoerfer 2
Murray-Burgdoerfer 0-1
Percy-Jaros 0-1

Kleinendorst’s most frequent PK pairing continues with Mann and it’s not a bad choice as Sieloff-Burgdoerfer were the most effective remaining players from that season. The combinations are a little less random than at forward, but there’s continuing experimentation by Mann on the second-pairing. While it’s not clear above, the Englund-Bergman combo never starts a kill–they are always either ending it or serving through the middle of it. The initial unit always includes one of Sieloff, Burgdoerfer, or Percy.

Arranged by individual shift counts:
Sieloff 45-47 95.7%
Burgdoerfer 37-40 92.5%
Percy 26-29 89.6%
Englund 16-18 88.8%
Bergman 17-20 85.0%*
Murray 8-10 80.0%
Jaros 0-1
*The extra goal is due to the aforementioned LaBate-Rodewald goal above

Last season Englund was the kryptonite to all his partners and he’s continuing that trend here (granting the small sample size). It’s entirely expected for Sieloff to have the best numbers, something he would have had last year were it not for an extended period where he was playing with the aforementioned Englund. I have no idea what Murray is doing killing penalties–the guy has his uses, but defensive play isn’t one of them. Not much has changed in how Mann has handled the pairings, but he does tend to lean on the main pairing more now than when the season started.

I mentioned some nuance to the numbers above and what I want to point out is that the PK is improving. After giving up a PP goal for eight straight games the team has gone two straight without one and the overall trend is better (the team is 27-32, 84.3%, over the last seven games). The return of Sexton has greatly helped solidify the forward rotation.

So there we have it, a look at the team ten games into the season. The BSens have been more entertaining than last few seasons and there’s more talent to watch (Batherson is a joy to watch). If the general health of the roster is better and there’s less fiddling from Ottawa we have much more excitement to come.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Belleville 2, Laval 1

Filip Gustavsson was a surprise starter as the Sens are recycling the Andrew Hammond drama with Mike Condon (something I saw as inevitable when they signed him to that silly three-year contract). The Swede stood on his head as the BSens continue to be woeful defensively and the top line continues to miss Chlapik.

Belleville 2, Laval 1
Shots: 19-35
PP: 0-2
PK: 4-4
Goaltender: Filip Gustavsson (34-35)
Batherson (Bergman, Balcers)
Balisy (Carey, Murray)

The Rocket arrived with just a 3-5-1 record and riding a four game winless streak. Usual starter Charlie Lindgren was between the pipes.

Only one change was made, as Boston Leier was demoted to the fourth line and Gagne was moved up. It’s the right decision as the former has been the least impressive forward among those dressed for the game (while Scarfo has been irrelevant, he hasn’t made any defensive goofs lately).

Special Teams
The units were unchanged and the PP failed to score on its two opportunities (despite some chances). I’m still not a fan of Murray playing with the first unit.

The PK enjoyed its second straight game without giving up a goal (the only two on the season), but at least some of that is attributable to Gustavsson‘s fantastic play.

Other Notes
Murray‘s turnovers are heavily slanted towards first periods for whatever reason; he’s not incapable of making defensive plays (he made a great sliding block on a 2-on-1 in the first), they are simply few and far between
-Both od Belleville goals via beautiful one-timers in high percentage areas (one pass from the under utilized Bergman the other from Carey)
Englund continues to be Englund
-Late in the third Nick Paul was pulled off the top-line (replaced with LaBate); my guess is that was purely for defensive reasons, but it will be interesting to keep an eye on it

My monthly review of the season will be coming out tomorrow. Should be fun as there’s lot’s to explore.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)