Sens News & Notes

What Is The Defense In Hockey?

Despite my lack of posts I have been working on various things (some of which I’ll fold into digests like this)–I want to update my article on hockey’s popularity from three years ago and when I finish that it will be its own thing. I still intend to give a (very belated) preview for Belleville, but I’m unsure when that will appear. That out of the way, I wanted to catch-up on a few things, some of which are from the distant past at this point:
-In terms of player performances, most of what we’ve seen this season is as expected–Stutzle will eventually score, so his goalless streak doesn’t concern me; Ennis‘ initial hot streak has cooled down, but he’s been a useful addition thus far; Paul and Formenton have deflated hype and performed as expected; Sanford has been underwhelming and I’m not sure what his issue is
-I think the Sens slightly overpaid Tkachuk, but getting that deal done is ultimately a good thing and as long as he doesn’t unexpectedly crash and burn in the next 3 years it’s worth it even with a decline at the end of the contract
-I thought sending Brannstrom to the minors to start the season dynamited D. J. Smith’s declaration that the best players play; I’m glad he’s back, although expectations need to be kept in check
-I’m not sure why, other than for financial reasons, Gustavsson was returned to Belleville–why not play him until he regresses to the mean (if he does)? While the BSens need help between the pipes, surely the Sens need it more [Turns out it’s a roster-limit issue]
-Playing at a .318 pace through eleven games reveals just how silly it was for Pierre Dorion to declare that the rebuild over; I always thought that was for marketing reasons, but by creating the expectation we’re now seeing the awkward conversations about how realistic it is to have said that. I expect the team to have a better record by the end of the year, but the result isn’t a huge surprise to me
-Travis Yost has a short piece praising Zub (nothing new to Sens fans I think, but some numbers to back-up what they see)
-Nichols goes over the horror of the Sens D and poses the question (without answering) if coaching is part of the problem–given how weak that D-core is, I’m willing to give Smith a pass to some extent (I think the order from on-high, ie Melnyk, that one-way contracts play, has added a caveat to ‘the best players play’ moto)
-I’ve enjoyed Shawn Simpson making fun of the Del Zotto signing–I suspect he knows who is responsible (McGuire?) and, given that he’s not wrong, it has to rankle the Sens’ brass
-Remember four years ago when the Sens had Pius Suter at their rookie/main camp? He’s having a solid sophomore season in Detroit and you have to wonder why the Sens didn’t take the plunge at the time and invest in him
-A story I missed was Anders Nilsson alleging the Sens hid a concussion he suffered; there’s been no follow-up to this so it’s difficult to say much more about it (if true it’s obviously terrible)

Secondary Jersey Logo - Belleville Senators

What’s been the story of the 4-6-0 BSens? Lack of scoring, struggling D-corps, goaltending inconsistency, and injuries. While the org made an inspired pick-up to land current leading scorer Jake Lucchini from the Leafs, they’ve seen a parade of ECHL filler accomplishing nothing while veteran signings have been underwhelming (Agozzino has underproduced and Aberg‘s production is buffed by some meaningless second assists on empty net goals). In my earlier preview I was concerned by the limp veteran signings and thus far that’s largely been borne out (albeit Clark Bishop has been injured and Logan Shaw is in Ottawa). It’s worth emphasizing that injuries have meant a lot of roster juggling and I think the team is better than their current record.

As for the most exciting prospects, the young blueliners have been a mixed bag thus far–you expect more from both Brannstrom and Bernard-Docker (Thomson, in limited action, has been on-point), although in fairness to them you have to have someone to pass the puck too. On the forward side Sokolov had a slow start (pointless in 5 games) before heating up; Jarventie also started slowly (1 point in 4 games) before performing as expected–as a rookie, the latter adjustment is completely understandable. All these players should continue to get better, so it’s the core around them that’s could be the stumbling block. As for the goaltenders, both Sogaard and Mandolese have been erratic, but as young ‘tenders this is not unexpected–given the team in front of them, they have to be excellent or else things fall apart.

Blackhawks scandal: Cheveldayoff apologizes to Kyle Beach | CTV News

I followed the Blackhawks/Brad Aldrich scandal and Chicago’s actions (or, largely, inaction) does not surprise me (I still vividly remember the Penn State sex abuse scandal from ten years ago). I do think this is a tipping point for the NHL and that we’re unlikely to see something similar occur again–that doesn’t mean scandals from the past won’t come to light, however. Whether Kevin Cheveldayoff should have resigned or not seems to be the one lingering issue. With so little to go on, there’s blame to lay on Cheveldayoff for not after the fact pursuing the matter (when it became clear that the Hawks’ promise to look into it was false), but I think it’s clear the actions (or in-actions) taken by the org cannot be laid at his doorstep. What the proper move is considering that, I’m not sure, although it seems like on his own Cheveldayoff would not have acted like Stan Bowman et al, so the NHL not punishing him is something I can live with.

NHL 22 - This is Breakthrough Hockey - EA SPORTS

I haven’t written about an EA NHL game in a long time (2018?). I’ve never played them consistently and, for me, what’s most enjoyable is Franchise Mode (formerly called GM Mode). I decided to jump back into the pond this year and I do have some thoughts. Keep in mind I’m playing on a PS4 and that the experience, particularly on PC, is likely different.

The gameplay itself seems slightly better. NHL 20, which I’d experimented with recently (I did not play it when it came out–I got a free copy of it awhile ago), doesn’t feel that different from its prior iterations. NHL 22 seems to have made a small step to feel more like how hockey is played. One specific change I appreciate is that you aren’t locked against the boards as easily as in the past, allowing you to skirt them more effectively.

The drafts continue to be unrealistic, although investing in better scouts does seem to lead to better results (albeit the process of gathering good scouts is tedious since quality scouts get released on the market in a slow dribble). There’s really no other way to get accurate scouting beforehand and allowing the game to sim the scouting for you is less reliable than controlling it yourself (which makes sense in a way, but is a laborious process). While scouting will tell you a player’s attributes at the time, it has an indirect relation to their future potential, such that the potential itself is the only factor that really matters (so it’s the only thing to bother looking into).

Other issues that have carried over: the number of prospects for the draft magically shrinks as soon as the IRL players are gone, emptying some regions completely (the Allsvenskan and the Rest of the World). There’s also a very weird situation where a player drafted will be immediately released to become a free agent by AI teams–I have no idea why this is the case since unsigned players don’t count against the limit. The special trade deadline feature seems pointless, as AI teams continue to offer horrendous trades while rejecting perfectly valid ones. I also have no idea why there’s no option to stop the AI from adjusting your trade parameters.

A broader issue are the limitations in searching for players. Let’s say I want to sign a free agent and I’m looking for a depth player who is both physical and can skate–you can’t search for both–it’s one category with very minimal filters. For most gamers this is fine as they chase a Stanley Cup and are looking for established players (who cares about the AHL team or future?), but for me it’s a constant irritation until my rebuild (how I always start) truly gets going.

The player editor remains a joke, with the only meaningful option being beard or no beard. I have no idea why this is the case–presumably it’s a technical issue, but if so, I’d rather it was completely removed or at least renamed (call it a Facial Hair Editor).

An improvement is that when you see what a player wants for a contract he actually seems to mean it, whereas previously you’d offer that amount and have it rejected (which was pointlessly irritating).

This is a rambling set of observations, I realize, rather than a review. At the end of the day I don’t think the game has changed much–if you enjoyed prior iterations, this will please you, but if you didn’t EA hasn’t done enough to change your mind. Hockey is probably too small a market to ever get proper investment, so that all we’ll see are tweaks and few (if any) of those will impact the narrow way I like to play the game. EA’s focus is most certainly on microtransactions and other forms of monetization, so the sorts of changes I’d love to see aren’t likely.

This article is written by Peter Levi

Sens News & Notes

pierre dorion

I was thinking of updating my old article about Pierre Dorion’s trade track record, but it turns out CapFriendly conveniently already tracks that. Looking through his moves since my exploration in 2018, my impression is largely the same: Dorion does reasonably well when dumping players for assets, but his efforts to acquire talent to help the team win is awful (ie the amateur scouting is pretty good, while the pro scouting is not, which is nothing new for the org). Where my tracking cuts off in that article was prior to the summer trades of 2018, and it’s hard not to be slapped in the face with how much acquiring Matt Duchene cost versus how little they’ve received in moving him (it’s already down to Lassi Thomson for Duchene), or how there’s no hope of equal value from the Mark Stone trade (even if Erik Brannstrom and Egor Sokolov achieve their potential), or cluelessly acquiring Derek Stepan, and on and on. There are also baffling decisions like giving up a pick for Josh Brown‘s signing rights–a player who won’t be in the NHL in a few years. Ultimately, all Dorion has to do is make his owner happy, but as a fan I don’t know how there can be any trust left in him from the fanbase at this point (apparently there still is).

full image

Speaking of bad deals, Travis Yost has a good article looking at why defensemen who don’t perform well get rewarded with contracts/ice time. Yost’s basic argument is that reputation plays a big role in how this happens, and I would add that size and physicality also matters.

Colin White (b.1997) Hockey Stats and Profile at hockeydb.com

While I think a buyout for Colin White was inevitable (due to how they work for a player his age), his shoulder injury makes that decision even simpler. I, along with others at the time, thought the contract he was given was ridiculous and that it serves as an example of how much Dorion struggles to project pro talent (I seem to be one of the few who understood how limited White‘s abilities were–we can see Nichols and Dom Luszczyszyn both fumbling with their estimations at the time–an impression I gained by watching him in the AHL , cf). With that said, he’s still a useful NHL player and it will be interesting to see how much impact his absence has.

Where the Sens Stand with McGuire's 7-Player Model - Silver Seven

I won’t dwell on this much, but I came across a good (and succinct) video about Pierre McGuire and his past as a coach. For some fans there’s not much new here–McGuire is an old school guy who, when given an opportunity, was unable to thrive in his era. I don’t think he has much (if any) useful insight to offer the org, but I also don’t think his involvement is going to cause additional damage (Dorion is quite capable of that on his own).

This article is written by Peter Levi

Senators News & Notes

Brady Tkachuk Hockey Stats and Profile at hockeydb.com

The Sens roster is pairing down, but without Brady Tkachuk signed I fully expect the Sens to keep extra bodies to be cap-compliant in case the negotiations drag on into the regular season. Logan Shaw, Andrew Agozzino, and Parker Kelly should be sent down sooner than later. I don’t expect Tyler Ennis to be signed, but the club will likely keep Scott Sabourin on the roster until the Tkachuk situation is sorted out (he plus Filip Gustavsson gets you to the cap as things stand without Brady). Once that happens I’d imagine both get sent down. D. J. Smith keeps talking about how the best players will play, but I don’t think the ego of Pierre Dorion could handle sitting newly minted FA-signee Del Zotto. It does seem, however, that Smith has yielded to the obvious in putting Pinto as the second-line pivot (as opposed to shoehorning in Tierney or the always disappointing Colin White).

As for who was sent down there were no surprises. From my point-of-view Lassi Thomson did the most to make his case that he’s taken a step forward–he was assertive with the puck and his defensive work was solid. On the flip side, a number of players were utterly invisible (FA signees Aberg and Goulbourne, for instance). I will have to revise my hypothetical AHL lineup given injuries and because Pinto is not being sent down, which I’ll do when I preview Belleville’s season (the top two offensive forwards are gone as it stands).

Mark Kastelic - The Athletic

Pre-season is basically meaningless, but watching Mark Kastelic play for the first time I came away unimpressed. I don’t see the hockey sense necessary to be a full-time NHL player–when he has the puck he seems to have no idea what to do with it. Maybe he just had a poor performance in pre-season games, so I don’t want to draw firm conclusions, but in terms of showing what he can do I don’t see future fourth-line potential. I bring this up because Shawn Simpson (among others) have imagined him in that position for this season, so I have to think that’s a projection based on his performance at practice and his reputation as opposed to the pre-season games. Regardless, sending him back to Belleville was the correct decision. Speaking of Simpson, he had praise for Kole Sherwood and I have no idea why (Simmer loves hitting, so it may be as simple as that)–he’s another player who doesn’t seem to understand why the puck is on the ice (cf). He’s on waivers, but I can’t imagine him being claimed.

Secondary Jersey Logo - Belleville Senators

The Bsens training camp roster is out and I wanted to look at the names I haven’t looked at yet (the bulk of the signed ECHL Atlanta roster is via the link as is the one remaining Ottawa invitee serving as the fourth goalie):
Defense
Randy Gazzola, 28, DR, ECHL 0.71 (ECHL 0.72)
It’s not often a 6’3 righthanded blueliner with offensive skills goes undrafted, but clearly there are enough deficiencies in Gazzola’s game that no one was willing to take a chance on him. He went through the QMJHL (0.79) then five years in Canadian University hockey (0.78) before spending his first pro season in tier-2 Italy followed by an ECHL season last year. He’s already signed with the Toledo Walleye, so he’s hoping to impress the brass for call-ups (offensively he’s a better option than anything currently in Atlanta).
Matt Murphy, 26, DL, ECHL 0.39 (ECHL 0.39)
The undrafted QMJHLer (0.52) spent four years playing Canadian University hockey (0.54) before having a cup of coffee in the Slovakian league when he turned pro–completing that season in ECHL Fort Wayne (earning a brief call-up to AHL Chicago). He would be hoping for an AHL contract, but it’s more likely that talent-starved Atlanta is his destination.
Vincent Sevigny, 20-21, DL, QMJHL 0.73 (QMJHL 0.37)
The undrafted QMJHLer on an ATO will likely be returned to Victoriaville once the BSens roster fills out (I’m not clear what other option he has, since an AHL-contract seems very unlikely).

Forwards
Rourke Chartier, 25-26, AHL 0.31 (AHL 0.55)
WHLer was a fifth-round pick by San Jose and he’s the only man in this group who has both never played in the ECHL and had a cup of coffee in the NHL (13 games in 2018-19); he spent last year with the Marlies and needs a contract–I don’t know if there’s a specific need for him on the roster, but he can certainly play at this level (perhaps the injury to Crookshank is his opportunity).
Andrew Sturtz, 27, ECHL 0.84 (ECHL 0.77)
This is a familiar name, as the undersized NCAA grad (0.94) was an Ottawa FA signing out of college back in 2018 when the org still did that routinely (looking for the next…Jesse Winchester?–none of them have ever turned out; brief comments by me about him are here). The Sens later packaged him with a pick to acquire Mike Reilly, who was then flipped to Boston for a 3rd in 2022. That aside, he’s a familiar face to the brass, can play at the AHL-level to some degree (0.31), and could certainly help out Atlanta (which is likely where he’s bound if he’s signed).
Alexis D’Aoust, 25-26, Slovakia 0.44 (AHL 0.33)
The undrafted former QMJHLer (0.81) has put up good numbers in the ECHL (0.87) and spent time in the AHL (0.33) in every pro season; he already has a contract with Trois-Rivieres, so would be looking to land himself an AHL-deal (or make a good enough impression for a call-up).
Cedric Pare, 22-23, ECHL 0.60 (ECHL 0.60)
QMJHLer (0.73) was a sixth-rounder back in 2017, but the Bruins elected not to sign him and he had a mediocre rookie season in the ECHL last season. It’s difficult to imagine him forcing his way into an AHL-contract, but Atlanta could use more talent up front.
Kameron Kielly, 24-25, ECHL 0.50 (ECHL 0.50)
Undrafted QMJHLer (0.66) went on to play three seasons of Canadian University hockey (1.41) before turning pro last year. He inexplicably bounced through three ECHL teams which hints at drama, but he certainly has enough talent for that league (his most likely destination if he isn’t cut completely).
Philippe Daoust, 19-20, QMJHL 1.33 (QMJHL 0.72)
I’m not entirely sure what the Sens sixth-rounder is doing in camp–he’s unsigned, but I thought he was required to go back to the Q this season–maybe he’s old enough to play in the AHL at this stage, although the roster looks too stuffed to accommodate him.

This article is written by Peter Levi

Senators News & Notes

Logan Brown Stats and News | NHL.com

My previous post went up just hours before Logan Brown was traded to St. Louis for Zach Sanford (you can read Nichols’ breakdown here; he goes over Sanford‘s numbers and concludes he’s a solid addition who offers options on the left side for the bottom-six). Put aside the return for a second and think about the departing prospect. To me, Brown is a boom or bust player. He is either going to blossom in St. Louis to the point where Sens fans bemoan the move, or else he’s going to crash and burn and the deal will be lost in the shuffle. One funny thing to note about Brown‘s draft year is the old axiom of ignoring smaller players seems to have returned to the NHL–all the good players who dropped were undersized.

Image

While I don’t think the Sens will do this, I do like Shawn Simpson‘s early ideas for a lineup:
Tkachuk-Norris-Batherson
Stutzle-Pinto-C. Brown
Formenton-Tierney-Paul
Sanford-White-Watson
Chabot-Zub
Mete-Zaitsev
Holden-Brannstrom
The top-six likely isn’t different than anyone else’s, but there’s definitely a unique slant to everything else beyond the top-pairing. I think there’s no chance this is what happens on opening night, as I don’t believe the org would be comfortable with two smaller blueliners and sitting FA signee Del Zotto and coach-favourite Josh Brown. I think the blueline as presented is about the best one can do with the collection of low-ceiling veterans and ‘tweener prospects that fill out the bottom four positions.

Don Cherry's Firing Was Overdue—but the Problems He Represented Remain -  The Ringer

There’s not much reason to discuss pre-season games, but I will point out that the limp, pathetic effort the Sens offered in their 4-0 loss to Toronto featured a roster filled with truculent, ‘good in the corners’ players: Bishop (now hurt), C. Brown, J. Brown, Goulbourne, Paul, Sabourin, Sanford, and Sherwood. I didn’t see the game, but the sentiment is that beyond Parker Kelly no one put in a good effort. Yes, half of these players are AHL-bound, but all of them were either signed as free agents or extended after the season–as marginal players, where’s the energy they are supposed to bring to the lineup? Food for thought.

Atlanta Gladiators

More Atlanta Gladiator signings:
Anthony Florentino – The righthanded blueliner was a 5th-rounder for Buffalo in 2013; his play in the ECHL has been so unremarkable that he’s struggled to stay in it
Gabe Guertler – Undrafted former OHLer went through the Canadian University system and spent last year playing in the SPHL (the ECHL’s feeder league)
Like most of the Atlanta signings, there seems no likelihood these players would be called-up by the BSens. I have a hard time understanding some of the signings, but perhaps these are largely depth signings rather than top regulars.

This article is written by Peter Levi

Senators News & Notes

Superspreader events': Experts worry hockey arenas a toxic formula for  COVID-19

I watched the two rookie games between Ottawa and Montreal, as well as the inter-squad scrimmage today. Neither event is particularly meaningful, so I won’t offer a full breakdown, although the former is more competitive (as Angus Crookshank can attest–he’ll miss more than half the season after getting hurt). Performances in these things rarely mean anything, but I was happy with what I saw from Roby Jarventie offensively (particularly in the second game against Montreal). Otherwise nothing struck me as surprising.

33 Most Savage AF Sports Fan Signs Ever - Funny Gallery

Dom Luszczyszyn’s season preview for Ottawa dropped for The Athletic and I think it is spot-on (his predictions last season performed very well, particularly with the Sens; the basic ideas echoed, in brief, by Travis Yost). Dom thinks it’s most likely that the Sens will be in the bottom-10 of the league (but not bottom-5), held back by poor goaltending, a shallow defencecorps, and an intriguing but thin forward mix. His player analysis broadly fits my own, although I’d quibble with Batherson‘s (see below). I want to include a couple of comments about specific players since they run contrary to the chatter one gets from the local media:
Zaitsev – “Zaitsev’s biggest issue is that he can’t move the puck. At all. Not a single defender had a worse zone exit rate than Zaitsev’s 11 percent meaning there were a lot of pucks off the glass when he was on the ice. In the offensive zone, he tends to just chuck pucks at the net rather than make a play and he is genuinely where offence goes to die.
Josh Brown – “I guess someone has to babysit the incapable [Josh Brown]
Zaitsev and Del Zotto as a shutdown pair – “one of the worst ideas for a shutdown pair in recent memory
Tkachuk – “He’s a frustrating power forward who hasn’t been able to bury nearly as many chances as he’s expected to. There’s a dispute between public and private data over how valuable his chances actually are, but at the end of the day you still have a player who led all players in shots-per-60 last season who finished 100th in goals-per-60. That’s not good enough.
Batherson – “He was a mess in 2019-20 at both ends of the ice and even in last year’s improvement only jumped up to 1.43 points-per-60 at five-on-five. That’s third line calibre and it doesn’t feel like he can be a future top line player.
White – “it’ll be hard to succeed with Nick Paul and Austin Watson on either side of him

My quibble with Batherson is the sample size, but Dom is following where the analytics are pointing. The comments about the defense and Watson aren’t new outside the Ottawa bubble, but inside the community Paul has been highly praised and here we see dismissal–it’s worth noting.

The Sens Panel: Sens ownership speculation - YouTube

Besides the two year break I took from this blog, I hadn’t paid much attention to the NHL going back much further (for many reasons, as I’ve gone over before). To that end I’d largely stopped listening to TSN 1200 and reading the local coverage (which I found broadly vapid, predictable, and awash with platitudes and repetition). Coming back to it, other than Shawn Simpson (and Ian Mendes, but The Athletic isn’t local), the radio and print coverage is unchanged. These are people terrified of analytics, serving up the same sets of tired opinions. The fan sites aren’t much better (that includes Youtube channels), and even the legendary Nichols has largely retired out of analysis (Travis Yost was always too good to be limited to Sens coverage–check out his archive here). It’s a funny thing to see that local hockey coverage would have fit in the vapid, platitude-filled days I remember from the 1980s. Some of that entropy undoubtedly comes from the org itself–the fount of access–since neither management nor ownership understand modern analysis of the game, but it’s more than a little puzzling that none of the fan sites has tried to separate themselves in their coverage (excluding The Silver Seven‘s prospect material from Ary and Colin). In a way I get it, as those graduating from fan sites to traditional media have been are among the most bland content producers imaginable.

Speaking of the local scene though–there’s a beef between Shawn Simpson and one of the local hacks? Is it really Garrioch? I’m so out of the loop, but bless Simpson for wanting to move beyond it.

Finally, a little pat on the back to myself for having included a broken link to my Twitter on this blog since I returned–you’d think I would have checked it, but no, I didn’t.

This article is written by Peter Levi

Senators News & Notes

Best Hockey Smiles: Bobby Clarke - YouTube

One thing that’s been clear about the org since Trent Mann was promoted in 2017 is, above and beyond seeking certainty over potential, looking for character and truculence. We can (and I do) make fun of the latter–something I associate with Brian Burke and an approach that failed him after its solitary success with Anaheim in 2007 (a team largely built by his predecessors, Al Coates and Bryan Murray). Putting aside its efficacy, what I do think drafting and trading for players like this does is appeal to the fanbase–not casual fans (who are interested in wins and scoring)–but the hardcore. In a strong hockey market, focusing on these fans is a bit like MMO’s targeting whales–the big spenders, the people who commit. To that end, I think it’s a good economic strategy. The concern that remains is production–they can agitate, they can hit, but can they score? It remains an open question.

Jake Sanderson Hockey Stats and Profile at hockeydb.com

When you go against the grain there’s always resistance. I’ve briefly discussed the high opinion (shared by the org) of Jake Sanderson and I think my comments have been misunderstood by some. I compared him to players like Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker, not because I think they are literally the same kind of player, but in reference to the potential they were given by scouts when drafted (there’s rarely universal agreement and you can see the opposite opinion here, but I mean the consensus of what I’ve seen). All three prospects had worries about their offensive upside and were slotted as top-four blueliners–that’s all I meant by the comparison. This isn’t my opinion of the player (I’ve haven’t seen any of them play), but a reflection of worries held by scouts–that doesn’t make them right, it’s simply food for thought. Does Sanderson have more potential than the other two? I would hope so, because he was picked far higher in the draft (meaning his talent is considered better), but that wasn’t the point. I’d like nothing better than the guy to be a hall of fame defenseman for Ottawa, but the org habitually over praises their prospects (Jared Cowen comes to mind–someone we now know was riding the coattails of Jared Spurgeon), so I take a wait-and-see approach.

While it’s clear the Sens want to move Logan Brown (something that may prove impossible), more and more I wonder if the same fate awaits Erik Brannstrom. There’s no chance at that they want Brannstrom and Mete in the lineup at the same time, so either the former is intended for the BSens or will get traded (perhaps in an effort to fill one of Pierre McGuire’s 7-man formula).

Speaking of the BSens, one of the fascinating things about the upcoming season is how much the team’s success will depend on their record against just four teams. While almost 70% of their season is played within their division, most of that will be taken up by Laval and Toronto (each 12 games), and Syracuse and Rochester (8 games each). That’s 40 of 72 games (55%). When it comes time to preview the BSens, I’ll take a look at what’s expected for those teams as well.

Scoring in the NHL has started to increase the last four years [based, it seems, on coaching more than anything else], which is an obvious good thing after remaining stagnant for seven (an unprecedented length of time in the NHL to lack variation). This small change comes long after other major leagues took steps to ensure their own games became more entertaining. With that said, it remains below where it needs to be, still lagging behind all historical eras save the primordial pre-Original Six (specifically 23-24 to 40-41). The ten highest scoring games in NHL history are within a twenty-year period (1977-1996), with nine of them ten in the first half of that; the most points recorded in a season stretch from the 70-71 to 95-96, again clustering from the late 70s into the early 90s. This isn’t to say the NHL needs to consistently hit the highs of that era, but a league where major records can’t be challenged has no chance of breaking through the static of the other high profile sports they compete with (outside the homerun chases in the 90s, the MLB has been sliding towards oblivion for decades, cf). Where is the sweet spot for hockey? It’s hard to say, but let’s look at the numbers:
Original Six (42-43 to 66-67) 2.93
Expansion (68-69 to 78-79) 2.96 (+0.03)
1980s to Pre-Lockout (79-80 to 93-94) 3.71 (+0.75)
Dead Puck Era (94-95 to 03-04) 2.76 (-0.95)
Post Lockout Era (05-06 to present) 2.85 (+0.09)
The first era was long enough that it has its own internal structure, with higher scoring both at the beginning and end, with a ten-year long Dead Puck Era of its own (from 48-49 to 57-58). The actual high point is 1981-82 (not for the league however, as 43-44 holds that record for the eras we’re sampling). The most popular time for hockey was during the 70s and 80s and, despite continual expansion, the NHLs unwillingness to open the game up has lead to it sinking back down into a regional phenomena heavily impacted by winning. With only 50% of teams playoff bound (unlike the 66% in the Original Six or 76% of the 1980s), soft fanbases quickly checkout when their team is going nowhere–there are just so many other options for their entertainment dollars. I’m happy that the NHL is finally trending in the right direction, but entropy is a powerful force and I feel like a renewed slide towards low scoring affairs could be just around the corner.

HFBoards (@hfboards_) | Twitter

I’m surprised HFBoards is still around. A website from an Internet era of two decades earlier, many of the same people post on it and I suppose that fits the older demographic associated with sports. The boards are something that made an impact on me back when I started writing about hockey (for The Hockey Herald in 2007), although I rarely visited the site once I started writing here.

Atlanta Gladiators - Wikipedia

Another Atlanta signing, as goaltender Chris Nell has been signed. The 27-year old NCAA grad failed out of the Rangers organization as an FA-signing and has put up poor numbers in the ECHL.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

ROOKIE: Synonyms and Related Words. What is Another Word for ROOKIE? -  GrammarTOP.com

The rookie tournament is always fun and with the roster released we can take a peak at the ATOs included (one PTO as well). While it’s not often ATOs make their way into the org, it does happen from time-to-time (I’m excluding Xavier Bernard and Mitchell Hoelscher, because they have already signed an AHL-deal and you can find them here; I’m also excluding PTO Matthew Wedman, because he is on an ECHL-deal and you can find my blurb on him here):
Zachary Paputsakis, GL, DOB 2001, OHL Oshawa DNP (prior season .899)
The classic local kid; I think he’s simply a fresh body to help fill out the goaltending position for the tourney
Ty Hollett, DR, DOB 2003, CCHL Pembroke DNP (prior season 31-3-1-4)
Yet another local; as a big, righthand shot blueliner, he’s someone who will be given a lot of rope by scouts (presumably he’s headed to the NCAA); the Sens could have interest in him; no relation to former Sens pick Jordan btw
Ben Allison, LW, DOB 2002, QMJHL Acadie-Bathurst 33-9-18-27
From Halifax, but he spent a brief amount of time with Gatineau, so let’s call him local; the son of former Edmonton first round pick Scott (1990), there could be some interest (the Sens aren’t afraid of overage players and like skill from the Q)

This is largely just for fun–it’s unlikely any of these players will become significant pros even at the AHL-level–the Sens simply need bodies to fill out their lineup–but it’s interesting to see who the org brings in.

Ottawa Senators: Pierre Dorion's worst trades as general manager

The re-signed Pierre Dorion, echoing his owner, has declared the rebuild over (forced on the org in 2017, which is just six years after the Bryan Murray rebuild that began in 2011). The Sens now want to contend, so that means spending young assets to acquire proven commodities. Historically Dorion badly overpays, being an abysmal wheeler and dealer when it comes to pro assets (cf, he does better with prospects–the Sens amateur scouting has always been better than their pro scouting), so I’m expecting various painful deals to come (can he trade for Derick Brassard again?). Given that, don’t get too attached to talented prospects currently in the system (the muckers and grinders are, of course, safe). Surely Pierre McGuire’s 7-player profile is being considered for contending, and in July McGuire indicated the Sens were 3-players short of achieving that model. I’m not going to go over how little McGuire was regarded as an NHL coach, or his distrust of analytics (something he doesn’t actually understand–which fits the Sens org perfectly), because the reality is that he’s with the org and a major influence. Here’s what his model looks like:
-Two elite centermen (we know the Sens are seeking #2 and good luck with that)
-One power forward (presumably Tkachuk)
-One specialist forward–PP, PK, or faceoffs (this is such a vague criteria you have to question its worth)
-Elite puck-moving defenceman (presumably Chabot)
-Elite shutdown defenceman
-Elite goaltender (meant to be Murray)
Ian Mendes (link above) thinks Connor Brown is the specialist and that Jake Sanderson is the future shutdown D (anyone remember when Cody Ceci was going to be that guy?)–this is certainly Dorion’s opinion of the blueliner. If the Sens want to win now they can’t wait for Sanderson and acquiring three significant assets is very expensive–draft picks can cover some of the cost, but it means giving up well-regarded assets. The org would happily part with Logan Brown, but his value has never been lower. They also seem ready to give up on Erik Brannstrom, but it’s not clear his value is much better than Brown’s. There’s also the issue that very few teams trade elite players and that, when they do, it’s towards the end of their careers. While the Sens have plenty of cap space, they have an internal cap and I can’t see them getting any of the players that might spring to mind for these kinds of positions, so think tier-2 or tier-3 options for each of them (it’s unlikely they would acquire three such assets anyway–one for sure, but at most two).

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of  Enron: McLean, Bethany, Elkind, Peter, Nocera, Joe: 8601200647976: Books -  Amazon.ca

One thing I should have brought up for context with draft coverage–the Sens believing they know better–is that this opinion is held (broadly) by every organization. Each group, be it an independent scouting service or particular teams, believe that their list is the list. We know from draft assessments that they are all wrong and statistically the picks that work out best are those that fit consensus views. A lot of fans who write about the teams tend to duck the potential flaws in the picks by saying either ‘time will tell’ or pointing to isolated successes in the past–I feel like this is mostly done in ignorance, but clearly some just don’t want to say anything negative.

Atlanta Gladiators - Wikipedia

We’ve had two Atlanta Gladiator signings since my post covering them:
Tyler Kobryn, 24, RW, with this being his second year as a pro (coming out of NCAA III, he played with Tulsa last season, 33-3-3-6)
Derek Topatigh, 24-25, DR, going into his second year as a pro (coming out of the NCAA, he spent most of last year in the SPHL)
Neither player is going to be on the BSens radar, barring an unexpected breakout at the ECHL-level.

Hive Mind - TV Tropes

This is just an observation about fan-coverage of the team: it’s blindingly homogeneous (exactly the same as MCU fandom). What’s interesting to me is this goes beyond the narrow range of the hobby and is echoed by political leanings–all the individuals seem to come from the same class and express the same views. It makes the coverage repetitive and shallow, as traditional media is already stuffed with this material. For me, Nichols (even if he seems to have shifted over to positivity these days–‘hey, it could work out’ seems to be his new maxim), Ary, and Travis Yost are who I consistently read. It seems like Colin Cudmore has also transitioned into this category (judging by how seriously he tackles prospect assessment), but I’m not familiar enough with his recent material to be sure (although I approve of the rigorous approach). I don’t read everything, so there are undoubtedly nuggets of good coverage scattered around the fandom, but I remain baffled by the large percentage of people who write about the sport without an angle or focus to make it stand out.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Reviewing the Sens 2020 and 2021 Drafts

Let’s start off with the drafting philosophy with the advent of Trent Mann: take a sure thing with lower potential rather than take a risk and get nothing (you can read a poorly thought out fan iteration of this argument here). Let’s briefly put aside whether that’s a good idea or not and see how many ‘wins’ the team has had after the 2nd round since 2008 (the first draft controlled by Dorion and the first one where the Sens returned to trying to build through it)–we’ll look both at the high end players and the depth talent (excluding goaltenders because it doesn’t really apply), to see how either end of this philosophy has panned out (how the players are categorized is based on how scouts viewed them–going through 2010 you can see those assessments on this site, prior to that you’ll have to hunt a little harder; ‘winning’ is determined by NHL games played, cf, so it’s not an inherent assessment of their value as players).

Third Round
Talent (0-2)
Wins: None
Losses: Jarrod Maidens* (12), Miles Gendron (14)
Pluggers (1-2)
Wins: Zack Smith (08)
Losses: Jakub Culek (10)
*Maidens never played due to injury

Fourth Round
Talent (2-5)
Wins: Chris Wideman (10), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (12)
Losses: Andre Petersson (08), Tobias Lindberg (13), Todd Burgess (16)
Undetermined: Christian Wolanin (15)
Pluggers (2-5)
Wins: Derek Grant (08), Marcus Sorensen (10)
Losses: Timothy Boyle (12), Shane Eiserman (14), Filip Ahl (15)
Undetermined: Ben Harpur (13)

Fifth Round
Talent (1-2)
Wins: Mike Hoffman (09)
Losses: Robbie Baillargeon (12)
Undetermined: Maxime Lajoie (15)
Pluggers (1-4)
Wins: Mark Borowiecki (08)
Losses: Jeff Costello (09), Fredrik Claesson (11), Vince Dunn (13)
Undetermined: Christian Jaros (15)

Sixth Round
Talent (1-1)
Wins: Mark Stone (10)
Losses: None
Pluggers (0-6)
Wins: None
Losses: Corey Cowick (09), Darren Kramer (11), Max McCormick (11), Chris Leblanc (13), Quentin Shore (13), Markus Nurmi (16)

Seventh Round
Talent (1-7)
Wins: Ryan Dzingel (11)
Losses: Emil Sandin (08), Brad Peltz (09)*, Bryce Aneloski (10), Mikael Wikstrand (12)**, Kelly Summers (14), Francis Perron (14)
Pluggers (0-2)
Wins: None
Losses: Michael Sdao (09), Jordan Fransoo (11)
*There’s some indication that picking Peltz was a favour for Melnyk’s close friend (his father)
**Refused to play in the league

Total
Talent 5-17 (29%)
Pluggers 4-19 (21%)

What’s clear in the numbers is that the org (up through 2017) was no better at identifying quality pluggers than talent. Obviously some of the scouting staff has changed over the years (three remain from 08, one from 09), but certainly Dorion’s history doesn’t betray evidence to support the change in philosophy. I’ll also briefly touch on the goaltenders over this period:
Successes
Robin Lehner (09, 2nd round)
Failures
Francois Brassard (12, 6th round), Jordan Hollett (17, 6th round)
Uncertain
Chris Driedger (12, 3rd round), Marcus Hogberg (13, 3rd round),* Joey Daccord (15, 7th round)
*Given that he signed a four-year deal in Sweden it’s unlikely he’ll return to the league, but we don’t know the terms of the deal and goaltending careers are against the grain anyway, so for now he lands in the uncertain pile

Before we dive into the two drafts, let’s recall that the scouting consensus (so not the opinion of some, but the opinions of the vast majority of those paid to scout) is that the Sens left talent on the board when they made their picks–this isn’t a matter of debate or discussion, simply a fact, so the team is betting on the fact that they know better–do they? Time will tell, but not only does the past does not support that idea, it’s simply unlikely that Ottawa has better scouting acumen than the consensus overall.

Characters like Dean Brown and Gord Wilson are what make a city cool |  Ottawa Citizen

Let’s address a response to criticism of individual players (those drafted or playing) that I’ve heard from people like Gord Wilson and others: these players are better than you are, ergo STFU (the most recent comment was in reference to Scott Sabourin, if you’re wondering). I’ve heard this sentiment many times from people covering the team and it’s profoundly absurd. Hockey is entertainment run by a cartel–it’s not making the world a better place–and as such it relies on the investment of its fans–no one is as invested as someone frothing mad about how a player is performing. That passion doesn’t excuse poor behaviour, but Gord (& others) tends to associate any criticism as being uncalled for. Making assessments is human nature (how many voters actually understand what they are voting for or could hold a political position?). Discussion and opinion is not only a normal part of human behaviour, but absolutely necessary to keep the sport alive, so any attempt to kill it is inherently pernicious. Let’s wrap this up to point out that this kind of thing only comes up regarding good-in-the-corners, salt-of-the-earth players–criticizing those with skill is never called out or questioned. Why this is the case in hockey I have no idea (perhaps the long standing way of differentiating Canadian hockey from everywhere else has made it part of self-identification). During the dead puck era I think players like that were useful, as were enforcers when they were required, but now? It’s a terrible opinion, but I don’t expect it change.

Senators Draft Tim Stützle Third Overall - Silver Seven

2020
1-3 Tim Stuetzle, C/LW, 6’0, Jan/02, DEL, 20-21 NHL 53-12-17-29
The pick was Ottawa’s via the Erik Karlsson trade in 2018. There are plenty of scouting reports to read about him (Pronman, Wheeler, summaries, etc) and with a full season in the NHL one can dig into his stats and have a good old time. He’s a skilled player, so of course I like the pick
1-5 Jake Sanderson, DL, 6’1, July/02, USDP, 20-21 NCAA 22-2-13-15
Son of former NHLer Geoff (who was one of the best skaters in the NHL); reading Pronman’s recent article that included him, he sounds like all the recent high Sens picks on the blueline: a lot of hustle, a lot of competitiveness, solid defensively, but with limited offense–you get the feeling Dorion/Mann are putting all their eggs in the Chabot basket to drive the play. My reaction to him is the same as the rest: show me at the pro level and I’ll become a believer
1-28 Ridly Greig, LW, 5’11, Aug/02, WHL, 20-21 21-10-22-32
The pick was Ottawa’s via the Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade in 2020; he’s the son of former NHLer Mark; like Jarventie below, he’s among the youngest eligible selected; there were concerns about his ability to play disciplined hockey and his skating (cf), but the former seems to have improved; because of his age it’s either the WHL or NHL for him and I think the latter is what’s on the menu; given his size and style of play there has to be a concern about his body breaking down earlier in his career (he makes me think of 2011 pick Stefan Noesen)
2-33 Roby Jarventie, LW, 6’3, Aug/02, Ilves, 20-21 48-14-11-25
Son of former Liiga veteran Martti. There’s a good breakdown of him pre-draft from Ary and Colin which provides the proper context for him (among the youngest eligible for the draft, playing against men in the Mestis, being used as a third-liner and defensively while breaking the rookie scoring record, etc); we again have the concern about his skating, but Ottawa (long before Dorion) has always believed that’s fixable
2-44 Tyler Kleven, DL, 6’4, Jan/02, USDP, 20-21 NCAA 22-5-2-7
The pick via Toronto (in exchange for 59th and 64th picks, Roni Hirvonen and Topi Niemela); there’s an amusing little profile of him from A & C (who don’t care for him at all, but sniffed out the Sens would like him); in his first year as a prospect Pronman projects him as a bottom-pairing player; it’s very much a wait-and-see attitude for me
2-61 Egor Sokolov, RW/LW, 6’4, Jun/00, QMJHL, 20-21 AHL 35-15-10-25
The pick is from Dallas via the Mark Stone trade in 2019; an overager where the concerns for him were whether his talent and skating would translate at the next level; at the AHL-level Sokolov showed no impediment with playing his game–will it translate? It’s hard to say, although given his size the Sens will certainly give him the opportunity
3-71 Leevi Merilainen, GL, 6’2, Aug/02, Karpat, 20-21 .934
The pick is via the Dylan DeMelo trade in 2020; an off-the-wall pick because in his draft year he was stuck behind other Finnish netminders, so he didn’t play internationally; he had an outstanding first year as a prospect and this caused folk to upgrade their estimates to potential NHL backup levels; I think the Sens under Dorion have been solid in projecting goaltending talent (although their pro evaluations remain, in all areas, underwhelming)
5-155 Eric Engstrand, LW/RW, 6’4, May/00, Malmo, 20-21 SHL 45-1-4-5
The pick is via the Mike Condon trade in 2019; an overager, you can see a brief profile of him from A & C pre-draft, but there’s not a lot of material on him (on the surface he reminds me of Filip Ahl in 2015 and Markus Nurmi in 2016, both big European power forwards who failed to develop)
6-158 Philippe Daoust, C/LW, 6’0, Nov/01, QMJHL, 20-21 21-6-22-28
The pick is via the Mike Hoffman trade in 2018; there’s not a lot of material on him (cf) and he’s taken the Hoffman route of being waived out of the OHL only to find a home in the Q (I’m not saying he has that kind of ceiling, just that he’s had that route to getting drafted)
6-181 Cole Reinhardt, LW, 6’1, Feb/00, WHL, 20-21 AHL 33-6-6-12
The pick is via the Chris Wideman trade in 2018; an overager who benefited from playing with Sokolov in Belleville, should he find pro success he’s taking a very unlikely path to get there (not just because he’s overage, but because of his middling production in junior)

They seem to have landed a complete stud in Stuetzle, so that’s fantastic (a lot of fans may not appreciate just how hard it is for a teenager to make an impact at the NHL-level). I’m not on the Sanderson train yet (how many Lassi Thomson’s do we need?), but I’d love to be surprised (his father was a fun player to watch). A number of the prospects intrigue me–both Finns, Sokolov, as well as Daoust (the Sens occasionally hit homeruns with late picks from the Q and who doesn’t miss J-G Pageau?). I feel like Kleven, Reinhardt, and Engstrand are much more likely to fail out in the AHL, but it’s far too early to say. All-in-all, this isn’t a bad draft from my perspective and I don’t feel like the Sens completely wasted their first round (at a guess, I’m thinking it will closely approximate the 2011 draft).

GARRIOCH: Tyler Boucher is tough as nails, a good omen for Senators |  Ottawa Sun

2021
1-10 Tyler Boucher, LW, 6’1, Jan/03, USDP 12-6-5-11
Son of former NHLer Brian; the scouting consensus is pretty simple: he’s hard to play against, but does he have the talent to make an impact as a pro? You get a sense of his issues via Ary; this has the whiff of another top-ten pick from years ago–Dylan McIlrath–a guy who was very hard to play against, but simply didn’t have enough talent to be an NHL pro (a Sens example is Jared Cowen); for the Sens sake, let’s hope they truly do know better
2-39 Zack Ostapchuk, LW, 6’3, May/03, WHL 22-7-9-16
The pick via the Erik Karlsson trade in 2018; looking at scouting reports it’s clear he’s a work-in-progress–a player with a lot of potential, but a big hill to climb; Pronman doesn’t believe in his hockey sense and the kind of changes he needs aren’t typically the ones that can be easily coached; that said, I’m happy to gamble on skill
2-49 Benjamin Roger, DR, 6’4, Nov/02, OHL DNP
The pick acquired in exchange for the 42nd (Francesco Pinelli); there’s not much information about the player, but he trained with Belleville staffer Jeremy Benoit in the offseason, which is likely how the Sens became attracted to him (historically a number of Dorion’s picks are via connections); the concern is how much talent he actually has behind his big, mobile frame (does he have the limitations of a Ben Harpur, or is there more to him?)
3-74 Oliver Johansson, CL, 6’0, July/03, Timra Allsvenskan 5-3-0-3
One of the younger players picked in the draft; scouting reports are few and far between, but he performed well across three leagues in his draft year and is a good skater who plays both ends of the rink (a hard worker, which is very much a theme in who the Sens pick); I expect the Sens to be patient about his development
4-123 Carson Latimer, RW, 6’1, Jan/03, WHL 22-5-11-16
The pick acquired in exchange for the 136th and170th (Robert Orr and Bryce Montgomery); everyone agrees he’s a great skater, but what’s not clear is what else he is (in part, perhaps, because of his usage)
7-202 Chandler Romeo, DL, 6’5, July/03, OHL DNP
The big blueliner reminds me a lot of Ben Harpur–big, can skate, but what else can he do? The Sens think he has the hands to get the puck moving and not be a one-dimensional defender, but that’s typically what they say of every blueliner like this that they draft, so we’ll have to wait and see

What do I think of the 2021 draft? All of these players are wait-and-see types, with none inherently exciting. Because I wasn’t paying attention to the draft class, I’m not fulminating over what could have been, but the various flags about the prospects are worth keeping in mind–during Dorion’s time the Sens have completely failed during a draft before (2014). With that said, with two players who didn’t play the previous season and an obscure Swede, I am intrigued to see how those players develop.

One thing that’s changed under Dorion–and this is pre-Trent Mann–is the Sens no longer draft enforcers. The last fighter they picked was Darren Kramer in 2011, but since then (with fighting spiraling into oblivion) they’ve given up picking them. The team still signs players like that (Sabourin is an example), but at least have realized it’s not worth wasting a draft pick.

I should end this on what seems obvious to me, but perhaps isn’t to readers: I’d actually like all these players to turn out and for Ottawa to be an elite team. That’s always been the dream. I’m simply doubtful that will be the case given Dorion’s checkered track record, the team’s questionable approach at the draft, and an unlikable fool who owns the team.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

Black And White Picture Of A Vintage Newscast Stock Photo - Download Image  Now - iStock

Here are some bits & pieces:
Filip Gustavsson‘s new contract is typical of the Sens (a two-year deal with the second being one-way); I’m less certain about his abilities given that in the past he has struggled with being ‘the guy’ while doing very well in spot duty (cf)–has he turned the corner? It won’t matter if Mads Sogaard is ready for prime time, but it will be interesting to watch.
–In retrospect I should have included Erik Brannstrom in my BSens lineup speculation; to inject him he slides into the top spot on the right side, shifting Thomson down to the second pairing, Bernard-Docker to the third, and Williams to the pressbox. I just don’t think that situation can remain tenable throughout the season and trading a blueliner must be on the menu for the Sens.
–I stopped reading The Athletic around the same time I stopped writing this blog, so returning to it almost two years later I was surprised to find that only Ian Mendes covers the Sens (RIP articles from Nichols, who moved to Substack–you can read a bit of a word salad from him on the draft, which can be boiled down to “Will it pan out? Time will tell,” which feels like Nichols resting his behind firmly on the fence–read him at his best here and here–I like the latter particularly).
–I skipped covering the last two Sens draft, but I’m not surprised that the conservative, grit-loving Trent Mann has continued his philosophy (cf; the hiring of Pierre McGuire, an anti-analytics guy, is yet another conservative move by the org). As I mentioned when reviewing prior drafts, it’s simply too soon to assess Mann’s work–maybe he’s a genius, but Occam’s Razor says he’ll do no better than his predecessors (what’s genuinely in question is how many stars he lands). I wanted to cover The Silver Seven‘s annual prospect ranking, but the caliber of writers from the site is so uneven I don’t think it’s feasible.
–There’s a great article from Scott Wheeler about how scouts assess players (there’s no real surprises, but he goes over the importance of context–ie things like how playing with Daniel Sprong inflated Filip Chlapik’s value). I’m gratified to see that my old idea of using third party rankings to create a scouting consensus for draft picks has become normalized and is widely available–it’s a simple idea and I have no idea why it took so long to proliferate–however much some may poopoo the idea, it’s the only tool fans have to access professional assessment.
–You can watch/listen to an interesting interview with Sens prospect Egor Sokolov.
–I think in my next post I’ll do a review of the Sens 2020 and 2021 drafts, as it will help me familiarize myself with the prospects. I’ve noticed the fan insanity over Jake Sanderson is almost at the same fever pitch as Brady Tkachuk and we’ll see if that falls as flat with me as it does with the later.
–For those interested in assessing the Sens at the draft, check out my review of the Sens 2008-14 draft record–there’s some fascinating things to be observed in the data (as well as the relative value derived from them). I think I should have included my old review of the Sens AHL tendencies which overlaps that period of time and shows the shifting philosophy from Tim Murray to Randy Lee.

Atlanta Gladiators

The Sens ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, have been busy signing players in the off-season. A few of these players could see time in Belleville, so I thought I’d briefly take a look at them.

Defense
Tim Davison, 27-28, DL, ECHL 0.38 (ECHL 0.44)
The undrafted NCAA grad spent most of last season with Greenville; this will be his fourth pro season
Dalton Thrower, 27-28, DR, tier-3 Sweden 0.16 (ECHL 0.20)
A second-round pick by Montreal back in 2012, he hasn’t seen AHL ice since 2015-16, but as a gritty player he may have some appeal as a call-up
Greg Campbell, 26-27, DL, DNP (ECHL 0.14)
The undrafted NCAA grad took last season off and returns for his sophomore attempt as a pro.
Josh Thrower, 25-26, DR, SPHL 0.18 (ECHL 0.11)
The brother of Dalton, the former WHLer has established himself as a depth ECHL blueliner and wouldn’t be on the BSens radar
Malcolm Hayes, 26-27, DR, SPHL 0.08 (ECHL 0.11)
Another undrafted NCAA grad, he’s spent most of his short pro career in the SPHL (a feeder league into the ECHL)
Zach Yoder, 27, DR, SPHL 0.13 (ECHL 0.50)
The undrafted NCAAer spent his first (brief) pro season in the SPHL; he’s a local kid (to Georgia) and he’s big, for whatever that’s worth

Forwards
Derek Nesbitt, 39-40, LW/RW, DNP (ECHL 0.89)
An effective AHL producer (0.60) who has played in Atlanta five straight seasons prior to his year off; at 39 I’m not sure how much to expect from him, but I don’t think the BSens will call him up (he hasn’t had a call-up since his last full-time season in the AHL in 2013-14)
Cody Sylvester, 29-30, C/LW, ECHL 0.81 (ECHL 0.80)
Undrafted WHLer has spent most of his pro career in Germany (failing out of the DEL, so it’s mostly in tier-2); as a productive ECHL scorer there’s a small chance he could be called-up
Kamerin Nault, 26, LW, ECHL 0.15 (ECHL 0.77)
Canadian university grad is entering his fourth pro season; each year he’s received call-ups to the AHL, so that makes the odds of the same happening this season higher than most of the other players
Michael Pelech, 32, CL, ECHL 0.55 (ECHL 0.75)
Former 6th-round pick by LA, he’s had a very long and productive ECHL career; his last AHL call-up was in 2015-16
Luke Nogard, 27-28, CL, ECHL 0.39 (ECHL 0.56)
Undrafted NCAA grad his entering his fourth pro season; he’s never received an AHL call-up
Hugo Roy, 24, CR, ECHL 0.46 (ECHL 0.45)
Undrafted QMJHLer is entering his third full pro season; as a middling producer he’s not likely on the BSens list of call-ups
Matthew Wedman, 22, ECHL 0.24 (ECHL 0.24)
A 7th-round pick by Florida in 2019, last season was his first as a pro and he was unable to translate his WHL production to that level
Tommy Besinger, 27, CR, SPHL 0.68 (SPHL 0.69)
The undrafted NCAA grad his entering his third year as a pro and will be looking to avoid the SPHL

I’ll reiterate, it’s unlikely we see many if any of these players, but stranger things have happened (due to injuries or other circumstances), particularly with older, failed prospects (cf).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Pierre Dorion and the Draft

THE SENS AT 30 PART III: Ottawa Senators' general manager Pierre Dorion  says "it's time to perform" | Ottawa Sun

Pierre Dorion became the Sens GM in the 2016-17 season, but prior to that event he ran the drafts beginning in 2008 and I wanted to take a look at the older drafts which can be properly assessed to see what we can glean (those players in bold below played at least 200 NHL games). All of these drafts had Bryan Murray serving as the GM.

Top 5 Best and Worst Ottawa Senators First Round Draft Picks Of All Time

2008 (12 scouts; Sweden 3, WHL/BCHL 2, USHL 1, CJHL 1)
1-15 Erik Karlsson (D) Sweden-Frolunda 788-143-482-625 (San Jose)
Trade (2018): Chris Tierney, Rudolfs Balcers, Dylan DeMelo, Josh Norris, and the picks used for Tim Stuetzle and Zach Ostapchuk
2-42 Patrick Wiercioch (D) USHL-Omaha 268-16-58-74 (tier-2 Europe)
3-79 Zack Smith (C) WHL-Swift Current 662-98-106-204 (UFA)
Trade (2019): Artem Anisimov
4-109 Andre Petersson (F) Sweden-HV71 1-0-0-0 (successful KHL career)
4-119 Derek Grant (C) BCHL-Langley 310-37-48-85 (Anaheim)
5-139 Mark Borowiecki (D) CJHL-Smith Falls 397-15-37-52 (Nashville)
7-199 Emil Sandin (F) Sweden-Brynas DNP (tier-2 career in Sweden)

A very successful draft with five of seven players hitting the 200-game threshold. We can argue over the caliber of these players, as all save Karlsson merely provide depth, but Karlsson is a genuine star. Both of the misses in the draft were undersized skilled players from Sweden.

Cowen gets his Canadian wish | The Spokesman-Review

2009 (12 scouts; USHL/USHS 3, Sweden 2, WHL 1, QMJHL 1, OHL 1, NCAA 1)
1-9 Jared Cowen (D) WHL-Spokane 249-15-31-45 (retired due to injury)
Trade (2016): Dion Phaneuf, Cody Donaghey, Casey Bailey, Matt Frattin, and Ryan Rupert; Phaneuf was subsequently traded (2019) for Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore; Gaborik was then traded (2020) for Braydon Coburn, Cedric Paquette, and a 2nd-round pick in 2022; the 7th-round pick acquired for Shore was included in the Duclair trade
2-39 Jakob Silfverberg (F) Sweden-Brynas 605-146-161-307 (Anaheim)
Trade (2013): Bobby Ryan
2-46 Robin Lehner (G) Sweden-Frolunda .918 (Vegas)
Trade (2015): The pick that turned into Colin White
4-100 Chris Wideman (D) NCAA-Miami 181-16-29-45 (Montreal)
Trade (2018): Pick that turned into Cole Reinhardt
5-130 Mike Hoffman (C/W) QMJHL-Drummondville 545-189-206-395 (Montreal)
Trade (2018): Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergman, and the pick that turned into Philippe Daoust; Bergman was included in the Abramov trade
5-146 Jeff Costello (F) USHL-Cedar Rapids DNP (retired after one ECHL season)
6-160 Corey Cowick (F) OHL-Ottawa DNP (short minor league career)
7-190 Brad Peltz (F) USHS-Avon DNP (retired after one ECHL season)
7-191 Michael Sdao (D) USHL-Lincoln DNP (ECHL career)

Another five players hit the threshold (I’m assuming Wideman will do that this season), so it’s another good draft. We see the beginnings of a Dorion tendency to roll the dice on gritty players which doesn’t work out in this sample–of the four players who never made it, three are in that category (Peltz is the exception). There’s no question that Cowen was a poor top-ten pick and that the Sens received little value for the other quality draftees before they were moved. We continue a tendency for the org to give-up on goaltenders early (Brian Elliott was drafted in ’03, but turned pro right when Dorion joined the org–I’m not saying that decision was his, simply that the impatience began during his tenure).

2015-16 UD UPPER DECK MARK STONE TOP DRAFT PICK DRAFT-10 Promo Senators |  eBay

2010 (11 scouts; Sweden 1, QMJHL 1, WHL 1, USHL 1)
3-76 Jakub Culek (F) QMJHL-Rimouski DNP (brief minor league career)
4-106 Marcus Sorensen (F) Sweden-Djurgardens 226-31-33-64 (UFA)
6-178 Mark Stone (F) WHL-Brandon 504-170-276-446 (Vegas)
Trade (2019): Oscar Lindberg, Erik Brannstrom, and the pick that turned into Egor Sokolov
7-196 Bryce Aneloski (D) USHL-Cedar DNP (brief minor league career)

The success ratio remains good, although the org gave up on Sorensen early and it was San Jose who made use of him. Stone is the obvious ‘win’, although the org benefited from just four full seasons with him before discarding him as part of the rebuild.

Sens draft pick Mika Zibanejad ready to roll up his sleeves - The Globe and  Mail

2011 (11 scouts; OHL 3, Sweden 2, WHL 2, USHL 2, QMJHL 1)
1-6 Mika Zibanejad (C/W) Sweden-Djurgardens 604-200-234-434 (NYR)
Trade (2016): Derick Brassard and the pick that turned into Luke Loheit; Brassard was traded (2018) for Filip Gustavsson, Ian Cole, a pick flipped to draft Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jonathan Tychonick, and a pick flipped to draft Mads Sogaard
1-21 Stefan Noesen (C/W) OHL-Plymouth 205-31-23-54 (long minor league career)
Trade (2013): part of the Silfverberg/Ryan trade above
1-24 Matt Puempel (F) OHL-Peterborough 87-11-5-16 (long minor league career)
Waiver Claim (2016)
2-61 Shane Prince (C) OHL-Ottawa 128-12-26-38 (successful KHL career)
Trade (2016): for a pick that was flipped as part of a deal to draft Logan Brown
4-96 Jean-Gabriel Pageau (C) QMJHL-Gatineau 489-103-109-212 (NYI)
Trade (2020): pick used to draft Ridly Greig and another used in a trade that saw them draft Tyler Kleven
5-126 Fredrik Claesson (D) Sweden-Djurgardens 161-7-21-28 (lengthy minor league career)
6-156 Darren Kramer (F) WHL-Spokane DNP (long minor league career)
6-171 Max McCormick (F) USHL-Sioux City 83-8-5-13 (long minor league career)
Trade (2019): J. C. Beaudin
7-186 Jordan Fransoo (D) WHL-Brandon DNP (played Canadian university hockey)
7-204 Ryan Dzingel (F) USHL-Lincoln 372-82-98-180 (Arizona)
Trade (2019): Anthony Duclair, a second that was part of the Matt Murray deal, and another second used to acquire Derek Stepan; the org re-acquired him in 2021 for Alex Galchenyuk and Cedric Paquette

This draft was meant to be the start of a re-build and the org batted well above average in having four players hit the 200-game threshold, but it’s undeniable that they wasted Zibanejad as an asset and received a poor direct return; they also bombed out on their other two first-round picks.

Senators draft homegrown defenceman Ceci - Sportsnet.ca

2012 (12 scouts; OHL 2, USHL/USHS 2, WHL 1, QMJHL 1, Sweden 1)
1-15 Cody Ceci (D) OHL-Ottawa 549-37-106-143 (Edmonton)
Trade (2019): Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, and Michael Carcone
3-76 Chris Driedger (G) WHL-Calgary .929 (Sea)
3-82 Jarrod Maidens (F) OHL-Owen Sound (retired due to injury)
4-106 Timothy Boyle (D) USHS-Prep DNP (short minor league career)
5-136 Robbie Baillargeon (F) USHL-Indiana DNP (brief minor league career)
6-166 Francois Brassard (G) QMJHL-Quebec DNP (Canadian university to minor leagues)
7-196 Mikael Wikstrand (D) Sweden-Mora (refused to play)

While Driedger may eventually hit the threshold, this was an abysmal draft as Ceci was highly overvalued (as witnessed by the poor return when traded). Unlike in prior years, there was an attempt to target skill in the later rounds, but nothing worked out (although one could argue that Wikstand might have been an NHL player–we’ll simply never know).

Ottawa Senators 2013 draft review - Hockey's Future

2013 (12 scouts; Sweden 2, WHL 1, OHL 1, QMJHL 1, EJHL 1, NCAA 1)
1-17 Curtis Lazar (C) WHL-Edmonton 334-27-47-74 (Boston)
Trade (2017): Jyrki Jokipaaka and the pick used for Alex Formenton
3-78 Marcus Hogberg (G) Sweden-Linkoping .894 (back in Sweden)
4-102 Tobias Lindberg (F) Sweden-Djurgardens 6-0-2-2 (tier-2 Sweden)
Trade: part of the Cowen/Phaneuf trade above, then reacquired him in a minor league deal in 2018, then included in the Stone trade above
4-108 Ben Harpur (D) OHL-Guelph 137-1-13-14 (UFA)
Trade (2019): part of the Ceci trade above
5-138 Vincent Dunn (F) QMJHL-Rimouski DNP (short minor league career)
6-161 Chris LeBlanc (F) EJHL-South Shore DNP (minor league career)
7-168 Quentin Shore (F) NCAA-Denver DNP (short minor league career)

An equally horrendous draft, as Lazar is an even bigger miss than Ceci (someone who struggled at the AHL-level, but whose pedigree has allowed him to fumble around the NHL for years). The rest of the assets were a mix of grinders and skilled players, none of whom panned out.

Andreas Englund Stats and News | NHL.com

2014 (13 scouts; USHL/USHS 2, Sweden 1, QMJHL 1, CCHL 1)
2-40 Andreas England (D) Sweden-Djurgardens 33-0-3-3 (minor leaguer)
3-70 Miles Gendron (D) USHS-Prep DNP (minor leaguer)
4-100 Shane Eiserman (F) USHL-Dubuque DNP (brief minor league career)
7-189 Kelly Summers (D) CCHL-Carleton DNP (tier-2 Germany)
7-190 Francis Perron (C) QMJHL-Rouyn-Noranda DNP (tier-2 Sweden)

The worst draft in the sample size. It’s very rare for an NHL team to have no successes, but Ottawa managed it here. The picks were a mix of grinders and skill, but none are even quality AHL players. You’d expect consequences in the scouting ranks after such a result (not just for this, but the prior two drafts), but that’s not the case.

Senators Draft Thomas Chabot 18th Overall - Silver Seven

2015 (13 scouts; QMJHL 3, USHL/USHS/USNTDP 3, Sweden 2)
1-18 Thomas Chabot (D) QMJHL-Saint John 254-35-115-150
1-21 Colin White (C/W) USNTDP 200-33-55-88
2-36 Gabriel Gagne (F) QMJHL-Victoriaville DNP (minor leaguer)
2-48 Filip Chlapik (C/W) QMJHL-Charlottetown 57-5-6-11 (released)
4-107 Christian Wolanin (D) USHL-Muskegon 61-5-13-18 (LA)
Trade (2021): Michael Amadio
4-109 Filip Ahl (F) Sweden-HV71 DNP (tier-2 Europe)
5-139 Christian Jaros (D) Sweden-Lulea 83-1-13-14 (NJ)
Trade (2021): Jack Kopacka and a 7th-round pick in 2022
7-199 Joey Daccord (G) USHS-Prep .894 (Seattle)
Taken in the Expansion Draft

The analysis of this draft is still still up in the air, although there are two obvious successes. Wolanin, Jaros, and Daccord could potentially hit the threshold, although it’s unlikely all of them will. The mix of players echoes the previous two years, but the quality of the picks are better (despite a big miss on Gagne). We again see the common trend of the org not getting value back for prospects–none of the assets remain for trading the two blueliners, which means they were simply given away.

Let’s summarize excluding 2015’s results (since they are still in flux). Here are the hits to misses from 2008-14:
2008: 5-7 (74%)
2009: 5-9 (55%)
2010: 2-4 (50%)
2011: 4-10 (40%)
2012: 1-7 (14%)
2013: 1-7 (14%)
2014: 0-4 (0%

That’s a linear decline under Dorion to that point. We know 2015 was a better draft and there is an organization change between 2014-15: Tim Murray’s departure to Buffalo. Can we put this all at Tim’s feet? I think that’s too simplistic, but it is worth noting. Let’s take a look at success by region (highlighting the significant players):
US systems (3-14/21%): Wiercioch, Wideman, Dzingel
Sweden (5-12/41%): Karlsson, Silfverberg, Lehner, Sorensen, Zibanejad
WHL/BCHL 8 (5-8/62%): Smith, Grant, Cowen, Stone, Lazar
OHL/CCHL/CJHL (4-9/44%): Borowiecki, Noesen, Prince, Ceci
QMJHL (2-6/33%): Hoffman, Pageau

What’s fascinating is how heavily Ottawa invested in the American junior system despite no serious payoff. The org scored very highly in Sweden while completely ignoring the rest of Europe (no one drafted from any other European league). If you’re wondering, in terms of raw selection, here’s what’s happened from 2015-21 (the numbers represent the number of players from that system per draft):
US systems: 13 (2.0 > 2.1)
WHL/AJHL: 11 (1.1 > 1.8)
QMJHL: 9 (0.8 > 1.5)
Sweden: 6 (1.7 > 1.0)
OHL: 4 (1.3 > 0.6)
Finland: 3 (0 > 0.5)
Germany: 1 (0 > 0.1)

The American fetish continues unabated, while the primary change is a decrease in Swedish/OHL prospects matched by an increase in QMJHL and WHL contributions. I think the scattering of Finnish prospects is related to Mikko Ruutu becoming the director of European scouting (Stuetzle, as a top-five pick, is irrelevant in terms of the org’s normal scouting preferences). It remains an oddity that despite being in Ontario the team has only dipped its toe into the local pond over the last 13 drafts. It’s also strange how consistently the Sens devalue European scouting–on average they have only two scouts based in Europe, which is a deplorable amount to cover the various leagues (meaning they have to lean heavily on tournament performances, which is a questionable guide). I get the feeling that the main reason for ignoring Europe is cost.

Another way to look at success is by round and we get some interesting results:
First round (6-7): 2 of their best 6 picks are from this group (Karlsson and Zibanejad)
Second round (4-5): 2 of their best are from here (Silfverberg and Lehner)
Third round (1-6): extremely poor success rate with none of the best appearing
Fourth round (4-9): better averages (although that success is early) with Pageau being the standout
Fifth round (2-6): Hoffman is the standout (so again, early)
Sixth round (1-6): you expect things to be more difficult later; Stone is the standout
Seventh round (1-9): swinging for the fences is understandable

We have to take the results for first-rounders with grains of salt, since there’s pressure to play those players before giving up on them–I think this is illustrated by the number of best picks being even with the second-rounders. In theory the success ratios should be an inverted pyramid (reflecting the quality and consistency of the scouting group), but that’s not the case. It’s also worth keeping in mind that this period see’s the beginning of a rebuild (2011) that was rushed by a cash-strapped owner (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Pressure by ownership forces trades for success now and clearly that’s part of the problem with asset retention (along with being a smaller market). That should not, however, impact the quality of picks.

Finally, let’s ride one of my favourite hobby horses: relative success between skilled and truculent players (we have to exclude goaltenders from this discussion, along with Maidens, as injury prevented him from performing):
Skilled (11-24, 45%) – This number includes all the best players
Truculent/defensive (6-19, 31%) – Features the team’s biggest busts/disappointments (Cowen, Ceci, Lazar)

My argument for skill has always been the same: it’s rare and thus much harder to acquire–prohibitively expensive for Ottawa most of the time. The NHL is full of grinders and defensive players, so drafting for that is a waste of time. Clearly the team does not share my opinion.

I’m not sure there’s a clear conclusion to draw here. It’s interesting that Tim Murray arrived with Pierre Dorion and success at the draft declined until Murray’s departure. I hesitate to say that’s the only reason for the change, although going through the many scouts who have appeared throughout this time period provides no meaningful insight. I wish there was better evidence for the drafts from 2015 onward, but it’s quite simply too early to judge (for instance, 2016 might turn out to be a complete bust, or Logan Brown could turn a corner and it’s suddenly not as terrible). Regardless, food for thought and opinions are welcome.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)