Reviewing NHL Draft Guides

With the draft almost upon us it’s time to review this draft year’s guides.  As I’ve done for the last few years I’m only looking at guides that cover the entire draft, so in that light I’m looking at: Future Considerations (FC), Hockey Prospects (HP), International Scouting Service (ISS), and Red Line Report (RLR).  A reminder that there are 217 picks this year (due to expansion).  In my descriptions below I’ve ignored mock draft sections and some of the future watch stuff (2018 and/or 2019 drafts), as these always seemed like pointless fluff to me (the former is broadly available for free, while the latter has no discernible value unless you are in the most bizarre fantasy league).  I’m also reviewing the regular copies of these guides (RLR has a “pro” version and HP has team specific versions).  In brackets I’ve noted changes from last year.

International Scouting Service $10.00 (-$89.99)
Scouts listed: 52 (-1)
Prospects listed: 200 (-20)
Prospect profiles: 110 (unchanged)
Miscellaneous: historical draft analysis

This has been the least impressive draft product for a long time (due in part to its cost), so the radical price cut is added value. Despite having the largest scouting staff of any guide (just 5 scouts in Europe however), it offers the least amount of substance. Why they choose to list fewer players than will be drafted is beyond me, as is their continued separation of goaltenders from their draft rankings (which is to say, their goalie list isn’t integrated into their main list, nor does it indicate what rounds said goalies will be taken).  They improved their draft analysis piece from previous years, but really, other than cost there’s no reason to buy this product for casual fans unless you’re on a strict $10 budget.

Future Considerations $24.99 (+$2)
Scouts listed: 37 (+6)
Prospects listed: 250 (+39)
Prospect profiles: 219 (+8)
Miscellaneous: none

This has been my best-buy for a few years now, and despite the slight price increase and missing the side content from last year, I think it’s still a good value for casual fans.

Hockey Prospects $39.99 (unchanged)
Scouts listed: 20 (-2)
Prospects listed: 217 (+6)
Prospect profiles: 389 (-22)
Miscellaneous: game reports; extensive scouting profiles of future drafts

For hardcore draft fans or those who want to dig deeper this remains the best product on the market–as such, the additional cost is worth it.  It also stands as the best predictor of the draft (albeit, by a relatively small amount–see below).

Red Line Report $50 US (unchanged)
Scouts listed: 12 (N/A)
Prospects listed: 325 (+13)
Prospect profiles: 116 (plus 68 one-line notes) (unchanged)
Miscellaneous: expansion draft thoughts; potential older European picks

Constricted by the limitations of space for their print-version, it can’t compete with HP and FC; with ISS reducing its price I don’t think its unique takes can really justify the cost–RLR either needs to revise how it does things or else sales are going to suffer.

Variations
The four publications agree on 119 players (54.8%; down by 10 from last year); this includes 19 first-rounders; 168 players (77.4%) are shared by three publications.  As for unique selections, let’s go by round:
First: none
Second: none
Third: 2 (HP, RLR)
Fourth: 14 (FC/RLR/HP 3, ISS 5)
Fifth: 22 (HP 3, FC 4, RLR 6, ISS 9)
Sixth: 39 (ISS 4, HP 10, FC 12, RLR 13)
Seventh: 21 (HP 6, FC/RLR 15)*
Total: 98 (ISS 18, HP 23, FC 34, RLR 38)
* because of ISS’ bizarre formulation, they have no players in the seventh round

These unique selections are heavily European, American, and overage (comparatively). Thirty-nine of the ninety-eight players (39.7%) are overage, while the EU and American leagues comprise 59 (29 and 30 respectively) of the total (60.2%)–there are also 5 tier-2 junior players.  HP and ISS are heavier on US content, FC about even, and RLR very heavily European.

Predictive success
I’ve been reading and tracking these particular sources for quite some time.  While I’m not that interested in how accurate they are in predicting player X taken at position X (unless someone gambles on that I’m not sure why anyone would be), but I am interested in what percentage of the players included are taken in the draft.  So, tracking back to 2011, here’s how they’ve done by percentage (best to worst):
HP: 74.2, 72.0, 69.2, 70.9, 75.8, 74.8 (avg 72.8)
FC: 73.8, 71.1, 68.7, 69.0, 69.2, 70.1 (avg 70.3)
RLR: 73.8, 73.9, 67.7, 64.7, 73.0, 66.8 (avg 69.9)
ISS: 68.1, 66.3, 62.7, 60.0, 68.6, 63.6 (avg 64.8)
Keep in mind these numbers don’t reflect who was right about how good prospects were, it’s just a reflection of how closely their selections follow what NHL GMs did on draft day. To date I’m slightly ahead of HP in terms of predictions (72.9).

So what’s the overall best value?  My opinion this year remains unchanged: for casual fans FC is the way to go, but for those with a stronger interest in the draft you’re better off with HP.  Either way, I enjoy both products so whatever choice you make is a good one.  As for ISS and RLR, both guides offer their own unique frustrations–the latter is more engaging, but much more expensive.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thoughts on the Senators Handling of its AHL Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

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

logo

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

jyrki-jokipakka-2017-43

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

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

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

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

It’s easy to remember the poor decisions and criticize

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

STATS

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

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

travisyost

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

Free_Agent_logo_2

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

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

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Early Look at the Belleville Senators

belleville sens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are my thoughts by position:

Goaltenders

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

Defensemen

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

Forwards

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

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

wtf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free_Agent_logo_2

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

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

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

senshirp-simple6

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

karlsson

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

bush mission

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

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

freeagent

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

2017_NHL_Entry_Draft_logo

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

hoffman

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

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

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

don brennan

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

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

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

Callum: yes, it’s about effort.

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

Print

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

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

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

garrioch

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

senshirp-simple6

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

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

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

freeagent

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

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)