The Hater’s Guide to Week 16

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

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Me, leaving the building (not pictured: you, asking, “what is a boy/girl/person of non-binary gender to do?”

Hiiiiiii… listen. We ran out of time to put a Hater’s Guide together this weekend. Ottawa Hockey Analytics Conference, that’s right. Yeah, it was like a track off of Fishscale. Anyway, we figured we’d just preview this week’s four – four! – games by highlighting the success, or lack thereof, that former Senators achieved with each of this week’s opponents. Your move, Mike Hoffman.

Monday, January 18 – Senators @ Sharks

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Dany Heatley celebrates with Chris Phillips after yet another goal.

Senators: 317 GP, 180 G, 182 A; 1.15 PPG
Sharks: 162 GP, 65 G, 81 A; 0.90 PPG

PREDICTION: Senators 5, Sharks 0.

Thursday, January 21 – Senators @ Devils

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Anton Volchenkov commiserates with Chris Phillips after yet another agility test.

Senators: 428 GP, 16 G, 78 A; 0.22 PPG
Devils: 222 GP, 3 G, 29 A 0.14 PPG

PREDICTION: Senators 5, Devils 0.

Friday, January 22 – Senators vs. Islanders

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Alexei Yashin smashes Chris Phillips in the face after yet another confrontation.

Senators: 504 GP, 218 G, 273 A; 0.97 PPG
Islanders: 346 GP, 119 G, 171 A; 0.84 PPG

PREDICTION: Senators 5, Islanders 0.

Sunday, January 24 – Senators vs. Rangers

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Wade Redden and Chris Phillips light up yet another tree.

Senators: 684 G, 101 G, 309 A; 0.60 PPG
Rangers: 156 GP, 5 G, 35 A; 0.26 PPG

PREDICTION: Senators 5, Rangers 0.

Season prediction record: 21-18-6

Next week: The Sabres! And the sweet, tender mercy of time off.

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All the Offseason Signing Questions You Have, Answered*

*Except the one you constantly ask.

Look, the future of Mike Hoffman is probably the most important question Bryan Murray has to answer in 2016. If they can lock him up long term, you do it. But if they can’t, or at least strongly suspect they can’t, Mike Hoffman might feature pretty prominently in a trade for Jonathan Drouin Kevin Shattenkirk or some such useful piece to improve the top-6 blueline. And while it’s the question most Sens fans want answered, I honestly don’t know how it’s going to go down.

So this post isn’t about Mike Hoffman, instead it’s about all the other burning offseason questions about which RFAs/UFAs the Sens should bring back.

But first, quick shout out to Bryan Murray. Whatever you might think of Bryan, he’d never royally screw over one of his players the way Arizona GM Don Maloney did yesterday. He’d never do the league’s dirty work the way Maloney, Nashville GM David Poile and Montreal GM Marc Bergevin did either. He hasn’t been perfect, but even in his most prominent disagreements with players, he’s never traded someone 4,000 miles away from where they want to be out of spite while calling it a hockey move.

All salary info from General Fanager

The burning questions

Chris Neil, Shane Prince, and Patrick Wiercioch

This is an odd sort of grouping of players, but I think for various reasons these three will cause the most stress on management and fans to work out (after Hoffman). A year ago, it seemed like the Sens would be moving on from Chris Neil, if not at the trade deadline when he suffered injury, then at the conclusion of his current deal. In all honestly, I started hearing Barbara Streisand’s voice sing “Mem’ries, light the corners of my mind, misty water-colored memories, of the way we were” when Neil was on the ice (the question remains, who was our Robert Redford!?) But then a funny thing happened. Neil opened the 2015-16 season strong and here we are, more than three months later, and he’s still going strong. Yes, much of the value the fourth line brings can be attributed to his linemates, but Neil has looked quicker, better, and more productive than in recent seasons. Sure he still leads the team in minor penalties, but he’s settled down since a not overly disciplined October. Does it make sense to lock up a fourth line player who will be 37 in the summer? No, but offering Neil another two-year deal was always more about his longevity with the team and what he’s meant to the community. If he can repeat his play from this season (a tall ask) it’ll be ok and any new deal will likely look a lot like his current deal.

Shane Prince is easy in some senses because he’s a young player who’s still an RFA. He’s part of why the fourth line has spent a lot of time in the opposition end and he produces points at one of the best rates on the team. No brainer. It’s going to have to be a one way deal and he’s going to get a bump in dollars. I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets a one year “prove it” deal and Prince strikes me as the type of player to bet on himself.

Patrick Wiercioch might be the most interesting Sens player to watch. He’s played better of late, but has had a disappointing season to date. Any perceived value he built up with his strong finish to 2015/World Championship appearance has been squandered. Wouldn’t be shocked to see him shopped (and have no takers) at the deadline. Why give up an asset for a guy the Sens have repeatedly offered when you think he might be available for less in the summer? Of course, he won’t come free, he needs a new deal. He’s still an RFA, but he made $2M this season and established NHLers in their 20s pretty much never take pay cuts. PW on a three-year deal with a salary ranging from $2.5M-$3.5M (especially when you bring the advanced stats into the negotiations) doesn’t seem too farfetched but does seem like a deal that might make Murray and co. pause (aka the Jared Cowen EffectTM). I don’t know what the future holds for PW, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it takes place somewhere else.

The Automatics

Max McCormick, Cody Ceci, Fredrik Claesson, Chris Wideman, Matt Puempel

McCormick and Puempel have had decent looks at the NHL level this season (and last in Puempel’s case) and seem like decent enough bottom-six NHL players. McCormick is doing all the things on ice that the organization would expect from Neil’s heir apparent. Puempel also has the benefit of being a former first round pick. They’re controllable, won’t be making that much more, and are cheap, controllable replacements. I wouldn’t be shocked if one or both sign a contract that pressures the team to keep them at the NHL level in 2016-17.

Claesson is interesting in that he seemed completely overlooked by the organization until this past month and suddenly looks like he’s a natural and appreciated part of the blueline. Yes, he’s been sheltered with Karlsson, yes he’s made some bad giveaways, and yes he has the smallest of sample sizes in the NHL, but when it comes down to it, he won’t be commanding a huge raise. With the Senators hopefully moving on (dumping) Jared Cowen at the deadline (endless laughter) or in the offseason (likely our sad reality) and with Chris Phillips’ inevitable retirement, the blueline is less cluttered in 2016-17. Claesson easily fits a 5-7 spot on the depth chart but won’t be paid like a Cowen (more like a Boro).

Cody Ceci is where things get interesting. It’s clear the organization loves him and he’s a former first rounder and a local boy. Things are looking good for Ceci to get paid. And that’s fine, he deserves a raise on his ELC. He’ll probably have just over 200 NHL games when the season ends and is still only 22; these are things NHL GMs value. It’s not a question of if Ceci gets a raise, but rather how much and for how long. I think PW’s current deal (AAV $2M) is an acceptable range for Ceci (though I suspect 2 years instead of 3 more likely). The goal with Ceci’s new deal should be more like PW and less like Cowen.

Chris Wideman is going to get a raise and locked up for a couple seasons. He will be seen as a cheaper PW (in relation to the new deal PW is going to sign). I wouldn’t be shocked if Wideman replaces Wiercioch in the eyes of management.

The Alex Chiassons

I don’t really know what Murray is going to do here. I know a lot of Sens fans think he’s a lock to be re-signed because of his inclusion in the Spezza deal but I don’t know how much Murray cares about that. Chiasson isn’t dead weight or anything, doesn’t make a lot of money, and wouldn’t get too much of a raise. He’s a fine fourth line player, but they’re not really the type you should be going out of your way to sign. I think he’s been better this season, but his lack of goals and points in going to hurt him (like it hurts us). Would prefer a Bingo guy (Puempel or Schneider, who also needs to be re-signed) get his spot.

Bingo RFAs

I don’t follow Bingo closely and there are Bingo experts you should certainly be reading (Jeff Ulmer at Silver Seven for starters). All I can say is that if I was a betting person, Alex Guptill won’t be re-signed.

LONG READS: How Did This Get Made? A Colour Coded Guide to How the Current Roster Came to Be

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Depth Chart (Artist’s Conception*) 

Forwards :
HoffmanTurrisRyan
MacArthur/Lazar – ZibanejadStone
MichalekPageauChiasson/McCormick
PrinceSmithNeil

Call ups: Puempel, Greening, Dzingle, *long sigh* Dziurzynski

Defense:
Methot/ClaessonKarlsson
Cowen/WierciochCeci
Borowiecki – Wideman/Phillips

Call ups: Kostka, Frozen Dinner

Goaltenders: 
Anderson / Hammond

Call ups: Dreidger / O’Connor

(*Look, the lines move around virtually every game so just let me rock with this config, K? I’m tryin’ to hit the Publish button at some point, my G. Thxu)

First impressions:
Wow, the current team was sure as hell constructed with Bryan Murray and Co’s hands. 13 of the 24 above listed players are Sens draft picks. Another 6 players acquired by Murray trades.
The team has hit the lotto once during The Bryan’s reign; the 2011 daft which they lost the NJ btw, and picked in the top 10 just one other time (2009) since taking Jason Spezza 2nd overall in 2001 [AKA when Thomas Chabot was 4 years old].

50% of the current top 6 and 75% of the top 4 of the defense are made up of draft picks. It’s worth mentioning that of the internally developed guys in the top 6 and top 2 there are a 2 time Norris winner & team captain, a Calder Nominee and last season’s [and the current] goal scoring leader. DEEC drafting tbh. Another thing that jumps out to me is that legacy Christophers Neil and Phillips are the only Non-Murray Regime picks drafted by Ottawa on the entire roster right now. For better or worse this team is almost completely Bryan Murray’s.

A Wee Bit of a Break Down: I’ve colour coded the team into 5 categories [YOU‘RE
WELCOME] using the 2011 Retool (shied away from the word Rebuild to avoid getting pelted with #ACTUALLYS) as a major milestone of the Murray Era.
I broke it down like this: Pre-2011 picks, 2011 picks and beyond, Pre-Bryan Murray picks, Players acquired by trade and finally free agent signings. Let’s do the damn thing shall we?

Pre-2011 Retool Draft Picks – Post-Cup Final Era AKA Wha’ Happen? (Green):

Forwards:
Mike Hoffman – Round 5 #130 overall, 2009 draft

Zack Smith – Round 3 #79 overall, 2008 draft

Mark Stone – Round 6 #178 overall, 2010 draft

Defenders:
Erik Karlsson – Round 1 #15 overall, 2008 draft

Patrick Wiercioch –  Round 2 #42 overall, 2008 draft

Mark Borowiecki – Round 5 #139 overall, 2008 draft

Jared Cowen – Round 1 #9 overall, 2009 draft

Chris Wideman – Round 4 #100 overall, 2009 draft

Smooth Jimmy’s Funalysis:
Using the 2011 Retool as a major milestone, looking back, it would seem that love or hate the current line up, some very important players were acquired before going fire sale and jettisoning most of the 2010-11 team for picks.
Up front, we have vital top 6 forwards Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone taken late in the ’09  and 2010 drafts. Two forwards most fans would consider untouchable. It’s nothing for both of these guys to play on the top line. Whether you consider these guys lucky breaks or seeing eye picks cant complain about these dudes.

On D things get more complicated. We, of course, have team captain/whole entire world Erik Karlsson famously taken mid-way through the first round of the 2008 draft. Easily the most important pick in franchise history since Daniel Alfredsson.
A quick aside: I was tripping out the other day thinking about how Erik Karlsson will be in the Hall of Fame one day. Brazy.
Now, that Chris Wideman seems to have established himself as a full-time roster player, it’s clear that it’s the guys who were selected pre-2011 that make up the majority of the current defense corps.
This isn’t exactly a good look if you’re one of the many among us who think the defense is the team’s weakest point. I’m sure opinions here will be mixed as we seem to have a split down the middle.
On one hand we have the beloved Karlsson and the welcome addition of the competent Chris Wideman. On the other, the hard working but much derided Mark Borowiecki and the wildly detested Jared Cowen. Serving as the creamy middle we have the Human Gotta Hear Both Sides Patrick Wiercioch. You take the good you take the bad you put em together and there you have *takes enormous hit off bong* … fuckiiiiin’ whatever.

Hmph. Weird this. Seems the pre-2011 draft classes have given this team:  The sublime (#65), the good (#61 and 68), the DEEC (#46), the bad (#74) and a young, healthy top 10 pick that I would trade for “future considerations** (Try and guess what player I’m talking about!)”
In conclusion, I forgot to mention Zack Smith and neither of us noticed.

**buy out.

 

2011 Retool & Post-Retool Draft Picks – Rebirth of a Nation’s Capital (Blue): 

Forwards:
Mika Zibanejad – Round 1 #6 overall, 2011 draft

Shane Prince – Round 2 #61 overall, 2011 draft

Jean Gabriel Pageau – Round 4, #96 overall, 2011 draft

Curtis Lazar – Round 1 #17 overall, 2013 draft

Defenders:
Freddie Claesson – Round 5 #126 overall, 2011 draft

Cody Ceci – Round 1 #15 overall, 2012 draft

Kibitzing Korner:
In 2011, Murray sold off heaps of the team’s veteran-laden roster and had 5 picks in the first two rounds. In a draft that Bryan and his team really needed to make count, a whopping 7 of the 10 players selected in 2011 have stepped on the ice for Ottawa in at least one game. Not counting Stephan Noesen who was moved. What’s interesting to me is the diversity of players they got from that draft. The line-up features ZBad as the ever important (and harshly criticized ) role of 2nd line centre, JG Pageau as 3rd line centre and Habs killer, heir apparent to Chris Neil’s Pest sash in McCormick, a raw like sushi but decent looking shut down D in Claesson and a couple of young scoring wingers still finding their way in Prince and Puempel. Fam. You know you had a good draft in 2011 when the “disappointment” so far is 22 years old and has already put up 30 goals in a season in the AHL and shown flashes of chemistry in the Sens top 6.

Though many forwards have made the jump in a pretty short period of time, it’s pretty clear that the only D man that’s been able to do the same since 2011 is 2012 1st rounder Cody Ceci. His play has been getting roasted of late but the pre-2011 picks show it takes time to develop on D. Way too early to tell what the 22 year old’s ceiling is but I don’t think its outlandish to think he could top out as a 3-4 defender.
It appears that not many quality D men have been picked since 2011 but it could be a bit early to call that as the Sens have drafted 11 other defensemen besides Ceci since 2011. Ceci just happened to make the leap very quickly. Many of the guys taken since the retool are too early in their development to judge quite yet. Claesson seems to be making a case for himself of late but I’m apprehensive to call him a roster player just yet and almost didn’t include him here as he’s played less than 10 NHL games. Harsh, I know but you knew I had a temper when you married me.

 

Pre-Murray Regime Picks – Dark Ages (Grey – see what I did there?):

Chris Philips – Round 1 #1 overall, 1978 draught (see what I did th–)

Chris Neil – Round 6 #161 overall, 1998 draft

Uhhh, I don’t know, prob skip this part:
Legacy players doing their legacy thing: Being hurt or playing on the 4th line.
I don’t know what to say here other than Neil has been fine so far in what might be his last season in Ottawa and Phillips won’t play professional hockey again. It’s hard to continually beat on Big Rig who’s best years were back when he was paired with Boaz in the Book of Ruth (ugh who am I Dennis Miller with this joke?). I realize it’s harsh to say his career is a wrap but remember last season how we were worried that Marc Methot might not have been able to keep up after missing half a season? Yeah. That guy was 29 at the time.
Pretty cool for Neil to go from NHL longshot to closing in on 1000 games. Good late round find, GM I’m too lazy to look up! Will Neil will get one more year here to reach the milestone or get the oil painting of Legwand in a Sens uniform treatment? Hard to say. What’s most important here is that our boy Andrew should be the one who paints it

After some ups and downs the past few seasons, neither player is hurting the team at the moment. Thx 2 U 4 Ur Serviss.

 

Players Acquired by Trading Assets/Picks (That Purp):

Milan Michalek (w/ junk) – Acquired in 2010 from San Jose for Dany Heatley

Craig Anderson – Acquired in 2011 from Colorado for Brian Elliot

Kyle Turris – Acquired from Phoenix in 2011 for David Rundblad, 2012 2nd round pick.

Marc Methot – Acquired from Columbus in 2012 for Nick Foligno

Bobby Ryan – Acquired in 2014 from Anaheim for Jakob Silfverberg, Stephane Noesen, 2014 1st round pick.

Alex Chiasson – Acquired in 2014 for Jason Spezza

Smobservations:
As much as the Sens are known for their ability to draft, the trades might be the most interesting part of this whole thing for me. Gawdbody Bryan catches much flack for his whiffs but it would appear that you gotta give the guy that he knocks many of his trades out of the park too.
Since 2011, he’s both wheeled and leaded to BLESS the Sens with a starting goaltender, a first line centre, a first line winger and a top pairing defenseman. Who do you miss from those exchanges? Jakob Silfverberg? (Guy JUST potted his 4th goal of the year…he’s a forward btw) All in all, pretty damn shrewd, dude. The big loser out of this bunch is Alex Chiasson and two prospects for Jason Spezza but meet me up in this tree for a second so we can meet in private about something:

K, Alex Chiasson is def turning out to be a Corey Conacher sitting on the shoulders of a another Corey Conacher but for all the talk of the lack of return for Spezza there’s one forgotten element of the return on that trade: Spezz’ impending FA status at the time. Though Dallas managed to re-sign him, mazel tov btw, Spezza was no guarantee to the teams he was being shopped to. A young NHL player with potential upside in Chiasson, a high pedigree prospect in Nick Paul [hey he’s off to a slow start in Bingo but my guy was playing on a line with Connor McDavid at the WJCs last year] and such and such (Forrest Guptil) is an alright if unspectacular return for a guy with one year left on his contract.
I invite you to make peace with Spezza’s departure like I did by considering this: Spezza was done here. He wanted out for years and it was time to deal him. What made trading him finally possible was that Turris had emerged as the first ever viable replacement for him.
Further, could you imagine our budget team being painted into the corner of Ottawa having to re-sign Spezza? An aging but still very good legacy player who was team captain? Yipes. I would much rather use that money to keep other, younger players.
As great as Spezza is, as Sens fans, we know he is on the back 9 of his career. He is a far better fit as second line centre on an elite Dallas team not a core piece of the Sens. Lowkey, we also know my dude is like, one back injury away from missing an entire season. Oh, also on some hater shit, Turris put up more points than him last year and has the vast majority of this year as well.

What happened? I just blacked out.

Goalie chat: It’s pretty telling that Brian Elliot’s won a Jennings and been in an All Star game since being dealt and not one Sens fan pines for him. Craig Anderson meanwhile is putting together a strong argument for the best goalie in franchise history who isn’t a dumb dickhead who played here for most one season…let me get you on scope in the streets Dominek Hasek. Ima suplex you through a pizza shop window. Anyway, beautiful trade.

AYYE, GOOD LOCAL BILINGUAL BOY MARC METHOT! Can you imagine our team without Marc Methot? Oh yeah I can, the first half of last year. We were terrible. Perfect trade this was. Both teams got a quality player they needed for a quality player they could do without. Don’t get used to these.

Bryan’s made his fair share of shitty trades over the years [see: every trade deadline deal of playoffs past] but I suppose at least as far as the current roster goes we aren’t stuck with any remnants from said bad trades. Well, okay, again, Alex Chiasson is that but he makes like 1M dollars and his contract is up at the end of the season. I also still hold fast that making the trade for him and clearing Spezza’s cap space is why we have Bobby Ryan. Look for Chiasson to be tipping shots from Corey Conacher on the 2nd power play unit in next year’s Spengler Cup.


Free Agent Signings – Rare Like Mr. Clean With Hair (Metallic Pumpkin):

Clarke MacArthur – Signed in 2013, extended in 2015

Andrew Hammond – Signed in 2013, Extended in 2015

Musings:
For a team that basically doesn’t “do” free agents Bryan Murray seems to have picked up  a couple of SLEEPAHS here. A top six winger and a backup goalie without breaking the bank for either? 2 for 2. Nuff said. Also, get well soon Clarkey.
As If This Fucking Thing Needed a Closing Thought:
A common criticism I come across on social media and even the mainstream media is that the Sens lack top flight talent in the minors.

With a relatively young and cheap top 6 and top pairing D everyone seems to be quite happy with, my question is who are we trying to replace sometime soon?
Injured Clarke MacArthur? Seems a bit rash. I guess in a few years MacArthur might be moved down the lineup to play more of a 3rd line role…again, in a few years. Not exactly an emergency. Zibanejad? The guy’s a bit inconsistent but he’s 22. Also, is anyone ever happy with a 2nd line centre? It’s one of those spots in the line up like 2nd paring D where it always seems like the guy could be better. Anyway, I suppose Craig Anderson will be getting up in years soon but his play doesn’t seem to be dropping off yet either.
I think it might appear that the cupboards are becoming bare for one big reason:

Most of the teams “top flight” prospects from several years of drafting have graduated to the Senators in a relatively short span of time. This is a very good thing.

Think about it. If you go back to the depth chart at the top of this post [plz come back, I’m almost done, I swear!] many of Ottawa’s newer players to the team had either been developing in Binghamton for a couple of years or made the team relatively quickly. Stone, Hoffman, Zibanejad, Pageau, Wiercioch, Cowen, Borowiecki, Ceci and Lazar are all draft picks who’ve have made the jump to the NHL the past few seasons. More recently, the additions of Wideman, Prince, McCormick and Claessson(ish) have further cleared out the Farm team’s roster. Different players, different positions, high picks, low picks, some top flight, some Mark Borowiecki. I’m just illustrating that nearly half the current Sens team were prospects not long ago. Calling up 13 players (14 if you count Hammond who was not a draft pick) will empty the stockpile some.
Essentially, there are no Mike Hoffmans left to call up at the moment because all the Mike Hoffmans are already on the team. Now is a time of hopefully temporary down swing in Binghamton. Be it via rebuild or injury, Ottawa has gutted that team of whatever NHL talent it had. I’d argue that the lack of prospects left to call up from the AHL is due to good drafting, not bad.

Honest question: Is an array of top flight talent waiting in the wings year upon year a thing most teams have? If so, follow-up question: Have they set a date for their attack?

Following the hype surrounding recent 1st round picks Thomas Chabot and Colin White I think more re-enforcements are on the way. Factor in that Andreas Englund, Marcus Hogberg and….maaayyyybe Mikael Wikstrand are still on the way, things are likely to balance out a bit soon.

Going forward, if the more hyped aforementioned players don’t necessarily work out that may not mean there’s no high end talent on the way either. For me, the most fun thing about following the Sens prospects is seeing afterthought players come out of the woodwork. Hoffman and Stone are proof of that. I still remember looking up Mark Stone out of boredom back in the day and seeing he was putting up over 100 points a year in the WHL. I thought, I’m going to keep an eye on this kid. It took him almost 5 years to establish himself but homie took himself from 6th rounder to untouchable top six player in the that time. Hockey is pretty cool sometimes (Note: most of the the time it’s shit, m8).
As much of a safe bet Colin White looks like, who knows if he’ll top out at the AHL level. Maybe it will be 6th rounder Francis Perron who rises to the top. Hey, as of the time of this writing he’s quietly put up 66 points in 33 games in the QMJHL. Yeah, I know, I know, kids stay putting up points in the Q but if we’re all salivating over Thomas Chabot I mean I’ma at least keep my eye on a kid who’s leading his entire team by 21 points.

Anywa—
You: James what was the point of all this?

Oh, thought you’d never ask! Sens need a second pairing defenseman. Thx 4 Reading.

 

 

The Hater’s Guide to Week 15

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

Kelsey-Grammer-Fraiser-Crane-frasier-23806043-1863-1985

Me, enjoying fluffy scrambled eggs (not pictured: you, being served a limp tossed salad)

Wednesday, January 13 – Senators @ Ducks

If the Jason Spezza deal taught us anything, it’s that it’s really hard to trade a top-line, near-point-per-game forward for equivalent value, especially once he gets a little bit older and starts making serious money. Sure, you can find a buyer, but you’ll probably only get a disappointing 25-year-old forward, a struggling prospect or two, and a high-round pick. Bit of a rip-off, right? Ask the Ducks about their return on Bobby Ryan if you don’t believe me. Hey Silfverberg, at least Alex Chiasson only makes $1.2M a year to put up less than 10 points at the half.

The Ducks were expected to be good this year and they are Not, languishing near the bottom of the weakest division in the NHL having scored only 78 goals in 41 games. Long-time stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are starting to get up there in years, and it seems like half the cast around them at this point is just ex-Canucks and Oilers. One of them, Ryan Kesler, is signed to what may be the worst deal in hockey, as the Ducks will still be paying him almost $7M per season long after humanity has terraformed the moon. Bobby Ryan says he doesn’t miss the place, and I don’t blame him. What is he really missing, other than being able to play golf with retired people every day of the year?

PREDICTION: The city of Anaheim (motto: “A lot farther from Los Angeles than you thought”) is basically a roided-up Kanata with a Disneyland, so expect the Senators to feel right at home. Look for Curtis Lazar to do his post-game scrum wearing a pair of souvenir mouse ears, and for the league itself to step in and inform him that his adorableness is starting to get out of hand. Senators 5, Ducks 0.

Saturday, January 16 – Senators @ Kings

Isn’t it weird how Drew Doughty has never won a Norris Trophy for the silly reason that someone else is always better every year? It’s almost unfair, isn’t it? In truth, I have to laugh a little every time I read something championing Drew Doughty, or Shea Weber, or some other big-body guy who’s not in the top 10 of scoring at the position, as deserving of a Norris because they are “defense-first” defensemen. This is like insisting that only boring British period dramas should be eligible for Oscars.

I could talk at length about how morally and ethically dubious the Kings are, both as players and as a franchise – this team is so shady they made Mike Richards a sympathetic figure, after all – but you can get all of that information at your local library. Instead, let’s ask the tough questions, like, “Why is Dustin Brown’s captain patch so big?” Have you seen that thing? It looks like a doughnut with a bite out of it. It looks like the handle of a “#1 Underwhelming Captain” mug that someone’s about to dip a half-eaten doughnut into. Wait, now I get what he’s going for. It’s perfect.

PREDICTION: If you’re wondering why this game is starting at 1 PM local time on a Saturday, it’s because the Clippers play in the same building less than four hours after this game is over. Keep bringing up the rear in that LA sports pecking order, Kings. Hey, did you know two NFL teams are coming to town too? Look for Erik Karlsson to smuggle a stray basketball onto the ice and literally dunk on Drew Doughty at some point. Senators 5, Kings 0.

Your Father and I Would Like to Talk to You About Patrick Wiercioch

WeirNation

Shown Here: Sens Twitter most of last season

Please press play on this before reading:

Hi honey. How was school today?

Just…okay?

Hey! Don’t you start sassing me you little fungus. I need you to unplug your Pono personal listening device™ from the wall for 5 minutes. We need to have a frank discussion about the Wiercioch boy you’ve been going to the ice cream social with of late.

In the spirit of keeping it 100, I should be up front about my feelings toward Wiercioch as a player before going into this thing:

 Patrick Aloysius Wiercioch is a human man who plays ice hockey. He is an excellent passer who reads the ice well. He possesses a deceptively good shot that he can keep quite low making it difficult for opposing goaltenders to track the puck through traffic.
He might also be the easiest 6 foot 5 200+ pound defenceperson to play against physically in the NHL. I mean I’m not one of those people that demands that our guys defend using The Scott Stevens Method™ (i.e. Legally giving someone brain damage) but your man is routinely soft as my chinchilla coat. I once saw Chad LaRose, whilst carrying the puck on the rush, give Patty the one arm shiver and put him on his ass while entering the Ottawa zone. Chad. La. Rose. One could say I have mixed emotions about him. He’s probably our 3rd best defender…but he plays defence for the Sens so…you know how that go.
This article about a defenceguy is a stub. You can help WTYKYpedia by expanding it…just kidding don’t talk to me. Do not TOUCH me…don’t talk to me.

Let’s get this right out there: Homie can move the puck. I think he’s very good at it. This season he’s also rocking an above team average Corsi…but again, he plays defence for the Ottawa Senators so that’s still well under 50% at the time of this writing. Interestingly he’s been well over 50% playing away from Cody Ceci so…celebrate the moments of our lives? Anyway, he’s steady carrying the puck. Area Man Does His Job. Good. This area of his game is fine and valuable.
So we’ve established that eye test-wise he doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of his opponents. Going by the numbers, however, we find that despite getting sonned off the puck, he seems to be carrying it out of the defensive zone. So I guess this just about wraps it up—WAIT, NOT SO FAST THERE, NUMBERS.

We still haven’t talked about one oh so important stat: Points

After nearly getting dealt by The BryBry, Wiercioch finished last season with a strong playoff round against Montreal with 4 points in 6 games. He then made Team Canada to play in whatever tournament that I’m going to pretend people give a shit about for the sake of letting him cook. Let’s call iiiit…The OTHER Spengler Cup. Good, good, nice and good.

This year has been different for him production-wise. Much different. I’ve never thought of Wiercioch as on offensive dynamo but I think its fair to say he’s been annual frontrunner for the Filip Kuba Memorial Award for Outstanding Acheivement in the Field of Being the Other Defenseman Besides Karlsson Who Puts Up SOME Points. How’s his season going? Well, compared to other players strugging on the scoresheet I present this visual aide:

JCPW

Once you stop screaming “WHAT ARE THOSE!?” at these stat lines we can unpack them a bit.

Okay I can’t wait that long so I’m going to just start talking again. Can we calmly discuss how Wiercioch went from guy who could put up decent double digit points (23 in 53 games two seasons ago) to sharing a stat line with human Pontiac Aztec Jared Cowen? Without hitting the easy target of how Cowen is dummying him in the plus minus department despite playing the on the PK regularly, to me, it’s most troubling that Wiercioch takes twice as many shots and is putting up the same numbers as JC. Shots are good but damn even Chris Neil’s been lighting the lamp more with the same amount of attempts (41). Further, Wiercioch hasn’t had a point in 15 games [Ed Note: Now 17 games]. Perspective: The Sens played 15 games during that entire December Death March. A secondary assist here or there would make me more feel at least a little less concerned.

Despite their shared stat line, Cowen’s not actually the guy I want to compare him to.
I be thinkin’ this reminds me of someone else: The lengthy stretches as a healthy scratch, that one strong playoff round, the drop off in production, the long pointless streak, soft on the puck but good at carrying it…this is all reminiscent of how you say….ah yes, Peter Regin.

*Dodges Internet garbage being hurled at me for even suggesting such a thing* 

PLEASE, ANGRY MOB, PUT DOWN YOUR FLAMING TORCHES! LET ME SPEAK…I’m trying to get fired here.

Look, I know they aren’t the same player. Hell, Regin is (was?) a center and Wiercioch a defender. I also think the circumstances surrounding their struggles are a bit different. Regin’s were spawned from from chronic injury which probably led to a lack of confidence and then Swiss league comes at you fast. For Wiercioch it might be lack of confidence from struggling to live up to high expectations.

As was the case with Regin before him I want to again point out that I actually like this player. I was happy when Patty W. seemed to bounce back and hit his stride under Dave Cameron. I remember thinking during that series against Montreal that #WierciochNation was right all this time. He IS the top 4 defenseman this team needed.
The truth is, however, that NHL can be a bit of “what have you done for me lately?” league and, honestly, I think he’s quietly been one of the most disappointing players on the team since October. For all the vitriol spewed at Cowen, Borowiecki and Chiasson, the difference, for me, between them and Wiercioch is I actually have pretty high expectations for PW. I think most fans do.
For instance, if I were to have predicted at the beginning of this season that in January of 2016, the offensively talented Patrick Dubya would be outscored by the entire fourth line AND every Defenseman save for Borowiecki (who only trails him by 2 points BTFingW) and Claesson who has played under 10 NHL games? I think I would have been deservedly laughed at. 3 points nearly halfway through the season. Damn. PW lover or PW hater that’s really disappointing. Dave Dziurzynski, the least exciting Sens prospect, seemingly put up 3 points in 12 games by accident! All of this is happening to our boy in an important contract year.

I bring all this up because of that last sentence there. A decision needs to be made on Patrick’s future with the organization. The way I see it, the options are:
1. Re-sign him for a SONG and gamble that he turns it around. He’s an RFA going into his next negotiation and is currently on pace for SEVEN points. I don’t expect a drop in his already modest 2 million dollar salary but surely he’s not entitled to a raise. Who is he, Jared Cowen? Ah, speaking of which…
2. Trade him and get something for him.

If I were the Sens GM [blech no THANKS], I would be moving heaven and Earf to free up money right now. Meet me up in this tree and I’ll tell you my stupid plan:
Accept selling low on Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen and take a hit in what you get back. For Patty, I still think we could get something modestly good. An okay pick or maybe someone who could help the struggling B-Sens. In Cowen’s case, it’s a fucking wrap. Murray dealt Alex Kovalev for a conditional 7th round pick and that guy had a Cup ring and over 1000 points. I would do that deal for Cowen if it came up for Cowen, IDGAF. He cant even play on the 3rd pairing at this point. He’s a bust. IT HAPPENS. If there’s even one offer where you can shed some money, take it.
K, then, use the money you’ve just cleared to re-up RFAs Wideman and Claesson, send Neil to a contender at the deadline, transfer Chiasson to the Mexican Elite League and at season’s end Phillips finally comes off the books…NOW DO EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO RE-SIGN MIKE HOFFMAN WITH WHAT MONEY IS LEFT.
In 2016, it’s basically all about freeing up Mike Hoffman’s money for this cowboy. I’m willing to sacrifice players both DEEC and terrible in an attempt to keep one clearly awesome player.

Could this year’s disappointing showing be an anomaly in the long run of Wiercioch’s career? Of course it’s possible. There’s risk involved in every trade. At just 25 years of age he could definitely turn it around. We’ve seen what he can do. But he was a trade candidate last year and, frankly, he’s a less valuable trade candidate again this year. Not a good sign.
Again, this reminds me of The Battle of Peter Regin on Social Media a few years ago. When the Sens parted ways with Regin, I figured they could be parting with a potentially good player but probably not one so good that the team would suffer greatly without him. I think similarly toward Wiercioch after the last two seasons. We gave him a shot as a 2nd pairing guy and I don’t think he’s really proven to the Sens that they should lock him up as that going forward. He had a chance and now I think it might be time to give Claesson that chance. I’m pushing the chips in early as hell but budgets favour the brave.
Either way, if a left side of Methot, Claesson, Borowiecki/Frozen Dinner doesn’t work out, yes, we still need that second pairing defenseman. But maybe by dealing Patty W along with making some of the other moves outlined, the team can save enough money to continue that search with Hoffman in the fold.

This post is dedicated to Left Handed, Puck Moving Defenceman Thomas Chabot. No pressure, my Boo. Angels soar high.

Your Half-Assed Guide to Improving the Defense at Discount Prices

I went on a brief but fun Twitter rant yesterday after spending several minutes thinking about the state of Ottawa’s blue line in the context of the rest of the league. Only once I had finished screaming into the ether did I realize that I’d missed a prime opportunity to create content, and though I hate repeating myself, I don’t hate it as much as I enjoy listening to myself talk.

So in case you missed it, here’s some ideas about how to improve Ottawa’s defense at discount prices.

I will begin by stating the following facts:

1. Ottawa’s problems on the blue line are in no way unique. As much as we’ve been blessed with many “Are the Sens wasting Erik Karlsson’s prime?” pieces over the past months, there are other teams such as the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers who should be striving to improve their defense before their high-end talent loses their fastballs.

2. Even though there is no shortage of need, player movement is at an all-time low. The Rob Scuderi for Trevor Daley trade was nothing more than a replacement level player for a less-than-replacement level player. Similarly, Luke Schenn’s inclusion in the Vincent Lecavalier deal wasn’t the domino that needed to fall in order to really open up the trade market. Even as Seth Jones was traded hours after Schenn, the asking price on that deal was prohibitively high. If you didn’t have a highly skilled and slightly disgruntled star forward kicking around, that deal was never going to come off. In short, it is a seller’s market.

3. It isn’t easy to improve your defense. Everyone would do it if it were easy.

4. Ottawa really only needs a 3-4 defenseman who is solid, and reasonably priced. Of course, those types of players are really rare and valuable so good luck trying get one away from any other team.

Since Ottawa’s never going to be able to get a Hamonic or a De Haan or a Shattenkirk (Ed note: gotta hear both sides) or a Hjalmarsson or a Tanev or a Boychuk or An Established 2nd Pairing Player without paying a prohibitively high price, I suggest they do what they did when they acquired Marc Methot: trade for a player who is currently being used in a 3rd pairing role who may be able to be used in a 2nd pairing role. “Exploiting market inefficiencies” has hardly been considered a revolutionary strategy ever since that Moneyball movie got made, but in this case it may really be the only way for Ottawa to make something meaningful happen without selling the farm.

In order to find players who might fit this criteria, I went on war-on-ice.com and sorted players with more than 300 minutes played this season by their relative Corsi% (Relative Corsi % is a player’s on-ice Corsi % subtracted from their team’s Corsi %. It is a measure of how much better a player’s possession numbers are than the rest of the player’s team.) and looked for players whose time-on-ice per game indicated that they are currently being used in a 3rd pairing role.

For your consideration:

Eric Gelinas

Do you like Patrick Wiercioch? Well allow me to introduce you to New Jersey’s Patrick Wiercioch! Despite his apparently excellent possession numbers, Gelinas has seen his ice time reduced every season since his rookie season and has found himself a healthy scratch of late. (Is his being a healthy scratch related to his 96.6% PDO? I’ll let you decide!) A former 2nd round draft pick, the 6-4, 210 pound Gelinas does not lack for physical tools, but is considered weak in his own end and HOLY SHIT THIS GUY IS LITERALLY PATRICK WIERCIOCH. Just when you think it couldn’t get any more lit, you find out that Gelinas is from Vanier and oh my god I need to take a moment to fan myself.

Ok, I’ve  actually changed my mind on this one. Let’s put a pin in this and decide what to do with Actual Patrick Wiercioch before trying to acquire Another Patrick Wiercioch.

Jakub Kindl

Ottawa may not even have to make a trade to acquire Kindl as his name is already being used in the same sentence as “waivers” on some corners of the internet. Kindl’s possession numbers have been consistently good for the past several seasons, but he has found his GF% tank this season. Is this related to his 98.8% PDO? I’ll let you decide!

Kindl is owed $2.5MM this year and $3.0MM next year, so his contract likely could not be absorbed by the Senators without there being some sort of money-in-money-out trade. If only there were some obvious candidate for such a thing…

Brandon Davidson

The problem with Brandon Davidson is that it might be too late to get him for cheap; Edmonton may already know he’s good. Davidson’s been getting more 1st and 2nd pairing time than 3rd pairing time of late which makes sense as finding a good defenseman on the Oilers is a discovery analogous to finding water on Mars. That said, it’s not like we don’t know that Peter Chiarelli is prone to dumb trades. My proposal? Yakupov and Davidson for Cody Ceci. Call me, Peter!

The Wisdom

The good thing about these players is that they are young and on cheap contracts (a thing Ottawa likes). In addition, Davidson and Gelinas will be RFAs at the conclusion of their contracts. Positives abound.

I would never advocate making a trade merely because The Corsis said so, but if Ottawa was going to scout some players to try to find some value, these guys would be where I’d start.

The Hater’s Guide to Week 14

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

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Me, hearing something a-callin’ (not pictured: you, not knowing what to do)

Monday, January 4 – Senators @ Blues

I’m trying to think of a team with whom the Senators have less of a rivalry than the St. Louis Blues. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers, maybe? The Milwaukee Bucks? The 1912 Princeton rowing team? The Blues have been around for like 50 years, during which they’ve made the playoffs pretty much every season but never won anything, sort of like the Leafs if they made the playoffs every season. Crucially though, the Senators play the Leafs like 27 times a year, so I could talk your ear off about historic scrubs like Ken Klee or Boyd Devereaux, whereas the Blues are in the Western Conference, and I think they had Wayne Gretzky once? For like ten minutes?

The current Blues do have a few connections to the Senators, at least. Their backup goaltender is Brian Elliott, who was so terrible as an on-again, off-again starter during his time in Ottawa that Bryan Murray traded him straight-up for the best goaltender in franchise history, Craig Anderson, which is sort of like trading one red paperclip for a space shuttle. Ask a Sens fan about this trade and they’ll talk about how Mika Zibanejad should be Gabriel Landeskog, or something? I don’t know. The Blues also have star winger Vladimir Tarasenko, whom the Blues drafted with the Senators’ first-round pick in 2010, a pick they obtained in exchange for erstwhile Rockford IceHog David Rundblad. This would seem like a bad deal if Bryan Murray hadn’t already traded Rundblad for maybe the best all-around centre in franchise history, Kyle Turris. Ask a Sens fan about this trade and they’ll talk about how even Bryan Murray finds a nut once in a while? I don’t know.

PREDICTION: Wait, this is supposed to be about the Blues, right? Look for the Senators to defeat the Blues. Look for Colin White, whom Bryan Murray drafted with the first-round pick he obtained for Robin Lehner, to lead the US junior team to victory the following day. Senators 5, Blues 0.

Thursday, January 7 – Senators vs. Panthers

This is the third Panthers game in a month. In a month! It’s the first in Ottawa, though, and the first trip north the Panthers have made this year since snow has fallen, which means you can expect the Panthers’ louche, tax-free mercenaries to crumple like that plastic kiddie pool your snowblower found under a foot of snow in your driveway last week. You thought autumn would last forever, didn’t you? So did the Panthers.

The Panthers actually just got $86 million – that’s like 15 more years of Dave Bolland! – as part of a renegotiated lease deal with Broward County. Unfortunately for future overpriced veterans though, this money is going to be spent entirely on arena operating costs. It will also be financed entirely by tourist taxes, which is basically like if all the money that Ottawa earned during Winterlude was spent on that promo video where Bobby Ryan tells you about the CTC’s new money-saving LED lighting. The actual video production costs are minimal, but then you add a bunch of CGI explosions and a cameo from Robert Downey, Jr. “I’m Iron Man,” he says, “so I know when your clapbombs go bar down!” The he and Ryan do an elaborate fist-bump. It sounds like a stupid concept, but tell me the Bolland contract isn’t still a bigger waste of money.

PREDICTION: Alex Chiasson has 32 career NHL goals. Jaromir Jagr has 735, but four fewer teeth. Advantage Senators. Senators 5, Panthers 0.

Saturday, January 9 – Senators vs. Bruins

Brad Marchand! We talked last week about how there was no point hating on Brad Marchand – he is post-hate – and then last week he was suspended three games for throwing Mark Borowiecki over his back like a 200-pound feed bag. That’s the only way you can throw a feed bag like Mark Borowiecki, though. Credit to Marchand for figuring out the leverage on that one. Good Canadian boy!

Marchand missed the New Year’s Day Winter “Classic”, with many suggesting that he was thus partly responsible for the hated Bruins’ 5-1 pasting at the hands of an equally unlikeable Canadiens team. You know the tagline from Alien vs. Predator? “Whoever wins, we lose?” A Bruins-Habs Winter Classic is basically like that, if the Aliens were a collection of humorless cheap-shot artists and the Predators held up every battle with a 30-minute, uncomfortably militaristic pre-game ceremony. Whoever wins still gets to exterminate humanity, but only in a black-and-white montage which George Strombolopolous introduces by saying, “Lotta ghosts, man. Lotta ghosts.”

PREDICTION: This game will be Marchand’s first following his suspension; look for the Senators take the high road and ignore him, much like a mother whose child is throwing a tantrum in a supermarket. Don’t judge her; you don’t know what kind of day she’s having. Senators 5, Bruins 0.

Sunday, January 10 – Senators @ Capitals

Oh no, I ain’t writing four of these this week, other than to congratulate the conference-leading Capitals for having, top to bottom, what is easily the ugliest roster in hockey. This is the kind of fair, even-handed analysis the Sens blogosphere is lacking. Senators 5, Capitals 0.

Season prediction record: 18-15-6

Next week: The annual west coast road trip – the closest thing to vitamin D you’re getting for three months!