This Amelnykan Life: Episode 1 – Real Bloggers

In the first episode of This Amelnykan Life, Beata and Poppy introduce themselves, discuss the thick thighs and cruel lies that occupied Sens fans last year, and spill the tea on what it’s like to be an Ottawa Senators Digital Influencer.

Our music this week is Good Luck by All Day Breakfast. You can find this and more of their music at https://alldaybreakfastband.bandcamp.com
Our artwork is by Laura Nove and Angus Fitzgerald-Clark.

Mark Stone Is Incredible and Other Musings

Let’s talk about hockey. No, seriously! At the time of writing, the 2018-19 Ottawa Senators have played approximately 40% of their season, so this seems like as good a time as any to look at what the team is like both qualitatively and quantitatively. Also I have nothing unique, entertaining, or insightful to say about the ownership/Lebreton situation, so it’s either this or going back to making googly eyes at Craig Medeglia on Instagram until he makes me and the rest of this blog “Sens Influencers” and we can take our rightful place in Brian5or6’s private box.

I believe I can distill this year’s Senators team down to three key observations, which I will illustrate using the shooting heat maps provided by Friend of the Blog Micah Blake McCurdy at hockeyviz.com. These graphs, and many others, are available to you for the price of a small monthly donation, which Micah will use to keep his lights on and his children clothed and fed.

I like Micah’s heat maps because they convey a lot of information easily. Red is locations from which more shots are coming compared to league average. Blue is location from which fewer shots are coming compared to league average.

Need to impress your family with your Sens knowledge this Christmas? Here is what you need to know.

1. Mark Stone is most important player the Senators have ever had

Remember Erik Karlsson? I do! He was great! Maybe even transcendent! It is really too bad he went out for that pack of cigarettes and never came back. I’m still quite upset about it. Anyway, sorry for dredging up old shit, but I brought him up to say this: if you put a gun to my head and asked me if I want Mark Stone or Erik Karlsson on my hockey team, I’m taking Mark Stone.

The photo on the left shows where the Senators take shots when Mark Stone is on the ice. The photo on the right shows where the Senators take shots when Mark Stone is not on the ice. The quantity “Threat” is how many more goals than average the Senators would expect to score regardless of shooter talent. Basically when Mark Stone is on the ice, the Ottawa Senators play like a team with Stanley Cup winning potential. When Mark Stone is off the ice, the Senators play like a bad AHL team. Now, it’s not at all surprising that a hockey team is better when it’s best player is on the ice, but I’ve never seen a contrast so stark as with this years Sens team. For 33% of every game, the Senators are an offensive powerhouse. For the rest of the game, they couldn’t move the puck to the net with a U-haul and the vague promise of free pizza.

A similar effect can be seen with Stone on the defensive side of the ice.

The Senators are a slightly above average team defensively with Mark Stone on the ice. Insofar as “keeping them to the outside” is a thing, Mark Stone appears capable of doing that. On the right, we can see that the Senators give up too many shots from everywhere with Mark Stone off the ice. I really don’t know what else to say about this since the effect is so visually stark. Mark Stone genuinely makes the Sens look like an entirely different team.

As Mark Stone is essentially both the best offensive and best defensive player on the Ottawa Senators at this time, I believe it is in the team’s best interests to give him as much money as he asks for at whatever time he says he wants it. Travis Yost agrees. I don’t think I have ever advocated for a “blank cheque” approach to contract negotiations, but I do in this case because a Sens team without Mark Stone is literally not worth watching.

2. Cody Ceci and Tom Pyatt are not good

I don’t want to spend too much time belabouring this point, but it should still be said:

When Cody Ceci is on the ice, the Senators give up 41.5 shots on net per 60 minutes, many from extremely dangerous areas. When Cody Ceci is off the ice, the Senators are nearly defensively average if you squint a bit, insofar as giving up 34 shots on net per 60 minutes can be considered “nearly defensively average”. Now, it is true that Ceci plays many of his minutes against the hardest competition, and he only plays with Mark Stone 30% of the time. Mark Stone is a player who helps everyone he plays with and Cody Ceci’s results would look a lot better if he got to spend the majority of his icetime with Ottawa’s best player. However, even after accounting for these facts, there’s no getting around the fact that Ceci’s results are garment-rendingly horrific. Therefore, I would advocate for changing his role, and also possibly changing his team.

Tom Pyatt is often tasked with playing against top opposition. It’s a hard job, and Tom Pyatt isn’t incredibly good at it. Tom Pyatt has two points this year. Tom Pyatt is where offense goes to die. Tom Pyatt is a physical oddity who emits an extremely strong field which repels the puck. Tom Pyatt should be studied by scientists. Tom Pyatt and his linemates give up shots at nearly twice the rate at which they take them. There are some powerplays which take shots less often than Ottawa’s opponents when Tom Pyatt is on the ice. These are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.

3. The rest of the Senators aren’t incredibly great either, but they’ll still sneak up on you.

I’ll admit this one surprised me. As great as Mark Stone is, players like Matt Duchene, Thomas Chabot, and Ryan Dzingel have still been having great years themselves and I thought this would show up in the shot rates for the 1/3rd of the time when Ottawa has neither their best nor their worst players on the ice. However, even the likes of Chabot and Duchene seem unable to move the needle much offensively away from Mark Stone. Some of this, I suspect, is due to an intentional stylistic choice. I think Guy Boucher is encouraging players to capitalize on “rush chances”, turning the Sens into a One-and-Done team on offense. Anyone who has watched the Sens much can probably speak to this. The Sens generally look for a good initial chance, and if they don’t score or get the puck back immediately, everyone hauls ass on defense. They are not a team that is looking to cycle you into the ice. The Sens do not bowl you over like a pie in the face. They are quick and precise, like a pool cue to the balls. When it works, this makes the Sens exciting to watch as you get to watch the Sens exciting rookies run and gun. When it doesn’t work, the Sens are completely incapable of generating any offense at all as they have essentially no Plan B. This style does play to some players’ strengths. Matt Duchene in particular is extremely talented with the puck and having your man come through the neutral zone with a full head of steam and an opportunity to get creative is probably the best way to get the most offense out of him. That said, there can be no doubt that Duchene benefits an incredible amount from playing with Stone and vice versa. Of Duchene’s 11 primary assists, 7 of them are assists on Stone goals.

Duchene puts up results with Stone that he seems unable to generate on his own. If you think Matt Duchene away from Mark Stone is alarming, you don’t even want to know about Brazy Tkachuk. On a Senators team that still has some high end talent even after the departures of Erik Karlsson and Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone still stands out as a cut above the rest.

The Wisdom

Look, the Sens aren’t, by any stretch of the imagination, good. They give up too many shots and they’re too reliant on unsustainable shooting percentages (all situations sh% of 11.25%) just to keep treading water. The goaltending has barely even been average, and I’d be surprised if 37 year old Craig Anderson ever again finds the form that took the Sens to the 3rd round of the playoffs in 2016. Also Ottawa is dealing with a spate of injuries and the 3rd defense pairing is now Justin Falk and Stefan Elliott who are two players I have literally never heard of. So, things are not great.

But with no 1st round draft pick this year, there’s no harm in trying to win, so we might as well enjoy the little bits of unsustainable shooting percentage we get along the way as the Sens battle for 20th overall in the NHL. There are enough bright spots in the current team that the path to glory is clear. All the Sens have to do is re-sign Duchene and Stone, let the bad players walk, continue to draft and develop extremely well, get the goaltending figured out, make cunning free agent signings to fill out the depth, and do this all on a shoestring budget as the team continues to be enveloped in turmoil off the ice.

Easy plan. Until all that stuff happens, we’ll always have this:

 

Senstrology: How the hell do I feel about hockey right now?

Hello, fans of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club! It’s been a rough year for us: We’ve lost some favourite players, our team is still owned by an evil broke boy who seems to be fueled by spite, and Pageau is out for the season.
Though we told ourselves we wouldn’t buy tickets to spite Melnyk, the first few games have been okay, at least not the shit show everyone expected, and we’re tempted to visit Kanata. Just once. Or does that make us hypocrites?

It’s all very confusing, isn’t it? Kinda stressful? Wasn’t hockey supposed to be an escape from these feelings? Will we ever love hockey again?

Instead of worrying your pretty little head about it, let me take you by the hand and tell you how you feel, thanks to the only thing we can trust in times of trouble: Astrology.

Capricorn
You can’t help yourself, Capricorn. When something is your thing, it’s really your thing. Even if it hurts, even if you told yourself you no longer care, you’ve probably been watching every single game. It’s okay.

Aquarius
You’re always in motion and highly adaptable. Sure, you were upset to lose Karlsson. Sure, you loathe Melnyk. But you’re thrilled to watch Tkachuk, Chabot and Duchene play. It’s not all bad, you’ll be fine.

Pisces
I know you miss Karlsson, I know you still haven’t gotten over Turris…or Alfie for that matter. I know you’re scared to love Chabot because he could leave us too. Hockey is a series of heartaches for you. Please stop crying.

Aries
No one is better at getting angry than you, Aries. You’re going to be angry until Melnyk sells the team and peace is restored. For now, we’re all enjoying your angry rants, it keeps the fire of hockey fandom rage burning.

Taurus
You’re a creature of principle, Taurus. You probably canceled your season tickets and put your jerseys in storage. You have zero tolerance for this kind of bullshit. Your love for hockey can rest for now. Maybe you’ll be back when things settle down, maybe you’ll get really into baseball.

Gemini
Let’s face it, Gemini. Paying less attention to hockey will give you more time to pursue one of your other 500 interests. Maybe you’ll try (and likely fail) to complete one of your many unfinished projects. You’ll still go catch games at the pub of course, no one can keep a Gemini away from a social gathering.

Cancer
You’re loyal to a fault, sweet Cancer. You’re hurt but damn it this is your team and you’ll keep supporting them. You’re basically married to the Senators at this point so prepare yourself to be by their side, on good days and bad.

Leo
Hockey related social gatherings? You’ll be there in your Karlsson jersey. Actually spending money on the Ottawa Senators this year? No way. You deserve better and you know it.

Virgo
Mmmmh don’t you just love a good grudge? Isn’t it so satisfying that pretty much everyone is on your side of the argument? This is almost as good as a decent hockey season.

Libra
Honestly, truly? The social aspect of hockey fandom is your favourite part anyway. As long as you can hang out with others and share the ups and downs, you’ll be fine. Can’t wait to hear you confidently tell some really dorky jokes at the sports bar.

Scorpio
No one should ever anger a Scorpio. This is not good. You’ve probably considered burning down the CTC.
Deep down, we all know it’s because you are hurting. Feeling everything this intensely is exhausting, but it means one day, when things are good, you will feel incredible. Hang in there, Scorpio!

Sagittarius
Sure this sucks but you’re okay. You probably already have a backup team you can enjoy rooting for this year. You probably have a whole backup sport you can enjoy instead of hockey. Ranting about your dumb favourite hockey team is fun but it won’t ruin your day. We’re all jealous of you.

 

Game On…….ish

Erik Karlsson is playing for the San Jose Sharks right now (team high 9:11 TOI through one period) and I just poured myself a glass of Maker’s Mark and now I feel like writing a few things about hockey.

First off, there can be no doubt that these are dark times for the Senators. With Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s injury, the second line centre is now Zack Smith, a player who was placed on waivers a week ago. You know things are really popping for you when the centre of your second (2nd) line is a guy no one wanted for free. Other interesting lineup notes: Ben Harpur and Max McCormick have one way deals and made the team automatically (Harpur will likely be a healthy scratch most of the time, and McCormick is on the 4th line with Tom Pyatt, who will playing on Guy Boucher’s teams long after they’re both dead), and also Brady Tkachuk won’t start the season due to a nagging groin injury (Fun fact: 80% of all groin injuries have been described as “nagging” at some point). Even the kinda good things have a little silver lining of sadness. Remember Colin White? Well he’s on the second line now! Sure he’s on the second line because Chris Tierney (a player we traded Erik Karlsson for) couldn’t out-play him, but still! Colin White, guys! It’s ok to get excited about Colin White again! Max Lajoie is the surprise of the pre-season! He’s only 20! Made the team out of camp! Did his fellow 2016 draftee Logan Brown make the team? Absolutely not, but still! Max Lajoie, folks! He’s another late round gem from the team that brought you Mike Hoffman (traded), Mark Stone (probably going to be traded), and Ryan Dzingel (he’s cool). Craig Anderson is still the starting goalie, and surely not even he can be as bad as Craig Anderson was last year. Can a plucky Senators squad with nothing to lose recapture the magic that only a .925 sv% can provide? Maybe! Hockey is back, and the Senators are a doing a passable imitation thereof!

Let’s circle back to that first thing for a moment: remember when the Senators put Zack Smith on waivers? What in the Panko encrusted hell was that about? Pierre Dorion claimed it was to “send a message” that last year’s play wasn’t acceptable, but this was message immediately undercut by

a) Matt Duchene, who said the move was like “a kick in the balls” whose purpose was “beyond hockey reasons”.
b) Guy Boucher, who said that Zack Smith was going to keep his spot on the second line.

If I were the message sending sort of GM, I would have thought that trading the captain and the team’s most flaky forward would have done the trick, but apparently the guy with the lowest plus-minus on the team last year had to feel the heat, too. Occam’s Razor says that placing Smith on waivers was a desperate attempt to lower payroll, and even if that wasn’t the case, I’m not sure how you don’t consult Guy Boucher first, or at least get him on board with the messaging. Boucher seemed just as perturbed as many of his players that his second line centre was being left out on the curb without so much as a “If it’s cool with you…”. Ultimately, it seems the message that was received in the room was “We will attempt to ship out your friends if it’ll save us money”, so I guess what I’m trying to say is that Matt Duchene is definitely not signing here long term once he finds out that he’s rich enough to afford a private plane that can fly him to Haliburton from anywhere.

Again, not that I blame Pierre Dorion. He’s got a job to do, and he’s doing it. It can’t be easy to get a phone call from your boss and have him insist that you personally have to find a way to keep the lights on past December even though the team has more money on IR than on the entire defense right now. It’s just gross to see that management isn’t even trying any more. Used to be that you could squint at a move like Zibanejad for Brassard and convince yourself that the cash savings were a mere coincidence and really it was basically a hockey move. Not any more. The Sens are taking 2nd liners and stapling “Free to a good home” to their chests. This is some next level shit.

Being a Sens fan right now kinda feels like being a Napoleon fan post Battle of Waterloo, so here are some reasons why I might watch hockey this season:

1. Aesthetic reasons – Not only were the Senators bad last year, but they were also totally unwatchable. The Sens being a team that could conceivably be watched for fun would go a long way towards my willingness to watch them for fun. Hockey, when played well, can be an enjoyable spectator experience. I am not ready to give up on the possibility of enjoying a 2018-19 Senators game yet.

2. Habitual reasons – One of these days it’s gonna be a Thursday night, and I’m gonna need something to do. Could watching Senators hockey be that thing? It’s been a thing in past years. It’s very possible it could be a thing this year, especially if watching the team doesn’t feel like a massive waste of my time and emotional energy. Hockey: It may be the thing I watch on Thursdays.

3. Emotional reasons – I want to like Brady Tkachuk, and Thomas Chabot, and Colin White, and Alex Formenton. Hell, I even want to like Cody Ceci. With no 1st round draft pick this season, there’s nothing to be gained by losing so why not be open to the possibility of enjoying the journey of a bunch of sentient lunchboxes who are taught the true meaning of hockey by some enthusiastic rookies? That’s a rhetorical question. Do not answer that.

Ok, so on the one hand, we have a hockey shaped hole in my life that maybe the Senators can fill. On the other side of things, here are some reasons someone might not watch the Ottawa Senators:

1. Extreme displeasure with recent events including, but not limited to, the captain being traded, harassment allegations against the team’s former AGM that were only cursorily dealt with by the team, the failure to sign Mark Stone or Matt Duchene to long term deals, the owner inserting himself into the team’s operations as much as possible, and the general impression that things are going to get much worse before they get better because the team is operating in such a way as to accomplish the bare minimum associated with being a professional sports team while the franchise itself accrues value due to land development rights on behalf of the aforementioned owner who has, at various times, openly mused about relocation, referred to the fans as “finicky”, alienated several of the team’s most beloved players, alienated several of the team’s executives, and generally shown an unwillingness to be agreeable in any way.

Look, it’s a complicated time.

It’s probable that home attendance is going to be a storyline again this season, and many fans are already voting with their dollar and openly boycotting the team until the organization proves they’re worthy of support. The organization? Well, they’re working on it. I’m not going to tell you how to be a fan this year; clearly I haven’t even worked it out for myself yet. Everyone has to live their truth and whatnot. Just…please do me a favour and try to not live a truth that is completely whack, like the sort of truth that says the only way to be a true fan is by going to all the games or by burning jerseys or by picketing in front of the Canadian Tire Centre. This year will be a lot more bearable if one half of the fanbase isn’t openly calling the other half of the fanbase dirty scabs for attending a game or buying a San Jose Karlsson jersey (even if those people are dirty scabs). If anyone can find something to enjoy in hockey at the moment, well then they’re entitled to it. Hopefully soon we all will be entitled to some happiness. I patiently await the day when the Senators give us something everyone can get behind.