Hi! Where have I been? Uhh…ummm where have YOU been? Yeah *ultimate comeback diffuses line of questioning* . So, the year is mercifully over (well for Ottawa) and now comes that completely dickish time of year when jerks like me flippantly stamp a letter grade on some of the world’s greatest hockey players like it’s some kind of ga– hold on… *puts hand over rotary phone receiver* “what? …it IS just a game? …fact that league minimum salary is…WHAT $550,000.00 eases pain? Like, as in, over half a million bananas? Damn, why didn’t you tell me all this stuff…no it’s just I’m in the middle of a post…I’ll…whatever.
So i did a report card thing….then it got long because I do what I want when I want (am longwinded/the worst). So I am going to split it up. Here is the Forwards edition!
|Jason Spezza||B+||This one’s tricky. Spezza’s first year as captain was as polarizing as one would expect. Starting the season with a wonky groin certainly didn’t help his debut campaign as leader. Put me in the camp that thinks he was a fine choice and handled himself well. He was accountable in the media, put his game together especially in the latter half of the year, did well on the power play and straight up stole a few shootout wins. That said, if you made a scale of captains with Best Forward (Ex. Alex Ovechkin) on one end and Stay At Home Dad (Ex. Jonathan Toews) on the other, obviously we know what end he falls closer to. A game I went to against Calgary comes to mind where Spezz just made a handful of Flames players his step-nephews and fed Michelek a pass so accurate that the goal was more or less a rebound off of #9’s blade than an assist. Heeeeee also had A FEW blind giveaways that even taking into consideration that he’s a creative player who needs room for his art, if Mark Stone or Mike Hoffman made the same blunder just once there’d be a running car waiting outside CTC to take them back to Bingo during the 2nd intermission. Sometimes Spezza is the man and “puts contery on his back” and other times he doesn’t exactly set a great example for the young guys. So basically, he was Jason Spezza with a C on his jersey. The question of his future here is no longer merely the denizen of angry post-game callers or worse, Ottawa Sun columnists. His impending UFA status puts his future in Ottawa very much in doubt. Too valuable to ever let walk for nothing, this summer truly is the time to fish or cut bait with him. I think a Spezza trade is either going to be the mark of a new era for the Sens or a huge mistake. Oh! Also, pretty good season. Have a great summer!|
|Kyle Turris||A+||The Platinum Angel (I copyright this extremely weird and unpopular nickname). Last year, due to a severe Spezza injury – yikes – he was forced into the 1st line centre role and held down the fort as best he could in the shortened season. In Spezza’s absence he was decent but inconsistent production-wise. This season he straight up stole the job from the captain. His instant chemistry with MacArthur and Bobby Ryan earned him a shot at pivot on the first line but it was his consistency that kept him there. Turry’s progression since arriving in the capital has made his contract one of the best in the league in terms of value. Some questions remain over whether he faced the toughest competition but if he keeps developing like he is I think he can step up. I bought a Turris jersey this year.|
|Clarke MacArthur||A+||The way I describe Grizz is thusly, “He is a perfect hockey player.” What would you change about Clarke’s game? He’s fast, has good hands and a great shot, knows when to pass, plays both ways and is physical. All I could possibly say is he went on a couple of dry spells and spends a fair amount of time in the box. This is to me doesn’t even touch how he put up 55 points on the top line for Jared Cowen money. Came into the season as a top 6 fill-in and left as a top 3 stud. Speaking of Cowen…can he and MacArthur please trade contracts? Only shitty part of his season that is they didn’t sign him for longer.|
|Bobby Ryan||A||Came here with the expectation of a 30 goal season. The guy nearly did it injured. Shows a lot about the player he is to try to ride it out hurt knowing the criticism he’d face if he dropped out of his debut season halfway through. What I take away from this season is that Bobby Ryan is even better than I expected. I thought he’d primarily be a dangler from the highlight reel on YouTube. He’s that for sure but he’s also a one of the few players with a shot so deadly they can beat an NHL goaltender from above the circle. He’s more of a playmaker than I expected and is decent along the boards too. Criticisms about his weight and skating ended up being a bunch of inconsequential bologna to me. If 23 goals in 70 games is a down season I say commit to the guy long term.|
|Ales Hemsky||A||Short sample but damn what a year to miss the playoffs. I loved what I saw. Crazy to see him gel instantly with both Spezza and Zibanejad and the Ottawa Senators as a whole for that matter. Blinding speed and magic hands, Hemsky gave flashes of the Marian Hossa swag of old. Scary that he got banged up even in his brief stint here but I’d take a chance. I’m crossing my fingers that he might like that he just parachuted onto a new team and put up 17 points in 20 games after some tough years in Edmonton. Still though, the New York Rangers almost have like 20 billion dollars in cap space for some goddamn reason. Regardless, couldn’t have asked for more from a deadline signing.|
|Milan Michalek||B-||You know you’ve had injury woes when part of the reason for making a B grade is that you played the whole season. I like Milo. He, like his defensive game, gets little credit for contribution to the club. Not since Hossa has there been a Sens player who’s put up 35 goals in a season for the team that will be given little to no fanfare on their way out of town. In fairness to the fan indifference toward 9MM, he’s been more of a Foligno than a Hossa during his time here. In fairness to Milo’s output the word “knee” appears on the injury section of his TSN page 12 times (research!). Even gutting his pay by half still seems risky to me. Good luck in future endeavours and thanks for being a bright spot in that Heatley deal.|
|Mika Zibanejad||B||Remember how Ziba “didn’t make the team” out of training camp? Good times? Great times. It’s worth nothing (thanks for reading!) but his 7 points in 6 games down in Bingo reminded me a little of the oft forgotten “Brief Karlsson Reassignment of ‘09” (“I survived” t shirt / mug available at out online store!) where EK was sent down and put up 11 points in 12 games and then the team realized the could probably use his help. What was I saying again? Oh yeah, I think that demotion probably helped Karlsson go point per game in the playoffs that year.
No, I love what Ziba brings to the table. Speed, a great shot, vision and impressive strength. What’s perhaps most intriguing about Mika’s year is how he was probably the most victimized by the coach’s tiresome line shuffling. Top 6, bottom 6, centre, wing, backup goaltender, deputy food and beverage coordinator. The kid made it work. Never the less, his numbers are promising but were still in the strata that would disappoint many if it was Nick Foligno putting them up. DJ Z-Bad still has a “new in town” vibe giving him a bit of wiggle room. Even if he becomes a steady second line player and his production continues to increase it should be interesting how he will be viewed. It’s a tough gig. Foligno put up 47 one season here and could barely win fans favour but Mike Fisher put up numbers like that in a good season here and was Admiral Supreme Space Jesus of the Fantastic Year 3000. With handsomeness on his side I am optimistic.
Offseason regimen: Less time on the wheels of steel more time booking appointments with whatever concussion doctor fixed Sidney Crosby.
|Zack Smith||C+||I like Zack Smith but my boy’s gotta chill hard on the penalties. The art of drawing penalties seemed a lost one on the team this season with Z Smith and his fellow expert penaltiesman Chris Neil having far, far more infractions called against them than they drew. I respect that with the type of game that players like Smith are expected to play that PIMs are just part of the job but the way it went down this year put our weak defence on the PK more often than was fair and put way, way too much pressure on the goaltending. He’s still a good penalty killer and face off man, also possesses an underrated shot that he can credit his impressive 13 goals to. He had his second most productive season this year. To me Z is a decent 3rd line centre but what I’d love to see is someone emerge and bump Zack down in the line up. I think he would be a killer 4th line pivot.|
|Colin Greening||D||You can always tell a Millford man. Bad year, worse contract. Dat contract tho. Prove me wrong Colin Greening…Prooove meeee wrong.|
|Erik Condra||A||Erik Condra scored on a fucking breakaway this season.|
|Chris Neil||D+||Zack Smith takes a lot of penalties. Chris Neil took 100 FUCKING MORE MINUTES IN PENALTIES THAN HIM! 100! Get the fuck outta here. I know this guy is a fan favorite and I actually do agree with the argument that he is a lot better at his role than many others who perform it but I think Neil’s got to adjust his game at this point. It was clear as day to me that if he had any cred with the refs to begin with, it’s gone. If he’s supposed to be such a leader could he not clean it up when the team is down? My biggest complaint is his focus. So many offsides. He’s a pretty quick skater but he ain’t that goddamn quick. Willing to stand in front and screen the goaltender. Something I’ll always respect but if he’s going to wear an A, I have to say he often hurt the team more than he helped. Often got absolutely shredded defending, a part of his game that’s he’s rarely criticized for, for some reason. Brass tacks, his job is “walking the line” and he did not do that effectively this season.|
|Mark Stone||B+||Despite getting hurt more than Evel Knievel, Stone managed to make another jump in his development. He was pretty quiet during his first call up and, yes, got injured, had a tear of a season in Binghamton and earned his way back up where he did quite well filling in for Bobby Ryan. With the amount of snipers on the Senators, I really like that Stone seems adept at burying rebounds in close (Greening take note!). 8 points in 19 games is pretty good especially considering he got zero last year.
Though he could potentially find a niche as a garbage goal king (always welcome in the playoffs) the fact that he put up 190 assists in 222 games in junior and another 49 in his 91 games in Bingo, tells me there’s a whole other dimension to his game yet to be fully revealed. After all, his first impression with the team was a beautiful feed to Spezza and he showed a lot of playmaking smarts during his pretty limited call up this season. He seems to get more and more confident the more time he gets to adjust to the NHL. His performance toward the end of the season and the club’s weakness on the right side, I think, gives him a real chance of making the big club outright next season. I hope he does.
|Mike Hoffman||B||First off, shout out to how Brometheus here played over a 1/4 of an NHL season and still led the Bingo Sens, a team that can put the puck in the net btw, by 9 points. The more I see of the Hoff the more I like him. He certainly has a lot of great tools. His skating is out of this world…I mean, Bubby, the skating on this boychik, oy, you should know from this speed. All I would like to see before I’m ready to give him the Mark Stone treatment is a little more offense. For a guy who can manage to register a ton of shots it’s not an unreasonable expectation. The way he’s being used out there shows that he’s not exactly being groomed to kill penalties. Nor should he be, as Bingo’s offensive leader. He still has a fair amount of work ahead to prove that he can bring that kind of game he’s displayed in the AHL to the NHL level but all in all a very promising season. Look for him to destroy in the preseason.|
|Stephane DaCosta||B||What I like about DaCosta is that he straight up refuses to go away. He doesn’t have that fan favourite swag of Pageau, he doesn’t have the pedigree of other prospects like Lazar and Puempel but he just keeps making it interesting. They tell him to get bigger in the off season, he does. They send him back down to the AHL and tell him to be productive; he does and earns his way back up. He made the team over Zibanejad to start the season but that kind of felt like it was more about Zibanejad than DaCosta. What’s most interesting to me is that he seemed to pretty thoroughly outshine his closest competitor in Jean Gabriel Pageau. I admit, after JGP’s end of season call up and astonishing playoff performance I thought “well, that’s the end of DaCosta.” But this season DaCosta managed to put up more points in less than half the games and in similar ice time to Pager; Including a multi-goal game and a huge shootout tally against the Blues. Of course, JGP’s defensive abilities and different usage skews the numbers game but still I appreciate a nice little “Hateurs a la gauche” season from Stephane.|
|Matt Kassian||KO’ed||Without opening up the fighting debate, I think we can agree Kassian was awful. His job is fighting and deterring something something right? K.
1. Don’t particularly feel like he deterred shit from happening. 2. I don’t think he decisively won many fights.
Also, if you’re going to take a spot on the roster uhhh be remotely good at something else other than fighting AND NO TWITTER DOESN’T COUNT. Kassian made me really miss Konopka. Remember how Zenon would take a faceoff, win it and skate right to the bench? That was pretty badass. Turns out being good at more than one thing is extremely useful to a professional hockey club. At that same game I went to against the Flames that I spoke of earlier (8 million words ago) in Spezza’s bit, with the Sens down by 1, Kassian sought to spark his team by challenging Kevin Westgarth to a scintillating draw of a bout at centre ice. Problem? Erik Karlsson had just gained the Calgary zone at full speed. You’re fired. Let the meal ticket do his work, meat hands. Best news of the off season so far was hearing from Murray that he wouldn’t be back. At least Matt Carkner could take a the odd shift.
|Derek Grant||B-||Derek was a pleasant student to teach. Have a great summer!|
|Jean Gabriel Pageau||B-||Okay, so sports ain’t no storybook, this much is clear. After his amazing playoff performance I was poised to pull on a Pageau jersey. Local underdog silences asshole-heavy Habs mob, elicits mocking chant? Now that’s a player I can get behind.
Unfortunately, Pager had a bit of a lacklustre season in the bigs. I mean, I don’t think anyone’s ever said, “What a horrible effort by Pageau.” He was fine. Derek Grant fine. Not what I was expecting exactly but it’s not entirely his fault. I find his defensive prowess is a blessing and a curse as it gets him a lot of bottom line duty. He doesn’t quite get the “top 6 or bust” looks that some of his contemporaries get. If Spezza is indeed dealt this summer I cannot wait to see the competition between him, DaCosta and possibly even Lazar at camp. Don’t expect to JGP to stick around Bingo. Every time he gets sent down to the AHL he has a “graduated past play at this level” vibe to him. Definitely a good thing.