Instant Analysis: Mike Hoffman’s Extension

The Ottawa Senators announced they have signed Mike Hoffman to a 4-year contract worth an AAV of $5.1825 this morning.

Here is my analysis of this deal.

  1. Mike Hoffman is good.
  2. Mike Hoffman’s contract is good. He will stack paper.
  3. Mike Hoffman will help the Ottawa Senators win because Mike Hoffman is good. The Ottawa Senators will stack paper.

Verdict: A very fair deal for a player who is ok when he wants to be. This deal accomplishes some things which I believe to be good.

Grade: 6/10

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Roundtable of Death: Goodbye Yellow Brick Banana Jazz

Eug

In which James, Conrad, Andrew, and Luke discuss the sudden departure of the Senators’ second-most beloved Swede in exchange for Derick Brassard.

James:
Hello.

Let’s start this off with a little Konfeshun Korner:

When I first caught wind of this trade I was M.A.D.D. I really, really like Zibanejad as a player. I thought it was dumb and stupid and dumb to give up on him for a comparable but older guy…and a second round pick to boot. Not even the dignity of a one for one swap. Ugh, again, with the thrown in pick.
For all the talk of Ziba needing to hit another gear, I’ve spent some time and energy arguing that by passing the 50 point mark at age 22/23, he’s already hitting that next gear. This all goes back to the landmark case of The People vs. Viable 2nd Line Centre Mike Fisher. In his respectable 16 season career, he has eclipsed the 50 point mark only twice. Just once in his younger days with the Senators. Z-Bad’s output was shaky at times, sure, but it seemed he was definitely getting there. I always thought that fan disappointment might come from the expectation to cement himself as a top line player at such a young age. With Turris filling that top line role, I didn’t see the big rush.

When the trade went down, however, I saw all the immediate red flags. A local guy (WE ALREADY HAVE A CENTRE FROM GATINEAU GODDAMN IT) and the cost certainty of his super reasonable salary hit with his signing bonus paid out by the Rags. Are you glad I went over these two items? I’m sure this is the first time they’ve been discussed. Damn Melnyk back at it again with the tight cash. I must admit however, the more the smoke is clearing on this trade the more I’m starting to see a bit of strategy to go with the belt tightening.

  1. The Sens currently have 73 roster players who are natural centres plus player/coach Erik Karlsson who can fill in as the entire team in a pinch.
    Highkey Facts: The Senators have taken a centre in the first round of the past 3 drafts. Last season, the team could put Zibanejad, Turris, Smith, Pageau, Lazar or Nick Paul down the middle. Something had to give. Zibanejad is a huge ‘give’ though. I think it’s TROU-BL-ING that the organization essentially chose Smith and Pageau over giving Ziba a potential big payday next off season. Probably didn’t help Ziba’s case that the Godbody JG Pageau totally outshined him when Turris went down for the season with an injury.
  2. This team reaaaaaally needed a skilled left handed playmaker down the middle. Judging by how mad Rangers fans are, it would seem we are indeed getting that in Brassard. I don’t know about you Eddie, but if you’re perennially disappointed in Bobbito Ryan’s goal totals, I’m okay with him getting more looks from a left handed centre. I’m thinking if Guy Boucher is supposed to be a power play focused tactician, he might have asked for a left handed centre who can create offense. No shade to Zibanejad but the ability to make plays was probably the biggest shortcoming in his game. Zibanejad’s more of a shooter…who should also shoot more.
  3. The budget, the schmudget, the fludget ALRIGHT ALREADY. Finally, I get to talk about the budget! Dreamz kome tru. Seriously, it’s painful but it’s a reality. I want Mike Hoffman and Cody Ceci locked up. Brassard is signed for 3 more years at a number Dorion can hang his hat on (?). I think this only helps those other signings happen. We keep a Zibanejad-level player who’s left handed and we have a better chance of signing Hoffman? I can live with that. We’d never get a guy like Hoff on the market and we don’t really downgrade on Brassard. I’m not going to pretend a 28 year old with good shot suppression metrics and who led the Rangers with 27 goals is bound for the glue factory. With 3 years left on his deal and centres White and Brown OR WHO KNOWS WHAT COLOUR on the way, this is starting to make more sense.
    That second rounder stings but can still be recovered. Zack Smith is a UFA at the end of the year *thinking emoji*

So I guess that just about wraps it u—or sorry, did anyone else have any thoughts

Conrad:

The conflicted thoughts I’ve encountered in the past 33 hours:

  1. The Sens should be looking for players on high-value contracts because they’re a budget team. Except in this case, where Brassard is making $10M over three years – which can we take a moment to acknowledge is amazing value, maybe even Kyle Turris value? – it’s yet more evidence that they’re broke AF.
  2. Similarly, Sens being a budget team, they waited until after July 15 so they wouldn’t have to pay Brassard his bonus, which again means they’re broke AF and not that they are smart business people. You definitely want your team paying $2M for 2nd round picks like the Rangers just did.
  3. The Sens gave up a second round pick, which is the sort of thing that’s killing them in the draft, except when they get a pick, which is then worthless because we know that every pick outside the top 15 in the first round is basically a lottery ticket who won’t play for like 3-4 years at best, and so sacrificing the draft to save money is evidence that they’re broke AF.
  4. Zibanejad never lived up to expectations, and so he needed to be traded before he was due a huge payday which, as we all know, disappointing players always receive. Because broke AF.
  5. The Sens should be more focused on analytics, unless they’re trading a young player for a superior possession player who’s cheaper because they’re oh you know.

I’m starting to think that part of enjoying one’s local hockey team is to compete with others on the basis of your team being worse and stupider than any other hockey team, and so every transaction, even when you can see the logic behind it, becomes yet more evidence of recurring ineptitude or behavior inspired purely by a broke owner. Melnyk being broke has, in this case, become a kind of zen mantra for some. It’s the WWJD bumper sticker of Sens fandom. I imagine fans tying thread between pins on a pushboard, connecting Ottawa Sun articles, looking for patterns, only to find that they’re spelled the words “Melnyk.”

The Sens just brought in someone who happens to be a center, happens to be left-handed, happens to be local, happens to produce goals, happens to be on an affordable contract, happens to be experienced, and instead of saying “I can see how this might make sense in the context of needing to sign these other RFAs,” it’s become another opportunity to say “Why don’t we have a richer owner?”

Here’s the thing: you CAN have a richer owner. It’s called following another team. You have a ton to choose from. Go be a Tampa Bay Lightning fan and cheer when they buy out Vinnie Lecavalier for $32M so they can sign Valtteri Filppula for $25M.

In this summer of trades that made zero sense – I’m still wondering how Edmonton doesn’t get at least a pick in that Hall-Larsson trade – I’m enjoying the fact that the Sens are able to make trades that take care of their needs while ALSO saving money. I’m enjoying watching a team operating under constrictions be strategic.

Andrew:

I am currently feeling really good about the fan base’s ability to handle disappointment and the reality that economics are a part of sport as we head into Phase 2 of the LeBreton process.

What’s funny to me is, yes, the economic reasons are fairly self-evident from an Ottawa standpoint, but like this was also a money/cap trade for the Rangers. New York saves some very important cap $$ which they needed to do because….they have some absolutely terrible deals? If I’m a Ranger fan, it’s like we let Stralman walk, Yandle go, traded Brassard, so we could keep salaries like Marc Staal’s and Dan Girardi’s? That would be a serious WTF. Instead of cries of “We’re wasting Erik Karlsson’s prime!” I’d be seriously bemoaning that Henrik Lundqvist is 34 and has a pair of high-priced Boro/Gryba/Cowen Take Your Picks in front of him. This is an example of another team not named Senators which has Some Problems.

There was that silly “fan confidence” poll circulating around twitter a few days ago about GM/front office confidence and the Sens ranked 23rd or something (it was 23rd, no “or something”) and like, that’s not remotely surprising? The methodology was not really overly useful (approx. 200 fans voted on all teams in the league). Like I pay a lot of attention to hockey and to other teams, but I don’t give a fuck about New Jersey’s front office and I try and block to Kings from my mind etc. Simply put, fans across the the league can’t really accurately rate this, there’s not enough info about what teams do, and fans are singular in their focus (ie pay attention to only their team). But even if this was somehow more accurate or the voting was just for the team for which you cheer, Ottawa fans would totally slam their management. Why? Because like Maryland and crabcakes, it’s what we do. Off the top of my head, only Winnipeg’s front office impresses me more, possibly, of the Canadian teams but they also seem to be in a perpetual, “building a strong foundation for the future – maybe” mode. Ottawa isn’t perfect and at times they make mistakes. But lots of Sens fans don’t seem to realize that “not perfect” and “makes mistakes” are constants with other teams too.

My point is this: I don’t think Ottawa has a front office full of geniuses, but that’s ok. I think being smart in the NHL is a lot like an episode of Pinky and the Brain: one might be a genius, but episode after episode, he gets proven wrong by Pinky. These artificial distinctions about which front office has it going on/is smart/is cutting edge/tells you all about the analytics hires they don’t listen to etc, are just that – artificial. The line separating a Ron Francis or Jim Nill from a Jim Benning or Marc Bergevin is shorter than most of us think. But most of us – me included – are too involved with our own shit (i.e. Euge’s bankrolling of the Institute for Horse Analytics) to realize.

It’s fun to laugh at the “Buy Local” portion of the deal but I don’t think Ottawa trading for or signing players with roots in the area (outside of Boro tbh) is anything more than successive GMs now trying to make the most of what little competitive advantage in terms of location this team has. They don’t have the tax advantage of teams based in Florida, Texas, or Tennessee (as a citizen of this province, I am more than ok with that), they don’t have the nightlife, the weather, the team history, contender status, or other big draws. But they’re one of the biggest cities in Canada and one of the few (only?? I didn’t look at a map) with two junior teams. So lots of guys have ties to the area and if that helps keep the budget low while bringing in decent and good players? Fine.

As for the trade pieces, I like Mika, so that sucks. You get attached to the players you know, especially those your team drafts and that you get to watch mature in your system. Will Mika be a better player than Brassard this season and in the future? Quite possibly and that sucks too. But so far it seems like this deal is fairly even and might suit both clubs right now and in the immediate future. Fine.

This is where I’m at with the Senators: I want to spend to the cap every year, to not make Toronto pay (or not pay, as the case may be) for our buyouts, but have the resources to do it ourselves. I want to pay top dollar for coaching, and hockey ops, and management, and facilities. I want to get a new arena built without what I’m sure is going to be considerable consternation. But mostly…

I want to win the Stanley Cup 65 straight times. I want every season engraved on the Cup’s 5 rings to start with “Ottawa Senators”. After that 65th straight win I want the rest of the teams to finally capitulate and disband. But I also get the realities of Euge’s wallet (it looks like mine after all), that this team (like most teams in the league really) is just trying to make the playoffs, that they are currently a bubble team (though the division is shit so that’ll probably be enough), and that only one team gets to win every year. I am capable of carrying two versions of this team in my head; I firmly believe that WE’RE GONNA WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! every night, while understanding that the Sens are a bubble team who will in fact, lose on many occasions.

So yeah, this trade hurts, because Mika is almost 6 years younger and therefore would have been around for at least a few more of those consecutive Cup wins. But this is a fairly even trade at this point, it’s just not without risk, which is true of all trades. We’ve been talking about how Bobby will look with Brassard, and with good reason, but I think I’m most looking forward to him playing with EK. It’s possible we’ve have a player for the first time since Spezza left that can accept a hard pass from Karlsson.

Erik Karlsson is going to have the biggest Fuck You Haters season with 30+ goals, 100 points, and Shea Weber winning the Norris.

Luke:

Look at you emotional bastards. I’m going to analyze this trade the old fashioned way: with Objective Fancy Stats.

Right off the bat, I’d like to address the notion that *today* Derick Brassard is a better player than Mika Zibanejad by saying that this is likely true, but the statistical evidence of that is not overwhelming. Over the past 2 seasons, Brassard’s 5v5 fancy stats are slightly better, but not overwhelmingly so. Brassard has an all-situations primary points per 60 minutes of 1.7 compared to Mika’s 1.6, which is driven by Brassard’s slightly better goals per 60 minutes. Their usage is pretty much identical, both in terms of zone starts and quality of teammates/competition. On an individual basis, Brassard gets shots on net more often, whereas Zibanejad shoots at the net more often. Brassard’s s% over the past two years is 13.1% compared to Zibanejad’s 12.3%. Brassard’s shot 11.5% over the course of his career, and Mika’s shot 10.9% over the course of his. Brassard’s spent most of his time playing with Mats Zuccarello whereas Mika’s spent most of his time playing with Bobby Ryan. Brassard’s play may have been suppressed playing under Alain Vignault’s non-optimal system. Ditto Zibanejad and Dave Cameron’s system. Gun to my head, I’d say that Brassard’s results have been slightly better over the past two years, so I guess we can chalk the player part of this deal that in the Win Column for the Ottawa Senators. Add in the 2nd round pick for a 7th round pick part of the deal and this deal is that rarest of animals: a fair trade.

The Objective Hockey Reality part of this trade seems to be pretty much airtight unlike some other Subban-for-Webers I could Hall-for-Larsson, but let’s talk about this trade in the context of where this game is #ACTUALLY played: off the ice. The subjective, off-ice considerations that factor into this trade have people getting into their feelings like they’re auditioning for Inside Out 2. Now, I’d love to just ignore the context of this trade, just like we all love to ignore the contexts of so many other trades around here like Bishop-for-Conacher (Context: team had 3 goalies and Bishop was a UFA at end of season), Spezza-for-Chiasson (Context: Spezza had no-trade clause and was UFA at end of season), and The Phaneuf Trade (Context: team needed a defenseman and needed to dump contracts), but when there’s so little to argue about objectively, you gotta be willing to go to the dirty areas for the sake of the roundtable.

So here’s some context:

a) “Time and Age” or Constructs Denoting the Continuous Progress of Existence and Events as the Entropy of Both Ourselves and The Universe Continues to Increase Indefinitely.

Mika Zibanejad is 23 years old and Derick Brassard is 28 years old. What this means is that Mika Zibanejad is likely to improve as a hockey player somewhat over the next 5 years, whereas Derick Brassard is not. How much is Mika Zibanejad likely to improve? Who can know for sure? Let’s put a pin in this one until we know the answer, at which point we can all talk about how it was a complete certainty things were going to turn out that way.

b) “Finances” or The Ability of An Organization to Conduct Its Business Both Successfully and Sustainably

Mika Zibanejad makes $3.25 Million this year, after which he will be an RFA in need of a new contract. Derrick Brassard has a cap hit $5 million per year for the next 3 years, but only must be paid $10 million in real dollars over that same period. It’s likely that Ottawa will get the next three years of Derrick Brassard for much less money than New York gets the next three years of Mika Zibanejad. Given that the Senators need to provide new contracts for Cody Ceci and Mike Hoffman this season, and J-G Pageau and Curtis Lazar next season, the importance of this newfound cost certainty cannot be overlooked.

c) “Hockey is a Team Sport” or The Extent to Which Small Factors Such as Playing Style and Handedness Affect a Group’s Overall Quality of Play

Watching Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan on the same line was kind of like watching someone bail out a leaky rowboat using a live pelican; it sort of worked, but you always got the feeling there had to be a better way. Now Bobby Ryan’s going to be getting those silky smooth Brassard forehand passes instead of the weird clunky Zibanejad backhand passes. Now the Senators powerplay has a specialist at centre. Now the Senators have a guy who is Good In The Room and doesn’t have a reputation for coming into camp out of shape. None of these things may matter, but I like how there’s the possibility of some team-building inside baseball going on here. If you told me the trade was Zibanejad for Some Other Team’s Older Zibanejad Who Also Makes Bobby Ryan Better, I’d pull the trigger on that all day. Maybe Derick Brassard being left handed won’t matter at all, but I say it will! Let’s see your spreadsheets explain the relationship between centre handedness and right winger goals, NERDS! (Seriously, that’s a neat idea for analysis. I would read that.)

In conclusion:

One of the main (and entirely justified) knocks on Bryan Murray was that he was too attached to His Guys. He liked who he had on his team, and he believed in their potential, often to the point of overvaluing them. The line always went that Ottawa needed a GM who could rationally assess various factors, and wasn’t afraid to move players if he thought he’d be able to find value. I don’t know if Pierre Dorion is that GM, but I think the Zibanejad for Brassard trade is the sort of move that GM would make.

It’s a pretty nifty trade when you get right down to it. Ottawa traded a promising player due for a big raise for a player of equal or slightly superior hockey ability who has a high degree of cost-certainty for the next 3 years, and they did it by trading with a team who is in some not-insignificant cap trouble. It’s a trade that’s easily justified on both hockey and financial levels, and that’s pretty damn impressive to me. If you think making a Hockey Trade at the same time you make a Business Trade is easy, I would like to introduce you to the Chicago Blackhawks trading Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, and Teuvo Teravainen.

In short, I respect this trade a lot. I might even go so far as to call it “creative”.

But mostly I hate it. I don’t even hate it for what the trade means about the financial state of the team or ownership. While I realize that we’re not exactly immune to the occasional gripe regarding ownership around here, mostly I believe that getting upset about the team being poor is like getting upset at the Law of Universal Gravitation. I’d love to be able to dunk a basketball, but I can’t. I can either write a thousand columns about how much better my life would be without gravity, or I can write some columns about the stepladders I’m looking at buying. I’ve made my choice.

I hate this trade because I like Mika Zibanejad and I always believed deep in my heart that this was not his final form, that he had one more gear. Now when he finds that gear, it won’t be with Ottawa, and where is the fun in that?

Point: The Senators are not a worse hockey team after this trade. They might even be better in both the short and long term.

Counterpoint: I don’t like Derick Brassard (yet). I like Mika Zibanejad. I hate this trade.

Conclusion: I also like winning, so let’s make me feel better by doing that.

It’s July 4th. Do You Know Where Your Restricted Free Agent Is?

It’s got to be difficult to be mainstream hockey media/blogosphere at this time of year. Every team has pieces in motion as they try to get multiple RFAs signed. Each year, there are several teams vying for the services of the biggest names. Rumours are flying, terrible deals are handed out, and when the dust settles, the mainstream hockey writer has to take stock of the league and sum up the events with discerning brevity. Some are better at it than others. Just check out this quote from Puck Daddy’s Ryan Lambert:

dtmah

Damn, how do these guys do it? Slow down, Ryan. Leave some insight for the rest of us. It feels like there’s barely anything for me to add, but I’m going to try anyway.

Let me begin by stating my belief that planning to improve one’s hockey team in free agency is a very risky strategy. If you identify a player you wish to pursue in free agency, you can rest pretty assured that there will be some other hockey teams trying to sign them. Thus signing the player you want is never a sure thing. Even if you do manage to sign The Object of Your General Managerial Affection, the contract will almost certainly be subject to The Winner’s Curse wherein the the contract you give out will be, almost by definition, an overpayment because it is more than what every other team offered. Sometimes there are reasons that players might not sign the contract worth the most money (such as the desire to remain in their hometown of Ottawa), but sometimes those players are also Mark Borowiecki so even that strategy comes with some inherent risk.

If you can pick up an undervalued gem in free agency, so much the better. Everyone loves finding a crumpled up $20 in an old pair of jeans. However, the recent league-wide improvement in analytics and scouting has made this more and more difficult. I’m not sure signing each off-season’s rescue dog-esque free agent is something on which you can count on a year to year basis.

All this to say that if Ottawa’s big splash in unrestricted free agency was to sign an American drummer/songwriter whose name can also be satisfyingly sung to the tune of “My Sharona”, I don’t mind. It means that Ottawa did not use their already limited resources to overpay for a player of dubious utility. I am becoming increasingly convinced that 50% of being smart is not being dumb, and by that standard, Ottawa’s July 1st was perfectly acceptable.

The flip side of Ottawa not signing any big names is that they haven’t signed any of their largely monikered RFAs either. At the time of writing, RFAs Cody Ceci and Mike Hoffman remain unsigned. Mike Hoffman’s next deal remains the subject of some debate, as the fanbase is split over whether Hoffman should be offered “A lot of money” or “All of the money”. In past years, you could count on Bryan Murray to leak some negotiation details to the press, and Bruce Garrioch would tweet somthing like “Mike Hoffman’s latest ask is $9MM AAV for 8 years and he wants his face to replace the Sens logo. Sens have only agreed to the logo thing.” Now that Pierre Dorion is running the show, the Sens organization has been watertight in a way that Lot 9 could only dream of until recently. This is new and exciting, and gives us all the opportunity to either panic, recklessly speculate, or both. For my part, I am responding to this lack of news, good or bad, with the equanimity for which I am justly famed.

That said, I would like to address the growing sentiment on Twitter that reads something like “Why isn’t this done yet?” and “Just pay Mike Hoffman his goddamn money already.” I like Mike Hoffman very much. I would like Mike Hoffman to sign with the Ottawa Senators for 5+ years. I would also like to point out something that we must remember above all during these negotiations:

This is a negotiation.

We all have cokedreams ideas of what we should obviously pay Mike Hoffman in order to keep him with the club, but it’s entirely possible Mike Hoffman doesn’t want that totally reasonable deal you’re sure he’d accept. Also coming out and offering your highest “good” deal is not the most airtight negotiation strategy. If one offers $5.5MM for 5 years, how high are you actually willing to go? $6.5MM? $7MM? What if Hoffman doesn’t want to sign long term unless it’s also worth a very high AAV? What if Hoffman would rather sign for a single season, and then use the threat of leaving as an UFA next year to get even more money next year? These are questions without easy answers, and it’s almost certainly why these negotiations are taking so long it feels like George R.R. Martin is writing them. Dorion has already mentioned arbitration once or twice in the media, and it seems like a a distinct possibility at this time. It would be annoying if Mike Hoffman and the Ottawa Senators went to arbitration again, but at least Dorion’s willingness to bring up arbitration indicates an interest in keeping Hoffman with the club. An interest in keeping Hoffman with the club was something that was considerably less obvious during the Bryan Murray era, by the way.

The fact that the player has some say in the negotiations is one that is often lost on people. Signing good young players to long term deals is great when it works, but it’s entirely possible that not every good young player wants to lock themselves into a deal that’s going to severely limit their earning power during the prime of their careers. This is why I don’t opine about how it was a huge mistake to not lock up someone like Mark Stone for a longer term. I’d have loved it if Stone had signed a Turris-type deal, but I find it plausible that Mark Stone knows he’s really goddamn good, and plans on getting paid accordingly in a season or two. That’s not an organizational failure; that’s just the free (restricted) market. Players have some power.

So that’s where I’m at.

Do I want Mike Hoffman back with the Senators long-term? Yes.

Would I break the bank to do it? Not without reservation.

Will arbitration be the end of the world? No.

Would I still like to avoid it? Yes.

Is this stuff way more complex than it seems? Yes.

Am I just a guy with a laptop howling at the moon? Also yes.

Hang in there, folks. It’s only going to get more nerve-wracking when they actually start playing the games.

Sens Rule, All Other Teams Stink

Look, I realize the Ottawa Senators aren’t the best. They have a budget that’s less than the salary cap and they don’t pay enough attention to analytics and they don’t know the true value of a third round draft pick. Their report card comments perpetually read “Room for improvement”. However, at least they don’t actively douse their fanbase in lighter fluid and then incinerate them by shooting flaming arrows into their chest. I mean, have you seen some of these other teams?

How does Peter Chiarelli do it? And by “do it”, I mean “remain employed”, because I feel like that Tyler Seguin trade should have followed Chiarelli around like a lost puppy made out of regret and sadness. But no, instead he ends up employed in the ancient ancestral home of regret and sadness, Edmonton, and proceeds to make The Tyler Seguin Trade But Worse. I don’t know what I expected. I guess, maybe, some soul-searching and some humility and some quiet reflection resulting in the realization that a lack of maturity is often temporary whereas skill is permanent. It’s true that Edmonton needed a 1st pairing defenseman after the Eric Gryba acquisition mysteriously failed to work out, and it’s true that Edmonton has so many young forwards that the laws of probability dictated that at least one of them was going to be traded. Still, trading Taylor Hall, (one of the leading 5-on-5 scorers in the league), for Adam Larsson, (a human male from Sweden), smacks of a failure of talent evaluation and negotiating ability that raises comparisons to tubers. You can talk about “wasting Erik Karlsson’s prime” if you want, but how many primes are the Oilers going to waste? I’ll give you a hint: it is definitely ‘some’.

It’s probably too early to dunk on the Maple Leafs, but that’s not really going to stop me because the day that I am tired of dunking on the Maple Leafs is the day I am tired of life. Normally a free agent signing somewhere that wasn’t Toronto would not be a big deal, but Steven Stamkos is no normal free agent. For months, my life has been a living hell of “Stamkos to Toronto??” hype, and I’m glad I won’t have to hear it anymore because it was always inane, delusional, grandiose, and revealed the Toronto fans and media to be self-promoting hype-lords of the highest order. Is that too harsh? Why wouldn’t Steven Stamkos want to leave a state where there is no income tax and no winter? Why wouldn’t Steven Stamkos want to leave Florida’s three hockey beat writers to play under the scrutiny of the likes of Steve Simmons and Dave Feschuk? Why wouldn’t Steven Stamkos want to leave a Tampa Bay team that made the Eastern Conference Finals without him and go play for a team that’s in Year 2 of a rebuild of indeterminate length? Is it because Steven Stamkos isn’t a complete goddamn moron? Maybe! If you honestly thought Steven Stamkos was signing in Toronto, you are credulous nitwit. If, at any point, you talked at length about how winning in Toronto “would make Stamkos a legend”, I am sorry that you believe that Toronto receives the lion’s share of the media’s coverage because it is in any way worthy of it. Toronto is going to be better than they were last year, but it’s not going to be because God has smiled upon your desolate concrete jungle where dreams are made up. Trust your Process; there are no shortcuts.

Which brings me to the Montreal Canadiens. In truth, I never thought this day would come, and this is because I underestimated the true depths of depravity which the Montreal Canadiens are capable of plumbing. On the ice, PK Subban was a nightmare to play against. He is excellence is unquestionable, and he plays with a passion that makes it all the more infuriating when he wins. I have often said the greatest compliment I am capable of giving a non-Senators player is “I wish he played for my team”, and I say this without reservation about PK Subban. I wish PK Subban played for the Ottawa Senators. Off the ice, PK Subban is quite literally without peer. He has faced all criticism, deserved and undeserved, head-on and seems to remain as positive a human being as possible. Just look at this delightful bastard. If you can’t appreciate PK Subban, you don’t deserve him, and in that way, the PK Subban trade is totally just. In the coming days, the Montreal media will begin leaking stories about Subban’s “personality” and “character” and how Shea Weber will bring what Subban lacked and it’s going to be total bullshit. PK Subban gave Montreal everything he had and all he got in return was empty press conferences from a management group that couldn’t stand him. This is the sort of trade that curses a franchise for centuries, and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving franchise. It is to be one of the great joys of my life to watch the Montreal Canadiens collapse under the weight of their own mythology. They tried to show Patrick Roy that no player was bigger than the team. How, exactly, did that work out? At least Patrick Roy was an asshole. PK Subban was so relentlessly positive and outgoing, it burned their very soul like holy water. The only Habs fans who are pleased that PK Subban is no longer a part of their organization are, without a doubt, garbage human beings. Their hockey team is also garbage. They deserve each other.

If We Hated Ourselves Less, We’d Love Chris Phillips More

You can’t explain the psychology of the Ottawa Senators fanbase simply by referencing “new team in a small market” factors. The Ottawa Senators are not unique in this respect. They are a relatively new expansion franchise as one of eight teams who joined the NHL in 1992 or later. Two of those teams, Tampa Bay and Anaheim, have already won a Stanley Cup. Like the Florida Panthers, Ottawa made a Stanley Cup final which they lost to a much, much better team. As long as a team exists in Arizona, a shared history of the looming threat of relocation will also exist between the Senators and Coyotes. The Senators and the Predators have both employed David Legwand and Mike Fisher. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever met a fan of Minnesota or Columbus, but I’m sure both fanbases are perfectly well-adjusted. Could Ottawa have traded Rick Nash and taken it in stride the way Columbus did? I doubt it. I admire the sanguinity of Blue Jackets fans. It doesn’t matter how many dynamic forwards they trade, they’ll keep firing that cannon at home games. Making visiting beat writers piss themselves after goals is its own reward.

Other expansion fanbases have organically developed their own tics, complexes, and anxieties, but Sens have not been allowed to organically develop much of anything. Our curse is one of geography, a curse that Tampa Bay, Florida, Anaheim, Nashville, Atlanta (God bless the dead), Columbus, and Minnesota have been fortunate to avoid. Like that planet in Interstellar that consists only of shallow oceans and kilometer-high tsunamis, Ottawa is caught in the orbit of the twin black holes of Montreal and Toronto. Their inexorable pull has choked out our ability to sustain anything other than grey hopelessness.

As is befitting the more hysterical tendencies of the Habs fanbase, the prevailing sentiment from Sens fans for the past year and a half has been one of overwhelming dissatisfaction. Fan unrest is ritualistically performed and has been perfected to the point of an almost religious experience. Daily we gather in the Sanctuary of Twitter and sing the same old hymns, the lyrics familiar to all. “We have only won one playoff series since 2007”, “The Sens do not have have enough prospects with upside”, “The Sens should have tanked harder instead of doing a quick rebuild”, “Bobby Ryan and Dion Phaneuf are declining players on contracts they cannot possibly justify”, and of course, our Benediction: “The Sens are wasting Erik Karlsson’s prime”. If one performs a Twitter search for “Therrien Subban“, you’ll recognize this Sens liturgy as a pale imitation of the original. No one does guilt, imagined persecution, and eternal suffering quite like the Roman-Catholics.

The Sens have good players who are either not good enough and they have good players who are surrounded by other players who are not good enough, and they also have Good Hard Working Boys. Mark Boroweicki and Chris Neil are fine professionals, but there’s something oddly familiar about the cadence of each caller on TSN1200 who waxes romantic about about their heart and soul and blocked shots. I have found that if one mentally inserts a name like “Darcy Tucker” or “Tie Domi” into your typical post-game show call, the origin of this mentality is be laid bare: a hundred drunk uncles at a hundred Ottawa Valley Thanksgiving dinners. (“Marian Hossa just doesn’t have THE HEART OF A CHAMPION like Gary Roberts!”, pontificates some cartoon avatar of a Leafs fan in May of 2002 after his seventh Labatt 50.) A holdover from the early 2000s when Ottawa Senators teams were routinely defeated in the playoffs by ostensibly harder working Leafs squads (instead of, more accurately, Leafs teams with better goaltending), it is the conviction of a number of Senators fans that any ills with the team can be solved by trading the players who don’t try enough. No doubt that the fans who don’t believe this believe that the ills of the team can be solved by trading the players who don’t Corsi enough, which is the most recent manifestation of Toronto’s group psychology. Can there really be any doubt that any inferiority complex that Ottawa possesses is a learned behaviour from Toronto?

Essentially Sens fans have adopted the worst qualities of the fanbases that surround us, and thus there is no one better at hating the Sens than Sens fans. It’s possible mindset would be different if Daniel Alfredsson hadn’t left us. When Alfie left for Detroit, Sens fans turned into the worst type of cynics. If Alfie wasn’t special, no one was. Sens fans can’t even appreciate Erik Karlsson these days without noting that he’ll probably leave for Detroit at the conclusion of his current contract. I’d expect that sort of thing from Habs fans three seconds before I blocked them on Twitter. It’s distressing that this fanbase insists on telling it to themselves instead.

In the intersection of this cynicism and betrayal sits Chris Phillips. As our own Andrew pointed out on Silver Seven, part of why Phillips’ record of 1179 career Senators games is so unremarked upon is because the number that precedes it, 1178, is the number of games Daniel Alfredsson played with the Sens. Phillips’ spot atop the Senators’ career games played list is nothing more than a reminder of a reality that should never have happened. This is a great shame when one examines 1179 in a vacuum. 1179 is more games than Bobby Clarke played with the Philadelphia Flyers, it’s more games than Trevor Linden played with the Vancouver Canucks, it’s more games than Denis Potvin played with the New York Islanders, and it’s more games than Jean Beliveau played with the Montreal Canadiens. By any other team’s standard, Chris Phillips would be appreciated as one of Ottawa’s most consummate professionals. Any other team’s fans would be less cynical.

Think I’m wrong? Ask Sens fans which Chris Phillips goal they remember better: this overtime winner, or this own goal, and see what answer you get. When Aaron Ekblad moved in with Willie Mitchell, they got a Katie Baker profile. When Curtis Lazar moved in with Chris Phillips, they got a parody twitter account1 (although to Phillips’ credit, he’s always taken his role as punchline in stride).

I think the problem is that appreciating Chris Phillips requires resisting irony. Appreciating Chris Phillips requires appreciating the good, rather than the great, which is admittedly not a sexy look. It’s hard to get a good discussion started at the bar by saying, “Boy, that Chris Phillips sure was there, wasn’t he?”. Even as a 1st overall draft pick, Phillips was never the best defenseman on the team. There was always someone else taking bigger minutes. There was always someone else putting up more points. A perpetual complimentary piece, Phillips made a career out of quiet competency in a way that would be the envy of most other hockey players. Can we, as a fanbase, not appreciate Chris Phillips at least as much as Red Wings fans appreciate Kris Draper‘s 364 career point ass? It’s like we fear that appreciating Chris Phillips is a gateway drug to something more sinister, like appreciating Jacques Martin.

Regardless of what you think of Phillips’ on-ice accomplishments, it’s his work in the Ottawa community that should be most acknowledged. This past year alone, whether it’s showing up to We Day, or combining his love of bikes, beer, and dads, or donating $50,000 to Do it For Daron, or Phillips has maintained a charity appearance schedule that would be the envy of The Royal Family. If this is to be the form of Chris Phillips in retirement, he may be remembered more for his next 18 years than his last 18 years. All told, if one was going to construct an ideal Ottawa Senator from scratch, you could not do better than Chris Phillips. He’s everything you could want and reasonably expect from a hockey player.

I’m sure when Bryan Murray signed Phillips to his final two year deal, they both imagined the career twilight that Daniel Alfredsson never got in Ottawa. Instead Phillips’ career ended so suddenly, we didn’t even realize that night had fallen. We didn’t know that when Chris Phillips played 14:54 on February 5th, 2015 that it was the last time we’d be seeing him dress for a Sens game. I doubt Phillips himself knew that. All things end badly, otherwise they wouldn’t end. Storybook endings are just that; the real world is rarely so accommodating. Though Chris Phillips didn’t get to leave hockey on his own terms, he should be still appreciated on his own terms as an overall good player and good human who will be good in the community long after he’s finished being good in the dressing room.

I’m hopeful at some point this coming season, Chris Phillips will get A Day. There will be press conferences, and a pre-game ceremony, and then the Ottawa Senators will lose 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils on a Wednesday. But on that day, there will be a brief moment as Chris Phillips steps out onto a carpet that leads to centre ice to receive some commemorative flummery from Eugene Melnyk, and in that moment I hope Phillips gets the rousing farewell he deserves. Only a cynic would disagree.

1. It’s ok, some of my best friends are parody twitter accounts.

Roundtable of Death: “Seriously? Another Fired Coach?” Edition

Luke: Folks, this past week we said goodbye to Dave Cameron. His departure was, perhaps, inevitable after Eugene Melnyk threw him under the bus with the gusto of a cartoon villain, and so we are still gathered here today to answer one question: What the hell is going on out here?

The floor is open.

Conrad: A few thoughts:

Bringing in a coach and expecting him to single-handedly be responsible for changing the identity of the club, institute a winning strategy that plays to the club’s strengths, and make up for the weaknesses in defense, is just going to end in another fired coach.

I hope Dorion takes his time and does a top-to-bottom assessment of the organization’s structure. How do they assess players, both on the roster and in the pipeline? How do they decide who is promoted from the B-Sens and when? How do they gather information during the games and feed it to the coach? Is the coach accountable to act on that information?

Detroit had a lot of success over the years with Babcock not just because of Babcock’s coaching. (In fact, a lot of the Wings seemed relieved when he was gone.) But they were really effective at vertical integration: they drafted according to a particular style of play, developed in that style, promoted only when a player could reliably execute in that style, and they enforced it across the lineup. They don’t seem to care if the Grand Rapids AHL team ever wins a Calder, because the farm club exists primarily to incubate Wings hockey. Once you’ve got that pipeline set up, which is a longer-term strategy than any single coach’s tenure, then I presume it becomes a lot easier to know who your guy should be. In other words: anyone who gets the system, is a believer, and will go to bat for it.

Ottawa currently oscillates between coaches who teach an uptempo style and coaches who “demand accountability.” MacLean had this “play the whole rink” mentality, and fans couldn’t wait to make a change because he wouldn’t take the leash off of Karlsson. Cameron said “it’s always a green light” and now we’re looking for someone to teach defense. All of this echoes back to our high-powered offensive teams of the past, who “didn’t have what it takes to win in the playoffs” and an insistence on hiring a series of disciplinarians, like Craig Hartsburg, to follow up Jacques Martin.

I don’t really care who they hire as a coach. No single person is going to integrate decision-making across the organization. That’s the GM’s job. If Dorion says, “we hired this guy because he’s going to execute according to the same playbook as the scouts, the analysts, and myself,” then that’ll be good enough for me. But if we go with Julien because name recognition, I don’t think that will be enough.

James: I agree to an extent. I’m with you that the success in Detroit is largely in thanks to doing EeeeeEEEeeEEerything perfectly until you just wish Flanders was dead. Legend has it they’ve made the playoffs for an XFL record 3 centuries in a row only picking in the 9th round while walking 10 miles to school in waist-high snowbanks. So, no, it’s not all thanks to Babcock. It also has to be recognized their success was partly thanks to drafting a 900 point perennial Selke winner in the 6th round and a captain who looks like Jack Fucking Gyllenhaal in the 7th round. I literally know a guy who was picked ahead of Zetterberg in that draft. That has to be a bit of good fortune there. Ah, speaking of good fortune…now the biggest thing…they had Nick Lidstrom. 20 seasons and 7 Norris trophies from a guy who’s literally nicknamed “The Perfect Human”.

I’m not discounting the smart MLB-like approach of having every player adapt to the system in the minors before being called up for duty as relentless kill bots. What I’m interested to see going forward, however, is if Detroit’s “We’ll solid fundamentals them to death!” strategy has a shelf life on it. I sometimes wonder if the Wings are turning into the Street Cred Sens of a few years ago. Sure, they make the playoffs a lot but on the REAL-real-real, they haven’t done shit since Lidstrom retired. I guess what I’m saying is organizationally the Wings have, deservedly, pretty much the best team building rep in the biz. They (and now Chicago) are the best at bolstering their lineup with in-house gems. BUT the Detroit teams that actually won were more superstar laden than lunch pail crews. Even the least star studded of their Championship teams in 07-08 still had Dominik Hasek in net. Look at their 01-02 team. They resemble the 14-15 Blackhawks more than say the 03-04 Flames who went to the dance with Shean Donovan as their 2nd highest goal scorer (!). The Wings also interestingly happened to have the winningest coach in NHL history behind the bench in their Destroyer of Worlds days. The past few seasons, the truth is, they’ve been scraping in and getting bounced early.

James?

Yes, dear?

Can you actually make a fucking point about Ottawa firing the coaching staff here?

GOD’S WORKING ON ALL OF US, OKAY!?

I guess what I’m saying is I’m interested to see supposed “best coach in the NHL” Mike Babcleezy operate without being able to lean back on “You there Datsyuk, hit a home run!”

As for the whole “Detroit not caring if their AHL affiliate wins or loses”, I’ve heard Bryan Murray and Dorion both say this as well. In fact, Richardson was installed as coach to teach the same system as the NHL team to the minor leaguers. The Sens aren’t as disciplined as Detroit. For every Hoffman or Stone they’ve been patient with they seem to have a Lazar or Ceci who’ve been tossed in the fire. Organizationally they’ve been far from perfect but I do think they are trying. Hearing Dorion distance himself from Murray’s proclivity to go for size above all else as well as admitting that they’ve been rushing prospects and will be more cautious with Colin White was promising.

The team is not devoid of talent. As such, I do think coaching matters to give the players structure. Structure and strategy matter big time. How the hell do we have a team top 10 in NHL scoring with a 15% power play? How many times can we watch Hoffman, who’s one of the best puck handlers on the team, dump the puck in on the power play just to turn over possession without calling bullshit on the strategy. Lord knows it’s not his idea to dump it in. Look at the team’s lack of structure in their own zone. It’s been atrocious. The worst in the league this year. It has to be improved.

Coaching also matters in terms of making game-to-game as well as in-game personnel decisions that give the team the best chance to make the most of their talent. Borowiecki as a forward for entire games. Bobby Ryan in a checking role for a huge stretch of the season. Neil getting power play time. Phillips on the power play (lest we forget). Hoffman getting benched for entire periods. Cowen getting all the chance in the world without earning it. Playing Anderson too much. Breaking up line combinations without giving them so much as 3 games to gel. These have been coaching decisions that have, in my opinion, hurt the team.

I’m just a caveman. I’m frightened and confused by your strange flying machines. I don’t know any of the details or challenges regarding personality conflicts or the need to establish authority and discipline guys. What I do know is that I’ve been pretty forgiving but a lot of things the past couple of seasons didn’t make sense. Many elements of the team controlled by coaching were failing and ultimately needed to change. Will a new coach magically fix all of that? Of course not. Can a new coach at least improve things with a more sound playing system and more consistent decision making? Absolutely. But it’s obviously going to take a brilliant hire by Dorion. There could not be more pressure on him to make it.

Luke: This whole situation feels like when someone in your family breaks up with a partner you really liked: it’s certainly for the best, but it’s sad that it had to go down like that. (Hey, a thing I’ve been using a lot with respect to the Ottawa Senators over the last 3 years: BREAKUP ANALOGIES. The Sens direction is amazing right now, you guys.)

Here’s something some people might not remember: the Sens #actually instituted the vertical integration Conrad refers to with the hiring of Paul Maclean. I even wrote about this three years ago. The 30 Thoughts from Elliotte Friedman I quote within is no longer available, but the relevant passage is this:

Back in AHL training camp, Ottawa coach Paul MacLean and Binghamton counterpart Luke Richardson discussed philosophy. Richardson wanted to play the same way as the big club for consistency. MacLean wanted Richardson to have some flexibility. They decided to co-ordinate terminology and drills. One of the reasons the Senators are holding on amid all their injuries is, when players get called up, the familiarity creates comfort. For example, one of the ideas MacLean likes to preach is “fast defence.” Basically, he wants his forwards to create three lanes of support for defencemen trying to move or pass the puck out of their own zone. When the AHLers are called up, they understand what that means, no explanation necessary.

What happened to that organization? What happened to that structure? What happened to the team that lost Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, and Erik Karlsson to injury, but still rode a 53.7%CF to a playoff berth in the shortened lockout season? Did those effective practices stop? Did those practices stop being effective? I thought about this a lot after Paul Maclean was fired, and I’m thinking about it even more now because both Paul Maclean’s and Dave Cameron’s coaching tenures followed identical arcs. To wit:

1.) New coach is brought in and the team’s play immediately improves.

2.) Team makes playoffs to the surprise of many. Coaching is praised.

3.) Coach says he’ll demand more accountability from players as they prepare to take “next step”.

4.) New season starts and team underperforms.

5.) Whispers of communication breakdown between coach and players start.

6.) Coach starts making increasingly suboptimal lineup decisions and acquires an air of desperation.

7.) Coach is let go. Management, players, and media alike express sadness regarding the loss of “a good man”. Coach says he regrets nothing.

The fact that we’ve seen the same thing happen over consecutive coaches suggest a commonality of cause. One thing I’ve noticed about Cameron is that he was very up front about the locker room chemistry. Last season he had nothing but great things to say about the team inherited from Paul Maclean (God bless the dead). Sample quote: “One of the strengths of our team is we have good people.” Compare that to some of his quotes in this video about Dion Phaneuf that I’ve watched 127 times. Sample quote: “Phaneuf is engaging…he won’t let you mope. We don’t have enough of those guys on this team.” Damn, what a turnaround. Cameron went from zero to pretty damn frustrated in less than a year

Smart Twitter™ has a tendency to get all in their snarky feelings about things like “leadership” and “character”. I don’t think those things should be valued over, say, skill, but I have no trouble believing that it’s incredibly important to whoever has to spend a lot of time in the locker room. I don’t even have fun playing beer league softball once a week if I’m on a team full of People Who Are Dinks. Having to do that EVERY DAY surrounded by national media sounds like my personal hell. You know those moments when you’re playing some game of Beer League Whatever and you just can’t bring yourself to give a shit because no one else is bothering to? The quality of your individual game is probably suffers a bit in those cases, right? Imagine having to coach that team with that dynamic. Frustrating. At. Best.

Or maybe Dave Cameron’s just a bad coach. I don’t know.

Is it possible this Ottawa Senators team is a bit young and immature? After all, nearly a 3rd of the team is 23 years old or younger. Maybe the team went on a unprecedented run to the playoffs last year and thought they had hockey all figured out which led to a letdown this season.

Or maybe Dave Cameron’s just a bad coach. I don’t know.

There is a paradox inherent to the nature of coaching wherein a coach is expected to positively influence the events that occur in the game, but they can only do this by taking actions outside of the game. Turns out most things are “outside of the game” and that a number of those things are interconnected. Also proper evaluation of those things requires knowledge of certain personal dynamics that we, as fans, are not privy to. Talking intelligently about coaching is difficult as an outsider, and I’m probably never going to understand what went wrong for Dave Cameron between May and September of 2015. However, the players are certainly culpable to some degree and I suspect they realize that.

Still, when it’s all said and done, the fact remains that Dave Cameron once played Mark Boroweicki at forward for several games and as James points out, that’s a coaching L you just can’t come back from when you miss the playoffs.

I’m gonna miss that guy’s weird-ass accent though.

The Jail Phone: On Plans, Phaneuf, and a 2015-2016 Pre-Mortem

image

tfw ur thinking about bobby ryan and dion phaneuf’s 2021 cap hit

Once a month, James and Luke sit down separated only by a piece of plexiglas and talk shit for a few hours. The Jail Phone is a recurring segment containing the transcripts of those conversations.

Luke: Hi James.

I dunno if you’ve been outside today, but there’s so much white powder out there it looks like a Saturday Night Live after-party in 1979. As such, I thought you’d might like to grab a glass of your favourite winter beverage and we might have a little fireside chat about the State of the Sens Union.

Earlier this season, you looked around the mass of negativity around The Sensphere and said to me, “Imagine how bad this would be if the team didn’t just go on a historic run to the playoffs on the back of an ECHL journeyman goaltender.” Well, I think we’re about to find out how bad it can get.

For my part, I’m attempting to be as Zen as possible regarding the remaining games of this season. Some people might want to go Full Tank, but this team isn’t bad enough to go Full Tank. Toronto has that shit sewn up having cemented their place in Tank History by trading for Colin Greening and then putting him on the 2nd line. I don’t care how zesty Dave Cameron gets with the line combinations, we can’t beat that.

All this to say that I still want the Sens to win, but I’m no longer upset when they lose. I’m already looking ahead to next season. Can’t wait to see who we draft 12th overall.

Tell me about your feelings. What’s on your mind? What are you hoping to get out of the rest of this season? Why are you still here?

James: Maybe I’m comin out the gate WILD apologetic but my feelings are that the Sens sort of just had a shit season. IT HAPPENS. Remember how Columbus was talked about across the board that they were poised to make a deep run this year? Imagine as a Blue Jackets fan your most optimistic moment of the year was buying a jersey that said Saad on it? Damn.

What I’m saying is, it’s frustrating to sit through but DEEC teams miss the playoffs sometimes and don’t need to go into full out rebuilds to fix things. Yes I’m glassy eyed enough to vault the Sens into the lofty status of DEEC.

The Penguins missed last year. Washington missed a couple of seasons ago…they didn’t blow it up. They made some changes but realized they weren’t totally fucked. Sure, blowing it up is an option but let’s face it, it can be as risky a plan as they come. It’s not always the answer. Ayyyye Connor McDavid is really good! *looks at standings* WOW, Edmonton is starting to turn things around they’re only two points back of 28th place!

Peter Chiarelli: Bartender, ANOTHER round of Dalai Lama-level patience for the whole fanbase please!

Sam Malone: IIIIII think y’all have had enough.

Peter Chiarelli: Fuck. THAT. Another generational talent or two and we be battling for a wild card spot just hold tight. AGAIN.

Honestly, the negativity is such that it’s hit the point that the team gets roasted even when they win. I hate to say it but personally I don’t think Sens fans have the kind of patience to tough out a full rebuild. ESPECIALLY should aaaaaaaaaaanything not go according to plan in that time. I’m seeing a full meltdown over missing the playoffs. What would happen if we drafted another Daigle?

Luke: Alexandre Daigle? The 1st overall pick this fanbase is bitter towards 23 YEARS after we drafted him?

James: To me, Tampa Bay are one of the most annoying teams in the league because they had the good fortune of being a shit pile just a FEW times. Good the odd season, shite others. Some high end picks and a few good trades while avoiding ushering in a full on culture of losing. They picked up some key players while remaining DEEC. Because of this, they’re one of the better teams in the East, having not thrown the baby out with the bathwater (blech to that imagery).

Anyway, I’m not heartbroken if we have a high pick and a better team going into next year, which I believe we have. Why? Well, we were all experts on what was wrong with the Sens all season. “Get rid of Cowen, free up money to extend Mike Hoffman, make a big move and stop wasting Karlsson’s prime” AKA, “GET A TOP 4 DEFENSEMAN!”
Here we stand, mid-February Cowen gone, Greening gone, Milo’s money off the books (no disrespect but it’s a fair amount of money off the books), and all this for a top 4 defenseman with plenty of good years left ahead of him. This is …bad?

Luke: I’m gonna talk about the last thing you said and then bring it back around to the first thing you said because I’m the sort of writer who likes to flout the conventional rules of structure.

I feel like a lot of the negativity stems primarily from a few well-spoken, high-profile blogger/media figures who have been running with this narrative that the Ottawa Senators have no coherent plan. (Please see this James Gordon article entitled “The Ottawa Senators have no coherent plan”, and this 6th Sens article where Nichols writes of Ottawa’s “whimsical ‘get into the playoffs and anything can happen’ approach to team building.”). When you think that management is just spinning The Wheel of Moves at random, it becomes pretty easy to criticize everything management ever does, because every move is more proof there is no Plan.

People like Plans. Have you ever thought objectively about tanking? The Idea of Tanking is some Jedi Mind Trick shit. If you are a fan of the worst team in the league, the default reaction is usually extreme sadness or anger. Now if you’re a fan of the Leafs or Sabres, you love losing just because management has said “Don’t worry. We’re doing this on purpose.” It’s wild. That’s the power of A Plan, James. I don’t think fans want Ottawa to tank; I think fans want the comfort that comes with having A Plan. We are lost in a world of uncertainty otherwise.

I don’t really ascribe to the above narrative, because I think the Ottawa Senators DO have a plan and that plan is to get better one incremental improvement at a time. You know, building your team the old fashioned way. Witness these moves from the past year:

Move: Erik Condra out, Shane Prince in.
Hot Take: We all love some Erik Condra, but Shane Prince is like Erik Condra only with scoring touch so that’s an improvement.

Move: Eric Gryba out, Chris Wideman in.
Hot Take: Chris Wideman is better than Eric Gryba. That’s an improvement.

Move: David Legwand out, Curtis Lazar in.
Hot Take: Old, expensive veteran exchanged for cheap kid with (ALLEGED) upside. I don’t think this one has really worked out yet, but I understand the reasoning.

Move: Patrick Wiercioch out, Dion Phaneuf in.
Hot Take: I think this is an improvement, but let’s revisit this one in a few years. Again, I understand the reasoning.

So why does the team suck this year? If had to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s because injuries to Clarke MacArthur, Kyle Turris, and probably Marc Methot, in addition to major regressions in play from Alex Chiasson, Patrick Wiercioch, Mika Zibanejad, Craig Anderson, and Andrew Hammond have totally overshadowed whatever minor improvements the team made in personnel. This is part of the reason why I’m so hard on Patrick Wiercioch. I fully acknowledge Mark Borowiecki is not as good as Patrick Wiercioch, but Boro is the same as he’s ever been whereas PW is a major part of the reason why the team is worse this year. That dude had a ROLE to take on, and he was a total no-show this season. Brutal.

This all comes back to your point that “the Sens sort of just had a shit season”. Yes. Yes they did.

If we can treat this like one of those Tampa Bay anomalies, enjoy a nice-ish draft pick, refuse to panic, and then come back next year, I’ll be pleased with that.

James: I think the acquisition of Phaneuf is pretty big. Yes, it’s early but iz it ev-R 2 earl-E 4 HOTT-TAEKZ? The optics suck because the Sens haven’t managed to win since acquiring him (Ed note: #ACTUALLY), but I’m bold enough to say that so far Phaneuf has been an improvement over Wiercioch on the second pairing. (Cowen didn’t even get a sniff at the job he was so bad).

Not even a handful of games yet, but Phaneuf has looked pretty solid and in his role as a Senator. I think much of the trepidation regarding him does have to do with the contract, but also very much the fact that it’s Dion Phaneuf. This is a guy we have dragged mercilessly for years now as Sens fans. It’s going to take some adjustment…and time to believe in him. I mean hey, I feel weird even writing that. Most importantly, of course, is that he also has to earn our trust as fans. I still remember the handwringing over Marc “Regressed to the 3rd Pairing in shitty Columbus” Methot. Or how Sergei Gonchar in his late 30’s was overpaid no matter how he played. Maybe he was overpaid but I gotta say I miss the 27-37 points per year he’d put up and the wealth of experience he brought to the dressing room. In my opinion, another vet with a track record is better than rolling the dice on more than half of the D corps like the Sens were doing.

Whatever, it’s okay to be skeptical. Who knows how trades and FA signings are going to work out. I just can’t help but dwell on the fact that after a strong finish to last season, Wiercioch has been given ample opportunity to be a top 4 defender this year and hasn’t made a case for himself. At 25, is PW’s career over? I certainly don’t think so. But I think the organization realized they can’t continue down the current path by retaining him at a qualifying offer of $2.7 million. Instead they brought on Dion Phaneuf who, at age 30, has shown that in bad year (on a shite team) he puts up a higher output than Wiercioch’s career best. All this while being a guy who’s billed more as a stabilizing, physical minute muncher than a puck moving finesse player.

Basically, he’s not going to be worth his contract in blah di blah years. Okay. I thought the big criticism was the team wasn’t making any bold moves to improve the team in Karlssons prime. Well, here it goes nothing. It’s my feeling that (when healthy) the top 6 is fine, the top pairing is fine, the starting goaltender is fine. The big problem was bolstering the top 4 and a fun surprise has been a floundering bottom six. I don’t know about you, Eddie, but I’d much rather a GM on a budget tasked with improving the bottom 6 than the top.

This year might be a bit of a wrap but I think we go into next year stronger. Which is good as Imma need all that time to adjust to seeing DION PHANEUF in a Sens uniform.

Luke: I find it amazing that we, as a blog, put up nearly 3000 words of Dion Phaneuf takes and we’re still not done. At this point I’ve spent more time writing/talking about Dion Phaneuf than I’ve spent actually watching him play.

You’ve hit on something I believe though, which is that the bottom six is/has been the biggest problem this season. I’d have a lot more respect for “Sens don’t have a PLAN” takes if they were accompanied by some commentary that implied a Karlsson-Turris-Stone-Hoffman-Ryan-Zibanejad-Not Brain Damaged MacArthur core is insufficient to be competitive in the long term. That, at least, would display conviction that one truly disagrees with what The Bryan et al. have constructed over the past 4 years. However, to the best of my knowledge, most criticism of those players tends more towards something like “Kyle Turris only makes $3.5 Million a year, but he isn’t quite Anze Kopitar, is he?” or “Sure Bobby Ryan leads Sens forwards in points this year, but can he DRIVE POSSESSION?”, and outside of that, it is generally acknowledged that Ottawa’s good players are pretty damn good. (Four Senators are in the Top 35 in scoring this year TBH).

At the very least, a pessimist would have to say that Ottawa’s acquired some very good players BY ACCIDENT.

The big question for me is whether Ottawa can find some improvements over the Alex Chiassons of the team in the next six months? Honestly, I’m hopeful. If anything, being a seller at the deadline will make that easier. It’s not like Ottawa’s 2 points back of a wild card spot and has to keep Zack Smith around so as not to mess with locker room chemistry. If I’m reading these tea leaves correctly, Ryan Dzingel can easily step into that left winger role at a third of the cost. In addition, if Kyle Dubas has taught as anything, it’s that you can create a team consisting entirely of decent depth players in a single off-season. Surely finding a mere 3 or 4 of those guys shouldn’t really be that difficult, right? Then we just gotta sort out whatever it is Dave Cameron’s doing differently from last year. This off-season is gonna be EASY.

Roundtable of Death: We Just Traded Our Worst Contracts to the Leafs Edition

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Luke: People are out here like “WTYKY must speak on this”.

James: ____________________________!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steph: I am so begrudgingly happy right now.

Andrew: I think it’s a deal that works well for both sides. Toronto will just buyout the players they don’t want (hint: all the guys being described by Bob McKenzie as NHL calibre) and get Lindberg and a 2nd rounder because I hear they want to have the most picks in the draft (that’s real winning) and GMBM got to trade another second rounder. But really Dion isn’t great, makes too much for too long, (the opposite of my financial situation btw), but instantly improves the blueline.

You all wanted an upgrade on D (yeah, you heard me) and this is what it looks like.

It’s also a way for the Sens to get out of nearly $10M in bad deals next season and for the rest of this season, so that mitigates the cost of Dion right now. The Sens love the deferred dollars in PW and Cowen’s deals, and this is a sort of creative interpretation of that.

Whatever, now we get a few months of hoping, beyond all odds, that Cowen will re-sign in Toronto. #DareToDream.

I don’t mind this trade. Defense was a need. We weren’t going to buy out those deals, they were just going to soak up more dollars next year. It will hurt later, but whatever. Sens are better because Cowen can never get back into the lineup.

Varada: “You all wanted an upgrade on D and this is what it looks like” is seriously perfect analysis. This is what it takes to trade for a defenseman who will actually play in this league.

Sens take on $22M in future salary for a bunch of players who currently aren’t contributing anything.

You know what would be an interesting point to look at: does the sens making deals that put a big financial burden on some future version of the team mean that Melnyk is selling?

Steph: Jared Cowen isn’t a Senator anymore. Sure, okay, we got another mediocre defenseman who misguidedly fights frequently and is overpaid but…your EB-Games-employee lookin ass ex-man Jared Cowen is GONE. This deal is not a thing I’m ever going to toast to, but it’s probably not going to be the cause of my drinking either. Contract wins and losses are being talked to death right now but we won’t know who “won” this deal for a long while (hint: Sens won, they’re winning the Cup, fuck the police).

Here’s what I know about the rest of the players we’re getting from extensive research in the last 5 minutes:

One time Matt Frattin autographed this kid’s face:

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Ryan Rupert is a twin and twins are the work of the devil. Casey Bailey is from Alaska and Alaska is the work of the devil. Cody Donaghey’s Twitter is the reason I had to look up what GOAT means.

Andrew: Steph, I love you. I am on board. Face autographs for all. EB-Games employees rejoice.

Chet: The Sens trading for the Maple Leafs’ captain reminds me of a Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China.” But yes, this is what trading for a Top Four Defensiveman looks like. This is also Bryan Murray throwing Wideman and Wiercioch in a locked room with a shrimp fork and telling them that only one gets to come out, because you know Borowiecki is dug in like a tick on that third pairing.

And Clarke MacArthur helped convince Murray that Phaneuf was a good egg, right? But he still has a concussion? Vivid.

What I like about this trade is the number of different ways TSN 1200 listeners will be able to roast Phaneuf (which is Albertan French for “The Nine”) after some 6-5 loss to the Islanders:

a) That GUY Phaneuf used ta be the CAPTAIN in TORONNA. He was KING of the BUMS.
b) Phaneuf? Even TORONNA was smart enough to trade that BUM.
c) Bet that BUM Phaneuf is playin’ so bad ’cause he’s ticked off that he can’t find the fancy hair gel in Ottawa like he used ta buy in TORONNA.

I’ll hang up and listen. Although in the interests of hearing both sides (you gotta), any time you can improve your D by trading for the #1 guy from a team you just pasted 6-1, you gotta do it, even if it didn’t cost you $11M worth of guys, none of whom started for your team yesterday. At least the Leafs cleared enough cap room for Stamkos to use them as a stalking horse before signing somewhere else.

Andrew: Gotta say, the Stamkos Watch and subsequent disappointment is one of my favourite angles for this trade.

James: *Movie trailer narrator guy voice* “From the miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind that made you fall in love with Clarke MacArthurrrr…”

Chet: I remember James describing his powerful emotions upon hearing that the Sens had signed Clarke MacArthur less than an hour after Daniel Alfredsson left for Detroit – and I’m paraphrasing, because at the time two cops had him in a headlock – as “Hey Sens fans, don’t worry, we just signed a guy you HATE.” Except nobody ever really hated Clarke MacArthur, did they? Did anybody even have an opinion on Clarke MacArthur until he came to town as something other than a blue jersey? After that it only took him five minutes to convince Sens fans he’d been a misused third-liner in Toronto, making him exactly the kind of “We Told You So, You Stupid Leafs” player that Ottawa could get behind. Phaneuf is . . . not that. Until today, Phaneuf was the overpaid, overrated, underwhelming captain of an overrated, overexposed, underperforming rival – with one of the NHL’s top 5 punchable faces – and flipping the switch completely on THOSE powerful emotions will take some time. But the Sens are a better team tomorrow, 36-year-old Dion Phaneuf is still five years away, and by the time Bobby Ryan TORCHES Jared Cowen on March 12 at the CTC, Phaneuf will officially be a member of the family. “That’s my son!” you’ll find yourself shouting despite yourself, as some drunk land-plankton in a Sundin jersey finally gets to shout “Suck it, Phaneuf!” before vomiting Carling Black Label into his sister’s purse.

What else? Karlsson is gonna use Phaneuf’s contract to ask for 700 kajillion dollars in a few years. Fine. Worth it. Milan Michalek took a lot of BS from Sens fans, but his teammates loved him, he was good on the PK, he scored 30 goals one time, he wanted to be here, and he wasn’t Dany Heatley (Heatley’s ears just perked up at that mention as his Bugatti idles at some German drive-through window). Colin Greening is a good dude with an Ivy League diploma who took all the money the Sens were willing to give him, even if his final NHL fate is being turned into Diet Nathan Horton by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jared Cowen? You never know; what struggling players HAVEN’T turned their game around under the laid-back eye of the Toronto media? Mike Babcock has an arm around his shoulder right now, telling him, “Son, we’re going to give you every opportunity to get your game together,” as Kyle Dubas waves a “BUYOUT=650K=STAMKOS?” placard in the background. Good luck in Switzerland, you big western omelette.

I will miss Milan Michalek, actually. Yes, Michalek, the guy the Senators kept, at the same price, over Ales Hemsky, who literally only tried for 20 games – kudos to you, Bryan Murray, for not getting fooled, because Hemsky totally got ME on that one – after the Sens, barely in sight of a playoff spot, picked him up on an all-in move that ultimately failed. Is this more of the same? Yeah, maybe. But is it SOMETHING? Yes. Bryan Murray will be gone soon, but make no mistake, he’s not done writing the story Senators fans will tell about him. And I give the guy credit for that, no matter how this works out. See you in a week when he trades Wiercioch for Jonathan Drouin.

Luke: As of this morning I had resigned myself to spending the rest of the season evaluating interesting pending UFAs (Mikkel Boedker looks quite zesty! Jason Demers could be a satisfying acquisition on a number of levels!) and generally staying away from Twitter on account of my philosophy of devoting energy to things I enjoy. Then Andrew sent me a G-chat that read simply “GO ON TWITTER. NOW. TRADE.” and I was right back in.

I’m feeling very confused emotionally about this whole thing. On the one hand, there’s the joy of knowing that Ottawa has sent two of their worst players to a team I HAAAAAATE, although this joy has been somewhat lessened by every Leafs fan insisting “No, actually we want bad players!”, much in the same way I would make fun of myself in high school to discourage bullies from trodding that same ground.

There’s also a slight despair at having given up Tobias Lindberg, a prospect I really like, to a team I HAAAAAATE.

There’s also sadness at losing Milan Michalek, a consummate professional who did nothing other than whatever the org asked him to do, right down to waiving his No Trade Clause as his last official act as an Ottawa Senator.

And then there’s the uncertainty associated with acquiring a player who has mostly been an overpaid disappointment, yet could still be useful to the team given the right situation. Like James, I’ve certainly delighted in Phaneuf’s high-profile failings in the past, but even as I’ve mercilessly roasted the guy, I’ve also privately admitted that I thought Phaneuf was a victim of his role and expectations more than anything. “Dion Phaneuf: not as bad as you think!”, I would preach to my hapless friends, like a pretentious food connoisseur explaining how the shit sandwich they’d been served was actually considered a delicacy in some countries. Well now the shit is on the other baguette, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to fake a smile as I dig in.

James: I think we all know what Toronto’s plan is for Greening and Cowen. They are using that “New, veinier leaf logo” merch money to buy them out, something Bryan Murray has consistently said was not an option for the Senators. Baring injuries to better players, Greening and Cowen couldn’t even get into the lineup anymore. On a .500 team. That…is awful. I cannot stress this enough: Jared Cowen was going to get a fucking $800,000.00 dollar raise next year. Yes, almost a million dollars for playing EVEN WORSE this year. Another angle: He was going to make $400K less than Marc Methot next season. You know, the guy who’s done nothing but hold down the top pairing for years. What a mess. Though I have spent years defending him I have to respect the money ball of getting Michalek of the books. Blessed is the player that can play in the top or bottom 6 without complaint but the hard truth is Milo though his contribution to the team can be under-appreciated, he does spend quite a lot of time injured these days. We all know deep down that the Senators aren’t really the type of team that can pay a bottom 6 penalty killer, good as he is, 4 million bananas a year. Besides what does Michalek really do at this point that Pageau doesnt? It was time.

As I attempt to scrub my internal hard drive of years and years of roasts, I cannot really say with confidence I know what Phaneuf’s play is like on a game to game basis. I’m sorry I have shit to do besides watch a terrible team that i loathe in my spare time. BUT i feel pretty good that the chances of him regressing below a second pairing defenceman are farrrrrrrrrrrr less likely than Jared Cowen progressing into a bottom pairing defender. Besides we have Hoffmans to re-sign.

Also, those in their feelings about Tobias Lindberg. He might make the Leafs yeah…THE REBUILDING LEAFS. Are we really thinking that guy had a chance of getting someone in the current top 6 out the paint? Shit, Shane Prince has twice the pedigree and is toiling on the 4th line trying to set up Chris Neil for one timers. Thumbs up to improving the defence which absolutely had to be done in exchange for shedding dead cash, giving up a prospect who had little chance here, a DEEC player and a second round pick.

Bryan Murray once traded a FIRST round pick for Chris Campoli btw.

Varada: I think I’d summarize this trade by saying, yes, it’s a blockbuster, in that trades don’t really happen anymore and this involved a lot of people. However, at the end of the day, it’s an often-injured top 6 forward, some dead cash, and some lottery tickets for a pretty ok top 3 D, some dead cash, and some lottery tickets. It’s hard for me to get worked up about it. We added a body we need now, and a player whose salary descends over the next five years who will be tradeable as the cap keeps going up. I’m a fan of the trade.

And to those who are writing that this is a terrible deal and we should be launching a BONAFIDE REBUILD™ – you know who you are, because you interpret every single occurrence through this lens – all I can say is that what was said when Phaneuf was signed to that deal remains true today: if you want to add a defenseman who can play 18-22 minutes for you every night, then you’re not getting him on the UFA market for anything less than a ridiculous number, and you’re not trading for him without giving up an amazing prospect. So you give him the term, and figure out the rest years from now. Ottawa got a player who literally could not be got any other way, and I don’t know what to say to those who are wishing we had to sit through 3-5 years of massive losing seasons instead. I’m a little tired of everything Ottawa tries being met with “Yeah, but this doesn’t fix everything the way the team being an entirely different team might fix things.”

Luke: One thing is certain, and that is that The Universe has set a course towards one of two possible realities – one reality in which Bryan Murray is hailed as an all-time genius for having managed to ship off Ottawa’s contractual dead weight to free up money for Mike Hoffman’s pending contract extension while simultaneously shoring up the Sens’ porous blue line simply by giving up a veteran 3rd line forward and Ottawa’s 3rd best prospect, or another reality in which Bryan Murray is remembered as having rid himself of two of his greatest mistakes by doubling down on an even bigger mistake and is subsequently forever ridiculed as an executive whose final year was mostly in service of our bitter provincial rival. Which reality we end up in hinges on one thing: Dion Phaneuf not playing like a pile of wet paper bags on Ottawa’s second pairing for the next 3 to 5 years.

Early predictions are mixed to say the least, but I have watched a lot of bad defensemen play for the Ottawa Senators this year, and I can confidently state that Dion Phaneuf will be an upgrade on no less than three of them.

“Phaneuf only looked good because he’s been playing against 2nd-tier competition!”, yell the braying masses. Well that’s good because that’s who Ottawa’s brought him to play against. “Phaneuf was being CARRIED by Jake Gardiner!”, goes another common criticism, as if Ottawa doesn’t have a defenseman as good as Jake Gardiner. This might be my inherent optimism talking, but it seems to me that if Dion Phaneuf can play well in certain situations on a team that is objectively terrible (Sorry, Rich Clune), he should be able to play well in certain situations on a team that is objectively slightly better than terrible. I don’t expect greatness, but I do expect an upgrade over what was there before by way of steady competence, and the peace of mind that steady competence brings is something you can’t really put a price tag on.

Well, I guess you can put a price tag on it. $33 million over 5 years would be the amount on that price tag.

Jared Cowen: A Retrospective

Jared Cowen and I have had some fun over the years. Let’s take a look back.

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Goodbye, Gentle Giant.

Your Model Sucks

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No Fancy Stats argument is actually about stats. A statistic is a number that (theoretically) represents reality, and you can’t argue about reality1. Mark Borowiecki has a 5-on-5 score-adjusted CF% of 44% this season. Can’t argue with that. Patrick Wiercioch has 3 points this season and Erik Karlsson’s got 51 points this season. Can’t argue with that.

Analytics arguments are actually (#ACTUALLY) dissecting what these numbers mean in terms of player evaluation and future performance. These are questions without easy answers2 and really more about one’s philosophy and biases than they are about actual mathematics. This is why participants in a #fancystats argument mostly end up sounding like 3rd year undergraduates trying to nail the 5% class participation mark. This isn’t math class, it’s philosophy class.3

All this to say I’m not here to talk about stats. I’m here to talk about models, which are like stats only worse. Let me explain…

Ed note: This post is about to get wild nerdy. I don’t know how to prevent this. Turns out one can’t talk about their personal philosophy of phenomenological modelling without sounding like a huge dork. So it goes.

In a perfect world, you would describe and make predictions about all physical phenomena by applying the prescribed laws. Physicists love doing this. Physicists write down some laws, solve some differential equations, and boom there’s General Relativity. Very few things ever work out this nicely. Most things worth studying contain too many moving parts to accommodate well-defined system behaviour. The real world is messy. This is where models come in.

A model takes inputs, does math to the inputs (to use the technical term), and then spits out an an output that looks hopefully looks like reality. A good model should help us make inferences about the relationship between Things. However, and this is very important to always bear in mind, just because a model looks like reality does not mean that it is necessarily a good stand-in for reality. This is the origin of the expression from the statistician George Box, “All models are wrong, some models are useful.

Which brings me back to the intentionally inflammatory title of this post: your model sucks. It does. It is in the very nature of modelling that a model is an imperfect representation of reality. Therefore, if a model is to be taken seriously, I believe that the ways in which it is imperfect must be both qualitatively and quantitatively stated (and if your default position is to say “It’s just because of variance”, I will personally wish for you to be haunted until the end of your days by the ghost of Ludwig Boltzmann.)

There is another philosophical question that must be answered, which is “What is this model for?”. Is it meant to be a descriptive model (and if so, why is it necessarily better than examining raw inputs?), or is it a predictive/evaluative model (and if so, just how predictive is it?). There’s a couple of models floating around out here, and it’s not always clear what supposed to be for.

Let’s look at the much-ballyhooed dCorsi. From Stephen Burtch’s post, “dCorsi represents the unexplained residual portion of Corsi results observed for a given skater in a given season.” which is to say it’s the difference between The Fancy Model and Reality. Even if dCorsi is repeatable (its year-over-year R-squared is about 0.15), all that would really mean is that the model is wrong in some consistent ways, which I would find worrying if it was my job to apply the model. I would rather just use dCorsi as a way to quantify the error bars on the model outputs. I think it’s difficult to properly use something like dCorsi as an evaluative tool when it is literally just an expression of what you don’t know.

Then there is this:

In general I feel like weird results such as this, where Brad Marchand has a Goals Above Replacement per 60 that is 50% higher than Patrick Kane, or where John Tavares and Jack Eichel have worse dCorsis than Zac Rinaldo really say much more about the model in question than they do about the player being modeled. It’s tough for me to read this post without coming away with the impression that the values from this Expected Goal model should have some big goddamn error bars on them. Merely posting something that basically says “Aaaaaaay, look how much better Brad Marchand is than Patrick Kane.” is slightly absurd because Brad Marchand is not a better hockey player than Patrick Kane. If anything, this tweet is best understood as an illustration of how much work on these types of models still need to be done4.

Not every deep truth about sports has to be couched in some sort of Gladwellian counter-intuition. Sometimes your model just sucks. I need to know why and by how much if I’m ever going to use it.

1. Ok just work with me on this one.

2. Don’t @ me.

3. Good example: Do secondary assists matter? Answer: it depends! Speaking of secondary assists, we here at Welcome to your Karlsson Years dot com would like to bestow the Lifetime Achievement Award in Petty Hating to Tyler Dellow for his 2012 piece (which sadly no longer exists on the internet) in which he examined every single one of Erik Karlsson’s assists in an attempt to de-legitimize EK’s point totals. You did it, boo! (You can read Travis Yost’s response here.)

4. I believe Zack Lowe’s amazing piece on the Toronto Raptors’ player tracking department is an excellent indication of how much more data (i.e. a ludicrous amount of data) modelers will need before useful models can be created for hockey. Until then, I’ll settle for some big ol’ error bars on this stuff.