December Report Card: Player Grades

Yup - USA TODAY Sports

We're two months into the season, and the sky has almost officially fallen. Who have been the culprits? Who have been the valiant chickens attempting to keep the sky afloat? Silver Seven's report card reveals our answers.

Note: As per usual with player grades, the assigned grade is not the decision of a single writer. All staff members voted and the grades assigned are an aggregate of that vote. Grades are also based on expectations for each player. For some that's a scoring role, for others it's being a depth defenceman, etc.

Goaltenders Grade Notes
Craig Anderson D+ Last season in 24 games, Craig Anderson had the best statistics in the NHL. With an unreal 40 goals against, in all logic it was impossible to believe that he could repeat those numbers. With that in mind, nobody expected the regression Anderson has experienced. He's allowed 15 more goals in 7 fewer games already, including 40 in his last 11 games. If not for a handful of positive performances and playing behind one of the worst defences in the NHL, he could have a failing grade.
Robin Lehner A On the other side of the coin is Robin Lehner. Far exceeding the expectations for a backup goaltender, Lehner has provided the Senators with a chance to win every night he has played, typically repaid with little support. Sunday's match against Detroit was the first sub-.900 save percentage of the season for the man who is starring in the annual Ottawa goalie controversy.
Defensemen
Mark Borowiecki B Things didn't start out well for Mark Borowiecki after scoring a goal into his own net in his first game. As he got more comfortable in the NHL, Borowiecki improved. He wasn't ever going to be a top-pairing defenceman, and while he wasn't consistently great, he wasn't awful, either. That's a compliment this season.
Joe Corvo C+ Joe Corvo averages over a point every two games, yet he's played only 11 games this season. Why? Because Corvo comes exactly as advertised: some offensive output combined with terrible defensive coverage. This is why he has been scratched more than any other defenceman in Ottawa's defender press-box-go-round.
Jared Cowen D- If you have watched the Ottawa Senators this season, you know Jared Cowen has been bad. Many fans and even those in the media have suggested that he spend some time in the minors (he is waiver-exempt). Cowen is lacking confidence, becoming so scared of making a bad play that he often makes no play at all. It's not a good situation for himself or the team.
Eric Gryba C On other teams, Eric Gryba is a #7 or #8 defenceman. On Ottawa, he's often thrust into second-pairing minutes because there isn't anyone else. Playing above his comfort zone, much like last season, makes Gryba's weaknesses stand out.
Erik Karlsson A Naturally, Not God gets the highest accolades. At a point-per-game, Erik Karlsson is on pace for his best statistical season ever. He plays the most minutes of any skater on the team and, while always a bit of a defensive risk, has sometimes been tasked with masking the mistakes of his partners.
Marc Methot B- It hasn't been the same for Marc Methot this season. Last year he was the best defensive defenceman on the team, even being invited to Canada's Olympic camp this past summer. If he's been disappointing this season, it's attributable to overreaching expectations. Like Karlsson, he doesn't always get help from his teammates.
Chris Phillips B- Chris Phillips is not the defenceman he used to be, something we've been saying for years now. He's still regularly playing over 20 minutes per game because there is so little depth to insulate him. Classic Stat: Phillips is second on the team with 7 power play points.
Patrick Wiercioch C- The man who should be second in power play points has had a brutal season. Patrick Wiercioch doesn't have the trust of Paul MacLean and has been scratched 8 times so far. When he's not playing well defensively, Wiercioch needs to rely on his offensive skills. Those aren't clicking for him this season.
Forwards
Cory Conacher C The Cory Conacher who put up points last season was the Cory Conacher who played alongside Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, not Chris Neil and Z. Smith. That said, 5 points in 27 games is unacceptable.
Erik Condra D+ Erik Condra is not an offensive dynamo, as anyone who has ever seen him attempt to shoot the puck can attest. What he does well is possess the puck and penalty kill. Condra has been a CORSI darling for years, but this season has not gone well for him by his standards. In the most Erik Condra moment possible, he was injured while scoring his only goal of the season.
Derek Grant B After making a 5-game cameo last season, Derek Grant has appeared in 20 games so far this season. Although just sent down to Binghamton this week, while in Ottawa he was one of the better, if quieter stories of the season. He came in, played on the fourth line, killed penalties, and essentially filled the role that many were hoping Jean-Gabriel Pageau to play.
Colin Greening D It took 25 games for Colin Greening to take himself out of the running for the Bill Muckalt Award, scoring his one and only goal against the Washington Capitals. He is having by far his worst offensive season and has found no chemistry with any of his teammates and is often invisible on the ice. At the moment he's a poor man's Cory Conacher.
Matt Kassian D+ What value does Matt Kassian bring on the ice to the Ottawa Senators? The heavyweight has only 12 penalty minutes in 11 games. He has fewer fights than Mark Borowiecki (and as many as Colin Greening). He's had fewer shifts in his last 5 games combined than Erik Karlsson had against Detroit on Sunday.
Clarke MacArthur A+ Although Clarke MacArthur had a rough start to the season actually scoring goals, he is now tied for third on the team with 8 on the season. He is on pace to match the best offensive season of his career, has been part of the most dominant line on the team, and is arguably the best free agent signing in Ottawa Senators history.
Milan Michalek C There was a time when Milan Michalek had incredible speed and the hands to make plays. It is no longer that time. It's disappointing to see his career begin to dovetail as it has. There's no talk of extending Michalek, only the debate on whether to keep him or hope someone trades assets for him. Previous chemistry with Jason Spezza seems nonexistent.
Chris Neil C Sometimes Chris Neil is a dominant force on the ice, sometimes he is a complete liability who takes poorly-timed penalties, and most times he is offside. Neil has made Matt Kassian redundant this season while providing more offence and skill than Kassian can. He's also prone to poor decision-making and overzealous temper.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau D Blinded by a summer of memories of chanting his name, Senators fans may have been a little hasty anointing Jean-Gabriel Pageau a full-time NHL player. Pageau was not the player this season that he was last season, but that is okay. There is no shame in needing more seasoning in the minor leagues, where Pageau now has 14 points in 12 games. He simply wasn't ready for prime time.
Bobby Ryan A+ Expected to put up the best statistics of his career alongside Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan is instead putting up the best statistics of his career alongside Kyle Turris. Ryan has done everything that could be asked of him. If the only criticism of someone on pace for 39 goals is that maybe he could shoot more, he's doing an acceptable job.
Z. Smith B For a while, Z. "Zack Smith" Smith was one of the top-performing forwards on the Ottawa Senators, earning the ice time he was being given over Jason Spezza. He's cooled off since. Has already matched his anemic goal total from last season well in advance.
Jason Spezza B- He may be third in scoring, but Jason Spezza has been a bit of a disappointment this season. It's impossible to judge how being given the captaincy has affected Spezza (after all, we are not Jason Spezza), but what can be judged is his play. Spezza has had difficult finding chemistry with any of his teammates until being paired with Mika Zibanejad. He rightfully lost his job as #1 centre.
Kyle Turris A+ Last season, Kyle Turris was given the #1 centre job because with an injury to Jason Spezza, there was no other choice. This season, Kyle Turris was given the #1 centre job because he earned it from a healthy Spezza. Once Bobby Ryan was put on Turris' wing, the two alongside Clarke MacArthur became one of the NHL's most dominant lines. He's having a career season.
Mika Zibanejad A- Since being recalled from Binghamton, Mika Zibanejad has been one of the most consistent performers on the team. For awhile, he was inexplicably being bounced around different lines with different linemates, usually in the bottom-six. That has finally changed now that he's been moved to Jason Spezza's wing. The two have developed chemistry and the union has finally turned Spezza into a positive possession player. He also has as many goals as Clarke MacArthur in fewer games. Is having the best point-per-game season of any player taken in the 2011 draft after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog.
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