Senators Alphabet: V is for Volchenkov

Bruce Bennett

V is for Volchenkov, as in Anton Volchenkov, Ottawa's former #24. Volchenkov was drafted 24th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Anton first made the Sens roster in 2002-03, when he suited up for 57 games for Ottawa, recording 3 goals, 13 assists, 16 points, and 40 PIMs. A-Train quickly developed a reputation as fearless hitter and a frequent shot blocker.

Volchenkov gained more defensive responsibility after the departure of Zdeno Chara. Paired with Ottawa blue liner Chris Phillips, Volchenkov emerged as one of the premier shutdown defensemen of the post-lockout era. Volchenkov re-signed with the team at the end of the regular season in 2007 and was a key member of the Senators team which made the Stanley Cup Finals that year.

At the end of the 2010 season, Volchenkov had 1023 career blocked shots (since the lockout, when the NHL starting keeping that stat). It was 124 more than his closest rival, Brett Clark. Volchenkov's lead in this statistic, as well as his 5.33 blocks/game in the 2010 playoffs helped enhance his growing reputation as an elite shot blocker and premier shut down defenseman.

But the end of the 2009-10 season posed a problem for the Ottawa: with Volchenkov's contract expiring, would they resign the 28-year-old, physical defenseman or allow him to reach unrestricted free agency where he was predicted to receive a substantial raise? In addition to the steep cap hit Volchenkov could command on the open market, he would likely be offered a long-term deal (5+ years). Would Ottawa consider tying up considerable cap space in a player whose career point total of 94 points over 7 season and 423 games could be challenged by Erik Karlsson in a single season? Would Ottawa be willing to risk signing a defenseman who played a physically demanding and dangerous style of game, which already contributed to injuries he'd sustained and would likely continue in the future as he wore down?

Ultimately, the answer was no. When free agency opened on July 1, 2010, Anton signed a six-year, $25.5 million contract with the New Jersey Devils. I always liked Anton, I appreciated the sacrifices he made, but I was hesitant to sign a player like him for a long time and into his mid-30s. I am always hesitant about signing players with defensive upside only for big bucks. Mostly, I was concerned that the wear and tear of Volchenkov's play would make his cap hit a serious problem for Ottawa going forward.

It has been two years since Anton last played for the Sens and 1/3 of his deal with New Jersey is finished. While Volchenkov had a fairly healthy season this past year, I'm interested to see if his numbers suggest he's wearing down. Because A-Train's reputation has been built on his shot blocking ability, I am going to compare his stats to the top shot blockers since the lockout, as well as other key defensive stats, to see how his recent play compares with his best Ottawa years.



2005-06

GP

HITS

Hits/G

BkS

BkS/G

GvA

TkA

1


Jay McKee

75

93

1.24

241

3.21

50

16

2


Karlis Skrastins

82

33

0.4

207

2.52

37

70

3


Colin White

73

145

1.99

199

2.73

84

31

4


Andy Sutton

76

99

1.3

195

2.57

51

38

5


Niclas Havelid

82

57

0.7

192

2.34

66

55

6


Anton Volchenkov

75

139

1.85

189

2.52

43

35



2006-07

GP

HITS

Hits/G

BkS

BkS/G

GvA

TkA

1


Anton Volchenkov

78

205

2.63

273

3.5

44

32

2


Jason Smith

82

151

1.84

228

2.78

109

37

3


Niclas Havelid

77

43

0.56

225

2.92

84

34

4


Brett Clark

82

85

1.04

210

2.56

43

45

5


Brendan Wit

81

231

2.85

207

2.55

62

20



2007-08

GP

HITS

Hits/G

BkS

BkS/G

GvA

TkA

1


Mike Komisarek

75

266

3.55

227

3.03

68

40

2


Anton Volchenkov

67

153

2.28

209

3.12

32

23

3


Jason Smith

77

142

1.84

204

2.65

33

11

4


Roman Hamrlik

77

138

1.79

187

2.43

70

36

5


Steve Staios

82

81

0.99

187

2.28

84

33



2008-09

GP

HITS

Hits/G

BkS

BkS/G

GvA

TkA

1


Zbynek Michalek

82

69

0.84

271

3.3

31

18

2


Brett Clark

76

73

0.96

238

3.13

41

26

3


Greg Zanon

82

153

1.87

237

2.89

31

40

4


Mike Komisarek

66

191

2.89

207

3.14

89

21

5


Roman Hamrlik

81

104

1.28

195

2.41

78

41

8


Anton Volchenkov

68

182

2.68

180

2.65

29

23



2009-10

GP

HITS

Hits/G

BkS

BkS/G

GvA

TkA

1


Dennis Seidenberg

79

166

2.1

215

2.72

25

24

2


Andy Sutton

72

197

2.74

204

2.83

64

24

3


Keith Ballard

82

156

1.9

201

2.45

61

18

4


Greg Zanon

81

183

2.26

196

2.42

39

25

5


Chris Pronger

82

104

2.3

189

2.3

58

40

8


Anton Volchenkov

64

153

2.4

172

2.69

41

17



2010-11

GP

HITS

Hits/G

BkS

BkS/G

GvA

TkA

1


Dan Girardi

80

195

2.44

236

2.95

51

30

2


Greg Zanon

82

169

2.06

212

2.59

28

21

3


Mark Giordano

82

140

1.71

193

2.35

42

25

4


Roman Hamrlik

79

66

0.84

192

2.43

53

31

5


Francois Beauchemin

81

122

1.51

182

2.25

90

34

100


Anton Volchenkov

57

125

2.19

106

1.86

19

7



2011-12

GP

HITS

Hits/G

BkS

BkS/G

GvA

TkA

1


Josh Gorges

82

131

1.6

250

3.05

43

20

2


Brett Clark

82

118

1.44

199

2.43

43

26

3


Francois Beauchemin

82

154

1.88

194

2.37

47

30

4


Bryan Allen

82

111

1.35

188

2.29

36

22

5


Dan Girardi

82

211

2.57

185

2.26

61

37

58


Anton Volchenkov

72

177

2.46

125

1.74

15

14

What do these tables show us? For starters, defensive role players GvA/TkA ratio is surprisingly similar to the top offensive players at that position. Volchenkov has already missed 35 games in two seasons with New Jersey. Volchenkov still hits at similar rates to his Ottawa days but his blocked shots have decreased considerably. While some of that must be attributed to playing for a team who have always been known for their strong defensive system and therefore playing with more strong defensive players than in Ottawa, it's also fair to suggest that he's unable to block as many shots anymore. This would be consistent with some of the other names examined above. While several players are listed for more than one year, there is still considerable turnover as well. Players like Jay McKee and Mike Komisarek aged quickly, and in the case of Komisarek, quickly became a defensive liability. Volchenkov might share the same fate in the coming seasons.

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