With the Sens going into year 3 of their "3-year rebuild", I thought it’d be a good time to look into our UFAs to see if there’s anything in the data out there that can further enhance the discussion that all Sens fans will be having while we countdown the days to the NHL Entry Draft and Free Agency (July 5th this year).
As per Capgeek, the Sens currently have $43,500,833 tied up to 19 roster players. With a $64 million cap next year, Bryan Murray and the rest of the management team have put this team in a very favourable situation in comparison to the rest of the league, with many teams looking to use one or both of their allotted amnesty buyouts this year just to fit under the cap. However, just because we’re in a favourable monetary position does not mean that Murray and co. will have easy decisions to make this offseason, and on the contrary, many tough decisions will have to be made, especially with Murray and Maclean on different wavelengths on whether this team is a serious contender or not.
Before I look at the UFAs, I’d like to introduce some terms that some may be familiar with but nevertheless can be confusing.
Corsi is like +/-, but for shots instead and include ALL shots directed at net (shots on goal, blocked shots, and missed shot). Corsi is typically used as a measure of zone time and to see whether the player was driving possession (via directing shots on net). In this article, I'll be focusing on Corsi Relative (Corsi Rel on Behind the Net) to see how players did in comparison to the rest of the team
PDO is a measure created to measure "luck", and is the sum of goaltender save % while that player is on the ice, as well as that player’s on-ice shooting %. Over a long period of time, PDO regresses to a mean value of 1000, and players above 1000 by a lot are usually "lucky" and likely to perform worse next season while players below 1000 are usually "unlucky" and are likely to perform better next season.
A player’s individual stats are driven by a lot of things, but two of the most important concepts are Quality of Competition and Offensive Zone Starts. Behind The Net tracks Corsi Rel QoC, which is a quality of competition metric relative to your teammates. Using this, we can see which players on the team played the toughest minutes and who played the easiest. Used in conjunction with Offensive Zone Starts (how often that player started in the offensive zone -> more likely to direct a shot rather than give one up), we can see who Maclean sheltered, and who he threw out to the dogs.
(a better explanation of these statistics can be found here)
A helpful graphic called a Player Usage Chart was created by Rob Vollman, and will help us when visualizing these players throughout this discussion. In the chart below, I made the games played cutoff at 10 (eliminating Pageau, Hoffman, Stone, Borowiecki, Da Costa, Spezza, and Cowen). Relative Quality of Competition is along the Y-axis, while Offensive Zone Starts are along the X-axis. The bigger the bubble, the higher the Corsi Rel value. Blue means a positive value (good -> when player was on the ice, he was generating more shots than he was giving up), whereas red is a negative value (bad -> being outshot).
If you’re a Sens fan and you don’t think Daniel Alfredsson can play in this league anymore, you’re nuts. Alfie played 57 of the team’s 58 games and was the Sens leading scorer in the postseason (4G + 6A = 10P) and was the team’s 3rd leading scorer in the regular season (10G + 16A = 26P). Alfie ranked 5th on the team in terms of Corsi. Of note, he wasn’t sheltered as he played against slightly above-average competition, and his statistics show that he still be a regular contributor in the NHL.
Yesterday, Gui Latendresse sent out this tweet. So though there’s no "official" word from the team, I highly doubt he’ll be back. Signed in the offseason to insulate some of the younger forwards and provide goal scoring with net presence, #guyet was injured early and afterwards found it hard to outplay the very rookies he was supposed to insulate. Latendresse played the 2nd hardest minutes (after Dziurzynski) in the 27 games he did suit up for, often on the Turris or Zibanejad lines, though he wasn’t a positive possession player relative to the team. He did have some memorable goals over the season and playoffs, including this as my favourite in his first game back. His final stat line reads 6G, 4A for 10P in 27 games. Though the free agent class is thin, there’s a surplus of in-house forwards that could fill his shoes (Stone comes to mind) and I don’t think he’ll be missed very much (except by Bonk’s Mullet). Au Revoir, #guyet.
Peter Regin is an interesting case. He played 11 games in 08-09, but it was in 2009-10 where he really took off, with 75 games played, 13G + 16A for 29 points. Regin was the best possession player on the team that year (by a large margin) with a Corsi Rel value of 18.9 [surprisingly, Jesse Winchester was second with a 10.9 value] and finished more of his shifts in the offensive zone than he started (52% to 50%. However, as well all are aware, he didn’t have a very good season in 10-11, but was also mildly unlucky (PDO of 985). He’s was plagued with injuries in the latter half of 10-11 and only played 10 games in 11-12. This year was meant to be a brand new start for Regin, and although he managed to dress for 27 games (!!!) he was a negative driver in possession for the first time in his career (albeit in a small sample), and found himself in the press box for most of the year. All in all, Regin only has 5 goals over his last 92 games and though he’s Karlsson’s BFF, I highly doubt he’ll be back.
Sergei Gonchar arguably had his best year in an Ottawa Senators uniform production wise, with a 3G + 24A = 27P in the regular season – highlighted by a Sens record 10 game assist streak, with an additional 6 assists in the playoffs. Out of those 27 points, only 12 (1G + 11A) were at 5 on 5 play. Gonchar’s minutes have been getting easier in difficulty as time has passed, and he was a negative possession driver compared to the rest of the team (and has been since 09-10). A positive for Gonchar is that he played a LOT of minutes for Paul Maclean this year, and was cited as a key veteran in a room that had to go through a lot of adversity. According to his exit interview, he’s looking for term over money, and is hoping for a 2 year deal while stressing that he is very comfortable in Ottawa. I’d love to give him a 1-year deal while our other offensive defenseman (Wiercioch, Ceci, etc) hone their defensive game a bit more, but I think that 2 years would be too long when you factor in the Sens internal cap, and the fact that there isn’t really a significant argument showing that Wiercioch or Cowen couldn’t perform equally or better in Gonchar’s minutes as well.
I’m profiling Benoit next because I personally think that the team will keep EITHER Gonchar or Benoit. The 28 year old journeyman had an eventful season, and suited up for 33 games in the regular season (3G + 7A = 10P) as well as 5 in the postseason (0G + 3A = 3P). He certainly passed the "eyeball test" for me, and I really liked what he brought as a member of the team’s 3rd pairing. Out of all the team’s players, Benoit played the easiest minutes (only O’Brien and Kassian played easier), with Wiercioch playing practically similar minutes. Unlike his Binghamton D-partner, Benoit wasn’t sheltered AS much in terms of zone starts and drove possession accordingly. I highly doubt he can be much more than he was this season, but I still think that he’s a useful 6/7 defenseman.
Mike Lundin was a player signed in the offseason to stabilize the defense core and to help out with the PK. I don’t really know what to say about him because he only played 11 games due to a broken finger to start the year, and a concussion when he was now starting to play significant minutes. A lot of the numbers that I’ve been citing won’t really mean much in this case, but it’s worth noting that Lundin had the lowest number of offensive-zone starts on the team, albeit against not too difficult competition. I don’t think he’ll be back.
The BSens man of the year has signed in the KHL as per Dmitry Chesnokov
Fare thee well, Huge Specimen.
Nathan Lawson was Binghamton’s primary goalie after the lockout ended and took the two-headed monster (Lehner + Bishop) away from the folks at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, and performed very well in his 23 games with a save percentage of .938%. Unfortunately, the AHL stats page is horrible, but with no AHL depth at goalie right now other than newly signed college FA Andrew Hammond, I think Luke Richardson would appreciate having Lawson back.
All statistics are from Behind the Net. Thanks to Capgeek, Rob Vollman, Greg Sinclair, and Ryan Classic (for helping me edit).