Silver Seven Report Cards: Additional Questions

USA Today Sports

Some additional questions for the Silver Seven Staff on voting decisions.

Here's how each Silver Seven writer voted:

Final_player_grades_-_silver_seven_medium

1. Question to Peter: Patrick Wiercioch was a D in your eyes but B player for the rest of the Silver Seven. What didn't you like about his play this season?

Peter: I gave him the same grade as I gave Jared Cowen, because I felt like both were expected to be second-pairing defenders and both failed miserably--at least at the start of the season. Considering it again, it might have been a little unfair of Wiercioch to saddle him with as much blame as Cowen (who was definitely worse), but he still struggled mightily for the first half of the season.

2. Question to Matt: You went against the grain with his evaluations of Jared Cowen and Eric Gryba. What did you see that everyone else didn't?

Matt: I love all of you guys and maybe I'm way out in left field, here - but I really don't know how you gave such admirable grades to Cowen and Gryba (Mostly D's for Cowen and B's ?!? for Gryba) - remember D is a pass (50-59%) and B is a solid grade (70-79%). These guys did not play like passing/solid students. For two sturdy lads (who clock in at 6'5 228 and 6'4 225), they played like 'deer in the headlights' dough-heads. Aside from the fact that these two SHOULD be one of the most intimidating shut-down pairs in the league, defense can sort of be boiled down to two basic elements; stopping players and stopping pucks. These guys could do very little of that all season long. Speed? That's a big no for either. Winning battles on the boards? They should be, but maybe neither of these guys realizes how big they are. Oh yeah - another cardinal rule of defense; use your feet instead of your stick. If you watch Marc Methot skate and get back and position himself (and yeah - he screwed up here and there, but nowhere NEAR as much as these two did), he uses feet and his body to defend firs and THEN uses his stick. I could assemble a lengthy highlight reel of Gryba and Cowen reaching in and getting hooking or interference calls because they were constantly out of position. Gryba, in my books, at least gets a pass, because he began to slowly (and I mean slowly) improve positionally as the season went on. He wound up with a +9. Not bad. But I still blame Gryba. For all things. Moving on to Cowen, hip surgery issues or not - I firmly believe that after a bit more than a season and a half in the NHL, this guy is overvalued. I can't count the number of times I watched games this season and saw Cowen let opposing players walk in, as he looked stuck in the blocks or unsure of where he should be. THAT's a huge problem. Ended the season with a big fat 0 in the plus minus (no joke needed). With Borocop and Ceci coming up and the potential for Wiercioch to play more (who, despite some D mistakes, added 23 points in 53 games), I'd send Cowen down (if that's an option - is it?). He's clearly not ready to play in this league and in my mind, he was someone the management counted on to make a difference this year and played a huge part in giving up leads and shaky D play.

3. Question for Group: Chris Neil had support from multiple staff members at the C, D, and F level. Which is he?

Adnan: I thought he was particularly bad this year and more so than usual. In rather limited ice time (the least he has played in years), he managed to have one of the worst penalty differentials in the league and a lot worse than usual. He was a complete liability with killing rushes, boneheaded decisions and contributed little to nothing positive.

Roger: All of my grades were relative to what I understand to be roughly the league average for a player's role on the team. This is a bit confusing because sometimes I wasn't sure what role that player occupies or what would be expected of the average player. For instance, I think Matt Kassian is an average hockey player for a face puncher, but a below average fourth liner; I wasn't sure what to grade him against. Similarly, with Chris Neil I think the variability comes from his bizarre role on the team. Are we comparing him to an average third liner or an average assistant captain playing 18 minutes a night with time on the powerplay? He's a moderate failure compared to the former, and a goddamned disaster compared to the latter. Notably, if the question had been, "how did Chris Neil do relative to your expectations?" I would have given him a C-. How have we not traded this guy yet?

Ary: Chris Neil is kinda tough to rate for me, because he's a rare breed of NHLer - a fighter that can actually play. Despite this, he's clearly in the downswing of his career, and although I think there's a place for him on this hockey club, he shouldn't be playing the amount of minutes that he currently plays. I think he was a "D" level player this year, primarily because his penalty #'s was the single biggest factor to the team's overall penalty differential this season. If Coach MacLean plans to cut 50 goals from next season, Chris Neil has to be one of the players to really smarten up, and going off of his current career, I doubt it.

Peter: I think he's a D. He's still a capable NHL player, but he's not a third-liner. And he desperately needs to stop taking so many stupid penalties--especially since he's supposed to be a leader on this team.

Matt: Chris Neil is a solid C in my mind because he represents how this team should play the game; with desperation and lots of it. In every game, you can see in Neil's face and eyes and (slowing) strides that he plays every shift like it's his last one in the NHL. And who was it who fired up the team, rallied the troops, and tore a strip off them in the locker room after they were pummeled in Boston 5-0 in late December? That was Neiler. Was it a coincidence that they went on a little streak after that? I don't think so. Neil's partly a goon but he's a born team leader and role player. He's no Crosby or Toews - but he is who he is. I wish every other Sen had a tiny morsel of the amount of heart he has.

MrsOsSens: Neil is a C- or D type player I guess most years, which is why I gave him a C-. He has his role and meets the criteria fine. But he took the physical role too far this year and forgot that he can also skate and puts up a few points when he wants to. He goes offside a lot (which my 10 year olds know not to do) and he took too many silly penalties this year. Perhaps maybe I lean more towards a D after writing my rationale.

nkb: a) I don't see his role as being particularly valuable or conducive to winning hockey games. At this stage of his career, he's not a strong enough skater or good enough with the puck to be able to contribute anything beyond a few hits and a fight here or there. Lots of people will disagree with me on the value of that sort of thing, but for me it's close to 0. When he was younger I could be convinced he was pitching in from time to time, but at this stage of his career I think any of that added value is gone

b) His penalty differential was horrendous. Simply put, Chris Neil took a LOT of dumb penalties. For someone who doesn't drive play or contribute anything meaningful offensively, it's a huge tax on the team to be made to be shorthanded so often. I'm not one to peer into athlete's souls, so I don't know if Chris Neil is a selfish person per say (though it seems unlikely given his role in the community), but his behaviour in this regard is just that.

TL;DR: Doesn't add much beyond hitting and fighting and he took WAY too many penalties

Brad: Definitely a drop from years past, but not COMPLETELY useless just yet.

Amelia: Chris Neil is supposed to play on the edge, not consistently go over it. His frequently lack of discipline hurt his time and consequently, his ranking.

4. Question for Group: Bobby Ryan arrived in Ottawa with much fanfare. He started the season strong, but was bothered by injury for much of the season. He received grades from A- to D- by the Silver Seven staff. Where the preseason expectations fair? What letter grade should be expected for Ryan next season?

Adnan: I thought he underachieved but it is hard to say how much the injury impacted him.

Roger: It's very hard to say much about Bobby Ryan's season because we're missing crucial information. How badly was he hurt, and for how long? How much did that affect his play? I feel like we're going into the next season with this guy still a relative unknown. We know he can shoot, and we know he's a very good player, but I'm not sure we really know his strengths or weaknesses that well. We also don't know just how high his ceiling can be. I'm optimistic about Ryan, but perhaps more cautiously so than I was last year.

Ary: I think Bobby Ryan was as advertised this season. He definitely entered the season #hot and formed one of the Senators more potent trios with Turris and MacArthur. It's hard to evaluate his overall play, as he was clearly affected by his hernia in the second half of the season, but he should be 100% coming into next year, and I expect ~ 30 goals and an A letter grade for him - the top sniper on the team.

Peter: My pre-season expectations probably weren't fair; because I don't watch much Western Conference hockey, I had assumed (based on the long-running hype about Ryan in Toronto, specifically) that he was a more dynamic player than he is. Still, he's a very good player, and I think a full season at full health should give him at least a B grade.

Matt: I think the expectations were fair for Ryan (multi-season 30-goal scorer), but 48 points in 70 doesn't do it for me - if he was injured 'since November', they should have done something about that in November when we still had a glean of a playoff chance. 48/70 is below par with his career numbers (never higher than 71 points in a season), but I'm not sure if playing in a higher-pressure hockey market is good for a guy who:

a) is used to playing with the set-up prowess of Getzlaf

b) is not really sure what kind of player he is (dubbed as a sniper, but has playmaking potential and ability)

c) is not that great of a skater

I just felt like in many games (outside of the exciting, game-changing ones where he looked vibrant and scored great goals), he was invisible and massively misused.

MrsOsSens: I think the preseason expectations were pretty fair. He's a proven sniper and Bryan Murray felt he was going to be the shooter for Spezza's playmaking. He did start the year off just BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. Obviously he ended up slowing down a lot, which we learned was because of injury. Next year, I think we should expect an 'A' level season from Bobby because not only will he be healed, he'll be playing for a contract.

nkb: I gave Bobby a B, which is actually a pretty good grade really. He was part of the most consistently good forward group with Turris and MacArthur. There's reason to believe that with good health he would have hit the low 30's in goal scoring. My feeling going into this season is that most people expected somewhere in the 35 goal range, which I don't think was all that out of line. If he plays a full season healthy season next year, I think he'll be right back in that range. The real question is what is he going to look like in 3-4 years. At 27, he's entering the last couple of his peak years. I think he's still a solid B+/A- type player for the next 3, but maybe not in 5 years' time.

Brad: I think the preseason expectations were close to fair. The injury derailed his chances of achieving them. Next year, assuming a full healthy season, he should be somewhere in the A range.

Amelia: It's really hard to know how much the injury impacted his on ice performance and usage. Assuming he's healthy next season, I think he'll be fine.

5. Question for Peter, Adnan, Matt, Roger, and Brad: Was Erik Karlsson really an A+ this season?

Adnan: Yes. He was the best defenceman in the NHL.

Roger: Again, my grades were relative to an average player in that position, not to my preseason expectations. I don't think Karlsson was flawless, and I think he can be even better than he was this year. Still, I think there is an argument to be made that he was still one of the best - if not the best - defenseman in the NHL this season. That's an A+ for me.

As an aside, I think that there are three main reasons why Karlsson isn't a Norris finalist this year: a demonstrably irrelevant statistic (his +/-); a preconceived bias in the hockey community in relation to his size, style of play, and nationality; and the poor play of his linemates/teammates. Those are all stupid reasons, in my opinion. Long live King Karlsson.

Peter: Yes. He was the best defenceman in the NHL, and the success Ottawa had was driven by EK65.

Matt: Erik Karlsson is an A+ without a doubt, and to be honest, Roger summed this up very nicely: "I don't think Karlsson was flawless, and I think he can be even better than he was this year. Still, I think there is an argument to be made that he was still one of the best - if not the best - defenseman in the NHL this season. That's an A+ for me". Agreed Roger. If Bobby Orr has the most points for a D-man in one season with 139, and Karlsson was only playing at about 70-80% all season and notched 74 points, I'd say he's an A+. In the end, my philosophy is this: points cancel out mistakes because in the end, you can't win a game without scoring goals. Karlsson gives us a chance at winning every night (and a solid chance, at that). A frigging plus.

Brad: Absolutely.

6. Question for Matt and MrsOsSens: Why was Mark Stone an honour student (A)?

Matt: Mark Stone was an honour student because outside of the obvious (4G 4A in 19GP), he fought hard when he was on the ice. He skated hard. He went after pucks. He dug in for the little battles along the boards (often contributing to goals) and behind the net. He made plays and he buried pucks (and he missed some, too) but he always put himself in the right spots. In fact, I've been following Stone for two years now since the 2012 playoffs when he was called up against the Rangers and threaded the needle between a D-man's legs to Spezza for a beautiful goal. I think he is going to be a solid 50-60 point man for the Sens, moving forward (if he can get his injury issues under control).

MrsOsSens: I think the first time he was called up, he played all right but was dealing with lingering injury things. The second time he was called up, to me, yes - he was an honour student. I really watched Stone when I was preparing the article on him. His skating has improved and he was one of the hardest forecheckers on the team. He has pretty good hands and an incredible nose for open ice and making space. That's why I gave him an A. A bigger sample size would have been nice.

7. Question for MrsOsSens: You ranked Zack Smith highest. Tell us what you liked about his performance this season.

MrsOsSens: In hind-sight, perhaps a C+ would have been a bit more appropriate. In terms of Smith, his roles on the team are to basically win draws, play gritty, get under people's skin, and get the occasional point. Pretty standard for a 3/4C. As a 3C, I don't think Smith receives a higher grade than C, but he's damn good for a 4C. I had trouble with this one because his usage was a bit weird. I felt he did was he was supposed to, but would have liked to see him put up a few more points instead of take a few more dumb penalties. I think, MAYBE, that because Paul Maclean seemed to lean on Z. Smith, fans maybe expected him to improve with more ice time given, but I think he's been basically the same player since he's been here.

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