The most valuable player is supposed to be the player who is deemed to be most valuable to a team's success. More often than not, this player is the one who puts up the most points. But what if you threw away individual statistics like goals and assists? What if you looked at how a team plays without a certain player in their lineup? How much of a hit does their record take if someone is subtracted? Or, in some cases, how much better is a team without a specific player?
Silver Seven looks at the Ottawa Senators' record with and without each player and comes to some conclusions on who the most (and the least) valuable players are.
The Most Valuable Players
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Zack Smith is a fourth-liner. He rarely plays more than eight minutes per game, and has only three points in 15 games. But, when Smith plays, the team tends to win. The 10-4-1 record the Senators have when Smith plays is superb, but what's really startling about Z. Smith is that the team was 0-3 in his first three games. From January 14 onward, the Senators were 10-1-1 when Zack Smith dressed. That one regulation loss was in the final game of the season.
He's a hard-working player who makes his presence known every time he's on the ice. He does everything that's asked of him, and his reliability means that other players can focus on what they do best.
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Simply put, the difference between the Senators' record with Chris Campoli and without Chris Campoli is unbelievable. With Campoli, the Senators are 41-21-5 team. Without, they're 3-11-1. 93% of the Senators' points on the year came in the 67 games he played. When he's in the lineup, they're a 106-point team. Without him, they're a 38-point team.
For reference, the 1993-94 Senators - who had 10 fewer wins than any other team in the NHL - had 37 points.
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The numbers for Cheechoo are baffling at first when you consider his limited offensive output (14 points in 61 games, as many goals as he had hat tricks in 2005-06), but the win-loss record has less to do with Cheechoo and more to do with being sent down at the end of the 11-game win streak and missing the subsequent post-Olympic collapse. By all accounts he's a very likable guy and an excellent teammate, but the Senators' success with him in the lineup likely has little to do with Cheechoo himself.
The Least Valuable Players
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Brian Lee is everyone's favourite whipping boy. Drafted 9th-overall in 2005 (ahead of Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, and Paul Stastny), Lee never lived up to the expectations that come along with being a high pick. Lee and Matt Cullen are the only two Senators with below .500 records when in the lineup, except Lee's record is a sampling of a few games at a time throughout the season, while Cullen only played the final 21 games.
Is being listed as one of the least valuable players fair? Yes and no. This year's team defined streaky, so you can't fault Lee for occasionally hitting the anti-jackpot and getting thrown into a slump that was in no way his fault. That said, he hasn't played at the level necessary to stay with an NHL team, and therefore hasn't done much to help the Senators win.
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Milan Michalek has the misfortune of having played injured, so he hasn't been able to play at the top of his game in months, and Michalek needs to be healthy to be effective. His game is all about speed, and injuries like ACL tears dramatically hinder speed. I don't think Michalek has as negative an impact on the team as the numbers suggest, but the Senators' record without him in the lineup does bode well for the remainder of the postseason. This is especially if Peter Regin continues to make a case for staying in Michalek's spot on the top line.
Expect Michalek to rebound nicely next season, assuming he can stay healthy.
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Finally, Ryan Shannon. He's had a poor year statistically, scoring 5 fewer points in 31 more games than last season, and when he dresses he seems to get benched far too often. It feels like he's always a healthy scratch, yet he played 66 games. He and Shean Donovan always seem to get passed over for a roster spot so that one of the kids (like Z. Smith) can get some playing time in. But the fact is, Shannon hasn't brought enough to the table this season to warrant staying in the lineup, and the team's record without him says everything. He is, for all intents and purposes, the least valuable player on the 2009-10 Ottawa Senators.
But congratulations on that new contract, Ryan.
Ottawa Senators record when players are in and out of the lineup:
In the Lineup
Not in Lineup