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Silver Seven Mailbag Part 3: Everything Else You Want to Know

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Part 3 of 3 for the mailbag has various questions from people that includes a range of different topics.

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

What is wrong with the PP? And how can the coaching staff make it better?—@malcpowers and Be_rad with similar questions

Thanks for the questions. There’s a lot to go through here, although I’ll mainly focus on the power play. As of my time of writing this, the Sens’ power play ranks 22nd in the league at 17.1%. As poor as that may sound, it’s still a vast enhancement over last season’s 15.8%.

Most of this improvement I’d attribute to better player deployment, as Mike Hoffman and Derick Brassard are replacing time that was spent last season by Milan Michalek and Bobby Ryan. But ranking 22nd in the league still leaves a lot to be desired, which is why many have become fed up with our power play systems.

I went over some numbers last month as part of a series analysing The System, but there’s always more data to go through. I mentioned in the post that the Sens’ problem was getting high danger chances, which still stands true. The actual shot generation has been middle of the pack (CF60 currently ranks 17th), and has been on the rise for most of the season up until recently. But the root of the ‘power kill’ is that we’re not getting to the high-danger areas.

Before I give advice on how to make the power play better, I’d like to disclaimer that my experience as a coach is nada. However, from my recent observations, the power play has seemed too predictable. There’s one player down low, one player in the slot, and three players on the outside passing between each other. There’s little cycling, little movement, and little element of surprise to throw off the opposing team’s penalty killers.

Jack Han has a fantastic series on Twitter called “1 Minute Tactics”, and I highly suggest checking it out. Not too long ago he shared a tactic called “The Furball”, which in summary groups four players together while entering the zone so the defenders can’t anticipate their routes. As unorthodox as it may sound, it’s these types of plays that I’d like to see Guy Boucher be more creative with. It would be very unlike his adamant style, although the power play isn’t always the right time to stay rigid.

To quickly answer B_rad’s last question on Karlsson, I think it becomes a question of what we want from him. We know EK can dominate the score sheet, and we now know he can dominate defensively. I don’t think Boucher’s planning on changing how he wants Karlsson to play, but if the goal switches to getting Karlsson as many points as possible, the simple answer would be to start him more often in the offensive zone.

His relative zone start ratio (offensive zone starts/total starts) is currently -0.57, compared to 10.60 last season and 5.42 the season before. This should give him more opportunities to rack up points—Colin

Given that management knows they cannot protect both Cody Ceci and Chris Wideman in the expansion draft currently, how likely do you think it is that they will convince Phaneuf to waive his NTC in an altruistic move that allows both Ceci and Wideman to be protected?

The Sens then expose both Dion Phaneuf and Marc Methot. This essentially forces Vegas to take either Ryan, Methot, or a low-level forward as I would assume taking Phaneuf is highly unlikely.

Odds would be on them taking Methot and this could benefit Phaneuf greatly as he would be the likely candidate to skate next to Karlsson. With Claesson already signed to a one-year deal and Chabot coming up, the Sens already have people ready to play on the left side (granted not at Methot's level of play). This situation seems like a win-win for both the Sens and Phaneuf—-Anonymous

I think Phaneuf will waive his NTC, but I think the Sens will use the extra spot to protect Methot. To me, this seems silly since I don't see Vegas taking a defenceman older than 30 since there will be enough good ones who are much younger. I think Wideman will get claimed from Ottawa. If Wideman is protected, then I see Vegas taking a depth young player (McCormick, Bailey, Varone, maybe Claesson) since they have to take 30 players and will need to assist an AHL squad. I agree that it would be win-win for Phaneuf and the Sens, but I doubt it'll allow the team to keep Wideman—Ross

It's been years since I've attended a Senators home game - but I am quite concerned with our Home crowds. It seems, on TV, that even when the crowds are in the building - fans are not engaged. All you need to do is watch a Jets home game, or a Habs home game, to realise that we don't have much of a "Home Ice Advantage".

I've watched the Sens skate down the final 2 minutes of a 3rd period Win - in complete silence. I don't think our team even comprehends what kind of atmosphere they want to purvey for an exciting night at the game (ex.- our P.A. and in-house music: bush league. Fight breaks out in Chicago - Rage Against the Machine plays! Fight breaks out in Ottawa - Taylor Swift plays. Taylor friggin' Swift? Are we selling hockey? Or skinny jeans to tweens?).

At the same time, I've seen Ottawa fans flock to the 2nd year Redblacks, and they seem to have a loud and passionate Home crowd (even in year 1). So, my question is twofold: 1) do the SSS staff perceive the same lack of passion (or at least, an unwillingness to voice that passion) among Sens fans? 2) do you think having an arena in Downtown Ottawa will help inject some life into our fanbase? Thank you for reading, and keep up the great work you're doing!—-Fisher’s Man Friend

I’ve attended a few Sens games this season, and I’ve definitely noticed a lack of passion/engagement from the fans. Every once in awhile, there’s one game where the crowd is really into it and everyone seems to be having fun, but most nights are very quiet and it’s been that way for a long time.

I think there are a lot of factors that contribute to this. The easy answer, of course, is the general lack of direction for the team: The Sens have been mediocre for a very long time, and it’s hard to get invested in a franchise that has been promising improvement for years without really delivering on it.

Personally, I’m with you in blaming management for failing to create any kind of enthusiasm for the team. Ottawa has long appeared extremely out of touch with their audience. They hardly do anything to encourage kids to cheer for the Sens instead of say, the Habs or Leafs.

Everything from their posters to their slogans to the occasional ads they run on TV is very generic and boring. Maybe it’s because I go to a lot of Sens games, but it’s been a long time since I was really into the music or any of the promotions or fan competitions they do during the games.

I certainly think the downtown arena will help, but if we want an arena experience that’s comparable to that of the teams you mentioned we’ll need two things: 1) an on-ice product worth getting excited about and 2) a much better marketing team. —Beata

Analytics has proven itself a productive framework for evaluating individual talent and strategizing player deployment. But devotees of analytics have also been criticized for the ways they reduce players’ bodies, emotions, and skills to mathematical equations, including from players themselves. (i.e. Boro.)

Does SSS see a place for ‘eye tests’ and intangibles like affect, determination, or even grit in reporting — especially given the present economic limitations on technologies for capturing dynamic individual player data? More importantly, do you think analytics as a framework for player evaluation can be linked to shifts in hockey journalism — going from old school ‘newspapermen’ to new school ‘bloggers’?—-@JoelDickAu

I can’t speak for everyone at Silver Seven, but personally, I am obviously very pro-stats and “analytics.” At the same time, of course I acknowledge that scouting and intangibles that are immeasurable are a part of the game. I don’t think any stats person truly believes that 100% of evaluating talent is based off of spreadsheets.

You can already see the shift in mainstream hockey media towards using numbers, as bloggers are gaining more attention than ever. And honestly, why would you not want to use numbers? As a writer, journalist, blogger, etc., it makes your job easier because you can prove your arguments better.

But yes, certainly the shift from the eye test to analytics is connected to the shift in media, because it was bloggers who started to come up with ways to quantify hockey. The two go hand in hand, and I’m glad that we’re slowly moving towards a goal where stats are almost universally accepted like it is in baseball or even basketball—Trevor

If you are GMPD the June draft is a one time opportunity to be super boldly creative. What would you advise to have LV select Ryan? What’s the pathway for him to be their super star? And who or what do you package to incentivize it?—-leif.helmer

I have a very hard time seeing Vegas wanting Ryan. If George McPhee is smart, he's going to realize that every team will expose older, expensive players. If they're looking for a star, someone like Rick Nash could be available. The biggest challenge for Vegas won't be reaching the cap floor or finding an established marketable star, it'll be getting enough youth for the team to stay competitive.

The only way Vegas is willing to trade for Ryan is if Ottawa gives them someone young and decent as well, a Max McCormick or a Max Lajoie or something like that, and takes back almost nothing (6th-rd pick or so). I can't see that being worth it for Ottawa—-Ross

With the B-Sens moving to Belleville next season, can we expect coverage of the team?—Alphonse40

Absolutely! We'll be sorry to say goodbye to Alicia and Jeff, but we're excited for the opportunities a new AHL affiliate provides. I've been extremely proud of our AHL coverage over the last couple years, possibly the best across SB Nation, and we expect to stick to that high standard with the move to Belleville—Ross