Welcome back to part two of the Sens report cards! Yesterday we looked at the grades for forwards, and today we move to the blue line. As a whole, the Sens allowed 2.56 goals against per game, down significantly from 2.94 in 2015-16. Nine defensemen were rated by the staff and by the readers readers, and the grade is the average of the two components. Only players with a minimum five games played were rated, and are listed in alphabetical order below.
Mark Borowiecki: C+
Reader Grade: B-
Borowiecki’s job was to hit, and man did he hit. He broke the all-time regular season record, in fact, tossing the body an average 5.2 times per game. Although his skill set is very thin, his style seemed to mesh a lot better with Guy Boucher than it did under Dave Cameron. With the emergence of players like Harpur and Claesson, Boro may be in trouble finding a spot for next year. However, he did what he was asked of, and we shouldn’t expect much more.
Cody Ceci: C-
Reader Grade: B-
After achieving the ten goal mark in 2015-16 at 22 years old, Sens fans were hopeful that Ceci would finally blossom into the offensive defenseman we drafted him for. Instead, we witnessed the opposite. Tasked with long games and questionable defensive deployment, Ceci along with Phaneuf would consistently get hemmed in the defensive end, allowing some brutal goals against. Ceci still has the potential to bounce back, as his skating has always been a valuable asset. However, his speed of processing the game appeared too slow for the modern game, which could be concerning for his future.
Fredrik Claesson: A-
Reader Grade: B+
At the beginning of the season, few expected Claesson to be anything more than just depth. He started in the AHL after all, with less than 20 games of NHL experience under his belt. With some Sens regulars going down with injuries, Claesson made the most of his chance by putting up 11 points in 33 games, while showing off his vast skillset. His expected goals numbers were far and away the best amongst the Sens’ defenders, and hopefully he should stay a regular on this team in 2017-18 (barring being claimed by Vegas).
Andreas Englund: C
Reader Grade: C
Earning a five game stint mid-season, Englund didn’t do anything particularly impressive in his rookie pro season. His time in Binghamton came with a lot more success than in the NHL, however, standing out as one of their top defensive players while using his solid puck moving skills. It will probably take a little more time before he gets considered for a full-time NHL position, so expect him to stay in the AHL for next season.
Ben Harpur: B-
Reader Grade: B-
Like Claesson, Harpur exceeded all expectations that were set on him at the beginning of the season. Although speed is still his enemy, he drastically improved his AHL scoring rate, meriting him a call-up in the home stretch of the season and into the playoffs. Although he didn’t look out of place in his first few games, he fell off mightily in the postseason. Either way, Harpur’s proven he could potentially be an NHL player, something that would’ve been hard to imagine after a disastrous 2015-16.
Erik Karlsson: A+
Reader Grade: A+
Unquestionably the MVP of the Ottawa Senators, Karlsson caught the eye of the rest of the league with yet another season for the ages. He started the year playing a more defensive roll by showing his finesse in shot blocking, although he eventually transitioned back to the offensive dynamo we’re used to. Leading the way in scoring for the fourth consecutive season, Karlsson has become the second defensemen of all time to do so (along with Denis Potvin). He’s a generational talent, and hopefully he can pick up his third Norris at the NHL Awards.
Marc Methot: B+
Reader Grade: A-
Once again serving as the primary partner to Karlsson, Methot held down the fort in his quiet fashion. He’s never been a flashy player, although he can consistently be relied upon to log over 20 minutes a night.
Dion Phaneuf: B-
Reader Grade: B+
The second half of the infamous Phaneuf-Ceci pairing, Dion finished his first full season as a Sen playing in all but one game. His foot speed was an issue all season that contributed to him and Ceci playing defense too often, although he began to separate himself from his partner during the playoffs. His contract will always be an issue, although for now the Sens have a solid d-man who can occasionally contribute on the power play.
Chris Wideman: B
Reader Grade: B
Wrapping up the defensive grades is Chris Wideman, the obligatory “loved by analytics” type that often stirs debates between opposing camps. Wideman’s Corsi and Fenwick numbers have been fantastic all season, this coming from a player who didn’t have a lot expected of him. Despite being stapled to Mark Borowiecki for most of the season (the two have opposing skill sets), he was still able to generate more chances than his opponents could on him.
Not ranked: Jyrki Jokipakka (3 GP), Thomas Chabot (1 GP)