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Ottawa Senators Report Cards: Defencemen and Goalies

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Part 2 of looking back at how everybody did in this horrendous season

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing with the season wrap-up, today we look at how the defencemen and goalies did. You can find yesterday’s piece on the forwards here. Note that CF% and xGF% are taken at 5v5, from Natural Stat Trick and Corsica respectively.

Defencemen

Cody Ceci

Stats: 82 GP, 5-14-19 pts, 44.34 CF% (share of 5v5 shot attempts), 43.27 xGF% (expected goals-for percentage, based on shot volume and quality)

Yet another season of baffling deployment for Ceci. For some reason, he’s been deployed as a shutdown guy against other teams’ top lines for the past several seasons. Every time, he ends up with well under 50% of the shot attempts when he’s on the ice. Sure he’s playing tough minutes, but he drowns in them. And somehow he keeps getting more and more deployment, this time to the tune of 23:20 per game. You could argue part of the problem was his pairing with Dion Phaneuf, with the pair posting an awful CF% of 39.63%. But every single defenceman on the team sees their number rise when they’re not saddled with Ceci. Guys like Johnny Oduya and Ben Harpur were right around 50% without Ceci. I think he’s a third-pairing guy mis-cast as a top-pairing shutdown guy, and I’m not sure if anything’s going to change.

Grade: D (Reader grade: C)

Erik Karlsson

Stats: 7 GP, 9-53-62 pts, 50.87 CF%, 47.73 xGF%

This was a hard season to grade for Karlsson. On the one hand, he wasn’t as good as we all expect him to be. Clearly he hadn’t had time to do whatever he wanted to over the summer, because he came in to the season a little slower than we were used to, and never quite seemed to get his legs back. He’d still pinch in the offensive zone, but he wasn’t able to catch up to the play on the backcheck like we were used to. On the other side, he still tied for the team league in points with 62, and put up the highest points-per-game of any defenceman to play at least three games this season. He still led the team in time on ice per game (26:44). I think we’re just used to seeing Karlsson being otherworldly, and this season he was merely a top-10 defenceman in the league instead of the best one.

Grade: A (Reader grade: B+)

Thomas Chabot

Stats: 63 GP, 9-16-25 pts, 48.72 CF%, 45.88 xGF%

Chabot started in the American Hockey League, and only called up when injuries necessitated it. By Christmas though, he’d cemented his place in the NHL, and his talents kept him in the big leagues the rest of the year. There was a lot of promise in this season, with his puck-handling clearly NHL-calibre. Several of his nine goals came with bombs from the point that NHL goalies couldn’t stop. He looked more than capable of quarterbacking a powerplay. All that being said, there were definite defensive lapses in his game. I guess that’s part of the learning curve of using young defencemen. I’m hoping that after a year of seeing what it takes to play in the NHL, he’ll come back in the best shape of his life (TM) to training camp.

Grade: A- (Readers: A-)

Fredrik Claesson

Stats: 64 GP, 1-6-7 pts, 46.88 CF%, 48.89 xGF%

Just a year ago, Freddie had a playoffs to be remembered, earning a permanent NHL spot. There was a decent chance he’d be Karlsson’s partner to start the season with Marc Methot being claimed by Vegas. Instead, Johnny Oduya got that role, and Claesson was a healthy scratch a few times. There were rumours that Boucher had told him to simplify his game, to become more of a stay-at-home guy, but whatever happened, his season didn’t start out great. He probably got 64 games mostly because this team’s defence corps was pretty weak. He’s an RFA, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Sens deal him for a late pick since he doesn’t appear to be part of their long-term plans.

Grade: C- (Readers: C)

Mark Borowiecki

Stats: 52 GP, 3-8-11 pts, 46.31 CF%, 50.55 xGF%

The self-professed enemy of bloggers had a surprisingly good season. He seemed more aware of when to pick his spots, and threw hits to retrieve the puck rather than just for the sake of hitting. It was probably unfortunate for him that in his best season to date he suffered a concussion that kept him out of a large chunk of games. Losing both him and Wideman for a big chunk of the season is a hardly-mentioned potential reason for why the this team derailed so badly.

Grade: B- (Readers: B-)

Ben Harpur

Stats: 41 GP, 0-1-1 pts, 45.90 CF%, 40.00 xGF%

Ah, Ben Harpur. What a guy. The player who doesn’t seem too great at anything except “being tall”. As our own NKB likes to point out, nobody says Harpur’s good at anything (e.g. skating) without adding the caveat “for a big guy”. Somehow Harpur got signed to a two-year, one-way extension worth $1.45M in total this season. Guy Boucher said how he and Ceci could have the markings of a great shutdown duo. With Karlsson taking personal leave down the stretch, we got to see Harpur-Ceci in action as the top pairing, and they were so bad, Harpur started being a healthy scratch. I hate to rag on the guy, but this season he didn’t seem to show anything that demonstrates he deserves to be in the lineup. At least his salary’s low enough the team might be OK with scratching him sometimes.

Grade: D- (Readers: C-)

Chris Wideman

Stats: 16 GP, 3-5-8 pts, 52.35 CF%, 55.31 xGF%

It’s too bad Wideman got hurt into what was looking like a career year. After being a healthy scratch in the playoffs sometimes and being put on forward a couple times, he was really starting to make a push for being a good puck-moving defenceman. Then Evgeni Malkin fell on him and the rest is history. There’s an argument to be made he was the Sens’ best defenceman this year, though that comes with the catch the he played before the Sens started to fall apart. He did work hard to try to get back into the lineup before the end of the year, and even endeared himself to fans by playing some shinny in the community. He did a lot this year to prove he still belongs in the NHL, we’ll just have to see where the pending UFA ends up.

Grade: B+ (Readers: B-)

Christian Wolanin

Stats: 10 GP, 1-2-3 pts, 53.44 CF%, 56.08 xGF%

Wolanin wrapped up his college career with 35 points in 40 games. There were concerns that he was going to wait until he became a UFA, but in a lost season, the Sens used the leverage they had: the offered him a spot in the NHL immediately. People were hopeful, but also realized he was coming fresh out of college into the pro game. It took about a game for people to realize that he actually was really good. It wasn’t a hard bar to clear, but he was one of the team’s two or three best defencemen down the stretch. Any player can have a great 10-game span, so let’s still temper expectations, but Wolanin has a real shot to make the NHL out of camp next season.

Grade: B+ (Readers: B)

Goalies

Craig Anderson

Stats: 23-25-6, .898 Sv. %, .902 5v5 Sv. %, 3.32 GAA, -23.6 GSAA (goals save above average, how many goals they allowed vs. how many a league-average goalie would’ve allowed on the same shot quality)

Anderson may have been the biggest disappointment of the year. After being the second-most important player in last year’s improbably playoff run, he faltered early and never recovered. The Sens had issues scoring and defending, but even when those were slightly better, the goaltending was almost never there. Among goalies who played 100 minutes this year, Anderson had the worst GSAA of any. Next-closest was Carey Price with -17.8. It was an awful year from a soon-to-be-37-year-old goalie with two more years left on his contract. The only hope for the Sens is for him to have a bounce back year.

Grade: F (Readers: D+)

Mike Condon

Stats: 5-17-5, .902 Sv. %, .921 5v5 Sv. %, 3.25 GAA, -0.72 GSAA

Condon’s record was uglier than Anderson’s, but it wouldn’t be fair to say that it was all his fault. He actually had a much higher 5v5 save percentage than Ottawa’s starter, and was mostly sunk by an awful penalty kill save percentage. That’s partly due to Ottawa’s awful PK, and hey, at least that’s way less repeatable for goalies than at 5v5. His -0.72 GSAA says that he was about where you’d hope your backup would be: just worse than the average goalie. But the Sens couldn’t score, and gave up far too many high-quality chances, and Condon’s season ended up looking like a disaster. That being said, for this Sens team to succeed, they need stellar goaltending, and it doesn’t look like Condon will every be capable of giving that consistently.

Grade: D- (Readers: D+)

Tomorrow: Coaching and Management