Part of learning from your mistakes is looking back on the choices you’ve made to try to understand your reasoning at the time. Then, if you’re lucky, you’ll improve yourself for the next time through the knowledge you’ve gained.
In our case, we like to re-visit our Sterling Predictions as a shameful reminder of just how wrong we are about basically everything. It’s important to be humbled from time to time. No one ever knows anything.
For Part 1 of this series, we look back on our predictions for who would score more points between Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Derick Brassard as well as which depth defenseman was going to play the most games.
On Pageau vs. Brassard, the question is: Every staff member but Ross had Brassard scoring more than Pageau with an average prediction of 46 for Brass and 37 for Pageau. Brassard was well on his way to outperforming expectations before he was traded but Pageau notced a mere 29 points in 78 games. To what do you owe this discrepancy? Were we too high on him coming into the season? Did the checking role limit his opportunities?
Trevor: Even coming into this past season, I viewed Pageau as what he’s always been: a 30-35 point player that can be a decent 3rd line centre, but he’s limited offensively. I think if he had some better and more consistent linemates, he’d be able to get into the 40 point range more often, but that’s probably his ceiling. Even in his best season he had 43 points but had 7 short-handed goals and a 14.3% SH%, so I’m not sure he’ll be able to top that.
Ross: I think I was a little high on Pageau after the playoffs, but more than that, we saw Pageau get more offensive draws and powerplay time during the playoffs. I figured Boucher would stick with that. Instead, Pageau got 80 minutes of powerplay time total, 12th on the team, half of what Brassard got despite Pageau playing 20 more games in a Sens uniform. I expected Pageau to get some more offensive opportunities, but then he played most of his minutes with Tom Pyatt and then some assortment of Hoffman, Smith, Dzingel, Burrows, Thompson, Paajarvi... you get the picture. Basically, I thought Boucher would keep playing Pageau how he found success in the playoffs, and instead went back to how he’d found unsuccess in the regular season.
Spencer: I don’t think we were too high on Pageau. As a group, expecting a solid third line centre to put up mid-30’s in points across an 82 game season isn’t unreasonable. There was a large struggle across the board and playing with players like Pyatt, Burrows, Smith, etc. wasn’t going to help Pageau put up a strong offensive campaign. I think expecting ~35 points again next year is a safe expectation.
Colin: I’m in the same boat as many when I say that my expectations were inflated by his playoff performance. His 5v5 time on ice rose up by 22 seconds per game compared to last season, and considering he was also playing over a minute per game on the power play, I definitely would’ve hoped for a bit more. He’ll always be used as a defensive player, although considering it was only two seasons ago where he nearly hit 20 goals, it’s a bit disappointing to see two seasons of his offence decreasing.
nkb: I can’t say that I was swayed by Pageau’s play-off performance, players can go on hot streaks at any time, but I did probably overestimate how much his role might change in the off-season. By the end of the 2016-17 season, Brassard was so injured that Pageau effectively usurped him as the team’s 2C. When Brassard returned healthy at the start of this season, and started scoring like gangbusters, the pecking order was restored. Ultimately, I think that’s a good thing for Pageau and the Sens: he’s a 3C on a good team, or a 2C on a bad team. He could still use some more talented line-mates on that third line, however.
On Defencemen on the Bubble: Most of the staff was of the mind that Fredrik Claesson would play the most games of those on the bubble, and he did, but we virtually all underestimated how big a role Oduya and Harpur would play. Is Harpur a virtual lock to play in the top six next year after greatly expanding his role this season? Will the Sens try to beef up the blueline with another veteran addition like Oduya?
Trevor: Harpur is pretty much guaranteed to stay in the NHL the whole season because of his one-way contract, which is mind-boggling. He should be the Senators 8th or 9th defenseman on the depth chart, but I could easily see him playing 50+ games. As for another addition, I’d love to see them target a cheap and underappreciated player for the top-4, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them go after another veteran body after shipping out a few this past year.
Ross: I really underestimated how much this team loves them some bigness. Ben Harpur keeps getting opportunities after failure that Chris Wideman never would because Harpur’s big. Yes, there are advantages of having size that allow you to push people around, but being big doesn’t actually make you a good NHLer. Even more importantly, Cup rings don’t make you a good NHLer, and Oduya’s rings seemed to blind both Dorion and Boucher. I expected him to be a veteran mentor and fill-in, not EK’s regular partner. I don’t think they’ll go looking for an NHL vet to join on D because they’re committed to saving money and seeing how the prospects play. Unless signing Chris Wideman counts, in which case they might.
Spencer: I don’t believe the Senators will have learned anything from last offseason’s moves, to be completely honest. We’ve seen some quotes about “playing the young players” and “getting younger and faster” but I’m still waiting on the washed up veteran signing(s) on July 1st to roll through like usual. The only way Harpur becomes a regular in the T6 next season is if there are major changes to the blueline. If Karlsson goes and Wideman/Claesson don’t get new contracts then Harpur’s in. I think Boucher showed he wasn’t a huge fan of Harpur down the stretch this season and unless Dorion forces him, Harpur will be a healthy scratch for more than 50% of the season.
Colin: I think Harpur will at least start in the NHL because of his contract, although I’m a bit more optimistic than others in thinking that his spot isn’t guaranteed. The Sens have a large handful of players battling to take his spot, and seeing how they managed Matt Puempel in 2016-17, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on waivers eventually. Then again, Dorion and Boucher are in love with the idea of a Harpur-Ceci shutdown pairing.
As for whether or not another defenceman will be brought in, it seems unlikely, but then again so did the addition of Oduya last year. The difference is that Dorion doesn’t have an apparent hole to fill, like he did last season when Methot was taken in the expansion draft. Although there’s definitely some nerve-wracking names on the free agent board in Beauchemin, Seidenberg and Bieksa.
nkb: I’m going to toot my own horn for a second here, and point out that I was way out in front of the notion that Oduya would play a major role in the Sens’ season. I’ll admit that even I didn’t foresee it being as Erik Karlsson’s primary partner, however. As for whether Harpur’s locked himself into a full-time spot on the NHL team, I’m not quite as certain as my fellow writers. There’s no doubt that the Sens’ org prizes his size and that his contract makes it hard to see him in the minors but at the same time he hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the coaching staff. If it was up to Boucher, I don’t doubt Dorion would bring in some veteran help but the most likely outcome at this point seems to be that most of the same group returns (Erik Karlsson saga not withstanding, of course)