As we often do when the Silver Seven staff comes together to share our thoughts on players and staff, we’re also very keen to share them with you!
In the same vein as our post-season discussions, here’s part one of our round table discussions regarding everyone’s mid-season grades. We hope you enjoy, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments section!
Question for everyone: Dylan DeMelo won nearly universal acclaim from the staff and finished as the only defender with an “A” grade. What have you liked about his game?
Brandon: He’s just such a steady player. DeMelo rarely does anything flashy or show-stealing, but his mistakes are few and far between. His skating ability allows him to play with a quiet poise, and it’s really helped guys like Thomas Chabot just play their game without having to worry about doing everything. Of the guys that have played the bulk of the season, he has the best CF% on the team at 52.42, so his disciplined, well-rounded game really shows.
Colin: The results speak for themselves, I think. He leads the Sens’ defencemen in nearly every meaningful statistical category, as he’s been the only one not getting demolished defensively. He tilts play despite receiving surprisingly few offensive zone starts, and while he’s been slightly sheltered against weaker competition, he did the same last season playing on the first pair. Suffice it to say, there’s no reason he should be 5th in TOI/GP among the Sens’ defencemen.
N_Dew: He provides a stable presence on D with his smart and reliable play. You can pair DeMelo with anyone and he will make his partner better. He doesn’t need flashy plays to be efficient and he definitely knows how to be disciplined. DeMelo has a way of controlling the game to his favour and he should be trusted to see tougher pairing since he’s proved he can handle the added pressure.
Spencer: Off the ice, DeMelo appears to have a ton of personality but on the ice the best way to describe him is as “the strong, silent type”. He’s not going to wow you with a highlight reel goal but his underlying numbers indicate that good things usually happen when he’s on the ice. At even strength, his metrics are pretty spectacular for a player most don’t talk about.
Shaan: Chabot, Brannstrom, Reilly and Borowiecki all have looked better playing with DeMelo as opposed to without. His ability to quickly move the puck out of the zone has been huge for the team. He’s what you’d describe as the new-age Marc Methot: just as good defensively, less physical and more offensively inclined. To think this guy was a mere “throw-in” in the Erik Karlsson trade.
thedaigle1: DeMelo just has such exceptional patience. When he backchecks, he reads the situation to get in the best possible position to break up the play instead of throwing his body around aimlessly. He never panics when he has the puck on his stick. And he always makes such clean, purposeful passes. He just reads the game at a different speed than other players and he doesn’t lose his focus.
Ross: Everyone else answered this well, so I’ll just say my grade was for his role in Sens Twitter videos.
Ary: I’m not sure the Sens knew what they were getting when they acquired Dylan DeMelo, but he’s turned out to be a quality depth piece that the team really needed on defence. I think the others have touched on what his strengths are, so I’ll just emphasize that he appears to be the type of player that I’d have no issue re-upping to a two- or three-year deal if he’s open to it. With only Christian Jaros (#5/6 ceiling) in the system as a right-handed shot, and both Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker at least two seasons away from providing quality NHL minutes, DeMelo’s versatility, acumen on the penalty kill, and smart play is one that should be cherished more. It’s nice to see D.J. Smith talk about him like an essential player when he went down to injury even though the minutes don’t really indicate that, but I hope the team’s poor play with him out serves as a good lesson for Dorion and co. when they’re making their decisions in the offseason.
Question for everyone: Tyler Ennis was another popular player as he received the highest grade of any new player on this year’s team despite being generally perceived as a middling depth addition. What has Ennis done to earn your trust this season?
Brandon: Ennis knows his role, and he does it well. His job is to get to the open areas and finding shooting lanes, and when he does, he provides some much needed secondary (and honestly primary) scoring. Ennis has a wicked shot, and some seriously upper-echelon stickhandling ability, and when he displays them, he’s a huge offensive threat.
Colin: Call him the Dylan DeMelo of Sens forwards (albeit to a lesser extent), but Ennis has been one of the Sens’ few depth players who have managed to survive with positive results. He’s really good at generating chances from the front of the net, and given that it’s been his bread and butter for his whole career, I’m glad he’s kept it up in Ottawa. Even more importantly: his point totals have kept his trade value up for the trade deadline.
N_Dew: I am personally not a fan of Ennis, while in certain game he has shown what he can do; these games have been very few. While he doesn’t make many mistakes and does serve as a decent depth player, I find that he can be easily replaced with any of our younger players.
Spencer: Anecdotally, it feels like every time there’s something going on in the offensive zone, Ennis has been part of it. His ability to spin away from defenders and retrieve pucks in the corners has been instrumental in providing scoring chances for his team. He may be a middling depth addition but he’s taken advantage of his opportunity in Ottawa.
Shaan: I feel like I’ve written more about Tyler Ennis this season than every other player combined. On top of being 6th on the team in points, Ennis has always been known for his offensive ability and puck control around the net, which seem to jump out at you every single game. He hasn’t played with him much, but I see Connor Brown as a perfect complement for him, as both are dominant in the offensive zone, and Ennis’ shot and Brown’s passing are a perfect match.
thedaigle1: I can only describe Ennis as Brady Lite. He’s such a feisty player. He chases every loose puck, he never gives up on battles, and has such good awareness out there. While he doesn’t have the finish of a winger like Tkachuk or Duclair, he uses his skills to keep the opposition on their heels and out of Ottawa’s end. There’s just something about undersized players who have no fear flying into those high-danger areas and who consistently create havoc for opponents.
Ross: Scored, defended well, been generally reliable. My grade for him only goes up if the Sens can get a 2nd in return.
Ary: Ennis is extremely skilled — as expected from a player who’s scored 20+ goals and reached 40+ points three times in his career — and I like him as a player who can be up and down the lineup. I would have no issue trading him to a contender and re-upping him to another one-year deal if he’s okay with that, but even if this is it, he’s provided quality minutes and should fetch a solid mid-round pick in return.
Question for Brandon and N_Dew: Logan Brown received mostly favourable grades from the remaining staff but you gave him C- and C respectively. What do you think is missing from his game so far?
Brandon: I’m honestly surprised that everyone was so high on him. Brown had a great start to his stint, but was invisible by the end of it. A lot of folks were upset that D.J. Smith slashed his ice time, but to me, there seems to be a reason for that. I’m beginning to have some serious concerns about Brown’s compete level, because after he had a few bad games, he was completely unable to bounce back.
Look at Drake Batherson. He’s a skilled player, that’s his game, but every night he’s throwing himself into corners and battling tooth and nail for pucks. Not only that, but he’s doing it CONSISTENTLY, which is something we haven’t seen from Logan Brown.
I still think Brown is going to be fine, he’s so young and the centre position is a tremendously difficult one. That said, I don’t think he truly did anything exceptional during his time in Ottawa, and I was expecting more after his good start.
N_Dew: Consistency. He’s had this reputation that he was never given a fair shot but to be fair, he was given every chance to succeed this season. I don’t think it’s a work ethic issue as much as him thinking he’s earned it. I think the team has long seen that other players have been earning his spot hence why he was always the last one to really “make the team”. The thing that has been enjoyable to watch this season is seeing players really fight to impress even if the results don’t show it as much. I think Logan Brown may have a future with this team but it won’t be on a top level.
Question for Shaan and Ross: Ron Hainsey was not graded very favourably by the rest of the staff but you both gave him at least a B-. Are the rest of us underestimating his contributions to the team?
Shaan: Give Ron Hainsey a break. I’m of course directing that comment not at my fellow writers, but at D.J. Smith. Get a load of this: Hainsey played 17:55 per game in his first 20 games (5v5 xGF% of 51.53) and 22:06 per game in his last 21 (5v5 xGF% of 43.23). That seems like a counter-productive approach for a 38-year old defender. Hainsey has shown to be reliable when his minutes are managed properly, particularly while on a competent third pair with Erik Brannstrom.
Ross: Not really. I was expecting him to be like the Joe Corvo sequel, so my rating mostly reflects the fact that he’s been a little bad on a pretty bad team, instead of the biggest liability on a pretty bad team.
Question for everyone: Who’s been the MVP of the first half of the season?
Brandon: This is a tough one, because no one has really emerged as head and shoulders above the rest. I’m going to say Anthony Duclair. He’s cooled off so far to start the new year, but he had an unbelievable couple months to end 2019, and earned his first All-Star nod. The Duke gets it for me, with honourable mention to J.G. Pageau and Brady Tkachuk.
Colin: DeMelo received my highest grade, but his lack of ice time makes me lean more towards Brady Tkachuk as the Sens’ mid-season MVP. The beloved meathead is elite when it comes to getting pucks to the net, and even his penalty drawing ability has been one of the NHL’s best this season. The lack of growth from a 20-year-old could be seen as a detriment, although his consistency was expected from the second he was drafted.
N_Dew: It would be a toss up between Pageau and Duclair but I am going to go with the Duke. He has worked hard to prove to himself and the team that he can play and be part of a team. He has been enjoyable to watch and the All Star nod looks good on him.
Spencer: He’s cooled down from his dominant start to the year but for me it’s Anthony Duclair. When you’re looking at a player who has 21 goals with 35 games left to play despite playing on a team destined for the draft lottery, it’s hard to pick anyone else. If I had to give an honourable mention, it’d be to Pageau for similar reasons. He’s having a career year and without Pageau and Duclair, I’d be willing to bet Ottawa would be far closer to Detroit in the race for the bottom at this point. Their offensive contributions in November and December likely single (double?) handedly won the Sens at least a handful of games.
Shaan: Not only is Jean-Gabriel Pageau having a career year offensively, but he’s been extremely clutch, with four game-winning goals. Additionally, of his 19 goals thus far, three of them are shorthanded (highlighting his threat level on the penalty kill) and fifteen are at even-strength, meaning that Pageau has been a huge factor towards the Ottawa Senators somehow being an average 5v5 team during parts of the season. As will be shown at the upcoming trade deadline, Pageau has been our most valuable player this season in my mind.
thedaigle1: I would be inclined to say Brady Tkachuk. I know he’s still rounding out the defensive part of his game. Other than that though, he generates most of Ottawa’s chances, he drives the opposition nuts, and he makes me want to watch the Senators. I didn’t realize how badly this team needed Brady until we had him in a Senators uniform. Now I can’t imagine the team without him. To me, that’s what makes him an MVP.
Ross: It’s gotta be Pageau, right?
Ary: While both Pageau and Duclair have strong cases as others have stated, I’m going to side with Owen and Colin and pick Brady Tkachuk. He hasn’t produced at a higher rate, but the fact that he continues to have strong underlying numbers despite being the team’s primary offensive threat on most nights. As the team gets deeper, the powerplay gets better, and the offensive burden is spread throughout the lineup, I fully expect Brady to take more steps to develop his full toolkit.