The Belleville Senators only had one game on the schedule this week before playing four games in the next seven days. With a full week between their 5-4 shootout loss to the Syracuse Crunch, the Senators had plenty of time to practice, work out and prepare themselves for a rematch against Tampa Bay’s affiliate.
Saturday, December 9 - Syracuse 6, Belleville 0
So, things didn’t go to plan. Like their parent club, Belleville didn’t quite show up for this one. Alexander Volkov opened the scoring in the first for Syracuse by finishing a slick backhand pass from Kevin Lynch, beating Danny Taylor. About five minutes later, Volkov got his name on the scoresheet again after Mitchell Stephens jammed a scrambled puck home, giving Volkov a primary assist. Taylor would allow two more goals, one of which was assisted by Volkov, before Chris Driedger entered the net for the third period.
In the third period, it was much of the same. Literally. Volkov scored another goal, giving the 2017 second rounder a pair of goals and a pair of assists on the night.
If you’re looking for players in Senators uniforms who played well in this one, the list is short. In fact, it’s basically two players long: Christian Jaros and Maxim Lajoie. After that, even my favourite adult son Filip Chlapik wasn’t on his game on Saturday.
I’m feeling particular salty - and with the current state of the Senators organization, who can blame me? - so this week’s three standouts are for less than fun reasons.
Danny Taylor: Oh Danny boy, I’m not sure what else to say. It’s tough when the team in front of you doesn’t give you any run support but the goalie’s job is to give his team a chance to win. Stopping 14 of 18 shots isn’t going to cut it. Taylor is now sporting a 3.85 GAA and 0.880 SV% across 12 starts. Yikes.
Tyler Randell: This is a name I haven’t talked much about, mostly because he doesn’t do a whole lot of anything. Which, in small doses, can be fine. On Saturday, his play cost the team some scoring chances and 2 goals against, one of which was on a Senators powerplay. Then he doubled down and got into a fighting-for-no-reason fight. I’m not sure why he’s on the roster. Not to mention he has 1 point in 23 games this season.
Coach Kleinendorst: This is a theme I’ve been hitting my head on my desk about all season but Coach K’s player deployment is taking an average-ish roster and making them so much worse. When you look at the players with dynamic skillsets, who control the puck in the offensive zone, who create chances and who give this team an actual chance to compete, they’re all in the middle-to-bottom tier of ice time. Of course I’m talking about “the kids”. When you look at the veterans who stifle offensive chances and get hemmed in their own zone frequently, they’re sitting at the top of the list. This game was no different.
Catch the highlights here, if you dare.
I have so many. There are things that need to be addressed across the Senators organization but since I’m tasked with telling you about the team in Belleville, I’ll leave my list at that.
First, give Chris Driedger the starting job, play Taylor only when you have to. I’d suggest sending Taylor to the ECHL and calling up Marcus Hogberg but, at this point, I’d rather Hogberg gets as many starts as possible. His season started out rocky but he’s pulled it together and is giving the Brampton Beast a fighting chance to win hockey games right now.
Second, put Colin White, Gabriel Gagne, Francis Perron, Jack Rodewald, Chris DiDomenico and Chlapik in the top six and give them those minutes, without question, for the rest of the season. The AHL is a development league and these forwards are the only ones with a chance of playing regularly at the NHL level. If you must, load up the third line with those veterans Coach K loves and give them some minutes. But if White and Chlapik aren’t your 1-2 punch at centre, with this roster, you’re not giving your team the best chance to win.
Third, release Chris Kelly. Listen, Kelly has given the Senators and their fans a lot of great years (the first time around). I’m sure he’s a great guy and a true pro in the room. Today, he’s just in the way.
Belleville is back at it tonight as they look to right the ship and kick off four games in seven days against Binghamton (x2), Manitoba and Rochester. The Senators will be without centre Nick Paul who was recalled this morning but will have reinforcements on the blueline as NHL top pairing D man Ben Harpur was sent down in the same transaction (too salty?).