Five Thoughts for Friday: You Won't Believe What's in this Article (SHOCKING)

Clickbait sucks. (And four other thoughts.)

Five Thoughts for Friday: You Won't Believe What's in this Article (SHOCKING)
Photo by Rendy Novantino / Unsplash

It's almost the weekend, which means you want to kick back and read five thoughts. Here they are.

1. Clickbait Sucks

I hate clickbait-type writing. Hate it. It's lazy and misleading. If you have to put things like SHOCKING or THIS BLEW MY MIND!!! in your headline, the article is probably no good. When Silver Seven was part of SB Nation, we had an official policy to never use misleading, baity titles, and that will continue here. Now, in hockey circles, the clickbait is a little subtler, but it's still there. We saw a very recent example when a Blues beat reporter, with no evidence or sources, talked at length about a potential Brady Tkachuk trade to the Blues. He said that, direct quote, "Brady Tkachuk is probably available," but also admitted he has no source. The comments got picked up in an article, and once again, we're all forced to go through rumours of Brady to a team with no fire, no smoke, no spark, no heat. And Jeremy Rutherford got exactly what he wanted: relevance.

Pierre LeBrun, an actual insider, quickly said there was no truth to these comments. Steve Staios called the rumours "complete B.S." I have immense respect for Ian Mendes, and he spelled things out much more clearly during his appearance on the Behind the Play podcast. His statement was that, speculatively, if the Sens don't sniff the playoffs yet again this season, Brady will have completed his seventh season in Ottawa, will possibly be halfway through his NHL career, and might think about his future. He'll look at his brother, who had five playoff runs in his first seven seasons. But as of right now, Brady has said nothing, his agent has said nothing, his family have said nothing, Sens management has said nothing. Mendes added all the context you'd expect from a legitimate journalist. For an alleged insider to say a trade is "probable" is disingenuous. Suddenly you've got (disreputable) websites saying that Brady Tkachuk is "officially on the trade block, per insider" (actual quote). My day job is in scientific research, and a big part of referencing the prior literature is to make sure you're going back to the original source, rather than referencing a reference of a reference. (In an extreme case, I found a stat in an article in 2015 that, when I found the paper trail, I learned was from the late 90s, but kept being quoted for 15+ years as if it was current.) In this case, the original reference was "man pulls story out of his ass". And you know what? The buzz around it validates him. Ethical? No. Successful? Absolutely.

I'll admit it bothers me more that the Sens are often the victim of these rumours. We saw the same thing on Spittin' Chiclets three weeks ago, speculating with no proof that Tkachuk could get traded to the Devils. I just, with all the hardworking people out there putting huge effort into their attempts to be taken seriously as a hockey writer, an established guy puts out baseless lazy clickbait-type takes to stay relevant. I think that if you're lucky enough to have a job that hundreds of people would take in your place, your work should be better than LADBible.

2. Where's the (Pinto) Bean?

LochSens Monster has had an interesting TwiXter bit, making Shane Pinto's head bigger every day in a picture until he's signed. Here's a check-in on where it's at:

It's not actually a concern that Pinto isn't signed yet, so don't sound any alarm bells. More what I'm curious about is what they do with Pinto. Ian Mendes is on the record that Pinto's main goal is to not have a one-year deal. Whether that's a three-year or an eight-year deal remains to be seen. If the Sens could lock him up for 8 years, $4M, I'm sure the deal would already be done, so that's not what's happening. I'm assuming a three-year deal is in the realm of $5M, as this sets him up to still have a year left as an RFA, and he could cash in on a max contract for the end of his prime. His numbers probably deserve higher than that, but his small sample size combined with his half-year suspension likely buy the team a bit of a discount there. However, if the team's looking at longer than three years, he's probably looking at a Josh Norris's $7.95M and arguing he's worth that, especially in a rising cap era. And in that case, the Sens probably don't want to commit, considering they will need to also lock up Brännström, Kelly, and (presumably) Katchouk, will need money to solve the goaltending situation, and will probably want to get a veteran right-handed defenceman. The team has ~$12M in projected cap space, and that number suddenly looks a lot smaller if you give two-thirds of it to Pinto.

I think a lot of this depends on Josh Norris's status. If he's ready to go in the fall, then there's no cap space to sign Pinto long-term. But if there's a setback, the team has a bonus $8M in space—and also needs Pinto to be the 2C. If I'm Pinto's agent, I'm pointing this out on the regular. If I was betting, at this point I would say Pinto's signing a 2-/3-year bridge deal. But if Norris's shoulder issues linger, I could see the parties creatively coming to a longer-term agreement that requires him to go on LTIR to bring Pinto in.

3. Started from the Chabottom Now We Here

In yesterday's report card of Chabot, I noted that he had a decent pairing with Chychrun and a great one with Brännström based on expected goals for % at 5-on-5. Friend of the blog, T Raynard of SensTalk, added this context on TwittXr:

Essentially, somehow the Brännström–Chabot pairing has seen the fewest expected goals against at 5v5 of any pairing Chabot's been on since he's been in Ottawa. Yes, the best on average in terms of likelihood of scoring more than the opponent, but also the best just from a defensive point of view. I don't consider defence the strong suit of either of those two, but it seems like, with Sanderson–Zub taking the toughest assignments (and succeeding), Chabot and Bränny were able to keep possession and force play the other way. As the old argument about Erik Karlsson used to go, the best defence is never playing in your own end.

Now, I don't expect a coach to actually play these two together for long periods. That would require a lot of faith in a sub-5'9" defenceman that I just don't think any NHL coach has. What is curious to me is that the next-best results came with Dylan DeMelo, who happens to be a UFA this season. This team could do a lot worse than acquiring DeMelo to reunite him with Chabot on the second pairing. Especially if Jakob Chychrun is out the door, as most seem to assume.

4. Dominant Kubalik

If you missed it, Czechia won the gold medal at the World Hockey Championships. Also, Dominik Kubalik had 5 goals and 3 assists in 10 games. This comes after he had 8 goals and 4 assists in 8 games the previous year. Compare that to the 11 goals and 4 assists he had in 74 games for Ottawa this year. It got me thinking, why was his season in Ottawa so much worse than the World Championships on either side? At least the prior season, he had 20 goals and 25 assists in 81 games for Detroit. Not point-per-game, but not sub-fourth-line stats either. Part of it is likely opportunity: Kubalik played 12:07 per game this season, the lowest of his career, and nearly 3 minutes lower than in Detroit. But you wouldn't expect a 20% reduction in ice time to lead to a 60% reduction in scoring. It's not like he was unlucky, since his 12.1% shooting percentage was the highest since his 30-goal rookie season. His 40.5% 5v5 xGF% was fourth-worst on the team (Natural Stat Trick), and worst of anyone to play 8 or more games, meaning that he was getting worse results than, say, Zack MacEwen. MacEwen wasn't brought in to drive offence, while Kubalik arguably was supposed to. So is it just that he didn't want to be here? He was suddenly traded to Ottawa, and fitting in with a new system, especially one that changes in the middle of the year once the coach is fired, is hard. He didn't have an obvious role, as primarily a scorer without a spot in the top six. But I think the biggest factor here is still randomness. He obviously has decent skill, and any skilled player can get hot for a small stretch of games. Maybe the chaos of players thrown together for a couple weeks benefits him. Czechia's lead scorer was Roman Cervenka, a 38-year-old with exactly 39 games of NHL experience from the 2013 lockout-shortened season, so there's obviously an element of anyone can get hot in a short spurt in this kind of tournament.

5. D-Men in the Rough

I'm not the first person to notice this, but it is significant that Florida, one of the four remaining teams in this year's playoffs, got half of their defensive crew through pro scouting. Gustav Forsling was, incredibly, a waiver pickup, while Brandon Montour was a trade acquisition, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson signed as a UFA after being bought out. People were skeptical of Montour coming into Florida, but he's proved the doubters wrong. Ekman-Larsson looked washed in Vancouver, but he's great on the third pair. And Forsling was getting Norris buzz this season. So is it that the pro scouts are great at their jobs? After all, they also decided to trade Weegar and Huberdeau and a 1st for Tkachuk and handedly won that trade, and they targeted Sam Reinhart who is now a 50-goal scorer. Or is it that the coaching staff is great at building/rebuilding players? Probably a mix. It's just hard for me to not wonder where we'd be if Ottawa's scouts had gone after someone like that instead of Erik Gudbranson, Travis Hamonic, Josh Brown, ... If there's one thing I hope for as Andlauer gets his own people in place, it's that the Sens' ability to identify pro talent on other rosters greatly improves. Sure, acquiring Alex DeBrincat or Claude Giroux were great moves, but those were also no-brainers. It's being able to identify strong depth that helps OK teams become great teams. We'll see this summer if the pro scouting seems improved, or if the acquisitions still leave us scratching our heads.

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