There are many issues with giving term to depth, low-skill players. A) These players are often miscast, and B) that these players can often be replaced easily with smart signings in free agency or by young players waiting for an opportunity in the system. We're going to be talking about A more in this short piece, but B will be mentioned a bit near the end.
I was on B_T's Natural Stat Trick website this morning and did a quick sort by CF% Rel, a stat that looks at how a player fares in the on-ice shot attempt battle in comparison to the team.
The players with a negative number aren't doing so well, as when they're on the ice, most of the shot attempts are going against Ottawa instead of being directed at the opponents net. I think what we find matches up with the eye test really well. Phillips, Gryba, and Borowiecki - the "defensive defensemen" of the team - are the ones playing the most defense... because they're stuck in their own zone. The Smith - Legwand - Neil line is forward equivalent of this grouping. Now, I think some of this definitely has to do with poor player usage, and as you'll see below in the graph via War On Ice, it's these five players that are starting most of their shifts in the defensive zone (furthest left on the X-axis).
This is partly MacLean's doing, but also partly the fault of management. Let me explain. Lower skilled players are often given the defensive grunt work and get the title of "defensive players" because well... they aren't very good at offense. Don't get me wrong - some players are legitimately good at both (hence the term we give to these players, two-way), and that's why these players are 1) often highly coveted and 2) some of the best in the game.However, lower-skilled players can be misused in this role and sport lower possession numbers because they aren't very good at handling the puck, which is very bad for the team. Instead, skill should be emphasized throughout the lineup, and having good puck-moving depth to play defensive minutes and transition your team to offense benefits everyone.
I think MacLean wanted to give the younger, offensive players (Turris, Zibanejad, Hoffman, Stone; Karlsson, Ceci) the offensive zone starts so that way they can get the team goals - which sounds fantastic. However, this leaves the defensive work to Ottawa's depth players like Zack Smith, David Legwand, Chris Neil, Eric Gryba, and Mark Borowiecki, who aren't very good at zone exits and get trapped in their zone often. These defensive players are often veterans because defensive play and responsibility "comes with experience" they say, which sounds all dandy but overall, you need to give players roles that they're going to succeed at. The only option, other than reduced minutes, for the five mentioned above is to give them more offensive zone starts, which may be bad for the team because they aren't really known for their offense either. It may be worth trying for coach Dave Cameron as maybe the younger, skilled players can break the puck out of Ottawa's zone faster, but ultimately, management's poor player evaluation and inability to get good, skilled (AND CHEAP) depth for the Senators is costing the team dearly.
With cheap, decently skilled depth players to be had in free agency every year, and skilled players like Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Shane Prince in Binghamton, the Senators have attached themselves to "veteran defensive" players on one-way deals who are signed for at least another year and essentially amount to un-functional dead space on the roster.
- In case you missed last night's game, here are your recaps! [Silver Seven, Rank the Performances, Ottawa Citizen, SensChirp, SenShot]
- An injury update: Chris Neil took a hit from Brayden McNabb and is out week-to-week. [6th Sens]
- Colin Greening went from the press box to the first line yesterday. Though I rag on the guy, I always appreciate his insight and interviews, and I hope he finds a team that will give him playing time soon, whether it's Ottawa with Neil out, or another team. [Ottawa Citizen]
- Michaela has five thoughts on what was an extremely busy week for Sens fans. [Silver Seven - Five Thoughts]
- Mrs. O and Sheer_Craziness have some really fantastic pieces on MacLean, Cameron and coaching. I highly recommend both and hope you check them out. [Mrs. O - Losing the Room, Sheer_Craziness - Same as it ever was]
- Nichols also has a transcript of a really interesting Hockey Central segment, which insight on Melnyk, Cameron, and MacLean. Check it out. [6th Sens]
- George has the #best It Could Be Worse entry yet. [Bonk's Mullet]
- Amelia has a final roundup of Paul MacLean's doozy of a press conference, and Nichols has a transcript. I'll miss ya. [Silver Seven, 6th Sens]
- Wait what we didn't actually hire Cameron as a head coach huhhhhhhhh????? Mike has the inside scoop [Bonk's Mullet]
- Jeff has more on someone we knew was considered, BSens head coach Luke Richardson. [SenShot]
- Y'know who's been playing well recently? Jared Cowen. Travis talks about why Cowen shouldn't have been scratched recently. [SenShot]
- Ian has a prospect update on the Senators European talent! Sometimes I forget about these players so it's fun to get an update on them. [Silver Seven]
- Now I don't live in Ottawa, but supposedly the team is considering a move to the LeBreton Flats area, which was a subject of great discussion this week. [6th Sens, SensChirp, Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Citizen II]
- The Senators made their annual visit to CHEO this week. Here's the story and a really nice video. [Ottawa Citizen]
- User Richard McCrae has been writing some really good content in the Fanpost section so I wanted to feature a piece here. Here's his take on Patrick Wiercioch. [Silver Seven Fanpost - Patrick Wiercioch]
- A really good piece by Jen on draft pick value since 2005. Click through to see if any Senators placed. [The Committed Indian]
- A piece on the Globe & Mail on Rogers hockey coverage this season. Viewership isn't doing so well despite more games and stations. [The Globe & Mail]
- A really cool behind-the-scenes look at the NFL draft that I found really interesting. [SBN]
- Yost has some nice analysis on the shooting tendencies of different teams. [TSN]/