Silver Nuggets: Answering what's plaguing the Sens

This feature aims to collect all of your Senators news and analysis in one place, allowing you to read different perspectives on a variety of topics.

The Ottawa Senators are a through a quarter of the season, so I thought Tuesday was a really good time to ask all of you for your opinions on the Sens play thus far. Thank you to everyone who participated! It's clear that a number of things need to improve before we're ready to call the Sens as a firm playoff team, and a majority of the votes (44%) went towards personnel reasons - the players aren't talented enough. Interestingly, a close second (38%) was the choice of poor player usage, which is on coach Paul MacLean. Let's take a look at some of the comments.

With 6 recs, many of you agreed with what Sheer_Craziness had to say re: player personnel:

Gryba, Phillips, and Borowiecki are all have ceilings of bottom-pairing defenders (Phillips isn’t going to get any better at this age). Cowen and Ceci should be getting bottom-pairing minutes at this point in their careers. Wiercioch also would ideally be on the bottom pairing, though he looks like a better bet than the rest to be consistent on a second pairing. Methot can play the role of first-pairing guy when carried by Karlsson. Karlsson ends up playing half the game with a shamble of partners, while everyone else looks hapless trying to get the puck out of their own zone. (Ceci, and somewhat Cowen, have looked better in this regard recently, but still not second-pairing-great.) Without better personnel on D, this team will continue to get badly outshot, outchanced, outworked, and outscored.

I actually had a really interesting discussion on twitter today with a number of people that I recommend you take a look at, but it appears that there's a number of reasons for this.

1) Bryan Murray and co. believe that the Senators defensive personnel will get better with time, and the main reason for this is because they're highly touted players (Cowen, Ceci, Wiercioch were all drafted in the first two rounds) that should reasonably improve with experience. After all, the old adage is that "defenseman take longer to develop."

2) In an interview that I linked below, Murray called the defensive play of the Senators disturbing, and indicated it as an area that the Sens needed to improve on in the offseason. Could it be that Murray wanted to fix the defense, but couldn't because of budgetary reasons? There are two ways to go about this. The first is to be doubtful because after all, the Senators had enough money to sign David Legwand, and re-sign Milan Michalek, Clarke MacArthur, Bobby Ryan, and Craig Anderson. If they wanted to fix the defense, they could've reasonably done so by, say, not signing the first two players listed. The second is the fact that the Senators still have the lowest payroll in the league, which could perhaps limit their ability to trade for an in-season fix right now.

All in all, I think we can agree that however they do it, the Senators need to get better in their own end, and finding another top-four defenseman (through trade, internal improvement) is the way to do it. Having a healthy Marc Methot in the lineup will help, but how long can the Senators afford to wait for his play to get to the level it was at previously? He hasn't played in the game for quite some time.

User BigRig_GR seems to agree with the "lack of talented personnel" choice, and focuses on defensive personnel specifically:

…I believe our forwards and goaltending are fine, it’s our talent level on defense that’s killing us. We’re constantly getting out-shot every game because a) The D get out-played in their own end, and b) Nobody save Karlsson can seem to move the puck well, so our forwards aren’t getting enough time in the opponent’s end.

Everyone on this board including myself was begging for a trade in the offseason to upgrade the D, but management decided to stick with the status quo. It didn’t work last year, and it’s not working this year either, so I can’t fathom why management doesn’t seem to see what every other Sens fan on the planet sees using common sense: we need a new body on D! It’s not like things will magically get better once Methot comes back. Sure, things will likely improve because it will stabilize Karlsson’s pairing, but he is not the person who needs stabilizing the most!

For young players to develop properly, they have to be given a chance to succeed; in this case, it means giving young guys someone not named Phillips to play with and lean on for both support on the ice and for advice. Cowen, Ceci, Weircioch, Gryba, Borocop are all too inexperienced to be playing second pairing minutes without a second pairing defenseman. I’m totally content with any combination of them on the third pairing. The second pairing? Nope.

At this point, I don’t even care who is moved, I just want something to be done! Argh.


User Eldur00 brings up a really good point that a lot of people agreed with, and something that I forgot to put into the poll, which is the inexperience of the current Senators roster:

In terms of games played, that is.

And on our team, it is the biggest issue. Not because of the inexperience per say, but because most of our experienced players are not able to carry their load. What is Wiercioch thinking when he’s eating a hot dog in the press box while Phillips trips over his ‘stache at the opponent’s blue line on the power play and loses the puck ? What is Condra (ok, I know, he’s not that young anymore) thinking when he’s watching the game and he sees the most useful thing Chris Neil did all game is use his face as the recipient of a high stick to send us to the power play ?

I’m not sure our experienced vets are passing the torch as they should. You can say all the right things in the world, but if you can’t back it up with solid play, it’s kind of "whatever" I would think.

And there you are, with the most inexperienced team in the league left to learn from a cast of mediocre veterans forced to play, in some instances, in roles that are either not suited for them, or that they can’t fulfill anymore due to their body not following the pace as it used to.

So while I wish there would have been an option for least experienced team in the league because the young players are left to have to drive the team, I picked usage.

According to QuantHockey, the Senators are one of the ten youngest teams this season, but some of the teams that are listed as younger in terms of average age, such as Anaheim and Boston are not having the defensive troubles that the Senators are having. Obviously average age is a weird way to look at this, and I wish there was an easy place to find "cumulative number of NHL games", but just something I wanted to point out.

Lastly, user SensBomb touches on a number of important reasons for why the Senators are the way they are:

1. Young team. Lots of really young guys here. We’re relying on a heavily youth and inexperienced centered roster (relative to other teams).
2. Middling picks. We haven’t drafted many true superstars since when (aside from Karlsson)? Yashin? We’ve traded for top talent, but (to my recollection) we have never really drafted a Crosby, or Toews, or Malkin, or Stamkos, etc. So one true blue top ender in 10 years.
3. No trade assets. Well, no valuable trade assets to go out and pick up a Doughty or a Weber to play with Karlsson, or a Tyler Seguin…
4. Too good, not good enough. We keep not sucking, but sucking just bad enough to be stuck in traditional Leafs land (which is to say around the 10-7 spot). Again, poor draft position.
5. No lottery pick. No Crosby for us.

Whatever the case, we have talent, but not top end (few guys aside). No high draft picks. No value to send back for a superstar.


Sens Links

  • Of course the first game I miss this season is billed as the Sens best. Check out the recaps from a thrilling win against the St. Louis Blues. [Silver Seven, Rank the Performances, Ottawa Citizen, SenShot, SensChirp, Senstats]
  • In case you missed the big news, Alfie is coming home. Make sure to watch the amazing Alfredsson tribute video from the Senators website. Made me cry like I had 10 eyelashes in my eye. Get your tickets for December 4th! [Silver Seven, Ottawa Senators, 6th Sens, SensChirp, SenShot, Ottawa Citizen]
  • Amelia's five thoughts for Friday also centers around the Alfredsson news. [Silver Seven]
  • Mike breaks our hearts (again) by outlining a prospective scenario where Alfie signed a one-day contract with the New York Islanders. [Bonk's Mullet]
  • A lot of good discussion on this piece from SensChirp's "ChirpEd" series on retired numbers. [SensChirp]
  • Milan Michalek looks to be out for the second straight night tonight. Here's a piece on the Citizen on Michalek and his lack of productivity [Ottawa Citizen]
  • Nichols transcribed a really interesting interview with Bryan Murray, who talks about where the team stands after 21 games. As always, Murray was candid, and talked about the shift in evaluation from 10 games, to 20 games, and beyond. [6th Sens, Ottawa Citizen]
  • We've reached the quarter season mark! Although students usually get midterm report cards, the Senators also get quarter season report cards. The crew at SenShot have their grades for the forwards and the defense.
  • David Legwand has been a subject of discussion for a while now in Sens land. Here's the staff's thoughts on him. [Silver Seven - Email Hotstove]
  • The next entry in the "It could be worse" series focuses on Ottawa West the San Jose Sharks, who decided that they weren't good enough when everyone else saw them as a perennial cup contender. [Bonk's Mullet]
  • Nichols also has some news regarding some rumours around Ottawa and Edmonton scouting each other. The Oilers have interest in Robin Lehner (so does everyone else!) but there is a potential fit with Ottawa's depth centres and need for defensive talent. [6th Sens]
  • The Citizen ran a must-read column on the above as well, talking about Murray being patient about the roster (Zibanejad, Michalek, Ryan) coming together while MacLean has decided that it's time to act. [Ottawa Citizen]
  • I really enjoy when Pierre Dorion speaks about prospects, as he sounds like a corporate shill when he speaks about anything else. Thankfully, he's talking about the former in this transcription from Paul. [Silver Seven]
  • Jeff has our BSens news for the week, in which he recaps a tough loss to the St. John's Icecaps and reports on some transaction news. Nice to have never seen you, Ty Wishart! [SenShot - Recap, SenShot - transactions]
  • The Forbes evaluations for NHL franchises were released recently. Varada and Nichols have your Sens-related info. [WTYKY, 6th Sens]
  • Make sure to listen to the latest Sens Callups episode so that you're up to date for this week! [Sens Callups]

Sports Links

  • A really nice piece on forward tactics in the defensive zone, which implicates the Habs forwards in "cheating" too much. The Senators have had this problem for a while as well. [Habs Eyes on the Prize]
  • A cool piece on what puck-possession play means for youth hockey. In Europe and now the USA, touches with the puck are emphasized. Hockey Canada has started to focus on this more as well. [Prodigy Hockey]
  • How well equipped are we to visually analyze hockey games? An absolutely fantastic article (and one that appeals to my scientific brain). [Rangers Unlimited]/


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