Silver Seven 2015 Report Cards: Additional Questions

The summary post of our four-part series of 2014-15 Report Cards. This one looks at some of the authors' votes that stand out.

The authors voted, and you saw the final grades given to the goalies, the defense, the forwards, and management. Some agreed in the comments, and some disagreed completely. Here at Silver Seven, we believe in accountability, and therefore we give you an inside look at how everyone voted to get to the final aggregate grades:

Of course, it wouldn't be fair to just put the grades out there for you to question without context. The staff got asked questions about some of the less common ratings.

1. Richard and Amelia, you both gave Zack Smith an F. Can you explain why his year was a failure? Michaela, you gave him a B. Can you explain why you thought his year was good?

Amelia: I gave Zack Smith an F because it was a failure of a season for him. I wasn't expecting him to be remarkable or anything, but to play at his level. He had 2 goals and 1 assist in 37 games. He only got into 3 playoff games because David Legwand is also an issue. Yes, a wrist injury interrupted his season, but this is a player who wanted a greater (offensive) role and failed miserably. Paul MacLean accommodated that desire and moved him up the lineup to play on the wing and he was positively invisible in that role. When playing centre he wasn't much better. If David Legwand hadn't served as a lightning rod for criticism, Smith's terrible year would have garnered more attention.

Richard: I think Amelia summed it up pretty well. He didn’t have a good year by any standard. He started the season with an opportunity to take more of an offensive role, which was something he’d said he was looking for in the offseason and he was very much surpassed by a plethora of players who made more of their chance than he did.

Michaela: Zack Smith didn't have a great season by any means, but I didn't expect anything else from him. He is a fourth-line centre who was mismanaged in the first half of the season, and I don't think that's his fault. Expecting him to perform when he is taken out of his position and placed higher in the line up is a little unfair. I'll admit, I probably graded him higher than I should have, simply because he didn't stand out to me as being exceptionally good or bad this season.
2. Adnan, you gave the highest grades of anyone to Jared Cowen and Colin Greening. Are you going soft, or can you think of another reason to explain this?

Adnan: Colin Greening didn't produce anything offensively but he didn't get slaughtered either. I am rarely going to hold it against a player for being scratched by a coach. The Senators held their own in terms of scoring chances and shot attempts with Greening on the ice. Cowen on the other hand, I was perhaps a little too generous with, I don't think he's anywhere near being a first or second pairing guy, but is he really any worse than Borowiecki or Gryba if you ignore the contract? Ottawa had 47.5% of the shot attempts with Cowen on the ice without Erik Karlsson, so he was by no means good but a C- looked about right to me. This is by no means me being against getting Cowen and his albatross of a contract off the team in exchange for a ripe pineapple though.
3. Ian and Michaela, you were the only people to give grades in the C range to Paul MacLean. Why do you think he wasn't deserving of a worse grade even though he ended up getting fired?

Ian: I based my rating off of what I was expecting from Paul Maclean. While there were comments in the offseason from Senators management that they wanted to get the "Old Paul" back, Maclean gave no indication that he would change his ways. His strange player usage continued and it didn't produce wins. Overall, it's hard to give a terrible mark to a coach when his players were also under-performing. I completely agree with the firing, but a record that was a shade under .500 when he was fired with a team that has a bunch of young/rookie forwards and inexperienced defencemen is not, in my opinion, worthy of a failing grade.

Michaela: Paul MacLean's firing didn't make a lot of sense to me until well after the fact. Once Cameron stepped in, and we saw a dramatic shift in certain players, I realized that there must have been a disconnect between MacLean and the players. That being said, the team was 11-11-5 when he was fired, and he was only two seasons removed from a Jack Adams award and a playoff position. I thought he deserved some credit. I don't think MacLean is a bad coach, I think he had a hard time relating to the younger players, which was made even more evident after Alfie left. He no longer had a middle man between him and the majority of the team, bringing out his flaws. He is a good coach who just didn't fit with this team.

4. Richard, you gave Bryan Murray a B+. Any reason you thought his year was so good?

Richard: If I were to grade Murray on the basis of the last few seasons I think his grade would have been different. If I’m looking at this season in isolation, I’m not sure what more he could have done with the pieces he had, Melnyk’s budget and the number of contracts on this team that couldn’t reasonably have been moved. I think this was a growth year for the Sens and the lack of moves at the deadline really paid off for us. I think the best thing we did this season was not trade parts of our future assets for immediate help. I also was really happy about getting Lehner, MacArthur, Methot and Ryan resigned. That being said I’m probably guilty of giving him a lot of credit for some of our younger guys playing really well, coming into their own and exceeding expectations, while not considering the impact of some of the bad contracts he’s given out to the same degree. I maybe would have liked to have seen some bolder moves earlier in the season, like trading our first, Anderson or Lehner, but I really can’t blame him for not doing those things at the time. I didn’t love the Spezza trade in the off-season but the Legwand signing seemed like a prudent move at the time. I also can’t state enough how much I admire that man’s perseverance and courage through everything he’s gone through and at least part of my grade was attributed to that and the great job he’s done enhancing the discourse in the league about cancer.

5. Ross and Michaela, you both gave Pageau an A+. Why do you think his year was so phenomenal?

Ross: I think Pageau exceeded where he was expected to. He gave the team a legitimate checking line. Cameron would send them out against the other team's best, would use them in key defensive draws. As the playoffs wore on, he'd only start Boro-Gryba in the defensive zone with the Pageau line. Pageau and Condra also were key penalty killers. Add into all of that the fact that Pageau started in the AHL, and was briefly sent down again, I think Pageau greatly exceeded expectations. Going from a victim of numbers to indispensable is worth an A+ in my books.

Michaela: My grade for Pageau was mostly based on my expectations for him. I thought in the last two months of the season, and in the playoffs, he was a huge factor on the ice, regardless of whether or not he scored. His line brought the most energy to the line up and often played a role in shifting momentum in the Sens' favour. He is also a very exciting player to watch. To be honest, I expected nothing like this from him. I thought he would be virtually invisible somewhere in the bottom six, and he vastly exceeded those expectations, so I gave him a really good grade.

6. NKB, B_T, and Adnan, you put Marc Methot in the B range. Do you think everyone else is overvaluing his season?

NKB: I believe where I diverged from the majority opinion in giving Marc Methot "just" a B is that I didn't give him extra credit for missing the first part of the season. His absence underlined how desperately thin the Sens are on the backend, but to my eye he didn't actually play noticeably better this year than in years past. Was he a much better option than Chris Phillips, Jared Cowen or Mark Borowiecki? Sure, but that's almost as much an indictment of the team's defense than it is an endorsement of Methot. He's a defensive stalwart whose offensive contributions remain minimal at best. One of the main story-lines of this year was Methot's return to the line-up. It was a great story, but not because Methot was exceptional.

B_T: Yeah, a little bit. I think he's benefitting from playing with Erik Karlsson on that front.

Adnan: In a word, yes. Methot is a good player but he is far too overvalued by Senators fans and media alike. The talk of him being responsible for Erik's Norris nomination makes me laugh. I mean it is technically true that he isn't Jared Cowen, Mark Borowiecki or Chris Phillips but...I think Patrick Wiercioch is a better option on the first pairing to be honest.
7. Ary, if there was a contest for assigning the grades closest to the average grades, you'd win hands-down. Are you just the best at player evaluation here, or is there another way you accomplished that?

Ary: First, whoa! That’s pretty cool. I don’t think I’m the best at player evaluation on this team at all, so I guess I’ll go through how I ranked the players. I watched almost every game this year, but also covered the team from a #fancystat perspective pretty often. Added onto my work with the Nuggets where I often get a general community consensus for how a player was doing, and you get a pretty integrated way of looking at the player from a variety of perspectives! Maybe that led me to be closest to our staff averages?

I think I just had tiers of players and assigned them to the appropriate grade depending on my valuation of what an A is, what a B is, etc. People in the "bad" tier either got a D or an F (Cowen, Greening, Phillips, Smith, Gryba, MacLean) and were either fired, healthy scratched often, or non-factors down the stretch.

There was a huge "meh" tier that had an okay season but ultimately were disappointing in terms of expectations (Murray, Lehner, Chiasson, Borowiecki, Puempel, Neil).

Then there were the players that did solid/well, with solid being in the B range (Ceci, Ryan, Michalek, Legwand; Anderson, Lazar, MacArthur a bit higher) and A being players who had a hell of a year or drastically exceeded expectations (Methot, Turris, Condra, Pageau, Wiercioch, Stone, Karlsson, Hoffman, Zibanejad, Cameron). I guess you all agreed with me for the most part and hopefully the community does as well? Dissent makes for a fun discussion though!
8. Ross, NKB, Ian, and Richard, this may seem like nit-picking, but you only gave Erik Karlsson an A. What more do you expect of him than leading all defensemen in points, being the best possession player on the team, and getting nominated for the Norris, all while being stuck on a pairing with Chris Phillips to start the year?

Ross: Maybe I was a little harsh? I still think an A is a very good grade. I guess for one thing, I expect Karlsson to always drag whoever he's with into positive possession numbers. A couple years ago, Karlsson dragged Filip Kuba to a 2-year, $4-million per year contract with the Panthers. So I was a little disappointed he couldn't make Chris Phillips at least look respectable. Additionally, Karlsson looked tired and injured at the end of the season. In the playoffs, when you need your best players to take over, he had maybe one dominant game. I hold EK to a high standard because of the standard he's set in the past. For me, his first 20 games and his last 12 or so left me wanting.

NKB: This will sound a bit like I'm repeating myself from my Methot answer, but much of the same logic applies. Karlsson was very good, again, and "A" is not a bad grade by any stretch but I still feel as though there's a little bit more there. This was a very good season for Karlsson, but it was not his best, and I don't think it's the best he can be either. It's a scary proposition to believe that a Norris-calibre season isn't the best we'll see from a player, but that's how special Erik Karlsson truly is.

Ian: Again, this choice came down to expectations. I think my choice of an A for Karlsson was due to the fact that I have such a huge expectations of him. He has shown in the past that he can be the most dominant defenceman in the league, so it came as no surprise when he put together such a great Norris-worthy season. I definitely think that he can do more next year and lead the league wire-to-wire. Maybe giving Karlsson an A would give him extra motivation to push for 100 points next year in order to get an A+?

Richard: Anyone who follows me on twitter knows that I think Karlsson is just the cats pyjamas/bees knees. I think he quietly had an outstanding defensive season. While I gave a lot of credit to Murray based on his circumstances, I don’t think I did the same with Karlsson. Ultimately I think he was outstanding in the second half of the season not so much in the first. Of course that has to do with the fact that he played so many minutes away from Methot, but it still impacted my overall assessment of his season. Also, how can you give an A+ to a defenseman who doesn’t kill penalties?
9. Everyone, after getting the final results, whose grade surprised you the most? Are there any grades you would redo seeing how everyone else voted?

Amelia: Thought Paul MacLean was graded a bit high for a guy who insisted on Chris Phillips being not just an NHL calibre defenseman but playing him on the top pairing, who relied as much as he did on Cowen, who brought us the "Legwand on the 1st PP unit" strategy, who thought the top-6 didn't need Stone and Hoffman, and who got fired a third of the way through the season. I could go on.

Richard: In terms of the players I don’t think there were many surprises. I’m most curious as to how Maclean managed to get so many passing grades.

Michaela: I was surprised to see Eric Gryba with a C-. I realize I didn't grade him much higher, but I thought the average would be at least a C+ or B-. He had an OK season. Looking back, I probably would give Zack Smith a lower grade. I still don't think he performed that terribly based on expectations, but it's clear that my grade of a B was probably a brain lapse.

Ross: I was a little surprised how positive people seemed on Murray. I thought my C was generous. He traded Jason Spezza, re-upped Milan Michalek, negated the contract with Jakub Culek so the team could sign Brad Mills? He got lucky in that he couldn't trade Erik Condra and Patrick Wiercioch, who turned into studs post-deadline. I also was surprised that Clarke MacArthur generally got better grades than Milan Michalek, though they had very similar seasons number-wise, and Michalek's signed for three fewer years at $65k less per year but is only four months older. In my mind, they're interchangeable, except MacArthur has a worse contract. I don't think I'd change anything in my votes. The whole point of these things is you do it without seeing other people's votes, right? I'm still pretty happy with what I gave.

Ary: I wasn't too surprised with the average grades! Murray was a little high for my liking, and I agree with some of the comments re: over-evaluating Marc Methot as more than what he is, but I think we did a good job

Adnan: No, I believe in Adnanite superiority.

NKB: I'm not overly surprised by it, but it's still interesting to see that most folks thought much more highly of Cody Ceci's season than I did. Ceci's one of management's favoured players, he's treated with kid gloves by the media, and he's still only 21 so maybe I'm expecting too much of the kid. Nonetheless, he struggled for long stretches this year before Patrick Wiercioch stabilized the second pairing. If I had to change one of my own grades though, it would be the "B" I gave Clarke MacArthur. I like Mac, I think everyone likes Mac, but he actually just didn't have that great a year by his standards.

B_T: A bit surprised by Bobby Ryan, given his slow start and then massive slump at the end. I like Bobby, but I don't think he had a very good season overall. No grades I would redo.

Ian: No real surprises, nothing I would redo either. I think our three A+ players (Karlsson, Stone, and Hammond) really sum up our season pretty well.

So that does it for the report cards! Watch in the coming days as we start our annual Your Say series, where you get to vote on how you think each player did this season.

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