(Note that Ross initially forgot to put the goalies in, which is why Peter didn't vote on them.)
Now, based on this voting, there are definitely some questions for the staff. Here are a few we thought of:
1) Ian, not to be nitpicky, but both of you gave Erik Karlsson "just" an A after playing 30 minutes a night and putting up 82 points in 82 games. What more do you expect out of the captain?
Ian: I had given out my marks based on what I expected out of each player. I expected Karlsson to be a dominant force yet again and he didn't disappoint. I guess maybe I was just hoping that he'll be motivated by only getting an A and have an even more epic year next year to get an A+? I really think that the best Karlsson is yet to come. Imagine what he'd look like with an upgraded blue line, better forwards, and a coaching system that would allow the team to utilize his strengths even more (better PP and higher shot generation).
2) Continuing the theme of nitpicking, Trevor, you gave Jared Cowen the highest grade, a D. Why did you think his season was passable?
Trevor: If a D is considered "high," then that's pretty pathetic. Honestly, I thought Mark Borowiecki was even worse than Cowen this year, so I felt like making that small distinction.
I didn't want to fail anyone, but a D-, D, or D+ is pretty much close enough. Cowen still had a disastrous year.
3) Adnan and Ross, you gave Michael Kostka the most extreme grades, a B and an F. Why did you think so differently from your colleagues in terms of Kostka's season?
Adnan: Kostka provided no offence and only Ben Harpur had a higher on-ice shot attempts allowed per 60 than Kostka. There is a reason Kostka had played 35 NHL games in the previous two seasons, he's not an NHL level player.
Ross: Kostka was supposed to be an AHL veteran presence. Instead, he represented Binghamton at the all-star game down there, and then got called up and played dependable hockey for 20 games. I have a hard time faulting a guy who played about six levels higher than he was expected to when the team signed him.
4) Callum and Trevor, you gave Patrick Wiercioch a pretty favourable grade. Do you think he was hard-done by his usage this season, and was much better than his raw points suggest?
Callum: There's no doubt Patrick Wiercioch had a down year. But you'd think management would finally give him a bit more slack on the leash after he solidified himself as the No. 2 defenseman on the team during last year's run. Oh, right, and then he won a gold medal at the WHC. Profiling him as the worst Dman on the team - which they did with scratchings and lack of ice time when in the lineup - by the halfway mark was outrageously poor player evaluation. It was evident that he carried his pairing with Cody Ceci - that's not up for debate - but Dave Cameron saw it the other way. There was also the possibility of an injury. Cameron eluded that Wiercioch was "banged up" nearing the last couple months of the season, so who knows if he was playing through something. So, yeah, I'm a Wiercioch apologist, that's no secret. I just feel bad for the guy, because all throughout his tenure with the Senators he's been solid. Then he has one down year and it's almost as if the coaching staff and a good chunk of the fan base was banking on him to play poorly so they could say "SEE??!?"
Now, the other part of the argument is that he's not worth what he'd have to get paid for the Senators to keep him around. And that's correct. Wiercioch isn't worth near $3 million. But he was more than worth his previous contracts.
Trevor: Did Wiercioch play up to his potential this year? Of course not. He certainly had a down year comparatively, but his struggles were vastly overblown considering how poorly the rest of the defense played this year.
His lack of point totals was not great, but he was 4th amongst Ottawa defensemen in shot attempts against per 60 and 2nd in corsi relative. He was actually perfectly *fine* in the defensive zone, although I understand that the eye test makes that hard to believe. I don't think he's anything amazing, and without points it's hard to say he is, but I still say he's a perfectly fine #4 defenseman.
I still don't get how you can watch a guy like Borowiecki and think he's better. Wiercioch at over $3M is certainly hefty, but I see him as a capable player. He can be better, but I still think he was about average this year.
Matt Puempel and Max McCormick haven't quite got there as of yet, but should at some point next season, if they are re-signed during the off-season. Puempel is a pure goal scorer and should flourish if Jason Akeson and Phil Varone return in Binghamton. That might give him an edge over McCormick if and when Ottawa is in need of a player to fill in. Max just needs to keep doing what he does and it should pan out for him at some point.
That leaves Ryan Dzingel as the one out of the four mentioned that should begin the season in Ottawa, especially if he has a good camp. It's been fun watching his progress with nothing left to prove in the AHL. Speed has 'sprung' his development, but he needs to continue to work on being a closer and finish his plays, one of the things that was glaring at times with him losing the puck once he got into the offensive zone early on his pro career. Probably adding a few pounds would help, as long as it doesn't effect his legs. But he would be a great addition to fill the void left by the Shane Prince trade.
6) NKB, you gave Chris Neil a D. Most seemed to think his play this season was much better than the last couple years. Why did he fail to impress you this year?
NKB: Handing out these grades is always an impossible balancing act between expectations for the player and their actual performance in the broader context of the NHL. The expectations we have of Chris Neil are, of course, not the same as those we place upon say Mark Stone. So when he came to camp in what many described as the best shape of his life, there were the outlines of a feel-good story. In relation to how he actually played, though, well once we peel past the inspirational part it's hard to feel great about Neil. He generates very little to no offense, there's good evidence he benefitted a lot from playing with Prince, and he took an obscene number of penalties. Ultimately that's what it comes down to for me: he wasn't terrible but the Sens couldn't generate offense when he was on the ice, they still got outshot and he took way too many penalties. Maybe the off-ice stuff is still there but the on-ice stuff just wasn't very good at all.
7) Michaela, you gave Matt Puempel a B-, much higher than your colleagues. Do you think people had unreasonable expectations for him this season, or is there some other reason you thought he had a pretty good season?
Michaela: Although Matt Puempel only had 3 points in 26 games this season, I didn't expect anything spectacular from him at this point. He is going to take some time to adjust to the NHL level, and is slowly doing that. He played an average of 10-12 minutes per night. And considering he spent most of his time on the third or fourth line with players who weren't known for their point totals (Lazar, Chiasson, Paul, etc.), I thought he at least did a good job at bringing some energy to the line-up. Given his age (23) and lack of NHL experience so far, I think the sheer fact that he found a somewhat regular spot in the line-up (albeit on a bad team) shows that he is making progress in his career. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.
8) Michaela, you also gave Craig Anderson an A this season, quite a bit higher than most other voters. Do you think he had a great season, or do you think he did as well as he could behind the league's worst team at preventing shots?
Michaela: There were many issues with the Sens this season, but goaltending was not one of them. Anderson's .916 SV% might not be anything to write home about, but considering he was playing behind one of the worst defensive teams in the league, it's pretty good. He had the second most shots against him among all goalies this season, second only behind Henrik Lundqvist. We saw this team give up more than 30 shots in many games this season. Anderson deserves some credit for putting up with that all season.
9) Peter, you gave Dave Cameron and Bryan Murray the highest grades of everyone. Do you think people were too harsh on the team staff for this disappointing season?
Peter: I didn't realize that! Regarding Dave Cameron, I think some people were too harsh on him, but I also think letting him go was the right decision. Still, this year the team was in a tough spot with one of their top-six forwards out all year, and the top centreman out for nearly a third of it, so he has some excuses for the team missing the playoffs. Cameron did some good things, too, including: a) letting Karlsson be Karlsson and giving him as much time as he wanted; b) giving Mark Stone ample opportunity; c) lining Zack Smith up on the wing with some good teammates to get good (albeit lucky, based on his shooting percentage) production out of him; and d) giving Cody Ceci, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Chris Wideman legitimate opportunities to succeed, which (in my opinion) they all did to varying degrees. But there's no denying that his usage of Hoffman was questionable and likely a main reason for Cameron's firing--second only to the fact that the Sens missed the playoffs.
10) Callum, you knew this was coming. What's with the A- for Shane Prince?
11) Adnan, NKB, Callum, you gave Mark Borowiecki an F. Did he fail to meet your expectations for the season, or do you just think he doesn't deserve an NHL spot?
Adnan: There is nothing useful that Borowiecki does well compared to NHL players. I think Callum is better than Boro in some ways. I don't think there has ever been a defenceman less deserving of an NHL roster spot since I have been a Senators fan.
NKB: Like Neil, my expectations of Mark Borowiecki are not the same as those I have for other, more competent players. That said, Borowiecki did nothing this year to convince me he was an NHL-calibre defenseman. He's actually a decent skater, but he simply hasn't improved his play with the puck and the Sens have a terrible time breaking out of their end when he's on the ice. Taken all together, he's just not capable at this level. I can't give anything but an F to someone who I don't consider to be an NHL-level player.
Callum: I feel like I would've given Mark Borowiecki a better mark if he was scratched once in a while, so this mark is kind of on Cameron as well, but there was nothing that impressed me in the slightest from the hometown boy this season. Well, other than his compete level. And when he helped a couple cars out of the snow. That was nice of him. But it's still all about on-ice performance. Every argument I've ever heard in favour of Borowiecki has to do with his fighting, leadership and effort. Those are the three attributes I look at the least when evaluating a player. The arguments usually end with the other person saying "you just don't understand." And that's fair. Because it's true. I don't understand why Borowiecki is an everyday NHLer.
12) Ary, for the second year in a row, you were never an outlier among the staff, always being close to the aggregated ratings. Is there any reason you can think of that you're so good at ending up right around the average?
Ary: Huh! That’s pretty cool. I don’t think there’s a reason why I’m close to the staff average, but if I were to theorize, I’d chalk it up to a) watching every game and b) having to reflect on basically every game while reading what the Sens community is saying about each player as I prepare for the Nuggets.
I personally ranked players in tiers:
1. The "A’s" - You did really well!!
2. The "B’s" - Solid years but still something questionable
3. The "C’s" - Average
4. The "D’s" - Bad
5. The "F’s" - Bye
I don’t know how the rest of the staff assigns grades, but perhaps this systematic way helps me reduce outliers!
13) Ross, how did you deal with the trolls in the reader voting?
Ross: It's really hard to figure out who's a troll. Obviously I took out the couple votes who gave everyone an F, or gave everyone an F except Borowiecki. But there were a couple who gave Karlsson an F and everyone else reasonable votes. It's hard to know what to do with those people. I ended up leaving them in, because a) I thought they might be doing a protest vote (i.e. believing people would vote Karlsson too high, so purposely trying to bring him down), and b) removing the biggest outliers from any one player didn't change their average grade at all. After all, nearly 400 people voted in this poll. Maybe next year I'll do this like Olympic figure skating, removing the top and bottom 10% of votes for each player.
14) Finally, are there any grades that surprised you? If you could vote again, would you change any of the grades you gave?
So that wraps our report cards! If you have any further questions for the staff, drop 'em in the comments. There will be lots to discuss over the summer, with the draft, free agency, and our annual Top 25 Under 25 series all to look forward to. As always, thanks for reading!