SensNation Hotstove – March 1st

Week 4 of the SensNation Hotstove.  Make sure to follow the panel:  @DefenseMinister, @Fffeisty, @IneffectiveMath, @Senturion.  Be sure to chime in with your answers and feedback below in the comment section and on Twitter.  Enjoy!!

Q1: From the Sens perspective, what should and what will happen on trade deadline day?

@DefenseMinister:  Should: Try desperately to find buyers for Neil, Phillips, Michalek, Legwand, Smith, Greening (ha!) or Chiasson and take whatever you can get even if it’s a conditional 7th round pick. Lots of work needs to be done on culling 15/16 roster and you can’t leave it all for the summer.  Will: I’m going with pretty much nothing. Murray seems to be in a seriously waffling mode where he can’t pull the trigger on anything of consequence which is partially due to vet loyalty, partially due to trying to extract return value for players who don’t have any and partially due to not wanting to fully commit to a tear-down strategy. Maybe we see a tiny deal but nothing for anyone to get excited about.

@Fffeisty:  I’ve never been a huge fan of deadline deals. I feel like they have rarely worked out for the Sens (I’m talking about you Peter Bondra. Or Tom Barrasso. Or Matt Cullen). The only deal I’d like to see them make would be to upgrade their D, but I wouldn’t want a rental. So in all likelihood, the deal I want (a top 4 D with term) could wait until summer (*cough* goalie trade). I know we’d all like to see them clear some contracts but let’s be honest, who wants the Sens detritus? If anyone wants them, let’s hope the Sens won’t balk at the return. At this point it is more to their benefit to clear some contracts.  It’s a huge problem, as pointed out by @DefenceMinister:


@IneffectiveMath:  What will happen is probably nothing. None of the current players are considered “must be rid of” and none of the available players fill any important weakness. What /should/ happen is that Cowen, Phillips, and Neil should all be traded for a pick or two since prices seem fairly high.

@Senturion:  What should they do? Sell off veterans (4, 9, 17, 25). Of course that’s easier said than done because most other teams probably know that these guys aren’t very good. Frankly, I’d be satisfied if the Sens did nothing because my fear is that they’ll do something stupid like trade Wiercioch and grab a veteran winger for the “playoffs”.

Q2: Do you think the Senators presently consider hockey analytics in making their personnel decisions?  To what extent should they?

@IneffectiveMath:  My strong suspicion is that they don’t use analytics in any serious way. If they did, they would have locked up Condra and Wiercioch to cheap-ish, long-ish deals a long time ago when it would have been straightforward to do so, like they did with Greening and Cowen.

@Senturion:  From all their public comments, leaks and actions it would appear that they don’t. How else do you explain some of the baffling contracts, bizarre player usage and strange prioritization of needs. I’m not a fancy stats vanguard, but I believe that they add something valuable to the game that can really help a low payroll team like the Sens. Though I continue to believe that there are some unquantifiable aspects of hockey, that doesn’t mean fancy stats aren’t incredibly valuable. The fact that the Leafs are embracing advanced stats, and have the money to clean up their mess pretty quickly, should terrify an organization that is obsessed with keeping up.

@Fffeisty:  With Tim Murray having been in Ottawa for so long, I can’t imagine that the Sens are unfamiliar with analytics but they don’t appear to employ anyone right now with the specific task of tracking advanced stats in the way that other teams have. I would argue that there appears to be a conscious effort to employ certain players differently since the arrival of Coach Cam which might suggest a reliance on metrics not related to “leadership” and “grit” or “compete”, although how much of that is related to the usage of fancy stats is hard to say, due to some of the “fortunate” injuries. The only “evidence” I have is that the Sens brain trust sit in a box not far from my seats and while BM watches the on ice action, Dorion and Lee sit beside him with laptops open. I assume they are not watching YouTube videos, but that is the only “evidence” I have. Maybe they are keeping a close eye on Twitter.

Chris Lund reminded me of a blog post from the Sens website that provided an introduction to fancy stats last yearWould the Sens social media guy be talking about something that wasn’t a part of the conversation at the hockey ops level? Seems unlikely (but not impossible).

@DefenseMinister:  We’ve been told by those close to the hockey ops department that the Sens are very “open” to analytics but the proof is in the pudding. I don’t see it. Perhaps the data is being collected and presented to management but it’s not being used to help make personnel decisions, that much is clear. Bryan Murray has always loved big players who are physical and that mentality filters down into every decision made by the organization. Analytics tell you who your most effective players are and who helps you win games but if your belief is that “intangibles” always trump this evidence and you need players to fit into certain roles in order to succeed, then this is what happens.

Q3: Comment on Jeffrey Simpson’s article in the Globe and Mail just over a week ago.

The article in question can be found on the Globe and Mail website.

@Fffeisty:  #JeSuisJefferySimpson: I’ll be honest, I don’t understand all of the backlash to Simpson’s article. His normal bailey-wick is political commentary which employs spin and punditry to score points. In this case, he dipped his toe into hockey which many feel he is unqualified to comment on. This strikes me as close to the “never played the game” credibility arguments. Others seem to be upset that a journalist would be writing from the perspective of a fan. I feel he was trying to expose the Sens tendency to speak out of both sides of their mouths, and how their messaging has been received by the fanbase. Simpson accurately expresses fan outrage so I find it hard to fault him for his spin and usage of revisionist history. At the very least, I feel that having a well-know national writer publicly declare his frustrations gives voice to many of my own frustrations as a season-ticket holder. Certainly it generated conversations that are far more interesting than whether or not EK is the last one on the ice for morning skates. (Disclaimer: I once sent a very strongly-worded fax to the Sens to express my outrage about the firing of Jacques Martin. I’ve also written a few letters to the editor, ranging from gushing to irate. Depends on my mood).

@Senturion:  I think a lot of people in the Sens blogger/Twitter community missed the point of the Simpson article. I saw quite a few people post takedowns of Simpson’s logic. They pointed out inconsistencies in his argument and nitpicked his facts. Here’s the problem, his article wasn’t meant as a statistical takedown, it was the passion-fuelled rant of a fan. Sure he may have gotten a few things wrong, but the point was his sentiment as a frustrated fan, a sentiment that is pervasive throughout the fan base – even among many who criticized him. Simpson may be a journalist, but he’s not a sports reporter, so his analysis may not be up to fancy stats level, but that misses the point. The fact is, there is a malaise in this organization that starts with the owner and a growing portion of the fans recognize it. I applaud Simpson for using his platform and status to shine a light on something he feels passionate about.

@DefenseMinister:  My issue with the article is not that it is a mainstream media directing attention towards the craziness of Melnyk and what it’s done to the team, we obviously need more of that. The problem is that the article comes off as an unfocused fan rant which some of us might find emotionally satisfying or cathartic, doesn’t really have any point. Simpson is a longtime Sens fan who just happens to write for the Globe and he’s basically posted an angry post-game call-in to a major national publication. He loses the thread constantly: Melnyk’s cheap, the team’s trades aren’t good enough, they don’t spend money wisely, Clarke MacArthur hasn’t scored in a while, the Hossa trade in 2005 wasn’t good, I got whiplash trying to figure out what he was saying besides “I have a lot of things I need to get off my chest”. More mainstream media attention on Melnyk, less unfocused ranting from journalists as opposed to actual reporting. I suspect the tone and composition of the article is the reason we haven’t seen much in the way of conversation or follow-up elsewhere on this.

@IneffectiveMath:  It’s all a little scattershot and glib for my journalistic taste but the sentiment is dead-centre and the range of examples of ineptitude is extremely telling. The unwillingness of Melnyk to spend is undoubtedly a problem but the weakness at a more structural level to perform accurate player evaluation is much more important.

Q4: After the Leafs successfully dumped Clarkson ESPN‘s Pierre Lebrun reported that the Senators had interest in trading for him.  How is that possible?

@Senturion:   The scary thing about the Clarkson trade is that it shows the Leafs are serious about turning things around. They ate the Horton contract to get some cap relief and open up a roster spot. The fact that the Sens inquired might have been more about trying to exploit the Leafs in a weak position (though the Sens aren’t exactly in a strong one). It’s hard to fault Murray for inquiring, thankfully that’s all it was.

@DefenseMinister:  I don’t want to think too much about this because it makes me sad. There are creative scenarios where you could force the Leafs to give you enough value in order for you to do this favour but I don’t think that’s what was going on here. I think it was as simple as Murray always liking Clarkson as a player and not really realizing how awful this contract was until they looked at it closely at which point he said no thanks.

@IneffectiveMath:  The only scenario that makes sense to me is something like “Leafs send Clarkson and a good-ish pick set to Ottawa in exchange for future considerations” where it’s explicit that the point of the deal is cap relief to the Leafs in exchange for the draft pick(s). Melnyk has often hinted at his willingness to use the Senators huge cap-space like this but I’ve never believed him.

@Fffeisty:  Hearing that the Sens may have been “interested” in Clarkson again reminded me of that old SNL bit on Weekend Update. In this case, I can only hope that BM’s “interest” didn’t, ahem, last very long. To be fair to BM, he told Garrioch that it was the Leafs who called him about it first. All I can say now is: phew and thank god for being “suddenly not that interested”.

Q5: Is Andrew Hammond mortal?  And at what point did or will his hot run convince you that the Senators should seriously consider trading one of Lehner or Anderson?

@Fffeisty:   If only there was a .gif of a unicorn with rainbows flying out of its butt to properly express how I feel about this incredible run by the Hamburgler.  I’m trying not to get too excited but it’s hard not to be.  He certainly opens the door to thoughts about goalie trades.  Are those cap-friendly, without NTC goalie contracts for Andy and Lehner looking great now or what? (See my answer to Q1)



@DefenseMinister:  Andrew Hammond is clearly a celestial being not governed by our earthly laws of physics and nature. He has been sent to us disguised as a middling AHL goaltender in order to create one last brief feel-good story before departing the mortal coil.  We shall never see the likes of him again. 

@IneffectiveMath:  I won’t mind carrying three goalies for a time to give Hammond a better look, but his AHL sv% of 89.8% this year over 20 games really ought to carry a lot more weight than his glittering numbers with Ottawa over a quarter as many.  [Editor’s note:  on December 17th Hammond let in 3 goals in 21 seconds… check it out:]

@Senturion:  There’s a long history of flash-in-the-pan goaltenders exploding onto the scene and then never been heard from again. Hammond’s story is great, and I’m rooting for him, but let’s not get carried away. That said, if the Sens aren’t listening to offers on Anderson or Lehner as a way of addressing some of their needs then they’re not doing their job. This has nothing to do with Hammond’s hot streak, though it certainly doesn’t hurt their bargaining position.