When the franchise is not having success on the ice and its generational talent is having a substandard season, the search for explanations is pervasive. Not surprisingly, with the Senators set to take on the Stars in Dallas tonight in Marc Methot’s first appearance against his former club since the expansion draft, tonight’s game has fueled discussion in regards to how much his absence has not only hurt the club, but Erik Karlsson.
In Ottawa, Methot had a lot of good things going for him.
As a well-spoken and insightful quote, Methot’s candor and charm endeared himself to the media and by extension, the fans. The fact that he was a local hockey product who brought a physical dimension and a toothless grin only solidified his reputation as a fan favourite.
Most importantly, he played with a once-in-a-lifetime Norris-caliber defensive partner.
From an asset management perspective, Methot’s absence weakened the corps, but to Karlsson’s struggles or the blue line’s struggles on losing Methot is incredibly reductive.
It lazily ignores the fact that Karlsson spent his entire offseason recuperating from a surgical procedure that removed half of his ankle bone. I’m ready to accept the excuse that Karlsson’s substandard play is attributable to his lack of offseason training and conditioning more than anything. To his credit, he’s put up decent numbers the last two years when he has had to play with Fredrik Claesson or Thomas Chabot, but more than anything, I’m just not ready to accept the possibility that Karlsson’s foot injuries have limited his explosiveness and what we have watched this season is the new and sobering norm.
Beyond the health complications, if Erik Karlsson really misses anything from last season, it’s his goaltenders’ ability to make a save.
At five-on-five last season, the Senators’ goalies stopped 92.75-percent of the shots that were directed on goal when Karlsson was on the ice. This season, that number is down to 88.60-percent on the 605 shots that they have faced. In other words, if Mike Condon and Craig Anderson simply played at their 2016-17 rates, the Senators would have allowed 25 fewer goals when Karlsson was on the ice this season.
If there’s any frustration with Methot’s departure, it lies in the fact that the Senators exposed Methot strictly for cash savings.
Like budget cuts everywhere else within the organization, he was simply a casualty of Eugene Melnyk’s ownership.
Having accepted their cut of the Vegas expansion fee and having enjoyed the financial benefits of an extended playoff run, maybe it was naive to assume that the Senators would simply pump these new revenue streams back into payroll.
The Senators could have worked a side deal with Vegas to ensure that they would have selected a less desirable player or defenceman from Ottawa’s exposed list of players. Instead, they simply allowed Vegas to grab Methot, flip him to Dallas for a second round pick and have the Stars absorb the two years and $9.8-million remaining on his deal because the Senators apparently could not pick up the tab.
Unfortunately the reality of the Senators’ situation is that they don’t have inexhaustible resources, but having less money should not excuse their front office and its coaching staff from poor asset management (ie. Johnny Oduya getting Methot’s spot and playing top-four minutes on a floudering team at the expense of better and younger alternatives).
The Goaltending Rotation
I was listening to TSN 1200 on a drive this afternoon when they played Guy Boucher’s media availability. Postmedia‘s Bruce Garrioch asked Boucher about his decision to keep rotating goaltenders in and out on a game-by-game basis and I found Boucher’s answer to be intriguing.
According to Boucher, and I’m paraphrasing here, he’s continuing with the rotation because he believes it works and it keeps both goaltenders fresh. He also made a point about how it helps their confidence knowing that they will draw another start irrespective of whether they have a bad game or not.
I looked into the data and from the game notes, it looks like this rotation essentially began on January 20th and has continued since. There have been a few instances where Condon or Anderson would get two consecutive starts, but neither goalie has appeared in three consecutive games during this stretch of games.
Since January 20, 2018:
- Anderson has a .901 SV% in all situations with a 6-6-0 record and a 3.47 GAA
- Condon has a .912 SV% in all situations with a 1-7-1 record and a 2.89 GAA
- The Senators as a team posted a 91.46 SV% at five-on-five
Before January 20, 2018:
- Anderson posted a .900 SV% in all situations with a 12-14-5 record, two shutouts and a 3.21 GAA
- Condon had an .894 SV% in all situations with a 3-5-4 record and 3.48 GAA
- The Senators as a team posted a 90.79 SV% at five-on-five
There has basically been no change in Anderson’s performance while Condon’s uptick in performance has helped boost the team’s overall save percentage numbers.
Trade Deadline Fallout
One of the fun parts after the trade deadline has passed is finding out how close teams were to making deals.
In the Senators’ case, rumours suggest that the Philadelphia Flyers kicked tires on Mike Hoffman. According to NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s John Boruk, the Senators asked for defenceman Travis Sanheim and a first round pick “as a starting point” in their trade negotiations.
The rumours could be something, they could be nothing.
Whatever the case, the Philadelphia-based writer believed the ask to be preposterous, but with two years of team control left beyond this season, the Senators shouldn’t be settling here. Hoffman’s not a pure rental and leading up to the 2017-18 season, his goal and point production ranks favourably against the archetypal first line winger per Dominic Galamini’s ‘Hero Chart’ tool courtesy of Own the Puck.
Sanheim is a 21-year old left-shooting defenceman who was drafted 17th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft. He has bounced between the Flyers and their AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley this season.
In 35 games for the Flyers this season, Sanheim has only one goal and five points, but the Flyers’ territorial advantage when he has been on the ice at five-on-five has been pretty impressive.
According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Flyers have generated 55.32-percent of the shots (CF%), 55.17-percent of the shots on goal (SF%), 54.16-percent of the unblocked shots and 55.33-percent of the scoring chances but only 39.47-percent of the goals. If the Flyers weren’t getting killed by the percentages (a 5.3 shooting percentage and a 90.0 save percentage, both below league average) when Sanheim has been on the ice at five-on-five, his back of the hockey card numbers would probably look a little better and more closely resemble the kind of production that he put up at the AHL level.
In 76 AHL games last season, Sanheim put up 10 goals and 37 points.
Whether it’s the Hoffman tie-in or not, Philadelphia could make for an interesting trade partner this summer. They have the types of young pieces, especially on the blue line and up front, that the Senators could pursue if they are forced to move Erik Karlsson.
In Elliotte Friedman’s latest ’31 Thoughts’ article, he talked about the league interest in Karlsson. According to Friedman, the Golden Knights, Capitals and Sharks were three of the teams that aggressively tried to bring the defenceman into the fold.
“2. On Karlsson, my sense is the Vegas trade fell apart because of how the purchase price would be adjusted by Bobby Ryan’s inclusion. I’m not 100 per cent sure if it was Ottawa’s ask or Vegas’s offer, but one of the rumblings is that the teams were talking two first-rounders, a high-level prospect and a conditional pick for Karlsson — the condition being whether or not the Golden Knights re-signed him. Whatever the case, it didn’t happen and I can’t imagine Vegas would have been willing to do all that if they were taking Ryan’s contract, too.”
3. “I believe San Jose also told the Senators it could do both Karlsson and Ryan. The Sharks have a boatload of cap room. I’m not aware of any others who offered to do both. Tampa Bay obviously made a pitch, but what the Lightning did with the Rangers clearly didn’t appeal to Ottawa (more on the Rangers later).
Capitals GM Brian MacLellan admitted to the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan that he “explored adding a higher-end” defenceman, and he did inquire on both Karlsson and Ryan McDonagh.
I’m convinced Nashville did more than kick tires, which could have been an all-time blockbuster. A couple of sources indicated Toronto was looking to add another first-round pick, and it would have been interesting to see what the Maple Leafs were going to do with that. Don’t know about Colorado or New Jersey, but both make sense from a logical perspective.”
It would not surprise me at all to see the Senators and Predators negotiate a Karlsson for Subban package this summer. The Predators would get the better player while the Senators could save some face and get a popular player at a lesser cost than what it would take to keep Karlsson in the fold.