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Putting the Onus on the Players

It’s the 2016 hockey offseason.

Consider the circumstances: the newly appointed GM’s organization has won one playoff series in the last nine years and having missed the playoffs for the third time in its last four seasons. His organization’s internal budget precludes him from papering over mistakes or outbidding other organizations for free agents who represent upgrades over players who are already in place.

Pierre Dorion is tasked with the responsibility of selling the status quo while simultaneously creating optimism in this fan base.

Rather than make the kind of wholesale changes, Dorion shitcanned Dave Cameron and replaced him with Guy Boucher – selling fans on Boucher’s work ethic, communication skills, diligence and attention to detail.

In Travis Yost’s latest for TSN.ca, he points out that the Senators are back in the familiar position of fighting for a playoff spot despite the fact that the team has cut the number of goals it has allowed down.

Yost questioned whether Boucher’s system or coaching is effective because the neutering of the offence has essentially worked against the club. Not only did Yost emphasize its impacts on the first pairing, but he lamented the performance of the team’s second pairing that was supposed to be buoyed by the addition of Dion Phaneuf last season.

Essentially Yost’s article has opened the door for people and companies to take a closer look at how the Senators have performed through the first half of the year:

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If you want to go take a cold shower, do it. This article will still be here when you get back.

Mining through the data, it became clear that despite the structural changes that have been made on the ice, the Senators are still on the wrong side of some important metrics.

Season CF60 CA60 CF%
20072008 55.29 52.40 51.34
20082009 51.82 53.50 49.21
20092010 55.70 51.40 52.01
20102011 54.36 54.67 49.86
20112012 60.89 55.52 52.31
20122013 62.97 54.35 53.67
20132014 63.03 57.24 52.41
20142015 56.68 56.11 50.25
20152016 53.25 58.98 47.45
20162017 53.92 59.15 47.69

According to Corsica.Hockey’s team data, the Senators are giving up more five-on-five Corsi events against per 60 this season (59.15) than they have in their previous nine.

The statistical resemblance to last year’s numbers is transparent, but does that similarity extend across other metrics?

Season SCF60 SCA60 SCF%
20072008 8.70 8.18 51.56
20082009 7.72 7.64 50.27
20092010 8.94 7.92 53.02
20102011 8.27 9.02 47.85
20112012 8.58 9.04 48.70
20122013 8.11 7.87 50.76
20132014 8.05 8.83 47.68
20142015 8.64 7.37 53.95
20152016 8.00 8.30 49.10
20162017 8.30 8.20 50.30

Despite getting the discrepancy in Corsi events, Ottawa’s still slightly on the right side of the scoring chance data. The number has regressed considerably since the beginning of the year however, and maybe Ottawa’s recent struggles can help be explained by this change in luck.

The numbers however aren’t too far off last season’s marks.

Season SF60 SA60 SF%
20072008 30.36 29.61 50.62
20082009 28.42 28.79 49.68
20092010 29.84 27.04 52.46
20102011 29.62 29.98 49.69
20112012 31.81 30.94 50.69
20122013 33.06 30.34 52.15
20132014 33.67 33.88 49.85
20142015 29.82 32.19 48.09
20152016 27.74 32.26 46.24
20162017 28.70 30.25 48.68

Like each of the past three seasons, Ottawa’s a sub-50 SF% team. Although the Senators have enjoyed a slight uptick in their shots for per 60 and a decrease in the opposition’s shot attempts per 60.

Season GF60 GA60 GF%
20072008 2.74 2.50 52.27
20082009 2.09 2.37 46.82
20092010 2.33 2.73 46.01
20102011 1.95 2.74 41.55
20112012 2.53 2.42 51.12
20122013 1.99 1.97 50.34
20132014 2.51 2.69 48.31
20142015 2.40 2.26 51.53
20152016 2.29 2.27 50.17
20162017 2.08 2.25 48.09

 

While their goals allowed metric has essentially held true these past three seasons, the Senators are scoring less at five-on-five than they have in the past, but they’re also still shooting at a comparable rate to last season. Hopefully that means that some improved luck can help fill the net a little more in the second half of the season.

Across those metrics however, the Senators don’t appear to be too different from previous iterations.

Through 39 games last season, the Senators allowed 114 goals while scoring 108 (note: both totals do not include shootout game-winners). Through 39 games this season, the have tallied 96 goals while allowing 101 goals to the opposition.

So why the big discrepancy between in terms of goals allowed between the two seasons?

You don’t have to look any further than the team’s historical performance on the penalty kill.

GA60
20072008 7.18
20082009 6.61
20092010 5.55
20102011 5.78
20112012 6.78
20122013 4.11
20132014 7.02
20142015 6.09
20152016 9.22
20162017 5.81

From HockeyAnalysis.com’s data, the Senators gave up a disproportionate amount of shorthanded goals last season relative to their recent history. This year, it’s been the quite the contrast. The Senators are giving up 3.4 fewer goals per 60 minutes of shorthanded ice time which makes for a sizable improvement in the goals column.

What’s interesting about the penalty kill is the Senators are still giving up a significant volume of Corsi events per 60 (101.6 this season to 102.5), fewer shots of the opposition’s shots are hitting the net and when they are, the goaltenders are doing a better job of stopping them.

GA60 SA60 Sv%
20152016 9.22 59.20 87.65
20162017 5.81 47.00 84.44

I’d have to really watch the penalty kill units to see what’s accounting for this discrepancy. Maybe the Senators are simply doing a better job congesting the shooting lanes, blocking shots or forcing bad ones. It could be a luck-driven thing or hell, maybe after leading the league with 17 shorthanded goals last season, the coaching staff has emphasized a more conservative approach.

Taken together, there’s enough statistical evidence here to make management leery of buying too heavily into the idea that Boucher’s structure has significantly impacted this team or that Boucher can get considerably more from this group.

More than anything, the numbers and eye test should affirm that this roster is in need of more turnover for it to reach another level.

Garrioch’s Latest

According to Garrioch’s latest for Postmedia there is a belief that teams have inquired on Bobby Ryan’s availability. “There is a sense a couple of teams, looking for scoring, have kicked tires on Ryan at various times this season but it’s a big commitment money-wise.”

Although Ryan’s NMC only precludes the forward from being sent to the American Hockey League, Garrioch does not believe it’s likely that Las Vegas will want to absorb Ryan’s entire contract through the expansion draft. Instead, he puts forth Chris Wideman’s name as a player that Vegas would be interested in.

Finally, during his first period intermission appearance during tonight’s Senators/Penguins broadcast, Garrioch indicated that Clarke MacArthur would undergo a rigorous three-hour baseline test in the next day or two. Provided MacArthur can clear that hurdle without any setbacks, he could then be cleared medically to return.