Yesterday I joked on Twitter that Eugene Melnyk's idea of a rebuild would be to sell the Ottawa Senators and buy the Atlanta Thrashers. Soon, he may have no choice. Despite his bravado and his best efforts to lull this fanbase into a false sense of security, the latest mathematical figures paint a much darker image. According to PlayoffStatus.com, the Senators are now listed as having a 71-percent chance of missing the playoffs. SportsClubStats is even less forgiving. According to their numbers, there's a 5-percent chance that Ottawa will make the 2011 postseason - which is slightly more favorable than the odds given to Cory Clouston's ability to keep his lines intact for more than five minutes of play.
Judging by the line combinations used in yesterday's skate, Clouston has juggled his line combinations... again. Wearing a green practice jersey and skating alongside Ryan Shannon, Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin, like Dany Heatley, Alexei Kovalev is the latest veteran player to have his role diminished under the Little General. So for all three of you who think that some general manager will willingly take Kovalev off of Bryan Murray's hands at the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline (I'm looking at you Brennan, Garrioch and Francois!), think again. Although in fairness to Francois, he compares the Kovalev situation to Manny Ramirez's in that there's someone who's always willing to take the chance that he'll be the one to reap the benefits if Kovalev decides to flick the switch. I'm not holding my breath though.
At this stage in his career, Kovalev's become somewhat of a Reverse Iverson. Allow me to explain...
When AI dropped his infamous Practice?! We're talking about practice man! Practice!? press conference rant that has been overused by every sports radio jockey in North America, he was trying to explain how he was well within his right to fuck the dog in practice because he had won a MVP Award and left his heart on the floor during each and every game. Kovalev is not only the antithesis of Iverson, he's probably the most disappointing 1,000 point scorer in the history of the NHL. His practice skills are better suited to DVD sales than helping a team win on a regular basis.
But as Bruce Garrioch has correctly asserted, Kovalev's not the only veteran who has had a difficult time contributing this season. Looking at some advanced hockey statistics over at Behind The Net, Tom Awad's Goals Versus Threshold (GVT is very similar to VORP in baseball: it is the value of a player, in goals, above what a replacement player would have contributed.) indicates that Chris Phillips has the worst rating on the Senators.
Fortunately, Peter Regin is drawing back into the lineup for tonight's game while Ryan Shannon takes a seat. Regardless of what you may think of Shannon as a player, he currently has Ottawa's second best On-Ice Teams Goals For per 60 minutes rating. In other words, proportionate to Shannon's 5-on-5 ice-time, Ottawa scores more often with Shannon on the ice than anyone other than Jason Spezza and Filip Kuba. The worst offender for this same statistic? Mike Fisher. (Note: Ian Mendes owes us an apology after penning a summer article that championed Mike Fisher as one of the better second line centers in the NHL. Karma. Karma. Karma.) If you're looking to quantify of how anemic the offence has been. Look no further...
Or look further. If you're completely masochistic and want to pore over the details of the Dany Heatley trade, look at these numbers:
- Milan Michalek - will have
earnedbeen paid $7.75 million after his second season with the Senators. To date he has 27 goals and 17 assists.
- Jonathan Cheechoo - after being bought out, Cheech will have been paid $4.66 million for 5 goals and 9 assists.
- Dany Heatley - was paid a $4-million front-loaded portion of last season's contract on July 1st, 2009.
- Andy Sutton - was here for two months and scored 1 goal before leaving as a UFA.
- In summation - Ottawa has paid close to $17-million for Dany Heatley not to play for the Senators and has 33 goals and 26 assists to their credit. At least we'll always remember Sutton's hit on Jordan Leopold.
Whether the diminished offensive contributions are attributable to injuries, regression or a lack of chemistry is open to discussion, however, Ottawa's roster is doing their best to disprove the Gestalt concept that the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.