As an impending unrestricted free agent, Anton Volchenkov has the Senators organization by the balls. Not only is he a lynchpin, stay-at-home defenceman who routinely takes shifts against the oppositions top lines, he's also a unique player for the Senators. Although Matt Carkner exudes many of the same qualities as the A-Train, he simply can't skate well enough to be consistently matched up against some of the best players in the NHL. And Jared Cowen, a projected shutdown defensive defenceman is years away from logging significant minutes for the organization. Without a suitable replacement who is ready to assume Volchenkov's role, if he opts to test free agency, the Senators could be up shit's creek without a paddle.
It doesn't help matters that Volchenkov is coming off of a cap friendly contract. He's already taken a hometown discount once. Will he do it again?
I'm leery of what could happen and for good reason. Jay Grossman, Volchenkov's agent, is a snake. When one of Grossman's other clients, Ilya Kovalchuk, rejected two market value contract offers from the Atlanta Thrashers, it irked all five of the Atlanta Thrashers season ticket holders. This modicum of resentment for Grossman is so transparent on the Interwebs. So much so that a quick Twitter search for Jay Grossman revealed this message from one Dylan Harr -- fuc (SIC) you Jay Grossman.
As a Senators fan, I'm conflicted. I sure as hell don't want to see Volchenkov go. But at the same time, I don't want to see Bryan Murray pay an arm and a leg to keep Volchenkov in tow. Especially when there are a slew of modern examples of defensive defencemen who have signed big contracts but haven't lived up to them. (Read: Jay McKee, the recently waived Brendan Witt, Mike Komisarek, Mike Commodore, etc.)
If you're Bryan Murray, you need a contingency plan -- Jan Hejda.
With 3 goals and 10 assists, Hejda will never be mistaken for Mike Green. Instead, one has to dig a little deeper to find his true worth as a defensive defenceman. Even though Hejda's a minus thirteen for a bad Columbus Blue Jackets team, I believe those numbers have been inflated by the porous goaltending of Steve Mason.
Hejda's true value lies in his Volchenkov'esque blend of hits and shot blocking ability. Here are some numbers to keep in mind...
- 2009/10: 93 hits, 118 blocked shots
- 2008/09: 3 goals, 18 assists, +23, 168 hits, 157 blocked shots
Most importantly, unlike some other defensive blueliners who are reportedly available (ie. Dennis Seidenberg), Hejda would remain under contract through the conclusion of the 2010-11 season at an affordable $2M cap hit. Granted, it may cost the Senators a bit more in terms of trade assets to acquire him, but the additional cost to acquire Hejda would be worth it. For one, it would help negate the advantage of last change during the playoffs when opposing coaches attempt to keep their best skill forwards away from the pairing of Phillips and Volchenkov.
I'm not exactly convinced that Bryan Murray needs to pursue a soon to be unrestricted free agent defenceman. According to Cap Geek, the Senators currently have pro-rated cap space of $5,541,597. They do have the financial flexibility to make a move without having to worry too much about the future and to be honest, I'm not sure if it's the best course of action. By acquiring Hejda and his non-rental contract, the Senators would be protecting themselves in the event that Volchenkov decides to test the free agent market. Which to me is the most important thing. If Bryan Murray is willing to flip assets to acquire a blueliner, wouldn't it be in the team's best interests not to acquire a player who could flee the team after the season with Volchenkov and leave the team with nothing to show for it?
Come on Murray, if Volchenkov and Grossman leave you up shit's creek, the least you could do is pack a paddle.
"Most decisions aren't easy decisions when it comes to something like that. We feel that for Pascal, he's going to get a week off, then another week of practice, and we'll bring (goaltening consultant) John (Stevenson) back ... he'll get a long break here.
"Brian has shown he can play back-to-back, often his second game on back-to-backs is stronger than his first game. Ultimately, it's probably easier for Pascal to start fresh, along with everybody else after a big break.
"We just thought another week of preparation will help him tremendously." ~ Cory Clouston, Slam! Sports
If Leclaire weren't made of glass, I'd be inclined to say that another week of preparation wouldn't hurt Leclaire. But it might. Anything can hurt him these days. It's been a frustrating season for Leclaire and for Senators fans who have been expecting him to play like he did in 2007-08. Sure, on occasion, he's demonstrated flashes of athleticism and the ability to make the big save. But his penchant for getting hurt has forced me to lump him with a short list of goaltenders whose injuries have frustrated Senators fans over the years.
First there was Damian Rhodes' mysterious ankle injury that couldn't be diagnosed. Then there was Dominik Hasek and his adductor injury that he suffered at the 2006 Olympic Games. And who could forget Ray Emery's wrist surgery that was compounded by his grandiose sense of entitlement that completely derailed the Senators' 2007-08 campaign?
But how poorly has Leclaire actually been this season?
According to Behind the Net.ca, he has the fourth worst goals versus threshold (GVT) in the league. For all of you baseball fans who frequent this website, GVT is the hockey equivalent to the advanced VORP statistic that indicates a player's value over replacement player. Simply put, it is a formula that's used to calculate the value of a player, in goals, above what a replacement player would have contributed. As per its creator, Tom Awad, here is how it is determined mathematically for goaltenders:
A goaltender's contribution to his team's efforts to win is attempting to stop the shots that come his way. This is best measured by save percentage, which indicates the proportion of a goaltender's shots faced that are stopped.
To compare goaltenders to the Threshold, we must compute Threshold save percentage:
SPa = sum (SVg) / sum (SFg)
SPt = SPa – GAAl * GTV
SPa is the league average save %, SPt is the threshold save %, SVg is saves by individual goaltenders, SFg is shots faced by individual goaltenders, GAAl is the league average GAA, and GTV is the goaltending threshold value, here set to 0.04. In practice, what this means is that a threshold goaltender, playing on an average team, will allow 4% more goals than an average goaltender; this translates to about 11 goals a season in a typical year.
A goaltender's GGVTraw is therefore calculated as the number of saves he made, less the number of saves that a goalie with a Threshold save percentage would have made:
GGVTraw = SV - (SF x SPa)
Where SV is the goaltender's saves, SF his shots against, and SPa the league Threshold save percentage.
We have to do one last adjustment to the GGVT. In practice, a goaltender’s save percentage is not uniquely due to his own caliber of play: some of it is due to the quality of the shots he faces. We can see this because, historically, the save percentages of #1 and #2 goalies on the same team tend to be about 15% correlated, and because goaltenders who are traded to new teams often see their save percentage change significantly. Therefore, I attribute 75% of the responsibility of stopping a shot to the goaltender and 25% of it to the team’s defense.
GGVT = GGVTraw * GR
Where GR is Goaltender Responsibility, here set to 0.75.
So the next time your girlfriend or boyfriend mentions that Leclaire isn't very good. Bring up his -6.6 GVT and say, "Did you know that an average goaltender would have reduced the team's goal differential by 6.6 goals? Oh well, at least he's more valuable than Devan Dubnyk, Vesa Toskala, and Steve Mason."
I guarantee it will get you laid.
Leclaire's not alone as a player who has to step up his play following the Olympic break. Despite having the third best quality of teammates rating on the Senators, Shannon's offensive production hasn't exactly warranted the kind of linemates that he has played with. Interestingly, the quality of competition that Shannon has played against isn't as highly regarded as some of the Senators other top six forwards. In other words, he's not producing while not playing against inferior opposition lines and defencemen.(Ed. note: Using the points per 60 minutes threshold is almost like examining a baseball pitcher's ERA. It's also interesting to note that Milan Michalek's production has waned to such an extent that his point production per 60 minutes ranks him between Ryan Shannon and Jonathan Cheechoo. On another note, for a player who has received his share of criticism, Kovalev's been money for the Senators and leads the team in this statistic.)
Heatley Trade Thought
Hindsight is always 20/20, but the more I think about the Dany Heatley trade, the more I'm angry that Bryan Murray didn't demand that San Jose's draft pick be conditional. If Doug Wilson had the stones to demand that Cheechoo's salary was required to acquiese Heatley's contract, then Bryan Murray should have been well within his rights to implore Doug Wilson to make that second round pick a conditional first if the Senators were to buy out Cheechoo before his contract expires. It only makes sense right?
Ken Warren has compiled a lengthy list of defencemen who may pique the interest of Bryan Murray. From the unobtainable to the bottom of the barrel, Warren's done his due diligence. I do question the inclusion of Brendan Bell though. Trading for him would be like buying a Heatley Senators jersey. Inexpensive, without purpose and it's an acquisition that will assuredly get you laughed at by your peers.
One notable omission from Warren's list however, was Joe Corvo. He was discussed over at Puck Prospectus as a viable alternative for the Senators and their power play.
Affordable players who can play on the power play and penalty kill are few and far between. One of the best options out there is Carolina's Corvo, who used to play for the Senators and is familiar with the players. He'd likely also come cheaper than Robidas or Sutton.
Corvo has a great shot and scored 22 points on the power play last season. (He has only six this season, as he has battled injury.) Corvo also has playoff experience, having been part of the Senators' run to the final in 2007 and the Hurricanes' surprise conference final last season. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and the Hurricanes are sellers in the market.
If only sabermetrics could take account for players who request a trade from the team that they used to play for. Imagine Ottawa actually dealt for Corvo? Don Brennan would have a field day. It's not often that a beat writer has a chance to write a player out of town twice. Uh-oh.
Sunday Night's Game
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention at least one problem with that Canada vs. USA game. I know it's Pierre McGuire's civic duty to fellate everything Sidney Crosby, but why Pierre chose to laud Crosby's attempt to straddle the blueline and remain onside (he didn't), I'll never know. Did you see that? If that were a normal man they would have tweaked their groin.
Where once stood a credible commentator, now stands a running joke.
- James Mirtle -- A sportswriter for The Globe & Mail
- Norm MacIver -- The Senators record holder for single season points by a defenceman
- Gordie Wilson -- The Senators colour man for the Team 1200.
Here's a fantastic comment that was too good to bury in the previous podcast comment section and warrants being put on the main page...
Great broadcast overall guys. I especially enjoyed you singling out Cheechoo fans for their inexplicable and misplaced love for a guy who played a total of 61 games for the team, and played them badly.
I don't agree with your views on Leclaire, however, at least as you present them. When not wasting time posting on Sens blogs, I'm a finance professor at one of Canada's lesser universities. So, with that in mind, you've missed a key point from microeconomics 101 - sunk costs don't affect your decisions going forward.
Really simply, let's abstract from the ability to trade or buy out either of Leclaire or Elliott. The situation you're faced with is then the following: you're paying these two goalies a total of $5.65M in 2010-11 ($4.8M for Leclaire, 850K for Elliott I think, with Leclaire's cap hit at less). So, that money's gone no matter who starts, i.e. your goalie contracts for next year are at this point a sunk cost.
Now - ignoring who we're paying what, you're faced with a coaching decision each game - who do you start? The answer has to be "whichever one is more likely to stop the puck". If that's Leclaire, great. But if that's Elliott, is your situation now somehow worse than it was before you decided to put Elliott in that day? Not at all - I agree it's not desirable to have a $4.8M goalie sitting, so a mistake has been made somewhere, but let's really think about when we made that mistake. Was it:
(a) Today, when we decided to start the goalie who's playing better, who we're paying less than $4.8M?
(b) Back when we decided to acquire a guy scheduled to make $4.8M in 2010-11, who turned about to be made of glass and so far has not been very good at getting pucks to hit him without a Hitchcock team in front of him?
Your argument, which I'll paraphrase as "We have to get the $4.8M guy going", is essentially saying the mistake is (a), not (b). This isn't right.
Interestingly, if we put the ability to trade or buy out one of these guys, the decision tilts even more to Elliott. If you could somehow do something to "get one of these guys really going", who would you want it to be? If it's Leclaire, you'll get a good performance out of a $4.8M goalie. If it's Elliott, you'll get a good performance out of an $850K goalie. You can then trade your expensive guy, and you'd be better off.
Of course, you can't magically "get guys going". They perform, or they don't. I absolutely agree that Elliott remains unproven. However, he's proved a lot more than Leclaire ever has in their time with the team. As long as management's understanding is that Leclaire's ceiling is high, yes, by all means, try to help him reach it. But as more time passes, and Leclaire fails to meet expectations, and he gets injured in the silliest of ways, and the projection of his capabilities in the future is increasingly diminished, management has to adjust to that reality as well.
Anyway - very much enjoy the website!
I'll have to re-listen to the podcast to catch how we phrased our thoughts on Leclaire. I believe all I said was that my only gripe with the Senators winning streak was that it came without Pascal Leclaire starting in nets. Granted, it's fantastic that Brian Elliott seems to have taken a step forward in his development as a National Hockey League goaltender, however, I would have preferred to see Leclaire play well in his stead.
And I say that not just because of Leclaire's salary but because of his pedigree. Regardless of whether you think his career season was inflated because of Ken Hitchcock's system, one cannot ignore the fact that he was a top ten draft pick who is probably the most athletic goaltender that this team has ever had. Simply put, if I had to get a good performance out of Elliott or Leclaire, I'd prefer to get it from Leclaire - the player whose ceiling is higher. Keep in mind, this is a guy who has also only played in 39 games in the last year and a half because of some incredibly ridiculous circumstances. I'm not ready to write him off yet and it's not like his injuries have hampered his career like Cheechoo.
If Leclaire can't find can't his game, he'll literally be a sunk cost. It's money that could have been spent on a backup goalie and to improve the talent that plays in front of the goaltenders.
Also, I think it's important to note that I'm in agreement with your opinion that the coaching staff has to play the goaltender who does the best job stopping the puck. In 2007 and under some similar circumstances, I thought it was in the team's best interest to start Gerber than Emery. Even though Emery had the history and better talent, his attitude and ability to consistently stop the puck were both terrible. Had he not been such a distracting figure and showed some of his ability, I would have supported giving Ray every opportunity to reclaim the starter's job down the stretch.
The coaching staff has to select the goalie who gives them the best opportunity to win. It just shouldn't preclude them from giving Leclaire an opportunity to reclaim his job. Hopefully, that clarifies my perspective a bit and thank you for leaving this comment. It's this educated/informed passion that makes writing for this website enjoyable.
Since last week's scheduled podcast had to be scrapped because of some unfortunate circumstances, Tim and I jumped back into the studios on Monday to record our thoughts on things like: Brian Elliott; bleeding heart Cheechoo fans; the Matt Cullen/Alexandre Picard trade; Lavalife; and Bryan Murray's contract extension.
As always, you can subscribe/download/stream the episode or entire catalogue of episodes from Itunes. Or you can download the file by right-clicking and saving this file. Or you can simply stream the episode below. Hope you guys enjoy it.
Here is the tracklist for the recording: Deer Tick Easy; The Raveonettes You Want the Candy; and The Airborne Toxic Effect Something New.
With the Olympic break now upon us, we at The 6th Sens figured that it'd be an opportune time to placate you readers with some lists. Here's the first of a few lists that we'll be throwing up on the website over the course of the next two weeks. Hope you enjoy.
Without further ado...
Check out his complete lack of sideburns. When he received this haircut, I bet Boschman's one-sided conversation went down something like this, "Listen. I cannot make this any more clear. Absolutely under no circumstances should you give me sideburns. None. Don't even the fans an opportunity to assume that I have any. They need to know right away. It must be clear to all that I have no trace of a sideburn. Got it?"
This is quite the Saved by the Bell look. It looks like he rolled right out of the graduating class of Soviet Breaker High and into an unbuttoned shirt with a model who's flashing a lot of gold. With this 90's suburban surfer shag, Yash had plenty of luck off of the ice and maybe we should reconsider his spot on this list. Although it's terrible, it worked for him and inspired some knockoffs like...
"Hey barber, give me what Yashin has with a tad more volume and lift."
This is what happens when you try to give yourself the Yashin without the use of a mirror.
Ray Emery's Platinum Blonde Dye Job
Has anyone noticed this list is saturated with players who have experimented with bleached hair? I couldn't find any photos of it, but Ray Emery was the latest to jump the shark. Not by choice though. It was actually management who had the savvy to tell him that his hair wasn't a good idea.
Instead of Sly, his nickname could have been Slay. Had he not relied upon a recipe of one part mullet and one part axle grease, he would have been conquering women all across the National Capital Region.
Yeah, okay. This one is a bit of a stretch considering the role and service time that he had with the Senators. And yes, I'm well aware that this is a photo of Bicanek (pronounced bitch-anek) was taken almost ten years after his tenure with Ottawa. But c'mon. Look at him. He looks like a strange Norwegian death metal fan who has been living in the woods for the past 18 months. I don't know what's more unsettling, his wispy peach fuzz beard or his face being completely devoid of eyebrows. It looks like someone is overcompensating.
Before there was John Stevenson, there was Alexei Kaigorodov.
Brian McGrattan / Peter Schaefer
Taking cues from Brett Boone, A-Rod and the dude from Whitesnake (David Coverdale) Peter 'Best on the Boards' Schaefer and Brian 'Enjoying it While it Lasts' Mcgratton look about 20 years too old to be wearing their hair like a bunch of pre teens who got into thier mothers hydrogen peroxide.
Who says that unibrows are exclusive to female, Belarussian weight lifters?
Dave Archibald was one of those guys who chose a profession and vehicle to complement his hair. Alexei Kovalev could learn a thing from Archibald. While a decent skater, Archibald's flowing locks acted like an optical illusion and made it look like he was working harder and skating faster than he actually was.
That cut should have been called the 'uh-oh'. Every kid who goes to prom, that's his nightmare.
Like many of his boneheaded turnovers, Corvo wasn't thinking clearly when he thought that this style would make a good first impression. At no point should male pattern baldness ever have attention drawn to it by bleached blonde frosted tips. Someone should have written his hair out of town. Ironically, his haircut wasn't the worst decision that he ever made. Check out those tattoos!
At least Scott Hartnell has the talent to back up hair like this.
Kerry Fraser, Kerry Huffman. What the fuck is with guys named Kerry and their hair?
My favorite part of the above photo isn't necessarily Huffman's hair, it's the right up beside his picture. Off the ice, he is soft-spoken and well-liked. I guess there was a word count that the card company was obligated to fulfill. A more accurate description would have been, Huffman spends most of his time off the ice blowdrying his hair. (Ed. note: I wonder how much due diligence was done to determine his character traits? It makes me wonder if Eric Lindros' card featured the phrase, Off the ice, Eric lacks the skills to think critically. In Quebec City, he's regarded as a self-absorbed douchebag.
While this photo was taken from Meszaros' draft season, this is proof that not even chemical enhancement could save Meszaros' infamous curly mullet from looking like wet pubes.
It's really too bad that Mike Peluso was only with the Senators organization for the inaugural season. More people should know about the levels of awesomeness that Peluso brought to the rink. Even though he served 318 PIM, he still found a way to score 15 goals. Had he played in the era of the interwebs, he would be more than just a minor footnote in Senators history.
The Stages of Alfredsson's Hair
*** I know I've probably forgotten a player or two, so if you have any additions/comments for the list, leave them below.
Now that the Olympic break is upon us, everyone it seems is going on vacation. Whether it's the players, the media, or Jonathan Cheechoo, people are inexplicably taking a break from the Senators. Not us. Tim and I will do our best to provide our brand of coverage over the next two weeks, but to keep things fresh, we are going to need your help. Currently, I'm working on an interesting list that will be up for viewing later today, but in the meantime, I would like for you readers to float me an email for an upcoming mailbag feature. Whether it's your take on the Senators, your take on the Matt Cullen trade, the podcasts, the blogs, or whether you thought Ashley MacIsaak's fake tattoos at the opening Olympic ceremony were still better than Joe Corvo's, we want to hear from you. Tim also wanted me to mention that if you have a photoshopped image or a video link, you can send those in as well.
Send us an email -- the6thsens(at)live.com and we'll be sure to publish the best of what we get. Bring the creativity, bring the funny and bring the passion.
Won on the Island.
Too bad many weren't watching.
Do you like fish sticks?
Other News Bits and Hits...
- According to the forums over at HFBoards, there's a thread dedicated to Ron MacLean revealing Mike Fisher as an Olympic reserve on Hockey Night in Canada. I wasn't able to catch the game until late in the the third period, so I can't really verify whether it was said. (Ed. note: I have tried to verify it but haven't found any reputable sources.) If someone can corroborate the story in the comment thread, it'd be much appreciated.
- Although it seems doubtful that Fisher will actually suit for Canada, maybe he will get a sweet plaque to add to his wall and commemorate his inclusion. (h/t to Erin Nicks for the video. Forward to 1:38 of the video.)...
- According to the Binghamton Senators Twitter, Jonathan Cheechoo scored a goal on an end to end rush. (Ed. note: Apparently, he's also playing on a line with Josh Hennessey on a Bad Trade Returns line.) I can't wait to see this highlight on YouTube. Was the opposition playing on sledges? Cheechoo must have had some sweet dangles on his rush because you just know he wasn't his blazing speed. Way to go out on a good note Cheechoo. You can now rest easy. Enjoy your NHL-esque two week vacation while the rest of your Binghamton teammates fight for a playoff position. No one should resent that. Much...
- With this afternoon's win, the odds that the Senators make the playoffs is now at 99.4%. That's almost as high as the odds of Alexandre Picard never coming back to haunt us.
C minus effort
Did not look like Sens of late
Fox Sports Detroit stinks