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One Thought On the 2011 NHL Entry Draft

Like any other Senators fan who has spent some time browsing around the interwebs or listening to pundits describe this year’s NHL Entry Draft, there doesn’t seem to be that much of a separation in talent between the projected top few picks and the players who may be available when Ottawa selects sixth.

Looking at Ottawa’s potential pick from a needs perspective, with all apologies to Nick Foligno and Peter Regin, this organization lacks some high-ceiling top six talent and probably will draft a forward. (Maybe Jakob Silfverberg can do his part to fill that void. Time will tell.) Assuming that the team selects whomever is left over from Landeskog, Huberdeau, Couturier or Strome, I’m not really too concerned or bothered by the consequences. In some ways, this draft is somewhat reminiscent of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft that featured a glut of defencemen – Zach Bogosian, Luke Schenn, Alex Pietrangelo and Tyler Myers – who were projected to go once Stamkos and Doughty were off the board. And much like a few of the forwards in this year’s crop, there was much uncertainty as to the order in which these players would be selected. Case in point: check out Hockey Prospectus’ Top 100 NHL Draft Prospects List. (Note: Joining us on the next podcast will be Hockey Prospectus‘ Corey Pronman.)

As we’ve seen, of the defencemen drafted early in the first round round — Bogosian (3rd) and Schenn (5th) — stepped into the league right away as 18-year olds for the 2008-09 campaign, Myers (12th) followed suit for the next season and Pietrangelo (4th) didn’t become a regular until 2010-11. Ironically, one could probably even make the argument that Myers has one of the highest ceilings out of these aforementioned young blueliners. So while it is fun to pay attention to the various prognostications, I think it’s important to trust the process and management to come up with a player who can put help this team in the future – regardless of whether it’s one, two or three seasons down the road.

Fun with Spezza’s Numbers

Considering that this weekend was supposed to signify the end of the world, I guess there should have been better things to do than spending a portion of Saturday morning perusing Gabe Desjardins’ Behind the Net website. Even though the Senators season having ended weeks ago, I had not checked out some of the site’s advanced sabermetric statistics to quantitate just how good or bad some of Ottawa’s players had been.

Looking at Ottawa’s team page, a few things about Jason Spezza’s numbers stood out for me…

First, amongst its regulars,  Jason Spezza had the lowest percentage of offensive zone starts (47.5%) on the team. In the past, it was common for Spezza to be used more like Ryan Shannon (who led Senators regulars with a 61.8% mark). In combination with his 56.3% winning faceoff percentage, this statistic helps tell the story of how Jason’s defensive game has evolved and explains how the coaching staff entrusted him with penalty killing responsibilities and handling key faceoffs. Ironically, I wasn’t the only one to notice that some of Spezza’s defensive metrics were improving. While working on his Senators section for the McKeen’s Hockey Yearbook, Gus Katsaros passed along a few relative statistical notes to me:

  • Spezza Ranked 243rd in NHL scoring Jan 30th vaulting over Karlsson in late March to become only Sen to finish in top 100 in scoring (62nd)
  • Spezza was first Sens player with three games of four-plus points in one season since Alfredsson (3) in 2007-08
  • Spezza: had a career high 24 blocked shots (24) in 2010-11

Looking at the latter point, Gus pointed out on Twitter (@KatsHockey) that this improvement in blocked shots is primarily attributable to Jason playing more SH minutes in ’10-11 than in the combined SH minutes of his entire NHL career. Had he not missed 20 games due to injury, Spezza would have eclipsed his previous totals by a healthy margin…

  • 2010-11: 24 blocked shots
  • 2009-10: 11 blocked shots
  • 2008-09: 22 blocked shots
  • 2007-08: 18 blocked shots
  • 2006-07: 14 blocked shots

Given Spezza’s underlying numbers, it’s impressive to see that he posted near point-per-game production despite the fact that:

a) He played against good competition (QUALCOMP)
b) He hasn’t played alongside the best linemates (QUALTEAM)
b) Unlike other centers on the team, he often wasn’t given the most favourable starting position on the ice. (Ozone%)

It’s almost enough to  one question why the coaching staff didn’t use him more often in the offensive zone to gain possession and create more scoring opportunities. However, when taking Jason’s Zone Finish Offensive Percentage was 50.3% into account, it’s obvious that his possession skills have played an important role in getting the puck moving north.

Rundblad Prospect Porn

Okay, so it might not mean anything in the greater scheme of things but that’s not going to stop some Hfboards users from fellating David Rundblad with digital ink now that he has been recognized as Hockey Future’s Prospect of the Year (2011).

Heatley Playoff Woes

No really, why would an Ottawa Senators blogger care that some self-absorbed, frontrunning douchebag Dany effin’ Heatley is struggling offensively and was demoted to the Sharks’ third line during the team’s last game?

Detroit a Potential Trade Partner?

A number of respected members of the hockey community confirmed that Detroit defenceman Brian Rafalski will announce his retirement on Wednesday and walk away from the last year in his contract that would have paid him $6 million. There was some concern that Rafalski’s last season might have to count against Detroit’s cap, but it won’t since he signed the deal before he turned 34 years of age.

With an influx of cap space and a pressing need for a defenceman, one has to hope that Bryan Murray will call Ken Holland and make a compelling case for why the Detroit GM should acquire one of Ottawa’s veteran blueliners.

Add Another to the Alfredsson Household

According to reports, Daniel Alfredsson’s wife Bibi gave birth to their fourth son, William Erik Alfredsson, on May 16th. I wonder if William’s middle name is an homage to Alfie’s former tenant.

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