The Seven Player Profile: Our Playoff Prediction Review and an Ottawa Senators Checkup
Before we get too far into our summary of the Seven-Player profile playoff analysis, it’s time to say one thing…
I know I am not the only member of Sens Nation that feels a tremendous sense of pride in seeing the best player and person to ever don a modern-day Ottawa Senators uniform get his long overdue recognition.
Now that we have gotten that important piece of business out of the way, let us conclude our business and sum up the Seven-Player profile analysis and tie it back to the Ottawa Senators.
CUP FINAL PREDICTION
Tampa Bay Lightning (5 - East) vs Colorado Avalanche (1 - West)
1. #1 all star center Steven Stamkos Nathan MacKinnon
2. #2 all star center Brayden Point (inj.) Nazem Kadri (inj.)
3. Top power forward Killorn/Paul Gabriel Landeskog
4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/ Corey Perry JT Compher
5. All star offensive d-man Victor Hedman Cale Makar
6. Top shutdown d-man Mikhail Sergachev Devon Toews
7. All star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy Darcy Kuemper (inj.)
Prediction: Bolts in 6 Result: Avs in 6
Prior to the series, here is how I rated each element of the profile and how it played out.
#1 All-Star Center: Advantage Avalanche
He may not have won the Conn Smythe, but Nathan MacKinnon met all expectations in the playoffs and, in this series in particular. When it mattered most, he drove the Avalanche forward and Stamkos, who played valiantly, started to look his age a bit.
#2 All-Star Center: Advantage Bolts
This element had the potential to have been the pivot point for the series. As it happened, both directly and indirectly, it was. Nazem Kadri had an immediate impact on the series when he returned in game four. Brayden Point was largely ineffective in his two games in Colorado before exiting the series. Steven Stamkos probably missed Brayden Point more than anyone. A healthy Brayden Point would have made the matchups more favourable for Jon Cooper in the final series. Ross Colton and Anthony Cirelli tried to backfill the gap. However, when you think of that final period in game six, you don’t remember the Lightning bringing a wave of pressure to try to equalize the game. You remember how the Avalanche totally dominated the play. Lack of depth down the middle killed many a playoff run in 2022.
Top Power Forward:Advantage Avalanche
This was another area where the Bolts were outmatched. Nick Paul and Alex Killorn played hard. However, it’s hard to argue the production and effectiveness of Gabriel Landeskog and Valerie Nichushkin. Players like that take a toll on a defense core and this was evident in the series.
Specialist/Utility Forward/Agitator/Shutdown Center: Advantage Bolts
Corey Perry lost in his third consecutive cup final series, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Perry was very effective on and off the scoresheet. Compher didn’t have much to show for his efforts offensively. However, the inability for the Bolts to backfill Point at center had something to do with his ability to play a 200-foot game.
The Perry Pity Party need not continue, however, as he got a ring in 2007 against the Senators.
All-Star Offensive D-Man: Advantage Avalanche
Both Hedman and Makar logged the most ice time of anyone in the cup final for their respective teams. Neither disappointed in their performance either. Both took hits on the stats line for +/- when the games weren’t in their favour, but they also played the hardest and most important minutes. In the end, Makar is a combination of Erik Karlsson’s offensive impact with better defensive shut down capabilities and he was full value for the Conn Smythe.
Top Shutdown D-Man: Advantage Avalanche
One of the story lines in the Cup Final was the discrepancy in power play effectiveness between the two teams. Tampa Bay only recorded two power play goals in the final series versus six for the Avalanche who had fewer opportunities. Granted, two of those goals came in the game two 7-0 blowout.
On the whole, Sergachev had a solid series and so did Toews. However, Colorado also had Josh Manson and Erik Johnson solidifying the backend and the war of attrition on the Bolts ledger was felt by Ryan McDonaugh and Erik Cernak. That advantage at power forward likely had a lot to do with that as well.
All-Star Goalie: Advantage Bolts
Darcy Kuemper proved himself capable of winning the big one and this was the area where I felt the Avalanche were most vulnerable. In the end, Kuemper only faced more than 30 shots in a game once and it was in the game four OT victory. Andrei Vasilevskiy never faced less than 30 shots in a game and was the primary reason his team got two wins in the series.
In this case, Vasilevskiy was the better goalie and Kuemper was on a vastly better team. Goaltending can steal a series. The playoffs have shown that much. However, in those cases where goaltending was the difference, it was not simply one goalie playing great at one end. It also involved sub par goaltending at the other. That was not the case here and Kuemper held up his end of the bargain.
Jon Cooper was right to be upset after Nazem Kadri’s game four OT winner. Kadri clearly left the bench early, and this had an immediate impact on the outcome of the game and, ultimately, the series. That said, you would have a hard time saying that the better team didn’t win.
Based on a combination of having a younger, healthier and more potent line up, the Avalanche dominated the series territorially and were full value for the championship. Their profile was the best profile going into the playoffs and it’s no surprise that it held up against the best the league had to offer.
I will also add that it was refreshing not to have another Cinderella story making the cup final. I know the league wants parity. It has parity and more than any other league. That said, I enjoyed seeing the playoff outcome reflect what the regular season showed us.
Now how do we tie this back to the Senators? A lot of focus going forward will be how the post Eugene Melnyk Ottawa Senators spend their cap money. Based on a projected cap of $82.5 million, the Senators have projected cap space of roughly $23.25 million if they want to maximize their cap spending.
Should they be a cap team next year assuming this is even an option? Here are a few facts for you to consider.
1) Paying to the projected cap of $82.5 million isn’t an option for the Ottawa Senators
I know. This one caught me off guard. With reductions from bonus overage penalties, buyouts, termination penalties, as well as retained salary transactions, many teams, including Ottawa, will be entering the summer with less than $82.5 million to spend. In fact, only six of the 32 teams have the right to spend the full $82.5 million. They are; Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Seattle Kraken, Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets.
The Senators allotted cap space is $80, 312,500.00. The Leafs have $82,387,500.00. Recall my article on CAPROBATICS?
2) Every team in the playoffs spent to the cap and 13 were in the penalty
This is the most telling statistic for me. If the Seven-Player profile analysis showed anything, it is that without a properly built roster which includes a full Seven-Player profile, your odds of winning a very low regardless of what the team spends. Many of the teams that qualified did not have a properly developed profile.
From my vantage point, this is a flawed strategy. You should only spend to the cap when you have a properly developed Seven-Player profile in place.
3) Josh Norris, Alex Formenton, Erik Brannstrom all require extensions
This will eat away at roughly half of the available $23.25 million in available cap space and let’s not forget that if Artem Zub starts the season without an extension for 2023-24, he is as good as gone.
Point being, the Senators don’t have as much cap space as it might seem. There are the debates about buying out Colin White and trading the seventh overall pick for assets that can play today. That’s a debate for a different article. For now, the Senators are necessarily a cap rich team.
4) The Ottawa Senators do not have a clearly defined Seven-Player profile in place
As I look at the Senators roster, this is the Seven-Player profile as I see it and this list is about as fluid as it gets.
1. #1 all star center Tim Stutzle
2. #2 all star center Josh Norris
3. Top power forward Brady Tkachuk
4. Specialist/Utility Player/Agitator/ Shane Pinto
5. All star offensive d-man Thomas Chabot
6. Top shutdown d-man Artem Zub
7. All star goalie Matt Murray
Right now, the Senators are just scratching the surface of Tim Stutzle as a center. Up until the middle of the season last year, he was a winger with the worst +/- on the team. The potential is evident. However, this will be a big season in terms of figuring out where he fits in this list.
Josh Norris is a sure bet top six player. However, his cap allocation should depend on where you see him in this list. If you see Stutzle in the #1 slot, Norris can’t make more than him. Agreed?
Brady Tkachuk is the straw that stirs the drink, and he has his long-term extension. How does what he makes, dictate what others make?
Shane Pinto is someone I have been high on for a while. He lost a whole season last year and is up for extension with Stutzle.
Chabot is the team catalyst and locked into a long-term contract at great value. Hopefully he is enough reason for Zub to want to come back and be that top shutdown defenseman. We need to sell him on the profile during negotiations and they should start next week.
I know you may scoff at Matt Murray. He is the only goalie we have that has ever fit this description. Anton Forsberg played great last season. He has never been “The Guy” on a playoff contending team.
My conclusion in all of this is that the Senators should worry less about spending their available cap space and more on building their profile. They shouldn’t succumb to media or fan pressure to loosen the purse strings for short-term success. Obviously, the team wants to make the playoffs next year. That said, a lot of teams spent to the cap last year and didn’t come close to winning the Stanley Cup. That is the long-term goal and short-term moves shouldn’t be made at the expense of the long-term goal. Yes, even if it means missing the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
Five years without a playoff game is more than enough. I totally agree. The Tampa Bay Lightning having three Stanley Cup championships while the Senators have none, is also more than enough.
Oh and one more thing……PRAISE ALFIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
By Pat Maguire | Sens Nation Hockey