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On Wednesday, I gave a first-half grade to all of the Senators forwards who had played at least 10 games this season, and today it is time to grade the defense and goaltenders. This one was twice as hard to grade, mainly because it’s hard to differentiate good from bad in the mess that is the Senators defensive game. With the forwards, it’s easy to see their impacts, but it’s not always like that for defensemen.
Nevertheless, here are the grades at the exact halfway mark through the season:
Thomas Chabot: A
Chabot has been everything the Senators possibly could have hoped for so far this season. Incredibly, he had 38 points in 38 games before getting injured, putting him 45th in the league in scoring, and fifth amongst defensemen. He has already replaced Erik Karlsson as the number one defenseman on the team, which is exactly what they needed. He is still on the ice for too many chances and goals against, and that’s why I can’t quite give him an A+. However, the whole package has been excellent.
Cody Ceci: F
I’ve said everything I could have possibly said about Ceci for years now. He has been the 5th least valuable defenseman in the league according to Evolving Wild’s (EW) WAR stat and is giving up the 3rd most shot attempts per 60 in the entire league (and most amongst defensemen). He is billed as a top-four defenseman who plays 22:46 per game, yet he has consistently had some of the worst results in the league.
Mark Borowiecki: C-
Borowiecki is pretty much always going to be in this range, although last season he actually got off to a fantastic start that might have warranted a B-. He has fallen back to some of his old habits though and he is still a 7th defenseman.
Dylan DeMelo: B+
DeMelo is easily the Senators second best defenseman on the team, and he has been a great partner for Chabot. I don’t think he is a legitimate first pairing defenseman right now, but he can certainly fit in a team’s top-4. Considering he was on the third pairing in San Jose and not much was expected of him coming into the season, I’m happily surprised with the results so far. For EW’s WAR stat, he rates incredibly well by sitting 12th amongst defensemen. He isn’t very offensive with just 9 points in 36 games, but he is a nice complement to Chabot’s offensive side.
Ben Harpur: C-
Harpur has made a lot of fans this season thanks to his fights and his tough behaviour, plus he has looked competent in some games. But I feel like the bar is so much lower for him just because people desperately want the 6’6” giant to work out. Bigger players will be given chance after chance, but I just don’t see much positive impact that he brings. His offense is non-existent, he still gets cratered in terms of shot impact, and his skating makes him vulnerable to fast teams.
Max Lajoie: C
I really have no idea what to think of Lajoie. He got off to a phenomenal start with 4 goals and 3 assists in his first 6 games but has dramatically cooled off since then. His possession numbers have been horrendous, although it’s hard to say how much of that is due to playing with Cody Ceci. I think Christian Wolanin should be where Lajoie is right now, but I’m still excited about Lajoie moving forward. I just haven’t been nearly as impressed with his game for the majority of the season as I was in the beginning.
Christian Jaros: C
I’m still not quite ready to call Jaros a good NHL player just yet, despite Dorion telling him to buy a place in the city. The 28 games he has played in have been a mixed bag, and I don’t exactly know what to make of him since the entire defense is a mess. I don’t think his ceiling is too high, although he has shown flashes of being a capable third pairing player.
Justin Falk: C-
He is what he is as a 29-year-old: a 7th defenseman that doesn’t bring a whole lot besides some physicality.
Chris Wideman: C
Wideman’s slow start was a big reason for trading him, as his 19 games weren’t enough to convince the team to re-sign him for next season. I feel like some think he was even worse than a C, but he probably deserved a slightly better fate. He had been solid for the Senators for the previous two seasons, but I can admit that he didn’t quite seem himself to begin the year.
Craig Anderson: C+
Anderson has posted a .905 SV% in 31 games so far, which isn’t great but is also better than it would have been just a year or two ago. The league save percentage is actually all the way down to .908, meaning Anderson has actually been performing just below league average. In terms of GSAA (goals saved above average), he is at -3.77, so again just below average. He gets hung out to dry like no other goalie in the league though, and his insane workload in the first few months bumps him up to an “average” grade. He deserves a team so much better than this...
Mike McKenna: C-
McKenna’s obviously no longer with the team, but he played the second most games. His .897 SV% is indicative of what he is---an AHL goaltender. Ottawa needed him to essentially be a warm body in the net, and that’s what he was. All the best to him in Vancouver! He is always a class act.
With Mike Condon, Marcus Hogberg, and Anders Nilsson only playing a handful of games total, their grades are incomplete.
How would you grade the defense and goaltenders?