Karlsson’s injury no excuse for ‘shoddy play,’ says MacLean

Following a season in which the Senators missed the playoffs for the first time in three years, head coach Paul MacLean had a very frank assessment of the guy he considers to be his best player, Erik Karlsson.

From The Casket (a weekly publication from Nova Scotia):

CASKET: Erik Karlsson, former Norris trophy winner, could be considered a high-risk defensemen in some aspects of his game. What are your thoughts on his game?

MACLEAN: Erik is one of the best defensemen in the league and ended up with 70 points for us this year. Offensively, he’s gifted. Defensively, his competitiveness was hampered by his continuous recovery from his Achilles tendon injury he had last year. He’s not a big guy so he has to depend on his skating ability and stability on his skates and he didn’t have a lot of confidence in that. In saying that, it can’t be an excuse for some of the shoddy play he had during the season. He is our best player and moving forward he’s going to be an important part of what we do.

Karlsson led all NHL defensemen in scoring this year, with 74 points — 13 more than the next closest guy, Duncan Keith — and had near-identical possession metrics (54.8 percent Corsi, 4.3 percent relative) as he did during his Norris-winning campaign in 2011-12.

So, what was the problem this year? If you want to read between the lines on MacLean’s other comments, it was the turnovers.

“Our defensive zone play was a concern for us and part of that was how we exited our zone,” MacLean explained. “We turned the puck over more than anyone in the league inside our defensive zone and that certainly led to scoring chances for the other teams. Our goalies didn’t have much of a chance on some of the turnovers.

“Moving forward that’s one of our biggest concerns. We have made some strides in our defensive zone but still have lots of work to do there.”

Though the giveaway statistic is questionable — namely, the criteria for what constitutes one — it is telling that Karlsson led the Sens with 115 this year, 47 more than the next guy on the list (Jason Spezza). Given the number of minutes Karlsson logs and the number of breakouts he’s responsible for, it’s understandable that his giveaway total would be high… but he was by far the league leader too, registering 15 more than Taylor Hall and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who had 100 each.


Another Sabre hurt: Gionta (lower body) day-to-day

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On the eve of their season opener, the Buffalo Sabres got another bit of bad health news.

Captain Brian Gionta missed practice and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, per head coach Dan Bylsma. The ailment puts the 36-year-old’s availability for Thursday’s game against Ottawa in jeopardy.

The ailment also puts Gionta alongside a slew of hurting Sabres. Defensemen Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges were on the injured list when Buffalo’ roster was released this morning, along with rookie Brendan Guhle and veteran Cody McCormick.

There is a bright light for Buffalo, however.

Gorges skated on Wednesday and could possibly dress tomorrow, per Bylsma. If he does play, it’ll likely be on a pairing with Rasmus Ristolainen.

Blues put Berglund on LTIR, use savings to sign Gomez

Scotte Gomez
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As was the case last season, Scott Gomez accepted a professional tryout offer because he went unsigned over the summer and once again he has used that opportunity to extend his career.

The St. Louis Blues announced that they have signed Gomez to a one-year contract. They didn’t disclose the financial terms, but it’s a two-way deal that comes with a base salary of $575K at the NHL level, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford.

In order to free up the space necessary to sign him, St. Louis moved Patrik Berglund to the long-term injured reserve list. Berglund had shoulder surgery in August and isn’t expected to be available until January.

Gomez, 35, is coming off of a resurgence campaign where he recorded 34 points in 58 games on a Devils’ team that finished near the bottom of the pack offensively. The two-time Stanley Cup champion will be bringing more than a 1,000 games worth of NHL experience to St. Louis.

He’s not the only veteran forward to make the team off of a PTO as the Blues signed Scottie Upshall on Monday.