Sunday, November 30, 2008

No Habs No: Tomas Fleischmann

Since the No Habs No! campaign began, Montreal has lost three games (albeit two in extra time), but only won two. Coincidence? Probably. Nonetheless, I think we can safely say that No Habs No! has been an uncontested success. Below is a letter sent to Washington Capitals winger Tomas Fleischmann for his game-winning goal in the Caps' 3-0 victory over the Montréal Canadiens:

Once again, I've got an open invitation to interested parties for donations to support the No Habs No! campaign. If you're interested, send any amount via PayPal to or click the PayPal 'donate' button at the bottom of the page.

It's official: Auld is Number One

As evident as it has been that Alex Auld is now the Senators' number one goaltender circumstantially, there is one sign that allows us to conclude for good and for all that he is the Senators' top 'tender: His presence in an advertisement.

The above ad was in the Ottawa Sun this morning. I'm not sure how long Auld has been fron-and-centre in the Sens' A Force United campaign, but he certainly wasn't at the start of the year. In fact, Martin Gerber was in a number of advertisements at the start of the year, but you won't see him around anytime soon (knock on wood).

I (apparently erroneously) gave Gerber the benefit of the doubt at the start of the year, but many people (including blog-mate Ben) correctly predicted that Auld would quickly surpass Darth Gerber as the starter. His numbers are as good as those of any Senator in recent history, with a GAA of 2.02 and a SP of .926 despite his record of 7-6-3. Auld is playing well enough for the team around him to win, which is all the Senators and Sens fans asked of a goaltender; now the skaters have to hold up their end of the bargain.

Isles 4, Sens 2: Someone remind them they're the Islanders

I didn't see the Sens/Isles game on Saturday. Normally I would be disappointed at having to miss the game, but I think I'm glad I didn't have to watch it. You can only see the Sens underperform and lose to the New York Islanders before you want to trade rosters. It must have been the decision not to wear the new black jerseys.

The game started out with some sweet passing that hearkened back to the CASH Line of old, as Dany Heatley scored with assistance from Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson. The Islanders replied with three goals, including two from Freddie Meyer, before Alfredsson scored (assisted by Heatley and Filip Kuba) to make it a one-goal game.

The Sens only had 21 shots, including five from Heatley and nine from the CASH Line overall. According to, Jesse Winchester led the team in hits with seven (career night!).

It's over now. Just beat the Thrashers on Wednesday, alright Ottawa? Thanks.

Roster note: The B-Sens are getting three regulars back today as forwards Cody Bass and Zack Smith and defenceman Brian Lee were all re-assigned. That probably means that the injuries to Dean McAmmond, Shean Donovan, and Alex Picard aren't overly serious (knock on wood).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bobby Clarke is getting senile

I was going to write this article lambasting Bobby Clarke about calling out Jason Spezza on TSN's Off The Record, but after reading his comments I almost feel bad for him. He's a player who had a great career playing old-style, bash-'em, broadstreet-bully style hockey, but the NHL has left Clarke behind. From the Ottawa Citizen:

Clarke acknowledged that Spezza is "a great talent," but the compliments stopped there.

"Great players are hard to play against. I don't think anybody fears playing against Jason Spezza ... other than the fact he might score or make a great play on you. You never get bruised, you never get touched."
Hey, Bobby, here's a newsflash: Getting scored on is a lot scarier these days than taking a big hit. And the league's greatest players have been those who instilled fear based on their ability to score rather than their ability to bruise you. What makes Spezza hard to play against is his ability to score goals and make plays. As much as you might prefer it, the number of hits a team throws, or bruises a team inflicts, has no literal bearing on the scoresheet. When teams play the Flyers, who do they fear more: Riley Cote or Simon Gagne? When teams play the Canadiens, are they afraid of Georges Laraque or Alex Kovalev? The league's best team is built around pure skill with some grit involved, and if bruises-inflicted was deemed a relevant statistic, the Red Wings would likely be among the league's lowest-bruising teams. But they still win games.

Does Spezza need to grow? Absolutely. He needs to find a way to tap into the consistency that takes players from great to elite. He has been back-checking, he's thrown some of his weight around, and he is getting somewhat stronger on the puck. He's definitely making better decisions recently, and that's reflected in the Sens' success.

Clarke's got no place in this league. He was moved from GM in Philadelphia after they had their worst season in team history and finished last in the league, and he's now the team's senior vice-president. I don't know exactly what that position entails, but it sounds like a sweet job they give to a guy who played his whole career as a broadstreet bully and can't be given any more responsibility than an office swivel chair. I'm sure they consult him on hockey decisions, and ask him to make media appearances, but his ideas of building a team are irrelevant in the New NHL. His adopted son and protegé Steve Downie has been suspended one game for every two he's played in the NHL (20-game suspension, 39 NHL games played), and was just traded from Philly. I'm not sure what kind of career Downie's going to have, but it's not going to last long if he routinely steps over the edge.

To his credit, Spezza didn't bite:

"I just do what the coaches are telling me, and if they're happy, that's what matters," Spezza said before the Senators flew out of Ottawa yesterday for tonight's game here against the New York Islanders. "I can't worry about the analysts."

Richardson retires, will likely move into coaching

After going unclaimed on waivers, Luke Richardson has decided that it's time to hang up the skates for good, and is expected to move forward in some coaching capacity with the Ottawa Senators. Although nothing has been confirmed, Richardson has had conversation with Sens GM Bryan Murray about the move, and it seems like a certainty that he'll get some bench-boss job with Ottawa. (I called it.)

I'm certain there are going to be fans who think that Richardson should have called it a career before this season started--and even those who thing last year was one too many--but he's done well for the Senators. He did more than was expected last season, and the Sens had nothing to lose when they invited for a tryout and then, after a solid tryout (he outplayed Alex Picard, Brian Lee, Brendan Bell, and Christoph Schubert in training camp) re-signed him to a two-way contract. It's not even like he cost the Sens very much, as his cap hit will come down from the $500k NHL salary he signed, and it gave the Senators the opportunity to bring a knowledgeable long-time NHL veteran into the organization, possibly for years to come.

I can see Richardson stepping into one of two roles: Either as an 'eye-in-the-sky', watching the game from the press box and calling down with things he's noticed from above. Or he'll be a defensive coach with developing defensive prospects, which the Senators suddenly have quite a few of--Picard, Lee, Tomas Kudelka, Mattias Karlsson, Ben Blood, Eric Gryba, Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercoch, and Mark Borowiecki. Sure, some of those projects are probably finished (cough*KUDELKA*cough) and some won't work out, but having someone with the experience Richardson has sure won't hurt their development.

Jeremy Milks over at Black Aces was the first to ask what would happen to Richardson's moustache, grown in solidarity with his fellow players to ease the tension during their losing streak, now that he's retired. I, for one, think he should keep it. Not only because he looks awesome (read: hilarious), but also because he's expected to be a player's coach, so it's only fitting that he acts like on of the players.

Whatever happens to Richardson or the Richardstache, I wish him (and it) the best of luck.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Smith and Lee recalled from Bingo

The Senators announced today that both forward Zack Smith and defenceman Brian Lee have been recalled from Binghamton as Shean Donovan and Alex Picard are both listed as doubtful for Saturday's game against the New York Islanders. Dean McAmmond is still out with his cold, so the Sens don't have any wiggle room on the roster (although the B-Sens have even less, with as many as nine regulars out of the lineup for their game Saturday to various injuries or callups.).

I have no idea what Picard's injury is at the moment, but Donovan has an upper-body injury, according to TSN. If McAmmond and Ryan Shannon are both still unable to play on Saturday, then Christoph Schubert will draw back into the lineup for the Sens, as a forward once again.

Although Smith has continued dazzling Sens' brass with his play at the AHL level, with a team-leading nine goals to complement seven assists in 21 games, Lee hasn't quite gotten back to the level he was playing at last season. That probably has a lot to do with not playing alongside AHL All-Star Lawrence Nycholat, but the Sens need big things from this kid.

The game on Saturday would be Smith's NHL debut. At 20 years, 7 months, and 23 days, Smith will be the youngest player to dress for the Sens since Nick Foligno's debut on Oct. 3, 2007 at the age of 19 years, 11 months, and three days. Youngest player to debut before Foligno was Martin Havlat (debut 2000-10-05 at 19Y, 5M, 16D) and before Havlat was Mike Fisher (debut 1999-10-02 at 19Y, 3M, 27D). Considering how long it took me to figure out that statistic, it wasn't at all worth it.

Auld's well that ends well

Thursday night's shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs very much encapsulated the Senators season so far. There was a lack of offence, solid goaltending from Alex Auld, and the sudden realization that WE'RE AS BAD AT THE LEAFS!!

Scraping for wins against the Toronto Marlies (and Vesa Toskala) is not a good indicator, but the bottom line is that the good guys won. Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza both went high over the glove of Toskala (scouting report anyone?) to win the game.

Watching the game at a friend's place, I made the comment "Auld is..." then the Leafs take three more shots on net with 25 seconds left in regulation " as a cucumber". The Sens then created their final scoring chance of the game, but still couldn't bury the puck. This team is so dependent on Auld right now, Gerber may only play one or two games before the New Year.

On the other side of the rink, Toskala kept the Leafs in the game whenever the Sens offence flared up like an unexpected-yet-pleasant rash. Still, the impotent effort from the Big 3 show that if the Sens had faced any other team last night, they would have lost - let's not forget that fact.

Coming up, a chance at redemption, as the Sens face the no-longer-last place NY Islanders. The Isles currently sit 11th, the Sens are a mighty 10th place in the East.

Bonus thought: Is anyone missing Chris Neil? Though he is injured, Neil has seemed like a fish out of water in his recent game, unsure if he should be fighting, scoring or shouting at the other team.

Bonus thought #2: Doesn't that guy in the Leafs cap at the bottom of the photo seem extremely uncomfortable with having his photo taken?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

McAmmond out, Schubert might be in

According to Sportsnet Dean McAmmond won't be playing tonight because of a cold. Must be a bad cold... but it's not expected to be a long-term injury, so D-Mac's day-to-day. Since Ryan Shannon hasn't yet been cleared to play after his concussion, Christoph Schubert might draw into the lineup as a forward, even though coach Craig Hartsburg said he wanted to avoid doing so.

Richardson placed on waivers

According to an official Sens press release, veteran defenceman Luke Richardson was put on waivers today. Should Big Luke clear waivers, he will likely be assigned to Binghamton.

If I had to bet, I'd suggest that this is a housekeeping move to clear cap space. Given that Brendan Bell has given every appearance of being a capable NHL defenceman, and that both Christoph Schubert and Brian Lee are likely ahead of Richardson on the depth chart (and there may be other defenceman that are ahead of him, as well), the Sens are looking to take advantage of the two-way contract they have Richardson on.

Although this is conjecture, I doubt Richardson will get picked up by any teams, nor will he report to Bingo. He may simply retire, and the Sens will pay him his AHL salary and give him a front-office job as the eye-in-the-sky or defensive coach. But that's pure speculation at this point.

Is this a sign of an impending trade? Maybe, but time will tell. It appears just to be housekeeping at this point.

Hockey again! Finally! Sens v. Leafs pre-game

After what seemed like longer than five days (but wasn't), the Sens are back on the ice for a game tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. As was reported yesterday, Mike Fisher is expected back in the lineup tonight, so look for him alongside Filip Kuba on the first powerplay unit. It's not something I'd really ever thought of, but he didn't look out of place during the few games before his injury. That leaves a strong second unit (at least at the point), with an improving Alex Picard and a steady (and occasionally creative) Brendan Bell on the blue line. To be honest, though, I just want the first unit to score so that the second unit doesn't get the chance.

I'm not sure how the lines will stack up today, with Fisher coming back into the lineup. I would venture to guess the now-second line of Jesse Winchester, Antoine Vermette, and Chris Kelly will remain together, because even without a lot of success on the scoreboard they've been at least playing with plenty of hustle. Which means Fisher will line up on a Line 2B, with perhaps two of Jarkko Ruutu, Nick Foligno, and Shean Donovan. But that's all conjecture at this point.

The Sens will also be running with a few lucky trends: The black jersey, which has a perfect record this season, will be worn once again. Even if people think it's lucky, it'll become a lot more popular if the Sens keep winning in them. And the Sens are undefeated in regulation (1-0-1) since beginning The Moustache Project, so I understand most of them are continuing to let their 'staches grow out.
The Leafs will be without both Jason Blake (not much of a loss) and Mike Van Ryn (a bit more of a loss) tonight, both with concussions. Maybe, if we're lucky, Dominic Moore and Jeff Finger will get in a fight once again (like they did yesterday in practice) so the Sens can put a few past the now-troubling Vesa Toskala.

Statistically, as reported in the Sun, Daniel Alfredsson is running on a five-game point streak, and Picard has four assists in the past three games.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fisher to play Thursday: Sportsnet

According to Ian Mendes on Sportsnet, Mike Fisher participated in a full practice today, and will be back in the lineup on Thursday against Toronto. Ryan Shannon was in the practice, too, so if he's ready to return it's likely that he (or possibly Cody Bass) will be re-assigned to the Binghamton Senators.

Chris Neil is expected to have his arthroscopic surgery on Friday, so he remains out for at least a little while. And Dean McAmmond missed the practice on Wednesday, but it's reported to be just a cold, so he should be fine.

Finally, Alex Auld will get the start. Is that really a surprise to anyone?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We have spoken! Again!

Once again, Sens Army,we have spoken. And there aren't many big surprises in the results of the most recent poll; more than half (51 per cent) of voters think the first player GM Bryan Murray should try to trade are Antoine Vermette and Christoph Schubert. I'm sure it's no coincidence that those two are part of the package that Murray is rumoured as offering in a package to upgrade the Sens d-corps, including being offered for Jay Bouwmeester, according to the Ottawa Sun.

About Vermette, and interesting article was on the Bleacher Report on the weekend, suggesting that the centre-cum-winger is unlikely to achieve the potential he's believed by some to have in Ottawa, and will need a change of scenery to get there. Although at times we've seen him show great speed, and at other times he's got great moves, and other times he can actually put the puck on the net, he never seems able to use all of his skills at once. He's like a Swiss Army knife; he's got scissors, a blade, and a fish scaler, but God help you if you're looking for all three at once.

In third place on the vote is Mike Fisher. This is likely due to the recently-penned high contract that Fisher hasn't come close to earning yet, but it might be too soon to say he can't produce at all. Or maybe it's not, he's had plenty of opportunities to prove himself as a second-line centre, but can't consistently produce offensively.

And there were a bunch of voters who selected 'Other'; who would you have voted for, if not someone on the list?

Monday, November 24, 2008

No Habs No: Richard Park

Geez, this No Habs No! campaign might end up costing me more than I had originally expected. I guess the prospect of getting one dollar in local currency motivated Richard Park (who is probably my favourite player in all of the Atlantic Division) to score the shootout-clincher against the Montreal Canadiens. Hate to pick on the kid, but maybe I should send a thank-you to Ryan O'Byrne for his own-goal to send the game to overtime (seriously, though, tough luck for the guy, especially since he's already getting crapped on by Habs fans). I digress; here's the letter Park will be receiving as the most recent contributor to the No Habs No! campaign:

And, dear readers and Sens fans, I'm in a bit of a dilemma. I want the Habs to lose as many games as they can this season, but I also want to save at least some of my money. So if anyone would like to help Sens Army Blog engage in the No Habs No! campaign, please feel free to send a donation to us through PayPal by clicking the button below, or sending payment to Every dollar (or other unit of currency) helps!

Fisher and Shannon close to return

According to reports in the Ottawa Sun, both Mike Fisher (knee) and Ryan Shannon (concussion) were back skating today, and one or both could be ready to go for the game on Thursday. Which is good, because Ottawa is short one forward with Ilya Zubov being re-assigned to Binghamton and coach Craig Hartsburg apparently reluctant to use Christoph Schubert as a forward.

According to, Fisher was projected to return in mid-December. If he rushes this injury and re-aggravates (or worsens) it, it's bad news bears. Given his history with injury problems, the last thing the Sens need is for him to play on an unhealed knee and push it into a chronic problem.

If both are ready to return, I'd venture to guess that Shannon would be reassigned to Binghamton. Cody Bass, who was called up last week, has played well as a fourth-liner, and Bingo needs all the scoring help they can get.

No word on Chris Neil, who was projected to have a shorter rehab time from his arthroscopic knee surgery (listed as 'day-to-day' on than Fisher.

Prospects' places on the Sens, according to King 5

An interesting (and very random) article on the Sens' prospects, and whether they could help the team right now, was posted on television news network in Seattle, Washington--last weekend. It only focussed on Brian Elliott, Brian Lee, and Erik Karlsson, but it was a pretty good read nonetheless. The gist of the post is that Ottawa has a few assets to trade, but our farm system isn't nearly as deep as others in the league.

Here's some of what they said about Elliott:
"You can't get much luckier than the Ottawa Senators did when they selected Brian Elliott with the second last pick in the 2003 NHL entry draft. Elliott played for the University of Wisconsin and spent his first two seasons as the team's backup goaltender. However, he made the most of the few starts he got and when he finally earned the starting job in the 2005-06 season, he did not disappoint. Elliott led his team with a 25-5-3 record and a stunning 1.55 GAA and .938 save percentage in 35 games. Elliott showed his breakout season was no fluke with a 2.10 GAA and .923 save percentage in 36 games for Wisconsin in 2006-07. Elliott struggled early on in 2007-08 as he adjusted to the AHL. However, he still bounced back and managed to finish the season with a 2.81 GAA and .915 save percentage in 44 games while splitting time with Jeff Glass. This season, Elliott has emerged as the AHL's Binghamton Senators' clear starting goaltender with a 2.81 GAA and .913 save percentage in his first 14 games."

The Rumour Mill: You're having a fire sale?!?!

Given the Senators' tough--or terrible--record to start the season, a lot of people have been calling for trades. The calls tail off a bit after a win, but always come back with a vengeance if the team loses the next game. Which is part of living in a hockey-mad city filled with hockey-mad fans and hockey-mad media members.

There are the obvious "tradeable assets": Antoine Vermette, Christoph Schubert, Dean McAmmond (although his name has dropped off recently), and prospects, names whose presence aren't really surprising. The rumour-mongers really ramped things up when they brought in Mike Fisher and his no-movement clause, and Jason Spezza and his career point-per-game numbers. All of these players, whether justified or not, have been criticized for lacking production, hustle, or both.

Just when you think you've heard it all, though, the Bleacher Report publishes an article suggesting that it's time to part ways with Daniel Alfredsson in order to begin a youth-movement rebuilding project. Yes, Alfredsson, the player who just weeks ago signed a contract extension (including a no-trade clause) after the team owner said he wanted him to be a career Senator, who is probably the most popular player in Senators history, who is definitely the most productive player in Senators history, who has been one of few bright spots for the Senators over the last calendar year.

Now, to be fair, Bleacher Report is not suggesting that Alfredsson is a problem for the Senators. Quite the opposite, in fact; thanks to his effectiveness, the author suggests that his value is very high for a contender looking to go over the top, and that the move would shake up the team. And they say that trading Spezza or Dany Heatley would be a mistake as they're younger and coming into their prime.

To me, it's a ridiculous suggestion. It seems obvious that the front office is not even considering the possibility of thinking about accepting any offers for the captain. I mean... Bryan Murray just tore up his old contract and negotiated a new one that would pay him more, just to guarantee he would stay in the city for the rest of his career. And Alfredsson's value in Ottawa, thanks in large part to intangibles, is likely higher here than it would be anywhere else--meaning that the Senators would almost definitely lose any trade they made with him.

So, in honour of this and other stupid trade suggestions, I present you with a stupid recreation of a stupid acting audition by a stupid character on a stupid television show. (Note: For our purposes, 'stupid' is synonymous with 'hilarious'.)

(Another note: For those of unfamiliar with the show, the above YouTube video is an homage to a scene featuring Tobias Funke on the show Arrested Development. Highly recommended.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

No Habs No: Blake Wheeler

On Nov. 23, 2008, the following letter was (or will be) sent to Blake Wheeler of the Boston Bruins:

Go Sens Go. No Habs No.

Zubov sent back down, despite awesomeness

Well, I suppose 'awesomeness' might be a little strong, but I'll definitely give him credit for solidness. He may not have scored a point in four games, but Ilya Zubov had some pretty good chances and would have notched an assist if Antoine Vermette wasn't in the slump of slumps recently. The Chelyabinsk, Russia native still managed five shots in his four games, really held his own on the powerplay, and was a big part of the pressure the Bingo Line (aka the '87 Line, with Cody Bass and Nick Foligno) was able to exert in their two games together. Given more chances, he could definitely have gotten some points for the Senators, but the B-Sens need his help much more--they haven't scored a goal in three games now.

So, according to Binghamton Senators beat writer Michael Sharp, Zubov is on his way back to Binghamton, at least for now. It may be temporary until the Sens play on Thursday, but more likely Bryan Murray (or Craig Hartsburg) decided that he'd be utilized more effectively and in a proper offensive role in Bingo. At least Murray knows that he's got a capable young kid down on the farm, just in case he wants to trade a forward for a defenceman. (cough*VERMETTE*cough Just joking, I think Vermette is working his ass off, but maybe he does need a change of scenery. And he definitely needs to hit the net once in a while.)

Keep your chin up, Zubov. And please, although I don't think you're the type to walk out on your contract, don't go back to Russia to play in the KHL.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Return of Redden

The Senators are up 1-0 after one period against the New York Rangers. The main component of the Sens' game so far has been smart plays -- in other words, a lack of the mistakes that put them behind early in games past. Case-in-point: No shots against through the first 13 minutes of the period.

Jarkko Ruutu really is an ass. His smartest play of the first period was sucking Paul Mara into the roughing penalty that resulted in Spezza's goal. His most stupid play was hitting a Rangers player on an icing call. Even the refs took that opportunity to rough him up after that stupid decision.

I haven't watched Brendan Bell too closely in games past, but he looks extremely comfortable, smart, and mobile on the blueline for the Senators' first period powerplays.

What a tip from Foligno on the disallowed goal. He took that puck from flying two feet above the net to through ankles of Valiquette.

In the second period now, the Rangers are looking panicked on defence. At the Sens' end, Auld isn't looking too comfortable in his crease. Granted, he hasn't allowed a goal, but I can't help but feel he'll cough up the puck and cost the Sens a goal in the third (you know - pull a 'Gerber').

As I type this, Jesse Winchester has just scored his second career goal with a great individual effort. Fighting off a defender, J-Win (that name won't stick) backhands it through Valiquette's legs.

Ruutu should get an assist on Alfie's goal late in the second period. Gary Galley admits it was goaltender interference, but haven't the Sens had enough goal disallowed in the past couple games? Finally, karma bounces back.

The CBC gang is warning Ruutu to tone down hijinx, especially if the Sens manage to score another couple goals and put this game out of the Rangers' reach. After having another look at the replay when he touched the NY goalie resulting in the Alfredsson goal, it appears that he tripped over the back of the net (at least a little). Anyone else see this? Or do I just have Jarko-coloured glasses on right now?

Okay, Auld let one in, but he didn't cough up the puck, it just went right through him. On second thought, maybe that's pulling a 'Gerber' too.

Foligno deserved that goal, he's played a tough game on the third line with a couple rookies. Kudos to the refs for not eating up 15 minutes and reviewing that goal.

Other than the Senators' improved effort and newly discovered ability to... you know... score goals, the story of the game has been the absense of the Rangers' big guns. Did we even hear the name Drury in this game? What about Naslund? It's like we've passed on the scoring curse to the

Colton Orr says 'fuck it' and jumps Ruutu, whether Jarkko wants to fight or not. He gets sent to the penalty box for the final minutes of the game. Wow, anti-climactic. Yup, Ruutu's an asshole, and he's damn good at it.

Spezza shows he can go a whole game without a no-look drop-pass! I guess we don't have to trade him after all. (Seriously though, never trade him.)

4-1 win breaks the six game losing streak. Are the Senators back on track? Let 'er rip in the comments.

Check out the Senators players thoughts on the new black jersey. Summary: They like the colour black.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sens lose, despite moustaches: Habs 3, Sens 2 (SO)

Taken in isolation, this was a great game for the Senators, and an exciting game overall. As the most recent loss in a six-game losing streak it's disappointing, especially given Ottawa's continued impotence in the shootout, but there were a lot of positive things that will come out of the game. Ottawa played hard for sixty-five minutes, controlling a lot of the play and really deserving a better fate. Dem's da breaks, though; at least they're playing well defensively these days. And Alex Auld is likely playing the best hockey of his career.

The shootout; the bane of my existence (and that of most Sens fans). I don't know why the Sens can't win in the shootout, but they've apparently been working on it in practice and will need to continue doing so if they're going to get a few bonus points and improve the 7-20 all-time shootout record. A good start, though, would be benching Antoine Vermette in the shootout. I don't know if they keep track of whether or not a player gets a shot in the shootout, but I know that Vermette has a hard enough time getting a shot away, let alone scoring a goal, even if he is among the team's leaders. Jason Spezza made it look easy, and Jarkko Ruutu's shot would have gone in on most goaltenders not named Carey Price, but Vermette looked like he deked himself out. The puck may have been rolling, but it's just another piece of evidence filed under the shootout category. I don't know if Dany Heatley would be better, as Black Aces suggests, but anyone who gets a shot away has a better chance than Vermette at this point.

Anyway, back to the game; let's talk desperation. Let's talk Nick Foligno's goal tonight. The kid's been suffering through a terrible drought, and not just bad luck, but he hasn't even really been making the opportunities to score, and his ice time had diminished as a result. He was still getting an opportunity one the powerplay, though, and when he saw that free puck lying beside Price, he--literally--jumped at it. And I'm pretty sure I've seen Foligno dive for a loose puck stick-first earlier in the season.

Thanks, in part, to Foligno's intensity tonight, but in larger part to Cody Bass' intensity tonight, and in some part to Ilya Zubov's puck control, the Bingo line was likely Ottawa's most effective line on the night. Anyone watching knew when that line was on the ice, but for positive reasons, like a hard forecheck and an effective cycle. I was disappointed to see them get such little ice time in the third period after such a good first two, especially with Bass only playing 5:34 overall. It was a close race, however, as the third line of Dean McAmmond, Shean Donovan, and Ruutu generated plenty of energy for the team as well. D-Mac was, once again, very solid defensively, but I lost count of the number of times Donovan was breaking into the Montreal zone leading the rush. He may only have finished with two shots on net, but he certainly looked like he had more.

The defence, pretty much to a man, was very strong. They were usually able to keep the Habs to the perimeter, and cleared many dangerous pucks the odd time Auld didn't swallow the rebound. Of particular note was Alex Picard, who played what was probably his best game in a Sens uniform and earned two assists for his effort. The whole corps deserves credit, though, and Brendan Bell definitely looks like he fits on that second powerplay unit and that third d-pairing.

The least effective line was probably the CASH Line, but that's not to say they weren't working hard. Dany Heatley was backchecking (!) hard and laid a few solid hits, Daniel Alfredsson never seems to take a night off (and tonight was no exception), and Spezza seemed--at times--to have the puck on a string, their passes just weren't connecting. It looks like the line, and especially Spezza, are trying to make the perfect play, but often times the ones that go in aren't perfect, and tonight's two Sens goals are proof of that. Sometimes you've just got to get ugly, and they need only look to Jason Smith's fu manchu to see that fact.

Foligno's goal notwithstanding, the Senators powerplay was terrible on the whole. It might have had something to do with Price's ability to handle the puck and the Canadiens effective penalty kill, but it had a lot more to do with an inability to win faceoffs and poor--and poorly thought-out--passes.

What is wrong with Vermette? How many chances does this guy need? GAH! Sorry. I'm sure Vermette is even more frustrated than I or any other fans are, but it's so hard to watch. He failed on two glorious scoring chances, the first set up by Zubov on the powerplay after Vermette deked out Price but shot the puck behind Price across the front of the open net, and the second after Jesse Winchester passed to Chris Kelly, who passed to Vermette as he cut in front of Price--but Price stretched his legs out and Vermette couldn't get the puck up and over. The second one was an amazing save, but this guy's got to get it going.

From someone who can't finish to someone who's a bit premature: The refs need to get the rules straight. Or at least watch the play more closely, because Anton Volchenkov goal did not--absolutely not--see any possession by a Montreal player, and so the play should not have been whistled down on the delayed Alex Kovalev tripping penalty. It was a blown call by Don VanMassenhoven, and it cost the Senators the go-ahead goal at a pivotal point in the game. And even just for sentimental purposes, Frankenstein doesn't get that many goals in a given season; give him a break, will ya? And an interesting point was apparently made by the crew at RDS: Why didn't Craig Hartsburg absolutely lose it on the refs? It wouldn't have changed the call, granted, but it could have made the refs a little more sympathetic to the Sens later on, and it definitely would have charged up his players--all of whom are being asked to play with emotion. Lose it, Hartsburg. Just rip into the refs next time. Throw a bench or a stick or wave a towel or something.

Let's hope this is one of those games that sometimes happen when you're coming off a losing streak; you lose games that you should have won. Because then it means this losing streak might be over, and soon.

And holy shit, Smith's fu manchu looks amazing. In a ridiculously self-acknowledged ugliness sort of way.

McAmmond gets the call

An article in the Ottawa Citizen spoke about the Sens' injury situation, with Mike Fisher and Chris Neil both out for a couple of weeks (at least), and the need for the team's depth players--notably Dean McAmmond--to step up. The article also mentions Shean Donovan needing to step up, but there's an interview with McAmmond, and D-Mac says all the right things:
"That's what we're here for, that's what I've been here for three years for," said McAmmond, who has one goal and two assists this season. "Play solid, somebody goes down, go in, play hard, patch a hole, whatever. I'm capable of it. Everybody always wants to play as much as they can. I think in this situation here, it's not necessarily that I was aching for more ice time and it's not a matter of me looking for my shot. I mean, I've got 15 years in (the NHL), it's not about 'giving the kid a shot.'

"It's like, they know. There are no secrets about what I'm about, and I think I'm in a situation here where I'm going to do exactly what I was brought here to do. Play and fill holes, and be counted on to do just that."
With the injuries, McAmmond and Donovan are going to be the new third line, along with Jarkko Ruutu, while recent callups Ilya Zubov and Cody Bass make a fourth line with Nick Foligno. Given how well D-Mac, Shean Don, and Ruu have played--together and individually--it is a deserved promotion, and they've earned the ice time they'll get. Although they can be counted on for reliable defensive play and gritty (yet responsible) forechecking, a few goals tonight would be an added bonus.

Is this year worst than last?

According to James Mirtle's statistics on From The Rink, it is--in the most important measures, anyway, including the projected points based on the season to date. Ottawa is projected to have the most significant drop in points, with 26 fewer points in the final standings (68, compared to 94 in 2007-08). Ottawa is also projected to have the most significant drop-off in goals against, with 67 fewer goals-for (pro-rated at 191 this season, compared to 258 in 2007-08).

On the bright side, though, goals-against numbers are significantly better. Ottawa's projection is to have 37 fewer goals-against this season compared to last season, which is fifth-largest improvement in the league (behind only Minnesota, Los Angeles, Boston, and Tampa Bay).

And goaltending has been much stronger, as well; thank you, Alex Auld. Ottawa's save percentage is setting up for a 1.47 per cent improvement over 2007-08, jumping up from .902 to .916--good for fourth-best in the league.

What does all this mean? Well, given the fact that the season is barely 1/5 over, not a lot. Not a lot at all. But it's still interesting to look into.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bassmaster recalled from Bingo

The Senators announced that they have recalled centre Cody Bass from the Binghamton Senators today. What does this mean? It means the kid is going to have to settle back into playing in the NHL, and play the simple game he played through a lot of last season.

It also means that Christoph Schubert has never had a lower value on this team. He is being scratched in favour of two callups, both Bass and Ilya Zubov, so I don't think he's going to be very happy now. Do I smell a trade demand? Looking at our poll, I don't think he's the only one who thinks a change of scenery is necessary; 50% of voters think that he should be the first to go.

Maybe it's for the best, Schubert.

Is this a real third-jersey leak?

Probably. Courtesy Icethetics:

Looks pretty much just the other one that was leaked. Some people sound like they've liked it; I don't really like it yet, but it might grow on me. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More meetings? Seriously?

I'm just going to go out on a limb and suggest that maybe we're past the point where meetings are going to solve the current problems with the Ottawa Senators. There have been team meetings, individual player meetings, general manager-convened meetings, coach-convened meetings, players-only meetings, and after their 2-1 shootout loss to the Rangers yesterday, the team had--guess what--another meeting. I don't think they're working.

I'm not really sure what is being said in these meetings anymore, anyway. "Guys, we're playing terribly. To get out of our funk, we need to follow a simple three-step process: 1. Play positionally; 2. Make the easy plays; 3. Shoot the puck." So why all the meetings?

Whatever, if it works, great. Maybe it's just me, but I think we're past the meeting stage.

Unneeded knee injuries for Neil and Fisher

According to the Ottawa Citizen, both Chris Neil and Mike Fisher will miss Thursday's game against the Habs with knee injuries. The seriousness of the injuries are not yet known, but they will definitely keep the players out for at least the one game. One thing I noticed once Fisher went down last night: The Rangers didn't have much of a physical price to pay with those two out of the lineup.

To bring up the physical play, Christoph Schubert might be bumped up to forward--although he wouldn't likely be too happy with that. Alternatively, Cody Bass or Chaz Johnson could be called up and further deplete the B-Sens roster. Unfortunately Jeremy Yablonski is out with injury, so we won't see his Senators debut for at least a while longer.

Remember in the 2006-07 season when the Sens started about the same way they've started this season, when it was injuries that prompted the Mike Comrie acquisition and turned the season around? I'm hoping we'll see that again.

Ruutu is awesome

There aren't many bright spots for the Senators right now. A lot of the off-season signings that Bryan Murray has made are being questioned, but one player is making Murray look pretty good: Jarkko Ruutu. He's come in doing exactly what was advertised (getting under the opponent's skin), but he's much smarter about it than some of the league's other superpests. And his intelligence has given coach Craig Hartsburg the freedom to use Ruutu on the penalty kill, a role he's filled effectively.

And, although Ruutu didn't score last night in the shootout, he's far and away the Senators' most effective shooter-outer, with a 50 per cent success rate this season and in his career.

Speaking of last night's shootout, Ruutu is such a pest that he can piss off his opponents without even breaking any rules. After losing control of the puck in the shootout, it drifted towards the corner; but, as Bob McKenzie described for TSN, Ruutu got to it before the play was dead, and still took a shot despite everyone--especially the Rangers--thinking he was out of order. In McKenzie's words:
It was interesting to see the New York Rangers get all bent out of shape when Ottawa Senator Jarkko Ruutu fired the puck at goalie Henrik Lundqvist from a bad angle after initially losing control of it on a shootout attempt last night.


According to NHL rule 25.2 on penalty shots, or shootouts if you will, that was still a live puck and Ruutu was within his rights to shoot it at Lundqvist.

"The original loss of the puck was not on a shot,” NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkon told TSN. "Therefore, the puck is live until it comes to a complete stop or the puck completely crosses the goal line."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Live blog: Rangers 2, Sens 1 (SO)

The stories for tonight's game against the New York Rangers: Wade Redden hosts his former team for the first time as a New York Ranger tonight. The CASH Line has been re-united. The Rangers have been playing well this season, while the Senators have been playing poorly.

Sportsnet's Ian Mendes interviews Redden, who says he's adjusted well enough to the environment and the new team, and that New York is beginning to feel like home. Apparently he won't be giving the puck away to the Senators, which is too bad because he gave the puck to the opposition so often when he was in Ottawa.

Jason Spezza lost the opening faceoff. This hasn't started well, trade him! TRADE HIM! Just kidding. And just like that, after a 28-second shift, the CASH Line is off in favour of the new second line: Nick Foligno, Mike Fisher, and Jarkko Ruutu, who get some good pressure in the Rangers' zone. Ruutu threw a solid hit on Brandon Dubinsky, making his presence known right off the bat.

According to Garry Galley, the key to the game for the Senators is a simple one: Just play. I know you can give us better analysis than that, Galley. And the key for the Rangers is to strike early... great diagnosis. Sens powerplay as Rangers defenceman Fred Sjostrom gets two for delay-of-game. On the point for the first powerplay is Filip Kuba with Mike Fisher on the point once again tonight.Powerplay has not been pretty so far.

Brendan Bell's first powerplay chance ends quickly, as Antoine Vermette gets a slashing call to bring about some 4-on-4. Bell's with Alex Picard on the second PP unit, and Vermette is with Ilya Zubov and Nick Foligno on that unit's forward line. Solid penalty killing by Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Kelly in particular, and the Rangers' first powerplay is as futile as the Senators'. Shean Donovan is on the PK for the first time I can recall this season, in the place of Ruutu with Dean McAmmond.

Hahahaha... good work, Ruutu. Just laid a hit that was more against Nick Foligno than Marc Staal, and drew a penalty on Aaron Voros who took exception to the intended hit. Pretty good first two shifts for Ruuuuuuu. Unfortunately he took a penalty in the process, and we'll see some more 4-on-4 play.

Ottawa's first shot on net: Ten minutes into the game, from Kelly. Followed quickly by two from the stick of Vermette, and a fourth by Mike Fisher, and somehow the Sens are now outshooting the Ranger 4-3 somehow. Thank Redden for those couple shots that Vermette got, which were pretty good chances.

Scramble in front of the Sens net, as Alex Auld lost track of a puck that was stuck in his feet. I didn't agree with what Don Brennan said about Kuba, but I'd like to see the big Czech get a bit meaner in front of the net when guys are hacking Auld.

Another thing I'd like to see is Dany Heatley getting a bit harder on the puck. He's been throwing his weight around a bit more on the forecheck, but he doesn't seem urgent enough when there's a loose puck or almost-loose puck a few feet away from him. Get your stick involved, Heatley, and cause some turnovers.

Not a pretty first period, not by a longshot. Ottawa got a few chances, but the Rangers had the better ones. A good sign for the Senators: They got into shooting and passing lanes: eight blocked shots so far, and a whole bunch of blocked passes. Three stars of the first period: 1. Vermette; 2. Anton Volchenkov; 3. Ruutu.

I have a question for the people at Home Hardware: How am I supposed to open the packaging for the Safe Cut?

Second period underway, and a great chance for Jesse Winchester as he digs for the puck in Henrik Lundqvist's pads. His line, with Vermette and Kelly, have been the Sens' best combination so far, including the CASH Line. And what a steal by Volchenkov! I never thought he had the speed to jump up and intercept a pass the way he did there, but a great read that resulted in another shot for Winchester. That line has five of the Sens' 12 shots so far.

Back to the powerplay, as Redden took a delay of game penalty. First shot of the powerplay? Solid cross-ice pass from Heatley to Alfredsson, whose one-timer was bested by some great lateral movement by Lundqvist. And with the second unit on, a great shot by Ilya Zubov walking in off the side boards and firing one right on net.

A short 5-on-3 after Staal takes a hooking penalty, but Heatley can't convert a cross-crease pass and the Sens' powerplay continues. Who was that pass to, Spezza? About ten feet away from Kuba, the (I assume) intended receiver. It's a bit weird seeing Fisher on the point on the powerplay, but he's actually been doing pretty well here.

Ooooh... pretty stupid and useless penalty there for Foligno, not the kind of play that is going to get him very much extra ice time. Luckily nothing-doing on the Rangers' powerplay, which looked even less potent that the Senators' at first, but ended with a few good chances--nothing Auld couldn't handle. One of those chances came off the stick of Markus Naslund, who's had a surprisingly (to me, at least) good season so far. Hindsight is 20/20, but Naslund might have been a pretty good off-season signing at two years and $4M apiece--I bet he would have given Alfredsson and Fisher a pretty good left winger for that second line. You may be happy to know the symmetrical PK duo of Ruutu (#73) and McAmmond (#37) has been restored.

Rumours are that Fisher may be injured; Galley mentioned his knee was being kneaded by the Sens' trainer. Updates as they are available.

Two things we all remember from Redden's days in Ottawa that he just tried for the Rangers: Meandering out of the defensive zone slowly, and then having a pass turn over as the defensive team lined up at their blue line, and the 'rim'; his favourite play, apparently, just sending the puck around the boards. An easy out for defencemen, and much-hated by wingers who have to dig the puck off the boards and passed a defender who knows it's coming.

Oh no, Fisher had to be helped off the ice and into the dressing room with that knee injury. It looked to be the result of a rut or something he caught in the ice. I didn't notice which knee was injured, but you might remember last season Fisher missed the end of the year with a left knee injury--a knee he's also had problems with in December 2006/January '07 and January '03.

DANIEL ALFREDSSON! What a huge individual effort, just like Galley said. Alfredsson worked it out of the defensive zone, dumped it into the offensive zone, won the puck back and out-waited Lundqvist until he spotted an opening. Neither Spezza nor Heatley are making much happening, but Alfredsson is going to make that line effective if he has to do it all himself. Assists to Heatley and Picard.

Holy shit, after taking the lead the Sens are really making Auld work hard to keep it. Sustained pressure pretty much since the goal at 16:13 to the end of the period, including four shots for the Rangers in that time.

The Sens scored and, finally, have a lead to play with--thank heavens. You could see the longer that game went scoreless the more it played into the Rangers' advantage, because the Sens would have continued to get more nervous. Now they've got twenty minutes to go. Three stars of the second: 1. Auld; 2. Alfredsson; 3. Donovan.

Third period underway, two chances early one, one for Winchester who cut in and just missed the puck, and Ruutu, who heeled a Spezza cross-ice pass on a 2-on-1. Then a really weak hooking call on Ruutu and the Sens are back on the penalty kill. I don't even think Ruutu really touched whoever he 'hooked', but whatever. Great save by Auld, who got square to Chris Drury on that shot. Geez, short-handed breakaway for Vermette, who finally used that speed to break free, but he got stopped cold by Lundqvist. Nice to see Vermette and Kelly re-united on the penalty kill as well as in even-strength situations. Worth mentioning that Redden did not see any powerplay time on that last Ruutu penalty; it seems Redden hasn't quite enamoured himself with fans in New York, as the Blueshirt Bulletin blog criticized the Rangers blueline as being "a corps of defensemen who have been effective in inverse order of their salaries". Which means the highest-paid defenceman (Redden) has, according to BB, been the least effective.

Well, the Sens were running around once again, and you knew that was going to happen. Momentum heavily shifted the ice in favour of the Rangers, and Sjostrom was the first one who could beat Auld. In favour of the Sens' tender, he had stopped... what, three shots before the goal? Brutal, if the Sens want to end their losing streak they're going to have to get back into this game.

Beautiful glove save by Auld, who appears to be the only one still playing for the Senators. Pick it up, fellas, because this isn't pretty.

Wow. No idea how Lundqvist stopped that one... scramble after a Bell shot, with Alfredsson, Heatley, and Spezza all swatting at him. Alfredsson was basically standing right on top of him, but Lundqvist was up to the task. Would have been nice to score a garbage goal like that. Spezza had a great chance, and Heatley was just stopped by Lundqvist's arm.

Galley was just talking about Redden 'putting money up on the board', some cash that he probably put up for whoever might score the game winning goal against his old team. I wonder if any Senators' players put money up on the board tonight; I'm about willing to put together a couple grand to put up in the Sens dressing room if they'd just start winning some games.

Ottawa is 'out-scoring-chancing' the Rangers by a count of 20 to 12. It would be nice if they'd put one or two more of those away. Am I bitter? Maybe. WIN A GAME! AND THEN WIN ANOTHER ONE!

Oh wow, great move by Spezza (that didn't end in a giveaway, for a change), and a pass to Vermette, who just couldn't put it away. Is he ever snakebitten. In fact, there must be a tonne of snakes in the Sens' dressing room, because everyone is snakebitten... will somebody get these motherf*cking snakes out of this motherf*cking dressing room?

Thanks to Auld, the game ends in a tie and the Sens get a point in the standings. Wicked, that point is nice. But it's lonely, get it another point to hang out with, Senators.

A lot of poor, soft passes for the Senators so far in overtime. Playing with the puck like that can be dangerous, luckily it hasn't been costly yet. Interesting 4-on-4 pairing of Heatley and McAmmond, but they don't quite look comfortable with one another. Overtime over, and here comes the shootout. Let's see if Craig Hartsburg learned his lessons from the last shootout: Use Ruutu first.

Nikolai Zherdev is up first: Shot, five-hole, scores. Sens are down just like that. Then Spezza tried the same thing for the Sens, but Lundqvist doesn't fall for it. Here comes Sjostrom for the Rangers, and he's bested by a great glove save by Auld. Here's Ruutu, who dekes himself out and then shoots from way outside. Drury is stopped point-blank by Auld, and so it's all up to Vermette. But Vermette barely even gets a shot on net, and the Sens get shutout in the shootout.

The losing streak extends to five games, although the Sens got a point, at least. Maybe I should have just watched Heroes... Credit has to go to Auld, who looked like the Sens' best player on the night. It was also a good game for Bell, whose debut was pretty strong and finished +1 with two shots--his powerplay work was good, and his defensive play was surprisingly solid. And kudos to Zubov, who played only 6:25 but still managed two shots on net and two hits--would have been nice to see him in the shootout. The Sens' best line was Vermette-Kelly-Winchester--combined eight shots and five hits--but it's too bad Vermette can't score to save his life. And it's back to the drawing board for Hartsburg, as the Sens prepare to play in Montreal on Thursday.

Wow, a 2,000+ word post. I'm sorry, it got away from me. Hopefully it wasn't terribly boring to read. And we're back to the same question we were asking before the game: Who does Bryan Murray try to trade? With a few days off until the next game, I think something might happen soon.

The Rumour Mill: Who should Bryan Murray try to trade?

You may notice a new poll in our left sidebar featuring a very simple question: Who should Bryan Murray try to trade? On a team that has only scored four goals during a four-game losing streak there is no shortage of candidates, but the names we've listed are some of the front-runners. If you've got your own ideas of who should be on their way out, post the name (and some reasoning, if you're so inclined) in the 'comments' section. Without further adieu, here is a breakdown of what we think are the leading candidates, in no particular order, with their contract status in terms of cap hit (including this season).
  1. Christoph Schubert, D/W, two years at $0.9M
    Schubert wsan't happy going into this season at the prospect of playing another year of forward instead of his natural position at defence. In training camp he was given every opportunity to prove he could do it, but didn't prove it to anyone. It wasn't until both Brian Lee and Luke Richardson played themselves out of the lineup that Schubert got a chance, and he hasn't looked great. He's often caught out of position, doesn't work on the powerplay, is weak on the penalty kill, and his one real asset--his hard shot--rarely hits the net. Although his contract is reasonable, a more reliable sixth defenceman can be had for less.
  2. Jason Smith, D, two years at $2.6M
    Smith started out strong, but has faded in recent games. It doesn't help playing with a different partner every night, but he often seems to be caught out of position, and is very vulnerable to faster players and the back-door play. Smith has let his physical play fade away, and needs to get that back to prove his worth. Once Smith realizes his limitations and focuses on his positional play, he could be valuable. One question: If the Sens aren't able to make the playoffs (perish the thought), is there any reason to have a playoff warrior?
  3. Mike Fisher, C, five years at $4.2M
    After a very slow start, Fisher has finally passed Shean Donovan to become the Senators' fifth-highest scorer. He's still only got six points in 15 games, on pace for 26 points on the season. Not good enough, considering his salary. Fisher does have some intangibles, however, and the possibility may still exist for him to become that second-line centre the Sens pay him to be. If not, it would be difficult to deal him anyway, since he's got a no-movement clause and his trade value is probably as low as it's ever been.
  4. Antoine Vermette, C/W, two years at $2.763M
    Vermette isn't producing so far this season. But not many players are. Still, he can no longer say he wasn't given an opportunity to play as a top-six forward, and he didn't produce in that role. It may simply be that he needs a different opportunity, or that he isn't as good as the flashes of brilliance he teases us with might indicate. Given his relatively low cap hit and his potential, and the fact that Florida and Vancouver are both rumoured to be interested, might make him the Sens' top trade bait right now.
  5. Chris Neil, RW, this year at $1.1M
    I was all over Neil last season, and for good reason--he was terrible. This year, so far at least, Neil appears to have gone back to what was working for him (fighting), and is proving that he does still have some value to a team. The writing seemed to be on the wall when Jarkko Ruutu was signed, but the two of them have been an effective duo at getting under the opposition's skin (see: Adam Mair). Still, if there is no intention of re-signing Neil with the likes of Cody Bass and Chaz Johnson (and Jeremy Yablonski!) in Binghamton, then there is likely a market for Neil. If he wants to re-up for a little less than he's making right now, and proves he can get back to 10-15 goals this year, it might be good to keep him around.
  6. Alex Picard, D, two years ay $0.8M
    Picard was a necessary return for Murray in the Andrej Meszaros trade, largely because of his purported potential. Unfortunately, he has struggled mightily at times, and that has made the times when he's looked good a little less memorable. It seems unlikely that the Senators would give up on a project player like Picard after so little time, but if a trade involving him would improve the team, then I'm certain Murray would take it.
  7. Chris Kelly, C, four years at $2.125M
    Kelly is the fourth player on this list that Murray re-signed last season; it's not a good sign. Kelly's value is as a third-line defensive centre and penalty-killing specialist, but those can likely be had for less than his cap hit. Which is why it might be difficult for the Sens to find a trading partner for Kelly. He has played well given offensive opportunities, however, so he might be a flexible opportunity should the Senators need a more offensive centreman to step up.
  8. Other
    Who else do you think is likely to be traded? I'm sure I'll see Jason Spezza in the comments; why do you think he's so expendable?

Live blog tonight!

Tonight feels like a live-blog night. I think I'll bring my TV into my computer room and watch the game in here, so anyone who's interested can join me here around 7:00 EST.

We have spoken!

It seem that Alex Auld has won over the Sens Army faithful pretty quickly. Voters in our most recent poll have given Auld the #1 goalie position, at least conditionally. 55% even voted to make him the permanent #1, and let Gerber ride the pine most of the time. It even appears that Auld will start this evening's contest in New York against the Rangers, despite a couple of mediocre performances against the league-worst Islanders.

CASH Line reunited, and other roster notes

From the Ottawa Sun (via Sens Chirp) here are the roster combinations for tonight's game against the New York Rangers:



Craig Hartsburg has swallowed his pride and decided to do what many have been calling for for weeks--reunite the CASH Line. I wasn't one of the people calling for it, but right now I'll settle for anything that might work. And tonight we will see if it will work.

I guess that 'offensive players in offensive roles' idea was short-lived, as Ilya Zubov--an offensive player by any measure--is now relegated to fourth-line play despite a solid season debut. It might actually be better for him, though, because both Dean McAmmond and Shean Donovan are speedy and consistent, and they might work well with one another.

I'm not sure what to think of the second and third lines; I guess you could call one line 2A and the other line 2B. I would think that Jarkko Ruutu-Mike Fisher-Nick Foligno will be more of a checking line, but Antoine Vermette-Chris Kelly-Jesse Winchester won't have much offensive flair unless Vermette makes some miracles, Winchester starts taking offensive chances, and Kelly picks up his game.

On defence, Christoph Schubert is a healthy scratch while Brendan Bell draws into the lineup. (As an aside, our recent number of callups from Binghamton really hurt the B-Sens last night, as they lost 9-0 to Hershey.) We'll see how Bell does, but he did well enough in the pre-season and won't likely see much ice time outside of the powerplay. And it will be nice to have an actual powerplay quarterback, even if he is a second- (or third-)tier QB, on the point.

In nets, we will naturally see Alex Auld start. No big surprise there.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bell recalled to boost powerplay

The Senators announced Sunday that Brendan Bell was recalled from Binghamton, in part to help the Sens' now-pathetic powerplay. I guess it's a good thing he didn't go to Russia.

Bell has six goals and nine assists for 15 points in Binghamton so far this season, second in scoring (behind only Ilya Zubov, who has 18 points and is also now on Ottawa now). Of his 15 points, 12 (4G, 8A) have been on the powerplay for Bingo. I have a feeling that he will line up with Filip Kuba on the first powerplay unit, but Craig Hartsburg said he liked Mike Fisher on the point on the powerplay (that was an unexpected twist), so we'll see.

In the immediate future, it means one defenceman will be scratched for Monday's game, and my money is on Christoph Schubert. It also might mean that a defenceman may be part of an upcoming trade, but time will tell.

Back in black: Third jersey leaked

You may have already seen this at Icethetics, The 6th Sens, or Sens Chirp, but the new black Senators' third jersey that will debut Nov. 22 has allegedly been leaked. Nothing is safe, nothing!

It fits with the teaser you can see at the Sens' official website from the neck up, so I wouldn't be surprised if this is actually the jersey. I am a little disappointed, however... I thought (hoped?) it was going to be a throwback-retro style jersey or something, but it's moving even more towards the modern/post-modern newfangled design garbage. It's just so busy; less is more, Senators graphic designers.

Maybe this grainy thumbnail image isn't doing the jersey justice, it'll probably look pretty slick on the ice (and thank heavens there aren't gaudy, heavy gold lines across the bottom), but I was hoping for something to rival the Islanders', Penguins', or Sabres' throwbacks.

Too little, too late: Isles 3, Sens 2

Pretty late game review after a second loss in as many games against the New York Islanders, but it was so depressing I didn't really want to talk about it. With the two goals the Sens scored in the third period, the Sens have now scored four goals through their four-game losing skid--not good enough to win many, no matter how well goaltender Alex Auld is playing.

I'm going to keep this short, because the game is old news now. The team played hard, outshot the Islanders 15-7 in the first period and had 40 shots on the night, but had a hard time beating Isles tender Joey MacDonald. Most of the shots weren't great scoring chances, and they made MacDonald looks pretty good. Filip Kuba led the team in shots once again with six, and Dean McAmmond had five shots in only 10:13 played, the same number as Daniel Alfredsson (22:16) and more than Dany Heatley (4 shots in 21:41) and Jason Spezza (2 shots in 19:26).

It's quicker to list positives than negatives, so I will: The Sens were recharged late in the third when the CASH Line was reunited, and Spezza and Heatley scored the Sens' two goals (Heatley also had one assist). I don't know if re-uniting the line will work for next game, but it's about all Craig Hartsburg hasn't tried yet. Ilya Zubov looked really confident and settled, playing well in his 15:19 of ice time, registering two shots and getting some second-unit powerplay time. He hasn't been demoted yet, and will suit up Monday in place of Chris Neil, who injured himself just before fighting Isles tough guy Tim Jackman.

That's that. The almost-comeback was certainly too little, too late for this game, and might have been too little, too late for some players' careers with the Senators--time will tell on the latter front.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Shannon indefinite with concussion, Pock gets five games

A little fallout from the elbow Islanders forward Thomas Pock threw to the head of Senators forward Ryan Shannon came out today. TSN is reporting that Pock has received a five-game suspension for his part, and Michael Sharp has quoted Sens coach Craig Hartsburg in saying that Shannon's status is indefinite with his concussion.

Since Shannon will obviously not be in the lineup tomorrow night, Ilya Zubov has been recalled from Binghamton; no word where he'll fit, but he's an offensive player so he'll likely be placed with other offensive players.

I'm not sure how I feel about the suspension. It depends how much the injury is supposed to weigh in on the final verdict, I suppose. I guess five games is probably fair.

A defence of Bryan Murray

This article would have been a lot easier to write if the Senators didn't lose to the last-placed team in the NHL last night. But they did, and there's nothing I can do about it now. On a three game losing streak, everyone in the city is wondering what is wrong with this team. Some are saying it's the players, while others think its management--notably general manager Bryan Murray. He has undeniably put his mark on this team, but I would argue that the results on the ice aren't enitrely, or even mostly, because of mistakes Murray has made. Rather, he's made commitments to players who aren't fulfilling their ends of the commitments.

Murray has, certainly, made some mistakes. The Ray Emery contract turned out to be a mistake, even though it seemed like a bargain when it was signed. Failing to find a top-flite defenceman to replace Wade Redden was a mistake, even though his hands were tied with the salary cap. Failing to fill out the top-six forwards, and allowing Cory Stillman and Mike Comrie to walk for nothing, were mistakes. It doesn't look like Luke Richardson is an NHL defenceman anymore, and even had a hard time at points last season. It's not certain yet, but the no-trade clauses for Chris Phillips, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Mike Fisher, and Daniel Alfredsson might turn out to be debilitating if it turns out they're not working out. And the financial terms of the Fisher contract are debatable. But every GM has to make some mistakes; Murray has made a number of good transactions, too.

In terms of free agency, Murray tried to fix some things in the off-season. In signing Jason Smith, he tried to solve some of the defensive woes of last season with a proven veteran playoff warrior with leadership qualities. He re-signed Shean Donovan, possibly the best player for the Sens in the playoffs, to a reduced and very reasonable contract. He rightfully allowed Randy Robitaille to walk after wrongfully signing him last season. He didn't get into the bidding war for Mike Commodore. Even though we miss his skating and passing, Wade Redden isn't a $6.5M defenceman, especially not for six years, and Murray recognized that.

In trades, Murray converted some unhappy or failed assets into new ones. Joe Corvo demanded a trade, and was packaged with the not-as-expected Patrick Eaves for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore--many pundits suggested Ottawa won the trade. Although Brian McGrattan didn't express any unhappiness, he couldn't have been happy with his role, and wasn't utilized; he was converted into a draft pick and isn't even getting ice time with the Phoenix Coyotes. Promising prospect Alex Nikulin was turned into a serviceable AHL defenceman, while Larry Nycholat and his one-way contract (signed by John Muckler) was swapped for Ryan Shannon, who has offensive flair and a more flexible two-way deal. Given Andrej Meszaros' contract demands, and Ottawa's payment structure, Murray dealt him for what's turned out to be a tremendous surprise in Filip Kuba, a promising (if unproven) prospect in Alex Picard, and a first-round draft pick for 2009--it remains to be seen how Meszaros develops, but I would say Ottawa has the upper hand on this trade so far.

In goal, Murray's had a difficult situation that would have been much easier if Ray Emery has simply fulfilled the contract Murray signed him to, or if Martin Gerber had fulfilled the contract that Muckler signed him to. Instead, Ottawa was faced with two unhappy and questionable goaltenders to start this season, neither of whom were tradeable. One had to be bought out, and it was likely more owner Eugene Melnyk's decision: Emery's contract was cheaper to buy out than Gerber's, and Gerber had a better season last year. With Melnyk unwilling (with good reason) to eat Gerbe's contract in the minors, Murray signed the cheapest goaltender with a reputation of team-first approach and solid, if not stellar, play: Alex Auld. Of the off-season free-agent acquisitions, Auld might be the best one so far, and is likely playing better than Cristobal Huet or Olaf Kolzig, two other (and much more expensive) free agent goaltenders from last off-season, would be.

When Murray became general manager, the Senators' farm system was rather depleted. After years of relying on younger players on rookie or second contracts as the bulk of the Senators offence (for example, Alexei Yashin, Martin Havlat, Marian Hossa), the Senators had developed a great team which wasn't privy to the high draft picks that built the team's core. On top of that, those players who were drafted, or picks which could have been used, were traded in deadline-deals that usually flopped. It's no secret that in the Binghamton Senators' past four seasons, excluding the lockout season where the team had a cornucopia of NHL players on the roster, the B-Sens have been, well, bad: Finishes of fourth (2003-04), fifth (2005-06), seventh (2006-07), and sixth (2007-08) in the East Division, with a record of 126-151-46 overall, one lost playoff round and four seasons out of the playoffs. The cupboard was rather bare when Murray came in, and that was one of the priorities he's established in his actions. Rather than trading prospects or picks, Murray decided to use them to re-build the team's prospect system.

What does this do for the team? In the short term, it means there are no deadline deals for the big names available. It also means that the team can develop its own skilled players, though. Under a salary cap, it's important to develop your own players and take advantage of their relatively low-priced and possibly high-productivity rookie contracts, especially when they're complemented by players like Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, and Anton Volchenkov. It takes more than two drafts to rebuild depth, but players like Jim O'Brien, Louie Caporusso, Ben Blood, Erik Karlsson, Pat Wiercoch, and Zack Smith--all picks from Murray's first two drafts--are a good place to start.

What does it mean for Murray? It means he's made a lot of moves, and some have been the wrong ones. Some remain to be seen, though, while others were proven to be solid deals. More importantly, though, a lot of the squad that Murray led to the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals remains intact, it's mostly the work ethic and team-first approach that has changed. Three coaching changes haven't improved the problem; will a change in general manager be any different?
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