Saturday, September 29, 2007

Emery won't start the season

Sayyyy what?!

You heard right friend. Ray Emery, the goalie that saved the Senators' season last year and backstopped them to the Stanley Cup Finals, will not play in the Sens season-opener against Toronto.

I guess this is simply Martin Gerber's opportunity to show that he is a #1 goalie in the NHL. If he does well, maybe that will raise his stock and allow him to be traded (something Gerber wants anyway). If he doesn't do well, then we can thank God that the Sens still have their starting goalie waiting on the bench or in the pressbox.

Friday, September 28, 2007

"I've got a problem with people giving me traumatic blows to the head"

Dear Dean McAmmond,

You are awesome. It's no wonder why so many players have called you to wish their best since Steve Downie tried to kill you a few days ago.

Seeing your playing style last year immediately made me one of your biggest fans. Especially in the Eastern Conference Finals against Buffalo when you assisted on Oleg Saprykin's game-winning goal. You're probably one of my favourite all-time players. So much so that, when the Senators extended your contract, I gave myself a celebratory mohawk to commemorate the great event.

What cemented your spot as one of my all-time favourites, though, were your comments to the media yesterday:
"Everyone is saying that I've got concussion problems. I don't feel like I have concussion problems at all. I've got a problem with people giving me traumatic blows to the head, that's what I've got a problem with."

In the playoffs last year, I was ready to fight Chris Pronger. Just as I was prepared to fight Downie on Tuesday night.

Anyway, I hope you get well soon, because Daniel Alfredsson needs someone to kill penalties with.
Take care,

P.S. Can you please sign the enclosed 8x10s, one of which is for me, and the two others are for my friends of the same name? Thank you very much.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Hockey News? More like The Hockey Noodleheads.

I'm always amazed with the rankings that publications like The Hockey News release; amazed at how poorly thought-out they so often are. This is prompted by the most recent issue of The Hockey News, which features a "Top 20 by position" ranking.

Let's start from the net out, just as the crack team of THN analysts did, apparently "in consultation with pro scouts and GMs. Ray Emery, the goaltender who's lead a perennially-stacked Senators team farther than ever in the playoffs, is apparently the 17th best goaltender in the league. A few goalies he outdueled just last year in the playoffs that are ranked ahead of him: Martin Brodeur (2nd overall), Ryan Miller (3rd overall), and even Marc-Andre Fleury (11th overall). There's no way I'm going to deny Brodeur his place at the top of the list, but how is Miller third overall? How is Miller right now better than Emery, or J-S Giguere, or Marty Turco? And don't get me started on Fleury... he's ranked higher than Emery, Tomas Vokoun, Olaf Kolzig, and Evgeni Nabokov. What an absurd ranking... Rick DiPietro is somehow the 8th best goaltender in the league now. Cam Ward and Kari Lehtonen are both ahead of Emery.

What makes Emery's apparent ordinariness even more amazing is that apparently Ottawa doesn't have one defenceman in the league's top 20. Wade Redden may have had an off-year, and apparently that completely drops him off the radar. Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips both had career-years and emerged as possibly the best shut-down tandem in the NHL, but I guess that's not good enough. Who made the list instead? Dan Boyle is 7th. God knows why. Somehow Ryan Whitney is the league's 10th best defenceman. WHAT?!?! Where did that even come from? He's barely played two season in the NHL, he's a career +2, and he was -4 in the playoffs against Ottawa last year. Jay Bouwmeester, the perennial disappointment who has never played a playoff game in his four-year NHL career is the 14th best defenceman in the league. I mean... I like Bouwmeester, but there's no way he's in the league's top 20. I'll admit that I haven't seen much of Shea Weber yet, and what I have seen I've liked, but is he really one of the elite 20 of the league? Rounding out the list is Brian Campbell. What is the league coming to?

I'm not going to touch the left wing. Although Dany Heatley plays the left-wing most of the season, they decided to rate him as a right-winger, so let's move right along...

Jarome Iginla is the first-ranked right winger, and Heatley is second. It's a tough call, so I'll leave that alone. I don't really understand why Marian Hossa (6th) is rated higher than Daniel Alfredsson (7th), though. I love Hossa, don't get me wrong, but what has he ever won? Nothing. Alfredsson has gold medals, a Calder trophy, he led his team to the Eastern Conference Championship last year, and was Ottawa's nominee for the Conn Smythe. What, exactly, are we using as measuring sticks between these players?

Then we come to centremen. Sidney Crosby, obviously, number one, hands down. Pretty much how I would have chosen, maybe Vinny Lecavalier would have been after Joe Thornton and Joe Sakic, but whatever...wait, what? Eric Staal is the 5th best centreman? But Jason Spezza is way down at seventh? THIS IS ABSURD! Staal isn't even a point-per-game player! He won the Stanley Cup one time, and lives on forever as one of the best in the league.

If THN actually consulted GMs and scouts, they must have been the worst in the league. Anyone who would choose to build a team around Bouwmeester instead of Phillips needs his head examined. Same goes for anyone who chooses Fleury in nets instead of Emery, or Giguere, or Vokoun. Give me a break.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Mr. Heart-and-Soul Dean McAmmond is once again the victim of a dirty shot to the head. Steve Downie, also known as 'dickhead', has been put on notice (see left) for his charging/elbowing/boarding penalty when he hit D-Mac.

Many of you will remember when Chris Pronger threw his forearm to the head of M.C. 'Ammer, which resulted in a concussion for McAmmond.

Rumour has it that McAmmond's latest injury is a combination head/shoulder injury, likely including a concussion. McAmmond appeared to be bleeding from both his nose and his mouth, and the on-ice crew was seen cleaning it up after the event. McAmmond was talking to paramedics on his way off the ice, and Sportsnet reported at 10:40 p.m. Tuesday night that he was moving his arms and legs.

As someone who was at the game, I can attest to the tension and suspense in the game, as everyone was waiting to see if McAmmond would wave to the crowd to show he was okay. McAmmond lying prostrate on the ice was extremely scary for everyone there, and likely everyone watching. The situation was made more concerning directly after the hit, when a brawl broke out right beside McAmmond. While someone did fall on top of him, and people were all around him, hopefully it didn't worsen the injury.

Downie's got a history of dirty hockey, including most notably an incident with former OHL teammate Akim Aliu, when Downie cross-checked and then fought Aliu during a practice--while on the same team. Wow, class act. See the full story and video here. Count on a suspension to include the pre-season and more, with 12-15 regular-season games coming into effect if and when Downie plays in the NHL, whether that's this season or in the future. If he plays Ottawa this season, Brian McGrattan has said that "he'll get what's coming to him."

In the end, the Sens won the game 4-2, thanks to goals from Daniel Alfredsson (a beauty short-handed breakaway), Joe Corvo (wicked shot from the point), Jason Spezza (the puck hit him and went in), and Shean Donovan (who'll have to thank Chris Neil for it). Ray Emery played the first two periods, surrendering two goals on nine shots. Both Philly goals were glove-side, so either Rayzor's glove-hand is slow, or he was nervous on the prospect of re-injuring the hand he recently had surgery on. Martin Gerber played the third, and stopped all eleven shots he faced--including a few good chances.

It looks like McAmmond will probably miss a lot of action this season, since--given the cumulative nature of head injuries--the team won't risk bringing him back in the lineup too quickly. Christoph Schubert, therefore, will likely play forward, so Larry Nycholat and Luke Richardson will be the sixth and seventh defencemen (though not necessarily in that order). There are then two spots on forward, and two of likely Ilya Zubov, Alex Nikulin, Josh Hennessy, and Nick Foligno will take those spots.

The most important story of the night, however, is obviously the injury to McAmmond. We'll bring more information regarding his status and a Downie suspension as it becomes available. Let's all hope Deaner is alright, and can play again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Black Mask!

...yeah, what's the deal with that?

It was a bigger story last week, but I think the story has only just begun.

Martin Biron wore a white mask for a whole season while he was awaiting being traded away from Buffalo. An Ottawa journalist questioned Martin Gerber about his plain new mask and whether this was a form of protest - Gerber responded "That's B.S."

Gerber stated it was simply the newest edition of the mask he gets from iTech and has not yet been painted - he's just trying it out.

Keep in mind that the Sens just changed their logo, and so a mask might just be in the process of being painted with the new logo... but the Sens organization has known for a long time that they would be introducing a new logo, so couldn't they have just sent the plans before hand?

Gerber, as mentioned earlier, got a shutout in his first pre-season start. In last night's game against the Washington capitals Gerber allowed 3 goals on 18 shots - not a great outing.

Let's keep in mind that Emery is making progress and will likely make a start in the pre-season.

Will Gerber keep his black mask? That will depend on his emotional state more than anything.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gerber gets a shutout!

Okay, it wasn't the biggest of tests, but all that matters is that he passed. And not one of those by-the-seat-of-the-pants passes, but Martin "the Gerbinator" Gerber got a shutout against the Philadelphia Phantoms. I mean Flyers, sorry...

A few other players likely impressed those of you who watched Amateur Hour on Rogers Community Television on Tuesday night. One of whom was Nick Foligno, who scored a goal and notched two assists. Ilya Zubov, whose first name I refuse to spell with a 'j', also played well, showing a good nose for the net on the Senators' first goal of the night. He played well at times, and I actually hope John Paddock gives him a shot playing on the second line between Daniel Alfredsson and Antoine Vermette (neither of whom played against the Flyers). Luke Richardson didn't look nearly as slow as I thought he would, and might make a few decisions difficult for Paddock and GM Bryan Murray.

You know what wasn't impressive, though? The Rogers broadcast. I don't want to sound ungrateful, because I'm glad I got to see the game, but come on... are you kidding? A few notable typos: Miek Fisher, Llija Zubov, Jaon Spezza... give me a break. Also, I didn't know the Senators moved their affiliate to "Binningtum", although that is the name the colour commentator gave to them. He also extolled Gerber for his rebound control, noting "No rebounds to speak of," even though that couldn't be farther from the truth. While he improved through the game, Swiss Cheese's biggest problem was controlling rebounds and trying not to kick-save pucks right into the slot.

Another beef is the refs. I understand it's time for referees to show what they can do, too, but the new referee (I don't know his name, and doesn't have stats up yet) was absurdly sensitive. My friend, a former referee with an eye for these sorts of things, noted the likelihood this new ref was trying to 'pad his stats' with regards to hooking penalties because the NHL is trying to cut down on obstruction infractions. Well, on that count, good job.

In other news

Oh yeah, Mike (as opposed to 'Miek') Fisher signed a five-year, $21M contract on Monday. I sure hope that Fish the Dish earns his $4.2M contract every year--48 points won't cut it--but a great job nonetheless by Murray to lock up an important part of the Senators roster.

Crossing one of the unregistered free agents he'll have to sign at the end of the 2007-08 season off his (substantial) list is certainly a boon for Murray, and hopefully he'll be able to sign Dany Heatley before the season starts. It would certainly be nice, but I might be dreaming. Heater suggested a willingness to accept a home town discount, but most people would say that just to appease the public and the media. He apparently doesn't want to negotiate during the season, so it would probably be beneficial for the Sens to sign him now when the temptation to test the market is likely lesser. Chris Kelly will also hopefully be signed, as CK is another important role-player for the team.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A little look forward, a little look back

As every NHL season is unique-and not in that humouring "every child is unique" sorta way-the Sens have some interesting conundrums to deal with this year. Let's explore them, shall we?

The Gerber Ultimatum - The man has said that he wants out of Ottawa. But not so fast there, G-spot - the Sens may need you yet. Starter Ray Emery will be recovering from wrist surgery to start the season, so Ottawa will need Gerber to at least fill in. An exceptional pre-season could lead to a few early-season starts-who knows? ...and after that, anything could happen - just look at last season.

Heatley, Spezza signings - Until the day that both of these excellent players sign new contracts, this situation will weigh on the Senators shoulders all season. So GM Bryan Murray, get 'er done! Unless the Senators manage to sign one or both of these forwards, the core of the team will change next off season (especially with Redden's money freed up).

The young guns - I read today that Nick Foligno has a spot on the fourth line already! That's a bit shocking to me, but I've never seen the guy play. My fellow Sens Army blogger Peter has stated that Russian prospect Ilya Zubov may be able to centre the second line! (I am shocked, again.) This season will surely see many players from the farm team do their thang in the big league, and I'm looking forward to seeing the future of the franchise.

A big PS - Senators Preseason TV schedule on Rogers 22 in Ottawa

Tuesday, September 18 Ottawa vs Philadelphia 7 pm
Thursday, September 20 Ottawa vs Washington 7 pm
Tuesday, September 25 Ottawa vs Philadelphia 7 pm
Saturday, September 29 Ottawa vs Montreal 7 pm

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Ruslan Bashkirov and a wave of young Russians dressed to impress

Okay, maybe the Ottawa Senators have had a hard time with Russian players. Alexei Yashin being the pinnacle of those troubles. There have been good times, though, even when it comes to the up-and-down relationship Senators fans have with Yashin himself--occasionally a clutch goal, some fancy moves, he looked good when he wasn't distracted by his next paycheque or his geriatric wife. After Yashin in the disappointment category comes once-highly-touted prospect Alexei Kaigorodov; slated to be our second-line centre at the start of the 2006 -07 season, he couldn't cut it in the professional North American game so he went home and complained to the Russian media about the Senators' front office. If you're looking for a way to burn bridges, ask Kaigorodov. Then there's Petr Schastlivy, another project player who never quite panned out as team management hoped.

There were good times, though. Igor Kravchuk was a decent defenseman for the Sens, despite some untimely giveaways and often inconsistent play. The man played 238 games in a Sens jersey, giving some veteran presence while the team was struggling to find an identity. Then there's Oleg Saprykin; past success indicates it might be better not to question the actions of Bryan Murray, but I don't agree with him that Sappy has no place on this team. Even if it is for $1-1.5M a season. He bought into the Sens system and provided some much-needed speed and creativity on an often-struggling fourth line. He looked good with Dean McAmmond and Chris Schubert, and I would have liked to see him play a full season with the Sens. Finally, Anton Volchenkov is undoubtedly the all-around best Russian this relatively young Senators team has employed--shot blocking, occasional goal-scoring, punishing physical play; he's awesome.

The future looks moderately bright on the Russian front, however, and if the NHL can somehow get the Russian Ice Hockey Federation to agree to a player-transfer agreement, it'll get even brighter. I'm looking at a player like 2007 second-round pick Ruslan Bashkirov. Watching this young man play in the (not-so-) Super Series between Russia and Canada has made me excited. The fact that he's already playing in North America (with the Quebec Remparts of the QJMHL) gets me almost as excited as his play in the tournament. After goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Alexander Vasyunov, I'd venture to say that Bashkirov was Russia's best player in Game 5 of the tournament, and I'll be expecting more in the coming games. He had a decent edge in game five, and even when his team was down by a few goals he seemed to be playing hard and making things happen. Here's to hoping he'll give North America a shot at some point.

Another young Russian is Alexander Nikulin. The 2004 fourth-round pick signed a two-year, entry-level contract on June 1, and has expressed a willingness--as opposed to some other Russian prospects (*cough*Kaigorodov*cough*)--to serve his time in the minor league instead of insisting on an immediate roster spot on the big team. As quoted on "I will be patient and will work very hard. My contract is signed for two years. I believe that in the beginning I will have to play on the farm team. I will gain experience, learn the language. But I am ready for this." So, you know, that's a plus.

Then there's right-winger Ilya Zubov, drafted by Ottawa in the fourth round of the 2005 entry draft. He's just signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the club on August 9, and is reportedly coming to North America to participate in the Sens training camp. It's unknown whether he'll make the big Senators, but I wouldn't count on it. Here's hoping that, even if he doesn't, he'll report to Binghamton instead of returning to HC CSKA in Russia.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin