Friday, February 29, 2008

"Atta boy, Fish"

Sorry we didn't write a game recap for the loss Feb. 28 to the Flyers. I hate SensTV. Almost as much as I hate Steve Downie. As penance, here is a video of Mike Fisher demonstrating some of the emotion that Bryan Murray was looking for when he reclaimed the head coaching responsibilities.

So... yeah. Dean McAmmond was right, "Atta boy, Fish."

In other Downie news, this guy's isn't funny, but he made one humourous remark:

"If someone ended Steve Downie's career with a Todd
-like thing, I would nominate him for the Lady Byng."

Good for the Sens. There were four things that Murray needed to accomplish when he jumped back behind the bench:
  1. Regain emotion: check
  2. Get a goaltender to play well: check
  3. Rebuild some semblance of defensive commitment: ___
  4. Win: ___

So... two of four. A good start for one game.

TSN's crazy story: A two-goalie swap

Watching the NHL on TSN last night, the dudes on the screen (particularly Darren Dreger) said that Bryan Murray threw a crazy idea at the Chicago Blackhawks late in the trade period: a two-goalie swap.

The deal would have involved sending Emery and Gerber to the Hawks in exchange for (the glorious return of) Patrick Lalime and Nikolai Khabibulin.

Sound like a good deal to anyone?

I love Lalime despite his failings in Ottawa, and I think I liked this deal.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sens 2007 draft update

The Senators chose four players in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in Columbus. All of them are playing in leagues that are easy to miss, so here is a quick rundown of how they are doing this season.

1st round, 29th overall: James O'Brien (C)
  • O'Brien is playing for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. He was awarded the WHL's Player of the Week award for the week of Feb. 18-24, in which he scored 6 points (2G, 4A) and was +7 as the Thunderbirds went 3-0. As of Feb. 27, he was fourth on team scoring with 47 points (18G, 29A) in 60 games. He's the fifth-rated prospect the Sens have according to The Hockey News' Future Watch 08, and highest among the 2008 Sens picks.
2nd round, 60th overall: Ruslan Bashkirov (LW)
  • He went back to Russia after playing in the QMJHL last season (he scored 30G and 37A in the Q in 2006-07). Word on the street is that Old Man Bashkirov, Ruslan's father, is a crazy person who pulled Ruslan and his brother, Roman Bashkirov, out of North American hockey to play in Russia. The Sens' prospect played on both Kazan Ak-Bars and Mytishi Khimik of the Russia Super Hockey League. After some ridiculously difficult research on the Mystishi Khimik website, I found his player profile--with no stats--and I learned that the Russian spelling of his name is "Руслан Башкиров". He also wears number 19, which doesn't bode well (cough*ALEXEI YASHIN*cough). It wouldn't be a bad thing if he decided to come back to North America, because according to HockeysFuture he "has the potential to be a second line offensive winger who brings and [stet] aggressive and competitive game." Then again, both Ilya Zubov and Alexander Nikulin bring that stuff.
3rd round, 90th overall: Louie Caporusso (C)
  • Caporusso is playing as a freshman for the University of Michigan Wolverines, and he's scored 17 points (10G, 7A) in 25 games, good enough for seventh on team scoring despite missing nine games with a knee injury. U of M is a behemoth, assembling a 26-4-4 record as of Feb. 23, and 'Cappie' has scored 4 game-winning goals, tying him for second-most on the team. As quoted in The Michigan Daily, U of M coach Red Berenson has been impressed with Caporusso since the injury: "I really like the direction that Louie's going. Since he's come back, he has really given his line a dose of offense and smarts."
4th round, 120th overall: Ben Blood (D)
  • Plays for the USHL's Indiana Ice. He was traded to Indiana by the Des Moines Buccaneers for Brett Bruneteau, a Washington Capitals prospect. He's scored 19 points (8G, 11A) in 42 games for both teams, good for seventh on the team, and has nine powerplay points (4G, 5A). At 6'4" and 220 lbs, and only 18 years old, the Sens are probably more interested in his 52 penalty minutes and whether or not he's a big hitter. But no media covers the Indiana Ice (despite the fact they're partially owned by 27-year-old Colorado defenceman John-Michael Liles), so I have no idea how he's been playing this season.

Paddock gone, and Low goes with him

As you've probably seen all over the place, John Paddock has officially been fired. Something that wasn't predicted was the simultaneous axing of Assistant Coach Ron Low. GM Bryan Murray will take over as interim head coach, and there have been no announcements as to a possible replacement for Low.

This whole thing would have been better if the players would have worked with Paddock's system, because it's obviously nothing personal and I'm sure Murray would have loved to keep it the way it was.

No pundits have speculated future possible head coaches when the hiring begins next year. It will likely be candidates that were discussed before the Paddock hiring, including Kevin Dineen and Randy Cunneyworth. And, although I really don't like him, you have to think Bob Hartley is a possible shit-disturber to come in next season.

In the meantime, though, Murray is jumping back there. A lot of the players are probably happy to have him back, and move back to the style that worked so well last season. One thing that really helps Murray is that he's built this team to his own liking; it may have been a failing of Murray to pick up players suited to his own style instead of ones that would have fit Paddock's style. But now that Murray's back there, nothing matters.

Murray's long-term intention will probably be to reinstate a game plan to use the Sens' skill and speed in a 2-1-2 system, where two forwards forecheck and the third hangs bck to support the defence. It will simultaneously allow defenders to take the chances that they were able to take last season. In the meantime, though, it might not be a bad idea to play a trapping 1-2-2 system to get the Sens out of the funk we're in. I guess we'll find out soon, though.

Note to NHL teams: watch out.

EDIT: Apparently Paddock has also been given the opportunity to remain with the organization, and will take some time (until the season is over) to consider his options. It is uncertain at this time what type of opportunity it would be, whether as an assistant, an AHL coach, a scout, or if it is simply a formality that Paddock will simply not take that opportunity. More will come in the future, I'm sure.

Role reversal: Player throws the coach under the bus

Well, this is new.

In the Ottawa Sun today, Chris Stevenson quoted an anonymous player--presumably an Ottawa Senators' player--calling out head coach John Paddock for his coaching tactics. Speaking of apparent burnout on the top line, the player said, "I could have told you this was going to happen back in October".

Earlier in the season, Paddock has named players who he felt weren't performing well enough, calling them out in the media. It doesn't seem that he has been doing as much naming of late, however. On this blog, and especialy on Black Aces, we've mentioned that that technique is destructive and unprofessional, and it seems Paddock may also have come to that realization.

For a player to do so, even under anonymity, is equally as unprofessional. Maybe even more so; a player is supposed to respect the authority of the head coach, and not take digs at him. Especially not when it looks like the coach is on his way out. Approach him behind closed doors, approach the general manager and offer your criticism, but don't tell the media you how right you were and how wrong he was.

If Paddock is sent packing, or steps back into his role as an assistant, I wish him all the best. Even if head-coaching isn't his thing, he has had success and popularity as an assistant coach. And he's a nice guy when he's not behind the bench.

Time is ticking for JP

After being embarassed (and shut out) in a second straight game, and only a minor deal happening in Sens land, it's hard not to think John Paddock's job is on the line.

The Bruins just blew Ottawa out of the water, beating them 4-0 in Boston last night. A very, very average effort from just about everyone on the team. When Martin Gerber gives Anton Volchenkov 'the look', as if to say 'come on man, what are you doing?' when he inadvertently screened his keeper on Boston's third goal, trying to block Zdeno Chara's shot... it tells you something about the kind of atmosphere there must be in the Senator's locker room.

TSN's NHL experts all seemed to agree that now would be the right time to finally hit the so-called 'panic button'.

When even players admit that a coach has 'lost the dressing room', it's very hard to not think something's going to be done. Sens fans can only hope Bryan Murray pulls the plug (and takes over himself) before it's too late.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The dust settles on the trade deadline

The feeding frenzy that was the 2008 trade deadline has passed; 25 trades, 45 players, 23 draft picks. Although it was probably very busy in terms of telephone calls for GM Bryan Murray, he didn't actually do much of consequence. The one and only acquisition, as mentioned earlier on this blog, was that of right-winger Martin Lapointe.

The pick-up of Lapointe was obviously a move to add a veteran who, according to pundits, is not afraid to speak with teammates in a respectful manner to try and get the best out of them; in other words, a player-coach. He will see limited ice time, likely on the fourth or possibly third line.

There were a lot of players rumoured to be in the Senators' sights over the course of the days and hours leading up to the trade deadline. Goaltending was a position a lot of fans wanted to see addressed, but Murray must have decided that going with Ray Emery and Martin Gerber was as likely to succeed as picking up a rental like Olaf Kolzig or Nikolai Khabibulin.

On defence, the acquisition of Brian Campbell was probably not meant to be. Even if the Sens were willing to match the price of a key offensive prospect and a first-round pick, Buffalo was probably hesitant to trade their best defenceman to a divisional opponent. It was likely impossible to get Adam Foote, because he said he'd only go to Colorado, but a powerplay specialist like Marc-Andre Bergeron--who went to Anaheim for a third-rounder--would have been a boost to the struggling powerplay.

Offence was a gong show. It would have been nice to have picked up Tuomo Ruutu, but Lapointe was a solid gritty pickup. I'm not convinced that Sergei Fedorov would have done anything for the Sens. And with the price that Pittsburgh paid for Marian Hossa, the Sens were likely out of the running once the Penguins stepped in. Marcel Hossa might have been a nice addition to the Mike Fisher line, but he was likely only traded to Phoenix as a part of that blockbuster.

In the day, the Eastern Conference got much weaker. Stars including Brad Richards and Brian Campbell went west, with no one of that calibre returning to the east. The team that loaded up the most was probably Pittsburgh, but that team was never lacking in goal scoring. The bigger problems were defence and--although Ty Conklin has done well so far--goaltending, and adding Marian Hossa didn't help those problems. His ability to step up in the playoffs is also unproven, so the pickup might not even help them in the playoffs. And they lost a popular player in Colby Armstrong who got under opponents' skin as well as an up-and-coming centremen in Erik Christensen.

The biggest change may still be to come, however. As stated over on Black Aces, Murray hasn't given a vote of confidence to head coach John Paddock. Although it's impossible to know how he will do in the playoffs, he has given me very little reason to believe that his tactics are good enough to get this team through the playoffs. So maybe the change behind the bench will be the most effective at getting the Sens winning regularly again.

Sens get Lapointe

According to TSN the Sens have acquired Martin Lapointe from the Blackhawks for a sixth-round draft pick.

It seems they're really going for an older, more gritty, version of the team this season. Bryan Murray helped build the Ducks, so I'm going to give him so credit. The Sens didn't give up any roster player to get Lapointe, who is unrestricted at the end of the season. Let's hope this doesn't make the team too Leafs-ish, with older, gritty, slow players. Lapointe has only 7 points in 51 games this year.

More from TSN:

Matt Barnaby: "Marty Lapointe is going to go into that dressing room to a team that needs him desperately..He's not the Marty Lapointe of old, but he's a winner and a leader. That's why they got him..He's not going to play 20 minutes a night for Ottawa, but he's going to help in that locker room."

...isn't that why the Sens got Richardson and Donovan?

On the table for Hossa...

According to Jay Onrait's blog the Sens have Vermette, Schubert, Foligno as their trade bait for Hossa. Not sure if that means all three, but I bet that means two of them and a draft pick will be part of a possible deal.

Paddock firing a 'foregone conclusion': TSN

Brent Wallace of TSN just reported on TSN TradeCentre '08 that the Senators' firing head coach John Paddock may be a 'foregone conclusion.'

Wallace went on to state that Paddock has lost the dressing room, or at least segments of it, and cited the three players who have requested trades--Ray Emery, Martin Gerber, and Joe Corvo--as proof of that.

More to come.

Monday, February 25, 2008

When a good team loses, the coach is to blame

The Senators just lost 5-0 to the Maple Leafs. This is ridiculous. I didn't watch the game, thankfully, but I've seen enough of the Senators' recent games to sense the disturbing trend of a lack of motivation and interest. It falls on the coach to make sure the team is playing as well as it can on the majority of nights, if not every game.

Toronto, by all accounts, played well. In the same way a coach is to blame when a good team loses, a coach is also to be commended when a bad team wins; Paul Maurice deserves credit for getting his team to look past all the distractions (the captain being asked to accept a trade and refusing, four others following suit, being basement-dwellers far out of a playoff spot, having no idea if/when you'll be traded, and so on) and putting forward an organized effort to beat the Sens.

John Paddock deserves no such praise. The Senators started the season 16-3, and I'm beginning to think that has a lot more to do with players wanting to get another chance at the Stanley Cup than it has to do with anything Paddock did or has done. Since then, the coach has proceeded to build complacency and fatigue with top-line players who are overplayed and improperly utilized, frustration with third- and fourth-line players who are drastically underplayed and put in destructive sitautions, and disenfranchise both goaltenders to the point that neither is in the mental state to lead this team. When players fail to do what Paddock thinks they should do, he calls them out publicly instead of examining whether or not his tactics are appropriate.

The repertoire of responses Paddock has is very small and very ineffective. Calling players out has proven completely useless, and in fact may be counter-productive. When that doesn't work, Paddock continually plays the likes of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, or Jason Spezza until fatigue makes them ineffective. Or he just completely screws with line combinations with the faint hope that somehow, some way, something will work. But it doesn't.

The Senators had every reason to be motivated for tonight's game. It was against the provincial rival, even if that rivalry has faded in recent seasons. It was the night after getting knocked out of first in the East after something crazy like 138 days. It was the last game before the trade deadline. It was a few nights after a significant come-from-behind, third-period victory against the Penguins. But it was an embarassing, forgettable, regrettable outing for the entire team.

Heads need to roll. More accurately, one head needs to roll. Even if another player is added by tomorrow's trade deadline, the most important change might be a change behind the bench. Paddock might not even be a bad coach, but the bottom line is that the team is not responding to him, so a change has to be done to get the players playing their best again. It's unfortunate that GM Bryan Murray seems to have a close personal relationship with Paddock that complements his professional one, but as the general manager he needs to make the changes that will help the team win. And getting rid of Paddock seems to be the biggest and most effective change he can make at this point.

The Rumour Mill: Khabibulin and Ruutu

I don't like reporting on rumours from But this one, by Kevin Lee, is too funny too pass up.

The idea is that the Sens would send Ray Emery, a prospect, and a second-round pick (the same pick the Sens acquired in the Martin Havlat trade) in exchange for Nik Khabibulin and Tuomo Ruutu. While I wouldn't mind Ruutu, I seriously doubt that GM Bryan Murray would look to Khabibulin as an answer to the team's goaltending problems. Especially with Khabby's injury problems, as described on Black Aces quite well.

It would just be funny if Emery was packaged with Josh Hennessy and the aforementioned pick for Ruutu and Khabibulin because it would be like trading Havlat and Emery for Ruutu, Khabibulin, and Tom Preissing. Which seems like a solid deal to me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sundin won't be a Senator (or anything but a Leaf)

According to, Mats Sundin has refused to waive his no-trade clause. And good for him. A no-trade clause isn't something a player earns just to waive when he's asked; it means that player has the ability to choose whether or not to be traded.

It would have been nice to have him on the Senators, don't get me wrong. Despite the fact that he's never won a Stanley Cup, Sundin is playing some amazing hockey right now. He would look great on a line with Daniel Alfredsson, and if Peter Forsberg hasn't actually thrown in the towel on a return to the NHL we'd have one hell of a Swedish contingent on this team.

Leafs fans can take this one of two ways. They can see the fact that this player chose to stay in their city and play for a shitty team that once again won't win the Stanley Cup instead of accepting a trade to a contending team and maybe win a Cup. Or they can see it as a selfish move by Sundin to avoid a couple months of adjustment for the franchise's long-term gain. Personally, I think they should take it the first way; he's just a team guy.

Fans in Sens Army had a similar scenario when Wade Redden refused to waive his no-trade clause. The difference is that while Sundin is having a great year, Redden is having a forgettable one. Which makes it a lot easier for fans to rag on a guy who has given a lot back to his community, and has given all he has to the team for his entire career.

Franchise players are hard to find. The Senators are lucky to have players like Redden, Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Mike Fisher willing to play their whole careers in this city. And the Leafs, much as I hate to say it, are lucky to have Sundin--it's a lot harder to commit to a losing team than it is to a winning one.

Tom Barasso the Sens' best deadline deal: Some doofus

Hi everyone. I'm back after a week researching the Senators' presence internationally (in the Dominican Republic), and the results are mixed. I'll write about that later, though; there's something more important right now.

The important thing is the Ottawa Citizen's Hugh Adami's misguidedness. Terrible, terrible... Today in the Citizen, Adami explores the Senators' deadline-trading history--something I did (in greater detail, with fewer resources) on this very blog weeks ago--and then rates the top-ten trade-deadline deals for Ottawa over the years. Number one on Adami's list? Tom freakin' Barrasso.

I'm not trying to say there are trades this team has made that proved to be hugely consequential. But it seems obvious that picking up players like Bryan Smolinski, Curtis Leschyshyn, and Mike Comrie--numbers 2, 3, and 4 respectively--or even Vaclav Varada and Mike Sillinger--numbers 6 and 7 in that order--made more of an impact than the acquisition of Barrasso in exchange for Ron Tugnutt and Janne Laukkanen. Adami even noted that Tugnutt won a series for Pittsburgh, whereas Barasso only one two games.

Adami's lead for the story: "Here's a look at some notable trades and how I would rate them, starting with the better ones and ending with the worst." Adami's blurb about the Barrasso trade: "Nice hunch by Johnston that didn't work out, but still the club's most notable move before a trade deadline." What? Are you looking for notable trades, Adami, or for good ones? Because this was certainly notable, but it didn't work. Not even close.

The Barrasso trade was a risk. Then-GM Marshall Johnston looked at the team, didn't like what he saw, and tried to improve by adding a two-time Stanley Cup winner. The fact that that goaltender was 36 at the time and had been relegated to the backup spot behind J-S Aubin didn't seem to matter to Johnston. If the trade had worked and the Sens won a series or two, Johnston would have looked like a genius and Adami's claims might be right. But it didn't work out, so Johnston's a goat and Adami's way off-base.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

How Heatley got his groove back

Sens win! Take that doubters.

Senators fans got what they asked for this game, with a struggling Ottawa team digging in their heels and pulling off a 4-3 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It looks like Dany Heatley has found his scoring touch (at least for one game), and Daniel Alfredsson, after a game to forget, scored a triumphant goal to win the game.

The Pens were taking the game to Ottawa through much of the first and second periods. Only after fighting through these periods and barely holding onto the game did the Ottawa Senators find their groove.

Ray Emery had a hot and cold game, occasionally making big saves, but then following those up with awkward laying-on-the-ice-and-struggling-to-get-up tactics. But all that matters, I think, is that the Sens have stuck with a goalie.

Strange coincidence this game: Nothing bad to say about Wade Redden, and Chris Kelly looked like... well... Redden on the ice today. Also, Mike Commodore had a great game from what I saw... I just think we could have used Joe Corvo in that overtime.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Live blog - Sens and Bluejackets

Well the game starts.... AND OH MY GOD SECONDARY SCORING!!!

Cory Stillman opens the scoring for the Sens. Play started by Mr. Heart-and-Soul, Chris Kelly.

Now we're reminiscing about the worst trades ever. Yashin, Gretzky, and Luongo make the list.

Hitchcock - looks better with the Mustache or without? I vote with. He looks too happy without.

Where's Meszaros been lately? Has his time been cut down since the Commodore acquisition? Something to investigate at a later, less beer-related time.

Period 1 over. Antoine Vermette provides the least insightful interview ever.

Nick says 'hi'.

Neil injured? Who will kick ass for the Sens now? Well... Bass or McGratton or Commodore. The Sens have changed quite a bit in the past few years.

Period 2 begins

Nash nets a clean shot on Emery to get the Jackets back in the game. No one has questioned Emery's long term goaltending abilities yet... that's a good sign. Give it a minute.

After that deke, where Emery gave Vyborny the entire right side of the net, now we are questioning his long-term goaltending abilities.

Mezzy makes it 2-1

Andrej Meszaros makes it 2-1 on the powerplay, with a wrist shot from the blueline. Leclaire didn't look too good, as the puck hit him before trickling over the goal line.

End of 2nd

Did you guys hear that there's a goaltender controversy in Montreal? There's one guy named Huette and another guy named Who-ay, and they both want to get recognized. Thanks to Jamie for the heads up. You mean I've been insulting him this whole time? Good!

Start of the 3rd

Commodre starts the period with a fight against a random fight, which he wins.

5:30 Fedorov scores his ninth goal of the season which I believe was due to mass amount of illegal drugs, or talent, probably drugs though. He's terrible.

Ben predicts a 3-2 Sens win in overtime - Stillman gets his second goal.

Simon predicts 4-2 win for the Sens.

Vermette is on pace for a career high in points. I still think they should trade him.


Everyone agrees that Gerber is better at shootouts.

Who taught Volchenkov how to stickhandle? That was great! ...and Simon tells us that Vermette is teaching him how to speak English? That explains the 'Sens Burmy' fiasco.

Now the Sens are doing good work with zero seconds left in OT. Missed opportunity on the PP there.


Going with Alfie despite his miss two nights ago... dekes... did it go in?! No... balls.

Nash shoots blocker side on Emery and scores. Nick calls for a steroid investigation.

Vermette misses 5-hole. Balls.

Zherdev goes in on Emery and goes low on Emery. Game over.

I guess they should have put Gerber in.

Live Blog Tonight: Pregame thoughts

I'm hosting a bit of a Sens get-together tonight and the laptop will be open for all comments from a group of opinionated Sens fans.

It's going to be madness. Tune in to this blog during the game for some live blogging madness.

Comment #1: Why is the Sens game tonight NOT IN HD?! ...I'm pissed.

Comment #2: I hate to say it, but Nick Kypreos made a good point on Hockey Central. It seems the Sens' coaching staff have been angling to turn Ray Emery into the #1 goalie since the All-Star break.

It kinda sucks for Martin Gerber, who has a better record and better GAA than Emery, but the team has to get behind whomever they play best in front of.

Comment #3: Just heard on TSN that Dany Heatley is pointless in the Sens last four games. Maybe we should be blaming some losses on him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New policy: You're in and you win

Ray Emery picked up the shootout win over Martin Biron and the Philadelphia Flyers with a 3-2 victory.

Antoine Vermette and Jason Spezza scored in the shootout for the Senators... and did the Sens ever need this one.

I think they'll begin to turn this season around, and it begins in net. I think John Paddock has been pulling for Emery all season, because he knows that only Rayzor has the balls to lead the team through the playoffs.

Giving Emery the start tonight is a vote of confidence and he seems to be making the most of it.

A beautiful goal from Chris Kelly started off the game (who knew Mr.Heart-and-Soul had it in him?), and after the very tradeable Vermette (Murray, I know you're listening) made it 2-0, the Sens took their foot off the gas a little.

It almost cost Ottawa the game. As the teams traded posts in the third period, it seemed the game was slipping out of Ottawa's hands. But, the ability to win tight games is a skill that must be honed for the playoffs.

Oh yeah, Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman? This is what it feels like to be a Senator. For reals.

JP breaks his own rule

Coach John Paddock has decided to go against his own rule of 'you win, you're in' with his goaltenders, opting to give Ray Emery the start tonight against the Flyers.

In a way, I think it's a good thing. I cannot remember the last time a cup-winning team went into the last stretch of the season without knowing who their number 1 keeper was going to be. In fact, the only example I can think of is that of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the year after they won the Cup. Said Lightning team lost in 5 games to the Sens in the first round.

I am still unsure who really is a better goaltender. But I think it is crucial for the team to rally behind the one guy and stop this pointless competition.

"Ray Emery will start tonight breaking John Paddock's rule of 'win and you're in', as Emery was the loser Saturday vs New Jersey. Paddock says neither goalie was happy with the arrangement and he challlenged them at practice on Monday to just go out and stop the puck."

Again, Paddock shows off his awesome diplomatic skills by using such well-weighed words... But it's the result that matters, and at the end of the day (and hopefully at the end of tonight's game), the Sens will be better off.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Forsberg Watch ends is now reporting that Peter Forsberg will not return to the NHL this season, according to his agent.

This is a lost opportunity for the 'berg and for the Sens. But with his foot still bothering him, it looks like he wouldn't have been much of an addition to any team anyway.

We'll be waiting for you in the fall Peter. The Forsberg Watch graphic can be edited yet again.

Emery Watch: Day 1

Also, the ever-reliable (sarcasm here) Hockey Buzz is reporting that Ray Emery will get the start in net tomorrow despite his loss to the NJ Devils on Saturday night. Is this the end to the 'win and you're in' policy? Our prayers may have been answered.

Rob Blake, come to Ottawa

Take his name off the market? Hardly.

Has a veteran player ever stated, "Yeah, I want to get off this sinking ship"?

When a player has the ability to play for a contender, with the possibility of re-signing wherever they want after the playoffs, I would say that all media quotes are potential lies.

So Blakie, come to Ottawa. It'll be summer by the time the playoffs roll around - almost California-ish weather. You can help the Kings get a nice little scorer like Antoine Vermette, and get a shot at a Stanley Cup in a Canadian hockey hotbed - something he's yet to do in his long NHL career.

Don't think that the Kings' GM won't continue to present him with potential suitors.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Joe Corvo dilemma

Erin Nicks brings up some interesting points in her article in today's Ottawa Sun. Simply put, it's about the nature of celebrity.

Joe Corvo, upon being traded, stated that the media spotlight was so bright in Ottawa, it was one of the factors that drove him away from the team. Now living in ambiguity in Carolina, Corvo should have no problem with people smiling at him all day and shyly asking for an autograph.

I had a personal dilemma dealing with this topic Friday night while attending the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees vs Toronto Varsity Blues hockey game. Mark Heatley, yes, his brother, plays for the Blues and Dany showed up to catch one of his bro's games.

Standing (not sitting) high in stands near an exit, it was clear that Heater did not want to be the spectacle at this game. A few people went to him and said hello, got him to sign some things, and then went on with their evening after a hearty handshake.

As Sports Editor at the U of O student newspaper, I had a reasonable excuse to go and get some quotes from the guy during the intermission about his brother, CIS hockey, and blah blah blah. But shouldn't the guy be able to enjoy an evening to himself?

Yes and no. The dude gets paid an insane amount of coin to skate nicely around the ice and claim glory on a regular basis - his job isn't so bad. People aren't asking much, either. At most, they wanted an autograph (I saw one such instance)... and the crowd around him never grew to more than five people.

But the man is not here to promote himself, the Senators, the NHL, or CIS hockey - he's just a guy enjoying his brother's game. You could leave him alone, but you could also talk to him as you would any other random person at a hockey game.

It's a delicate balancing act with many moral and practical factors.

The difference between Corvo and Heatley? I don't hear Dany bitching about the minor flaws of an otherwise enviable lifestyle.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Commodore homeless despite millions: Photo

Saw this pic on the Ottawa Citizen website. Couldn't resist. It's from 2004, so don't worry about this playoff's orange sheep's wool haircut. It'll be there.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Where we stand: Last year to this year

The Sens are in the stretch run now. While Bryan Murray is looking for more additions to fill out the roster in preparation for the playoffs, there are already a few changes that can be argued to have strengthened or weakened the team. After making it to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, how does this year's roster stand up to last year's? While some of these were not straight-up deals, here is a comparison of players who, at this point, will be on the roster come playoff time:

Now: LW Cory Stillman
Then: RW Mike Comrie
  • This is a tough call. Comrie's speed offered a lot to that second line, but Stillman comes in with the potential for clutch scoring and much more playoff experience. They play a similar style, but the six points Comrie scored last year should be replicated by Stillman should the Sens progress in the playoffs (knock on wood).
  • Verdict: Now. Although it's still early, I'll give Stillman the benefit of the doubt.
Now: D Mike Commodore
Then: D Joe Corvo
  • Also, it's such recent news that you're probably bored hearing about it. We lost a speedy, puck-controlling defencemen who is great on the powerplay but could be prone to defensive liability--although he was solid in the playoffs. In place we have Commodore, a punishing defenceman who's limited offensively but makes it unpleasant for opposing forwards to hang around in front of the net. He'll be a valuable presence physically and shot-blockingly in the playoffs, but our powerplay might feel a pinch.
  • Verdict: Now. It's a tight race, but if Murray can acquire another puck-mover then Corvo's absence will be softened. And the presence Commodore brings come playoff time should be pretty valuable, especially if it allows D Wade Redden to take a few more offensive chances.
Now: RW Randy Robitaille
Then: LW Oleg Saprykin
  • Since the Stillman acquisition, Robitaille has been relegated to fourth-line minutes, which is probably a good place for him to be. While his quickness is not as good as Saprykin's and he's not as willing to work in the corners, Robitaille has the ability to add a scoring dimension to the fourth line of Shean Donovan and Chris Schubert, which is valuable in the playoffs.
  • Verdict: Then. With the minutes the fourth line plays under John Paddock it's negligible, but Saprykin seemed to have a little more gusto. If Robitaille steps it up come playoff time, though, this verdict could very well change.
Now: C Shean Donovan
Then: LW Peter Schaefer
  • This is a strange comparison because the expectations for each of these guys is completely different. Where Schaefer was expected to be a second-line player, Donovan is expected to be a third- or fourth-liner. Donovan's numbers aren't as good as Schaefer's, but neither is his ice time. While Schaefer was occasionally good offensively and could kill penalties like nobody's business, he couldn't be relied upon in clutch situations. Donovan hasn't been given a shot at PK, but he did it last season, and he's a decent player for the 10 minutes or less he plays in a night.
  • Verdict: Then. Just because Schaefer looked good on a line with Mike Fisher and Comrie, coming reasonably close to a second scoring line in the playoffs. If another second-liner comes in to off-set the hole on that line, then Donovan's position as a role-player will be valuable.
Now: D Luke Richardson
Then: D Tom Preissing
  • Richardson brings a lot of experience to this team. He's recently spoken of how this is the time the team needs to really pick up their socks, and he showed he's ready to do so with a two-point effort in the last game against New Jersey. Scoring is just an added benefit, because Richardson's real role is to offer leadership to young players--hopefully Andrej Meszaros will benefit from their pairing--and to play a physical game in limited ice time. However, it remains to be seen if Richardson will last through the playoffs, and whether or not he will be the odd man out if the Sens acquire another defenceman. Preissing, on the other hand, was underappreciated for what he brought to the team throughout the season in 2006-07. He scored two important goals, and was an extremely good sixth defenceman.
  • Verdict: Then. But that's a shallow judgement; it's difficult to know what immeasurable intangibles Richardson is bringing to this team off the ice.
Now: Distracted G Ray Emery, Flustered G Martin Gerber
Then: Focussed G Ray Emery, Supportive G Martin Gerber
  • Maybe this is changing. Hopefully this is changing. But there is no way you can say Emery's play this season has been anywhere near where it was last season. It might be the contract he's been awarded, or the inability to get motivated, but Emery's play has fallen off. No matter what happens anywhere else in the lineup, if a goaltender doesn't step up, this team won;t likely last long.
  • Verdict: Then. Obviously.
Now: Coach John Paddock
Then: Coach Bryan Murray
  • With the other changes being rather subtle, this might prove to be one of the biggest changes in the approach to the playoffs. Murray was a much more confident coach, and seemed to know what his players were thinking at all times. From a complete outsider's perspective, Paddock seems to be unable to challenge his players positively, and some individuals have fallen off as a result. Also, although this is changing, the two individuals approach ice time very differently; Murray was ready and willing to play his fourth line, while Paddock seems hesitant and overplays the first and second lines as a result.
  • Verdict: Then. But there is no way to know; Paddock's approach may be tailored to the playoffs, and our experience of it during the regular season is misinformed. I hope that's the case, but I have my doubts.
Now: GM Bryan Murray
Then: GM John Muckler
  • Murray isn't afraid to make big moves. While he's stated he isn't interested in removing any more players from the lineup, he is obviously willing to do anything that will make this team better. The chief criticism of Muckler is that he only made small deals, and wasn't able to pick up players that could take the Sens over the top (see this post). His confidence in the roster he had, however, was admirable.
  • Verdict: Now. Murray's willingness to make more trades might enable this year's team to address all the areas where there has been a step backwards (mainly defence and goaltending).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mike Commodore, media darling

It's no wonder why this guy has been so popular everywhere he's played. In the few days since the Sens picked him up, Mike Commodore has been all over the place. An in-game interview in his first game with the team, front-page story in the Ottawa Sun, stories in the Ottawa Citizen, and I just heard him on More On Sports Thursday afternoon.

Since he was traded for Joe Corvo, who never denied his hostility towards the media (and who can blame him), it must be a welcome change for Ottawa's sports pundits to have a guy who seems to seek out the media attention. Corvo's choices were his own, and the spotlight was an understandable reason for him wanting a change, but Commodore seems to be just the opposite.

Even without the media exposure I'm sure fans would start to love his style of play, but with his near omnipresence in print or on the radio, he'll be a fan-favourite in no time flat. Count on the Sens re-signing him and merchandise sales--bathrobes, red wigs, Commodore 44 jerseys, and who know what else--immediately offsetting whatever salary he makes. Maybe it's just a coincidence that he's played with four of the league's reddest teams this side of the Red Wings (New Jersey, Calgary, Carolina, and now Ottawa), but with his grizzly beard and afro, Commodore gives 'going red' in the playoffs a whole new meaning.

EDIT: What the hell? If this photo on is any indication, Commodore has gone against what he said he'd do and cut his hair mid-season. Terrible omen, Sens fans...

One man's opinion: The expendables

I think the Sens have got a good core, but these are the players that I think should be shopped around before the trade deadline:
Randy Robitaille - Now that we've got Stillman, is he even necessary? Was supposed to fit in on the first or second line, but has looked more average than ever lately.

Anotine Vermette - RFA coming up. As I stated before, another player who may never reach his potential

Cory Stillman - Everyone's talking about how good (not great) he is, but if there's a great deal out there that might require him, I would say do it.

Andrej Meszaros - What have you done for me lately? Great rookie season, but Alexandre Daigle had a great one too.

Ray Emery and/or Martin Gerber - You know the story.

Lawrence Nycholat - Older than most players on the farm team, he could be used as a bargaining chip instead of giving up a draft pick.

Bryan Murray, use these people. They're not the future - they're barely even the present. Shuffle the deck a little but more and the results could be delicious (playoff-wise).

Sens lose to Devils

Wednesday night, 3-2 in overtime. I don't want to talk about it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ugly welcoming party: Sabres 5 Sens 1

Well, that was an ugly game in most respects. Ottawa's powerplay was next to useless at 1-for-7, and the team only managed 11 shots in the first two periods. Even with 15 in the third, the Sens looked like they were once again too little, too late, and Ryan Miller played a good game in net for the Sabres when he had to.

As it so often does with this team, the fate was in the hands of the top line. Daniel Alfredsson, naturally, had some great tempo, but Jason Spezza wasn't making the passes he has to and Dany Heatley was sluggish and, when the opportunity to shoot came up, he couldn't take advantage. The defensive tandem of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov--neither known for their offence--had as many shots (six) by the end of the night as the CASH line did, which isn't how you win games.

The new guys looked alright. Cory Stillman's by no means a power-forward, but he was in forechecking at times, and looked to have some chemistry with Mike Fisher. It's obvious that there is a hole on the right side for that line, though; neither Chris Neil nor Randy Robitaille are cut out for duty on a secondary scoring line. A good start for Stillman to get an assist on Ottawa's only goal.

As for Mike Commodore, he also came in as advertised. Better than I'd expected, actually, and he jumped into the play at times and had a couple of shots. He made an impact, hammering Clark MacArthur solidly with a hip check and blocking a shot on the same shift (flashes of Volchenkov). His toughness in front of the net was good, too. Although he finished -2 on the night, the first goal he was on for was off an unlucky bounce, and the second was the inconsequential fifth goal for Buffalo.

Whether it was thanks to Commodore's presence or a just a change in attitude, Wade Redden had a great game. He was moving his feet, he was up in the play offensively a lot, and he made some of the great outlet passes we remember from earlier in his career. I was disgusted to hear fans actually booing Redden when he touched the puck near the end of the game (unless it was just general booing of the team, which is still pretty stupid); you're booing a guy who wants to stay in your city and play for your team. Thinking back to a player who refused to play in this city and for this team (Alexei Yashin), we should be happy guys want to be here.

On the subject of puck-moving defencemen, Andrej Meszaros looked alright, too. He made one big gaff in the first period, but other than that he was solid defensively, had a few great shots, including the one which Robitaille tipped for Ottawa's goal.

The goaltending situation will be interesting for tomorrow. While five goals against doesn't sound very nice, only two were stoppable goals; the first had was a wicked shot by Tomas Vanek that had Ray Emery off on his angles, and the fifth goal went in off Rayzor's pads. He stopped 34 of 39 on the night, but the last two games he's played were both pretty darn good. Further complicating the situation is the fact that the Sens play again on Wednesday, and John Paddock hasn't approached the goalies in back-to-back games situation consistently this season. So I guess we'll find out tomorrow, but I'll guess Martin Gerber will get the start.

Ottawa Sun gets it all wrong (again)

Sometimes I wonder if the Ottawa Sun just likes making stuff up. Today, an article about the Senators' trading away Patrick Eaves and Joe Corvo was entitled, "Fans sorry to see Eaves traded, cheer Corvo departure". Did I miss something? When did we start hating Corvo?

The story went on to quote one actual fan, and draw one line of input from Sherry over at Scarlett Ice (which doesn't even bash Corvo), and led with the statement that, "Diehard Ottawa Senator fans say they couldn't be happier that Corvo was traded yesterday in a four-player swap with the Carolina Hurricanes." I don't know what classifies someone as a die-had fan--I like to think devoting a stupid amount of time to a fan blog at the expense of your personal, professional, and educational life may be one indicator--but I'm certainly not cheering Corvo's departure.

That's not to suggest that I don't like the trade that Bryan Murray made. By acquiring Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore for Eaves and Corvo, we've made our defense better defensively and our offence better offensively. Which is good. But it has lost us some production from the defence--and a great shooter, skater, and puck controller--as well as a gritty winger with a lot of upside.

Have we forgotten about Corvo's double-OT game-winning goal in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals? That was freakin' heroic. Then-assistant-coach John Paddock suggested to then-head-coach Murray that he put Corvo on the point off the face-off, and it paid off when Corvo's bouncer hopped over Buffalo tender Ryan Miller's glove. Had the Sabres won that game, the series could have been completely different. For that reason alone, I will look back on Corvo's time in Ottawa with satisfaction. That was by no means his only contribution, though.

When I think of Corvo, I'll remember the defensive gaffs. And then I'll remember that he was never brought in to be a defensive specialist, his role was to be an offensive defenceman who will contribute offensively. Say what you will, that's what he did. He's seventh on team scoring (6G-21A-27P) this season, ahead of players expected to do much more (Randy Robitaille, Shean Donovan, Dean McAmmond, Chris Neil, Chris Kelly, and so on). He was sixth in team scoring in the playoffs last season (2G-7A-9P).

Although I'm excited to think about the changes we've made, they have cost us a couple of players who have been valuable contributors at times. So this isn't good riddance, Joe. It's good luck.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A win-win trade: Sens acquire Commodore and Stillman

As Ben noted, the Senators traded up-and-down offensive defenceman Joe Corvo and injury-plagued young winger Patrick Eaves to Carolina for defensive stalwart (but offensively challenged) Mike Commodore and injury-plagued winger Cory Stillman. Both teams seem to have assessed their current positions, and made the change to head in a new direction.

In Ottawa, it's been well-documented that the recent slide was a result of defensive gaffs, and unloading Corvo might cut down on those. By replacing him with the younger Commodore, there's another physical defenceman who can make opposing forwards pay and also plays a responsible style defensively. While there's a definite loss of offence from the defence--Corvo was a big part of the powerplay, not to mention his even-strength abilities--the addition of Stillman may offset that.

Stillman offers veteran presence and brings some offensive depth--which Bryan Murray has made no qualms about seeking. In playing beside Mike Fisher, Stillman will bring something to the second line that has been missing, and will make our second powerplay unit reasonably respectable. Not to mention the Stanley Cup rings both new guys bring, evidence of their abilities. Even though Eaves is a price to pay, his injury problems have made it difficult for him to keep any sustained offensive numbers. Also, with Chris Kelly and restricted free agents like Andrej Meszaros and Antoine Vermette, it would have been difficult to re-sign Eaves.

Even though both Stillman and Commodore are unrestricted free agents after the season, neither is making a lot of money this year, and it's possible we could get a bargain like that again.

For some reason, I don't think that Murray is done adding players to this team. I have a feeling another top-six forward could be on the way.

Done deal: Corvo, Eaves shipped out

I'll let do the legwork:

Sources say the Senators have acquired defenceman Mike Commodore and forward Cory Stillman in exchange for defenceman Joe Corvo and forward Patrick Eaves.

Commodore and Stillman are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Stillman had to agree to waive his no-trade clause to go to Ottawa.

Eaves is a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Corvo has two years remaining on his contract, paying him $2.75 million per year but with a salary cap hit of $2.625 million.

Seems like the Sens tried to accomplish two things with this deal: loading up on experience before the playoffs and dumping Corvo's salary. It often seemed like that guy was gone after his first season in Ottawa.

Good on Bryan Murray for having some balls and getting a deal done.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Zednik gets Malarchukked

I guess this is why kids playing hockey have to wear neck guards. Olli Jokinen's skate pops up after he lays a hit, and slices Richard Zednik's neck. This video isn't too bloody, but you can see it looks like it'd be pretty bad.

My title is not an intention to downplay the seriousness of the situation. According to, Zednik is in stable condition after having surgery.

Wade, I want a divorce

Dearest Wade,

When we first met I thought that we might be together forever... but I was mistaken. Both of our needs have changed, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. You want a lot of money and you want to play like shit. I understand-it's only normal for a hockey player of your age. Unfortunately, this has driven a wedge between us, one that I don't think can be reconciled.

You had a great season before signing a 2-year $13-million contract before the end of the 2005-06 season. You made me choose between yourself, and my other love, Zdeno. I won't go running back to him, I can't. But if I could go back, though, I would.

I can't believe I'm going to admit this, but you're no longer the most important person in my life. Others have become more consistent and dependable. Chris and Anton are now #1 and #2, and no matter how hard you try, you just can't change that.

Sadly, your being near me is dragging us both down. Sucking up so much money, no one can move on. You say that you want to try to work things out, but we both know there's no going back.

I want you to leave. Now.

I've got a perfectly good deal lined up that will allow us to live perfectly happy lives apart from one another. It's the best deal for us both, and I'm beginning to resent you for holding me back.

I want the house and the kids. The car is yours.

Goodbye Wade. I wish you the best. I wish it could have worked out.

Who needs secondary scoring? Sens 6 Habs 1

In the 13 games that either Dany Heatley or Daniel Alfredsson--or both--were injured, I'd forgotten how much the Senators' CASH line could dominate a game. Just 22 seconds into Saturday night's game against Montreal, I was reminded. And then, just over a minute later, another reminder. And then again three minutes after that. You get the picture. By the time the fat lady sang (the national anthem in Vancouver; at least it looked like a fat lady), the Sens had absolutely massacred the Canadiens 6-1, and (more importantly, some would say) won me $5 from a friend.

Jason Spezza looked incredible, and scored his first career hat trick plus three assists to bring himself within two points of the NHL scoring lead. Alfredsson scored twice plus three assists, to tie Alexander Ovechkin for the league-lead with 73 points (additionally, Alfie's scored 14 points in his last three games; not too shabby). Heater scored once, added three assists, and now has seven points in the two games since returning from his shoulder injury. When all was said and done, the line had combined for all six goals, nine assists, they were +12, and had 12 of Ottawa's 29 shots. Simply amazing.

Alongside the heroic story of the CASH line reuniting was a pretty darn good game for Ray Emery. Don't let the 6-1 score fool you, this game could have been close. Rayzor came up big with some key saves to keep the Sens pouring on the offence, stopping 33 of the Habs' 34 by the end of the night. Say what you will about John Paddock's "win and you're in" philosophy, it seems to have brought the best out of Emery--even if it took a few games. I guess it's this kind of play that makes his off-ice shenanigans a little more palatable.

Also Lost in the Flood (Bruce Springsteen reference; great song) of goals was a decent game by Wade Redden. Maybe Bryan Murray should ask him if he'll waive his no-trade clause before every game, so Reds will get pissed, play well, and kick some young kid's ass. Especially notable about that fight was that, despite the fact that Redden smoked Sergei Kostitsyn with an uppercut, he only suffered a two-minute minor penalty. To quote Kenny Wu of Mighty Ducks 2 fame, "Two minutes? Well worth it."

There were Ottawa two points NOT scored by the big line: Anton Volchenkov and Joe Corvo each had one assist. Defensively, Volchenkov blocked five freakin' shots. Offensively, Corvo's assist was the hundredth of his career. Both had good games.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Redden refuses a trade; The love/hate thing

According to reports from, Wade Redden has declined to waive his no-trade clause for a second time in the last eight months. In the summer reports circulated that GM Bryan Murray had a trade in place with the Edmonton Oilers, but Redden refused. This time, the San Jose Sharks asked Murray if Redden would be willing to move, and once again Redden said no.

I guess it's entirely within Redden's rights to refuse the trade, so I can't really get angry--after all, the Sens gave him the no-trade clause in the first place. And it's commendable that he thinks he can contribute to the Sens' playoff success and to a drive to the Stanley Cup, but the bottom line is that his performance--defensively, at least--appears to have fallen off in the last two seasons. And since the Senators appear to have no intention of re-signing him for the 2008-09 season, the largest commitment he can give to the organization is to move on while the team is still able to trade him for some other marketable assets, like prospects or draft picks.

There are times when Redden looks awesome. Like the start of the season, when he fought twice in one game against the Leafs. Or last game, after his gaff in the first, when he made a great outlet pass that resulted in a Senators goal--one of his two assists on the night. He is, however, unreliable and inconsistent. He'll make two great passes on consecutive shifts; one to his team, one to the other team, and both will result in a goal. And despite the fact that statistically he looks great this season--on pace for 47 points (his career-high is 50) and plus-16 on the season so far--he doesn't look nearly as impressive when you're watching him in a given game.

Or maybe it's just that Redden plays so much that he's bound to make a mistake. He averages 23:03 in ice time per game, second-highest on the team behind Chris Phillips. The longstanding defence of Redden is that when he does things right, you don't notice; you only notice him when he makes mistakes, which means that all you remember are his foibles.

Perhaps Redden is only waiting until the playoff drive is over, and then will allow the Senators to trade his rights to another team before the July 1st free agency period begins. Unless he really wants to take a "home-town discount" and signs for $2M or something (the team doesn't have much room for any more than that under the cap, and he'd be giving up numbers like $5-6M per year he could sign on other teams--which would undoubtedly anger his agent and the NHLPA). Somehow, though, I have a feeling he wants to negotiate with Murray until that point, and if no deal is in place, he'll just walk. Probably to the Maple Leafs.

Untitled (The Ottawa Heatlators)

Thank you, Dany Heatley. You are our saviour.

Heater scored the Sens' first goal, getting Ottawa back in a game we had no business being in, and then scored the game-winner in the third period to help break Ottawa's three-game losing streak. Plus he got an assist. Plus he reinvigorated Jason Spezza, who scored three assists against the Panthers. You could see how happy Spetzky was in his post-game interviews. Just wait until Daniel Alfredsson returns.

You know what else was nice to see? A goalie keep the Sens in the game. Ray Emery had a solid first period, stopping 15 of 16 shots. Then there was the second period... not as good. But it was mostly bad luck, or a lack of help from his defence (I'm looking at you, Andrej Meszaros). Rayzor bounced back in the third and made some key saves, especially later on. Is this the time he picks up his game, takes the starting reigns, and runs with them? Here's hoping, because someone's got to.
Also newsworthy is the Phillips Mojo: after the win, the Senators are 34-4-5 in games when Chris Phillips scores a goal. That's a .790 winning percentage, and 73 of a possible 86 points. Get this man the puck more often.

Anyway, a 5-4 victory. It wasn't pretty, but it was two all-important points. Especially important because both the Wings and the Habs lost last night. Awesome.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Forsberg probably a Flyer

According to the Ottawa Sun, the possibility of Ottawa signing Peter Forsberg is unlikely. He's reportedly close to announcing that he's returning to the Philadelphia Flyers.

I don't understand this affinity Forsberg has for the Flyers organization. They traded you before you even played a game in exchange for some other guy... why do you love them so much?

This is too bad. Signing Forsberg wouldn't have cost the Sens anything, so there would still have been the possibility of adding another player into the top six.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sens Super Skills Competition (CONTEST!)

I wish I wasn't working on Sunday, Feb. 10, because then I could go to the Sens Super Skills Competition. Which could be fun. One thing that will be hilarious, though, is hearing Stuntman Stu announce these corporate bitch-names for all the events:
  • Microsoft Puck Control Relay – observe players illustrating versatility in stick-handling
  • Esso On the Run Fastest Skater – see players showcasing their speed on skates
  • Holiday Inn Select Hardest Shot – hear the power of an NHL slapshot
  • Danone Accuracy Shooting - find out which player shoots with precision
  • Juniper Networks PowerPlay Challenge – watch as players execute the 3-on-1 to perfection
  • Scotiabank Breakaway Relay – observe which players demonstrate winning teamwork
Awesome. I wonder how much money that brought in. For personal interest, here are the way the teams will break down, for anyone interested in checking out the event:
  • Team Red: Martin Gerber, Daniel Alfredsson, Luke Richardson, Chris Phillips, Shean Donovan, Mike Fisher, Andrej Meszaros, Dany Heatley, Chris Kelly, Chris Neil, Dean McAmmond, Ron Low (coach), Randy Lee (assistant coach)
  • Team White: Ray Emery, Wade Redden, Christoph Schubert, Joe Corvo, Brian McGrattan, Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette, Anton Volchenkov, Randy Robitaille, Patrick Eaves, Cody Bass, Nick Foligno, Greg Carvel (coach), Tim Pattyson (assistant coach)

CONTEST: Since neither Ben nor I can get to the Sens Super Skills Competition, we're running a contest: The best Sens Super Skills recap will get the writer a wicked JASON SPEZZA POSTER (see right; it's about 24" by 18"). E-mail entries to Entry deadline: Tuesday, February 12, 2008. Entries cannot be published on another blog and then recycled here; that's just not cool. Entries may be edited for grammar or length, but probably won't be. Only entries from Canada will be accepted (unless you want to pay shipping yourself). I'll announce the winner (if anyone enters) on Wednesday or something like that. Good luck to everyone!

Heatley's back; Spezza thanks powers that be

After an agonizingly long eleven games over four weeks, Dany Heatley appears ready to return Thursday against the Panthers.
It couldn't come soon enough.

With Daniel Alfredsson apparently ready to get back soon (likely Saturday if not Thursday), and a potential acquisition via trade, maybe the Sens will turn around and become a winning team again. Here's hoping!

Forsberg narrows his options - Sens still in the chase

Peter Forsberg has told a few NHL clubs that he's not interested in their deals. Those teams include Nashville, Dallas, Detroit, and Calgary. With Detroit out of the picture, that whole Stanley-Cup-contender clause leaves Ottawa at the top of the heap with Forsberg's former team, the Philadelphia Flyers as another option.

Could Murray possibly pull off a deal? Here's hoping.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sens play 20 minutes against Habs, lose 4-3

Well, that was a frustrating loss. Made more frustrating by the fact that had Ottawa continued the momentum of the first 2 minutes of the game, there could have been a victory. Or if the team had played the first forty minutes as well as the third period, it would have been a different story.

There's no way John Paddock can call out Jason Spezza for his play against Montreal. I don't know why he did, as it likely served no purpose aside from making guys hate him more, and a playmaker like Spezza needs play-finishers to be effective. Tonight, though, he scored a nice goal, got an assist, and finished +1 overall.

The difference was probably special teams, as it so often is. After Chris Kelly scored to give Ottawa and early lead, the two consecutive penalties really took the wind out of the Sens' sails, especially the second one where Andrei Kostitsyn scored to tie the game. The Sens got a little down after that, and a sick passing play ended with Tomas Plekanec giving Montreal a 2-1 lead.

Martin Gerber probably should have had at least one of the two second-period goals, if not both of them. Mark Streit shot a rocket from the blue line that Joe Corvo may have tipped, but it was stoppable. Plekanec' second goal of the game was banked in off The Gerber, because he was cheating in anticipation of a cross-crease pass.

Things picked up in the third, and I wish the whole game was like that. The Sens outshot the Habs 12-4, and both Spezza and Antoine Vermette got Ottawa to within one. Randy Robitaille and Kelly both got stoned by Cristobal Huet, and the Sens ran out of time on the comeback If Ottawa can play like the third period on Saturday, then there's a chance for a victory to restore our lead in the Northeast Division; if Daniel Alfredsson's able to return to the lineup, all the better. Oh yeah, and there's a game against Florida in the meantime, on Thursday night. The only reason I'm not tremendously disappointed is that the Panthers beat the Leafs 8-0 tonight, but the Sens had better watch out if Florida runs with that.

Note about Alfie: A friend saw Alfredsson at the airport on Monday night, and casually said, "So, are you going to be ready to go tomorrow, Daniel?" Alfie said no, but that "He'd get [the Canadiens] on Saturday." So there you go.

Ottawa at the trade deadline

The Ottawa Senators have made quite a few trades at trade deadlines in the past, and few have had any affect on the playoff run for that year. Here's a run-down of the trade-deadline acquisitions (or just about trade deadline) since 1998 for the Senators:

2007: Won CQF over Pittsburgh, Won CSF over New Jersey, Won CF over Buffalo, Lost SCF to Anaheim
  • Oleg Saprykin (02/27/2007): Cost us a second-rounder, and was a decent contributor. He scored one clutch goal in the playoff run, which is all you can really ask of a fourth-liner.
  • Mike Comrie (01/03/2007): This was a steal of a deal for Alexei Kaigorodov, although his playoff production dipped. He would be fun to see again, on a line with the much-improved Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson.
  • Lawrence Nycholat (02/26/2007): Was scratched throughout the playoffs, this was a depth move. Nycholat could still be an NHL defenceman in 2008-09, though, and has a one-way contract that says he will be. Cost Andy Hedlund and a pick.
2006: Won CQF over Tampa Bay, Lost CSF to Buffalo
  • Tyler Arnason (03/09/2006): Bomb! Virtually nothing in the regular season, scratched in the playoffs, and left the next year. Brandon Bochenski and that second-round pick this deal cost us would have scored more points.
  • Mike Morrison (03/09/2006): Claimed off waivers, Mikey Mo was an insurance plan. He's got a wickedly nicknameable name, though, so this acquisition was a success.
2004: Lost CQF to Toronto
  • Peter Bondra (02/18/2004): As much as Marian Hossa loved his childhood hero coming to town, Bondra did nothing in the playoffs. The players lost in this deal (Brooks Laich and a pick) aren't significant, though, so it's not so bad.\
  • Greg de Vries (03/09/2004): Looking to boost the veteran presence and defensive awareness, this trade was ugly. It cost us Karel Rachunek, who I maintain is an NHL defenceman, and Alexandre Giroux, who isn't an NHLer. De Vries wsa gone the next September.
  • Todd Simpson (02/04/2004): Scratched throughout the playoffs, Simpson was a depth player for whom the Sens got rid of perennial disappointment Petr Schastlivy.
2003: Won CQF over New York Islanders, Won CSF over Philadelphia, Lost CF to New Jersey
  • Bryan Smolinski (03/11/2003): Smokes came over for Tim Gleason, stuck around for a few seasons (102P in 171GP) and helped a bit in the 2003 playoff drive (9 points). He was one of Muckler's decent deals, but was shipped away for cap reasons.
  • Vaclav Varada (02/05/2003): A Muckler love-in brought in VV for Jakub Klepis (who hasn't blossomed into the player he was thought to be, anyway). Varada played a few more seasons, 117 games in total, but he wasn't tremendous. I can remember one goal of his, in game 7 of the 2004 playoffs against Toronto.
  • Rob Ray (03/10/2003): "Future Considerations" brought him in, and he did nothing. He played six games the following year, and scored a goal. He was a backup to give Ottawa some toughness.
2002: Won CQF over Philadelphia, Lost CSF to Toronto
  • Juha Ylonen (03/15/2002): One of the strangest deals John Muckler pulled off. Ylonen scored five points in seven games over the run, but he didn't make a difference when it mattered. Against the Leafs, Andre Roy (who the Sens traded for Ylonen) might have made a difference physically, but hindsight is 20/20 (plus there were rumours of off-ice controversy surrounding Roy). More importantly, the sixth-round throw-in pick was used for Paul Ranger, who wouldn't be too bad right now.
  • Benoit Brunet (03/16/2002): Cost next to nothing, and got some playing time in his one season. Nothing wrong with that.
2001: Lost CQF to Toronto
  • Curtis Leschyshyn (03/13/2001): Didn't matter in the playoff loss, but was a valuable veteran in future seasons with the Sens. Played 200 solid games over four seasons for the Sens, plus he only cost a third-round pick.
  • Mike Sillinger (03/01/2001): Might have been good for the dressing room, but he didn't do anything in the playoffs and moved onto Columbus the following July.
2000: Lost CQF to Toronto
  • Tom Barasso (03/14/2000): Cost us Janne Laukkanen and Ron Tugnutt, but wasn't able to cure the Sens of their Leafs woes. A risk was taken, and it was a terrible failure.
1999: Lost CQF to Buffalo
  • Ted Donato (03/20/1999): Did nothing in the playoffs, but cost nothing, and was turned around to bring in Patrick Lalime the following June.
  • Nelson Emerson (03/23/1999): Scored four points in the four-game series loss to Buffalo, so he wasn't a bad pickup.
  • Bill Berg (11/27/1998): Not really a deadline-deal, he was traded for Stan Neckar and scored 4 points in 44 regular-season games. The epitome of a disappointment.
1998: Won CQF over New Jersey, Lost CSF to Buffalo.
  • Vaclav Prospal (01/17/1998): Acquired for Alex Daigle in a pretty good deal for the Sens. He didn't do anything in the playoffs that year (and very little in future years), but he played a few more years and scored 111 points in 213 games for the Sens.
  • Pat Falloon (01/17/1998): Also brought over in the Daigle trade, Falloon did nothing and was gone at the end of the season.
  • Per Gustafsson (03/17/1998): Cost an eighth-round pick, played nine games, then was gone. Inconsequential.
That's all I can think of. Let me know if I forgot any, and I'll update. The bottom line is this: Ottawa has rarely, if ever, made a trade at the trade deadline that has made a difference in the upcoming playoff run. If Bryan Murray can do so this year, awesome. I have a feeling some move has to be made, though, because this Senators team is similar to (or slightly worse) than last year's on paper, while chief opponents such as the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings appear to have gotten better.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Rumour Mill: The Hockey News weighs in

Now, it's true that I've given my fair share of criticisms to The Hockey News, but the most recent issue (Vol. 61, No. 18, Feb. 12, 2008) has explored the possibilities of the upcoming trade deadline, and I'm going to go ahead and explore them because they involve Ottawa acquiring Marian Hossa and Darcy Tucker, two players who could be valuable additions to a playoff run.

Let's start with the biggest name: Hossa. THN has Antoine Vermette and Patrick Eaves going to Atlanta in this deal, but I think that might be a pretty high price for someone who will likely only be a rent-a-player due to cap restrictions. Perhaps one of those names in combination with a higher-round draft pick or a key prospect, such as Alexander Nikulin, it's a possibility. The prospect of complementing our already stacked offence (at least when we're not riddled with injury) makes me seriously consider Vermette and Eaves, though. I think Hossa would fit nicely alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, and a second line could include either Vermette or Eaves--whoever isn't involved in the deal--with Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher.

That takes us to the Tucker acquisition. Most Sens fans hate the Mother Tucker, but I've come around a bit. I hate Gary Roberts waaaaay more, although that may have something to do with the Pittsburgh series last year. Going towards the Leafs would be Ilya Zubov, which seems like a reasonable price to pay. Tucker would be a nice complement to a third line with Chris Neil and possibly Dean McAmmond, a speedy line with grit and some offensive upside. The only possible problem is that Tucker has three more years at $3M each, which might be tough for GM Bryan Murray to swallow.

And some of the trades that other teams are rumoured to be taking part in.

The biggest deal of the deadline: Mats Sundin to Vancouver for Ryan Kesler, Alex Edler, and a conditional first-round pick. Which seems like a price the Sens could match, if the interest is there--which it has to be, considering Sundin's value. One of Vermette, Eaves, or Chris Kelly plus Brian Lee and a conditional first-round pick. An established player, a better-than-average defensive prospect, and a first-rounder if we make it to the finals. Plus Kelly is a Toronto native, so there you go. It seems like a high price, and if Sundin is just going to sign back in T.O. afterwards it might be, but if the Sens can talk him into a three-year, $12M deal to play with Alfie--a pipe dream, I know--then it might be worth it.

On defence, there's L.A.'s Rob Blake going to San Jose in exchange for Lukas Kaspar. Kaspar is a decently sized left-wing prospect, but this deal seems like a steal for the Sharks. If the last few games are any indication, the Sens need defensive help. Desperately. While I may be biased, I think Sens LW prospect Nick Foligno is a stronger asset that Kaspar, and could command a pretty penny if the team were to trade him--but I don't want to. Instead, the idea of trading Josh Hennessy and possibly another asset, such as C Igor Mirnov or LW Shawn Weller, the possibility of having a top-four D corps of Anton Volchenkov, Chris Phillips, Andrej Meszaros, and Rob Blake with Joe Corvo and Wade Redden as powerplay specialists makes me drool.

And while goaltending is probably a section of the roster that will stay as it is for this season, one thing seems certain for 2008-09: Either Ray Emery or Martin Gerber will no longer play for the Ottawa Senators. Both parties have requested the starter's position, or to be traded. Which means this team will likely need a backup for next season. And why not pick one up now, in case the injury bug gets to the Sens' crease. Apparently--according to THN, of course--Dan Ellis of the Predators is only worth a second-round pick, and that seems a pretty reasonable price to pay for a solid backup who won't raise a stink if he doesn't get a chance at starting.

But let's be realistic. This article was fun to write, and I hope it was fun to read (and comment on; let us know who you think the Sens need), it's completely speculative. And probably completely unrealistic. But it's better than writing about another Sens loss or another fight in practice.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin