Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sticking to your guns

In an NHL where it seems that every Jeff Finger or Matt Carle can hit it rich with one better-than-mediocre season, Bryan Murray stared down a rising star and said, 'Enough'.

By all accounts, Andre Meszaros priced himself out of the Senators' roster as soon as July 1 hit. While the Senators continually maintained an offer of $2.5-3 million per season at varying lengths of contract, Meszaros also maintained his belief that he was worth in excess of $4 million per season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and their batshit insane non-GM, saw a player they wanted and reportedly went as far as threatening to give Meszaros an offer sheet worth more than $5 million per season. Still, Murray stuck to his guns (likely knowing that the Lightning could not make such an offer without their third-round pick in 2009 - traded to the Penguins for Ryan Malone last season) and did race to give Meszaros the deal he demanded.

Undoubtedly, the Lightning threatened to reacquire their third-round pick and make the offer if Murray did not complete the deal that sent Meszaros to T-Bay. So the decision was given to Murray - a first-, second-, and third-round pick for Meszaros via offer sheet; or, Kuba, Picard and a first-rounder. As drafts are unpredictable, Murray made a safer choice and went with the deal including Kuba - perhaps the puck-moving defenceman that the Sens have been searching for.

Bryan Murray deserves some credit for working out a deal where a holdout seemed possible. He stuck to his guns and sent a clear message to the NHL: There will be no Jeff Fingers on my team.

Analysis from the south-east...

From the yahoo sports Puck Daddy blog, we receive some insight on the trade.
"It took defensemen Filip Kuba and Alexandre Picard, and San Jose's No. 1 pick in 2009, to snag Meszaros, which is a stunning overpayment on several fronts." (bold added)
...and an interesting connection that others have failed to make...

One last thought: If you had to put a beer on it, will Andrej Meszaros or Dan Boyle have more points at the end of this season?
Considering there was a lot of buzz about the Sens acquiring Boyle earlier this summer, this question only becomes more intriguing for Sens fans.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Assessing the Meszaros trade

As Ben reported earlier, has confirmed that the Senators have traded Andrej Meszaros to the Tampa Bay Lightning for defencemen Filip Kuba and Alex Picard as well as a first-round draft pick (originally the San Jose Sharks') for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Does this make the Senators a better team?

The Sens get more defensive depth, including a few more offensive defencemen. Kuba, a nine-year NHL veteran, has 207 points (55G, 152A) in 531 games, plus 13 playoff points in 24 playoff games. He put up similar numbers to Meszaros, but was a -8 while Meszaros was a +5. He may break into the Senators' top-four, but I think it's more likely he'll be playing in the bottom pairing.

Picard is much younger, but has scored a decent 28 points (6G, 22A) in 92 NHL games. He will probably battle with Lawrence Nycholat, Brendan Bell, and Matt Carkner for the Sens' sixth D-spot, unless Christoph Schubert is slated to play defence.

In terms of salary cap, Kuba is on the final year of a contract that will pay him $3M, which is about the amount the Sens were looking to pay Meszaros. As an added benefit, his contract situation will allow Bryan Murray to assess the situations of defensive prospects Brian Lee, Mattias Karlsson, Ben Blood, Tomas Kudelka, and Erik Karlsson for the 2009-10 season. Picard has two years left on an entry-level deal a deal he signed in June (thanks for the correction, Morgan), and is making $750K this season and $850k next year. In essence, if Meszaros signs the $4-5M contract that's been rumoured, the Sens will be saving cap space by acquiring extra defensive depth, which may allow for further defensive help, or another forward.

If I were to choose between a Senators' roster with Meszaros or one with Kuba/Picard on the blue line, I would certainly pick one with Meszaros. But sometimes the salary cap forces your hand. While I'm not unhappy with the trade, I will be happier if the cap space saved is used to hire some more offensive help.

ADDENDUM: I would also like to take a moment in unabashed self-congratulation to point you to my prediction from November 2007 that Meszaros would be gone this off-season.

Meszaros traded(!)

Looks like the pressure that Tampa put on Murray has worked.

Meszaros has been traded for Filip Kuba, Alex Picard, and a 1st round pick.

Kuba, a 31 year-old defender, collected 31 points in 75 games last year.

Now back to the weekend. I've got two fucking jobs.

Excruciatingly Shitty Predictions Network: Redux

Sam Hansen of the Bleacher Report wrote a hilarious article about ESPN's Fantasy Hockey pre-season rankings. Aside from the hilarity, Hansen touches on two Ottawa Senators players which are ranked incredibly low: Martin Gerber ranked 370 overall, and Alex Auld ranked 368 overall.

I'm not going to suggest either Gerber or Auld are elite goalies in the NHL. I do think Gerber will do a lot better than people are predicting, but even if he continues playing as he has in the past two seasons, 370th OVERALL?!?! They suggest Bryan Berard, who doesn't even have a contract right now (although I'm sure he will), will be the 346th best fantasy value. And Brandon Bochenski (remember him? The pre-season wonder?) is 347th. Andrew Raycroft, backup Colorado Avalanche goaltender to Peter Budaj, is ranked 91 overall.

Whatever. I don't even care anymore. It just goes to prove what Sens Army Blog alumnus Kyle said about ESPN: Their name stands for the Excruciatingly Shitty Predictions Network. Hilariously enough, Hansen said something very similar, calling ESPN the "Exceedingly Stupid Prediction Noobs".

The Rumour Mill: More Meszaros offer sheet news

The Andrej Meszaros offer sheet has really picked up steam since yesterday, and has now been reported in the Ottawa Sun by Bruce Garrioch. Garrioch has suggested the team is the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the only thing holding them up is re-acquiring a third-round pick from the Pittsburgh Penguins to complete the compensation package. (There are rumours that Tampa has re-acquired said third-round pick, but don't bet the house on them.)

Craig Custance of The Sporting News has contacted sources and suggested that Atlanta, Phoenix, and Columbus were not suitors for the Meszaros offer sheet.

The other possibility, as Garrioch (and others) have explored, is that Tampa Bay--or whatever team is involved--is using the offer sheet to force Bryan Murray to trade Meszaros, or face losing him to an offer sheet. I'm not sure what team will put together a better package than a first-, second-, and third-round pick, but I suppose immediate help in the form of a decent defenceman could do the trick.

I suppose we'll have to see. Although only Murray can decide whether or not to match the offer sheet, most fans and bloggers are suggesting there's no way he'll do so. Which means Murray will once again have to use his creativity to solve the Senators' shallow defence, because I don't think Lawrence Nycholat, Brian Lee, and Brendan Bell are the puck-moving defencemen this team needs.

EDIT: A bit of clarification from Adam Proteau, who initially broke the Meszaros offer-sheet rumours, suggests that Pens GM Ray Shero is not interested in trading the Lightning's third-round draft pick if it means he's supporting an RFA offer sheet, and Murray is not interested in talking trade for Meszaros. If those two rumours are facts, Tampa Bay is not going to be able to acquire Meszaros directly.

An interesting backstory is that Shero, who must have been scared of RFA offer sheets for many of his young prospects, is working against one happening (a bit of solidarity). Or that some GMs are looking at the aggressive nature of the T-Bay management situation, and aren't liking what they're seeing so they're not playing along. The Meszaros Saga couldn't have been scripted to have more drama.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Rumour Mill: Meszaros signs an offer sheet

According to a report on The Hockey News' website, Andrej Meszaros has been inked to an offer sheet with an unknown team for an amount in the area of $5M per season. From the THN report:
"Hours after Ottawa GM Bryan Murray held a news conference to announce the team was at a contractual impasse with restricted free agent defenseman Andrej Meszaros, The Hockey News has learned from an NHL source that Meszaros has agreed to a multi-year offer sheet with an average salary in excess of $5 million per season."
Murray has denied the report.

I remember hearing that the period for tendering offer sheets had passed, but I could be wrong on this. Or this could be an offer sheet that Meszaros still had on the table. Or it could be the offer from the KHL team we've heard about. Whatever it is, $5M per year is an amount I doubt Murray will sign. Although the compensation--a first-, second-, and third-round draft pick--will be nice a few years from now, they won't help the 2008-09 team.

I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this in the coming days.

Schubert's off-season

Christoph Schubert was interviewed by a German newspaper... umm... (?) about how his off-season is going, and what his expectations are for the coming season. You can read the interview in full, in German, on the website, but here's some highlights courtesy of Simon, an intermediate German speaker. The quotes are paraphrased:

  • On his salary: "For me, $900,000 is a good pay. Of course, everyone looks after their own money, but for now, I'm happy. I still have two years on this contract, we'll see what happens next time."

  • On playing forward and defence: "Yeah, it's alright. But now, I have a chance to play full-time on defence. That's what I always wanted. I said to the GM 'Please, make me happy and make me play defence more often', and he said 'Ok, you're right.'"

  • On his goal for this season: "Stay on defence the whole year. And show that I can be reliable there."

  • On the Stanley Cup: "It's obviously coming to Munich, if we win it. Every player gets 24 hours with it."

Schubert's earned a spot on defence, but he's so effective as a forward. I'll be happy wherever he plays, and he's a bargain at $900k for two more years.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sens rookie camp in Kitchener!

The Sens official website announced an upcoming rookie tournament hosted by the Florida Panthers in Kitchener, featuring the Sens, Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Toronto Maple Leafs rookie squads. These are usually pretty fun, so anyone going to Kitchener should certainly check them out. All games are at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, and here's the Sens' schedule:

  1. Saturday, Sept. 13: Florida vs. Ottawa at 2 p.m.
  2. Sunday, Sept. 14: Toronto vs. Ottawa at 6 p.m.
  3. Monday, Sept. 15: Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh at 2 p.m.

While the whole roster has not yet been set, the Sens squad will feature Brian Elliott, Alexander Nikulin, Jim O'Brien, Jesse Winchester, and Ilya Zubov. While I don't think I'll be taking a road trip to Kitchener, I might check out one of the practices before they go:

  1. Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 2 p.m., Bell Sensplex
  2. Thursday, Sept. 11, 9 a.m., Scotiabank Place
  3. Friday, Sept. 12, 9 a.m., Scotiabank Place

Is there room for Richardson?

As everyone and their dog seems to be writing about, Luke Richardson wants to play another season in the NHL. And he wants it to be with the Ottawa Senators. But is there room on the Sens roster?

The Sens already have defencemen Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov, Jason Smith, Brian Lee, and Lawrence Nycholat under contract, plus Christoph Schubert as a natural defenceman who's been playing forward, and Andrej Meszaros as an unsigned restricted free agent. And Matt Carkner and Brendan Bell should be battling for NHL gigs, if their chances aren't great. Even if Richardson was given a contract, he'd probably be a little ways down on the depth chart--just like he was entering last season.

And just like last season, he'd really have to work hard to get a spot in the top-six, or even as a seventh defenceman. His play last season was certainly better than I'd expected, and there were some good times; a couple great fights, and the one goal he scored on his father's birthday, to name a few that stand out. But the season did take its toll on the now 39-year-old, and he was displaced by Lee when the playoffs rolled around. One big question is whether or not he'll be able to last the whole season.

Another big question is whether he's the type of defenceman we need. With Volchenkov, Phillips, Smith, and possibly Schubert or Carkner, we've got our share of stay-at-home, defensive defencemen. Is Richardson the type of player needed to round out the d-corps?

The answers will likely come in training camp. Richardson will show up, and he'll probably turn a few heads and bruise a few bodies. If he proves he can make it into the top-six, then good for him, and too bad for Bell and Nycholat. I wasn't disappointed by his play last season, and I won't be if he's on the team this season, either.

Sens not that bad: USA Today

Kevin Allen of USA Today (that bastion of sports journalism) came out with his personal ranking of the top 16 teams in the NHL. And the Ottawa Senators not only made the list, but they were 11th on it. Here's what Allen said about the Sens:

"11. Ottawa Senators: I don’t like their goaltending, but I still like their offense. Who’s betting that Martin Gerber doesn’t finish the season as the team’s No. 1 goalie?"

Unnecessary criticism of Gerber aside, Allen gives the Sens credit where credit is due. The ranking has the Sens as the sixth Eastern Conference team, after Montreal (2), Pittsburgh (3), New Jersey (7), Washington (8), and the New York Rangers (10). I'm not going to criticize his rankings, but feel free to do so in the comments section.

I want the season to begin so the Sens can start winning games and people can start saying, "What? Where did they come from?"

Monday, August 25, 2008

Battle of the Blogs on The NHL Arena forum

It was brought to my attention by FrankD, a great blog-friend who writes for PensBurgh, that Sens Army Blog is going head-to-head with his PensBurgh on the Battle of the Blogosphere over on the NHL Arena forums.

Now, I'm certainly not advocating a flood of Sens fans head to The NHL Arena to make their presence felt, but I'm certain that the Battle of the Blogosphere will be a great place to find some tremendous NHL blogs, and to discuss them.

And if nothing else, you'll kill some time looking at hockey information while waiting for the season to begin.

Sens new marketing slogan makes debut

Just spotted it on, the Ottawa Senators marketing slogan for the 2008-09 year is...

"A force united"

Man, they are really pushing this military theme to extremes. Last year, the slogan was "One Mission".

Slogans from past years include:

"Be Red"
"One Team. One Goal"
"Our Team. Our Town. Our Time."

I think next year, they'll go with "Victory by 2012".

(Update: Just saw it on - image at right)

Never ask, "Is there a game tonight?" ever again

(Gold is the Sens' schedule in November 2008, red is the Raptors - no overlap; perfect!)

I must admit that Google Calendar runs my life. If their server ever crashed, I would forget: to pay bills; to visit my parents; what to do at work; my name.

No lie: I have nine categories of my life being scheduled and tracked through my Gcal. Some are frivolous: "Heroes Premiere!" (Sept. 22 2008) and others are more serious "Exam!" (April. 15 2008).

One of those categories is "Ottawa Senators 2008-09 schedule". It's going to ensure I don't miss a Sens game all season - and I didn't even enter the dates.

Just google the above calendar in your Gcal search bar (search public calendars, then add calendar), and you'll be the one answer the headline question for uninformed chumps.

(Tip! Look for calendars that contain what station the game is on too. That makes the calendar much more useful.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

ESPN makes point-predictions

Via Kukla's Korner, ESPN made some point-predictions for fantasy general managers in the upcoming NHL season. They only rated fifteen players, and Dany Heatley was the sole representative of the Senators on the list.

Take the following with a grain of salt--they do predict Jose Theodore to win 36 games with the Washington Capitals--but they predict 47 goals and 49 assists for Heatley. I'm hoping he hits the 50-goal plateau, even if it's a difference in three otherwise-meaningless empty-net goals. Here's what ESPN gives as Heater's 2009 outlook:
2009 Outlook: Heatley is what Heatley is: 50 goals, 50 assists and a boon to shots on goal and power-play goals. Injury kept him from reaching that 50-50 threshold last season, but it’s not like he is a threat to miss time more than any other NHL player. The one possible knock on Heatley this season is the fact that his days of being a plus-30 player with Ottawa might be numbered, considering the Senators goaltending and defensive situation. A return to the negative rating he had in Atlanta would certainly pull down on his fantasy value.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Which prospect has the best chance of making the cut?

Going into training camp this season, the Sens have a number of promising prospects who should get a good shot at making the NHL. It's largely assumed that those prospects who finished the 2007-08 season with the Sens--including Brian Lee, Cody Bass, and Nick Foligno--will start the 2008-09 season.

Despite these newcomers filling a few full-time roster spots, there still could be another opening--whether full-time or part-time--at forward for another young prospect. It's possible Josh Hennessy could get a look, but in my opinion his recently-declining performance in the AHL (63 points in 2005-06, then 57 points in 2006-07, then 51 in 2007-08) means his potential isn't as high as some others. The race, then, will likely come down to one of Jesse Winchester, Ilya Zubov, Alexander Nikulin, James O'Brien, or Peter Regin to be among the Sens' 13 forwards. I've ordered the prospects from most likely to least likely, in my opinion, but there's a diversity of factors on any side of the debate.

  1. Jesse Winchester: After finishing his four-year career at Colgate University, Ottawa won the bidding war to attract Winch into a contract. He only played one game last season, but GM Bryan Murray was satisfied enough with his scouting report to sign Winchester to a two-year, one-way contract. Although the unidirectional nature of that contract gives him a pretty good chance of making the team, I think Murray signed him for one reason: a big player who can make plays, but isn't afraid to work for the puck. Although the Sens have no shortage of gritty forwards this season, most of them are--how should I put this--offensively challenged. If Winchester can play alongside Mike Fisher, and complement his grind-style to produce some offence, the Sens may have some secondary scoring based on a totally different offensive style than the CASH Line's primary scoring.

  2. Ilya Zubov: Zubov played one game last season for the Senators, and he didn't look too badly out of place. His first year in North American pro did alright, and he scored 38 points for the B-Sens in 74 games. Although he's got some speed, Zubov definitely has some work to do in terms of upper-body strength, according to an scouting report. According to Hockey's Future, he's the Sens' third highest-ranked prospect, after only Foligno and Lee. He'll get a shot, but he's really going to have to earn any time he gets in the NHL this season.

  3. Alexander Nikulin: SputNik is already a fan-favourite in many circles, despite the fact that he's only played two NHL games. His blog (which you can read translated on HFBoards) is quite popular, and Nikulin's openness is respected. His play, too, is respectable; Nikulin's got good vision and at least some level of defensive responsibility, so he could very well see some NHL time later on. He was visibly nervous in his first two NHL games, though, and will likely need more seasoning in the AHL before becoming a full-time NHLer.

  4. James O'Brien: O'Brien played a year of college hockey for the University of Minnesota, but left after that year to play pro hockey full-time in the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds. The fact that he's never played pro hockey might be a deterrent, but he's apparently got the potential to be a second-line power-forward, according to Hockey's Future's scouting report on the 2007 first-round draft choice.

  5. Peter Regin: A relative unknown who's quickly climbing the ranks of the Sens' prospects, Regin jumped from 14 to 9 on Hockey's Future's prospect rankings for the Sens. He's got a small chance of playing for the Senators, but some time with Binghamton will certainly help Regin's development as he gets used to the professional game in North America.

It would be great if one of the Sens' blue-chip prospects could step in and produce offensively right away--that would solve our secondary scoring problems pretty quickly. Unfortunately, that's highly unlikely, and all five of these players will probably be project-players who will take at least a season, or a few of them, to become bona fide NHL point-producers.

TSN evaluates trade values

Scott Cullen on evaluated the trade values of all NHL players, and ranked them from 50 to 1 (you can read 50 to 26 here, and 25 to 1 here). To no surprise, there were three Senators on the list: Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley.

What was surprising was that Alfredsson, much cheaper than the other two, was ranked 44th in the league, despite scoring 179 points over the last three seasons. Cullen must have ranked age as a pretty important factor in his decisions. Spezza was 22 on the list, thanks to his high point totals and the fact that his contract runs until 2015. Heatley is the highest-ranked Senator, at number 11. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The original Senators: The hockey cards

Longtime Sens fans or followers will likely remember the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators, no matter how much they try to forget about them. Over the course of the 84-game season, the Senators won only ten games, losing 70 and tying another four. The records that the Sens set for that year include fewest road wins in a season (one game), longest home losing streak (11 games), and longest road losing streak (38 games).

But, with some recent successes in mind, I feel that it's safe to look back on some of those memories in fond, humble self-deprecation. So here is the final instalment of The Hockey Cards mini-series (at least for the foreseeable future) with what I believe were the first cards issued of the modern-day Ottawa Senators' franchise.

Oh, the classics. Remember Jamie Baker (bottom, middle) and Sylvain Turgeon (top left), who finished second and third, respectively, in team scoring that season? It was the first and only time a defenceman (Norm McIver) led the Sens in scoring.

Then there's Rob Murphy (top middle), who had scored ten points in his career before coming to the Senators, and doubled that career-total in Ottawa. After his year in Ottawa, he played eight more games in the NHL, struggled in the IHL, and went to Germany for a bunch of years after that. Memories...

Also pictured are Brad Shaw (top right) and Darren Rumble (bottom left), but the most memorable of them all is the Polish-born goaltending phenom Peter (or "Piotr") Sidorkiewicz. Selected with the Sens' first-overall pick in the 1992 Expansion Draft, Sidorkiewick played 64 games for the Senators in 1992-93, and won eight of them. He sits seventh all-time in games-played among goaltenders, and eleventh in career wins.

How far we've come.

We post during the hockey season too, you know

Due to Peter's incredible ability to find things to blog about despite absolutely nothing happening in Ottawa Senators land, we've been getting linked-to quite a bit recently. Thanks fellow bloggers!

To any first-time visitors, welcome to the Sens Army Blog. No paranoid speculation, no (supposed) inside sources, just news and opinions from two committed members of the Sens Army -- incredibly, now entering our third season of blogging.

Don't forget to bookmark our site (socially or locally) or add it to your RSS reader. All the links are conveniently located in the left-hand bar.

Now back to our regularly scheduled, on-going debate, "Will the guilt of his contract eventually drive Martin Gerber to insanity?"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Senators' prospect rundown

Anyone who hasn't seen the Sens website recently should head over to check out a listing of the Sens' top prospects. It's got the comments of assistant GM Tim Murray on the likes of Ilya Zubov, Jim O'Brien, Alexander Nikulin, Josh Hennessy, Peter Regin, Kaspars Daugavins, Brian Lee, Tomas Kudelka, and Brian Elliott.

Obviously, the story is written on behalf of the Senators so author John McGourty certainly has his rose-coloured glasses on, but it still makes for interesting reading. What interest me most is Nikulin, who, according to the story, is more defensive than I'd given him credit for. He sounds like, if there weren't a log-jam at centre, he could make a solid third-line centreman in the NHL. From the story:
Nikulin was regarded as the fourth-best Russian in his draft year (2004) behind Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. He is a well-built 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, but is not a physical player. He is, however, an excellent defensive centre with great awareness and top-notch passing skills. He has a great understanding of the game and skates well but needed last season in the AHL.
The other pleasant surprise is about Lee; he looks so young that I had no idea he was 6'2" and 205 pounds. He's almost identical to Wade Redden in that sense, and hopefully he can replicate Redden's early success with the Senators (without tailing off after a dozen or so years in the NHL).

Interesting read for those of us thirsting for Sens action to start up.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Is Gerber good enough?

This city has it's fair share of Martin Gerber doubters, from my own Sens Army comrade Ben to Jeremy Milks from Black Aces and James Gordon from the Ottawa Citizen's Hockey Capital blog. The reason for this doubt is simple: Every season where Gerber has been pegged as a starter, he's either lost the job to a younger goaltender (though not always by his own fault, like in 2005-06 when he had the flu) or played so inconsistently that he should have lost his starting job, if his backup (which was Ray Emery last season) had been able to play remotely well.

Adding to the doubt is the reputation of incoming Alex Auld. Even if he may not have the skills to be a starter, his composure, size, and consistency are assets that Sens fans have been thirsting for in a goaltender.

Which begs the question: Why do I think that Martin Gerber will answer his critics with his best regular-season and post-season as an Ottawa Senator? It might be blind, hopeful optimism, or it might be that my reasons will actually hold water. Allow me to explain...

Gerber had an absolutely terrible 2006-07. I will be the first to admit, and I'm sure the man himself would be a close second. But, despite what people have been saying about him, in 2007-08 he showed a lot of improvement. His rebound control was lacking at the beginning, but the defence were able to collapse around him and clear the loose pucks. With such a defensive-minded d-corps this season--featuring Anton Volchenkov, Chris Phillips, Jason Smith, and likely Christoph Schubert--that shouldn't change much. It might be harder to get pucks out of the zone, but there's not much chance of the other team scoring when the puck is in the corner or behind the goal line. Positioning has traditionally been his strongest asset, and that was the case last season.

The playoffs last season were a disaster, as well. Gerber, along with Nick Foligno, Cody Bass, and Shean Donovan, was one of few players who actually demonstrated some interest in putting forward a full effort, and that did show in his .912 save percentage--despite a 4-0 record. With some offensive output surrounding him (more than 5 goals in 4 games) and he might get some wins.

Although Auld will push Gerber for the starting position, I think that will be good for both of them--and for the team. Auld is going in with the knowledge that he'll play second-string, and experience in that role. He is more than capable of playing 20-30 games a season, and that leaves about the perfect number for Gerber to play.
Finally, The Gerber has a lot to prove. After appearing to be one of the league's best goaltenders, he's fallen off the radar and most pundits don't even have him in the top 30 anymore. Fair or not, that's the truth. And, with this a contract season, he's going to have to show that he's got what it takes to be a starter in the NHL if he wants more money.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Daniel Alfredsson: The Hockey Card

The golden god himself, my Daniel Alfredsson collection is next. Although I don't have that many game-used memorabilia cards (and those I do have are pretty boring), I've got a whack of rookie cards and some nice-looking base cards, too. (Just a note: If these posts are ridiculously boring and just waste your time as a reader, let me know and I'll give it a rest.)

First up are the rookie cards. I've put all six of them in the same photo, with time and computer's screen resolution in mind. My favourite is the top-left, and not just because he's wearing the Sens best-ever jersey style and the classic Jofa golf-ball bucket; I pulled a special Calder Trophy 'Award Predictor' card from a pack of 1995-96 O-Pee-Chee Collector's Choice (I think) with Alfredsson on it. When he won, I sent it in and received the set of Calder front-runners (and also the Norris ones, for some reason). The others are pretty basic rookie cards.

And below are just some base cards of Alfredsson, notable just because they're pretty nice. How did Upper Deck know that Alfie was a captain of tomorrow so early in his career, as they predicted in the left-most card? In the middle is his All-Star Game debut, and at the right is just a nice-looking Classic Portraits card.

Finally, the four game-used jersey cards I have for Alfie. The one at top right is a double-sided jersey card, with (regrettably, if also nostalgically) Patrick Lalime game-used swatch on the other side. The others are unspectacular because they're not patches, they're not short-printed, and they have extremely small jersey swatches. But you've got to fill out your collection somehow.

And that's my Alfredsson collection, aside from likely dozens of base cards that I've got. Including a bunch of doubles. In fact, if any interested readers would like to make a donation via PayPal to, I'll send out a few really nice Alfredsson base cards. All reasonable donations (in the dollars) will be rewarded with at least five cards (while supplies last), with all proceeds going towards buying Ben and me business cards so we can try and get media accreditation for Sens games. It's that easy, isn't it?

Friday, August 15, 2008

How EA's NHL 09 rates the Senators

Via Kukla's Korner, and filed under inane time-filling, is EA Sports' player-rankings for the upcoming NHL 09. Check it out yourself, if you're interested, but here are some interesting facts I noticed about the Sens' rankings:
  • Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley all have offensive awareness rankings of 95. Meaning the line has a combined ranking of 285.
  • Heatley has a checking rating of 85. Mike Fisher has a hitting rating of 81. I guess they want it to be fun to play as Heatley, because he's miles behind Fisher in hitting.
  • Heatley has a slapshot accuracy of 95, so just set him up for one-timers and you'll win every single game--especially with Spezza's passing accuracy rating of 95.
  • Randy Robitaille is still on the Sens' roster. What? And he's higher than Dean McAmmond in checking; I don't think Ropes threw one hit all season. And he's apparently the Sens' second-best faceoff man, after Antoine Vermette.
  • Jason Smith is rated 97 at shot blocking, and Anton Volchenkov is rated 94. If that holds true to the real NHL, Martin Gerber will face roughly 12 shots a night, and the two defencemen (combined) will be among league-leaders in save percentage.
  • Vermette is the Sens' fastest skater, with a speed rating of 92.
  • Newcomer Jarkko Ruutu appears as advertised: Checking 87, Aggression 90, and Discipline 61.
  • McAmmond will, apparently, be the NHL '09 equivalent of the 'Skinny Player' in Ice Hockey from the original NES system. He's got a speed rating of 89, but his balance is a hilariously low 65.
  • Martin Lapointe and Luke Richardson are both apparently also back on the Senators' roster. Nowhere to be found are Jesse Winchester (who might be excusable), Cody Bass, or Brian Lee.
  • The biggest knocks on Gerber last year had nothing to do with positioning (which is rated 80), but were his recoverability (rated 80 as well) and his rebound control (rated 82). I guess they're basing his stats on other seasons...
That's all notables I see at the moment. Post any other hilarity you might notice in the comments.

Sens Army Blog presents: The Elmira Jackals

After the announcement of the Ottawa Senators' (and, by association, the Binghamton Senators') affiliation with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL, I figured I'd look into the history of the team to give members of Sens Army an introduction.

Undoubtedly, this is a move to help GM Bryan Murray and assistant GM Tim Murray continue to build up the team's North American depth. With the B-Sens and the Jackals, there are now two levels of development within the Senators organization for recent draft picks--North American or Europeans--to get used to pro hockey. And Elmira is only a little more than an hour away from Binghamton, so when the B-Sens need a call-up they should be in pretty good shape.

You can read a bit about team history on their Wikipedia page, which is pretty well done. The team made the playoffs for the first time in four years last season, but--just like the Senators--got eliminated in the first round.

The Jackals roster is still taking shape, but the team's first three signings for 2008-09 were made last week. Centre Benoit Doucet, right wing Pierre-Luc Faubert, and defenseman Brandon Roach are the first members of the Senators-era Jackals, and undoubtedly some of the Sens' prospects will find their way onto the Elmira roster. As a rookie last season, Doucet led the team in goals (31), assists (52), and points (83) in 2007-08, and he was fifth in league scoring. Keeping him on the roster must have been a priority. Faubert was second on the team in scoring, and Roach--an Acadia University alumnus--scored 34 points with the Florida Everblades (BWAHAHAHA!) last season.

Even though the affiliation wasn't official, a few Senators prospects played for the Jackals last season, including the likes of Shawn Weller (2004, 77 overall), Jim McKenzie (2004, 141 overall), Tomas Kudelka (2005, 136 overall), Scott May, and Tyler Donati. The latter two (May and Donati) played with Bingo and were loaned to Elmira.

That's probably more than you need to know about the Sens' AA affiliate. But now you know it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Antoine Vermette: The Hockey Card

Kind of random, but I happened to begin my "The Hockey Card" series with the Senators' two AVs, first Anton Volchenkov and now Antoine Vermette. Strange indeed. Here are a few game-used memorabilia cards of Vermette, starting with a rather unspectacular Bowman 'Premier Performance' jersey card.

The two cards below are a little more exciting. Especially the one on the left, which is a short-printed (092/245) two-colour patch variant of the card, meaning that it's got a piece of the Senators' crest (either chest or shoulder crests) rather than a straight-forward jersey swatch (as the right one, short-printed 068/650, has).

That's my Vermette collection. Soon to come: Daniel Alfredsson? Christoph Schubert? One of the two, anyway.

EDIT: Found a couple rookie cards I'd forgotten about. Might as well throw them on here, too. (I also added some RCs to the Anton Volchenkov post from a few days back.)

Sens sign centre Smith

The Sens signed 2008 draft pick Zack Smith to a three-year entry-level deal, according to a press release from the team (read it here).

I think it's a foregone conclusion that he won't be making the Senators, but he's probably got a good chance of playing for the B-Sens after getting some AHL experience with the Manitoba Moose last season. Including Smith, the Sens have the following (natural) centremen on the roster:

  1. Jason Spezza
  2. Mike Fisher
  3. Antoine Vermette
  4. Chris Kelly
  5. Dean McAmmond
  6. Cody Bass
  7. Josh Hennessy
  8. Justin Mapletoft
  9. Ilya Zubov
  10. Scott May
  11. Alexander Nikulin
  12. Peter Regin
  13. James O'Brien
  14. Zack Smith
  15. Igor Mirnov
  16. Louie Caporusso
  17. Matthew McIlvane
  18. Colin Greening

So... yeah. A lot of guys will be playing the wing instead, and a few guys might get bumped.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Sens in the THN 2008-09 Yearbook

I just received my copy of The Hockey News' 2008-09 Yearbook. Naturally, the cover (of our Ontario edition, anyway) is blue and white, with a giant Leafs photo and a huge feature on whether or not Vesa Toskala has what it takes to carry the Leafs on his back. Really small in the corner, though, is a photo of Dany Heatley advertising a feature on the Sens' spontaneous combustion last year, and whether or not the internal leadership has what it takes to restore the team to its rightful place atop the Eastern Conference.

As a matter of fact, I'm pretty pleased with the Senators content in this year's yearbook, and the story is a good read for fans--probably even worth the cover price. The Sens' first appearance is in the annual Top 50 ranking, which features Dany Heatley (10), Daniel Alfredsson (12), and Jason Spezza (34). Other than Detroit (who have three in the top 6) Anaheim (who have four in the top 30), and Pittsburgh, Ottawa is the only team with three players in the top 34. The most interesting commentary is about Spezza, reminding him that while he's proven as a regular-season performer, he's got to make sure the scoring keeps up in the playoffs.

Then there's what we've all been waiting for, the Sens' feature. It touches on a lot of factors that people--including myself--assumed to allow for the Sens' fall from grace, including overplaying the Sens big three and distractions or a lack of leadership in the locker room. The story, by Ken Campbell, seeks to answer what the hell happened, and whether or not Bryan Murray and Craig Hartsburg will be able to fix the problems for this upcoming season. It raises, but fails to answer, whether or not Heatley and Spezza can be leaders on the team, and whether Martin Gerber can answer the critics and play well in nets. It's still a solid read (and no, I'm not getting any kickbacks from THN. I'll even say you should borrow it from a friend, if you don't believe me.).

And I won't ruin the speculations that the THN panel made, except to say this: Ottawa is predicted to make a playoff spot for the eleventh straight season.

The Rumour Mill: If Meszaros holds out...

The Senators' defence looks pretty solid with two of the best shot-blockers in the league in Jason Smith and Anton Volchenkov, and adding to that the ever-reliable Chris Phillips and the physically impressive--if defensively unproven--Christoph Schubert and you might have the best top-four defensive defencemen in the league. When looking for offence from the defence, though, Sens coach Craig Hartsburg will have to look pretty hard.

As it stands right now--without Andrej Meszaros under contract--the Sens' fifth- and sixth-defencemen are Brian Lee and Lawrence Nycholat. Neither has played a full season in the NHL and, although we can be optimistic, it would be unfair to expect miracles from either of them. Lee seems to have more upside than Nycholat, who might be destined for a career in the AHL if he doesn't get his chance soon. We've had a guest column on Mattias Karlsson, so he'll get a shot in training camp, but time will tell on that front. I don't think GM Bryan Murray will sit around for too long if Meszaros does end up holding out, though; I'm sure he's got a plan B somewhere in the war room.

Meszaros has, apparently, been given one final offer from the Senators for a contract for next season (and perhaps longer). If he chooses not to take it, Murray appears to be ready to let him sit out. Which might push Meszaros into that KHL contract that he's rumoured to have on the table, or some similar measure.

Some names have been thrown around. Perhaps the most available player is Bryan McCabe, also known as Bryan McKlutz, currently of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He's got a lot of offensive potential, and he'd look pretty good on the Sens' powerplay. But he's also got three years left on a contract with a no-trade clause that would set him up to be the Sens' third-highest paid player, after Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. And, although McCabe's production fell to 23 points (in 54 games) last year, he'd averaged almost 60 points over the previous three seasons.

Another player who might be available is Mathieu Schneider of the Anaheim Ducks. They've got six other capable NHL defencemen, and need to make some room under the cap. (Speaking opf Anaheim, I just noticed something: They've only got EIGHT players signed into 2009-10, and 14 of their players will be unrestricted after this year. Brian Burke will be busy!) He's only got two years left on his contract, and a cap hit of $5.65M per year, but he's already 39 years old. But he has average 0.7 points per game over the last three seasons, but at some point his age will have to catch up to him.

Chicago is in a position similar to Anaheim: lots of defencemen, and looking to shave salary to get under the salary cap. Earlier in the year, names like Brent Seabrook and Cam Barker were thrown around in trade rumours, and in my opinion either one would be a solid acquisition despite their youth. Seabrook is by far the more experienced, having played three seasons so far and averaging almost 30 points in each one for what has been a pretty bad Chicago squad, but anyone who watched the Sens-Hawks game last year should remember how good Barker looked defensively.

I'm not sure who else is available in the category of half-decent offensive defencemen. Jay Bouwmeester is a steal on his current deal, and even though Florida will more than likely lose him after this season, they could probably get more for him at the trade deadline than right now. Calgary is over the cap and they've got seven proven NHL defencemen, and Adrian Aucoin would be nice (one year left on a $4M contract, scored 35 points last year, solid leader), but all the more reason for them to hold on to him.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Anton Volchenkov: The Hockey Card

Hey, I've got a collection of hockey cards. They're gathering dust on a shelf in my computer room. There are a lot of Senators in this collection. So why not scan them, publish them, and offer some comments on each of them? I can see no reason why not. So, without further adieu, here is a collection of Anton Volchenkov rookie cards, each featuring its very own authentic piece of game-worn equipment.

First up is a commemorative card from Volchinator's performance in the 2003 NHL YoungStars game, with a black jersey swatch of the sweater he wore in the game. Look at his fresh-faced smile, so young and unmarked by Evgeni Malkin slapshots.

Speaking of the YoungStars Game, I've also got a double-stuff card, featuring a white swatch of Volchie's jersey and a piece of his yellow Easton graphite stick, short-printed number 05/25. Definitely one of the highlights of my collection.

And then there's the 2002-03 UD 'Shooting Stars' insert set, featuring Volchenstein and a two-colour swatch of his jersey. The series name is a bit of a misnomer; he's more of a Shot-Blocking Star than a shooting star, really.

This card's not really special, the 2002-03 UD Honor Roll Dean's List jersey card, except for the fact that it's part of a set which I'm trying to collect in its entirety (including a Gordie Howe signature card of which, rumour has it, only nine exist). I've currently got 83% of the set, with the missing cards being the most expensive ones.

Finally, a couple of early-career Upper Deck Rookie Inspirations comparisons. These are two of a three-card mini-set, comparing Anton to both Ed Jovanovski and also to Scott Stevens. (The third card, which I don't have, has Volchenkov compare to Rob Blake).

And that brings me to the end of my Anton Volchenkov rookie card collection. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as (or more than) I enjoyed filling time and struggling for content while waiting for training camp to begin.

EDIT: Found a couple of rookie cards to throw in with these game-used memorabilia cards. The top one's pretty cool, not your standard rectangular card, but it's die-cut around the Crown Royale lions.

Spezza scores 100 and other predictions for 2008-09

I have compiled a series of predictions for the Senators upcoming year. I'm talking about the events, personalities, and a couple of stats that will shape the team's season.

1. Jarko Rutuu will become the Senators' heroic anti-hero.

It's no secret that the Sens have been looking to acquire a gritty pest, ala Gary Roberts, for several years now. I think that blogs and other media will come to adore Rutuu for bringing some, not just toughness, but jackassery to the team. You heard me - Jackassery: the quality of being an on-ice jackass. Doing stupid shit (hopefully not Darcy Tucker "attack the opposing team's bench" stupid) for no reason and pissing everyone off.

2. Alex Auld is #1 goaltender for at least one 20-game stretch

Martin Gerber is known for his shaky confidence, and has relied on his "backup" for stretches in all previous years with the Sens - this year will be no different.

3. Jason Spezza has first 100-point season

Some people may not believe it, but Spezza is the fulcrum of the Senators' offence, despite his defensive failings. With 92 points in 76 games last year, there is no doubt he has the talent. With his icetime better managed, injuries can be prevented and 100 points can be achieved.

4. Daniel Alfredsson realizes he's old

Though he is a golden God, Alfie is now 35 years old. We may not realize it, but it is freaking incredible that he's been so productive.

Of the NHL's top 25 point scorers last year, only 5 are 30 or older... and Alfredsson was 9th in the league. Of the over-30 group, only Jerome Iginla (31) and Pavel Datsyuk (30) had more points. In the 35-or-older group, the only Alfredsson and Mats Sundin (37) (who ranked #22) are on the top 25.

So maybe we should begin to change our expectations of the Sens captain. More leadership, less point-scoring. He's not a kid anymore.

5. Heatley doesn't get 50

It's the same thing as last year. No secondary scoring threats, the opposing team can crack down on Spezza and Heatley. You know what that means - 42 goals or so for Heater.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sens re-sign AHLer Geoff Waugh

Who is Geoff Waugh? I don't really know. Apparently he played 71 games for the B-Sens last year, and must have been a bit of an enforcer; he only had six points, but complemented them with 139 penalty minutes, according to the Sens' official press release.

This is, without a doubt, a depth signing. Although it's a two-way deal, I seriously doubt Waugh will get a real chance with Ottawa--especially since he doesn't seem to be much of a puck-moving defenceman.

According to the Bingo website, the B-Sens defensive lineup looks like this (with my relatively uneducated assumptions of where the d-men would be playing), as of today:
  1. Matt Carkner-Tomas Kudelka
  2. Matt Kinch-Greg Amadio
  3. Derek Smith-Geoff Waugh
Any Binghamton fans who know more about the team's depth chart, feel free to post a more accurate version right here. And, although unlikely, it is possible that Brian Lee and/or Larry Nycholat will return to Bingo for a little more seasoning.

EDIT: I forgot to include Brendan Bell, who I'd completely forgotten about. Assuming he doesn't make the Ottawa squad, he should figure in somewhere on the B-Sens top-six.

Sens open NHL pre-season

The NHL released the pre-season schedule today, and the first game of the year will be in Ottawa against the New York Rangers. Here is the complete Sens' pre-season schedule:
  1. Saturday, September 20: NY Rangers at Ottawa, 7 p.m.
  2. Monday, September 22: Ottawa at NY Rangers, 7 p.m.
  3. Wednesday, September 24: Philadelphia at Ottawa, 7 p.m.
  4. Friday, September 26: Ottawa at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
  5. Saturday, September 27: Montreal at Ottawa, 7 p.m.
  6. Thursday, October 2: Ottawa vs. Frolunda, at Gothenburg, Sweden (Scandinavium), 1 p.m.

Seems like a lot of pre-season games, especially with the travelling the Sens will have to do to start the season in Gotheburg. There are a lot of roster decisions to be made, though, so maybe it's a good thing.

Friday, August 8, 2008

So many forwards, so few roster spots

With training camp fast approaching, the time for prognosticating may be upon us. With the exception of Andrej Meszaros and his pesky contract holdout, our roster is probably about where it's going to be when the Sens start the season in Sweden a few weeks from now. So how will the lines work themselves out? It's up to Craig Hartsburg, but my complete distance from decision-making within the franchise has never stopped me from making predictions before!

In looking at the lineup tracker in the sidebar to the left, you will notice 13 forwards, even though only 12 will dress in any given game. And if Christoph Schubert were to continue his career at forward, that would leave two game-night scratches each game--which would be unlikely. And that's not including any of our prospects in Binghamton, such as Alexander Nikulin, Ilya Zubov, Peter Regin, Josh Hennessy, and Kaspars Daugavins.

Last season, Brian McGrattan was often the odd-man out. He was the 13th forward, and the healthy scratch most games. Hartsburg doesn't have that luxury, so he'll have to choose from some of the newer or limited players, in all likelihood.

In my opinion, the healthy scratch--pending injuries--will be one of Chris Neil, Dean McAmmond, Jesse Winchester, or Shean Donovan. There are reasons for each, but here is a listing I've compiled in order from (in my opinion) most likely to least likely to be scratched.
  1. Chris Neil: Neiler certainly seems like a respected member of the team. He's been effective in the past, and hopefully can be effective again. But if he plays as he did last season, I don't see him getting much time. Jarkko Ruutu is a step up in terms of pestiness, and Cody Bass is younger, cheaper, faster, and likely as good at fighting. With a cap hit of $1.1M, Neil might even be expendable through trade, if there's a market for him.
  2. Dean McAmmond: I really hope Deaner isn't the scratch. At least now no one can say I'm a blind fan of M-C-Ammer (I make no effort to hide the fact he may be my favourite Senator). He brings a lot of speed and a good offensive ability to the fourth line, and could certainly add something to the second powerplay unit. He's also a proven penalty killer. That said, he isn't a grinder. I think he'll be held accountable, though, and Hartsburg will like that about him.
  3. Jesse Winchester: Winch has really only made this list because he's an unproven commodity. In my opinion, he's got an offensive upside and has some physical ability, and could look very good on the second line alongside Mike Fisher. I doubt that Bryan Murray signed the kid to a two-year contract with the expectation that he'd ride the pine through those seasons.
  4. Shean Donovan: Arguably the Sens' best player in the playoffs last season, Donovan made up for his struggles under John Paddock with his success under Murray. I think his success will transfer over to Hartsburg, and his penalty killing abilities, like those of McAmmond, should keep him in the lineup.
The other option is to pursue a trade. But I won't go into speculation about trades at this point, it's a discussion for another day. What do you think the Sens will do with their extra NHL forwards? And will Nikulin or Zubov ever get a chance to play in the NHL regularly?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Paddock lands on his feet in Philly

The Philadelphia Flyers hired former Sens head coach John Paddock as head coach of the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms on Thursday. And I say good for Paddock, who took a lot of heat--whether eanred or not--for the Sens' rapid decline last season.

Paddock (whose first name is apparently Alvin) rejoins the Philly organization after playing with then in the late '70s through 1980.

Good luck, Alvin.

The Sens' all-time best lineup

In response to Bleacher Report's Ottawa Senators' blog's all-time Senators' lineup (which included the likes of Randy Cunneyworth and Janne Laukkanen), I've formulated my own all-time Senators' lineup--respecting the players' natural positions. I've gone All-Star Game style, picking the best players with little to no thought of how they would serve as 'fourth-line role players' or 'grinders' or anything; pure skill is measured, with very few exceptions made to intangible assets (like Magnus Arvedson).

Got any comments, criticisms, or recommendations? Let me know in the comments.


1. Dany Heatley-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson
  • 'Nuff said. Best line the Sens have ever had.
2. Shawn McEachern-Alexei Yashin-Marian Hossa
  • Alexei Yashin may not be very popular in Ottawa today, but he was certainly one of the best all-time offensive players the Senators have had. He helped reinvigorate Shawn McEachern's career, which is the biggest reason he made this list. And Marian Hossa is one of the best right wingers in hockey today, cementing his place in Senators' history.
3. Vaclav Prospal-Pavol Demitra-Martin Havlat
  • Injury problems aside, Martin Havlat is a dynamic player, and has the ability to be a game-breaker. He was hampered in Ottawa by virtue of the fact that in front of him on the depth chart were Daniel Alfredsson and Hossa. And even though Vaclav Prospal and Pavol Demitra enjoyed much of their offensive success for other teams, they very well could have done so for the Senators given the opportunities.
4. Magnus Arvedson-Mike Fisher-Peter Bondra
  • It would have been interesting to see this line in action. Again, most of Peter Bondra's success was with another team, but he could very well have produced given more than a half-season with the Sens. Mike Fisher may very well move up on this list, and is certainly higher on a popularity listing. And Arvedson may have been given this spot because he played his heart out, but he also had a great career as a Senator.

Notable forwards: Antoine Vermette (LW), Radek Bonk (C), Mike Comrie (RW), Andreas Dackell (RW), Bob Kudelski (RW).


1. Zdeno Chara-Chris Phillips

  • Incredible shut-down pair. The only defenceman in Senators history who made Chris Phillips look small was Zdeno Chara, and the two were strong when they played together.

2. Steve Duchesne-Wade Redden

  • Offence from the defence. His later years were not as strong, but Wade Redden was the Senators' highest-scoring all-time defenceman. And Steve Duchesne was a huge part of the Senators' early success.

3. Anton Volchenkov-Norm McIver

  • Norm McIver is the only Sens defenceman to lead the team in scoring. And I don't need to outline the many attributes that earned Anton Volchenkov a spot on the all-time roster.

Notable defencemen: Joe Corvo, Sami Salo.


1. Dominik Hasek

  • As irritating as Dominik Hasek's injury problems were, he was the best goaltender ever to play in the Senators' uniform. Had he managed to play the whole season, I can only imagine where the Sens would have gone. And I'm imagining the Stanley Cup.

2. Ron Tugnutt

  • Ron Tugnutt's best years, by far, were with the Senators. In 1998-99, Tugger set an NHL-low 1.78 goals-against average, and he's a nice guy to boot.

Notable goaltenders: Patrick Lalime, Ray Emery, Damian Rhodes.

One-way ticket to jerktown: the holdout


...angry yet? If there's one word that gets Ottawa Senators fans pissed off, look no further than the team's former captain. During his eight years in Ottawa, Alexei Yashin held out three times (including the entire 1999-2000 season) and fans began to hate him for it. Over the course of five years, Yash also demanded a new contract on three occasions. To top off his application for asshole sportsperson of the decade, he donated $1 million to the National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa, but on the condition that half of it be funneled to his parents as consultants. The NAC then rejected the offer.

He was traded in 2001 for Zdeno Chara, Jason Spezza and (which name doesn't belong here...) Bill Muckalt. I think Muckalt sells hot dogs outside the LCBO on Rideau street these days.

Enough of the history lesson, now to the present. Andrej Meszaros is weighing his options after receiving what some have called Bryan Murray's "final" contract offer. After a golden rookie season, Meszaros' play has dropped somewhat in the past two seasons, receiving a C+ for this past season in the Sens Army defence corps evaluation.

He can accept the Sens' offer, take the rumoured lucrative offer from a Russian team, or refuse to play for Ottawa until he gets the contract he wants.

But let me advise you this much Meszy, DO NOT HOLD OUT. If there's one way to piss off fans in Ottawa, it would be to do anything remotely Yashin-esque. Don't even drop a buck in the NAC collections bin. But if you hold out, it will be your one-way ticket the "On Notice" sidebar.

If you want the money, go to Russia. If you want to be hated for the rest of your career in Ottawa, hold out for half the season. Do what Antoine Vermette did: sign a reasonable contract, make nice with management and the city, and just be thankful you're on a team that believes you're work $3 million per year.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More explanation of The Emery Saga

As pointed out over at Black Aces, there is a great article about He Who Must Not Be Named over on ESPN. It delves into his personal issues and his reasons for departure a lot more than the interview on TSN's Off The Record did. Here's an excerpt, but there's a lot more to the article, so I recommend reading the whole thing.

[Ray] Emery, himself, said it's less about being angry than about having too much, too soon, too easily.

"Things have always come easily to me. I want everything and I want it easily," he said.

A year ago, after offseason wrist surgery, things didn't come easily, and Emery said he wasn't prepared to do the work.

"Obviously, I've had bad games. I've had bad days, rough weeks. But [I had] never had a bad year, like, on every level. Nothing went well," Emery said. "I had no fun. I didn't play well. I didn't accept responsibility. I ended up with a failing grade on every level."

Emery said his visiting a therapist wasn't specifically to address anger-management issues, although he's been involved in anger-management programs in the past.

"It was good to talk about things," he said.

In fact, he said, if he'd been angry, he'd have quit. But he didn't.

"I just tried to get back to where I came from. I'm not a rock star. I'm a kid from Hamilton. I'm trying to be a bit more down-to-earth," Emery said.

Sens poised to surpass expectations: The Hockey News

According to blogger Rory Boylen, the Senators' could be one of a few teams poised to surprise a few people this season by performing better than expected. (In my opinion, it can't be too hard to surpass the expectations that have been set after last season, but that's another post.) From Boylen's blog:

They [the Sens] shed the character that was quite often pointed to as the reason for the decline in Ray Emery and a defenseman who many felt had worn out his welcome and usefulness on the Ottawa blueline in Wade Redden. After all that, they still have one of the best lines in the game, a blueline that makes up for a lack of recognizable names with tough, effective shutdown play and a goalie in Martin Gerber who gets no respect, despite having a career full of respectable numbers.

Now, he also picked Florida and Columbus to surpass expectations, but one out of three isn't too bad. Say what you will about pitting the blame on Emery, the fact that Ottawa's for the CASH line intact, a very defensive-minded defence-by-committee, and an influx of grittiness with Jason Smith and Jarkko Ruutu, it's still a solid roster on paper. And I maintain that Gerber is a bona fide starting goaltender in this league, even if Ben and a number of other pundits disagree with me.

Hartsburg's coaching is "suspect": ESPN

A recent article on ESPN examined the head coaches of the NHL, placing them in categories from 'Elite' to 'Unknown'. Craig Hartsburg, recently-named head coach of the Ottawa Senators, was placed in the 'Suspect' category, largely thanks to his failures as a head coach in the past. Here's what ESPN said about him:

Craig Hartsburg, Ottawa
He's back for his third try, and there's a chance he became a better coach during his recent stint in major junior.
The previous stints in coaching that ESPN is referring to were with the Chicago Blackhawks (from 1995-98) and with Anaheim (from 1998-2001). His all-time NHL head coaching record is a half-decent 173-169-65-3, which isn't too bad (even if he never made it past the second round in the playoffs). It's certainly not 'suspect', although it might be appropriate to say his hiring should be approached with caution. In the past four years with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, he's notched a stellar record of 141-91-8-23, consistently going a few games over .500.

After this season with the Senators, his NHL head coaching record will be even better.

(Thanks to FrankD from Pensburgh for pointing out the ESPN story.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Rumour Mill: The worst it's been

Solid article on MVN's Senators Row about the ridiculous amount of rumours and rumour'mongers we're seeing regarding Senators' trades or signings this summer.

"All across cyber-space your ‘maniac’ Sens fans have been ‘chirping’ about some ‘buzz’ they apparently are hearing from their covert inside sources nestled deep within the Sens brass. The news in Ottawa is apparently slow this time of year, because it seems both print and radio outlets picked up on these stories and ran with them as if they were something more than what they actually were; rumors."

-Senators Row

It's amazing how quickly rumour sites are popping up. And I do love reading them, even if it's just to stare wide-eyed at how ridiculous some of them are. Not to lambaste all rumour-bloggers or local columnists, but some certainly do overstate (or simply make up) rumours just to get people to read their writing. Which is irresponsible, even if it is commonplace.

Here at Sens Army, we don't spread rumours. We discuss them occasionally, and discuss free agents that would be good pickups for the Sens. While discussing them, we make it blatantly clear they are rumours, and that we have no 'inside information' to speak of.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Easy summer for 2009

Looking back at the summer of 2008, it wa a pretty busy one for Sens GM Bryan Murray. If not for some shrewd mid-season signings, though, it could have been a lot busier.

Each of Mike Fisher, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley had their contracts extended during the season, saving Murray a lot of headaches had the three made it into free agency. It's been bad enough with only Chris Kelly, Antoine Vermette, Shean Donovan, and possibly Andrej Meszaros to re-sign (after a few other potential free agents were either traded or allowed to walk).

Looking forward to the summer of 2009, however, it looks like Murray decided to save himself a few headaches by locking up key players into multi-year deals. Aside from possibly Daniel Alfredsson, whose contract includes team-options if he fails to produce (don't count on it), none of the possible free agents should be difficult to re-sign. Dean McAmmond and Chris Neil are the only two UFAs who see a regular shift, and seem poised to make less than $1M if they are extended. Martin Gerber will also be a UFA, but the idea seems to give the starting role to either of Jeff Glass or Brian Elliott, if they're ready for it for 2009-10.

It seems a lot of the signings Murray has done have been to build a two-year plan, with flexibility afterwards of completely reassembling the team. Contracts that will come up after the 2009-10 season include Vermette, Donovan, Cody Bass, Nick Foligno, Jason Smith, Anton Volchenkov, Christoph Schubert, Brian Lee, and Alex Auld. Certainly not an impossible summer, but it will be difficult--especially considering all those defencemen's contracts.

One would assume that, as long as this upcoming 2008-09 season goes relatively well (better than last season, if not quite as good as 2006-07), then Murray will continue with the current two-year plan. And if not, well, there are a lot of reasonably-priced contracts that should look good at the trade deadline or on July 1, 2009.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mats Sundin updates

Part two of an ongoing series:

Stuff sports writers like

It must be tough being a sports writer, begging at the feet of the former Leafs captain for any sort of indication about when, where, or why he will make any sort of decision regarding his hockey future.

Like being high priest in the temple of volcano God Hephaestus, every plume of smoke must be interpreted for the benefit for the masses. Could the volcano explode today? It hasn't in the past 1000 years... so it could be any minute now.

As the graphic on the right illustrates, sports writers are hungry to update sports fans, even when there is no update to report.

"Still thinking it over"

"Sundin to make decision soon"

"Sundin decision two week away"

"Sundin nearing decision"

"News is no news on signing of Sundin"

Sports writers, known normally for such hard-hitting questions as "Your thoughts on tonight's game...", have been reduced to one- or two-word questions. "Anything?", they ask Sundin's agent. "No," replies the agent. The sports writers then dutifully transfer this information into a succinct 150-word update on Sundin's condition.

Modern sporting websites are built on this sort of valuable information, as public servants wind down the hours until their death day ends, surfing the internet while scanning the screen for two phrases to alert then of interesting content: "NSFW" or "Sundin update".

The Sundin saga has now been extended into mid-August, according to the latest smoke signal. This can only mean one thing: We are mere moments from an eruption of catastrophic proportion.

God bless the sports writer, nobly waiting at the foot of the volcano, blackberry in hand. Only through his diligence can we possibly escape the fallout.
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