Saturday, January 31, 2009

Le sigh: Jackets 1, Sens 0

The Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Senators.

Did you know Mike Peca still plays in the NHL? Well, he does. And he assisted on the one goal of the game. Jakub Voracek scored the goal.

It's not easy to develop any momentum when you're part of a steady stream to the penalty box, as the Senators were last night: Columbus had six powerplays, and the Sens had 39 minutes in penalties overall. That said, the Sens had 5 powerplay opportunities (although one was about 20 seconds), and still couldn't muster anything.

With a struggling powerplay, maybe Brendan Bell should be a part of the defensive roster. Say what you will about his even-strength play, he's got great puck control skills, good vision, and an ability to drop down into openings that pop up. But, according to radio reports, Brian Lee had a great game, so it makes the decision of who to keep and who to send to Binghamton very difficult.

Alex Auld stopped 25 of 26 shots, but still lost.


Sens play Washington on Sunday at 12:30. Game's on Sportsnet.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Musical roster spots: McAmmond, Bell sit out

Reports from the Ottawa Citizen indicate that veteran forward Dean McAmmond and offensive defenceman Brendan Bell will take their turns sitting out of the Ottawa Senators lineup as the Sens play the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight.

In their place will be defenceman-cum-forward Christoph Schubert and Alex Picard, respectively.

Coach Craig Hartsburg said that neither Bell nor McAmmond played well against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, and so they were pulled out for tonight's game.

Anyone getting the feeling these are starting to get a bit arbitrary? Is this Hartsburg bringing about accountability, by scratching the team's lesser-lite players (Jason Smith, Schubert, Picard, Bell, McAmmond... who's next?)?

Maybe Hartsburg's decision will be astute. We'll see tonight.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Great Dane: Sens 3, Blues 1

Reginn, often Anglicized as Regin, in Norse mythology, was the son of Hreiðmarr and foster father of Sigurd. Regin had all wisdom and deftness of hand. Regin built a house of glittering gold and flashing gems for his father. Regin and his brother, Fafnir, killed Hreidmar for the cursed gold he had received from the gods after they killed his other son, Ótr. Fafnir, however, turned into a dragon because he wanted to keep all of the gold (dragons frequently symbolize greed in European folklore). Fafnir drove Regin away from the gold. Regin lived among men. He taught men how to sow, reap, work metals, sail seas, tame horses, yoke beasts of burden, build houses, spin, weave, & sew.

Peter Regin. Sent from on high, as his Norse forefather was so long ago, to teach his fellow Ottawa Senators players how to sow the seeds of hard work, reap the benefits of it, work the metals and graphites of hockey sticks, sail the (very rough) seas of having a weak defence, tame the horse-like wildness of Jason Spezza's giveaways, yoke the beasts of burden that are Jarkko Ruutu, Mike Fisher, and Chris Neil, build houses, spin around defenders, weave through opposition, & sew the fabric that will form the future legacy of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club.

Okay, that may be taking it a bit too far. Still, it's always exciting when a player scores his first NHL goal, especially when that first NHL goal happens to be the game-winner of his third NHL game.

Although I didn't get to see the game, it sounded like Ottawa rebounded well from their terrible game against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday with a solid effort against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. We won the battle of the basement, fellow Sens fans; thank God for small victories.

Dean Brown and Gord Wilson couldn't stop making sweet, sweet word-love to Fisher for his hard-nosed game on the night, and his stats line sure showed a great effort: 2 goals, +2, 7 shots on goal, 4 hits, 20:33 ice time. Nice to see Fisher working hard and actually hitting the net a few times, and getting rewarded for it.

Also, in an unexpected twist, the CASH Line didn't score, but the Sens still won. Daniel Alfredsson had one assist on Fisher's first goal, which was short-handed. As a unit, Alfie, Spezza, and Dany Heatley combined for 11 shots, though, which is the lion's share of the Senators' total on the night (30 shots).

Brian Elliott made 22 saves on 23 shots. Was he tested all that much? I don't know, I didn't get to watch the game. But he only allowed one goal, and gave the Senators the chance to win.

Back-to-back games, and the Sens are back at it Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Smith in, Picard out

After being benched last game, defenceman Jason Smith will draw back into the lineup tonight against St. Louis while Alex Picard will be the odd man out, according to the Ottawa Sun. Sitting Smith didn't make the team any better last game, so we'll see tonight if bringing him back in will bring about a better effort from the team.

In the story, Picard said he wasn't surprised by the decision. I'm not particularly surprised, either, although the timing seems strange after Picard scored the Sens' only goal last night. Looks like the audition of Brendan Bell and Brian Lee continues for the time being, but I expect one of them to be reassigned to Binghamton somewhat soon--perhaps after this mini-road trip.

Apparently there were concerns with Dean McAmmond not having practiced with the team, but the same Sun story said that Christoph Schubert will be scratched once again, meaning McAmmond and rookie Peter Regin will still be in the lineup. I'd like to see the line of Mike Fisher, Nick Foligno, and Chris Neil reunited, and put Regin with McAmmond and Jarkko Ruutu. It matches one line of size and another line of speed, and they'd do well with roughly equal ice time on the night.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Elliott to start Thursday, Auld on Friday

According to Sportsnet, Brian Elliott will make his seventh consecutive start on Thursday against the St. Louis Blues, while Alex Auld will make his first start since Jan. 6, a span of seven games (really?) the following night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

No Habs No: Steve Downie *shudder*

This was so difficult.

Dean McAmmond, I am so sorry. It wasn't easy at all, but I have a responsibility to those who have united under the No Habs No! banner.

The following...

*deep breath*

The following letter will be sent to Steve Downie for scoring the game-winning goal against Montréal on January 27, 2009:

Yes, he is still on notice. That will not change.

Please be reassured that if you support the No Habs No! Campaign, it does not mean implicit support for all of the actions of Steve Downie. It means you support the legal actions (I'm not condoning head-hunting) that help keep the Montréal Canadiens down in the standings. To support the campaign, you can do any combination of the following:
  • Join the 160+ fans on our Facebook page.
  • Donate some amount via PayPal to
  • Visit our swag shop (Be the first on your block, or in the world, to own a No Habs No! t-shirt!).
  • Express support and solidarity by commenting on the blog.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

All-break stars: Devils 4, Sens 1

The Senators returned from the All-Star Break with an effort that contrasted their four games going into the break, but looked a lot like most games they've played this season: All-break stars. Star players who've taken the year off.

Twenty-two shots, including zero for Jason Spezza, zero for Mike Fisher, one for Daniel Alfredsson, and two for Dany Heatley--even though Ottawa had five powerplay opportunities. Ten players on the minus, including each of the big three at -2 and Filip Kuba and Alex Picard tied for a team-worst -3 (although at least Picard had the Sens only goal off a one-timer pass from Alfie). It wasn't pretty one bit.

I'm not going to rag on Brian Elliott, because he wasn't the problem.

The problem was that the Sens weren't ready to play when the game started. And they didn't really wake up as the game went on. And the result demonstrated that fact.

One bright spot: In Anton Volchenkov's return, he was even, had four hits, and three blocked shots. Thank you, Volchenkov.

That's all I have to say, really. If the Senators continue playing like this for a couple more weeks, they'll make Bryan Murray's decisions a bit easier, because he doesn't really have to wonder whether or not it's time to throw in the towel on the year.

Schubert and Smith scratched against New Jersey

According to the Ottawa Sun, both Jason Smith and Christoph Schubert are going to sit out tonight's game in favour of younger, more offensively-minded teammates. With tonight's game coming against the young and speedy New Jersey Devils, it looks like coach Craig Hartsburg is trying to fight fire with fire.

Although Schubert is probably used to the whole benching thing, Smith was visibly disappointed, the story said:
"Obviously surprised and disappointed," said Smith, who was clearly frustrated after today's morning skate. "You become a player in this game to play games and to help a team have success."
With Android Volchenkov returning to the lineup, Smith was benched in favour of (relative) youngsters Alex Picard, Brian Lee, and Brendan Bell, all of whom have significantly more offensive upside than the wily veteran. Hartsburg's mentality, the story said, was that the d-corps needed to balance the defensive defencemen (Chris Phillips, Volchenkov, and to an extent Filip Kuba) with the more offensive ones. (Can I take a moment to gloat about predicting there could be a reasonable chance Smith would sit out yesterday? Kthanx.)

Although Smith is justified in his frustration, at least he knows he won't be missing too much time. At $2.6M, he's making too much money to sit on the sidelines for an extended period, and the Senators will have to decide soon which of Bell or Lee will be sent back down to Binghamton. The B-Sens need as much defensive help as they can get to keep their playoff hopes in good standing. (In other news, Martin Gerber will be assigned to Binghamton to [hopefully] help out their goaltending situation. Good luck to him; honestly, I wish him the best.)

Schubert, on the other hand, has little reassurance. The Senators went out of their way to re-call Peter Regin from Binghamton today, which is why Schubert is sitting. He is, once again, left to wonder not only about his place on this team, but his place in the league in general. Schubert definitely has a lot to think about in this off-season, and a lot to discuss with GM Bryan Murray (if he's not talking to him already). (I'll also note that I correctly predicted Schubert would be the odd man out with Regin called up, thank you very much.)

Here's my next prediction: Regin won't be up here for too long unless the Sens make a trade (involving a forward) soon, and one of Lee or Bell (likely Bell, as unfair as it may be) will be assigned to Binghamton after tonight's game/test or within the week.

Regin re-recalled from Bingo

After a good showing in his NHL debut, the Senators have brought Danish phenom (can we call him that yet?) Peter Regin back from Binghamton.

It seems like a bit of an unusual move, considering two players (Chris Neil and Android Volchenkov) will both be returning fro minjury tonight, but Bryan Murray has said that he's interested in finding out what, exactly, his minor-league prospects have to offer in the big leagues.

With Regin drawing in, there will be a scratch on forward. It might be Christoph Schubert, who wants to play defence anyway, so he seems somewhat likely. Regin might also look good alondside Dean McAmmond and Jarkko Ruutu on an exciting and speedy fourth line. Or maybe there's been an injury that I haven't heard about yet.

We will see soon enough. It's nice to see Regin getting rewarded with another shot in the bigs, though.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Volchenkov's back, and the defence shuffle

Reports abound that Android Volchenkov's shoulder malfunction has been resolved, so he should be back in the Sens lineup on Tuesday against the Devils after missing Ottawa's last eight games.

As a result, there's a bit of a log jam at defence: You can be sure that Volchenkov won't be a healthy scratch, and Chris Phillips and Filip Kuba will both definitely be in the lineup. As Shean Donovan's skills competition-induced injury will likely keep him out for the whole week, Christoph Schubert is expected to suit up as a forward, meaning that one of Brian Lee, Alex Picard, Jason Smith, or Brendan Bell will be a healthy scratch for the game.

It seems doubtful that Lee will be, as he was practicing today in his regular pairing with Phillips, and the two have been playing well together. A good point was raised by Jason York on the Team 1200 this afternoon: Since the quality of Lee's competition has gone up, so has his play and his consistency. With him playing so well, and such high expectations for his development, it would likely be a step backward to bench him or send him to Binghamton right now.

The most likely candidate to be scratched, at first glance, is Bell. He's been scratched a few times recently, including three of the last four games. However, Bell scored the game-winning goal against Washington a week ago, and has three goals in his last five games played (two on the powerplay). With the Senators looking for mobility and offence from the back end, Bell could continue to be a pretty good second-powerplay-unit defenceman.

Then there's Picard. He's had an up-and-down season, but he's still leading Senators defencemen in goals scored with five. He hasn't scored a goal in 11 games, though, and doesn't even have a point in nine. All despite an average ice time of around 17-19 minutes played, usually including some powerplay time. It's an easy time to send a message to Picard that more is expected of him, but benching him is not a long-term solution: He's on a one-way contract, unlike Lee or Bell.

Finally, the possibility exists of Smith riding the press-box-pine for a night. Although it's pretty bad that he's only got one point (albeit a game-winning goal) on the year, that's not the chief reason he could be benched, and it's not why he was signed. Scratching Smith would be a tactical decision based on the speed of the Senators' opponents Tuesday, the Devils, and Smith's difficulty in keeping up with smaller, speedier players. Again, Smith wasn't signed to his contract to blow anyone out of the water; all he's got to do is play smart, positional hockey, lay a hit when it's available, kill a penalty when it's necessary, and speak up to or for his teammates. Scratching him wouldn't be a long-term solution, because a dog as old as Smith won't likely learn new tricks.

Ideally, I think that Picard could use a rest in the press box for one night or so, until the Sens decide whether to send Bell or Lee down to Binghamton. In the end, though, one of those two guys on two-way contracts will be don in Binghamton relatively soon. The Senators' don't need to be spending more money than they need to be spending at this point in the season.

D-Day for Gerber (UPDATED)

It's finally here: The day we figure out just what is going to happen to Martin Gerber. He and Sens GM Bryan Murray are expected to sit down today and has out his options, because returning to the Ottawa Senators isn't one of them.

It remains to be seen if playing in the NHL at all is one of them, either. Apparently, as reported in the Calgary Sun, the Calgary Flames may be looking at Gerber as a possible backup and insurance policy for workhorse goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff, but that's certainly not a done deal--and it remains to be seen how it would be done (whether through trade or waiver-wire acquisition) if it is to be done. A few other teams have been rumoured at time to have interest in Gerber, so it's possible that if Calgary GM Darryl Sutter is actually interested, he could make a trade rather than run the risk of another team nabbing Gerber on re-entry waivers before Calgary gets the opportunity. The good thing for another team picking Gerber up on re-entry is that the receiving team would only face a cap hit of one-half of Gerber's remaining salary, an estimated $750k.

If there's not interest from other NHL squads, there's still the possibility of Gerber being 'loaned' to a European squad, which would at least get his salary off the books for the Senators.

And technically the AHL is still an option, but it seems unlikely. Owner Eugene Melnyk has said that he won't play major-league salaries to minor-league pro players, and one assumes the Gerber situation to date has been a one-time, short-term exception to try and get Gerber's salary unloaded. And Sens brass, including Tim Murray, have at least suggested that they wouldn't force Gerber to play in the AHL. Still, with an uncertainty in Binghamton's goaltending situation, fans would likely choose Gerber over their current situation.

Whatever happens, it's finally over. It might seem harsh for Sens fans to be celebrating, but I'd be willing to bet that Martin Gerber is more than ready to end this chapter of his professional hockey career and begin the next one himself.

UPDATE: Listening to Gord Wilson on the Team 1200 this afternoon, it sounds like Gerber is highly unlikely to head to a European team because they are so late in their season. Combined with the apparent fact that a trade with whichever GM is interested would include receiving the same cap hit as we'd be sending away, and the fact that Michael Sharp quoted Ottawa Director of Hockey Operations Brent Flahr as having said that re-entry waivers aren't an option for the Senators right now, maybe it's more likely that Gerber will be headed back to the AHL.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Senators in the All-Star Games

Given that there were two Ottawa Senators-system players combined in the NHL and AHL All-Star Games (Dany Heatley and Mattias Karlsson, respectively), it should be pretty easy to give you a run-down of their play so far in the combined All-Star Weekend for the two leagues.

First off is the Ottawa Senators representative, Heatley. He was in two events in the SuperSkills event, Accuracy Shooting and the Elimination Shoot-Out. Although he was about as successful in the Elimination Shoot-Out as he is in regular-season shootouts (that is to say, not very), he did much better in the Accuracy Shooting event: He went 4-for-4 on the first series of shots, good enough to bring him into overtime against Evgeni Malkin (who Tim Thomas still claims didn't hit all four targets in the first round), but Malkin won it in the end.

As for the actual All-Star Game, Heatley was on a line with Marc Savard and Alex Ovechkin--pretty good pedigree. (I thought that Savard would end up with about 40 assists playing with those two shooters, but he only got three on the night.) Heatley had one of the Eastern Conference's 11 goals on the night, and no assists. Nothing like his first-ever All-Star Game, but Heater still has 6G, 3A, 9P in three all-star games--and, more than likely, more to come.

Down in Worcester, MA, the AHL All-Star Game had its Skills Competition today, and will have the actual All-Star Game tomorrow. Karlsson also played in two events, the Hardest Shot and Breakaway Relay competitions. Again, not much luck on the breakaway, but Karlsson did have the hardest shot on the PlanetUSA Squad at 94.5MPH, but two players from Canadian squad had harder ones (Cody Franson of the Milwaukee Admirals at 95.4MPH and Derek Joslin of the Worcester Sharks at 98.6MPH) so he lost the event. Still, the PlanetUSA squad won the Skills Competition (should I be happy about that?) and awaits the All-Star Game tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. (which Canadians can watch on TSN and Americans on... well... various networks).

Ovechkin a star among lampposts

Spectacle. It's a word you don't often hear associated with the NHL. But when Alex Ovechkin took to the ice to perform in the NHL's Breakaway Challenge, that's exactly what it was. The Washington Capital performed a few tricky moves, then skated back to the blue line for some assistance from Russian national teammate Evgeni Malkin. Hat on, sunglasses polished, Ovechkin completed his final breakaway attempt, then basked in the glory of the cheering crowd.

While other skaters seemed like they were in a race to get the whole event over with, Ovechkin did exactly what the NHL intended this event to do: imitate the NBA Slam-dunk competition. Like when Amare Stoudemire slammed home a basketball that had just riccocheted off Steve Nash's head, Ovechkin gave the crowd something to laugh at and be dazzled by.

The Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard was a force to be reckoned with under the basket for a couple seasons, but when he tied a Superman cape around his neck and slammed home what was otherwise a 3-star dunk, he rocketed to stardom in the NBA. It's about the fun and the spectacle. Sure, all the players in the Breakaway Challenge were talented, but who gave us something to talk about the next day?

To put it succinctly, Ovechkin gets it.

Some hockey players are so dumbfounded by the media spotlight, that they shy away from it. Ovechkin, on the other hand, knows that the NHL needs a star, not a series of lampposts.

There are so many opportunities for boastfullness during the NHL All-Star competition, but the most you'll ever get out of Sidney Crosby or Dany Heatley is a light-hearted chuckle and a joking challenge to his teammmates. I don't mean to offend, but it's the same old, tired shit, and it doesn't get hits on youtube.

To the so-called stars of the NHL: bring something new and remarkable to the fans or 20% of your salary will continue to drain into the pockets of owners through escrow. Ovechkin gets it. How long before you catch on?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Only one constant in Bingo this year: Success

About a week ago, Bingo beat writer and blogger Michael Sharp documented the adversity through which the Binghamton Senators have, somehow, successfully navigated to get off to their best start in franchise history: Then 21-12-6 (48 points), now 23-13-6 (52 points). He offered a list of some of the things the team has overcome (directly quoting Sharp):
  • "Brad Isbister, sold to B-Sens fans as a potential top-six forward here, opts to head to Switzerland, rather than report in training camp.
  • "Second-year center Alexander Nikulin, last season's third-leading scorer, and another top-six guy entering the season, threatens to return home to Russia if he is not traded. Eventually, he gets his wish, getting shipped to the Phoenix organization the same day he walks out on the B-Sens.
  • "Second-year center Cody Bass, while playing on recall with Ottawa, is lost for the season with a shoulder injury.
  • "Rookie forward Kaspars Daugavins chooses to return to juniors in late December. He had just three points in 23 games, but he'd been playing on a line with Josh Hennessy and Ryan Shannon just before his decision.
  • "This first half has featured 14 call-ups to Ottawa, most recently goaltender Brian Elliott, an all-star and arguably the team's first-half MVP. It doesn't appear he's returning any time soon.
  • "Eight players have missed at least eight straight games with an injury down here. That doesn't include Shannon, who missed time with a concussion while on recall with Ottawa.
  • "Brendan Bell and Brian Lee, two top-four defensemen for Binghamton, appear to be sticking in Ottawa. Bell has been there since Nov. 16. Lee has already logged 18 games with the big club.
  • "The schedule was ridiculous in November, with two stretches of seven games in 10 days. One stretch included a lengthy trip to Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. And both came amidst a period of heavy injuries and call-ups."
Although it's not confirmed, it sure looks like Elliott will be in Ottawa for the rest of the season, and one of Bell or Lee will more than likely stick around, as well. Binghamton coach Cory Clouston has taken his fair share of criticism, but he's got to be commended for keeping this team rolling. And Sens GM Bryan Murray and Assistant GM Tim Murray both have to be commended for, at least to date, re-stocking the Senators minor-league pro depth.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No Habs No: Johnny Oduya

David John Oduya, Swedish superstar defenceman and newest hero of the No Habs No! Campaign. He scored his game winner--his third of the season, tying him for 30th-best in the league in that category--on Jan. 21, 2009, and will receive this letter of thanks:

Anyone have a bet for the over/under of first outraged Habs fan to comment on the post?

To support the campaign:
  • Join the 160+ fans on our Facebook page.
  • Donate some amount via PayPal to
  • Visit our swag shop (Be the first on your block, or in the world, to own a No Habs No! t-shirt!).
  • Express support and solidarity by commenting on the blog.

Gerber to be waived

According to reports on Bingo blogger Michael Sharp's blog, assistant GM Tim Murray has said that Martin Gerberwill be put on waivers today, available to any teams interested.

"We've sent out a memo to the other teams saying he was available. And he'll go on waivers (Thursday), and then we'll just have to see what happens there. If he doesn't get picked up, he's going to have a meeting with Bryan (on) Monday or so, and then we'll have to make a decision."
This may mean that GM Bryan Murray knows of at least one team that may be interested in picking up Gerber from the waiver wire, but it definitely means that Brian Elliott has passed his first test with the Ottawa Senators in the NHL; Tim Murray said "he's no longer an American Hockey League player as of now" and that Elliott won't be playing in the AHL All-Star Game.

There are a few options right now for Gerber. First, obviously, he could be picked up on waivers, or possibly re-entry waivers, by another NHL team. Alternatively, he could pass through waivers and return to the AHL, but that doesn't seem like a real possibility given Tim Murray's comments on Sharp on the Sens ("Let's worry about that when we get there. There's so many different things that could happen. And that's a very good possibility obviously. Europe's a possibility also. So, I think we just cross that bridge when we get there"). Finally, an arrangement could be made between the Senators and a European team, wherein that team would have the rights to Gerber for the rest of the season in exchange for some compensation, likely just paying the rest of Gerber's contract.

In his three-game AHL "conditioning stint", Gerber allowed seven goals on 108 shots for a goals-against average of 2.37 and a save percentage of 0.935 and had one shutout (a 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Phantoms).

With Gerber seemingly gone, the Binghamton Senators will likely move forward with Jeff Glass as the starter and Mitch O'Keefe, recently called up from the ECHL's Elmira Jackals, backing him up.

  1. Glass (for Bingo): 13GPI, 3W, 7L, 2OTL, 41GA, 3.63GAA, 348S 0.895SP
  2. O'Keefe (for Elmira): 24GP, 13W, 9L, 1OTL, 71GA, 3.09GAA, 579S 0.891SP, 1SO, 2A
Unfortunately for Binghamton fans, neither of the above-mentioned goalies have very impressive statistics. Still, Glass was a third-round pick (89th overall) in 2004 and has won the CHL and WHL goaltender of the year awards in 2004-05, and won the gold medal with Team Canada in the World Junior Championships that same year. I guess you could say he's got a lot or potential to live up to.

(Special thanks to Rob Glass of Binghamton's WHRW-FM 90.5 Radio for bringing this to my attention.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Not the Spezza we expected, but the one the team deserves

I made a few predictions about the Senators in August. Some of them have come totally true (Auld being #1 for a stretch, Rutuu as heroic jackass), while others, it appears, will be so totally off base by the end of the season, I may have to label myself a heroic jackass.

The prediction in question has to deal with Jason Spezza. Love him or hate him, it's his job to put put points on the board, and he's better than all but one person in Ottawa (Heatley, most nights) at doing it. I predicted the Spez Dispenser would reach 100 points this season... and I think I will turn out to be wrong.

Spezza has played all of the Senators 44 games this season, but has only accumulated a measly 37 points. According to, he's on pace for 68 points this season. That would make this his worst season since he first joined the Sens full-time in 2003-04. He may also fall well below the expectations of TSN, who said he would get 33 goals and 55 assists this season.

On the other hand, Spezza could set a new career-high in goals this season. If the Senators improve their play a little, and Hartsburg finally and eternally stops trying to match Alfredsson with some monstrosity of a second line, Spezza could very well do it.

Considering that the Senators are on pace for 40 less goals this season, for Spezza to maintain his goal scoring pace from last year is interesting to note. With less of his teammates scoring, Spezza has had to take matters onto his own stick a little more often. In other words, he's contributing a greater percentage of the Sens' goals this season.

Anecdotally, I've noticed Spezza doing better on breakaways (sans shootouts) and is not as adverse to taking a shot on net. Has a coach finally gotten through to him?

So he probably won't reach 100 points this season, but Spezza may have finally gotten the idea: Just put the puck in the net.

No Habs No: Richard Peverley

On January 20, 2009, Richard Peverley of the Atlanta Thrashers scored a game-winning goal against the Montréal Canadiens. To say thank you, I've sent him this letter on behalf of the No Habs No! Campaign:

To support the campaign:
  • Join the 150+ fans on our Facebook page.
  • Donate some amount via PayPal to
  • Visit our swag shop (Be the first on your block, or in the world, to own a No Habs No! t-shirt!).
  • Express support and solidarity by commenting on the blog.

Regin back to Bingo

The Ottawa Senators announced today that centre Peter Regin has been returned to the Binghamton Senators of the AHL. He should be in action tonight when the B-Sens host the Philadelphia Phantoms (farm team of the Philadelphia Flyers).

It's unclear at this moment whether or not Regin will be re-recalled after the All-Star Break, but it will likely depend on the injuries to Shean Donovan and Chris Neil. Whatever the case, however, Regin was certainly capable in his 10 minutes of play, and deserves another shot in the NHL.

The Sens' press release also listed the only four Danish-born players to have suited up in the NHL prior to Regin:
  1. Poul Popiel (Boston Bruins, 1965-66)
  2. Jannik Hansen (Vancouver Canucks, 2007-08)
  3. Frans Nielsen (New York Islanders, 2006-07)
  4. Mikkel Boedker (Phoenix Coyotes, 2008-09).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Surviving the second: Sens 3, Caps 2

On the post-game show, Dean Brown suggested that the Sens' biggest challenge over the last few games has been surviving their own play in the second period. Again tonight, they had dominant first and third periods, but bombed in the second. If not for Brian Elliott stopping 17 of 19 shots in that second period, including plenty of decent scoring chances, this game would have been all Capitals.

But Elliott was there. And Dany Heatley's two first-period powerplay goals were enough to give the Senators the lead they needed to stay in the game until Brendan Bell could score another powerplay goal to give the Sens the win over Washington, 3-2. Ottawa's powerplay was a very impressive 3-6 on the night.

On the night, Heatley played like the superstar he's paid to play like. His 'demotion' (although I shudder to call it that) to the second powerplay unit has given the Senators two powerful units, and as a matter of fact, Heatley's line--with Antoine Vermette and (tonight) Nick Foligno (it had been Chris Neil in previous games, but he was out with the flu)--was and has been more dangerous than the first unit of Mike Fisher, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson. Heatley's first goal was a pretty passing play, with Vermette dishing the puck through a few opposition players to Filip Kuba at the point, who set Heatley up perfectly. The second was a bit of luck, as it bounced off a Capitals defender, but they all count--and, don't look now, but with four goals in the last two games, Heatley has 23 on the year and is on pace for almost 42 on the season.

Vermette looked solid on the night, as well; he's one of the Senators who has gone back to what had worked for him in the past, and--surprise!--it's working for him again. He assisted on all three goals, and had a couple shots and a couple of takeaways, to boot. On the topic of streaks, Vermette has ten points (2G, 8A) in the last ten games, the same number of points he had in the first 35 games of the season. It's nice to see, as a fan of the team that's now finding ways to win and after watching him work so hard to start the year without much in the way of results.

Bell scored the winner on the powerplay with less than two minutes remaining, and it was a huge goal. Somehow, Bell's already got a goal song ("Ring My Bell" by Anita Ward), despite only having four goals on the season; I guess that's cool. He had four shots on the night, as well, but was often caught in the defensive zone with partner Jason Smith, unable to clear the puck cleanly. It didn't cost the Sens on the scoreboard, but it was still pretty unnerving to watch.

With Anton Volchenkov suffering a shoulder malfunction, Kuba was given the unenviable assignment of containing Alexander Ovechkin. It seemed like a pretty risky decision by coach Craig Hartsburg, but Kuba's mobility and reach were enough to contain AO as much as AO can be contained, as only two of Ovie's six shots were even-strength opportunities. Kuba, as mentioned, also had an assist, three shots on net, and three blocked shots, and was once again a very solid powerplay quarterback.

I'm pretty sure I've realized why Christoph Schubert doesn't like playing forward: Tonight, with Schubert starting as a forward, he only played 6:14; that includes 1:15 of penalty-killing time as a defenceman, which means Schubert played less than five minutes as a forward. In those five minutes, though, he played effectively as a forward; his line with Dean McAmmond and Jarkko Ruutu was a lot of fun to watch for those five minutes. He can take more than five minutes as a forward, but hopefully he'll deal with it, because he's always fun to watch out there bangin' bodies on forward.

I've also got to mention Peter Regin, who looked surprisingly comfortable in his first NHL game. Of all the Senators prospects who have played their first NHL games in the past couple of seasons (Foligno, Cody Bass, Jesse Winchester, Ilya Zubov, Alex Nikulin, Brian Lee, and probably others I'm forgetting), I'd say Regin was the most effective and the most comfortable in the first game--with the exception of Elliott in his first game last season (but goaltenders always seem the exception). He was a little light on is skates, but he played over 10 minutes, had one takeaway and one blocked shot, and just buzzed in the offensive zone. He warrants another opportunity, if not next game then in the near future.

With the All-Star Game in Montréal on Sunday, Jan. 25, the Sens have the week off, and don't play again until next Tuesday when they host the New Jersey Devils. It will be a break for every Senator except Heatley, who has looked like an All-Star in the recent half-dozen games. Although the timing of the break is not optimal, hopefully Ottawa can carry the momentum of seven of a possible eight points in the last four games into the post-All-Star season.

Now, to write a letter to Richard Peverley of the Atlanta Thrashers, newest hero of the No Habs No! Campaign...

Preview: Sens v. Caps, Jan. 20, 2009

Washington Capitals: 2nd in the Eastern Conference (47GP, 30W, 14L, 3OTL, 63GP 151GF 135GA)
Ottawa Senators: 13th in the Eastern Conference 43GP, 15W, 21L, 7OTL, 37P, 105GF, 127GA

According to the Senators website, Peter Regin has been recalled from the Binghamton Senators to make his NHL debut tonight against the Washington Capitals. The Danish-born centre was just signed to an entry-level deal with the club in June of 2008, and has done pretty well in his first North American pro season despite injury setbacks: 29GP, 8G, 12A, 20P, +8.

And, according to the Ottawa Sun, Jason Smith is doubtful for the game tonight against the Capitals with a lower-body injury. Should he miss it, it seems likely that Brendan Bell will step into his roster spot.

We all know what the Capitals bring to the table. Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Niklas Backstrom, Matt Mike Green, and all the rest. It should be an exciting game.

Mid-season report card

Sure, if Bruce Garrioch thinks he can unilaterally assign grades to players on the Senators team, so do we here at Sens Army Blog. So we'll go ahead and issue a report card, with some justification on our own part, and you can compare what we have to say with what Garrioch has to say. Just be thankful you don't have to listen to him speak on a pre-game roundtable right now... shit, is that ever frustrating. Here goes:

Bryan Murray
  • Peter: E
    What has he done to warrant a passing grade, so far? Nothing. Still, I'm not prepared to fail him, because he hasn't made any trades that would be negative long-term just to shake things up. And I'm pretty sure he'll make a deal at some point by the trade deadline.
  • Garrioch: D+
Craig Hartsburg
  • Peter: E
    He came in saying he would hold people accountable. He hasn't. He tried to institute a defensive system, but it didn't work consistently. Still, this team has gone through plenty of coaches, so he can't be the only problem.
  • Garrioch: D+
Martin Gerber
  • Peter: F
    Nothing to warrant a passing grade. At least he was a good team player, but he's not even doing well in the AHL right now. Nice guy, but no.
  • Garrioch: F
Alex Auld
  • Peter: B-
    He came in to be the backup. He was a good backup for a while. Then he was a good starter. Then he lost his groove, probably because he played too much, and now he's an unknown backup. Hopefully he'll be a good backup, but he's been one of few bright spots (at times) on this team.
  • Garrioch: C-
Brian Elliott
  • Peter: Unknown
    He's doing well so far. We'll have to wait and see how he does in other chances he may get to give him a real grade, though.
  • Garrioch: N/A
Chris Phillips
  • Peter: D+
    Phillips is trying to jump into the rush, and his defensive game is suffering as a result. As a shut-down defenceman, you expect better than a team-worst -19, even if he is consistently playing against the opposition's top scorers. He's a number-3 defenceman playing as a number two, which isn't really putting him in the position to succeed. I actually think his offensive game is better than many gave him credit for, he just has to balance that with the good defence needed from him.
  • Garrioch: C-
Christoph Schubert
  • Peter: D-
    Schubert's an effective fourth-line forward. Schubert is not an effective NHL defenceman. He needs to either completely rehaul his defensive game, or he needs to get the picture and realize that his best chance in the NHL is at forward.
  • Garrioch: F
Alex Picard
  • Peter: C
    Picard hasn't been consistent enough. He's shown signs of great physicality, with some big hits, and signs of great offensive ability, with nice passes and five powerplay goals. He's also had plenty of giveaways, though, and weak defensive coverage.
  • Garrioch: C-
Brendan Bell
  • Peter: B-
    Although Bell has been scratched quite a bit recently, he has actually seemed pretty reliable in my opinion. He's not going to blow anyone away defensively, but he's good enough, and his offensive abilities--especially on the powerplay--make up for any defensive deficiencies.
  • Garrioch: C
Filip Kuba
  • Peter: A
    I don't know why, but I like this guy a lot. He may have some defensive flaws, but he's a good skater, and he can keep a player in check even if he's not going to throw many bodychecks. He looks good on the powerplay, and would be nice to keep around for next season if the price is right. I mean... he's fourth on the team in scoring (1G, 23A) in fewer games than most others have played, gobbles up minutes, and is a team-leading +11.
  • Garrioch: B-
Jason Smith
  • Peter: D
    Smith has definitely struggled this season. His lack of speed has made him especially vulnerable to speedy forwards, and he's been caught flat-footed on far more than a few occasions. He was never expected to be a top-four defenseman, but he hasn't quite lived up to expectations.
  • Garrioch: D+
Brian Lee
  • Peter: C+
    It's been a pretty short stint so far for Brian, but he's done well enough alongside Chris Phillips on the team's first defence pairing. He can appear a little soft at times, but he's usually pretty good on his check, and can skate well with the puck.
  • Garrioch: N/A
Anton Volchenkov
  • Peter:B-
    Volchenstein has been pretty close to his normal self. It must be getting harder and harder to order Soviet-era replacement parts for our shot-blocking robot, because he's missed a fair number of games due to injury, but he'll be back. You'd better believe he'll be back.
  • Garrioch: C-
Daniel Alfredsson
  • Peter:B+
    Alfredsson is awesome. Still, you can see that he's slowing down as the season goes on, and I'm pretty sure it's because he over-exerted himself earlier in the season trying to compensate for lesser-skilled or lesser-motivated players he was playing with. He's still got some tremendous skill and the ability to control the play, but I hope his fatigue doesn't make him vulnerable to a dangerously dangerous injury.
  • Garrioch: B-
Jason Spezza
  • Peter: C+
    Over the last 10 games or so, Spezza has played some of the best hockey of his career. He's still committing giveaways, sure, but they're fewer and farther between, and his backchecking has been... well... existent, which is something pretty new. He's been skating hard
  • Garrioch: C-
Dany Heatley
  • Peter: D
    Heatley has had an off-year, and his statistics ar edemonstrating that. Then again, just about every Senators' player has had an off-year, so he's nothing unusual. Still, after the payday that made him the highest-paid player in Senators history, and his claims for wanting to be a leader and subsequent assistant-captainship, Heatley has to give a lot more to this team. And he has to take fewer stupid, useless, frustration-induced penalties.
  • Garrioch: C-
Jarkko Ruutu
  • Peter: B+
    Although Ruutu wasn't expected to be a huge offensive presence, it may have been hoped that he would offer a bit more than he is (3G, 9A, 39G) and would be a third-line contributor. Still, he's on pace for a career-year in assists and points, his physicality and pestmanship have been as-advertised, and his penalty-killing prowess is an added asset.
  • Garrioch: C-
Dean McAmmond
  • Peter: B
    Again, it would be nice if Deaner would put up more points. He's still only making $925k, though, and he brings defensive responsibility (he's +2 on a team with very few plus-players), solid penalty-killing, and plenty of positive energy when his line gets on the ice.
  • Garrioch: C+
Shean Donovan
  • Peter: A-
    I don't see how much more you can ask of a fourth-liner making $600k, especially after he just took a 30% pay cut to stay in town. Sure, it might be nice if he could put more points away, but he's done incredibly well in limited ice-time, and his line regularly creates momentum for the team--just what's asked of them.
  • Garrioch: C+
Chris Neil
  • Peter: B-
    Although Neil is on pace for his second-worst offensive season in his career, he's doing one thing that few other players have done in the face of offensive struggles: Using physicality to try and turn the tide. He's had (I believe) eleven fighting majors so far, and he's thrown some decent hits to boot. It's still not good enough, but at least it's something.
  • Garrioch: C+
Mike Fisher
  • Peter: D+
    Similar to Neil, Fisher has continued playing physically despite doing next to nothing offensively. The difference between the two, though, is a lot of expectations, and about $3.1M and another few years on the contract. There's no doubt that Fisher is playing as hard as he can, and his streaky nature will probably mean that the points will come, but I can only grade based on what I've seen from him. It hasn't been pretty.
  • Garrioch: D+
Antoine Vermette
  • Peter: D
    Pretty much the same as Fisher, except Vermette is only making $2.75M. He's trying to sell himself as a bona fide second- (or first-, if you want to listen to him) line scorer, but 14P in 43GP doesn't get you that kind of status or paycheque.
  • Garrioch: D+
Chris Kelly
  • Peter: C
    Another player who was given a long-term contract and big-time pay raise to be a part of the team's core, but just hasn't kept pace. Kelly was never really counted on for offence, though; he brings intangibles, like defensive responsibility and great penalty killing. He hasn't disappointed with the other two, but he's still got to put up more points.
  • Garrioch: D+
Nick Foligno
  • Peter: C-
    Foligno's a fun kid to watch, and he works hard, but he's struggling a bit. Even given some time on the second powerplay unit, he hasn't put up good numbers, and he's a team-second-worst -17 on the season. He's still young, though, and hasn't had much help from his veteran teamates nor linemates, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
  • Garrioch: C+
Jesse Winchester
  • Peter: C+
    Winchester has been responsible defensively all season, and has produced--albeit humbly--pretty consistently. He doesn't look like the offensive producer our general manager wanted him to be, but Winchester definitely looks like an NHL player. He may be more of a third-line checker than a second-line scorer, though.
  • Garrioch: C-

Monday, January 19, 2009

In the event of a fire sale...

James "Jimbo" Mirtle released "An early look at 50 rental players", and his list includes four Ottawa Senators players. The list is based on players whose contracts are expiring and who're playing on "teams on pace to finish with fewer than 80 points: N.Y. Islanders, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, St. Louis, Toronto, Los Angeles and Nashville." Here they are, with their MRI (Mirtle Rentability Index), followed by what I think about their possibility of being traded:

6. Martin Gerber: Are there teams out there looking realistically at Gerber as a possible NHL goaltender? Is there a market for goaltenders at all right now? If someone wants to take him, they can have him, but if not I think he'll be in the AHL for the rest of the season (if Eugene Melnyk doesn't have a problem with that).

9. Filip Kuba: The best acquisition that Bryan Murray has made as GM, and he's likely to be traded at the deadline or lost to free agency. The possible wrench in the wheel is that I was under the impression that Kuba had a no-trade clause that he waived to come to Ottawa, and I imagine that is still in his contract, but no one seems to be mentioning that. Still, Kuba is one bright spot on a dim team, and would be nice to retain, but he might demand a hefty raise (to $4.5M, if he's lucky). If he's out of Ottawa's range, the team would be best to get something for him than risk losing him to free agency for nothing. And, with his numbers so far this season, it's not unrealistic to expect Kuba to bring a decent pick and/or prospect in return.

25. Chris Neil: Neil has had a pretty good year this season, and it looks lik he's trying to earn another contract in Ottawa. If reports are correct, he wants to stay in town, but I don't think Murray will be prepared to offer him much of a raise from his current $1.1M salary, if any raise at all. Should Neil not get extended before the trading deadline, assuming the Senators are out of the playoff race, he could get a pretty good return. With Cody "Mr. Glass" Bass, Chaz "Greatest First Name Ever" Johnson, Zach "Bryan Murray's Adopted Son" Smith, and Jeremy "One Game in the NHL" Yablonski all waiting in the wings, and Jarkko Ruutu on the Sens' roster, there is room--technically--to dump Neil, but it would also mean dumping a long-time veteran who would die for the team and whose contributions to the community are significant.

29. Dean McAmmond: Oh, come on! Don't do it, Murray. I've got a McAmmond jersey, and I'd like it if he would stick around for a little while longer. Seriously, though, McAmmond would be a valuable role player for any contender to pick up, with a low cap hit, great penalty killing abilities, and the skill and speed to contribute on any fourth line. He could certainly bring decent return, but I'd still rather keep him with the Sens. I don't think it would be unreasonable to see McAmmond take a contract extension on similar terms to the deal he has right now, paying him about $925K over two season, and I think that's a great deal for a player who can contribute like McAmmond can.

Injuries: Some bad, some better

A few injury updates were brought about in the news today.

First off, Jason Spezza left practice this afternoon after complaining of some soreness in his back, but says he should be ready to go for tomorrow night's game against the Washington Capitals. He missed a game last season because of the same thing, but hopefully it's not a recurring back-spasms injury that will raise its head recurrently.

Apparently Shean Donovan missed practice today, as well, because he injured himself body-slamming the boards in the Sens' skills competition yesterday. I'm not sure if it's a shoulder injury or what, but maybe with Alexander Ovechkin coming to town, Donovan can ask his technique for body-slamming the boards to avoid such an injury in the future.

And Anton Volchenkov's Soviet-era android shoulder replacement hasn't yet arrived from an antiques dealership in Grozny, so he won't be able to return Tuesday, either. Hopefully Volchenstein will be good to return after the All-Star Break.

Finally, after punch-blocking a shot and then finishing his check while screaming in pain, and then returning to score the game-tying goal and send the game against Montréal to overtime, Mike Fisher decided to take a day off. He sat out the same Skills Competition that resulted in the Donovan injury, but is expected to play on Tuesday against the Caps.

And that's your injury rundown.

I've met a few Habs fans who were alright

In response to Blood Red Army

You might not believe me, but there are actually some Habs fans who aren't so bad. Most of them seem to be a bit crazy, though, and are absurdly defensive of the Euro-Habs' honour. And maybe a few of them are crazy enough to set police cars on fire when they win a single playoff series. But I've actually got a few friends who are Habs fans, a couple of whom actually appreciate the comedy behind the No Habs No! campaign.

Really, though, I've got to give kudos to the ongoing hilarity at Four Habs Fans, a fan blog regarding--you guessed it--the Canadiens. The most hilarious have been their series of "guest blogs" from baby Jaro, Jaroslav Halak. Here's part of his most recent post, a game review of the 5-4 shootout win against Ottawa that doubles as a movie review of E.T. (apparently Brian Elliott's last name as well as Ottawa playing like aliens reminded Jaro of the "big guy with long neck"):

"Thees jast great game for me but teem pley like crep. But all hole game I look at Otawa and they make me sad in my heart. Like if my heart have litel eyes and litel heart teers come out of eyes in my heart and I cry inside. Otawa you so diferent now! Before, last yeer, I go to Otawa and have very soft poo in my ass becase so nervous otawa so good! Otawa you before like King Kong of hackey and stupide teem like Mentreal like Empire Building and you climb all on us teem I cry on bus every time to Otawa becase I know Otawa you Kong and me litel great Jaro like butterfly with eating deesorder.

"But Otawa, you change! You no Kong! You like alien, like agly alien in the space outside from the planet of erth! Hahahahahaha! Otawa so like alien."
Awesome. Maybe Greg Wyshynski is right, and a lot of their other content is "vulgar, nasty, and tasteless", but the Great Jaro posts were so amazing that I've looked past the poor taste and installed Four Habs Fans on the Sens Army Blog blogroll--the first, and perhaps only, Habs blog to get that honour.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Damn: Habs 5, Sens 4 (SO)

It was an exciting game, at any rate, and the Sens did end up coming out of it with one point. That, however, is small consolation when I've had my hopes so high for so long.

I guess that's my own fault, though.

Still, through it all (if you watched the whole thing), the Senators kept us entertained. The Sens came out pretty strong in the first, but ran into penalty troubles early. It was a combination of the team playing precariously on the edge, and some weak calls. I don't like to blame refereeing, and I won't, but some weak calls--particularly Jason Spezza's second consecutive penalty, a slash on Andrei Kostitsyn mere seconds after A-Kost had blatantly tripped Dany Heatley, which was followed just eight seconds later with another weak penalty (to Daniel Alfredsson, no less) that set the Sens on the wrong side of a 5-on-3 that the Habs capitalized on--really set the Sens back. Ottawa had six penalties, and Montréal only had two; that wasn't the true case, if you measured actual infractions in the game.

Nonetheless, it happened, and the Sens were on their heels for a time. But a little more than four minutes after Alex Kovalev scored the first goal of the game, Chris Kelly replied to tie the game, and keep Sens fans in the game for the moment. The goal was resultant from some very solid board work on the part of Jesse Winchester (whose strength is in the trenches, and could stand to get back to it more often) and a nice pass from Jarkko Ruutu.

A-Kost scored a semi-weak dribbler a couple of minutes after Kelly, and late in the second Matt D'Agostini scored thanks to some weak coverage, and the Sens were down 3-1 and it looked all but over. The Sens got something they haven't gotten a lot of this season, though: A good break. A failed Habs pinch brought about a a 3-on-1 for the Sens, and Heatley "looked away" Jaroslav Halak while breaking down on his off-wing, and just snapped a wrister far side.

Then the Senators had to deal with something they've seen all too much of this season: A weak goal against. Tom Kostopolous fired a snapshot that Brian Elliott got a piece of, but not enough, and the Sens were back down two goals. After that, though, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, the Sens' big guns went out and took charge. Heatley scored his second of the game with assists from Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, and later on Mike Fisher fired one hell of a slap shot (I knew it would be lethal if he would just hit the net) thanks to another oh-so-unexpected pass from Chris Neil (two sick set-ups in two games? Where is this from, Neiler? Keep it up, though). We were off to overtime, and then a shootout, and the Senators' continued their shootout struggles.

I'm not going to rag on Elliott. In fact, I think I'm going to give him a pass all season. It's not just because he has Casey Jones painted on his helmet (but how freakin' awesome is that), I just think the kid's been thrown into a circus, and he's already done better than either of the other two goalies have done. He allowed two weak-ish goals, sure, but he also made two sick breakaway saves to keep the game from getting out of hand really quickly. Judging by body language, those saves were more inspiring than the weak goals were deflating. It seemed, at times, that the team was actually playing for one another; the skaters knew that Elliott deserved better than an uninspired loss, so they picked it up and salvaged something from the game, at the very least.

It wasn't a win, and it's all the more disappointing that it wasn't a win because it was against Montréal. Still, it had some good signs, and it's five of a possible six points in the last three games. At least there's that. Bring on Washington on Tuesday.

Less goalies, mo problems

Signing Alex Auld to a two-year deal was a smart idea on the part of Bryan Murray. Auld is a capable backup (and sometimes starter) who will anchor the Senators' goaltending duo for the next two years at least.

The other half of the duo, however, is yet to be resolved. Brian Elliot is riding a wave of enthusiam at the moment, but is likely not the answer to the Sens' goalie question next season. Elliot has done well, but has not excelled in the AHL. He was drafted in the 9th round, and is not exactly a blue-chip prospect. That's not to say he won't do well in the NHL, but splitting a full season with Auld in the 2009-10 season would be a burden for Elliot. The 23 year-old goalie is dancing for his dinner right now, as his contract expires and he'll become a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

Martin Gerber, who has been twice demoted to backup by more consistent teammates, is highly unlikely to return to Ottawa. (In a more crass post, I like likely say "awwww-hells-no"). The real question is whether or not he will return with ANY NHL team next season.

That leaves the Sens with free agency, and it's slim pickings this off season.

Biron, Martin 31 PHI G UFA 3.500 3.500
Ramo, Karri 22 TBL G RFA 0.658 0.725
Roloson, Dwayne 39 EDM G UFA 3.667 3.000
Khabibulin, Nikolai \ 36 CHI G UFA 6.750 6.750
Lehtonen, Kari\ 25 ATL G RFA 3.000 3.000
Fernandez, Manny\ 34 BOS G UFA 4.333 4.750
Thomas, Tim \ 35 BOS G UFA 1.100 1.100

(Thanks to a Leafs forum for the goalie options. I know, it's sad, we're in the same situation.)

With either Fernandez or Thomas to be re-signed by Boston, and half of the others to find new homes at the trade deadline and then be signed, there's no long-term options out there for the Senators. Khahibulin (which would be a bitch to spell out daily) has redeemed himself this season after a shaky 2008-09, and might sign for less (gasp) than $6-million because of his inconsistancy.

There's much more to be said before the trade deadline, and eventually, free agency. This is simply the opening of the discussion. Where can the Sens go from here?

Edit: Yow. Shit. Thanks, player profile. Elliot is18-8-1 this year in Bingo.
He's doing 'aight :P

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Preview, fo' realz: Sens v. Habs, Jan. 17, 2009

Ottawa hasn't won three games in a row all season.

Montréal is 8-2 in their last ten games.

Ottawa has a relatively full lineup, with the exception of Anton Volchenkov.

Much of Montréal's recent tear has been without Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Chris Higgins, or Carey Price.

Ottawa is 13th in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 13-21-6, for 36 points.

Montréal is 4th in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 26-11-6, for 58 points.

But still, Brian Elliott is playing! And Ottawa has looked alright in the last two games, both wins with Elliott playing pretty well, and primary and secondary scoring contributing.

A friend of mine, Wassim, who happens to be a Habs fan (hey, nobody's perfect... ), is so confident that Montréal will win the game tonight that he's offered to personally send $1 Canadian to each and every Ottawa Senators player who scores tonight if the Sens win.

I hope Ottawa wins 1,000,000-0 tonight. Take that, Wassim!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Preview: Sens v. Habs, Jan. 15, 2009

This is what it's all about, guys. We've all witnessed the No Habs No! Campaign take flight since it was launched waaay back on November 23 with a letter to Blake Wheeler of the Boston Bruins. Since then, ten hand-written letters--and ten US dollars--have been sent out to nine players (Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils has scored two game-winning goals against Montréal, and is the current hero of the campaign).

The campaign has received over CAD $30 in donations (don't think I'm profiting, though; postage isn't cheap). The Facebook page has over 130 supporters. The Swag Shop... well... it exists, although sales haven't been brisk. (Or existent.) The blog has received many comments on No Habs No! posts.

We've been interviewed by Yahoo's Puck Daddy, Greg Wyshynski, who The Hockey News dubbed the 100th-most influential person in hockey. Wyshynshki even launched the No Habs No! Award, "Given to the commenter who best insults the otherwise inspired and charming Senators fans campaign to send money and fan letters to players that beat the Canadiens" (the winner was the classic, "One look at that stationery and handwriting and it's safe to guess his return address includes a cell block reference.") Other bloggers have mentioned the campaign, as well. Habs fans have hated me (and random ones hunted me down on Facebook to make sure in knew how they felt about their team: "GO HAABBBBSSSSSS GOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! 24 STANLEY CUPS BABY!!!!!!!!!!! FUCK YOU"). We were news on a few fan forums--including some friendlies on HFBoards who changed their avatars to the official logo. Apparently we were discussed on a Montréal radio station.

But now it's for real. The Ottawa Senators have their opportunity to not only be the first Canadian team to score a game-winner against the Canadiens, but they've got the added incentive of a mint condition out-of-circulation Canadian one dollar bill.

Will Jason Spezza continue lighting things up? Will Dany Heatley blast one past Baby Jaro? Will Daniel Alfredsson score a short-handed goal with five minutes left in the second period that serves to be the game-winning goal? Will Dean McAmmond keep his goal-scoring streak alive?

Time will tell, Sens fans. Time will tell.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No Habs No: Zdeno Chara

This letter will be sent to Zdeno Chara in recognition of his two-goal effort (including the game-winning goal) against the Montréal Canadiens on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009. It's dedicated to Cornelius Hardenburgh:

Recently, I was asked to provide the Habs' record since the No Habs No! Campaign started. Since the inauguration, they are 14-6-4, not including tonight's game-in-progress against Nashville (Montréal is, unfortunately, winning). There was, however, a point in mid-December that the Habs were a dismal 1-3-1 (3 of a possible 15 points), and I attribute that exclusively to the No Habs No! Campaign.

There are still many ways you can support the campaign:
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Gerber: Why a conditioning stint?

As Ben reported, Martin Gerber has been assigned to a two-week conditioning stint in the AHL. Is that just a polite way of saying that he's not only played himself out of starting, but right out of the NHL? I think that it might be a little something more than that.

According to Binghamton Senators beat writer Michael Sharp, Sens GM Bryan Murray said the following about the decision to send Gerber to the AHL:
"The plan is to get him playing again," Murray said. "Obviously we take Brian Elliott out of Binghamton, it affected them. It gives him a chance to be important on the team. Obviously to get ice time. And then we will do what we have to. If we have to put him on waivers at some point, because there's no trade value or interest, we can do that. And then we'll decide on the loan based after that."
Gerber's trade value is negative right now. We'd probably have to throw something else in the mix to dump his contract, and receive next to nothing in return. There are, however, teams that may be interested in acquiring his services for some asset, if Gerber dominates in the AHL. If The Gerber Effect rings true, then he should be good in the AHL; he's got nothing to lose.

Gerber sent to AHL

TSN is reporting that oft-ridiculed and oft-deservingly-so goalie Martin Gerber has been assigned to the AHL for a 2-week conditioning stint.

With Brian Elliot performing capably in his two starts with the team, this is surely the end of Martin Gerber's time in Ottawa, at least, symbolically.

We'll save the 'good riddance?' point/counter-point for another day. For now, we dance.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Two in a row: Sens 3, Thrashers 2

Here is a bullet listing of positive signs from tonight's game:
  • Ottawa gave up the first goal, but still won in regulation (second time of the year).
  • Ottawa came back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits and won in regulation.
  • Christoph Schubert hit the net three times, including some solid shots, and (according to the score sheet) had no shots blocked.
  • Daniel Alfredsson massacred a net with his sickening shot, after a terrific pass from checker-cum-playmaker Mike Fisher (who got the puck from playmaker-cum-checker Jason Spezza).
  • The Senators were outshot 32-31, but still won the game.
  • Spezza also scored a goal (two-point night) and is now 23rd in the league in goals with 18.
  • Ottawa was 2-for-5 on the powerplay.
  • Filip Kuba got his second assist in as many games since returning from injury, and looked darn good.
  • Dean McAmmond scored his second goal in as many games, and led the team (tied with Fisher) with four shots in just 10:53 of ice time.
  • Jarkko Ruutu had his first point (an assist) in 8 games, and first since returning from serving his suspension for biting someone.
  • No Senator had less than 10:08 in ice time (Ruutu).
  • A goaltender, Brian Elliott, actually made some big saves, including game-savers late in the game (although he was shaky at times, including Atlanta's second goal).
That is all. Lazy, I know.

Daniel Alfredsson on Twitter?

I know what you're thinking: It can't be. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson can't possibly have a Twitter account he uses to give fans his thoughts periodically, can he?

Well, probably not, but it looks like someone (I guess maybe Alfie himself) has assumed his personality on the real-time short messaging service. And it's pretty funny, too, you can get a glimpse into what Alfie thinks when he's going into games, like when he said he had "a good feeling" going into last night's game against Carolina:
"Alright, back. Sorry about the silence. It's weird, but I'm excited for tonight's game against Carolina; I have a good feeling."
--4:05 PM Jan 13th from web
Or you can find out what he thinks about after a loss ("Murraysburg", I assume, meaning some abomination fusion of Bryan Murray and Craig Hartsburg):
"I feel like crap. Fans and teammates, sorry about that giveaway last night. Murraysburg, sorry it may have cost you your jobs."
--9:45 AM Jan 9th from web
Or you can find out what he thinks about the team's current state:
"To everyone who thinks firing Murraysburg will solve our problems: It won't. I don't know how to solve them, but it goes far beyond that."
--9:49 AM Jan 8th from web

"Gah... I know fans are frustrated, but trust me, we're all just as frustrated. It's really disconcerting playing hard but losing anyway."
--4:04 PM Dec 29th, 2008 from web
Or what he does with his free time:
"Always nice to win to end a year. I'll be ringing in 2009 with some Guitar Hero: World Tour with some friends and family."
--2:58 PM Dec 31st, 2008 from web

"Listening to Abba's Christmas album, and going to bed with my "upper body injury" making me pretty uncomfortable."
--8:24 PM Dec 21st, 2008 from web
Whether or not it's actually Alfie on Twitter, it's pretty funny to read. Sort of like the Shaquille O'Neal Twitter, or the Stephen Harper Twitter.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bizarro Senators: Sens 5, 'Canes 1

It's funny, almost a year ago to the day from today's 5-1 victory over Carolina, I described an uncannily unusual win by the Ottawa Senators as reminiscent of the Bizarro World in Superman. When I saw Chris Neil control the puck to make a play to Antoine Vermette, who actually scored a goal, while Dany Heatley was wreaking havoc in front of the Hurricanes net, I thought: Who are these people, what have they done with the Senators, and how can I get them to stick around for the second half of the season?

So we saw Heatley score his first goal in nine games (bizarre), we saw Dean McAmmond score his first goal in 22 games which was only his second of the season (bizarrer), we saw Vermette score his second goal and third and fourth points in the last three games (bizarrer-er, considering his season so far), we saw Mike Fisher score his first goal in 20 games and fourth of the season after not panicking with an empty net in front of him (bizarrer-er-er), and then we saw Chris Phillips score his fourth goal in the last ten games (bizarrest). But I'm not complaining.

We also saw some of the most promising reasoned, on-the-fly coaching from Craig Hartsburg going into and during the game. Upon noticing the unsuccessful perimeter play when the CASH Line is together on the powerplay, he bumped Heatley down to the second unit and shifted Fisher to forward on the first unit. For the first unit, it meant that Fisher trashed it up in front of the net while Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson set up plays with the defencemen. For the second unit, it meant Heatley was put in a position of leadership and trusted to be a powerplay quarterback, something he did very well. I'm thinking of one moment in particular, after Brian Lee rushed a shot from the point, Heatley went back and let him know that he can settle it down a bit before firing the puck on net. Although the Sens weren't credited with a powerplay goal, Vermette and Fisher's goals were both shortly after and a direct result of solid powerplay work. The Sens had 14 powerplay shots-on-goal in the end, and had control of the puck in the offensive zone for most of their powerplay time.

The other demonstration of good coaching came on the penalty kill. After Fisher lost his coverage of Joe Corvo--the 'Canes most lethal offensive weapon on the powerplay when left unchecked--on Carolina's second powerplay, they adapted: On the next Sens' penalty kill, McAmmond covered Corvo like RDS would cover Vincent Lecavalier buying a house in Montréal. For the rest of the game, Corvo was covered similarly, and that--combined with, no doubt, the boos raining down on him hurting his feelings--turned him into a non-threat for the rest of the game. (Although he did provide a great screen of 'Canes netminder Cam Ward on Phillips' goal.)

In nets, Brian Elliott sealed the fate of Martin Gerber. He only faced 24 shots, but he did have to make some terrific saves, and the one goal Ells allowed would have went in on just about any goaltender in the NHL. He outplayed one-time Conn Smythe winner Ward, and might just do well with another 41 games in the NHL this season (plus playoffs)--as long as the team in front of him keeps up their effort level.

The Senators, however, weren't perfect. Spezza had two giveaways, and Heatley had one, too, although he didn't get tabbed for it on the scoresheet, and as a team Ottawa had 10 giveaways to Carolina's four. The difference tonight, though, was that the team used hard work to make up for mistakes they made. Good players have always and will always make mistakes; they are acceptable when those same players use hard work and good backchecking to make sure that the opposition doesn't capitalize on their mistakes. Spezza's M.O. is blind passes, which work sometimes and don't work other times; as long as he gets back to help out, though, the successful ones will seem to outnumber the unsuccessful ones.

All in all, a really great game for the Senators; one of, if not the best game of the season so far. All four lines saw plenty of ice time (Shean Donovan had the least at 8:51, the only skater under 10 minutes, largely because he doesn't see special-teams time), all but two of Ottawa's skaters were on the plus side of the +/- ledger (Jason Smith and Nick Foligno were both even), the CASH Line had four points while secondary scorers combined for the other eight, and the big three also had 18 shots as the Sens heavily outshot their opponents 40-24 and outscored them by a much more impressive margin. With the second half of the season set to start on Saturday against the Montréal Canadiens Wednesday against the Atlanta Thrashers, we've been reminded of what this team can do when they're playing with the right attitude. Although it's not likely at all, it sure would be nice to see the Senators finish out the season with some great effort towards making a push for the playoffs, even if it means we miss out on the John Tavares/Victor Hedman sweepstakes.

Bizarro Superman
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