Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sens are a tougher team

I'll make this short and sweet...

Chris Neil was a commodity (and an oddity) on the Sens when they were known as a push-over team. Bryan Murray, apparently at the expense of wins, acquired a few players over the past couple of years that were meant to fill in the toughness gap. Namely: Jason Smith and Jarkko Ruutu.

Doesn't that make Neil expendable?

Ironically, the Senators will face the Leafs tonight; the team that was always seen as ruthless during the Jacques Martin years. It's hard to say if the Sens enforcers will be a factor in this battle for the basement of the Eastern Conference.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

General Lee break down

I had a good feeling about this game for some reason. I think it had something to do with the fact that the Sens hadn't played the Sharks in a long time, and that since everyone now presumes they will lose every game, the team has nothing to lose--every two points are an unexpected bonus.

Of course, they did lose 2-1 to the Sharks, but I'm going to be optimistic about the game. A 2-1 loss to the top team in the western conference isn't that bad, is it?

Recently, it seems that momentary mental lapses have kept the Sens from winning the game. In past games, it's been the first 20 minutes of the game (see: game vs Vancouver), and this time it was a second period penalty kill. Brian Lee, you sloppy rookie. We expect this sort of thing from Jason Spezza, but not from The General!

Speaking of Jason 'deke through everyone, get to the front the net and then pass off to someone 25 feet away from the crease instead of taking a shot that might very well go in in tonight's game vs the shark' Spezza. TAKE THE FREAKING SHOT!!

Overall, the Sens seemed to have have a structured offence and defence this game. Clouston's system seems to be a system worth following. Still, Chris Phillips makes me nervous whenever he's supposed to be covering someone in front of the net. Auld looked good and the coach should stick with him while he's hot. What have the Sens got to lose? (As I already established, nothing. Nothing but John Tavares).

Turning point: Lee double-minor

Tomorrow's Ottawa Sun headline: SHARK ATTACK!!!!111ONEONEeleven

Harsh reminder of poor decisions: The team that Sharks wanted to trade Marleau to a couple years ago: The Sens. The player they wanted in return: Wade Redden. sigh.

Peter spreads his wings

Dear readers, fans, enemies, and friends,

Today Peter leaves Sens Army Blog to pursue another blogosphere opportunity, namely, the new unofficial Ottawa Senators blog on Sports Blog Nation, Silver Seven ( As much fun as Sens Army has been (and it has been very fun), I've been discussing the move for a while now with people at SBNation and decided that it's a good move for me at the moment.

Of course, Ben will still be on Sens Army, and will keep doing what he does best--bashing Martin Gerber. And, obviously, keeping fans abreast of what's happening with the Senators. Be sure to keep checking out SAB regularly, I certainly will be. I'll even keep posting No Habs No! letters here, for the remainder of this season's campaign.

While you're getting your fill of Sens opinion and analysis, though, be sure to check out Silver Seven. You can expect everything you've expected from me while reading Sens Army Blog, and the format of SBN allows for more reader interaction--including fanshots (quick hits of videos, photos, and links), fanposts (community posts and discussions), and, of course, commenting.

I want to thank everyone who reads and comments the blog for all the fun that Sens Army has been for the last couple of years. I hope to hear from you all over at Silver Seven.


The Rumour Mill: Trading Neil, Kuba, Schubert, giving Gerber

A couple of stories in the Ottawa Sun today regarding moves that the Senators may be doing prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on next Wednesday, March 4, 2009.

First off, contrary to the thoughts of those who saw the Mike Comrie acquisition as the actions of a buyer, GM Bryan Murray has announced that his asking price for the team's tradeables are draft picks and prospects.

According to the story, Chris Neil is looking for a 127% raise over the $1.1M he's making this season, and is apparently asking for a deal in the $2.5M range. The Senators are apparently offering him $1.5, but Murray has likely decided he can't fit Neil at $2M+ into his long-term plans or a deal would be done by now. Also in the story, however, was an interesting note suggesting that Neil wouldn't mind going to a team with a chance to make a run for the cup--which would certainly include the San Jose Sharks and the Detroit Red Wings, who have both been rumoured to have interest in Neil (as has the Edmonton Oilers). It would be a shame if the career Senators was traded for sentimental reasons, but he certainly had an off-season last year, and this year--despite increased physical effectiveness--his offensive numbers leave a lot to be desired (2G, 4A, 6P, -12).

The Sens' biggest payoff, though, could come from a deal involving Filip Kuba. He's the team's highest-scoring defenceman with 28 points (1G, 27A), and is on pace for a career-high 40 points. He's making $3M this season, and looking for a raise to $4M, according to the Sun. Assuming Ottawa is not able to re-sign Kuba, he should bring a decent return; at least the second- and third-round picks that Mathieu Schneider was worth, and it's certainly possible he'd be worth a package including a first-rounder or a pretty good prospect.

With Dean McAmmond already dealt (*sniff*), that leaves one final pending UFA: Martin Gerber. According to another Sun story, Murray has said he's heard of a few teams interested in Gerber, and will likely be putting him on re-entry waivers to dump half of his remaining salary. The Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres are apparently two interested teams. How hilarious would it be if the Sabres made a run for the cup with Gerber and Patrick Lalime as their two goaltenders?

Oh yeah, and we're still waiting on the apparently inevitable trade of Christoph Schubert. The guy hasn't played in more than twenty days, I hope it's not Ottawa's side that's holding out on this trade.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Holy something: Sens 4, 'Canes 2

Ouch, Carolina. Those would have been a pretty big two points for you guys, eh? Too bad the Senators picked this time to start playing good hockey. You've been spoiled, suckas. Ottawa responded to the challenge from their coach to come out of the gates strong, scoring three goals and taking a 3-1 lead in the first period, and they didn't look back.

These new guys look pretty good so far, don't they? Chris Campoli is a heck of a player on the powerplay, and had his third assist in two games so far in a Sens uniform. His mobility is great, and even if he's not going to throw a big hit, he's usually able to get in the way of an approaching forward. And after a great (albeit point-free) start to his second stint with the Senators, Mike Comrie scored a beauty in his second game that turned out to be the game-winner. He froze Cam Ward with a fake slapshot, and then moved up on him and slip the puck five-hole. I could get used to this secondary scoring thing again.

Two assists for Daniel Alfredsson, and the guy is playing with a broken freakin' jaw. You can see some hesitation from the captain when he's faced with really physical play, but it hasn't negatively affected his performance; he's just using vision and positioning instead of muscle and strength to win battles. Playing smarter, instead of just harder--although he still works like an ox. Antoine Vermette had a couple assists on the night, as well, and was an incredible 72% in the faceoff circle (13/18). Although Vermette's fifth in the league with a season-average 57.5 faceoff percentage, he was going up against a guy like Rod Brind'Amour, long known as a strong faceoff man and second overall this season at 61.7% (Brind'Amour was only 43% in the circle on the night). Possibly interesting note: Former Sen Radek Bonk leads the league in faceoff winning percentage at 62%.

Jeremy Milks at Black Aces described Cory Clouston's smart decision to start Alex Auld instead of Brian Elliott tonight, despite the possible perceptions or political remifications of such a decisio. Elliott's been a good goaltender for the Sens since he came up, but he's been fighting the puck recently. With a capable supporting 'tender and little on the line for his team, Elliott is in a good position to learn about the mental side of the game--he may simply have to settle down before he gets back in the net. Or he may have to wait for Auld to falter, the way cueball has been playing.

Anyone else notice a physical edge from Brian Lee tonight? He was credited with one hit (it was a good one, but holy shit Mike Fisher had eight hits), but he was also roughing a 'Canes player up a bit in front of his net after the whistle. He had an assist, too, but it's good to see a young guy who's obviously learning parts of the game begin to learn the disciplined physical side that many good defencemen need to know to be effective.

Carolina outshot the Senators 43-22 on the night, so kudos to Auld, of course. But the 'Canes got 43 shots through, and had another seven blocked by Anton Volchenkov. I don't know how Android gets pucks to hit him so much; maybe he's got some crazy Soviet ionized-equipment technology that attracts vulcanized rubber to his shin pads. Yeah, that must be it.

Other notes, I guess: Sick pass from Alfie and sick release from Dany Heatley on the Sens' first goal, and Heater's now got 30 goals on the year; Great response by Vermette and Chris Kelly to restore the Sens' lead seconds after Carolina tied the game; Nice powerplay goal for Jason Spezza to put the game out of reach early in the second period.

Auld to start against the 'Canes

According to the Ottawa Sun, Alex Auld is going to get the start tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes.

In his last four appearances--two of which were in relief of Brian Elliott--Auld is 2-1-1 with a GAA of 1.48 and a SP of .940--stats that would lead the league if they reflected his play all season.

Ottawa is 1-1 against the 'Canes this season, with the one win a 5-1 victory in which Dean McAmmond scored the game winner. I miss him already.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Creative solutions for disappointing times

The Sens are in deep shit. The team likely won't make the playoffs this year and some poor decisions off the ice have turned off many fans. As we all know, desperate times call for desperate measures. After a slump in the music industry, selling music has taken a strange left-turn. Yes, it's a phrase I never thought I would utter, but the Ottawa Senators should take a lesson from Nine Inch Nails and get creative--selling not only tickets, but the services of players.

I now present the Senators new pricing scheme. It's not cheap, but I would pay a lot of money to punch Martin Gerber in the stomach.

Tickets to Sens game and autographed jersey.

Tickets to Sens game, play on a line with Spezza and Heatley until you collect an assist, or a 5-game road trip--which ever's first.

Chicken wing eating contest with Chris Kelly at the location of your choice.

Brian Elliot will shovel your driveway.

Tickets to Sens game, one period as Senators goalie. Win, and you're in for the next game--Paddock-style.

Senators recall Martin Gerber from Binghamton, and you can punch him in the stomach

Jason Spezza will prank phone call anyone you like, get three words into the joke then hang up and laugh at his own wit for 20 minutes.

Crazy carpet rides at Mont Tremblant with Christoph Schubert.

Chris Phillips will come to your work or home and intimidate a co-worker or disobedient child.

Two hours of marriage councilling with Cory Clouston. Results guaranteed or you can fire him half-way through.

Bryan Murray will trade the player of your choice to Tampa Bay for Gary Roberts and three other players on their career death bed.

Tour of Ottawa in mangled English with Anton Volchenkov. He will tell you his favourite place to 'glanrd' and where to find the best 'prfogh' in town.

Daniel Alfredsson will reveal the secret to recovering from any injury using the power of Swedishness.

Dany Heatley will loan you his robotic eye for one week. Use it only for good or it will explode.

15-hour training session entitled "Picking up pop stars" with Mikes Fisher and Comrie.

Chris Neil will punch any person in Ottawa, up-to and including the Prime Minister. If he's gotta serve time, that's $300 extra.

The Curse of the European Experiment

Feb. 23, 2009: Tom Renney, NYR: 31-23-7, 69 points, winning percentage: .566

Feb. 15, 2009: Michel Therrien, PIT: 27-25-5, 59 points, winning percentage: .517

Feb. 2, 2009: Craig Hartsburg, OTT: 17-27-7, 41 points, winning percentage: .402

Nov. 15, 2008: Barry Melrose, TBL: 5-7-4, 14 points, winning percentage: .437

Four coaches. Four teams that started the season in Europe, two (Ottawa and Pittsburgh) in Sweden and two (New York and Tampa Bay) in Finland. Is it a coincidence? Probably. But it might not be.

A season begun in Europe means a lot of things. One positive thing Sens fans were looking for was team bonding, bringing a team that had a difficult year and some significant changes closer together under the team's banner. It also means, however, an unusually shortened training camp and atypical exhibition games. It means a circus-like beginning to the season, that cuts into the regular season, and certainly offers some distraction from the team's focus on the season. I don't know if any of that affected these teams' respective performance this season, but it's a very interesting coincidence.

Next season, four more games in Europe: Detroit versus St. Louis in Stockholm, and Chicago takes on Florida in Helsinki. Let's see how that goes.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Rumour Mill: So many defencemen...

Although secondary scoring has long been seen as a priority for the Senators, it was generally agreed that a more pressing need going into this season was for a puck-moving defenceman. Although the Senators have a few possible elite puck-movers, they're not there yet, so that need still hasn't been addressed. As it stands now, the Senators are moving into next year with the following corps of defencemen, any of whom has a decent chance to make the Sens' roster:
  1. Filip Kuba
  2. Chris Phillips
  3. Anton Volchenkov
  4. Chris Campoli
  5. Brian Lee
  6. Jason Smith
  7. Alex Picard
  8. Brendan Bell
  9. Christoph Schubert
  10. Mattias Karlsson
  11. Erik Karlsson
  12. Patrick Wiercioch
There are some notes to make here, obviously: The acquisition of Chris Campoli seems to indicate the team will move away from Filip Kuba, hopefully by trade although he may simply walk in the off-season--it seems unlikely that Bryan Murray will re-sign him at the higher salary he will likely demand. Brendan Bell is also a free agent at the end of this season, and--although his contract has been positive for the Senators--he may look to sign somewhere else if he'd get a better shot on their NHL squad. Mattias Karlsson has had an all-star season in the AHL this year, but he may not be NHL ready yet. Finally, although the hopes are high for both Erik Karlsson and Patrick Wiercioch, it's unexpected they'll make the NHL roster next season, and will likely need a year in the AHL before making the big leagues.

That leaves three virtual locks as defensive defenceman on the Sens' blue line next season--Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov, and Jason Smith--and four lesser puck-moving defencemen battling for the other three spots--Campoli, Brian Lee, Alex Picard, and Christoph Schubert. But four good puck-movers doesn't make up for the lack of one elite puck-mover.

And even with those four, trade rumours have the Sens looking to pick up more offensively-oriented middle-road defencemen. Bruce Garrioch today said that Schubert is all but traded (about time), with Edmonton and Tampa Bay both interested, and the asking price for the Oilers set at young defenceman Ladislav Smid--yet another young, mobile defencemen not expected to be a top-pairing player. And Eklund (am I actually reporting this?) said today that Vancouver is looking at Antoine Vermette still, and the Sens are asking for--you guessed it--a defenceman in return.

I expect Ottawa to take a good run at finding an elite puck-mover in the off-season, though. They've got both Martin Gerber and Kuba coming off the books for next year, offering $6.7M (before re-signing Brian Elliott) to spend on an overdue replacement. That might not be enough for someone like Jay Bouwmeester, but he sure would look good on a first pairing with Campoli, if you ask me.

If I should fall behind: Habs 5, Sens 3

The Senators had every reason to come out strong on Saturday afternoon. Ever-decreasing opportunities to make up ground in a playoff race. A chance to make up two points on a team that the Senators' would likely have to bypass. Their captain, Daniel Alfredsson, making a heroic return from a broken jaw. But it was all for nothing, and the Canadiens' Alex Kovalev--also returning to the lineup, but for an altogether different reason than Alfie--took over the game in the first, getting three points on four goals in the game's first 27 minutes.

The Habs came out strong in the first, and it didn't help that the Sens gave them three powerplay opportunities in that period--and Montreal capitalized on two of 'em, with goals from Tomas Plekanec and Mathieu Schneider. Their even-strength goal came from Kovalev, off a turnover from Chris Kelly, weak coverage by Chris Phillips, and poor positioning on the part of Brian Elliott. Ells was pulled after the third goal in favour of Alex Auld.

Shean Donovan tried to get his team going with a fight early in the second, but it didn't quite have the desired effect. On their fourth powerplay, Patrice Brisebois scored to put the Habs up 4-0. It would turn out to be the game-winning goal.

Jarkko Ruutu scored a minute after Brisebois, and a couple minutes after that Dany Heatley scored his first of the game--it looked like the Senators may have been on their way back into the game. But Mathieu Dandenault scored off a juicy Auld rebound late in the second, and not even another Heatley goal in the third could get the Sens back into it.

Special teams were the story. Montreal's powerplay went 3-for-4, and their penalty kill was 6-for-7. That, in the end, did the Senators in on the night. Ottawa outshot the Canadiens 47-32, including a game-high seven from Heatley as well as five from each of Filip Kuba and the recently-reacquired Mike Comrie, but Jaroslav Halak was up to the task for the Canadiens. As good as Kovalev was, Halak was the Habs' best player on the night.

Another disturbing stat? Ottawa had 16 giveaways (Jason Smith had a team-high four of them), and only five takeaways. Tough to balance those numbers.

The good news for the Senators is that both Comrie and Chris Campoli played very well in their debuts. Campoli, obviously, had the more notable first game with a couple of assists, and he was one of only four Senators on the plus side of the ledger (only Heatley, Alfredsson, and Jason Spezza were also pluses). But Comrie played with plenty of intensity and made some chances, and looked pretty good as well.

Ottawa's got two more shots at the Canadiens this season. Although the nails are about as close to hammered into Ottawa's coffin as they can be right now, it would be nice to play spoiler a little bit more.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Holy shit, Alfie's back already?

Wow. Print up the banners. Daniel Alfredsson should be retired right freakin' now. After missing one game (three days)--people had predicted 7-10 days initially--the captain is back already for the Sens' game against Montreal Saturday afternoon. He's wearing a visor and a face shield to protect his broken jaw.

Unbelievable. What a champion.

Point/Counterpoint: The Comrie/Campoli deal

Peter: Likes the deal

It's difficult for me to say this, but I think it's a pretty good deal for the Ottawa Senators. As much as I enjoyed watching Dean McAmmond play for the Ottawa Senators, and as valuable as he is as a role player, he seemed unlikely to re-sign with the Senators; and is not much less likely now. Mike Comrie is also on an expiring contract, so the Comrie and McAmmond aspects of the deal may turn out to be a wash in the end--especially since the Sens could have re-signed Comrie whether or not they'd acquired him. This does give the Senators some extra time to discuss any possible contract, but unless Comrie is willing to accept a pay cut from his $4M salary from this season (which is possible, considering the off-year he's having), he seems unlikely to stick around. I disagree with those who think this is the desperate actions of a GM needing to make the playoffs to save his job; Bryan Murray is smart enough to know that Comrie is not going to be enough to get the Senators into the dance.

Which leaves us with the other two parts of the deal, San Jose's first-round draft pick from Ottawa and Chris Campoli from the Islanders. Campoli adds another young, quick, offensively-oriented defenceman to Ottawa's quickly-refreshing stable (see also: Brian Lee, Alex Picard, Mattias Karlsson, Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch). Although he's young, Campoli has played 228 NHL games over four seasons, which is decent experience, but he's still on a very good contract that will only pay him $625k this year and $675k next. According to Islanders blog Point Blank, Campoli had requested a trade from the Islanders (can you blame him?), which is why the Isles let him go. The San Jose first-round pick will likely be in the range of a 26-30 overall, which--according to TSN's Scott Cullen's draft-position predictor--is likely to be a very good AHL player, or a fringe NHLer. (Even if the Sharks are eliminated from the playoffs quickly and the pick is somewhere from 21-25, Cullen's matrix predicts that player being a full-time NHL fourth-liner. With draft picks it's always possible you find a player who's going to surpass expectations, but that late in the draft, it's often more likely you'll find someone who'll fall below expectations--as Cullen's calculations demonstrate. And even if you're in the minority and actually draft a player of Campoli's calibre at that draft position, you've still got to wait several years for that players to develop, and the Senators aren't looking for a long rebuild (while the Islanders are). Ottawa has to compete next year, and would rather not wait for that prospect to develop.

Ben: Doesn't like the deal

Irresponsible. That’s the word that comes to mind when discussing the McAmmond and 1st rounder for Campoli and Comrie trade. It’s a trade that barely improves the team now and doesn’t seem to have an eye on the future either.

This deal stinks of the one that Bryan Murray made a couple years ago with Joe Corvo. I forget who the Sens got back in that deal because THEY NO LONGER PLAY FOR THE TEAM. What’s the point of trading for Mike Comrie if he can’t help the team now and likely won’t re-sign after this season? Players rarely take pay cuts at the height of their career, and the Sens refused to pay $4M the last time Comrie left the team—why would they agree to pay it now during one of Comrie’s worst seasons? McAmmond’s contract was expiring, so it’s okay to let him go, but he’s the least of this deal. The Senators will not make the playoffs this season, so acquiring Comrie, if they fail to sign him, will be a waste of time, money, and a draft pick.

It really doesn’t matter who the Sens end this season with, it matter what prospects, draft picks, and contracts they have next season. If you like, we can boil the deal down to Campoli for a 1st round pick. This is supposed to be a good draft, and Campoli was selected 227th overall in 2004. The Sharks’ pick will likely land somewhere between 23-28… sooooo a 25th pick for a 227th pick. I understand this is flawed logic because some great players have come out of the late rounds, but the Sens can see what they’ve got… and it’s not a blue-chip prospect like what they could have snatched late in the first round.

So where does this trade leave the Senators? With one less asset and one more overpaid forward, keeping them from building towards next season. This deal goes no where.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sens acquire Comrie and Campoli for McAmmond and a pick

According to the Team 1200, the Senators made a trade with the New York Islanders to re-acquire centreman Mike Comrie and also pick up defenceman Chris Campoli in exchange for Dean McAmmond and the San Jose Sharks' first-round pick (which was acquired from Tampa Bay in the Andrej Meszaros trade). It is also now posted on

Sens fans should remember Comrie well from the 2007 playoff run, where he was a big part of the depth that enabled the Senators to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. He was allowed to walk the next season, and is on the last year of the deal he signed with the Islanders that will pay him $4M this year. He's a pending unrestricted free agent, and is having an off-year this season with 7G and 13A in 41GP.

In Campoli, the Senators receive a young mobile defenceman who's signed for a cap hit of $633k for this season as well as next year. According to his scouting report from Sportsnet, he's a very fast and very mobile defenceman who could eventually become a good powerplay quarterback. He's not an elite puck-moving defenceman, but he could very well help the Senators' in building a more effective defensive unit. This season, he's scored 6 goals and 11 assists in 51 games, and has 83P (20G, 63A) in 228 career games with the Islanders.

In exchange, Ottawa is giving up a good veteran player on an expiring contract as well as what would likely be a low first-round pick. McAmmond was never a game-breaker, but he was a veteran who could be relied on regularly to hustle, kill penalties, and could fill in just about any role in a pinch. Unfortunately for me, McAmmond was my favourite non-Daniel Alfredsson Ottawa Senator, which means I'll look like an ass with my McAmmond jersey. But that's fine (maybe we can re-sign him in the off-season; make it happen, Bryan Murray!). The first-round pick appears to be lining up as a very low pick, expectations would indicate somewhere between 25-30 overall, which would mean that the prospect wouldn't be tremendously promising (not likely any better than Campoli already is).

In terms of intangibles, Comrie might bring with him Hilary Duff, who might get along well with Mike Fisher's romantic interest Carrie Underwood. Interesting.

In an interview, Murray denied that he has plans to turn around and sell Comrie to another team; instead, Comrie will likely finish out the season with Ottawa, and both signs sound interested in signing a contract extension at some point. He also hinted that some of the moves he'll be making this season could involve putting players on waivers, perhaps to be dumped to other teams.

Although I'm disappointed to see McAmmond go, he may very well have signed somewhere else in the off-season, anyway. Exchanging him and a low-percentage draft pick for a more offensive player as well as an inexpensive, young, and pormising young defensive prospect seems like a good deal for the present, as well as a look to the future. I don't imagine Murray is done with his deals, though; there are still Filip Kuba and Chris Neil as possibly tradeable assets, and who knows what else.

(EDIT: Interesting note is that we can translate Murray's two biggest trades this season into Meszaros and McAmmond for Kuba, Comrie, Campoli, and Alex Picard. Doesn't look too bad for the time being.)

Gerber a... boost? In Binghamton?

Okay, maybe that title is a little bit harsh. There has never been any issue with the personality that Martin Gerber brought to his teams. He just hasn't been consistent or reliable enough on the ice. But still, it is interesting to see that his demotion to the Binghamton Senators has helped that team compensate for their loss of an AHL All-Star (Brian Elliott) and maintain their presence in the AHL's playoff race.

According to an article in the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin, Gerber has, indeed, been a pretty valuable addition to the B-Sens--particularly in terms of leadership. His statistics certainly haven't been mind-blowing, with a record of 6-5, one shutout, 2.57GAA, and 0.920SP. Still, his devotion to the game and to his new team appear to be pretty valuable to his teammates. From the story:

Indeed, for the man who opened last fall as the No. 1 goaltender in Ottawa, little has gone according to plan this season. But in a potentially prickly situation - a $3.7 million goaltender, assigned to Binghamton 24 days ago after a disappointing season in the NHL - he has continued to make a smooth transition onto his new team.

"It's been awesome," said goaltender Jeff Glass, whose locker sits next to Gerber's at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. "I've never once heard him complain, or argue. ... From the second he came down here, he was asking questions about what place we were in. And he really joined with this team, and jelled with this team.


The Ottawa Sun also reported last month that "it's almost a certainty" Gerber will join the Swiss national team for the International Ice Hockey Federation's World Championship, which runs April 24 to May 10 in his native Switzerland. The AHL's regular season ends April 12.

Asked Thursday if the World Championship is indeed in his plans, Gerber said: "The plan is to make the playoffs here, and go deep there. That's the plan. And you know, whatever happens after that, I haven't really thought about it."


"It would be easy to pack it in," he said. "But you're a professional, and you want to play hockey after all. And there's certain stuff in hockey you can't control. And there's people involved who make decisions, and all you can do is put your best effort out there. And hopefully you get to a point where it's good enough to play where you want to play."
Binghamton currently sits in fourth place in the East Division with 66 points, six ahead of fith-place Philadelphia. As the top four seeds in each division make the playoffs, they are currently sitting pretty in a playoff spot for the first time since 2005--but with another 25 games left in the season, Gerber and Glass are going to have to keep their games in top notch form if they're going to hold onto that playoff spot.

No Habs No: Sergei Gonchar

Wow. Who would have thought the No Habs No! Campaign would have been nearly as successful as it has been recently? For the 12th time in 15 games, someone will receive a letter from the Campaign; This time, it's Sergei Gonchar of the Pittsburgh Penguins:

The Habs' record since the start of the No Habs No! Campaign is 19-17-5 overall.

To support the campaign, you can do any combination of the following:
  • Join the 210+ fans on our Facebook page.
  • Donate some amount via PayPal to (Now more important than ever, with the Habs sucking so hard).
  • Visit our swag shop (We've distributed a large mug, a long-sleeved tee, and a baseball shirt so far!).
  • Express support and solidarity by commenting on the blog.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Canucks fans are jerks :'(

Well I went to the Sens game tonight and I was not happy with the result. The first period pretty much sunk Ottawa, as they spent the rest of the game trying to claw their way back into it. Ultimately a four-goal hole was too large for the Sens to find their way out of, and time ran out for Ottawa in this game.

This was a totally winnable game for the Sens, or at least, their play of late lead me to think so. Cory Clouston puts much more faith into second and third-line players like Shean Donovan and Nick Foligno, but it's hard to say whether this strategy pays off. While Foligno was grinding in the corners, the Canucks defence seemed ripe for a speedy centre to deke through them and score. Dany Heatley's goal was straight of out his "wait with your stick cocked high in the air" play book.

Despite the score, Brian Elliot played very well, especially in the second and third period. It's not his fault that the Senators defence abandons him. I don't think that better "team defence" is the answer anymore. Fingers need to be pointed, and there's more than enough fingers to go around. Defence needs to be addressed as much as scoring when Bryan Murray looks at his options this trade deadline.

Mike Fisher had one goal and more than 20 minutes of ice time. What's the strategy here? Jason Spezza, having a far more successful season, played around 14 minutes. I'd rather have the Sens' first-line centre than their supposedly fearsome eight-goal scorer.

After an incredible road trip, the Sens are facing the true test of their season in the next week. Are they an underperforming team in need of inspiration? Or is it truly the end of days? Either way, I like the Canucks a whole lot less tonight.

No Habs No: Alexander Semin

Alexander 'The Bongo Player' Semin will receive the following letter in appreciation for his shootout winner against the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 18:

Not including tonight's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins (not yet finished), the Habs' record since the start of the No Habs No! Campaign is 19-16-5 overall.

To support the campaign, you can do any combination of the following:
  • Join the 210+ fans on our Facebook page.
  • Donate some amount via PayPal to
  • Visit our swag shop (We've distributed a large mug, a long-sleeved tee, and a baseball shirt so far!).
  • Express support and solidarity by commenting on the blog.

Alfie out at least a week

NOOOOOOOO! Thanks a lot, Dany Heatley. Because of your snapshot to Daniel Alfredsson's jaw, the captain is expected to miss at least 7-10 days before having another x-ray to determine the status of his injury. Way to go; I'm calling on you personally to step it up in Alfie's absence.

Josh Hennessy was recalled from Binghamton to fill out the roster, and Chris Kelly will play right wing on the top line with Heatley and Jason Spezza.

The Sens have five games over the next 10 days, so if Alfie stays out that whole time it's a pretty big blow to the Sens' last-ditch playoff push. But hey, what can you do?

Now, back to the 36-hour Obamathon...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Louie Caporusso nominated for Hobey Baker Award

Louie Caporusso, Ottawa's third-round (90 overall) choice in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, is among nominees for the 28th annual Hobey Baker Award, given to the NCAA's top men's ice hockey player.

Caporusso is having a solid year for the University of Michigan Wolverines, with 22 goals--second-best in the country--and 37 points in 32 games so far this season. Thanks in some part to Caporusso's improved play, the Wolverines are ranked third in the NCAA Div. 1 rankings, and have won 14 of their last 16 games.

You, as a member of Sens Army, have the opportunity to help get Caporusso the Hobey Baker award by voting in the official website. Your vote counts for a part of the final ballot that determines the winner. He's a ways down the rankings right now, so a voting blitz couldn't come at a better time. At the time of writing, Caporusso had 504 votes (0.2%), compared to the 29,582 (12%) leader Mark Magnowski of Princeton had, despite the fact that Caporusso's 37 points far ahead of Magnowski's 17 points (10G, 7A in 25GP).

(via HockeyBuzz's Mark Christopher)

Alfie's might miss time (updated)

Although we had an injury scare with Daniel Alfredsson taking a Dany Heatley wrist shot to the face yesterday, he returned later in the game. He apparently had x-rays of his jaw after the game, but expectations are that he won't miss any time.

So we should be able to breathe easily.

EDIT: Actually, according to Binghamton Senators beat writer Michael Sharp, Josh Hennessy has been recalled from Bingo in the event that the captain isn't able to play Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks. I don't have an update on the injury, but Hennessy's recall seems to indicate it's like he'd miss at least one game.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

All The Way Home: Avs 3, Sens 2 (OT)

Wow. The Senators had 15 points on the road in their first 25 road games, but got nine on this five-game road trip. Says a lot about how this team's been playing of late, and for anyone to get 90 per cent of points available on such a disjointed road trip has to come (all the way) home feeling pretty darn good about their trip.

Ryan Shannon made this game for the Sens. He scored the Sens' two goals, one on a sneaky shot and the other a top-corner wrister from the point. He looks a little unusual playing the point on the powerplay, but it worked tonight. Shannon didn't make much of an impact in his first stint, but his recent seven-game stint under Cory Clouston has re-energized his line with Mike Fisher and Nick Foligno, and his speed is lethal.

In nets, Alex Auld made some big saves tonight, and was one of the main reasons the Sens walked out of the game with even one point. He stopped 24 of 27, including one terrific chance Ryan Smyth had in alone after a lucky home-ice bounce off the back boards.

For obvious reasons, ice time was pretty evenly distributed amongst the players tonight. It's a pretty important coaching tactic when playing the second game of a back-to-back, particularly in the mile-high city of Denver. No one had less ice time than Jesse Winchester's 10:52 (and he still had three shots), and Mike Fisher led the forwards with 18:28 on the night.

Could Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza have been more invisible on the night? Apparently Heatley had three shots, but they couldn't have been very good scoring chances, and the only moments I noticed Spezza were when he looked for an open pass with futility, eventually to lose the puck to an Avalanche player--such as what happened on Colorado's second goal, when Spezza lost the puck and then offered absolutely no defensive coverage when backchecking. They had one shift with any semblance of intensity, and that was with five minutes left in the third; and it didn't even generate a shot on net, as Heatley sent his one chance wide. But then Spezza's inability to get the puck in deep and severely lacking defensive coverage were the chief reasons for Wojtek Wolski's overtime winner. Need more offence than that from these guys, especially in such a difficult game.

In his 1,000th career NHL game, Jason Smith played an effective game. He had 18:11 of ice time, usually with Alex Picard, and he bailed out his younger defence partner a couple of times. And he even had a couple shots on net. As for Picard, I`ll give the guy a break because it was his first game in quite a while, but he didn`t look very good on the whole.

Got to laugh about Chris Kelly's continued offensive drought. The guy doesn't have a goal in 13 games including the Colorado game, and only has six on the year. He had Ottawa's best chance to go up 3-2 with about 80 seconds left in the third, but his clean shot from the slot went high and wide. Coupled with his empty-net post-clanger last night against Nashville, the guy's got to be damn frustrated.
So now it`s back home for a game against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. Should be a good game, as both teams are pretty hot right now.

Around the boards: Game-used tutu, and Redden's legacy

See? Sens fans have a sense of humour. This, a hilarious fake-hockey-card from Puck Daddy's ongoing fake-hockey-card contest, is funny. Funny because Daniel Alfredsson isn't afraid to dress up as a ballerina for Hallowe'en. And funny because Alfie is among the least 'pansified' elite players in the league (to borrow a term from Mike Milbury). Pre-tire number 11 already.


There were a couple lineup changes for tonight's game against the Colorado Avalanche. First off, Brendan Bell will be dropped from the lineup to give Alex Picard a slot on defence. Not sure how one sort-of-bad-game means that Bell's four or five preceding good games weren't good enough, but it should be good to get some fresh legs in the lineup tonight. It wouldn't be right to keep Bell out for too long, he's earned a spot on the powerplay.

Secondly, Alex Auld is going to make the start. He had a shutout last night against Nashville, and a couple periods of shutout hockey a couple nights before in Minnesota--he's earned a start. It's a bit strange to have him playing back-to-back in difficult circumstances (time zone change, air quality/elevation in Colorado), but we'll see how it goes. If I had to bet, though, I'd wager that Brian Elliott will still get most starts for the remainder of the season.


It would be unfortunate if the legacy of Wade Redden becomes that of an overpaid and underperforming New York Ranger who plays out his contract in the AHL, rather than remembering the success that the former Senators defenceman had earlier in his career. But that seems to be just what Larry Brooks of the New York Post, who called the Redden signing "the worst in the history of the NHL, if not in the history of hard-cap pro sports," seems to think. From Brooks' column:
"It's bad enough that the only way out for Sather is if he can muster the courage to 'fess up to Jim Dolan and explain that, sorry, but the Garden is going to have to pay Redden $31M to play minor-league hockey in Hartford the next five years in order to remove him from the cap - think Sather will still have a job for life following that hypothetical conversation? - but it's worse that this albatross has become Tom Renney's Folly, as well.

"There may not have been more of a downer this season than seeing the head coach send Redden out to the point to start the power play in Florida Friday night with the score tied 1-1 and 4:05 to go in regulation. Redden had no business being on the ice in that situation. He lacks decisiveness and vision. His shot is weak. It bangs off teammates' bodies 35 feet away from the net more often than it gets through."
It was certainly a terrible signing, and it was based on such ridiculous optimism that Redden could return to his old form that it's laughable. Calling it the worst signing in the history of the NHL may be hyperbole (Remember Alexei Yashin's 10-year, $90M contract with the New York Islanders?), but it certainly makes the Senators look good for bowing out of the bidding war (despite the need for a puck-mover of some sort) instead of making a crippling long-term decision.

The worst part is that no one can blame Redden for accepting the 6-year, $39M contract--but he's going to have to live with the fact that he's not living up to the unfounded expectations unless by some miracle his play turns around.


A five-game winning streak, and the Sens have made up two points and one spot in the push for the playoff spot. Then again, I guess no one said it would be easy.

But maybe with Montréal resorting to old friends (Mathieu Schneider) and benching or demoting current players (Alex Kovalev and Sergei Kositsyn, respectively), maybe their free-fall is far from over. Not that I'm trying to rub it in, or anything. We understand your frustration, Habs fans; we're (hopefully) coming off of a calendar year of it. Plus Toronto will be selling soon, Pittsburgh's a basket case, and Buffalo's without Thomas Vanek for a month, so we'll see how it goes.

I'm not going to get my hopes up for a playoff spot, but hopefully the Sens make it one hell of a ride. Even if they finish ninth or something, with the reported depth of this year's draft class, the Sens could get a pretty darn good prospect with their own pick, and maybe a half-decent one if Bryan Murray holds onto the San Jose Sharks' first-rounder that was acquired in the Andrej Meszaros deal.

No Habs No: Henrik Sedin

Western Canadian teams continue to contribute to the No Habs No! Campaign, with Vancouver becoming the most recent team to defeat the Habs. So Henrik Sedin will receive the following letter:

Montréal is 19-16-4 since the campaign started on Nov. 22, 2008.

To support the campaign, you can do any combination of the following:
  • Join the 201+ fans on our Facebook page.
  • Donate some amount via PayPal to
  • Visit our swag shop (We've distributed a large mug, a long-sleeved tee, and a baseball shirt so far!).
  • Express support and solidarity by commenting on the blog.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Rising: Sens 2, Preds 0

Hey Alex Auld is back! The Alex Auld that helped Ottawa string together some points in late November and early December of 2008. As effective as the Sens' up-tempo forecheck was tonight, we would have seen a completely different result if Auld didn't play as well as he could. Auld faced some bona fide scoring chances from the Predators, and was right up to task. I don't want to say he stole the game, but he was definitely accessory to the crime. He got his shutout (despite TSN's Gord Miller's best attempts to jinx his goose egg), and the Sens walked out of Nashville with two more points on their fifth consecutive win.

The suddenly sizzling Nick Foligno scored the game-winning goal off a great read and great pass from Mike Fisher (and a terrible giveaway by Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne). Since Cory Clouston took over as head coach, Foligno's been given a greater role, and has responded very well: He has five points (4G, 1A) in the seven games under Clouston, compared to 13 (6G, 7A) in the previous 48 games. This is the Nick Foligno who I signed to a lifetime contract in NHL2K9, and who Sens brass (and fans) want to see every night.

Dany Heatley has similarly stepped up his game of late, and he scored the Sens' second goal with a snipe-job in tight short side off a clean pass from Jason Spezza. He also had seven shots on the night, and had a half-decent open-ice hit early in the game. Heater's got four goals and five points in the last three games since being 'encouraged' (or gently called out) by Clouston. Nice to see the assistant captain step up and show some leadership-by-example as the Senators continue to put together a last-ditch playoff push.

Something of note that was brought up in TSN's commentary was the body language of the Senators, on the ice and on the bench. Obviously the increased intensity on the ice is well-known, but shots of the bench showed a confident group that appeared to have plenty of respect for one another, and good communication. It was in heavy contrast to the Nashville bench about half-way through the game, which was panned across by the camera and appeared completely silent with no one looking at each other, let alone talking to each other. The Sens look like a group that's maybe having fun playing the game again, which they haven't looked like for quite a while.

Penalty killers have to be given credit once again. They killed off all four fairly effectively, although Auld had a big hand in that. Antoine Vermette had a great chance short-handed when he snapped a shot at Rinne and almost tucked the rebound in, and Fisher had a short-handed breakaway in the second but got robbed by a great glove save by Rinne. One notably intimidating penalty-killing defensive pairing was Anton Volchenkov and Jason Smith; needless to say, the Predators didn't get a shot on goal during the time those two were on the ice.

On Nashville's side of the ice, Jordin Tootoo was a freakin' monster tonight. He had a game-high five hits, including a couple devastating ones, and even got or made a few good scoring chances. I didn't like seeing him head-hunting, but he does one hell of a good job within his role, and even adds in some offensive flair to boot.

Can I ask that we stop ragging Fisher about Carrie Underwood? Enough with the questions. Enough with the 'investigative reporting' of Underwood being at Spezza's Christmas party. Enough with the camera shots of her trying to hide from cameras at the hockey game. Let's just be happy for two seemingly nice people who've become friends. They obviously don't want to talk about it, so fuck off already.

Spoiler warning; or, Exploits of a twelfth-place team

Going into tonight's game against the Nashville Predators, the Ottawa Senators are in twelfth place in the Eastern Conference with 50 points, which is 14 behind the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres. Ottawa's got 28 games left, making that 14-point gap highly unlikely to be made up, especially with three other teams in the way. There's no reason not to try and bridge that gap, though, and the Sens get to embrace a somewhat rewarding role in the process: The spoiler.
Spoiler (spoi'lər, noun): A team which is unlikely to make the playoffs, but maintains in-game intensity with the intention of making it difficult for other teams to make the playoffs.
So, while still trying to make the playoffs, the Senators will be certainly playing the role of the spoiler. And it has already begun: Minnesota head coach Jacques Lemaire was absolutely outraged when his team, fighting desperately for a playoff spot and currently sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference, bungled a three-goal lead to the Ottawa Senators and lost two very valuable points in the process.

Members of the Wild are vocal in their disappointment, and for good reason. Owen Nolan, as quoted in the Minnesota Star-Tribune, on the team's mid-game implosion:
"We get up three goals in the first period and basically just disrespected the other team," said veteran Owen Nolan, who scored two goals and an assist early in what looked like a destined Wild rout. "We thought the game was in hand, and they came out ready to work the next two periods and they gave it to us.

"There's no reason for the outcome."
And Eric Belanger, from a different article also in the Star-Tribune, on the four days off between games that Minnesota has to think about what went wrong:
"It's probably the worst timing ever having four days off," center Eric Belanger said. "You'll see teams playing games and winning and getting points. It's going to be key to come to work [today] with a positive attitude. It's crunch time. We have nothing else. We know what we did and we have to make sure it never happens again."
In a way, I've been using the No Habs No! Campaign for months now to play spoiler. But, not to downplay the significance of the Campaign, the Senators' players have a more immediate and measurable way to play the game, and that's by continuing to win games against teams in genuine playoff races. Tonight against Nashville is another opportunity, with the Predators right behind Minnesota and only four points out of the playoffs.

And the Senators have three more games this season against Montréal (Feb. 21, Mar. 19, and Apr. 6), so if they can play some significant role in keeping the Canadiens from making the playoffs... well, that would be just swell.

Playing to your strengths

Biggest news in Senators land right now has got to be the entirely unexpected success that Cory Clouston has had since taking over the head coaching mantle. Throw into the fire that was the Ottawa Senators terrible season so far, Clouston came in with confidence and excitement, and that has visibly transferred to the players under him. You've got to wonder, though, why has he been so successful (so far, at least, by going 4-1-1) where three other coaches failed?

I think it has a lot to do with playing to the team's strengths. John Paddock failed last year because, according to GM Bryan Murray, he didn't do enough to get himself and the team ready to play every night. He overused the CASH Line to start the season, and lost the dressing room at some point. He wasn't able to regain the room, and the team couldn't gain any semblance of consistency. So Murray canned Paddock and went behind the bench himself, but to no avail; the team continued to plummet, and Murray's one big trade did nothing to help when they were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.

Craig Hartsburg came in this season with plenty of fanfare. He was absolutely convinced that this team, even without truly elite defencemen, just needed a defensively responsible system to play within to compensate. He forced square pegs into round holes, telling offensive players to play defence instead. And, to be honest, I did think that was what the team needed. We had weak defence and weaker goaltending (this was before Brian Elliott saved us), but good offensive firepower. The unintended effect of this, though, was that offensive players, particularly Daniel Alfredsson, tired themselves out in defensive work and others, such as Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, looked lost at times in a system that just didn't work for them. That's not to say Hartsburg was a bad coach, he was simply a coach who wasn't right for the team and wasn't able to change his approach to suit its players.

Clouston's has been tremendously different, though. He's reinstituted the run-and-gun style that these Senators have had their most success with, and the players look like they're having fun with it. Ottawa is still a team with good speed--especially on the second, third, and fourth lines--and a hard forecheck as has been practiced takes the pressure off Ottawa's defence and puts it on the opposition's. And, with a goaltender who by all appearances may be able to steal a game (or at least preserve a game) in Elliott, the inevitable defensive gaffes won't be as costly as they once were. This may not be a team that will win games with stifling defence, but they might be good enough to outscore their opponents--which is a lot more exciting than games were earlier in the year.

The new coach has also given a new life to a few of Ottawa's prospects, whom he was familiar with in Binghamton. Brian Lee (now playing with Filip Kuba after Clouston (rightfully) reunited Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips) continues his solid play, but that started before Clouston came around. But Clouston has placed Nick Foligno in a second-line role position with the opportunity to succeed, and Foligno has responded well. He's used Brendan Bell effectively, limiting his even-strength ice time to that against weaker opposition and maximizing his powerplay time. He brought up Ryan Shannon, who rejuvenated the Senators' second line and has also been seeing powerplay time on the point.

It's still very early in Clouston's career. The last six games have been impressive, but it remains to be seen whether the players are only relaxed because they now have no expectations, or whether they're still running on the wake-up call that a coaching change represents. As a few more games are played, though, we'll start to see the real team come about--hopefully it will look like the one that's played the last six games rather than the one that was around for the year prior to them.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

No Surrender: Sens 5, Wild 3

(That sure would have been a nice game to have on TV; thanks a lot, CBC. You're real champs. One of these days, I ought to check one of the the live streams available for untelevised games, such as those regularly on The Senate Committee. Oh well, not many games this season have been worth it. Live and learn.)

Does everyone else remember this team? You know, the one from late 2006-07 that was exciting to watch, and--even after going down 3-0 to a defensive juggernaut like the Minnesota Wild--didn't stop pushing and used their offensive firepower to bully their way back into the game and win it? I remember this team now, although I'd almost forgotten it. I remember how much fun it is to follow.

On Saturday, the Sens went down 3-0 in the first period as Brian Elliott allowed all three goals on 12 shots, and was yanked in favour of Alex Auld. The first goal was a bit weak, the second was likely stoppable, but the third was a complete defensive breakdown and Elliott had little to no chance. Still, he was yanked--probably to wake up the team as much as in reflection of his play--and Auld was solid stopping all 17 shots he faced for the rest of the night.

On the offensive side: Five different goal scorers; Hello, secondary scoring. Two goals from defencemen; Hello, offence from the defence. Brian Lee started the comeback with a wrister from the point, Antoine Vermette brought the Sens within one thanks to a pass from Chris Kelly, and Chris Phillips scored the nicest goal of his freakin' career on a short-handed two-on-one rush. Streaking down the left side with Daniel Alfredsson carrying the puck on his right, Phillips received the pass around the hash marks, cut in front of Niklas Backstrom, and tucked a backhander between Backstrom's legs. I'm pretty sure Backstrom thought he was going to shoot all the way, just like everyone else did--but Phillips surprised us all and, according to post-game interviews, surprised himself too.

It was a tie game going into the third, and Jarkko Ruutu took an early interference penalty to give Minnesota a chance to go ahead. Instead, Ottawa parlayed another short-handed two-on-one with Alfredsson and Mike Fisher coming onto Backstrom, and this time the captain elected to shoot and, although Backstrom got a piece of the shot, it trickled in anyway. Dany Heatley got his thrid goal in two games into an empty net.

We've also got Vermette on a run right now, with 5 points (3G, 2A) in that last four games, for nine goals on the season. It's nowhere near the 20+ goals and 50+ points that was expected of him, but it's a needed and appreciated approvement from the point of view of Sens fans.

Anyway, wow. I saw the Sens were down 3-0 early on a scoreboard ticker, and I figured that the Cory Clouston bubble had burst; it was fun, but not going to last. Then the team had their most impressive comeback of the season, and ended up winning their fourth in a row, the first time they've strung together such a streak in over a year. It sure is nice to look forward to reflecting on a game, rather than dreading it.

On a completely unrelated note, has anyone ever watched Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi on Rogers 401? What a fun thing to do. I recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity next time it's available, even (especially?) if you don't understand Punjabi.

(EDIT: Oh yeah, and anyone who's keeping track of the Bruce Springsteen song-title contest between this blog and Black Aces, you've now seen the following: No Surrender, Workin' on a Dream, and Prove it all Night here with Jeremy countering with Hungry Heart, Glory Days, and Radio Nowhere. Good times. Any song requests? I hope Springsteen writes a song called 'Sens win the Stanley Cup' soon so we can both use it.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

No Habs No: Andrew Cogliano

I've got to say, I agree with Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski. It would be hilarious if Montréal misses the playoffs. Hilarious, and also a direct result of the No Habs No! Campaign. In recognition of his contributions to the campaign, Andrew Cogliano of the Edmonton Oilers will receive the following letter:

And to citizens of Calgary and Edmonton: Don't say that Senators fans have never done anything to try and resolve the fiscal imbalance. Players on both of your teams have both been recipients of bursaries from the No Habs No! Campaign. It's not just rewarding those who keep the Canadiens down, it's also subsidizing transfer payments to the provinces.

To support the campaign, you can do any combination of the following:
  • Join the 200+ fans on our Facebook page.
  • Donate some amount via PayPal to
  • Visit our swag shop (We've distributed a large mug, a long-sleeved tee, and a baseball shirt so far!).
  • Express support and solidarity by commenting on the blog.
Now, to figure out what to do if I run out of pages in my No Habs No!tebook. There are only 46 pages left, which would barely be enough the way Montréal is playing--and sometimes I have to do rough copies. Hopefully I run out.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Workin' on a dream: Sens 5, Flyers 2

How many good things are going to come out of Binghamton this season? Cory Clouston appears to be making a significant difference in the approach this team takes to their games. Brian Elliott is playing unbelievably well. Brendan Bell is quarterbacking the powerplay like no one else has this season. Ryan Shannon, along with Nick Foligno, is making a second line into an actual second line. Brian Lee is solid defensively, and can move the puck up better than any other defenceman. Is this what a farm team is supposed to offer?

Starting in nets, this game could (and likely would) have been completely different without Elliott. He played out of his mind hockey, stopping 34 of 36 shots including plenty of good opportunities. Ottawa was massively outshot (36 to 23) on the night, but Elliott was up to task. One of the two goals he allowed was off an unfortunate rebound, but his defencemen gave him no help on the play. And Mike Richards scored on a breakaway; anyone could let that guy's shot in.

Of course, Bingo callups didn't do everything for the team. The CASH Line played a large part in the win, as well. Although I didn't get to see the whole thing, Dany Heatley responded to criticism with two goals on four shots and three hits, if you'll believe it. He was named first star as a result. Jason Spezza had a goal and an assist, and Daniel Alfredsson also had one assist.

Secondary scoring kicked in with the rest, with Foligno scoring what turned out to be the game-winner (and what looked like the easiest goal in the world) and Antoine Vermette actually scored, his third in six games, on a solid solo effort cutting to the net (Vermette added an assist, to boot).

So, incredibly, the Senators have now won three in a row (first time this season), and are 3-1-1 under Clouston. Elliott is (knock on wood) undefeated on the road. Still 14 points back of a playoff spot, but it's nice to see some good effort on the ice.

Murray next to go: Paddock

According to TSN, John Paddock has suggested that Bryan Murray hasn't assembled a team good enough to compete in the NHL, and is the next in line to be fired. His words, according to the report:
"I think now he's next in line," Paddock told the Courier-Post. "We were 14 games over .500 when I was fired. They're seven under now. Somebody needs to take responsibility for that. Whether the coaches he hired and fired were good or not, they're his players and they're either not playing good or can't play, one or the other."


"The players are not very good, that's the problem," Paddock told the Courier-Post.
I have two questions: First off, after having moved on to a new AHL coaching job and likely trying to leave his Senators' experience in the past, why the hell is Paddock choosing this time to speak out on the issues of the team? It doesn't seem to make any sense.

And secondly, is there one person who doesn't think Murray is next on the firing list, if things don't get better? I think that's pretty much the only thing people agree on with regards the Ottawa Senators right now. Whether or not he'll get to take the team through the next draft is one thing, but owner Eugene Melnyk certainly has laid his expectations at the feet of Murray, and it's up to Murray to make it work.

And one final point, about his statement that the players aren't very good: It's still early, but Cory Clouston has gotten them to play pretty well. This group is, most would agree, even less skilled than the team that Paddock had to work with, and the same one Craig Hartsburg had to work with. So maybe it's not only that the players--as a 20-man group--aren't good enough, but maybe Paddock, and Hartsburg, hadn't motivated them properly to play within a system that works to their strengths.

We will see how things go, certainly, but the timing and content of these comments don't reflect well on Paddock.

No Habs No: Dion Phaneuf

Calgary Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf has no doubt been waiting by his mailbox (or at least paying a man-servant to wait by his mailbox) to receive his No Habs No! letter after scoring the game-winning goal against the Montréal Canadiens on Feb. 9, 2009. Well, Dion, here it is--and thank you:

Including the Calgary game, the Canadiens are 18-14-4 since the outset of the campaign--including an abysmal record of 2-9 in their last 11 games. Plus I've still got to write Andrew Cogliano a letter (forthcoming) for his investment into the No Habs No! campaign.

To support the campaign, you can do any combination of the following:
  • Join the 200+ fans on our Facebook page.
  • Donate some amount via PayPal to
  • Visit our swag shop (We've distributed a large mug, a long-sleeved tee, and a baseball shirt so far!).
  • Express support and solidarity by commenting on the blog.

Prove it all night: Sens 3, Sabres 1

Despite the best efforts of referees Chris Ciamaga and Kerry Fraser, and the somewhat less-than-best efforts of the Buffalo Sabres, the Senators walked into Buffalo feeling pretty good and walked out feeling even better, and two points richer. The game was a necessary sixty-minute effort, and almost to a man the Senators brought their best.

Alright, let's start with special teams. Penalty-killing. Although several of the penalty calls were on the chintzy side, most of them were justifiable. One that wasn't, though, was the triple-minor assessed to Jason Smith, which Fraser complemented with a ten-minute misconduct after Smith told him how he felt about it. For those of you who didnt' see the incident, it began when Patrick Kaleta took a run at captain Daniel Alfredsson. Then Smith stepped up to run Kaleta through the boards, but held back when he saw Kaleta was in a vulnerable position. So he held back, told Kaleta to watch his ass, and the Kaleta challenged Smith and they went at it. Out of it all, Smith got three roughing penalties, and Kaleta got nothing. It boggles the mind, but I guess Fraser thought he'd seen something that wasn't there. Anyway, the Sens penalty killing--even without Smith for almost half the game--was impeccable, killing 17 of 18 short-handed situations, and only allowing the one powerplay goal on a 5-on-3. It was an impressive showing, particularly for Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly, and Anton Volchenkov (but also for the rest of the PK team, including Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, Dean McAmmond, Jarkko Ruutu, Chris Phillips, Filip Kuba, and even Brian Lee once in a while).

On the powerplay, Ottawa was a very impressive 2-for-6, and I'll give a lot of credit for that to Brendan Bell. Although he can be a liability at even-strength, Bell's ability to control the puck at the point and thread passes through openings directly resulted in the first goal, which banked off Jason Spezza's skate, and Bell got another assist on Alfredsson's powerplay goal, as well. He's earned his spot on the Sens' third d-pairing, even if that means Alex Picard sits out a few more games.

Speaking of Spezza, he had a great game. He was competing and skating hard, and driving to the net--as evidenced by the Sens' first goal. He had four shots, second on the team only to Alfredsson (who had five) and one takeaway. His pressure, though, undoubtedly helped cause several other Buffalo giveaways, as did the Senators' aggressive forecheck all night. Spezza looks like he really appreciates the system that new coach Cory Clouston is trying to implement, and it sure is impressive to see.

A lot of credit for tonight has to go to Ruutu, who--on top of his disciplined and effective penalty-killing--was at his most super-pestiest tonight. He, Alfredsson, and Nick Foligno each bowled over Ryan Miller at some point, and Ruutu's screen was quintessential in giving Shean Donovan something to shoot at for Ottawa's second goal of the game. He was jawing at the Buffalo bench all night, and that might have had something to do with their apparent disinterest in competing in the game.

On the Dany Heatley front, I don't want to overstate anything, but he only had 12:44 in ice time, by far a season-low. It certainly had something to do with all the penalty-killing time, but both Spezza and Foligno had negligible PK time but more ice time than Heatley. More concerning was that in his 12 minutes of ice time, Heatley had zero shots--a huge faux-pas for a shooter who is expected to lead the second powerplay unit. He and his coach can say they're on the same page, but Heatley's going to have to show it on the ice if we're going to believe it.

I've also got to give Lee credit for his work short-handed. He had 5:17 in PK time on the night, and twice drew Buffalo penalties to negate their powerplays. He kind of looks like Bambi on ice when he's out there, wide-eyed and light on his feet, but his play is effective and he makes it obvious when an opposition player gives him a shot in the back in front of the net.

Most of all, though, Brian Elliott. A huge part of any penalty kill is going to be your goaltending, and--despite what analyst Pierre McGuire thinks--Elliott was terrific in stopping initial shots and limiting his rebounds to a minimum. He ended up stopping 31 of 32 shots in all, and his play at the start of the game likely frustrated the Sabres until they lost interest. And when Buffalo regained interest in the third period, Elliott was solid. I don't want to jinx anything, but he is--amazingly--perfect on the road, and has four of Ottawa's seven road wins this year. Very strange, but also awesome.

Prove it all night. There's nothing else we can do.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Rumour Mill: Filip Kuba's technicolour dream jersey

That title may not make any sense, but a guy must get pretty frustrated getting traded twice in one year. And, considering the apparent unlikeliness of the Senators making a serious playoff run or re-signing this season's most consistent defenceman, Filip Kuba appears to be one of Ottawa's hottest commodities as the trade deadline draws nearer.

The Ottawa Sun published a story about Kuba and the trade market today, that outlined Kuba's focus on helping the Senators finish this season on a high note, and not looking into possible trades. It could have been a mad-lib style form article...
"(City of writing) -- (Player name) doesn't have any plans to move on.

"Though the (Team name) (Player's position) could be a valuable commodity on the NHL's trade market with the (Date) deadline just three weeks away, he said yesterday his focus is on trying to make (Same team name) successful and he isn't worried about what might lie ahead."
Still, there was one interesting fact to come out of the story: The acknowledgement of Kuba's no-trade clause. If I understand author Bruce Garrioch's writing properly (and I rarely do), the clause is a limited one that will allow Kuba to select which team amongst those in any bidding war he'd prefer, "if there are a few teams involved in the discussions." And, according to Garrioch, each of Boston, Florida, San Jose, Calgary, Minnesota, Columbus, Carolina, and Philadelphia are actively looking for defensive help.

What could the Senators expect in return, should Kuba be deemed an expendable asset? Well, just about every team could use defensive help in some sense, and Garrioch's post suggests that Kuba is joined by the likes of Jay Bouwmeester, Ryan Whitney, Mathieu Schneider, Chris Pronger on the list of defencemen on the market. Playing into Ottawa's favour is that Kuba has a cap hit of only $3M, while the others have hits of $4.875M, $4M (for this year and four more afterwards), $5.625, and $6.25M (for this year and next), respectively.

So what could Ottawa expect in return? It's difficult for me to say, but I think it would be reasonable to expect a fairly good prospect as well as a second- or third-round draft pick.

Then again, if Ottawa were to accept an underperforming player on an expiring contract (see: Erik Cole) to fill out their cap space for this season (estimated at just over $3M, plus any room freed up in trade, by, they could likely receive a higher or extra draft pick for helping their partner free up space for another trade. But that's pure, unfettered speculation.

Then again, this whole post is speculation, but it's interesting speculation (I hope). What do readers think the Senators will do with Kuba? What should they do? In the event of a trade, what would be a fair asking price?

You're just jealous because you can't play hockey on point

Alright, alright, let's all take a deep breath. So Daniel Alfredsson dressed like a ballerina for hallowe'en. But who of us hasn't done something similarly ridiculous for that one day a year a non-Scottish man can wear a dress and still laugh it off? I know I have, that one year I was Wilma Flinstone. Good times. Via SensHobo:

More concerning to me, in all honesty, is how lame Brian Elliott dumbass hypnotist dude's costume is. Is that Elliott Sporting the guy-who-doesn't-like-hallowe'en costume, in the centre of the photo? Lame.

I still say we should hang his number in the rafters early. Praise Alfie.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sens Army Blog news update

Hey folks,

After a minor surgery, posts on the website have been limited recently. Mostly to No Habs No! letters, which are certainly fun (and one for Dion Phaneuf, which will completely avoid any mention of sloppiness, seconds, or anything of that nature, will be forthcoming), but are lacking in the depth readers expect.

Although not analytical, here is at least a run-down of the most recent Sens' news to keep you abreast of the issues:
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