Friday, October 22, 2010

Mike Fisher Sportsnet Ad: Awesome

Just saw this awesome Sportsnet ad after the Sens thrilling win over the Sabres (blog tomorrow with thoughts). Enjoy!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Leclaire has made himself expendable

It's hard to imagine a scenario where the Ottawa Senators would consider re-signing Pascal Leclaire at the end of this season. It seemed the gods conspired to make our oft-injured netminder a footnote in the Sens (not exceptional) goaltending records.

I found myself aggressively agreeing with Don Brennan's column from Friday's Ottawa Sun (and it pains me to type that). Despite his stellar play so far this season, Leclaire just can't be trusted to be the Senators' number one goalie. It seems that if the Sens invested any faith in Leclaire, he would simply throw it away with another momentum-draining injury.

I'm not one to throw away goaltenders quickly. I still think Patrick Lalime doesn't get the credit he deserves for his time in Ottawa, and I'm still waiting for someone to tell me in simple language why Ray Emery was sent away, but Leclaire has been given a dozen opportunities in the past season (and three weeks) to play constantly and consistently and he's never taken full advantage.

I'm also not one to jump on a bandwagon for promoting a rookie goalie and betting the Senators' season on an unproven commodity; Robin Lehner is 19 years old and Mike Brodeur has three big-league wins.

I've stated before that this Sens' success this season depends on Brian Elliott. I just didn't think I would be so right, so soon. In that article, I said that Elliott would start between 25 and 40 games this season. With Leclaire officially continuing his injury strike, I think I'm going to bump that up to 40 or more.

So I think it's time to formalize what the universe already seems to have planned. Name Elliott the default starter for the remainder of the season, make Leclaire sit on the bench (with his freaking mask ON this time) and give the Senators the stability that the name I wanted to nickname "The Answer" is, unfortunately, unable to provide.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Season rests on shoulders of Brian Elliott, not Leclaire

I've been keeping an eye on a few different preseason rankings, and many of them seem to reference that Pascal Leclaire needs to have some sort of bounce-back season in order for the Senators to be successful.

I would like to politely disagree with this premise.

Leclaire didn't have an unsuccessful season last year - he barely hit the ice. With 34 starts, he collected 12 wins. That's far from a great record. And despite this, the Senators won 44 games. Now, I'm no mathemagician (that's a joke, not a typo - geez) but those other 32 wins must have come from somewhere (I see Mike Brodeur had three)... hmmm... let's double check the roster.

Oh yeah! That saviour!... I mean other goalie, Brian Elliott. He's the only reason why the Senators were able to scrape their way into the playoffs last year. And he may turn out to be the only reason they make it in this year.

Pascal Leclaire is more injury prone than the Wile E. Coyote, and - combined with at least one slump from #33 this season - chances are that Elliott will again start between 25 and 40 games.

So when making win predictions for the Sens this year, I recommend that prognosticators expand their thought process from "12 wins? Need better!". Look a little deeper and see the true corner stone of the Senators' goaltending - he spends less time on the bench than you think.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bill Guerin - the player the Sens have always needed

I can recall a low point in the history of the Ottawa Senators when Daniel Alfredsson was on the chopping block. It was just after another loss to the godfersaken Leafs in the playoffs and Gary Roberts was putting the Sens to shame with an absolutely pestering style and rugged good looks.

Even hard-core Sens fans wanted Alfredsson gone. He wasn't the leader we needed - and you know who was? Craig Conroy - that who the rumours said that the Sens would get in return from Calgary.

That would have been among the worst trades of the decade, and praise Alfie that we didn't go through with it. But the idea was that the Senators needed some grit to help them get to the next level.

Though those frustrating times are behind us, it could be argued that the Senators still lack that grit - even for the post-lockout NHL. So let me propose that the Senators sign Bill Guerin. Or, at least, the player that I recall Bill Guerin to be.

I presume that the Flyers cut him after a tryout for some very good reasons. The man is 39 years old and may not be able to keep up with the pace that these 20 year-old Swedish defencemen are setting. But last year's stats prove that he can still score with 45 points in 79 games (!) last year, including 21 goals.

Guerin's stamina is admirable; seventy-nine games at 38-39 years old is no small feat. But what's really appealing is the leadership and the grit. Just look at that playoff beard, not to mention the 15 points in 24 playoff games in 2008-09 that he and the beard contributed.

He can still score, and he's the rough old power forward that can provide leadership for the five forwards under the age of 25 that will see icetime with the Sens this year.

Just don't trade Daniel Alfredsson to get him.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The underground economy of sports blogs

I want to bring to light something that I find extremely unfair and all-too-common among large-audience (dare I say 'corporate') sports blogs today: exploitation of high-quality writers.

Since beginning to blog on this site in 2007, I have received various offers to exchange links, trade blogs, and write on other sites as a means of growing the influence of this website. I have even contributed to many websites without asking for anything in return. I like to think my opinion is valid and should be read by as many people as possible.

But much of this changed when I started paying rent. The value of my skills (as a writer or blogger) is now determined by the return that I make on it. Money that I need to pay for groceries, rent, entertainment, cable television and internet (so that I can watch the Sens!).

An email from an $8-million company

Yesterday, I received an email from Bleacher Report (BR) asking if I would like to be a featured columnist for their Ottawa Senators section and sit-in on a conference call that would likely involve players and/or management from the team.

"Great!" I said. "That sounds like a fantastic opportunity. But I don't work for free. Would you be open to negotiating a freelance fee for my work?"

"Not at this time," was their response. BR's representative did not indicate at what time they would be open to paying for my work.

I have received dozens of such emails, from various for-profit sports blog organizations, since this blog was created.

Why sports bloggers should be paid

At community newspapers across Ottawa, anyone with a bit of flare for interviews and language can write an article and be paid. In the past, I've written for community newspapers and been paid anywhere from $75 to $120 for my services. Seems fair for a person who has been educated in this field to be paid a reasonable amount for the time (4-8 hours) contributed to an article.

It's a simple equation. Newspaper gets money from advertisers to be delivered to readers eyeballs; readers pick up newspaper to see articles; newspaper pays writer for article. 

I think it's unfair--and insulting--to ask any person who is trained and proven in their field to work for free. And I don't think that it's unreasonable to ask Bleacher Report for a stipend in exchange for my contribution to their website, their viewership, their ad revenue, and their organizational value.

Over the past few years, Bleacher Report has received more than $8-million in funding from various investors, according to Tech Crunch. And I doubt that the editor that contacted me was working pro bono - so why should I work without pay? Who will pay my rent while BR receives an additional 1,000 readers because of my contribution?

It's an insult

I understand that Bleacher Report is a platform that is meant to empower sports fans and give them an easy-to-use outlet for their opinions. It's a great concept. One that was obviously good enough to grow into a mult-million dollar business. So why not give writers (especially featured columnists) some credit? They can certainly afford it.

I write this not to smear BR or to discourage bloggers who are passionate enough to write on their own accord--obviously, I could myself among you. I write this to empower those who fuel the engines that make others thousands of dollars each week.

Sports bloggers, you are more than a fan with an opinion. You are a writer! A freelance writer! You should be paid (and paid well!). Not exploited. Not asked to work for free.

So when a similar email arrives in your inbox, I ask you to simply request what you deserve: Some money in your pocket so that you can keep paying rent, buying groceries, paying for cable and watching the game.

Anything less than pay for work is an insult to your intelligence and skills.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wake me up when September ends

I can't believe the fans in Montreal. This post isn't really about them, but it has to be said: Booing your still-young and recently ordained #1 goalie in a preseason game isn't just a bit of overkill, it's shooting a butterfly with a machine gun.

Wayne Scanlan does an excellent job of putting this pre-season insanity in its place in today's Ottawa Citizen.

Leafs Nation was close to calling it a season after their 5-0 preseason-opening loss to the Senators. Then, after winning the rematch, normal levels of criticism and insanity resumed. Let's not forget that the Leafs had a record in the realm of 6-3-0 during last season's preseason, and finished 29th during the season that matters.

I'm happy to see that Ottawa, by and large, has not fallen into the same trap. Other than some optimism with regards to 19-year old goaltending prospect Robin Lehner, dodging the hype in the Nation's Capital hasn't been too difficult.

Too many factors haven't been tested and too few Sens regulars have yet to hit the ice together. Now is not the time to condemn or boast about the NHL team which hasn't suited up all at once.

Some say that the off-season, with its increasingly ridiculous free-agent contracts (happy not to address that one, thank you very much), is sport's silly season. Well, I think we've found a new definition.

As the song goes...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let's do away with (the idea of) home ice advantage

You want a home ice advantage? Play better on home ice!

I'm a big fan of TSN's Sunday morning opinion show The Reporters, but I'm a bigger fan of the podcast version. Opinions and information without having to look at Steve Simmons' ugly mug? Perfect! They did a little bonus episode last Sunday discussing the apparent lack of advantage for NHL teams that play at home and I couldn't help but take issue with their way of thinking.

Opinions ranged from a lack of distinctiveness among NHL arenas to the length and flight patterns between cities to even... get this... a lack of effort from heckling fans. Frankly, I think this analysis forgets that there's nothing good and natural about home ice - it's what you make of it.

Finishing at the top of the Eastern Conference certainly didn't help the Washinton Capitals much, and the Ottawa Senatorss having game six against Pittsburgh at home only worsened their record. The last game was played in Ottawa - you'd think it was the Sens who finished ahead of the Penguins.

I think mixing the facts up like this only serve to prove that there's no such thing as home ice advantage - the better team should win whether they're in their own town or not.

In the case of the Caps, playing at home didn't hurt them as much as their goaltending, powerplay, lack of scoring, poor defence... get where I'm going?

Over-analyzing home ice advantage is like asking why the tail is wagging the dog. The reason why it's a seven-game series is because the better team will eventually win. And witnessing the Canadiens scrape their way through these playoffs despite playing only six games on home ice is all the proof that should be needed.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blame Gerber: Sens lost money this season

Sorry to distract you from the Conference Finals, but there's a bit of bad news for the Sens. In addition to not winning the Stanley Cup, the Ottawa Senators actually lost money this season. The reason? Martin Gerber.

But Ben, you say, he hasn't played for the Senators for more than a year. Apparently we fans lost a lot of faith in the boys during that far-from-fateful 2008-09 season, and the ticket sales have yet to recover. The article goes on to state that the Senators would have had to make the second round of these playoffs in order to break even.

That just makes me wonder how much that overtime goal by Matt Carkner in Game 5--which sent the series back to Ottawa for a sold out Game 6--was worth to the bottom line...  And why isn't that amount added to his measly $900,000 annual contract? The man played a lot of minutes!

Edit: Got my game #s mixed up there. Game 6 was played in Ottawa.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Synergy, thy name is Cullen

Unlike most years, where Bryan Murray's deadline acquisitions have fallen flat, this year's crop of rentals has an undeniably positive impact on the team.

Not only did Matt Cullen lead the team in points during these playoffs, he really seemed to match Alfredsson's style. Watching him move swiftly across the ice with Daniel Alfredsson was a thing of beauty, and something I hope to witness again next season.

With the irreplaceable Anton Volchenkov possibly coming off the books July 1, I think it would be a step forward for this team to redirect some money into punching up the offence.

Cullen was a prized acquisition at the trade deadline (and, with hindsight, for good reason!), and Murray now has a month of exclusive negotiation to convince the 33-year old that Ottawa is the right place for him to finish his career. Murray should put some effort into getting the deal done because Cullen has proven himself to be a perfect fit for the Senators.

Monday, April 26, 2010

You can't keep a good town down

Thanks to my opportunistic father, whose faith in the Ottawa Senators truly springs eternal, I was in a packed Scotiabank Place for Saturday night's game.

Of course, we came away disappointed, but while the Penguins were jumping all over each other like a bunch of... silly penguins... I was clapping for the Senators, and I meant it. Lead by their injury-riddled captain, the Sens to raised their sticks to the crowd in a classy sign of appreciation that is rarely seen in professional sports.

There was something about this season that seemed so meddling, and at the same time, so transitory. The team is on its way to a new structure and spirit, and this was just the season in which the larva was still building its cocoon. Is the team tougher now than it was in 2001? Hells yes. Is it a better team? Ummm.... no.

Did we learn anything from this series? Well, it only takes one game for many Ottawa Senators fans to jump off, then back on, the bandwagon, that's for sure - myself included. After the Penguins beat up the Sens in that seven-goal period two of game four, I didn't give the Sens a chance. They were cooked.

But then, like a chicken finger that you leave in the fridge for too long, the Senators uncooked themselves with much stronger efforts in games five and six. And that earned them only one thing: respect. This post would be much different had the Sens gone quietly into the night after game five, but they didn't. So they get a little respect.

I do wish the Sens' coaching staff had more faith in Pascal Leclaire, but I can understand Cory Clouston's predicament. If not for that astonishing winning streak in the middle of the season, the Sens would have been fighting for the eighth spot rather than sitting quietly in fifth. Undoubtedly, the Senators needed Brian Elliott to get them into the playoffs. Hard to fault Clouston for that.

It feels good to put some hockey thoughts on the net after a long absence. Recent events have re-sparked my passion, and I hope to share more thoughts with you during the summer.

Cheers, Sens fans. You can't keep a good town down.
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