Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Strange Things Happening On The Road With The Lightning

Not sure what to make of the fact that John Tortorella held a long meeting with the players, had them get into their gear at Madison Square Garden in New York, got them on the bus to New Jersey to practice but then instructed the driver to return to MSG before the players even got off the bus. The Lightning players are suddenly mute about the strange round trip and some are speculating that it's a case of Tortorella getting a message across, ie. this is what it's like to show up for work and get nothing accomplished.

It might be worth noting that starting goalie Johan Holmqvist only has a .894 save percentage. His backup Marc Denis has .854 percentage. Brutal.

Local Fishwrap Halloween Edition

Bizzare shenanigans. Fighting teammates. Pink hats.

Just another day at Sens practice during a stretch where the defending Eastern Conference champions have played only twice in 17 days. No word on whether Gary Bettman has brought this issue up with the crew of monkeys on Percocet who actually draft the schedule.

Ray Emery took a shot off the mask from Patrick Eaves and didn't take too kindly to it. According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, the team kept their shots low for the rest of practice after Emery looked like he wanted to bury Eaves at centre ice. (Emery probably looked extra scary because he just recently shaved his dome).

Then Dany Heatley hooked Chris Neil during a drill and Neiler got in Heaters face. By all accounts, Heater's best buddy Brian McGrattan didn't like that turn of events and let Neil know about it. To top it all off, Chris Neil had to wear a ladies frilly pink hat after losing the Sens practice game of Juice Boy. If the rules are still consistent, Neil would have also had to serve juice to the thirsty lads in the dressing room after practice.

No one seems to be concerned about the in-fighting, claiming it's all just due to the long layoff, and as assistant coach Ron Low told Garrioch, "Familiarity breeds contempt, even against your own teammates."

The 9-1 Sens also have some business to take care of when Dean McAmmond's shoulder is strong enough to play. It looks like rookie Nick Foligno is the one who's going down to Bingo when that happens, but according to Allen Panzeri of the Citizen, he's willing to go down there if that's what the team decides. He played the fewest minutes on the team against New Jersey on Saturday and Randy Robitaille, who just signed with the team, has looked pretty good so far, further pushing Foligno towards the Bingo bus.

Regardless of this, nobody's heard the last of Foligno for this season. One injury on the team and he'll be back.

Speaking of Bingo, baby faced defenseman Brian Lee is playing pretty well, tied with the plodding AHL warhorse Denis Hamel for the team lead in scoring and racking over 20 minutes a game.

It also looks like Jason Spezza might have hurt his groin and nobody really knows if he'll play against Atlanta on Thursday.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Leaf Fans On Sui Watch

As you might have seen, the schizophrenic Leafs got their holes kicked last night at home by the Washington Capitals 7-1. The fans booed their team off the ice and then, it seems, went on the very popular Sportsnet forums and started a mini-civil war with each other. Seriously, half these fans are standing on the Don Valley bridge and the other half are doubling their Prozac intake. Here's some snippets from those very forums: (Note: these posts are not edited for spelling or grammar.)

Everyone is "tired" of it man.... MLSE.... More powerful than the Caltholic Church.... and better lawyers to boot... Only way to stop it is to not go to the games.....gotta plan? - trevorchef

I hate this teamI just cheer for the sweater - spinerama

Hey man, everything is cool. MLSEL they are wide awake and counting all the profits they made this night, that is all they are worrying about, $$$$$$$$ - leafdome

Trade McCabe!!!! Hes sooooo stupid! - encore

Put away the tin foilTake down the parade bleachersPark the bandwagon in the garage...............until the next victory - spinerama


you know what? I have finally decided to become a light hearted Leaf fan, I really can't take this crap anymore, this team has pissed on me for the absolute last time. I simply can't put my heart into this team anymore, it will put me into an early grave. - Danielzimmy

Anyone else notice that Maurice is starting to develop a 'nervous tick' when he has to speak after a loss? - Kypreo

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ron Wilson May Be In Trouble Down In San Jose

If you could call the San Jose Sharks anything this year, that would be mediocre. Only problem is, San Jose was picked by many to not only win the Western Conference but win the Stanley Cup. Instead they are sleepwalking their way through October with a .500 record and lost both of their games this weekend. Rumours are persistent that many players may not be happy with coach Ron Wilson's style, and not just Patrick Marleau who had a somewhat public feud with the coach last season.

If history is any indication, Ron Wilson typically does very well with a team in his first few years, like he did with Anaheim and Washington but then things seem to go downhill rather quickly after that.

To make things worse, Wilson is starting to go after the referees in public, never a good sign for any coach.

"Tonight, I didn't know what was a penalty and what wasn't and I'm sure they (Columbus) would say the same thing," Wilson said. "It gets kind of confusing. One end is being called tight and the other isn't."

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the 20 year old defenceman had this to say:

"Our last two games, I consider embarrassing," said Vlasic, 20. 'It's a long season, but if you keep letting games slip away, it might cost you in the end."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Best and Worst ... So Far

October in Review

Most Exciting Team To Watch: Toronto Maple Leafs

Love them or hate them, something interesting always seems to happen when they play. They might get run out of the joint and score on themselves in overtime or they crank up the offense and rack 6 goals on the scoreboard. The only thing Toronto is missing to make it a true circus is a pest/enforcer type like Tie Domi or the way Darcy Tucker used to be.

Honourable mentions: Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins.

Most Boring Team To Watch: Vancouver Canucks

What a joke this team has become. Alain Vigneault forces them to dump the puck in the offensive zone which essentially neuters his best players and then lines his whole team up on the blueline. On top of that, Roberto Luongo is so obviously wearing if not illegal, then clearly over sized equipment, including a pair of shoulder pads that rival Garth Snow's circa 2001. How the NHL lets these pampered and spoiled goalies get away with this crap is beyond me. Poor Luongo even claimed he'd retire if the NHL made the nets bigger. Probably because his scrawny frame couldn't withstand the further mountain of equipment required if that happened.

Honourable Mentions: Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers

Most Surprising Team: Columbus Blue Jackets

It may not be pretty to watch but Ken Hitchcock has the Jackets right in the pocket of the West by virtually eliminating a thing we used to call goal scoring. The only thing used less than the nets in Ohio is Jody Shelley.

Honourable Mentions: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild

Most Disappointing Team: Atlanta Thrashers

This one's obvious but it was a hard choice between them and Anaheim. Atlanta essentially decided to quit on Bob Hartley, which is exactly what is happening over in San Jose. Anaheim is still reaching for the Aspirin after a summer long champagne bender.

Honourable Mentions: Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Nashville Predators

Best Player: Henrik Zetterberg - Det.

Honourable Mentions: Daniel Alfredsson - Ott., Eric Staal - Car. , Nicklas Backstrom - Minn.

Worst Performance By A Player: Bryan McCabe - Tor.

Honourable Mentions: Kari Lehtonen - Atl., Scott Gomez - NYR, Alex Radulov - Nsh.

Most Predictable Situation: Players Hate The New Uniforms

The new sweaters repel the sweat right into the player's gloves and skates. Now Reebok is secretly trying to fix them and offering the older materials to players who request it. What a boondoggle.

Honourable Mentions: Vancouver Can't Score, Dustin Penner Isn't Performing, Phoenix Still Blows Big Time.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Alex Nikulin Rides The Buses

Here's Alex Nikulin's newest blog. For those of you who haven't been following this story, Nikulin is a Senators prospect from Russia who has been writing a blog since he participated in the Sens rookie camp. It's notable because Nikulin is a very thoughtful individual and usually fills the reader in on inside stuff that the fans never really get to hear. See previous entries here,
here, and here.

In this latest entry, Nikulin sounds lonely as he grinds out the AHL schedule on the buses, cramming Big Mac's and watching movies.

From a translation at HFBoards.

"October 26: The Farthest Road Trip.

As it was explained to me, the road trip to Norfolk was the farthest for our team. It really did take a long time getting there, 9 hours. But I must admit everything went much easier than I anticipated. The bus had all the amenities, even wireless Internet. And after all, the roads in the US are much better than even in Moscow, to say nothing of the rest of Russia. Because of that the trip went by unnoticeably. We made just one stop at a McDonald’s, where I bought something to eat.

I’m not a big fan of looking out windows, so I can’t share much about the views. I watched movies, played computer games, browsed the Internet, slept. We arrived at our destination around 10 PM and right away checked into a hotel.

Perhaps it was the road, or something else happened, but we were a totally different team in the first game. I won’t speak for anyone else, but I personally played my worst game. I think we somehow weren’t prepared. We could do absolutely nothing. The legs did not move. You seem to make one stride, but then the legs block up. And our goalie didn’t have the best night. Anyway, I want to forget that game as quickly as possible.

But the second game turned out quite differently. We were probably angry after losing 5-1. And the opponent relaxed after an easy win. But it’s not like we had nothing to do with the success. We played a totally different game. And Norfolk is a good team. Tall defensemen, and just the whole team is very big. The forwards are technical. I liked the opposition.

By the way, these two games for Binghamton I spent on the same line. We are the first line with Danny Bois and Denis Hamel. We spend approximately 20 minutes on the ice. Our line has been the most successful thus far. Bois has five points in five games, I have four, and Hamel has three.

Do I get tired? I wouldn’t say I do, not too much. Disregarding the first game against Norfolk, where I felt exhausted after each stride, I have enough strength. But you definitely tire a lot more here than you do in the Russian Superleague. But honestly, it’s hard to compare like that. Russia has larger rinks, a wholly different type of hockey, space to skate. You skate less here, but it’s very intense. You must constantly hit your opponent and they hit you all the time. But I feel that we have a very strong team, although I’ve seen little of others. If we can avoid such setbacks like with Norfolk, then everything will be all right.

There’s no news from Ottawa. Nobody says anything. But it’s not customary to discuss that here. Anything can happen at any moment. They’ll say “get ready”, and you’ll be going up to the big team. But I’m very happy with how Ottawa is performing in the regular season. Taking out anyone who’s in their way.

By the way, a physical trainer from the Senators came to our club. The main team had four days off, and he spent a few training sessions with us. We did coordination exercises. Did things we didn’t do before. For example, running with a parachute on the back. It must be noted that that’s rather difficult.

I also want to mention that I really miss my parents, friends, my girlfriend Natasha. Even though she’s supposed to come over, there are certain difficulties with obtaining an American visa. She was already denied once. Maybe somebody at the US embassy reads this blog, or people that are in that field? Hopefully, they could help. "

Chara Unleashes Hell In Beantown

Zdeno Chara finally breaks the seal on the power violence he's capable of. He absolutely crushed David Koci's grill here and it's not pleasant to watch. Viewer beware.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Local Fishwrap Oct. 25 - Simmons Votes To Impeach JF JR

Steve Simmons may be the most obnoxious hockey columnist working in the business today. He doesn't do much better on television when he's a panelist on the Canadian version of the Reporters with host Dave Hodge. Just seeing this dude speak kind of makes you want to take a shower. He's overly nasty and humorless and is the king of the knee-jerk opinion. He's the Toronto hockey media equivalent of Bill O'Reilly.

But sometimes he's right as this article might suggest. Except for the part where he names Glen Healey as a possible replacement for John Ferguson Jr. Healey actually surpasses Simmons in downright ugliness. (Just a side note: Bill O'Reilly is never right. Ever.)

Hugh Adami breaks down the Peter Forsberg to Ottawa rumours and comes up with the conclusion that it might just not be worth it, due both to the Sens being near the cap (Forsberg wants a 3 year deal at 5 bills) and Forsberg being a "walking Medical dictionary". Adami also mindlessly manages to throw another jab at Ray Emery, deeming him possibly expendable due to the play of Martin Gerber. What is it with the media in this town? Nobody seems to have any respect for Emery despite him leading the team to the Cup final. It's bordering on being a media putsch to get Rayzer out of town. Brutal.
And yo, what up with the Preds? I had a ton of these dudes in my pool and now I'm sucking dirty pond water at the bottom because Alex Radulov has disappeared again. It would be a shame to see Barry Trotz get canned because of this. They need Steve Sullivan and Shea Weber back soon or the shit is really going to hit the fans (as if they aren't getting covered in shit enough already)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Red Wings Want 84 Game Schedule

The real smart idea here is that this proposal would cap pre-season games at 6. This pre-season reduction would be a boon to both fans and players. Some teams play as much as 9 games before they start counting and the fans and players loathe these games which only seem to benefit players on the bubble of the 23 man roster.

Drop the pre-season games and tack them onto the regular season, allowing us the chance to see every team in the league. Sounds like a winner to me.
But with the new guy in the NHLPA, and Bettman's reluctance to broach the subject, who knows where this will ultimately go?

Sens Wrap Up Early Season Vacation

Out of all the columns written on the Senators 3 day getaway, Ken Warren does the best job describing the atmoshphere around the team and gives us some insight into how veterans and younger guys relate to each other on an NHL team.

"While Spezza says some of the club's younger players do spend time together during the down time between games in Ottawa, the veterans often go their separate ways when the games and practices are over.

"It was nice, because usually when we're on the road, we fly home right after games," Spezza said. "Some of the guys who have wives and families, they also got a chance to just sit around and shoot the breeze. It's nice just to get together and do nothing, really. It's good to mess around like this. And whenever you get a chance to play a little pond hockey at this time of year, it's welcome."

Plus we get the scoop on Brian McGrattan's star turn on the scrimmage ice playing on a line with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza ("Alfie's spot might be in jeopardy now" joked Gratts) and his big haul on the water with the rod and reel.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - guys like McGrattan are essential to a team, not just for his fists but for his popularity in the locker room. All talk of trading McGrattan should be scrapped. This guy's a keeper.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

What The Hell Happened To The Team 1200?

For those of you in capital region, you can probably remember when Ottawa’s first all-sports radio station went on the air in the late 90’s with some fondness. Ottawa hockey fans could get Senators talk at all hours of the day, not to mention the Jim Rome show and other previously unavailable American programming. Over time the station built itself up with some key personalities and everything seemed hunky-dory.

But have you listened to the station lately?

Let’s first of all just put aside the morning show, Three Guys On The Radio. Like all early morning drive-in shows, the hosts are expected to be upbeat and “wacky”. Occasionally it’s worth a laugh if you can sit through interminable mid-grade sex jokes and endless clips of The Family Guy. Whatever. It is what it is.

Next we are subjected to a show called Over The Edge with ex-wrestler and football player Glen Kulka and his underrated smart sidekick Lee Versage. Kulka is pure bombast with a paltry knowledge of anything NHL related despite being on the radio having to talk about the Sens for many long years now. He routinely badgers callers for having opinions that differ from his and on top of that, this bear of a man routinely destroys every interview he does because he asks questions that are 5 minutes long. Seriously. The more important person Kulka interviews, the more Kulka likes to hear himself talk. After winding up the 5 minute long question, inevitably the person being interviewed has to respond with the cliché answer because Kulka always just reaffirms the obvious in his questions. In fact, they’re not really questions at all. Kulka takes a predictable observation, explains it for 5 minutes, and shuts up long enough to let the person on the other end confirm that Kulka is correct about the puck being small and black.

Poor Lee Versage has to put up with this dude despite it being obvious that he should be hosting the show due to his superior knowledge of everything sports related, including hockey which Kulka knows virtually nothing about and only broaches the subject because he feels he has to. Kulka is way more comfortable talking about his love of CFL football and WWE wrestling.

Memo to Kulka: WWE is not a sport. It may be “sports entertainment” but it’s fixed and that’s why anyone over 16 years old stops caring about it.

After the always essential Jim Rome show, we get a show called More On Sports which is a vast improvement over Kulka’s charade. But even this show is starting to deteriorate largely because host John Rodenburg is suddenly not interested in anything sports related anymore. Instead of jumping in about the latest NHL controversy or the play of the Sens, J.R. spends the first two segments of the show talking about anything but sports. It’s almost a retread of the wacky morning show except co-host Garry Galley thankfully doesn’t let it get out of hand. Galley is a great addition to the Team but only when J.R. lets him talk about hockey. Instead we get the latest on celebrity gossip and the minutiae of J.R.’s and Galley’s personal life. That would be fine if it didn’t extend for the first freaking half hour of the show. Reluctantly, J.R. will turn his attention to hockey eventually so he can start making his signature smart-ass comments while Galley legitimately tries to offer some insightful opinions that get wasted by J.R.’s commitment to being “funny”.

I think the major point of deterioration for the whole station is that all the hosts are under the impression that they have to be comedians as well as good sports analysts. Nobody wants just straight hockey talk, but when the scale gets tipped too far the other way, what are we really listening to? If we wanted to listen to a comedy show, we can do much better than the balding white guys on the Team 1200.

As always, the Sens pre-game shows are excellent with host Steve Lloyd taking his job seriously and provoking thoughtful answers from his compatriots at the “round table”, usually Bruce Garrioch, Chris Stevenson and Mike Eastwood. The Senators play-by-play team of Dean Brown and Gord Wilson are always a great listen as well.

As for any real substantive hockey talk, the Team 1200 has fallen so far that only the pre-game and post-game shows offer anything worth thinking about. Definitely, the Team needs more people like Gary Galley, Lee Versage, Steve Lloyd and Gord Wilson and less of J.R. and Kulka.

Just an opinion.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Paddock Playing Losing Game With The Media

Unfortunately, Ottawa Senators coach John Paddock is becoming "one of those guys", and by saying that I mean a coach who gets some sort of weird satisfaction by not telling the media (and by extension, the fans) who will be the starting goaltender for the next game. Seriously, this is just aggravating and useless.

And it's not like the fans desperately need to know who's going to start, it's just that once you keep it away from them, it turns into a sort of cat and mouse game that never seems to end.

"Asked yesterday if he knows who will start, Senators coach John Paddock deadpanned: "I do."

Why bother holding press conferences at all if it's just a chance for a coach to withhold information? Paul Maurice does the same thing in Toronto and it just fuels speculation in the media and then the fan base. This speculation causes controversy and then the rest of the players have to spend the year trying to answer what the coach refuses to. When Paddock tries to be clever by denying the media the simplest of answers, the media then go and bother Daniel Alfredsson or Dany Heatley and ask them who's starting.

Just answer the question if you know the answer John. The media here in Ottawa are not prone to going after coaches so there's no reason to be afraid. If Martin Gerber is getting the start, then why is he being bothered with questions the day before a game that he's not allowed to answer? Ridiculous and completely needless.

On the Florida side, who the Sens will play tonight, goalie Tomas Vokoun skated on that twisted ankle yesterday but isn't sure he can play tonight.

There's still quite a buzz in the air over Nick Foligno's first NHL goal and his subsequent leap in the air as a tribute to his father Mike. On this front, the Sun definitely beats the Citizen because they actually got father Mike on the horn.

"I really thought the jump was great. You know, I thought it was nice that the Senators allowed him to do that. They are such a class organization because they respect the tradition. I really think whenever somebody scores in the NHL, that's the one time that you're allowed to be a kid again."

Nice job Bruce Garrioch.

Antoine Vermette will be out with back spasms so that means Brian McGrattan gets back into the lineup. According to the Citizen's Allen Panzeri, coach Paddock has already told the enforcer that he's going to be out of the lineup from time to time and even speculates that McGrattan may have trouble getting a contract for next year, not just from the Sens but from any team.

Let's hope GM Bryan Murray does the smart thing and keeps McGrattan around. For one, he's a top-tier scrapper, and two, he's enormously popular with his teammates. Those kinds of guys always are. Heatley even gave his All-Star jersey to McGrattan as a token of thanks for taking all those knuckles to the face for the team. You'll never convince me that a team doesn't need at least one guy like that. The fans love him and the players love him. Case closed.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday "I'm Busy So Here's A Video" Post

From a cuple of years ago. "Raj Binder" visits the Ottawa Senators.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sean Avery Bares His ... Apartment

Avery does a questionnaire with the New York Times. This guy is different from your average Canadian farm boy and that's a real good thing in my opinion. The game needs more guys who can string together a sentence that is cliche free.

My favourite part of the interview is when he is asked who his personal hero is. Every hockey player would say immediately "My father/mother". Avery simply says he hasn't found one yet.

The cookie and milkers will find that appalling (Ron Maclean of the CBC will have a coronary) but at least he's not bullshitting anyone.

Nick Foligno Practices Jumping Like His Old Man

If you missed this funny video last night on Sportsnet, here you go. Especially good is him trying to shoot his glove ala Teemu Selanne.

Tanguay Throws Cold Water On Habs Trade

There is sudden speculation that the Flames and the Habs were on the verge of completing a deal that would see Alex Tanguay and Alex Kovalev swapped. Kovalev of course, played for Iron Mike in New York and was young enough to still be collecting those little troll figurines with the colourful hair which he kept piled in his locker.

But according to the Calgary Sun, the still goalless Tanguay is in no mood to waive his no-trade clause to be dumped into the high-pressure chamber of the Habs locker room.

"I'm not planning on wasting any time on that at all," he said. "I'm here with the Flames, and I think when they brought me here they wanted me to help the team, and as far as I know, it's still the plan."

"I'm very happy where I'm at. Who wouldn't want to be playing on a line with Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy and on a team that's got Miikka Kiprusoff in net?"

Here's one thing that's for sure: If Iron Mike decides to make Tanguay's life a living hell for not waiving the clause, Tanguay will be begging to put on a Hab's jersey by January.

Speaking of the Habs, they will be in town tonight for a tilt against the Sens and Carey Price will be getting his 2nd start of the season. The Sens go with Gerber and it looks as if Randy Robitaille will make his debut in a Sens uniform on a line with Patrick Eaves and Mike Fisher.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Robitaille Clears Waivers and Kovalev Bashes Carbs Between The Lines

It's official. Randy Robitaille cleared waivers at noon today and is now an Ottawa Senator.

And just in case you thought things would be smoother in Montreal this year, Alexei Kovalev ranted to the media last night after losing to the Panthers in a tight overtime game and TSN seems to believe that it might have been a backhanded rip at coach Guy Carbonneau.

"In the last two minutes, we knew they were going to put a lot of pressure
on us," Kovalev told the TEAM 990 in Montreal.

"It was just my idea that we could have taken a timeout, get organized and get the right people on the ice. Maybe it could have been better. That's what I saw from the bench."

The comment appears to be a criticism of Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau, who struggled through his first year behind the Montreal bench. With Tuesday's loss, the Canadiens have a record of 2-1-2 this season.

TSN's Gord Miller In Middle Of NHLPA Shit Storm

William Houston in the Globe tells us that TSN's Gord Miller apparently passed on information to NHL deputy commish Bill Daly about Chris Chelios and some others trying to undermine Ted Saskins leadership of the union. Daly then forwarded the info to Saskin himself. Now all hell is breaking loose and Miller and Daly are claiming they did nothing wrong.

"But, in the e-mail message, Miller did not ask Daly whether he had heard about a revolt inside the NHLPA. In fact, the missive could have been construed as Miller doing detective work for the league and its new best friend, Saskin.

Miller denies taking sides.

“I didn't rat anybody out,” he said. “My objective was to tell the hockey world about it.”"

Local Fishwrap Oct. 17 Plus - Hartley Fired

The Thrashers have tied the can to coach Bob Hartley.

Ken Warren drops the word that Martin Gerber will get the nod in net against Montreal on Thursday. It looks like Ray Emery will be set to go on Saturday versus the Panthers. He also gives Alfie a little love in a nice piece today.

No word yet on whether Randy Robitaille cleared waivers (deadline: noon today) but if he does, it looks like Nick Foligno will be plying his trade down in Bingo while Robitaille takes over for the injured Dean McAmmond.

Bruce Garrioch also mentions that the Sens may be interested in former Ottawa 67 Zenon Konopka who may be put on waivers by Columbus. What's interesting about Konopka is not how well he plays (he's an agitating fourth line pest with so-so skill) but his personality which is outgoing to say the least. At least one little birdie whispered into my ear that two seasons ago during the Ducks annual rookie dinner here in Ottawa, Konopka was the life of the party despite only being called up a few days earlier.

Don Brennan reminds us that Jason Spezza is still goalless despite running away with the assist lead in the NHL.

Martin Havlat will be out another four weeks trying to get that chicken wing he calls a right shoulder some more healing time.

And of course, the destruction of Bryan McCabe continues unabated in Hogtown.

Thrashers Fire Coach Bob Hartley

Just reported... no details yet.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Black Aces Factsheet

The Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets franchise has never finished first in its division. In 27 seasons, the franchise has finished 2nd only four times.

In his 15 years in the NHL, Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom has played less than 80 games only three times, including the lockout shortened season of 94-95.

Eric Lindros played 80 or more games only once in a 14 year career.

If the Los Angeles Kings miss the playoffs this year, it will be the first time the franchise has missed the post-season five consecutive seasons. Twice the Kings missed four seasons in a row (69-70 to 72-73 and 93-94 to96-97) only to qualify the next season.

The San Jose Sharks could have picked Scott Niedermayer 2nd overall at their first draft in 1991. Instead they chose Pat Falloon. New Jersey grabbed Niedermayer with the 3rd pick. In the same draft, the New York Islanders and the Winnipeg Jets passed up Peter Forsberg for Scott Lachance and Aaron Ward respectively.

No one has scored 5 goals in a game since Sergei Fedorov did it for Detroit against Washington back in December 1996. Jim Carey was in nets and won the Vezina trophy for best goalie that same season.

Solution Is Easy: Emery Is The Man - Local Fishwrap Oct. 16

Goaltending controversies always bore me and the one now currently "raging" in Bytown is no exception. The Sun and the Citizen churn out equally uninsightful articles on the subject and we can expect more of the same for the rest of the week at least while the Sens go into the NHL's version of purgatory where they play 3 games in two years.

To me it's a simple exercise. Ray Emery earned the right to the starting job by being the first goalie to take the team to the Stanley Cup final. Just because he's injured and Martin Gerber has regained his form doesn't lessen Emery's worth one iota. Emery is a world class goalie with superb athleticism and a strong mental approach. All these worries about off-ice incidents is way overblown in a very low-key city.

Gerber has been good, in fact spectacular against the New York Rangers on Saturday, but he has not proven anything in his career. Some great games in October should not fuel controversy over Ray Emery's status with the team. If I'm John Paddock, I throw Emery in the net right away. If I'm GM Bryan Murray, I get on the phone and try to deal Gerber's salary to a team like the Los Angeles Kings who desperately need a number one goalie. The difference is that L.A. is trying to just make the playoffs. Gerber can help them. Ottawa is trying to win the Stanley Cup. Emery can help Ottawa do that more than Gerber.

For a guy who has barely played four years in the league, Gerber is certainly getting accolades that far outweigh his accomplishments.

Don Brennan of the Sun does a nice piece on Luke Richardson, emphasizing the veteran's mammoth scrap with the Rangers Brandon Dubinsky where Richardson cranked the rookie with a heavy right hand to the grill. Dubinsky could barely stand afterwards.

""I guess that's what you get for picking on the old guy. You learn the hard way."
Dubinsky asked Richardson for the fight, obviously hoping to give a restless crowd something to cheer about. The next words he would utter would be "I'm okay, I'm okay" as he staggered from wall-to-wall down the corridor heading to the Rangers' dressing room. "

Brennan also notes that when Gerber threw the puck down the ice with his glove during Saturdays tilt with the Rangers, he almost hit Chris Phillips in the dome. If he had connected, that would have been the second time Gerber had hurt Phillips. Anyone remember last season when Gerber came over to the bench and accidentally slammed down his goal stick on Phillip's finger? Sportscasters were laughing about that one for weeks.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Last Winless Team

"Maybe it was a sign of support or maybe Thrashers co-owner Bruce Levenson is just a nice guy. But minutes after the Thrashers most gut-wrenching loss of the season, a 6-5 loss to the New Jersey Devils that dropped them to 0-5, Levenson was waiting for coach Bob Hartley just outside the Thrashers' locker-room door.

He put one arm around the coach's shoulder, and reached out to shake Hartley's hand with the other.

"If there's anything I can do ..." he said. "

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Local Fishwrap - Oct.13 - Sens Game Day

Bruce Garrioch pens an article saying that Chris Neil is not worried about the New York Rangers trying to take revenge for his hit on Sean Avery last weekend. The Sens and Rangers play tonight without Avery, who has a separated shoulder, but expect Rangers tough guy Colton Orr to be in the lineup. Neiler says he can take care of himself, thank you very much.

Garrioch also makes it clear that the Sens won't be opening the season in Prague, Czech Republic against the Penguins. The Sens didn't decline but the NHL went in a different direction, probably with Tampa Bay.

It also seems that the Sens are in talks with hometown boy Randy Robitaille to come and add depth at center. This dude has already played for 9 freaking NHL teams in just under 500 games, scoring 74 goals and 227 points. His best NHL season was with the Minnesota Wild in 2005-06 where he had 40 points in 67 games. He once scored 102 points back in 98-99 when he was with the AHL Providence Bruins. Even if he doesn't stick with the club (or even clear waivers upon signing, which very likely will be the case here), the Senators will have added even more depth at the pro level just in case the Philadelphia Flyers decide to behead any more of their players.

If you like this sort of thing, Chris Stevenson plays a round of golf with Alfie and gives the play-by-play throughout. They also talk a little hockey where Alfie reveals that he never had as much fun in hockey than last year playing for Bryan Murray.

Speaking of coaches, John Paddock let fly another dandy to the press, calling his club's loss to the Carolina Hurricanes a result of his team being "brain dead". Nice.

This O'Brien guy deserves every bit of this after stomping on our city's plan to build a light-rail transit system along with his partner in crime, John Baird. This guy wanted power so bad he was willing to bribe another candidate out of the race and with his federal Conservative buddies, get him a nice appointment on the parole board. These right-wing nutters always find a way to blow themselves up. I love it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tootoo Is Still Classless

(Jordin Tootoo lies on the ice to avoid having to fight Craig Weller of the Coyotes)

Someone else is backing up my contention that Jordin Tootoo made a mockery of the game last night by trying to run Coyote Danile Winnik and then faking an injury after Craig Weller gave him a softie clothesline.

Ryan Dixon over at the Hockey News tells it like it is here:

"The transgressions of Steve Downie and Jesse Boulerice have been well documented, but the most recent reckless act was actually a near miss last night in Nashville. Noted Predators disturber Jordin Tootoo almost connected on a hit that, if completed, would have looked disturbingly similar to the one Downie laid on Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond.

Phoenix center Daniel Winnik was fighting off a Nashville defender while carrying the puck in the offensive zone and just as he was emerging from behind the net (sound familiar?), Tootoo tore in from his defensive post on the wing, hit the afterburners at the faceoff circle and attempted to knock Winnik six rows deep.

He missed. Barely.

But recognizing Tootoo’s intent, Phoenix tough guy Craig Weller went after Tootoo with some nasty intentions of his own. Weller whacked Tootoo with a forearm to the face, Tootoo hit the ice, Weller dropped his gloves but quickly realized that if he was going to throw punches they were probably better directed at the swarm of Predators coming after him than the one who was dazed on the ice.

Weller, appropriately, was given a match penalty for intent to injure. Tootoo, who received no penalty, called his check on Winnik a “nice clean hit.” "

Hawks Fans Still Gun Shy

"On Thursday, in a four-paragraph press release, the franchise announced that Senior Vice President Bob Pulford would change his focus from Hawks matters to NHL matters.

Forget hockey. Religion-wise, this should get agnostics off their disbelieving butts.

Pulford was the general manager who never went away. Oh, the Hawks would periodically change his title, but his cold, clawed fingers always were holding the strings. He did the bidding of William Wirtz, who viewed change as something to be left on top of the dinner check.

But Pulford was complicit in the franchise's fall from quality to embarrassment. And so to think of Wirtz and Pulford now is to think of creaky stairs, sheets over furniture and collected dust. They have haunted this franchise for too long."

The Thrashers Are Falling Apart

Prospects for the Thrash are bleak right now, really bleak. They are 0-4 after losing 6-0 to the Sabres last night and have been outscored 17-4 through 4 games.

"Oh, it gets worse. Your new Thrashers enforcer? Ilya Kovalchuk.

After Toni Lydman flatted Todd White, Kovalchuk jumped to White's defense. The scrum became a fight between Kovalchuk and Drew Stafford, and that should never happen. Somewhere up high in the radio booth, Jeff Odgers must have been dying to jump out there to Kovalchuk's defense. Ultimately, nobody did.

"When you have guys like Kovalchuk, who is our game-breaking scorer, fighting, you know things aren't going well," said defenseman Garnet Exelby."

Jordin Tootoo Is A Diver And A No-Good Punk

What Jordin Tootoo did in last night’s Phoenix-Nashville game was a disgrace.

Tootoo took a major run at Phoenix forward Daniel Winnik, leaving his position at the blueline and almost taking Winnik’s head off with a hard shoulder. The search and destroy hit took place near the end of the game when the Predators were already losing 6-3. As for the hit itself, it is technically legal because Winnik had the puck at the time and should have had his head up. What is clear is that Tootoo, just like Steve Downey, purposefully charged across an entire zone to try and hurt another player. Okay fine.

Here’s the real disgrace. Tootoo takes a rather tepid clothesline from Craig Weller who instinctively tried to look after his injured teammate but when you watch the replay, Weller barely got his arm into Tootoo’s chest yet Tootoo falls to the ice and lies there as if he just received an elbow to the face. Some say the arm hit Tootoo's nose but it barely grazes it on the way by. Anyways, the trainers come out but there’s nothing for them to do because Tootoo was clearly just milking it for a penalty. He skated off just fine and went into the hallway for a moment, probably to laugh his ass off.

What is even worse is that Tootoo was the one complaining after the game. It was clear he tried to injure Winnik but here he was crying to the media about an injury that is non-existent.

“Tootoo appeared OK after the game, but would not directly address his physical status.

"Obviously I will leave it up to you guys to say how I feel," Tootoo said. "There was no possible way of me defending myself." ”

This is clearly just another player who “doesn’t get it”. He has no respect for his fellow union members nor for the game itself. He’s known around the league as a cheap-shot artist and someday, somewhere, this dude will get his clock cleaned and nobody will be complaining about the aftermath.

Hurricanes 5 Senators 3

What is very clear from last night’s game is that the Hurricanes were raring to go and the Senators were just trying to survive the game. Perhaps John Paddock can now rethink his strategy of playing his top two lines to the point of exhaustion. Last night he was forced to play the fourth line only because the first three were struggling. If it goes on like this all year, the top tier players on this team are going to be dragging their asses into the playoffs. When Dean McAmmond returns from his concussion, the fourth line should solidify into something that Paddock feels he can use.

Shean Donovan finally got some quality minutes last night instead of riding the pine with Brian McGrattan. In fact, McGrattan himself played a hell of a game. Paddock should take a cue from Anaheim and play his tough guys more than a minute a game. At least they bring energy and lessens the stress on the other players playing huge minutes.

As for Carolina, they looked like a club with something major to prove. Eric Cole in particular was back to form and Cam Ward was a major difference.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Don't Call Him Daniel

Daniel Briere is now officially known as Danny Briere, that according to the Atlanta play-by-play men last night. Apparently the word came down from the Flyers public relations department and this article attests to that as he is called Danny throughout. It might just be that those blue collar Philly fans, the ones who routinely boo Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, may find that a French-Canadian name like Daniel a bit too similar to Danielle. Poor Danny is starting behind the 8-ball in this regard because he looks no older than 12 years old.

You can just see the Philly headlines already after Briere led wins - "O' Danny Boy!"
In other news, the reorganizing of the Blackhawks continues with Bob Pulford being sent to the woodshed in what the Hawks are calling a "re-assignment". Basically, Rocky Wirtz, team chairman, is trying to shovel out of the pile of shit that the franchise had become under his father Bill. Next up - Hawks games on TV. It's a revolution brothers and sisters.

Neiler Gets Some Legit Cred is not usually the place you go to find insightful pieces of journalism unless you like fluff pieces. But Karl Samuelson penned a nifty column here about role players like Chris Neil turning into team leaders.

“Just take our captain as an example,” said Neil, who scored three game-winning goals last season. “Daniel Alfredsson is the leader in this dressing room. His work ethic is astounding and his bottom line is when he straps the skates on he wants to win. That work ethic makes him a better player and it makes people around him better players. I watch him in practice every day and the pointers that he gives me help make me a better player.”

“The Coach Looks Like A Genius” - Ottawa 3 Atlanta 1

John Paddock told Chris Stevenson after the game that the reason he started rookie Brian Elliott, 22, and not Martin Gerber was because the Sens had played badly in Atlanta in the recent past and wanted the team to focus.

It paid off huge. Even captain Alfie said, "Smart move. The coach looks like a genius."

Elliott was fantastic throughout the game, especially in the third period, and even managed to contain his rebounds, something which the very lucky-so-far Gerber has been unable to master.
If this Elliott kid is the real deal, and by all accounts he is, then the Sens have never had such depth in goal. It is even conceivable that the Sens could trade Gerber and not demand another backup in return because Elliott looks that good. Seeing as Gerber might be worth something finally, the Sens may be able to pry a good forward prospect for him instead of just giving him away. That scenario is unlikely however as I’m sure the team wants Elliott to be playing huge minutes down in Bingo and not riding the bench in Kanata.

The big line was held off (on Atlanta television, the announcers were calling them the Pizza line and even had their side reporter explain the meaning behind the moniker, saying “Up in Canada they have a pizza franchise called ‘Pizza Pizza’….) but they were stymied more by Kari Lehtonen than by ineffective play. Dany Heatley had some good chances but couldn’t bury it and Jason Spezza was very effective carrying the puck last night. Alfie was his usual self and showed a real physical edge as well, giving Ilya Kovalchuk a real good bump before Anton Volchenkov gave the puck away to Kovie for Atlanta’s only goal. Alfie also gave Bobby Holik a spirited shove behind the net which led to the night’s only mob scene.

The Atlanta announcers were adamant that last night was the best game the Thrashers had played all season. I thought Lehtonen played really well despite looking sluggish in his movements. Everybody knows that Lehtonen has major fitness issues (ie: the dude is lazy and fat) but he’s so skilled that he’s able to overcome that when his groin isn’t hindering him. Kovalchuk looked like the leader on that team despite Holik wearing the “C”. The look on Bob Hartley’s face after the Senators third goal was of someone trying to mask sheer panic in a season that could go quickly down the tubes. The Thrash are 0-3 and no one has a hotter seat than Hartley.

Around the League:

Jesse Boulerice of the Philadelphia Flyers delivered a brutal cross-check to the face of Canuck Ryan Kesler last night. If Colin Campbell has any balls left, you send this guy home for 20 games like his goon teammate Steve Downie. Even Boulerice’s own coach was disgusted by his player.

"It"s unacceptable, it's something that we can't have," Flyers coach John Stevens said of the hit "We didn't need to get involved in anything really, we had the hockey game in hand and that was the message on the bench, so that kind of stuff can't happen."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Where is Darren McCarty?

According to The Detroit News, Darren McCarty is not returning the phone calls of ex-teammates and nobody knows where the hell he is. Let's hope Darren is behaving himself.

James Duthie Interviews Roberto Luongo

TSN's James Duthie puts together a very funny piece on Luongo which includes his, err... stomach problems he had in the middle of a game in the playoffs last year, his bowed-legs and his baby making abilities. A must see.

Hossa Hurts His Groin - Out For Tonight

Hossa got a skate caught in that terrible Atlanta ice and hurt his groin, leaving him doubtful for tonight's tilt against the Sens.

Atlanta could be in real trouble. Jeff Schultz is wondering where the effort is for these blue birds. Winless so far and people are already getting the bucket ready so coach Bob Hartley can kick it. They got one for Don Waddell not far behind.

"Bobby Holik described the team’s play as “pathetic.” (Tact has never been his strong suit.) Asked if there are any problems relating to message or communication between players or coaches, Holik said: “That’s a fair question. But after two and a half percent of our games — and I know you don’t want to wait for 10 percent of the games because then it could be too late — it’s a little too early for deep analysis.”

The Infamous Rip-Jobs Return

In case you've been living under a rock, the world's most important team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, drove off a cliff and exploded into flames during a 7-1 beating at the hands of the resurgent Carolina Hurricanes.

Vesa Toskala was in net for all 7 goals but that didn't stop the Sportsnet team of analysts from claiming Toskala was the best Leaf of the night. In for particular shame is Bryan McCabe who is now the "Larry Murphy" raspberry flavour of the month. Not only was he being booed, but he was laughed at when he ran into his own net, collapsed, and gave up the puck for a scoring chance.

It's always fun to watch the Toronto media perform a rip job so here are some of the best of today in that category:

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Strach Is A Beauty

It may only seem like Al Strachan has disappeared but he's still churning out his usual brand of Bettman bashing over on Fox Sports.

In this article he gets into European expansion but ends up in outer space. Seriously.

"There is, however, faint hope on the horizon. Aeronautical engineers say that we're not that far away from flights that escape the earth's atmosphere.

In other words, the plane would go so high that it would escape most of the earth's gravitational pull. While it's up, the earth would turn and then the plane would come down on the other side of the ocean. In theory, this would reduce the length of a transcontinental flight to two hours."

Always a good read, that Strachan.

Local Fishwrap Oct. 9

Chris Stevenson actually ponders who’s the best backup goaltender the Sens have right now: Ray Emery, Brian Elliott or Anton Volchenkov.

As Stevenson notes, Volchenkov already has 25 blocked shots in 4 games and is only 3 saves behind Martin Brodeur. Stevenson also points out that the Sens only gave the Devils one power play after giving up 20 in the first three games. That's a sure sign that they have their skating legs back.

TSN Hockey host James Duthie has a blog going on over at the Citizen and it's filled with his usual goofy schtick. Pretty good actually. He claims that he looks like "Bea Arthur" in High Definition broadcasts. If you don't know who Bea Arthur is then ... well, it's hard to explain.

Chris Chelios last night played in his 1,550th game and got a goal to show for it. He is now in 8th place all time in games played after passing former Red Wing great Alex Delvecchio. Dude is 45 years old. Insane. He's kind of turning into the Rolling Stones of NHL hockey. Both Chelios and Mick Jagger are work-out fanatics. Not sure about Keith Richards on that point.

Bob Duff of the Windsor Star pens a real interesting article here about how the CHL is being affected because NHL teams are keeping junior-eligible players on their rosters to save money against the salary cap. The London Knights right now are without three players who made the NHL: Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks, Sam Gagner of the Oilers and Steve Mason of the Bluejackets. The London Knights are a brutal 0-6 right now.

The Caps are unbeaten. Wow.

Hangover Blues

The Senators are 4-0.

This of course flies in the face of the Stanley Cup finalist hangover theory. On the other side of the coin, the Ducks are floundering right now due to a ridiculous schedule that had them flying across the world to start the season. But nevertheless, people will be saying, "they got the hangover".

So why did the Sens jump right out of bed this year?

Answer is simple. New coach.

Just like any team that hires a new head man, the effects are usually positive in the beginning stages.

Maybe this is the answer for teams looking to repeat. The Stanley Cup sort of becomes the black widow spider of sports. After a successful mating, the male is killed and eaten. Life begins anew.

Kind of grisly but maybe it's the only sure fire way to avoid the dreaded hangover.

* The author takes no responsibility for this senseless post because, like the Ducks, he is also hungover.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Powder Burns in Ohio

From Lance Hornby's column today -

"Ken Hitchcock is a U.S. Civil War junkie who coaches a team named for Ohio's union soldiers. So he was ecstatic when the Blue Jackets asked him to help pick out an authentic cannon to "fire" a salute at Nationwide Arena every time his team comes on the ice, scores or wins. The team paid $20,000 US for an 1873 Napoleon field gun that will flash and billow smoke, while a 105-decibel blast is triggered in the rafters. "

Next headline in Columbus:

"Nationwide Arean Burns To The Ground After Rick Nash Hat-Trick."

The New Rookie No-No - White Skates

Rookie David Perron of the St. Louis Blues showed up in training camp with white skates but had to have them changed pretty quickly.

"Perron is already making strides in his maturity. He showed up to training camp with white skates rather than the traditional black.

"He took his skates out of the bag, and right away I had the trainers paint them black," (Andy) Murray said. "He wasn't going to be different than anybody else."

"I understood why," Perron said. "Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya wouldn't be happy to see a rookie with white skates." "


Eric Brewer and Shea Weber injured

The Blues and Predators both took huge hits on their blueline when Brewer hurt his shoulder in a scrap with Nick Boynton of Phoenix and Weber dislocated his knee cap against Colorado.

Just wondering: how do you dislocate a knee cap? Did it fall down around his ankles or something?

Less and Less Blue

From today's Ottawa Sun


Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said he sensed a change in the crowd in Ottawa's home opener against the Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

"Every year it's getting less and less blue, I think," he said.

"I probably won't be around when it's only a few blue, but we're getting there."

Friday, October 5, 2007

Havlat's Shoulder Is Toast ... And The Rest Of The NHL Wrapup.

Unbelievably, Martin Havlat hurt his shoulder again last night. It’s the same shoulder he had surgery on in 2005 with Ottawa and last year with Chicago. The cameras actually caught Havlat collapsing in the hallway to the dressing room after hurting the shoulder in a harmless looking scrum against the Wild. I don’t want to state the obvious here, but it looks like Havlat might never be able to put it all together. It wasn’t that long ago that Havlat was tearing it up for the Senators despite having to live in the shadows of players like Daniel Alfredsson and Marian Hossa. Things haven’t gone well in Chicago. Pierre McGuire noted on the Team 1200 here in Ottawa just a week ago that there were concerns in the Chicago locker room because Havlat and Robert Lang were hanging out together and avoiding the rest of the team. It seems some of the other Hawks got their backs up about it which doesn’t bode well for any kind of chemistry the Hawks will surely need.

Vincent Lecavalier looks to be in good form early and don’t count him out for another Rocket Richard trophy although Dany Heatley and Alex Ovechkin will have something to say about that. Looks like Vaclav Prospal is due for another big season. He always alternates between lousy and very good. Last year was a lousy one. Those new darker Lightning uniforms look pretty sharp on the ice as well.

Speaking of uniforms, has anyone noticed how much the new Florida away sweaters look exactly like the Flyers when seen on television? I actually thought I was watching Philly vs New York for a couple of minutes until Olli Jokinen had the puck and I thought: Wow, Paul Holmgren really did revamp this team. Even though the Panthers didn’t look that great last night, they’ll make the playoffs this year.

Ottawa 3 Toronto 2

Wade Redden is back folks. He snagged two assists and was feisty all night. He probably has a burr under his saddle after media reports stated that he’s as good as gone this summer due to Heatley and Fisher signing big deals. Here’s something for Bryan Murray to think about: You can’t win a Stanley Cup without an elite puck moving defenseman. But here’s the question – is Wade Redden still an elite D-man?

I don’t know where John Paddock is coming from on this but he is really only using two lines so far this season and has completely abandoned playing his fourth. This might be due to Dean McAmmond being missing but it’s getting a little much, especially when the Sens are in the midst of a 4 games in six days meat grinder. It might help in the short term to double shift Alfie and Heater but what about down the road in April. Do you really want a bruised and battered Alfie trying to start a Cup run playing 26 freaking minutes a night? Chris Neil got a whopping total of 7:43 of ice time and Shean Donovan only saw 8:28. Brian McGrattan saw less than a minute of ice. Brutal.

Congratulations to Greg Millen of Hockey Night In Canada for another marathon of aimless and completely obvious commentary. At least he didn’t go into a tirade about the officials calling too many penalties. Maybe someone talked to him and Ron Maclean because they were both mum on their favourite pet peeve. If these two dudes ran the game, we’d be watching a rodeo on ice.

Martin Gerber again looked good but don’t let that deceive you. His rebound control was a mess again last night and this will always remain his fatal flaw. As Pierre McGuire said on the Team 1200 this morning, Gerber is a very good “initial puckstopper” but it’s like his pads are made of India rubber.

The Sens will have to stop getting penalties if they're going to survive the Rangers and Jaromir Jagr on Saturday.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

NHL on Versus: Ray Emery

There's a series of interesting Versus ads now airing in the U.S. and Ottawa's very own Ray Emery is in one of them. Quite good with the black and white photography giving this a real nice touch of understated class which most NHL promo's from the past didn't have.

Heatley Signs - Glen Fry Rejoices!

So Dany Heatley gets a six-year contract and then pumps two goals by Andrew Raycroft, including the overtime winner. Quite the night for the player who has probably made Glen Fry rich three times over in song royalties because every time he scores in Ottawa they crank out “The Heat Is On”.

More importantly, the Sens are looking solid down the road because they’ve got almost their entire core under contract for many years down the road.

Heatley is signed until 2014. With options, Daniel Alfredsson is signed until 2012. Mike Fisher is here until 2013. Chris Phillips until 2011. Anton Volchenkov until 2010. Ray Emery until 2010. They even have Christoph Schubert for under a million until 2010.

That leaves Jason Spezza and perhaps Wade Redden as the main guys the Sens will be targeting for further contracts. Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun seems to think that the Heatley signing is the end of Redden’s career in Ottawa but I’m not so sure. If Martin Gerber continues to play well, the Sens will surely be able to rid themselves of his contract through a trade. Joe Corvo may also be moved to accommodate Redden’s salary because Brian Lee will soon be able to take over his minutes, as early as next season.

Chris Kelly will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and surely Bryan Murray would like to sign this guy, but he might have to be sacrificed. If either of Ilya Zubov or Alex Nikulin work out, that would allow Fisher to assume Kelly’s spot on the third line instead of being forced into an offensive role that he’s not really suited to.

On to the game last night:

First off, Spezza was horrific. It looked like he was trying to play shinny to impress his family who no doubt were watching in Spezza’s hometown rink last night in Toronto. He gave the puck away over and over again trying to stickhandle through the whole opposition and was kept at the margins for most of the game. Coach John Paddock is gonna have to get out the paddle for Spezza if he doesn’t show some maturity here in what was supposed to be his breakout season.

Alfie was his usual self, if a little rusty. Redden finally woke up after a two year coma and got into two scraps in which he held his own, despite getting cut by his own helmet in the second one. Gerber was solid but not unbelievable as some are claiming. He let in two goals that he should have had but overall, not bad for opening night. Andre Meszaros continued to struggle in his own end defensively but showed some great offensive patience setting Heatley up for the tying goal in the third. I’d much rather see Christoph Schubert paired with Redden but that’s why Paddock is a successful coach and I write a blog. Meszaros is still young and will improve in his own end eventually. Did you notice that Mesz is growing his hair out again? Maybe it’s superstition because he had long locks in his rookie season and the guy was lights out. He cuts it off last year and falls off the charts. If this works, the nickname “Samson” is just screaming out for this guy.

Nick Foligno didn’t see much ice but had at least one good shift. I’m not sure if Josh Hennessy actually saw any more than 2 shifts the entire night. I’m still not sure why Paddock chose to dress Hennessy over Luke Richardson. Even if Richardson only plays 2 shifts a period, that would give Paddock the option of moving up Schubert from time to time to play forward when the team needs somebody to give them a physical edge.

If Richardson is going to be leader in the dressing room, he has to get some games in to earn his teammates respect. Plus, Ottawa can use Richardson’s size down low where he’s still very useful if the pre-season is any gauge.

Overall, a middling effort by the Sens who only won when they decided to crank it up in the third. That strategy might work against a very shallow Leafs team but it won’t work against many others. Look for a better Jason Spezza tonight during the re-match because Ottawa fans will start bringing out the baskets of raspberries if Spezza starts turning over the puck like he did last night.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Gameday: Ottawa @ Toronto Oct. 3 2007

The whole Dany Heatley contract situation has turned exactly into what Heatley claims he didn’t want – a mindblowing crisis. Reports by TSN say that the two sides are only 1 million apart but both are agreed on a six year term. If that’s the case, Bryan Murray should just sign him and get this monkey off of the Senators back before it turns into a raging 600 pound gorrilla bent on destruction.

No one really believes that this contract story will go away if Heatley doesn’t sign by tonight, despite Heatley’s claim that it will be time to “concentrate on hockey”. Until this thing gets resolved, it will be the proverbial elephant in the dressing room except this time the elephant is taking a massive dump on the Senators logo in the middle of the carpet and Bruce Garrioch and his media counterparts won’t be able to shovel fast enough.

Now, onto the game at hand.

No one seems to know for sure yet but it seems like Christoph Schubert will indeed be playing defense with Joe Corvo as his partner. This is a break from yesterday’s news that Schubert would be playing on the fourth line. That’s because there’s speculation Josh Hennessy will be ready to come back from a shoulder injury in time to step onto the ice at the Air Canada Centre. What kind of game Hennessy could provide the Sens is questionable due to his rather limp and flaccid performance during training camp. Schubert on the other hand looked like a Boston Bruin from their heyday in the 70’s when he was put on the frontline. If coach John Paddock is so concerned about the play of Luke Richardson that he’s willing to put Hennessy into game action, then this team might need some trade help pretty fast.

A guy like Luke Richardson was brought in to help in the dressing room but he’s still effective on the ice as a punishing down low defender. Sometimes it takes the old guys a few games to get going properly so it’s my opinion that Paddock should just throw him in there with Corvo and let him get going. Corvo can provide all the speed that’s necessary and that way we won’t have to watch Hennessy mope around the ice like he did all September. That dude was brutal despite having probably the best chance coming in to grab the spot now occupied by Nick Foligno.

The line to really watch tonight will be the Mike Fisher, Patrick Eaves and Foligno line. We already know what the other combinations can do but both Foligno and Eaves had phenomenal camps. Fisher is coming off an injury so it bears watching how he reacts as well.

On the Leafs side, it will interesting to see how Pavel Kubina is playing after apparently getting his head together during the summer. Look for Jason Blake to be a real catalyst for this team, taking over the role that Darcy Tucker had some limited success with last year.

Of course, the goalies lie at the crux of the whole damn thing. Martin Gerber still hasn’t convinced me that he can actually control a rebound and not collapse under the pressure of a meaningful game. And on the Leafs side, who the hell knows who or how they’re going to play.
Post Script:
Mike Milbury was very good on the TSN season preview show last night. Milbury held his own with a couple of media heavyweights (Pierre McGuire, Bob Mackenzie) and a bitter and nasty know-it-all mouthpiece (Glen Healey).
Sportsnet is really struggling right now with their awful studio makeover to "Connected" where the annoying hosts wear jeans and say things like "slobberknocker" to describe homeruns (oh how hip of you Sportsnet!) and a hockey panel that are clearly inferior to TSN. Nick Kypreos freaking out because the AHL decided to honour the Steve Downie suspension was ridiculous. Remember the trade deadline show last year and all the pundits were eating pizza on air and they had the "mysterious" Eklund tossing out false trade rumours from the shadows of the studio? Effing brutal to watch. Any channel that promotes "Ultimate Fighting" as much as they do can't be worth much anyways.
Brian Burke is still pissed at Kevin Lowe and I don't blame him one bit. In fact, all the other GM's should be just as outraged because Thomas Vanek's contract is going to affect them all this summer when they try to sign guys. Burke likened it to a "grenade" which is quite the accurate analogy. K Lowe has a lot of young players coming up. Good luck trying to fend off the offer sheets.