Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Picking The Bones Clean

Craig Hartsburg is new in town and can't really be expected to know the history (and undeserved baggage) of Jason Spezza in Ottawa like the rest of us.

But when the coach publicly criticised his star player in an honest effort to light a fire under the team, he unwittingly set off a firestorm that was laying dormant, ready to be ignited.

Since his former coach, Jacques Martin, called him a "boy" playing a men's game, Spezza has been one of the main punching bags for irate fans and snarky radio hosts. Now that fellow targets like Wade Redden, Ray Emery and Andrej Meszaros have been shipped out of town, Spezza has the spotlight all to himself and everyone is taking turns getting their cheap shots in.

The criticisms were always never far from anyone's lips but when Hartsburg went public with his tried and true motivating tactic, he seemed to legitimize those ideas and now it's a free-for-all.

Take the radio show "Over The Edge" on the Team 1200.

You get to listen to ex-WWF wrestler Glen Kulka rage and ramble about how Hartsburg should be benching Spezza (?!!?) (despite the fact that Hartsburg singled out Spezza for praise after the Montreal game) and that Ottawa's star players don't work hard enough for his liking.

His cohort Lee Versage does nothing to raise the level of conversation and laughs out loud when Kulka hangs up on callers who disagree with him. When the Senators lose, it's always because they aren't "working hard enough". When they win, they talk about the CFL for three hours.

The resentment towards many of the players on the team has reached epic proportions, flamed by the cliched ramblings of media types like Kulka and Versage who appeal only to the lowest common denominator of fan.

Nobody knows where the PR control is on behalf of the Senators. Roy Mlakar is often on the radio but he doesn't lift a finger to defend any of his players against these types of unfounded attacks. Bryan Murray doesn't defend anyone except Martin Gerber. Yes, these are big boys and they can take the heat, but what kind of atmosphere are we creating in this city for hockey? Is it even fun anymore for people?

Someone who is respected by the fans and media, like Daniel Alfredsson or Mike Fisher, needs to step up and defend their teammates before this ugly and negative atmosphere totally engulfs the franchise like it did last season and starts turning off the casual fans from buying tickets.

And don't tell me it's the same in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal when their teams are losing. I've lived in all three of those cities and it never gets as personal and vindictive as it does in Ottawa. Those cities appreciate skilled players and tend to stay loyal, even during the hard times.

In Ottawa, it's just a continual exercise in character assasination. It must be tiresome for all these "experts" to be so angry all the time.

It's just a game after all, isn't it?


It's seems to be half and half.

Some are repulsed by Jarkko Ruutu's waving to the Montreal crowd routine and some are amused.

I'm definitely in the latter. Some people take this game way too seriously.

It was funny.

The same way it was funny when Alfredsson pretended to throw his stick into the stands in Toronto.

If Ruutu really upset you by doing that, your pants are on way too tight.


Speaking of being uptight, some people are actually complaining that this amazing goal by Mike Ribiero on Tuesday night could be illegal (because of the non-forward momentum of the puck). What? I'm not sure what he was doing with that "shush" thing towards the L.A. bench afterwards though. Ribeiro has always been a bit of a hot dog, and not in a good way. Still a beauty goal though.


The crusade continues:

I wrote about how the NHL should honor some of it's more modern greats by renaming some of it's major trophies back in May and now Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night In Canada has written a really good piece on the same subject.

I only suggested 3 changes - the Hart to the (Gordie) Howe, the Art Ross to the (Wayne) Gretzky and the Norris to the (Bobby) Orr. Friedman ended up making the same choices (no-brainers) but he goes much further and wants to rename virtually every trophy except the Masterton.

I would be a little more careful than that but it's still a good idea whose time has come.


Anonymous said...

Most definitely!

Peter said...

I don't get the loyal listeners of Over The Edge and the love-in they seem to have for Kulka. It makes no sense. I was baffled when he criticized Spezza for playing soft and "always having an excuse" after he's been playing as hard as ever. I'd like to see someone in the organization really stand up to those who unbasedly bash players, but I don't see it happening. Which is a shame.

Anonymous said...

Great blog Jeremy! Constructive critisism of the Sens is a great thing, but that rarely happens in the Ottawa media. They seem pretty content to blame Spezza, yet never even think of pointing the finger at Bryan Murray.

The only thing that I can think of is that maybe the Team 1200 feels that they have to sing the chorus that the organization wants or else they will lose the broadcast rights to a competitor.

As for what the organization wants? I think Murray is still in the process of creating a team in his own image. I really believe that if the political climate is right, he will trade Spezza.

For all fans who want a team that is built on skill, now is the time to make your voices heard.

Josh said...

Oh, I sincerely disagree about the fans not getting ugly in Montreal, and creating an environment in which players don't want to play. It's a different kind of ugly to be sure, but not less ugly.

Ask Patrice Brisebois (or frankly, any other francophone who's played here since 1994) if it gets ugly, personal and vindictive.

TheHux said...

I'd much rather come here for some insight into the Sens then the so called MSM. When did Sens fans become raging lunatics where if we don't when every game, the whole damn team should be thrown under the bus as the city runs the entire team out of town.

Andrew said...

Kulka is just confused, the years of steroid abuse have left him confused, thinking he is a journalist and that anyone gives two shits about what he has to say

Graeme Nichols said...

You sure he didn't mean that Spezza needs a proverbial benching?

Graeme Nichols said...

Regarding Montreal, didn't they almost ride Saku Koivu out of town after his cancer remission? I remember Don Cherry lighting the organization and fans up during a Coach's Corner segment.

Anonymous said...

Right on about Spezza. He's amazing. A little slow, but definitely one of the best centres in the league. As everyone should know by now, the sens d is slow and un-talented. Murray made the right move drafting Karrlson at 15 or whatever. He's drafted well. It takes 3,4,5 years to see the work a gm's done. Not one-and-20 games. Murray's one of the best gms in the league. If the sens were to lose him and go after, say, burke, it would be catastrophic. Mark my words. Watch what happens to the ducks with all the problems he's ditching them with. Ottawa isn't good enough to win the cup, period. So don't give up much, trade for young talent, and build through the draft, alll of which BM has done. Man, do the fans and media ever bitch in this city. It's unreal. I lived in MTL for 15years, and, yeah they bitch, but it's not like here. Here its more like personal attacks. I love the sens, but if I were a star player, no thanks. Iginla in calgary is adored, would you trade spezza to get iginla? Didn't think so. Just get used to the fact that the sens aren't that good, stop thinking that the cup is imminent, and just enjoy the game for gods sake. Things will probably get worse before they get better.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Jeremy.

Stops being a simple game when you get paid millions upon millions.

It then becomes a job and you will get your ass handed to you daily in this town if you don't perform.

Spezza is, quite simply, a bum. Heatley isn't doing much better. For the close to 20 mil these two are putting in their pockets, they need to score points in each game and add more physicality to their games too.

Right now, they are both ripping us off with their lazy play.

Josh said...

Anonymous: Actually it *is* just a game regardless of how much the guys are making. You aren't losing a thing if the CASH line underperforms.

Unless your underwear reads "E. Melnyk"? I don't think it does.