Thursday, January 31, 2008

Schaefer Not Impressing The Bruins


Former Ottawa Senator Peter Schaefer rolls back in to Bytown tonight but don't look for him on the top line where he was playing at the start of the year. After being a healthy scratch last week for a game against the Islanders, Schaefer is now plugging along on the Bruins fourth line after scoring just 7 goals so far this season.


He's been a No. 1 left wing. A member of the top power-play unit. A regular penalty-killer.

But now, Schaefer finds himself lower on the depth chart than rookies Vladimir Sobotka, David Krejci, and Pascal Pelletier, fighting to reclaim the minutes Julien has doled out elsewhere.

"He's put himself in a position where he's got to work his way up the ladder again," said Julien of Schaefer. "Axelsson had the same issue at the beginning of the year. He responded well. We're hoping Peter's going to do the same thing. His play will dictate how much he plays. His play will definitely dictate whether he makes a difference on this hockey club or not."


Ottawa fans are quite familiar with Schaefer's quirky style of play and shouldn't be surprised at his lack of goal scoring despite having some impressive skills. The guy simply doesn't shoot. His one great skill was winning battles along the boards but he did that almost exclusively to the point that if he was on a breakaway, you almost expected him to dish the puck into the corner so he could fight for it.

Other Notes:

What happens if Martin Gerber loses tonight? Has John Paddock painted himself into a corner with his "win and you're in" philosophy?

That would mean Ray Emery getting the start in Toronto on Saturday. I'm not sure how that would go over with the media here in Ottawa. They've worked themselves up so much about the "clown prince" Emery that writers like Wayne Scanlan and Bruce Garrioch might have massive coronaries at the sight. (Just check out Scanlan's hysterics: "Get rid of this guy. Week in, week out, he embarrasses his teammates, his coaches, the entire Senators organization. He embarrasses this city.")

The agenda is very clear now. They are intent on running Emery out of town and I wouldn't be surprised to see Scanlan and Garrioch burning Emery in effigy much like some psychotic fans in Arnprior did when Alexei Yashin was public enemy number one.

The team has got to get some damage control going here. People are reacting as if they had Charles Manson in the nets. That's not good for business no matter what side of the argument you're on.



Down And Out


With Ilya Kovalchuk going out with a knee injury last night, the league is starting to lose star players by the barrel.

Here's who else is currently out of action:

Sidney Crosby - Pittsburgh
Dany Heatley - Ottawa
Daniel Alfredsson - Ottawa
Patrice Bergeron - Boston
Manny Fernandez - Boston
Jonathan Toews - Chicago
Michael Nylander - Washington
Brendan Morrisonn - Vancouver
Joe Sakic - Colorado
Sergei Fedorov - Columbus
Bryan McCabe - Toronto
Gary Roberts - Pittsburgh
Joffrey Lupul - Philadelphia
Ryan Smyth - Colorado
Paul Stastny - Colorado
Jere Lehtinen - Dallas
Henrik Zetterberg - Detroit
Mike Cammalleri - Los Angeles
David Legwand - Nashville
Steve Sullivan - Nashville
Rostislav Olesz - Florida

You could start a rival league with the kind of talent that's currently sitting on the trainers table.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Time To Change Kicking Motion Rule


If you happened to catch the end of the Philadelphia – Los Angeles game last night, you would have seen Scott Hartnell’s apparent overtime goal be reviewed for proof of a kicking motion which would have made the goal illegal. After making the fans wait for eons to be able to cheer a winning goal, it was deemed legitimate and the celebration resumed in an anti-climactic fashion.

But even if Hartnell had purposely kicked it in, why should the NHL have disallowed it anyways?
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This is one rule that I think needs to be refined.

Why can’t a player kick a puck into the net?

It seems like it’s just one of those rules that no one questions simply for the fact that it’s there and must have some inherent reason for existing. Yet, time and again, the fans and players are subjected to endless reviews by video goal judges looking for the slightest intent to direct it into the net with a skate, interfering with the flow of a game and putting into question every goal because there are so many rules (including high sticks and goalie interference) that can possibly repeal it.

I think the first argument for the rule is that skates are sharp and if players begin to try to kick pucks in the net, then someone could presumably get hurt.

I don’t think that holds water. No player would intentionally use his skate to redirect or kick a puck when his stick is available. A skate is just not useful enough or accurate enough just by the inherent design. That would preclude teams intentionally drawing up plays that involved kicking the puck into the net. It’s just too unpredictable and ineffective. Of course you would have to draw the line if guys were trying to drop-kick pucks out of mid-air but honestly, what are the chances that would happen? Who in their right mind would think that would be effective? Players don’t try to use their head to direct airborne pucks and they wouldn’t use their skates either. There should be no fear of soccer creeping into the NHL game simply because the dynamics are totally different.

The only time a player kicks at a puck is out of desperation or sudden reflex. Virtually all of these incidents take place within five feet of the net when the puck is on the ice. What difference does it make if the player put it in with his skate or his stick? If a goal counts when it directs off your butt, what does it matter that it’s guided in by a skate, intentionally or not?

Removing this rule would not only add a few goals here and there that are traditionally waved off but it would end the constant delays when these goals are meticulously reviewed. If there is some major argument that proves the worth of this rule, then please let me know.

Otherwise, why are we disallowing so many goals because of it?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Way, Way Too Emotional


People in Ottawa are completely bent out of shape about this Ray Emery thing. Just a cursory listen to the Team 1200 today would have presented you with Bruce Garrioch foaming at the mouth to coach John Paddock, demanding that Emery be suspended.

Then hosts Glen Kulka and Lee Versage decided to test the libel laws by openly suggesting that Emery might have substance abuse problems. Kulka admitted that he had no proof or information about this, but that didn't stop him from mentioning the theory over and over and made no attempts to correct callers who said the same thing.

I'm no lawyer, but I'm sure that you're not allowed to suggest that someone has a substance abuse problem with no proof. That's almost cut and dried libel.

The emotional craziness didn't stop there. The callers and the hosts were almost unanimously in favour of just waiving Emery right away with the team getting no compensation.

Yes, Emery deserves to be reprimanded, but people are getting way too emotional over a guy who is 25 years old and obviously just immature.

At least take a breath and listen to captain Daniel Alfredsson's measured and cool response:

From the Ottawa Citizen:

"It's not good," acknowledged captain Daniel Alfredsson. "We have our fines for being late and I guess management is going to deal with it. It's unfortunate. It's a little bit frustrating, but I think he has said he is going to improve and he has been better in practice, so for me, as long as he works hard in practice, sometimes you can overlook other stuff.

"We have to address it. With management and what they're going to do, it goes along with that. But it's going to be addressed, for sure."

How To Win Friends And Influence Others - The Emery Edition


Well Ray Emery has stepped in a pile of shit once again and he’s probably finding fewer and fewer people ready to back him up.

We already know that he was four minutes late for a 4 PM practice. Emery says that he thought the session was at Nassau Veterans Coliseum when in fact it was at the Islanders practice facility. Coach John Paddock rightfully told him not to suit up and now it’s up to the team management to figure out how to punish him.

Strangely enough, the person who seemed the most angry was Ottawa Sun scribe Bruce Garrioch. When he finally got a chance to ask the coach a few questions, he went into a self-righteous rage wondering if it was time to suspend Ray for “embarrassing the organization too many times” and seemed to be demanding that Paddock and GM Bryan Murray take swift and harsh action. Paddock would have none of it and simply waved him off with a “no-comment”.

Emery is certainly at fault here and will have to face the repercussions, but to say that Emery has embarrassed the organization is a bit ludicrous. He’s an immature young adult who has showed up late for practice a few times. Hardly earth shattering embarrassment there. He’s been involved in a couple of traffic accidents. Nothing too shocking there. Everyone I know has been in a few.

What is apparent is that Emery has very few friends on the media side of the ledger in Bytown and they are now taking their opportunity to stick the knives in. Emery is known for short and curt interview answers and reporters tend to get their backs up about that after awhile. When Emery screws up, they are not about to soft-peddle their criticism.

Another dimension to this is that fans both love and despise pro-athletes. They love them for what they can do on the ice and on the field, but they secretly harbour a jealousy at the kind of money they make and the lifestyle they maintain. The fact that Emery was late because he was flying back from a Vegas vacation is certainly adding fuel to the fire for indignant Ottawa sports fans.

They see a young multi-millionaire who doesn’t seem to take his job seriously and is gallivanting around the continent to famous hot-spots while the poor fan has to sit at a desk and walk through mid-January winds to get home to their modest homes and apartments. To some, this is unforgivable and Emery has made himself public enemy number one because of it.

Even the Ottawa Sun is running a poll on whether or not the Senators should just waive Emery. Amazingly enough, as of this writing, over 75% have said yes.

But there has to be some common sense here. For one, behavioural problems can be fixed. You don’t necessarily give up on a young and gifted athlete because they can’t get their priorities straight. With some discipline and patience, this can be corrected and it certainly can in Emery’s case. Knee jerk reactions like the one Bruce Garrioch and his loyal legions of scalp demanding fans are espousing will not benefit anyone involved in this situation.

Bryan Murray has been through the wars. He’s seen this type of thing before. There is no reason to close the curtain on the Emery show just yet.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Is Gaborik Unhappy In Minny?


If you go by this quote, I'd say so.


"Minnesota is my only team so far," Gaborik, who turns 26 on Feb. 14, said. "But sometimes you think how it could be in an Eastern system, in a more offensive system. There's more offense there for sure. It's a totally different style of hockey. The West is tight and physical, so you're thinking that sometimes.

"This has been my only team, my only coach that I've had so far. I like Minnesota. We're successful, and I'm here right now. But I don't know what's going to happen later on. I'm here right now. I want to win with these guys and I want to do everything I can to win. But we'll see what happens in the future."

The Media Bring Out The Heavy Bats For The Annual All-Star Beatdown


The NHL is really getting whacked for Saturdays Skill Competition failure. Here's some quotes from columnists around the league.

From the Toronto Star:

"...the 2008 version did little more than show off how inept the league and its players are at showing off. It was hard to tell if there was much excitement in the arena, but as far as television went this was one major dud.

First came an obstacle relay that must have been dreamed up by someone who'd played too long without a helmet. Any event that features disjointed skills and ends with goaltenders trying to score on an empty net needs a rethink.

The fastest skater competition was a complete hash, so much so that CBC announcer Jim Hughson couldn't figure out who won the heats. "

From the National Post:

"...the NHL has realized that it needs some mustard. The problem is, it doesn't have any hot dogs.

They can dangle in an all-star setting, as they did in the Eastern Conference's last-minute, 8-7 win Sunday at Philips Arena. But for the rest of the season, NHL players are a bunch of humble Canadians and quiet Europeans. As Jason Arnott said this weekend, Owens wouldn't last 30 seconds inside an NHL dressing room...

But the NHL desperately needs individual. So on Saturday at the SuperSkills competition, they debuted the drably named Breakaway Challenge. From the judging to the execution, it was a complete disaster.

Pavel Datsyuk, one of the game's most dexterous, skilled players, had nothing out of the ordinary to offer on his breakaways. Martin St. Louis tried, but was hopeless. Alex Ovechkin was most impressive, twice flipping the puck high and attempting baseball-swing goals. The fact he missed on both attempts - yet still won the competition - is more a statement of what little everyone else brought to the table. "

From the Ottawa Sun:

"At the very least, it would appear the skills competition is going to become a victim of the changes once the league figures out what direction it wants to take. ...

"I haven't heard any positive comments about the skills competition at all," a league executive yesterday said. "The players think it's painful, the changes to the competition didn't work and quite frankly, the players are bored with the whole thing."


I for one don't think they should cancel it. There's still a lot of good that can come out of the competition and just imagine if Ovechkin had actually scored on one of those gong show moves. That would have made every highlight show on the continent.

But I'm completely glad the All-Star weekend is behind us. It's the same thing every year. In fact, I think most columnists just reprint the previous years column because the commentary never changes. Why do we get so riled up over an All-Star game anyways? It's evident that we sometimes take the game way too seriously.

Let's get on with the stretch drive.

Raptors Using Alfie To Get Fans Riled Up


According to a member of the Sportsnet forums, the Toronto Raptors of the NBA use a picture of Daniel Alfredsson on the big screen in order to get fans booing at appropriate times, such as when the opposition is shooting a free-throw.

That’s freaking hilarious if it’s true and I’m wondering if anyone reading this can confirm that.

Apparently they doctor up the photo to make him look like Krusty the Clown but again, I’m not sure if that’s true or not.

I could see the Leafs doing that, but the Raptors???? It’s not even the same freaking sport. Can they not find a photo of Vince Carter and put his head on a baby in a crib or something?

Anyways, I thought some of you might find that amusing, true or not.

Other Notes:

I kind of stuck my neck out defending the All-Star game (actually Ian Mendes said much the same thing this morning on the Team 1200 by noting that adults are too jaded and cynical to enjoy the game anymore but the kids still like it and that’s probably the point.) but it’s hard to defend the abomination that was the Skills Contest.

First off, the skating race comp was absolutely brutal. They couldn’t figure out how to properly time these guys and thus the slowest skater, Brian Campbell, had to skate in the final and embarrass himself one more time.

I had no idea what the hell was going on in the relay comp. Neither did the players. It was utter crap and probably planned by a league-hired cretin.

The “dunk” competition, the one that was judged, was a little embarrassing to watch. Alex Ovechkin was the only one who really tried something and even he failed miserably as he couldn’t hit the puck out of the air. Nobody knows what the hell Martin St. Louis was doing and Ilya Kovalchuk going down on his knees and putting a weak shot into the goalies chest was a letdown for his adoring hometown fans.

I’m not saying scrap it, because it was a great idea, but the players have to step up and bring something unique – that actually works!

And what the hell was Evgeni Nabokov thinking? The player coming down (I think it was St. Louis) was trying to pull something great out of his ass and Nabokov comes out and poke checks him.

Are you serious? Way to make the show about you Nabby. Like we all tuned in to a see an exciting poke check from another monstrously padded goalie. Honestly, just leave the goalies at home next time and hire some ringers from the local beer league.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Penguins Shill For Wheels

For bad acting, it's hard to top these four Penguins who ham it up for a local car dealership. Colby Armstrong, Maxime Talbot, Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin are all in it (I would have loved to seen Georges Laraque as well). The weird thing is, all four are still better actors than Keanu Reeves.

(The video is dark for a few seconds at the start)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Malik Benched For Not Shaking Tom Renney's Hand!


Next to Richard Peddie mouthing along to Cliff Fletcher's words during this week's press conference, this Marek Malik story has to be the strangest one so far this year.

Apparently Malik did not play for the Rangers last night because after Tuesday night's win over Atlanta, Malik didn't accept a handshake from his coach Tom Renney.


"The Post has learned the embittered veteran Ranger defenseman refused Renney's handshake in the locker room after Tuesday night's 4-0 victory over the Thrashers and was scratched from last night's 2-1 shootout win over Atlanta for that reason.

Malik had stormed out of the arena in Edmonton on Jan. 5 after finding out he was a scratch, and has publicly indicated his bewilderment at intermittent lineup scratches.
Scott Gomez laid into Malik for refusing Renney's common congratulatory courtesy after a win in which Malik actually played one of his best games of the season. "

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I'm not sure who's being more childish here, Malik or Renney. It's actually quite funny thinking about Renney tossing and turning in his bed all night unable to get over the snub.

If Malik is headed for the trading block, it might not be a bad idea for Ottawa GM Bryan Murray to give Glen Sather a call. Malik is the kind of big defenseman who can help bail out Martin Gerber and Ray Emery from the constant giveaways that the defense is prone to.

I'm not sure how the Ottawa fan base would respond to a "problem child" like Malik though. They are already trying to run Emery out on a rail for some of his supposed sins. In polite little Ottawa, not shaking a hand is akin to slapping a nun in the face.

You just don't do it.

Stop Dissing The All-Star Game


So it’s the All-Star break, but as far as breaks go, the All-Star game sure doesn’t seem to get any.
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Wherever you go to read about the game, inevitably you’ll hear the usual diatribes disparaging the game, saying it’s pointless and too much like shinny and no one wants to show up etc etc.

How old does it get to hear the same talking heads say the same things every year? They completely miss the point. The All Star game is not for the guys who report on the NHL. It’s for the fans and mostly for the kids.

Just leave the damn game alone. “ It is what it is and it ain’t what it ain’t” to quote the great songwriter John Prine.

It may not be for the rabid fan who takes the NHL so seriously that he puts a fist through the wall when his favourite team loses but it’s still worth putting on. When I was a kid, the All-Star game was almost as good as the playoffs. The glitz and the players being announced to boos and cheers, depending on who it was and what city it was in. As I got older, I loved seeing guys like Mario Lemieux joking around with enemies like Chris Chelios and it was always worth a watch seeing Ray Bourque shoot out the targets and Al Macinnis unleash a demon slapshot that clocked in at over 100 mph in the skills competition.

Plus you’ve got to love a game where the goalies are finally helpless against the real attribute that the NHL should be marketing - skill.

Goalies may not like the game and that fact alone makes me happy. In fact, I’d like to see the league institute a special All-Star rule where the goalies have to wear pads the size they once wore in the 70’s and 80’s and then we’d see some real action.

Anyways, as long as the kids still like the game, it’s worth it for the NHL. God forbid the talking heads have to endure one weekend a year where they can’t dissect the gameplay like forensic scientists.


Other News:

It's interesting to note that James Mirtle posted a few words about how Alex Ovechkin is giving Vincent Lecavalier a run for the scoring race, the morning after Daniel Alfredsson took the outright lead himself. (Note: James commented that he did indeed mention Alfredsson in the article whereas I had said that he didn't. The point was that the way it was written seemed to omit Alfredsson because of the emphasis on Ovechkin and Lecavalier. Not that this is a real important issue, but it's important to get the facts straight. Anyways, go read the comments in Mirtle's post for the full "controversy"...] World War III just started in the comments section.

Welcome To The Twilight Zone.


Facts:

Brad Richards is -25.

Patrick Marleau is -20.

Yet Daniel Cleary is +22 and Mike Ribeiro is +13.


I need a beer and three Mandrax tablets just to comprehend it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Gutter Bin Presents ... More Classic Quotes


We haven't done these for awhile here at Black Aces but here we go with another soul-sucking edition of the most ridiculous, offensive, or abysmally moronic comments by all our favourite NHL talking heads over the years.

Since a lot of people are comparing the Richard Peddie-run Maple Leafs to the Harold Ballard years, let's start off with the man himself, the always foolish, and often racist and sexist Harold Ballard. Be sure to check out previous editions of Classic Quotes by clicking on the tag at the bottom of the post.

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"Diabetes is all in the mind."
- Ballard speaking on his own diabetic condition to Brian McFarlane.

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"People criticize Gerry McNamara. They say he's brain damaged. But there isn't a guy in hockey who isn't."
- Ballard comes to the defence of Leaf GM McNamara after the disastrous 84-85 season when the Leafs finished dead last in the NHL.
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"Women are good for only one thing - lying on their backs."-Harold Ballard, in a candid moment, speaking to female journalist Barbara Frum.
.."If you can call a Chevrolet a Chev, why can't you call a Japanese a Jap?"
- Harold Ballard talks about race relations with Ottawa writer Earl McRae in the '80s.

"Aw, what does he know?"
- Don Cherry, referring to Howie Meeker. Cherry played one NHL game while Meeker played for eight years and was a four-time Stanley Cup winner with the Leafs.


"A Finn coaching pros? And what's his name - Alpo? Sounds like a dog food."- Don Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada commenting on the Winnipeg Jets hiring Alpo Suhonen from Finland to coach their American League farm team in the '80s.


“Have another donut, you fat pig!”
- Jim Schoenfeld, coach of the New Jersey Devils, screaming at referee Don Koharski after a game in the 1988 playoffs.


"It’s too bad he lives in the city. He’s depriving some small village of a pretty good idiot."- Mike Milbury, GM of the Islanders, on Ziggy Palffy’s agent Paul Kraus during a contract dispute.


"He's a gutless puke, that's what Travis Green is. That's why he doesn't wear an Islander uniform any more."-Mike Milbury on ex-Islander Travis Green for a perceived dirty hit on Milbury's once prized defenceman Kenny Jonsson.


“Let's put it this way: if one of my brothers were standing in front of the bus last night and we were about to leave and he was on the other team, I'd have run over him. I wouldn't have called out first to ask him to get out of the way, either. That's my mentality, that's the way it is. I don't really care."
- Brian Sutter, coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, shows his tender side in 2002.
."Somebody will make a joke and somebody else will laugh. We have a good dressing room here."
- Danny Markov describes the process of humor in the Carolina Hurricanes locker room shortly before being traded to Philadelphia.


“The bottom line is, if they want a hard (salary) cap, we’ll sit out for the rest of our lives.”-Bryan McCabe, Maple Leaf defenceman, before the 2004 lockout. McCabe managed to overcome his hesitancy to play under a cap to earn an average of almost 6 million a season.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Gutter Bin Presents... Two More Classic All-Time Rants


Unfortunately, there aren't too many cases of coaches or players going off like this in the NHL but in baseball... there's a neverending supply of mental breakdowns and reporter beatdowns. We'll start off with some classic audio by Rich "Goose" Gossage, at this time part of the New York Yankees, going off at those pesky Bronx reporters. At one point Gossage calls one of them a "greasy c*!*sucker". Amazing.



Next up we'll go with Hall Of Famer Earl Weaver going off the rails on a radio segment called Managers Corner. Weaver is a beauty.



Be sure to check out Lee Elia's world famous rant already posted here.

When Will The Media Turn On Paddock?


With the Ottawa Senators mired in their second mind blowing slump of the year, the media in Bytown have been noticeably easy on first year head coach John Paddock. Maybe it’s still the honeymoon phase or maybe Paddock has been supplying too many easy quotes on how terrible his players have been, especially the goaltending of Ray Emery and Martin Gerber.

But how long will Paddock get a free ride from the likes of Bruce Garrioch, Wayne Scanlan, Allan Panzeri, Chris Stevenson and Don Brennan?

Of course, the players have a lot to answer for and ultimately it’s their job to get it done on the ice. But don’t forget that this team is largely the same that went to the Cup final in convincing fashion just last year under current GM Bryan Murray (a coach who captain Daniel Alfredsson said he didn’t want to see give up his duties).

Have these same players all of a sudden lost their ability? Obviously not.

Then perhaps there should be some heat put on Paddock who has made some questionable choices in how he employs his lineup. So far, he has managed to alienate his two goalies who were both playing great hockey just last season. Emery lost his job because he had off-season wrist surgery and under Paddock he has not been given any games in a row to get his confidence back. Gerber has been what he’s always been – streaky. Sometimes he looks like a worldbeater, sometimes he looks like the original Swiss Miss Hardy Astrom. Paddock hasn’t shown any sustained confidence in him either.

The defense core is exactly the same minus Tom Preissing yet they look lost this year. The top line has predictably been dominant yet Paddock has not found a way, or the ice time, to cultivate success from his other three lines. The penalty killing is still good but that’s largely the responsibility of assistant coach Greg Carvel.

Then there is the issue of heart. Under Murray, the Senators were tough and nobody was able to push them around, a revelation that the media and fans seemed to appreciate after a decade of soft teams that often withered under the aggressive tactics of teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs.

Under Paddock, the Senators went into their game against the Philadelphia Flyers and had their first opportunity to do something about Steve Downie’s head shot against Dean McAmmond. When nothing happened, Paddock didn’t seem to care and neither did his players. Yet the fans and even the Flyers themselves were shocked that the Senators didn’t even bother to show up. Scott Hartnell went on Ottawa radio two days later and said he was surprised the Senators didn’t try to exact at revenge. For some reason, Chris Neil thought it was appropriate to fight Tanner Glass last night in Florida but not Steve Downie on Sunday.

So when does Paddock get in the cross hairs of the media? Just take a cursory glance at all the usual places that Sens fans congregate to vent, such as forums and blogs, and you’ll see that many of them are already screaming for Paddock to be thrown into the Canal or put on the next bus back to Winnipeg or Binghamton. Yet there’s not a peep about Paddock and his style in the morning papers.

There is a sentiment in the grassroots out there that Murray should step back in to guide this team into the playoffs. Perhaps that’s too radical a concept for the media to consider but at some point, something’s gotta break here.

Paddock can only throw his players under the bus so often (and it’s getting tiring to listen to it) before they start to turn on him. It seems he’s created a two-class system on the team. There’s the top line which gets praised at every opportunity and then there’s the rest of the team who get called out almost every day, win or lose.

Some may find his “candour” refreshing. Others find it suspicious.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Craziest Rant By A Coach - - - Ever




This is the audio of famous Chicaco Cub manager Lou Elia dropping the most massive F-Bomb on the fans back in 1983. Warning. Explicit F@!*ing language. The Cubbies were only 5-14 at the time but had just been booed off the field after another dismal loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of a miniscule but angry set of fans at Wrigley.

This rant will likely never be topped. It's as safe as Gretzky's 92 goals.

Thanks to fellow hoser and baseball history fanatic Joe MacDonald for pointing this one out.

Who Paid Private Investigators To Follow Steve Moore?



"Former NHL player Steve Moore last summer was under surveillance by several private investigators who followed him and sometimes parked their cars for prolonged periods outside Moore's parents' home in Thornhill, the Star has learned.

In late July, Moore filed a complaint with the York Regional Police Department, said a person familiar with the matter.

It's unclear who hired the investigators who shadowed Moore, a former Colorado Avalanche forward whose hockey career was cut short when he was attacked by Vancouver Canucks star Todd Bertuzzi."

Talk about strange. The defence team for Todd Bertuzzi flat out denied hiring investigators to spy on Moore, who is suing both Bertuzzi and the Vancouver Canucks organization.

On the other hand, the Vancouver Canucks refused to answer the question. In other words, the Canucks did not deny or confirm it.

"Moore's lawyer, Tim Danson, in a Nov.22 deposition with Canucks general manager David Nonis asked whether he knew if Moore had been followed. Canucks lawyer Alan D'Silva interrupted and ordered Nonis not to respond.

"So you're refusing to tell me whether or not surveillance even exists on my client?" Danson asked.

"Correct," D'Silva answered.

"So I understand your position, if there is surveillance you're only going to advise me if you intend to use it at trial?"

"Correct," D'Silva replied."


Once again, the Canucks did not deny hiring the investigators.

Are We Headed For Another Clint Malarchuk Disaster?


Long time hockey fans need no reminder of what happened to Buffalo netminder Clint Malarchuk back in 1980’s. For those of you who haven’t heard about it or seen it, one needs only to type in that netminders name on a video sharing site like You Tube and you’ll see soon enough. Not for the faint of heart.

But are we soon headed for a similar scenario once again in the NHL? After taking a skate in the throat, Malarchuk was thought to have survived simply because he happened to be in the zamboni end at the time and medical staff were able to reach him quickly. Maybe next time the goaltender won’t be so lucky.

Just take a look around the NHL and try to pick out the goalies who wear proper neck protection. The unofficial count among legitimate starters is around 5. The ones I could find who wore the protection were Martin Brodeur, Martin Gerber, Chris Osgood, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Vesa Toskala. I’m sure I missed one or two but you get the point.

Now just take a look at the starting goalies who wear no neck protection at all.

Roberto Luongo
Manny Legace
Ray Emery
Ryan Miller
Evgeni Nabokov
Kari Lehtonen
Cam Ward
Mikka Kiprusoff
Nicklas Backstrom
Chris Mason
Dominik Hasek
Cristobal Huet
Olaf Kolzig
Marty Turco
Tomas Vokoun
Nikolai Khabibulin


And that’s just a list of the prominent ones.

And people complain that not enough players wear visors.

Undoubtedly, the goalie will tell you that they can’t see pucks at their feet with the plastic apron that pushes up around the chin when a goalie looks down. But that doesn’t seem to hurt Brodeur.
So why is this happening? Style? Goalies look kind of ridiculous to start with so that can’t be it. They constantly claim that the reason they wear such monstrously huge equipment is for protection yet they won't slap a simple piece of plastic to the most vulnerable part of their body.
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If someone knows the answer then please feel free to enlighten me and the readers but I can’t help but think that at least once in the future, some unlucky goalie is going to get a skate in the windpipe from a crease crasher or a puck in the adams apple like the Habs forward Trent McCleary got years ago which basically ended his career.

While the mainstream press has been diligent in pointing out that it's been 40 years since Bill Masterton died in an NHL game, no one makes the connection to Malarchuk and the sudden disappearance of the neck guard.

The clock is ticking.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Game Of The Freaking Year


For those of you who were lucky enough to tune into the Washington-Pittsburgh game last night (Monday) you already know this. For those who missed it, it was, if not the best game of the year, at least the best one in recent memory.

Watching Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin trade goals and hits was like watching two goliaths going toe to toe in some kind of epic battle. Everyone else on the ice looked small in comparison. At one point, Ovechkin almost took off Malkin's head with a sneaky bonecrushing hit and the two nearly ended up in a scrap because of it.

In fact the only thing missing from this game was the traditional Georges Laraque versus Donald Brashear scrap but the play was so spectacular that you hardly even noticed.

This is exactly the type of game that the NHL should be trying to encourage - high scoring, hard-hitting and anti-trap. If the American market was exposed to games of this caliber on a nightly basis then the NHL would have no trouble getting a TV contract.

Just compare this game with the absolute mind-destroying yawnfest that was the Lighting's 2-0 win over Ottawa on the weekend. I haven't seen anything that boring and ultimately meaningless since The English Patient (and I've sat through Vancouver-Minnesota games).

Speculation About Jokinen Abounds


The latest hot rumour has it that Olli Jokinen and coach/GM Jacques Martin despise each other and that Jokinen is headed for another club at the deadline. Over at On Frozen Pond, Miami beat writer George Richards says that trade talks are a bit premature but he wouldn't be surprised either way.

"I don't think Olli and JM are best of friends, but then, I don't think JM has many 'best' friends inside this business. He has pals, buddies, but nothing serious. JM is a very close-guarded guy, very private. So too, in a way, is Olli. The only guys I know he's really friendly with over the years are Nate Horton and Roberto Luongo -- and I think his friendship with Louie really got going after he was traded away."

Over at Hockeybuzz, Eklund had this to say about the possibility of Jokinen being traded:

"The mood is probably better for a Jokinen trade then it ever has been in Florida. The rumours have swirled for years, but there are incredible behind the scenes stories I am hearing. One this morning, one last night...really make me wonder if the ownership may be forced to make this move. I have heard Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal are the first places to look, with Buffalo, Edmonton and Chicago all possibilities. One thing that is for certain, if OJ is available, a huge bidding war will ensue."

If I'm David Nonis out in Vancouver, I'm putting together a package to get this guy.

The question remains: Who would be a better deadline pickup for a contending team - Mats Sundin or Olli Jokinen?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Senators Let Downie Off The Hook


Steve Downie could have taped a dozen eggs to his sweater last night and still had enough left over after the game to make an omelet. That's because the Senators decided not to challenge Downie to a fight in a 6-1 loss to the Flyers, the first time they faced him after Downie nearly tore teammate Dean McAmmond's head off in the pre-season.

Why that is, I have no idea.

Are the Senators trying to bring back their past reputation for being a team that anyone could walk over? It's not like the game was close after the first period so the Senators weren't trying to avoid an instigator penalty. And it's not like Downie wasn't available. He played over 10 minutes although saw little time in the third period. What was Chris Neil doing? If he's not going to go after Downie, what does an opposing player have to do to get his ire up?

I'm not saying that Downie should have been jumped. But why not challenge him to a fight? I am pretty sure that Downie received only one hit and that was by Neil in the first period. No one else who fights (Brian McGrattan left early after injuring his shoulder in a scrap with Riley Cote) bothered to interest themselves enough to make a statement in a game that badly needed one. Shean Donovan, Mike Fisher, Luke Richardson and of course Neil, basically let Downie off the hook.

You have to wonder how McAmmond feels about living in the Twilight Zone. First his head coach openly praises Downie in the national media and then no one says a peep to Downie last night.

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Where Did Everyone Go In Wheel City?


The team is bloody great, but the seats at Red Wings games are empty. Ryan Pyette at the Ottawa Sun has an article which tries to nail down the reason for the sudden dropoff.

Is it the economy? Is it because the games are mostly low-scoring and uneventful across the league?

"There's a lot of tradition here," said 23-year-old fan Raymond Bennett, wearing a Brett Lebda jersey. "But there are still some things people would like to see changed. For one, get us out of the Western Conference. We belong in the East. If Toronto was playing here tonight, it would be a zoo. It's no surprise the first sellout here this year (on Jan. 6) was against Chicago, another Original Six team.

"We don't need to be playing Columbus eight times a year. That's too much -- not even the people in Columbus want to see Columbus eight times. "
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Zing

Friday, January 18, 2008

Alfie Finally Run Ragged And More Trade Speculation


Perhaps last nights game was a revelation for Ottawa Senators coach John Paddock in a variety of ways.

With MVP candidate Daniel Alfredsson going down with a hip flexor injury, and with perennial 50 goal scorer Dany Heatley out of the lineup, Paddock was forced to use the rest of his lineup in meaningful minutes and , surprise, surprise, it paid off for him.

Antoine Vermette excelled with the extra ice time and everybody else chipped in with a solid effort thus proving that Paddock can win without playing his top line into the ground. Ooops! Too late.

No one can really say that the recent injuries to Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley were because of over-use and fatigue but you can make the point that tired players don’t protect themselves as good as rested ones. Whether or not that applies to the Spezza and Heatley injuries is up for debate but you can be certain that the hip injury to Alfredsson is simply a product of mid-season burnout and last night’s flareup should come as a warning to Paddock that Alfie isn’t 28 years old anymore. Perhaps he might want to save Alfredsson for the playoffs instead of throwing him over the bench, sometimes for over 30 minutes a game, in Paddock’s bizarre quest to win the President’s Trophy.

Now Paddock might be forced to use the rest of the lineup that GM Bryan Murray has so graciously provided him. This group of players are largely the same group that wound its way to the Cup finals last year and Paddock should have counted himself lucky to inherit them. Yet Paddock has seemingly taken a lethal lineup and reduced it to a fragmented mess in less than a calendar year.

The team’s goaltenders have no defined role and neither knows when they will start next. In recent months, both Ray Emery and Martin Gerber lurch from one tepid game to the next with neither getting any run of games in a row to get established.

Solid role players who thrived under Murray like Chris Kelly and Dean McAmmond look lost this year. When a coveted spot opens on the top line, Paddock chooses to call up Ilya Zubov from Bingo instead of using someone already in his lineup to fill the role.

Yet the Senators are still rolling along on top of the Eastern Conference. So what’s the big worry?
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It’s the middle of January and perilously close to the stretch drive after the All-Star game and there is no clear cut number one goalie. The top line is starting to wear down. The only solid defense pairing is the one of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov while Wade Redden struggles defensively with both Andre Meszaros at the start of the year and now with Joe Corvo. There is also a distinct lack of secondary scoring despite last night’s game against Carolina.

Not many people figured Ottawa would be heading into the first round of the playoffs with this many problems but if things aren't corrected soon, that will be the case. Not exactly encouraging for a team expected to make another big run at the Cup.

So what’s the solution?

I don’t know. I’m not the coach. I'm a freaking blogger. But Paddock better figure one out or he'll be wearing the dunce cap when all is said and done. He was handed a Cup ready team on a platter and so far his hands have been shaky at best.

---------------------------------------------

Over at Sens Army they speculated about Ottawa trying to trade for Eric Cole and it’s not really that far fetched for Bryan Murray to pull off such a deal.

Here’s a suggestion :
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Like Sens Army said, send Joe Corvo and Antoine Vermette to Carolina for Eric Cole but the Canes should also throw in Mike Commodore. That would be two big bodies entering Ottawa’s lineup while only losing two players of the likes that Ottawa has a plethora of. Corvo’s minutes can easily be replaced by Meszaros while Commodore would fulfill the need for a big tough defenseman. Vermette is never going to be the breakout player that many fans had predicted. Sure he’s a great penalty killer but Ottawa has a plethora of those players in Mike Fisher, Kelly, Shean Donovan, McAmmond and Alfie. Having Eric Cole on one of the top two lines would look good come playoff time when the hitting gets harder and big defenseman gain an advantage over smaller forwards who suddenly have less room.

Would Carolina go for that deal? The salaries are basically an even swap over the long run when you consider Vermette needing a new contract. It would add speed to Carolina’s lineup but also rob them of some physical guys. It may not be realistic but players like Commodore and Cole are what Ottawa needs.

Size still matters.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jacques Martin's Panthers Getting Pushed Around


Ottawa Senators fans know this feeling all too well.

When Martin was leading the Ottawa squad from 1996 to 2004, fans got used to their team getting the living shit kicked out of them every night by teams like Toronto who knew Martin didn't like the rough stuff - or the rough players. That trend has followed Martin to Florida.

The Flyers bitch slapped the Panthers last night in Philly, both on the scoreboard and on the face. Guys like Derian Hatcher and Steve Downie did whatever they wanted to the Panthers and Downie even injured Rostislav Olesz at the end of the second period with a vicious hit off the faceoff. Somewhere John Paddock, Downie's biggest fan, is smiling in his secret Flyers pajamas.

What's even more pathetic is that the two players who fought back for the Panthers were the likes of Olli Jokinen and Richard Zednik, while Nathan Horton and Ruslan Salei picked up roughing minors. The Panthers are not the type of team you take with you to a back alley knife fight. Unless you want to commit suicide.

Knowing Martin, those guys could find themselves benched for getting a penalty in the first place.

You just know that scrappers like Anthony Stewart and David Booth would have loved to go out and knock a few heads around but Martin as usual is simply living by the scoreboard.

Sometimes standing up for yourself in an over the top manner is worth two or three wins in the NHL. At least other teams aren't dying to play you tough in the future.

To top it off, we have the all-time weakest excuse/explanation from a hockey player after losing a game, courtesy of Panther Radek Dvorak:

"I know we showed some desperation the last 40 minutes, we came back and lost by one goal, but everyone will tell you, it's tough to come back from a 4-1 [deficit]," said winger Radek Dvorak. "At least we showed the last 40 minutes, we can play. So hopefully we will wake up … because this is not good enough, guys."

No guys, it's not good enough. Not even close.

Paddock And Carvel At Odds Over Coaching Tactics


Anyone who has been following the Ottawa Senators this year knows that head coach John Paddock has no problem throwing individual players under the bus to the media. If a reporter asks him to name names, Paddock sings like a canary. If this was the mafia, Paddock would be swimming with the fishes right now but instead he's coaching in the All Star game.

But is there a split in tactics going on between Paddock and well liked assistant coach Greg Carvel? Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen reports on Carvel's unwillingness to put the spotlight on any struggling players.

"I'm not going to name names, that's not fair to the guys," Carvel said yesterday while subbing for Paddock, who missed practice for personal reasons. "We need to deal with that behind closed doors."

Maybe this is just simply the good cop/bad cop routine. Players tend to confide more in the assistant coach than the head coach and maybe that's just part of Carvel's role in protecting his guys.

But it's interesting nonetheless that the first time (basically) all year that Carvel gets to hold his own press conference, he publicly disavows a tactic that his boss wholeheartedly practices.
Maybe Paddock will throw Carvel under the wheels the moment he gets back in front of a microphone. Now that would be entertaining.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tortorella: "I Have Never Been More Embarrassed"


The Fonz is about to blow up any day now. Tampa coach John Tortorella is looking more and more like a dead man and he might drag Jay Feaster down with him.
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Nobody is fooling themselves anymore. The Lightning are inept and everyone knows why: goaltending and defense. This top heavy ship tipped over a year ago and Jay Feaster can't even find a shirt that fits let alone trade for some help on the back end.

""I would have thrown stuff at us, not boo us. I would have thrown stuff at us," he said. "I have never been more embarrassed."

Osgood Gets Yanked And An Olsen Twin Gets Dumped.


Osgood has had two terrible games in a row now after having signed that contract extension. Coach Mike Babcock is not very pleased according to the Free Press.

While there's no real reason for Wings fans to have a psychotic freakout and go jump in the Detroit River, there could be cause for concern because everyone knows that Osgood was playing a little over his head. No one expected him to be this good and perhaps no one will be surprised when he starts playing like Chris Osgood again.

Wings fans should hope that the streaking Dominik Hasek doesn't tear that groin in half having to come in cold in the middle of games to clean up Osgood's mess like he did last night against Atlanta.
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The Free Press is full of good stuff today:

Kevin Allen thinks that Detroit and Marian Hossa could be a good match at the trading deadline. He also mentions that Ottawa, Vancouver and Boston will be vying for the right-winger who threw down a natural hat-trick last night against the Wings. I'm thinking that Hossa would look best in a Canucks uni because if anyone needs another top forward, it's Alain Vigneault and his squad of stone carvers.

There's also a note on how Darren McCarty, trying to play his way back to the NHL, caused the first sellout in three years for the Flint Generals and that Sean Avery dumped one of those Olsen girls and is now dating a fashion designer. For one, I had no idea that Avery wasn't dating that 24 girl anymore. But, an Olsen twin?
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Brutal.
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Please, for the love of all that's good and decent, someone give those girls a hamburger. Or a one way ticket to a country where they don't make movies or television specials. I'm still recovering from the trauma of having to watch a television show called Full House where the mad scientists of the television industry paired the Olsens with Bob Saget. They should burn the master tapes of that abomination just for humanitarian reasons.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

William Houston: CBC Should Drop Leafs



"The Leafs have taken precedence on Hockey Night for years, but as a non-playoff team currently second last in the Eastern Conference, they're contributing little to the telecasts. What's more, Hockey Night will be counting on the Senators, the top team in the Eastern Conference, to deliver substantial playoff audiences.

That won't happen unless the Canadian audience is given an opportunity to connect with the Senators in the regular season.

The problem for Hockey Night's network, the CBC, is that, among the six Canadian NHL teams, the Leafs produce the largest audiences.

"In television, you want immediate results," a TV source said. "But in this case, the CBC should probably suffer in the short term for long-term gains. Ottawa is going to be the CBC's bread and butter in the playoffs, not Toronto." "

Strach Takes Shot At New Wild Owner


Al Strachan is not known for his tact. In this weeks Fox Sports column, he lets loose a few head shots at former Predator owner and now Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leopold. And he gives the boots to both franchises for good measure. Strach rules.

On the Predators:

"Committed to winning the Stanley Cup? Under Leipold's stewardship, the Predators consistently had one of the lowest payrolls in the NHL. They made the playoffs three times, departed in the first round on every occasion and after the last flop, dumped most of their higher-priced players. This is what constitutes being committed to winning the Stanley Cup? "

On The Wild:

"And while we're at it, what are these "Midwestern values"? Is it the determination to produce the most boring hockey this side of New Jersey? Is it the decision to reward fans who love the game and have never let a single seat go empty with one of the least-expensive rosters known to man? "

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sens Prospect Nikulin Criticises Bingo Coach On His Blog


If you've been reading this site for awhile now, you'll know that Senators prospect Alex Nikulin has been writing his own blog (in Russian) and a member of HF Boards named ThirtyFive has been translating them for everyone. His entries are usually a good read as the earnest youngster describes trying to get used to life in North America while learning the language and getting homesick.

This time, I wonder if Nikulin may have said too much. Here is his most recent blog entry and you can judge for yourself. The Bingo coach by the way is Cory Clouston.


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"In America, one day it’s cold, another day it’s hot. January 13, 2008.

The main holiday in America is Christmas. We had three whole days off, all practices were cancelled, and my girlfriend Natalya and I spent all this time in New York. We took walks, did some shopping, went to restaurants. It’s true that they say it’s the capital of the world. Crazy traffic, a lot of people. All this reminds me of Moscow. I liked Manhattan the most. When you’re standing next to the skyscrapers, it’s an unforgettable feeling. Or when you’re driving across the bridge late at night. Everything’s illuminated, beautiful.

If not for Natalya, I’d have trouble with all the problems in life. No, nothing very tough, but still the monotonous lifestyle is tiresome. Road trips are ordinary, two-three hours by bus, the game, the trip back. The city is small, there’s nothing to do. Natalya also gets a little lonesome, especially when I’m on the road or at practice.

She goes to the games, she likes it. Our arena has a box for the wives and girlfriends of the players near the GM’s box. So she watches the games from there. Got acquainted with the wives of other players. For instance, with the companion of our tough guy Jeremy Yablonski. Natasha also helps me with my English. And I’m still earnestly learning the language.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve with the whole team. Got together at a restaurant on the 31st and welcomed the New Year with the chime of a clock. I can’t compare this to celebrating this holiday in Russia. We never celebrated New Year’s Eve together with the CSKA. I’ve heard this year they also did not get together for a team party, although all the other Superleague teams had something like that for their players. But there were no gifts at our party. What gifts could there be with our kind of playing? But that’s another topic.

The weather is strange here. When we were in New York, it was real Russian winter there, about -15. But it’s not always like that. During December the temperature went as high as +10. I don’t understand it.

Hockey-wise, it’s not very good so far. I don’t remember when I last scored a goal. Some sort of a decline. Or just bad luck. There are chances, I shoot a lot. But the puck goes in the wrong direction. One time I was taking a penalty shot, and, if you can imagine, the puck bounced off both goal posts and flew back out. And it’s like this all the time; if it’s not one thing, it’s another. I’m thinking perhaps I should just shoot it blind. Then it’ll go in. So for now I only score during the pre-game skate.

Our hockey is like this. Can’t fault the goalie in the losses, he plays excellent, dragging us along. But the defense is a real disaster. Once the opponent starts pressuring a little, right away there’s panic. All the pucks go along the boards back and forth. And you know what’s weird? The defenseman comes out from behind the net, sees that on one side he’s got our own player, and on the other side two opposing players. And he’ll still shoot it towards where there’s a battle. Like a robot. And it repeats on and on. Why not look around, see who’s open, and pass there! You must be calm and collected. Otherwise chaos ensues. Everyone runs around screaming. What are you screaming for? That irritates many. The coach, however, approves of all this. You dump the puck along the boards—well done, you’re commended.

So the last game I played on a line with Dimitrakos and Zubov. And we enjoyed playing. We understand everything that needs to be done, no panic. The only trouble is that the lines get constantly shuffled around. Not just from game to game, but during games. I don’t even know what line I’m on. I think I was on the second, but I’m not sure where I ended up.

Good thing health problems are going away. I talked about injuring my wrist before. Well, a few days ago it got back to normal. Prior to that there were unpleasant feelings. That could’ve been a reason for shooting off target. And I’m now the fifth leading scorer on the team. Good thing the plus-minus has gotten better. I’m rarely penalized. Mostly it’s for technical fouls, like pushing someone from behind, things like that.

I don’t participate in fights. I saw the battle between Ak Bars and Traktor. That’s probably impossible here. It’s strictly forbidden to leave the bench. It seems to me Kazan was the instigator in this brawl. They jumped out first.

Here only Jeremy Yablonski fights. He’s a strong guy, he can take it. He’s always got black eyes, walks around all in bandages. But he still calls out someone for a duel during a game. But there haven’t been any bench-clearing brawls.

Some teams have made a very good impression on me. I would point out Pittsburgh as having a very strong team. The best, maybe. In the second place I’d put Toronto’s farm team. Anaheim’s farm team displays the prettiest hockey. It’s all in the passing, well-trained. Real European hockey. They just tore us up in our zone.

No news out of Ottawa yet. Too bad, of course, but I’m not getting discouraged. "

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Canucks Boring Their Fans To Distraction


William Houston over at the Globe and Mail analyses the regional ratings numbers for Canadian hockey teams and the thing that jumps out is the rapidly declining numbers for the Vancouver Canucks.

Perhaps it's the fact that watching an Alain Vigneault coached team is like watching your arm hair grow. It's not much fun focusing on a star goalie who wears pads so big that even lacrosse fans would be amazed.

By Default, Alfie Is The New Sens Enforcer


That wasn't the Zamboni that broke free from the bowels of the arena and rampaged over Jason Spezza in the first period. It was 5'10, 192 pound Islander defenseman Freddy Meyer. Not surprisingly, Brian McGrattan wasn't on the ice at the time and the only retribution Meyer got on the play was some spirited shoving by the amped up Daniel Alfredsson. What was surprising however, was that McGrattan wasn't put on the ice again and finished with exactly 1:23 of ice time for the game.

Never mind the fact that one member of Ottawa's prized top line was out of the lineup with a freak shoulder injury. But to have your number one centre be hit like that and put out of the lineup with a possible concussion and have no member of the team have anything to say about it is downright puzzling. No one is saying that the hit was illegal and no one is saying that Meyer should have been jumped and pummelled in front of 19,000 Sunday night fans.

But Paddock is saying something, not with his words (where he goes out of his way to sound like a thug, even admiring Steve Downie publicly after Downie injured one of his own players!) but with his actions. The message is clear.

Opposing teams can run Ottawa's best players and not have to fight because of it. You can bulldoze Ottawa's number one centre and there is no consequence. In fact, you might even get a compliment from Ottawa's head coach. McGrattan was in the lineup just to provide a warm body and fill out a lineup sheet. Paddock had no intention of using McGrattan's best skill and what he is paid to do every night, which is protect his teammates through the fear of reprisal.

Paddock has now taken away that fear of reprisal and all of you Senators fans better get used to seeing your best players sprawled out across the blueline while the little guys like Alfredsson and Randy Robitaille do the policing.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday Hangover Time


After that game, how does anyone, from the Ottawa players to the Ottawa fans, get up for the struggling Islanders tonight? With some hard drugs perhaps?
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Now that the oft-criticised Ray Emery showed that once again, he can play lights out under immense pressure does coach John Paddock finally give him some more starts? Going up against the Islanders tonight, it would be refreshing to see Emery back in the net. Paddock has more than once stated that he'll be going with the goalie who's winning and he used that rationale to keep Martin Gerber in the nets for most of the first half of the season.

Emery is now 6-1-1 in his last 8 while Gerber has lost 2 of his last 3. My guess.... Gerber gets the call.

Otherwise, the game last night managed to live up to the hype with Daniel Alfredsson providing the heroics. Mike Fisher had another great game but the Sens lost Dany Heatley to a separated shoulder which they are saying will keep him out 4-6 weeks. Maybe now Dean McAmmond will get a chance at some ice time on that top line even though Patrick Eaves looks to be ready to return this week from a shoulder injury. Or gasp! Brian McGrattan gets a game in or two. Chances are, Paddock will just double Alfie's ice time (yes, that's sarcasm...or is it?).

In other news:

In what some in the media are dubbing "Bowmangate", Scotty Bowman went on Canadian national television last night and said that he had agreed to take over the Leafs hockey operations this past summer with the proviso that he encounter no interference from the MLSE board. The Leafs obviously stayed with the status quo and the rest is history. Strangely enough, Bowman hinted that perhaps he would still be open to the job. You can only imagine the all out clusterfuck that this is going to cause in the Toronto media. John Ferguson Jr. might as well resign for all the help that the Bowman revelations will give him.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Black Aces on AOL Fanhouse

Greg Wyshynski over at AOL Fanhouse asked a few Detroit and Ottawa bloggers some questions on tonight's Red Wing - Senator tilt and I got to put in my two cents. I did predict a Detroit win but hey, I've never won a single Pro Line ticket in my life so what do I know. Check out the article here.

Duthie On Chelios


TSN's James Duthie is doing a regular column for the Ottawa Citizen this year and this week he set his sights on the "older than dirt" Chris Chelios and his quest to beat Gordie Howe's age record in the NHL. Very entertaining read.

From The Ottawa Citizen:

"When I first started training him, the workout would start at 7 a.m., so I would always get there at 6:45 just to be ready,'' says Goodman. "Then a couple of days into it, I would get there at 6:45 and he would already be there, so I started coming at 6:40. And the next day, he was already there. This kept going until we were getting there at 6 a.m., so I finally said, 'Chelly, would you rather work out earlier?' And he said very seriously. 'No, I just don't like you beating me to the gym.'"

Friday, January 11, 2008

Globe Sports Says Ferguson Is Out In A Matter Of Days.


Looks like a done deal.

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"Peddie said it is too early to say what the board will do but indicated the directors do not need to meet in person to discuss Ferguson's fate. That means something could happen in the next few days by conference call or other electronic communication.

"Clearly, we've got a problem but to say what our action [will be] is premature," Peddie said. "But we owe it to the people involved to hear [the directors' plans] first, not [the media]."

Damien Cox Plunges The Knife Into Leafs


The centre of the hockey universe is collapsing today after the lowly Leafs lost to the even more lowly Kings last night in California. It's always entertaining to read Toronto beat writers rip apart the Leafs year after year but Damien Cox of the Toronto Star should win a Pulitzer for just the opening of this bludgeoning article.

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"This will be tricky to top.

Hmm, let's see. Perhaps the entire Maple Leafs squad could visit the Hockey Hall of Fame upon their return to Toronto and scribble graffiti on the honoured member image of former captain Syl Apps.

Why not? After being pounded 5-2 last night by the worst team in the NHL, the Los Angeles Kings, to drop their 10th game in 12 outings, the Leafs have sunk to a new low in terms of embarrassing the franchise in the new millennium......

The final half of the game was entirely garbage time and that's when the Leafs came up with their two goals and the vast majority of their shots, one by Nik Antropov and one by Darcy Tucker, who only scores at the tail end of blowouts these days."
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Gerber Makes Paddock Look Good


I openly questioned John Paddock's decision to start the struggling Martin Gerber ahead of Ray Emery last night against Buffalo, but Gerber played a solid game, making 22 stops in regulation and overtime and coming up huge in the shootout. Gerber didn't look particularly good on the goals he gave up and once again had some trouble controlling rebounds and pucks at his feet, but you have to give him credit for the win. He's certainly a better shootout goalie than Emery is.

Now the decision gets even harder for Paddock with the Detroit Red Wings coming to town on Saturday. Goalies around the league are getting killed by the Wings and if Emery starts, he's going to have to stand on his head. Even if Emery plays well and still loses, the momentum is going to shift in Gerber's favour with the fans and the coach. I'd say the pressure is on Emery, big time.

Notes:

It's hard to believe Paddock only gave Dean McAmmond 6:29 of ice time last night. I'm not sure what the problem is but Deano is getting the shaft in my opinion. He didn't look too happy even after he scored the shootout winner. He looked more angry than anything. Meanwhile, Randy Robitaille racked up an impressive 17:02 and no one even noticed.

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Whatever happened to the Sabres anyways? They looked nothing like the fast and aggressive team they were last year. They could have had the game last night if they showed any sort of energy in the first two periods. Jocelyn Thibault made a few ridiculous saves that reminded everyone that he was the guy who was once traded for Patrick Roy.

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For after-game analysis, it's hard to do better than Don Brennan who consistently writes colourful articles that seem to capture the feelings of the players and the game better than any other local Ottawa beat writer. He might not get much credit but he really does look at the game in a different way.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Huh? - John Paddock Continues To Confuse


Even though Ray Emery is on a two game winning streak and looks to be getting back on track, Ottawa Senators coach John Paddock has opted to go with Martin Gerber for tonight's game against Buffalo. That's the same Gerber that gave up 10 goals in his last two games, both losses.

Paddock's explanation:

"There are reasons you make a decision and they are my reasons, and that's it," he told the Ottawa Citizen.

Okay. He's the coach and he gets to choose who plays. Fair enough. He may be as eloquent as a third-grade bully who kidnaps the ball on the playground, but he's the coach.

Then he had this to say about the fact that Ottawa took zero penalties against Tampa last Saturday:

"I think there's good charging and the odd good elbowing penalty. There's nothing wrong with that. I think there's real good elbowing penalties. When you play in the playoffs and the other team's best player happens to get an elbow in the head, I think it's a good penalty. I do. "

It's hard to criticize a coach who's going to the All-Star game, but somehow Paddock gives me an uneasy feeling.

It's not just his bizarre handling of his goalies. It's things like playing your top line to the point of exhaustion during the season without regard to their health when the playoffs roll around. It's things like not playing Brian McGrattan when other teams seem to do just fine with an enforcer in their lineup (Anaheim, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Calgary). It's things like the major drop off in play of guys who excelled under Bryan Murray, most noticeably Chris Kelly and Dean McAmmond. Those are two guys who used to have bigger roles but now sort of scrounge around for ice time and more responsibility.

How about a wild 7 game losing streak? How about his childish comments to the media who he clearly doesn't respect?

Maybe it's the recipe for success but I'm not so sure.

Old School Bench Clearing Brawl - In Russia!

The craziest thing about this brawl, which happened two days ago in the Russian league, is that you think it's all over about three times and then all hell breaks loose again. Funny things to watch for are the referee trying to wildly wave back the oncoming benches to no avail and one of the players grabbing an errant sweater from the other team and tossing it into the stands. That seems to set off a whole brawl in itself. Great stuff. Thanks to James Mirtle's blog for pointing this one out.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

TSN: Bobby Clarke Defends Steve Downie


The Philadelphia Flyers Bobby Clarke was interviewed on TSN's Off The Record and had these things to say about his draft pick and modern day clone, Steve Downie:



"When he went after Blake, I loved it. Blake was a guy who had no problem going out and saying (Downie) should be suspended for life or suspended for the year," he explained, referring to Blake's reaction last September to the McAmmond incident. "When you say something that stupid, why shouldn't this kid go after him for it?"

"The hit that Downie threw on McAmmond was not a whole lot different than the hits we all admired, including myself - that Scott Stevens used to do on open ice. He hit lots of heads and hurt lots of people and we said it was great. What Downie did was, it looked like Colin Campbell took it personally, (thinking) 'I told these players they couldn't do that and he did so I'm going to get him.' To suspend him for 20 games is ridiculous. McAmmond was a veteran player who was skating and watching his pass and got nailed. Sorry for it, too bad he got hurt but it was his own fault as much as it was Downie's."

Injured Avery Says "I'm Done".


Sean Avery has a broken bone in his right hand and told the New York Post he was "done" for the season before rectifying his remarks after the team talked to him. He claims he may need surgery which is a bad sign for the Rangers. Without Avery, the Rangers never seem to have any spark and that was in evidence last night during a brutal loss to the door-mat Lightning.

Larry Brooks of the Post also took issue with Rangers coach Tom Renney not playing the Jagr-Gomez line in the first period, instead alloting the minutes to his checking line, allowing Tampa coach John Tortorella to dictate the game.