Monday, June 30, 2008

Swedish Meatballs

A quick excerpt from a must-read Ian Mendes column on new Senators prospect Erik Karlsson:

"I let Erik take three or four bites of his meatballs before I ask him to give me his opinion. And much to my surprise, he has a favorable review.

"These taste just like the ones at home. I would definitely come here and eat my meatballs," he declares, wiping the lingonberry sauce from his chin.

And as much as I was surprised by his love for the IKEA meatballs, Erik had a bigger bombshell in store for me.

"You know, I've heard a lot of Swedish players in the NHL will go to the IKEA in their city to buy their food," he divulges to my amazement."

- Sportsnet

Friday, June 27, 2008

Notorious Moments In Senators History - Volume Three

The classic brawl between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Ottawa Senators on March 25, 2004 which set an NHL record for penalty minutes in a game (419 PIM's).

Here is the short, edited version with all the nasty stuff and below is the real time video of the brawls in three parts to further soak up the vibe of that night.

Real Time In Three Parts

"What Neil did is not something to be proud of. I'm ticked off that a player like Neil would go after a player like Somik. If Martin says it's not his responsibility, then he doesn't have control of his bench."

Clarke had to be restrained from getting to Ottawa coach Jacques Martin outside the Senators' dressing room Friday night.

"I would not have hit him – I am not that stupid," Clarke told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Saturday. "But I would have confronted him."



This might be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard:

Bryce Salvador of the New Jersey Devils wants a "no-movement" clause in his next contract with Lou Lamoriello. Not just a no-trade but a no-movement.


After all the trouble that Toronto got into with the "Muskoka Five", Salvador is proposing he gets the same sort of deal - from Lamoriello of all people.

Salvador has played in 455 games and gotten 63 points to go along with his -15 career.

He was traded for Cam Janssen for Chrissakes!

Now that takes balls.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Flashback - Mats Sundin

There are a number of utterly strange things on this clip. First of all, check out the drama with which Pierre Gauthier selects Sundin first overall. You never really see that anymore. It's an Oscar worthy performance which he would repeat almost ten years later as GM of the Ottawa Senators when he told the press that he wasn't going to Anaheim.

Then a very young Paul Romanuk from TSN blocks Sundin on his way to the podium for an interview that nowadays only takes place after the pick has put on the sweater and posed for the photos.

On top of that, Sundin has a nice full head of hair instead of the Mark Messier style he now sports and can barely speak a word of English.

If you had told anyone in 1989 (still the Harold Ballard years) that Sundin would go on to captain the Toronto Maple Leafs and become one of their most beloved players in history, they would have killed themselves rolling down the stairs in laughter.

Then Sundin tries to put on the team cap and he can't get it to fit so he lets it sit there, in essence making him look like a Kentucky truck driver.

Gotta love those Nordiques uniforms though.

Notorious Moments In Senators History - Volume Two

No explanation necessary here.

Strangely enough, Daigle was never as bad as people say he was. In 96-97 he had a somewhat impressive 51 points in 82 games. But as a first overall selection, it's hard to do worse than Atlanta picking Patrick Stefan who is perhaps most famous for this play when he was a member of the Dallas Stars.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

McGrattan Now A Coyote

I've already went on and on about how Brian McGrattan was underused by the Senators so hopefully Wayne Gretzky will give him a chance to play in the desert.

Gretzky of all people knows the benefits of having a capable enforcer around and McGrattan is one of the best in the business.

Here's a little proof of that.

Notorious Moments In Senators History - Volume One

Without a doubt, Bryan Murray has been the most fiery coach in the Senators short history and it was somewhat disappointing to hear he was handing the reins to a new coach for the upcoming season (Craig Hartsburg).

His casual, jokey demeanour belied a vicious temper that once in a while boiled over into an all out shit-show as seen below.

Here's Murray ripping into L.A. Kings broadcaster Jim Fox after a tumultuous game (which I had the the pleasure of seeing in person) in 2005 that saw Zdeno Chara pulverize a very frightened looking Tim Gleason and Brian McGrattan re-engineer Sean Avery's grill.
Seems that Fox criticised Murray over the air for some alleged goon tactics, at one point calling Murray "crazy". Obviously, Bryan disagreed.

Here's Murray going at it with Buffalo's equally fiery Lindy Ruff after the now classic brawl in 2007 that saw Ray Emery take on both Martin Biron and enforcer Andrew Peters.

Here's how that "disagreement" started in the first place.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is It Finally Roberts Time To Come To Ottawa?

It's now possible.

The agent for Gary Roberts, Rick Curran, told the Pittburgh Post-Gazette that his client is not in the Penguins plans and will be an unrestricted free-agent come July 1st.

"Rick Curran, who represents Roberts -- a veritable folk hero in his season-plus with the Penguins -- said yesterday that Roberts will continue playing, but not in Pittsburgh.

"He very much enjoyed his time there," Curran said. "But he understands that Ray [Shero, the Penguins' general manager] has a number of items on his agenda that would take priority."

Curran added that Roberts, 42, "most definitely" intends to continue his career and will decide where after reaching unrestricted free agency next Tuesday."


This almost feels inevitable.

For years the Senators have been trying to land this guy and the call-in shows are filled with people begging for a "Gary Roberts-type leader".

At 42 years old, the Senators would be getting a limited player but Roberts is the closest thing the NHL has to a Mark Messier-type leader.

Ottawa GM Bryan Murray brought in players like Luke Richardson and Martin Lapointe last year to help out in the dressing room but he might as well sign the real thing and finally bring in Roberts, if only to stop all those annoying phone calls to the Team 1200.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Senators Far From A Championship

What a difference a year makes.

Last summer, the Senators were coming off their longest playoff run ever, losing to the Ducks in the Stanley Cup final, yet optimism was at an all-time high.

We all know what happened next but it is still shocking to see the state of disrepair that the Senators find themselves in after spending more than a decade accumulating talent and depth in the organization.

Going into the free-agency period, the Senators look like a team teetering on the edge of a major decline.

Let’s start with goaltending.

Does anyone truly believe that Martin Gerber is capable of leading a team, any team, to the Stanley Cup? In 12 career playoff games, Gerber has 1 victory.

If anything, Gerber excels only at being frustrating. His state of confidence seems to be so fragile that fans and management openly acknowledge that he can’t be pushed by another goaltender.

What kind of parallel universe are we existing in? An NHL goalie who cannot be pushed or his confidence crumbles?

And somehow, this is deemed acceptable. In fact, it’s generally conceded that the Senators will rely on Gerber once again next season after getting rid of the troubled but talented Ray Emery.
There’s no sense in debating spilled milk because Emery is already gone. Now the focus is squarely on Gerber and there is no indication that he can even handle the pressures of the regular season, let alone the playoffs.

Bruce Garrioch of the Sun, who led the rabid crusade to run Emery out of town, is suggesting the likes of Ty Conklin and Dwayne Roloson could be brought in to backup Gerber.

Does that sound like a Stanley Cup winning combination to you? Since when did the team switch their focus from being a champion to merely being average? Many people are surprised that Detroit’s Chris Osgood was able to win the Stanley Cup yet Martin Gerber is maybe half the goalie that Osgood is.

Goaltending should be the top priority going into free-agency but unfortunately, there are not a lot of options. The only one that makes any sense is Cristobal Huet. That’s not exactly a home run but he’s certainly an upgrade on Martin Gerber.

The defense still has a solid core in Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov and Andre Meszaros. Unfortunately the Senators don’t have that top-flight puck mover that every Cup winning team needs.

Detroit has Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Anaheim has Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Mathieu Schneider.

Ottawa has Brian Lee.

If Bryan Murray can convince former Ottawa 67 Brian Campbell or ex-Hab Mark Streit to sign in Ottawa, things will be much rosier. Unfortunately their services will be in high demand, in particular Campbell's.

The forwards are in better shape but there is still no second line center. No matter how well loved Mike Fisher is, he’s more effective in a checking role than an offensive one. Garrioch reports that the chances are “slim” that Cory Stillman comes back so that even further depletes the skill up front.

The Senators now have an abundance of gritty forwards and defenseman but slowly the skill in the organization has been depleted outside of the Big Three.

Players that have or will walk out of the organization for virtually nothing include Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, Martin Havlat (only Josh Hennessy remains from his trade), Tom Preissing, Mike Comrie, Cory Stillman (and if Stillman isn’t resigned, Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves) and Ray Emery.

Not many organizations can take that kind of hit over three seasons and still call themselves Stanley Cup contenders.

That’s not to say that there isn’t hope.

Not many teams outside of Pittsburgh can boast the talent of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.

Bryan Murray is also a smart general manager and if anyone can reverse the fortunes of last season’s disaster, it’s him.

But are there too many vital weaknesses on this team that free-agency won’t be able to patch?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Jokinen Rips Martin On Way Out Of Miami

If there was any doubt about the rocky relationship between Olli Jokinen and Jacques Martin, there isn't now.

"Every player has a down year, but I don't think I had the support of management. At the end of the year, I don't think they respected what I do. That makes it kind of hard to respect them. I took most of the blame for last year, and looking back, that was a mistake. It wasn't the best thing to do. The message from the staff was that [missing the playoffs] was my fault. How much can you blame one guy? Maybe they didn't do such a good job either."

- On Frozen Pond

Montreal Real Winners Of Draft Day

There are a lot of places that can delve into the details of the draft more thoroughly than I can today, but I think it's safe to say that Montreal upped the ante in the Eastern Conference by trading their first round pick to Calgary for Alex Tanguay and nabbing the exclusive rights to negotiate with Mats Sundin until July 1st.

If Bob Gainey can sign Sundin, the Habs are going to be a powerhouse next year. Don't forget that Carey Price is going to be a year older as well as the vastly underrated Kostitsyn brothers.

Gainey's aggressive moves put a lot of pressure on Ottawa GM Bryan Murray to do something and he made a strong first step by signing Chris Kelly to a four year deal. Losing Kelly would have been a big loss to the penalty kill and now Murray has to go out shopping for skill on both the blueline and the power-play. Getting Cory Stillman back under contract would be a good start.

There's already been some criticism for Ottawa's first round pick in Erik Karlsson but I think fans should trust the scouts who do this for a living. TSN reported that Brian Burke and the Ducks were chasing Karlsson before Murray snagged him.

"Karlsson has been compared to Detroit blueliner Niklas Kronwall.

Karlsson needs to get bigger, but those who have seen him play say that he "hits like a Mack truck" and has tremendous offensive skills that are going to help the Senators' power play down the road. "

- Ottawa Sun (Bruce Garrioch)


"He led all defencemen in points at the U-18 Worlds grabbing 7 assists in 6 games. He was selected as the best defenceman in the tournament. In 38 games with his junior club Frolunda, Karlsson averaged almost a point a game scoring 13 goals and adding 24 assists. His 68 PIM showed he may be small but is feisty. He also played seven games in the Swedish elite league where he scored a goal and registered a plus-2 rating. "

- USA Today

Friday, June 20, 2008

Emery On Waivers

With St. Louis acquiring Chris Mason from Nashville, Emery's possible destinations have just been narrowed.

Some team is going to hit a home run with this guy. It just won't be the Senators.
Barring a trade or unexpected signing, the team is now in the shaky hands of Martin Gerber.
Uh oh.

UFA Collusion?

We've already heard from Bryan Murray who said that he expects all of his unrestricted free agents to hit the open market July 1st.

He's not the only GM willing to let potential important players go free. Glen Sather in New York is letting the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Brendah Shanahan, Sean Avery and Michael Rozsival pursue other opportunities.

In Jagr's case, this is especially puzzling. Say what you want about the athlete, he's the engine on Broadway and will be wherever he ends up playing.

Calgary seems content to let Kristian Huselius field other offers despite having an acute lack of skilled depth on the wing and virtually every team has an important player or two set to go free.

Collusion is obviously too strong a word but perhaps the GM's of the league are learning a thing or two here. By letting the market flood with quality players, they are essentially driving down demand and, in theory, prices.

Perhaps Bryan Murray is gambling that players like Cory Stillman, Chris Kelly and Mike Commodore see the tempered market and start to think about accepting some of Murray's previous contract proposals.

It's a nice theory but here's betting the GM's won't be able to help themselves with such a smorgasbord of talent and depth awaiting them on July 1st.

Trade Everyone

Here's a shocker:

Bryan Murray has laughed off rumours of the Senators trading Jason Spezza to the Los Angeles Kings.

Blogging is a relatively new phenomenon but where's the quality control? The technology has opened doors to somewhat educated and intelligent people (such as James Mirtle , the dudes over at Sens Army, and many more) and allows a diversity of opinion and an alternative to traditional media.

On the other hand, it also allows anyone who has watched a total of ten hockey games in their life to stand on a soapbox and claim they have "inside information".
How else can you describe a collection of people who believe that trading Spezza for a draft pick is: (a) reasonable, and (b) good for the team.

These are the same people who wanted to trade Daniel Alfredsson and everyone else on the team at one point or the other, rational thought and even basic logic be damned.

More and more, the blogging community is becoming more concerned with rumours, many of them fabricated, and worst of all, the rumours aren't even that good.

For a rumour to be enjoyable, it should have some basis in reality.

Why would Murray trade Jason Spezza for a draft pick? That would signal that the team is looking to rebuild and would also signal that players such as Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson would be available as well.

Toronto is a rebuilding team. Ottawa is not. You may have to have some history with the game to understand that.

Yet people on blogs and message boards continue to state with veracity that players such as Spezza and Andre Meszaros are completely expendable.

"Get rid of the bums."

The new generation of fans are more concerned with the intricacies of the CBA and the trade value of players like Spezza than they are with the game itself.

And here's another reason not to trust blogs for real factual information, including this one:

The hiring of the Ottawa Senators head coach.

Two different coaches were "guaranteed" to have been hired, first Bob Hartley (false) and then Peter DeBoer (false). Turns out the organization hired Craig Hartsburg who was never claimed as a frontrunner except by certain people in the established media.

The only people claiming that Hartley and DeBoer were "done deals" were a collection of blogs, one of which, Hockey Buzz, has attained a sort of semi-respectability in mainstream hockey reporting, despite having a writer, Kevin Lee, who first claimed that Ray Emery had been pulled off the ice on trade deadline day (false, Lee wasn't even at that practice) and that he had been traded to an unknown team (false). Lee was also the one who wrote the first article claiming that Bob Hartley had been hired (again, false).

When his "guarantee" turned out to be a flop, he went on a tirade against the next "guaranteed" new head coach in Peter DeBoer. Lee had the guts to claim that DeBoer would be a "disaster" for the club despite almost wall-to-wall opinion by real hockey people that DeBoer is one of the most talented coaches not in the NHL.

Perhaps the danger is not in reading these blogs (including mine) but looking for more than just opinion.

To me, the genius of blogs is that it allows schmucks like me and you to present our OPINION. Beware the blogger who feels he must scoop the next big story by claiming various rumours to be fact.

Don't get me wrong. Rumours are fun and will never go away. But the "blogging community" has become so aggressive in this manner that the fun seems to be gone.

To be honest, I'd rather get my trade rumours from respected analysts who have paid their dues in their profession and have real contacts and sources. When I read blogs, I read them for others opinion, whether I agree or not.

At least an opinion can never be wrong.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Carkner In ... McGrattan Out?

The Ottawa Senators signed tough-guy defenseman Matt Carkner to a two-way, two year contract yesterday which some are suggesting signals the end of Brian McGrattan's career in a Senators uniform.

It's too bad for McGrattan who wasn't really used by either John Paddock or Bryan Murray last year. Gratts is a better player than people give him credit for and he has always been popular in the dressing room (as most enforcers are).

Strange McGrattan fact: He once scored 20 goals in 31 games for the Mississauga Ice Dogs in 2001. In 143 games with the Senators he managed only 2 goals.

As for Carkner, he's a big mean sonafabitch but there is no guarantee he'll even make the team next year. If McGrattan is jettisoned, Murray better make sure he finds someone other than Chris Neil who is capable of handling the Steve Downie's and the Donald Brashear's of the league. The Senators might have been the toughest team in the league right after the lockout but with Zdeno Chara and possibly McGrattan gone, the organization is looking soft once again.

No matter what the pundits say, fighting and intimidation is still part of the game. Just because Anaheim suffered their predictable Stanley Cup hangover doesn't mean that their style is ineffective.

Here's a few Matt Carkner videos to ponder. The guy can certainly throw them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Former Sens Assistant Pissed At Jacques

When Jacques Martin hired Peter DeBoer to be the new coach of the Florida Panthers, he royally pissed off old friend Perry Pearn (current assistant with the Rangers) who feels he was promised an interview but never got one. He never even got a phone call apparently.

"Jacques knew I had this knee replacement surgery ... when we first talked I was still in hospital, and he said he'd call me again a week ago Thursday," said Pearn, who never received a call, which bothers him after learning about DeBoer's hiring on the sports channel ticker. "It's not the end of the world (that) I didn't get the job. People have to make the decisions they make, but what I can't accept is I didn't get a call.

"I spent eight years with the guy and was pretty good to him," ... "it was a bit shocking to read it on TV. I mean, if Jacques had called and said, I'm going in a different direction,' that would have been fine.

"I certainly didn't think I was a shoo-in by any stretch, or a front-runner, but I thought for sure I'd get an interview. I've been working really hard on my knee so I could travel (for a face-to-face meeting with Martin)."

- Edmonton Journal

Jacques has a unique way of making enemies. TSN is now reporting that Olli Jokinen is "indicating" that he wants a trade after claiming he wanted to stay for the last year at least.

"Panthers' captain Olli Jokinen has indicated to Florida's general manager Jacques Martin that he would like a trade. The big centre will continue to lure tons of interest, although one team suggests the asking price is marked at two young NHL roster players and a first round draft pick."

- TSN (Darren Dreger)

I'm not sure why Wade Redden would be enticed to play in Miami despite all the rumours. It sounds like a bit of gong show at the moment.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bure Shut Out Of Hall For Third Straight Year

Congratulations should go out to Igor Larionov and Glen Anderson for getting voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. For both players, this was long overdue and they are worthy admissions.

I do find it somewhat strange that Pavel Bure didn't receive enough votes from the committee considering the explosive career that he had. There might not have been a better one-on-one player in the history of the game than Bure in his prime. Say what you want about his character, Bure was a phenomenal hockey player.

3rd all time in goals per game. And he's been passed over three straight years?

Don't ever say the committee isn't steeped in politics. If they weren't, Anderson and Bure would have been inducted years ago.

Here's a previous post I wrote about Bure some months ago:


I hate getting into arguments about who should be in the Hall Of Fame but this one is cut and dried for me. Pavel Bure was one of the most dominant players of his generation, not to mention one of the most exciting players of all time. As for pure entertainment value, Bure is right up there with Guy Lafleur and Wayne Gretzky.

When he was in his prime in Vancouver, there were many nights when he was an unstoppable scoring force. He was also one of three Russians who made the biggest initial impact on the NHL along with Sergei Fedorov and Alex Mogilny. Bure may not be popular with the fans in Vancouver but that shouldn't play into his Hall worthy credentials.

If Cam Neely is in the Hall of Fame, why not Bure?

Here's the relevant stats:

Games Played

Bure: 702
Neely: 726


Bure: 437
Neely: 395


Bure: 779
Neely: 694

Playoff Games

Bure: 64
Neely: 93

Playoff Points

Bure: 70
Neely: 89

Stanley Cups

Bure: 0
Neely: 0

In case you've forgotten how good Bure really was, here's a few videos to remind you.

And now, "The Mother Of All Elbows". Bure had a nasty streak that people tend to forget. If this happened nowadays, Bure would have gotten 20 games.

Bryan Murray Risking It All On July 1st

A lot has happened since I took off for the cottage, most importantly the hiring of Craig Hartsburg as head coach of the Ottawa Senators. I'm sure that decision has already been covered to death by the local media and bloggers so I'll only say that it seems like a good decision on Bryan Murray's part and both he and Hartsburg were convincing in their press conference.

Initially, Hartsburg was probably my least favourite candidate and I still believe he has a lot to prove at the NHL level, but his tone and demeanour are reassuring. Already he's five times the communicator than John Paddock was at any point during his stint with the team. He sounds like he means business.

On to other business:

The revelation from Murray over the weekend that all of his unrestricted free-agents are headed to the open market was a bit of a surprise.

You have to think that Murray should be trying to keep one of either Chris Kelly or Cory Stillman. Murray will be overpaying to replace those players on the open market when it looks like Stillman and Kelly are only going to demand in the 2 to 3 million range per player. In the big scheme of things, that's not a lot of money, especially in Stillman's case.

Now Bruce Garrioch is reporting that Bruins winger Glen Murray and Flyers center R.J. Umberger are on the Senators radar and that defenseman Andre Meszaros could be used as "trade bait".

If Bryan Murray were to give up on a young defenseman for an overrated one-year-wonder like Umberger, you might as well get a room ready for him at the nuthouse.

In the case of Glen Murray (who may be bought out by Boston), you would need a top playmaking centre for him to have any chance of resurrecting his career as a goal scorer. He had his best years playing with either Jason Allison or Joe Thornton but the only playmaking center the Senators have is Jason Spezza and he's busy feeding pucks to Dany Heatley at the moment. There's a chance Hartsburg will split them up but why take a chance on an aging player who only scored 17 goals last year? And it's not like Glen Murray has a history of winning either.

You begin to get the feeling that Bryan Murray is intent on completely overhauling the entire roster with the exception of the core players on long-term contracts. But by publicly declaring that Stillman and Kelly are headed to free agency, how much leverage does Antoine Vermette now have in his contract negotiations?

If I was Vermette's agent, I'd be asking for the moon.

And if people are thinking that Murray is simply making room to acquire a couple of big name free agents such as Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa you have to remember that it is illegal to talk to those players until July 1st.

That's awfully risky for a general manager in Murray's position. Short of risking a tampering charge, Murray has no real knowledge if any of those stars are even interested in playing in Ottawa.

Losing Stillman, Kelly, Shean Donovan and Mike Commodore all at once seems like too big of a hole to fill when signing free-agents is such a crapshoot to begin with.

And with the expected buyout of Ray Emery, there's another precious asset down the drain without any compensation.

There is a grim scenario, almost a "doomsday" scenario that is lurking around the corner for this team if the cards don't fall in Bryan Murray's favour.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Beer For Breakfast

I'm off to the cottage for the weekend but I fully expect all hell to break loose while I'm gone concerning the new Senators coach.

Reports are that Craig Hartsburg is now the odds-on favourite to be hired.

That's three different coaches in one week who were purported to be either already hired or just days away.

By the time the smoke clears, hell, I could be the coach.

I'm off to Barbados to meet the boss.

See you Monday.

Night Of The Living Dead

From the "What The F**k?!" category:

"If the Senators hire DeBoer, there's a strong belief in NHL circles that the club is going to need an experienced assistant coach.

Since former coach John Paddock is already under contract, there was one suggestion yesterday that the club might want to put him in that role with DeBoer. "

- Ottawa Sun (Bruce Garrioch)

Don't laugh. The Colorado Avalanche did the same thing with Tony Granato. Now he's even back to being their head coach.

What's next? Maybe the Senators bring back Mel Bridgman to be Bryan Murray's assistant.

"Ottawa apologizes"

- Mel Bridgman in 1992 after selecting yet another player in the Expansion Draft that wasn't available to be selected.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Saga Continues ... DeBoer (Allegedly) Hired - Fan 590, 570 News

EDIT - Bryan Murray denies offering the position to DeBoer. Says trip to Barbados a continuation of the interview process.
EDIT - The Ottawa Sun now has a story saying that DeBoer is in Barbados to meet with Eugene Melnyk.
According to Toronto's Fan 590 (and Kitchener's 570 News), the Ottawa Senators have hired Kitchener Ranger coach Peter DeBoer to lead the team for 2008-2009.

Nothing is official as of yet. This could very well turn out to be false, much like Hockey Buzz blogger Kevin Lee confidently claiming a few days ago that Bob Hartley had already won the post.

Kelly, Donovan Gone?

It's hard to believe it would be this difficult, but the Ottawa Senators are having big trouble trying to sign their own third and fourth liners.

The Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren reports that Chris Kelly is unlikely to sign a contract with Ottawa before seeing what he's worth on the open market. Not getting Kelly signed will open up a big hole on the penalty kill and it's unclear who on the roster could replace his minutes. Does Dean McAmmond, assuming he stays with the club, get more responsibility or does a player like Nick Foligno or Cody Bass get worked into the special teams system?

With Kelly out of the picture, the Senators top penalty killer would be Mike Fisher, and we all know how many games he misses every season. His body is held together with cardboard and chewing gum. Despite all the accolades, Nick Foligno is still very green and has nowhere near the defensive consistency that Kelly does at this point in his career.

If no solution comes with either Kelly or another unrestricted free agent, Daniel Alfredsson can expect to be run ragged again this season playing in virtually every situation. Hopefully the club learned the lesson of burnout during the John Paddock debacle of last season and they go forward with a more balanced approach to ice times.

The next bit of strange news - Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports quite casually at the end of his latest "who's the next coach" article that the Senators offered Shean Donovan less than the $925,000 he received last year and that Donovan (rightfully so) turned them down.

I'm not sure what Bryan Murray's plan is but in my mind, Donovan coming back should have been a foregone conclusion. He was an effective, low-cost player once Paddock was fired and he was given a solid role on the team. You could argue that Donovan was the team's best player in a humiliating four game sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Yet Murray wants to low-ball a guy who is already making under a million per season? I don't get it.

Perhaps he's making some room to bring in other players after July 1st and giving Cody Bass a chance to fill that role. We'll wait and see. From all accounts, Donovan is well liked in the dressing room and actually wants to play in his wife's hometown.

This is a deal that should get done but somehow, Ottawa is having second thoughts.

This is a team in real limbo right now. Who the hell knows what is going on with their goaltending. Do they take the easy route and buy out Ray Emery or do they take on the challenge of reforming this guy? It's a risk-reward scenario that only managers with balls would take a chance on.

What the hell is going on with Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore? Losing both players will only further deplete a team that is low on depth and character players.

Commodore says he'll only consider coming back once he knows who the new coach is going to be. Despite some bloggers and other talking heads declaring with absolute certainty that Murray had already decided on Bob Hartley, Garrioch claims that Kitchener coach Peter DeBoer may be the current favourite.

Thank the lord the drinking season is upon us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Way To Go Scotty

First TSN nicked Chris Cuthbert when the CBC balked at renewing his contract. Big mistake. Cuthbert is the best play-by-play man in the hockey business.

Nonetheless, Hockey Night In Canada survived with the aging Bob Cole and Harry Neale at the helm and a lightweight in Greg Millen.

Then TSN outbid CBC for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games. A major blow but Hockey Night In Canada remained relatively unaffected.

The next chink in the armour came when TSN was granted a license to broadcast up to 70 NHL games next season which includes a slate of nationally televised Toronto Maple Leaf games, once the sole domain of HNIC.

Yet HNIC vowed to move on.

Now CTV, which owns TSN and the French language RDS has silently snatched the iconic HNIC theme song which has been a staple of the Saturday night show for 40 years. They plan to use it on all their hockey broadcasts, including the Leaf games and the hockey portion of the Vancouver Olympics.

What's left for TSN to plunder from the once proud public institution?

Maybe HNIC itself.

As it stands now, the CBC has a six year contract (five years left) to broadcast NHL games on Saturday nights and during the playoffs. Who's to say that the CBC doesn't decide to part ways with the league and become more like their American counterpart PBS at that time? They may not have Don Cherry by then and even Ron Maclean could be sitting beside Bob Mackenzie and Pierre McGuire knocking out his trademark puns with a few more grey hairs speckling his head.

The optics look bad here for the CBC. They tried to use a court case against them by the owner of the song as leverage in their negotiations and got burned. Now they actually have to go ahead and have some kind of public competition for a new song. You just know that this new jingle is going to go over like a lead balloon to the legions of HNIC traditionalists. Why has HNIC debased itself to the point that they now have to hold a nerdy version of Canadian Idol (a program owned by CTV by the way) just to replace the song they let CTV walk away with?

The irony is thick, like the head of CBC sports Scott Moore.

Way to go Scotty. You must be proud.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Two Candidates?

Don Brennan over at Off The Posts has an interesting piece of information posted about the Senators vacant coaching position:

"Word on the streets - or at least in one small neighborhood - is that Bryan Murray likes two coaching candidates so much he's prepared to offer a job to both of them.The above rumored scenario has Bob Hartley taking over the head coach position and Craig Hartsburg being hired as an assistant, although it's possible the latter could be given a bigger role and title. Either way, it still sounds like Murray's short list has just the two names on it."

- Off The Posts

You have to wonder how that scenario would work out. It seems a little strange that someone with Hartsburg's buzz would accept an assistant position. If that turns out to be the case, maybe Hartsburg is not as sought after as some would have you believe. It's not like he has an impressive NHL resume (click for Hartsburg's coaching stats here).

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Daily Coach Rumour: Hartley To Be Hired By Senators

There are a variety of blogs etc this morning that are coming out with purported "sources" claiming that Bob Hartley has indeed been chosen to be the next head coach of the Ottawa Senators pending the paperwork.

As of yet, no established media outlet has reported anything about this (if you don't count The Bleacher Report out of California). At this stage, it is still just a rumour and perhaps completely false.

What we do know is that Hartley has been interviewed by GM Bryan Murray and is seen as one of the favourites. We might as well get to know him a little.

Career Highlights:

The last coach to bring his team to four consecutive conference finals (Colorado - 1999 - 2002)

Winningest coach in Colorado/Quebec franchise history with 193 wins.

Won Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001, an AHL championship with the Hershey Bears in 1997, and a Memorial Cup with the Laval Titans in 1993.

Guided Atlanta to its first playoff appearance in 2007.

Most coaching wins in Atlanta franchise history (not too hard).


That's a damn good resume for a former windshield factory worker from Hawkesbury.

There has been some lowlights in his career, mostly during his time in Atlanta. It is thought that Atlanta GM Don Waddell made the disastrous trade of Braydon Cobourn to Philadelphia because Hartley refused to play the young defenseman.

Let's not forget about Hartley's relationship with Senators star winger Dany Heatley. After the accident that claimed the life of Dan Snyder, Hartley and his wife were a common sight at the bedside of a recovering Heatley. You can be sure that Heatley was asked of his opinions concerning Hartley and they were probably positive.

Craig Custance over at Thrashers Blog had this to say about Hartley on May 14:

"...I’d say he joins Ron Wilson as the best candidate on the market right now. Whether you liked Bob or not, his success with the Thrashers and Colorado is undeniable and it certainly doesn’t hurt his cause that the Thrashers went in the tank this season after he left. I think he’d be a great fit in Ottawa but I want him in the Southeast so I can deal with him eight times a year. I can’t be the only one who misses quotes like “no more Romper Room.”

- Thrashers Blog

One thing that Hartley is known for is his love of tough teams. The Senators had their share of run-ins with Hartley's Thrashers and there always seemed to be a bit of a rivalry between ex-coach Jacques Martin and Hartley, probably dating back to their junior coaching days.

Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun interviewed Hartley earlier this year and the coach seemed very excited about the prospect of coming to Ottawa.

"You look at the pieces, they have unbelievable good, young players. (Jason) Spezza and Dany are still young players. I think they have an unbelievable leader in (Daniel) Alfredsson. They have a pretty solid blue line. Young (Nick) Foligno showed in the playoffs he's a real one. (Mike) Fisher, (Chris) Neil ... I love Neil. I asked Don Waddell for Neil in that trade for Dany Heatley. They have some guys who can play a good role for the Senators when it comes to grinding.

-Ottawa Sun

Have to love a guy who appreciates Chris Neil. No one else in this city does. Maybe Brian McGrattan will even get a chance to play.

Gasp! A tough Ottawa team! Even an aggressive one. Unheard of.

Don't get too excited just yet. Tomorrow we'll probably have a different rumour to replace this one. Bring on the summer.

Wings Are Class Act - CBC's Scott Oake Is Not

The season is finally over and it ends with the Detroit Red Wings lifting the Cup for the 11th time in their history. Bring on the "closest the Cup will ever get to Toronto" jokes. A great win for an excellent organization.

What's almost as good is Chris Chelios telling a Detroit reporter on NBC that he plans to play in the NHL next year. "I don't need to go out on top." If he's come this far, he might as well go for Gordie Howe's longevity record.

The only black mark on an otherwise stellar night for the league was moronic CBC reporter Scott Oake interviewing Darren McCarty after the win and bringing up McCarty's past substance abuse problems while McCarty's kids were hanging off his sides.

The question was along the lines of "Substance Abuse to the Stanley Cup. How do you feel?"

I'm sure McCarty felt just dandy about Oake bringing up the subject in front of his kids. Nice work Oake. Really classy. Perfect timing.

For the best blog coverage of the final you can head to some of these great Red Wing and Penguin-centric blogs like From Abel To Yzerman, Pensblog and Empty Netters.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sens Rumours Galore - Sundin, Meszaros, The Fonz

Well, we might as well start with the Garrioch pieces that appeared in today's Sun. We have the news of the John Tortorella firing and the implications that Sens GM Bryan Murray might change his thinking now that the Fonz is available.
"The only concern with Tortorella is the amount of power this guy wants," a league executive said. "He wants to make sure that everything in the organization is done his way."

- Ottawa Sun

Perhaps the more insightful article on the Tortorella firing comes from Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen who basically pours cold water on the idea. It seems Murray isn't interested.

"Murray said yesterday his new coach would likely come from a group of candidates he had already spoken to -- meaning that Tortorella isn't necessarily on his radar. ...

"I heard I was waiting for a particular guy on another team ... that's not true," Murray said. "Very definitely the people I'm talking to, I've got permission to talk to, and, at this point in time, I'm going to hire one of them."

- Ottawa Citizen

So it looks like Murray is set to hire either Bob Hartley, Craig Hartsburg or Peter DeBoer who is slated for an interview today according to Warren.

To Black Aces, both Hartley and Hartsburg aren't very appealing but DeBoer looks promising if all the accolades NHL insiders are heaping on him is true. Hartsburg has a very spotty NHL record as head coach even though he has been successful in every other league. That sounds exactly like John Paddock actually.

Bob Hartley just seems like a miserable sonofabitch though he has a penchant for loving tough hockey, so that might be an improvement in this pacifist organization. You can be sure there would have been some retribution on Steve Downie if Hartley had been coach instead of Paddock last season.

There's a part of me that would like to see Tortorella coach of the Senators, if only to see him in scrums telling reporters like Garrioch to "f**k off" which he did to Larry Brooks last year.

A mean sonofabitch coach would be a refreshing change in Bytown but it sounds like Murray has his mind made up already.

Next up is the Garrioch story about the Philadelphia Flyers and an unnamed team in Russia being very interested in Andre Meszaros. Garrioch reports that Meszaros turned down a 3.5 million deal to play in Russia next year but he may be in for a big raise anyways as he's a restricted free agent this summer.

"Holmgren, who sources say held several discussions with Murray before Monday's GMs' meetings in Detroit, might be willing to offer winger Scottie Upshall or centre R.J. Umberger, who is a restricted free agent after making $1.25 million last season, for Meszaros.
"You have to be careful about giving up defencemen because everybody is looking for them," a league executive said. "Especially, young defencemen. That's where you have to be careful. You can't just give up on a guy because he's had a tough couple of years.

"Sure, it's going to be hard to pay (Meszaros), but you have to find a way. (The Senators) used to have the best blue line in the league."

- Ottawa Sun

It seems I just wrote about this the other day. Giving up on Meszaros, even for players like Scottie Upshall or the overrated R.J. Umberger (remember Fernando Pisani?) would be foolish and get this team nowhere. Murray must do everything he can to protect the remaining skilled players on this team, including Jason Spezza, who would be winning scoring titles for another team if the incredibly short-sighted Ottawa fans had their way.

Can you imagine the Senators losing Wade Redden and Meszaros in the same year (as well as the recently departed Joe Corvo)? Who would run the powerplay? Strangely, this doomsday scenario is not that farfetched with no guarantees that a saviour like Brian Campbell will even want to sign in Ottawa.

Meszaros might make mistakes from time to time but a skilled player can be molded with some patience. Let's face it. Chris Phillips or Brian Lee are not going to run the power play. Lee might one day but first he has to hit puberty.

Murray is a smart man. He won't be swayed by public opinion.
Next up, and perhaps most explosive of all, Eklund The Reliable is reporting that Mats Sundin will not sign with the Leafs and is leaning towards either Montreal or Ottawa.

"this email from a source in New York...

"Mats Sundin WILL return to the NHL and not to the Maple Leafs, However he wants to stay in Canada and in the East. The Canadiens are preparing a major offer, although Dan Alfredsson is making a big pitch as well. Look for Sundin to see who is taking over in Ottawa as coach before making his decision."

-Hockey Buzz

That is right up there with some of the insane rumours that Eklund has posted in his time but it is truly hard to imagine Sundin in red and black. There just seems like too much enmity over the years from both sides.
Sundin in Ottawa would be a mindblowing turn of events. Imagine a powerplay of Alfie, Sundin, Spezza, Heatley and Stillman.

I just tried to but my mind automatically shut off because the vision was simply too powerful for my delicate circuitry.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Marleau To Columbus Deal Close?

According to the San Jose Mercury News, there is some major trade talk between the Blue Jackets and the Sharks

"An NHL source — not connected with either team — advises that the Sharks and Columbus are indeed close to a deal. San Jose would send Marleau and another player (unspecified) to the Blue Jackets for their first-round draft pick — 6th overall in the NHL entry draft later this month — and right wing Nikolai Zherdev."

-Mercury News

Fans of the Senators should be watching this deal closely. Patrick Marleau was once thought to be targeted by GM Bryan Murray to fill that second line centre slot but for various reasons, the trade never materialized. It has also been speculated that Murray wants to land free-agent Brian Campbell to replace Wade Redden but the Sharks may have some money to throw at Campbell with Marleau's salary off the books

If this deal does go through, Murray's "Plan A" possibly goes right out the window. Instead of Campbell, Murray will be looking into the likes of Mark Streit and Michael Rozsival etc. In other words, second-tier free agents.

With Cory Stillman, Chris Kelly, Wade Redden and Mike Commodore ready to hit the open market, there could be some major problems with no apparent solution come July 1st.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Criticism Of Spezza Getting Ridiculous

First thing Sunday morning finds me browsing the local papers online and right away I nearly choke on my Honeycombs.

The Ottawa Sun has a poll going on whether or not the Ottawa Senators should trade Jason Spezza. At that time, well over 50% were in favour of trading the young superstar. I did not check later in the day to see the end result but I'd put my money on that margin staying the same.

People always talk about how smart the Ottawa hockey fans are. The truth is somewhat different.

These are the same fans who bombarded the Team 1200 early in the 2007 season demanding that Daniel Alfredsson be traded or at the very least, stripped of his captaincy.

These are the same fans who were calling for Bryan Murray's head when the team got off to a slow start that same year.

These are the same fans who idolize Martin Gerber and cheer for him to return next season even though he has been nothing but an unmitigated disaster for the team since he was signed by John Muckler.

These are the same fans who at times have wanted Wade Redden, Mike Fisher, Andre Meszaros, Martin Havlat and even Dany Heatley traded.

In short, these are your average everyday Ottawa Senators fans who are suspicious of skill, intolerant towards any sort of different personality and spoiled rotten by a team that has given them at least a decade's worth of exciting hockey even if the end results were short of a championship.

Spezza is a bonafide number one centre who will easily average 100 points a season for the foreseeable future. He is young and still maturing in terms of his defensive game. He is a natural fit with Heatley and helped him towards two 50 goal seasons and a 40 goal campaign. He might be the best pure passer in the game and an underrated shooter.

Yet the fans are in favour of trading him. It blows the mind.

It's a monolith of stupidity.

It's nonsense.

Yet the sentiment exists and perhaps even Daniel Alfredsson will not be immune to a resurgence of criticism from a fan base that allows him to be booed on home ice by a handful of Leaf fans.

The skill in the organization is slowly being run out of town. We have seen the departures of Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat and Mike Comrie. Soon we will see Wade Redden, who gave his heart and soul to the team for over a decade, get booed out the door by the fans. Ray Emery, easily the best and only goalie the organization has developed, is on his way out for some lackadaisical behaviour that could easily be fixed with some discipline and patience.

Next on the list is young and promising defenseman Andre Meszaros who is the subject of ire wherever Sens fans congregate. It doesn't matter that young skilled defenseman are perhaps the most sought after commodity on the market today and figure to be the focus of this year's Entry Draft in Ottawa. Meszaros will be the focus of the boobirds this year, along with Spezza.

There was once a team who exhibited no patience and traded their star players left and right whenever they damn well pleased. That was the Mike Milbury led New York Islanders of the 1990's.

Be careful what you wish for Sens fans.

Losing Their Lunch At The Combine

The best read of the weekend goes to Ryan Kennedy's article in The Hockey News about the Draft Combine in the Toronto Airport.

This is the event where all the draft prospects are put through brutalizing fitness tests and lead to those stories of guys puking in buckets after getting off the bikes.

This year's tests were no different and Kennedy documents the whole thing meticulously. Great reading.

"In terms of big-name results, Nikita Filatov of Red Army was the most anticipated of his section. In fact, if you judged on how many people were gathered, you'd conclude watching Filatov do curl-ups was the most entertaining thing in the world to watch.

Filatov did better than some expected on the bench press, lifting the 150 pounds six times. And while he seemed to have a good time with the Vertec jump, his 1.8 was one of the lowest totals scored (Drew Doughty was slightly lower).

The VO2 was Filatov's undoing. Maybe there were some translation issues, but it looked as though he gave up a couple times. At one point, an official braced to catch him, as it looked like he would fall over. When he was finished, Filatov looked as though he had gone 12 rounds with a prizefighter: He wobbled back and forth and really didn't seem to know where he was."

- The Hockey News