Sunday, August 31, 2008
Let's make one thing clear:
People are repeatedly justifying the Andrej Meszaros trade by saying that Tampa Bay was threatening an offer sheet.
The fact is that Tampa was not in a position to make an offer sheet because Pittsburgh owns their 3rd round pick, making them ineligible to provide the proper compensations as required by the CBA.
There was no indication that Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero was at all interested in trading that coveted pick back to Tampa Bay (and why would he after the Ryan Malone signing) and in fact, Ottawa GM Bryan Murray could have protected himself by trying to make a deal with Shero for the pick himself.
Bryan Murray traded Meszaros of his own free will and to use the bogeyman of the offer sheet is simply not accurate or even relevant to the conversation.
If Murray really wanted to keep Meszaros, he could have. It would have been a stalemate situation that could have dragged on into the first month of the season, but there is no doubt that Meszaros would have signed eventually, probably for less than the $4 million he got from Tampa.
The Lightning could not put any pressure on Ottawa other than outright begging. They had no leverage whatsoever.
Murray made a hockey deal which he thought was best for the club and did so without any realistic external pressure.
Whether it was the right move is up for debate. I seem to be the only one who thinks it was a bad deal but 19, 000 Sens fans can't be wrong, can they?
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Editors Note: Before we get started, I'd just like to be the first to call him "Kubes". Now we can proceed...
Ottawa GM Bryan Murray has again acquired a player he once drafted as GM of the Florida Panthers.
Earlier this summer it was goaltender Alex Auld whom Murray drafted in 1999 and now it's defenseman Filip Kuba who was picked by the Panthers in the 8th round of the 1995 draft.
As a bit of a backgrounder on Kuba:
- He's listed as 6'5", 225 pounds on NHL.com but elsewhere, such as last year's Official Guide and Record Book, he's listed at a much smaller 6'3", 205 pounds. Either he ate his spinach this past year or the NHL has muddled some numbers up.
- Sportsnet has this scouting report:
"Has terrific size and mobility from the back end. Displays both decent offensive instincts and a hard shot from the point.
At 6-3, 205 pounds, he needs to make better use of his imposing frame. Is still lacking in consistency and needs to raise his game to the next level."
- He's been in the playoffs twice in his career and was on the Minnesota team that had a good run in 2003 though K ubina was a minus 8. He also had an impressive 5 points in 6 games for the Lightning in the 2007 playoffs.
- He won a bronze medal with the Czech Republic at the 2006 Turin Olympics and played in the 2004 NHL All-Star game.
- He was twice named team captain in the Minnesota Wild's strange rotational captaincy system.
Spector over at Fox Sports didn't seem to be overly enthused with Kuba when previewing Tampa's season just over a week ago:
"Filip Kuba, a nine-year veteran who would be on a second-line pairing on a deeper defense corps, is their most experienced defenseman. The 6-5, 220-pound
Kuba certainly has size and decent all-around skills, but he's not a particularly physical defender and struggled last season when Boyle was sidelined by injury. "
The always very thorough Score Sports Forecaster point out Kuba's shot blocking capability:
"While Kuba is fearless - he led the team with 131 blocked shots - he doesn't use his big frame enough. He should continue to produce good numbers, however, on what is expected to be an improved Tampa Bay power play."
Despite my initial horror upon reviewing this trade, it seems like Kuba will be a capable fill-in for Andrej Meszaros for at least one season. The real problem is that Kuba will be able to leave town after just one year while Meszaros has the potential to blossom in Tampa and be a great NHL defenseman for years to come.
It's clear that management weren't prepared to gamble on Meszaros getting better with age and the fans have long ago stopped having patience for homegrown talent to develop so it's certainly a good situation for Meszaros in Tampa Bay where he'll be more appreciated on both fronts.
They guys over at Illegal Curve have, I think, a fairly accurate take on the situation:
"Although the 4 million per season is likely more than what the Sens felt Meszaros is worth, 4 million is more or less the market for a young and mobile defenseman of his calibre. Meszaros’ absence now signficantly enlarges the void of capable defensemen on the Sens blue line. I can tell you one thing - Filip Kuba is not the answer. "
- Illegal Curve
The Senators have emphatically addressed their need for more toughness on the blueline with Kuba and the hard-hitting Alex Picard and they will now almost certainly block more shots than any other team in the league with Anton Volchenkov and Jason Smith already in the ranks. But after losing Wade Redden and now Meszaros, have they over-corrected the problem and set themselves up to vastly overpay for an offensive defenseman either this season or next summer?
The pressure is now on Brian Lee to step up his development at least a year early, a curious and puzzling situation for this once mighty team to be in just two years removed from an almost successful Stanley Cup run.
It doesn't even seem possible to win a championship without some specific ingredients. A true elite defenseman seems to be one of them.
So does the franchise now have to adjust their aspirations after years of being considered a Cup favourite?
Will mediocrity now be enough for a fan base that is ravenously chewing and spitting out their team's skill players as if they grew on trees or something?
This trade might end up being worse than Pavol Demitra to St. Louis for Christer Olsson.
The Senators lose another promising young player for what amounts to filler.
Filip Kuba on the number one power play unit? A first round pick that is certain to be in the mid to late twenties (originally San Jose's 1st rounder)?
Imagine if the Senators had given up on defenseman like Anton Volchenkov or Chris Phillips, both of whom struggled early on in their careers?
Meszaros didn't even sign the big deal that everyone was expecting. 6 years at $4 million per season. Not exactly a cap-buster.
The Senators basically paid the money and time to develop a bonafide NHL player who has skills that any team would covet and then let him walk for substantially inferior players like Kuba who is on the downward trajectory of his unremarkable and anonymous career.
The Ottawa Senators are now a one line team with no elite defenseman and without a number one goalie.
How did this happen?
The overall talent level of the Senators hasn't been this low since 96-97 when they squeaked into the playoffs thanks to a Steve Duchesne goal in the last minute of the final game of the regular season.
The Senators no longer have anyone who is even in the same league as Steve Duchesne in their current defense roster. And this was the team that went to the Cup finals only two years ago.
It is almost inconceivable that GM Bryan Murray would let his two top offensive defenseman go in one off-season but the new reality is that the Senators may be lucky to even compete with teams like the Lightning, the Panthers, and the Bruins who are all much better off thanks to contributions from Ottawa (Lightning-Meszaros, Panthers - Stillman, Bruins - Chara).
This is definitely a case of "don't know what you got until it's gone".
In a league that is more and more trending towards skill and puck movement, the Senators are regressing in a confusing and muddled direction.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
"Based on a yearly salary of $5 million, the compensation for signing Meszaros would be a first-, second- and third-round pick.
Tampa doesn't have its 2009 third-round pick, having dealt to it the Penguins for the rights to Ryan Malone prior to the winger becoming an unrestricted free agent. Malone signed a long-term deal with the Lightning. "
- Ottawa Sun
In a way, it makes sense that the team happens to be the Lightning. They spent the summer signing every forward on the market, alive or dead, while trading away Dan Boyle to the Sharks. As it stands now, the Lightning boast Matt Carle as their number one defenseman with Filip Kuba option 1A. That's a huge weakness and Meszaros would fit nicely in the blue and grey.
The strange thing about this story is that the Lightning not only don't have their original 3rd round pick, but they have just over $3 million left to spend under the cap. My best guess is that they are trying unload one of those 200 wingers on Ottawa in a deal similar to how new Canuck GM Mike Gillis forced Buffalo to trade him Steve Bernier earlier in the summer with the threat of an offer sheet.
Even if Meszaros doesn't "bolt", this relationship has already started to go sour. A sign and trade isn't out of the question, ala Marian Hossa heading to Atlanta after a prolonged contract negotiation between him and former Ottawa GM John Muckler.
The Hockey News is reporting that restricted free-agent Andrej Meszaros has signed an offer sheet with another undisclosed team.
"Hours after Ottawa GM Bryan Murray held a news conference to announce the team was at a contractual impasse with restricted free agent defenseman Andrej Meszaros, The Hockey News has learned from an NHL source that Meszaros has agreed to a multi-year offer sheet with an average salary in excess of $5 million per season.
The team that has agreed to terms with the 22-year-old has yet to be confirmed.
When contacted by The Hockey News, Murray denied the report."I’ve heard rumors that that’s happening, but there’s no confirmation of that at this point," said Murray."
- The Hockey News
I'm actually one of the three people who don't boo Meszaros in this city and even I think Murray should walk away and accept the draft picks (1st, 2nd and a 3rd) if this is true. $5 million plus for Meszaros is totally out of control at this point in his career.
Sadly for the Senators, Meszaros will probably be worth it in a couple of years when he fully develops and matures.
But can they spend that money now?
If Mesz leaves, the Senators will go into this season without a true number one goalie and without a prime offensive defenseman.
You can figure it out from there.
EDIT: James Mirtle has some more insight into who the team might be:
"Any offer sheet of more than $5-million but less than $5,231,249 would mean those three picks are going the other way.
Off the top of my head, teams that could potentially pull this off include St. Louis, Toronto, Montreal, Columbus, the Islanders, Phoenix and Atlanta. The Kings would need to reacquire their third-round pick to take part.
This is a bit of a nightmare for the Senators, as their defence was somewhat thin even with Meszaros in the fold. It's possible they'll acquire Mathieu Schneider from the cap-space strapped Ducks if this comes to fruition."
- James Mirtle
If I was a betting man (and Lord knows, I am) I'd put my money on the team being Columbus.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I've been ripping through Ross Bernstein's book called "The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL" which is packed with some truly great stories by past and current enforcers from around the league.
Inside is this hilarious Nick Fotiu story and I just had to post it. Fotiu was a very popular New York Ranger in the 70's and 80's and made a few stops along the way, including a stint in the WHA with the Hartford Whalers. Here's Nick in his own words:
"I used to love intimidating the opposition; it was a lot of fun. I remember when the Flyers would come to Madison Square Garden in New York to play us. I knew exactly what time they were going to arrive and what door they were coming in. So I would do like 200 push-ups right before they got there and would tape my wrists and get my arms all pumped up. Then I would put on a tank top and position myself right by the door where they came in. I would stand there looking just sweaty and pissed while I was sawing my sticks for that night's game. Well, when they walked in and started heading to their locker room, I know that they would look over at me and see me all pumped up with my muscles all bulging out.
That had a psychological effect on their tough guys for sure. They would come in tired from a long trip and then start thinking, "Oh man, look at this freaking guy!" Then, when they were getting dressed, I would go run a lap around the concourse and dump water all over me to make it look like I was sweating like crazy. I would then go down by their locker room while they were getting dressed and talk to the trainers. They would say real loud, "Oh, you're not playing tonight, Nick?" and I would say "No, I just felt like running three miles before the game to really get warmed up."
I know their guys could hear it, and I wanted to plant that seed. Then, and here is the kicker, I would buzz around like crazy during warm-ups, real fast. Finally, when
the game started and I got my first shift, I would come out like a bat out of hell, just banging guys and scaring the crap out of them. You just knew that they were over on their bench thinking, "Man, this freaking guy is nuts. He just ran three miles. Look at him!"
- "The Code" by Ross Bernstein
Here's Fotiu viciously beating Paul Holmgren (I think) into the ice at the old Spectrum in Philly. Fotiu was a mean bastard.
You can check out Fotiu's career "fight card" here.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Anyone remember this night?
Alfie's rookie year in Ottawa, Gretzky's last year in L.A. and Sean Hill's epic masterpiece of a game. He capped it off by feeding Gretzky a few skin hammers.
For one night, he was the greatest...
The Senators new third jersey (also the third in their 16 year existence) is all but confirmed to be predominantly black and over at Icethetics, they've posted a bunch of "unofficial" dates when all those new NHL jerseys will be unveiled, both on the ice and in the stores.
According to the site (and their strange "email source") the Senators will don the new threads at home against Wade Redden and the New York Rangers on Saturday, November 22. The jersey's will hit the stores the following Friday.
As for what they'll look like, Howard Berger over at Hockey Buzz posted this awhile back:
"OTTAWA: A dramatic change in the Senators’ third jersey will see a predominantly black uniform with the word “SENS” angled upward on the front. A fashionable red stripe will run from the arm pits, down the side of the jersey, to its base, where the stripe turns inward. A pair of narrow red and white stripes will adorn each arm, and the very bottom of the jersey. It’s quite a sharp design. "
- Hockey Buzz
Normally I would think another NHL black or dark jersey is one too many but the Senators came into the league wearing a really nice one and by the sounds of it, the new sweater will be a huge improvement on the abomination that was the last black third jersey with that brutal gold stripe across the bottom.
I'd dig it if they pulled these old threads out one day (with some old-school brown gloves):
Dates for the annual Senators rookie camp in Kitchener are now posted on the Senators website. Also involved are the Leafs, the Penguins and Jacques "Mr. Personality" Martin's Panthers who are the official host of the tournament.
Included in that tourney will be Senators Russian prospect Alex Nikulin who has been doing his own blog dating back to last season. He's still at it and talks about training with Evgeni Malkin (my pick for this year's Hart Trophy) and Sergei Gonchar back in Russia.
Nikulin had 50 points in 71 games with Binghamton last year and played 2 quick games with the Senators. At best, he's still a longshot to make the team this year and he may very well end up back in Russia sooner than later.
Monday, August 25, 2008
I always enjoy doing these predictions at the start of a season and this time, I collared a couple of intense and hardcore Senators fans who don't handle losing very well. My pal Andrew is the eternal optimist while Ben, my brother, fears disaster at every turn but keeps coming back for more punishment.
Ottawa Senators Predictions 2008-09
Jeremy - Spezza
Ben - Spezza
Andrew - Spezza
Leading Goal Scorer:
Jeremy - Heatley
Ben - Heatley
Andrew - Heatley
Jeremy - Spezza
Ben - Spezza
Andrew - Spezza
Top Scoring Defenseman:
Jeremy - Meszaros
Ben - Meszaros
Andrew - Meszaros (Brian Lee if Mesz goes AWOL)
Penalty Minutes Leader:
Jeremy - Neil
Ben - Ruutu
Andrew - Ruutu
Who's Number One - Gerber or Auld?
Jeremy - Auld (please God, let it be Auld...)
Ben - Neither?? Auld I guess...
Andrew - Gerbs
Best Free Agent Signing – Jason Smith, Jarkko Ruutu, Alex Auld or Brendan Bell?
Jeremy - Ruutu
Ben - Ruutu
Andrew - Smith
Most Likely To Get Injured:
Jeremy - Smith
Ben - Fisher
Andrew - Fisher
Most Likely To Get Traded:
Jeremy - Ilya Zubov or Alex Nikulin
Ben - Vermette
Andrew - McAmmond
Who's Next In Line To Be Captain? (after Alfie retires, of course):
Jeremy - Phillips
Ben - Fisher
Andrew - Phillips
Christoph Schubert - Forward or Defenseman?
Jeremy - Forward
Ben - Forward
Andrew - Defense
Craig Hartsburg - Good Hire?
Jeremy - A lukewarm yes
Ben - Yes
Andrew - Absolutely
NHL Predictions 2008-09
Stanley Cup Winner:
Jeremy - San Jose Sharks
Ben - Dallas Stars
Andrew - Ottawa Senators
Stanley Cup Finalist:
Jeremy - Montreal Canadiens
Ben - Philadelphia Flyers
Andrew - San Jose Sharks
Conn Smythe Trophy:
Jeremy - Patrick Marleau - Sharks
Ben - Marty Turco - Stars
Andrew - Alfie - Sens
Art Ross Trophy:
Jeremy - Evgeni Malkin - Penguins
Ben - Ovechkin - Capitals
Andrew - Ovechkin - Capitals
Jeremy - Evgeni Malkin - Penguins
Ben - Ovechkin - Capitals
Andrew - Ovechkin - Capitals
Rocket Richard Trophy:
Jeremy - Ovechkin - Capitals
Ben - Ovechkin - Capitals
Andrew - Ovechkin - Capitals
Jeremy - Carey Price - Canadiens
Ben - Martin Brodeur - Devils
Andrew - Pascal LeClaire - Blue Jackets
Jeremy - Mike Green - Capitals
Ben - Zdeno Chara - Bruins
Andrew - Zdeno Chara - Bruins
Jeremy - Kyle Turris - Coyotes
Ben - Steve Stamkos - Lightning
Andrew - Brian Lee - Senators
Jeremy - Samuel Pahlsson - Ducks
Ben - Alfie - Senators
Andrew - Alfie - Senators
First Coach To Be Fired:
Jeremy - Michel Therrien - Penguins
Ben - Randy Carlyle - Ducks
Andrew - Alain Vigneault - Canucks
First Out-of-Work Coach To Be Hired:
Jeremy - John Tortorella
Ben - Pat Quinn
Andrew - Torts
Worst Free-Agent Flop:
Jeremy - RJ Umberger - Blue Jackets
Ben - Jeff Finger - Leafs
Andrew - Jose Theodore - Capitals
Best Free-Agent Performance:
Jeremy - Brian Rolston - Devils
Ben - Marian Hossa - Red Wings
Andrew - Marian Hossa - Red Wings
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Heater has a beauty setup in his backyard in Kelowna with that enlarged hockey net thing, whatever that is.
Regardless, dude looks relaxed and in shape.
Back to the summer...
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Can Brendan Bell make the Ottawa Senators?
The Ottawa native will have to outplay either Lawrence Nycholat or Brian Lee, hope that Craig Hartsburg, like Bryan Murray and John Paddock before him, prefers Christoph Schubert at forward or, in a last case scenario, fill in for Andrej Meszaros who could be an NHL holdout playing in Russia this season if his contract situation doesn’t get worked out.
Bell doesn’t have much going for him at the NHL level in terms of experience or scoring (48 games, 1 goal and 7 points) and his inability to stick with his relatively weak past two clubs, Toronto and Phoenix, is a bit of a blackmark against him.
But if Bell is going to be appreciated anywhere, it will be in Bytown. The team is currently overloaded with stay at home defenseman and are precariously relying on young players like Lee, Meszaros and Nycholat to fill Wade Redden’s rather large skates on the powerplay.
Bell, who was born in Ottawa and attended St. Pius High School and played for Brian Kilrea’s 67’s, has posted respectable numbers in the AHL since leaving the OHL.
Last year with the San Antonio Rampage, the Coyotes farm team, Bell had 7 goals and 31 points in 69 games while posting 7 points in 7 playoff games.
His best year since junior was in 2005-2006 with the Toronto Marlies where he racked up 43 points in 70 games.
At 25 years old, Bell is right in that age group for defenseman when they either get to the next level or cement their reputation as career minor-leaguer's or marginal NHL players.
So what do I think?
Fucked if I know.
I’ll eat my keyboard if Brian Lee doesn’t make the team so that’s one slot for Bell taken away.
As long and drawn out as it seems, I can’t see Meszaros and Murray not coming to some sort of agreement. At this point, Murray has to see that Meszaros has the team by the balls, so to speak. Losing him would really hurt the chances for this team to succeed now and in the long term. Meszaros may not be worth 3 million right now but that deal probably looks good in two years. The guy is still so young and is already worthy of top four minutes on almost any other team in the league. Just pay him. They'll have to dish out that money to replace him eventually so why not give it to the proven commodity.
Bell may very well outplay Nycholat and stick around as a 7th defenseman and an injury fill-in. If given that chance, here’s betting Bell makes the most of it. It could end up being the Senators signing of the summer if all the breaks fall in the right way.
The North Bay Nugget (amazing newspaper name) ran a piece on Shean Donovan who makes his summer home up there. Nothing earth shattering or new but Donovan comments on the burnout of the big three last season under John Paddock:
"It was kind of like the perfect storm --every little thing that could have happened, went wrong. We had such a good start to the season, but I think the big boys got tired out. They played pretty hard, our big line of (Jason) Spezza, (Dany) Heatley and (Daniel) Alfredsson.
The league is so good now, there's so much parity. I think last year when we started struggling, some guys tried to work too hard and then everyone's on their own page and that's kind of the way it unravelled...
He (Hartsburg) is going to take control of the room pretty good and just make sure we do things right, get the proper rest and be ready...
I think they (team management) knew the big boys got pretty tired last season, so they want to make sure we get four lines going, because teams that win now have four full lines."
- North Bay Nugget
Monday, August 18, 2008
Ottawa Senator sophomore Nick Foligno, along with his brother Marcus of the OHL's Sudbury Wolves, are going through some interesting and physically brutal training in their hometown this summer
Nick is looking to make more of an impact as a scorer in Ottawa and Marcus in entering his draft year.
So they're kicking the shit out of themselves to get ready, with help from personal trainer Callen McGibbon.
"I throw stuff at them that most people would walk away from," McGibbon said. "It's ridiculous stuff. They never know what they're getting into on any given day. They don't know what to expect, and that's the point. I'm working them in chaos theory training. Their minds have to learn how to adapt to anything in any game and any situation. ...
Nick was told by Ottawa brass to increase his foot speed during the summer. He took the advice to heart. Nick knows he isn't a rookie anymore, but is in no way going to ease up on his off-season training. He isn't satisfied with what he accomplished last season and wants plenty more.
"I want to be a guy who gets looked upon to go into important situations," Nick said. "I feel I can do it. It's a matter of getting stronger and quicker. I've been doing a lot of legwork this summer to get the quickness to pull away from other players.
- The Sudbury Star
The Senators must be pretty blown away about Nick's work ethic. They ask him to increase his foot speed and he enters "chaos theory training".
Foligno was one of the best Senators in that forgettable first round sweep against Pittsburgh. If he can gain a little more weight, he can be as effective as a Mike Fisher and probably just as popular around Bytown.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Just picked up the always top of the line "Score Sports Forecaster" published by the cable network that features personalities like Steve Kouleas and Steve Ludzik, and shockingly, they have a very upbeat and positive look on the Senators this season.
While none of the Score's "experts" pick Ottawa to win the Cup, be a finalist or win the Presidents trophy (and none of their players to win any NHL awards), one of their unnamed writers has this to say about the team:
"Hartsburg may be a perfect fit for the Senators at this point. His background as a defenseman and his history of coaching just that, good defense, will be breath of fresh air in Ottawa, and he showed with the 2008 Canadian WJC squad how much he stresses team-first play. ... This team may have dropped a bit in terms of pure talent, but their leadership and defense are much better. That bodes well for a Sens team that still has the pieces to make a serious playoff run. With a little more help at the trade deadline, don't be surprised if they do."
- The Score Sports Forecaster 2008-2009
That's the most positive spin I've read on the team so far this summer. Either those writers were drunk, I'm drunk, or they know something no other yearbook does.
They also mention Hartsburg being a "breath of fresh air". After all those years of the similarly defensive Jacques Martin, will it really be that big of a change?
Holdovers from the Martin era are:
Jason Spezza (who has some bad memories)
Chris Kelly (for only 4 games)
That's a good chunk of the core of the Senators team. What that probably means more than anything is that they will have an easy time adapting to a more defensive system which many of them were brought up on anyways. A new addition such as Jason Smith will also perform well in such a scenario.
Players who may have trouble will be the younger guys such as Andrej Meszaros and Brian Lee but the old cliche goes that once the best players buy in, ie. Alfie, Spezza and Heatley, the rest will follow rather quickly.
The Hartsburg era may not be as exciting to watch as the run and gun Bryan Murray era but maybe it's the system correction the team needs to succeed.
It's hard to argue with the unbalanced stats of last year:
Goals For: 2nd in NHL
Goals Against: 24th in the NHL
Power Play: 12th in NHL
Penalty Kill: 22nd in NHL
It's obvious those defensive numbers is what killed the team and not any sort of media fabricated dressing room crisis. The coaching staff and the players have to take responsibility for what occured on the ice and work together to change it.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Using a base roster of 20 players (12 forwards, 6 defenseman and 2 goalies) here’s a few facts about the team only including the players who are most likely to make the squad - ie. Brian Lee is included, but Lawrence Nycholat and Brendan Bell are not. Cody Bass is included but forwards such as Josh Hennessy, Jesse Winchester and Ilya Zubov are not. It’s quite possible that one of those players will stick around as an extra forward or defenseman and I’d put my money on Winchester being that guy but that’s for another day.
USA: 2 (Foligno, Lee)
Sweden: 1 (Alfredsson)
Russia: 1 (Volchenkov)
Finland: 1 (Ruutu)
Switzerland: 1 (Gerber)
Germany: 1 (Schubert)
Czech Republic: 1 (Meszaros)
Over 30: 7
Under 30: 13
Over 35: 2 (Alfredsson, McAmmond)
Under 25: 4 (Foligno, Bass,Lee, Meszaros)
Under 20: 0
Salary (Actual, Not Cap Hit)
Over $2 million: 9
Under $1 million: 6
Over $5 million: 4 (Heatley, Spezza, Alfredsson, Fisher)
$10 million: 1 (Heatley)
New Players: 3
Thursday, August 14, 2008
For those of you unfamiliar with the new service, the NHL has launched a new video site which is surprisingly good.
The Senators page is full of vintage videos from their 15 plus year history. You get to see videos of their first game or when they beat Buffalo by a goal in 97 to clinch their first playoff birth among other memorable moments.
The main page also has up-to-date videos including a slew from the summer's development camp. Quite an overload actually.
Unfortunately you get blasted with annoying beer ads now and then. Be a rebel and drink local micro-brew the rest of the summer.
"TSN announced a new channel today, TSN2, which will launch Aug. 29 with live coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
The digital channel will be a 24 hour, seven days a week service providing live major league content including NHL, NBA and some CFL games, as well as NCAA basketball games, tennis, curling, auto racing and martial arts.
As well, TSN2 will be the first digital channel in Canada to provide content in high definition TV.
TSN president Phil King said the decision to start TSN2 was based on the demand for programming that TSN's main channel could not fit into its schedule.
“Perhaps our only fault or Achilles heel has been frankly our number of conflicts as a result of the amount of programming we own and control,” he said. “It's unavoidable. And we hate it more than the public does, so this is a solution.”
- Globe And Mail (William Houston)
The TSN empire is growing but the real bonus for hockey and sports fans is the fact that TSN 2 will be showing programming in HD.
For those of you who have HD TV's (I'm not one of them), you already know how frustrating it is at the lack of HD NHL games during the season, especially concerning the Senators. TSN is only showing ten Senators games this year but TSN 2 may provide another outlet for non-Leaf games starting as soon as the 2009-2010 season.
Here's an original TSN spot from its launch year in 1984.
Former anchor and now Off The Record host, Michael Landsberg, announcing the relocation of the Winnipeg Jets in 1995.
TSN Top 10 Own Goals
For TSN completists only - I take no responibility for this, but TSN anchor Jennifer Hedger recently made out with a girl on the television show "The Lofters". Be warned. Probably not suitable for a workplace environment. Probably not suitable for this blog, but it's the summer eh...
The Habs are next at 15 while the rest of the Canadian teams get a perfunctory 10 games (Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary).
While definitely more balanced than before, the same basically holds true over at the CBC who will load up on the Maple Leafs during the regular season and scramble to attract other Canadian viewers during the playoffs who don't know any of the Senators or Montreal players.
No sense in trying to figure it out anymore. It's simple economics and the Leafs could send out a beer league team and still get the same play on television.
The Leafs season is going to be like a train rolling off the tracks into hell but we'll all be watching it over and over and over and over again all year.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Two things about Alex Auld that should make Senators fans feel confident:
One - The guy is freaking huge at 6'5”, 221 pounds.
Two - According to the media in Vancouver, he has “nerves of steel”.
The Thunder Bay native (born in Cold Lake, Alberta and lived in England for two years before settling in the Bay as a child) first showed that characteristic when Dan Cloutier got hurt in the Vancouver Canucks first round series against the Calgary Flames in 2004. Coach Marc Crawford decided to yank veteran Johan Hedberg and threw in Auld as a raw rookie to face the likes of Jarome Iginla late in the series with the Canucks season on the line.
Auld pushed the series to the full seven games by holding off the Flames in a classic triple-overtime win in Game 6 before losing Game 7 on a Martin Gelinas overtime power-play goal.
During his 2005-2006 stint as the number one goalie in Vancouver, the Georgia Straight did a piece on Auld focusing almost entirely on his strangely calm demeanour amidst a season gone awry. His teammates had this to say about him:
Mattias Ohlund: "You can't tell … whether he had a great game or a not-so-good game… He still looks the same the next day, and as a goaltender that's obviously one of the things you have to have. After a bad goal or a soft goal, you have to be able to let it go and focus on the next save, and I think he's doing a great job of that."
Trevor Linden: "From day one he's always been a guy who's had a very calm demeanour and he exudes confidence, which I think carries over to the team… He's very calm, and that's a real interesting trait for someone who's as young as him, especially when you look two years ago and he started playoff games and such. And that's a big challenge for a young guy like that. He's solid. He's very mature for his age and he's done a great job for us."
Now that was over two years ago and since then, Auld has bounced around to the Panthers, the Coyotes and the Bruins (where he had a real solid year taking over for an injured Tim Thomas).
The only raised eyebrow is that incident with Ed Belfour in Florida. The explanations given seemed to satisfy no one, although the implications seem to have more to do with Belfour’s legendary drunken and chaotic behaviour than anything to do with Auld, who sounds like he was an innocent bystander in the whole thing.
“During a road trip to Long Island in October 2006, Belfour and Auld were "horsing" around in one of the hotel rooms.You can be sure that if Mother Teresa had spent time as Belfour’s backup, she would have been involved in some kind of mind-blowing scandal as well.
Belfour spilled some water on the floor, and Auld slipped, hit his head and had to be taken to a hospital.
That's the official version of the story. The Panthers otherwise dropped a cone of silence over the incident and not another word leaked, though there were many rumours.
"They have marble floors there and they're slippery," Belfour said. "We were just horsing around with each other. I dropped my bottle of water and we all slipped. Alex hit his head when we fell down. That's the truth of the matter. It was a pure accident. There was no alcohol involved whatsoever."
The good soldier, Auld dummied up.
"I'm not going to discuss anything," he said. "We're going to handle this internally. Everything is fine. I've been out on the ice, so it's not a big deal. There's nothing that happened that's of anyone's concern."
- Ottawa Citizen (Allen Panzeri)
"According to two eyewitnesses at the Garden City Hotel in Long Island, where the Panthers were staying, the incident happened after Belfour became disruptive in a nightclub connected to the hotel, causing a commotion when some teammates, including Auld, tried to get him to leave and go to his room.
One witness at the Posh Ultra Lounge said Belfour, 41, was flailing and fighting off his teammates, who were trying to pull him away while apologizing to the club's employees about Belfour.
Belfour called Auld's fall "a pure accident."
- South Florida Sun-Sentinel
As it stands, the general consensus is that Auld is in Ottawa to back up Martin Gerber. If you compare the two, Auld has had more success with far weaker teams while Gerber’s one claim to fame has been that year in Carolina (2005-2006) where he had an outstanding regular season before getting sick and losing his job to Cam Ward in the playoffs. He’s never really been the same since although he is going to get the chance this season to prove everyone (including myself) wrong.
You can’t help but get the feeling that Auld’s alleged “nerves of steel” may give him an advantage over a slightly fragile Gerber who has the reputation of not even being able to stand the pressure of having a backup capable of pushing him for ice time, let alone being a number one goalie.
Regardless, the pressure is on Gerber, whether he can handle it or not. Auld is a major step down from the talent of Ray Emery, but he looks like a good insurance policy if Gerber falters once again this year.
Welcome to the fishbowl.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
His take on the pending unrestricted free-agency of Chris Neil is refreshing and, in my opinion, completely on target:
"One of the more interesting UFAs-to-be is Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil, due to hit the open market next summer. Neil, currently earning a mere $1.1 million, has a rare skill set - thumping, skating, shooting - that makes him a pleasure to watch (and a beast to play) when he's healthy and on his game. Hard to find comparables for Neil; there are so few like him. The Senators would be wise to re-sign Neil, who should at least double his salary."
Neil doesn't get a lot of love from Senators fans or bloggers lately and I'm not sure why (other than the fact that they want everyone traded at some point during the season). He's everything you'd want in a third line player and the team really missed his toughness when he was out for most of March with an injury.
The addition of Jarkko Ruutu shouldn't make Neil expendable. If anything, the team needs more guys like Neil and adding Jason Smith to the backend was another good decision by Bryan Murray.
There's a reason that Detroit added guys like Darren McCarty, Dallas Drake and Aaron Downey to complement a player like Tomas Holmstrom.
The seasons, and particularly the playoffs, are long and hard. Having a guy like Chris Neil who can do so much more than fight is an invaluable asset to any team. The Senators have had a long history of failure when they didn't have enough toughness on their roster.
Murray should do the right thing and get Neil under contract before another core player slips away from this franchise.
The folks over at Icethetics have pointed out a site where you can create and customize your own jerseys, ie - come up with some ridiculous Senators jerseys and email them to all your bored friends.
Just go to this page and click on the Online Customizer box on your right, and start making your very own ugly jerseys, such as these horrific (yet quite entertaining) examples posted on Icethetics.
There's a way to incorporate real logo's (someone describes how to do it in the Icethetics comment section of that post) but I'm much too afraid of my wife catching me doing something else completely useless on my day off, so I'll pass for now.
Regardless, no one can come up with anything uglier than that St. Louis jersey that was actually proposed and almost approved before Mike Keenan had to start choking team executives to bring them around to sanity.
The worst third jersey that made it onto a real NHL player's shoulders were the 95-96 Anaheim Mighty Ducks abominations which sported what the Icethetics guys call the worst logo in NHL history.
They also had the brilliant idea to use that "Mighty Duck" sporting every NHL team sweater, just to "freak you out". Hilarious stuff.
You can check out the Penguins, Flyers, Stars, etc. They haven't gotten around to the Senators yet, but you can bet that baby will be on my computer background for the rest of the season.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
It's going to be a fun year in Ottawa with Jarkko Ruutu in the lineup.
In this clip, Ruutu gets talking to a Montreal player on the bench during a TSN broadcast and they have to repeatedly kill Pierre McGuire's microphone during the ongoing play because the F-Bombs are flying left and right.
This doesn't hamper McGuire's enthusiasm for Ruutu though - McGuire ends the clip by saying "Actually Gord, I have to tell you he's a cerebral guy. He's a very, very smart guy."
I'm pretty sure Ruutu starts his monologue with the Montreal player by saying "Hey retard!".
How about a video of Ruutu knocking out former Senator Petr Schastlivy during a Russia-Finland matchup in 2007. Somehow, Schastlivy was the captain of that Russian squad.
Jarkko's "Finnish Sign-Language".
Ruutu crushing ex-Senator franchise defenseman Wade Redden.
I remember watching Esa Tikkanen in the eighties with the Oilers and later on when he was with the Rangers and the Capitals. Ruutu plays the game exactly the same way. Many will tell you that Tikkanen was an important part of those latter day Oilers teams. His four Stanley Cups and 5 Cup Final appearances attest to that.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Ottawa's latest first round pick Erik Karlsson is playing on a defensive pairing with Victor Hedman for Team Sweden at this week's USA World Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid.
So what's the big deal?
Some say Hedman is now considered ahead of John Tavares for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Yes, Hedman is that good. Many are comparing him to the likes of Chris Pronger with the skill set of Nicklas Lidstrom.
"One prospects website, Hockey's Future, talked to a senior NHL scout who said he'd have no hesitation telling his team to pick 6-foot-5 Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman ahead of Tavares."
"But nothing Hedman does this week will impact his stock too much. He already has proven to many scouts that he is a potential franchise defenseman. Hedman is a mobile, 6-foot-6 defenseman who already is drawing comparisons to NHL standout Chris Pronger. At 17, he was playing full-time for MoDo in Sweden’s Elite League, a rarity in a league considered to be not that far removed from the caliber of the NHL. This season, he will see even more ice time with the senior team.
Hedman can already dominate a game with his brawn, skill set and hockey smarts. He is already far ahead of any other player for the No. 1 ranking among draft-eligible Europeans."
Having Erik Karlsson on a pairing with Hedman is surely making the Ottawa scouts very proud. They went a little off the board for this guy who was underrated mostly due to his size.
A big showing by Karlsson at the WJC's here in Ottawa around Christmas will only sweeten the deal for fans worried that there is no legitimate number one puck moving defenseman in the system (with apologies to Brian Lee who may be that number one guy after all is said and done).
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
"Emery's reputation was as a man who hung out with a group on the fringe. Rockers, rappers, party people. He liked that crowd, and they liked having him around.
"I was running around here and there, girls and this and that. A lot of kind of bull---- around me," he said. ...
"I don't think that I was any different than a majority of other guys that have played or are playing who are my age as far as that goes. But I really put myself out there. I made it so all eyes were on me." ...
Former teammate Mike Commodore's seat was next to Emery's in the Sens' dressing room after the team acquired the defenseman from Carolina before the February trade deadline. He went out with Emery a couple of times and noticed how people watched him closely.
"He's tattooed up. Everybody knows who he is. He couldn't get away from it," Commodore said. "Everybody's eyes were all over him." ...
He said the stories about Emery are wildly exaggerated.
"Honestly, I like Ray," Commodore said. "Ray Emery's a good guy. And it went right around the room. I wasn't the only guy that liked him. He wasn't a distraction at all."
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
The 3-D logo introduced back in the late 90's was cool for about two weeks, then it just became creepy. The new redesign is much better but it's still awkward looking and not befitting a franchise that once existed in the NHL's formative years ... and dominated.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Here's a shocker:
The committee formed to come up with ways to reduce the ridiculously large NHL goalie equipment has made a half-assed decision to make only minor changes for the upcoming season.
They're tinkering with the "flaps" on the knee pads and "reducing the clavicle protector".
Ostensibly, the clavicle protector includes the shoulder pads (cap protectors) but the league is not exactly being clear on that. In fact, they are refusing to give an exact measurement change thus far. That's strange considering that the number one problem are those enormous shoulder pads. Nothing is being done to reduce the size of their gargantuan catching gloves.
Could this be because there are three active goalies on the committee and only two current forwards, while ex-tenders Garth Snow and Jim Rutherford sit in the GM's chairs?
To be fair, the committee does include two great goal scorers - Dallas co-GM Brett Hull and Ottawa's own Dany Heatley. The knee pad being reduced will open up more room in the "5-hole" area but players trying to pick corners will still be hitting mile high shoulder pads which allows goalies to rely on simple positioning rather than athletic ability to stop pucks.
Nobody seems to be able to give a reasonable answer as to why the trappers need to be so big. The majority of the catching glove is not even protecting any fingers. It's basically like being allowed in the nets carrying the lid of a garbage can as part of your equipment. They could cut that beast in half and it would still adequately protect the goalie's digits.
Regardless, any change in this area is positive but they certainly could have been more daring. It may sound unreasonable and totalitarian, but isn't it time the league steps in and makes these decisions without any input from the goalies?
All they've shown is that they want to protect the status quo. They've been spoiled enough.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review runs a great interview with Sidney Crosby today on the occasion of his 21st birthday later this week and resumption of training after a heartbreaking loss to Red Wings in the Cup final.
For a superstar, and a player who has long been in the spotlight, Crosby gives surprisingly honest and interesting interviews. Most star players are masters of saying absolutely nothing of import or value in concise 15 second soundbites.
In the piece, Crosby doesn't outright condemn Marian Hossa's departure for Motown but you get the impression that he's not pleased with his decision
"Q: How did you react upon learning Marian Hossa would not re-sign with the Penguins?
A: I was pretty surprised. He told me that he really enjoyed it in Pittsburgh. He loved the team and the city. He never had one bad thing to say.
Q: Have you spoken with Hossa since he signed with Detroit?
A: We've played phone tag, but I haven't talked to him yet. I thought he liked it here. He was great to play with. It's too bad.
Q: What is your reaction when a former teammate that played alongside you in the Stanley Cup final says another team gives him a better chance to win the Stanley Cup next year?
A: To be honest, if you look at (the Red Wings), they haven't lost anyone. We came within two games, but they won, and they haven't lost one guy. Maybe on paper they have the best chance to win the Cup and, in his mind, that is what he thinks. If you ask anybody else, that's the way it looks. I'm not mad at him or anything like that. That's just the way it is.
Q: Do you derive any extra motivation from his comments?
A: We have enough motivation in the fact that we came that close and didn't win. Whether he said that or not doesn't matter. "
- Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Plus, if you read the whole interview, you get to find out what kind of booze The Kid likes.
PS: It's not a classy beverage by any means.
Louie Caporusso is a pretty small guy - 5'9, a buck ninety. But this kid can flat out skate and score (as well as scrap) and the Senators might have stolen him at 90th overall in 2007. He never skated in the OHL but put up some big numbers in the OPJHL before playing at the University of Michigan last year with the Wolverines.
Currently, Caporusso just participated for Canada in the World Junior summer camp here in town where Pierre McGuire said he is a longshot to make the team but he's generated some strong press nonetheless.
According to GM Bryan Murray, Caporusso is about two years away from the NHL but some have compared the nifty #9 to Mike Comrie. The guys over at Sens Army have a more in-depth feature on Caporusso which they ran back in March and the Wolverines home site has a good Q & A with Louie:
"» On who he likes to watch ..."I like Mike Fisher (of the Ottawa Senators) a lot because of his heart. He goes on 90 percent work, and 10 percent talent and that is unbelievable. He is not the most talented guy, but he goes all out every game. That's what it's all about. Talent will only get you so far because at the end of the day, if you want to win and be a champion you have to go to work. I just love people that play like that.
» On being picked by the Ottawa Senators in the 2007 NHL Draft ..."That was probably one of the best times of my hockey career if you include getting into Michigan. I wasn't at the draft. I think Ottawa really liked my character. In my interview they really liked the way I spoke. I told them, 'If you don't take me you're going to regret it.' I think they understood that. Then they took me. On that day I was pretty excited. It was almost like I was in a dream."
According to the Senators website, Toronto born Louie's favourite NHL team is the Buffalo Sabres!?!