Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Positive Loss

You had to feel a little sorry for Bryan's brother Terry Murray and his Los Angeles Kings coming into Tuesday night's game.

The Kings are in the midst of a stretch where they play 8 of 9 games on the road and are fighting hard for a playoff spot.

Ottawa was supposed to be their soft touch in between games at Montreal, Washington and New Jersey.

Then Terry's brother went and fired Craig Hartsburg the day before which virtually guaranteed the Senators would come out super-charged against the Kings. No opposing coach likes to face a team fresh off a coaching change.

And just like predicted, the Senators came out strong and won the majority of battles in both ends of the ice. But the Kings played a patient road game and just waited for their one chance to make a difference and they got it late in the third period when Michael Handzus slipped a wraparound through Brian Elliott, who otherwise had a stellar game in the nets.

That's a tough loss for Cory Clouston and the Senators but there are some positives that they can take from the game.

For starters, I don't remember the last time Ottawa had so many scoring chances. Their forechecking (which was somewhat non-existent under Hartsburg's conservative system) directly caused two egregious giveaways by the Kings defence and Dany Heatley hit a post on one of them.

The Senators had a modest 29 shots but a good many of them were quality chances.

Overall, the boys looked energized and more dangerous as a whole while not sacrificing any of their defensive play. If anything, they looked even more focused in their own end, perhaps because they were spending less time there than in the past.

As for Clouston's first game behind the Senators bench, TV reporter Ian Mendes told the Sportsnet audience that the new coach was significantly louder than Hartsburg and was seen walking the length of the bench to give Chris Kelly a pat on the back for a good play. Mendes used the term "positive reinforcement" when describing Clouston's style and that seems like the proper starting point for this team's rebuild.

Clouston has already stated that getting the players to believe in themselves again is one of his primary goals here and tonight was a good start in that direction.

As goal scorers often say, as long as they're getting scoring chances, they know the goals will come eventually.

Bryan Murray and the legions of frustrated fans certainly hope that mantra rings true here in Bytown.


A must-read article by James Duthie reveals how the Senators players really felt about Craig Hartsburg:

"The problem many Senators had with Hartsburg was his stubbornness. He implemented a system in training camp, and refused to budge from it. Nary a tweak. The players say when things went bad, Hartsburg always believed it was because of “a lack of effort”. There was never any other explanation.

Specifically, the one-man forecheck drove many players nuts. They believe they are at their best as an aggressive team, with 2 men always going hard into the opposition’s end, the way they did during the Cup run two springs ago. Having that second man hang back left them “standing around an awful lot.” Yet they never strayed from it.

The other main beef with Hartsburg was his negativity. Oh, he had plenty to be negative about with this team, that’s for sure. But there were moments where the Senators were desperate for positive reinforcement, and never got it.

They point to a stretch before the All-Star break where they went 3-0-1, and showed signs of making a run. Yet several players say even after the wins, Hartsburg would come into the room and pick out only the mistakes, further eroding their already shaky confidence."

That is the type of thing that you wish the local beat writers from the Sun and the Citizen would pick up on but they are too busy mailing in their easy-as-pie "coach killer" articles and lambasting the team for not playing hard enough.

It's sad that it takes a TV host to get the real story from the players instead of the writers who spend everyday with the team.


Anonymous said...

Good post. Kudos to Duthie. Extra kudos to him because an article like will ultimately benefit the team and the fans.

It's as simple as getting the truth out. Pretty powerful stuff, in a hockey context, of course.

Andrew said...

I think the picture pretty much tells the story here. Best of luck to Clouston, though.

Anonymous said...

I think both sides were right to some extent...

The 1 man forecheck is useless in today's NHL, and when the team was playing well they should have gotten the recognition. But any player that says the team played a full 60 min game for all the games this year is either lying or high.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:35.

Umm who said that?

Good post Jeremy. I think what Duthie reports rings true. No matter who you are, or what you do, your manager needs to praise you in public (when you deserve it), and critique you in private (when you deserve it).

When you do things well, you need to know. Everybody knows when you screw up, and you rarely need to be told you do, especially when you are being televised.

Jalen said...

Great post, Jeremy.

This story should've been easy pickings for the local media. You could tell it wasn't just the guys the media and fans love to rip, too. It was clear, to me at least, from comments by players like Alfie and Phillips that something was wrong between the players and coaches.

Good luck, Cory. There is some talent in this group and I hope you can get the most out of them.

- Jalen

Canucnik said...

Jeremy: There is nothing positive in a lose, period!

A coach's whole career is usually forshadowed in his first 5 games. This does not look good for Cory.

Something positive would have been calling Jason Smith for his two (2) fouls instead of the make up calls on Lee & Vermette. What gives here? Are the refs giving old #21 a pass also? Now, without Hunt, I hope the fresh, youthfull, clear eyes of Coach Clouston will be forced to tell truth to Power.

Our defence is too passive coming out of the 1-2-2 led by guys like Kuba and none other than #21; they box but they never get the puck. Jason had three cracks at the puck before LA shakes a guy loose and scores. Presently, as of last night playing a 2-1-2 everybody up, ya gotta stay up in their zone but just as importantly in your zone you must attack the puck carrier aggressively (and get the puck once in a while) because for an instant you do not have the support a 1-2-2 gives you.

Brian Elliott Note: If you want your goaltender to let in the odd wrap around and be late to the post once in a while, stress staying square and commiting to the puck carrier/shooter. It's no excuse but that is why Brian is late checking off the man with the puck. It's like a deep back in football there are keys but basically it's a "feel" for it. As in "Experience". It's time to split your drills "Eli".

The true positive from last night may be the realization that we are at least two maybe three defencemen from having a NHL caliber team again.

Canucnik said...

Correction! Lose "LOSS" I'm so upset, I'm afraid that we are losing a 59M Payroll, NHL caliber team to $$$$ (Money). We are afraid to spend our way out of this short fall we are in. Let's cut the bull shit, we need an NHL caliber Coach and two (2) "Big League Defencemen. Who can take a positive from that?

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:10am.

I'm assuming you're referring to the playing 60 mins part... Hartsburgh criticized the team for lack of effort, not not playing a full 60 min game after several games. That's who said it, and the players whined about bering called out for lack of effort.

Anonymous said...

Their "effort", or "energy" has been misplaced through coaching direction.

Hartsburg blames himself for the work ethic, high level of competition, and team play not being good enough.

However, I will say that those issues did start to creep in after "listening" to a guy who had a plan that he would never tweak. Also, constant rotation of players on different lines lacks an identity as no one knows their roles. I don't care how good you are, there will always be guys that suit your style better than others.

Players are not stupid. If they are good enough to have their own opinion, you need to convince them a strategy you have will work vs what they think needs to be done. After listening to the coach for a period of time, and seeing no postive results, the coach gets tuned out, and they start doing things their own way. Obviously, this leads to confusion, and chaos, because there is no real unified direction.

Factor that in with no skill on the backend to overcome some of the chaos, and some "ok" goaltending, you end up at the bottom of the league.

Anonymous said...

Canuktit... seriously. Are you Glenn Kulka? Because your use of grammar and blind attacks on any and everyone definitely give you away.

Canucnik said...

7:38 I'd love to know what you are?
Are you Peter hiding behind anonymous like a coward.

You are not a writer. You do not appreciate poetic license.

You are not an editor... Canucnik is the correct spelling.

I think you are a company man, not capable of defending your position in a fair argument.

Also, I think there has been a serious transgression committed here, that has cost the Sens fans the season!

Read man! Observe for yourself! Life is still survival of the fittest!

Peter said...

Canucktwat is Kulka! Canucktwat is Kulka!!

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:39pm

Maybe he didn't tweak his system because he didn't see it executed correctly for a full 60 mins. When exactly were they listening to the coach? Because they have sucked for over a calendar year. Hartsburgh blames himself because he is a professional, which is more than I can say for these athletes.

Yes and Paddock and Murray are also bad coaches because they were not able to get the most out of their players last year. The same Murray that coached them to the Finals.

These players are lazy and selfish, and once they sign their big money contracts they float until their next contract year.

Anonymous said...

Anon: 12:19am. Wow. Lazy and selfhish, eh.

Big contracts are the problem heh. I see you watch a lot of Sens games. That is a cop out answer.

Whenever things go tits up, contracts are always the lame execuse from the fans at large.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:25am

So someone discredits your theory, and all you can come up with is 'cop out' answer? Why don't you read Duthie's article again and tell me it's not the players.

I've watched the Sens since they came back into the league, so I've probably seen more games than you you condescending prick.