Thursday, August 13, 2009
Notes From The Dog Days...
The Hockey News hasn’t exactly been kind to the Senators this summer.
In their annual ranking NHL uniforms, THN pegged the Senators duds 29th out of 30 teams, just ahead of the infamous “Buffaslug” (aka Donald Trump’s lettuce).
They did not account for 3rd jerseys in their process but even if they did, the Senators might have actually slipped a spot because the Sabres have the nicest 3rd uni’s in the league (the throwbacks with the original Sabre crest).
Always a hot topic around Bytown – probably because the organization changes the sweaters every few years it seems – the uniforms will not be changing this season (including their terrible sock design with the weird angles at the back) despite some hope that the Senators might opt to put the original “O” crest back on their 3rd jerseys instead of the stylized “SENS” font they currently sport.
But stranger things have happened. The organization brought back the Senators theme song to its original spot in the opening lineup after a short but intense campaign led by many blogs around town (including Black Aces). The Senators might be induced to change their look if a similar campaign is started – and by all accounts, it has.
Personally, I’d rather see the team switch back to their original 2-D logo on their red and white sweaters before bringing back the “O” but I’m game for both ideas. The Senators seem to want to cater exclusively to kids in their designs – which is smart in a way – but it leaves the people who actually dish out the dollars for tickets and merchandise having to wear a cartoonish sweater that nobody really loves. Not like Habs or Leaf fans who don’t have to feel childish in their hometown jerseys.
Maybe new team president Cyril Leeder will have more of a traditional bent than his predecessor, Roy Mlakar, who came to Ottawa from L.A. where selling hockey pre and post Gretzky was like selling ketchup popsicles to women in white gloves (to quote David Spade in “Tommy Boy”). Mlakar's time in L.A. was during the peak of the Gretzky era and he took that aggressive vigor into the Ottawa market and did a great job selling the team during the troubled Rod Bryden years. But recently, under the Eugene Melnyk and Mlakar combo, the organization seemed to opt more for gimmicky marketing and ill-conceived promotions. Who can forget the disaster of the actor dressed up like a Roman warrior at centre ice bumbling through his embarrassing speech with a loose helmet and a faulty microphone?
Leeder has been in Ottawa since the Bruce Firestone days and hopefully will realize that the fans are crying out for more traditional, adult-friendly uniforms and approaches. The kids will still love the Senators without a cartoon character on the front of the sweater. I guarantee it.
But sticking to the Hockey News angle, they also pegged the Senators to finish 9th in the Eastern Conference, just out of a playoff spot. And who can blame them really?
With the Dany Heatley situation unresolved and the team currently over the cap limit, no one really knows if this group of players will come together and regain their elite status in the league.
I think they’ll be in the 4 – 7th place range, especially if they can keep Heatley in the lineup, because not many teams will be able to score as many goals as the Senators if the lineup stays basically the same.
Think of it: Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, Alexei Kovalev and Jason Spezza all being available for your power-play.
The idea is almost sickening in its lethal possibilities. In the East, only Washington and Pittsburgh would be able to offer up similar firepower.
When (or if) Heatley leaves, the team will be worse, at least in the short-term.
And that’s without making any sort of allusion to his character. From a hockey standpoint, the Senators will miss Heatley. It’s hard to dispute that unless Murray pulls off a miracle trade that brings in another elite sniper.
But I don’t want to talk about number 15 anymore than you want to read about it. Until something happens, who cares?
Kind of amusing how loved Jason Spezza is right now when only 2 or 3 months ago, most of the fan base wanted him traded.
It’s strange how it works.
Heatley becomes the devil, so that must mean Spezza is a saint. Yet Spezza is still the same player and guy he was when everyone picked on him, save for a wedding ring.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy for the turnaround in sentiment. You’d be hard pressed to find a blog that defended Spezza more vigorously than Black Aces the last two seasons. It’s nice that fans are starting to realize they have a superstar player in their midst. But he hasn’t even scored a point this summer, has he?
The same schism happened with Ray Emery and Martin Gerber.
Emery was so hated that it made people love Martin Gerber – for no apparent reason other than the fact that he wasn’t Ray Emery. Yet he was still the same old Martin Gerber on the ice, letting in weak goals and looking like Hardy Astrom the longer his Senators career continued.
You could even say the same thing happened with Daniel Alfredsson and Alexei Yashin.
Alfie was well liked but it wasn’t until Yashin sulked off to Russia that Alfie became “Alfie” to the fans. They still wanted to trade him right before the 2007 playoff run but that's Ottawa fans for you.
So what’s the lesson?
There’s nothing like a good enemy within to rally fans around the team.
A second-act I’m looking forward to? Jarkko Ruutu’s second season in Bytown. His style of game is so much better when his team is actually winning more games than they're losing. Ruutu and players of his ilk are more effective when they seem to be gloating and become harder to ignore. Too many coaches tell their players to stop reacting to pests when they have the lead……..First prediction of the new season: Brian Lee has a great year and cements a spot on the team permanently, making Alex Picard expendable (if he already isn't) ….. Second prediction: When Brendan Bell hangs up the skates for good, he’ll be hired as a radio personality in Ottawa covering hockey. The kid is really well-spoken, smart and perfectly comfortable in all interviews I’ve heard. Good luck with the Blues, Brendan……
The Senators should retire Frank “King” Clancy’s number for 4 very legitimate reasons:
One, he deserves it. The King was a superstar player in Ottawa for many years and is an NHL legend in the Hall of Fame. He was also the first player to play every position in one game, including goal when Clint Benedict actually had to serve his two minute penalty because the rule book didn't allow a substitution when a goalie was penalized.
Two, it would create more of a link to the Senators history and tradition, never a bad thing, even if critics will say the new franchise has no connection to the old dynastic one. But too late. Former teammate Frank Finnigan’s number has already been retired by the modern team so that argument doesn’t really wash.
Thirdly, it will piss off the Leafs who became Clancy’s adopted team once he was traded. The Leafs don’t retire numbers as a matter of club policy. Instead they "honour" them but keep the number in circulation. What better way to steal a little thunder from Ottawa’s biggest (and now extremely tough) rivals from across the province. Might as well get in the first shot in the Brian Burke era.
Lastly, maybe it will break the curse. When Clancy was traded to the Leafs in 1930, some say the Senators hexed themselves and it’s hard to argue when you look at the modern Senators series record against the Leafs in the playoffs: 0 wins – 4 losses.
In all of my research done in the past two hours, including reference books and the internet, I cannot figure out what number Clancy wore while he was with the Senators. He wore lucky number 7 with Toronto and I'd bet he wore the same in Ottawa.
I'm sure someone out there knows and can fill us in.