Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rookies and Veterans In The Melting Pot

All the buzz in town is about Bryan Murray’s comments that some veterans better step up their game in training camp or else risk losing their jobs to rookies.

It’s a typical and usually successful GM move to try and light a fire under some players but that type of thing always backfires in a market like Ottawa where certain influential radio hosts and columnists take it as a green light to go on a negative feeding frenzy, and the latest guy pegged to be “run out of town” is Chris Kelly.

To hear the Over The Edgers, you’d think the Senators were in the midst of a horrible December slump and that Chris Kelly was missing practices and getting into road rage incidents with attention seeking senior citizens with personalized license plates.

Except it’s training camp.

What are we talking about? Training camp? “Practice? We talkin’ about practice?”

It seems that no matter what Kelly does this year, he is going to get thrown under the bus for daring to have a contract over 2 million dollars and not score 50 goals.

Presumably, Jesse Winchester can do what Kelly does at a fraction of the price, but that doesn’t take into account how popular Kelly is among his teammates and the excellent contributions he can bring to the team once the games start to mean something. Kelly is a proven veteran and deserves some respect. He was part of the most successful team in the history of the franchise who brought Stanley Cup final action back to the capital.

To rip a guy for having an underwhelming training camp is fine but don’t infer that he has lost his value because of that. We are supposed to judge players on their contributions during real games and not get obsessed with who showed up to an optional skate or who was the first guy off the ice at practice, like the Ottawa media seems to be stuck on.

But the Senators are at a point where they have way too many forwards and three players knocking on the door. Those players are, of course, defenseman Erik Karlsson, Matt Carkner and forward Peter Regin.

All 3 deserve a spot on the Senators roster, ahead of the likes of Brian Lee, Christoph Schubert, Zack Smith and Alex Picard and not just because of their training camp performance. They deserve to be there because they all supply a certain need on the team.

Karlsson is obvious. If he doesn’t make the squad, something is truly rotten in Denmark.

Regin has been coming on for two years now and is a complete player who seems to fit well as a centre on the Mike Fisher line, giving the Senators 3 skilled centres who can all score points.

If there is any justice and common sense in the world, Carkner will be the 6th defenseman. That would give a perfect balance to the top six – 3 defensive defenseman and 3 offensive defenseman.

I’m a believer in Brian Lee but the Senators need Carkner more than Lee right now because Karlsson, Chris Campoli and Filip Kuba already fill the offensive role.

Add in the fact that Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov, as big and tough as they are, will never be accused of having a mean streak. Carkner has a doozy and Ottawa hasn’t seen that since Zdeno Chara left town.

The solution?

Send Lee to the minors because you can (due to his two-way contract). He will have a chance to play in the future and it won’t hurt him. The AHL is a hell of a league.

Waive (or if you can, trade) Christoph Schubert. He needs a fresh start with a team that will allow him to be a defenseman.

Picard? That’s a tough one. He is too good to try and sneak through waivers. Injuries will come and the team will be glad to have someone like Picard in the stable. Yet, with the team fully healthy, what does he provide that Campoli, Kuba and Karlsson can’t? Not much.

But if you deal both Picard and Schubert, you deplete your depth.

Do you keep two extra defenseman? In a cap world, that doesn’t make sense.

Sadly, this probably means that Carkner will be sent to the AHL.

While Winchester is out with an injury to start the season, that allows Murray to at least delay a decision on where Shean Donovan and Kelly fit. Nobody wants to see Donovan go anywhere but the only way to avoid that is to move someone else out.

Rumblings and strange chatter that Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu are in danger can only be described as mystifying. Neil was unfairly lumped in with those veterans who were having mediocre camps by some but he has gone out and done his job perfectly on the ice – defending teammates and being a presence along the boards.

Ruutu is being paid next to nothing and there are very few players in the league as good as he is in the pest role. Taking away physical, heart and soul players is not the solution in Ottawa. If anything, the Senators could use more sandpaper, not less.


Have to point out an interesting article penned by the blog Blood Red Army who points out the evolving negativity of the mainstream media towards the only franchise in town. Some very good points:

"Honestly, what is it with the sports media in Ottawa? We are exactly nine days into training camp and I am already sick to death of the negativity being spewed towards the Ottawa Senator players.

Last night during the Team 1200’s pre-game show, Ottawa Sun journalist Bruce Garrioch and ex-NHL'er Mike Eastwood completely ripped Jonathan Cheechoo apart. This is a player who landed in Ottawa one week ago, and has yet to play a single meaningful game here. We all know he’s coming off a very disappointing season and has been on a downward slide since the 2005/06 season, but does that really give people the green light to drag his name through the mud? According to these guys, he’s been just awful and is totally out of shape. The fact that we were told he spent all summer working out and getting ready for the season was supposedly a total lie. And apparently he misses every single shot on net during practice, too.

Why?! What is the point in that? Give the guy a chance to get into the swing of things. At the very least, don’t write him off before the season even starts!"


Canucnik said...


WTF...Stop hammering #45 Alexandre Picard he is your starting 6th D-man opening night and game #3.The Punchman...the swingman...#39 Matt Carkner gets the Air Canada Center and prime time with the "pugs" (pugnacious) and "trucs" (truculent) of Toronto.

If you want I can start breaking down every shift for you until you realize how good "Big Al" really is. Trust me you know who actually knows how smart he both #17 and #14 neither man minds being paired with #45 in any situation.

PS: Volchy can't last so both men and Lee (as a call up) will see plenty of action.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a lot of respect for whatever comes out of Garrioch or Eastwood's mouth. They both always have a negative tone, even in the good times.

Eastwood was a marginal player but always seems to find faults with star players. I always sense a little jealousy in his comments.

Garrioch just repeats whatever comes out of Murray's mouth. No insight.

Jeremy, I'm usually with you for the most part, but not this time. Kelly, Lee, and Schubert are on my team. There was a time when the Sens wanted guys who were part of a winning program. Now they want to dump the guys who won for us. I'd dump Picard, Carkner, and Donovan.

I'd love to have a tough d-man, but one that is a proven NHLer. Carkner was drafted 10 years ago in the second round and has 2 NHL games under his belt. He's a bust.

Meanwhile Lee was drafted top 10 four years ago, and we're not putting him in a position to develop and succeed.

I think people want a tough guy on D so badly, that they'd take almost anyone at this point. But in my view, to lose a prospect for an experiment, is a bit costly.

Whatever roster decisions they make, they better win. If the team is not on pace to make the playoffs, that building will not sellout. At that point, Melnyk will feel the pressure to do something.

Should be an interesting year.

dzuunmod said...

If we would all just stop paying attention to Garrioch, Kulka et al., they might all just go away.

Anonymous said...

Question: Who, in your mind, is the better NHLer over all? Alfredsson or Kovalev? Just want to see what everyones perception is.


GelatinousMutantCoconut said...

I agree that Kelly should be kept. Right now he's the 4th line centre, and I do believe Winchester can fit in that role just as well. However, Shannon and Regin are slotted in the number two and three centre spots. if either one should falter, it would be nice to have reliable old Kelly there to step in.

Ruutu-Kelly-Neil is a very expensive fourth line. But on most teams it could be a third. Why trade away that depth until the cap space to fill another hole.

If Regin and Shannon really play well and cement their spots, then maybe yes, Kelly should be traded. But not before the trade deadline, when there will be a better market for him, and he'll seem more appealing with only 2 full years left on his contract.

It looks like Lee is the odd man out on defense. He's only twenty-two, and has only two years proffessional experience. The jump from the NCAA is bigger than from other leagues. Another year in the minors won't do him any harm.

Mean streak or not, if Carkner can only play 5-6 minutes a game, what's the use in giving him a full-time slot?

If he can play at least 15 minutes and provide consistent physical presence without sacrifcing defensive play, then by all means, give him the spot. That's the kind of player needed on the third pairing (Schubert could actually fit that role...but he doesn't have the "mean streak")

GelatinousMutantCoconut said...

Oh and just as an aside...

What forward line-up looks better?




the second line-up is much more deep. A lot depends on how Kovalev and Cheechoo play, as well as on how Regin and Shannon develop.

Defense is slightly weaker than in 2007. But if you assume:

Kuba-Karlsson vs Redden-Meszaros

Even then, Redden was on the downslide. Is Kuba that much worse? Karlsson is greener than Meszaros was, but skill-wise they are on par.

Phillips-Volchenkov vs Phillips-Volchenkov

They've had it rough for the last year and a half, but both are still able to get back to 2007 form.

Campoli-Picard vs Corvo-Preissing

Obviously weaker. no question there.

So over-all the defense is weaker, but the top 4 isn't all that far behind the 2007 incarnation.

Now, if Leclaire can get back to form, goaltending is a huge upgrade. Emery was solid that year, but he wasn't a top-ten guy like Leclaire can be.

So...there's a lot of questions, but this looks like it could be a team. I don't see them beating Philadelphia or Boston, but if all comes into place, this team could do well this season.

I'm going to predict a 5th place finish and a loss in the conference finals to Philadelphia.

G said...

we need to move schubert and campoli and pickard some or all this year or next to make room for lee cowan and carkner. Lee and Cowan have potential carkner has grit. We cant get rid of schubert because he plays forward and d as a 4th liner and 7th dman? Campoli and pickard both seem to be missing that one piece that would make them valuable 3rd and 4th dman so they are fringe dmen with no bright future ahead, let the kids play instead. As for the forwards regin should be in donovan and winchester should be out.

Jalen said...

If Karlsson isn't on the team, either to start the season or 10 games in, nothing is "rotten in Denmark."

The Sens will simply have taken the longer term view of his development and probably the correct one.

Maybe Karlsson is a star and key contributor right away, but that's doubtful. We've become spoiled by the immediate contributions of dmen like Phaneuf, Doughty and Schenn. These are actually exceptions to the general rule of development for dmen and quite rare. More often, young dmen need at least 2-3 pro seasons before they're ready for the show. Throwing them in too early only stunts their long term potential. Time will tell, but this may yet be the situation with Schenn. It's an easy list to make so I won't bother, but just think about the early careers of Pronger, Chara, Phillips, et al.

One may argue that Karlsson has had one pro season in Frolunda, but I will not be disappointed if he's given time in Bingo before we ask him to step in as a key contributor.

And I disagree that Regin gives us three skilled centres unless Foligno should emerge as the third - Fisher is a natural winger and I couldn't be happier Regin's emergence has pushed him there.

Finally, I think Matty Carkner starts the year in Bingo and is the first call up when a dman goes down to injury. Like Canucnik points out, Volchy will have an increasingly difficult time staying healthy given how he plays and the cumulative toll on his body.

Schubert's time here has come to an end. The same is likely true for Dono.

- Jalen

Anonymous said...

Just to remind you dude, it's the hockey pool tonight! Come down to the resturant to meet up. Kitchen closes at 9, so anytime after that.


Anonymous said...

So after I talked to you dude, a bunch of the other people dropped out of being able to do the pool. It got kyboshed this evening. So the good news is next Sunday night we will be doing the draft. Hope you're feeling better and can make it. Let me know?


hambown said...

Hear, Hear!

The TGOR bums, Brennan, Garrioch and the rest would be considered funny jokes if they were on community radio or writing for their school newspaper. But they are accredited media professionals, so really it's just embarrassing. How do these slobs still have jobs? Dreadful. I hope to god that nobody on the roster listens to TGOR or reads the Sun.

The Sun and Team 1200 should hold a media person training camp, to see how these bozos fare. I guarantee they'd be beaten out of a job by bloggers in a heartbeat.