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.
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!"