Saturday, October 3, 2009

Opening Night Shakes

There's no reason to sugarcoat it. The Ottawa Senators played a lousy game.

Looking like they were skating in 2 inches of mud, the Senators couldn't seem to get anything going in either the 1st or 3rd periods. And when they did get their chances in a fairly decent 2nd period, Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding for the New York Rangers.

There's lots of excuses if you want them. Starting on the road. A long layoff after their final pre-season game. New players still trying to find chemistry.

It doesn't matter. If there were butterflies, they should be gone now.

Pascal Leclaire was really good in goal despite the 5-2 score. He made some really difficult stops but had no chance on most of the others

Rookie Erik Karlsson looked like a rookie. It was obvious that he was very tight in the early going and was just trying not to make a mistake rather than play his usual high octane game.

And when you try not to make mistakes, you make them by the bushel.

His passes were so carefully placed that they had no zip on them and he occasionally got his signals crossed in his own end, in one instance leading directly to a goal by Brandon Dubinsky in the 1st period.

But he made up for that mistake by backchecking ferociously and stopping a breakaway by Artem Anisimov in the 2nd and seemed to snap out of his trance late in the 3rd by making some nice passes to forwards going at full speed.

He'll be better once he realizes he's an NHL player and stops being so starstruck.

Matt Carkner really impressed by playing exactly the same way he did in the pre-season. He looked like a veteran out there and even had two really good offensive chances early in the game by choosing to take two hard shots which Lundqvist had to stop with some difficulty. Carkner then went on to fight Donald Brashear late in the 3rd after jawing with the Ranger enforcer all game and did well in the scrap.

Otherwise, there wasn't much to see other than a hockey squad looking to uptight to really play their hustle and puck pursuit game the way they meant to.

Next up, Toronto.



It seems the Ottawa Senators are intent on spoiling us all of a sudden. First, they bring back the Senators theme song at the start of games. Now.... they fixed their freaking ugly socks.




I'm not sure what the Senators were thinking with that previous design but they are now back in the fashion good books. I haven't had a chance to see if Calgary or Tampa Bay have also done the same thing with their similar looking socks.

One thing I do know about Calgary, their retro uni's look fantastic. It seems like the tide is finally turning from the dark and dreary 90's when bright colours died off in the NHL. With Philly, Calgary and Edmonton rehashing their 70's and 80's style jerseys, the NHL is starting to "pop" on television once again. Dark and subtle tones don't look good on television. Bright, classic colours with clean, straight stripes do.

It's just too bad Theo Fleury isn't around to put that bright orange jersey on again.


The conventional wisdom that always gets spouted on sports talk radio shows is that the NHL is a sub-par league, struggling financially, marketing inept, and run by a commissioner who doesn't know what he is doing.

As is the case with most cliches that talking heads can spout to their audience without actually having to do any research, that "conventional wisdom" is dead wrong. In fact, Gary Bettman is being hailed as a genius among all sports owners, not just NHL owners, first for breaking the players union during the recent lockout (David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail recently said the union has degenerated into a "laughingstock") and for winning big over renegade poacher Jim Ballsillie.

People point to sore spots such as the Coyotes mess and the lack of a truly national television deal in the United States, but in essence, the league has never been doing better, both on and off the ice.

Globe and Mail business writer Brian Milner sees an NHL that is thriving in a global recession.

" the league embarks on its 92nd season, indicators point to a sport that is more than holding its own in the increasingly fierce battle for the shrinking entertainment buck.

League revenue stands at a record high. Ticket sales are holding steady even as prices rise in some markets, and star players are drawing big crowds. The sport is enjoying a resurgence in some old hockey towns such as Chicago and Boston, while the Montreal Canadiens sold this year for a record price. Television ratings are picking up. "

He notes that some Southern teams are still struggling but the core of the league remains strong, protecting it from what was once thought to be an inevitable implosion.

For many, especially elitist Canadian hockey snobs who believe the league should be a tiny, regional operation not much bigger than the CFL, Gary Bettman can never be given credit for anything.

But in truth, Bettman is now revered in the sports ownership world, along with his associate Bill Daly, the deputy commisioner. Beating Ballsillie means that a legal court has affirmed the right of professional sports leagues to determine, to a large extent, where they can operate their own franchises.

If, as a Canadian hockey fan, you feel that Bettman has insulted Canada by not allowing the Coyotes to move to Hamilton, just think of how much more protected the existing Canadian franchises are from someone coming in and trying to move them to the United States.

Small market fans in Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary should be sending thank you notes to the commish, not hate mail.

"Other NHL governors also declined to speak, or rather gloat, publicly. But several had plenty to say anonymously.

“I don't care if our share is $5-million [for the legal costs and the Coyotes' losses this season],” one said. “I'll send a thank-you note along with the cheque.”

Another owner said he “will gladly pay the bills,” because “this could have set a very dangerous precedent for all sports franchises.”

-Globe and Mail


Anonymous said...

It's tough to comment because I've only got negatives. That's mitigated by the fact that I keep telling myself that we're only one game in.

In short, they look uninspired. You can't fake inspiration.

The players are good people. They were good people in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 also. They work hard and listen to their coaches and their GM. The management says they are better with more depth. The players accept the message and tell the media that they are better and have more depth.

Last year, they followed and supported Hartsy. It was only after he left that they expressed some frustration with his style. However, when they played, you could tell that they didn't believe in what he was selling.

Excellence and high standards start from the top, and then trickles down. Melnyk and Murray are not holding up their end of the bargain.

Messier and Shanahan have both said, on many occasions, that winning is an attitude. Bryan Murray does not inspire a winning attitude, in my view. He's more of a grind and claw your way into the playoffs type of guy. His career record is evidence of that.

Fisher was recently given the "A". Sure, he's a hard worker and a great guy. But he didn't produce on the ice last year. I don't think that you reward someone who, outside of Gerber, under performed the most last year.

The message that you're sending to the team is that performance is secondary.

It's said over and over again, but to win, your best players need to be your best players. It's time to officially recognize our best player formally as a leader. That's Spezza.

As far as Carkner, I'll be at odds with you for the rest of the year on that. I think that he is wasting a roster space that could be used on developing one of our younger talents that could have a 10 year career.

Pretty astute observations and comments on the uniforms (when's your fall collection coming out). I agree 100%. Hopefully they bring back the 2-D logo at some point.

I agree with you on Bettman as well, but I arrive at that conclusion differently. I think that the public's anger towards him is misguided and shows a lack of understanding about how franchises are awarded.

If the Canadian public and media wants to be angry about not getting another franchise, they should direct their anger at the governors who represent the Canadian franchises. They are the ones who actually vote to decide who gets in the club. You don't here any Canadian owner saying let's move a franchise to Hamilton. And they never will.

If a new Canadian team comes through expansion instead, they are looking at their expansion revenue share of upwards of $10M each. I don't blame them.

As a Sens fan, as you stated, I'm glad Bettman is making it difficult for a franchise to be moved. There will come a day when the CAN dollar is low and Ottawa will be in trouble. At that time, we'll be thankful that franchises are difficult to move.

Anonymous said...

One more thing. Love that Ray Emery is ripping it up.

Anonymous said...

Way to go Razor, well done! I wish you all the best.

hambown said...

I didn't think the game was all negative. Peter Regin was flying all night, and I'm glad he got rewarded with a goal (albeit one that was too late to change the outcome). I'm really happy with his play, and Carkner's as well. Long may that continue.

I was disappointed with Karlsson, as we all were. Hopefully he improves with more real NHL games. I have to say that Phillips had a poor game. He was a half step out of position when beginning every puck battle I watched. Campoli played a sinker also. A game to remember for our defense: this is what happens if you don't battle harder against a strong forecheck, and if you aren't in position on 2v2s.