Saturday, January 31, 2009
Last night's loss to the Blue Jackets was perhaps the most boring hockey game I've seen all year. Or possibly since the lockout.
It was one of those games that intermittently sours me on Craig Hartsburg. I've both liked and disliked him at various points this year but I'm starting to tilt one way over the other.
I'm not one of those guys who blames every loss on poor player effort. I believe that it's built into an NHL player's DNA to compete. That's what got them to the NHL in the first place.
But it's up to a coach to harness those players and build a system that will allow his team to succeed and I'm not convinced that Hartsburg's style is really bringing out the best in this group.
This team can't score, yet it was the second highest scoring team in the NHL last season. Losing Wade Redden and Andrej Meszaros probably has a lot to do with it but the Big 3 should still have more points than they do and that, to me, reflects more on coaching than it does on players "effort".
Something is not right here. Hartsburg is looking desperate and illogical by first scratching Jason Smith, one of the guys who plays the shutdown system the most effectively and then sitting Dean McAmmond last night in what can only be seen as a coach just trying to embarrass a veteran player.
The speedy McAmmond was taken out for Christoph Schubert of all people. It's a bush league move on the part of Hartsburg and I am starting to suspect that he will never win over this room.
That will come as a shock to a lot of fans who think the role of a coach should only be that of a perpetually angry punisher who's sole purpose is to question the manhood of all those rich and spoiled hockey players. Who cares if that style was last seen in the 1980's?
I don't feel that I've been overly critical of Hartsburg this year and I do think that this team needs a coach that makes players more "accountable". I'm all for that.
But what Hartsburg seems to be doing is forcing a defensive system that this team is not really built for. The best chance for the Senators to have success right now is to open up the offense and just pray that Brian Elliott and Alex Auld can hold the fort.
Instead we get another low scoring snoozefest and a coach who has hit rock bottom by trying to embarrass his veteran leadership group.
If this keeps up, Hartsburg will be gone and he'll have to take at least some of the blame even though the fans and the media will predictably make him out to be a martyr.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
A late game in St. Louis doesn't leave us much time to go through it all but a few players really stood out in what was a morale boosting road win against the tenacious Blues.
The obvious two are Brian Elliott and Mike Fisher, both of whom were the best players on the ice for either team. Fisher played over 20 minutes and had 7 shots on goal to go along with his +2 rating and 2 goals.
Elliott was near perfect and was making huge stops late in the 2nd and 3rd periods and seems to have gotten over his earlier jitters which were causing him to give out some ugly rebounds. The puck was hitting him in the chest all night and you just got the feeling watching him that there weren't going to be any soft goals. It's hard to describe a goalie as "intense" because they stand around in one area all night with a mask covering their faces but Elliott just seemed so much more focused and aggressive tonight than he was against the Devils earlier in the week.
Other standouts were Dany Heatley who had 5 shots and Jason Smith, who drew back into the lineup in place of Alex Picard.
As I said in an earlier post, I've been disappointed in Picard all year and was wondering when he was going to be pulled out of the lineup. Then I seemed to be the only one who thought he had a pretty good game against the Devils while most columnists were pointing him out specifically for his soft play that night. So he finally gets yanked and the Senators didn't seem to miss him all that much.
Smith just played his usual gritty but understated game and Hartsburg would be foolish to take him out of the lineup going forward here. This is a guy you need on the ice every night.
And of course, rookie Peter Regin scored the game winner in stunning fashion late in the 3rd period and he keeps getting more interesting to watch every game. When Shean Donovan comes back from his injury, Jesse Winchester could be the next guy to sit if the Senators decide they want to keep Regin around for the foreseeable future. I think he merits at least another week or two to see what else he can do.
Tomorrow night will be a tough one in Columbus but there is some hope for Ottawa because the Jackets are plagued with injuries right now. Alex Auld is scheduled to start and it would be a perfect time for him to step up with a big game and take some pressure off the rookie Elliott.
The worst sports talk show in Ottawa radio history continued unabated today when Glenn Kulka, host of Over The Edge, teed off on Eugene Melnyk and his “controversial” remarks concerning “blowing up” the Senators.
First off, if you are offended by Melnyk’s “bomb” remarks, then you are way too sensitive and politically correct by a mile. How do you function day to day when such a tepid, everyday common remark offends your sense of moral conduct?
Everyone knows that Melnyk didn’t literally mean for fans to “blow themselves up”. If you do think that, then you are a cretin.
And if that phrase is so toxic, then why don’t we start getting up in arms when broadcasters use the exact same term (which they do almost nightly)?
In fact, Melnyk was merely responding to a question by a reporter who used that exact same phrase!!!!!! Maybe we should fire the reporter as well?
You hear all the time about bad teams having to “blow themselves up” in order to rebuild. Where’s the sense of outrage when journalists say that?
The reason no one gets angry about it is because the majority of us have functioning brains and can tell that it is just a harmless turn of phrase.
Yet, there was Glenn Kulka going off the rails with feigned disgust at Melnyk’s words.
But what’s the real story here?
Could it be that Kulka, perhaps the most vocal member of the local media in support of Jeff Hunt’s bid to bring back a CFL franchise, is just expressing sour grapes towards Melnyk who is trying to bring in a soccer franchise, widely seen as being the biggest obstacle to Hunt’s CFL bid?
I do not pretend to have insight into Kulka’s thought processes but this is Psychology 101 stuff. His invective was so sharp against Melnyk that if you just arrived on earth and listened to him tear apart the Senators owner, you’d be ready to take up arms and drive Melnyk out of Ottawa as some kind of scourge.
Oh sorry. Have I offended anyone by saying “take up arms”?
So if we can no longer use the phrase “blow up” because the country is at war, can we use the word “gun”, or even the very word “war”? Can we call a hockey game a “battle” or is that being disrespectful? Maybe we should not even have hockey anymore until the war is over.
That way we can be sure not to offend sensitive and politically correct souls like Glenn Kulka’s and Team 1200 callers like "Sleepy Jeff".
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
A big nod goes out to SensChirp for bringing this insane video to our attention.
Ray Emery tries to get at some fat Russian dude who is obviously trying to goad him into reacting. And he gets a reaction... a big one.
There is no context to this video and no explanation. But it will probably start making the media rounds any hour now.
See if you can figure out what is going on here.
Man, I miss Rayzer being a Senator...
Eugene Melnyk was quoted widely in the press today as saying that the Senators are "at a crossroads".
Nothing earth shattering about that. But what is strange is that different news outlets are spinning his words in both positive and negative ways.
The Ottawa Citizen, in a small piece written by James Gordon (who also writes the Hockey Capital blog) interprets Melnyk's statement as one that doesn't give a vote of confidence to Bryan Murray and Craig Hartsburg.
In this context, Melnyk's words are somewhat ominous:
"Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk hinted Wednesday that jobs will be on the line if his team doesn’t start winning down the stretch.
Asked if he would give a vote of confidence to general manager Bryan Murray and head coach Craig Hartsburg in Ottawa Wednesday, Melnyk instead voiced his expectations.
“As far as I‘m concerned, right now, we are at a crossroads,” he said. “This is it. We have to win 26-27 games (to make the postseason) and it’s got to be done, and if it’s not done, well, we’ll have to deal with it."
That makes it sound like Geno is issuing an ultimatum for Murray and Hartsburg.
Then you go over to TSN.ca and that same statement is conveyed in a much more positive way.
"This has not been the season we had all hoped to have," Melnyk stated. "We had great high expectations but it's not over 'til it's over.
"I still continue to believe in our players, our organization and our staff. You can mark my words - things are going to get better."
Melnyk said he would continue to leave hockey decisions in the hands of the hockey people as the Senators continue to pursue a winning formula - unless the losing continues.
"As far as I'm concerned right now we are at a crossroads," Melnyk said. "This is it. We have to win 26-27 games. It's got to be done and if it's not done, well, we will have to deal with it."
Put in this context, Melnyk seems to be giving at least a slight vote of confidence to his staff and his players and that last sentence doesn't seem so threatening.
I think that what both TSN and the Citizen make clear is that Melnyk won't hesitate to make changes if the dismal performances continue, but the Citizen article seems to imply that changes could be just around the corner, rather than later.
So which one is right?
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
It's strange how things work out sometimes.
I was all ready to go on a rant about Craig Hartsburg's decision to sit grizzled vet Jason Smith and not youngster Alex Picard. Then, Picard, whom I've been picking on all year, goes out and plays one of the best games I've seen him have all season. He scored a one-timer goal off a great feed from Daniel Alfredsson that had both me and broadcaster Gary Galley fooled. With that huge windup and rocket shot, I was convinced that All -Star Dany Heatley had just cranked in another one.
Picard was also decisive with the puck, both in his own zone and breaking out of it and looked good on the power play. It would have been hard to write the preceding sentence during any stretch of the season so far but maybe Picard really does have an upside that I've ignored.
That being said, I still think it was a bad move to make Jason Smith a healthy scratch. I'm not sure what good it does to sit a warrior like Smith who is also supposed to be a part of your leadership group. But who else was Hartsburg supposed to sit? Brendan Bell was coming off a game where he had scored the game-winner against Washington and sitting him against New Jersey might have also sent the wrong message to the guys in the room.
Now that the Jersey game is over and the Senators prepare to hit the road again, I hope Hartsburg comes to his senses and puts Smith back in the lineup where he belongs. Bell has the ability to step in and provide some spark but I don't think you need to do it at the expense of a proud and effective veteran.
Along with Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov, Smith provides the defensive balance on this team and having him in the lineup still leaves room for 3 of your more offensive defenseman. Yet Hartsburg was quoted after the morning skate as saying that he had too many "defensive guys" on the back end. I think the problem is the other way around. He doesn't have enough offense back there so he's trying to compensate by shifting the balance with quantity over quality.
If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll know that I've been a little peeved at the Senators decision to drop their traditional pre-opening faceoff song and replace it with some modern canned FM rock crap that is as utterly forgettable as it is annoying.
Well, now there are others raising their voice about this issue. And one individual has taken it upon himself to start a Facebook page and a petition devoted to bringing the song back.
In case you're unaware of what song we're talking about, this is it:
Yes it's overly dramatic and a little corny, but it has been there since the first year of the franchise until the geniuses from the in-rink entertainment division decided that Sens fans don't care about tradition and that they should be subjected to just a few more minutes of Nickelback inspired droning that is also played incessantly every whistle of the game.
That corny old theme song was one of the things that let you know you were in the Senators rink, and not in Nashville or Florida or Carolina.
It's too bad that the organization is allergic to all things traditional which includes changing the uniforms and the logo whenever they get a chance.
You can help change this by signing the petition or just email the in-rink entertainment guy yourself: firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Jersey coach Brent Sutter has a funny habit of tugging on his left ear during the game. It kind of looks like he's talking on a cell phone, ordering a pizza or something. Remember when Wade Redden used to blink over and over again before every faceoff? Not that this has anything to do with anything, but you have to talk about something....... I finally broke down and watched "Slapshot 2: Breaking The Ice" tonight. I'm fully aware that a part 3 has recently come out but I had been putting off part 2 for about 6 or 7 years now. And yes, it was as bad as I expected. The only time I smiled was when Stephen Baldwin got punched in the face by his female coach (who he was sexually assaulting outside of a bar in a scene intended to be funny). The film would have been satisfying if it ended right there along with Baldwin's acting career.......
Brendan Shanahan looked a lot like Mark Messier on his third period goal. Just like the Moose, Shanny came in on the off wing and released a laser-like wrist shot that seemed to come a second earlier than Brian Elliott expected. The only difference is that Messier would shoot on his off-foot as well which would really throw the goalies off. Shanahan just overpowers guys ........ Elliott was good tonight despite letting in 4 goals. He also showed that flashy glove hand a few times.
The winter of 2008 - 2009 will be a season to forget in Ottawa. The Senators are terrible, the bus drivers are on strike and now we get word that the Chalk River Nuclear Facility just west of town accidentally released a "significant amount of radiation" into the atmosphere back in December. They are also leaking gallons of radiated waste water straight into the Ottawa river every day now because they don't have the time to repair it.
Seriously, what is that? A f**king nuclear leak? Are you kidding me dude?
This town is straight up f**ked right now.
Have a good day, eh.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray has to get Chris Neil under contract for next season and the longer he lets this situation go unfixed, the more Neil is likely to decide to see what kind of offers he receives this summer.
This would be a big mistake by Murray. Teams are going to be all over Neil if he hits unrestricted free agency and a modest bidding war is bound to take place.
Neil is a rare commodity in the NHL. A guy who can fight, play the game well and be a core piece of your leadership group while still in his prime at 30 years old is something that virtually every team is looking for. And he has proven that if he doesn’t have to be the heavyweight enforcer of the team, he can actually put up respectable numbers like he did in 2006 and 2007 with 16 and 12 goals respectively.
His goals plunged to only 6 last season as he was beset by injuries and was used sparingly by ex-coach John Paddock. This year Neil is spending most of his time fighting because Bryan Murray neglected to replace Brian McGrattan with a true heavyweight. That leaves Neil to take on the larger enforcers of the Eastern Conference and he has been a busy boxer.
People keep saying that there’s no need for enforcers anymore but Neil is getting into a huge scrap almost every night and fighting is actually on the increase around the league. Like it or not, fighting is still a huge part of the game and Neil is, “pound for pound”, one of the toughest in the league as Georges Laraque said earlier this season.
If you could pick one player on the Senators who has consistently succeeded at his job night after night, it would have to be Chris Neil. In a lot of ways, he is the heart of the team and the only one to consistently stick up for his teammates, this year and in seasons past.
Also, wouldn't it be nice if this team could have more than just Alfie to boast about playing their whole career in one city? Great teams with tradition like the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings seem to find a way to keep players in town for the duration and Ottawa has a chance to do just that with a handful of its current players.
Chris Phillips has already played 743 games for the Senators but is still a ways back of Wade Redden who is second all-time with 838 games. Mike Fisher just recently passed the 500 mark and Neil is right behind him with 488.
These players would all be willing to stay long-term (in a small, frigid and highly taxed Canadian city no less) and other teams would be lucky to be in the same position. Fans seem to have a bad case of ADD, wanting change just for change's sake but building tradition and loyalty takes a while to cultivate. Having a core of players stay in town for a long time certainly helps accelerate that process (it would also be nice if the Senators just chose a logo and a sweater and stuck with it for more than 5 years).
I’m not saying Murray should break the bank but Neil will probably accept something in the 2 – 2.25 million range to stay with the only team he’s ever known and with his best buddy Fisher.
Why take a chance on losing a valuable commodity like Neil? There is not a lot of skill in the minors so this team will have to grind it out for the next few seasons and who better to have on your side than one of the most physical players in the league?
Get it done, Bryan.
Speaking of unrestricted free-agents, what are the chances of both Filip Kuba and Dean McAmmond returning to the Senators next season?
Murray will have to think twice about re-signing Kuba at his current salary (3 million) and there’s no doubt Kuba will be expecting a healthy raise after putting up some significant numbers so far.
It’s a bit of a lose-lose situation for Murray because if he loses Kuba, he’s really got a hole to fill on defense and we all saw what happened when Kuba missed the entire disastrous road trip over Christmas.
Yet “Kubes” is probably not dynamic enough with the puck to warrant a big raise on his current contract. You’d like to think you could get a better power-play quarterback with that money but there’s no guarantees in free-agency.
We all saw what happened with Brian Campbell last summer. Murray pinned his hopes on Campbell and struck out badly. Then he lost Andrej Meszaros to an alleged "offer sheet" that never existed (and never could have because Tampa did not own all its picks needed for compensation to Ottawa) and voila – you have a lower echelon defense in a matter of months.
Losing Kuba for nothing in the summer would only exacerbate the situation so look for Murray to move him at the deadline to the highest bidder.
Kuba should be able to bring in a valuable prospect or a young established player in such a deal. He’s the perfect deadline pick-up for a team looking for stability. See Larry Murphy getting traded to Detroit in 97 as a good example of that. Kuba can be that type of difference maker in the short-term but as your stand alone number one defenseman he is definitely not the answer.
McAmmond has been a good player for the Senators but they are going to make room for some younger players like Zack Smith, Peter Regin and Ilya Zubov going forward. McAmmond would also be attractive for a lot of teams at the deadline but would probably only bring in a pittance compared to Kuba.
A lot of people will probably begin speculating about Jason Smith getting traded but I got a hunch that Murray will hang on to the veteran (who has 1 year remaining on his contract), not only because he's a proven leader (and you need leaders as much as young players in a situation the Senators find themselves) but because Murray will be loading up to make the playoffs next year and Smith is a guy built for the post-season.
In fact, you can probably already pencil in Smith, Anton Volchenkov, Chris Phillips and Brian Lee for next year. If some good puck movers can be found, I'd guess that would put players such as Alex Picard, Christoph Schubert and Brendan Bell under the gun.
Those roster spots can be much better used.
Why would anyone do Ottawa a favour and take Martin Gerber off of their hands when 29 other teams already passed on Dany Sabourin just a week ago?
Everybody is talking about the Flames but Mike Keenan would eat Gerber alive, which would be much nicer than what he did to some of his past goalies. The afternoon drive show on the Team 1200 was all abuzz with the rumours and were doing a bit of revisionist history, claiming that Gerber would be a fantastic back-up goalie.
He wasn't a good one here.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Unbelievably, the Senators have just racked up 7 of a possible 8 points going into the All-Star break.
And tonight three new heroes happened to step up in Brian Elliott, Brendan Bell and Dany Heatley after the likes of Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher and Dean McAmmond took turns the previous three games.
A lot of people got their backs up after last Wednesday's Atlanta game when TSN's Pierre McGuire criticised Elliott's rebound control. Tonight, McGuire mentioned it again but ended up giving Elliott the "Monster" of the night award which should prove he's not just picking on the rookie.
And Elliott deserved all the accolades. Without him, the Caps would have won this game in the second period when they outshot the Senators 19 - 3. Elliott stopped 17 of those shots which turned out to be just enough for Bell to clinch it with a power-play goal in the last two minutes.
Craig Hartsburg made a smart decision to move Christoph Schubert back up to forward to allow Bell back into the lineup. Schubert is more effective as a hard hitting forward than an indecisive and mediocre defenseman and Bell is really good at stepping up into the play (although he's risky in his own end).
Not to bring up Martin Gerber again in a negative fashion (he's taken enough hits), but that major roster move seems to have sparked this team. I'm not going to say a "curse" was lifted but a fresh face in Elliott with little to no baggage in that locker room seems to have been part of the short-term cure.
This mini-streak will probably not amount to much as far as the post-season goes but it does give the fans a little hope and the players some life which will probably make the rest of the year much easier to watch.
Those Corona's on a sunny beach somewhere will taste pretty good for the players deciding to take full advantage of a much needed break.
Outside of Heatley and Elliott, Jarkko Ruutu was the Senators most effective player in the first period. He goaded Mike Green into a roughing penalty and blocked a shot when the Senators couldn't get the puck out of the zone late in the first. He even made a beauty move around a Caps defenseman but his backhander at Jose Theodore didn't have much juice on it.
This guy is all entertainment.
Who in the history of the Senators would have the kind of mind to wear a long blonde wig , sparklers on his skates and bring out the classic puck on a string routine at a Sens Skill competition?
The only other guy who comes to mind is Andre Roy.
Back in 2002, there was a photo-op during a Sens practice for the players who had been selected to the Olympics in their respective national team jerseys. Then out skates a smiling Roy with a makeshift U.S.A. sweater that has strips of hockey tape crudely spelling out the letters on the front. I think he even made it into a group photo with the all the Olympic guys. The good old days...
Blast From The Past
Going through some old clippings I came across this piece written by Bruce Garrioch concerning a major incident back on February 1, 2000 between Joe Murphy and the rest of his Boston teammates and coaches during a game at the Corel Centre here in Ottawa that ended in a 4-4 tie.
"Sources say during a first-period Boston power play, Murphy told (coach Pat) Burns "put me out there, I'll score."
After (Marty) McSorley and Burns told Murphy to "bleep off," the 32-year old winger never played another shift.
The argument continued in the dressing room after the first period.
Burns told the players he wasn't going to put up with "this (crap)" and Murphy went face-to-face in an argument with (teammate Ken) Baumgartner.
Murphy packed up his equipment when the team went on the ice and left the building."
Garrioch also relates the time in Chicago when coach Mike Keenan tapped the then Blackhawk Murphy on the shoulder to send him out for a shift and Murph replied "Joe, Joe's tired."
I seem to remember that Keenan was involved in a bit of a spat with Pavel Bure when the Canucks were in town in the late 90's. If I remember correctly, Bure told Keenan to f@!k off on the bench but if someone remembers that incident, maybe you could correct me in the comments section.
For a building that's only about 13 years old, the Palladium - Corel Centre - Scotiabank Place has seen it's share of drama, both on and off the ice with some utterly strange incidents (and Ray Emery was only involved in about half of them!)
Monday, January 19, 2009
With news that Claude Lemieux is making an unheard of comeback with the San Jose Sharks after 5 years on the sidelines, it behooves us to celebrate the legendary "rats" that have made the game so much fun over the years.
We all love the goal scorers, the lightning quick goalies, the rugged hard hitting defenseman and the heavyweight enforcers. But sometimes you need that layer of dirt and scum to make things a little more interesting
They're the Russ Meyers' and the John Waters' of the NHL. And here's a few of the best all-time doing their thing.
Here's Lemieux, sitting on the bench, getting in a few cheap shots on Eric's brother Brett Lindros. Watch him take a look around to see if the refs are looking before plowing his fist into Brett's face.
Dave "Tiger" Williams VS Ken "The Rat" Linseman
In this clip, Williams just cold cocks Linseman in the face. The rest of the NHL probably cheered. Watch closely for a Gary Galley appearance.
Ken "The Rat" Linseman Hat Trick.
Before Scott Mellanby killed a rat in the Florida dressing and then went out and scored two goals (dubbed the "Rat Trick"), Ken Linseman invented his own brand of hat trick. After they show a decent hit on Pat Verbeek, watch Linseman slash one NJ Devil in the ankle, viciously spear another one in the groin and then literally slap him in the face before he skates away. This is a perfect example of what Linseman was all about. Pure unadulterated shit-disturbing.
You know him well by now in Ottawa. This guy will go down as one of the most famous agitators of all time. The very meaning of "gong show". But you gotta love him.
The master of the complex language forever known as "Tikkanese", Esa was a huge part of several Oiler Stanley Cup wins in the 80's and joined his buddy Mark Messier in New York for an encore in 1994. This clip is hilarious. The Montreal players just can't help themselves as they get worked up into a fury by Esa's constant yapping. This was Tikkanen at his best. Not necessarily taking physical cheap shots but just using his mouth to get opponents off their game.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
You have to feel for these Ottawa Senators.
They played with heart and gusto but were ultimately let down by their anemic fans and some uneven goaltending by rookie Brian Elliott.
Not that Elliott played an overall bad game, but he simply had to have two of those regulation goals back and he didn't look good in the shootout where the Senators had no chance (and you could sense that going in).
Regardless, Elliott is a work in progress and he made some really good saves as well, especially with a lightning quick glove hand that the fans haven't seen in these parts since Dominik Hasek. For now, fans will just have to be patient while he learns on the job.
And speaking of the fans, what a brutal display that was by the Senators faithful last night. The captain was booed and Jason Spezza was hissed at (probably by a few Sens fans as well) and there was only one or two pathetic Go Sens Go chants against the constant onslaught of Habs cheering.
Obviously the red and black fans were outnumbered by the red and blue (as Blood Red Army points out) but that's because Sens fans didn't bother to buy tickets to last night's game, something that is always going to be a problem because of the low season-ticket base here in town. Due to the high volume of game-day stubs on sale, any other city's fans can invade Ottawa's arena at will.
That's what happened last night. Not to belabour the point but why is it that Ottawa has the weakest set of fans compared to the other 5 Canadian franchises? I would even put 4 or 5 American NHL markets ahead of sleepy Ottawa when it comes to fan support. The Senators have been in town since 1992 but all Ottawa fans can agree on is that skill players are always the cause of the team's troubles, since the days of Yashin and Daigle on into Spezza and Heatley.
It's not just the numbers of butts in the seats in Ottawa, it's the hockey IQ as well. Just listen to the Team 1200's Over The Edge radio show if you want to expose the mindset of the typical Ottawa fan. Habs fans might be obnoxious but they have the brains not to constantly run their best players out of town.
It was amusing to catch Brian Lee on camera in the penalty box with under a minute remaining in the tie game. It was easy to read his lips as he stared up at the time clock. He was saying over and over again "Come on boys. Come on boys." Lucky for him, the Senators easily killed off the penalty. Lee basically saved the point for the Senators as the Montreal player was in alone on Elliott and Lee was forced to deliver the hook. That's called a "good penalty" and teams seem more eager to kill those off than the lazy ones. ....... If Tampa is ready to unload some big money players, there should be a lot of takers for Martin St. Louis. He will make a very affordable 4 million over the next two years while still being an electrifying player. Ottawa has bigger problems to fix on defense right now but St. Louis would look pretty good in red and black for the next two seasons. Strangely enough, St. Louis tried out for the Senators in 1997 but was deemed too small for the NHL and cut by then GM Pierre Gauthier and coach Jacques Martin. But that was when you needed to be a linebacker to play in the clutch and grab league. ...... Not sure why Craig Hartsburg has Alex Picard on the first power play unit instead of Brian Lee. Picard doesn't have much poise or a shot to be there on a consistent basis. But obviously Hartsburg sees something in Picard. I wonder what it could be.......
The Penguins absolutely stole Mathieu Garon from the Oilers this weekend. Unbelievably, Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe have decided to place their season in the hands of Dwayne Roloson. What the hell are the Oilers going to do next year with no number one goalie? No one seems to be confident in Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers being able to take the next step but that sort of uncertainty has never stopped the Oilers from making boneheaded moves in the past...... Mike Fisher, Jason Spezza, Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov all received votes in the list of the Globe and Mail's "First Half All-Disappointment Team". Hard to believe Antoine Vermette didn't make that list....... Islanders GM Garth Snow is taking a lot of heat for losing Wade Dubliewicz on waivers to Columbus just one day after trying to bring him back from Europe.
"It had been reported that Dubielewicz had garnered the interests of as many as three NHL teams. To a smart GM, that means it is time to back off. There is no chance that if you sign Dubielewicz you could get him through waivers. One of the other teams would claim him. Garth Snow is not one of those smart GMs. He didn’t see the warning signs. "
Don't miss Ian Mendes recent column at Sportsnet where Bryan Murray puts the brakes on speculation that Spezza is about to be traded.
"He's a good player on this hockey club. I don't know how you acquire another guy like this if you trade him away," continued Murray. "My intent is not to do that. I think the core here is a good core. We just have to help them a little bit in a couple areas."
Thursday, January 15, 2009
As was rumoured, Bryan Murray sent Martin Gerber down to Bingo Thursday on a "conditioning stint" which means that Gerbs doesn't have to go on waivers for two weeks.
Barring an injury during that time, Gerber has likely played his last game as a Senator.
And what a wild 3 years it was with the Swiss netminder.
During one lengthy stretch last season, Gerber was the most popular player on the Ottawa Senators.
The fans were in such a self-righteous uproar over Ray Emery that they started getting behind Gerber in a way that only Daniel Alfredsson has enjoyed in the past.
The thinking was if Emery was so bad and unprofessional, then Gerber must be the exact opposite.
Then the baloney started.
For the past two years, all we have heard is how great a guy Gerber is. How professional he is. He might not be able to stop a puck but boy, is he a "great person" (let's forget about the fact that he demanded a trade before last year and wore a black mask with no Sens logo because of that).
And they're right of course. Gerber is a good guy. A real professional.
But so is everyone else on the Senators.
Why did Gerber get accolades for just being a normal NHL player doing the same routine that everyone else did? He showed up to practices and worked hard. So did the majority of players on the Senators. And the majority of players in the NHL.
Why was Gerber so much more "professional" than the others? Because Emery was immature? What does that have to do with Gerber?
His status as the exalted professional actually masked his horrific goaltending for the better part of two seasons until the fans finally abandoned him early this year when not even the most well-crafted Ottawa Citizen propaganda could prop up Gerbs any longer.
I'm not trying to dance on his grave but let's get real.
Working hard in practice and not complaining to the media is not a Martin Gerber invention. That code is practiced by 99 percent of NHL players. He should be judged on his goaltending and that verdict is not a positive one.
The team is better without him on the roster and that's that. I'm not going to get teary eyed because the great professional lost his job.
Judging by the reader comments from my previous post, people are getting way too bent out of shape by Pierre McGuire's minor criticisms of Brian Elliott.
All McGuire said is that Elliott needs some work on his rebound control, something that is completely normal for an NHL rookie. He wasn't saying that Elliott had a fatal flaw. All young goalies have to work at their craft and Elliott will be no exception.
People may not like McGuire's hyper personality but you cannot question his hockey credentials. You'd be hard pressed to find any other member of the hockey media who is as knowledgeable and sought after for his opinions.
When McGuire says something, it's worth taking seriously.
Elliott will be fine. There's no sense in getting all riled up because of a false assumption that Elliott is going to start his career as a perfect goalie. McGuire just told it like it is.
Not surprisingly, Bryan Murray is already musing about World Junior standout Erik Karlsson being on the Senators roster next season.
"He's better than a longshot," Murray said. "He's not big enough to push around NHL players and defend properly, but he's so good with the puck that he can help the team."
At least that quote shows that Murray is serious about finding a puck mover for his blueline.
A good balance for next season would be the typical three and three - 3 puck movers and 3 physical stay at home types.
Ottawa already has 3 of the latter in Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov and Jason Smith who should all be retained going forward.
Brian Lee is taking good steps towards solidifying his presence on this roster for next year but that still leaves two openings for an offensive type.
Filip Kuba is as good as gone, either at the trade deadline or as an unrestricted free agent this summer. I still don't know what to think of Alexandre Picard. He's been marginally better as of late but he doesn't really leave you thinking that he has great potential for the future. I'd love to be wrong.
So in my mind, there's still two big holes to fill on that blueline. Can Karlsson be the guy to fill one of them?
That's why they pay Murray the big bucks. To see into the future.
Too bad he was wearing shades this past summer.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Is it possible?
I'm not talking about the Ottawa Senators making the playoffs...yet.
I'm talking about the Senators beating Montreal at home on Saturday night.
If they could somehow find a way to win that game, then maybe you have something. Maybe a glimmer of hope.
Maybe some renewed confidence and a chance to surprise some teams such as Washington who will drag their tired bones into Ottawa next Wednesday after playing the Islanders the day before.
Maybe Ottawa even finds a way to beat those same Caps, bringing them to the All-Star break on an 8 point streak....
Anyways, back to reality.
The Senators have now won two games in a row over two struggling teams and that's a start. If anything, the positive vibes are fortifying for the soul right now.
Jason Spezza is back and so is Dean McAmmond. Chris Phillips has his "Big Rig" strut back and Antoine Vermette is winning faceoffs like his very existence depended on it. And that goal by Alfie? Vintage.
I don't know if it's because they hit rock bottom so hard that all the pressure is suddenly off or if Craig Hartsburg has suddenly found his voice in that locker room. But something is different.
Brian Elliott has somehow provided a spark for this team but he looked like a bit of a mess tonight. Starting back to back games is tough for a rookie and Elliott was deep in his net and giving out rebounds that rivalled the great king Martin Gerber. The important thing is that he got the win but, as Pierre McGuire pointed out on TSN, he's going to need some major work on fundamentals with goalie coach Eli Wilson.
But that's fine. Ottawa has Alex Auld and he's probably due for a good stretch of games here and that will allow Elliott to feel his way into the league. Elliott seems to have a knack for making the big save at the right time just out of pure athletic ability and as long as you have that, fundamentals can be taught along the way. Remember, Ray Emery was similarly rough around the edges but managed to get technically better as he went along, all the way to the Cup final.
Now if we could just convince the Senators music/sound guy to play the E.T. quote "Elliott" after every big save (as my friend suggested), we might just have a fan favourite on our hands here.
Sure would like to know what Jesse Winchester and Colby Armstrong were talking about after giving each other a few spirited shoves late in the first period. Someone must have told a good joke because they both cracked up laughing. Maybe it was something like this:
Armstrong has always been known as a bit of a ham, not to mention Sidney Crosby's best friend when the two were teammates in Pittsburgh. I wouldn't be surprised to see Ray Shero make a pitch to get Armstrong back in the fold after dealing him in the Marian Hossa trade last season. That might put Sid The Kid in a better mood. He's been crabby as hell all season ......... Georges Laraque had been doing a great, very readable blog on Sportsnet this season until the Habs brass told him to shut it down. Laraques does a good job explaining the Habs decision but it still seems too harsh and narrow-minded in an age where access to players has improved dramatically across the league. Ten years ago, interviewing players in the middle of the game on the bench would have been unthinkable - old school coaches would have been choke slamming journalists left, right and centre. Now the media can follow players to just about anywhere, short of the crapper. Laraque's final blog is well worth the read. He tells a great Mark Messier story (and also claims the Moose is his all-time favourite player, something me and Laraque share in common) and says that, "pound for pound", Chris Neil is one of the toughest players in the league. Smart guy, that Georges.
Speaking of jokes, veteran referee Dan Marouelli had Daniel Alfredsson laughing just prior to the opening faceoff and in the second period, Pierre McGuire informed the TSN viewing audience that Atlanta behemoth Boris Valabik told the Ottawa bench that he would "slash the lips off" of the next Senator who said anything. Memo to Boris: Jarkko Ruutu can still bite without his lips........ I have to agree with Don Brennan who recently wondered why Brendan Bell has been taken out of the lineup in favour of Christoph Schubert. Bell looked impressive recently, jumping deep into the offensive zone trying to create offense. Schubert might be a tad better in his own zone but right now, Hartsburg should be thinking offense.........I'll make a bold prediction here: Brendan Bell will one day find work in the local hockey media. He's a good interview and smarter than his meagre NHL experience indicates..... Chris Phillips was the "Monster of the Game" according to TSN's McGuire. But if you were a regular listener to Over The Edge on the Team 1200, you'd be convinced he's a piece of garbage, much like the rest of the players...... I keep saying it but Bryan Murray has got to get Chris Neil under contract for the next 3 or 4 years. If the Senators lose this guy, the lose their heart.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
It's way too early to tell if Ottawa will still be bad enough to qualify for the first or second overall draft pick this summer, but if they do, there's an interesting choice awaiting them.
If they somehow get the chance to draft either John Tavares or Victor Hedman, which way do you think they'll turn?
Tavares is the golden boy right now due to his dominating play at the World Juniors but that's just one tournament. Heading into it, it was actually Hedman who was beginning to look like the preferred choice of at least half the scouts if you believe what the press were saying at the time.
On Hedman's side is the belief that it's harder to find elite defenseman than it is to get an elite forward.
If the Senators somehow get the chance, I think they'd love to pick Hedman.
For one, he's already a buddy of Erik Karlsson, the Senators top pick from last summer and the two would be an incredible defense pairing for many years.
It's a long ways away, but if everything falls into place, the Senators could conceivably have a top-six defense core next season of:
That's not a bad setup. 3 mobile defenders and 3 stay at home guys.
It would be tough to roll into the season with 2 rookie defenseman but Hedman and Karlsson both seem destined for NHL stardom. Karlsson might also be too small to play next year, something that won't be a problem for Hedman.
On the other hand, how do you not draft a dynamic Canadian player like Tavares if you get the chance? There is no doubt that the fans would be disappointed if Bryan Murray picked Hedman over Tavares but those same fans were outraged when Karlsson was picked last year. I don't hear anyone complaining about Karlsson now that he won a batch of awards at the WJC's here in town.
My feeling is that when both Tavares and Hedman have been criticised in the past, it has been for very telling reasons. Hedman didn't play as well as expected in the WJC but there were whispers of an injury. That being said, he was praised for his leadership and was seen going around to every individual Swedish player after the gold medal game loss and shaking their hands, thanking them for playing so well. That's some promising leadership from an 18 year old.
Tavares on the other hand has been accused of just playing out the string in junior. There have been questions about where his head is at times - is it with his current junior team or is it already in the NHL? - after he and his agent tried to force his way into last year's draft despite being ineligible due to his age.
I am in no way questioning his character - likely it's just the result of an impatient agent - but I've never heard a bad word about Hedman. The guy is already living in his own apartment in Sweden doing his own cooking and laundry.
Besides, if you get the chance to draft the next Nicklas Lidstrom, how do you pass that up?
Brian Elliott played really well last night against the Rangers and Craig Hartsburg would be nuts not to give him another chance against Carolina on Tuesday.
What might be more telling however is that Martin Gerber somehow wasn't waived but only taken out of the lineup. Obviously, Murray is being overly cautious in case Elliott can't handle the pressure.
That seems a little too hard-headed. If you send Gerber down to Bingo, no one is going to claim him anyways. You could shuttle Gerber and Elliott between teams a million times before anyone even takes a sniff at Gerber. And even if he is claimed, who cares? That way you only have to pay half his salary for the rest of the season instead of his full one to sit on the bench or in the press box.
Gerber is truly the flu that just won't go away. At this rate, his jersey will be hanging in the rafters when he retires.
Murray was quoted yet again in the Ottawa Sun about what this team needs to be better.
"We know we're short a player on the blue line," said Murray. "I thought this was going to be a pretty good team. I knew that our depth had been poor, and that's something we're trying to address here, and it's obvious we're short one guy to score goals (up front). "
The thing that bothers me: How did he not know in the summer that his defense was not up to snuff? With the salary cap, trades during the season are almost unheard of. Everyone knows that you have to build your team in the summer now. Somehow, Murray thought it would be okay to gamble and that he'd fix it all up later. Now it's January and the season is all but over.
Basically, Murray went cheap on defense and goaltending and thought he could get away with it. Wrong.
Stop telling us what you need week after week and instead go out and get it.
Wade Redden was booed mercilessly every time he touched the puck last night. Can anyone tell me why? I am really starting to think that Senators fans are getting less classy by the year. I understand booing Yashin but Wade Redden? Did I miss something? Or is this town just filled with meatheads? ...... Big turnover aside last night, I think Brian Lee is really playing well right now. I was ready to give up on the youngster at one point but now I think he's going to be a big piece for the Senators going forward. That calmness he has is back and it reminds me of Redden in his better days. ....... How many lives does Craig Hartsburg have? I'm not completely convinced he needs to be fired but the results speak for themselves. He is getting virtually nothing out of this team. Regardless, Murray has already waited too long for a change to make the desired effect. If you keep Hartsburg for the rest of the year, you have a better chance at Tavares/Hedman. But you also risk your fans. Hockey under Hartsburg is not exactly exciting to watch. ...... Another risk if you fire Hartsburg is that the backlash against the players will be extreme to say the least. The media, the GM and the fans will all pile on the star players as always happens when a coach gets fired. It's a little like magic really. When the coach gets canned, all of a sudden it's not the coach's fault - it's the players. Here in Ottawa, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley will just fall short of getting shot if Hartsburg is fired. People are just waiting to pounce on these guys and they will once the inevitable happens. And Hartsy's reputation will actually be better than it deserves to be. That's Psychology 101.....
And finally, the out-of-town perspective courtesy of the Boston Globe:
"Watching the Senators disintegrate Thursday night at the Garden, couldn't help but think of how they resembled the disheveled Bruins of 2006-07 during Dave Lewis's brief turn at the wheel. The fix? The best attempt might be to swing a deal for Panthers blue liner Jay Bouwmeester in hopes that he could stabilize the back end and allow some of the skilled forwards to settle down and put the puck in the net. The Ottawa coverage around the defensive net was laughable, especially in one sequence when Phil Kessel got three cracks near the right post, even getting the time to swing in front for the third attempt."
Friday, January 9, 2009
Senators GM Bryan Murray made a somewhat bold move by calling up Bingo goalie Brian Elliott today and coach Craig Hartsburg has already indicated that he could play on Saturday night against the Rangers.
As of this writing, it was unclear whether another player has been put on waivers to make room for the roster addition.
A likely scenario, and one I fully endorse, would be that Murray puts Martin Gerber on waivers with the intention to send him down to Bingo.
This would solve a few problems:
Gerber's contract is up this summer and he is not going to be resigned, so there is no loyalty there.
His play is as bad as its ever been and there is no real reason to keep him on the roster other than to torture the fans who have had to put up with his legendarily disastrous "goaltending" which has plagued the Senators since John Muckler signed him (Talk about a bad summer. In 2006, Muckler let Zdeno Chara walk and signed Gerber. The rest is history).
There is a one in a million chance that Gerber gets picked up on waivers, either going down or coming back up. Even half of Gerber's salary, which is all another team would have to pay him on re-entry waivers, is still too large for what he provides.
If by miracle someone picks him, all the better for Ottawa.
The more likely scenario is that Gerber clears waivers and plays in Bingo until an injury or if Elliott gets lit up like a Christmas tree and his confidence starts to flutter.
Ray Emery was a guy who thrived in a situation similar to what Elliott is walking into right now and it's possible that Elliott could thrive as well. Getting some playing time this season is only going to help the young goalie for next year when he might have to be the number one by default.
Also, by getting Gerber off the books right now, there's some salary available which will make trade discussions a little easier on Murray's part.
Of course, this is all just speculation and Gerber might be here for the rest of the season. Or eternity. Who knows?
But something has to be done and if Murray won't pull the trigger on the coaching staff, the least he could do is finally put Gerber on the shelf, a place he should have been this past summer with a contract buyout.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Another late penalty - another road loss.
The old cliche remains true - bad teams find a way to lose and the Senators are finding ways not seen since 1996, the last year they were permanent fixtures in the basement.
A Matt Ellis goal just 15 seconds in to the first period told us all we needed to know about how this game would go. A 32 second spurt in the 2nd period when Jason Spezza scored twice was the only time this game was in doubt.
The road trip from hell isn't even over and the Senators season is already toast. Even a person like myself who was tending on the negative side of things couldn't foresee the trip being this bad.
On the positive side, Spezza played a great game and never seemed to give up. Brian Lee continues to impress with his puck-moving ability and his calmness, characteristics that were strangely absent during his first stint with the team this season.
Brendan Bell was flying out there tonight. I don't know if he was disobeying Craig Hartsburg's system by jumping into the play so much or if Hartsburg has loosened the reins, but Bell was a major threat out there, especially in the third period with the game on the line.
The other incident of note will no doubt be the Jarkko Ruutu bite on Sabre enforcer Andrew Peters. I thought at first that Ruutu had actually bitten off the guy's digit the way Peters reacted.
It's a suspension for sure but probably only 2 games or less. If anything, Ruutu has provided the bulk of the entertainment for the Senators thus far.
His free-agent signing is one thing that Bryan Murray can be congratulated on. It would have been nice to have Ruutu earlier in the decade when the Senators were losing four straight playoff series to the Leafs but.... better late than never.
It was interesting to hear Chris Neil say the other day that perhaps the team was too serious and that having a little more fun might improve the mood and eventually the results.
I tend to agree. The atmosphere around this team seems even more negative than it was last year and listening to sports radio shows is just an exercise in hearing fans wanting to "punish" the players ad nauseum.
The fans aren't having fun. The players aren't having fun. Only Ruutu is having fun because he's in his own solar system.
Maybe the guys need a pat on the back once in a while, not just from the fans but from the ultra-serious Hartsburg.
Who's going to want to play here in the future if the conditions are so hostile and negative that nice "aw shucks" guys like Spezza are treated like criminals by the media and fans?
It may seem strange but I'd wager that once the post-season is completely out of the picture, the team will actually play better because they'll be looser and not worried about making mistakes so much.
First it was Andrej Meszaros not missing a game after getting 64 stitches in his face.
Now...gasp!... another ex-Senator defenseman who apparently wasn't good enough to play in Ottawa is starting to round into form according to Larry Brooks.
"Coach Tom Renney was not a slave to matching against Sidney Crosby. Indeed, the head coach pretty much rolled his lines against the NHL's frustrated favorite son, but he did send the Wade Redden-Dan Girardi defense pair out against No. 87 as much as possible.
Redden was excellent; strong and composed. Indeed, No. 6's game has improved slowly but surely over the last 10 days. If he hasn't quite found it, he certainly doesn't appear lost anymore.
"So much of it for me is getting the mental part of my game in focus and getting into the intensity of the competition," Redden said. "Earlier I was guilty of expecting it to come, and waiting for it to come."
Weren't these guys supposed to be bums?
What will really grind the naysayers is that Redden is on his way to the playoffs for the 12th straight year (he's never missed the playoffs) and Meszaros is still on his iron-man streak (he's never missed a game to injury) while the Senators can't even make a pass out of their own zone, let alone get to the post-season.
Who knows? Maybe the currently injured Filip Kuba will re-join the Lightning and Meszaros when he leaves Ottawa as a free-agent with no compensation this summer.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Everyone's favourite punching bag in Ottawa until he was dealt to Tampa this summer, Andrej Meszaros is starting to make an impression on his teammates and his coaches by playing a game after getting 64 stitches in his face the night before. The gruesome injury happened on Saturday night when he took a slapshot directly in the face.
"Wearing a full-cage mask and on mild pain medication, Meszaros played 25:38 against the Thrashers, blocked a shot and was plus-1. It was his 285th consecutive game since the start of his four-year career.
"I wanted to help the team," Meszaros, 23, said. "I knew we had a couple of guys banged up. I said I wanted to play every game if it's possible. It's not like it's a broken arm or leg. You have to suck it up and go."
Meszaros received stitches outside and inside his top lip, in his gum line and on the roof of his mouth. Thanks to his mouth guard, Mulligan said, he lost zero teeth.
"He played really well," coach Rick Tocchet said. "Here's a 23-year-old kid who told me he wanted to play (Saturday) night. That's leadership to me. That's a big step for Mez on the leadership ladder."
- St. Petersburg Times
The Senators are missing this guy badly, though no one will admit it. Say what you will, the guy could move the puck and he could hit the net with a hard shot from the point. He's also tough as hell and hasn't missed a game to injury yet in his career! His contract is going to be a bargain once he turns 25 years old and becomes one of the most dependable D-men in the league.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Tsn insider Bob McKenzie told the viewing audience after the game tonight that a coaching change is most likely on the way and that Eugene Melnyk is said to be looking for someone with vast experience.
EDIT: There are different interpretations about what McKenzie said. He did not explicitly say that Hartsburg is getting fired but, to me anyways, McKenzie is not one to broadcast just any old rumour but when he does, there is probably something to it. Like all rumours, this should not be taken as gospel.
Cue the Pat Quinn rumours (if Pittsburgh doesn't hire him first after firing Michel Therrien). McKenzie also mentioned Bob Hartley who was also interviewed for the job last summer.
I don't have much time to comment on the loss to New Jersey but you can basically just refer to my column on the loss to the Leafs. ie: the Senators are playing their assess off but they just don't have the personnel to compete due to a primitive, AHL level defense core and terrible goaltending.
In short, this team is toast and it looks like Bryan Murray will try to save his job by axing Craig Hartsburg.
The strange thing is, Murray will be on the side of reason by firing Hartsburg no matter what kind of chaos it creates in the organization. Hartsburg is obviously not the right coach for this team though he hasn't yet reached John Paddock's level of ineffectiveness.
Unfortunately for Murray, he is the one who hired both Paddock and Hartsburg and thought it would be safe to let both of his remaining NHL-level offensive defenseman go at the same time.
My hunch is that Menlyk is still a Murray fan and may only decide to change out the coaching staff. It does sound strange to insinuate that an owner would make what is usually a hockey management decision but there is no way that Murray would can Hartsburg on his own. It's just too embarrasing.
Like I've said before, Hartsburg is subject to the same rules as all coaches in the NHL, whether he's new or not. You win or you're gone, regardless of the roster you're given to work with.
Fair or not, that's life in the NHL.
The season is starting to get long for some players.
And it showed last night.
First up it was Sidney Crosby just grabbing Brett McLean of Florida off the face-off and beating the tar out of him. I'm thinking that Crosby was imagining McLean was his job-endangered coach Michel Therrien but I guess we'll never know.
Then it was Wade Redden hammering Chris Clark of the Capitals (atta boy Redds!). At first it didn't look like Wade wanted to fight but he sure finished it off in a memorable way (the video is pretty grainy but good enough to get the idea). You might be reminded of the time Redds one-punched Buffalo Sabre Mike Grier to La La Land during a pre-season tilt many years ago.
The Best For Last
In the same game, Alexander Semin goes Kung Fu Monkey style (or plays a drum solo ala Animal of the Muppets) on Marc Staal. This video speaks for itself. Amazing.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
There's only one word to describe that loss for the Senators and that word is "heartbreaking".
If they win that game, they'd be bragging about two straight on the road and be only 3 points behind the Leafs with all sorts of optimism heading into New Jersey on Sunday.
It started out looking like it would be a big night for the Senators. They were hitting the Leafs ... no... they were crushing them into the boards in the first period and crashing the net like the goal hungry team they should be.
The big line was humming and Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson were really trying to win this one early.
The it went tits up.
Two 5 on 3's were unsuccessful and Martin Gerber let in a brutally soft goal late in the third period to Jason Blake (what a shocker).
That was enough.
With the loss, I think it might be safe to say that Ottawa is not going to storm back and make the playoffs.
Some will be calling for a massive rebuild but I think that's the wrong angle here. Ottawa has two young superstars in their prime and a captain who just signed a new contract to finish his career in town.
No, the massive rebuild has to take place on defence.
But will Bryan Murray get the chance to fix his mistakes that he made last summer?
When did Brian Lee suddenly become a real NHL player?
Lee was excellent tonight and I counted at least 3 great breakout passes to wingers on the fly through the neutral zone.
It's amazing that you end up noticing plays that are taken for granted by most NHL teams but a clean breakout pass on Ottawa is like a good Ben Affleck movie. They're few and far between.
Maybe Craig Hartsburg should get over his bizarre infatuation with the ineffective Alex Picard (who was absolutely brutal tonight, especially on the power play) and replace him with Lee on the first power-play unit.
Picard is a sorry replacement for Andre Meszaros and even when you count Filip Kuba in that trade, I still say it was a big mistake by Murray (as I pointed out at the time). Meszaros is going to be solid and skilled NHL player for years to come, long after Kuba leaves for free agency this summer (and he will) and when Picard is playing in the minors.
Trade Rumour One
Interesting bit on HNIC's Hotstove:
Ottawa was linked to Atlanta as the Thrashers are looking for some forward depth and have skilled D-man Mathieu Schneider playing third fiddle to Tobias Enstrom and Ron Hainsey.
Schneider would be a good fit for Ottawa in the short term as he's unrestricted this summer. He could be used as an asset to trade at the deadline, especially if Ottawa is far out of the playoff race by then. But you'd have to get more than Schneider if you were to trade Antoine Vermette, the likely bait here. I never thought I'd say this but Todd White would look good in an Ottawa uniform again.
He's signed for the next two seasons at around 2.5 million which is cheaper than Vermette but with much, much more production. White's salary is also ideal money for a second line centre in today's NHL. White had great chemistry with Daniel Alfredsson back in the day and if you can get him in the Ottawa lineup, you magically have a second line that can score.
Plus, Whitey's from Ottawa and was once a fan favourite here during the Jacques Martin years. You grab him and you stop worrying about that second line for at least two years.
Trade Rumour Two
Not to stir up anymore "Vermette to Florida" rumours but the Panthers are really shallow at centre right now and have taken to using Nathan Horton there as an emergency replacement.
"Stephen Weiss missed Friday's afternoon practice because of an apparent virus. DeBoer said he hopes Weiss will be able to play Saturday. If he doesn't, Nathan Horton goes back to center. Horton worked with David Booth and Richard Zednik on Friday. With Kamil Kreps (shoulder) injured and Shawn Matthias back in the minors, Florida is hurting for centers.
''We're going to have to [play Horton at center] because we don't have a lot of options with Kreps out,'' DeBoer said. ``With Weiss out, we'll have to use him in the middle.''