Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Senators Miss For First Time Since 96

With the uninspired loss tonight against the playoff hungry Panthers, the Senators are now officially eliminated from the post-season for the first time since 1996.

Just to bring you back to that era:

Jean Chretien was the Prime Minister Of Canada.

Jacques Martin was still rocking a moustache.

Patrick Roy had just been traded to Colorado.

Steve Yzerman's leadership abilities were being called into question.

Tiger Woods was just about to turn professional.

Wayne Gretzky was a St.Louis Blue.

Daniel Alfredsson was a rookie.

Wade Redden had yet to play a game for Ottawa.

Steve Duchesne was already the best defenseman in Senators history after only 62 games (with apologies to Norm Maciver)

Nick Foligno was 8 years old when the Stanley Cup was won by the Colorado Avalanche. His dad, Mike, had only been retired for two years.


Here's a prediction: If Ottawa fans didn't like Andrej Meszaros, they aren't going to like Chris Campoli. Their games are pretty similar but Campoli doesn't have the physical element that Meszaros brought to the table. Good luck, Chris, but the Ottawa faithful are going to eat you alive a year or two from now.....

Shaun Van Allen is a man of few words, an interesting characteristic for a TV color man, which Vanner has been doing off and on for Sportsnet during the Senators games with Dean Brown. But in a way, it's kind of refreshing, even if it takes Brown off his guard occasionally. There was a moment before the opening faceoff when Brown cued up Vanner but the ex-Senator took about 5 seconds to sum up what he wanted to say and the dead air clearly caught Brown by surprise. Some guys would take that opportunity to go on and on about the useless "Keys Of The Game" but Vanner is more like Hemingway - direct and blunt......

I know that Chris Kelly has been wearing 22 for a long time now, but I can't help but think of Van Allen whenever I see that number on a Senators jersey. I'm getting old I guess....

For the record, in my previous post I mentioned that the emergence of Nick Foligno and Ryan Shannon might convince Bryan Murray that he should be spending whatever money he has on his blueline, and I mentioned Jay Bouwmeester as a possibility.

I actually don't think that's a likely scenario but it won't just be a money issue. If Bouwmeester wants to sign with Ottawa, Murray will have no second thoughts about moving money around to accomodate him.

Players like Bouwmeester are rare and Murray would probably have no trouble parting with any combination of Chris Campoli, Mike Comrie, Chris Kelly, Alex Picard, Alex Auld or Jason Smith to make room.

That being said, I don't see Ottawa having a better chance than anyone else of signing Jay other than Florida......

The last time Ottawa switched coaches in mid-season (with someone who wasn't the GM at the time) was during the 95-96 season when Jacques Martin took over for Dave Allison (who took over for Rick Bowness just a month or two earlier).

Just like Cory Clouston, Martin instituted a whole new system and the team began to turn things around. It didn't get them into the playoffs in 96 but they made it the next year. Is history about to repeat itself next season?.........If there's a broken stick during play, Jarkko Ruutu is the guy you want to have on the ice. During a 5 minute span late in the second period, Anton Volchenkov broke his stick and Ruutu didn't hesitate for a second in handing over his lumber (both are left-handed shots). Then a few plays later, Ruutu broke his own stick but dove headfirst into the slot to take away a great scoring chance from a Florida forward. It's been a disappointing year for a lot of Senators but I think Ruutu has been great all season long......

Chris Neil passed Alexei Yashin on the all-time Senators games played list with his 505th contest tonight........Dude, I paid $384 dollars to a dentist today, for what amounted to 45 minutes of plain old cleaning. Is it me, or is the dental industry completely out of control? Someday soon, dentists will start buying NHL teams (see how I linked a petty personal complaint to hockey to make it perfectly relevant on a hockey blog....).......$384 dollars? Total madness I tell you. But that's still not as crazy as the premier episode of the Osbournes Reloaded that I casually witnessed tonight. Ozzy is now the host of a variety show in front of a live studio audience. I will call it now - this will go down as the worst show in the history of broadcast television - next to the NHL Awards of course (see kids, I tie it all in....)


A big salute goes out to Brian Kilrea, whose coaching career came to a stunning end tonight when the Ottawa 67's lost to the Niagara Ice Dogs in overtime of Game 7.

If I was brave enough, I'd post an Anne Murray song for you.

But I'm not that brave....

Monday, March 30, 2009

Foligno Key To Summer Plans

With the emergence of Nick Foligno as a legitimate scoring threat, Bryan Murray's job might have just gotten a lot easier over the summer.

If Murray can get Mike Comrie and Ryan Shannon under contract for a reasonable amount, the Senators clearly already have a proper second line that can score goals.

And that equates to money that can be spent elsewhere, such as a real power-play quarterback (Jay Bouwmeester anyone?).

One of the bonuses to Foligno's breakout season is that the young winger has also started to use his size when going to the net. At 6 feet and 192 pounds, Foligno isn't exactly a power-forward but he has the potential to be a good compliment to Mike Fisher – a guy who can score and run you over at the same time.

Murray has already mentioned that he wants more size in his forward ranks. Even though he will probably be unavailable, a player like Erik Cole would be the perfect fit for Ottawa. Given that there aren't too many players like that out there (no one wants to take on Dustin Penner's contract), Ottawa may have to look to a player like Foligno to grow into that role.

Under the salary cap, it's always cheaper and better to have a draft pick fill a vital need than to go out and shop for a player on the free market to do the same thing.

Strictly in that sense, Foligno might be the Senators most valuable player right now. He's signed for next year at only $ 785 000.

That's the right player at the right price if I've ever heard of one.


You know that scoring is still a problem in the NHL when it looks like there will only be one 50 goal scorer this year.

Given Alex Ovechkin's talent and drive to do anything to score, it looks rather bad on the league when all he can muster is 53 goals so far.

If Ovie has trouble reaching the 60 goal mark, nobody else has a chance in hell to put up huge offensive numbers.

The problem is that the goalie equipment is still too large and the NHL is moving at a snail's pace to reduce it thanks to the huge influence of the goaltending fraternity who have had the league by the balls since the mid-90's.

Because the coaching is so good now, the game will never return to the stage where players will challenge Wayne Gretzky's or Brett Hull's goal scoring totals in a single season, but the NHL should have at least five 50 goal scorers per year and one or two in the 60 range.

The one true way to spike viewership in non-traditional hockey markets, and thus increase revenue, is to crank up the offense. The NHLPA should overrule the petty concerns of their minority goaltending group and force the issue because the player's salaries are tied to overall league revenues under the CBA. It's in the players best interests to increase scoring and the only way to do that is bring back the skinny pads of the 70's and 80's.

The notion that shrinking the size of protection endangers the safety of the goalie is laughable. The materials used in modern equipment can probably stop bullets, let alone pucks. The bulk is only there to block the net, not protect the player.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Carolina 2, Ottawa 1 - Stick A Fork In 'Em

Like everyone else with Rogers Cable, I was shut out of watching this game tonight.

What can I say? Tough loss.

Combined with Montreal's win over Atlanta and Buffalo's win over Florida tonight, the Senators are virtually done. As expected, it was too much to ask for a team to be perfect down the final stretch and doing that on the road became even harder.

Ryan Shannon scored another goal to keep his successful audition for next year going strong.


On the Team 1200 pre-game show they were talking about how ex-Ottawa players, such as Joe Corvo, and more recently, Antoine Vermette, seemed to blossom when they were traded to a less traditional hockey market that provided far less pressure to perform under.

That got me thinking about how noteworthy it really is that players like Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley have been able to put up fairly consistent offensive numbers while playing in the pressure cooker that is Ottawa.

And it's not like they've been given an easy ride. Alfie got used to playing under fan demands to trade his butt out of town for many years and now Spezza and Heatley are going through the same thing. The media and the fans in this town can be downright cruel and no doubt it would be easier for a player like Spezza to go play in Miami or Nashville where fans aren't screaming bloody murder over a turnover when he's trying to make a play to help his team win.

While their numbers are naturally off this year due to playing more than half the season under the ultra-conservative Craig Hartsburg, the Big 3 have been excellent under pressure for a long time now.

Alfie has had point totals of 103, 87 and 89 since the lockout and will probably finish around 80 this season.

Heatley has goal totals of 50, 50 and 41 since the lockout and he will be close to 40 goals when it's all said and done.

Spezza has dropped off quite a bit this year after posting point totals of 90, 87 and 92 in that same time frame. He'll be lucky to finish with 75 points this year, but as the youngest of the Big 3, he still has the most potential to cash in a few 100 point seasons down the road.

All three players have also proven themselves beyond a doubt in the post-season as they led the Senators to the Stanley Cup final in 2007 with all three tying for the playoff scoring lead.

While it might be fun sport to constantly pick on these guys when the wins aren't piling up, you can't make the claim that they crumble under the pressure of playing in a hockey market.

I'd bet you wouldn't be able to say the same thing of a few superstars around the league who only have to face one or two microphones at the end of every game.

Alfie and Spezza in particular never seem to hide from the media when things are going wrong. Heatley is a bit more reticent and seems to have a shorter fuse with stupid questions but it never seems to affect him on the ice.

Spezza often gets derided for just being himself, which is kind of a goofy, happy-go-lucky guy. People hear him chuckling on the television and assume that he doesn't care. People want him to be as stone cold serious as a Steve Yzerman or a Mark Messier, even though he's just 25.

But it's also refreshing to hear a player not just spout the typical mantras over and over again. Spezza seems to like talking to the media and often has something interesting to say. It doesn't mean he isn't a competitor on the ice.


A lot of people still don't understand the whole salary escrow account that the players are forced to pay into as part of the last CBA negotiations. This article points out that the players are having a whopping 22.5 percent withheld this year.

"The players are have 22.5 per cent of their cheques deducted and put into an account with J.P. Morgan until the league determines what the actual revenues from this season have been. Once decided, the players will then be getting some of that money back, but the whack to their bottom line is expected to be substantial.

"Our best estimate at the moment is about 13 per cent will be what the players will eventually lose," says (NHLPA boss Paul) Kelly ...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Still Climbing

The Senators continued their improbable run towards a still distant playoff spot tonight in New York (9 wins out of their last 10) and with their hard fought 2-1 victory, the numbers are starting to give more than just the die-hards a sliver of hope.

Here's the new math:

The Senators are now at 74 points and have jumped over the Leafs for 11th spot in the East.

More importantly, they are now just 7 points back of the Habs for the final playoff spot with both teams having 10 games left in the season.

As we pointed out in yesterday's article, Saturday night couldn't have gone any better for Ottawa with Montreal, Florida and Buffalo, the 3 teams standing in the Senators way, all losing their games.

Ottawa still has to play their next 5 games on the road but thankfully have until Wednesday to get prepared for the Hurricanes in what will be another pivotal game (obviously).

Of the 3 teams Ottawa has to leapfrog, they only get to play Florida once and Montreal once, so that makes it all the harder to control their own destiny.

Montreal has a favourable schedule coming up with 6 of their next 10 at home and a few mediocre opponents such as Atlanta, Tampa Bay and the Islanders. They also go up against Buffalo next Saturday which ensures a setback in points for Ottawa.

Florida will split their last 10 games at home and on the road but face a tougher opposition in Philadelphia (twice), Pittsburgh and Washington.

Buffalo will split their last 10 as well but they also have to go through the likes of Detroit, New Jersey, Washington and Boston.

It's still bleak, but a little brighter than even yesterday.

Regardless, it at least makes the last 10 games worth watching and that's an improvement any way you look at it.


Larry Brooks of the NY Post has an interesting proposition regarding the annual draft lottery:

There should be only one boundary applied to the lottery and it's the one between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs. Every team that misses the playoffs should have a chance to get the first-overall pick in the draft under a variation of the formula that was applied to the 2005 post-lockout, 30-team lottery.

The NHL and NHLPA should amend the CBA and immediately to move to a 14-team lottery that would be weighted on two factors: 1) the number of consecutive years out of the playoffs; and, 2) the number of previous first-overall picks within a three- to five-year period.

Not only would such a system eliminate any questions of propriety down the stretch, it would create great anticipation and interest in the lottery.

Your favorite team misses the playoffs by a point, but still has a shot at the first-overall pick? You're watching the lottery.


Here's a great quote from referee Rob Schick (who just retired a few weeks ago) concerning players respect for referees in the 80's and the way they policed themselves on the ice:
"I remember when Brian Sutter was captain in St. Louis, he'd come up to me and say, 'Rob, did you get a look at that play?' Maybe a guy had been speared and back in the one-referee game, you only got small looks at everything," said Shick.

"I'd say something like, 'Sorry Brian, I didn't get a good look at that thing.' He'd say, 'No problem.' Then, the next shift the guy you thought might have done something was probably laying on the ice.

"They seemed to take care of things on their own."


I'm pretty sure that Jarkko Ruutu is the first Ottawa Senator to have his name chanted in an opposition arena with the suffix "sucks" attached at the end like he did tonight in New York. I know that Alfie gets booed in Toronto but I'm not sure those fans are intelligent or organized enough to get a syncopated chant going.

I'm assuming the "Ruutu Sucks" chant is from his days with the Pens when he would go up against the Rangers 8 times a year and 4 times at the Garden. Now that Rangers fans will only get to see Ruutu twice a year, they better make it count. For his part, Ruutu seemed to enjoy the attention and was rocking his head back and forth and pumping his fist a little.

He had a little harder time getting Sean Avery's attention late in the first. In a scrum, Ruutu was talking right into Avery's ear but the shit-disturbing Ranger didn't even take a glimpse. He was too busy re-acquainting himself with another former Atlantic division rival, Chris Campoli.......

Speaking of the Garden, the current version has been open since 1968 yet they still haven't found a way to light a hockey game properly. Perhaps it looks fine inside the arena, but on television, it's the darkest and murkiest arena in the league. Not only are the corners of the ice dark, but the whole section behind the net on both ends are seemingly in a shadow. Just watching the regular nightly highlights, I could tell for years that the game was at MSG before even seeing a blue uniform. It's sort of like watching the game through a haze of cigarette smoke. What gives?.......

How anonymous is Ryan Shannon (who scored the game winning goal)? The site where I check out the boxscores doesn't even have a picture of him. They gave him the first star but they had to use the Senators logo in place of his pic. That won't be a problem next year when everyone better be aware of the late-blooming offensive threat.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Movin' On Up

The hockey gods couldn't have handed out any better hand than the one they dealt the Senators on Saturday night.

First it was the hapless and soon to be Kansas City Islanders limping into Ottawa with major injuries, making them easy fodder for the relatively healthy and confident Senators.

Then just down the highway, the Leafs rolled over the Habs in what can only be another devastating loss for Bob Gainey and his staff.

In another strange twist, ex-Senator Antoine Vermette scored an empty net goal to help the Blue Jackets clinch the game against the 9th place Florida Panthers.

The topper was 10th place Buffalo losing another game, this time to the resurgent New York Rangers.

So the math goes as follows: Ottawa is now only 9 points back of the Habs for the last playoff spot with 12 games left to play and one in hand over Montreal.

It still sounds impossible but it's better than yesterday.

They are 8 back of Florida, 4 back of Buffalo and 1 back of the Leafs.

If they can pull off a road victory against the Rangers tomorrow night, we may have something to talk about here.

As for the game against the Isles, both Daniel Alfredsson and Brendan Bell continued their hot streaks with 3 and 2 assists respectively and Brian Elliott extended his franchise record to 8 straight games with a win as a rookie.

The power-play is starting to look like the old days with Filip Kuba and Bell playing really well on the points and of course, the blossoming of Nick Foligno into a semi-power forward with soft hands continues unabated. He got his 16th goal and those are starting to look like impressive numbers for a sophomore forward.

There was an interesting incident in the second period when Islanders rookie Joel Rechlicz layed a clean but questionably late hit on Chris Phillips. Mike Fisher immediately challenged Rechlicz to a scrap but didn't get an instigator penalty.

I happen to agree with the current sentiment out there that too many fights are started due to a perception of wrong-doing on perfectly clean hits. If you lay a guy out cleanly, you shouldn't have to fight every time.

Yet, there is some areas of grey here.

Are you supposed to let a rookie like Rechlicz take a hard run at a veteran leader like Phillips without consequence?

Yes, the hit was clean but I still think there's room to make a statement like Fisher did. If not, then it would be open season on star players from desperate rookies trying to make an impression.

Like everything in hockey, every situation is different. Maybe if it was veteran Brendan Witt cleanly hitting Phillips, there's no fight. But I think Fisher was justified in starting that scrap and you don't want to see that taken out of the game.


Bad apples? That's what Isles coach Scott Gordon called Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli to Newsday not too long ago as Sun columnist Don Brennan pointed out. Hasn't Comrie been called that a few times now? It's probably not true, but initial reputations are hard to shake in the relatively small world of the NHL. Comrie has always had this aura about him of the "rich kid" (his father founded The Brick chain of stores) and demanding a trade out of Edmonton, his hometown team, just added to that. Now that his personal life is in the spotlight due to dating a celebrity, those perceptions will probably persist. But he seems very popular with his teammates and plays the game hard and with a surprising amount of grit for his size. He'd be a great player for Ottawa next year if Murray can get his name on a contract.


Bucky Gleason over at the Buffalo News thinks the GM-Coach tandem of Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff are headed for the unemployment line after this season is over, especially if the Sabres torrid slide leaves them out of the playoffs.

One mind-blowing statistic he notes is that there have been 129 coaches fired since Ruff took over for Ted Nolan in 1997.

One specialized group of NHL people will be hoping that the axe comes for Regier, for sure. The professional scouts of the hockey world were aghast when Regier fired the majority of his scouting staff and switched over to "video scouting" full-time for the organization in an attempt to cut costs. To my knowledge, the Sabres are the only team to have done this.


Does anyone else find it weird that Martin Gerber took no time in getting his helmet painted in Toronto Maple Leaf colours yet he went a whole year in Ottawa with a black helmet which the fans strangely rallied behind? The black wasn't the Senators black. It was the "trade me right f#*!ing now" variety of black.......Mike Commodore is having a great year in Columbus and with them on the verge of their first playoff spot, he's getting ready to don his familiar good-luck charm locker room bathrobe to go with his ever-growing red afro. Too bad we didn't get to see that last season in Ottawa. As this mini-interview shows, Commodore is still one of the great characters of the league.........

The collapse of the Montreal Canadiens has certainly taken some heat off the Senators in media circles hasn't it? Pierre Lebrun, one of the nicest and least controversial personalities in all of hockey, called the Habs "heartless" tonight on the Hotstove segment on Hockey Night In Canada. Those types of words were once exclusively reserved for the Senators but they are yesterday's news. But how about those Ducks? Just like Ottawa, they've been in a brutal funk ever since the 07 final. Yet no one has called them heartless. Playing in California comes with a get out of jail free card in a way..........

I have no problems at all with Alex Ovechkin's exuberant celebrations but he's probably blown his chance of any of the Tampa players voting for him when the ballots are passed out for the Pearson trophy...... The CBC is probably freaking out right now over the prospects of no Eastern Canadian team making the playoffs. That's a big hole to fill right in prime-time and the likes of Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby is not going to be enough to offset that loss. Yet, they may luck out with all three Western teams making it...........

And congratulations to Chris Neil, who scored a goal in his 500th career game, all with the Ottawa Senators.

Let's hope there's many more to come.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sens Break Habs Curse

Unfortunately for Bob Gainey, the Senators refuse to die.

In what should have been a soft touch for the struggling Habs, the Senators came from behind (again) to get their first win of the season against Montreal in 5 tries.

And now the Habs are in deep, deep shit.

Carey Price looked horrible (again) and this loss might have finally put him in Gainey's shithouse after getting the benefit of the doubt for so long from his protective GM. They are going to have to turn to the relatively unknown Jaroslav Halak to help them get their heads straight before the season from hell truly comes to fruition for the centennial Habs.

If Price's stock is plummeting, rookie Brian Elliott's is surging. He now has the Senators team record for most wins in a row (7) by a rookie goaltender and not many would have predicted that just a month ago when some commentators were wondering if Elliott even had a future with the Senators due to his penchant for giving up bad goals and deadly rebounds.

Those issues aren't totally cleared up but they are certainly in the distant fog right now.

More and more, we are starting to see the Senators offense wake up from a year long hangover. Jason Spezza led the way with two goals and an assist while Daniel Alfredsson pitched in with a couple of points. Filip Kuba has continued his tear since signing that new contract and even Jarkko Ruutu put on a gong show with that ridiculous one-man circus goal he scored in the second period. If things don't turn around for Montreal, that might have been the stake in the heart for them right there.

With all that in mind, I should point out that Pierre Lebrun penned an article for ESPN showing what teams have the best records in just the second half of the season.

Ottawa is right up there in 7th place in points percentage through March 18.

For those of you who thought the players were the problem and not Craig Hartsburg, I think that statistic nullifies your argument.

Cory Clouston was handed essentially the same group of players that Hartsburg had and he has done a much better job - no argument there. Clouston has also had to deal with more injuries (and flu related illnesses) than Hartsburg did.

Everyone always goes on about how much power the players have nowadays with their big contracts but hockey is clearly a coaches game now and has been ever since Jacques Lemaire took an anonymous New Jersey team to a Stanley Cup championship in 1995.

Coaches are a bigger factor in how a team plays than the star players. If the system instituted by the coach is not up to par, you have no chance no matter who you have on your team.

Ottawa had a lot of weaknesses going into this system, particularly in goal and on defense, but that doesn't account for why Hartsburg watched while his team fell to the bottom of the league in goals for.

The one strength Ottawa had was speed and skill on the forward lines yet they played a system that had them sit back and wait for the other team to attack.

If the likes of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher break the wishes of their coach by playing more aggressive, they're not team players.

Yet when their coach gets fired, they're called "coach-killers".

It was a no-win situation under Hartsburg but at least Murray had the conviction to admit another mistake and do what had to be done, no matter how unpleasant it was to everybody.

Murray could have went into a siege mentality and kept Hartsburg to try and prove he didn't screw up this past summer but instead he did what was best for the team, even if it made him look like a fool to the hockey world.

I think Murray should get some credit here, along with the accolades Clouston is getting.

But I'm not holding my breath waiting for that to happen...


If the Phoenix Coyotes do the expected and miss the playoffs this season, that will make it four seasons in a row that Wayne Gretzky was unable to clinch a berth as head coach.

With the team seemingly on the verge of another rebuild after dumping Olli Jokinen and Derek Morris, the odds of them making the playoffs next year don't look too bright either.

Gretzky is a smart guy and surely must know that GM Don Maloney doesn't want to be the "guy who fired Wayne Gretzky". So does Gretz take the honourable route and resign at the end of this season? Or does he stick around for more punishment?

This will be the 6th year in a row the franchise has missed the playoffs and 7 of the last 8 have ended the same way.

Probably the most incredulous statistic is that the Yotes haven't won a playoff series since 1987 (while still in Winnipeg) when they beat the Flames in the first round.

In the organization's history, they have only won 2 playoff series, both against the Flames. They lost 6 times to the Edmonton Oilers along the way. And you thought the Leafs had the Sens number.

In the big scope of things, has there ever been a worse NHL franchise than the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes?


It must be tough for Bob Gainey to watch the Vancouver Canucks cruising towards the playoffs with Mats Sundin in their lineup. Gainey struck out trying to woo Mats and instead opted to sign Robert Lang who incidentally might be headed towards retirement after getting his Achilles tendon sliced in half over a month ago.

Even if Lang was healthy, it's hard to believe he'd be able to stop this team from sliding further into chaos. As Gary Galley pointed out, these guys look rattled. There's so much extra pressure on this Habs team than there normally is and it doesn't look like the young guys are handling it. Alex Kovalev has been an easy scapegoat (Spezza can relate) but I think losing guys like Mark Streit and Sheldon Souray in consecutive years has hurt them more than anything. Ottawa can relate to that as well after they dumped every offensive defensman they had in the course of two seasons.

Both teams tried to correct the problem with the likes of Mathieu Schneider and Chris Campoli but it may be too late, even for the Canadiens. The only thing saving the Habs right now is that both Buffalo and Florida have been brutal of late.........

Speaking of Florida, they are now facing the worst possible scenario - getting nothing for Jay Bouwmeester AND missing the playoffs. Way to go Jacques.......Tonight was Chris Neil's 499th career game, all with the Senators of course. He has 1,286 PIM's to go with that......Don Brennan broke down what the Senators defense will look like next season and he has slots already filled by Phillips, Volchenkov, Kuba, Campoli and Smith. He also has some interesting thoughts on unrestricted free agent to be Brendan Bell.

"Bell will figure into the mix if his salary demands are in line with what the Senators might be prepared to do. For instance, accept a marginal raise but on a one-way deal, which is what he really wants. It'd especially make sense for the Senators if Karlsson, a similar type player, isn't quite ready for prime time.

At the rate Bell is going, the Senators might even be prepared to deal Picard to open up a spot for him."

Bell has now had two excellent games in a row and it will be interesting to see what Murray does here. From Murray's comments after the trade deadline, I got the impression that he wasn't done adding to his defense core. I still think he might be looking for a big piece back there but that will be difficult with the money already tied up in the position and Volchenkov needing a new contract soon.

I'll go one step further than Brennan and say that Picard's already played his last game with the Senators. ......... Just as I was thinking to myself that I hadn't really noticed Ryan Shannon in the game for the first time in a long time, he goes out and has a great third period - defensively. He showed some great hustle and guts by blocking a shot in the last minute near the blueline to clear the zone after the Habs were pressing hard. I'm running out of accolades for the little guy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Back Soon

Sorry for the lack of updates to Black Aces in recent days, but prior commitments are keeping me busy. We should be back up to speed after Thursday's game against Montreal.

Besides, good play by the Senators makes for less to write about anyways. Tonight's win against Buffalo might have been the most dominating game the Senators have played all season and it's nice to just enjoy watching hockey for a change.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Trapped To Death In Beantown

Ottawa lost a tough one against the Bruins tonight but they at least made it interesting in the end with a belated comeback that fell short when Phil Kessel scored his second goal of the game into an empty net.

For most of the game, the Bruins were in perfect neutral zone trapping form, squeezing the speed out of the game and scoring on the limited opportunities they got. That's a characteristic of Claude Julien (and Craig Ramsey) coached teams and it was enough to beat a Senators squad playing the 2nd game of a back-to-back.

What's clear is that this team misses Filip Kuba and Jason Smith. The likes of Christoph Schubert, Brendan Bell and Brian Lee were pretty bad defensively tonight and Chris Campoli wasn't that hot either. A player like Jason Smith can be a nasty sonofabitch in his own end and against a big team like Boston, that can be even more helpful than a guy who can move the puck quickly. Byron Bitz looked like the Incredible Hulk out there, plowing through Senators defenseman like they extras on a bad movie set.

If Boston can get past their streak of poor play, they are going to be a nightmare to play against simply for their combination of size and skill. Players like Bitz, Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler and Zdeno Chara will soften you up while Marc Savard, Phil Kessel, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron will cauterize you with speed and playmaking.

Ryan Shannon (who had another great game and is quickly becoming a favourite of mine) is probably lucky to get out of that game with his head still attached to his shoulders. Chara probably eats bigger filet mignons than the size of Shannon.


Ever since the Senators acquired Chris Campoli, it's been bothering me that I can't recall who he reminds me of. Then it hit me tonight. Karel Rachunek. Seriously. With that helmet, visor and scraggly moustache, Campoli is a spitting image of the ex-Senator defenseman.


I don't like the decision to make Shean Donovan a healthy scratch. Peter Regin should have come out of the lineup before Donovan because the Senators could have used Donovan's speed, feistiness and ability to crash the net against the neutral zone trapping Bruins. Donovan withstood getting his nose getting crushed twice in one game to come back and play and then he gets told to sit down so a rookie can stay in the lineup? .......Chris Neil showed right away why the Senators need him on their roster next season. He's the only guy on the team capable of going up against a much larger opponent like the 6 foot 3, 228 pound beast Milan Lucic. And I'd give the fight to Neiler. It's strange how a player like Lucic can be so popular in Boston but the public in Ottawa is decidedly lukewarm about Neil. I'll never understand it.......

Have you ever seen a player spit more than Dany Heatley? He spits as often as Wade Redden used to blink before faceoffs. Regardless, Heatley played a great game tonight...... Is there room in Toronto for two gigantic ego's like Ron Wilson and Brian Burke? I doubt it. Wilson has been upstaging Burke so far this year and I don't think the big Irishman is going to take that lightly. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see a coaching change in Toronto this summer. Wilson is a bad fit in Toronto because he's overly combatitive with the media and already the two sides are more than sick of each other. Witness this debacle from two nights ago when Wilson teed off on the mild mannered reporter Howard Berger who has been covering the Leafs since at least the early 90's. While it's not quite John Tortorella telling Larry Brooks to "f#!k off!", it's still pretty good.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Starting To Roll

Has the Pascal Leclaire acquisition put a burr under the saddle of rookie goalie Brian Elliott?

You'd have to think so with the way he's been playing since the trade. Tonight he stopped 25 of 26 Leafs shots and a handful of them were lightning quick glove saves. More telling perhaps was the fact that a lot of shots were hitting him square in the crest which is more a sign of good positioning than the Leafs faulty aim.

On a night that should have been all about the return of Martin Gerber, Elliott let it be known that he plans to stick around for next year and give both Alex Auld and Leclaire a competition for that number one spot.

Overall, it was an entertaining game that had a strange twist (literally) at the end when Leafs coach Ron Wilson asked for a measurement on Jason Spezza's banana shaped blade, which turned out to be a good gamble on Wilson's part.

Unfortunately for the Leafs and their legions of Alfie booing fans, they couldn't get a puck by Elliott on the ensuing power-play and the rink went home divided in emotion.

If anyone had the chance to catch the pre-game show on the Team 1200, guys like Bruce Garrioch and Mike Eastwood were going apeshit over Wilson's decision not to start Gerber and I have to agree with them.

The decision seems to be made more out of spite rather than strategy and that's Wilson's m.o. all the way. It would have made for a bigger draw on television and possibly in the stands if Gerber got a chance to get revenge against Bryan Murray and the Senators but Wilson is not in the entertainment business. He's in the "taking the piss out of the media" biz and he does a good job of it.

The Leafs don't play in Ottawa again this season and with them probably goes the last chance for Gerber to play against his old team with which he went through an ugly, prolonged divorce.


This will be the first year since 1991-92 that no Ontario team will be in the playoffs. In that 15 season span, the Senators made the playoffs 11 times (straight) and the Leafs 10 times. The Senators won 8 playoff rounds and the Leafs won 11 (4 of those against Ottawa), including 4 trips to the Conference finals.

While the Senators did make a Stanley Cup final, the Leafs can claim to be legitimately more successful than Ottawa in the big picture.

Probably not what Senators fans want to hear, but them's are the facts.


Antoine Vermette is wearing number 50 for the Columbus Blue Jackets. His old number 20 is already being worn by Kristian Huselius. The only other ex-Senator on Columbus nowadays is Mike Commodore who probably couldn't get out of town fast enough after the gong show that he walked into last year. Current Jacket Michael Peca should have been a Senator at one point but that's a discussion for another day......After Ian White opened the scoring by beating Brian Elliott through the 5-hole, he found himself back on the bench while Martin Gerber leaned over and said something to him. It must have been funny because White cracked up. Maybe a bitter Gerbs said "I told you he sucked"...... No matter how you slice it, when Cliff Fletcher traded Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo to St. Louis for Lee Stempniak, he left a huge steamer on the welcome mat for Brian Burke. Colaiacovo has actually put up an almost injury free season and he is the top scoring defenseman on the Blues while Steen is averaging over 15 minutes a game. Stempniak has played okay but he only has 8 goals since coming to the Leafs and that's a huge disappointment. I know the Leafs were more than patient with Colaiacovo while he struggled through a series of injuries but if they had only held on for just a little longer....

Poor Vermette. Unless he finds himself a Senator later on in his career, he fell just 5 points short of passing Alexandre Daigle for 14th in all-time team scoring. Now it looks like Daigle is firmly cemented in the top 15 for awhile as the next Senator nearest him is Chris Neil with only 130 points to Daigle's 172......Bryan Murray has already said that he'd like to add another scoring forward for next season but maybe he already has one under his nose. Ryan Shannon has been an absolute revelation late in the season playing on the second line. With his speed and skill, it's not inconceivable that he can get 20 goals and 50 points in a full season with the team. It's scary to think that Murray may not have even given Shannon a chance if Cory Clouston had not gotten in his ear about bringing him up to the NHL. I get the feeling that Murray might have thought Shannon was too small for the NHL after he got hurt in a collision earlier this year but so far, Shannon has proven his critics wrong. Shannon, who currently makes a trifle 605,000, is a restricted free agent after this season and he will probably sign for just around 1 million or less on a short term deal and that could turn out to be one hell of a bargain for Ottawa. The only fly in the ointment could be the fate of Clouston after this season. Murray hasn't made any commitment to the rookie coach and if a new guy is brought in, that could change the odds for Shannon. My guess is that Clouston is as good as hired for next year anyways.......

Peter Regin is only the 2nd player to wear number 43 with the Senators. The first? The long forgotten Serge Payer. If Regin sticks with the team, and it looks like he will, he should grab Vermette's vacant number 20. Forty three is a bad looking number.....Tonight was Dany Heatley's 300th game as a Senator putting him only one game behind, yup, you guessed it, Alex Daigle...... As he displayed in the 1st period, Christoph Schubert has an absolute cannon from the point. Too bad he can't hit the net with it...... If you don't know much about recent Senator's signee Craig Schira, you might be impressed with his +44 rating with the WHL's Vancouver Giants. He'll turn pro next year with the Binghamton Senators. Now that Schira's in the bag, can Murray pull off a miracle and beat 29 other teams to unsigned Boston University defenseman Matt Gilroy? He is a contender for the Hobey Baker award this year, and according to The Hockey News print edition, Gilroy turned down 24 seperate NHL offers just last year. The number of offers is sure to rise and Murray is probably front and centre...... There must have been some awkwardness when Gerber was traded to the Leafs. Their goaltending coach is Corey Hirsch and he was in a bit of a nasty public feud with Gerbs during the last NHL lockout. Read all about it here....

It was nice to see Ottawa fans show some class and give referee Stephane Auger a hand after getting up from a nasty looking spill when his left leg buckled under him in the corner. But I guess you'd have to give the Toronto fans credit too. They made up half the audience.

At least Senators fans seemed to make a better effort at shutting up the boo's that rained down on Alfie every time he touched the puck. It probably felt pretty good for number 11 when he cranked home the tying goal in the midst of all those loud jeers. It might just be the last he ever scores against Curtis Joseph as the veteran Senator killer is due to retire after this season ends.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Post-Deadline Boom

The Senators bounced back from an uninspiring pre-deadline day loss to the Flames by handling the far from home Edmonton Oilers, thanks to great play from Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Mike Comrie, Anton Volchenkov and Brian Elliott among others.

The Big Three were all a +3 on the night with Spezza taking a team high 5 shots on the net and showing some more moxie and attitude which seems to be a carry-over from his fight the previous game.

Volchenkov is also on a physical tear lately and he seems to be back to dishing out big hits at the blueline, something that was missing most of this year and the last. It may be due to Cory Clouston's more aggressive system where he gives the D-men the OK to step out of position a little more, whether it's for offense or for a big hit. Regardless, Volchenkov looks a little more like himself lately and that's good news for the organization.

The win may be meaningless in the standings but it might be another step towards building a positive atmosphere around this team. It's been so ugly around here for so long with the fans and the media ripping everyone apart that a lot of the fun has been taken out of the game. It must be hard for everyone to be so angry all the time. Maybe it's time to give it a rest.

Tonight was a reminder about how fun this game can be.


I know that Brian Lee is currently down in Bingo because he's the only guy who doesn't have to clear waivers but now that the deadline has passed, he should be back up with the big team. A bad penalty aside which cost the team in his last game, Lee was really starting to show that he belonged in the NHL. Bingo is in a fight to make the playoffs but I think Lee belongs in the NHL, at least until the Senators close out the year. I like Brendan Bell and I think he should be re-signed as a depth player for next year, but Lee is going to be an important player going forward and should be playing against elite competition for his development....... Tough night for Shean Donovan. His badly broken beak was a gruesome and awe inspiring sight when the Sportsnet cameras got in good and close to let us watch all the blood drain out of it. Even sicker was seeing the trainer stuff a three inch gauze pad up one nostril while Dono grimaced in pain. The "SENS" lettering on his jersey was almost completely stained in blood. Good times.......

Another reason why play-by-play man Dean Brown is one of the best in the business: Just before the start of the 3rd period the cameras panned in on a couple of young women holding a drink in each hand and sharing a rather passionate kiss for a few seconds. Brown didn't miss a beat and simply said "Everyone is enjoying themselves down at the rink tonight." ..... Another reason why Gary Galley is one of the best colour commentators in the business: When Peter Regin went down after taking a slapshot against his inner knee, Galley remembered what that felt like and described it like this: "You're trying to get your butt off the ice and trying to get that pain out of your head but it just won't leave. The bench looks like it's about ten miles away." He then went on to relate how it felt to get an Al MacInnis shot in the "buttocks" once: "I couldn't sit down for days." Great stuff .....

When was the last time two 89's scored in the same game? I have no idea but it happened tonight when both Mike Comrie and Sam Gagner scored goals. Both players were great and Gagner should have had a hat-trick if not for a razor thin margin on a hit post in the 3rd. Interestingly enough, if the NHL goes ahead with a new net prototype that has more angled goal posts instead of perfectly round ones in the next few years, those types of shots are going in rather than bouncing out. It's a great idea that doesn't unnecessarily mess with the tradition of the game yet promotes more goals. Now about that oversized goalie equipment.....

On the pre-game show tonight, Bruce Garrioch came down particularly hard on Brian Elliott, saying that he may no longer have a future with the organization with Pascal Leclaire in town. That's pretty harsh for a 23 year old after only a handful of NHL games. It makes no sense for the organization to be impatient with him now that they have Leclaire. They can afford to let him develop for another two years if they want and a lot of goalies don't get properly settled until their mid-20's anyways........

Lamest take of the week: Kulka on the Over The Edge show suggesting that Spezza may have only fought Dion Phaneuf because it was his buddy Dany Heatley lying on the ice and not another teammate. Spezza can't win in this town. He does something out of character, like all the fans and media want, and he gets it used against him. Jason York had an apt comment about the relationship between Spezza and the fans when he said he's never seen a player have every single move he makes on the ice scrutinized so closely....

I know the Senators sweaters are no piece of art but the Edmonton Oilers should be embarrassed with their white road uni's.

They are so plain and void of any design that they look like practice jersey's. There's a logo and a number and that's about it. It's too bad because the Oilers used to have some of the brightest and coolest sweaters in the league until they got dulled in the mid-90's craze of darker colours. Unfortunately, while bright colours are back in vogue, the Oilers are getting duller. Time to bring back the bright blue and orange sweaters full-time and not just as an alternate novelty worn 10 times a year.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Leclaire Worth Sacrificing Vermette

It's all over but the crying as the Senators have made their last moves until the trade freeze is lifted after the Stanley Cup final (which the Senators will be watching 2 months into their summer vacations).

Of course the big move was getting young goalie Pascal Leclaire for underachieving forward Antoine Vermette but the biggest mindblow was seeing Martin Gerber being picked up by Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are coming into Ottawa on Monday, ostensibly with Gerber in the nets.

That game will be the last one worth fighting for. There is no way anyone wants to see Gerber muster up a brilliant game which he is capable of once every two or three years and slam the door on his old team.

But after that surreal night, what's left to ponder?

Like I said in my previous post, I like the Vermette - Leclaire deal.

A lot.

At just under 4 million, Leclaire is the right goalie at the right price. Bryan Murray could have gotten into a bidding war this summer for either Manny Fernandez or Nikolai Khabibulin but he would have had to pay upwards of 6 million or more for either goaltender and neither of those players have as high an upside as Leclaire does.

The only risk here is Leclaire's injury woes but fans should realize that there was no perfect solution out there for the goaltending position. Nobody is going to give up an elite goalie if they have one so Murray had to take one with a little bit of baggage.

Leclaire has already proven himself as a top tier goalie with 9 shutouts last season and winning a Silver Medal with Canada at last year's World Championships.

And all Murray had to give up was Vermette.

Some have already complained that Vermette should have fetched more but the fact is that Vermette is a career second or third liner with a limited ability to score goals. He is basically a penalty-kill and faceoff specialist and those players aren't half as important as a true number one goalie.

Plus, Vermette is going to be an unrestricted free-agent after next season while Leclaire is signed for the next two in a much more crucial slot.

If you add that valuable second round pick included in the deal, I say Murray walked away the clear winner in this trade. Columbus is desperate to make the playoffs and Vermette helps them do that right now while Steve Mason capably handles the netminding duties. It works for both sides but long term, Ottawa gets the longer straw.


Thankfully, Chris Neil is still a Senator and this ups his chances of re-signing a contract before July 1st.

As we saw last night against a tougher Calgary squad, players like Neil are missed when they are out of the lineup.

It was inspiring to see a player like Jason Spezza step up and fight Dion Phaneuf after Dany Heatley was run over, but you would rather have guys like Neil take care of that stuff.

As a friend said to me today, maybe Murray made a smart move by threatening to trade Neil and then balking at the last minute. Then he can go to Neil's agent and say that Neil isn't as sought after as once thought and maybe he should think about accepting that 1.8 million that is rumoured to be the Senators offer.

Either way, Murray should get Neil under contract before this stretches into silly season.

Vermette Traded - Kuba Resigns

First news of the day:

Antoine Vermette is traded to Columbus for goalie Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round pick.

My take:

This is a bit of a jaw-dropper only because I never thought Murray would actually part with the speedy Vermette, despite his struggles to turn into a regular scorer.

On the one hand, it's tough to see Vermette and his speed leave town but you have to like Murray's aggressiveness in going after a number one goalie. This plugs one huge hole because Leclaire is only 26 and has the potential to be a great goalie despite his problems with injuries.

If Murray can find a way to re-sign Mike Comrie, he has essentially replaced Vermette with a more consistent scorer yet loses something on the penalty kill. Luckily they still have players like Chris Kelly, Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson to continue in that important role.

Leclaire was one of the league's best goalies last year under Ken Hitchcock in Columbus and will get a chance to play here with both Brian Elliott and Alex Auld struggling. He also comes with a cap hit just under 4 million for the next two years, an ideal number for a number one goalie with a lot of potential.

The second round pick is also a great pickup for Murray. Good move.


Also, Filip Kuba has resigned in Ottawa (3 years at 3.75 million per year).

My take:

This is a great contract for Ottawa. I'm not the biggest Kuba fan but those are reasonable numbers for a guy who can play a lot of minutes and provide some offense. I don't think Kuba is the answer for Ottawa's defense woes but there may not be a better option for Murray this summer in free-agency. There is no guarantee Murray can grab a superstar like Jay Bouwmeester so Kuba is a good stop-gap measure for this team.

So far, Murray looks good today.

Now we wait for word on Chris Neil, Christoph Schubert and possibly others.

More updates to follow….

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


It's starting to get painful watching these Senators play out the stretch here.

One of the only highlights was watching Jason Spezza stick up for Dany Heatley by instigating a fight with Dion Phaneuf. If anything, that altercation shows the worth of a player like Chris Neil but it looks like he's headed out of town if no last minute contract is worked out, further weakening this team for the future.

Right now, the loss seems secondary as the city waits to see what Bryan Murray does tomorrow at the trade deadline.

I'll be posting some quick reactions to any trades the Senators may do during the day and do a proper wrap-up later in the evening.

I'll be waiting impatiently like everyone else.

Have fun.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Spezza Going Nowhere

Alas, sanity still reigns in Ottawa.

Bryan Murray poured cold water on the year-long Jason Spezza trade rumours today by saying that he won't move the centre, who's no-trade clause becomes effective July 1st.

This should be interpreted as good news, though some will surely be disappointed that a blockbuster isn't around the corner.

Even if Murray wanted to dump his franchise player, he wouldn't be able to get proper value for him in almost any scenario imagined.

No team is going to trade Ottawa their number one centre for Jason Spezza. If they have a number one centre, they have no need for Spezza anyways, so Murray would have to settle for quantity over quality. He might get a good second line centre and some prospects or he could maybe get a number one defenseman.

But then the Senators would be a team without an elite centre, guaranteeing a further erosion in the standings and you've just replaced one problem with another.

No matter how good Boston is doing this year, they made a poor trade when they sent Joe Thornton to San Jose for a handful of lesser players, most of whom now play elsewhere with little fanfare.

It was simply good luck for Boston that John Muckler let Zdeno Chara walk for nothing, and that Don Waddell did the same with Marc Savard, combined with some good drafting that allowed them to get over the Thornton mistake.

There would probably be no similar golden road for the Senators were they to trade Spezza. In order to replace him, they would have to draft a number one centre and let him develop for five years. These types of players rarely hit free agency because most GM's are locking them up to long contracts, similar to what Spezza signed here in Ottawa. The chances of a Marc Savard type player hitting free agency is slim to none.

The fact is, Ottawa made its choice to build their team around Spezza and it's too late to back out now unless you decide to rebuild from scratch.

If you trade Spezza, then you have to get rid of Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson as well because you would be carrying those huge contracts on a team that has no chance to win.

Love him or hate him, Spezza is going to be dishing pucks for the Senators for a long time.

Deadline Day Approaches For Sens Fans

I'm not saying anything new by raising the point that fan interest in the NHL trade deadline is at an all-time high. Rumour sites like Hockey Buzz are booming and people are going to be freaking out over 5th round picks being exchanged for fourth liners on Wednesday.

Ottawa fans are no different and their interest will be piqued because this is the first time since 1996 that the Senators are "sellers" at the deadline. People in Ottawa want to see change and no doubt will be disappointed if Bryan Murray doesn't do a complete makeover by Wednesday afternoon.

But there's the potential for this team to be worse off after the deadline, despite the excitement it may bring in the short term.

Take Chris Neil. If you asked 10 fans, at least 8 would tell you that Neil should be traded.

But those same fans will tell you that Neil would be valuable because of his toughness and his ability to play the game, something that teams like San Jose and Detroit are looking for at the deadline.

So if Neil is such a valuable commodity to upper echelon teams, why would Ottawa fans want him traded in the first place? Would you really prefer the 2nd round draft pick or the unproven prospect that Neil would fetch in a trade?

If other teams desire his exclusive skills, why wouldn't Ottawa desire that as well?

They will tell you that Neil isn't worth 2 million, or especially the 2.5 that his agent is rumoured to be asking for.

But at the same time, most will concede that Neil will get just that on the open market.

So if he's worth that much to other teams, why is he not worth that much to Ottawa?

It's a valid question and one that I'm not sure I can answer. Is Ottawa taking a cue from the Buffalo Sabres and the Harry Sinden-era Boston Bruins by refusing to pay market value for their own players? Murray's decision to let Andrej Meszaros go because he did not want to pay market value for him might be the first indicator.

Neil is one of the players who fulfilled his role this season and there are not many players on the roster you can say that about. He's one of the best at what he does and is respected and feared around the league. He adds another dimension to the Senators that a lot of teams don't have. He is worth that much because he is unique and teams will always pay top dollar for those types of players. He is no different than that elusive skilled defenseman or faceoff specialist. Players like Chris Kelly, Cody Bass and Jesse Winchester are a dime a dozen. But players like Neil don't come around very often.

Neil should be a true fan favourite yet the fans in this city haven't embraced him.

This strange phenomenon can't be explained away so easily. In any other city, players like Neil and Jarkko Ruutu would be revered and celebrated. Ruutu was loved in Pittsburgh and Vancouver but Ottawa fans don't seem to like his antics. Same goes for Neil.

My friend disagrees with me and says that the true fans - the ones who simply go to games and don't write blogs or phone call-in shows – love players like Neil and Ruutu. But I don't understand why the passionate ones who do take part in the public discourse could care less about these types of players. I thought Ottawa fans had a distrust of skilled players. But not heart and soul gritty forwards who give you everything they have season by season. What's going on here?

I have a theory about the Ottawa market but it's probably true of a lot of other cities. It's a form of hockey ADD. The fans are more excited about flashy trades than they are about building a club tradition. They tire of players after just one season and want change for change's sake.

People were excited this past summer when Murray added the likes of Jason Smith, Filip Kuba and Alex Picard but now many would drop these players for draft picks if the opportunity arose.

It's easy to get excited about "draft picks" because those players haven't turned the puck over at the blueline or let in a bad overtime goal. They simply represent hope. But those same people won't be preaching the "hope" theme after another brutal Senators loss while they ostensibly rebuild next year with fresh faces.

Those fresh faces will become the next in line to be traded and so on and so on.

What's the point here?

I think that it's perfectly reasonable to pay Chris Neil 2 million because he provides an exclusive skill that you can't get anywhere else very easily.

In my mind, Neil offers more at his specific role than Chris Kelly does at his. It's all relative. Just because you pay Neil 2 million doesn't mean he has to start scoring a lot of goals. You pay him that money because you need that ingredient for a winning team. You need someone to crash the net. You need someone to protect your star players. You need someone to hit the other team consistently.

Neil is one of the best at all of those things and that's why Murray should fork out the money to keep him instead of gambling on a draft pick or a prospect in his stead.

By trading Neil, you just create another need for this team along with a number one goalie and power-play quarterback.

Why the vocal majority of Senators fans don't see that remains a mystery to me.