Thursday, April 30, 2009

Second Round Picks

As you may have noticed, there has been an almost complete lack of activity on Black Aces for the past month. We will be back with full Senators coverage whenever there is anything important to talk about but for now, after two years of almost daily blogging, I’m simply enjoying the playoffs and recharging my batteries. Right around the draft, Black Aces will be in full swing again or if anything big happens in the Senators world.

But first we need to get some predictions in. With our usual guest from Blood Red Army, here’s how we see the second round unfolding.

Boston vs. Carolina

Black Aces: Boston
Blood Red Army: Carolina

Washington vs. Pittsburgh

Black Aces: Pittsburgh
Blood Red Army: Washington

Detroit vs. Anaheim

Black Aces: Detroit
Blood Red Army: Detroit

Vancouver vs. Chicago

Black Aces: Chicago
Blood Red Army: Chicago

What was the best series of the first round?

Black Aces: Washington vs. New York
Blood Red Army: Chicago vs. Calgary

Who was the MVP of the first round?

Black Aces: Evgeni Malkin - Pittsburgh
Blood Red Army: Jonas Hiller - Anaheim

Which star player performed the worst in the first round?

Black Aces: Daniel Briere – Philadelphia
Blood Red Army: Evgeni Nabokov – San Jose (although there were many others)

Biggest moron of the first round? John Tortorella, Sean Avery, Donald Brashear, Daniel Carcillo or Montreal fans?

Black Aces: John Tortorella (He should be embarrassed by both his interactions with the fans and the media. Much like Ron Wilson, he thinks he invented hockey. Yet I’m glad he’s around for entertainment purposes.)

Blood Red Army: Montreal fans (Biggest morons in the WORLD)

Which first round team is most likely to blow up their roster for next season?

Black Aces: Montreal (duh)
Blood Red Army: Montreal


Our first round predictions can be seen here.

The score was:

Black Aces: 5
Blood Red Army: 4

Oooh so close. Sorry B.R.A. (yes that acronym spells BRA ... loser)

Although I picked Montreal to beat Boston. Brutal.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Who Stays? Who Goes? Who Knows?

Here's a quick look at the Salary Cap numbers of the Senators going into the summer.

I've broken the players into 3 separate groups as you can see below.

Most Likely To Stay

(Player followed by Cap Hit - not actual salary)

Dany Heatley - 7.5
Jason Spezza - 7.0
Daniel Alfredsson - 4.875
Mike Fisher - 4.2
Jarkko Ruutu - 1.3
Nick Foligno - 0.850
Shean Donovan - 0.625
Ryan Shannon - Restricted
Jesse Winchester - 0.550

Chris Phillips - 3.5
Filip Kuba - 3.7
Anton Volchenkov - 2.5
Brian Lee - 1.275
Chris Campoli - 0.633

Pascal Leclaire - 3.8
Brian Elliott - Restricted

Total Cap Hit: (Roughly) 42 million

Possible Trade Bait

Chris Kelly - 2.125 (most likely will stay but would be moved if the right deal came along)

Christoph Schubert - 0.883 (Schubes days as a Sen are over)

Jason Smith - 2.6 (Senators will find no takers for his salary but this may be a blessing in disguise - Smith is a warrior who will be valuable come playoff time)

Alex Picard - 0.8 (I have no idea how Murray feels about Picard but I'd bet he goes)

Brendan Bell - Restricted (He will be cheap and useful - he stays)

Alex Auld - 1.0 (I think he's gone but what do I know)

Total Cap Hit: (Roughly) 7 million

If none of the players on the above list are moved, the total cap hit for next year will be 49 million. That doesn't take into account the salaries due Ryan Shannon, Brian Elliott and Brendan Bell. Shannon will probably make close to 1 million so that at least brings the cap hit to 50 million.

If the NHL's salary cap is in the mid 50's as expected, the Senators will have about 3 to 4 million to possibly entice one or both of the following players who are unrestricted. That won't be enough unless they cut costs elsewhere (such as shipping out Schubert, Picard and Auld)

Unrestricted Free Agents (May or may not be back)

Mike Comrie
Chris Neil

If recent failed negotiations are any indication, Neil is probably gone and Murray has already expressed his disappointment in Comrie for his lackluster play.

The problem is that the Senators desperately need two players just like Neil and Comrie (when they are on their games).

Letting both of those players go significantly weakens the Senators on both offense and in the toughness department. But does Murray want to spend the money?

Hopefully Murray learned his lesson when he went cheap on his defenseman after trading both Wade Redden and Andre Meszaros (again, I'm not saying he should have kept those specific players, but he should have replaced them properly...don't freak out Redden haters).

Sometimes you have to overpay players to keep them from going elsewhere and Neil is probably worth the 2 million required to keep him, especially if you can cut the fat elsewhere on the roster (and especially if the Leafs are going to try to sign him).

Comrie on the other hand is more of a gamble. He has hip issues and his career seems to be on a downward spiral ever since his glory days with his hometown Oilers. He's not worth the 4 million he made this year but he might be a bargain at 2.5 if he retains his form.

It could get interesting this summer due to the fact that Jesse Winchester somewhat outplayed Chris Kelly in a similar role, and he did so at a bargain price. Yet I still feel that Kelly has a lot to offer and by all accounts, he is one of the most popular teammates in the room. His playoff experience can be a big asset to the Senators who are not (and should not be) in a rebuilding mode.

Casting away too many veterans, such as Kelly and Jason Smith could come back to haunt them.

Besides, 2 million is basically the average player salary in the NHL. People get up in arms over 2 million dollar third and fourth line players, but really, that's the cost of players in this league nowadays.

If you can augment that with cheap but effective youngsters, you can remain comfortably under the salary cap and have success that way.

But it would also make a lot of sense for Murray to sacrifice some players such as Kelly and Neil in order to bring in a proper power-play defenseman.

If you're going to weaken your toughness and depth, do it at the expense of someone who will have a major impact on your team.

Obviously, Jay Bouwmeester leads the pack but other unrestricted defenseman who may interest Murray are Mattias Ohlund, Nick Boynton, Phillipe Boucher, Francois Beauchemin, Derek Morris, Jaroslav Spacek, Jordan Leopold and Martin Skoula.

Trade-wise, well take your pick.

Who knows what Murray could get on the trade market. Could Sheldon Souray be available? What about Cam Barker?

Deja Vu

Did you ever notice that the Over The Edge show never interviews players on the Senators?

Their excuse is that the Senators practice during their time slot, but maybe they have a little more humility than we expected. They spend the better part of the year questioning the players manhood's but don't have the guts to talk to them face to face. Fair enough.

They spent the whole show today continuing their extended campaign to run Dany Heatley out of town by playing a benign clip of the player saying he had an up and down year. Apparently the problem is that Heatley knew his stats off-hand and in Kulka and Versage's minds, that is proof that Heater is not a team player.

I'm getting a little sick of commenting on these two radio jocks but at what point does their personal attacks against Heatley and Jason Spezza completely poison the Team 1200's business relationship with the organization?

The Senators are selling a product to fans and are allowing the Team 1200 the luxury of paying to broadcast the games. When the Team 1200 promotes antagonistic attitudes towards the players day in and day out regardless of the facts and against all good taste and balance, how soon does the day come when the Senators go shopping for another radio outlet to broadcast their games?

There is an expectation of criticism when a team or a player does poorly, but where do you draw the line?

Kulka and Versage go beyond any sense of fairness and balance in attacking Spezza and Heatley day after day based on faulty logic and reasoning.

Only when enough people stop buying tickets to the games to watch a bunch of "spoiled rich hockey players", thanks in part to the incessant diatribes of the Over The Edgers to hate their team, will someone like team president Roy Mlakar wake up and smell something rotten with their business relationship with the Team 1200.


A disaster looming?

The notion of Chris Neil going to the Toronto Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free-agent would be a total pie-in-the-face to Bryan Murray and the organization who should have gotten Neil under contract a long time ago.

Letting a heart and soul player go is one thing. Letting him go to your biggest rival is unforgiveable. Murray has painted himself into a corner here knowing that Brian Burke has all the money in the world to poach the toughest player the Senators have ever had.

Just give Neil the 2 million and get it over with. He's worth it off and on the ice.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Prediction Time

The Senators are toast but that doesn't mean the world stops.

The playoffs are here and that means some hardcore hockey watching until the marathon ends in early June.

For the annual playoff predictions, I've brought in fellow Senator blogger Blood Red Army to help with the picks.

There are a lot of ex-Senators out there trying to win the Stanley Cup, such as Marian Hossa in Detroit, Antoine Vermette and Mike Commodore in Columbus, Zdeno Chara in Boston and Wade Redden in New York.

Anyways, enjoy the games. I know I will.

Eastern Conference Matchups

Boston vs. Montreal

Black Aces: Montreal
Blood Red Army: Boston

Washington vs. New York Rangers

Black Aces: Washington
Blood Red Army: Washington

New Jersey vs. Carolina

Black Aces: Carolina
Blood Red Army: Carolina

Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh

Black Aces: Pittsburgh
Blood Red Army: Philadelphia

Western Conference Matchups

San Jose vs. Anaheim

Black Aces: Anaheim
Blood Red Army: San Jose

Detroit vs. Columbus

Black Aces: Detroit
Blood Red Army: Columbus

Vancouver vs. St. Louis

Black Aces: St. Louis
Blood Red Army: St. Louis

Calgary vs. Chicago

Black Aces: Calgary
Blood Red Army: Chicago

Stanley Cup Finalists:

Black Aces: Calgary vs. Pittsburgh
Blood Red Army: San Jose vs. Carolina

Stanley Cup Winner

Black Aces: Pittsburgh
Blood Red Army: Carolina

Conn Smyth Trophy Winner:

Black Aces: Marc-Andre Fleury
Blood Red Army: Cam Ward

Playoff Scoring Leader

Black Aces: Evgeni Malkin
Blood Red Army: Patrick Marleau

Biggest Playoff Flop

Black Aces: Boston
Blood Red Army: Detroit

Monday, April 6, 2009

Comrie On The Move Again?

Has Mike Comrie suddenly become the "Dead Man Walking" of the Ottawa Senators?

Quietly, Comrie has begun to disappear into the lineup, playing marginal minutes on the third line and being fairly invisible on the power play.

Comrie hasn't had a point since March 22 against the Rangers (He got one tonight). That was 8 games ago.

Before that Ranger game, Comrie had gone 5 matches without a point. So that math is now 2 points in his last 13 games. In total he has 7 points in 19 games as a Senator.

Not only is Comrie not making a case for himself to stay near his current 4 million salary, he's making himself an also-ran in the unofficial "Comrie or Neil" sweepstakes.

Bryan Murray may only have the money to sign one of Comrie or Chris Neil and right now, it's a no-brainer. Neil is the guy.

Just take a look at tonight's physical match in Montreal. Neil was noticeable all night long in a game that was as close as the Senators will get to a playoff atmosphere. Comrie was tiptoeing through the tulips.

It's clear that Ryan Shannon has outplayed Comrie and has gained the trust of Cory Clouston. That's why Comrie is treading water on the third line.

Comrie is an excellent player at times and he still has a lot to offer a team like Ottawa, but right now it doesn't look like his head is into it. I'm not saying he's pouting at the minutes he's getting, but he's also not proving Clouston wrong by playing his way back up the charts.

I'd expect Murray to look elsewhere to park Eugene Melnyk's money next season. The feeling is likely mutual.


Larry Brooks of the NY Post makes a great point about the overblown hullabaloo surrounding Sean Avery's comical Slapshot act with Bruins goalie Tim Thomas:
"Excuse me, but Milan Lucic sticks out his leg and injures a defenseless Nik Antropov by going knee-on-knee midway through the second period on Saturday, and it's Sean Avery who should be suspended for kind of stupidly using his stick to tap Tim Thomas on the back of his helmet during a TV timeout?

The absence of context is the crux of the issue here, just as always. Headhunters such as Chris Pronger and Gary Roberts, who historically injure opponents, are routinely deified, notably by the sanctimonious brigade north of the border, but Avery, who has never hurt anyone but himself, must be banned for the good of the sport? "

To be honest, it's getting a little tiresome listening to the morality brigade trying to kick Avery out of the NHL for even the mildest of incidents.

What Avery did to Thomas was hilarious and solidly in the long NHL tradition of the pest.

The self-righteousness of the punditry when it comes to Avery is getting stale. They complain the game doesn't have enough personalities yet they hammer down every nail that dares to rise up from the grain.

One minute they love Alex Ovechkin and his wild celebrations, the next they want him humiliated for celebrating too hard.

And Brooks is right. The hockey media establishment in Canada thinks they own the game and deem themselves the ultimate arbiters of taste and behaviour. They haven't seen an outrageous personality like Avery before and they don't like it (yet they forget the likes of Eddie Shack and Tiger Williams were almost equal the morons of a guy like Avery. Williams once did the same thing except it was to Scotty Bowman's head when he was on the bench watching the play down the ice. True story. Look it up.).

They try to pin the blame on Avery for the Dallas Star's lost season but in reality, it was not having a healthy Sergei Zubov and Marty Turco playing the worst hockey of his career that led to their downfall.

They've been rid of Avery for a long time now but they completely faded down the stretch on their own.

So save the morality lessons and let the kid goon it up. It's fun to watch.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hunting Season Begins Anew

The character assassination of Jason Spezza continued unabated today on the typically obnoxious Over The Edge radio show after a month of silence on the subject.

The reason for the renewed bile spewing from the blathering duo of Kulka and Versage came from Bryan Murray's comments that the Senators best players had to be better.

No shit.

But like they always do, the Over The Edger's take any open door they see and pry it wide open in their attempt to run the amiable but young superstar out of town for strange reasons that can only stem from personal dislike.

Because if they were strictly talking from a hockey perspective, trading Jason Spezza is a moronic notion.

You have zero chance of winning without a true offensive number one center. There's no argument against that. Nobody is going to trade their current number one center to Ottawa for Spezza simply because they already have one on their roster. Those teams, like Ottawa, are looking for a goalie, a defenseman or a winger. Ottawa might be able to trade Spezza for a good power-play defenseman but who is going to be their top center? If you think Mike Fisher or Mike Comrie can fill the same role, you're dreaming.

Yesterday, the Over The Edger's had nothing to say about Spezza because the team has been going good under coach Cory Clouston's new system and the Big 3 are turning things around as well. But today, now that Murray singled out his best players in what was simply a general statement that was already obvious, the defamation game is back on for the bumbling duo. In the course of two sentences, Spezza is now enemy number one again.

All because these clowns don't have any better material for their pathetic radio show.

It's funny because I was never even that big a fan of Jason Spezza but listening to the constant garbage being bandied about which is full of untruths and cliché assumptions has brought me to his side wholeheartedly.

People with as little hockey knowledge as Kulka and Versage just grab some obvious subjects and beat it to death as a replacement for real insight into the game and the team. Their take today was that Todd White could do a better job as the Senators number one center simply because he has more points than Spezza.

The problem with their argument is that it exists in a vacuum. They don't take into account any other factors, such as the coaching change. Every player under Craig Hartsburg was underachieving, including Spezza. Now that Clouston is in charge, the whole team is playing at their normal expected levels, including Spezza.

Rational thinking would lead us to conclude that this trend will carry over to next season, meaning a big season out of the Big 3, including Spezza.

Yet rational thinking is not the forte of the Over The Edger's. Nothing will get in the way of their prolonged campaign to run Spezza out of town. Dany Heatley is not far behind.

I have no problems with people criticizing Spezza, because he does need to be better.

I have problems with intentional campaigns to discredit player's reputations based on nothing more than a lack of hockey knowledge, a treasure trove of worn out clichés and personal animosity.