Monday, August 31, 2009

Ferraro on Heater...Wishing for Couture...Donovan On Way Out?

Some pretty intense but supportive words from TV personality and ex-NHL star Ray Ferraro on Dany Heatley, courtesy of L.A. Kings blogger Matthew Barry. Ferraro played with Heatley in Atlanta:

“First of all, not only have I been in the (dressing) room, I’ve roomed with Dany. I know him really well and the people that are talking that he’s toxic don’t know (expletive)! They don’t know anything about him …

There’s all kinds of rumors about Dany off the ice. … Everybody does whatever research they do but I’ve known Dany for over ten years now. He had to mature. Absolutely he did and he’d be the first guy to tell you that he had to mature. …He had a terrible year last year because he wasn’t in shape. He signed a 50 million dollar contract in the summer and he kind of went on the “Summer of Dany” I called it. He had a lot of fun and he was going to ballgames and he was a half a
step out of shape when he got to camp and so he had a terrible year….

If Dany has to go back to Ottawa I’m sure he’s going to have to have a meeting with the guys. He’s going to have to mend the fence. But once the fence is mended and game one starts, he’ll be fine.”

Ferraro’s statement, while not absolving Heatley for having a bad year, seems to follow the pattern of every teammate or ex-teammate who all categorically claim Heater is a good guy in the dressing room and a good person. So why the massive schism of opinion between Heatley's teammates and the media (which represents the fans)?

If last off-season was the "Summer of Dany" ala George Castanza, what would you call this summer?

I don't care what anyone says - Alexei Yashin was worse. Much, much worse.


If there is a deal to be had for Heatley in San Jose, you’d have to hope that Bryan Murray is insisting on Milan Michalek and Logan Couture in any deal. While that sort of trade would put San Jose over the cap, it might be worth it for them to find some savings elsewhere to bring on-board a 50 goal scorer.

Michalek scored only 23 goals last year and figures to max out somewhere in the mid-30’s (and that's not a bad thing). Heatley would be a big upgrade on that left wing for a team that is going for the Cup right now. Couture would be hard to give up but that’s the price you have to pay for 50 goal scorers.

For the Senators, Michalek is ideal because he is signed long-term for a reasonable salary (5 years with a 4.3 million cap hit) and will be a solid, if not spectacular offensive player with the upside of a speedy power forward. Couture could be Ottawa’s number one centre in 5 years when Jason Spezza may be long gone.

The deal seems fair (even if it puts San Jose in temporary cap-trouble) but rarely are deals as easy to pull off as they are on paper.


Suddenly, the Tampa Bay Lightning look like a threat again. With the additions of Victor Hedman, Alex Tanguay and Mattias Ohlund, and a full season under coach Rick Tocchet, the Lightning could be a top 5 team in the conference despite their ongoing ownership saga.

Another thing they have going for them? Lecavalier is only 29 years old.

It’s hard to believe he’s that young but you could say his best years could still be ahead of him. And most of those years will be with a blossoming Steve Stamkos. Their power-play could be deadly. The additions of Ohlund and Hedman will also allow the much (but unfairly) maligned Andrej Meszaros to play more of a supportive role rather than play almost 25 minutes a night like he did last season. And Mesz is only 23 as well. The future looks bright.

The one negative I saw over the summer was the deal that saw Evgeny Artyukhin go to Anaheim for Drew Miller. That is an absolute steal for the Ducks as Artyukhin is one of the most feared hitters in the game today. Miller is a decent two-way player but Artyukhin is one of a kind, even if his offense is not very lethal. I think the deal was a big mistake for the Bolts – but not enough to derail their comeback season.


Not to jump the gun, but the Senators have a very good opportunity to get off to a quick start in the early going of October.

The first four teams they face are the Rangers, the Leafs, the Islanders and the Thrashers.

Sure, the Rangers have Marian Gaborik and his groin for at least one game, the Leafs are now the toughest team in the league, the Islanders have, well, a 19 year old John Tavares and the Thrashers actually have a legitimately good defense core this year. But the Senators should be frothing at the mouth to win some games early on after the two brutal seasons and off-seasons they have had to endure recently. With so many people with something to prove (Spezza, Heatley, Kovalev, Leclaire, Shannon, Kelly, Campoli and Lee), a quick start seems to be in the cards.


With Bryan Murray's "fan conference-call" today, he expressed quite a bit of confidence in players such as Zach Smith and Peter Regin.

I hate to say it, but it looks like Shean Donovan is going to find it even harder to get into the lineup this season and could even find himself on waivers right before the season along with Christoph Schubert and Alex Picard.

I'm a huge fan of Donovan, as many of you probably are as well, but there are simply too many forwards on the Senators right now. I don't get the sense that Donovan is one of Cory Clouston's "guys" and that players like Smith and Regin will get first shot at those third and fourth line minutes.

For Donovan's sake, I hope I'm wrong. I think he still has a lot of experience, speed and grit to offer the Senators.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Alfie and Senators Losing Respect - Fans and Local Media Share Blame With Players

The annual Hockey News list of the Top 50 players in the NHL (as seen in their yearbook) is read widely around the league and is a fairly accurate reading of where the big-name players stand amongst their colleagues.

And that’s why it probably hurts fans of the Ottawa Senators to see captain Daniel Alfredsson dropped from the top 50 rankings after being named the 12th best overall just one year ago.

In fact, no other player dropped as far as Alfie to find themselves off the coveted list.

The next guy to drop almost as far was Brenden Morrow who ranked 15th a year ago but is also coming off a lost season when he tore his ACL tendon back in November, causing him to miss the rest of the year.

Alfredsson, meanwhile, played 79 games and racked up 74 points to lead the Senators in points, only experiencing a drop-off of 15 points from the year before. And the two players he scored more points than in fewer games - Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza - both made the list at 43 and 47 respectively (though they did drop mightily from last years rankings – Heatley dropped 33 spots!)

So what gives? Where’s the respect for Alfie from the Bible Of Hockey?

It’s probably due to two factors. Once you pass the age of 35 (Alfie is 36), critics tend to expect a major slowdown no matter your past performance. Once Alfie passed that magic age threshold and had a sub-par year statistically, alarm bells start going off and people start treating you like Mike Modano.

Spezza and Heatley are both just entering their primes and fantasy poolers will be much more forgiving of players with that combination of youth and skill.

But they don’t seem to know Alfie, do they? If anything, Alfredsson has gotten better with age and is a much more commanding presence out there than both Heatley and Spezza. That will probably continue for at least this season and most likely next.

Another factor is that the overall respect level for the Senators organization has taken a mind-blowing nose dive since the Stanley Cup final in 2007. The Ray Emery and Heatley sagas have taken their toll, with a big help from an over-reactive and rabidly conservative local media who have so vociferously attacked a few specific individuals (Spezza, Emery and Heatley) that most of the goodwill the Senators built up in the community over the years has been obliterated. People once looked at the Senators as local heroes and good role-models but now they are wrongly characterized as rich party-hearty jerks who are walking targets for overripe fans who learned all they know about hockey from Glenn Kulka and Lee Versage on their lousy but popular radioshow “Over The Edge”.

All of that goodwill squandered over a few missed practices by a young kid and an annoying trade request by a fading superstar.

When the organization looks bad, even the really good guys, like Alfredsson, Spezza, Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly and Chris Neil get less respect in the hockey world.

Instead of Ottawa fans ripping their own team apart year after year over exaggerated slights, maybe they should focus their energies on actually cheering for their hometown boys and giving them the backing they need to succeed on the ice. Remember when you actually liked hockey? Any of you? It can be that way again if you stop imposing meaningless moral standards on your favourite hockey players and just relax your sphincters for a little while.

Just a suggestion….

Now back to your regularly scheduled “Over The Edge” gong show.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Heatley Presser: My Take

What do I think of Dany Heatley's explanations for wanting out of Ottawa?

I guess I believe him.

A lot of people seem predictably angry that he didn't drop a bombshell such as not getting along with teammates or hating the city or his girlfriend hating the city or something sleazy and headline grabbing. They claim that he must be hiding something unsavoury.

Sometimes the truth is boring.

I believe Heatley when he says it's purely a hockey decision. I believe his claims and his teammates claims that he is a good guy and a positive presence in the locker room. Steve Yzerman wouldn't have chosen him to represent Canada in the Olympics if that wasn't the case. Heatley has always served Hockey Canada with pride and distinction.

I believe his claims that he didn't leak the trade request and that he's genuinely upset at the way it has played out in the public.

To me, this is just another case of a hockey player being unhappy with his role on a team and asking for a trade. It happens all the time in the NHL, much more than people realize.

If Heatley says he wants a bigger role on the Senators than Cory Clouston is willing to give him, then it makes sense that he asked for a trade. And it would have even made sense if GM Bryan Murray was the one to initiate the trade talk. There's no sense in having a franchise player and a head coach pulling in two different directions.

Everyone will take the coach's side no matter what the truth is because fans just don't like rich hockey players, plain and simple. Most journalists don't either.

But the reality is never as black and white as it seems. No one can claim to be 100 percent right in a situation like this. But the Senators made a commitment to Cory Clouston (who has proven to be successful at his job) and they have to back him up, even if it costs them one of the league's only consistent 50 goal scorers.

I don't think Heatley's decision to ask for a trade was a good one, but who am I to pretend to know what goes on in Heatley's life and to think that I know what's right for him.

I just don't see any hidden drama here. Heatley has always been a quality player and a quality individual, but business is business.

Heatley is trying to do what is best for his career, as he sees it. Whether you like it or not doesn't really make a difference. The NHL runs on the same principles that our society does - a regulated free market where individuals can largely choose the way and the location where they make their living.

You can try and pretend that your favourite hockey players will play for free and in your city simply for the love of the game, but you'd be living in a fantasy land.

I don't agree with Heatley but I'm not going to froth at the mouth with endless fury over what is an entirely reasonable and common practice of asking for a trade due to unhappiness.

You can. I won't.

I have better things to worry about. Don't you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Marleau - Alfie Connection

It's not too far fetched to favourably compare the careers of Ottawa Senator Daniel Alfredsson and San Jose Shark Patrick Marleau.

Both came into the league within 3 years of each other and both have played with only one team in that span, becoming captains and offensive leaders on their clubs. Daniel Alfredsson's career totals are more impressive than Marleau's but considering their respective ages, they will probably end up within 100 points of each other when the crying's all over.

Unfortunately for Marleau, he hasn't crossed that invisible threshold from great player to indispensable franchise player the way that Alfredsson did back in 2007 during the Senators brilliant run to the Stanley Cup final.

Both captains received eerily similar criticism after each playoff failure, with people questioning their aggressiveness both on the ice and in the locker room. Alfie won over his doubters but Marleau is still a work-in-progress.

And now the knives have come out.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan has announced that Marleau is no longer the captain of the team after yet another disappointing playoff exit by the polite lads in teal.

Who knows? If Alfredsson and the Senators weren't able to turn their 2007 season around after a near-disaster like beginning, maybe the universe would be different and Alfie would have been in a similar situation that Marleau is in now, namely a sitting duck waiting to get traded.

Marleau does have a no-trade clause in his contract but, as Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated points out, his time in San Jose has probably come to an end.

"Marleau's demotion -- think of a guy getting his stripes ripped off in one of those old war movies -- effectively ends his time in San Jose. Theoretically he can stick around -- Modano did in Dallas when he ceded the C to Brenden Morrow, and Vincent Lecavalier actually matured after losing the C in Tampa Bay -- but Sharks general manager Doug Wilson knows he has to change the mix on his team. If he were trying to trade Marleau before, now Wilson must get rid of the player who scored a career-high 38 goals last season.

"Pat is great," a somber (Joe) Pavelski said Tuesday. "This isn't going to take anything away from the kind of character (player) he is. He is probably going to have to come out stronger after something like this. Or (he'll have to go)elsewhere . . . "

Of course, this kind of talk will inevitably lead to the Dany Heatley situation. Would Marleau waive his no-trade to come to Ottawa? We can probably assume Heatley would love the chance to play with Joe Thornton. But then you just start getting into more of the same tiresome speculation that everyone has had enough of by now.

Regardless, Marleau would be a "nifty" little centre for Alex Kovalev or even Daniel Alfredsson himself (who by the way, is only 68 games shy of 1000 for his career - barring injury he'll hit that milestone this season, probably in March or April).

Something to watch.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Hockeybuzz Fraud

If you read about the NHL on the internet, you damn well know what HockeyBuzz is all about.

Now there is a website dedicated to debunking the Eklund myth and you would be well advised to at least check it out if you are a regular HockeyBuzz reader.

From the front page of HockeybuzzHogwash:

"We hope that after reading you might not COMPLETELY WASTE $20 (or $3 monthly) on for useless garbage, lies and features that are promised but rarely delivered, go give that money to a charity that your favorite hockey player supports and know its going to people who need it…..

- For every 1 rumor Eklund gets correct, he gets approximately 30 incorrect (457 wrong, 15 right for 3.1%)

- He finished off 2008 calender year (exactly 1 year of our tracking) with a 2.3% accuracy rating

- He proved Mike Chen’s theory was ABSOLUTELY TRUE, that his success rating is slightly less than picking a team out of a hat"

Wow. You have to wonder if these types of numbers apply to any other "rumour" sites that are so prevalent nowadays, even a very popular one right here in the Sens blogging community.

To believe that a bunch of mediocre bloggers have "sources" who leak high-level trade conversations is far-fetched to begin with. Plus, if agents or GM's wanted to leak "trial balloons" to float an idea with the hockey world, why would they do it with unreliable bloggers, especially discredited ones? Somehow these bloggers claim to have better sources than real writers like Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger? Right.

To me, it's all a symptom of the ADD post-lockout hockey fan who views loyalty to their hometown players as secondary to hyper-speculation on what they could fetch on the trade market.

Ottawa fans are no different. Sometimes they seem like they would rather see a blockbuster trade than watch a team grow together slowly and win.

Who has patience for that? Trade the bums!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Notes From The Dog Days...

The Hockey News hasn’t exactly been kind to the Senators this summer.

In their annual ranking NHL uniforms, THN pegged the Senators duds 29th out of 30 teams, just ahead of the infamous “Buffaslug” (aka Donald Trump’s lettuce).

They did not account for 3rd jerseys in their process but even if they did, the Senators might have actually slipped a spot because the Sabres have the nicest 3rd uni’s in the league (the throwbacks with the original Sabre crest).

Always a hot topic around Bytown – probably because the organization changes the sweaters every few years it seems – the uniforms will not be changing this season (including their terrible sock design with the weird angles at the back) despite some hope that the Senators might opt to put the original “O” crest back on their 3rd jerseys instead of the stylized “SENS” font they currently sport.

But stranger things have happened. The organization brought back the Senators theme song to its original spot in the opening lineup after a short but intense campaign led by many blogs around town (including Black Aces). The Senators might be induced to change their look if a similar campaign is started – and by all accounts, it has.

Personally, I’d rather see the team switch back to their original 2-D logo on their red and white sweaters before bringing back the “O” but I’m game for both ideas. The Senators seem to want to cater exclusively to kids in their designs – which is smart in a way – but it leaves the people who actually dish out the dollars for tickets and merchandise having to wear a cartoonish sweater that nobody really loves. Not like Habs or Leaf fans who don’t have to feel childish in their hometown jerseys.

Maybe new team president Cyril Leeder will have more of a traditional bent than his predecessor, Roy Mlakar, who came to Ottawa from L.A. where selling hockey pre and post Gretzky was like selling ketchup popsicles to women in white gloves (to quote David Spade in “Tommy Boy”). Mlakar's time in L.A. was during the peak of the Gretzky era and he took that aggressive vigor into the Ottawa market and did a great job selling the team during the troubled Rod Bryden years. But recently, under the Eugene Melnyk and Mlakar combo, the organization seemed to opt more for gimmicky marketing and ill-conceived promotions. Who can forget the disaster of the actor dressed up like a Roman warrior at centre ice bumbling through his embarrassing speech with a loose helmet and a faulty microphone?

Leeder has been in Ottawa since the Bruce Firestone days and hopefully will realize that the fans are crying out for more traditional, adult-friendly uniforms and approaches. The kids will still love the Senators without a cartoon character on the front of the sweater. I guarantee it.

But sticking to the Hockey News angle, they also pegged the Senators to finish 9th in the Eastern Conference, just out of a playoff spot. And who can blame them really?

With the Dany Heatley situation unresolved and the team currently over the cap limit, no one really knows if this group of players will come together and regain their elite status in the league.
I think they’ll be in the 4 – 7th place range, especially if they can keep Heatley in the lineup, because not many teams will be able to score as many goals as the Senators if the lineup stays basically the same.

Think of it: Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, Alexei Kovalev and Jason Spezza all being available for your power-play.

The idea is almost sickening in its lethal possibilities. In the East, only Washington and Pittsburgh would be able to offer up similar firepower.

When (or if) Heatley leaves, the team will be worse, at least in the short-term.

And that’s without making any sort of allusion to his character. From a hockey standpoint, the Senators will miss Heatley. It’s hard to dispute that unless Murray pulls off a miracle trade that brings in another elite sniper.

But I don’t want to talk about number 15 anymore than you want to read about it. Until something happens, who cares?


Kind of amusing how loved Jason Spezza is right now when only 2 or 3 months ago, most of the fan base wanted him traded.

It’s strange how it works.

Heatley becomes the devil, so that must mean Spezza is a saint. Yet Spezza is still the same player and guy he was when everyone picked on him, save for a wedding ring.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy for the turnaround in sentiment. You’d be hard pressed to find a blog that defended Spezza more vigorously than Black Aces the last two seasons. It’s nice that fans are starting to realize they have a superstar player in their midst. But he hasn’t even scored a point this summer, has he?

The same schism happened with Ray Emery and Martin Gerber.

Emery was so hated that it made people love Martin Gerber – for no apparent reason other than the fact that he wasn’t Ray Emery. Yet he was still the same old Martin Gerber on the ice, letting in weak goals and looking like Hardy Astrom the longer his Senators career continued.

You could even say the same thing happened with Daniel Alfredsson and Alexei Yashin.

Alfie was well liked but it wasn’t until Yashin sulked off to Russia that Alfie became “Alfie” to the fans. They still wanted to trade him right before the 2007 playoff run but that's Ottawa fans for you.

So what’s the lesson?

There’s nothing like a good enemy within to rally fans around the team.



A second-act I’m looking forward to? Jarkko Ruutu’s second season in Bytown. His style of game is so much better when his team is actually winning more games than they're losing. Ruutu and players of his ilk are more effective when they seem to be gloating and become harder to ignore. Too many coaches tell their players to stop reacting to pests when they have the lead……..First prediction of the new season: Brian Lee has a great year and cements a spot on the team permanently, making Alex Picard expendable (if he already isn't) ….. Second prediction: When Brendan Bell hangs up the skates for good, he’ll be hired as a radio personality in Ottawa covering hockey. The kid is really well-spoken, smart and perfectly comfortable in all interviews I’ve heard. Good luck with the Blues, Brendan……

The Senators should retire Frank “King” Clancy’s number for 4 very legitimate reasons:

One, he deserves it. The King was a superstar player in Ottawa for many years and is an NHL legend in the Hall of Fame. He was also the first player to play every position in one game, including goal when Clint Benedict actually had to serve his two minute penalty because the rule book didn't allow a substitution when a goalie was penalized.

Two, it would create more of a link to the Senators history and tradition, never a bad thing, even if critics will say the new franchise has no connection to the old dynastic one. But too late. Former teammate Frank Finnigan’s number has already been retired by the modern team so that argument doesn’t really wash.

Thirdly, it will piss off the Leafs who became Clancy’s adopted team once he was traded. The Leafs don’t retire numbers as a matter of club policy. Instead they "honour" them but keep the number in circulation. What better way to steal a little thunder from Ottawa’s biggest (and now extremely tough) rivals from across the province. Might as well get in the first shot in the Brian Burke era.

Lastly, maybe it will break the curse. When Clancy was traded to the Leafs in 1930, some say the Senators hexed themselves and it’s hard to argue when you look at the modern Senators series record against the Leafs in the playoffs: 0 wins – 4 losses.

In all of my research done in the past two hours, including reference books and the internet, I cannot figure out what number Clancy wore while he was with the Senators. He wore lucky number 7 with Toronto and I'd bet he wore the same in Ottawa.

I'm sure someone out there knows and can fill us in.