Meanwhile the fanbase and the media were busy pointing fingers at all the usual suspects - namely Alex Kovalev, a tired bit that nevertheless gets the readers and listeners all fired up lynch mob style.
Folks, Kovalev is off to a terrible start, but he's not the lone reason the Senators are in trouble here. Neither is it a "lack of effort" on his part, or the team as a whole, as some also claim. I've never bought into that mumbo jumbo and neither should you. Guys who make it to the NHL don't have problems with work ethic. It's a dozen small factors that start accumulating and next thing you know you're at the bottom of the standings and your GM is trying to trade half the team to the Minnesota Wild.
And that was rather interesting. Murray straight up mentioned that he was talking trade with Wild GM Chuck Fletcher, but logic probably tells us Murray is more interested in jacking up the emotions on his team rather than helping the Wild with their own numerous problems.
It's worth noting that Brian Lee was born and raised in Moorhead, Minnesota, but really, that's just the flimsiest of connections and you'd have to wonder what the Wild could possibly see in the young, but diminishing prospect. Yet it's conceivable the Senators, with the right package, could convince the Wild to part with one of their 4 defenseman who make 3 million or more, most interestingly Cam Barker who has yet to live up to his potential as an offensive defenseman other than one good year with Chicago. The Wild aren't using him as a 20 minute guy, giving that time instead to Marek Zidlicky, Brent Burns and Nick Schultz. With an abundance of forwards, the Senators would certainly like to add a physical defenseman who can eat up minutes. Barker is not a bonecrusher by any means but he's fairly big and is a good overall defenseman.
To get a player like Barker or an equivalent, the Senators would have to move about 3 million of salary the other way, a tough task at any time.
Regardless, it's just speculation, but grounded in the fact that Murray didn't leave much to the imagination in his press scrum today.
What isn't speculation is that the demotion of Smith allows Murray to recall David Hale to ostensibly replace Lee on that last defense pairing. I figured this would happen in my last re-cap post, but I thought it could be Lee going the other way, not Smith. Yet it makes much more sense to send Smith and his two-way contract down instead of Lee, eliminating the risk of losing an asset to the waiver wire, even if it means Lee collects his paycheque sitting in the press box.
Still, it was a move that had to be made. Just like Kovalev, it's ridiculous to throw more blame than is needed on young Lee, but Hale is going to go in there and start throwing the body around a little and making opposing players think twice about going to the front of the net. When Lee and Erik Karlsson were guarding that area together, it became a bit of a bad joke. Sometimes, you just have to lay the lumber to someone's back and get in their face, something Lee and Karlsson are just not cut out to do. In Karlsson's case, at least he can provide offense and play on the power-play. Unfortunately for Lee, he wasn't going to get that chance anyways.
Long enough week, anyone?
More on Kovalev right from the Bryan Murray press scrum (thanks to 6th Sens for the text):
Q: Bryan, Alexei Kovalev is seemingly a lightning rod for criticism. How would you evaluate him thus far?If you look at the play of Kovalev in the context of a guy coming off major knee surgery, you start to see that perhaps there are better days ahead for the former star and maybe just a little more patience is needed from certain vocal fans who, you can just guess, are getting ready to try and embarrass the man by booing him when the Senators celebrate his inevitable 1000th point. I really hope for the reputation of the fans in this great city, that this type of ugly spectacle doesn't happen.
BM: Not very good. It looks like his skating isn't where it was last year. I think there are lingering effects from the surgery that he had. I'm hoping that's part of it. I'm hoping that as time goes on and he gets going, it's like Milan. I don't think Milan is quite where he will be. I don't think Alex is where he will be. We need him to be a good player for this hockey team. We need him to be a creative player. He doesn't have to be a star. He has to be creative and help the players that he's playing with, the power play, those areas to get better. He knows he is one of those people who everyone points at. I don't know whether that bothers him or not. I assume it would like it bothers anyone else.
For further reading on Kovalev, here's a great article from Peter over at Silver Sevens, who has a lot of good points to make about the current frenzy over the struggling winger