Friday, September 20, 2013

The Backhander: Kadri Gives Sens Fans The Douche Chills... Pageau Snaps Them Out Of It

It’s very easy to dislike Nazem Kadri.

Senators fans find it easy to despise anyone wearing the blue and white of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it’s been a while since there’s been a real pain in the ass like the brash and talented Kadri, at least not since the days of Darcy Tucker, Tie Domi, Shayne Corson, Steve Thomas and Gary Roberts.

Last night’s exhibition tilt in Kanata featured Kadri at his antagonizing best – yapping at the refs, scoring a big goal, throwing softies at the only player smaller than him and generally acting like the superstar he is in his own mind.

Reading back that last sentence, I suddenly realize I’ve been afflicted with fan disease, something I’ve managed to avoid for most of the time I’ve done this blog. But Kadri is just that kind of player. He has that lethal combination of knowing how good he is (ie. contract holdout) and being that good for a team that year after year beats and bullies the Senators in every important game.

You can’t claim he isn’t effective. When you think of the most noticeable players on the ice last night, both Kadri and J.G. Pageau immediately come to mind and it’s no surprise the nastiest moment of the game happened to be a confrontation between those two along the boards.

Pageau threw a tough little hit on Kadri and the two ended up exchanging a few gloved shots before the inevitable swarm began. In that melee, David Clarkson tried to pry Pageau’s helmet off sideways which nearly resulted in Pageau’s head coming clean off. It’s hard to say if it was Kadri’s punch which bloodied Pageau below the eye or Clarkson’s fingernails, but somehow the Leafs ended up on the power-play and Kadri himself scored the goal, accentuating it with a “Yep, I just did that” hand wave as a celebration.

Sens fans everywhere had the douche chills.

Luckily for those same fans, they got to watch Pageau do his imitation of a young Denis Savard all night, dangling and racing around like a guy who doesn’t know or doesn’t care he’s the smallest guy on the ice.

There really is something special about this kid. In interviews he’s very soft-spoken, almost shy, but when he’s on the ice he has this real spirit in his play that goes beyond his all-too obvious skills. He’s not afraid of anybody or any situation. We all saw the hat-trick against the Canadiens in last year’s playoffs, Pageau’s first in the NHL. You could forgive a young, French-Canadian rookie being a little intimidated playing the legendary Habs in his first playoff series, especially with just 9 regular season games under his skates. Yet Pageau ended that series with his name being chanted in the stands, which is unheard of, at least in this town.

You could also predict that same player getting a bit of a swelled-head after all the hype and coming into this camp thinking a roster spot was locked up. Clearly, Pageau doesn’t have this problem. He was playing desperate hockey, going as hard as he did last spring and making a few well-paid veterans look like they were waiting for the 96 bus to Bayshore.

I don’t know how Paul MacLean or Bryan Murray can justify keeping this kid off the team. It’s going to mean someone on a one-way contract is going to be pretty pissed off being waived, demoted or traded, but there’s no denying how dynamic and exciting a player Pageau is right now.

Get ready for the next decade as Kadri and Pageau make this Battle Of Ontario their own.


The other real standout for Ottawa was Patrick Wiercioch who was nailing tape-to-tape passes all night coming out of his zone and looking dangerous on the first-unit power-play with Erik Karlsson. He still looks gangly out there, a bit like Scooby Doo on skates, but he’s clearly coming on as a real offensive threat and looks a bit stronger out there. If he permanently steps up to the first PP unit, that lets Ottawa keep Joe Corvo on the second unit which is a pretty good one-two punch of offensive defensemen. .... That was a hell of a backhand by Andre Petersson, who also had a real good night. It’s scary how many forward prospects this team has right now. You can see why Murray didn’t have much of an issue trading Stefan Noesen in the Bobby Ryan trade. Ottawa could lose two or three of these guys and still have a loaded prospect pool. Expect longer and longer tenures in Binghamton for young players, much like Detroit’s model.... Been hearing a lot of great things about Swedish defenseman Fredrik Claesson and last night was the first time I got to see him play. Seemed very steady in his 16 minutes of play, almost unnoticeable except for his goal. You know how the cliche goes, “the less you notice a young defenceman, the better....”

.... Very surprised to see Karlsson logging over 29 minutes last night, on top of the 26 he played against Winnipeg earlier this week. Maybe MacLean is trying to push that leg and see what happens. If that’s the case, I don’t there should be any worries about Karlsson’s skating. The guy looked incredible out there. I think there’s a huge season coming up here.... And if you’re worried about the Spezza-Ryan-Michalek line, don’t be. In a month you’ll be looking back and wondering why everyone was so worked up about pre-season hockey anyways. These guys will be ready to go when the puck drops for real.

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