Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hilariously Bad Officiating

Last night's tilt between Montreal and Ottawa left everyone unhappy. Whether you read the Montreal blog or the Ottawa one, everyone has something to complain about.

While the Senators were clearly jobbed of a goal late in the second period, Montreal fans can point to the total lack of Ottawa penalties as proof that they were not getting it all their way either.

This definitely has an effect on the flow of the game. While Montreal only really showed up to play for the first period, the lack of penalties called as Ottawa could apparently do no wrong (except when scoring, yuk yuk yuk) provided little incentive to work that little bit harder. Ottawa having that goal called back could have totally deflated the team had Montreal not already quit on them, and Ottawa then took gratuitous advantage of the "compensatory" officiating in the 3rd.

The officiating has to be fixed. While everyone wants to make sure that the officials on the ice get the call right, the emphasis has to be on getting the call right first. Officials deliberately not calling penalties is just as influencing to the game's flow as deliberately calling penalties.

We have to decide if we want the game decided by the players or the officials.

And if we can ever get that sorted, we can then move on to deciding if we want the game played by the rule book as it stands, or as it is currently interpreted.

Fix the officiating, then we can talk about changing the rules.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Alfredsson's Injury Points The Way

First, the hit from Wednesday:
Despite the baying for blood, based on this highly pixelated video I would call it an unfortunate hockey incident. Hockey is a contact sport, and sometimes the contact is felt a little more than other times. So the fact that there was no penalty on the play doesn't bother me.

The word today is that Alfredsson is gone for four to six weeks. So he might be back before Spezza is, with maybe a couple of weeks to go before the Olympic break. Actually forget that, this is the guy who only missed, what, one game last year after breaking his jaw? Iron Man Alfredsson will be back in less than six, unless the injury is worse than we've been led to believe -- even though really he should rest easy and come back slowly. If he doesn't come back until after the Olympics it isn't the end of the world.

Because as we saw yesterday, this team may not get to the playoffs. Let's be honest here -- if Alfredsson is the one straw that makes the difference between playoffs or not, then this team is not ready to compete.

And that means the rebuilding has to continue. If we can get Spezza scoring again and find him another productive winger to go with Michalek, we'd be a lot further ahead. On the subsequent lines there is some tweaking we can do -- I think that if Cheechoo can find his mojo again, he would still be overpaid, but it would spread the scoring threat around even more.

Behind them we still have a lot to do to make the defense corps effective. Karlsson has potential -- his time in Bingo showed that -- but he is a couple of years away from being a top-two defender, and his small stature may always be a liability. Volchenkov and Phillips are top-four defense, easy, but behind them we have a whole lot of mediocrity -- guys who are good enough to fill out the defense corps at reasonable prices. Sure, Carkner brings other assets to the table, but he's not top-two and I don't think anyone would argue that.

In goal, I like LeClaire. I think his record thus far this year, as has Elliot's, suffers more from the lack of scoring up front and the lack of defensive discipline. Given decent defense, and more production up front, both of these guys are capable of holding the fort.

Of course this is all a bunch of hot air. Murray knows what needs to be done, and I'm sure he's working on doing it.

But as of now I would rather miss the playoffs and keep Alfredsson healthy for next year rather than rush him back just to squeek into the playoffs.

Merry Christmas

Please don't drink too much eggnog. Even if it is a cool refreshing glass of reality check.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Spirits

As your present this year, I've decided to pretend that last night didn't happen.

Not that the outcome was terribly surprising if it had happened. Defending Cup Champions, their rink... and what with Ottawa bringing their poor defensive team plan and a goalie ready to be lit up like a Christmas tree (welcome back, Mr. LeClaire!)...

At least the bloggosphere seems to recognize that the problem last night was defense, not goaltending. I guess that's a present for LeClaire.

Next game Saturday in Buffalo, before back home to meet Montreal on Monday.

Merry Christmas, Ottawa Senators fans!

Monday, December 21, 2009


Two players notched their 300th career point this weekend.

Mike Fisher did it on 143 goals and 157 assists over 574 games.

Jonathan Cheechoo did it on 168 goals and 132 assists over 475 games.

Congratulations to both players, and we all sincerely hope that their production on the ice only get better.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Ruutu Hit

SenSay on the Ruutu hit last night:
So my issue is this; If Ruutu’s hit wasn’t a penalty, by the letter of the rulebook, how can a suspension be justified, without first altering the rules? This goes to integrity. You cannot create new rules out of thin air, based upon nefarious criteria, criteria I might add, that were not present in the past.
See also Steve Warne's comments:
They could try all kinds of things to clean things up. But read my lips. The NHL doesn’t give a crap. This is what they’re selling. Don’t like it? Too bad.
My view is that the officials should enforce the rules on the book before looking to enforce non-existent rules.

Honestly, it's this kind of naked brutality combined with the studied indifference of the on-ice officials, especially in PLAYOFF!!! hockey is what makes me wonder if I'm really a hockey fan or not.

UPDATE: no suspension for Ruutu. Just a fine. Which I guess means that the NHL admits it isn't really a violation of any rule, but they want to be seen to be somewhat discouraging of it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spezza's Year From Hell Gets Worse

Isn't that great? Jason Spezza out with a knee injury, could be three to six weeks, but it could also be two months. Unfortunately for him, this means no Olympics for him this year -- not that the Olympics were really in the cards the way he was playing. I mean look at Mike Fisher, who looks like he is having a career year, and even he isn't a shoe-in. The commentators last night were discussing his merits as a "specialist" in a checking or fourth line role.

But last night there was ugly all over the place. The Leafs won by virtue of the fact that they were less ugly when it counted. The "tying" no-goal with thirty-odd seconds to go was a fair cop -- Toronto was the better team last night and deserved the win. And really, that's what we need -- a Toronto team that is worth beating. I am tired of kicking puppies.

I'm not going to dump on Elliot -- lazy ass line changes deserve to be punished severely, and last night they were. Similarly Kuba was in the wrong place at the wrong time and deflected the wrong puck the wrong way, and it was Alfredsson's bad position on the play that let Beauchemin get the shot off.

On the good side though the Leafs gave up odd man rushes three times early in the second, and the Senators converted on one of them. And poor coverage of Spezza during the power play gave him the opportunity to get it right, which he did.

But aside from that, the big guns were fairly quiet.

I think that Spezza has been a big factor in creating opportunities for Michalek so far this year, so he and Alfredsson will have to find some chemistry but quick with whomever is cycled up with them.

Say what you want about Spezza's low production this year -- but the team is not improved with him sidelined.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Secondary Scoring

So Alex Kovalev bagged his 400th career goal on Saturday night... well and his 399th and 401st too. His 11th career hat-trick too, since we are pilling on statistics. I think that I like Alex Kovalev. I like his skill, his flair with the puck, his play-making ability. However I think I am beginning to think that the actual amount of production he is getting is somewhat less than we would expect given his rather generous salary.

I remember two or three years ago, the complaint about the team was that there was no secondary scoring. The Pizza Line did the business, and everyone else had poor output showing.

This year it seems like we are all secondary scoring. Fisher and Michalek are perhaps the closest thing we have to primary scoring. And it is good to see the scoring threat spread around a bit more than in previous years. However with most games being one-goal games, I think the team would be in a much better position if the top-compensated guys started producing more. Kovalev and Spezza should be our top producers. (Let's face it, we've all given up on Cheechoo, so anything we get out of him is a bonus.) Super Alfie is the gift that keeps on giving, and today he has the most points on the team.

The team as a whole has to get it done more.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Welcome to the Healthy Scratch

After a week of Google Analytics showed me that nobody reads any of this except me, I decided to split Red Glory into two weblogs.

Formula 1 content remains on Red Glory.

Hockey content is now here at the badly named Healthy Scratch.

I did this because a couple of the blogs I follow for hockey perspective were celebrating their one-year anniversary this week -- and I've been doing this longer. OK, all of a month longer, but still longer. So it occurs to me that since I've done all of no promotion for the 'blog, I should consider doing some. And to make the blog more palatable for potential link exchanges, I should split the content up.

I'll let you know how this goes.

Update: ok, I have to go through the history and see how many back-links to older articles there are... because they are not there any more.

Update II (The Updatering): This has been done, backlinks should work properly again.

It's Cherry's Fault

MD Blames Don Cherry For Hockey Violence
A Toronto neurosurgeon speaking at a Regina seminar about concussions in hockey says the promotion of an aggressive style of play by commentators like Don Cherry is contributing to serious injuries in the sport.

"He's a negative influence," Dr. Charles Tator told CBC News in reference to Cherry, a popular personality on Hockey Night in Canada. "The aggressive, lack-of-respect hockey that he preaches — we need to get that out of the game."
Cue the baying hounds.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Enough Brain Damage Already

Enough Brain Damage Already:
[...]Mr. Burke is regarded as one of the smartest thinkers in hockey management, perhaps in part because he never went through the mind-numbing apprenticeship that is an NHL playing career.[...] In Russia, as it happens, hockey culture evolved out of low-contact soccer traditions rather than from the arts of war and, as a result, clever puck movement is still prized over mindless pugnacity.
This is why my favorite kind of hockey is four-on-four sudden-deathvictory overtime hockey. Even in the NHL, the guys can't screw around hitting each other -- they have to play the game.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Know what I hate?

(Part 2 of a continuing series)... yeah, well too bad, I'm gonna tell you.

I hate this current "The Senators Are Awful On The Road" schtick that is popular through the blogosphere. Why did they earn this? Because they want 1-3-1 on their recent road trip. So let's review:
  • Boston: The Senators stole a point from Boston. Anyone who tells you otherwise is planning the Stanley Cup Parade down Elgin for this June an idiot.
  • San Jose: The Sens roll into California suffering jet lag and somehow don't manage to beat one of the best teams in hockey in their own rink. Somehow this is a surprise to people?
  • Los Angeles: The Kings are fourth in the west, but are tied with the leading Sharks on points. Again, somehow the Senators don't manage to beat one of the best teams in the league in their own rink.
  • Phoenix. The Coyotes are sixth in the west, and therefore should be playing to the same level that the Senators are playing at, but only if you totally ignore the fact that the schedule thus far this year has flattered the Senators efforts. Charitably this could have gone either way. Realistically... well, it didn't go our way, did it.
  • Anaheim. Ok maybe I rated them higher than they deserved, but this game was by no means a gimmie.
When you start the season with a soft, leisurely extended home stand against tired, travelling teams who are playing back-to-backs with a marathon road trip, well it is no wonder the results were different.

If you step back from the last-5 or last-10 perspective everyone gets stuck into, you'll see that this team is barely holding on to the bottom of the playoff positions, which is about where we expected the team to be. Yes this road trip was bad. Yes they were flattered by the early schedule. But you know what? On average, we're getting about what we expected.

Once the Senators get into the softer, tired, dispirited teams (Anaheim and Philadelphia, just to pick two names from a hat) then naturally they do better against them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Don't Throw Elliot Under The Bus

The Senators drop another one on the road. So far this road trip we have an OT-loss in Boston, losses in San Jose, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Today we are up for Anaheim, and let us all be honest that a win today is highly unlikely.

Of the lot, the point salvaged in Boston was a gift, as would be a point stolen today in Anaheim. Realistically, the results of this road trip are about as can be expected.

At the beginning of the year I had my doubts about this team. I hoped that Michalek and Cheechoo would combine to compensate us somewhat for the loss of Heatly -- and I think we can all agree that Michalek has exceeded our expectations. Mike Fisher is on pace for a career year. Alfredsson continues to lead in all areas of the game save goaltending. LeClaire has made some incredible moves to keep the team in games they had no business being in.

The problems that have come up were not entirely unexpected: Kovalev was always referred to as enigmatic (which is a fancy five dollar word meaning inconsistent). The team still lacks at least two top-four defencemen, no matter what miracles Volchenkov and Phillips have been working. Karlsson showed though his stint in the AHL that his game on the small ice is steady, and now he needs to add the NHL caliber polish to it. Defensive discipline in general is, as it seems always to be, a continuing problem for this team.

Some problems were unexpected. Cheechoo was always assumed to be an under performer, but has turned out to miss even those expectations. Jason Spezza can't find the back of the net, something which nobody saw coming. And LeClaire was taken out for a month while riding the bench -- something which will make this year's highlight reel when the season's story is properly told.

Combine this with scheduling circumstance which granted the Senators a soft schedule of abnormally soft opponents, many of whom were playing far more frequently than the Senators and travelling much more, let the Senators draw out some more wins than perhaps they should have. Now, when the shoe is on the other foot -- with the Senators travelling more and playing game after game after game -- the losses are starting to pile up the same way the wins did earlier.

I'm not saying this team is as bad as this road trip is making them look. But they are by no means as good as they looked at home, either. The truth is somewhere in between, which is where they stand today -- tied for seventh in the east, grimly hanging on to a playoff spot.

The one thing I am going to say though is that I don't blame Elliot for the Senator's woes. I think that Elliot is a fine goalie who is being let down by the guys on the ice in front of him. I think he's been thrown into the deep end here and since he isn't a #1 goalie then we are seeing the results. Maybe LeClaire could have stolen some of these games that the rest of the team have been trying to give away, but then again maybe not. But ragging on Elliot is not going to fix anything.

The bottom line is that the team needs to get it done at both ends of the ice, and on this road trip they have not been doing that, and Brian Elliot just can't work miracles.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gameday Prediction: Senators at San Jose

My quick prediction: Sharks win in regulation. Final 3-1 or 4-2.

  • The Sharks are the best team in the league. Ottawa is not. Edge: Sharks.
  • The Sharks are playing at home, Ottawa is on the second game of a road trip and is out of their timezone. Edge: Sharks.
  • The Sharks have Dany Heatley. Ottawa has Brian Elliot, who is a fine backup goalie, but come on, he's a backup. Heatley vs LeClaire might have been interesting. Heatley vs Elliot is a bit of a foregone conclusion. Edge: Sharks.
Hopefully there will be a highlight reel tomorrow morning.

Oh, and I for one don't want to see some juvenile "revenge" dished out on Heatly. He left, let's move on and play some hockey.

Hockey Night In Toronto

There's a reason why CBC prefers the Toronto game nationally:
The absence of the Toronto Maple Leafs cost Hockey Night In Canada at least 250,000 viewers on Saturday night. The show’s 7 p.m. ET game, with the Leafs playing, had been averaging more than two million viewers. With Toronto idle on Saturday, a large segment of the southern Ontario market tuned out and the audience dropped to 1.783 million. Hockey Night aired three games: Washington Capitals-Montreal Canadiens went nationally, with Calgary-Columbus and Boston-Ottawa seen regionally.