Saturday, December 11, 2010

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to the heart of the modern Senators franchise.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Love For Jacques Martin

Jacques Martin got the bums rush out of Ottawa, and I didn't think that it was deserved at the time.

Head honcho Muckler let Martin(*) go, after yet another team which excelled during the regular season was shown the door early in the post season, with comments along the lines of "the room needs shaking up and I can't fire all the players". Which is perhaps simplistic, but on the other hand fundamentally true.

Now back from the dead Florida, Martin is once again running his system of defensive discipline with the Montreal Canadiens. Backed by a resurgent Carey Price, the Canadians are playing simple, tight hockey in their own end, waiting patiently for opportunities granted through the opposition's errors.

And it was this system which stymied the Ottawa Senators back on Tuesday(**).

What I saw on Tuesday was the Senators doing their best to create offensive chances, but the Canadiens' discipline and patient play meant that few chances came together.

Ottawa's lone goal from Foligno resulted from a power play rush that the Canadiens' mis-read, leaving Foligno alone with the puck long enough to get a shot off that snuck through Price. It was a lucky goal, sure, but if you give enough chances to a team, even Ottawa is going to get lucky occasionally.

Yes, Ottawa stopped trying in the third more than a little. But I think the first parts of the game were not entirely all bad, and if the team keeps playing together the way they played parts of the Montreal game, then good things will start to happen.

Maybe this is just diminished expectations brought on by the team's performance this year... but once you figure that playoffs are not really going to feature this spring, you'll settle for pretty much anything.(***)

But really, I thought Martin was made the scapegoat for the team at the time, and I'm more than a little pleased to see that he is once again enjoying some success.

(*) = Muckler, Murray, Martin, Melnyk -- The Ottawa Senators ownership and senior executives are brought to you by the letter M.

(**) == Yes, Tuesday. Life: I has one.

(***) = <include mandatory Leafs joke.>

Monday, December 6, 2010

Love for Coach Clouston

Houses Of The Hockey gives up some love for Coach Clouston.
At the end of the day, you can’t fault Clouston for where the Senators are in the standings. If Clouston, a winning coach and the best coach the Senators have had in years, can’t win with this roster, I’m not sure any other coach would fair much better.
And the fact of the matter is, other coaches have not fared better.

I said at the time that Hartsburg left that I didn't think the team's poor results were entirely his fault. The problem was that the guys on the ice were not putting in the consistent effort every night. My view was I'd like to see what Hartsburg could do with a real team before we decided if he was to be fired.

And the same problem is happening here. I've said before, I thought the problem was that 2007 happened a year too early. 2007 happened because Ray Emery played way, way over his head for the entire playoff series, and that inspired the rest of the team to increase their level of play. As a result, everyone thought that the construction of the team was complete, and we would challenge in 2008.

Reality was somewhat different, and since then we've been slowly tweaking ourselves into the current situation. While I think the guys on the ice are not playing to their capabilities, they are definitely not playing over their heads in the way required to succeed with this roster.

The other problem that GMs face is that they generally can't fire the entire roster due to contract limitations. If the GM thinks a change has to be made, the coach is the at-will employee closest to the players that can be fired.

We are still coming to grips with this cap-centric world, so while Murray has to take some of the blame for the current situation, the fact is that none of his colleagues have really shown they understand how to work the cap-centric world either. Until that happens, look for trades to be both infrequent and one-sided. Infrequent because the cap will govern any moves made, and one-sided because one side of the trade will inevitably be forced to accept less than one might otherwise consider fair. (See also Dany Heatley.)

The bottom line is that Murray has to be better about assembling the pieces. If we have to go through a dry spell, then I for one would like to see emphasis on picks and prospects, trying to trade intelligently for a future more than just 10 games away.

Until then, Clouston is a perfectly adequate coach and I don't see a reason to fire him.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Want a crazy thought? Dany Heatley did the Senators a favor by screwing them on his way out of town.

Now while you are casting around for your torches and pitchforks, hear me out.

Put aside your Senators-red colored glasses and take a look at this year's team. I mean, really look at them. Look at the effort put in on the ice on most nights.

Last night they fired more shots at Niemi than were directed back at LeClair. Niemi may be commonly considered one of the more porous goalies on the circuit this year, but for all this artillery... nothing goes in.

Monday they played host to Edmonton, and got owned. The worst team in the west came to visit and beat them. The only goal that the Senators could muster would be a single fluky marker that bounces off of Foligno's stick then off an Oiler skate and in.

All those other efforts?


And this was Darth Gerber they were shelling, allegedly the single handed cause of Ottawa's now legendary collapse in 2008. A man shielded by the worst defense corps in the west. Being attacked by a team who's owner believes are destined for the finals; a team which most fans think will get to the playoffs, even if not very far.

And? At risk of repeating myself:


So. Let's review. This year we have:
  • no primary scoring;
  • no defensive discipline; and
  • at least one goalie (you pick) playing over his head without any support from the guys ahead of them.
Gut check time, folks:

How much better would this be if Heatley was still here?

It would be better, sure. But how much better? Is Dany Heatley that god among men who can make the difference between a trip to the finals, and... well, this?

Well then San Jose is sure getting screwed, aren't they?

When Heatley devalued himself so that Brian Murray was forced to take a salary dump in the form of Cheechoo just for the privilege of handing over a multi-time 50-goal-scorer, he not only deprived the Senators of his services, but weakened them further by tying up resources that would prevent the Senators from even contemplating a reasonable effort at replacing even a part of it.

(No disrespect to Michalek, but he's no Dany Heatley.)

Leading us more or less inevitably to where we are today.

The Ottawa Senators are going to have to take a long, hard look in the roster. The fact of the matter is that as the team is currently on average the oldest on the ice, they will not be getting, on average, better.

While we locked up the core of the team that got us to the playoffs, we discarded for varying reasons some of the wildcards that were the difference between trying and succeeding. And it was that whole team, together, all playing well, many playing above their heads, that got to the final in 2007.

By trying to hold on to that history, hold on to the memory that we came so close to holding that parade, we have let the possibility of that dream coming true in the near future slip through our fingers.

The time has passed on tweaking this team.

The time has come, frankly, to rebuild this team.

I'd rather wander the wilderness of no-playoffs for a couple of years knowing that we were in the process of building a youth movement that could actually carry us somewhere. It would be far better to do that than to carry on as we are, staggering around in the fringes of the wilderness, hoping against hope that some miracle tweak will make everything better.

I think that Dany Heatley got us to this point sooner than we would have otherwise.

Sorry, guys.

Bring on the torches and pitchforks.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Dean Brown gets on the Call The Fucking Rulebook bandwagon, albeit at a higher level.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leafs Lose, All Is Right With The World

You know what I thought the highlight of Saturday night was? In the second. The hometown Leafs fans started a "Go Leafs Go" chant -- and it got drowned out by a "Go Sens Go" chant.

The other random thought I had was that the hometown Leafs fans really gave the team that home-style welcome, right down to booing them in the third.


Overall I thought that Ottawa deserved to win. Maybe Toronto didn't deserve to get shut out, but more than a goal would have been flattering to both the Leaf effort and discipline. Both Khadri and Kessel whiffed on open net opportunities, but that's what happens to most players most of the time.

For once it wasn't Ottawa making stupid defensive lapses. For once it wasn't Ottawa making turnovers on botched outlet passes. For once it wasn't the LeClaire facing odd-man rushes.

Fisher was on, collecting two pretty goals, an assist on Kovalev's marker, plus a post.

It wasn't the prettiest game, but at least the hometown Leafs fans were shut up a bit, and that's never a bad thing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

6th Sens Contest Entry

The contest, such that it is, is here.

I won't win, but I might get a cheap laugh for being one of the first.

The picture is described:
Erik Karlsson’s death stare. After Pittsburgh cheap shot specialist Matt Cooke was sent to the penalty box for running the Ottawa defenceman into the glass from behind with a late hit, Karlsson fixed his evil eye across the ice surface and pointed a threatening finger at his attacker. It was a bit like a chipmunk trying to intimidate a weasel, but kudos to the kid for sticking up for himself.
Update, 10 seconds later: Turns out I've been misspelling Erik's first name this whole time. How typical humiliating.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Sens Plan To Jack Up Price
Ottawa's favourite hockey team plans to raise ticket prices on premium games. The closer it is to game day, the higher the cost will be for some of the seats.
...and this predictably drags out the boo-birds who declare this as nothing less than unadulterated greed.

What I don't get is why these "fans" think it is OK for a third party to buy a ticket from the Senators for some price, then sell it at a higher price, pocketing the difference. That ticket still sells for the higher price. Why should that profit not go to the team for providing the entertainment?

The problem for these "fans" isn't that the Senators want to raise prices. The problem for these "fans" is that someone is willing to pay more than they are. And the team just wants an increased cut of that money.

This is basic economics, people. If someone is willing to buy a particular ticket for $300, why on earth should the team sell it for $200?

And if the team raises prices beyond the willingness of their market to pay, then they'll end up with less-than-sold-out games, and at that point they'll have to reconsider.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Refs Try To Give Toronto A Win, Leafs Can't Take It

I'm still angry about Tuesday night.

Tuesday I watched most of the game between the Leafs and the Senators. Overall I thought the Leafs skated better and and made the Senators run around in their own end, but stand-up play from Elliot and no small amount of bad luck on the Leaf's part meant that the Senators ended up winning.

But what has me angry is the just plain flat out BAD officiating that happened in that game:
  • Fisher wasn't hooked. Officials have let FAR worse go FAR more regularly, and to suddenly call something like that is to raise the level of inconsistency.
  • Both refs were far more interested in watching Phaneuf get up-ended on his ass than watching the goddamn puck. So even though the puck went under Kovalev, who went in the net, which is where the officials picked the puck up from after Phaneuf was helped off the ice play -- no call. Since there was no call on the ice, there was no call to overturn, and the cameras have not yet been fitted to Kovalev's ass, so -- no goal. WATCH THE GODDAMN PUCK, ITS YOUR JOB.
  • The flurry of penalties at the end was more than a little ridiculous, considering worse had been ignored EARLIER IN THE PERIOD.
  • That TOTALLY bogus "delay of game" penalty issued to Hale even though we could hear the puck HIT THE GLASS on the way out of the ice surface.
It felt by the end that the officials were trying very hard to give Toronto the win, but somehow the Leafs couldn't quite seal the deal.

That's not to say that the Leafs fans had nothing to complain about with regards to the reffing:
Similar slashes to the one called on Grabovski were let go, a trip on Beauchemin prior to Orr's dumb penalty was missed, and Mike Fisher interfering with Jean-Sebastien Giguere's right leg was not seen by any refs.
PPP (the author) is far more charitable to the officials that I am.

And this, I think, is what gets me. This kind of bad officiating is so run-of-the-mill that there is no serious mention of it. It is accepted that over the long haul, sometimes the refs will work for you and sometimes they will work against you and that's just considered part of the game.

Now I'm sure that because this is a fast-paced, high-pressure game where the players will push every boundary just a little bit further than they can that the refs are under enormous pressure to make split-second judgments. To get it right every time would be impossible. However I don't think they were even close on Tuesday night.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Paid Attendance

I'm guessing Sens owner Melnyk looks at these pictures and stops worrying so much about having a fan attendance problem.

It is a continuing mystery to me why the NHL continues to keep franchises in markets which clearly don't want them.

(Not that I'm assuming that places like Hamilton, Winnipeg, or Quebec City would be successful mind you. It just seems like the possibility of finding a fan base willing and able to support the team would be far more likely than where they are now.)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

This could be a long year

Tonight was simple. The Senators made more mistakes than Montreal did, and that's why they lost. Oh and lets not overlook the fact that Montreal looked like they wanted the win more too, although only barely.

Scoring on 67% of your second period shots is an awesome stat, until you notice that they only scored twice. That's going to hurt Elliot's save percentage somewhat, even if he was the best Senator on the ice tonight.

But all over the ice there was a great steaming pile of mediocrity. There just doesn't seem to be any speed anywhere on the team any more. Even (especially?) Alfredsson looked slow. And there was poor discipline which is drawing too many penalties.

Unless something magically turns around soon, this could have "long year" stamped all over it.

Wouldn't it be nice to have something like a nice, soft, goaltending controversy instead?

I still don't think things are as bad as the record -- or even tonight's effort -- makes the team look. There are bright spots here and there.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Foligno Owns Last Night's Near Disaster

Nick Foligno got away with one Thursday night, even if the Senators as a whole almost didn't.

Foligno's hit to Carolina Hurricanes Patrick Dwyer was a clear case of a blindside hit to the head. And in keeping with the fine, high quality officiating for which the NHL in general has become known for, there was no penalty on the play. Dwyer was unhurt as a result of the play, and didn't miss a minute of the game.

The Carolina bench was justifiably incensed.

But just to ensure that the reputation of the officials was tarnished, Ottawa was victimized by a practically bogus interference penalty on Michalek. Carolina converted on the penalty, this rattling Ottawa enough that Carolina quickly got a second, equalizing goal.

This, I think, was karma. Foligno's hit is one which has no place in hockey, and permitting Carolina back into the game was just compensation for the keystone-cops caliber officiating.

Beyond that I think the Ottawa fans were probably over-reacting -- the instant replay on one non-called alleged interference on Jarko Ruutu made it look like had a penalty actually been called, Ruutu should have gone in the box for holding the stick. But officials routinely turn a blind eye to this kind of theatrics.

Now all of this can be taken with the firm knowledge that had Dwyer actually been hurt in this play Foligno would have had the proverbial book thrown at him.

Foligno nearly threw away the win that the team had worked so hard to earn, and I hope that he learns from this experience.

Of course, not to be left out, the NHL has fined Foligno $2500 for the play. This certainly fits, a non-punishment for a play that wasn't penalized, and it is nice to see that the league refrained from the "wheel of punishment" style dicipline that has been characteristic of such incidents. (Left out of the story was whether or not Foligno merely peeled three $1K bills off his roll and told the league to keep the change.)

Foligno skated on this one.

Fear of numbers

Watching the game last night, and in the first intermission Dave Hodge gets on about how the salary cap is bad for hockey. He had a litany of complaints, including "trades don't happen", "for hockey news all you hear about is cap impact", "millionare players getting sent down to the AHL", amongst others.

My favorite? In his gripes about how the salary cap is supposed to save money, he says that the cap "just ends up requiring capologists, who cost money..."

Yeah seriously, when we are talking about owners who want to sign stars to obscene contracts for millions of dollars per year, complaining about having to pay some guy on staff what, $80K to $120K per year is going to be a franchise-breaker?

I think Mr. Hodge is an old-school hockey guy, probably one who resents the fact that modern hockey management includes math that is more complicated than "one goal plus one goal equals... uhm... oh look, the scoreboard has been updated for me. Two goals!"

The bottom line is that the cap is good for the NHL. The last lockout was triggered by the owners who had made commitments for all these high-value contracts and now wanted out of them because the money to pay them just wasn't there. The owners can't be trusted with the health of their franchises. By putting a cap in place that is at least reachable by most of the league's revenues it ensures that the franchise ownership picture is going to be a lot more stable.

Yes there are always going to be teams that can't generate the revenues to reach these levels, but does anyone seriously think that the financial or ownership situations in Nashville or Phoenix would be helped in ANY way by letting the New Jersey Devils pay Kovalchuck $15 million per year? Like... ANY way.

Removing the brakes on player spending will just let stupid owners dig their own holes again. And the complexity in the rules is there to balance flexibility for the real world while simultaneously preventing stupid owners from digging their own holes while circumventing the intent of the cap.

Reducing the trading activity certainly makes the media dig harder for something to talk about, but really, why is having a mostly-static roster bad for the local fans? Besides, Brian Burke's dumping of a third of his roster last year shows that if you are a motivated seller you can still get deals done.

Whether or not the cap is good for hockey is another issue, although without a healthy NHL, this hypothetical hockey would remain nothing more than a fantasy.

Personally I think the cap is good for hockey, in that it prevents teams which have (or think they have) deep financial pockets from assembling high-cost superstar dream teams and dominating the league. Here, everyone has the same starting field and over time this will lead to different teams being good at different times.

The cap even promotes younger talent, as the "middle class" hockey player is the one who is going to get squeezed out. Teams will keep a few high-priced stars, and balance the books with younger, cheaper players. Players who are "better" than the younger ones, but not superstars, will have to be careful when negotiating their contracts as they could price themselves out of a job, especially with hot youngsters with potential development upside waiting to take their place for a fraction of the cost.

But I don't feel sorry even for those players squeezed out or sent down to the AHL. More guys getting a briefer chance means sharing the wealth around. It is a net gain.

So I think that those old guys, the hockey purists, are just going to have to live with the cap. Just like they live with 4-on-4 overtime, the shoot-out, the trapezoid, and all those other non-purist rules that the NHL has.

Keep the cap.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Has The Alfredsson Era Passed?

I don't know about you, but when I see stories like:

Alfredsson okay to play
Daniel Alfredsson will be in the lineup when the Ottawa Senators face the Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Place Thursday night. The Senators’ captain suffered a lower-body injury in a game against Washington Monday and it wasn’t certain he’d be ready to play. Zack Smith will likely come out of the lineup as a result.
...after three games, I get worried.

Seems like immediately after the end of the last two or three seasons, Alfredsson always cops to playing hurt for a portion of the year, especially the end of the year where the run-up to, and through, the playoffs is so important. Heck, we all remember him breaking his jaw and missing just one game before being back in the lineup.

But if he's already starting to suffer mystery injuries and missing morning skates so early in the season... maybe the iron has worn.

Not that if it has Ottawa has any cause for complaint. Alfredsson has been the heart and soul of this team for so long, and this team has been so bad without him in the lineup.

If I was Brian Murray, I'd be worried about what I would do in the post-Alfredsson era... and that it had already, quietly, started without anyone really noticing.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope Alfredsson can continue to play well... well, forever, even though that isn't going to happen. But immediately, for this season, this month, this week, this game...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Defend The Starter

Nice to see the blogosphere defending Leclaire instead of the usual habit of piling on.

I'm not entirely sure I agree with defending him. Last week in the opener Leclaire looked no better than anybody else out there, flopping around like a fish out of water at times.

But the key point right now is than anybody else.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thoughts on 2010

As a brief, casual fan, I'm a bit torn here.

Firstly, I've been long on the record as saying I don't buy that the Senators have bad goalies. My position is that the goalies are not nearly as "bad" as the guys in front of them made them look.

You can tilt numbers any way you want. For example, the dreaded Save percentage. A lower save percentage means that the goalie is letting a higher percentage of shots-against past him into the net. However, consider this: if the defense is doing their jobs, all the soft easy shots should never make it to the net, meaning that the goalie is left dealing with the hard (or bad) ones. A far more difficult prospect.

For the last two years I've said that defense needed to be a priority for this team. Last year we had a couple of solid shut-down shot-blocking monsters in the form of Volchenkov and Sutton. After that, we had journeyman Kuba, solid if uninspiring Phillips, future star Karlsson, alleged tough guy Carkner, and... um. It was, in a word, thin.

This year we have more of the prototypical "puck-moving defensemen". Gonchar should teach Karlsson his trade. Carkner's back. Brian Lee, who I've honestly never even noticed, is back. Kuba managed to hurt himself even before the pre-season got going. Campoli is still around.

I'm not entirely sure that this lineup is much of an upgrade. It is certainly less tough than last year's, and I think that is going to be a problem.

The point to all this is that this year's defense is more of an offensive defense, which isn't going to do the guy in the net any improvement. There are going to be nights, especially during road swings through the west, when these guys are frankly going to get run over and its going to be painful to watch.

Whomever gets put in the net for Ottawa is therefore going to have to deal with defenders who are possibly not optimized for defending; those ugly scrambles in the defensive zone will mean opponents' shots-on-net counts will be correspondingly high, and the quality of those shots will also be high, meaning that the goals-against will be higher rather than lower.

I've said this before: not even Martin Brodeur could win behind these guys some nights.

Now when everything works, it doesn't matter. When Elliot had those wonderful runs last year, the defense stepped up to help both defend him and to help the offense. This fed back to Elliot encouraging him to raise his game, and the whole thing lifted the rest of the team too. But nobody can play over their heads like that for an entire season.

All this said means I don't think that the media or the blogosphere is going to be happy with the goaltending this year. I think goals-against and the shots-on-net counts are going to be horribly high.

And unless the offense can generate more goals than they give up, the team will be in trouble on some nights.

Problem is, that's the essence of run-and-gun. And last year anyways Ottawa was doing this without the "gun" part of the plan. Ottawa's failed with this before, just as Washington is failing with it now.

The larger problem is, even with a mixed an mediocre defense and an offense that can't score, this team is probably still a lock for one of the second-tier playoff spots... at which point they'll be dumped in the first round (again) by one of the East's few quality teams.

There's no immediate incentive to really deal with the problem, especially with Toronto just down the road constantly tinkering with varied collections of spare parts in an attempt to somehow build a winning team -- a plan, I believe will only work briefly, and only if they get unbelievably lucky.

I think Murray's done the right thing with his drafts and prospects trades to build a bunch of good defensive prospects. They are all going to be ready at the same time, and Murray can trade a few away in exchange for some forwards. With some careful trades and some luck, the team could have real potential in a couple of years.

This year, though, I think will be more of the same.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Monetizing A Hobby

(Crossposted from my noise blog.)

Mr. Myers at Sens Army Blog is obviously looking at the internet with a bit of jealousy in his heart these days, and is wondering why he shouldn't get paid to do the work he does.

I'll be up front: I'm picking on Mr. Myers here both because his article happened to come up in my RSS reader, and because he's been here before (see I'm Selling Out And Need Your Feedback).

As a freelance writer, Mr. Myers has every right to set both the expectation of compensation for his submissions, as well as the price he wishes to charge for that work. However, nobody is under any obligation to pay that price, with the resultant penalty that either those potential readers have to do without reading his work, or new work doesn't get created because Mr. Myers is off doing something else that someone is willing to pay him to do.

And that's the key.

The undercurrent to my reply to Mr. Myers' first go-around was "you can't sell out if nobody's buying". And the same rationale should be presented here, as well.

Economically, prices are set by willing seller selling to willing buyer. When the buyer in this case is looking at the supply of "writing done by Mr. Myers", the supply is sharply limited and Mr. Myers has a natural monopoly on this very narrow market. If the market in question is "Senators bloggers of a quality better than 'fanboys with little insight to give(*)'", the market is somewhat wider, and populated with people who will participate for no monetary compensation. Given that, the potential buyer would be foolish to pay for something he can get for free.

On the other side, the economics of internet businesses are still somewhat hand-wavey. The golden years of being paid non-fractional-dollars for low-thousand-impressions are long gone. Even a thousand viewers will add very little in the way to immediate bottom-line revenue to an internet business (see also Mr. Myer's response to my comment on his older article). So from an immediate revenue sharing angle, there is not much in the way of immediate revenue to share.

So it is unfortunate that the market has decided that the immediate value of "sports blogging" is so low that it averages out to might-as-well-be-zero for all but the highest end of the market(**).

But that's economics for you.

People who try to blog for money are like those setting up in the restaurant business. The vast majority of independent restaurants or clubs fail to last even one year before the original owner runs out of money. Done well, it is a lot of work, and even high quality writing is not necessarily a guarantee of success since the problem of attracting an audience in the sea of noise that is out there.

Or perhaps a more apt comparison would be to compare professional bloggers to professional actors. Hundreds show up at a cattle call for a single part; and most parts don't pay very well. The percentage of people who manage to make any money doing it is very small; the percentage of them who make their living is also small; and the percentage of those who get rich doing it is microscopic.

I blog because it is interesting to me at times. I'm never going to make any money doing this and I'll probably never be regularly read by anyone other than Google's search engine and myself.

You should blog because you are interested in something or passionate about something. But just having those credentials is no guarantee that you'll be able to make a living doing it.


(*) = so coined by Pension Plan Puppets during Toronto Star Gate. And yes, I'm under no delusion that I would fall into any other category for any of my blogs.

(**) = One of my wife's writing magazines had this tidbit in it on blogging: only the top 10% of blogs make any money. And the average annual revenue for that 10% is $19K. And keep in mind that the income from blogs does not scale linearly with the increase in popularity through that 10%.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Crystal Ball

Oh oh:
According to three sources, the LA Kings are still very much in the market to add a "major player" before camp opens. That player? At least two sources agree the kings are once again targeting Jason Spezza.
Now first of all, just because the Kings want Spezza doesn't mean they are going to get him. And second of all, Murray would be an idiot to avoid talking to the Kings about Spezza on the off chance that they are willing to give us the moon in exchange for him.

The problem is that LA is probably NOT going to give us the moon.

If Spezza goes, it puts lie to everything that Murray has been saying through the off-season, that he thinks this team is ready to compete at a higher level. That competitiveness rests on the cornerstone of Jason Spezza. If Spezza is shipped out, it means that Ottawa is in a rebuilding phase.

And it occurs to me, it would go totally against the philosophy that landed Gonchar in free agency. That was a move designed to pay off over the next couple of years, not five years down the line after a rebuilding phase.

Trading Spezza for current talent would be a waste, if not a net loss. Trading him for picks and prospects, even a franchise player prospect, is a lottery.

LA would have to offer the moon to get Spezza, and I don't think they'll do that.

So even if this rumor is true, I don't think anything short of a blockbuster would ses it actually come to anything.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Nightmare Scenario

Good news, everyone! The Ottawa Senators are the butt of a joke that Time Magazine made!
Of course, an unsexy World Series (think San Diego Padres-Texas Rangers) or hockey Finals matchup (Edmonton Oilers-Ottawa Senators!) could quickly halt some of this momentum.
Now traditionally I've said the league's nightmare scenario is an Ottawa-Vancouver final, but hey, thanks for the mention.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Don't Trade Spezza

Black Aces wonders why the blogosphere is against trading Spezza when the media seems hell-bent for it.

Personally, I'm astounded that people think we should trade Spezza. He averages almost a point a game, he's second on the all-time Senators scoring list, and his game has improved so much in the last year.

I know I am beating a horse that's been well-beat elsewhere here. But seriously -- what do people expect is going to be the return for a trade? And who is going to step up to be the top center if he goes? Mike Fisher is a snappy guy, but he isn't a #1 center.

Seriously. We've been here before. (Even to the point of linking to Black Aces again.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Meta Cup Discussion

The meta-discussion surrounding Chicago's Stanley Cup win last night has been fascinating. Apparently when Chicago won, it meant that three teams had gone, what, 43 years without a Cup win.

Those teams? Los Angeles and St. Louis, who were expansion teams in '67. And the third?

Hmmm... 1967 rings a bell for some reason. Yep that's right -- the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Apparently the Maple Leafs now co-own the longest Cup-free drought.

Why is this fascinating? I mean, besides Maple Leafs fans being miserable, a condition they are well used to by now?

It is fascinating because the vast majority of "coverage" of this issue has been Maple Leafs bloggers and media complaining about how unfair it is that everyone is pointing it out.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Blind Leading The Blank

SenShot talkes about Bruce Garrioch. This moved me to write this comment in reply:
I think you give Boo Boo too much credit. History has shown that there's no place in the news, sports news especially, for fair, reasoned, balanced discussion. It is all about shock value and scooping the opposition. The mere fact that you pay attention to him means that at some level his crazy antics are working. Me? I read about what he's up to when you or other 'bloggers write about him.

Admit it, if Boo Boo had been right about the Kings, it wouldn't have mattered that he'd pulled it out of his ass, he'd have looked fucking brilliant.

I think the fundamental problem is that Ottawa sports fans in general are bandwagonists -- they are there when the times are good, and absent when the times are not so good (see also the CFL and the Ottawa Lynx). The problem is that bandwagonists are also lazy fans, they look for the easy answer (Hey! That centerman keeps doing those no-look drop-giveaways!) and not the hard ones (Hey!... um.)

This is why goalies get run out of town. Everyone blames the guy in the crease, but the five guys on the ice (and/or in the penalty box as the case may be) gets a free pass for some reason. I don't think Gerber, Emery, or LeClaire were as bad as the guys in front of them made them look. (Yeah, LeClaire isn't gone yet, but if Spezza goes or July 1 passes... well I think he's next on the hit list, miracle in game 5 not withstanding.)

For a bandwagonist, sports are supposed to be about fun. And for a professional sport that you pay money to go to, "fun" means "winning", and since the home team is the one there most of the time, the home team is the one you want to win. And let's face it, if you are a casual fan who's shelling out $100 to $200 a pop for a night out (plus the required 45 minutes in the parking lot), you want some FUN for your money.

Personally I have my doubts about this team. They were streaky, and only rarely showed the depth and discipline that are needed in the playoffs. There's something fundamental missing, and I'm starting to doubt that something can be found while the current core of the team (Alfredsson, Spezza... um?) are still going to be productive. And given that, wouldn't it be better to trade them now while they have value, in exchange for longer term assets that can be built up?

I don't want to say yes, but it's Murray's job to look at hard questions like this to see if there is an answer either way, no matter who in the media is banging whatever drum.

The media's job is the same as the politician, to figure out where their audience is going and to get out in front of them. And that's all Boo Boo and his ilk are doing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"No Relation" Still With Senators Organization

YaHoo (amongst others) reports that Mike "No Relation" Brodeur has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Senators organization.

(This isn't really earth-shattering news; it is just an excuse for me to giggle. I just like referring to him as "No Relation" Brodeur. I like that nickname better than "Not Martin", which currently seems to be the most prevalent.)

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Read this. Read it now.

Monday, May 3, 2010

5 Things To Be Happy About From 2009-2010

Well summer has come to Ottawa. The weather is nice and my kids have a brand new play structure in the back yard to play on. Sure, it might be nicer to be continuing down the playoffs towards a Stanley Cup, but really I don't mind so much. In any case, here's my list of things to be happy about from this just finished season.


This team wasn't supposed to make the playoffs at all, or at the most, scrabble in at the tail end of the position 6-7-8 logjam of mediocrity that the East features so much of. Instead, we finished 5th, and made the defending Stanley Cup champions earn their round 1 victory.

As for the round 1 itself, considering that we were running without minute-munching defenseman Kuba, defense-coverage-magnet Kovalev, or either of the "parts" we got in exchange for Heatley -- the fact that we still made Pittsburgh earn their round 1 victory is an achievement in itself. And standing tall, fighting through to a triple-overtime win in game 5 to bring the series back home for game 6, granting team owner Melnyk an unexpected playoff gate -- I think that put this all together and this year was a definite success.

Secondary Scoring in, we had plenty this year.

This year the team had credible threats on all four lines most of the year. Instead of past years where the top line had to do it all, we got a good year from Fisher, quality production from Michalek, and a streaky set of performances from Kovalev.

And I forget how many times the grinder line of Neil-Kelly-Rutuu came up with a big goal to either take the game or to swing the momentum back in Ottawa's favor.

Having such productive lines gave opposing coaches fits, as they'd have to pick which lines to cover closely and which to risk against.

Jason Spezza's New-Found Defensive Discipline

Spezza has shown more willingness to get back after the opposition gets going. He's more willing to get in and grind in his own zone, rather than just floating around waiting for the outlet pass to happen (since lets face it we pay Kovalev a lot of money to do that). I like this new Spezza, and I hope that it continues.

Overall it would be nice if there was more in terms of point production, but lets face it we as fans will always say that. Rumor is that the no-trade clause kicks in this July 1st, and I sincerely hope he isn't traded ahead of that.

Erik Karlsson

At the beginning of the year I said I would like to see him sent down to Bingo in order to get his game together. Turns out that the braintrust at the team came to the same conclusion, and down he went, where he played very good hockey, ending up running the power play down there. Having proved he had the basic hockey skills to do the job, the time came for him to get his NHL-level experience and make his NHL-level rookie mistakes.

Which he did, costing the team several goals at times; but his offensive senses are wonderful, and once he has settled in through the next year or two we can hope that he can develop into something special.

Daniel Alfredsson

What more can be said of Alfredsson that hasn't already been said before? He played his 1000th game as an Ottawa Senator. He brought his A-game every night, playing at both ends. He played top line or shut down. He ran the power play and penalty kill special teams. He played hurt, he played hard, he played with heart.

He is without a doubt the heart and soul of this team.

The one thing I want to mention specifically is his comments after he was injured in Pittsburgh earlier in the year. While the commentators were on the TV baying for blood (followed by much of the blog-o-sphere the next time the two teams met), Alfredsson himself said that the play was a clean, legal hit and it was his own fault for putting himself in a vulnerable position. Now that's class.

Unfortunately the clock is running down on Alfredsson. We say this every year, but it is a fact of life that years of playing hockey will eventually catch up with him and he will have to stop. No one, not even Alfredsson, can continue to do this forever. We can only hope that before that happens the team can get him the Stanley Cup ring he so richly deserves. (And hey, it'd be nice for the rest of us to have the Stanley Cup here in Ottawa.)

Bonus: The Continuing Disaster That Is The Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs continue to suck, and that's never a bad thing. What's so bewildering is that given the brain trust in charge of them, why are they so bad? It boggles the mind.

I would still like to see the Leafs and the Senators fighting for top spot in the conference -- or even the Leafs-Senators games being competitive affairs -- but in the absence of that I'll settle for the status quo.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Look at this picture

Round two, 2010:

Two things leaped out at me.

First: the only top-four seed in the east that beat their opposition in round one was... Pittsburgh.

Second: the seed numbers from the east that failed to get through are the seed numbers in the west that succeeded.

The second factiod means precisely nothing.

The first one confirms that the East really is drowning in mediocrity.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Just found out that a local sports radio show has the same name as this 'blog. Which I am sure would make most people think I'm a copy cat. Of course since the radio show probably had the name first, I doubt anyone would believe my cries of ignorance -- not sure I would either, hearing the facts of the matter. So my guess is that sometime over the summer, this 'blog will change its name again.

Fortunately, there's A) some time to figure this out and B) no one other than me reading, so it isn't the huge issue it might otherwise have been.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Made Them Earn It

Well considering where we were at the beginning of the year, the fact that we took the defending champions to six and made them earn the win, dragging them through overtime twice -- with the officials staying out of it for the most part -- well I am disappointed but I did expect this.

Now we relax until the cup is dealt with in May (or June?...) and then it is planning for next year.

Here's hoping that the team can build on this and do even better next year.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sens force game 6

Well THAT... that was unbelievable. First time in a long time I've watched a game end-to-end, and first time ever I've stuck with the OT. Most of the time I bail out halfway through OT1 because it is getting late.

Putting LeClaire in tonight was a no-lose decision for Clouston tonight. Everyone (me included, I'll admit) thought that tonight was going to be it, the last game of the season. If LeClaire lost, well the series was over anyways. If they win, everyone's happy. LeClaire played like he was out to prove something, and I think he did. He got a LOT of help from the guys in front of him, and that meant he didn't have to carry the whole effort on his back.

I thought the Senators were outclassed in periods 2 and 3, like they were just waiting for opportunity to be handed to them. Fortunately for them it was handed to them, permitting them to tie the game.

Through OT1 and OT2 I thought that Pittsburgh looked more affected by being tired, with the Senators seemingly able to take the game to the Penguins end almost at will. My theory was that as the teams got tired, the speed factor that the Penguins could bring dropped off much faster than Ottawa's output did. In OT3 the Penguins came back hard, with Ottawa looking more like they were getting run around in their own end. However even though the Penguins were pressing, I didn't think many of the chances were truly dangerous. The Senators hung tough and stayed disciplined and kept the opportunities to a minimum. They still were able to press when the opportunities to go the other way presented themselves, and that resulted in the game winning goal.

So congratulations to the Senators for forcing a game 6 to bring the series back to Ottawa for Saturday. Honestly I still don't think the team can win the series, but I'll happily be wrong again. If the Senators make Pittsburgh earn the win then I'll be satisfied with the end to this year.

Trivia: one commenter on the "Live Blog" thing I was participating in during the OT periods (since my PVR caught up to live TV for once) said that before tonight, the Senators had never won a playoff game when their opponents had 3 wins in the series.

LeClaire sets a franchise record for the number of saves made in a playoff game by an Ottawa Senators goalie with 58 56 stops.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Toronto As A Sports Town

Here's another article crapping on Toronto sports fans: When it comes to sports, Toronto is a city of losers

I agree with the notion that because the fans continue to come out to see the games, win or (as seems more likely) lose, the organizations behind the teams has no financial incentive to improve the on-field product. However, the problem isn't so much the individual fan, but the fact that there are so many of them that demand for the product far exceeds the organizations' abilities to deliver.

My favorite example of this is the Maple Leafs. The problem is that the fan-base in Southern Ontario is so wide that even if every fan who attended a game this year totally boycotted the team next year, the arena would probably still sell out.

Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment (MLSE) has a monopoly, in that they are the only ones who can supply regular access to games played by the Maple Leafs. Such is the demand that MLSE can demand high prices for tickets to those games; the surrounding market provides enough rich people who want to see the games that these games will frequently (usually?) sell out.

So consider what happens if by some miracle the Leafs are built into a contending team. How does this affect the box office? Since the box office sells out already, it doesn't. The fact that a winning team would increase the desirability of a Maple Leafs ticket means MLSE could conceivably raise prices. However the fact that there is a secondary market for Leafs tickets shows that MLSE is already leaving some money on the table.

The combined Southern Ontario market in general, and the Metro Toronto market in particular, is so big that any organization with even a moderate market penetration will find enough fans with enough money to keep them in business.

In a smaller market, say for example Ottawa, a losing team does become economically unviable. This will eventually run the ownership group out of money, resulting in a change of ownership, management, and eventually -- should the on-field product not improve -- venue. We saw it with the CFL several times, and minor league baseball has left Ottawa twice already too.

But Toronto's sports enterprises have such a rich market in potential fanbase that it is unlikely that you could measure a drop in fan support at the box office. As such, while the organizations want to improve for pride reasons, there isn't any financial mechanism to sweep out the ownership and management which has thus far failed to deliver.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Two notes from the weekend.

First, how about this for a trade rumor:
LeClaire for Price. Two goalies who are not as bad as the teams in front of them made them look, who are both looking for fresh starts.
Second, in a discussion of this year's season just done:
I be Dany Heatley is glad he didn't go to Edmonton last summer. He'd be a Leaf now!

Round 1: Penguins

Here's my prediction for round one: Pittsburgh in six. Ottawa will come out of Pittsburgh with a split series, but it will be split again when they go back; Ottawa loses a close game 5 with a spirited effort, but folds completely in game 6. Historically when Ottawa has been in a "do or die" situation, they choose "die".

(I do know that Ottawa has never won a game 7.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I only saw the game from about half-way through the 2nd. But some quick impressions:
  • What did I tell you about Alfredsson? Effort at both ends, PK and PP time, and a point. Too bad he couldn't grab a goal, but a win for his 1000th game is what he said he wanted. Class act all the way. The Ottawa Senators will definitely be retiring his #11 once he's done with it.
  • LeClaire gave up two goals, one on a bad play by Karlsson, one on a bad line change by the on-ice players. I don't blame him for either of those. He didn't have to make any circus stops, which means that in general the team was playing well in front of him.
  • Mike Fisher was on. Two goals and a couple of posts, with another half-dozen quality chances. I give full credit to his linemates for helping to make this happen.
  • Karlsson made some excellent plays to compensate for the brain fart that led to the first goal. This kid will be an excellent player one day.
  • The own-goal on Florida credited to Neil shows what kind of night it was. The Senators were going to get the bounces, and the Panthers were not.
It was a good game for Ottawa, a nice steady game where the outcome was never really in doubt. This is a good foundation to look to the post-season from.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Man

Daniel Alfredsson is set to play is 1000th NHL game tonight, every one having been as an Ottawa Senator. If history is any guide, tonight will be a game just like many others -- leadership in effort at both ends of the ice, power play and penalty kill time, and probably a point.

Go get 'em.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

That Was Unexpected

Well, what can you say? I was all set to blame the officials for repeatedly tilting the ice in favor of Washington, but for once they made the gutsy(*) penalty call with less than two minutes remaining in overtime, and for once Ottawa took full advantage.

But tonight's game was fun. Washington is fast, high energy, they pull the trigger hard and frequently. They never seem to let up. However, just like the run-and-gun Senators of old I like to compare them to, they keep getting caught in defensive scrambles and cough up goals at a high rate.

I was especially impressed with Karlsson's ability to stay in Olvetchkin's face. He made some mistakes, yes, but many far more experienced defenders have made more and been less effective when up against such opposition.

Overall I expected Washington to win. Their offensive pressure is relentless and Ottawa is not known for their solid, consistent defensive play. But Ottawa proved me wrong tonight. While mistakes were made, enough results happened at the other end of the ice (in the first 15 minutes of the game, no less) to keep them in it.

Bad officiating aside, I enjoy this game, even if I missed the OT power play.

(*) A calling of the rule book should never require the description of "gutsy". I hate this game sometimes.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Almost Time To Tune Out

Both Friday's and Saturday's games were "playoff-style" hockey, in that there was a lot of grinding (ie hitting, clutching, grabbing, punching) and laughably inconsistent officiating.

The Saturday game, which I watched all the way through, was especially bad. I think there was only one penalty call the first 30 minutes, and that was waived when the play resulted in a Florida goal.

After that, it was like the refs discovered that this shiny thing attached to their hands could, you know, make actual sound or something and they began to use it -- mostly to Ottawa's detriment.

And they say the officials don't like "deciding" games by calling penalties. Horse s--t. NOT calling a penalty is even more as much "deciding" a game, in that the game being played stops bearing a resemblance to the actual rule book (passing though that resemblance may be during the regular season).

But it was good to see that no matter how hard the officials tried to hand the game to Florida, they just couldn't convert on it.

Each year I get tired of the blatantly bad officiating and figure that I'll tune out of the playoffs. Last year was easy since the Senators didn't make the post-season. I could watch what I wanted, if I wanted, and if it wasn't entertaining I had no problem turning it off.

But if the rest of the season is going to be like this, I just might wish the team good luck in the post season and tune out early.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ugly Game, Better Effort

So I did watch most of the Philadelphia game last night. It featured a better defensive effort from the Senators. Funny how your goalie does a much better job of stopping pucks when he isn't constantly hung out to dry. Elliot still managed to come up with some mega saves at the end when the Flyers were pressing.

The high point: that 2-minute 5-on-3 kill. That was... amazing.

The low point(s): the officiating was incredibly creative inconsistent bad. The first power play to Ottawa shouldn't have been called. It became clear that the on-ice officials were taking it to Philadelphia for some reason. For once Ottawa was the beneficiary, although at the end of the third there were some boarding and elbowing incidents that might have been made against the Flyers but were for some reason not worthy of being called.

Although I will say... "Instigating to the visor." Love it. Handing out a 10-5-2 with the extra five... love it. Too bad that the Senators could not capitalize on the resulting seven minute power play opportunity.

Interesting: the Flyer penalty-kill was mega. They managed to keep the Senators from getting sorted at all in the offensive zone. Five-on-five they were not so good, and I never felt that the Flyers were legitimately in with a quality chance to win. Between the effort shown and the officiating, this game was always Ottawa's to lose.

About Volchenkov's "save". I agree that it was in -- while it isn't clear from the overhead, there is enough evidence from the long-angle shot that the puck was over the line before Volchenkov batted it out. The Senators dodged a bullet with that one, although Toronto took, what, 10 minutes to sort it out? Because of that, the PVR didn't pick up the end of the game for me, although I did get to see the call. Basically even though the puck was in, I think Toronto made the right call. The evidence wasn't irrefutable, and there was no on-ice "no-goal" call to overturn. Therefore, no goal.

So over all a good quality effort in an ugly game.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday Wasted

No, really, why did I give my Thursday night to watch that?

It didn't start out bad, really. The predictably terrible officiating -- the first penalty to Ottawa for tripping really should have been accompanied by one to Atlanta for diving -- and the predictable error leading to the opening Atlanta goal, those I can live with. That's part of being a Senators fan. But Ottawa spent a good deal of time in the offensive zone applying good pressure and getting good chances. "Keep trying boys," I told the TV, "they'll come."

But then the officials really got going. Three of the first seven penalties assigned to Ottawa were either iffy or flat out not penalties. At one point, we were five-to-one behind in terms of power plays. That's not clean play, that's poor officiating. And Sutton's two minutes for "elbowing" on a perfectly clean and legal check -- not to the head, not from behind, not away from the play -- THAT was PURE GARBAGE. Even someone like ME, who isn't keen on all the hitting and such that goes on, can see THAT.

Let's be fair. Neil's goal in the second should have been called back due to Kelly's presence in the crease. But with this kind of officiating, who the hell knows what you are going to get.

Through the end of two the Senators played well, getting most of the shots and the vast majority of the quality chances. And then the third started. The Senators just crumbled and gave up stupid goals due to poor coverage or running around in their own end. Again. Leaving Elliot hanging out there on his own, going the wrong way on the play because nobody's covering the guy sliding through the slot. Again.

Spezza getting that break. And. Not. Burying. It. Again. Dammit.

I don't blame Elliot for this. You can't, really. But for a(n allegedly) playoff-bound team, we shouldn't be talking about these kinds of miscues and collapses and all around bad hockey with the frequency that we are.

Saturday is an afternoon game, but fortunately for me I have something else scheduled so will be unable to watch it.

This isn't fun any more. I want my evening back.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Back To Reality

Well, that was awful, wasn't it? Hopefully this kick in the nuts will clear the dreams of Stanley Cup glory from anyone's eyes. It's over, ok? Just... over.

What is there to say? One of the worst teams in hockey comes to town against allegedly one of the better ones and we can't beat them. Bluntly the Leafs were just plain better, and the bounces didn't go Ottawa's way. Again. Several good chances; several failures to seal the deal.

At least Carkner kept his brains enough to avoid getting pounded again. I don't understand why he does it -- Ottawa loses every time.

And it is pathetic that the rink sounded more like Maple Leaf Gardens than the home of the Ottawa Senators. Not that the Senators did much worth cheering for tonight, but the crowd was definitely behind Toronto.

Friday, March 12, 2010

NHL Rule Book Is Flawed

(Still sick. You don't care. I know. Moving on.)

I have to admit I don't care much about the current controversy of head-shots in checking. I think there should be some kind of reasonable protection, but since physical contact is part of the game, any rule must take that into account.

But as a side effect of this discussion, Quisp at SBNation pointed out something interesting: there is already a rule which covers this situation.
43.1 Charging - A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner.

Charging shall mean the actions of a player or goalkeeper who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A "charge" may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.
Quisp rightly points out that this makes absolutely no sense, because any check, and most physical contact, would be covered by this rule. And that's why it isn't called.

(It also begs the question -- when charging is called, exactly what is it that is being called? Is this the two-step rule?)

So finally I start to understand why the officials, both on-ice and off, "interpret" the rule book rather than just calling it: the rule book is inconsistent with the game, both as-played and as we would want it played.

I don't think that rules should be written around injury; Quisp's suggested replacement rule for 54.1 imposes penalties on plays which result in injury. This is a game for big boys, and it is fast. Guys will get hurt on some of them, that's the nature of game. I think the rules should be written around intent. That is, if someone intentionally attempts to injure another player, successful or not, that's at least a double-minor and a rapidly escalating number of games suspended.

If you don't like head-shots, then write the rule that says head-shots are not permitted the same way that knee-on-knee hits are not permitted.

But the bottom line is that the NHL rule book obviously needs more than a little tuning; this can't be the only rule which if called as-written would totally change the way the game is played.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Healthy Leafs Barely Beat Sick Senators

...or something. I didn't watch -- I was sick.

But really, the first two games back from the Olympic break have had the terrible dialed up to "10" here. I was watching the New York game, and the color guy was talking about the New York coach's decision to call a time out after an icing call to rest his guys... he says: "this is a smart decision, he knows this game could break out either way any time now."

And I said, are you and I watching the same game? Yes, the Senators are pressing, but it is a disorganized pressure -- the Rangers are playing smart, simple, steady hockey in their end. And when the pressure starts to go the other way, the Rangers are still playing smart, steady hockey, while the Senators are running around in their own end. And the Rangers then get rewarded with what, two or three quick goals?

I watched LeClaire's return two nights later, all seven minutes of it before he got the hook. I didn't blame LeClaire on either of those goals, they were clearly the fault of the guys ahead of him on the ice. Unfortunately for LeClaire, Clouston can't hook the rest of the team... Elliot played well in relief, but showed what kind of night it was when he left his net for the sixth attacker late in the third and the empty net goal goes in before Elliot even gets off the ice. (Was Karlsson laughing or crying at that?) Add in both Alfredsson and Spezza being unable to convert on a break, and it just wasn't the Senators' night.

I still can't believe that Murray thinks this team is set for a deep playoff run.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Learning From The Olympics

StayClassy discusses how the NHL could learn from the Olympics. I'm going to cherry-pick his list:
  • 4-on-4 overtime: I like this idea. I've always liked 4-on-4, because even in the "gritty" NHL the players can't piss around hitting each other when it is 4-on-4. Also usually when you get to overtime in the regular season both teams want the win, so they put in the effort. I consider this a compromise between the there shouldn't be any difference between playoff OT and playoff regulation except sudden death victory camp and the dude just do the penalty shots and give me my winner now camp.
  • Less is more: Again I approve. Instead of sending 16 teams to the playoffs, just send 8. And drop the stupid division-leaders seeding, let's get the teams which can do the business to do the business. The hockey will be better and we'll start our summer two weeks earlier. This will never fly because the playoffs are not about hockey, the playoffs are about revenue.
  • Shorter broadcasts: I like the reduced TV time-outs and the general flow of the play. Again, this won't happen because of the lost revenue that fewer TV time-outs would cost. If I had a choice between fewer TV time-outs and shorter breaks between periods, I'd take the fewer TV time-outs because I can always go to the fridge while Don Cherry is on. Lets face it -- the talking heads talk during the intermissions because there's nothing else to do. What would you prefer -- a live shot of the lineup to use the can?
Overall I didn't care about the olympics. I think I watched the gold medal game more from withdrawal than any other factor. That said, it was a pretty good game.

Monday, March 1, 2010

This Is Not A Rhetorical Question

OK, so congratulations to Team Canada for their gold medal (mens and womens). I'll even suffer the cliche-in-the-making Sidney Crosby scoring the overtime goal to win it (although I am not looking forward to the next few months of Tim Horton's ads that this will undoubtedly spawn).

But I have a question.

Look at these two fine gentlemen:

These men picked and managed a USA team that wasn't rated highly. Know how much confidence they had in their team? Everyone was scheduled to fly out Sunday morning at 9:30 AM instead of staying for the gold medal game. And yet, their team managed to school the highly-rated Canadians in the round-robin and worked their way to the gold medal game where they came within a hair of winning an upset victory over said highly rated Canadian team.

The USA team was the best kind of opponent: a highly skilled, motivated team that can beat you. They were, in the best sense, a team worth beating. A team you had to bring, and keep, your A-game for, and hope for some lucky bounces on top of that.

So, having accomplished all that, these fine gentlemen are obviously nobody's fool. They know their business and can compete at the highest levels with an eye towards success.

So my question is:

Why on earth are the Maple Leafs so bad?

No, seriously.

Why have these two not been able to bring the same kind of success to the Toronto Maple Leafs? Why have they not been able to turn the Leafs into a team that can win regularly? A team that, in the best sense, is worth beating?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gone Fishin'

Don't care about the olympics -- back in March, unless Mr. Bettman does something (else) stupid.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sens Win Wild One

Man that Washington game was wild, wasn't it?

Washington reminds me a lot of the "good old days" where the Senators were a run-and-gun team. Sure, the defense was porous and the goaltending inconsistent most of the time, but it didn't matter because the Senators were rolling lines that could put pucks in the opposition's net faster than they could put pucks in the Senators'. A team like that only has two modes: full-on attack, and tired-out-from-full-on attack. And both modes showed last night. The problem is that while this works in the regular season, over a playoff series your opposition is going to figure out how to shut down your main producers enough so that you can't keep it up. The Senators showed that how many times?

About the game itself, a few comments:
  • The officiating was pretty bad at times, with a missed call in the second leading directly to a Washington goal. But I guess that's the way the league wants it.
  • Good on Alfredsson, Fisher and Kelly to keep Ovechkin blanked on the night. This is a really good shut-down line, one I hope we see rolled again in future. The only problem is that our three guys might see lower production numbers because they are playing this kind of role.
  • Spezza's opening goal: nice to see poor defensive coverage working for us instead of against us for a change.
  • Hat tip to Semin for his hat-trick in a losing cause. He has a seeing-eye shot through crowds, and I don't think Elliot was to blame on any of them.
  • Beautifully ugly goal for Neil in the second to pull the Senators back square. And calling for the review? Never should have happened -- it was in, baby. No doubt.
  • The Senators did well in the dying moments to keep the win in their pocket. Washington never really looked like they had it together.
Whee, that was fun!

Cheechoo train, now with service to Bingington

SenSay on Cheechoo being waived:
I respect the hell out of Cheechoo, and would be the first in line to support him in regaining his NHL form, but business is business, and if you want to cash big cheques, you can’t blame the one writing them for expecting you to earn it too.
Cheechoo is a guy I wanted to like. For all my too-hell-with-him about Dany Heatley, he was an asset and you want to see some kind of return on losing that kind of talent. Michalek has potential, but Cheechoo was widely seen as nothing more than a blatant salary dump.

Sort of like having us give up an asset and take out San Jose's trash at the same time.

I liked Cheechoo's effort on the ice. He was always willing to... well, "rush" is the wrong word... up or down the ice chasing the puck. He was always willing to get into the corners and grind for the puck. He was always willing to helplessly flip the puck into the goalie's pads take that shot.

The problem was, the results were not there. For all the effort, he was a step late and a step slow. He didn't win his share of battles in the corners. And most of the shots he took got flipped into the goalie's pads.

Unfortunately this isn't grade school where "effort" is what wins. This is a big dollar business where results are what wins. Cheechoo's lack of results saw him slide down the lines until he was only doing five or six minutes of ice time a night. And reduced ice time does very little to give you the chance to improve matters.

I thought putting Cheechoo up with Spezza and Michalek was a good move. Spezza and Michalek are going to draw the defense coverage because... well, come on. Of course they are going to draw the defensive coverage. This opened up ice time and space for Cheechoo, and I thought that was rewarded with more shots on the net and more generally quality chances. Had the team stuck with this for a while I think some results might have come, albeit at the cost of Spezza and Michalek's lower production.

Today's move is a cap-space clearing exercise, one which means that Murray has something in the hopper that requires more space. Therefore there will probably be some other move happening tomorrow. Otherwise, why bother doing this now? While Cheechoo was playing, it showcased what he could do to potential trade partners. Burying him in the AHL distinctly lowers his already low trade value.

This is a first for me -- a hockey trade where I am genuinely sorry that it didn't work out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sens Beat Another Dominator

OK -- my number one comment for this game is where the hell are the refs at the end of the second? Stajan piles into Kelly just off the boards and both refs stand there with their thumbs up their asses. Letting a dangerous hit like that go uncalled is why the players feel justified in piling on each other. And what happens? Players pile on each other. Call the damn rules, OK? That's your job. If you don't call the rules, then it doesn't matter what rules you make because if the refs ignore them, the players will ignore them, and we'll be back to the league's Random Wheel of Consequences.

OK. Enough of such drivel.

Tonight's win is the first time Ottawa has beat Calgary since some time in 2004. Now this is distorted by the lockout and the fact that east and west just don't play each other very often in this new-look NHL, but Calgary has owned Ottawa pretty consistently.

It was turnover-city for most of the early-going. The color-commentator said that the NHL recorded 14 turnovers in the first period, and by his count they had missed 3 or 4. Most of those had been Ottawa turnovers, but fortunately Calgary didn't capitalize too often.

500-game-man Jonathan Cheechoo had a good game tonight, lots of quality chances, some he just didn't put away. Cheechoo is one of those guys I want to like. He always seems to be putting in the effort, even if it comes up half a step late or half a step slow, which is why he comes up short in the results as well. He's aggressive on the forecheck, and isn't afraid to grind in the corners. Tonight's effort was rewarded when his pass to Michalek banked off a Calgary skate to give Spezza an opportunity he didn't miss, one of those bounces that go in rather than one that doesn't. If he keeps getting chances like this, the goals will come.

So right now I am undecided as to whether Cheechoo stepped up his game for his pairing with Spezza and Michalek, or whather Spezza and Michalek flattered Cheechoo's effort. Probably a little of column A, and a little from column B. Hopefully for him this line will stay together, and hopefully for all of us his game will continue to rise.

Next up: Washington comes to town on Thursday. Buckle up, boys, we probably won't win this one. But here's hoping the team brings their A-game so we can see how this team stacks up to one of the best in the East right now.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sometimes You're The Puppy

Let's get the honest stuff out first: the Leafs were the better team out there tonight. They won the battles for loose pucks, they didn't make stupid errors in their own end, they capitalized on the Senators' mistakes, they kept the shooting lanes full in front of their goalie and limited the number of truly great saves he had to make.

Other thoughts:
  • Toronto's acquisition of a goalie equips them nicely to drag themselves just out of contention rather than sinking to, and bouncing off of, the bottom of the standings. This is in Ottawa's interest so that Boston ends up with a smaller chance of drawing a franchise player in the entry draft with Toronto's pick. Yes, we are in a position of wanting Toronto to win (more) so that Boston doesn't get any better. That's hockey for you.
  • I don't blame either Elliot or LeClaire for either of Schenn's goals. Neither one of them should have ever got that far. However, I expect a chorus of disdain for "momentum-sapping soft goals" from the bloggosphere, when the real culprit is a failure to control the offensive blue line properly, coughing up a bad rush.
  • Similarly, the first goal, poked in by the Ottawa player, was a bad bounce. It set the tone for the game, where Toronto got the bounces and Ottawa didn't. Fine; in the grand scheme of things it all evens out, and I am sure that Ottawa benefited from their fair share of good bounces through the previous eleven games.
  • But take the two Schenn goals and the first goal off the scoreboard, and Ottawa still got owned 2-0 tonight.
  • So with the almost comically bad defense that Ottawa played tonight, I guess the reaction has to be Wow, maybe Karlsson really is that good.
  • Toronto had a surprising amount of jump for a team that had played, and lost, and traveled, the night before. I guess winning the game does that for you.
  • Someone explain to me again why Carkner and Orr going at it like that was a good thing. Ottawa was only down by one at that point, and was pressing Toronto pretty good -- had anything gone in at that point, it would have swung the momentum far better than monkey bashing would have (even if the "correct" monkey got bashed from Ottawa's point of view). Dumb. But shows what I know.
  • The slashing call on Kovalev was lazy-assed officiating. But the hooking and slashing that Kovalev was doing was lazy-assed hockey, so that's karma for you. Ottawa benefited from the lazy-assed officiating with the Orr penalty for cross-checking, so it all more or less evens out. As you would expect. For the most part the officials stayed consistently out of it.
  • I'm really tired of listening to the ACC crowd booing Alfredsson. It makes me think of Scotiabank Place booing Chara. At least the Toronto fans have reason to be aggrieved with Alfredsson -- but it still comes across as a bunch of ignorant hicks. Unfortunately the only way to shut up the ACC crowd is to beat their team on the ice, and Ottawa couldn't do that tonight.
Next up is Calgary visiting Scotiabank Place. I'm 0-2 with my last two predictions, so I'll pick Calgary to win, and I promise to only watch the third period (since whenever I do that, Ottawa wins). But realistically the game is one of those games which is too close to call ahead of time. Calgary has fewer points than Ottawa does, but does so in a stronger conference; but on the other hand, they are travelling.

The real test will be how the team faces this setback. And this week never looked good for Ottawa. The opponents we get between now and the Olympic break? After Calgary, there's Washington, Detroit, and the New York Islanders. Of those, only the Islanders can be considered close to a gimmie -- but how many of us assumed Toronto would be a gimmie?

Let's hope Karlsson isn't really that important to the defense.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Apparently I'm late with the Spinal Tap jokes

...but these guys go to eleven. So they're better.

So as per usual, I tune in for the third. And as per usual, I was totally wrong about my prediction: the Senators were up 2-0 against Vancouver. Un. Friggin'. Believable.

My take-away from the game: do they shoot Vancouver games with a different film speed? Because holy crap are these guys fast. All four lines. Zip, zoom, zapow. The Senators were working hard to keep up, and kept the energy up going the other way too -- the third featured some real end-to-end action.

Too bad about Karlsson getting injured, but as has been pointed out elsewhere getting hurt now means he has two extra weeks to get healthy again through the Olympic break. Karlsson is really blossoming as a player, and I think a lot of commentators (me included) feel a bit sheepish for underrating him at the beginning of the season. He did his time in the AHL, where he did very well. However I don't think many people expected his absence to be a net negative to the team this soon in his career...

Nice to see Spezza continue his scoring streak, and nice to see Alfredsson continue to see returns on his constant hard work.

Fabulous to see, and the win makes it all the more sweeter.

Next up: the Leafs. Fresh from blowing a two-point lead in New Jersey, they will be at home and they will be mad. And tired from the travel, so really it's all good. This one will be very winnable for the Senators.