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.