Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Do Something?"

Comment I left on SenSay article Pick Or No Pick, That Was Unacceptable, which boils down to
They’re playing like a team walking the plank…for F*** sakes, do something already!
…yeah, like what?

Fire Clouston — so that the team can quit on the replacement?

Fire Murray and replace him with… who? Really?

Trade? You can’t sell out if nobody’s buying. The last firesale the Sens had went really well — they traded Heatly for Michalek and the privilege of buying out San Jose’s bad contract. The rest of the league knows that Ottawa is verging on desperation here, why would any other team offer a fair deal if you can potentially force Ottawa into another firesale, and get a much better return for yourself?

Do “something”?

I don’t see what there is to be done.

Sack up man, this is life in the salary cap world.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good Game

Now that was a good game. Good in that there were no outrageously bad errors; good that the Senators kept up a solid effort through 50 minutes of play; good in that Elliot was good when he had to be; good in that Elliot didn't have to be that good too often; good in that most of the action was in the Anaheim end.

Throughout the whole game I felt that the youth movement was really clicking, dominating the play and having fun with the game in a way that the team really hasn't in a long time.

Through the last 10 minutes you could see the young guys tightening up on their sticks a bit, not wanting to make "the error" that would lose the game. Even so, none of the Anaheim rushes really looked dangerous in the way the Ottawa rushes and possessions did.

Elliot bailed Smith out by preventing a break-away goal, but that was really the save of the game that he had to make.

Anaheim looked tired -- in their penalty kill, the four players were not very aggressive -- the four of them just standing around at one point waiting for Ottawa to move the puck. The Senators recognized this opportunity and to my mind get full marks for trying their best to take advantage.

This was a game where I felt that Spezza and possibly Kovalev would have been the difference that turned the close game into a blowout. While neither might have tallied directly, Anaheim would have had to put more defensive coverage on them, opening up more time and space for the rest of the guys.

Even though Hiller was far busier in goal than Elliot was, I didn't think that Hiller was really tested in the way Elliot was that one time. The Senators got the bounces, but just couldn't get the handle on the puck to make it go.

The one big note on the night for me: Michalek appears to have some of his speed back. While some of the youngsters are showing a bit more jump these days, Michalek's effort tonight reminds me of some of his games from last year, where he just seemed to be on fast-forward all night. Great to see. Sure hope it doesn't mean a knee injury is imminent.

But overall, I came away from this game feeling entertained. While a win would have been frosting on the night, lets not forget that the effort and skill put into this game from the Senators show that there is a base of potential in this group yet. Probably not enough to salvage this season (or at least, lets hope not). But there is potential in the future.

That's probably why I keep coming back.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Goalie Of The Future

...I dunno, I didn't see it.

Lehner gave up as many as, or more than, Elliot or Leclaire have in losing efforts. Lehner's win was only granted because the Islanders are just as happless in terms of their discipline, which means that the Ottawa offense was finally able to connect.

Now yes this is only one game and yes we can't condemn him on the basis of this one outing, but to say that he has work to do would be something of an understatement.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How Low Can You Go?

OK, hands up everybody who still thinks this team is better without Jason "No-Look" Spezza, Alexi "Enigmatic" Kovalev, or Pascal "Mr. Glass" Leclaire. Right, you lot can go sit in the hall; your coloring books and crayons will be sent out shortly.

I only watched period 2 last night, before the wife's PVR settings put the game out of my misery. But what I saw was a combination of bad luck and worse play. Bad luck in the bounces -- several times on the same play -- that led to the third goal. Bad luck in Alfredsson beating Thomas twice to ring a puck of the goal post. Bad luck in a goal going off of Gonchar's skate.

Bad play... well almost everyone else.

It was brutal.

So I was thinking: if you are a GM with a bad team, and can't make a trade, what does the result look like? I'm thinking it would look an awful lot like this team. I mean, what else can you do? Waive everybody and then gut your AHL organization? I don't think so.

I think that the test is really going to be what happens before the deadline next month. I think that Clouston will get let go at that point, even though this mess isn't his fault at all.

Lets sit back and enjoy the ride -- because I don't think we've bottomed out here yet, no sir.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


The hot item from Brian Murray's non-conference was his comment about franchise savior goalie prospect Robin Lehner:
I would like to see him play back in Binghamton over the weekend and then see how we do and make a decision based on that. I wish Robin would have made another stop against the Russians (a 4-3 shootout loss in the semifinals) and been in the final game against Canada. That would have been a heck of a test for him. I thought he played well in a tournament.
Brian, man, no matter how desperate you are to keep your own job, DON'T grasp at straws this way. I mean, what could happen here?
  • Lehner comes up, and our elite defense performs the way it has been performing, and Lehner gets shelled, then hooked, then sent back down; or
  • Lehner comes up, absolutely stands on his head, and still doesn't get any wins because of a lack of offense at the other end of the ice.
The latter is the BEST case.

And this assumes that Lehner is even ready for an NHL start.

If Lehner is in any way to be of use to this franchise, then leave him down in the AHL where he can continue to develop, then we'll take a good hard look at him next year.

...but yeah, you might not be around to do that in the fall, right.

Don't do it.

Ditch The Enforcer

Five Hole Fanatics on ditching the enforcer.

From 2008.

A little more specific than my "I don't like fighting" stance, but still interesting.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Waiting For Deadline Day

It has been a hard year as a hockey fan. Frankly, the team's play hasn't been inspiring for more than short stretches (as in minutes, not games). So I'm only watching a period here and there... and not particularly caring if I see any more. Or less, frankly. It is so discouraging to flip on the TV and see stats like "the Senators have only 2 shots on net after 12 minutes of play." I'm obviously not missing much.

I've tried to write this article about a dozen times over the last month. Not once have I come up with anything intelligible, or indeed new, about the current state of the team.

What gets me going for this attempt is this article from Black Aces. It dissects a rumor that Murray wanted to fire Clouston about a month ago, but Melnyk squashed it by telling Murray that if Clouston went, Murray would be gone with him.

Now I don't think I've ever been in favor of firing a coach. Coach firing is a quick-fix for attempting to re-engage an unmotivated group of players, possibly trying to frighten them into playing well. The Ottawa Senators have given up on coaches before (see also Martin Gerber's entire stay here).

The fact of the matter is that the problems with this team begin and end with the roster, and the responsibility for the roster's state lies with the GM. I read or heard a saying recently that special teams' effectiveness is directly proportional to the effectiveness of the coach; the teams' effectiveness at five-on-five hockey is directly proportional to the GM's effectiveness. And while by that yardstick Clouston isn't covered in glory, his record book looks better than the turd sitting on Murray's.

It has been three long years with Brian Murray at the helm, and I think that the organization's state can finally be laid on his desk rather than blaming the mess that he inherited from Muckler. While Murray has done an arguably good job of filling the farm development system which should yield some quality (but possibly not stellar) players in the future, the current team is overloaded with overpaid, under-performing, over-the-hill veterans of past campaigns. Popular players, to be sure, but hockey is a "what have you done for me lately" business and this roster isn't getting it done.

But at the same time I'm not ready to get behind canning Murray.

The facts of life in todays salary-cap world is that you can't get trades done. How many trades, league wide, have there been since opening day? Five? So how come Murray is condemned for being unable to do what so many other GMs are also failing to do?

So given that we can't trade our way out of our problems, then what?

Well yes, Murray should stop giving out long-term contracts with no-trade or no-movement clauses like they are candy. But aside from that.

Start waiving 1-way players? The best case scenario here is that another team picks them up for half-price. Or maybe the best case is that they would clear waivers and then refuse to report to the AHL, that might save Melnyk some bucks. But the worst case is that they clear and report to the AHL, meaning we're still burning Melnyk's money and getting nothing out of it. And then we'd drag some AHL players up here possibly before they are ready.

I think that what needs to happen is that Murray needs to act like he has a plan. One that builds for a 3- to 5- year horizon. Stop trading and signing for short-term fixes.

If I were Melnyk, I'd be waiting to see what happenes at deadline day, since that's really the GM's last chance to put his mark on a team. After that a GM basically has his feet on his desk until June.

If Murray is still trying to buy up rather than sell down, I'd say clean house. If Murray is making intelligent trades that build for the 3- to 5- year term... well that would get him a reprieve from me.

But I'm not Mr. Melnyk.

We also perhaps have to look at the very top of this organization, and by that I mean Mr. Melnyk himself. Melnyk was on Hockey Night In Canada a month or so ago promising that they team was going to go all the way this year and he means the Cup so buckle up.

If Melnyk seriously believes this team is a contender then Murray may be operating with both hands tied behind his back. If Melnyk is directing and vetoing Murray's planning and operations, the results... well the results might not be all that different from what we see here. Trading and signing as if the team was one small tweak, one veteran, one "dressing room character" away from being a contender.

I sincerely hope this isn't the case. If Murray can't get it done, we might have a chance by changing the GM.

If Murray is merely dancing to Melnyk's tune, well frankly we're screwed no matter who is in the GM's or coach's chairs.

I guess the question comes down to who's hand is really on the steering wheel of this organization? And beyond that... do they really know what they are doing?

Ottawa needs a plan. Ottawa needs a youth movement. Ottawa needs two or three years of awful results (kinda like this one) but with the promise that the organization is building, rather than the slow-motion collapse that last year continued into this year. Ottawa needs to make everyone and anyone available for a trade. Nobody should be safe, except perhaps Karlsson. But those trades need to be about the future. Not next week.

Or even next year.

Like I said, I'm waiting until deadline day.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Perhaps I Spoke Too Soon

I think I could stand to see a little bit of Toronto getting curb-stomped.

I am a hockey fan.

I am a hockey fan.

I believe that the game of hockey should be treated by fans first and foremost as a game -- not the be-all and end-all of all existence.

I believe that the game of hockey, when played correctly, fairly, and with passion, is one of the most beautiful exhibitions of skill and competition available today. I believe that such exhibition of skills and plays should be cheered, even when performed by other teams.

I believe that every one of todays players, on their worst days, could skate rings around me on my best day.

I believe that every one of todays players is a human being. I believe that just like all the rest of us, they have their good days and bad days, and that some days "their best effort" isn't as good as other days.

I believe that the three stars of hitting, hooking, and holding are an impediment to the game, both as-played and as-intended. When I say "hitting" I mean cheap, dangerous, and/or late hits. I believe hockey is, and should be, a physical game.

I believe that the refs are human, and that honest mistakes on their part will even out over the long run. I believe that the refs are hamstrung by both the league (which means the owners) and by the vagueness of the rulebook, but that they do their best to call a fair game.

I believe that reffing playoff hockey games different from regular season games is fundamentally dishonest. I believe that a ref's choice to not call an infraction at a critical point is just as much as, if not more of, a decision to influence a game's outcome.

I believe that fans who boo their home team are fair-weather fans, but I believe that someone who pays their money to sit in their seat can cheer or boo as they like and are answerable to no one else.

I believe that the third-point for an over-time loss is a bad idea.

I believe that the shoot out method of determining the winner of a game is inferior to sudden death victory overtime, but I also believe I have to go to work tomorrow.

I believe that the current playoff seeding method renders too much of the regular season meaningless. However I also believe I don't like "playoff hockey" so on balance having more regular season games works for me just fine.

I would rather watch my team lose a spirited, fair, and skillfully-played game 3-2 than watch them clobber another team 8-0(*).

I believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the Ottawa Senators will one day hoist the Stanley Cup. (I believe that day will not be in 2011).

These things I believe. I know that there are others who do not share these beliefs. I believe those who disagree have the right to disagree.


(*) == except if it's the Leafs