Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Happy No Playoffs, Toronto

So just for a giggle, I googled "Truculence".  The Leafs showed up in item 7, a reference to Coach Carlyle asking for and receiving a particular call-up.

The fact that the Leafs show up 7th in this list is funny to me because today they're 14th in the east and have been mathematically eliminated from post-season play.

Sure, they've beat the Senators several times this year, but a team in year four of a rebuild needs to be beating a team in a 1st-year rebuild more reliably.  Heck, they need to be beating a whole lot of other teams more reliably.

Something for Leafs fans to be chewing on this off season* is that if Burke is going to be let go, it has to happen now so that a replacement has a chance to get organized for the upcoming July 1st free agency and the entry-draft later in the summer, as well as seeing about a replacement head coach.  The longer Burke is left in place, the harder it will be for any replacement -- forget a good replacement -- to make a positive impact on next year's fortunes.

But anyways -- Go Sens go!

* == which let's be honest started mid-February

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Brand new goalie!  Best Goalie not in the NHL*! Plays really well!  Savior of the present, builder of the future!

Right?  Suddenly:

Bishop Sidelined for At Least a Week
Sources say Ottawa Senators goaltender Ben Bishop will be sidelined for at least a week after injuring his groin over the weekend.
Ha ha, you thought it would be different this time?  It isn't just that this town hates goalies -- it's that this town really hates goalies.

Tune in next week when Craig Anderson hurts himself again, and we go into the playoffs backed by Alex Auld and Robin Lehner.

* least until we traded for him.  Yes.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

There Are Greeks In Toronto?

Varada at Welcome To Your Karlsson Years writes at length at the depths of the greek tragedy unfolding in Toronto. Mandatory reading.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Refs Steal Another Point

So really the only thing I want to say about the Buffalo-Ottawa game last night is: that disallowed goal was bogus. The refs waved it off as no goal, and the war room didn't over-ride "because the whistle blew before the puck crossed the line". Which is crap. HNIC replayed the sequence, and once could clearly see the puck go in, and then out again before the sound of the whistle came across.

"Interesting" was the HNIC commentator's view, but he didn't follow up on that.

"Interesting" meaning "That statement is totally contradicted by the evidence we've just examined", maybe. The only way you come to a conclusion like that is by buying into the whole "intent to blow" theory that says that the play is dead when the ref decides to blow the whistle, not necessarily when he blows it.

So yeah not to say that the Senators wouldn't have blown another goal lead, but frankly it would be unlikely. So I think Buffalo basically stole two points last night. Ottawa was compensated by being permitted one. That's more important to Buffalo at this point in the season than it is to Ottawa, but it is still bogus.

Bad officiating aside it was a reasonably entertaining game.

  • Karlsson's now one goal shy of the franchise record for goals in a single season by a defenseman. HNIC says's he's now got 69 points in 69 games -- that's a defenseman producing at a point-per-game scoring rate. We're all just hoping this isn't merely a career year and that he'll continue to grow, because the last thing you want to do is over pay for declining production.  One good goal from the slot, and one billiards goal off the back of Buffalo goalie's shoulder -- shouldn't have worked, but he's clearly got the magic touch these days.
  • Spezza's looking tentative with the puck at times, but he's still attempting -- and frequently achieving -- those outrageous dangles that I love to watch.  Still magically showing up in almost the right place at the right time to get the rebound or the cross-ice pass.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Brian Burke Is Pretty Much Finished

By firing Ron Wilson tonight, Brian Burke has put his credibility with the Toronto Maple Leafs firmly behind him.

Now by all means, Wilson had to go. The problem was he probably had to go at the end of last season when the Leafs didn't make the playoffs -- again. The problem was Wilson certainly didn't deserve a contract extension scant weeks ahead of his firing. The problem was that the players had probably tuned him out and had just started waiting for the inevitable swing of the axe.

However, you really can't lay the blame for the Leaf's history at Wilson's feet. It would be nice for Leafs fans if you could* but the problem with the team is the on-ice personnel, and the buck for those decisions stop in the GM's office.

Frankly the Leaf's recent success -- that is, the success that immediately predated the recent lack of success -- was probably due to the same factors that Ottawa profited from earlier this season. Teams saw the Leafs as easy pickings, only to discover that in the NHL even the easy-pickings teams can beat you if you don't take them seriously. Once the rest of the league got the message that hey, Toronto needed to be taken seriously, bam, we return to regularly scheduled programming.

I read something a few years ago that I liked. It said: deficiencies for special teams' play are the fault of the coach, because it is the coach's systems which either work or don't, his messages which gets through or doesn't, his ability to get buy-in which works or doesn't. But for five on five hockey: the credit or blame for how the team does belongs to the GM. That's his group of people that he's assembled. And if it works, he's a genius, and if it doesn't, he's a goat.

Burke's fingerprints are pretty much all over the Leafs. The fact that they are -- again -- probably going to miss the playoffs is now his fault, and unless something happens soon, Burke's departure is the next change that needs to be made.

He's tried building through the draft. Actually no he didn't, he traded away two first round picks to Boston for a player who, while being a very good player, can't carry the entire team on his back. Frankly he should have waited two years to make that kind of trade, giving him assets to build from within before trading away his immediate future in pursuit of immediate, improbable, success.

He's tried trading away a quarter of his team to the Calgary Flames.

He's tried shaming his players through the media.

He couldn't find something to do before the trade deadline. Now that might be a very good thing, we have no idea who was demanding how much for what, and frankly A) there's no point having a fire sale and B) there really wasn't much to sell.

Burke's 2011-2012 plan has basically boiled down to then miracle happens.

Firing Wilson now is a tacit admission of that fact.

And really, Leafs fans better hope he doesn't get one.

*= and I'm pretty sure tomorrow I'll wake up to a RSS reader full of articles doing precisely that


So I am, as the title above says, a bit torn.

Torn because the Chicago Blackhawks came in here and while I figured they would be beatable, the demonstration they left on the ice suggests that tonight they were by far the better team. They were faster, more aggressive, tighter, looser, everything-er.

Frankly the only reason the score wasn't run up was Lehner.

That's not to say this was a bad outing for the Senators. No, the fact that they could live with -- more or less -- a demonstrably better team reflects well on them. For a first year rebuild team, this was an exceptionally good game. They lost, yes, but it wasn't a blow-out and while I felt they were running around in their own end a bit much -- as well as the neutral zone and frankly the offensive zone -- they never really stopped trying. They looked like a young team, but they never gave up.

I think with the ongoing implosion that is going on behind them in the standings (see also Toronto) the first round of playoffs is a lock for the Senators at this point. Beyond that, anything can happen. And again, for a first-year rebuild team, that's an outstanding achievement. Even if it is more of a condemnation of how mediocre the east really is.

The ever-present danger here is that the Senators won't be able to continue to build on this momentum, that management might decide to go back to trying to "tweak" the team into contention.

So I'm continuing to enjoy the games I manage to catch. I'm just not sure I'm optimistic about the long-term.

In other news:
  • Good on Ray Emery to get his career back on track. The boy can play, and as long as he focuses on that, he'll continue to do just fine. I don't know why he was run out of Ottawa, but he's clearly got his act together in Chicago.
  • Also nice to see ex-Sen Antoine Vermette get some attention through the game.
  • Hossa still looked dangerous at times, but he kind of came across as a faded star -- someone capable of occasional flashes of his former brilliance, but not a regular super star. Sort of like -- and it pains me to say this -- how Daniel Alfredsson might look next year.

A Meditation On Famdom

Backhand Shelf meditates on hockey fandom in Why We Do The Things We Do:

The most common answer is to speak of one’s fanaticism with metaphors of obsession, addiction, or disease, as though one has been tragically afflicted with this loyalty against one’s will. We disingenuously pretend as though we just can’t quit.

We can. We just don’t want to.