Thursday, May 25, 2017

ECF 2017 Game 7 Tonight

So here we are just hours away from game 7 of 2017's Eastern Conference Final, and Your Ottawa Senators are still in it. I have to admit, I was one of the doubters at the beginning of the season -- the team just didn't look fundamentally different from that team that failed to get into the playoffs last year. Nobody seriously thought that this team had it in them. And yet, here we are.

I've said on more than one occasion that I think in the current parity league, the gap between the best and the worst in the NHL is much, much smaller than it ever has been in the past, and that on any given night, any given team could beat any other given team. It means that, in the absence of a massive differential, randomness plays a much bigger role than it would have in the past.

I am by no means a hockey fan any more -- if, indeed, I ever really was a "real" hockey fan, but I'm still interested in the Senators' progress. It still bothers me to watch the team play Playoff Hockey, with the meat-grinder play and wheel-o-randomness officiating. I've actually watched more of the west's games because I have nothing invested in the outcome, so I can just watch hockey.

It will be interesting to see what this season does for the relationship between Ottawa and the Senators. The city has been abandoning the team to a certain extent. Certainly nobody expected there to be tickets going unsold for playoff games of any round. I am sure that Phoenix and the flood are factors, as is the fact that the arena is in the middle of nowhere. Jacking up the playoff ticket prices and boosting the parking pricing doesn't help either. Fundamentally though this team never looked like deep playoff team, and the Ottawa fan base isn't deep enough to sell out routine, grinder games. Ottawa likes a winner, and we are unlikely to see that in today's league of parity.

If there is a lesson to be learned from all this, it is that nobody really understands hockey. Ottawa was 50:1 at the beginning of the season to win the Stanley Cup. But they avoided injuries, played their system, got the bounces and the calls that all add up to tonight -- one single chance to beat Pittsburgh to go to the final. And the team has shown that they can win on the road and -- specifically -- that they can win in the Penguin's arena. So it is possible, even if it is, in the long run, unlikely.

I probably won't be watching tonight. But I still hope they win.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Warmup from Section 105, Row J

Man, its been a long time since I watched hockey in an arena. It's like visual overload -- all the things you never see on TV are right there and distracting, such that I found I was rarely following the actual "action" per se.

Being there was a curious experience. There seemed to be as many -- if not more -- Boston shirts and jerseys than Ottawa ones. And even though this is supposed to be the big 25th Anniversary season, things didn't feel like anyone was making a big deal over... well... anything. File me under those who think not bringing back Lyndon Slewedge was a big mistake. It somehow feels like things were more involved back in the early days of the Corel Center.

As to the game, I thought that Boston was getting better chances than Ottawa was, even if Ottawa got more of them; also the wheels seemed to come off of the Boston game somewhat in the third, as the game was pretty tight up until then.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Everybody's Been Fired

Well OK so Murray "retired" to an "advisory" position... well ok.
But really, this is the same pattern that we've had since Clouston:

  • find some guy who really isn't expected to do well and install him as head coach; 
  • team performs a miracle because they have nothing to lose, give zero fucks, and none of the other teams take them seriously;
  • fete this guy as a miracle worker, watch as he wins a coaching award, and sign him to an extended contract
  • the next year (or two) later, the team starts performing back (down) at their actual relevant level;
  • the current guy gets fired and some random interim guy is parachuted in to replace him;
  • go to step (2).
Clouston. MacLean. And now Cameron.
The problem isn't behind the bench.
Well OK, the only problem isn't behind the bench. The only problem isn't on the bench. The problem is all the way up and down the food chain, and because of that you really have to park ownership of the problem in the owner's suite.
I don't know if Melnyk just let Murray run rampant with his old-school hockey feels, or if the problem in that relationship ran the other way with Melnyk's budget (that wasn't a budget in the end) and/or meddling hamstringing Murray's ability to do anything.
The results are Torontonian-levels of mediocrity.
And frankly, even with the changes of the last few days, I don't have any faith that anything will be different next year.
Or the year after that.

Friday, January 29, 2016

John Scott, All Star

One thing that bugs me through this whole John Scott, All-Star saga is that once Scott got elected to the game, fans were making a big deal out of how the league was being disrespectful to Scott in trying to get him to step down. The whole point of the make-Scott-an-All-Star exercise was to make the league look dumb, and while the NHL has conclusively proven through this that there is no bad situation that they can endeavor to make worse, treating Scott with respect was never in the cards.

The point of the exercise was to send a face-puncher to skate with the league's best and make him look silly, thereby making the league look silly. But the butt of the joke was always supposed to be Scott, and crying now that Scott was somehow disrespected seems somehow like crocodile tears.

John Scott has come out of this looking far better than he had any right to expect, and that's a marvel of timing (and I presume of media message). The league ends up being the bad guy, and I presume that the league circumstance will conspire to ensure that the All-Star game is the last NHL game that Scott plays.

But maybe the most important thing is -- people are actually talking about the All-Star game.

For once.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lehner Avoids Ottawa Goalie Graveyard

So with one fell swoop of the pen, Goalie Of The Future Lehner is gone to Buffalo, where he will undoubtedly end up making Ottawa look foolish.

This problem was inevitable from the moment that Andrew Hammond went on a tear leading up to the playoffs. Ottawa had to sign Hammond just to reward him for getting them into a playoffs they had no business being in. The fact that he then had a collapse was totally irrelevant as he had got them there in the first place; they were his playoffs to collapse in.

But signing Hammond gave Ottawa three goalies:

  • Anderson, who can play at a Veznia clip when he's healthy, sometimes, and is probably at the peak of his career and possibly looking at the inevitable back side;
  • Hammond, a 27 year old unknown goalie who has "statistical clustering" stamped all over him; and
  • Lehner, the 24 year old "goalie of the future" who's future hadn't quite arrived yet.
(And just to show you we don't have any hard feelings we'll totally forget to bring up the fact that Lehner was already chosen as The Future over Ben Bishop, because who the hell knows where he's even playing these days, right? Right.)

So we had three guys who all maybe had upsides and all definitely had downsides and worst of all we had three of them so one of them had to go.

And now what have we got?  A declining veteran backed up by this guy who I sincerely don't believe is really that good. Either one would be a perfect candidate for Ottawa's Goalie Graveyard.

Personally I wouldn't have signed Hammond.  I know I'd have to for Reasons, but I wouldn't. Let someone else take the risk on Hammond. Anderson should be at a minimum a steady back-up for another couple seasons, by which time we'd know if Lehner's future was ever going to really arrive.

If I signed Hammond anyways, then yes Lehner is the one to flip as he'd get the best return.  Buffalo is now a young hungry team and Lehner would fit in there quite nicely.  He'll get the game time he needs and we'd see exactly how good he can be.  In Ottawa there's still Anderson ahead of him on the depth chart, like it or not.  The Buffalo move is potentially very good for Lehner.

If Lehner blossoms in Buffalo, it will be yet another team that has profited from Ottawa's mishandling of their goalie development.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Your Next Immediate Fix

I am sure that Mr. Hammond will be immediately feted as the next Goalie Of The Future, and then either traded or take up residence in the Ottawa Goalie Graveyard post-haste.

(Update, not six hours later: that didn't take long)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Is Ottawa The New Maple Leafs?, really.  Where the Leafs are being run by a management which is making bad decision after bad decision in pursuit of that magic bullet that will make everything good again,  Ottawa is being run by a management (which may be hobbled by ownership) which is making bad decision after bad decision in pursuit of... what?  A cheaper hockey team?  I really don't know any more.

You can't look at the Michalek resigning and talk about cost containment, that contract just doesn't make any sense.

And Spezza?  I don't even understand what the Spezza trade was all about, at least from Ottawa's point of view.  Sure, Spezza is a hockey player and therefore wants a chance to, you know, win... something that isn't going to happen any time soon in Ottawa.  But Spezza proved after the trade deadline what he is capable of if given competant team mates.  I guess Ottawa decided to just trade him before they totally killed his value by having him play with third-liners for the rest of this year.

But, cheap cheap cheap, that's the theme here, and by that measure Ottawa certainly came out ahead.  They sure won't come out ahead on the ice... much like the Leafs.