Thursday, July 16, 2009

Beware the Ides of July

Well, technically it is already the 16th, but you get the point. We are now smack in the middle of the dog days of summer. Think about it - our biggest news of the day was the release of next season's schedule! That's how long it has been since we've had a game! That being said, it has been a fascinating off-season in Ottawa with the top ten draft pick and the other situation with that guy that doesn't take our calls.

Question - what do we have left to do this off-season that actually consists of another 9 weeks?

1. Dany Heatley. Trade him. I don't care who gets him, just make sure we get something halfway decent and beaucoup de cap space. We've been treading water in this pond long enough that I don't need to go on about why I want to turn the page on Heatley and not have him back. Forget for a moment the entire trade request and think about our salary cap structure. This is our chance to straighten our salaries out so that we aren't so top heavy. And who doesn't take Alfie's calls?

2. Erik Karlsson. He's signed to his entry-level contract and will try out for a spot on the bloated blue line. Karlsson impressed during the development camp with smooth skating and a bigger frame. With the signed contract, he knows that there's a chance he's in Bingo this year, and the Murrays are suggesting he still might have some growing to do (physically), so this is a story to follow. He seems incredibly committed and incredibly confident and what a coup it would be to have him in the lineup in the Fall.

3. Pascal Leclaire. We're going to have more and more discussions on Leclaire as the summer goes on, but I'm of the opinion that this is our most important position this year. In the past, we've gone with average goaltending and counted on being the highest scoring team. We're far from that high scoring team now, so goaltending can't be 'average' anymore. If we're truly a playoff team, and I think we have that potential, then Leclaire needs to be a top ten goalie. This is not debatable. Leclaire a top ten goalie = playoffs.

4. That salary cap thing. First and foremost, our cap problems can be solved with the Heatley trade. At this point, we're almost expecting that Murray throws in Kelly or Gator just to give us a buffer. But if the Heatley saga doesn't end with us getting under the cap, then we've gotta find $1.5M in cap space. Do we really want to disrespect Gator by just sending him to Bingo and asking him to retire (he signed the contract at 34, so it would come off the books)? I know that this is a business and anything goes, but Jason Smith deserves a respectful send-off. Chris Kelly is overpaid at $2.2M and that role can be filled by a rookie, but it doesn't mean Kelly should be sent off for a song. He does have some kind of value but it doesn't mean that anybody else wants him straight up for prospects. After those two, we just have smaller ticket items that don't fix our problems. So unless Murray wants to get very creative here, look at these two to be part of the shakeup.

5. Are we good? In a nutshell, no, not really. This is a very similar team to last year's travesty, but we've added what we think is a top flight goalie. If Heatley is moved, then we'll have more depth at forward (assuming the return is along the lines of Penner/Cogliano) but with less star power. Kovalev will make up some of the lost goals and we're hoping for guys like Fisher and Foligno to get over the 20-goal mark. Our defence is still 'led' by Filip Kuba, though we're hoping Campoli and Lee continue to grow, and Karlsson can crack the lineup and fit into the top four. Do you see the common theme here? 'Hope'. We hope guys play to their potential and develop properly and gel together. Hope is not a strategy, everyone. We're going to fight for the playoffs and have a long way to go until we're true contenders again.

Anything else I'm missing?


Grinder said...

I knew very little about Pascal Leclaire before we traded for him. I've asked every NHL insider I know for their impression of him and it seems like everyone likes the guy. They all seem to agree that he was destined for greatness, until he became "injury prone". In the NHL, being hurt often is a lot like being the girl at prom whom everyone knows has VD. So, if he's healthy, what a steal, if not - yuck!

Let us hope, as was the theme of the post, that he gets over his numerous injury problems. Timing and form can be lost for a while. Talent is a lasting commodity. If the kid is legit, he will be a player after getting his groove back if he stays healthy.

As for Karlsson, I watched him closely during the prospect camp. He has tons of skill and he is as smooth as silk, but he's just a little guy. If he weighs 170 lbs, it is only with all his gear on. I say 150 lbs tops... I don't see this boy being able to battle in the NHL against men. I played a lot of hockey at the highest levels when I was growing up and I was a pretty good D-man myself. But, at 5'11", 190 lbs to 200 lbs, I was too small - not just considered too small, I actually felt too small. I played with an edge too, but size is one heck of an advantage on D, if you ask me. I remember battling this one big monster who was 6'5" during one game. Even though I braced myself, the guy pounded me over and over and it wore me out. I ended-up butt-ending him out of frustration and getting thrown out of the game. I can't imagine feeling like that EVERY game.

Having said that, the new NHL has much less hitting and more open ice, so it is kinder to small guys. I guess one never knows - especially when the small guy is blessed with as much talent as Karlsson.

Speaking of talent... I know many fans don't agree with me, but I think Campoli has the potential to be "all that". I hope he ends up as good as I think he'll be. Again, as someone who played the game, I see how Campoli seems to have vision and the ability to make a play a split second before his opponents read the situation. He is a liability at times, but if he can be responsible, he has potential.

I don't feel quite as confident about Lee, who seems to lack the smarts that Campoli has. You never know, of course, how these kids can mature. As C-Nik pointed out, Lee is still very young for an NHL D-man.

Gator is, sadly, all worn out. If he was realistic, he'd hang them up and spare us the hassle of carrying him and his salary. He's like Brett Favre, still full of heart, but the gears are worn. It is really too bad that guys have to age, but Smithy has become far too slow for the game. He would make a good special assignment coach to work with the young D.

All in all, the Sens are a quandry. One day, I look at the line-up and feel pretty good about things, then a few days later all the holes appear and I start thinking the worst.

So much of it depends on how the Heatley thing plays itself out - as much as we're all sick of it. If he comes back and plays well, we should be a considerable offensive force. If he's traded, we should either get somebody good in return, or we will have money to buy talent down the road. Either way, you would expect this to help make us better. Nonetheless, this kind of thing can take a huge toll on the room, if he sulks for a few months.

Then there's Clouston. I like the pasty little bastard, but as Sutter demonstrated in New Jersey and as Iron Mike has shown time and again, the hard-ass guys lose the players quickly. Zillionaire kids will only tolerate the attitude of a hard-ass coach for a while, then they shut them out or take a stand against it. Look at Heatley - it took him only a few months to say "screw it" with Chuckie. Granted, most players won't act as Heatley did, but Clouston has a tight rope to walk next year for sure. I'm happy for him that he had a bit of success last year, on which to build momentum and his creds. I wish him well and I hope he gets a little bit of sun before camp...

pynch said...

Remember when Alfie was injury prone? Doesn't mean Leclaire has to be either...

hockeydan said...

I agree wholeheartedly about Kelly being overpaid. What were we thinking?

If you are willing to get rid of Heatley for 'something half way decent' but you won't give Kelly away for a 'song.' Compromise: Let's rid of him and clear the cap for a jingle.