Wednesday, September 16, 2009

5 Minute Major - Q&A with TSN heartthrob James Duthie

Ahh, what a relief that hockey season is back upon us, we're talking about forward lines, and the summer of hell in Ottawa is over. Instead of dissecting last night's scrub loss to the Panthers, we're going to feature our third installment of of 'Five Minute Major' series of interviews. Today's exclusive is with TSN's James Duthie, Ottawa native and host of NHL on TSN.

If you're looking for our previous installments, they're here:
John Buccigross interview is here
James Cybulski interview is here

But this is all about Duthie! James Duthie is an Ottawa native and a graduate of Carleton University. He has received three nominations for Gemini Awards as 'Best Host or Interviewer in a Sports Program or Sportscast', as well as a nomination for hosting the six-hour 'Canada's Game - Hockey Lives Here' feature. In addition to being the current host and instigator on NHL on TSN, he continues to write a piece for the Ottawa Citizen called 'the Good, the Bad, and the Duthie'.

Another Sens Blog was able to capture lightning in a bottle, also known as a one-on-one with JD before the hockey season gets fully underway and he spends his nights with the panelists on TSN. Here's the interview in full. Enjoy. And a big shout out to Duthie, who insists that this is now his homepage!

Another Sens Blog: James, thanks for chatting with us. Let's jump right in with the current affairs: Michalek and Cheechoo for Heatley. We know who the best player in the deal was, but can you argue that Ottawa still made out well in this trade, either with the 'addition through subtraction' cliche or by getting some scoring depth?

James Duthie: You can never "win" a trade like this, when you deal your top scorer, and one of the best in the league--but they did better than I thought they would--considering Murray didn't just have a gun to his head--he had an Uzi. Getting Michalek in the deal was big--and Cheechoo may not get 50 ever again, but he shouldn't get 12 again either.

ASB: So the return was decent given the circumstances and gives us more depth. Is this forward corps now balanced enough to pose a different threat than the past years of being a one line team?

JD: Yes, definitely more balance so it is a different threat. And as a unit, I think they are better. Don't forget Kelly and Fisher can't possibly have that poor offensive years again. But that top line has still taken a hit, and when a game is on the line...and on PP, he'll still be missed.

ASB: I appreciate you not using "his" name. Let's talk blueline. Bryan Murray hasn't gotten his elite defenceman, either as a top flight puck mover or a #1 physical presence. Is this blueline close to what it was three years ago in the Finals?

JD: No--I don't think its close. I think Karlsson will be really good someday...but not yet. This group is decent...but not near the group in 07 that was among the league's best--at least for that year.

ASB: And now the most important position for us. We all realize that we're only as good as our goalie. Is Pascal Leclaire the real-deal with a great attitude or is he a younger, injury-prone Gerber that isn't worth his salary? How critical is his success to this team?

JD: He's had a rough couple of years, but I don't think "injury-prone" is fair...yet. I'd take Leclaire over Gerber any day. If he's healthy, it's the best goalie they've had since...umm...uhh...errr....ever? Okay Tugnutt on that first playoff run was pretty good...and Lalime was good in the regular season. Besides them...I got nuthin'. Leclaire has to steal about 7 games for them to make the playoffs.

ASB: Scary since we've rarely had goalies 'steal' games for us. Hasek was capable of it, but...adductor...ahhhh! What about the coach? Cory Clouston - coach of the year candidate or gone by the deadline? Is this guy the coach of the future for us or did he just get lucky last spring?

JD: I liked what I saw, but who knows. The three previous coaches they've had over the past year and a half are all good hockey men, and they all failed miserably with (essentially) this group. At some point you say coaching isn't the problem here. If he gets fired by the deadline...I can't see how its Murray doing the firing. No GM gets to change coaches that many times without getting fired himself. (Except maybe my buddy Milbury during his Long Island days!). I think Clouston will do well and be around a while (which in Ottawa means beyond one year).

ASB: Great pot shot at Milbury! Tell us about AK27. Will the real Alex Kovalev please stand up? Will we love him or hate him by Christmas?

JD: You will love him by Halloween. Hate him by Remembrance Day. Love him by American Thanksgiving. Hate him by Christmas. Love him by New Year's...you get my drift. He won't change...he never has in his career. He'll be great some nights and invisible others. Guaranteed.

ASB: Same question was asked of C-Balls - why does Toronto hate Alfie? Jealousy or pure hatred?

JD: I refuse to answer questions C-Balls has been asked. It belittles me. Just kidding C-balls. I guess it all goes back to that "guarantee" of winning the Cup...which he did in an interview with me...and if you had been there...it was hardly a brash bold cocky prediction...he was just trying to show a little confidence. Then there was that mock throw of stick into crowd thing a few years back...which was actually funny... so basically all the reasons are lame. Alfie remains one of my favourite players in the league--works his butt off every night--I think they probably hate him because they wished they had more players like him. So jealousy mostly--although I think that has died down a lot.

ASB: I knew it! Refreshing to hear that Alfie is also well-liked in media circles. Future mayor of Ottawam. Okay, let's hit the third period: Playoffs - make your prediction. Where are we in late April...late May...?

JD: I think they might make it...but dogfight for 7th or 8th...and probably an early exit...unless Leclaire walks on water.

ASB: Who wears more on-air makeup: Mike Milbury or Pierre McGuire?

JD: Neither wears much--i probably wear more than both---a whole lotta ugly to cover up--but Pierre has a lot of head to powder.

ASB: You were just awarded an NHL expansion franchise (Balsillie is furious that you won out over him). Who is your GM, who is your head coach, and what is the one player in this league that you'd love to build your team around?

JD: If I couldn't lure Ken Holland away from Detroit, then I'd try to steal David Poile from Nashville. How the Preds compete year after year with budget and ownership issues is unreal. If all employed GM's are off the list, Stevie Y is my guy. I think he'd bring good people in under him. My coach is Laviolette (I know, sounds like bias since I've worked with him...but I just like the guy and his philosophy, and there aren't unemployed guys out there who have won rings in the last five years).
My players are obvious: Sid or Ovie, I'll take either...but since those are boring answers, I'll say Mike Richards....because I think he's going to be the best leader in hockey for the next decade. Can I have Toews too? Didn't think so.

ASB: Awesome. I'm curious myself if Stevie Y will ever work his way into the Sens organization just because waiting on Holland in Detroit would be like waiting on Gehrig to give up first base. And one personal one for you - you've been at this for a long time and probably been at some amazing sporting events. That being said, you've still gotta be a fan of sports just like the rest of us. What are some of your best memories in broadcasting?

JD: Number one would have to meeting Cybulski for the first time.
After that...
The first Stanley Cup final game in Ottawa in 07 was cool, just because it was where I grew up, and started my career, so there was a Disney Circle of Life thing going on. And last year's World Junior gold medal game there was equally goose-bumping. Outside of hockey,
I covered all four golf majors the year of the lockout--that was amazing. Seeing Augusta had always been a dream, and watching Jack Nicklaus walk up the 18th fairway at St. Andrews for the last time, with old Scottish guys weeping all around me was unforgettable. And I was in Oakland for that Vince Carter slam dunk contest where he just went OFFFF!. Most electric atmosphere I've ever been a part of. (And doing this blog for you has to be in the top five).

ASB: Sweet, top five! And it is also cool to hear that you still have that passion and pride for Ottawa sports. One last time, thanks again for joining us. Classic stuff, especially the kind words for Alfie, the shout out to Cybulski, and the reminder that Milbury had some wild times on Long Island.

My sincere thanks to James for spending some time with us. I don't think he really needs our plug, but don't forget to check out his work in the Citizen and on NHL on TSN.

Let us know what you think. Is the defence that bad? Is our offence that good? Leclaire potentially our best goalie?

47 comments:

Anshu said...

I think there's a lot of pseudo-revisionist history related to the Sens defence the year they went to the finals. As I recall, we had in the top 6:

Phillips - shutdown guy, still here
Volchenkov - shot blocker/hitter, still here
Redden - supposed puck mover, gone
Meszaros - major defensive liability, gone
Corvo - small dynamic skater, gone
Preissing - small offensive d-man, gone

Not exactly a group that on paper would inspire much fear. The knock on that group was that they weren't physical enough, so the Sens have acquired guys to bring more grit to the D - Commodore and Smith in particular, while keeping our shutdown guys in Phillips and Volchenkov.

The result has been a considerably worse team.

Kuba, Campoli, Karlsson, Lee/Picard are probably as good as the guys we went to the Cup finals with, and are similarly offensive minded.

Muckler built this team like you would a fantasy team in a hockey pool and got us within a few wins of a Cup. We're a lot more like that again this year.

Grinder said...

Nice job Duff. This blog is the best of a growing list. There is more intelligent content and conversation here than almost anywhere.

On the topic of comparing 2007 to today... I actually watched a game from the 2007 playoffs against Pitt last night (on the NHL network). The Sens D was actually very solid, but there is no doubt that some guys, like Preissing and Corvo, were playing beyond their usual level of talent.

Furthermore, guys like Fisher and Neil were obviously having a nice run and seemed pumped. In that game, Kelly potted a nice goal and reminded me how we were getting production from everyone, not just the top line.

2008 was a whole other story. Our secondary players went to sleep and our D was ssslllloooowww.

I disagree however with Anon 9:22that the list of players on our D staff today is nearly as good as in 2007... Simply not true.

Kuba is good, but Karlsson isn't even a legit NHLer yet, Lee is brain dead and makes more mental mistakes than Mez and Corvo combined, Picard has lots of potential but as yet hasn't demonstrated much. Campoli is the one I like best and has excellent upside... Furthermore, Volchenkov is starting to feel all those blocked shots and Phillips is yet another year older and still won't hit a soul.

If anything, I think our D remains our biggest liability.

To call these guys good will get Canucknik going for sure LOL! Yikes...

Anonymous said...

I like how he skipped the whole Yzerman to Ottawa question ;D lol

Anshu said...

I disagree however with Anon 9:22that the list of players on our D staff today is nearly as good as in 2007... Simply not true.

My point is that the D in 2007 weren't that good either, but their style of play complemented the rest of the team well and they had a great run.

The only one of the guys that are gone that I'd like to have back is Corvo. But he's emotionally unstable, so that wasn't an option for Murray.

And there is no way any D-man on the team today is a bigger defensive liability than Mezsaros. Someone should put together a YouTube montage of every time Mez pinched in at the blueline and the other team's forward simply chipped the puck off the boards around him and got a 2-on-1 the other way. Seems like that happened twice a game for the entire time Mez was with the Sens...

Canucnik said...

Guys:

A couple things:

I got the puck you don't! We haven't seen the puck for a year and a half...that's your "D"'s fault.

Always remember Mez was luggin' #6 every shift...Andre becomes a premiere defenceman and earns his bread in Tampa.

Our American League Defence shall lose it's name tag when #4 and #24 return to form; Philippe is in the 5-6 pairing and Erik and Alexandre are your top pair...could be xmas...could be next year.

Grinder said...

Anshu:

I certainly can't disagree with a lot of what you said, especially the part about the D being more coordinated to the forwards. On that point, we see eye to eye.

I also agree with Canucnik that Mez got a raw deal having been stuck with Redden during the slow dance of his demise.

All in all however, our current D is far from top shelf, even if 2007's was a bit overrated.

CJL said...

i dont really have a problem with our d in the sense that its set up pretty well for a transition in the next few years. the future of the defense has never been brighter with karlsson, cowen, and wiercioch all being studs. adding more bodies now is gonna create a logjam like we have up front with not many spaces available for guys coming up. karlsson will be a full time sen at some point this year if not right now. dollars to donuts cowen will be a full time sen by at least opening night next year and wiercioch will turn pro at the end of this year finishing the season off in bingo and pushing for a spot in camp next year. these guys arent long term projects, they dominate the leagues they are in and theres gonna be nowhere to go soon but here where they should be sooner than later. the future is quickly becoming now and i dont think their ascent should be impeded. we shouldnt be looking at who to add but who we should keep over the next season or so.

duff said...

CJL - I think the 'future' of the Sens blueline has really dictated what we have now. Kuba is signed for three years, I know that, but I have to think Murray is hesitant to land a big fish now knowing that three spots will be taken up in the next couple of years by Karlsson, Wiercioch, and Cowen.

And with regard to the old group in 2007, it wasn't so much that the players individually were great, it was more of a 'sum of all parts' kinda thing. Corvo and Preissing are now terrible, but together as a third pairing and getting PP time, they were fine. Never had to play against top offensive threats. That's part of what made that group so good 1 through 6. I'm hoping this group can find similar roles and chemistry.

duff said...

CJL - I think the 'future' of the Sens blueline has really dictated what we have now. Kuba is signed for three years, I know that, but I have to think Murray is hesitant to land a big fish now knowing that three spots will be taken up in the next couple of years by Karlsson, Wiercioch, and Cowen.

And with regard to the old group in 2007, it wasn't so much that the players individually were great, it was more of a 'sum of all parts' kinda thing. Corvo and Preissing are now terrible, but together as a third pairing and getting PP time, they were fine. Never had to play against top offensive threats. That's part of what made that group so good 1 through 6. I'm hoping this group can find similar roles and chemistry.

Master Of Puppets said...

The 07 group was definitely Sum of the parts.

The D needs to be balanced and be able to do it all. Stop a rush, beat the attackers to the puck on a dump in, impede puck movement down low by moving bodies, block shots, and of course provide a little offense.

2 shutdown guys who are quick and can pass the puck. 2 offensive guys who can handle the puck, pass and shoot as well as keep the opponent in check when they don't have the puck. 2 guys who fall in between.

Would 6 Wade Redden clones git'r done? Would 6 Chris Phillips clones?

The tide of the NHL has changed since the lockout. The Sens were always a fast finesse, team and were best poised to succeed post lockout with the new rules (even when the trap disappeared), but teams caught on fast, and with the cap giving parity we were exposed quickly.

Coupled with off ice horseshit and swelled heads, the wheels came off. We (fans and team) only enjoyed the success window for a year, but hopefully this group can recover some of the lost ground.

This team is a step toward 07. It'll need a little work and brainwashing for them to believe it, but I think Clouston will get them there.

I certainly won't pass judgement based on a handful of meaningless preseason games.

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