Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dear Cory Clouston - an open letter

Dear Cory,

How's your summer going? Are you enjoying your time away from the rink and out of the headlines? Oh wait, you were dragged through the mud by your star player, weren't you? Yes, we're also still scratching our heads trying to figure out what you did wrong or what you were supposed to have done.

But I'm not writing to you just to figure out the Heatley situation and why he blamed you in his trade request. I wanted to focus instead of encouraging you for the upcoming season in the face of immense pressure.

When you took over this team last year, it was struggling along to a 17-24-7 record. The city and its fans were preparing for its first season sans playoffs in over a decade. The first order of business for you was to teach all of us how to pronounce your name and tell us where the hell you came from. Second, you were tasked with getting us through the season while keeping in tact what little pride we had left. You certainly accomplished this and went a step further by actually getting us excited about our potential going forward. Finishing the season at 19-11-4, you gave us hope that we weren't as bad as we were growing accustomed to being.

But while we're impressed with the work ethic and effort you instilled in these players, I'm here to tell you that last season was easy for you. This Fall is when you will truly be tested. Think about it for a moment - for starters, you are the fourth coach in three years and we're expecting you to do something that three other very strong coaches couldn't accomplish. We're expecting you to get these professional hockey players to show up every night and play as hard as they can as a team for 60 minutes. If you think these players will just do this on their own, ask John Paddock and Craig Hartsburg how things went when leaving the accountability up to the players?

But you aren't like those other coaches, right? You are not a player's coach. You aren't friends with your players and you don't have favourites. Some players actually talk about what a hard ass you have been in practices. Keep it up! Listen, it isn't your job to be buddies with these players; leave that to Carvel. You have a responsibility to the organization to get the most out of these players and to win games, no matter what it takes. You're off to a solid start, but don't let up!

Then there's the issue of pressure. You took over a team in shambles. Every win was one more than what we were expecting. Besides the fact that those wins cost us a better draft pick, you really didn't have a single ounce of pressure on your shoulders. John Paddock? He took over a team that was fresh off the Stanley Cup Finals and he let it get away. Craig Hartsburg? He was the man with the plan to save the team and limit the down seasons to one. Those guys faced pressure in their very first game. You haven't faced one single game with that kind of pressure yet. I'm not trying to be confrontational here, but that's the truth. You did an admirable job, no question, but you did it with the whole city cheering you on. You were like a hockey coach version of Barack Obama, taking over a team in the tank and knowing that every action you made was going to be applauded. Does that mean Hartsburg is President Bush? I digress...

Your success at the end of last season has opened you up for the pressure cooker of this season. Each loss will be unexpected now and the radio call-in shows will quickly find your deficiencies. By the end of October, you'll either be continuing from where you left off last year, or you'll be getting compared to your predecessors. This isn't fair of us, of course, but don't forget that we have gotten used to coaches leaving before season's end. You've built up expectations for this franchise and we're expecting you to deliver us wins on a regular basis. The honeymoon is over. We want those wins.

And then there is the Dany Heatley issue. If he ends up being traded, which I still expect will happen soon, then you're record will be matched to his. So now you have to deal with the comparisons to Paddock, Murray, Hartsburg, AND Dany Heatley's new team. Think about it - Bryan Murray extended your contract and a short while later, Heatley asked for a trade. Murray has made the right move by standing by his coach, but at the same time, he's choosing you over Heatley. Again, this is the right move, but think about the added pressure of outperforming Heatley now. What if he moves to Edmonton and rattles off a series of multi-goal games while you stumble out of the gate in Ottawa? Regardless of how much we despise Heatley now, we're certainly going to start questioning Murray's choice, no? This is completely unfair of us, but that is life in a Canadian hockey city.

Wow, I've certainly painted a bleak picture for you here. Sorry about that. My point is to remind you that while last season's finish was exciting and fun, the real work starts this Fall when we're expecting to get back to the playoffs. You've got the history of coaching changes in Ottawa, and you've got the rift with our top goal scorer working against you, but the city wants you to succeed. We want wins and we want you behind the bench leading this team. You are in the business of winning and if you meet that objective, you'll be a hero in this town. Keep grinding these players and keep expecting more. Learn from the mistakes of the past coaches and understand this is a very hard job. And don't back down to the pressure. If we didn't have expectations of you, it would mean that we didn't care about you. I said the same thing to Spezza last week - expectations and pressure are good for you, Cory!

Best of luck this Fall.



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?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sens 2009-2010 Schedule Released. Hooray!

Please note, this is from the exact press release from Sens website. Not my writing.

Bulletin: Senators announce 2009-10 schedule
Ottawa Senators
Jul 15, 2009, 3:05 PM EDT
OTTAWA – The National Hockey League and Ottawa Senators today announced the 2009-10 schedule, which will see the club open its 17th season on the road against the Rangers in New York City on Saturday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m.

The Senators’ home-opener will feature No. 1 pick John Tavares and the New York Islanders, who visit Scotiabank Place on Thursday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. The 82-game 2009-10 calendar concludes when Ottawa welcomes division-rival Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, April 10, at Scotiabank Place. The Senators’ 2009-10 regular-season schedule again will feature games against every NHL team. In addition to home games against division rivals such as the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, this year’s schedule continues to feature non-conference home-and-home series against the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks.

Ottawa will play six regular-season games against each of its Northeast Division rivals and four games against its other Eastern Conference opponents. From the Western Conference, the Senators will host each of the Northwest Division teams (Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks) and the Central Division (Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues), with the exception of the Detroit Red Wings. Ottawa will visit Detroit and the Pacific Division teams (Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks).

The regular-season Scotiabank Place schedule again presents 25 games from Thursday to Sunday as follows: Thursday (11), Saturday (13) and Sunday (1). The early weekday games feature four on Mondays, 10 on Tuesdays and two on Wednesdays. Ottawa does not have any Friday home dates this season. The home games on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be played at 7:30 p.m. Three of the 11 games on Thursdays will start at 7 p.m., while the Saturday games will be at 7 p.m. with the exception of two at 2 p.m. The lone Sunday date will be a 3 p.m. matinee faceoff.

The Senators play 24 games at Scotiabank Place in the first half of the season and 17 home games in the second half. November is the Senators’ busiest month at home with nine of 12 games being played at Scotiabank Place. The Senators play 12 games in October, 12 in November, 17 in December, 15 in January, seven in February, another 14 in March and five in April to round out the 82-game schedule.

Other schedule highlights for 2009-10 include:
- The Senators first host the Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, Oct. 12.
- The Senators will play back-to-back games 11 times, including two consecutive days at Scotiabank Place: Wednesday, Dec. 30, vs. the Colorado Avalanche and Thursday, Dec. 31, vs. the New York Islanders.
- The Senators welcome the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, Jan. 30, at 2 p.m. on CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada.
- The Senators will play 19 games (seven at home) after the Olympic break.. The break for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics runs from Monday, Feb. 15, to Monday, March 1.
- The Senators have two four-day breaks during the season – one in October and the second in November.
- The Senators have two five-game homestands, from Nov. 14 to 23 and Dec. 28 to Jan. 5.
- The Senators’ two longest road trips are from Nov. 28 to Dec. 6 (nine days) and Jan. 10-18 (eight days).

Senators season tickets (full- and half-season and Flex 40) and mini plans (Flex 30, 20 and 10-game set seat plans) are on sale now. There will again be three individual-game on-sales: games in October and November will be available starting Sept. 12, December and January games will be on sale starting Nov. 14 and the February to April games will go on sale Jan. 9. The pricing for single-game tickets will be announced in August.The Senators’ 2009-10 regular-season schedule, including key on-sale dates, will be available for fans to download to their Outlook or any other electronic calendar.

To download the schedule and for more information on the Senators, visit

2009-10 Ottawa Senators regular-season schedule (all times Eastern)
Saturday, Oct. 3, at N.Y. Rangers, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 6, at Toronto, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 8, vs. N.Y. Islanders, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 10, vs. Atlanta, 7 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 12, vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 15, vs. Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 17, at Montreal, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 22, vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 24, vs. Boston, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 28, at Florida, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 29, at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 31, vs. Atlanta, 2 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 5, vs. Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 7, vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 10, vs. Edmonton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 12, at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 14, vs. N.Y. Rangers, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 17, vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 19, vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 21, vs. Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 23, vs. Washington, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 25, at New Jersey, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 26, vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 28, at Boston, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 1, at San Jose, 9:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 3, at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 5, at Phoenix, 11 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 6, at Anaheim, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 8, vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 10, at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 12, vs. Carolina, 7 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 14, at Toronto, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 16, vs. Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 18, at New Jersey, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 19, vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 21, vs. Boston, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 23, at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 26, at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 28, vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 30, vs. Colorado, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 31, vs. N.Y. Islanders, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 3, vs. Philadelphia, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 5, vs. Boston, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 7, at Washington, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 9, vs. Florida, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 10, at Carolina, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 12, at Atlanta, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 14, at N.Y. Rangers, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 16, at Montreal, 7 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 18, at Boston, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 19, vs. Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 21, vs. St. Louis, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 23, at Boston, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 26, vs. New Jersey, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 28, at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 30, vs. Montreal, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 3, at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 4, vs. Vancouver, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 6, at Toronto, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 9, vs. Calgary, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 11, vs. Washington, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 13, at Detroit, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 14, at N.Y. Islanders, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, March 2, vs. N.Y. Rangers, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 4, at Carolina, 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 6, vs. Toronto, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, March 9, at Edmonton, 9 p.m.
Thursday, March 11, at Calgary, 9 p.m.
Saturday, March 13, at Vancouver, 10 p.m.
Tuesday, March 16, vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 18, at Atlanta, 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 20, at Dallas, 2 p.m.
Monday, March 22, at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 23, vs. Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 26, at Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 27, vs. Florida, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, March 30, at Washington, 7 p.m.
Thursday, April 1, vs. Carolina, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 3, at N.Y. Islanders, 2 p.m.
Tuesday, April 6, at Florida, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 8, at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 10, vs. Buffalo, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Alfie Speaks

From Chris Stevenson in the Ottawa Sun (link here) :

Like everybody else, Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said he was surprised by teammate Dany Heatley‚s request to be traded.
"I was, no question, as I think most people were," said Alfredsson, speaking on the topic for the first time since word of Heatley's request leaked out close to a month ago. "I didn't get the sense from him at the end of the year that it was that big a concern for him with the coach, so definitely, I was caught by surprise."
Alfredsson, currently in Paris to attend NHL players association meetings, said he has tried but has been unable to get in touch with Heatley to discuss the situation.
Word is Heatley has differences with coach Cory Clouston and the direction the team is taking.
Alfredsson said he will continue to try and talk to Heatley.
"I want to because I would like to know ... this is all speculation from you guys, from myself, from everybody. Dany hasn't spoken publicly about it. Nobody knows how everything came to be, if it was just a process where he felt throughout the end of the season, 'I'd like to be somewhere else,' or it was, 'one day I woke up and I needed a change.' I'm not sure. I definitely would like to talk to him."
Alfredsson said if it turns out there is no deal, Heatley could return to the Senators. He said other players have gotten over differences with the coach.
"If he feels he can contribute to the team, I don't think coming back to the team is the big problem. Obviously the media and the fans will have a harder time with how everything has been dealt with. It's become a very unfortunate situation for everybody involved," he said. "We definitely would work something out."
Alfredsson said he's looking forward to the chance to play with forward Alex Kovalev, signed as a free agent last week.
"He's one of my top two players in the league to watch, him and (Pavel) Datsyuk (of the Detroit Red Wings), as far as skill-wise," said Alfredsson. "I'm looking forward to practice and after practice, playing 1-on-1 and fooling around with him because I think you can learn a lot. He can teach a lot to the younger guys, as well.
"On the ice, he'll help our power play tremendously. He's going to bring a lot of excitement to the rink."
Alfredsson said he didn't know yet how the lines would be configured.

Oka, Basil, what does it all mean? Well, it won't help Heatley's PR any as it now sounds like he is avoiding calls from his teammates. This is turning into quite the soap opera. I wonder if paparazzi like BooBoo will be gawking from the outside of Spezza's wedding to catch a glimpse of Heatley and who he talks to during the event.

Stevenson also wrote earlier in the day that the Oilers are taking a beating from their fans for keeping their offer on the table for the Heat. As much as this all feels like a resolution is coming soon, please keep in mind that our first exhibition game is still a full 9 weeks away. Is there anything that makes you think an ending is coming in July?

Tuesday Northeast Report

We'll try and do this Tuesday's during the season, just taking a quick look at the other teams in the division. This Tuesday, we'll focus on how each team did in the UFA market. Based on what I'm seeing so far, this is probably the worst division in hockey and I think it is highly possible that four of the five teams miss the playoffs this season. Read it and weep.

Quiet times in Beantown and I'll give Chiarelli credit for not hitting a panic button after such a strong regular season and disappointing playoff. All they've really done is re-sign Recchi so far, though there are rumblings that Phil Kessel's contract demands are making him a tough fit. There is no shortage of scoring in Boston if its young players can continue to develop properly, so all they really need is some support for Chara. The Kaberle for Kessel rumour made some sense as Kabs could be the setup guy and pass the puck around pretty well. I wouldn't expect as much success this coming season just because opposing forwards will start to figure out Tim Thomas and opposing defenders will learn more about guys like Krejci and Lucic. Still a playoff team, without question.

On the bright side, they've only lost Jaro Spacek this summer. The Sabres have also had a quiet off-season, which is a bit more alarming because they've been kinda bad for a couple of years. I still think some of that blame can be placed right on Kevin Lowe's shoulders for putting the offer sheet out there for Vanek and some of the blame can be placed on the Sabres for taking it at over $7M a year. This is a crippling salary and when you combine that with Miller's 6.25M, you're running thin already. Add in guys like Pominville, Roy, Connolly, and Hecht and you really aren't changing up your core too much. The Sabres believe they have great prospects in the system and they'd better think about speeding up that development because as it stands today, the Sabres look to be on the outside looking in again. But I thought Lindy Ruff was an amazing coach, no? If they miss the playoffs again, how can you keep telling me how great he is?

First off, I'll start by saying I don't think Bob Gainey is good at what he does. For some reason, the Habs faithful have such blind admiration for him that they didn't notice more than half of their lineup was up for contract this summer. The first time they took notice was when their trusted GM took on one of the worst contracts in sports by trading for Scott Gomez. Going after a 1st line centre is admirable; trading for a $7.3M second-line centre is not. Follow that up by signing a one-dimensional Cammalleri at $6M and a tiny winger in a statistical free-fall for $5M and it is fair to say that this team isn't in good shape. Their blue line is a cluster of size, skill, and stupidity: Markov, Hamrlik, Gill, Spacek, Mara, and resident moron Josh Gorges. Sure, you recognize those names but this team has let Souray, Streit, and Komisarek all walk away for nothing in the past three off-seasons. I'll give Gainey an honourable mention for at least changing the identity of his franchise after an awful collapse that only Sens fans could relate to, but I challenge him to tell his fans what the hell that identity has become. Oh yeah, and their goalie is still a basketcase. These guys compete with Buffalo for that miserable place where you miss the playoffs and miss a top ten draft spot.

I love these guys. I love them because millions of Leaf fans have taken out their spoons and slurped the bullshit soup that Brian Burke has placed in front of them and Oliver Twisted their way back up for seconds. "Grr, I want to make us tougher," said the mighty blowhard. No question, this team is tougher than last year when their fighter was Ryan Hollweg and he couldn't skate. Here's the problem, though: when you're top scorer is Jason Blake with 63 points, you won't make the playoffs. I know, I know, Toronto was fine in scoring goals and terrible in keeping them out of their own net. On paper, they should be harder to scoare against with Komisarek, Exelby, and Beauchemin stepping in. All three guys are big and strong, but Komi is coming off a terrible year, Exelby's development has stalled to a pitiful crawl, and Beauchemin is insanely overrated. Even I could look like a star paired with Scott Niedermeyer. Bias aside, I am just not impressed with the changes made here. Scoring will absolutely drop here and their blue line is going to be slow. Burke was brought in to draft and build from the bottom but he just isn't capable of sitting still, changing plans and spending back up to the cap with little focus on the youth movement aside from a Swedish goalie that won't start. In Anaheim, his defence was made up Hall of Famers and his forwards included Selanne, McDonald, Getzlaf, Perry, Kunitz, and Penner. The names in Toronto don't match up and it is for this reason (they won't have a forward with 70pts) that I GUARANTEE Toronto is back in the bottom of the standings again next year. They'll have nobody else to blame but themselves and their appetite for whatever Burkie puts in front of them. And they can blame Burke, too. I love his quotes and I love how he'll continue to bury that team in mediocrity for at least the duration of Colton Orr's contract.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday Musings - July 13th

Hope everyone had a chance to see the Bucci article below. Definitely worth a look at what an unbiased and educated hockey mind has to say about our team.

1. Dany Heatley, still an Ottawa Senator. As much as we all want him gone so we can focus on a go-forward plan for this team, the Euge has been talking code lately about how there's a chance he comes back. Senators management has done an admirable job on showing that they're pissed off but managing to deflect all of their criticism at the agents and those advising Heatley. In the off-chance we can't move this guy, then the welcome mat will come out and the front office won't have had a single bad thing to say about him (publicly). I'm still feeling that he accepts the only offer out there to Edmonton and we all move on.

What's funny about this is our friend over at hockeybuzz listing off 10 teams that are somehow connected, moving salary to make an offer, thinking about making an offer, etc. Listen, Heatley is a 50-goal scorer that is available on a long-term deal (albeit an expensive one) All 29 teams are going to at least give pause to the idea of getting Heatley but at the end of the day, there are only a small handful of realistic offers that can be tabled. And if we take Murray at his word, then only one actual offer has been made that fits the desired return from Ottawa. The offer has been made public and any other interested team knows that for Murray to take their offer, it has to beat what Tambellini put out there. If a lesser offer comes in from the Sharks, which is allegedly on Heatley's list, then there is nothing saying Murray has to accept it. We've gone over this, everyone. At the end of the day, I still see this being a choice between Ottawa and Edmonton and I still think Heatley takes the deal. He wants to be the go-to guy - he'll get that in Edomton, but he's gotta wait 3-4 more years in Ottawa until Alfie retires to get that title here.

2. Lost in the Heatley saga is the importance of Pascal Leclaire's health. With Auld gone, this season belongs to a guy that has had one great season and a guy that has had only half a season. As great as we think Pascal has the potential to be in Ottawa, his list of injuries has to give concern to all of us. Is there anyone out there that thinks we have a shot at the playoffs without a stellar season from Pascal? Speak now or forever hold your peace.

3. I'm starting to come around to the Alex Kovalev lovefest. If I can keep my expectations in check - 70 points - then I think I can handle him spotting time on the top two lines. If you haven't seen it, here's a clip of some of his skills on display in practice mode.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Five Minute Major - Q&A with ESPN's Hockey Expert John Buccigross

True story, we were able to connect for a one-on-one with ESPN's hockey expert, John Buccigross. If you aren't familiar with his work, you are missing out. Bucci is the only reason that the NHL still gets air time on ESPN and his columns are stellar in bridging the gap between hockey as we love it and popular society. Do yourself a big favour and bookmark Bucci's columns - the guy is a star. And best of all, he agreed to share his thoughts with Another Sens Blog in an exclusive one-on-one op ed. Thanks, Bucci! Don't stop until you get Gary Thorne and Bill Hands of Cement Clement back on hosting weekly hockey on ESPN, buddy!

Interview in full:

Another Sens Blog #1: Dany Heatley - what can he do both on the ice and off the ice this fall to repair his reputation and credibility? We aren't sure if he'll be in Ottawa or somewhere else, but this trade request has turned into a catastrophe for all parties. What advice would you provide to him to clear his name going forward?
John Buccigross: I somewhat sympathize with Heatley. He signed a contract he really couldn’t turn down in a place he didn’t really want to be. I imagine he has had trade in the back of his mind from the day he signed the contract. I don’t think it was as contrived as say Alex Rodriguez in Texas, but I do think he’s wanted to leave. He’s a good player and this should pass.
(ASB note - I've followed up with Bucci on this as it relates to some other rumours that persist that Heatley has ALWAYS wanted to play in the Western Conference instead of Ottawa. More to come on this gossip, for sure).

ASB#2: Alex Kovalev - superstar misunderstood or chronic underachiever? Ottawa is so mixed about this signing as we know the magic he possesses but also know the disappearing acts that he's accustomed to pullling. Will Ottawa embrace this enigmatic player?
Bucci: Alex Kovalev has more good things about him than bad. He is durable and his productive. He was tied for 48 in scoring in the NHL last year. That is good in a league of 600 skaters. He is also now a second line player on team with high expectations and he fits . He turns 37 during the season. His days as a productive five on five player and a first line player playing against shutdown defenses and road matchup situations, are over. So, if Heatley stays, Kovalev can fit as a second liner. Style-wise, he is not one of my favorite players. I like gritty, 100% engaged players on my team , especially when they are older. The older the player the more the younger players will follow their lead. Five million for two years seems excessive to me. But playing with good players, he will produce on the power play.

ASB# 3: Pascal Leclaire - goalie of the future or Martin Gerber 2.0? We've been burned before in giving a contract to a goalie fresh off of one good season. Leclaire is younger and appears far better suited for the media circus he's about to face. Have we solved our goaltending woes in Ottawa?
Bucci: 3.8 for two years is definitely tilted toward the risky side of things. Leclaire has only played 125 games and he played most recently for a tight checking, grinding team. That is not the Sens. But, he is entering the prime goalie years as a 27 year old. I would be skeptical.

ASB#4: Cory Clouston - the decision by the organization to keep him has led to a trade request from our top scorer. Is there an insurmountable amount of pressure about to be thrown on this guy? Ottawa has had a tough time with coaches - does Clouston need to make the playoffs? On that topic, does Murray need to make the playoffs?
Bucci: Murray definitely has to make the playoffs. Ray Emery is on their cap although it is pennies. Mike Fisher is making 4.2. The defensive corps and goaltending does not look like a playoff team. I don’t think we know enough about Cory Clouston aside from his healthy salad. (hair)

ASB# 5: Is this a team on the rise or a team on the decline? We're far different than the team that coasted through the East a few years ago and have retooled with rookies like Foligno and Lee and with vets like Kovalev and Kuba. Are we on our way up again or is this another year on the way down?
Bucci: 83 points last year seems about right again for this year, possibly more if they stay healthy and a young player surprises me. They are far from an elite team. Their goaltending is, again, questionable and their defense looks subpar to me. If Heatley does stay, and that will be a cap challenge, they will have two very good scoring lines. But they are top heavy on the offensive side. But, there is enough balance in the East that the Senators can expect to battle for a playoff spot with being delusional.

ASB: Like it or not, Bucci speaks the truth from an unbiased point of view. He says what a lot of us have thought - so much of our season depends on Leclaire. We aren't like Detroit, who can have terrible regular season goaltending and still walk through their division. We need to be strong from the net out and with the bodies we have on the blue line, that isn't a sure thing. I have more confidence in our defencemen than he does, it seems, but he's right in that it isn't an elite group. We just need guys like Campoli and Lee to take a big step forward in development this year and we'll be fine.

My sincere thanks to John Buccigross for the time. I hope to make it a regular feature with different profressionals in the industry so if you know of other analysts like Bucci, let me know and we'll reach out to them. If you want to keep reading his work, I highly recommend bookmarking his page. He's hilarious, he knows his hockey, and loves communicating with hockey fans. Check out his stuff.