Saturday, October 03, 2009

And then there were 81

I'll get a full game report up Sunday morning, but my thoughts on tonight's bout with the Rags was one of excitement and letdown. Excitement because Pascal played lights out hockey and gave us all hope that any problems we have this year will be somewhere else on the ice. Excitement because we played our first meaningful game since April. Excitement because we have a slew of new players trying to show what they can contribute to this re-launch of the Sens.

But the letdown was in the finish. And by finish, I mean we had none. Tons of shots, no finish. Michalek and Shannon both had clear cut breakaways and were stoned. We put up 20 shots in the second period and managed to squeak just one past King Hank. And we were defensively shut down in the third period and could hardly set up in their zone at all.

Listen - it's just one game and we would be out of our minds to judge the team based on one night's performance. Especially on a road game to open the season when their goalie stands on his head. But if goal scoring was a concern of the Sun writers in the media in the preseason, they certainly will have something to write about tomorrow.

These dudes need to put some biscuits in the basket!

All hail Pascal!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Heatley...I just had to...

First off, I don't mean for this to be an ongoing topic. As Duff and I discussed, we're not sure if we want Heatley to fail miserably or if we just shouldn't give a crap. In any case, I think it's fun to share/celebrate, if not just for this once, Dany's stats from his first regular season game in a Sharks jersey.

In 21:21 mins of icetime, Heatley registered:

0 goals
0 assists
3 shots on goal
and was -3
(AND, the Sharks failed to score on a full 2 minute 5 on 3)

I know it's only one game, but not a great start on a path to Emery's projected 60 goals (or Keith Jones' projected 70!!!). Love these predictions (as a sidenote, the guys at the 6th Sens have some fantastic predictions for the upcoming season, do yourself a favour and enjoy a good read).

Hope you're enjoying your greater role in Cali, Dany. And I hope this is my last post about him until we break down the Olympic roster.

Only one more sleep til OUR season opens!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What you see is what you get - Sens roster is official

Cory Clouston announced today that the 23-man roster is how the Senators will open the season on Saturday in Manhattan. This means that Matt Carkner, Erik Karlsson, and Peter Regin have cracked the roster to start the season. Even though Clouston points out that they might be here for anywhere between a week and a year depending on how they do, you'd have to believe they'll get a fair shake.

From the get-go, it was evident that Karlsson was on this team. Murray said as much in interviews at the rookie tournament in Kitchener, so the kid's performance in the preseason really just validated that decision Peter Regin is a kid that was given every opportunity in camp and early games to show his development and really rose to the occasion. So much so that he's been practicing on the second line with Fisher and Kovalev. A ton of credit needs to be given here to Regin. We expected him to come out strong in camp, but he really was lumped in with a big group that included Bass, Zubov, and Smith from Binghamton and the regular vets like Donovan, Schubert, and Kelly. Now, Schubert is gone and Donovan is likely the 13th forward, but we have to point out that Regin clearly showed the coaching staff more than the rest of the cast did. I've been hesitant about praising him, and I will remain that way until he shows that he can maintain the work ethic and skill level through the grinds of an 82-game season (it's tougher than any of us know). But in the meantime, I will give credit where due, and Regin has stepped up.

The big surprise to most is Matt Carkner. People always liked him for his toughness and the staff has moved him around on the blueline and at winger to try and see if there was a way to get him up to the show. The knock on him was that he was all braun, no brains, and that he couldn't be a responsible defenceman. He's no top four blueliner, but it is nice to have a fighter back there that the coaching staff feels is NHL ready. The opportunity for Carkner to win the spot over a guy like Schubert is that Schubie won't fight. The positive effects of a bone-crushing Schubert hit are somewhat neutralized when he skates away from a challenging opponent. We needed a tough defenceman that would engage in those fisticuffs and with Gator retired and Schubert being demoted, Carkner filled a void. Make no mistake - he's in George Parros/Brian McGrattan land, folks. He'll get 20 games this year against the tougher teams and won't sniff 15 minutes of icetime, but he seems to have the right attitude and knows his role.

So where does that leave us? We have not carried 23 players since before the lockout and I don't imagine we'll do it for too long here. In fact, when Winchester is healthy, Murray and Clouston will be faced with a decision. Is it time to give up Winnie, time to waive Donovan, or will another player have faltered that warrants a trade or demotion? The easy answer is that Winchester and Donovan draw straws to see who leaves the team. But knowing the school of hard knocks from which Clouston claims as his alma mater, expect the competition for roster spots and playing time to continue forward from preseason up until the point that Winchester gets back. Seriously, can anyone see us carrying a roster with Carkner, Winchester, and Donovan in the press box? Wasted cap space, comrades. Murray has already said that he's working the phones to move bodies and the only reason that someone hasn't happened yet is the Winchester injury. When Winnie does return, keep an eye on how Chris Kelly has been doing. The guy is a great penalty killer and Gord Wilson refers to him as the smartest hockey player in the history of the mankind, but he needs to play to stay. Winchester dabbled at fourth line centre last year and fits a fourth line grinder role with Neil and Ruutu. And if you look at salaries, I can give you about a million and a half reasons why the staff would consider Winchester. I'm not saying Kelly is on borrowed time because it is clear this organization loves this guy. I am saying, though, that if they feel Winchester can perform the same duties at a quarter of the price, then Murray will find somewhere for #22. Ask Brian Lee about how hockey is a dollars and cents game.

Speaking of Brian Lee, and I don't want to put words into anyone's mouth here, are we looking at an upcoming silent trade request? I sincerely hope not. You just hate seeing an agent speak for the player and talk about how he's shocked. In all seriousness, did Brian Lee not see this coming? I wanted him on the big roster, but when it was clear that Karlsson was here to stay and it was clear from Clouston's comments that he liked the Carkner elements, Lee could have put this one together all by himself, no calculator needed. The dude just had his salary cut down to middle class normal person range. Many solid NHLers today have had to be squeezed off rosters and take it as an indication to work harder and unseat a veteran. I truly hope Brian Lee sees that as the best path here and doesn't go 'Russian' on us and feel like he'd have a better shot if he were on another team. Or maybe we're just conditioned to expect our minor leagues to want to be moved if they don't see a spot for themselves in the short-term futuer. To back up his point, his cracking the roster won't get much easier when Cowen and Wiercioch show up. If you're reading this, Brian (and I know you definitely are not...), sit tight, work your ass off, and make them play you in Ottawa. Make them make a tough decision about someone else instead of this recent easy decision about you.

And finally, how great is it to have a meaningful hockey game this week? We haven't played a meaningful game since the first week of April. We spent our summer trying to trade a disgruntled Olympic star because he didn't like the direction of the team. Season ticket sales are down, pundits expect us to miss the playoffs, and we don't have an elite defenceman. But like we do every Fall, we throw on our rose-coloured glasses and justify to ourselves why we're every bit as good as the rest of the Eastern Conference. Right or wrong, we truly feel that this team will make the postseason and get into that 'anything can happen' point of the year. Across the league, Ottawa fans are among the most demanding in hockey. Perhaps this year, while the rest of North America expects very little of us, we'll rise above that bar and as Lou Brown says, give them all a nice big shitburger to eat. No other organization is more eager to drop the puck than us. Here's to hoping the players on the ice are as pumped and passionate about this season as we are!

I'll be back later with more jibber jabber about this team. In the meantime, Brian Lee - fair demotion, bad decision, or trade request pending?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Expect the Expectations - What do you expect from our forwards?

Well, it's been a long, dramatic summer, but the real deal 2009-10 season finally gets underway this week. Yeah, hooray! The Sens hit the ice Saturday against the Rags with a slightly different look than a year ago. We have yet another voice behind the bench and pair of pads between the pipes, we have a new top line (though we don't know who will make it up just yet, or our 2nd, 3rd or 4th lines for that matter), and we have a new Swede to fall in love with. This year feels particularly exciting, doesn't it? I know I'm excited.

In addition to all this excitement, there is certainly a set - heck, more like a laundry list - of expectations. While I'd like to expect Spez to break 100 pts, Karlsson to win Rookie of the year and Leclaire to post a GAA under 2.00 - I can't expect to be taller at the end of the season, i.e. I can't set my expectations too high. And so, here are some of my more realistic expectations for the season ahead.

Now, where to start? Let's begin with the forwards. And event better, let's kick it off at the top...

Our beloved captain. This is his most important year wearing the "C". As the longest serving active captain of his team, he faces the challenge to regrouping his troops from a disappointing year, a saga-filled summer and low expectations from the league's media. I expect Alfredsson will meet this challenge and get the best out of his team, while scoring 80 points and earning even more of our respect.

While I don't expect Jason to make the Canadian Olympic team, I expect him to have a strong seaon. After a 4 year exclusive relationship on the ice, he'll have the chance to play the field and expect a few games for him to find a pleasant suitor. But never fear, he'll succeed. While this is his offence, we're no longer counting on him (and his partner) to score. Less pressure and more responsibility - expect the Spez Dispenser to put up 90 points this season and finish in the top 10 in scoring.

Oooh, tough one. Expect Kovalev to be Kovalev. He'll dazzle us from time to time, and anger us in between. At the end of the year, we'll be glad to have him. He'll add 65 points (half of which will come on the pp) and will be featured at least once on TSN's Top 10 plays of the year.

Ahhh, le grand poisson. Every year, I start the season expecting this to be Fisher's year offensively, the year he breaks out as a legit second line scoring threat. But despite the preseason efforts of Peter Regin, Fisher's not going to be a scoring machine. Count on Fish for passionate, hard work and valuable minutes on the PK. Expect an average season offensively at 45 points. Finally, expect Carrie Underwood to dodge cameras at SBP!

I expect this guy to be a fan favourite for sure. I love how he plays and the attitude he brings to the dressing room. While all season, I'll be confused on how to actually pronounce his name, I won't be confused by the effort he'll bring. Michalek won't score 50, but will break 30 goals in his best season offensively.

Unfortunately, I'm not expecting big things from Cheechoo. He'll have a decent season with 15-18 goals and work hard to make the team better, but he's doomed for the 3rd line. I hope he proves me wrong.

Look out for Neil to drop the gloves more than he did last year. He needs to send a message, especially at the start of the year, that we're not a soft team. Done are the days when Neil scores close to 20. He'll be down in points this year, but look for his PIMs to be at an all-time career high.

Expect him to piss everyone off, everyone in an opposing uniform, that is. He'll be a valuable 4th liner as he'll draw a lot of penalties, and our PP should be in the top 10.

Ugh. I don't know what to expect here! If we get over his contract, we can all accept Kelly as a great 4th line centre. Here's a guy I definitely wish to prove me wrong in the stats category, but I don't think he will and is destined for 20 points before being moved at the deadline.

Looks like he's gonna crack the line up and I think he'll stay up all season. I think this guy is going to make some waves around the league and be considered a Calder candidate. Maybe it's the homer in the talking, but this kid will have a good year. Look for Regin to post better numbers than Cheechoo, and sell more jerseys.

I have big expectations for Nick this year. I think this is his breakout season offensively but he'll play responsibly all over the ice. He's one of our keys to success, in my opinion. Expect Foly to crack the 50 point mark.

Ryan Shannon
Lil' Ryan Shannon will manage to play a solid third line role this year and create some scoring depth. That said, I don't think he's as talented as some of you make him out to be. This guys speedy and great for his size, but don't expect more than 35 points. And please don't expect him to QB the PP.

After a decent season last year, Winnie's going to have a tough time breaking back in this year after starting the season injured. I expect him to get the call to fill injury holes, but don't see him as a regular. Sorry Winnie.

Ol' Chum Donovan is looking everyday like our 13th forward. I love having this guy on our team but I don't think he can break the top 12 game in, game out. He'll spend a lot of time in the press box. The one thing you can expect from Donovan is he'll always have a smile on his face.

So there you have it, friends, some expectations of our forward group from yours truly. But I'm just one dude with a laptop. The fun part starts when we hear what you think! Do you think this is Spezza's year? Do you disagree that Cheech will flop? Will you stand up for Shannon and Winchester and tell me off? Do you think Smith or Schubie deserves another chance?

I'm looking forward to hearing your POVs. I'm also looking foward to March when I read this post again and realize I'm brilliant, or just plain handsome, er, I mean, dumb.

Aaaaaaaaaand you're up. Go!