Friday, November 13, 2009

Late Day Thoughts

So, we all saw the stinker last night. It is what it is. What I wanted to discuss today was the fact that Clouston left Snoopy in for 60 minutes.

I've been a huge Leclaire supporter this season, and I'm not jumping off the bandwagon after his worst game of the year. But that's what it was, he was awful. He looked lost, allowing weak goals and playing the puck horribly. Yet, he was kept in the entire game. I had had enough after the 3rd goal, but he stayed in. Then I knew Clouston would take him out after the 4th, but nope! Wrong again.

In case you're wondering, I don't think goalies should be pulled after letting in 3 goals. I'm ok with leaving goalies in, unless they look bad. And Snoopy looked bad. He looked shaken, rattled, not himself. Taking him out of the game wouldn't have been a punishment, it should've been done to give Leclaire a break. It also gives Elliot some work. And who knows, it could've triggered the team that a much better effort was required, and maybe they would have a chance at a comeback. However, after the third goal, Leclaire let two more in, and we're all wondering who should start tomorrow afternoon.

If Leclaire had've been pulled, then I'd say to start him for sure. Despite a bad game, we could've reminded him that he's our guy and we want him in. But now, I don't know what I would do. On one hand, do you go back to Leclaire to give him confidence? Or do you sit him and give Elliot the work?

What would you do?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We won a shootout? And other thoughts...


1. Snoopy looked slow in the first, brilliant in the second and most of the third, and terrible on the Brule goal. That thing had shades of Martin Gerber. Bad goal at a worse time. I hate when the guy makes some unbelievable saves on breakaways and turnovers throughout the third period only to let one slip in like that. He stopped the two that he needed to in the shootout (though I could have stopped the Comrie wrister). Oddly enough, you can make an argument that we won because of Pascal or you can say that we won in spite of Pascal.

2. Alex Picard is awful. I know that we're going to get a cryptic response from Canucnik that I don't know that I'm talking about and don't know hockey, but he needs to learn from Carkner and the 'keep it simple, stupid' approach. Too many dipsy doodles equals too many turnovers. He shows up on the scoresheet for a strong offensive pinch on the Neil goal and I'll give him full credit for knowing when to go in, but his defensive play in our end was far too lacklustre.

3. Nice to see Ryan Shannon get some open ice to use his speed. I've made no secret that my expectations are low of him and think he's a product of the salary cap, but he had a hard-working game and made a nice pass on the Foligno goal.

4. I had no problem with the refs putting their whistle away tonight. Sure, there were some hooks and grabs in overtime, but it went for both teams. Games like that allow both teams to get into a flow and roll some 5-on-5 lines. I'll take our lineup against Edmonton's lineup anyday in 5-on-5, though we all decided to make it interesting.

5. Quote of the night from Galley, "the Senators equipment manager is taking the piano off of Cheechoo's back and taking it to the locker room." What a weird play! What was Visnovsky doing letting Kovalev just take it away? Cheechoo roofed it so quick that nobody really knew if it went in or not, plus the guy has scored so many goals that he didn't want to jump around like he just won the Cup. Then again, we all know that inside, he probably wanted to fly around the ice for a minute or two after getting that insanely huge monkey off his back. Perhaps he read the blog on Monday?! I'm pretty sure that Another Sens Blog is Clouston's homepage.

Strange win, flashes of solid hockey mixed with flashes of ugly breakdowns and turnovers. In the end, a win is a win is a win...

Monday, November 09, 2009

Cheechoo? We hardly knew you!

Here we are at the 14 game mark, closing in on a time in the season where it is completely fair to judge individual efforts. Some guys just take longer to get going and in Jonathan Cheechoo's case, he also has to learn the chemistry thing with changing linemates. We did an evaluation of the ever changing Cheechoo last week (link) and noted that he doesn't seem to be getting to the slot as much and he can't get his shot off as quick anymore. But perhaps there is more to this, which has become the worst start imaginable. For the numbers people, Cheechoo has appeared in all 14 games, registering 2 assists (no goals) and is a minus-2. The only worse statistical performance so far is Ryan Shannon, who makes a fraction of the salary and enters the season with far lower expectations. Plus, Shannon didn't get half a dozen games with Spezza and Michalek.

I wondered if Cheechoo was just a slow starter and typically finds his groove as the season goes on. Here's a look at his numbers the last few years, split by pre-All Star Game and post-All Star Game:

Pre ASG, 33 GP, 7g, 11a, 18pts
Post ASG, 33 GP, 5g, 6a, 11pts
That doesn't look good.

Pre ASG, 42 GP, 9g, 7a, 16pts
Post ASG, 27 GP, 14g, 7a, 21pts
Okay, so that one paints a picture of a slow starter

Pre ASG, 42 GP, 16g, 18a, 34pts
Post ASG, 34 GP, 21g, 14a, 35pts
Again, leaning toward the 'slow start'

Pre ASG, 56 GP, 34g, 22a, 56pts
Post ASG, 26 GP, 22g, 15a, 37pts
Even in his career season, he stepped it up considerably in the second portion.

I wish I could put more weight on this theory, and there is no question that we all want this story to end happily. Sadly, though, I think looking at his past numbers might be useless. While there is validity to those that say he is a late starter and that it will take him more time to get used to his role on this team, he just doesn't have that luxury on this team with his salary.

Cheechoo's cap hit is $3M, but his actual salary is $3.5M this year and next year. So we're paying this dude $7M (since this contract is not trade-able). I want to play another numbers game here:

Dany Heatley's salary last year: $10M
Dany Heatley's July 1st bonus: $4M
Jonathan Cheechoo's salary this year: $3.5M
Jonathan Cheechoo's salary next year: $3.5M


Ladies and gentlemen, not counting the efforts of Milan Michalek, Eugene Melnyk has paid out $17.5M already for 74 total points (the 72 pts last year from Heatley and the 2 assists from Cheechoo this year). Mr. Melnyk, we'll completely understand if you follow through on your grievance with the Heatley bonus. If nothing else, it reminds all of us how this situation is incredible FUBAR and you're still pissed about it. Outside of Michalek, you'll essentially end up paying $21M for close to nothing. Twenty one million dollars. One more time - $21,000,000.00 USD.

Okay, back to Cheechoo. I'm going to make a bold statement here that some fans won't agree with and will make Eugene cringe a bit more. We're basically playing all home games for the next two weeks, save one quick trip down to Philly on the 12th. I opine that Murray gives #41 until the end of this homestand that wraps up on the 23rd against the Caps to get his game looking like it is NHL-caliber. If he hasn't turned a corner, dare I say, he needs to go to Binghamton.

Benefits of Cheechoo going to Bingo:
- Cap Space. Right now, we have less than a million. Demoting Cheechoo early in the year gives us a good portion of that $3M and gives us flexibility at the deadline. Cap space is gold in this league.

- Easier line combos. Right now, we have a few guys in the press box each game. With Cheechoo out of the fold, there isn't that 'unspoken requirement' to have the expensive guy on the ice. Either the kids get the icetime or we have room for someone new. As it stands today, Cheechoo doesn't bring anything to his line. At least Winchester and Donovan hit the corners and Shannon can stickhandle...

- Cheechoo can find himself. Think about how much fan and medie attention Erik Karlsson has gotten since he was demoted a few weeks ago. Basically nothing. He was under immense pressure here but now he can play top minutes with zero fanfare. The same can be said for Cheechoo. Being sent to Binghamton might be the perfect recipe for a guy that can't find his role on a new team. Let him get some icetime, some speed, some hands, etc. Most important, let him find some confidence.

The obvious downside is that Eugene is dropping NHL money for a guy to play in the minors. It is just more salt on the Heatley wound. But he's a smart guy and he needs to look at that $14M as a sunk cost at this point (even if we, as fans, will still point it out). Move past the money you've spent because it isn't coming back. Focus on the team going forward and the handful of benefits that can come from Cheechoo being off the books. For all we know, he might hit it off with Denis Hamel or Zach Smith and pot a bunch of goals and get some mojo back.

The other argument is that it has only been 14 games. By giving him until the end of the homestand, he'll have 21 games under his belt. A quarter of the season is enough time to say yes or no on the guy, especially with that salary.

So what do you think? Am I being unfair? Or do you agree that we need to cut away from him for a bit?

Sorry, Cheech. Go find yourself and your game on the buses of the A. We need the cap space and you need the head space. Get it?