Sunday, November 07, 2010

Time Is On Our Side

Yes it is.

A tumultuous Sens start to the 2010-2011 campaign had many fingers circling the panic button, including my own. I like to remind myself that it's a long season, losses are inevitable and there's power in Clouston's healthy salad. Still, I found myself thoroughly disappointed in how we started the season. More than the 1-4-1 start was the way we played to land that early season record. Some of it was surprising, some of it expected, but all of it was frustrating. Add to that the fact that Leaf fans were framing screen grabs of the early season standings and emptying salt shakers into our gaping wounds. Serenity now!

Following those eye scratching first 6 games, the Sens have won 6 of their last 8, pushing their record above .500 and finally ahead of those pesky, back-to-reality Leafs. It appears we just needed time to sort out some kinks and realize Brian Lee is not of NHL calibre.

Here are a few game changers, from then to now, in my opinion...

Cory Clouston. After the horrid start, I began to question Clouston. This was surprising to me. While I've come to accept the routine too-many-men penalties, I had faith in Clouston after what he's accomplished in his short tenure behind the bench. Still, our entire game was subpar. Players were uninspired, the PP was awful and we forgot we needed to score goals to win games. But we can't fire yet another coach! Can we? No, we can't, and it appears we don't have to. Clouston has found a nice little duo in Kovalev and Spezza, who make Regin appear product (in the apples category, at least). The PP has picked up, we're more sound defensively and I don't even think we've been called for a 6th skater in these past 8 games! Huzzah! What I like most is the feeling that we're once again gelling as a team. It took time, but Clouston appears to have the boys back on track.
Alexei Kovalev. Earlier this season, I was kinda hoping Kovalev would take a hike in Gatineau Park, slip on some wet autumn leaves and wind up on LTIR. I couldn't stand his play. Then, suddenly, he appeared to change his outlook. As if he said, "well, if I want to play until I'm 50, I better make myself valuable to ensure I have a job for the next 12 seasons." I've found Kovalev has taken a 180. He looks younger, quicker and with determination. Now I realize this could be short term, but for now the guy's making a difference out there! He sits second in team goal scoring and is earning his $5 million.
Sergei Gonchar and Erik Karlsson. The vet and the pet. While Sarge wasn't immediately as effective as expected, Karlsson was probably the biggest early season disappoinment. The kid, who ended last season with the confidence of, well, a Gonchar, he seemed slow, indecisive and bad at hockey. Turnovers, gaps, bad facial hair - Karlsson had me saying "Bingo!", and not in the fun, number stamping, legion hall, Friday evening kind of way. At the same time, I was waiting for Gonchar to lead our PP and do things like score goals. Nope. Didn't happen. But, alas, time has subdued my nausea and these two have been in recent fine form. Gonchar is becoming what I expected and I truly, honestly think that Karlsson has Norris candidate potential in his future (note: future does not refer to 2011). I think by the end of Sarge's 3 year deal, we'll be very happy with our defence. Give it time.

Of course, there are others. Peter Regin is still without a goal but appears to be showing upside. Nick Foligno is also goalless, but I'm ok with that as time has shown me he's not a 2nd line player. It is what it is. Big Rig has had a slow start but played very well last night, and with his experience, he'll be fine. Alfie is Alfie. I'll never be disappointed in him.

While still a lot of games to go, my panic button is back in its drawer next to those useless twist ties and an old glue stick. I, for one, must remember that it's a long season and this team is good. We won't win 'em all and we'll have bad stretches, but we have the assets to win. Just give it time.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Two Subjects, One Starting Goalie

It's my first post in a while and I find myself debating between two potential subjects. The first, is the question on whether Clouston realizes that there's a third period. For the second game in a row, the Sens went into the 3rd with a healthy lead after two strong periods. For the second game in a row, the Sens were outplayed in the 3rd, leaving me as uncomfortable as Zack Smith wrapped in his jersey. The kicker? Conceding two Isles' breakaways...shorthanded breakaways! Ugh.

That leads me to the second subject - Brian Elliot. Ells' back-to-back saves on those breakaways certainly gave Ottawa the edge they needed to carry out the remaining minutes of the game. If the Isles' score one of those goals, whole new ball game. Er, hockey game.

The thing I think is most interesting, is that after a roller coasting first 11 games, the Sens have managed to win two in a row and reach the .500 mark for the first time this year on Elliot's back (not to forget Spezza's 4 pts). And is it just me, or has Ells played remarkably solid since Saturday's 4-0 blanking at the hands of the B's. He seems to be well positioned, quick and cool. I first noticed this on Tuesday, and it dawned on me - I think Elliot plays better with Snoopy on the bench! I mean, after Snoopy's inevitable early season injury, Ells was good, not great, and inconsistent. Then, Leclaire returns to the bench and, huzzah, Elliot returns to his form as a true starter! Is it the pressure that Leclaire brings that fires Elliot up? I truly feel like there's something to this.

So what must Snoopy think! I feel like he's a real team first guy, and I'm sure he is, but can he not be hoping that Montreal pumps 6 past Elliot on Saturday night? I'll tell you what, if Elliot has a 3rd consecutive strong game, it will be hard for Leclaire to get back into the line up. This is a team that needs to win now, and Elliot has the job to lose.

The funny thing is that you don't really hear "goalie contraversy" this year, cause it's the same old thing. We're used to it. I just hope between the two of them, they can prove the preseason forecasts wrong and not be the worst goaltending tandem in the league.

So, is everybody happy to keep Leclaire on the bench while Ells keep winning? Let's just hope he keeps his eyes on errant pucks.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday Thoughts - Kovalev, Lee, and much more

So I was talking with co-blogger Pynch yesterday about what we wanted to do with this site and while we both want to keep blogging, we find it difficult to put in any effort to write about the shitshow that we've had to watch on the ice so far this season. I guess Kovalev and I have more in common than originally believed.

Some thoughts heading into a pretty important weekend with divisional games against Buffalo and Montreal:

1. Goaltending. Is there any surprise that this is one of our key issues again? I hate to say it, but the only time that we've truly had stability in our nets was the half season we got from Dominik Hasek. He was lights out that year and we've all just grown to hate him again for the whole adductor thing. But up until the Olympics, we all felt that a trip to the Finals was inevitable because of our goalie. I find it hard to believe that Murray sees us as a real contender this year at the same time he let us enter the season with Snoopy and Ells. I know his statements were that we'd be a playoff team and then anything can happen in the second season. But seriously, what the hell did we expect from these two guys? It doesn't make it any less frustrating that porcelain Pascal is out and Elliott pats himself on the back with praise after giving up five goals, but it isn't surprising.

2. On Karlsson, let us not forget that the kid kinda stunk up the joint last year in the early going, too. I'm not suggesting that some time in Bingo is warranted, but it might take some time to get some swagger going again. The reason that the sophomore slump typically exists is that rookies leave at the end of their first year full of confidence and a touch of arrogance. Sometimes, that can affect their off-season workout because they no longer have to fight for a spot on the team. I'm not insisting that is the case with Karlsson, but it is entirely possible that he didn't fight quite as hard this year compared to last year and thus is having some trouble catching up to the pace. He'll find his game, no question about that. Hope he moves back in with Alfie!

3. On Gonchar, he'll be fine. Special teams take time and our powerplay has an abundant amount of pressure to be top ten in the league with his addition. Let them learn how to move the puck around and find the good shots. Recall that Sarge just spent a few seasons feeding Malkin on the halfboards for one-timers, now he looks over there and sees Alex Floatalev. That is a massive adjustment! When he plays the left side, he needs to feed Alfie for the one-timer and it will take time to get that down.

4. On the other youngsters, there are what we thought they were. Remember when some morons thought Peter Regin was going to get a $3M offer sheet and we should match? As fans, we always look at the smallest of sample sizes to evaluate someone's performance. Just as we want this year's team blown up after six games, people thought Peter Regin was a lock for top line duties after the six playoff games last year. If we're lucky, he'll turn out like a Jiri Hudler (who is a p*ssy, so hopefully Regin is a bit tougher) and be a 45 point guy on the third line. Would anyone have a problem with that? I just don't see enough jam in this kid's game to see him regularly getting top line minutes with guys like Spezza and Alfredsson.

5. On Alfie, he's incredible. I'm going to cry and weep like a two-year old when he retires. But let's not talk about that, let's talk about how he is still one of our best skaters. That's both a testament to him and a knock on some of the rest. No way that a 37/38-year old should be one of the top skaters. C'mon, Foligno!

6. On Brian Lee, there is little doubt that his time in Ottawa is about done. Hale is called up to take his spot for now and Kuba is starting to skate. What surprised me is how nobody tied him in with trade rumours back to Minnesota. First, people always assume that every Minnesota-born player is destined to play for the Wild (see: Matt Cullen). Then, we know Lee is garbage and we want him gone. Finally, Murray admits that he was on the phone for a very long time with Chuck Flether talking trades. Lee for Havlat? No. Lee for Burns? No. Lee for Clutterbuck? No. Minnesota needs energy, too, so don't bother with the Lee + Kovalev talk. What we have to remember here is that Lee's trade value is very low unless there is some GM out there that feels he needs a fresh start and points to an Alex Steen or something.

7. On Spezza, I just saw on Andy Strickland's website that Murray is still shopping him. Strickland is normally pretty reliable and connected, but can we drop the Spezza trade talk? He's our most talented player and the future of the Senators. Trading top line centres never works and Murray will not make a job-saving desperation trade involving someone as talented as Spetz. Move on, Andy, and find out who we are REALLY shopping.

8. On Clouston, if I see one more too many men penalty, I want him and his staff having to go through a bag skate. Sure, the players know when to come on and off, but there must be something going on with the coaching staff that is causing this chaos on the bench. Are they changing wings? Changing linemates? It just blows my mind how this can happen so often. Clouston has insisted he won't call out names of the culprits but it has happened so many times now that we have nothing else to do but to call out the coach. Get your shit together on the bench and learn to play with five men instead of six! Or seven.

9. On the scoreboard, heard that Eugene is hoping to get a new one for the All-Star Game. I'm indifferent.

10. On Murray, I just hope he doesn't make any desperation moves. His track record with trades his floating between failure and disaster. I was trying to think of successful trades and can point to the Meszaros deal (which was quite good for us) and the Schaeffer/Donovan trade, just because Chum was decent for us and it got that little douchebag Schaeffer off our payroll. Besides that, not much to write home about. Sure his drafting has stocked the cupboards, but that is only a part of building a winner. The Pascal trade hasn't worked out. He took a chance and tried to address an issue and it didn't work. The Kovalev signing was and still is one of the worst moves we've seen just based on the cap hit and the wasted icetime. More on him next. He signed Emery and then cut him; he signed Heatley and then traded him; he's had three coaches; his most successful signing has been Jarkko Ruutu.

11. On Kovalev, I can't stand him. My good friend and former co-worker Peter at Silver Seven Sens has a good piece on the bright side of the player (link) but I'm still having a hard time accepting his spot on this team. Stubborn, I am. I also don't buy the long-held theory that he is always making his linemates better by giving them more space. Who in God's name is double-teaming Kovalev at this point? If anything, this guy should be wide open on the ice and Fisher is the one battling for time and space. Does anyone think that maybe Fisher was just due for a good season, with or without Kovalev? I wouldn't be happy with Kovalev at $2M right now and I'm sure as shit not happy with him at $5M. He has KHL written all over him next year, seeing as how there is no way Ghost brings him back to MTL for his goodwill season.

12. After six games, Murray's argument that losing Volchenkov isn't a problem hasn't worked out. Small sample size and nothing to discuss in great detail yet, but giving up 40 shots on the weekend doesn't sound like a team that is dominating in puck possession and taking more shots on the other team. Defence needs to improve.

13. Elliot has never lost to the Sabres. We're all pining for a Lehner start, but Ells has their number. Let Lehner have the Montreal game back at home.

And just win!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Question for Day 1

Why doesn't Brian Burke tie up his tie?

I realize this is a Sens blog, and sure, I haven't blogged about the Sens in a while, and yes, there is a lot of Sens topics that can be covered, talked about and questioned. All of this is true. But as this NHL season opens today, sans Sens, the one thing that's bugging me is Brian Burke's refusal to tie his tie.

This shot is taken from an interview that Burke did with Sportsnet. Sportsnet is a major sports media outlet in this country. Brian Burke is the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. You think the combination of the two previous sentences would warrant a the 10 seconds it takes to tie a tie. But no, Burke gets in front of the camera with his tie draped loosely around his neck.

I'm sure Brian Burke ties his tie most of the time, and I'm even ok with him not tightening up his tie around his collar, but to have it hang loosely? Why even bother with the tie? And the thing is, this isn't the first time I've seen this. It's becoming a "thing", which is ridiculous. Sure, he's busy, I get it, but c'mon. I mean, c'mon.

Would we be ok if Murray talked to the media with tie untied? Or better yet, his shirt unbuttoned or his fly down? It's all the same thing! Finish getting dressed!!! The answer, of course, is no. It's ridiculous, tie your tie.

Go Sens.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sens Leafs Video Analysis from Toronto

So I missed the first period of last night's exhibition game last night and heard that Foligno scored a nice little number after passing Phaneuf. Youtube, though, only has video of all the three fights, but I also found this beauty of a video giving real-time, in game analysis. I just wish Ottawa would play fair. Enjoy.

Also, Ron Wilson on their powerplay: "First off, we haven't worked on 5-on-3 yet..."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Random thoughts as camp opens

What a long off-season. Here we go:

- Love that Snoopy is telling reporters to find something new to talk about other than his injury history. Our media is boring as hell and lacks any kind of original thought. I watched the interview clips of Spezza and Alfie at the All-Star Game announcement and the inability of our media to ask one sensible question amazes me. "Jason, do you want to play in the All-Star Game in Ottawa?" No, dipshit, I want to sell hotdogs in the stands. "Will you stuff the ballot box to make it?" Yes. "So does that give you motivation to play hard so you can be in the All-Star Game in Ottawa?" Are you still talking about the ASG that is 500 days away in a totally different season? Get a job, man! You guys can't even manage to get good sound bytes anymore. This childish work is in the same week that CTV announces that Pat Burns is dead. Great work, fellas.

- All the Gonchar talk seems to be on improving our powerplay. While I agree that he does add credibility to special teams, he's also a #1 guy on 5-on-5. You don't pay a guy that much money just to work the powerplay (outside of Kovalev, of course), you pay him that because he is our top defenceman, the puck mover that Murray has been longing for during the past three seasons. I'm excited to see these guys move the puck up the ice 5-on-5 and catch our opponents on a lazy backcheck. As great as A-Train and Big Rig were, forwards didn't exactly have to fly out of our zone because the puck never really left. With Sarge, we should be able to get some odd-man rushes. If Michalek can get his speed back that he did in the beginning of last season, we're in for some awesome end to end plays just using his breakaway ability with Gonchar's outlet.

- While I do hope that a guy like Butler or Wick can have a stellar camp and make the squad, it is a bit strange that we would turn down the offer of having a Lang or a Guerin come on a tryout basis. I know that cap space is a major issue and that we need the youth in our system to prepare for the departures of Kovalev and Alfie in the next couple of years, but would it hurt to see how those free agent vets could do in our camp? I guess it might not be fair to them knowing that we don't have the cap space to pay for them, but it would be a shame if we missed the boat on a guy like Guerin that can still hang around in the top six ranks because we think Wick might be able to do it. Then again, youth needs experience, right?

- Excited to see if Kuba can regain is 40+ point form that he used to bring. He's a good dman that won't have to play 24 minutes anymore so hopefully he brings a second wave of offence with Karlsson on the second pairing.

- Does anybody anywhere expect Brian Lee to crack the top six?

- Pardon me for being in the minority on this one, but I just don't give a shit about our scoreboard. When I'm at a game, I look up to see time remaining, shots, and penalty minutes. I just don't need some flashy HD screen. If I wanted a great TV picture of it, I'd watch from home where beer is cheaper. Garrioch says some scoreboards show who is on the ice. So do my eyeballs. To me, scoreboard is nothing more than a status symbol and I'd personally rather we spend the money on hiring the best scouts, the best trainers, the best nutritionists, the best training equipment, the best doctors, stay in the best hotels and fly in the best planes, and then go win a fecking Cup. And when Alfie hoists Lord Stanley's mug and parades around the ice, I'll be watching him and not the scoreboard.

- DROP THE PUCK! We're ready to roll.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the Case for Chris Campoli

So I'm reading through various comments sections in the Sens blogosphere and read the usual rants and raves about Roman Wick being a 50-goal scorer, Regin winning the Art Ross, Karlsson breaking Coffey's records, etc, when I notice a trend. The trend that feels Chris Campoli "just didn't work out" for us and that he doesn't have a role on this squad for what he brings.

Let me get this straight. The kid made a whopping $675K (cap hit) the past two seasons, is one year removed from a 30-point year with us and the Isles, and managed to snag 18 points in 67 games last year when he wasn't being benched. We have no room for this guy? You simply cannot argue that he doesn't belong here based on his own individual stats.

That being said, I understand that this team has a growing depth chart and he won't crack our top four (Phillips, Sarge, Karlsson, Kuba). We also know that Carkner is on a one-way deal and will likely slot into that 5-6 spot. That leaves one final spot for Campoli, Lee, or Cowen to compete. We know how Campy does against Lee, so I guess the question becomes whether or not 1) Cowen earns a spot on the roster, and 2) we want to go back to three full-time shutdown defencemen like we had last year. Again, Campoli gives us a presence on the second powerplay and an ability to move the puck up the ice against third and fourth lines. He's a modern-day Tom Preissing, except his agent isn't informing us during the Stanley Cup Finals that he can't wait to leave Ottawa in the off-season.

I looked at defencemen with similiar point totals as Campoli, understanding that his offensive skills are the only tangible part of his game. Given that he doesn't bang bodies or block shots, he isn't really comparable to guys like Regehr, Jackman, and Zbynek, all players in Campoli's point range. But other names were guys like Joe Corvo ($2.25M with Carolina), Tim Gleason ($2.75M with Carolina), Brad Stuart ($3.75M in Detroit), Nick Schultz (3.5M in Minnesota), Andrej Meszaros, remember him ($4M in Philly), and Marc-Edouard Vlasic ($3.1M in San Jose). These are all offensive defencemen that are on the second pairing and second powerplay unit at best. Campy managed his points with 3/4 of a season and third pairing minutes in the 17 minute range.

So given that Campoli is fighting for a spot in the top six, what do you pay him? That's where I have a problem with the parts of the fanbase that are saying we let him walk if it is over $1.5M. You wouldn't pay $1.5M for a 25-year old defenceman that likes Ottawa and has put up 30 points a year? He isn't a star in his own end but he isn't bad in his own end, either. Personally, I'm comfortable up to $2M with the guy just simply based on the fact that anything more than that just screws up our cap number. In all honesty, I think his agent can make an argument that he's worth over $2M and he'd have a case. We just need to try and get a 'good deal' on the kid and get him for less than 2.

On that same note, I'm a bit tired of seeing people say that Kuba isn't any good in his own end. He puts up 40pts and very, very rarely is out of position or making bad passes. For whatever reason, fans demand that all six defencemen score 40 points, block 200 shots, and hit forwards into the 8th row. With our budget, we aren't going to sign 6 Chris Prongers. We have to find a healthy mix of offensive players, defensive players, and the occasional hybrid that can do both. We don't get pissed when Phillips doesn't hit the 30 point mark, so why are we pissed when Campoli or Kuba don't block 5 shots a night? They all know their role on this squad, but do we?

And that is my case for Chris Campoli to come back and be a contributing member of these defensive group. Agree or disagree?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Who cares if it is a lifetime contract?

In light of the 17-year contract just signed by Ilya Kovalchoke today with the New Jersey Devils, I was a tad surprised to see the angry masses complaining about the 'loophole' in the CBA. Statements like "why did we even bother having a lockout" and "the owners will wan to sew up this loophole in the next deal" all the way to "these deals are horsesh*t" have appeared all across the web. My question is, what is the problem here?

First off, we are all in agreement that Kovalchuk is one of the top five most talented scorers in the league. Not best all around, not best leader, but top five best talent. He has been a consistent scorer on a bad team (although he had Savard feeding him for a while) and can take over and win a game as well as any player in the league. The Devils are a better team with a potent offence now that they have Kovy in the lineup.

That being said, I don't see how the Devils are getting a 'great deal' on the contact. Regardless of how he performs in the playoffs, the Devils have a $6M cap hit for what will feel like an eternity. Let's remember that this a player that has won two playoff games in his entire career. Only once did he help Atlanta get into the postseason before they were whisked back home in four games by the Rags. Last year, his rental status (made permanent today) to New Jersey netted him two wins with Marty Brodeur in the pipes. This is a hefty term and cap hit for a guy that has never won a playoff series. $6M gets you the zero leadership and an unproven track record. Hell, at least Gomez has a Cup!

Secondly, it isn't like the Devils can walk away easily. He is still making a boatload of cash for 12 years in what will be close to an untrade-able contract should the Devils ever feel they need to get rid of the contract. If you think that is an unreasonable idea, think about how Charles Wang felt about Yashin as well as the Dipietro contracts. How about Lecavalier? Even Hossa was rumored to be on the block this summer. These lifetime contracts cannot be moved. The New Jersey Devils have made a long-term organizational decision that they will have Kovalchuk as a cornerstone of their franchise for the next 12 years. A big shift for a team that has been built around Stevens, Niedermeyer, and Brodeur in the past 12 years...

Finally, why does the rest of the league care about this 'loophole'? NJ is taking a huge risk here but are using a rule that is permitted in the CBA. They haven't exploited anything that other teams couldn't use. For the other 29 teams, all that they should really care about is that the Devils have $6M less cap space for the forseeable future and very little cap flexibility. They needn't look past Chicago to see how locking up your 'core' for life has its disadvantages as it relates to the rest of the team.

To me, the Devils got the player they wanted and they used a fair contract to get him. Do both the Devils and Kovalchuk intend to 'honour the contract'? Obviously, the guy won't play until 44 but I just don't see why the owners are going to try and put a term limit and restrict their own GMs that they task with acquiring players like this. If teams are going to open themselves up to this risk, then you can't just keep regulating the CBA to fix stupidity. My opinion is to leave the rules alone and let these teams run themselves out of cap space with these lifetime contracts. I have yet to see one where everyone just stands back in jealousy and envy that they didn't get their star player's signature on a 12-year deal.

We'll see.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

An Open Letter to Sergei Gonchar - Welcome to Ottawa!

Dear Sergei,

On behalf of all local Sens fans, we here at ASB want to express our happiness and excitement that you chose to come here. Your unique skill set is just what this team needs, and what Brian Lee longs for. Can't wait to see you suit up on the red, black and gold come October!

In the meantime, we wanted to take a step back from hockey and give you a warm, Canadian welcome to your new home tome... Welcome to Ottawa! Below, we've developed a few pointers that should help you settle in to your new surroundings. Hope you enjoy!
Ottawa is the name of your new city, and despite what your countryman Alex Kovalev says, we are not a suburb of Montreal. No, no, we are an actual city and the 4th largest in Canada by population. In fact, and despite what Jason Spezza might think, we (not Toronto) are Canada's capital!
While you'll probably live in Kanata Lakes, we hope you embrace Ottawa as a city. That means considering yourself an "Ottawattian" (fun to say, right?). There are several random things that go along with being an Ottawattian, especially in the view of people not from Ottawa (aka "Nottawattians"). Here's a few to remember:

- Everyone outside of Ottawa assumes you are fluent in French; just go with it.
- People will ask how you can bear the winters - but there only as cold as Moscow!
- You should also know that our summers are scorching hot, and that most people outside of Ottawa don't believe it.
- Everyone will tell you how much they love Ottawa and how clean it is. This is true as long as you avoid Vanier.
- They are called "floaties" not "water wings", and "donut holes", not neccessarily "Timbits".
- Everyone who visits Ottawa goes to Parliament Hill as a tourist destination. Just nod your head and smile, cause as an Ottawattian you should know the Hill is a really boring tourist destination.

When it comes to being a tourist, or a newcomer in your case, there is plenty to see and do! And by "plenty to see and do" I really mean "plenty to see and not touch", and by that I mean museums - cause we've got plenty! And that's really all there is to do! Yes, yes, Ottawa has a musuem for just about everything, including the Bytown Museum, the Agriculture Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Civilization, the Museum of War and, my fave, the Museum of Science and Technology, to name a few. At the museum of Science and Tech, make sure you walk through the Crazy Kitchen. It's this real crooked kitchen that has the same effect of being hit blindly by Chris Neil followed by a punch to the nose from Matt Carkner, then bitten on the hand by Jarko Ruutu for good measure. Fun! Finally, the Daniel Alfredsson museum is scheduled to open in 2014. Get your tickets today!

Aside from all that museum fun, you'll definitely want to check out Ottawa's wealth of culinary delights. First stop? Go to The Works for a burger. It may sound boring, but have you ever had a PB and cream cheese burger before? Me neither. But The Works has it, along with plenty other wacky toppings. Maybe you can get them to create a "Gonchar Burger" - a lean paddy covered in Vodka. Just a thought.

Of course, you'll want to get familiar with poutine (pronounced "poo-tin", not "poo-teeeen"), but ensure the cheese is in curd form to make it authentic. And what would the Ottawa experience be without a Beavertail! You can enjoy one of those shacks on the Rideau Canal. In fact, I think ex-Senator Alexandre Daigle works in one of those now.

For nightlife in downtown Ottawa, there are two distinct camps. First, there is the Government workers who live it up from 4pm-6pm, who enjoy a post-work beers at the city's Irish pubs. Note, these are the same people that give Ottawa the reputation for having quiet, boring fans. There are just so many of them! Aside from these partyboys, there is another more outgoing group that heads out later in the evenings to the Byward Market and Elgin Street. These locations are where the real parties happen, and where you're still likely to encounter Christoph Schubert trying to pick up 19 year olds. The best part about the market is Ottawa's newer, not-to-forgetten culinary delight - the shawarma. There is one shawarma shop for every girl Schubert stikes out with. Meaning there are a lot of them.

The media in Ottawa is fantastic, especially for sports. There is a lot of local sports coverage, which focuses 90% around your new team - the Ottawa Senators. Also, have you heard of the satirical newspaper called "The Onion"? Well Ottawa has a local newspaper that is just as much of a farce called the "Ottawa Sun". They recently ran stories about how everyone wanted Jason Spezza run out of town - hilarious!

The final thing you'll need to know about being a citizen of Ottawa is that you must now hate Dany Heatley. This may not have been news as I know Eugene Melnyk likely put it into your contract. But, as fans, we appreciate your disdain for the guy.

Sergei, we hope this has been helpful as you begin your new, and, well, better life in Ottawa. We really hope you enjoy it here and remember, don't listen to a word Alexei Yashin says!

Yours truly,
Another Ottawa Senators Blog

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Hastily Made Gonchar Analysis

Settling in for what has traditionally been a boring day for Sens fans, Bryan Murray shocked the world and signed the highest paying contract of the year to open the UFA market. My first thought was of excitement - Gonchar is one of the best offensive defencemen in the NHL. Then, I kinda got upset because we're paying the guy a tonne and he's 36 years old. He was coming off of a $5M contract and this is potentially his last big payday, so did we really need to give him a raise? Especially considering we gave him the term he wanted, I thought we could have saved some money on it.

But as the dust settles, the signing of Sergei Gonchar to the Sens has me completely excited and not really worried too much. Could he get hurt? Of course, but so can Alfie and Kovalev at the same age. Will he suck? Probably not, he's been a very consistent producer and has put up a tonne of 50+ point seasons in his career. Does the contract prohibit us elsewhere? Sure, a bit, but we already have the forwards we wanted (surprised to see Cullen get $3.5M when Whitney only took $3M...) and Gonchar really changes some key dynamics of this team.

First, we have an elite defenceman that can pass the puck. Dare I say, he is probably the best defenceman we've ever had in the modern day history of this team (sorry, Z). He is one of those players that makes his defensive partner a better player. He will also make our forwards better because they can focus on transition instead of backchecking. Guys like Spezza, Michalek, and Kovalev can start actually skating up the ice instead of waiting for our poor defensive defencemen to get the puck out of the corner and move it up the ice. I truly think our 5-on-5 improves a ton here.

Second, and one that has already been identified by most everyone, we have someone to run the powerplay. Karlsson is still a bit too young to take on the entire responsibility and Kuba just isn't enough of a threat to open up opportunities for the forwards down low on the PP. Now we have a guy that can walk off the half boards and get it across to Karlsson/Spezza or draw the forward with him and feed Kovalev on the right side for one timers. Remember those passes that he used to make to Malkin? He can make those to Kovalev now. Our powerplay was 22nd in the league last year, which is unacceptable given the talent on the top unit. Gonchar instantly gives us potential to be a top ten powerplay team.

Finally, it gives guys like Cowen and Wiercioch and extra year to develop in Bingo. Instead of these guys trying to crack the roster out of camp a la Carkner, they can learn the grown-up game on the buses in Binghamton. Now it isn't out of the question that one or both of them has a great camp and beats out Lee and Campoli in the Fall, but there is significantly less pressure on these guys because we have a solid top four already set. I know that it also means that Karlsson has another mentor and we have a vet that is fresh of a Cup win to show us the ropes. My takeaway here is that we don't have to take the ice with about of kids on the blue line now.

I'm curious how Pascal handles the additional rubber he'll see, though.

All in all, I'm thrilled with the signing. I'm not worried about his age and I can live with the money. This team went from another year on the playoff bubble to contender for what will be a weak Northeast Division. While I think about it, I wonder if the Northeast will be the worst division in hockey...

Get Regin done for three years at $1.5M, give Foligno one year and tell him to stay healthy and prove that he deserves a longer deal. Campy hasn't earned the $1M mark yet, either. And finally, give yourself a bit more versatility and go get Comrie (I love that kid!) for 1 year $1M and stick him on the second powerplay unit.

Monday, June 28, 2010

When we're left with no alternative

Ahhh, not that there was any doubt to begin with, but the Ottawa Sun has finally lost its final marbles. Tim Baines has taken to the blogosphere to defend his paper, his writers, and their overall professionalism while attacking, ironically, the bloggers that call him out. It pains me because we are still left with no real alternative. The Ottawa Sun still has extensive coverage of the team and has far more access and sources than any part-time blogger, right? But it isn't like the Ottawa Citizen is this amazing alternative. The Citizen is like the mediocre looking girl in science class that hangs out with the really ugly girl to make herself look passable. The passable. The Sun is just tabloids for sports. But at the end of the day, they don't make up rumours that Spezza is 99% likely to be traded at the draft (thanks, Eklund) and they still have locker room passes. The rest of us on the blog are just left with a growing fan base and a dash of hockey intelligence.

In the meantime, what is new in Hockey Country?

1. Jason Spezza. I had almost gotten to the point where I would have been okay had he been dealt this past weekend. Brassard and Columbus' first rounder? Sure. Horton and the 3rd overall? Maybe. Savard and Boston's mid first rounder? Probably. It isn't that I don't like Spezza. I actually love his style of play and think he has the talent to win an Art Ross at some point. But my concern becomes that we have this elite centre and he has no elite winger to match his skill. Is it worth it to us to carry a $7M superstar who has no matching playmate? Heatley was an elite winger and when he left, so did the need for Spezza's cross crease one-timer passes. If we could have gained cap space AND found some a decent centre in return that could play with a Michalek, Kovalev, Alfredsson, Fisher, Cullen type player, is it that bad of a deal?

2. Anton Volchenkov. Why are we still talking about him? He's already thinking of his new team and his pay raise. I was miffed at how Murray couldn't at least get a mid round draft pick for his negotiating rights, but it must just mean that he and Grossman have made it abundantly clear that he won't sniff a contact until July 1st. But even then, Hamhuis was traded twice and still hasn't signed! I would be disappointed if we find out that Murray had no intention of renegotiating with A-Train AND turned down even a shitty draft pick considering he's walking for free on Thursday.

3. Matt Cullen and Andy Sutton. We're all saying the right things, but these dudes are headed elsewhere. I couldn't really care less about Sutton if he is seriously looking for a raise on $3M. He was a bruiser and a great shot blocker, but he's at a point where he needs to start settling into that Adam Foote lifestyle but without the gold medal. $2M is fine, but a raise over $3M is nothing we need. Cullen, on the other hand, is a great fit. A nice second line centre that kills penalties and can handle the point on the powerplay. He is good for 50 points per year and to me, that is worth a few hundred thousand over $3M. Hell, Kovalev can't kill a penalty and puts up the same offence for $5M! I would love to see Cullen back but I'm not getting my hopes up given the way Murray has worked the last two UFA seasons.

4. Marc Savard. Sure, it would mean the end of Matt Cullen, but who wouldn't take this guy on a $4.2M cap hit? Healthy, he puts up 75 points a year. Hurt, and he might really still be hurt, he is LTIR and off the books. That isn't what people want, but Cup winning teams have their strength down the middle. Goalie, defence, and centres. We sure as shit down have the goaltending and our blue line is years away from being great, but wouldn't it be nice to find a way to get Savard and Spezza on the same team? If Chiarelli is looking for a soft trade because he can't have Seguin's three years up and still have Savard, then take Kovalev for this year alone.

5. Bryan Murray. I'm kind of growing tired of him, to be honest. I'm tired of his tactics to try and light a fire under Spezza's ass (there are 101 better ways that he could have accomplished this) and I'm not happy with the fact that we look to be a weaker team this year (stars are older, losing a top dman, goaltending still a mess). I know everyone speaks volumes about how he and Tim have 'restocked the pantry', but the guy inherited a Cup finalist and now hasn't won a playoff series in three straight seasons. Could the dude not have found a way to be competitive now and still build for the future? I'm forever optimistic about this team but I'm curious as to what kind of direction Murray really is taking it. Are we lunchpail? Are we defence first? Speed? what?

Looking ahead at UFA Day, it is funny to see that the hype is so much lower than it was last week for draft-day trades. Obviously, Kovalchuk (who has two playoff game wins to his name) is the big piece, but I'm curious how soon the four Sens UFAs go.

In the meantime, let's go back to reading the Sun and Citizen and save time for all those Sens blogs that are warranting this tongue-lashing...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Is it time for Bryan Murray to stop talking?

I don't think it is a stretch to say that Bryan Murray was handed the keys to the car three years ago and given a blank cheque to do what he felt necessary to fix the program. I also don't think it is a stretch to say that he has done quite well in many areas of the organization. The Binghamton Senators actually resemble a farm system with a handful of prospects, something that the Murrays have done from scratch (with the scouts). The big club also found a decent coach, albeit falling behind 0-2 in the count with big whiffs in Paddock and Hartsburg.

But does anyone else think it might be time for Murray just to shut his mouth for a bit?

Let me explain: there is no arguing that this is his team. The ONLY contracts that he inherited here are Phillips and Volchenkov. Every single contract here is one that he signed, including the departed players like Emery and Picard. Just about everything that we accomplished here this past season is a result of his work.

With that, though, comes the bad stuff - the Heatley trade demand and the alleged Spezza unhappiness. This wouldn't even have been newsworthy, though, if Murray hadn't gone yapping to Ian Mendes last week at length about how his star centre was unhappy last year with the media and the fans and how they need to talk again before July 1st.

Bryan Murray is a smart hockey man, people. He has been in the big offices of NHL clubs for 30 years and you can be sure that every time he talks to the media, it isn't the off the cuff sound bytes that he'll regret later that afternoon. There is a strong belief that the Sens are the ones that leaked the Heatley request so as to paint him a a villain. That obviously blew up in our face, so it begs the question as to why Murray would say anything to Mendes about Spezza now.

Jason Spezza is a star centre, there is no question about that. He will never be Pavel Datsyuk and he'll never be Steve Yzerman. He is a younger Joe Thornton that has actually played in the Finals. He makes plays and carries risk with his passes. To us, that is worth $7M per year. He is also a polarizing player - people in Ottawa either love him or hate him. Need proof? There are people that want him run out of town for nothing more than cap space and there are people that started a facebook page to keep him. The end result is that so long as Spezza plays in a hockey fishbowl, he'll attract cheers and boos and that is just the nature of Canadian hockey fans.

But isn't it the responsibility of the organization to do what it can to protect its star players? Isn't it their responsibility to keep them happy and playing hard? Then tell me why Murray would take time out of his day at the GM Meetings to make a story out of nothing. He could have put this to bed by simply calling Mendes an idiot and saying that Spezza is a core player. But instead, he highlights his risky style of play, shares details of a 'private' player-manager meeting, and gives the media enough ambiguity to make headlines going into the June draft to make us recall the bitter taste in our mouths of 12 months prior.

Murray has done some great things here in Ottawa. He knows his organization well and has hit a few homeruns for us. But his handling of the Heatley situation and now the Spezza 'situation' has really left me wondering why he seems so loyal to his core players and so hard on his new kids on the block? It is time to take care of the players and handle a few of these things inside the four walls of his own office. One thing is for sure - all future trade requests should come with a manual on how to handle the PR nightmare that the GM will send your way.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Talk

Two different writers, two different perspectives on what Bryan Murray will talk about with Jason Spezza.

Take resident shit-disturber Booboo Garrioch: His article today discusses Spezza's unhappiness with being booed and the speculation that he requested a trade. Of course, nobody else in hockey has mentioned this mysterious trade request. Furthermore, Garrioch penned a random piece last week that said there is simply no trade market for Spezza, even though Murray has shown no indication of shopping him. There is no trade market for Alfie or Phillips, either, if you are using the logic of availability.

Then the slightly more sensible Stevenson throws down an article today about how the conversation that Murray wants to have has nothing to do with trading him, but rather about including him in the veteran panel on how to shape the team next year. Murray says that Spezza is now in that group that takes on leadership responsibilities and Murray wants to talk with him about what they need, who is leaving, and how the team will look in the Fall. Quite a different angle than his colleague at the Sun, no?

I don't mind journalists uncovering player unhappiness and printing it. In fact, it is usually Murray that tells them about the player's emotions - Corvo requesting a trade, Schaeffer requesting a trade, etc. But to randomly print that Kovalev is untradeable, Spezza is untradeable, that is just amateur hour stuff that is best suited for half-witted blogs. It still shocks me that some of those guys get paid to travel with the team to write smut like that.

As for Spezza, of course he isn't going to be traded. I'll admit, when I read the comments from Murray in Garrioch's rendition (I know, I should have known better), it sounded like the possibility was opened that he'd be available at the draft. Now after seeing the entire set of comments, it is clear that we still have our #1 centre locked and loaded and probably a bit pissed off. Would anybody be upset if Spezza came back with a chip on his shoulder in the Fall? Not a Yashin chip, but just a bit of surliness to get back to the 90 point mark?

It is clear that this team is in a holding pattern for one more year, too. We just have so many big contracts on this team right now that our hands will be tied when it comes to UFA day. We'll hopefully have a competitive year in the Fall with Pascal playing well and Karlsson and Regin continuing to improve. After next season, we lose the Kovalev, Cheechoo, and Pascal contracts and can really start to shape this thing out properly. In the meantime, Murray will need to get Cullen back in the fold and somebody, anybody, to pair up with Phillips on the blue line.

And Garrioch - I'm not asking you to be a superfan and just blow smoke up their ass, but don't get lazy out there. You get these awards for breaking the Hasek signing and covering the Heatley saga, but don't just sit back and think you're work is done. Go find a real Sens story this summer.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

the Pascal Leclaire trade. Would you do it again, Part 2

First off, congrats to the Habs and Jacques for taking down two really good teams. Really neat to see what Jacques can do with proper goaltending. He's won two Game 7s now after not winning one in 9 years in Ottawa.

Now, on to Snoopy. You came, you saw, you got belted in the head twice (neither occasion being in a game, either). Outside of Hasek, no goalie has come to Ottawa with as much fanfare as Pascal. After his first full season, he's at least surpassed Hasek in terms of freak injuries that tainted his year.

At the trade deadline in 2009, BM sent longtime underachiever Antoine Vermette over to Columbus for injured goalie Pascal Leclaire (and his $3.8M contract) and a 2nd round draft pick. Vermette went on to sign a 4-year extension for $3.75M and set career highs in goals (27) and points (65). Pascal nursed his injury last year and went on to just find new injuries this year, including a broken jaw and a concussion. It is safe to say that this season was an unmitigated disaster for Pascal. When he wasn't sitting in the trainer's room or eating through a straw, he was shitting the bed in the Sens crease. It wasn't until his last two games in the playoff loss that he fared well. The silver lining is that he might be on to a new start, and we MUST mention that the second round pick nabbed Robin Lehner, our future goaltender of the future...after Elliott, who is the current goaltender of the future.

A few more points - we couldn't afford to have a goalie AND have Vermette on that kind of contract. Sure, we probably could have signed him for something just over $3M, but would we have paid that much money for a guy that just always left you wanting more. So fast, good hands, but always struggled to hit that 50 point mark. Vermette also received FAR more icetime playing with Nash in Columbus than he did here, where he was a third liner and on the second PP unit. Could he have pushed for 30 goals in Ottawa? I doubt it. I'll also give Kovalev some credit here because Vermette never had an effect on the Fish that Kovie did. Or am I now giving Floatalev too much credit here? In hindsight, $3.75M for 65 points is a great deal. He also killed penalties.

The biggest challenge to evaluating this trade is that we still don't know what we have in Snoopy. Is he the goalie that gets concussed stopping shots with his head (aren't goalies supposed to stop shots anyway?)? Or is he the goalie that stole saves and made the first round playoff series semi-exciting? I hate to say that our sample of good games is FAR less than our sample of brutal games. Add to the fact that a guy like Turco is now available as a UFA this summer and you start to wonder how this deal worked out for everyone.

Vermette with more icetime in Columbus puts up 65pts. His $3.75M is more reasonable than the $5M we put up for Kovalev to replace his points. Lehner is supposed to be a stud, and Pascal might have a decent year in his sights.

Sens Fans - Would you do the Pascal trade again?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Would you do it again? Part 1 - Alex Kovalev

Boredom, sadness, anger. These are the continued emotions I have at dealing with the Sens loss and watching players like Heatley, Crosby, Thornton, etc having success in this year's playoffs. So I'm going to keep busy with a new series that gives us a chance to play hockey's version of armchair quarterback.

First - the Alex Kovalev signing.

It is a very safe argument that when Kovalev was on his game this year, he helped Mike Fisher have his best season as a Senator. He also saw time with Regin and Shannon and helped their play. He commands attention on the ice, clearing room for his centre to find open ice in the slot for one timers and rebounds. His hands are still strong and he knows how to skate and conserve energy by being in the right place at the right time.

But he was given a two year deal and he was given a lot of money. He had two points after the Olympics. He is 37 years old and just had major knee surgery (not his fault, of course). Let's think back to summer 2009 - do you think Kovalev could have been acquired on a one-year deal instead of two? Montreal had already made up their mind to move on and so it would have come down to us and whoever else pursued him. I'd like to think that Kovie would have gone for a one year deal near his beloved Montreal. Do you think that Kovalev could have been signed for $4M a year instead of $5M? Again, his bargaining power had dropped and I don't think he was a very highly sought free agent. Did we have to spend the full $5M and make him our second highest paid player?

There is also the consideration of other eligible players that we passed up. I don't want this to turn into a "we should have signed Mikael Samuelsson" thing, but did we pass up on something more important? Our hole was on defence, especially when we didn't know what we'd get from Karlsson to start the year. Could the money have been better served on a lesser forward and another defenceman, thus pushing someone like Campoli a bit harder?

Let us know - if you could do it all over again, would you still sign Alex Kovalev and would you sign him to that contract? Why?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hastily Made Playoff Post

Heartbreak and heroics this playoff season. In just six games, we learned a great deal about our team and our players. It's a shame to lose in a game where we blow a 3-goal lead on home ice in an elimination game. It's a shame to lose in OT when our fourth line is inexplicably on the ice when our top players couldn't have been too tired to be out there. It's a shame that we have lost six straight home playoff games. But it was great to be back in the playoffs, to see the fans come together in red, and to do it with class and sportsmanship.

Reasons for Hope:

1. Peter Regin - it isn't Mike Fisher that is a scoring machine, it is Regin. On his own, he isn't a top line player. But paired with Spezza and Alfredsson really doesn't expose him to be a big miss, either. He has speed, smarts, and he definitely has the hands to hang with the top players. Regin was a treat to watch and will be much improved next year, too.

2. Erik Karlsson - there is no question that the kid made some mistakes in the playoffs, but nothing that was so costly that it cost us a game or the series (we did that as a team). It was Kuba's injury that allowed us to see how special this kid is as a player and hopefully he has learned enough from this experience to work his ass off this summer with the captain and be a top pairing player next year. Unreal season for the kid.

3. Pascal Leclaire - I laughed out loud when I read Brennan in the Sun say that Pascal should have been playing the entire series, never should have been pulled in Carolina last month, rah rah rah. Get over yourself, Brennan. At no point during this season did Pascal show that he was the starting goalie. He did everything possible to ensure Elliott took over the job. Of course Elliott started the series - he was the goalie that got us here! Pascal had one win in 2010 and it was a nothing game in Florida. But what Leclaire did do in the past two games was give us some hope or excitement or bewilderment as to what we might get next season. It doesn't change the fact that he is the most injury-prone player we've ever had and it doesn't change the fact that he was quite bad when he WAS healthy. But for a guy that was written off amid suggestions he be bought out, Snoopy showed enough promise to make us just a bit excited that he will be better next season.

4. Matt Cullen and Andy Sutton - Cullen isn't a top line player and Sutton isn't a top pairing defenceman, but these guys fit in better than any other trade deadline acquisition we've ever had, except maybe Comrie 1.0. Cullen was easily our best forward in the playoffs (Sorry Regin) and gives us another second line forward with the likes of Fisher, Kovalev, Michalek, etc. Carolina used to be a contender because they had a great goalie and had nine forwards that could bury goals. We could get there if we can bury Cheechoo and keep Cullen. Sutton is a decent replacement for Volchenkov when the latter goes to the Caps this summer. He blocks as many shots and hits as many forwards, but doesn't get the same recognition because he hasn't been here his whole career. I'm curious to see his salary demands coming off a $3M season.

5. Kelly/Ruutu/Neil - our best combined line this series, these guys need to be left alone as the ultimate third line. Kelly and Ruutu really are our best backcheckers. If you watch Ruutu in our zone, he's everywhere and he's great at getting the puck to safety. These three need to be together for 82 games, leaving the fourth line to whatever rookies crack the roster, like Zach Attack and Bobby Butler...

Things that concern me:

1. Brian Elliott - What happened here? He was never an elite goalie, but he was very good for us down the stretch. He was actually quite bad in the playoffs. I know the Emery struggled in his first playoff series, so hopefully this was a big learning experience. But you have to wonder with Lehner going to Bingo and Pascal perhaps stepping back into the #1 role (amazing that we call him the starter after two games, one of which he lost), what the future holds for Elliott.

2. Alfie - I am not concerned about Alfie as I know he had pulled abdominal muscles. I'm more concerned about this team without Alfie. We are in the final years of this guy's career and it is no secret that we are downright awful when he isn't on his game. I was hoping to see Spezza take over a leadership role but it didn't happen this year, aside from some point streaks late in the season. Does BM need to look at the free agent or trade market to find that leader post-Alfredsson? We most definitely need some kind of contingency because our heroic captain is going to start showing declining production as these years tick off.

3. Volchenkov - I'm calling his departure inevitable. If you haven't listened to the 6th Sens interview with his agent, Jay Grossman, what are you waiting for? But seriously, the comments that he made were clear - A-Train needs to know that he is spending his prime physical years blocking shots for a winning team. His style is so reckless that he doesn't want to sacrifice his body for a team that isn't ready to contend. Our first round loss, albeit fair for us, might not have been enough to show A-Train that we're ready to contend. I honestly think he looks at teams like Pittsburgh, Washington, Vancouver, Detroit, or Los Angeles and takes a decent contract for a chance to win a Cup while he is still able to play at a high level. A first round series win over the Champs would have gone a long way for us in showing Volchenkov that we're a winning team, but that didn't happen.

4. Jason Spezza - I know he had a fair amount of points this round, but he looks like the same player as the Spezza from 2, 3, 5 years ago. He is still an elite talent and it is almost unfair to pick on him since he really is an incredible offensive player, but it is almost like his development has hit a plateau. Can we honestly look at Spezza's season (or Fisher, for that matter) and say that this is a player that has more potential that we haven't seen? Or is it a case of 'what you see is what you get'? $7M is given to the guy for his talent but also because he's young and he is supposed to improve. I'm just not sure how much better Spezza will be. I'm glad he's here, but I still haven't come to terms with the fact that he isn't an Yzerman. That's for me to get used to, I suppose.

5. Team upside - Do we have a lot of upside for next season? Let's be real and assume that Wiercioch and Cowen probably won't make the team, okay? So we'll have a group very similar to this year. Of this team, Karlsson and Regin are sure to improve going into next season. But who else really has room to get better? Will Fisher or Spezza take another step, or are they basically playing their best hockey now? Can Michalek come back strong after major knee surgery? Can Kovalev and Kuba come back and be close to their previous levels? Phillips and Alfie are old and at some point will start regressing. The third line is great, but they are also playing at their potential and won't really grow. My point is simple - we are a good team that is playoff-calibre, but do we have room to grow and improve as it stands today? I'm putting my trust in the little general with the healthy salad and hope that we continue to develop the kids and find somewhere (outside of Ottawa) for Cheechoo. Let's hope that this team builds on this season and doesn't just rest on it.

Have a great summer! Til the draft!

Friday, April 23, 2010


Can you think of a game with more contaversy? But it's all behind us cause SENS WIN! Carks is the hero and, to a lesser extent, but maybe a more important extent, Leclaire makes his money. Simply awesome.

Selfishly, I'm ecstatic as I have tickets to Game 6. Look for me, I'll be the one in the Alfredsson jersey...

We play like that again and game 7 here we come.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Obvious Report - Game 5 is the Biggest of Lecaire's Career

Snoopy officially gets the start tonight, and much like my post from the other day, it's his turn to have the biggest game of his life. Let's just hope he stays strong and doesn't get pulled mid-second.

Again, I believe that Snoopy can steal a game and turn the series around, much like I hoped for Elliot to do in Game 4. Let's just hope this move sparks the boys to play a better game with, more importantly, a better start.

We can analyze this goaltending move to death, I'm just hoping it works. I have tickets for Game 6!

Let's go Snoopy! Go Sens Go!

(also, Chummy is in, which should make us all happy!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I know there is one more game and I'm not about to jump ship, but I spent the second half of this game pondering the emotions that go through my mind when watching the shitshow that is this playoff series.

I'm disappointed in the team. We had a very strong season. I know it was littered with losing streaks, but we showed some great things from Elliott's play to the emergence of Karlsson and Regin to the ageless play of Alfredsson. It is sad that we are on the ropes and have shown so little pride in these last three losses.

I'm disappointed in Jason Spezza. He took a very long time getting going this season in his post-Heatley era, but finished on a tear. When Michalek and Kovalev went down with injury, a tonne of pressure was heaped on Spezza to help carry us this postseason and his play has regressed. I know he put up some points tonight, but his effort has been way too spotty for his role on this team. Fisher has been subpar, as well, but Spezza is supposed to be the top scorer.

I'm disappointed in the goalies. Elliott, who was naturally quite nervous in Game One, never really settled into his groove. He made some strong saves, but never made the BIG save. Furthermore, he never really looked comfortable out there. I know some amazing players were taking shots on him, but this isn't the same Elliott that helped us lock up 5th place.

I'm disappointed in Phillips and Volchenkov. Again, a difficult task was put upon them, but it is now safe to say that their performance in shutting down Crosby and Malkin has been an unmitigated disaster thus far. On Crosby's second goal tonight, Phillips let the kid walk into the circle to take that wrist shot. We know that we can't give them space, but we never once stood them up at the blueline. It had nothing to do with speed, unless our guys were worried that if they missed the hit, they couldn't get back to recover. Our top pairing has been humiliated thus far.

I'm disappointed in Clouston. He has been outcoached here against a guy that was in his position last year. Keeping Spezza against Crosby for three and a half games was an epic mistake. Cheechoo drawing into this game was pointless. He never adjusted to the Penguins stepping up on their forecheck and as a result, we had terrible breakouts from our zone. Two separate too many men penalties in one game? What the feck is going on?

I'm disappointed in the Penguins. For such a skilled team, they play like dirty little assholes. Malkin loves the post-whistle blindside bodycheck, but he never once hangs around for the player to get back up. How he didn't get a penalty late third on Neil after Sutton was called is brutal. I have been waiting four games for Sutton to literally take his head off (seriously - take it off). At the end of the second period after Phillips clocked Crosby, you could see the kid complaining to the refs while skating off the ice. Letang took a dive after Neil's goal. Ponikarovsky is just awful. These players take liberties and never once stand around to finish. What makes it so frustrating is that they are incredibly talented and will beat you with goals, too. So not only do they kick our ass on the scoreboard, they don't let us kick their ass physically as retribution. Matt Cooke turtles while Ruutu punches his visor. These guys make me sick to the stomach for being so damn soft and so cowardly, even when they score.

I'm disappointed in the Eastern Conference because I just don't know how a team is going to beat the Penguins. Who will beat them, the Caps? Will Alex Semin slap Malkin in a Eurotrash melee? I don't like any of these teams!

I'm disappointed in the refs. I will never, EVER blame a game on the zebras, but I think this has been a poorly officiated series. I feel like the Penguins have taken a tonne of dives and the refs bite on the penalty on us. Coincidental minor penalties would have been fine, but we'd get called. I don't think they missed one call on us. The Neil charing penalty in game three, the Neil roughing penalty after his goal tonight, both terrible calls. Again, I'll never blame a loss on the zebras but the officiating here was piss poor and it bugs me.

I'm disappointed that our season has come down to whether or not we can find an ounce of pride. Mellon Arena will be bonkers Thursday night and they will do everything they can to avoid the trip back to Ottawa. I'm going to watch and cheer and yell and scream and I really hope that our boys can show that they are willing to salvage some pride. If they go down, go down swinging. Give us something to look forward to all summer, besides another goaltending concern and questions about leadership.

The Obvious Report - Game 4 is the Biggest of Elliot's Career

In obvious news, tonight is the biggest game of Brian Elliot's NHL career. After seeing Bobby Lou get pulled last night I got to thinking, 'what if Ells stinks it up tonight? What happens if Clouston is forced to bring in Snoopy? Andrew Raycroft is still in the NHL?' Well, the latter question is unrelated to the Sens, but the first two are critical.

Again, this game is Elliot's biggest of his career. While the Sens are looking slower by the shift, Crosby is taking advantage and taking over. If Elliot can stand big and stop The Kid, we can turn this series around. If Pittsburgh wins, related to Elliot's play or not, we have a monster hill to climb.

Let's break it down quick, as I have work to do...

Worst case scenario - Ells cracks under the pressure, plays awful and forces Clouston to pull him, bringing in Leclaire and offering the media a field day. While I'm not a Snoopy Hater, in fact I was a major supporter throughout the season, we've given the reigns to Elliot and will live and die by him. Bringing in Snoopy will hurt Elliot's confidence and create a 'goaltender controversy', of which we're all very sick of...

Not a good scenario - Ells plays ok but the Sens don't. We drop a close one but open up the series to a 3-1 deficit going back to Pitty. Elliot will likely not take a huge load of the blame but there certainly won't be any more Elliot jerseys sold.

Best case scenario - Ells wins tonight. If he wins, he's going to need to be good and minimize his goals against. Don't expect another 5-4 goal fest. Obviously, a win will go a long way for his confidence and put us right back in this series. Case and point, this is Elliot's biggest game.

So, folks, can he do it? Does Elliot have the mojo to steal a game and put us back into this series? Can he handle the pressure that he must feel?

Most fans have been behind him all year, especially since January, and now's the time to rally more than ever. Send out your good vibes today and let's get excited.

Good luck Brian, we're behind you. GO SENS GO!!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Time to activate some heart

I'm breaking my own rule of blogging within an hour of the end of the game. My emotions run high, my language is sailor-like, and I become fixated on one point. Tonight, that one point is our continued inability to respond when the going gets tough.

I'm not just talking about going goal for goal with the Cup champs (though that would be nice), but simply showing a bit of courage and heart when your team needs it. Sidney Crosby knocked our captain out of the game for a few minutes and we answer the call by letting him stroll through the crease with the game winning goal. He and Malkin continue to have FAR too much space in our zone.

How many different times tonight did Malkin gain the zone with Sutton giving him a shove into the boards? Don't shove him, take his fecking head off! He is a sack of shit that gets a free pass and the only way to set him straight is to clean his clock. Remember Leopold? Do that again. We have the size on the back end with four bruising defencemen, so tell me how come Pittsburgh looks like the far more violent team? They get the big hits on every shift, save when Neil and Ruutu muck it up.

I will acknowledge our injuries to the 'finishers' but will never use it as the reason we're down 2-1 in this series. We've had plenty of chances to bury goals and we've had plenty of chances to deliver a series-changing bodycheck. Nobody wants to do it. Nobody.

Jason Spezza, this isn't your first rodeo. Jacques Martin is not going to put you in the press box. Pick your game up and do better. Do a better job backchecking, since you've been on the wrong end of most Pens goals. Do a better job gaining the zone since your stickhandling isn't working. Do a better job of hitting the net, since your goal scoring ability is being neutralized by average defencemen. Your task isn't easy - you're playing against either Crosby or Malkin at all times. But you are one of the most talented players in the league and you need to remind us why you are the highest paid player on the team.

Mike Fisher, I'm happy you scored but don't settle there. You were our leading goal scorer this year but you have looked lazy on puck battles. I'm not sure if the wedding photos are coming up, but it is time to start bruising it up here. Get dirty and show why you were chosen to wear the A.

All I want to see on Tuesday night, apart from a big win, is this team to show that they are so much stronger and that they care so much more than those old flops of the past. Right now, I see two douchebags walking all over us and we're scared to lay a finger on them. Bury the effing head in the ice and go score a goal! If they call you for charging (horseshit), then shake it off and go after them again. Don't let these two players get any more airtime than we're already being subjected to hearing. I'm already watching the game on mute. Find your hearts! Tonight was pathetic, but you've got Tuesday to respond.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

First Round Breakdown

Thinking of vintage Tragically Hip with Smalltown Bringdown when I wrote that post title...

Anyway, it isn't news to any of you that my predictions have the tendency to be completely wrong. I don't think I'm a hockey imbecile and actually feel comfortable with my knowledge of the game and our team. That being said, I've misunderstood the moves of our GM as he has put together a decent team right before our eyes. So it is with confusion, fear, uncertainty, and many other emotions that I give my breakdown of the Sens series versus the Penguins in some of the key areas.

1. Star Power
There is no questioning the talent of Crosby and Malkin - they are two of the most elite players in the world. On any given night, either of them can ruin your game. Case in point is the December 23rd loss to the Pens this year when Malkin potted three on Pascal. But if you put these guys toe-to-toe against our two stars, can they match up? Over the past two seasons, Alfie and Spezza combined to put up 5 goals and 9 assists for 14 points in the 8 games (Spezza missed one against Pitt this year). Crosby and Malkin put up 8 goals and 8 assists for 16 points. I hate to say something outrageous, but if we're able to get Phillips and Volchenkov on the ice against the Kid, can you make the argument that our two stars CAN hang with their top two stars? I'm not talking talent here, I'm just talking about their success against a specific opponent, in this case being each other.

2. Forward Depth

I'll spare the sugar coating - we have more depth. Staal and Guerin each had 20+ goals? So did Fisher and Michalek. Foligno has had great success against the Penguins in the past, Regin is playing well on the top line, and Matt Cullen has come on as of late plus had a great Cup run in 2006. Chris Kelly, as bad as I find his hands, has also done well against the Penguins. Listen, I'm well aware of the resumes on the other side of the ice from those guys. But pardon me if I think our secondary scoring has a better chance of burying some big goals.

3. Defensive Depth
We all know what Gonchar brings to this series - a strong powerplay quarterback, a rich man's Kuba with the ability to score some key points. Letang and Orpik are also solid blueliners. I'm not terribly worried about Leopold or Eaton, and Goligoski is a better version of Campoli. My big question mark on our side is how Carkner and Campoli will do on the road, knowing that Bylsma is going to feed them a steady dose of Crosby or Malkin. Like I said in the last post, Murray had a way of hiding Corvo and Preissing three years ago and while Carkner is a better defensive player than either of those guys, we still need to be careful here. All this being said, I don't think either team has a distinct advantage on the blue line, unless we're really able to put Phillips/Volchenkov on the ice every time Crosby gets out there. Home games will obviously be great to watch for that reason.

4. Special Teams
Ready to have your mind blown? Our powerplay finished at a nice 22nd ranking in the league, clicking at 16.9%. This is the third worst of all playoff teams (thank you, Boston and Phoenix). But the shocker here is that the Penguins are only 19th in the league and only convert at a 17.2%. That caught me off guard. We're 8th in PK at 84.3% while they are right behind us in 9th at 84.1%. You heard it here - we're basically even on special teams.

5. Goaltending
If you can accept that star power isn't a massive edge for the Penguins and you went on to read about the forward depth, defensive depth, and special teams, then you might think we have a great chance in this series. If you still don't think we should hold our breath, then you'll probably point to goaltending. Fleury has 48 playoff games and a Cup ring, Elliott has an NCAA Championship and some great memories of playing street hockey. Seriously, though, our guy had better numbers in the regular season but he hopefully understands that he's entering an all new world here. He seems cool, calm, and collected and these traits will be tested if we walk out of the Burgh down 0-2. Goaltending, to me, is the wild card here because we just don't know what we'll get with Elliott. Will he make the required saves and be slightly above average like Emery was in 2007? Will he stand on his head and win us a series? Will he collapse before our eyes? Everything we know about him is that he's not flashy, not into grabbing attention, and makes some good, timely saves. If Elliott can avoid the 'big period' just like a pitcher avoids the big inning, we can make it through this. Fleury will stand on his head just because he's done it before.

Okay, looking in the face of jinxing our boys, I will say that I really can see us moving on to the second round. Since I'm insanely superstitious and I've already pointed out how bad my predictions are, I'll stop short of saying something crazy like Sens in 6. All I will do is say I think they have a good chance and imply how things might work out for the good guys.

In the meantime, GO SENS GO! Get off to a nice start in Steeltown and remind everyone that Alex Ponikarovsky is useless .

Monday, April 12, 2010

5 Reasons Why the Ottawa Senators Made The Playoffs

This is pretty tongue-in-cheek and very much foot-in-mouth. I stand here proudly declaring that I was way off, Samsonite off, when I said the Sens would miss the postseason. On January 11th, mired in a long slump and showing no signs of life, I declared the postseason games to be out of the question on this blog. The good news is I'm wrong and I can admit it.

So let's attack my own work, shall we?

Reason #1: The remaining schedule is tougher than the first half.
We truly did play tougher opponents, but we managed to rise to the occasion. The 11-game winning streak included wins against New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago, and Vancouver. If those teams sound familiar, it is because each of them are favoured in the Cup race. If anything, we've managed to play our best hockey against the best teams. We stink against the Leafs, Lightning, etc., but manage to shut down some of those top players in the league. Can this trend continue in our first round series? It isn't a secret that the biggest threat is going to be Crosby. It is hard to tell where Malkin is right now since he just returned from injury, but he's going to be secondary compared to the Kid. Especially interesting to watch will be how Clouston handles defensive matchups on the road. Will Bylsma throw Sid out there against Karlsson and risk getting dummied by Sutton? Or will he go after Campoli and Carkner?

Reason #2: We have NOT solved our goaltending issues.
It's like Ray Emery but he's on time, doesn't rap, and doesn't run people off the road and call them an old bag of bones. Brian Elliott flat out earned the job over the higher paid Snoop-a-loop. Like Emery in 2007, we aren't asking Elliott to be sensational, but rather just make the necessary stops to give us a chance. A buddy and I discussed today whether or not Elliott will have a long leash if he struggles and I honestly think we're going to live and die by the kid. He got us here, not Pascal, and we'll give him the chance to get us to the next round. Pascal is shut down until the Fall, barring injury.

Reason #3: Our top players are missing.
Jason Spezza is on a streak that has silenced his critics. Even more enjoyable is that he plays his best hockey against the toughest opponents when the spotlight is on. He'll need to continue that trend now because he is going to have to go toe-to-toe with the best player in the world. Daniel Alfredsson is ageless and coming off an emotional tribute that reminded him (like he needs it) of just how much this city embraces him. Our best players returned and went on a tear.

Reason #4: Our defencemen suck.
Mr. Karlsson, I owe you an apology. With the injury to Kuba, Karlsson has managed to not only fill the void, but to spark fan insistence that Kuba be cast aside for the younger and more agile defenceman. I'm a tad worried that he still makes some bad mistakes as far as positioning goes, so I hope he simplifies just a bit against a team that will burn us on each turnover. That being said, the kid's gotta eat! Add to the mix Mount Sutton and we're not as bad as the papers would have you believe. We're going to need Carkner and Campoli to hit their stride, as well. Three years ago, Preissing and Corvo were a third pair that was pampered by never facing top forwards and I'm guessing these guys will be in a similar boat this time around. The difference is that Carkner isn't some powerplay specialist like Corvo and Preissing were for us. More committee and fundamental now.

Reason #5: What have we done since the Cup Finals to make you think otherwise?
Our inconsistency is a cause for concern for everyone, but we have become a different team since the mighty Clouston showed up in the nation's capital with his healthy salad and his arena sleepovers. This team competes VERY hard and has a forecheck like we've never seen. Rest assured that the Pens are watching video and planning a breakout, but we have a coach that has probably spent more time watching game film than ole Roger did! The guy is a machine and preparation will not be an issue. This is such a different team than any we've had - a real lunch pail gang. Put on your hard hats and get behind this group - I'm in! This foot tastes delicious!

Quick side note - Pynch informed me that he logged onto the Sens site today and had absolutely no trouble buying tickets for Game 6 back in Ottawa. Why the feck are there still tickets available? We certainly help validate the calls that we're one of the crappiest fanbases in the league. Please let these games sell out.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Welcome back Milan! You've been demoted.

Milan Michalek will likely draw back into the line up on Thursday night against the lowly Lightning. I, for one, am extremely excited to see him back as he will have two complete games to get his legs back before the post season. Huzzah!

Nine games ago when the Watermelon Warrior went down, our fear was once again, 'what's going to happen to the top line?' Nowadays, I'm asking, 'where are we going to put Michalek?'

In Michalek's absence, Peter Regin has stepped up big time on the linea numero uno (for the most part, I think there was some initial tinkering). Let's look at the past 9 games and have some fun with numbers...

Peter Regin has 4 goals, 3 assists for 7 points and is +7.

While this is good, his linemates are better in the same span.

Jason Spezza has 6 goals, 10 assists for 16 points and is +16.
Daniel Alfredsson has 3 goals, 10 assists for 13 points and is +13.

With this production, can you really break up this line to reunite Michalek with Spez and Alfie? I don't think so. The great news is that this provides the ability to work WW into the second line. People might crap on me for this, but I've always kind of thought of Michalek as a second line player anyway. I love the guy, and this isn't to knock him, but to me he wasn't always up to snuff with Alfie and Spez. I think he's more a lethal threat on the second line - and this can really balance out the scoring (even more than we already do)!

And for the record, I don't think Regin's a better player than Michalek, I just think he's been clicking better and putting up results. The numbers are clear. Chemistry's a weird thing.

I'm welcoming Michalek back with open arms for sure, I just hope he sees ice on the second line and isn't rushed to the first. I love this offensive depth of this team and with Regin fitting in nicely on the top line, the potential to stretch out offense even deeper gets me even more excited!

Am I wrong, or what?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

And we shall call him...Alfie

Taking my turn in a tribute to our hero, let me be another Sens fan to congratulate Alfie and his family on this amazing accomplishment. Daniel Alfredsson might mean more to this franchise than we can ever measure. Can you think of a single hockey player that defined a franchise as much as Alfie? We rise and fall with his successes and failures and creep to the edge of our seat when he steps on the ice. We scratched our heads with confusion and a touch of pity when he, along with his teammates, struggled against the Leafs. But we stood in his corner. We were rewarded with one of the best playoff performances that we've known when he led the league in playoff scoring, including the Eastern Conference winner in 2007. Have you ever seen a player having his name chanted by 20,000 people just moments before he takes the puck and scores a goal? Epic and legendary.

Oddly enough, South Florida paid a tribute to our captain by sending one fan for every game he has played in this league. Is it anti-climatic a bit that so few fans watched a pretty meaningless game without fully understanding just how important of a milestone it was for our organization? No matter, Alfie accomplished the feat and will be rightfully recognized by his home fans on Saturday.

I didn't want this one to be long as there have been some great blogs and articles this week about Alfie (the Sun actually had quite a few good pieces). I just want to join the masses in wishing Alfie congratulations and stating once again for the record that this guy is my hero.

Stay cool forever, buddy!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reminder to Campoli and Lee - they wrote your name in pencil

I'm not going to show up here today and say that Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen are fixtures on the blue line next season. In fact, I've often said that Cowen is at least a year away based on his knee surgery recovery and the fact that he hasn't really blown any minds in the past 12 months. But the signing today (or impending signing) of Wiercioch and the report that Cowen will join the team when Spokane is ditched is another reminder to the lesser blue liners that they have yet to do enough in their time here to be etched into the core.

Here's what we know - Chris Phillips is a lifer. Big Rig will know only one team his entire career and regardless of his ups and downs, he'll always be the poor man's Adam Foote and he'll always have a spot on our blue line for leadership and service. Matt Carkner is here for two more years. The guy has shown that he is an NHL defenceman, albeit a third pairing player that, in a perfect game, will only have his name mentioned once or twice for a big hit or shot block.

Erik Karlsson is the future. Bold statement, especially when I criticized his play earlier in the year. But who didn't? We said bluntly that he needed time in the AHL to figure out how to be an effective offensive-minded player while avoided the big hit from power forwards out to take his head off. Whether or not he did this in Binghamton or just played XBOX 360 is irrelevant because he has absolutely been our best defenceman in the second half of this season. He's our third fixture.

Filip Kuba isn't so much of an enigma simply because he never impressed anyone that much to begin with. I've always liked Kuba because he played a simple game, got pucks through to the net, and didn't induce any profanities from the fan base. But his performance this year, likely in part because of a nagging hip injury, has been pretty sad and it isn't out of the question that he's trade fodder at the draft table.

Sutton and Volchenkov. My hope is that at least one of these guys is back here next year. When we first acquired Sutton, I was pumped about the incoming hits and shot blocks but just assumed that his $3M salary was the result of overpayment from a bad GM for a bad team. In order to get Hainsey to Atlanta and Streit to Long Island, GMs pay top dollar. I'm not saying that Sutton is an All-Star, but his performance in the past two weeks has truly been worthy of $3M a year, given what other players make in this league. His hits are insane and he will step in front of any shot (sound familiar?). While A-Train is the preferred option based on age and because we already know his strengths and weaknesses, it wouldn't be that devastating if Volchenkov follows the money and we are stuck with Sutton.

So we have the potential for some openings next year if Kuba is moved and/or Volchenkov or Sutton aren't retained. Does this mean a free pass for Campoli? For Brian Lee? Even after the Picard trade, these guys are still finding it hard to stay in the lineup, or in Lee's case, to stay in the league at all.

Wiercioch and Cowen will be in camp and just like Karlsson and Carkner this year, they'll be given every last opportunity to make the big team. I know it shouldn't come as a surprise to Lee and Campoli that their spot on the depth chart is written in pencil and due to be erased in the next year or two, but it begs the question about why neither of them has truly risen to the occasion.

In Campoli's case, there are so many times where he takes the puck behind our net and instead of moving the puck up the ice (like a puck-moving defenceman should), he passes off to Carkner. Is Carkner the offensive player on that pairing? Campoli just doesn't seem to have the vision of a younger Wade Redden (before you ask, yes, I did struggle typing a rare compliment to poor Wade). Lee, who hasn't had the benefit of icetime up here, has had so many false starts that our expectations for him have just plummeted. I'm not going to sit here and talk about Kopitar and Marc Staal, who Muckler left on the table when he took Lee, because we can all go through and find situations of poor drafting from every organization. I will say that while he does have a bit more time to develop, as most defencemen do take longer to adapt to the NHL (right, Chris Phillips?), the writing is on the wall for the kid.

It is a tough spot for these two guys to play from, nobody argues that. Many defencemen are given the necessary time to develop into solid NHL blueliners. In the case in Ottawa, we've just been stockpiling there and don't have to give them the luxury of time. Brian Lee and Chris Campoli will be NHL defencemen somewhere. I'm just not so sure that Murray will have it be in Ottawa. Your move, boys.

And a quick dose of Bobby Butler - this guy sounds wicked cool. Here's to hoping that he doesn't lose that New England accent.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

1. We're on twitter. I still don't know what the feck twitter is, but we're on it. Follow us, please, so that we feel someone is taking the 15 seconds to read our hockey thoughts. Or visit it here.

2. Kovalev is not playing in Buffalo tomorrow night due to injury. Does this mean that he was playing hurt since the Olympics or will we at least use that as an excuse for his lackadaisical play since the Break? Is it bad that I'm almost excited he's out because it means Chummy will draw back in and actually skate hard and try to score? Listen here, I've made no secret all season long that I was unhappy with the Kovalev signing. Sure, he's shown flashes of skill and has really driven our team's success at times, but I just don't think $5M is fair for a guy that has played as shitty as he has been in the past month. People will be quick to point out that we should have known this when we signed him - my response is that you're right and that's why I'm still pissed that we signed him!

3. I can't tell if I'm worried or relieved that Elliott has taken the reins of our goaltending graveyard. On one hand, it is nice to know that it is no longer a topic of fodder at the water cooler. On the other hand, can you really see Elliott winning a playoff series? Winning two? I hope he has shades of Emery from three years ago - just make the basic saves and give your team a chance to win.

4. The Michalek injury is going to be a huge, huge blow to this team. I know we've won two straight, but we accomplished both with just two goals for the good guys. Michalek is our leading goal scorer and if this injury lasts into the playoffs and God forbid requires surgery, we're in some trouble.

5. On Volchenkov. If you haven't listened to the podcast that the folks at 6th Sens had with A-Traing's agent, Jay Grossman, go check it out. One thing stood out to me as I see Eklund asking fans what they'd pay him. Grossman said that Anton wants to play for a contender not just because he wants to win, but because he doesn't want to spend the prime years of his career blocking shots for a losing team. He's smart enough to know that he'll really have 5 good years left before injuries catch up. Blocking shots is hard work and it is discouraging to do it for a team that can't truly use his services in their quest for the Cup. I guess that means we really need to show him that we're a serious playoff team. And if he doesn't want our money or our team, it would seem like he'd limit his suitors to contenders, unlike some other guys that just follow the money.

6. If A-Train does leave and we can't afford Sutton (please tell me he won't be looking for $3M anymore, or else he's gone), we're going to have a thin defence. I can't imagine that Cowen or Wiercioch will be ready for the big team in the Fall and Lee is still a work in progress. Like we've said before, the East is so bad this year that you can't fault Murray for going for it all right now. We'll fault him later if the plan doesn't work, but that's why he's in the hot seat and we're at home.

7. It pains me to see that there are still tickets left for the April 10th home game versus the Slugs. Why? Because fans should know about the tribute the organization is planning for Daniel Alfredsson for his 1000th game. C'mon people.

8. On headshots - I'm fine with a rule that punishes goons for stupid hits like Cooke's hit on Savard. I'm not fine with every single effing bodycheck being debated at length for what part of the hitter was used to hit what part of the hittee. There are so many bodychecks in a game with varying degrees of impact. There is such a thing as a good hockey hit that leaves the player very badly hurt. Based on the coverage this topic has received in the past few weeks, I'm a tad worried that pundits are going to start saying hard hits are actually dirty hits because the player fell over or lost his helmet. In a relates story, I love the way Andy Sutton has played in the past two games.