Senators 1, Thrashers 3
With the Rangers, Canadiens and Bruins still to come on this five-game roadtrip, the Thrashers (1-6-3 in last their past 10) represent the best opportunity to win. Regardless, until some of Ottawa's healthy bodies return, I'm going to be hard pressed to pick them to win. I can't even think of anything funny to say. I'm that depressed that I'm picking Atlanta to win.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Kings' cap space and war chest of talent have once again made them a logical (i.e. media-speculated) destination should Kovy be traded. Helene Elliott writes that the Kings would only want Kovalchuk as a long-term prospect and not a rent-a-star. Rudy Kelly is trying to figure out what a trade for the Russian star would cost, and believes a good starting point is Jack Johnson. ~ Battle of California, h/t to Puck Daddy
Here's the latest Bruce Garrioch article that details what Bryan Murray is looking for on the trade market. My comments will appear in bold.
ATLANTA — Senators GM Bryan Murray is looking to add a centre to help get the team out of its scoring doldrums.
As the Senators continue their five-game road trip tonight against the Thrashers and struggle to hang onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, two league executives told the Sun yesterday that Murray is trying to deal for a centre.
Malkin to the Senators!
With top centre Jason Spezza sidelined the past three weeks, Mike Fisher struggling and Peter Regin miscast as the No. 1 pivot at the moment, the indications are Murray would like somebody who can play in a top-six role and possibly move to the wing once the team is healthy.
I said this yesterday, but I'll say it again. Mike Fisher is struggling because teams have shifted their focus on him and Kovalev. It's the reason why Clouston moved Regin between Shannon and Kovalev. Again, I mentioned this yesterday, should there be legitimate concern that Murray is reportedly interested in a quick fix center when that blueline is softer than the typical goal scored against an Ottawa netminder?
The most consistent centre for the Senators this season has been Chris Kelly, who has looked quite comfortable in his third-line role.
Up until the last ten games, I would have said it was Mike Fisher. I guess Kelly is the most consistent because of lowered expectations. Whatever. As an armchair GM, Kelly would be on my shortlist of guys who I'd be marketing at the deadline to capitalize on his strong play.
Making a deal is tough with the salary cap, but talk has started to heat up.
This is best thing I've read in this article. I can't even begin to explain why. For some reason, I keep re-reading this sentence and it makes me laugh.
“That’s easier said than done,” said one NHL executive. “There’s just not a lot out there right now. Not enough teams are eliminated.”
Murray is in Florida wrapping up meetings with his pro scouts before heading out to watch a few teams himself. The only teams actively selling — with the deadline set for March 3 — are the Oilers and Hurricanes.
Edmonton? Sweet. Get ready for Mike Comrie version 3.0 .
It’s not known if there are any hard feelings with the Oilers after the Dany Heatley fiasco last summer, but it seems doubtful there would be.
Why would there be hard feelings between these two organizations? Ottawa tried to strong arm Heatley into going there. Bryan Murray was doing Edmonton a favour.
The names being bandied about from Edmonton are centres Andrew Cogliano (4 goals and 6 assists in 44 games) and Robert Nilsson (6 goals and 8 assists in 29 games) and winger Ethan Moreau (4 goals and 4 assists in 43 games). All are affordable, but it would depend on what the Oilers want in return.
This is so weird. I just had a conversation with Tim the other night about how Robert Nilsson is the guy who could put the Senators over the top. Oh, and here's a true story to put things in perspective -- Jonathan Cheechoo has more points than Cogliano right now. Buy low!
As for the Hurricanes, the best option for Ottawa might be veteran centre Matt Cullen (8 goals, 19 assists in 44 games), who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. A lot of teams are interested in veteran winger Ray Whitney (13 goals, 18 assists in 43 games), but he has a no-movement clause and he’s going to be able to pick his destination, likely to a contender.
Translation: Guys with no-movement clauses like Ray Whitney will not waive their right to come here. So I ask, if guys won't waive to come here and Ottawa has to overpay to bring guys in via free agency, why isn't this team focusing all their efforts on building a successful team through the draft?
"When you're losing, you have to take risks, push yourself to the limit. And we always seem to be afraid of taking the puck, making a pass, driving forward. There is some sort of fear. There is no consistency. " ~ Alexei Kovalev, Puck Daddy
- My initial reaction: This team sucks.
- Okay. They're not that bad. Injuries have had a negative impact on the product.
- Even before the injuries, this team was characterized by an inefficient power play, bad goaltending and a mediocre blueline.
- But the team was winning in spite of these things. A power play and the soft, deflating goals can be remedied.
- Or the team's record is flattering because it is inflated by the team's strong play on home ice.
- Going back to the injuries have highlighted a concern that the Ottawa's two dynamic offensive talents who make their linemates better are aged 36 and 37. And aside from Peter Regin, no young prospect or player who is ready to assume top six minutes and contribute.
- Would this team be willing to trim the fat and retool?
- No, there's this perpetuated Canadian stigma attached to organizations that fans will not pay to see a loser.
- Aside from the Maple Leafs, do Canadian owners own a team to make money? I'd say no. It's about the social aspect that allows them to brag that they own an NHL team in Canada. Besides, fans aren't paying to watch a team that's meddling in the middle of the Eastern Conference. Today's Senators fans are smarter. It's not so much about wins and losses as it is about being entertained and building a contender.
- But is there any reason to assume that Bryan Murray would retool since last season's precedence shows that he's comfortable sticking with the status quo?
- With the way the next month of the schedule sets itself up, these next few weeks of the season will make or break this team's chance to get into the playoffs. So what happens now? Even I'm a bit conflicted here.
It wasn't until I read a recent Larry Brooks article that I found myself nodding my head in agreement with what he had to say.
This is about the big picture. Management cannot afford to be shortsighted here. Making the playoffs for a fifth straight season is a nice little accomplishment, but ultimately means next to nothing if the achievement isn't a stepping stone to contention. ~ Larry Brooks, NY Post
"Right now, what can go wrong, is going wrong." ~ Cory Clouston
After the game against Washington, we judged Pascal Leclaire performance in the same way that pundits criticized Mariah Carey's acceptance speech at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Instead of focusing on the good -- Leclaire's big saves, Carey's performance in Precious -- everyone's dwelling on the negative things, like the soft goals and an off-her-ass drunk Mariah. To make matters worse, Pascal didn't do himself any favours when he unleashed this blast on the local media following last night's loss,
“There were 40 other shots (Thursday night). F---, I’m going to make mistakes ... now it seems that every time I give up a goal, it’s scrutinized, and its always the story of the game. If you guys want to keep doing that ... I know I make mistakes. I made a mistake on the third goal, but at the same time I thought I did some good stuff. As long as we don’t win, there’s nothing else that matters. It’s 5-2, we’ve got to play smarter defensively, especially against a team like that. We gave them too many scoring chances.” ~ The Ottawa Sun
As cathartic as it probably was for Pascal to shit on the media, they were just doing their job covering the Senators on a day-to-day basis and Leclaire's consistent penchant for letting in deflating goals has become a bit of a story. The goalie with the short term memory has now become the guy with the short fuse. Maybe it was a bit premature on our part start lauding Leclaire's Memento'esque short term amnesia. Regardless, when does common sense prevail? Did he not pay attention during training camp when the PR department briefed the players on how to deal with the media? After the way last season's events unfolded, this is Dany Heatley 101 - Don't slight a media group that prides itself upon stringing the words goalie and graveyard together. To illustrate the point, here's just a quick glance at what the Ottawa media has said about the goaltending recently:
- Here's a headline over at the Ottawa Citizen, Deflating Goals Continue to Hurt Senators
- And here's another one Leclaire's problems continue in Washinton
- And another, Senators goalies struggle to find consistency
- Brian Elliott didn't even play the other night and Don Brennan found a way to get in a subtle dig on Off The Posts.
Between the sloppy goaltending and the fact that the body count is climbing faster than a season's worth of Dexter episodes, this team's pursuit of a playoff spot has been a war of attrition. Earlier in the season, this team coped with the absences of Anton Volchenkov, Filip Kuba, Chris Neil, and Nick Foligno. Lately, they have had to cope with injuries to more expensive pieces of their roster. First there was the MCL injury to Jason Spezza's knee, then there was the shoulder injury to Daniel Alfredsson and Bruce Garrioch is reporting that Milan Michalek is out for the next two home games with suspected concussion and that he will not accompany the Senators when they begin a 5-game road trip next week in Carolina. To add some more intrigue to the injury situation, management did call up two future Sens stars, Zach Smith and Martin St. Pierre to fill out the roster and Cory Clouston did say that both will play tonight. Here are the lines that Garrioch has posted on the Ottawa Sun's website: Shannon-Fisher-Kovalev; Foligno-Regin-Neil; Ruutu-Kelly-Cheechoo; Smith-St.Pierre-Winchester.
And in an interesting twist, Brian Elliott will get the call to start tonight. I don't get it. Even though Ottawa's playing the 13th seeded Panthers tonight, the importance of tonight's game can't be understated. With a win tonight, the 13th seeded Panthers can move within 5 points of the 6th place Senators. Bryan Murray acquired Memento to be the number one goalie. After the loss to the Capitals, Leclaire was already hot under the collar. He's fired up so let him play. Why risk inviting controversy with a potential Elliott win?
Even though the Senators lost the game and Milan Michalek to injury, I have some good new for you - The first podcast of 2010 is now up for your listening pleasure. (Wow. That rings a little hollow. Doesn't it?) On this week's episode, Tim puts on his inspector Clouseau hat and tries to figure out who the f--- Willie Desjardins is. The two of us also discuss: the rest of the World Juniors; the state of the Senators goaltending and blueline situations; and Chris Kelly's rising trade value. (Cut bait! Cut bait! Cut bait!) If that's not enough of a hook, then you will have you listen because Tim praise a Bruce Garrioch article in the Sun. (A Tim first.)
This week's featured guest is the Director of Game Entertainment at SBP, Glen Gower. The three of us relive some of our best live experiences where I wind up fellating the live experience at the Yost Arena in Ann Arbour at the University of Michigan. If you want a good live atmosphere at a hockey game, YouTube Michigan hockey and watch the videos with the chants and the marching band. (Or watch current LA Kings defenceman, Jack Johnson's dad dance.) And if you can't have audible music because you're at work, read this list of chants that the student section uses during games.
Will Glen be able to help answer the age old question of whether the crowd meter will actually explode if no one in the audience makes some noise? As always, the podcast can be downloaded, streamed or subscribed to at Itunes or you can just download it by right-clicking and saving this link to your computer. And while the podcast is downloading, kill some time by following Glen on Twitter.
Here's the tracklist for the podcast: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros 40 Day Dream; The Jam That's Entertainment; David Bowie Rebel Rebel; Otis Redding I Can't Turn You Loose; Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Home; The Gaslight Anthem Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts.
4-2 CapitalsI don't know what's more weird: The fact that former NHL coach Pat Burns is the source for the latest Tiger Woods gossip or the fact that Jared Cowen, Ottawa's top prospect who Bryan Murray thought would be a productive NHL'er by November, was never even entrusted with shift against the Swiss during the WJHC semis. What does it say about the state of Ottawa's blueline when I still think that Cowen could help? Now throw in the recent goaltending struggles and the fact the Capitals are the highest scoring team in the NHL and tonight's result could be an unmitigated disaster.
While there were some media concerns that neither Pascal Leclaire or Alexei Kovalev would play tonight since they missed practice yesterday, both will suit up for tonight's game. Here are Ottawa's lines: Michalek-Regin-Foligno; Shannon-Fisher-Kovalev; Ruutu-Kelly-Neil; Donovan-Winchester-Cheechoo. On defence, Chris Campoli will be healthy scratched.
Who is Willie Desjardins?
In the opening segment of the podcast, we spent the duration of time talking about the World Juniors and how the coaching staff used Jared Cowen. There was a great quote by Tim Murray in Don Brennan's article this morning that reinforced what Tim and I were saying last night. Here it is,
Sounds like the world junior championship was not a great experience for Senators first-round pick Jared Cowen. “In the New Year’s Eve game he was one of five Canadian defencemen that weren’t very good,” said Senators assistant GM Tim Murray, who was in Saskatchewan for the tournament. “(In the semi-final game) in his hometown, they didn’t give him a chance to redeem himself. It embarrassed him, it deflated him. I think players come back after that. Then, when they lose (Travis) Hamonic (to injury), their hands are tied. They went into the final with six defencemen, and two of them they’re not comfortable playing. They gave up six goals ... I’m not saying it was the direct result, but it was the result.” ~ The Ottawa Sun
I'll give Tim Murray some credit here. He said it more eloquently and in fewer words than we did while managing to do it all without dropping the word fuck or the name Willie Desjardins.
Donovan To Be Honoured
On Friday, January 8th, the Carleton Place Canadians will be honouring Shean Donovan in a pre-game ceremony before their game against the Cumberland Grads. Whether they plan on retiring Donovan's number, I'm not entirely sure. I am after all getting this information from a Carleton Place newspaper. However, if they don't retire his jersey, doesn't it seem a bit shallow that they'd only honour Donovan by giving him some applause? Where's the hook? You'd think Donovan's ability to grow up and move on from Carleton Place should warrant more than some simple applause.
Panthers Game On CBC
According to the Ottawa Senators official blog by Rob Brodie, this Saturday's game against the Florida Panthers (7pm ET) will now be televised on HNIC.
Senators 2, Bruins 3
With Tuuka Rask having played last night against the Rangers, Senators fans can look forward to seeing Tim Thomas' bulbous head protect that 6'x4' Boston cage. After stringing together 10 consecutive wins against the Senators, one would assume that by now, the Senators players and advance scouting staff would have figured out that the way to beat Thomas is to stop shooting high and keep the puck out of the vicinity of Thomas' giant dome.
Lines: Shannon-Fisher-Kovalev; Michalek-Regin-Foligno; Ruutu-Kelly-Neil; Donovan-Winchester-Cheechoo. The only changes will come on defence and in goal as Brian Elliott and Alexandre Picard will draw back in to replace Pascal Leclaire and Chris Campoli.
Patrice Bergeron's Injury
During last night's game, the Bruins forward was hit on the hand by a Dennis Wideman slapshot while setting a screen in front of the Rangers net. According to ESPN, Bergeron could be out for two to six weeks with a thumb injury thereby putting his Olympic participation in jeopardy. This is great news for the TSN hockey panel who will assuredly milk this story and discuss potential replacement players for the duration of Bergeron's absence.
The Mighty Quinn?
Remember last season during the World Jr. Championships when The Euge engaged in manly embrace with legendary coach Pat Quinn? At the time, old time Senators fans who didn't repress memories of Quinn and his Maple Leafs beating the Senators four consecutive times in the playoffs used the opportunity to laud Quinn and speculate that he would be the next head coach of the Ottawa Senators if Craig Hartsburg were to get the axe. Fortunately, the Melnyk-Quinn embrace turned out to have no-strings attached isolated incident. If you haven't noticed, Hartsburg's eventual replacement, Cory Clouston, has been nails for the Ottawa Senators. And Pat Quinn? Well, he eventually caught on with the Oilers who have lost 9 of their past 10 games. Things are so bad in Edmonton that Quinn will actually put his players through a brief mini-camp to reintegrate the basic skills and re-learn their system. No wonder his players are ringing up quite the tabs on booze these days. If it doesn't work out well in Edmonton for Quinn, maybe he can follow in the footsteps of Pat Burns and freelance with some TMZ style reporting.
Cowen Will Play Tonight
I just wanted to thank one of our Twitter followers japansescream who let us know that the NHL Network reported that Sens prospect, Jared Cowen, will be playing in tonight's gold medal game against the United States even though he was benched for the duration of Canada's semi-final game against the Swiss. If you want to follow us on Twitter, just follow us using this link.
Ottawa Citizen Live Coverage of Tonight's Game
For those readers who enjoy watching Senators hockey while engaging in a live blog format, the Ottawa Citizen will be running one for tonight's game so check it out.
For awhile now, I've tried to come up with some kind of way to include the Ottawa Sun's weekly Digital Faceoffs as part of this website's material. It's just such a rich and easy resource for material. If the Digital Faceoff were a piece of Senators history, it'd be like making fun of Damian Rhodes' The Net goalie mask. So when this past weekend's Digital Faceoff was so atrociously bad, I couldn't help myself. What I've done is that I have removed Tim Baines' comments as the editor/moderator and have replaced them (while still in the same order) with what I think my co-author Tim would say or do had he moderated the panel. All of Tim's comments will strictly adhere to the moments in which Tim Baines made his. I had to put some kind of limits on this, or else it just would have been too easy. Also, all of the remarks made by Don Brennan and Bruce Garrioch remain intact and unaltered. Here it goes...
TIM: Bruce, it's going to be impossible to keep you and Don Brennan both on track so I'm going to give you two dots and a pen. All you have to do is connect them. Okay, the Ottawa Senators are currently in a playoff spot and spend the bulk of their remaining schedule on the road, give us your thoughts. Oh, and Don, please wait your turn and try not to say some completely irreverent in some lame attempt to be funny.
BRUCE GARRIOCH: They are going to have to continue to battle for a playoff spot and they are going to have to do it on the road. They've piled up the points at home. Now they need to show they can win on the road.
TIM: Good! Baby steps now! Give me some names...
GARRIOCH: They've shown a lot of guts without Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza. They are starting to get healthy, with Nick Foligno back.
DON BRENNAN: Speaking of being on the road, I'm on my way to Frisby tires on just 3 of them. Excuse me a second. "HEY LADY. DON'T LEAN ON YOUR HORN AND SCOWL AT ME. THERE'S A REASON I'M DRIVING SLOWLY, YOU B---H." I don't see the Spezza and Alfredsson injuries slowing the local heroes down too much. They can plod along well enough to stay in the thick of things playing the Little General's system.
TIM: Whoa! Don! What the hell? I said try not to be irreverent! You're driving carelessly on three wheels, you've broken a law by texting while driving and have managed to offend any writer who has ever wanted to be published. And. all. at. the. same. time. You've just blown through your week's worth of material in one paragraph. A new low!
GARRIOCH: Has Don gotten snow tires yet? Hey, Tim, did you know we have lived long enough to see snow tires come back? That's how old we are. I never had snow tires until last winter. I always had driven on all-season radials. Suddenly, those are no longer good enough. I'm expecting one-hit wonders like Kajagoogoo and Duran Duran from the 1980s to resurface any time. Mind you, they live in my iPod when I can figure out how to charge it and turn it on. By the way, my VCR ate my video of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
BRENNAN: Can you guys give your Grinch and Rudolph references a break? Seriously. Christmas is over. And children don't read this page anyway.
TIM: Bruce, what the hell are you talking about? If you're going to plug one hit wonders, refer to your weekly Sunday rumour column. And Don, you're right. Children don't read this. Apparently the only ones who do are past or present Sun media personalities. Whatever happened to the good old days when sports journalism in Ottawa used to be good?
BRENNAN: Uh, Tim. Nobody knows what you're talking about. Again.
TIM: You're right Don. I remember when I was young and naive and used to believe in stuff like Bruce's weekly Radek Bonk rumours.
BRENNAN: No wonder you never did Get Smarter.
TIM: Jesus, this is going downhill quickly. Alright Bruce, just try to salvage this by repeating whatever it was that you said at the beginning of this Faceoff . Maybe you could try and make our word count longer by including some of your column staples like: player nicknames; shitting on the Senators goaltenders; food; or etc.
GARRIOCH: The Little General has done a good job, but the challenge for him is to make sure the Senators win on the road. He is fortunate to have Chocolate Leclaire back. They weren't going to get it done with Brian Elliott in net. He isn't ready to be a No. 1. Now, they just have to keep Chocolate healthy.
BRENNAN: I think a lot is going to depend on their power play. A few weeks ago, Jarkko Ruutu was telling me he thinks it's becoming harder and harder to score 5-on-5 goals. The only way you do is off a great play or a breakdown. The Senators should have the tools to score with the man advantage. But obviously, they haven't done it nearly enough.
GARRIOCH: You'd think they'd have an easier time scoring. Mind you, there are a couple of guys you wonder if they will ever score again. As long as they can get AK27 rolling, they'll be fine. Hasn't Kovie made his career on consistently being inconsistent?
TIM: The Senators are the 10th highest scoring team in the NHL despite having the second worst power play in the League. Scoring goals hasn't been an issue because of the depth and talent up front. Their real issue is the fact that the blueline is terrible.Things are so bad that I'm pretty confident that Norm MacIver could come out of retirement from the Blackhawks front office and lead this group in scoring. Enough with the Senators discussion already. Let's switch gears though and talk something that any casual hockey fan can talk about - Canadian Olympic hockey. I'm skeptical of some of the player selections but I still think Canada is the favorite for gold. Which country do you guys like to win?
BRENNAN: Gee, Tim is predicting Canada will win gold. So bold. I think the Russians are the team to beat.
GARRIOCH: Eric Staal on the team? You have got to be kidding me. Awful choice. They chose the wrong Staal. I know everybody is going to tell me how well he has played in the last month. Go ahead. I don't give a crap. Not the right choice. Should have taken Jordan Staal ahead of him. A signal that there has been a changing of the guard. Steve Yzerman doesn't owe anybody anything.
TIM: Don, you're only picking Russia because you relish your writing persona as the guy everyone loves to hate. And Bruce, Steve Yzerman may not owe anybody anything but if he doesn't win gold in Vancouver, the perception of him as a viable NHL General Manager and Ken Holland disciple will go down the shitter. That's why he can't afford to take a flyer on the less talented, younger sibling. Besides, Eric is still part of the Staal family. His inclusion on the roster doesn't prevent you or the rest of the Canadian media from verbally fellating the Staal family name.
GARRIOCH: Okay, I agree. It's just easier that way. Thanks. Next up is Chris Pronger. I can't believe they put him on.
TIM: Great. Are there any other complaints about the roster?
GARRIOCH: No. Just Pronger. Did they win with him in Turin? No.
BRENNAN: They wouldn't be any worse off taking Mike Green over Niedermayer. I like how everybody -- from the casual observers to all the "experts" -- say they should have taken this guy, or that guy. But I'm pretty sure the people picking the squad spent a lot more time considering all the options than the rest of us. And they're pretty good hockey men. It's about putting together the pieces of the puzzle. And then sitting back and hoping you get some bounces.
GARRIOCH: Fisher should stand by. Injuries will happen. Glad to see Patrice Bergeron go. Nice story.
TIM: Nice lecture Don, it looks like they may have a second career for you at the University of Phoenix. And Thanks for refraining from calling us bitches. Bruce, your justification for not having Chris Pronger on the Team is because he didn't win in Turin? When Scott Niedermayer and Ed Jovanovski withdrew because of injury, the rest of the blueline consisted of: Rob Blake; Adam Foote; Pronger; Wade Redden; Robyn Regehr; Bryan McCabe; and Jay Bouwmeester. That's not a recipe for gold, that's a group that looks like it was architected by Doug MacLean or Mike Milbury. Anyways, I've had my fill of hockey journalism at its finest. Don, you can have last word. I know you'll get a parting shot in anyways. Maybe for once you could praise someone other than yourself?
BRENNAN: None worthy, except maybe me for being able to multi-task.