In the wake of Cowen going under the knife to repair a torn labrum in his hip – the procedure itself is scheduled for this Saturday – I, like many others, alluded to the immense pressure that will be placed on the team’s veteran defencemen.
I neglected to mention Mike Lundin’s name.
Signed as an unrestricted free agent during the summer, this James Gordon doppelganger has maintained an incredibly low profile during this lockout.
Relative to the recently acquired Marc Methot, it is understandable to see Lundin’s story not garner the same kind of attention as the return of a homegrown talent. Of course it helps that Methot maintains his public profile by engaging fans on Twitter and generally making himself available to the local media.
With the exception of a charity game appearance in Chicago, Lundin has essentially been out of sight and out of mind.
According to the very credible www.mrmadhawk.se blog, Mikael Wikstrand has reached a verbal agreement to join Frölunda at the end of the year. This does not come as a surprise as rumours have been circulating ever since Wikstrand’s hot start, that he’d follow the path of a certain someone on the Ottawa Senators blueline.
This also bodes well for Wikstrand’s chances to spend Christmas and New Year’s in everyone’s favourite holiday destination Ufa. Frölunda have been courting a lot of young players from the Swedish junior national team, with Wikstrand being one of them, first-round projected André Burakowsky is another. Strangely enough, the Swedish U20 coach, Roger Rönnberg, is soon expected to be announced as the head coach of Frölunda. They still have another coach under contract for the remainder of the year and Rönnberg has a tournament to coach and a gold medal to defend, but his next destination is the worst kept secret since the first overall pick of 2005.
So, short-term, what does this mean for Wikstrand? Not very much, he’ll most likely get the WJC ticket he would’ve gotten anyway, but we can rest assured that he will be taking a step upwards on the hockey ladder next season, coached by a man who hand-picked him nine months before the puck will drop for the 2013/14 season.
Currently, Wikstrand is quarterbacking power plays for both Mora of the SEL-2 where he's on pace to break goalscoring records for junior defenseman, as well as one of the units during the U20 tournament in Sundsvall this past weekend.
Oh, and it's worth noting that a few other Frölunda alumni have turned out pretty well for the organization. (You be quiet, John Wikner!)
Cowen, who has been out of action for the past 8 Binghamton games, will miss some undisclosed amount of time with a lower body injury that Don Brennan indicated was a hip flexor issue. In an interview with the Team 1200, Luke Richardson was less specific about the diagnosis.
In comments to Ken Warren Friday, Tim Murray had this to say:
“He’s a big part of our organization, whether he’s 70 per cent or 60 per cent or 80 per cent, we’re not going to rush him. We feel we have enough players down there that can play, and he has already proven that he’s an NHL player. We’re not going to jeopardize him long-term by playing him right now.”
Given the impasse that the NHL and NHLPA continue to have, the concern that a top-4 fixture on Ottawa's blueline may miss the start of the 2012/13 season, isn't as urgent as it could be.
Mckenzie pipes in with some good/bad news:
OTT says Jared Cowen to have surgery for lower body inj. Good news: hear it's not ACL (previous injury). Bad news: hear it's season ending.
With the expectation that Cowen would slot within Ottawa's top-four this season, his absence puts an overwhelming amount of pressure on Marc Methot and incumbent veterans like Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips. Whether it was on the podcast or on the blog, I have gone at lengths about how I believed Phillips had a bit of a resurgence playing sheltered minutes on the third pairing away from the opposition's top line - a departure from the days under Cory Clouston and something that Paul MacLean does not get enough credit for.
When insulated, Phillips is still a capable defenceman who can handle defensive zone and penalty kill match ups. Nevertheless, it's difficult to ignore, that from a puck possession standpoint, Phillips was Ottawa's worst defensive regular.
At least in Gonchar's case, he is staying active and playing in competitive games. The greatest competition Phillips has faced the past few months stems from the burgeoning microbrewery industry in the nation's capital. The longer this lockout drags on, the more one wonders what kind of game shape #4 is in should the season get going.
Cowen and Methot, were considered the most likely candidates to till the left-side on the top-pair. Without any internal competition, for better or worse, Methot essentially stands as Karlsson's de facto partner. Hopefully there's chemistry...
Much like their NHL counterparts, a pair of Senators third-round picks are still waiting the start of the 2012/13 season to begin.
For Jarrod Maidens and Jakub Culek, these are some very trying times; albeit, for entirely different reasons.
It has been almost one full calendar year since Maidens stumbled into the boards and an opposing Colts, who intended to finish his check, inadvertently struck him in the head with his knee.
He has not played in a game since.
A Sunday report indicates he spent, "last week in Ottawa receiving post-concussion treatment from Senators’ doctors and trainers. He’s expected to spend the next week there as well."
In some ways it is reminiscent of the Antoine Vermette situation that unfurled in the summer of 2000. Months after being drafted by the Senators in the second round (55th overall), Vermette was invited to Team Canada’s World Junior summer camp. During one of the scrimmages, Vermette absorbed a hit from Jay Bouwmeester, that caused him to miss the next, "seven months that season with a mysterious neck injury that was misdiagnosed as post-concussion symptoms".
Although it is far too premature to speculate that Maidens’ career could be in jeopardy, any time a prospect misses this much time, you have to wonder how much it is going to affect them and their development.
Jakub Culek’s development has stalled but in a completely different fashion.
After being reassigned to the QMJHL at the conclusion of the Binghamton Senators’ training camp, the 20-year old Czech forward was caught in a numbers game. The team that owned his junior rights, the Rimouski Oceanic, had already reached their import quota of two. Now I’m not entirely certain why Culek was never assigned to Elmira in the ECHL, but like Maidens, he has yet to play in a game this season. Recently, rumours have surfaced on the weekend that the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles had acquired his rights in exchange for a 2014 fourth round draft selection, but to this point, no formal announcement has been made; although, one new report suggests that the QMJHL will make one today.
Not since David Hasselhoff has an American product torn up the German charts like Erik Condra. After posting an impressive 19 points in 7 games played, Condra is packing up his bags and taking his decent puck possession skills from EV Füssen of the DEL-3 to SC Riessersee of the DEL-2.
From the EV Füssen website transcribed by the infalliable Google Translate:
His involvement in Fussen was a sensation, and athletic, Erik Condra despite a lack of match practice taken full: seven games, he completed for the EV Fussen, scoring eight goals and conceded eleven goals further submission. Now it was the wish of the striker from the Ottawa Senators to play höherklassig to prepare for the imminent end of the lockout may soon. The EV Füssen is this desire of the player now met and granted him the release of the second division SC Riessersee who already has two other players from the NHL in his squad
The board of the SC Riessersee, Ralph Bader, is delighted: "We thank you sincerely for EV Fussen, who released the players understandably a heavy heart but the decision was ultimately the player himself, who wanted to play höherklassig, "said Bader.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch made an appearance on yesterday's HockeyCentral at Noon, shortly after the 26 minute mark, the conversation turned to those "rumblings" of Eugene Melnyk having the team on the market.
Without rehashing a post which documented the recent history of Senators sale rumours, let's get right into it. I've clipped the audio which is embedded at the bottom of the post, and here's the transcript:
Millard: Bruce, there were rumblings that people were in looking at the books of the Ottawa Senators.
Kypreos: Those rumblings came from Doug MacLean.
MacLean: Yeah, so, and I stand by my source that somebody was in and looked at the books as far as buying a minority piece of the team.
Kypreos: And that’s the big difference here: are they for sale or are they looking at ways to find a minority buyer or find somebody to come in?
MacLean: And what do you think?
Kypreos: I don’t think they are for sale in terms of Eugene Melnyk unloading them or looking for someone to take the majority (share) of the team.
MacLean: I will stand by my source that somebody was in and looked at the books and decided not to get involved.
Kypreos: That’s not what you said…
MacLean: That’s what I said.
Kypreos: I think you were maybe leaning towards that they were for sale…
MacLean: I have heard for two years they were for sale. Bruce, I keep hearing that they’re for sale from lots of people that have a pretty good idea. But that’s fine, if Eugene says they’re not, he’s the owner. But I know that people were in and looked at the books, I know that.
Millard: Comment from Bruce Garrioch?
Garrioch: Chris Stevenson and I asked Eugene one time about taking on a partner and his answer was, ‘I’m not that kind of guy,’ so I don’t know how receptive he even would be to a partner. If you look at the ownership structure in Ottawa, he’s the only guy. He says they’re not for sale, and he says, ‘maybe you should find something else to talk about Doug.’...I’m kidding.
MacLean: Look, I’ve been told it a few times and that’s fine. If Eugene disagrees, and he certainly would know a lot better than I would. So either the people that looked at the books are lying or whatever, so let us leave it at that.
Kypreos: What is happening is that he’s refinancing. I think that would be a safe term to use for the Ottawa Senators.
MacLean: I don’t know that.
So we learn: a) the Senators were the team MacLean was alluding to, and b) MacLean’s source(s) is/are the people who looked at the books; but c) if Melnyk sells, it will not be the majority share of the team, and d) Garrioch believes Melnyk has no appetite to share ownership, and finally e) Kypreos thinks "refinancing" is a fair characteriziation of what's going on.
More details to be sure, but nothing definitive.
I do not want to pin this stuff solely on MacLean/Kypreos because in conversation with HNIC's Elliotte Friedman on Monday night (go listen to the podcast now!), Creech asked if he'd heard similar reports:
"There have been rumours about that for a long time. I've heard rumours about Eugene Melnyk needing to sell the Senators for a couple years now. Some of it has always been...it's not necessarily by choice. As you guys know, if you've followed Melnyk's history in the markets, there's always been some question as to how well he's actually doing? So you hear that from time to time - oh Eugene Melnyk is in some trouble with Biovail - he's going to need to sell."
He went on to drew a parallel between whispers of a sale and the boy who cried wolf; eventually, you just stop paying much attention until you see some hard proof.
The more of this story is revealed, the more I tend to give credence to Scott's theory that a valuation of the Senators and Scotiabank Place seems a good chance of being a requirement in Melnyk's divorce proceedings.
Yesterday was Tuesday, which means Binghamton Senators head coach, Luke Richardson made his weekly appearance on the Team 1200's The Drive program. The full interview was not transcribed by me, but if you would prefer to listen to it, you can do here.
In case you missed it, Ben Bishop is not very good.
At least that is the story his unsightly peripherals tell in less than 120 minutes of AHL action.
The numbers too easily lend themselves for use by the ‘what have you done for me lately?’ crowd. As a collective, we are all guilty of doing it from time-to-time. Overrating a prospect because of an unsustainable hot streak, and in this case the opposite. Like it or not, the longer the lockout goes, the more a Lehner vs. Bishop goaltending controversy functions as a story that bloggers, journalists, radio hosts and armchair GMs can get a lot of mileage out of.
When Bishop was acquired by the Ottawa Senators in late February, we knew the organization was unavoidably going to reach a point in which it would need to make a decision between the two. I just didn't think that discussion would begin already. I should have known better.
"Ben Bishop has a one-way contract, but he’s not as good as Robin Lehner, and with a shortened season teams can’t afford to go with anything less than their best.
On Saturday, Bishop was Binghamton’s goalie of record in a 4-2 loss. He is now 0-2 with a 4.04 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. To this point, Lehner has probably been the B-Sens’ top player. He is 4-2 with a 1.99 GAA and .933 save percentage."
Granted, there is some context that helps explain why Bishop has been off.
A few weeks ago, Binghamton head coach Luke Richardson had this to say about Bishop’s return during his October 23rd appearance on Team 1200’s TheDrive:
“Ben is working hard and we worked him out real hard on Saturday morning to get ready and game ready. Unfortunately, he got sick and I don’t know if he got strep throat or what, but he’s been on antibiotics for the last couple of days. We had to send him home again this morning from practice to keep him away from the guys and let the antibiotics kick in. He may be back on the ice tomorrow but unfortunately, he’s had a tough year - obviously waiting for the lockout to finish and then finally getting a contract done to come down to join us. And just when he was peaking and getting into some good game shape, he hit the wall with some kind of virus.”
There is also the issue of using a small sample size to differentiate between the two goaltenders.
Lehner’s numbers are pretty damn impressive. In fact, only nine AHL goaltenders currently have better goals against averages than Ottawa’s highly regarded goaltending prospect. But here’s the rub, that list of nine goaltenders is headlined by the likes of Barry Brust, Petr Mrazek, Dov Grumet-Morris, Jussi Rynnas, Curtis McElhinney, Martin Jones, Jeff Frazee, Danny Taylor and Dan Ellis – an embarrassment of goaltending talent that also includes two former members of the Senators organization.
In the wake of some hopefully productive NHL CBA negotiations, @creecher1200 and I jumped back in the studios and were joined on phone by the proprietor of 30 Thoughts -- Hockey Night in Canada's Elliotte Friedman.
During the interview, we hit on a number of topics including: THE LOCKOUT, a potential Melnyk sale of the team, Corey Perry as a future Senator, and sabermetrics.
I'm not sure why you wouldn't be, but if you're not following Elliotte on Twitter, do so immediately - @FriedgeHNIC. And while you're at it, please check out his Movember page and offer a donation with the message - The 6th Sens sent you.
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Here is the tracklist for the show: Podcast tracklist: Titus Andronicus Still Life With Hot Deuce And Silver Platter; The Whigs Waiting; The Wedding Present You Jane; and David Bowie Rebel Rebel.