- If you're interested in competing. Email me your details to the6thsens at live dot com.
- Let me know which scoring format you would prefer to use: rotisserie or head to head
- Let me know which draft type you want to use. Auction or the snake-style pick'em. (I'm preferring the auction.) Note: It will be a live draft, so if you miss it, don't blame me.
- If you have any preference for availability for scheduling the draft. (Ie. weeknights vs a Sunday night), let me know.
Barring a trade some last minute signing like a Willie Mitchell or a Jose Theodore, most NHL teams will conclude this summer with their current version of their roster. At quick glance, it seems as though the team that has experienced the greatest roster upheaval is the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Gone are names like Cristobal Huet, John Madden, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, Antti Niemi and Kris Versteeg. Some, like Madden, are gone because their contract expired. Others were moved out of necessity. Cap casualties stemming from the financial mismanagement of the Dale Tallon era.
I believe that Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski referred to this exodus of talent as Florida Marlins'esque. The Marlins if you'll remember have gutted their rosters on two separate occasions following their two World Series championships. The comparison is a tad unfair though. The Blackhawks had to move bodies to get underneath the salary cap ceiling. The Marlins did so because their ownership group, lead by Jeffrey Loria, is notoriously cheap and wanted to line their pockets. (Ed. note: There's a fantastic article written by Jeff Passan for Yahoo! Sports detailing how Loria and David Sampson misled the public to get a new stadium deal approved.)
Regardless, Chicago's going to be an intriguing case study to watch this season. Although their hand was forced, the Blackhawks have retooled more so than any other recent Stanley Cup finalist that I can recall. As a fan who has looked back upon our own version of the 2007 Stanley Cup finalist Senators team, I often wonder how things could have changed had management taken the steps to remedy some of the in problems with that team. (Ie. Rumours of drug abuse, lazy players, cliques, etc.) Instead of parlaying some of their assets when their value was at its peak, management opted to remain status quo and retained many of the same players by giving them raises, long terms, and no-movement clauses. God forbid that management couldn't realize that the circumstances that lead to the 2007 Finals appearance could never be replicated. Sure, the players might stay the same, but the salaries forever change. Dany Heatley at $3.5 million and Jason Spezza at $4.5 million look great. When they're both making over $7 million? Not so much. It didn't help matters that when the John Muckler regime opted to retain a draft pick, they struck out. With a barren prospect cupboard, expecting years of sustained success or a dynasty was wishful thinking at best.
So that's why I look at the Chicago scenario with an earnest interest. Despite the fact that losing many important depth pieces, none of their roster casualties will ever be respectfully mistaken for a game changer. Can these players be easily replaced by the likes of some in house or cheaper alternatives like Skille, Boynton, Bickell, Hendry and Turco? Will the infusion of this much fresh talent gel quickly and relieve the locker room from complacency? Or will the loss of the aforementioned Cup winning depth players be understated? Would it have been more prudent to trade one of the more expensive/better skilled players like Patrick Sharp and retain more depth? Or perhaps there's a large correlation between having star players on entry level or below market value second contracts and the window of opportunity for a Stanley Cup victory? (Ed note: Detroit with Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Chicago with Toews and Kane. Ottawa with Heatley and Spezza. Anaheim with Perry/Getzlaf. Pittsburgh with Fleury/Crosby/Malkin.)
Senators News Bits
According to Sens Chirp, Peter Regin has opted to change his number from 43 to 13.
Over at Off the Posts, Don Brennan congratulates Bryan Murray for receiving the distinction of formally inducted into the Upper Ottawa Valley Sports Honour Roll in Pembroke Oct. 13. As a 67-year old GM who's entering the final year of his contract with the organization, Don briskly looks at the Murray tenure and questions who should be his successor. Provoking one of the longest reader comments that I have ever seen.
Sticking with Brennan, in an article for Sun Media, he highlights some of the notes from a media conference call featuring Daniel Alfredsson. Of note, Alfredsson has recovered from his sports hernia surgery and has resumed skating for the past two and a half weeks. According to Alfredsson, "I started earlier this year than I normally do, just to try it out and get on the ice a little bit more." (Ed. note: Is it too much to ask for an injury free season from the captain?)
As part of a hot-stove panel that is contributing at the Molson World Hockey Summit in Toronto, Ontario, Daniel Alfredsson weighed in on some of the game's issues like the size of the playing surface.
Today, the NHL unvealed the national television schedule for its broadcasts. Of note, on Saturday, February 12th, the Senators will take on the Edmonton Oilers on Hockey Day in Canada at 2pm ET. More Hockey Night in Canada information can be found courtesy of the CBC, but if you want to give the alternative media some love, you can check out Silver Seven Sens.
According to The Examiner, the Toronto Maple Leafs have released a list of player names who will compete in the annual rookie tournament that begins on September 11th in London, Ontario. Since the Senators are competing in the tournament alongside the Leafs, Penguins, and Blackhawks, it shouldn't be too long before their roster is released.
Through the work of those affiliated with the Senators' official website, Chris Campoli has become the most recent player to discuss how much Sergei Gonchar brings to the table.
Earlier this week, Aaron Ward announced his retirement from the NHL. With Garry Galley leaving the Sportsnet broadcast booth to work exclusively for the CBC, I wonder if an Ottawa native like Ward will get the nod? (Ed. note: From what I've read online, the speculated candidate is the Team 1200's Jason York.)
Collision Repair Magazine has a small feature on Matt Carkner's father and his Winchester autobody shop. Keep an eye out for next month's issue that devotes a feature to Jordon Leopold's recuperation from that Andy Sutton hit.
I neglected to mention this a few weeks ago, but on July 29th, Rogers and the Ottawa Senators announced a 4-year contract that allows them to broadcast up to 15 regular-season games, starting with the 2010-2011 season on their new sports channel, Sportsnet One. These 15 games would be in addition to the 40 Ottawa games that are already broadcast on Sportsnet's regional broadcast channel.
"We are excited about the launch of Sportsnet One. The new channel will result in more games being available for Senators fans. We want to make it as easy as possible for our fans to watch our games on television and Sportsnet One will help us do just that. We have been televising Senators games with Rogers Sportsnet since their inception and have built a strong working partnership with their organization in the process." ~ Cyril Leeder
I'm not one to complain about additional content but it's not like Sportsnet One is widely available. Even though the channel officially launched on August 14th, like its brethren, TSN2, it could take some time before Rogers' competitors carry the channel. In other words, a significant portion of the Senators fanbase who subscribe to Bell TV, Shaw Cable, Shaw Direct, Eastlink or Cogeco will be left in the dark. Stuck in limbo until a deal is negotiated.
Business is business though. Both the Senators and Rogers will line their pockets through this mutally beneficial partnership. However, wouldn't it be something else if the Senators organization would reward all of the fans who actually pay to watch their product in person and reinvest this influx of new capital into a new scoreboard?
I suppose things could be worse though. It's not like Rogers promised to broadcast all of the Senators games on their regional broadcast territory before pulling a swerve and moving a significant portion of their remaining games to this new channel. Now that'd be something...
As the clock winds down on the 2010 offseason, for better or worse, there's going to be an influx of content on the internet. Here's an article written by a Mr. , pulled from one of my favorite websites, Bleacher Report. As always, my comments are in bold. Enjoy.
The Ottawa Senators are looking to continue their surprising success and join the league’s elite teams.
What is this surprising success you speak of? I find it difficult to believe that Ottawa's ready to join the elite when they're blowing 3-goal leads at home in the sixth game of the Conference Quarter-Finals.
Last season’s playoff series against Pittsburgh showed that the Senators could hang with the previous season’s champs and also highlighted their areas of need in order to take the next step toward a Stanley Cup run.
Or to play devil's advocate, it could have been a sign that without Marc Andre Fleury on top of his game, Pittsburgh's just a consortium of average players who surround their top three centers.
Just like every team, it begins with finding the right mix of players and putting the right coaches in place to guide them.
I have a sneaking suspicion that I know where this article is going...
While the Senators lost blue-liner Anton Volchenkov, they brought in the highly regarded defensemen Sergei Gonchar. Gonchar, 36 years old, will serve as a point man on the Sens' power play and give another veteran in the locker room. While Gonchar will provide more scoring, it also opens the door to more goals allowed since they will lose Volchenkov’s defensive grit.
Grit has a new loose definition. It's that thing that closes the door to the opposition scoring more goals. Grit is something Gonchar doesn't have. This is all so scientifically accurate. His ability to retrieve the puck quickly and start the transition game successfully has nothing to do with goal prevention. Those skills are only unique offensive characteristics. If Ottawa gets off to a slow start, I may be opining for more grit.
Gonchar will join a cast of capable veterans including Jason Spezza, Alex Kovalev, Chris Phillips, and Milan Michalek as the leaders of this club transitioning back to contender status. This transition will move along quicker with less underachieving, increased cohesion, and recovery from injuries. Both Michalek and Kovalev are coming back from major off-season knee surgery and are currently on track to be ready for training camp.
Weird. Whenever I see the word transition used in the context of sports, it's typically accompanied by some reference to a youth movement. I would normally be concerned with such a veteran movement, but then I realized it was described in a Bleacher Report article. Attention readers: It should be duly noted that the success of the Senators is dependent upon less injuries, better teamwork and less underachieving. Good thing these are three characteristics that organizations can easily bank upon.
The enigmatic Alex Kovalev should be expected to play at a high level since this is a contract year and that happens to be one of the few driving forces he understands. His potential was never questioned, and his desire has never been beyond reproach. Kovalev, 37 years old, is essentially playing for his last good contract and needs a comeback campaign that resembles his 2000-01 campaign with 96 points, or 2007-08 with 84 points.
As George Costanza would say, "Beep! Beep! Beep! Back the truck up!" There's too much to discuss in this little paragraph:
- I wish Kovalev could play and move like he did 10 years ago too.
- I've already discussed the lazy contract year theory that many pundits throw out there. For the last time, the difference between a good Kovalev year and a bad one is his power play production.
- If Kovalev's looking for a third come back season, is it really a come back season?
- Let the record show: If Ottawa can have no injuries, better cohesion, less underachieving and a productive Kovalev, things are looking pretty fucking good.
Michalek, 25 years old, came over in last year’s Dany Heatley deal and was supposed to be an impact player. Now he looks to regain the form of a couple years ago and expect him to become a factor as he enters his physical prime.
No mention that at the young age of 25, Michalek's already had to deal with concussions and significant injuries to both of his knees. Ah well... he's entering his physical prime. While some look at him as that impact player that we got from San Jose in the Heatley deal, I'll continue to refer to him as That Player Whose Acquisition Necessitated The Inclusion of Jonathan Cheechoo In Any Trade. (TPWANIJCAT.)
The younger players are also ready to contribute and play more significant roles. Forwards Peter Regin and defensemen Erik Karlsson are ready to regularly contribute to a team poised to make another step forward in a competitive Eastern Conference. Both proved they were ready to stay and expect them to receive more ice time and help carry the burden when the aging veteran core needs rests during the 82 game season.
Wait a second. A few paragraphs ago, this veteran core was referred to as capable. Now they're a burden over the course of a long schedule? Maybe this veteran core wouldn't need rests if they paced themselves over the course of a season like Kovalev. And what is this competitive Eastern Conference that you speak of? Is it the one in which last season's eventual champions snuck into the playoffs by winning a shootout? Competitive is one word, mediocre is another.
In goal, a position battle will be a major story line as Brian Elliot looks to prove last year was no aberration and reclaim the starting job over Pascal Leclaire. Elliot, 25 years old, was serving as the team’s backup goalie over stretches of the three seasons. In his first shot to start regularly, Elliot thrived and was a major factor in the Senators' surprising success last season. Unfortunately, he struggled in the playoffs, opening the door for a training camp competition sure to be the talk of the Ottawa media.
Leclaire was a major disappointment last season and needs to build on his strong performance in the final two playoff games. He also needs to play well to ensure his ability to get another multi-year contract so expect a high level of focus missing during stretches of this season.
Elliott can improve and so can Leclaire. Add goaltending to the burgeoning list of things that can go right for this team next season.
Another potential story to follow is the Senators' potential flood of cap room going into next offseason. This space can be leveraged to help them acquire talent from teams looking to acquire expiring contracts if they are in the playoff hunt. However, if they were to start slow and be on the outside looking in, the Senators could become sellers at the deadline and then make a huge splash next offseason.
What a swerve! It's almost better than the elevator shootout scene from The Departed. Just when I thought that the context of this article was Ottawa's dark hore status in 2010-2011, I can start looking forward to 2012. Amazing! This author is just brimming with optimism.
With the veterans ready to rebound and the young guns ready to take the next step, the Senators are in a good spot to make a deep run next season. A serious run that will be fueled by off-the-ice forces, contracts and new marriages (Mike Fisher), and the chemistry building on the ice. So feel good about picking this team as a sleeper for the Cup.
The Senators organization needs to immediately change this year's slogan from My Town, My Team to New Marriages, New Season.
With the discussion leaning towards expected point production, it's only fair to plug Sportsnet's Chris Nichols latest fantasy hockey column since he spends a significant portion of it covering some Senators players like Kovalev, Erik Karlsson, and Elliott/Leclaire. (Ed. note: Plus he has the added benefit of having a sweet last name.)
For the past few weeks, the struggle to find pertinent and entertaining Senators news stories has reminded me of last summer's Dany Heatley situation. Like an honest Heatley explanation, nothing seems to be forthcoming. Unless yesterday's news that Rick Wamsley has been hired as the team's new goaltending coach quenches your thirst for Senators information. (Ed. note: Frankly, it saddens me. That's not to say that I have anything against the guy who's best known for being a throw in in that infamous Douggie Gilmour to Toronto trade. It's just that with Wamsley's hiring, it essentially puts an end to the John Stevenson Bad Hair Era in Ottawa. RIP - July 28th, 2010.)
In a one-sport town like Ottawa it's been unquestionably difficult to fill the pages and appease this city's hockey starved fanatics. It's the days like these that really makes me wonder whether this offseason has been one of the worst from a coverage perspective in team history. If last summer was the Summer of Heatley, this year it's the Summer of Refurbished Associated Press Clippings. The same mundane stories seem to get recirculated from the mainstream media, to the forums and alternative media websites. When much of the offseason focus is drawn towards the incumbent fourth liners and the prospects who are trying to push them for a roster spot, it's no wonder that stories like the Jason Spezza trade request and Fisher/Underwood are getting so much run. There's simply not that much else to discuss...
It's for this reason that it has become clear that in retrospect, last summer's Heatley saga came as a blessing in disguise. No, not for the fans who had to endure watching their city and franchise have their images be dragged through the mud by a selfish malcontent who refused to leave the comfort of his Kelowna home. Thanks to the powers of social networking, the internet and the general dickheadedness of most (if not all) Maple Leaf fans, we had to endure the wrath and teasing that comes naturally when a star player wants to leave the market. And after years of watching the likes of Chara, Hossa, Havlat, Heatley and Randy Robitaille leave, Sens fans have justifiably been very sensitive about having Ottawa labelled as a city where no one wants to play.
So although this summer's been generally devoid of drama and storylines, fans should be loving it. However, for the writers or anyone who attempts to cover this team on a consistent basis, it's been agonizing. I miss the fact that last summer, for every day and in seemingly every publication, there was some content worthy of discussion.
Thankfully, with each passing day, we're this much closer to the start of training camp. And with the official announcement that Kurt Kleinendorst has taken over the head coaching duties for the Binghamton Senators, everything seems set. The roster and the coaching staffs are in place. \(Ed. note: And if you needed further evidence that the hockey season is almost here, Twitter fiend, Dany Heatley Speedwagon has demonstrated that he can write more than 140 characters.)
With everything lined up, perhaps there's no better opportunity to present my list of 20 reasons to be excited about the Senators for the 2010/11 season.
Without further ado...
1) Milan Michalek's ACL
It's not often that someone would get excited about the return of a player coming off major knee surgery. However, Milan's no ordinary player. He stated this week that he has resumed skating and he firmly believes that he will be ready for the start of training camp. What makes matters interesting is that Milan had a hard time skating on two legs last season. Whenever he would carry the puck into the offensive zone, he had a tendency to inexplicably fall on his own accord. Imagine what he can do on one leg? The combination of unintentional comedy and frustration that will come from Milan's return is going to be off the charts. I can't wait.
2) Contract Years
With their contracts set to expire on July 1st , 2011. The trio of Alexei Kovalev, Chris Phillips and Pascal Leclaire are headed towards important seasons. In the case of Phillips, he'll be counted upon to be a steadying presence on the blueline. Will the loss of his former defensive partner - Anton Volchenkov - to free agency adversely affect him? Will he be able to transition smoothly to his new partner? Will he take a hometown discount to remain a lifelong Senator?
Given the circumstances, many will lazily look at Kovalev's impending unrestricted free agent status and say something along the lines of, "He's a Russian entering a contract year. Of course he'll be better this season." Looking past his free agent status, a deeper look at Kovalev's numbers reveal some consistency. In four of the past five seasons, Kovalev has put up a varying 65, 84, 65 and 49 total points. However, in these same seasons he's produced 32, 35, 31 and 35 even strength points respectively.If the addition of Sergei Gonchar can help return Kovalev to his previous power play point norms, there's reason to assume that he can turn into the prominent power play specialist that this team needs. And if he doesn't, whatever. He's gone at the end of the year anyways and management can use the $5 million in cap savings to improve the team.
Between his performance against the Penguins in the Stanley Cup quarterfinals and the aforementioned hiring of Rick Wamsley, I may have some naive beliefs that he can return to the form that he once exhibited during that one glorious season in Columbus. Naturally, this belief will leave me once Leclaire inevitably hits the IR for the first time this year with some minor injury. Regardless, this season may be one of Leclaire's final opportunities to establish that he can be a reliable number one starter in the league.
3) Chris Kelly's Hockey IQ
I have to admit, I'm never going to be the president for the Ottawa chapter of the Chris Kelly fanclub. Mainly for the reason that his IQ, much like Mike Fisher's heavy shot or Wade Redden's first pass, is vastly overstated. It's just one of those things that the mainstream media love to talk about. I call it the Gord Wilson effect. I can't help but feel like almost every NHL team has a checking line center like him. Or maybe the over saturation of the topic has made me take his hockey mensa for granted. Regardless, he deserves some sort of credit for carrying Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Neil to one of their most productive seasons ever.
Which leads me to...
4) Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu
Gritty. An unnerving ability to get under the skin of their oppenents. These two third liners have a lot in common. Yet, despite these similarities, these players have some important differences. For one thing, Chris Neil never has any idea for why he is the recipient of a penalty call. Every call against Neil ends with the infamous Chris Neil Penalty Face. (Ed. note: A mixed look of incredulty and confusion. Like he just found out that he made a terrible financial investment. The result? Priceless.) Ruutu, on the other hand, often heads off to the box smiling. Proud of what the referee didn't see him do. On the ice, you know exactly what you're going to get from Neil -- veteran leadership and those raising the roof gestures that come after each one of fights on home ice. With Ruutu, you never know what he's capable of doing out there. Whether he's biting fingers or inciting Adam Mair, I wonder how Luke Richardson lives with himself knowing that it's a joke that Ottawa has to protect Ruutu all season long.
5) A Fixed Power Play
For anyone who watched the majority of the team's games last season, one of the most frustrating things to watch was the ineptitude of the power play. (Ed. note: Or Ryan Shannon's inability to put the puck in the net.) With a 16.9% success rate, the Senators finished the season tied for the 22nd worst rate in the league. There's some hope that the continued development of Erik Karlsson and the inclusion of Gonchar can dramatically improve matters. If not, maybe Greg Carvel, who has exhibited an uncanny OJ Simpson'esque ability to escape judgment, will eventually be held accountable.
6) More Carrie Underwood
...because I could totally dig more Don Brennan Sun exclusives.
7) The Media
Ah, the local media. The bane of many a Sens fan's existence. Case in point: The Ottawa Sun's sports editor, Tim Baines, felt compelled to write this entry on his own blog in response to the criticisms that his newspaper received over the course of this summer. (Ed. note: Thank you to whomever felt compelled to plug our podcasts in Tim Baines' comment section.) In some circles, the the media members of this fair city are portrayed as villains for some of the stories and angles that they sometimes pursue. Is it fair? Probably not but I do get a kick out of it.
8) Eugene Melnyk
Last season, The Euge criticized Jim Balsillie for the way that he tried to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and get into the NHL's version of the gentleman's club. The season before he encouraged anybody that says we should blow up this organization should get their own bomb and blow themselves up.
It all begs the question: What will The Euge say this season?
9) Mike Fisher
If Mike was a NFL player, he's likely the kind of toolsy player who would have seen his draft stock soar during the combine workouts that take place before the Entry Draft. Size and speed? Mike has both. Strength? Fish has it in spades. The Wonderlic test? He somehow managed to wheel Carrie Underwood. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt here.
Unfortunately, Mike's never been able to put it all together. He's forever been a tease of talent. It's the reason why Bryan Murray gave him that big contract following the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals. Like Murray, we all expected him to get better and get to that 30 goal and 60 point thresholds that he should be capable of. Take last year for example, Mike had set himself up to shatter his previous high in points. (Albeit, he still did post career marks.) Early in the year, the game had slowed down for him. He was holding onto the puck that extra split-second and allowed himself to make the smarter and better play. However, towards the latter stages of the season, he reverted into that robotic player that we've all grown accustomed to. You know, the one who skates down the wing as quickly as possible. Then he puts everything into his shot. Which almost always misses high and wide. Without skipping a beat, Fish skates into the corner to retrieve the puck and either hits the defenceman with as much force as possible to create a turnover or chases the puck possesor down the length of the ice... and repeat.
Every year I keep thinking that maybe this will be the year that Mike breaks out. Fortunately if he doesn't, there's always next year.
10) Peter Regin
Without any leverage, Regin essentially had to come to terms with what management was offering before his arbitration hearing. Inked to a two-year, $1 million per annum deal, we can now enjoy the next two years knowing that we have a cost effective offensive contributor who can play on the top line. Will Regin be able to continue the play that he exhibited in the playoffs? Will his highlight reel goals translate into more production? Regardless, he's the best homegrown offensive forward that this organization has drafted since Jason Spezza.
The captain's point production has dropped for the third consecutive season, but that doesn't mean he's done. As the consummate team player, when he's not contributing on the ice, he's ensuring that Erik Karlsson is tucked in past past bedtime. Am I concerned that his willingness to play through significant injuries (Ed. note: like last year's sports hernia) will take its toll? Absolutely, but that doesn'tmean that I'm not going to stop tuning in to watch him play.
12) The Eastern Conference
Has anyone else noticed that the rest of the Eastern Conference hasn't really improved much? Besides the expected improvements from young teams that are building from within (Ed. note: the Isles, Lightning, the Leafs and to a lesser extent, Atlanta.), no team in the East has resolved the question marks that stemmed from last season. Philadelphia still lacks a goalie. Washington's roster is riddled with flakes. Pittsburgh continues to surround its number one center with two bad wingers that makes Ottawa's old Ministry of Offence line look good by comparison.
13) An Offensive Blueline
"It’s great to block shots but I would like the other team to block shots. And you do that by having the puck, helping your forwards get the attack going and by being creative, particularly from the (defence)." ~ Bryan Murray
Gone are the physical prowess and shot blocking ability of Anton Volchenkov and Andy Sutton. I'm sure at some point this season, I'm going to miss their qualities. However, I can tell you right now, I'm not going to miss them doing their best Omar Khadr impersonations and pass the puck around like it's a grenade.
In their place, an emphasis has been placed on a quick puck moving style that should help facilitate the transition game. Sergei Gonchar and a healthy Filip Kuba will assume A-Train and Sutton's roster spots. Add in growth and maturity of Erik Karlsson, who's entering his sophomore year, can only help. (Ed. note: Please no sophomore slump. Please no sophomore slump. Please no sophomore slump.)
Although this summer's moves do leave the team a little light in the grit and physicality department, it's indicative that Bryan Murray and the rest of the braintrust feel that it's cheaper and easier to acquire a defensively inclined blueliner than it is to overpay to retain the services of Volchenkov and Sutton. Whether this philosophical change will positively impact the team's success on the ice, remains to be seen, however, this change in direction of the blueline has me intrigued. At the very least, there should be hope that this new up-tempo style will translate into a more entertaining style that sees the team score more goals. And if it doesn't, the blame will lie directly on management's shoulders.
14) December 2nd
Sometimes it's a little hard to believe that we cared this much about a player who plays the game like he's the right-winger on a table top hockey game. Skating in straight lines. Avoiding the corners. Useless once the puck is out of the offensive zone. Dany Heatley, what a beaut. It's weird how when he left, it struck me that for a player who lit the lamp quite as frequently as he did, we never really knew a thing about this guy. Players like Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, Chris Phillips, Marian Hossa... I feel like I know these guys and what they're all about. With Heatley, I never had the same connection. As the December 2nd date approaches, the amount of animosity and media coverage is going to be incredible. And that's before we experience the crowd reactions and the game outcome. Hopefully he's healthy enough to play when the time comes around.
15) Filip Kuba
If Filip Kuba were on the dating market, he'd clearly be in the friend zone. He's not the kind of player who you're going to lose a lot of sleep over if he leaves town. (And for good reason.) Despite his relative size (6'4", 226 lbs.), he rarely asserts himself physically against the opposition. Instead, he relies upon strong positioning and he can best be described as one of those players who does things well but nothing exceptionally well. He's the kind of player who people can often take for granted very easily. He's like a third or fourth starter in a baseball rotation. A Jeff Suppan if you will. He may never be a flashy or dominating player, but at least you can count on Kuba to log meaningful minutes on the second pairing without it really ever hurting the team.
16) Jason Spezza
With Jason Spezza, there's always a littany of factors surrounding him. Take last offseason for example when I predicted that by trading Dany Heatley, Jason's dependency on his right-winger would diminish and cause him to develop into a more complete and dynamic center that this team needed. As Ottawa's highest paid player, expectations are always exceedingly high for the number one center. Will he be able to make the players around him better? Will he stop overthinking and investing so much energy into wondering how he is portrayed and focus more on hockey? If he can avoid the nagging back injuries that have plagued him, can he put together his best season? Can he do all of this while everyone's holding their collective breath until the first instance when Jason turns the puck over to see how the fans and media react? Will they come down on him harshly? Or will some early season success create a groundswell of support that could push a Keep Spezza Rally to over 15 gatherers? Now that his NTC is in full effect, how Jason handles the criticisms moving foward is paramount to this team's future success.
So for a player who so desperately wants to be the man, Spezza has a real opportunity here. If he can put all of these distractions behind him and become the player that we all expect him to be (Ed. note: Stevie Yzerman. Hello!), he can forever change his reputation. If he can't and decides to follow in the footsteps of Dany Heatley, he would simply be reinforcing the stereotypes that have plagued him his entire career. Either way, I'll be watching.
17) Bryan Murray
Regardless of how you feel about Ottawa's general manager, you can't deny that he can surprise you with a trade or signing. Unfortunately, like most NHL GMs, his transactions have come with some mixed results. Although it'll be some time before we can properly evaluate whether or not it was prudent to move high draft picks for the likes of Chris Campoli, Mike Comrie, Andy Sutton and Matt Cullen, the acquisition of David Rundblad already looks like it's paying dividends. Considering that the player who St. Louis drafted with Ottawa's 16th overall selection, Vladimir Tarasenko, has apparently signed a contract to play in the KHL.
Even if you can't overlook some of Murray's mistakes, it's difficult to ignore the fact that through some strong drafts and some inexpensive collegiate free agents, on paper, this is the best collection of depth that the Senators have seen at the professional level (Ed. note: both NHL and AHL) in years.
18) The Cupboard Is Full
With the amount of depth and prospects who are on the cusp of cracking the big squad's roster, one of the most prevalent stories heading into camp is the expectation that the likes of Patrick Wiercioch, Bobby Butler, Roman Wick, Jared Cowen, Robin Lehner, Eric Gryba, David Hale, Corey Locke and Cody Bass (Ed. note: remember him?) will push some of the incumbent veterans. (Ed. note: And who knows? Maybe Jim O'Brien will make an appearance.)
Like in every season, injuries are bound to occur. But unlike in years past, we no longer have to worry about filling the void with John Muckler remnants like Josh Hennessy.
As an aside, I'm excited about the possibility that Jared Cowen could make a case for himself at camp. By all accounts, he had a strong rookie development camp and now that's he's more than a year removed from his ACL surgery. Prior to his injury, he had the pedigree of being an expected top five draft selection and now that he's had a summer to do the proper strength and conditioning on his healthy knee, more should be expected of him. With Chris Campoli having signed a one-year contract, a defenceman roster spot is only being kept warm for him.
19) Cory Clouston
With any coach, you're going to have your armchair cynics. It's not uncommon to find fans who critique his constant line juggling or the handling of the goaltenders. But you can't ignore Clouston's results. Since being promoted to the head coaching position, he has gotten them. Even in light of last year's injuries and the loss of a two-time 50-goal scorer, Clouston managed to lead his club to a 5th place finish in the Eastern Conference. With any luck, he'll have Ottawa competing for the Northeast Division crown.
20) ...Because There's Nothing Else to Talk About?
We live in Ottawa. What else is there to get excited about? Public transportation? A new mayoral election? The return of CFL football? Help me out here.
Written today by Michael Sharp on Sharp on the Sens,
On Aug. 23, I will begin my new job writing for and editing magazines in the publications department of the Humane Society of the United States. It's the right move for me at this time, and I'm looking forward to the new challenges it will present. It's always been a goal of mine to someday return home to the greater Washington area, closer to my family, and I was excited to find an opportunity there that allows me to continue both writing and covering a subject that I'm passionate about.
On behalf of everyone at The 6th Sens, I just wanted to take the time to congratulate Michael Sharp on his new job position. Through his work, Michael kept us informed with what was going on down on the farm and he even took the time to make an appearance on one of our podcast episodes. I would like to take this time to wish Michael all of the best moving forward with his new pursuits.
Considering how well the Ottawa Sun's Digital Rountable has gone, it's with a tepid enthusiasm that I welcome you to the first of monthly SenShot, Peter Raaymakers from the Silver Seven, SLC from Five for Smiting and myself. Each month, one of these aforementioned people will choose five questions for the panelists to answer and this month, it was Bobby's turn.blog roundtables featuring Bobby Zijiac (Alabama Panda) from
Viewer Warning: None of the following was made while operating a motor vehicle and yelling obscenities at a female driver.
Yeah... here it is.
1.Give me your delayed reaction on thesigning? Fair or foul? Do you like the contract or do you think it's too long for a person of that age?
Peter, Silver Seven: I still like the Sergei Gonchar signing. Is it longer term than I'd like? Yeah. Is it more expensive than I'd like? Yeah. But Gonchar was one of the best offensive defencemen in the league last season, so I think it's a risk worth taking. Even with some decline in his abilities, Gonchar can still provide--and he should definitely give us a huge powerplay boost. It's tough to predict who he'll be playing with, but he'll most certainly teacha lot about controlling a powerplay in the NHL, and that will be great for the kid's development (especially after we saw last season that Karlsson isn't a defensive liability, either). It does concern me that I'm using many of the same justifications for the Gonchar signing as I did for the signing a year ago, but not too much.
SLC, Five for Smiting: My delayed reaction to the Gonch is pretty much the same as my immediate reaction: Um...yay? His (potential) impact on Karlsson's learning curve makes me absolutely moist not to mention the instant upgrade to the PP. BUT...I can't help but worry about the overall softness of the D now that A-Train and Sutton (apparently) are gone. It's all well and good for The Bryan to say "I want other teams to block our shots for a change", but I have this recurring nightmare ofor turning 55 into a long red smear on the forecheck before playing keep-away for ten minutes. My head says this was an awesome signing (if one year too long). My gut says one of the kids Pete mentions damn well better make the team out of camp to add some testicular fortitude, or we're screwed. I can't help it. It's Pavlovian.
Bobby, SenShot: For me, signing a top flight offensive defenseman was Bryan Murray's top priority all along. He was able to snatch the best one on the market by the name of Sergei Gonchar. Although I'm a tad bit frightened with his defensive play in the Montreal series, his contract is understandable and he should be able to earn every penny of it. Watch out for Gonch and Alex Kovalev next year on the Power Play.
Graeme, The 6th Sens: For all of the power play inefficiencies for the past few seasons, I'm surprised that Gonchar's addition hasn't been more well received by the Ottawa faithful. Whether or not you feel that the contract may have been one year too long for a player of Gonchar's age, it was a necessary evil that ensured that he'd leave a Conference rival to sign in Ottawa. And at $5.5 million per annum, it's fair dollar for a player who is going to be playing top pairing minutes.2. What are your thoughts on the contract?
Peter: I'm happy with the Chris Campoli signing, though. It's a little more than I was expecting, but I really liked what I saw from Campoli towards the end of last season and into the playoffs, and it's such a short contract that it just gives us an opportunity to see if his hernia-ridden season last year wasn't an indication of his potential. It's a small price to pay (relatively speaking) to find out what we gave up a first-round draft pick for. And he's still a restricted free agent after this season, anyway.
SLC: Now that the deal is done, I can say absolutely and without doubt or prejudice that Murray overpaid. $1.4M for a small, relatively soft (see?? DING! Told ya. Can't help it) kid with a decent if not great first pass is too much and sure as hell not worth the first round pick we gave up to get him. Frankly, I wouldn't have been all that heartbroken to see him walk. That said, the length of the contract should tell us something about Murray's intentions and/or true faith in Campoli. May as well make the cheque payable to "Dude keeping the seat warm for".
Bobby: Chris Campoli has never found that "something" that Bryan Murray traded a first-round pick for. However, I like this signing because it's only one-year and for a guy like Camper $1.4 million is at most reasonable. However, I'm not as excited as I was with the Foligno and Regin signings.
Graeme: From questioning whether or not it was prudent to move a 1st round pick in a deal for Chris Campoli and, to questioning whether or not he's even worthy of having a Senators' blogosphere roundtable question devoted to him, it's funny how far Campoli's stock has fallen. Having signed a $1.4 million deal, I can live with the fact that he's inevitably keeping the seat warm until one of Ottawa's heralded blueline prospects is ready to make the jump.
3. The off-season has surrounded thisdrama for the Ottawa Senators. Do you think it was just hardball for Bryan Murray, or did Spezza actually contemplate leaving Ottawa?
Peter: I don't think it was hardball from Bryan Murray, and I don't think it was Jason Spezza genuinely wanting to leave town. I think it was an emotional reaction to the continuing unfair treatment from Senators fans, and it was blown into a huge controversy thanks to some irresponsible and sensationalistic yellow journalism from the Ottawa Sun. I don't think it was ever the big issue that it was presented as. SLC: Oh, for Christ's sake, can we please stop talking about this?? Please? Two worthless gasbag Cox-wannabe typists had so much fun with the Heatley soap opera last summer that they needed something to recapture the contact high of actually being taken seriously during the off season and turned a molehill into the world's biggest ass pimple. I have no doubt Giggles complained to Murray about the booing. I have no doubt Murray listened with a sympathetic ear. And I have no doubt that Murray knew trading a League wide top-ten centre for the equivalent of a bag of pucks and another Cheechoo would cost him his job. Jason isn't, and never was, going anywhere.
Bobby: Personally, if Jason Spezza really wanted to leave Ottawa, he would have asked for a trade. He didn't, though, and that's why I believe Jason is fully committed to winning in Ottawa. The Bryan really just wanted to scour the market for some good offers, but we all know how thetrade came out. You never get fair value for a top-flight forward such as Spezza.
Graeme: The whole Jason Spezza angle has been blown out of proportion. Regrettably, too much of Bryan Murray's private conversation with Spezza became public knowledge. Whether or not you buy into Don Brennan's belief that Bryan Murray's candour was contrived to punish Spezza, I'm inclined to believe that Murray took up Spezza's offer and examined the trade market to see if it'd be beneficial to the organization and it wasn't. It's too bad we can't send this to minors where we can bury non-story like it is Wade Redden's cap hit.
4. Down on the farm team, there should be a huge battle for the No.1 goaltender position betweenand ? Who's your early favourite to win the job?
Peter: I think Mike Brodeur and Robin Lehner will probably split duty in the AHL. Lehner is a blue-chip prospect, and the Senators' brass won't allow him to spend most of the season sitting on the bench. On the other hand, Brodeur is only one year removed from an AHL All-Star season; he won't take kindly to being benched too often, either. If (when?) eitheror sustain an injury, I think it's more likely Brodeur will ride the pine in Ottawa, while Lehner playing top dog in Bingo. If not, they'll probably be 1A and 1B on the farm.
SLC: Unlike Pete (who, I should add, is a much better person than I [Ed. note: Probably not. -PR), I have no qualms about bruising the tender sensibilities of career minor league journeymen. For better or for worse, Gigantor is the (latest) designated franchise saviour for the next ten years, and as such needs as much time and as many games between the pipes in Bingo as he can handle. He's done all he can in junior and letting him ride the pine in the A in order to spare Mike Brodeur's feelings wouldn't be doing the big club any favours down the road. Of course, having said that, Lehner will be given the job, Mike will demand a trade and five years from now he pulls a Timmy Thomas and fries our ass 4-0 in the Final with three shutouts for...say...Edmonton.
Bobby: I would love to see Robin Lehner steal to job under Mike Brodeur's nose, and even though I can't make a prediction before Binghamton gets a new coach, I believe the victor will be Brodeur, but by slim margins. Simply, he has more experience in net and offers more to the team than Lehner will, for now.
Graeme: Interesting battle here. The Golden Swedish Saviour who is destined to end almost two decades of Ottawa goaltending mediocrity or that guy who gets way too much credit for kick-starting Ottawa's 11-game winning streak last season. Ultimately, I expect the two to split the duties evenly as the new Binghamton coach tries to balance winning now with putting Lehner in the best position to succeed at the NHL-level.
5. Give me your predictions for the rest of the off-season. Will Ottawa sign anyone or trade anyone, or will they stay pat?
Peter: I think Ottawa will stick with their current lineup through the off-season, at least until training camp starts. If Jared Cowen or(or maybe even ) makes waves in camp, I imagine the Senators will probably try to trade one of their defenders (my money's on , although he could still have a good training camp) or perhaps even waive someone, similar to what happened with at the beginning of last season.
SLC: With everybody under contract, I'd have to say what you see is what you get, barring any truly mind blowing revelations coming out of camp (and even then, there are too many one way contracts on the roster to make even that a possibility...go ahead, tell me whyshouldn't be replaced by ). I'll go with Pete here and put Lee in slot 1 and 1a on the trading block.
But at the end of the day, when you think about it most of the arguments around next year's team revolve around fourth line wingers and sixth D-men. And that's a pretty awesome problem to be having, isn't it? Damn. Drop the puck already.
Bobby: I'm in the belief that Ottawa still needs to sign one more Top-Nine Forward, but with the recent re-signings, they only have less than $2 million left in cap room, which isn't good enough. So, they won't get anyone on the free-agent market, but I could see them clearing some space on D and move a guy like Brian Lee or even.
Graeme: My prediction for the rest of the offseason? No more moves, unless they're of the 2-way contract variety. It looks as though management wants to retain as many assets as they can until camp starts to promote the whole competition from within philosophy. Unlike in years passed, the depth in Ottawa means that there aren't many (if any) roster spots up for grabs. I'm hoping this leads to an incredibly competitive camp that sees some of Ottawa's heralded prospects seize the opportunity and push the veterans. And even if some of the blue-chippers can't crack the opening day lineup, the competition to be the first emergency call up should be intriguing sub-plot to the season.