With the Stanley Cup Playoffs finally upon us, it's time for the first of what I hope will be many playoff previews for the Ottawa Senators this spring. Time to break it down!
Too bad it happened to his knee and not the gamesheet.
The Ottawa Sun is reporting that Alexei Kovalev is done for the year with a torn ACL in his left knee. This means a few things for the immediate future. Right away Senators fans can set aside all doubts that Kovalev will not show up in big playoff games. That's one less thing for everyone to discuss going into the playoffs. This also has ramifications for the (almost) annual playoff tradition of nit-picking, finger pointing and scapegoating which was sure to have Kovalev at the centre of it this year. The cynics and the news writers will have to find a new target this year because we won't be able to kick around ol' Alex anymore this year. Maybe not ever. It's certainly reasonable to assume this injury will represent a crossroads for his career. At age 37 overcoming such a severe injury will be no easy feet. As we saw with Jason Smith last season these things have a way of making one sit back and look at their options. *I'm the furthest thing from an authority on sports injuries so I called a friend in the medical profession to ask how bad a complete tear of the ACL was. After asking for a lamens terms explanation her response was "It's brutal, just absolutley brutal." I'm sure there's more than a few jaded fans angry at the aging enigma's mediocre season who have their fingers crossed that this is it for him. You gotta feel for the guy though, after all he's been through this season (you know things aren't great when you even have to address buying a gun) it would have been nice to see what he could do on a big stage when the games mattered most. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Ottawa's Lap Dogs (44-26-10) vs. Daniel Alfredsson Love Fest PT I (44-31-6)
Scotiabank Place, Kanata Ont. (aka in a city which does not use Cheese Whiz as a chaser for Broken Down Golf Cart shot.
TV: You better be close to one tonight! Game time is 7p.m - "I went to a hockey game last night and a big ceremony broke out"
Here's what I wrote for the Citizen Prediction Panel.
Senators 5, Sabres 2
Games such as this one do not happen every night nor do they happen every year. The Senators will be playing in front of a spirited crowd who came because they heard it was giveaway t-shirt night. The Sens will be looking to celebrate Alfie’s big day with an inspired effort and then head into the playoffs on the right foot. We can forget the usual Ren and Stimpy dynamic the Sens have had with Buffalo this season and take in a defining night for the franchise.
The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy is an annual award under the trusteeship of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and is given to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. The winner is selected in a poll of all chapters of the PHWA at the end of the regular season.
A grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minn., in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.
Cleghorn was the filthiest player ever. Kneeing, butt-ends, high sticks to the face, purposeful cutting with skate blades, ramming guys faces into the boards. He beat up Lionel Hitchman so viciously that Cleghorn's OWN manager suspended him over it. One night he beat the snot out of Newsy Lalonde (no pushover himself) so badly that people in attendance thought that Lalonde was dead, laying on the ice. This is a guy that had to be snuck into arenas to avoid angry mobs.
Cleghorn even beat his own wife with his crutches after he broke his leg in 1918. THAT's dirty. Samuelsson was well known for low hits, but didn't go nearly as a far as Cleghorn enjoyed going.
If there's any good side to a nutjob like Cleghorn, it's that he was a phenomenal offensive player. Most people have never heard of him, but he was truly great, though violent.
Born in the upscale Westmount area of Montreal, Cleghorn had a hall of fame career but was regarded as one of the dirtiest players of his era. He played on Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1920, 1921 and 1924.
In 1909–10, Cleghorn began his career with the New York Wanderers, becoming a professional with Renfrew of the National Hockey Association (NHA) the next season. He then played for the Montreal Wanderers for six seasons. In the NHL, he played defence for the Ottawa Senators from 1918 to 1920. In an attempt at league parity, the NHL transferred him to the Hamilton Tigers in December 1920, but Cleghorn refused to report. The Senators asked that he be allowed to return to their team. George Kennedy, owner of the Montreal Canadiens, threatened to have Ottawa thrown out of the league. Cleghorn eventually signed with Toronto, but was released in March after the St. Pats lost their play-off and he signed with Ottawa during the playoffs in time to be a member of the 1921 Stanley Cup-winning team.
The league transferred Cleghorn to Hamilton in 1921, and again he refused to go. Just before the start of the 1921–22 NHL season, Sprague was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Harry Mummery and Amos Arbour. He played four seasons in Montreal and after the 1924–25 NHL season, was purchased by the Boston Bruins for $5,000. Sprague played his final three seasons in the NHL with Boston (1925 to 1928). He then moved to the minor-league Newark Bulldogs (1928–29) as a player-coach. Later, he coached the CAHL Providence RedsMontreal Maroons (1931–32). He later coached the Pittsburgh Shamrocks of the International Hockey League (1935–36) and the Cornwall Cougars of the Quebec league (1947–48). (1930–31) and NHL
Even in an era of rough play, Cleghorn was notorious for being among the dirtiest of the lot, and ranked amongst the league leaders in penalty minutes for nine of the first ten seasons of the NHL's history. In 1923, Cleghorn hit Ottawa Senators player Lionel Hitchman in the head with his stick. Charged with aggravated assault, Cleghorn was found guilty and fined $50.
Hold on, it's time to consult the checklist here:
- Charged with aggravated assault stemming from an on-ice incident. Bad on-ice behaviour. Check.
- Hit wife with his crutches and refused to be transferred to other teams. Douchebag off of the ice. Check.
- A Hockey Hall of Famer who predates most dirtiest player ever conversations. Check.
I think we have a winner for the reverse Masterton name rights and as a bonus, he played for the Ottawa Senators. Armed with this knowledge, I had to consult what possibly is the worst book ever written about the Ottawa Senators -- The Ottawa Senators: The Best Players and the Greatest Games authored by J. Alexander Poulton -- to see if there is any mention of Cleghorn. (Ed. note: This book can be purchased at Chapters for under $10. Upon completion, it should be used with kindling to start a fire.)
Fortunately, a few paragraphs were devoted to Cleghorn:
The 1921-22 regular season ... was a fairly uneventful season for the Senators, except for the brief reunion with Sprague Cleghorn. After the 1921 Cup victory, the Ottawa Senators unceremoniously dropped Cleghorn from their roster, preferring to go with younger talent such as King Clancy. A natural force on the ice, Cleghorn did not have to wait long before being picked up by the Montreal Canadiens where he was teamed up with his brother Odie, but Cleghorn still held a grudge against his former team. Cleghorn declared war on the Senators, and when they met again for the first time on February 1, 1922, he was out for blood.
Cleghorn did little to hide his contempt for his former club after the puck was dropped. He started by viciously checking Senators captain Eddie Gerard and then slashing him on the head, opening up a cut above Gerard's eye that required five stitches to close. A short while later, Cleghorn set his sights on Ottawa's top scorer, Cy Denneny, and gave him a nasty cut above the eye that spurted blood all over the ice. Not yet satisfied, Cleghorn set his sights on the Sens' Frank Nighbor. Cleghorn got his chance when Nighbor had the puck in the corner with his back to the play. Cleghorn rushed into the corner and slammed Nighbor down to the ice, landing on his elbow hard enough that Nighbor couldn't play the rest of the game. Cleghorn had single-handedly removed three of the Senators' best players from the match. Ottawa police on hand that night offered to arrest Cleghorn and make him spend the night in jail for his obvious assault on the Senators players, but the referees persuaded the police to let the NHL handle its own discipline. For his offences, Sprague Cleghorn received a match penalty, a warning from the league president Frank Calder and a $15 fine.
A match penalty, a warning and a $15 fine? Apparently the NHL's discipline committee hasn't changed much in the past 90 seasons.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you the Sprague Cleghorn Trophy, your reverse Masterton. Can I get some nominees please?
- Switch the flag atop the Parliament Buildings to a Swedish flag.
- Some kind of furniture discount at Ikea.
- At City Hall, Subway will donate free meatball subs to all those in attendance.
- Dalhousie, the street that features the Swedish embassy, should be temporarily named to support number eleven. Plus, this measure would also help confuse a number of hos who frequent the Byward Market.
- Don't expect the City of Ottawa to pony up and reward everyone with a commemorative t-shirt.
- Pub Italia needs to add some Swedish beer to their infamous Beer Bible for consumption on this festive occasion.
I just received an off the record tip via email. According to it, Jared Cowen will play make his regular season NHL debut against the Tampa Bay Lightning. God rumours are fun!
There has been some expressed concern that a year could be burned off Cowen's contract if he does play tomorrow. As far as I can tell, it can't based off of what I've read off of NHLSCAP.com:
A player’s ELC may be extended for three reasons:
1. If a player age 18 or 19 signs an SPC and does not play at least ten (10) NHL games in the first season, his contract will extend for one (1) year.
2. If a player age 18 signs an SPC and his contract is extended as above, and in the 2nd year does not play at least ten (10) NHL games, his contract will extend for one (1) additional year.
3. If a player fails to give his playing services called for under his SPC [except as a result of injury, illness, or disability] while in the Entry-Level System, his contract will extended while he fails to offer those services.
It's important to note that under the first stipulation by definition, NHL games isn't exclusive to the regular season. More than 10 games accrued during the regular season and playoffs will burn a year off of Jared Cowen's entry-level contract.
(Image done by one of our readers, Alan)
It's such a cliched Simmons thing to do, but since last night's game was one of the special variety, I figured that it would be a good opportunity to do a running diary of the events. Here we go:
7:00pm: Sportsnet opens the game with Ian Mendes voicing over an Alfredsson montage. We get the first of what I expect to be many Jofa helmet sightings.
7:01pm: Once the montage ends, we're treated to a recorded video featuring former Senators assistant coach Craig Ramsey. With these sort of things, it's usually the message that matters but with Ramsay's nose leaking faster than the Philadelphia Flyers' ship, I was too distracted to comprehend a word that he said.
7:07: The horrifically bad Canadian Blood Services ad starring Chris Kelly is run for the first time. The over/under for the number of times that it runs tonight is 4.5.
7:08: Pascal Leclaire is revealed to be the starting goaltender for the Senators. Insert barb about So much for trying to win one for Alfie here.
7:10: When Cory Clouston arrived in Ottawa, one of the first things that he preached was that good practice habits will resurface when it comes time to actually play the game. Nathan Horton helped reaffirm this notion by pushing the puck toward the net like it was the Panthers assistant coach, Mike Kitchen.
7:15: An ad airs that features a faux, panning crowd shot while the A Recharge with Chocolate Milk graphic is overlayed over top. The reason I know that it's not the actual crowd being shown in the commercial is because of the absorbitantly high number of people in the seats.
7:16: I notice the Foligno, Fisher, Kovalev line for the first time. This newly created line of struggling Senators forwards needs a nickname. One Twitter follower suggested the FFK (pronounced fffffffffffffffk) Line because that's the sound she makes whenever Kovalev makes a ghastly play. Me? I'm partial to the Secondary Snoring line.
7:18: Bryan McCabe takes a 4 minute double-minor for high sticking Mike Fisher in the eye. It looks as though Fisher's having difficulty seeing because of the blood that's trickling into his eye and blurring his vision. Garry Galley questions whether or not the referees will force Fish to go to the bench and get repairs. Judging by his body language, Fish really wants to stay out there. If Fisher scores on this power play and shakes off his slump by playing with one eye, I immediately propose that he plays the rest of the season wearing an eyepatch.
7:20: Ottawa sends out a second power play unit of Kovalev, Regin, Foligno, Campoli and Phillips.
7:22: The Panthers successfully kill all four minutes of the power play. Gee, I wonder why.
7:33: Apparently WWE's Smackdown! is coming to Ottawa. Is it wishful thinking that Jonathan Cheechoo gets put through a table so Ottawa can get that contract off of the books?
7:34: Dean Brown just referred to the area outside of the goalie trapezoid as the forbidden zone. Funny, I thought the forbidden zone was the area where Mike Fisher wears his chastity belt.
7:39: The Senators are back on the power play. I have to say, regardless of whether or not they score, watching Karlsson and Alfredsson feed off of each other with the man advantage is one of the most entertaining things that the Senators have going for them. It's uncanny how they seem to know where each other are on the ice. It's not unlike the chemistry that the Sedin twins have. It's like they have ESP or something -- Extra-Swedish-Perception. And Mike Fisher scores giving Alfredsson career point 990.
7:59: After enjoying my free MLB preview on Bell, I tune back in for the start of the second period. If this bothers you that I didn't tune in for the Hockey Central panel, you'll have to understand. I try to stay as far away from Doug MacLean as possible. Besides, I got the added bonus of watching my keeper league stud, Matt Wieters hit a home run.
8:07: Erik Karlsson scores his 5th of the season to put the Senators ahead 2-0.
8:17: After Florida scores to cut the deficit to one, Keith Ballard attempts to swat a loose puck that's in the air away from the vicinity of the Florida goal but inadvertently gloves the puck into his own net. You have to hand it to the guy, he's got a knack for making the hockey highlight reels in an unconventional fashion. Given credit for the goal, Chris Neil registers a Gordie Howe hat-trick. In other words, for one night, that four-year $8M deal look as bad as it used to.
8:22: More Alfredsson trivia from Sportsnet: The last Senators player to wear number eleven was Evgeny Davydov. I remember my father coming home from one Brian Smith Charity Golf Tournament after he had been put in a foursome with Davydov and Dmitri Filimanov. He kept complaining about how the players couldn't speak a word of English. I guess things balanced themselves out the next year when he played with Dean Brown in the SCRAMBLE!!!
8:34: Another video featuring some current NHL'ers who are discussing Alfredsson. Brind'Amour, Ray Whitney and Chris Pronger make appearances. The appearances of Brind'Amour and Pronger both illicit the same "Ugh." reactions from me but with completely different connotations.
8:40: It's the second intermission and the Hockey Central panel is discussing prospective playoff opponents for the Senators and begin debating which team -- Pittsburgh or New Jersey -- is a better first round match up for the Senators. John Shannon is scared by the fact that Ottawa didn't score one single goal against the Devils while on the power play this season. John shouldn't give them too much credit. Simply put, Ottawa's power play has been pretty damn bad this season.
8:58: Mike Fisher scores again early in the third period to put the Senators up 4-1. Instead of worrying about the 2 points for the standings, the threat of a blow out quickly shifts my concern to whether the Senators can make out it of this game unscathed by injury in a meaningless game.
9:03: With the Florida Panthers channeling Alexei Kovalev's intensity, Jarkko Ruutu scores the Senators' fifth goal. The Panthers look completely disinterested out there and it should make for a really mundane third period and running diary.
9:27: Senators win 5-2 in Alfie's 1000th game! I was right - the remainder of the diary would be boring once the Panthers mailed it in.
Daniel Alfredsson has never really had a reputation for being the most skilled player in this city. Since his rookie season, Alfie has only finished the regular season as the Ottawa Senators leader in points three times. (Ed. note: This season would be his fourth.) Whether it Yashin, Hossa, Havlat, Heatley or Kovalev, Alfredsson's offensive talents have always drawn fewer accolades than those surrounding him.
While his past and present teammates have enjoyed greater statistical seasons, no other player in the history of this organization has had a more profound impact upon his teammates or fans than Daniel Alfredsson. I have no reservations when I say that Alfredsson is the greatest player that this city has ever known.
It just took awhile for us to realize it.
On a night when Senators fans will celebrate his 1000th career game, it's a tad ironic that I can't recall watching any of the aforementioned skilled players for the first time. But I can vividly remember watching Alfredsson when he suited up for an exhibition game at the Civic Center in September of 1995. Sitting in our seats during the pre-game skate, I can recall my father making an explicit point for me to keep a mindful watch on the two Senators rookies -- Antti Tormanen and Alfredsson. (Ed. note: It should be noted that I do remember Alexei Yashin's first exhibition game in Ottawa but it wasn't for his play. With a bird's eye view from the Civic Center luxury suites, my mother remarked how cute it was that Alexandre Daigle and Yashin had mirrored numbers -- 91 and 19. In retrospect, I should have known right then that neither of their careers would turn out for the better. The 'cute' factor was the kiss of death.)
After Alfredsson had put up a pair of points, I remember leaving the arena via Queen Elizabeth Drive and getting excited talking with my dad about the performance we had just witnessed. As a moment, it stands out just as memorably as watching Alfie win the Calder Trophy later that season as the League's best rookie. It's almost like it's the hidden beauty about looking back on Alfredsson's career, everyone seemingly has their own story about watching number eleven for the first time. And it's not a phenomenon that's exclusive to Senators fans.
Just this past February, Tim and I were fortunate to have our podcast graced by an appearance by the former Senators General Manager, Randy Sexton. When the topic of Alfie was broached, he fondly mentioned that the first time he saw Alfredsson skate at training camp in Arnprior, he knew that he was watching a future Hall of Famer.
Think about that for a second, you have two individuals describing their first Alfie live experience: one from a NHL executive and the other from an adolescent hockey fan. One praising Alfredsson as a future Hall of Famer while the other was reserved enough to describe Alfie only as infinitely better player than his rookie teammate, Antti Tormanen. Had you not known, it's almost hard to believe that the fanboy response didn't emanate from me.
So when Alfredsson won the Calder in 1996, why didn't more fans gravitate towards him like Randy Sexton did? For one thing, the early portion of his NHL career was marred by injuries. Following that 1995-96 season, Alfie played 76, 55, 58, 57, and 68 games for the next five seasons. It also didn't help matters that this city's headlines were often reserved for Alexei Yashin's production and public contract squabbles.
By the time that he had finally rid himself of the injury bug in 2001-02, the Senators had augmented their roster and identity through trades and the NHL Entry Draft. With players like Mike Fisher, Marian Hossa, Wade Redden and Chris Phillips and Martin Havlat, Ottawa's blueprint for success had finally manifested itself. As Ottawa continued to win, Alfredsson was often just seen as one part in the whole. For years, he had developed a dressing room reputation as a leader who set an example for others through his play. Off the ice, he came across the same way. Content just to stay out of the public eye and let his younger teammates enjoy the limelight that came with being a winning team in a Canadian market. Ottawa quickly became regarded by pundits as a model small market franchise that had built itself the right way. (Ed. note: Remember, this was before the days of Eugene Melnyk's financial certainty and the NHL salary cap. Without the finances to buy a winner, Ottawa was at a competitive disadvantage.)
It was this disadvantage that eventually lead to Alfredsson doing the most selfless thing that he could do. With the team on the verge of financial ruin in 2003, the captain deferred the remainder of his salary to allow the team to add some pieces at the trade deadline and improve their odds at a Stanley Cup. Even when his most recent cap friend contract expired, he has continued to embrace his unselfish role. By signing another cap friendly extension and using his own home as a hotel for Erik Karlsson, Alfredsson continues to demonstrate that he's willing to do whatever it takes to make his team and teammates better.
And maybe that's what makes Alfredsson so special. For a franchise that has repeatedly been let down by players over the years -- Yashin, Hasek, Redden vs Chara, and Heatley -- I appreciate watching a player who genuinely looks as though he cares about something other than his statistics, ice-time or paycheque.
So on the night of your 1000th game Daniel Alfredsson, I'd just like to say thanks. Over the course of your career, you've given me more than my fair share of memories that I've relived numerous times with my family, friends and readers. Whether it was watching you live for the first time or watching you score the game winning game goal against the Buffalo Sabres in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, it's been a delight.
Oh, one more thing: I forgot to thank you for drilling that smarmy piece of shit known as Darcy Tucker into the boards. That hit... was superb.no comments