If you were to ask any Senators fan to recall some semblance of a connection between the city of Hartford and the Senators, most would probably answer -- it's the place Wade Redden's career went to die.
While that isn't wrong, Hartford is also where seventeen years ago today, Daniel Alfredsson scored the first of ten career NHL hat-tricks (this number includes two postseason hat-tricks).
With Alexei Yashin staging his own contract holdout, a recurring theme in these "On this Day in Senators History" pieces that I've been writing, Alfredsson tallied three goals on four shots against Sean Burke and the Hartford Whalers; leading the Senators to a 5-0 win over their Northeast Division rivals.
The hat-trick broke an eight-game goalless drought for Alfie; although with one goal and eight points in his first ten games that season, it was not like he was being held off of the scoresheet. If anything, in retrospect, this game probably helped boost his confidence as he tallied five goals in the six games that followed. He would finish the season with 61 points in 82 games.
By adding an assist that night, Alfie's four-point night marked a season high for the Swede; ultimately helping him capture the organization's first major NHL Award -- the Calder Trophy.
As a minor footnote in this story, Don Beaupre beat the odds, recording the second shutout in franchise history with 41-saves, one of the six wins he had in 33 appearances that season. Along with Martin Straka and Bryan Berard, he would eventually be dealt in a three-way Islanders, Leafs deal that netted the Senators Damian Rhodes and Wade Redden.
With the advancement of hockey statistics over the past few years, one of the leaders at the forefront of this movement has been Rob Vollman.
He may be the founder of HockeyAbstract.com, but he is also a founding writer of Hockey Prospectu and a regular contributor to ESPN Insider, NHLnumbers.com and Arctic Ice Hockey. You may remember us having him one our podcast, or you may recall us publishing the Ottawa Senators' Player Usage Charts in a blog article earlier in the year.
Even if you only have a passing interest in the advancement of stats in hockey, at some point, you have invariably come across some of his work.
One of his inventions is the Snepts System that is used to make statistical projections for current NHL players based upon similar historical players.
Peter Regin’s stay in a second-tier Swiss hockey league appears to be over.
The web site for SC Langenthal says Regin’s stay was a temporary one while the team’s leading scorer from the previous year, Jeff Campbell, recovered from a concussion.
Because anytime you have the opportunity to bring a Jeff Campbell (pictured above) back into the fold, you just have to make room. I mean, who wouldn’t want a 5’9” (his hair adds three inches to his height), 170 pounds, Tier II scoring phenom – 20 goals and 57 points in 45 GP – from Hensall, Ontario on their roster?
Whatever the cost, I suppose.
While the lack of lockout negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA will help ensure that Regin will have time to find another European team to catch on with, for him, it’s the latest in a series of setbacks that have plagued him for the past few years. Having only played in 10 games last season and 65 in the past two seasons, being able to get into games and demonstrate that he can be productive and remain healthy, is of the utmost importance to him because of his contract uncertainty with the Senators.
In signing a one-year contract with the Sens this past summer, should the lockout wipe out the entire 2012/13 NHL season, Regin could conceivably enter the offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
For some time, this blog has long been a proponent of Regin’s, so the possibility of watching him leave the organization with his value at its lowest point isn’t particularly appealing.
After a segment involving prospect Mark Borowiecki, Binghamton Senators head coach Luke Richardson made his weekly appearance on Team 1200’s The Drivethis afternoon. For all the dialogue between the hosts and Borowiecki concerning about how many games Richardson played in his NHL career, the only thing that spans longer are the length of Richardson’s interview answers. Not that I’m complaining mind you. For all those years that I had to endure driving to the rink with my dad to catch a game, these interviews more than make up for those Jacques Martin’s ‘Jacques Talk’ pre-game segments featuring Gord Wilson. It’s a refreshing change of pace to listen to a coach who can carry an interview and preserve my interest in what he has to say.
Please note that the full Richardson interview hasn’t been transcribed. To listen to the full interview, you can visit the Team 1200’s Facebook page. Below is just the information that I found to be pertinent. My thoughts are in bold.
Believe it or not, another Russian national has expressed ambivalence towards returning to the NHL stemming from comforts enjoyed in the Motherland.
First there was Alex Ovechkin threatening to stay in the KHL should NHL owners follow through and roll back the salaries of its players. Then there was Sergei Kostitsyn’s acknowledgment that he would not mind the lockout wiping out the entire 2012/13 season, if it meant he could definitively know where he would be spending the remainder of the year.
This time, it’s a member of your Ottawa Senators who is raising some eyebrows. Pick up your pitchforks and torches folks.
The uncertainty surrounding Daniel Alfredsson’s playing days are like a scab some cannot resist picking.
Unfortunately, this desire to know exactly when Alfie will decide to pull the plug has been an omnipresence ever since his injury-marred 2010/11 season was cut short.
After overcoming back surgery and Wojtek Wolski’s precision-like blow to the head during the October 29th, 2011 game versus the Rangers, the questions of whether or not Alfie could still get it done and play at a level he was accustomed to have been overshadowed by concerns that his off-ice motivations (or lack thereof) could prompt the captain to retire.
Slated to earn $1-million in the final year of his 4-year frontloaded contract that carries an average cap hit of $4.875-million, would the money be a factor in his decision to return for another season? Would the allure of spending more time at home with his wife and children be too tempting to pass up? At thirty-nine years of age, could he continue to ramp up his training regimen to get his aging prepared for the gruelling grind of another NHL season?
On Tuesday afternoon, Luke Richardson, the head coach of the Binghamton Senators, made an appearance on the Team 1200's The Drive. In light of the already infamous Lehner/Helenius tilt and proceeded to piss away a 5-0 lead, Richardson's comments on how he handled the fallout gives a good sense of the direction he wants to take the team. Besides hitting on the Lehner incident, he lets us know what is going on with Ben Bishop and also speaks about the perceived offensive struggles of Mika Zibanejad and Jakob Silfverberg.
I haven't transcribed the whole interview; only the parts that I find to be interesting. If you want to listen to the whole thing, you can do so by proceeding to the Team 1200's Facebook page.
During yesterday’s Fan 590 Hockey Central at Noon program, the three hosts – Darren Millard, Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean – an assemblage of some of the most brilliant minds in hockey, sat around discussing the lockout's ramifications. When the topic of cancelling another block of games was broached, MacLean chimed in contending some owners are desperate to generate revenue.
The pertinent audio is embedded at the bottom of the post. For the visually inclined, the following is a transcript of what was said:
MacLean: I heard last night that there is a couple of teams that I said last year that were on the market for sale and I’ve heard this week that there’s people in actually looking at peoples’ books right now.
Kypreos: Can you tell us which teams?
MacLean: I can’t divulge that. As an insider, I have to protect my sources.
Millard: Would one be in Ontario?
MacLean: One could be in Ontario…
MacLean: And it’s not the Markham franchise…
Regardless of what you think of the Hockey Central’s panel, from the dialogue and tone of their voices, the hosts beat around the bush like they already know the answer to the question.
If you’ll recall a little more than a year ago on September 12th, 2011, Doug MacLean brought up the state of the Senators finances on this same program:
“The Ottawa Senators, rumo(ur) is, that they lost $14 million last year. So what’s their payroll down this year from last? $14 million. I mean, eventually you have to get your business in order. All of a sudden, Ottawa is in a rebuilding. Why are they in a rebuilding? Well, because they had to drop their payroll by $14 million so that they don’t lose a fortune...”
Followed by Kypreos' rejoinder, “And rumblings whether or not Eugene Melnyk might be in it for the long run too.”
Memorably days later, in an appearance on PTS, when asked directly if there were any circumstances under which he'd sell the team, Gene offered up this valiant attempt at humour:
"...I would say if they moved Scotiabank Place up to heaven?... (laughter)...Not gonna happen. I mean who ever came up with that? I was hoping to come up with something funny, but that isn't even funny. No, I'm being serious the team is never going to be sold. There's only so many franchise in Canada. You're a hockey person...what else do you want in life? You own an NHL hockey franchise that can be competitive, and I have a lot of fun with. And it's not for sale, it's never for sale, there's not a number you can come up with that I would consider. It's just a waste of time."
The same day as his FAN590 appearance, another phone interview was conducted by Scanlan for the Citizen. The questions again turned to if the team was on the market:
"You know what, they're absolutely dead on -- if you put me into the Wizard of Oz next to Dorothy while she's clicking her heels. They're out of their minds. That team will never be sold,"
Now with MLSE recently being sold to Bell/Rogers, it’s pretty clear the Eugene Melnyk owned Ottawa Senators are the team MacLean is indirectly referring to.
Having already been one of the first organizations to lay off employees in reaction to the lockout, coupled with predictable hearsay that Melnyk’s divorce might have hit him pretty hard in the wallet - the hyperbole and speculation are only going to intensify now. Although I don't think we should be taking the recent sale of his beloved Missisauga St. Mike's Majors of Anaheim as a sign of much.
Already icing one of the league's smallest payrolls, coupled with last season’s financial turnaround, and strong local TV ratings (6th best in the NHL) -- for the would-be owner you can do much worse than Ottawa. Melnyk acquired the team and arena for a very tidy 140M$ nine years ago, have to guess the pair would fetch at least 200M$ if he were to sell.
Of course news (or rumour if you will) the books are being looked at could just be an indication there's a desire to bring further investors into the fold.
Update: 11:30 pm
James Gordon at Senators Extra has an email response from Eugene tonight, refuting speculation he is looking to sell the team:
Grant Sonier a former NHL front office employee/scout who writes for ESPN Insider has published his top 20 prospects (note: it’s behind a paywall) playing outside the NHL. Sonier, if you’ll recall, was somewhat bullish on Ottawa's pipeline.
To develop the criteria for who could be included on the list, the process was limited to players who have not started the clock on their entry-level contracts.
Preserving his consistency, Sonier omitted many of Ottawa’s better prospects from the list. Familiar names like Mark Stone, Jakob Silfverberg, Robin Lehner, Matt Puempel, Stefan Noesen and Cody Ceci do not make the cut. In fact, Mika Zibanejad is the only member of organization to crack the list – coming in at 16:
His size and speed will be hard for opposing defensemen to handle, and, with a solid work ethic, he eventually will make an impact. His biggest challenge will be to maintain his consistent level of intensity. Although he has never been a big point producer, there is potential for this forechecking forward to improve in this area, as well. One Eastern Conference scout said it best: "He is the type of player that you have to let mature, and when he does, you will be happy with whatever role he ends up in."
Instinctively, some fans will be quick to casually dismiss the evaluations entirely, but another of ESPN Insider’s hockey correspondents, Corey Pronman, has praised Ottawa’s depth; even though he noted that it probably lacks a true franchise talent that other top systems seemingly boast.
Noesen, a player who gets fewer accolades or attention that some of the more advanced Swedes or a local junior product like Ceci receives, was listed amongst Sonier’s honorable mentions.
Character comes naturally to this hard-nosed forward and makes me think he will do anything he can to affect a game at the NHL level.
Of course, none of these rankings really mean anything beyond: a) creating a topic of discussion to dissect and critique; b) offering assurance that some other respected member of the hockey community recognizes the abundance of talent that has been stockpiled at the AHL and junior levels; and c) offering a humbling reminder that not everyone is as enamoured with the Senators pipeline as you would to believe.
The story of Riku Helenius is a sad one. Drafted fifteenth overall in the first round of the 2006 draft by Tampa Bay, the Finnish goaltending prospect has so far failed to live up to expectations. Much like the Senators’ selection of Mathieu Chouinard, Helenius is another textbook example of attrition that so often plagues highly drafted goaltenders. Albeit, to the Lightning’s credit, they actually managed to get Riku signed to an ELC before he could re-enter the Draft.
Over the years, he’s bounced around the ECHL, AHL, SEL, SM-liiga and currently he’s back playing in the AHL – a place where he has now become a footnote in the lore of Lehner.
From his infamous hunting comments, to throwing a bodycheck on an unsuspecting Kevin Poulin, to being one of only four goaltenders to win the Calder Cup as a teenager, to winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as Calder Cup MVP, to shutting out the Bruins in Boston; helping to stabilize the position in the wake of Anderson's chicken unpleastantness, to his Ricky Henderson-esque Twitter feed (@RobinLehner), the big swede has quickly solidified himself as one of the most popular prospects in franchise history. The people love Lenny, and Lenny loves them back.
The recognition of how important this season is for Lehner’s development has not been understated; especially in light of Ben Bishop signing a PTO with Binghamton that will eventually see him steal some minutes.
To see him say all the right things in development camp and exhibit some maturity that may have otherwise been lacking, and then back it up with strong play -- owning a 3-1-0 record, allowing 6 goals in 5 games, a 1.32 GAA and a save percentage of .954. (Even if you have to pinch your arm to remind yourself that it is just a small sample size)
Then again, it is reassuringly awesome to see him retain the fiery, competitive demeanor that makes him such an intriguing goaltending prospect...to the video!
You cannot help but gravitate towards a player who:
Caves in the face of a goalie whose first name sounds borrowed from a Japanime character.
Bypasses skating to the bench so Todd White can unlace his trapper unlike another European Sens goaler. Jani Hurme’s notoriety in the nation’s capital will subsequently be reduced to, “That Finnish Guy Who Always Wore His Sunglasses Inside the Bar”.
Pays homage to Chris Neil’s patented ‘raise the roof’ post-fight celly.
Nearly knocks Nathan Lawson over in the tunnel with the force of his high-five. (As an aside, full marks should be given to Lawson for: a) not falling over; and b) instinctively, not closing his eyes or flinching away when Robin lifts his hands and brings them toward him.
Sure they ended up losing the game, in collapsable fashion - but not without escaping with a point. To be honest I have a lot less problem with Lehner fighting when up 5-0, than say in a close game of consequence. The chance of a team coming back from that kind of deficit is exceedingly small with 30 minutes to play, which Robin understands. He didn't break a hand or get suspended so bullet dodged. And less than 24 hours later backstopped the team to a 2-1 win in Hershey.