Whoever scheduled yesterday's Caps/Sens match up for 3 o'clock on a Sunday in January deserves to have his dick ripped from his body by a rabid badger and thrown into an industrial juicer. His now dickless corpse would then be paraded about NHL HQ as a warning to others that such seismic stupidity will be punished, and punished severely.
In my house, Sundays are reserved for one thing and one thing only. That one thing is FOOTBALL. The season is a scant seventeen weeks long. The playoffs add another four. Everything is over by the beginning of February. So what does the NHL do? Does it wait until the NFL season is over to schedule Sunday matinees, thereby capitalizing on the vast pool of suddenly abandoned sports fans staring with fear and loathing into the soulless abyss that is February? No. No, it most certainly DOES NOT.
Instead the pointy foreheads inside NHL HQ decide that a Sunday afternoon game in January would be splendid. And just for shits and giggles, let's make it the same Sunday as the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs! OH HELLZ YEAH! WE'RE FAHKIN' BRILLIANT! YINZER!
This, need I remind you ladies and gentlemen, is the very same NHL that continuously prostitutes itself in order to capture that wily and elusive creature known as "the casual American hockey fan". The very same NHL that plugs its ears and stomps its feet while yelling LA-LA-LA-LA-I-CAN'T-HEAR-YOU! should anyone have the unmitigated gall to question whether Phoenix is a real hockey market. The very same NHL that would gladly offer up free Bill Daley handjobs to a leather clad Chris Berman if it meant a return to Mickey's ESPN. And its the very same NHL that then drops a game involving one of its oh-so-very-few marquee American teams smack into the middle of the single greatest NFL weekend of the season. In other words...Pssst...Yur doin' it wrongs.
So to the guy who tore me away from the end of the Bears/Seahawks (and beginning of Pats/Jets I should add) knowing full well I have a morbidly pathological need to witness every putrid moment of the train wreck that is my Ottawa Senators, I would like to offer a hearty FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU RIGHT IN THE EAR, HEAD NHL SCHEDULE DUDE! May your precious spreadsheets and arena availability trackers and gigantic databases and nifty magnets be consumed in the blackest of Hell's fiery pits.
Coming up: More Fun with Don, Where DO Those Handsome MSMers Come Up With Their Ideas?, Shameless Rumour Mongering, Alfie And The Impending Fire Sale and Yet Another Impassioned Plea To Petey McSplooge: Stay The Fuck Away From My Team You Overrated Gasbag. Jump for the smashies.
During Brian Elliott’s personal, eight-game losing streak, the Senators have scored 10 goals.
I like where Don is going with this: the use of statistics to support some argument. Carry on...
In Robin Lehner’s one outing, they scored six.
... And stop. Unless Lehner assisted on every one of his teammates' goals, let's not pretend that his mere presence within the blue paint is the basis for Ottawa's output.
They played for the kid, for whatever reason. Maybe they’re protecting him. Maybe they know they have to be better offensively. He’s just 19. He needs support.
Or maybe the six goals could be explained by an inept Islanders team or some goaltending that makes Islander fans yearn for the days of Glenn Healy and Mark Fitzpatrick.
But does it really matter why? No, it doesn’t.
So why waste 4 sentences and 19 words to grasp at straws before arriving at the conclusion that it doesn't matter?
All that should matter to the Senators at this point is that they get the victory. Nothing else. And for whatever reason, they are not winning with Brian Elliott.
Ottawa's record with Brian Elliott? 12-16-5. Ottawa's record with Pascal Leclaire in nets? 4-7-1. So what's more indicative of the calibre of the team? Ottawa's combined 16-23-6 record with their regular goaltenders or their 1-0-0 record with Robin Lehner in nets?
I know all you people out there say that wins don’t even matter now, that it’s too late, they have no chance. You’re probably right. But the fact is, they are not dead yet, and in sports, you keep playing until they tell you to go home.
Ottawa has a 99.9% chance of making the postseason. To get to that magical 92-94 point threshold that should culminate in a playoff appearance, they have to have a winning percentage of more than .722% (24-8-4) to get in. Wins do matter now. If
I don’t think they have a prayer either, but really, the Senators are 11 points out of a playoff spot with about 35 games left. Believe it or not, stranger things have happened in sports.
I know, I know, this does not look like a team that can string together wins. I can’t imagine they will. But it is possible. Improbable, but possible.
I don't think there's a Senators fan out there who is quoting Lloyd Christmas, "So you're telling me there's a chance? YEAH!"
The thing I don’t understand is this: While the owner can start looking at next season, the future is now for Cory Clouston. He is playing for his NHL career. Once he gets fired, it’s hard to imagine he’ll get another chance coaching in the NHL. His record in Ottawa is not exactly sparkling.
For the record, Clouston's career coaching record is 80-66-16. Who would ever want to employ a coach who puts the future interests of a team that he's not contractually obligated to (beyond this season) ahead of his own. If I'm an owner, I wouldn't want that guy in my organization...
So, if you’re Clouston, why would you not give yourself the best chance to win now?
Lehner didn’t look great in the 6-4 victory over the Islanders, except for the fact he was the only Ottawa goalie who has been able to smile after a game since Boxing Day.
Does anyone else get the impression that Don was one of those guys who hated the fact that Felix Hernandez won the 2010 American League Cy Young Award for best pitcher on the basis that Hernandez didn't win enough games?
If I’m Clouston, I don’t care how it gets done, as long as somebody does it. And Elliott isn’t doing it.
And neither is Leclaire. But Lehner, who received 6 goals of support against the Isles and has a resume that features one win and a save percentage of .880, is capable doing it? Right...
Don seems like an interesting and reasonable guy, maybe he'd also like to bring back Martin Prusek in a supporting role because he went 16-7-3 during his career with the Senators?
I’m sure there are those of you who think it’s not Clouston’s call.
But when management thought of bringing up Lehner, Clouston was told it would only happen if he played the kid. He said he would. I’m sure if he told management he wanted Lehner back, it would happen.
Instead, he says he’s thinking about Lehner’s future and making sure he develops properly. What hogwash. For one thing, who the hell knows if Lehner will develop better in the minors or here. I realize what history has shown us with other goalies, but this guy is different.
Yeah, screw those historical statistics that suggest that it's more prudent to afford a young goaltender the opportunity to develop at the minor league level. Why take Lehner out of a winning environment in Binghamton and instead throw him into the unmitigated disaster that has been the 2010-11 Ottawa Senators season?
Because Lehner's different? What or where is the evidence of this banal remark?
And in the position he is in, Clouston should not be as worried about Lehner’s future as he should be about his own. The kid is going to have one in the NHL. At this rate, Clouston won’t.
Oh snap! If only Clouston was as selfish as a Bruins fan who covers the Senators and is not-so-secretely irked because he'd prefer to see the Leafs finish below Ottawa.
As for the Senators, well, there will be lots of time to bury them once they’re dead. Right now, they are not. It just looks that way.
In Elliotte Friedman's most recent 30 Thoughts blog post, he addressed the Senators coaching and management situation:
At least three times this season, no one would've been surprised to wake up and hear the Senators changed coaches. How about Dec. 3, the morning after San Jose beat them 4-0? Or, Jan. 2? (That was 5-1 Toronto.) Then, there was last Wednesday, following a 6-0 loss in Boston. It looks like Eugene Melnyk's decided to keep Cory Clouston for the rest of the season, but Melnyk is so unpredictable, it's impossible to know for sure.
Then, there's the GM succession plan. At one point, it was believed Bryan Murray would be moved into a consultant's role, with nephew Tim, his assistant, getting the big promotion. God only knows what's going to happen now.
Also of note is that Frieman lists Ottawa as a potential suitor for an unrestricted collegiate player named Stephane Da Costa. If you'll remember following that embarrassing 5-1 loss to Toronto, Bryan Murray told the local media that he did not get a chance to watch the game because he was away scouting some collegiate player. Da Costa was probably that player.
Via every beat writer's Twitter account, Corey Locke was demoted back to Binghamton today. To my knowledge, no one has been called up to replace him so it's reasonable to assume that Alexei Kovalev is likely to return against the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow night.
Icethetics (via SensChirp) has mentioned that the Senators will have a new third jersey next season. Considering that the black jersey has been offered as a throw-in when buying tickets or other varities of the Sens jersey, the move should hardly be considered surprising. Unfortunately, I'd love to see the Senators scrap all of their current models and go back to some classic designs.
Over at the Ottawa Citizen's online sports section, you can download a PDF file that details every move that Bryan Murray has made since coming over to the organization.
Sorry Graeme, but I don't think I'll get a post up tonight. I've been trying for the last four hours and everything I had written has been shit cubed (watching us choke up yet another game while trying to write didn't help much). I'm finding it increasingly difficult to give a flying fuck about the bag of fail that is this year's Ottawa Senators. So I'll think about it some more and try again tomorrow. I'll call it a Special Monday Edition and blame it on the matinee. Who knows, I might manage to work myself up into a decent ranty-rant by then.
Just when you think that things can't get any worse, this season's version of the Ottawa Senators takes their magnitude of sucking to a whole new level. I may have grown accustomed to the ease and rate in which they manage to piss away third period leads but I never expected for them to suck the inspiration out of a writer who prides himself on being able to drop vitriolic verbal excrement at the doorstep of 1000 Palladium Drive.
Admittedly, it's pretty difficult to get worked up about this team right now. With a 2-6-2 record in their past 10 games, the only thing that mirrors the number of third period collapses that this team has had are the number of quote from players who insist that they haven't quit on Cory Clouston.
"If you look at the gameplan, we’re all on the same page. We all know what to do. We just haven’t been executing. You look at some of the chances we’ve had when other teams are making mistakes, and we’re not capitalizing. To pin that on coaching, I don’t think is very fair.” ~ Chris Phillips via Bruce Garrioch ( The Ottawa Sun)
It may not be fair but that hasn't stopped many outside and local media members from calling for Cory Clouston's head - a proposition that wouldn't sound nearly as ridiculous if the playoffs weren't already out of the question. I never want to give too much credit to Steve Simmons but it's pretty transparent that if Bryan Murray wanted to axe Clouston and give his team a spark, he no longer has the autonomy to fire the head coach unless he's accompanying Clouston out that door.
So as the losses mount faster than the paperwork inside Pascal Leclaire's medical file, we have been caught in this frustratingly vicious cycle:
- The players are performing like the trade talk and rumours have affected them.
- Murray cannot fire Clouston because he's already gone through too many coaches as is and the season is forlorn.
- Melnyk cannot fire Murray because it's the midseason and it is highly improbable that another organization would allow the Senators to hire one of their executives for a vacant GM job. Forget about credible Assistant GMs like Fenton or Billington, they won't be available until the season is over. (Note: And forget about Assistant GM Tim Murray getting the interim GM tag. Maybe if he was not related to Bryan, Clouston and Bryan would have been turfed by now. Bue he is and as such, it'd be a public relations disaster. He would viewed as an extension of the status quo that the fans will no longer tolerate.)
- All that we can do as fans is sit tight and cross our fingers that the Murray regime can make the right deals by the conclusion of the NHL trade deadline.
It figures that shortly after I publish the Nabokov piece, Hockeybuzz's Eklund throws some excrement at the wall in hopes that it sticks. In his most recent article, the anonymous rumo(u)r monger suggested that: the Sens may be considering an offer for Daniel Alfredsson. The offer is rumored to be coming from a Western contender.
Alfie's the latest Senators player to have his name bandied about in rumours and although Eklund's track record is less than Peter Regin's shooting percentage, I'm curious to hear what my readers have to say regarding the possibility that Alfie could be amenable to a trade. So email the6thsens at live dot com and let us know what your thoughts are regarding Alfie.
Would you be bothered by a trade? Would you be okay with Alfie wanting a chance to play for a Cup? Do you want some draft picks and prospects? Would you look at players like Ray Bourque and say if guys like that can be dealt, so can Alfie?
Let us know how you feel and with the emails that are received, we'll publish them on the website.
On Twitter this morning, one of our followers (@robotsvsunicorn) mentioned that the Pierre McGuire for Senators GM in 2011 Tour continued this morning on XM satellite radio where he mentioned that Evgeni Nabokov would be a nice fit here in Ottawa.
The former Sharks netminder spent the bulk of the season over in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg before being released for "family circumstances".
I ran through the term "family circumstances" through Yahoo!'s Babelfish translated which said that in Russia, family circumstances refers to a situation in which a NHL player cannot find a team willing to take on his contract demands at the beginning of the season, so hes signs a $24-million, $4-million deal to play in the KHL and then leaves once his 8-8-5 record, save percentage of .888 and 3.02 GAA were deemed shitty enough to jeopardize his chance at ever playing back in the NHL. Now that the NHL season is half over and teams are between a rock and a hard place now that the playoff push is on, he figured it would be an opportune time to find a team desperate enough to acquiesce to his demands.
Nabokov's KHL stats notwithstanding, his most recent NHL statistics are impeccable:
However, it's the willingness of an organization like Tampa Bay to flip a prospect to the Islanders for Dwayne Roloson rather than sign an unrestricted free agent like Nabokov that has me skeptical. It all lends itself to the notion that Nabokov simply wants too much money. Even after the Philadelphia Flyers acquired exclusive contract negotiation rights to Nabokov from San Jose, the Flyers had to pull back in negotiations because the asking price became too high.
Although it's probably in the organization's best interests to sign a veteran goaltender to a short term contract and give Lehner an opportunity to play and develop at the AHL level, I'm not sure that Nabokov is that guy. Considering his asking price and the fact that the Senators have overpaid to bring in two aging Russian players as bandaid solutions, is this organization really in a position to commit the money and years to add a third?
News From The Rink Via Twitter
- Brian Elliott will get the start tonight in nets against the Calgary Flames. As the Team 1200's Scott MacArthur (@ScottMacArthur) alluded to on Twitter, had Robin Lehner gotten the call, it would have been Lehner's fourth start in the past six days.
- On Lehner, Cory Clouston want to out him in "situations where he'll succeed." The Citizen's Wayne Scanlan (@HockeyScanner) remarked, "When do they play Isles again?"
- Also, Alexei Kovalev's knee is improving. It's unfortunate that you can't say the same about his trade value.
- As per the Citizen's Ken Warren (@Citizenkwarren) Jason Spezza skated today in full equipment.
- Another Warren Tweet: Cory clouston has 80 wins and 80 losses (64 in regulation, 16 in ot and shootouts) during senators coaching career
Locke-d in victory
Can we get back-to-back wins?
How long has it been?
[Also, be sure to Locke in on The Breakout Pass, home of re-using the same pun twice in the same post!]
When one of the rumoured candidates to take Bryan Murray’s General Manager job is talking some Senators hockey and addresses the rumours enshrouding Ottawa’s players, it’s worthwhile to take a listen to what he was saying. When an ESPN reporter mentions that he talks about Mike Fisher's availability in a trade, it becomes a must listen.
To listen to McGuire’s appearance on Montreal’s Team 990 station, you can click here or you can read the transcribed portion of his interview below.
Q: What's the mood like around the Sens?
A: I talked to 3 players today: One was Mike Fisher. The other was Alfredsson who I had the privilege of coaching earlier in his career and the third guy will remain nameless because he asked me not to talk about our conversation, so I won't talk about it.
But Mike Fisher I can tell you, and we're going to talk about it on the air today, this is the first time that he's ever heard his name in trade rumours. And I think that has causing some discomfort for him. He doesn't want to be traded out of Ottawa; he likes playing there. He's a proud guy. He was drafted by Ottawa in the second round out of Sudbury and the Sudbury Wolves. He's a guy who really cares about being part of the solution. He doesn't want to be part of the problem.
For Daniel Alfredsson, this is the worst that it's ever been since he's been a rookie. Ever since then, Ottawa's had relatively good runs and Daniel's been a big part of it. So his negativity is not nearly what I thought it would be because it's been a long time since he's experienced something like this. He wants again to be part of the reason why this gets fixed. He doesn't want to be part of the problem that causes it to get worse... But you can see that there's a lack of comfort for a lot of the guys.
Q: If you're an opposing GM right now Pierre. One through five and fitting a salary is not a concern and you have an opportunity to win a Cup, one through five who are the trade targets on Ottawa?
A: Well, Fisher would be one of them for sure. Mike brings a lot to the game. If he's your second or third center, you have a chance to win a lot of games. He's just a very useful player: he can kill penalties; he wins faceoffs; he has a very underrated shot - one of the hardest shots coming down the wing in the League. People don't talk about it but it's lethal. It's not always the most accurate but it's extremely hard.
Then I'd probably look at Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar... I got to believe that Daniel Alfredsson is untouchable on their team and Jason Spezza because of his contract and injury situation is untouchable. I think a player that is really important for a team that thinks they're a playoff team would be Milan Michalek. Milan had some really nice runs in San Jose... he's a proud guy. He's probably missing at least a step, maybe step and a half but that doesn't mean he can't play in key situations. But those are probably the top guys who I'd look at off of this roster.
Q: Was it wrong to expect more offensive scoring out of Michalek and Foligno?
A: No it was not wrong at all. Injuries have really decimated the one player, Milan Michalek, and then you look at the other player, Nick Foligno, based on what he did in the preseason and you had to expect that he's going to be an offensive player who can be very good at providing supplemental offense. There are expected evaluations that most people would have had around the league. It's unfortunate that it hasn't worked out better for either guy or the team but I would say that most people would have tell you that it was on target to expect secondary offense from those guys. And obviously they were hoping that Kovalev would have been a whole lot better than he has been but Kovalev not producing has really set them back a lot too.
In the past few weeks, I've looked at some prospective General Manager candidates like the Colorado Avalanche's Assistant GM Craig Billington or TSN analyst Pierre McGuire. Today, I'll be taking a look at another Western Conference Assistant GM who is drawing considerable praise around the Interwebs.
For years now, the Nashville Predators organization has been credited for its ability to stay competitive in a strong Western Conference despite being burdened with a self-imposed cap limit that is significantly smaller than the NHL's cap ceiling. They are the hockey equivalent to baseball’s Oakland Athletics - although it should be noted that there's nothing to suggest that the Predators attribute their success to advanced sabermetric hockey statistics.
Much of Nashville’s success is dependent upon a successful draft record and their ability to cultivate, develop and procure inexpensive talent that can produce at the NHL level. But it has been the organization’s innate ability to find legitimate goaltenders like Dan Ellis, Chris Mason, Tomas Vokoun, Pekka Rinne, Chet Pickard and Anders Lindback that really stands out to me. Considering that Sens fans have waited for almost twenty years for a franchise goalie (note: The Robin Lehner era starts tonight in Long Island. Right now I’m knocking on wood.), it’s easy to look at the list of aforementioned names be a little envious.
By pursuing a mind like Fenton or Billington, The Euge would be getting in on the latest trend that has seen organizations like Columbus (Scott Howson) and Minnesota (Chuck Fletcher) try emulate the success that Pittsburgh and Boston have had hiring young assistant GMs like Ray Shero and Peter Chiarelli.
Such a hire would not be without its inherent risks however. There is that fear of the unknown. It’s not Fenton’s fault that he doesn’t have actually have NHL General Manager experience, nor is it his fault that his organization is unwilling to spend anywhere near the salary cap ceiling but it’s this latter point that really makes me question whether or not Fenton is the best choice for the job.
At the most basic level, Ottawa is not Nashville. Unless the Senators start employing a self-imposed salary cap limit, you cannot replicate the circumstances or expectations that Nashville has. Here in Ottawa, we’re fortunate enough to have an owner who has demonstrated a willingness to spend to the salary cap threshold to put a competitive product on the ice. In Nashville, they aren’t afforded this same luxury. Much of the mystique about the Nashville situation is that on an annual basis, the organization spends little but still manages to make the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.
Interestingly, one of the criticisms of the Moneyball philosophy has been that it’s a strategy that hasn’t generated much in terms of postseason success. A simple glance at Nashville’s playoff history paints a similar picture – a career record of 6 wins and 16 losses. Although they have faced perennial powerhouses in the Red Wings and Sharks, in their four postseason experiences, Nashville has failed to win more than two games in any quarterfinal series.
So although Nashville’s track record for maximizing the value of their draft picks, if their front office personnel are not accustomed to spending towards the cap limit, there’s also no guarantee that they can maximize the value of this extra money any better than this current Senators brain-trust. (Note: Maximizing the draft value of their picks is generally accepted as one of the few things that the Bryan Murray regime has done well.)
Ultimately, the biggest concern that I have is that once a new variable like money has been introduced to the Nashville equation, there’s no certainty that Fenton wouldn’t frivolously spend that money on players. Getting back to my Oakland Athletics analogy, the Moneyball phenomenon has caught on and many organizations have plucked GMs from the A’s front office. Names like Paul DePodesta (Los Angeles Dodgers) and JP Ricciardi (Toronto Blue Jays) have struggled when given the reins to their own respective franchises.