For an organization that could probably use some good PR as the season goes down the shitter, their unwillingness to recall Corey Locke and give him a shot at the NHL level seems out of touch... but not as out of touch as those who think that Locke can make a difference at the NHL level.
In case you have not heard, Jim O'Brien has been recalled by the organization to fill the injured Alexei Kovalev's spot on the roster. I can already envision the anger and resentment that will foster itself in those nostalgic, bleeding heart fans who wanted to see the former CHL player of the year get an opportunity to play with the Senators.
On Twitter, the Ottawa Sun's sports section editor, Tim Baines (@TimCBaines) tweeted:
Corey Locke is the AHL's top scorer. The Senators aren't impressed. To replace Alex Kovalev Tuesday, Jim O'Brien will be called up. Why?
Over the next few days, you can fully expect Sun Media to drive this issue into the ground. This is of course, the same news organization that has fellated former 67s players like Brendan Bell, Zenon Kenopka and once infamously dropped trou on the Senators for passing up on Matt Zultek to draft Marian Hossa.
But to answer Baines' question, I will explain my own selfish reason for wanting to see Locke get the call: it will quell the groundswell of support for a player who has been deemed too small, too soft and too slow to play significant even strength minutes by his fourth NHL organization.
Locke was signed by the organization to play at the NHL level. Instead he designed to fulfill his role as an offensive AHL journeyman who will appease the fans in Binghamton and help create a winning environment for Ottawa's prospects at the minor league level.
With all due respect to Locke, I'm loathe to endorse a 6-year AHL veteran player on the sole basis that some morons would prefer to see a player who has the right Ottawa hockey roots than the right talent.
As weird as it is to say because he is a John Muckler draft pick, the organization did the right thing by calling up Jim O'Brien. Although he's not the feel good story, it looks like he'll actually have a future with the organization in two to three years time.
A Thought on the Rozsival Trade
After being told repeatedly by Bryan Murray that the Senators cannot complete a trade because a deal has to be matched dollar-for-dollar, the New York Rangers went out today and moved Michal Roszival to the Phoenix Coyotes for Wojtek Wolski.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not shitting on Murray for missing the boat on any of the involved players. However, this is the third trade involving an expensive defenceman, Hannan and Wisniewski being the others, who was moved in a non dollar-for-dollar deal.
In some terrible asset management, the Coyotes dealt Peter Mueller to Colorado for Wolski and then eventually shipped Wolski's less expensive cap hit and expiring contract to the Rangers for a second pairing defenceman who carries a $5-million cap hit this season and next.
To emphasize how shitty this trade was for Phoenix, one Rangers fan submitted this photo to the Rangers blog Bleeding All Blue.
For awhile now, I have received an inordinate number of emails that have complained about how poor the comment section(s) that accompany each article have been. Now your prayers have been answered as Bloguin has installed the new Livefyre comment system that is unreal.
The list of Livefyre features can be found here and here's a basic list of things to get you started.
#1 - You can either register with Livefyre or you can sign in using your Facebook or Twitter accounts for now.
#2 - If you have registered with Bloguin, rest assured. Integration with your Bloguin user name and password is coming.
#3 - Old comments from the Jom Comment system will not be lost. They aren't visible at the moment, but they will be imported into the Livefyre system soon.
#4 - Flickr, Twitpic, tinypic, and imgur are the supported image sources, meaning you just copy and paste the URL into the comment box and the image shows up as a thumbnail.
#5 - For videos, YouTube and Vimeo work. Just paste the URL, and it works.
#6 - This is a beta version of the system, so there are still some bugs being worked on.
For all of you fans who questioned whether or not the Senators organization had learned from their mistakes that were made during the 2008-09 season, you may rest a little bit easier. In today's Sun, Bruce Garrioch has indicated that Bryan Murray is attempting to shed salary in trade negotiations with two teams. According to Bruce, owner Eugene Melnyk declined to speak publicly about the Senators’ situation last week during the team’s five-day break, but other teams told the Sun that Murray has been instructed to get money off the books before the Feb. 28 NHL trade deadline.
Murray better heed The Euge's wishes too. The last time a GM failed to adhere to The Euge's player personnel advice, the Senators went to the Cup Finals and John Muckler was still fired for his inability to acquire Gary Roberts.
Some hysterical, open mouth breathing cynics may allude to this as some ominous doomsday bullshit sign that the organization's future in Ottawa is in doubt but the simple explanation is that The Euge appears willing to acknowledge its 0.4% chance of reaching the postseason and embrace a rebuild that probably should have happened two seasons ago when the team held onto impending veteran free agents like Filip Kuba and Chris Neil and parlayed Dean McAmmond and a first round pick for Chris Campoli.
Looking at the current roster, the list of prospective trade chips may be long but it's also saddled with overpaid, underachieving veterans. Many of whom - Kovalev, Gonchar, Spezza, Fisher and Kuba - are protected by movement clauses. And while the team does have a few impeding unrestricted free agents who aren't protected by such clauses, neither Shannon nor Ruutu should fetch much in the way of a return. So if you're hoping for sweeping changes that will bring about a plethora of cap relief, draft picks and prospects, you may want to temper those expectations a little.
Unless the organization can somehow manage to convince many of its veteran players to be open to the prospect of a trade, management is going to have to get creative if they hope to augment Robin Lehner and its wealth of young defencemen.
But like a ray of sunshine that has broken through the clouds, news that Alexander Frolov is out for remainder of the NHL season with a torn ACL, a sprained MCL and a tear to his meniscus is reason for optimism. If there's reason to get start first pumping the air like you're one of the Jersey Shore guys, it's because Glen Sather, one of the most inept GMs in the league, now has an influx of cap space to piss away.
With Pascal Leclaire on the shelf for the foreseeable future, Cory Clouston announced at practice this morning that Mike Brodeur will be recalled and serve as the backup goaltender for the duration of the week. Even though he was used as an emergency call-up against Chicago and Tampa Bay, Robin Lehner is better served spending the week in Binghamton getting some playing time.
After suffering a lower body injury blocking a shot against the Lightning, Mike Fisher is expected to be back in the lineup tomorrow night against the Bruins. Alexei Kovalev however, will miss a week of action with a knee injury. Taking Kovalev's spot in the lineup will be one of Bobby Butler, Jim O'Brien, Erik Condra or Corey Locke.
Considering that Butler and O'Brien have already been rewarded for their play thus far and that I wouldn't mind seeing Locke prove or disprove that he's not a NHL calibre player. That's why I'm pulling for him or Condra (Binghamton's second leading scorer) to get the call.
More Prospect Porn
Today the Central Scouting Service revealed its midterm rankings and Gabriel Landeskog is now its number one ranked North American skater. For Sens fans who were hoping that the Swedish winger would slide to the organization in the draft, you can start crossing your fingers that the ping pong balls will land the Senators way in the draft lottery.
Considering that this year's draft isn't as highly regarded in the sense that there is no generational talent available and that some teams who are beneath the Senators in the standings could use a defenceman like Adam Larsson, it bodes well in the sense that Ottawa should be able to trade and move up in the draft.
You can check out the North American rankings here and the European skater rankings here.
On the whole, I don't really mind overt homerism from a play-by-play crew, provided, that is, I'm watching a local broadcast.
As a certified, accredited and fully licensed hater of all things Leafs, Joe Bowden's nightly Odes Upon a Toronto Jockstrap makes me want to punch a nun, but do I begrudge him for it? Of course not. It's called "LeafsTV" for a reason. Similarly, when tuning into a NESN Bruin broadcast, I fully expect to be awash in the poetic waxings of Jack Edwards' faux outrage every time Milan Lucic falls down. I get it. It's a biased broadcast in a biased market to a biased fan base. Fellate away, my good man.
Which brings me to Dean Brown, SportsNet East/SportsNet Sens/occasional HNIC voice of the Senators. The man...the legend.
For those of you not blessed by regular exposure to Dean's charming idioms such as the alarming obsession with the word "stanchion" or the direct neural interface between his mouth and the NHL statistical database, one of his more homerific tendencies is to pick one egregious (to his eyes) injustice per year and ride that hobby horse until the legs fall off. Two years ago it was opponents running the Sens' crease. Last year? Hooks, holds and various shenanigans behind the play. This year he seems to have embraced a more generalist approach, and has spent many otherwise useful moments (and by "otherwise useful" I mean "JUST TELL ME WHO HAS THE FUCKING PUCK!!") during the last few games decrying the vast gulf in the number of power plays our boys have enjoyed when compared to...say...good teams.
"Just as a point of comparison" he'll intone ominously after yet another uncalled foul on our precious preciouses, "only the New Jersey Devils have had fewer power play opportunities than the Ottawa Senators". After casting the bait, he then sets the hook..."I guess all of the Senators opponents are perfectly angelic gentlemen". Or words to that effect. The implication being, of course, that the Sens are getting jobbed on a nightly basis by the officials (and by extension, the League I suppose) on purpose. Why? Maybe it's payback for all of those years the Sens ruled the Eastern roost and THEY were getting the calls. Maybe it's karmic justice for having once employed Andre Roy. Maybe Gary Bettman's long lost ancestors were once enslaved by the Roman Empire. Who knows. But Dean knows there is a conspiracy afoot, and HE WILL NOT REST UNTIL THE PERPETRATORS ARE BROUGHT BEFORE THE WHEEL OF JUSTICE AND PROPERLY PUNISHED!!
Well, bless his little tinfoil hat, but I might have a better explanation. As is my understanding of the sport, in order for one to draw a penalty such as a hook, trip or hold, one must actually be in and maintain some form of forward motion. As a rule Ottawa forwards seem loathe to do this, for whatever reason (lack of skill? laziness? gout?). QED, there is no need for an opponent to seek to impede forward progress by illegal means because, well, there isn't any. He merely needs to wave his stick and scowl in a menacing fashion and whatever Senator happens to have possession of the puck will immediately and forthwith abandon that possession, leaving naught but a puddle of urine in his wake.
So the next time you're watching a game and hear Dean hop into that particular saddle (and you will), just remember: Don Brennan notwithstanding, there is no sinister fifth column conspiracy against the Ottawa Senators. We suck. New Jersey happens to suck a little more. That's it. That's all.
Now if Dean wants to talk about the mystery of Bob Cole's continued employment...THAT's a conspiracy!
Jump as we riff on the MSM "Fire Somebody!" bandwagon, why I think they're all morons (natch), Snoopy's future career prospects, the WJHC unpleasantness and anything else that may flit through my consciousness before I collapse onto my keyboard in a drunken stupor. Hey look! Unicorns!
So a few days ago, Bryan Murray indicated in a media scrum that he would like to see Robin Lehner get into a couple of AHL games this weekend before making any kind of further judgment regarding a potential callup. Well, throw that plan out the window. Pascal Leclaire is physically unable to backup Brian Elliott tonight and the organization had to call up Robin Lehner on an emergency basis.
Considering how often Pascal Leclaire has gone down with an injury, I'm more shocked that everyone close to this team is as surprised as they appear to be in light of this recent turn of events. Don't get me wrong, Leclaire's recent setback borders on ridiculous. However, this is Leclaire that we're talking about.
It was an eventful Thursday night on Twitter. Speaking of which, if you’re not following us, what the hell are you waiting for? (Add us @6thSens.)
I digress. Besides spending a copious amount of time tweeting back and forth with Erin Nicks (@erinnicks), a Puck Daddy columnist and author of The Universal Cynic, about coming up with marketing ideas for the Ottawa Senators and their Sens Store. For example, if the organization was smart, they’d come up with a line of vintage T’s that featured infamous Eugene Melnyk phrases like “Buckle Up”.
It was shortly thereafter that Erin proposed that we name an alcoholic beverage that pays homage to The Euge. Erin suggested - “The Huge Euge” – but wondered what should go into it.
I suggested a mixed shot of Jack Daniels, sambuca and tequila. A shot that has the sum of its individual ingredients be more than its collective whole. It sounded good in principle but Erin suggested something more grandiose. Euge needs to go big, and he needs to go classy. Perhaps something served in a gold-plated bucket?
Eventually Michael S. (@Slavitch), author of Malkin to the Kings, came up with a better suggestion – Kool-Aid mixed with Barbados rum.
He nailed it. Not only are the ingredients simple enough not to confuse, the key ingredients need to stay the same so that you can only blame the bartender if they're not mixed properly. And most importantly, everyone grew up drinking Kool-Aid and we have some fond memories of it but as we've grown older, our tastes have changed and we can no longer stomach it.
The Huge Euge. Drink up everybody!
Fantasy Trade Proposal Of the Day
I threw up this trade proposal on Twitter - Marc Savard + Toronto's 1st round pick in this year's draft in exchange for Fisher, Phillips, Wiercioch and a second round pick - and asked who says no first, Chiarelli or Murray?
Obviously there are some health considerations with Savard but in the event that he did get hurt and go on LTIR, his cap hit would come off of the books. Conversely, Phillips could be reunited with Chara in Boston but there's nothing preventing him from coming back to the Senators after July 1st. Does the prospect of landing a lottery pick (and possibly two if the Senators keep defecating the mattress) make the trade worthwhile?
It's all for made for discussion. Have at it in the comment thread.
After spending most of the afternoon and night talking to friends and colleagues about what's been said by Bryan Murray and Cory Clouston, I'm at the point in which I'd like to see both men removed from their positions. From Clouston's repeated sentiments that it's not his system - that they have been undone by some combination of bad goaltending, other teams capitalizing on turnovers or an inability to score - to Bryan Murray's scrum this morning that reiterated all of the things that his brain trust has done well, these guys are all too willing to deflect the blame. There's no ownership here and at this point, the situation looks fractured with every man for himself. If Murray can't give Clouston a vote of confidence, how can the players be expected to buy into what he's preaching?
Now I'd personally like to thank the City of Buffalo for having the stench of their shitty sports history - Scott Norwood/Brett Hull/Music City Miracle - rub off on Team Canada. We appreciate it fucksticks.
Now that that's out of the way. I have to admit, after tonight's gold medal loss to the Russians, I'm not as bent out of shape as some people seem to be. I think part of it has to do with the fact that as a Senators fan, I've grown accustomed to third period collapses of late. As one Twitter follower put it (@Circusbirkas), how did clouston coach the third period????
Or maybe I had a smaller emotional investment because I was too busy trying to figure out which event was more stunning: Team Canada's third period collapse or Tarasenko's recovery from injury once the cameras were off. Again, our Twitter followers were on the ball tonight, @Wham_City asked, What's the Russian word for "the Truth"? #paulpierceesque.
Given the selections that made the team, the result was hardly that surprising. One of our regular podcast guests, Neate Sager from Yahoo! Sports' fantastic Buzzing the Net junior hockey blog, put it best:
A few know-it-alls noted at hockey in 2011 requires being able to win an offensive game. Canada's now 0-for-2 since the Pat Quinn-coached '09 team, which played it wipe-open. It could not win here when it gave up more than three goals.
Russia, with an open, free-flowing game ("plenty of passes, based on chemistry") had the right stuff for a comeback. Their rally recalled the way the Patrick Kane-Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks often caught fire during their Stanley Cup playoff run.
Canada, meantime, had a player pool that was missing teenage scorers such as Jeff Skinner and Tyler Seguin — never mind No. 1 pick Taylor Hall. Hence putting all the eggs in the play-both-ways, let's-grind-out-wins basket.
It seemed like a rearguard action at the beginning, very self-limiting. Cameron and head scout Kevin Prendergast were evidently so married to it the leading goal scorers in the Ontario and Western leagues at the time weren't even asked to try out.
It worked for about 35-42 minutes of the final. To put in perspective, that's longer than some people anticipated.
After listening to some sports talk radio on the way home from watching the game, I feel compelled to say that people should stop blaming Dave Cameron for the timeliness (or lack thereof) when he finally called a timeout. Sometimes it's all about the content and judging by the speech that he delivered after the Russians scored their third goal, it was enough to jack up the guy in the first row behind the bench. I took the video below from the TSN broadcast using my phone.
One Small Thought On Cowen and Third Period Collapses
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Senators prospect Jared Cowen had a relatively good tournament and was recognized as one of Team Canada's three best players. (I admit that I was surprised that Ryan Johansen didn't get more love. I guess Pierre McGuire's verbal fellatio will have to suffice.) Even though Cowen's blown coverage lead to the game-tying Russian goal in the third, the cynical side of me looks at it and thinks, yeah, he looks like he'd fit right in with Ottawa right now.
Speaking of the third period collapse, I guess tonight's loss will put an end to those rumours that Canadian coach Dave Cameron is going to take off his gold medal, go to his office with the Mississauga St. Mike’s Majors, pack up his stuff and take over for Cory Clouston.
A: We're all in the last year and that's what I requested last summer. A one-year deal and that's what I want to do that on an ongoing basis for myself so... that I know this speculation comes up every year.... the coach likewise because I suggested a one-year contract for myself that I thought that leaving Cory and his staff in the same position was the right thing to do depending on what happens during the year. Am I happy? I feel for the fans. I feel for the organization right now that we should be a better team. I think our performance in some of the games lately has not been nearly adequate. I didn't see the Toronto game but I heard that the effort was not a very good effort. I've met with the coaches this morning and I've met with the players this morning and I indicated that we're not happy. That we're very unhappy. What I believe we're all obligated to do in this business is to work hard. That we're all obligated to put our best foot forward as many days possible as we possibly can. I don't think that we've done that at the level that we should have and we're not happy about it. Going forward, I hope that's not the case any longer.
Q: Are you looking to make deals. Basically, is anyone and everybody available?
A: I don't say that. I know that I see comments in that area too. When you don't win, you have to have an idea of what you want to do going forward. And we have. If we win some games here and stay in contention obviously, we have a plan for that. If we don't win some games going forward and we're getting closer to the deadline, then obviously there are a lot of players who might be asked about and then I have to consider it.
T6S: Contention? Sweet Jesus...
A: I don't think anyone wants to walk away when the team is not performing up to scratch. I've had a pretty good run in this league and I'm really proud and pleased of that. And I want my team to play at a high level and I want this team to be competitive. I think anybody who really covered this team before I took over as a manager understood what we had to do to make this an organization that going forward would be one that contended one on an annual basis. We were short in depth and our drafts had not been up to scratch. And I have to say this, that watching five or six of our young players that our staff, not me, but our amateur and pro staff have done a really good job of selecting over the last couple of years players who have potential to play well in the National Hockey League. I certainly don't like the downturn that we have taken recently. For me to say yes or no at this moment, that's not... obviously I'm a fiery guy. I'm a guy who wants to be around and I want this team to be on the upswing when I step a way.
T6S: Yeah. Informed fans should understand that Muckler was a plug who decimated an organization that was filled with young and talented assets. And yeah, kudos to Murray for maximizing the value that his staff seems to have with their respective draft picks. If they hadn't, Ottawa would be no different than a team like the Minnesota Wild.
That being said, in no way, shape or form should that excuse Murray from being criticized for what he has done in terms of asset management at the NHL level. The free agent signings, the trades, it all goes beyond accumulating prospect or AHL depth.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the prospect porn and realize that it will take time for these guys to get to the NHL level but to play devil's advocate, there is no guarantee that any of these players (sans Karlsson) will establish themselves and be difference makers at the NHL level.
Murray's direction for the team was to remain competitive while rebuilding the depth in the organization. To date, Murray's only accomplished half of that goal. (Note: My apologies. Two playoff victories in three seasons shouldn't be considered competitive.) He simply can't sweep his mistakes under the carpet by distracting us with the organization's prospects ("Oooh!!! Shiny new toys!!!) and hope we won't notice. To hang your hat on the work done at the minor league level and junior ranks is insulting to fans.
Q: I'm don't know if this is a fair question but do you expect Cory Clouston to finish the season?
A: I'm not going to answer a question like that because I don't know. We go to Chicago and come home and play Tampa and then we go on the road the following week. I can't answer that honestly. I've talked to the staff about that. We're all in a position where we have to do a better job.
T6S: Murray doesn't exactly sound like a guy who is on stable ground himself.
Q: Is the team in need of a shakeup?
A: Well, I can tell you is that at the start of this year, I thought that some our younger guys would step up. The indication was, that we were a little shorthanded in the playoffs but Peter Regin and Nick Foligno, guys of that nature, kind of filled a real void for us. We didn't beat Pittsburgh but I thought that individually, they played real well for us in this series. But I really expected that some of the young players and some of the veteran guys... you know when you're hoping to have a good team, you bring in a veteran NHL defenceman, which I did, to upgrade certain areas of the team. Not the overall team but the power play and the offensive part of the game and none of that has really happened. And the result is that we haven't won enough games.
I don't know that we need a major shakeup. We have a plan going forward - one way or the other. I've been trying to make a move or two but in this day and age, if it's not dollar for dollar exactly... In Buffalo, I sat with a number of general managers and I've had a lot of phone calls. We're just, in a couple of cases, make something fit and if it doesn't, then we have a team that needs to play better. And I believe that this is a good enough team to play better.
T6S: Murray's braintrust erred in their assessment of how good this team was in their current state and brought in a veteran NHL defenceman to complement a core that wasn't worth complementing. And it's unfortunate that he overpaid. Badly. (Note: Which he did.) Because now the organization is saddled with another bad veteran contract.
And hopefully I speak for everyone when I say that I'd like to see the Senators spend less time on their plan for contention.
Q: Are you frustrated with your inability to make a move Bryan?
A: It's difficult. I think every manager I've talked to felt the same way. "Damn, we'd like to do this but we can't because of money." I have talked to managers who can't even pick a guy up off of waivers, if I suggested to do that, because they don't have permission from their owner to do it. It's a tough situation with the CBA the way that it is to make trades. A couple of teams were able to do it because they had space but now they're tight against it too. The two or three teams that have made a move now.
T6S: Obviously he's referring to Brian Lee here.
Q: Did you look at Michael Leighton at all?
T6S: Stop gap solution. No more so than waiting for Pascal to get healthy.
Q: What's the plan for Chris Phillips?
A: I have a plan. I had a meeting with Chris yesterday. You see, you guys are asking me about doing this or that... I can't put this in the paper because if it doesn't happen or something doesn't happen. We are ready. We have a couple of year plan here. We are ready to do what we have to do and it's based on performance all the time. If we run to the deadline and we have no chance whatsoever, then there will have to be some moves made.
T6S: Why wait until the deadline when the sellers market is at its smallest? If you start marketing assets now, there's greater demand. Mind you, the financial constraints to make moves now is more difficult but can be manipulated by taking on expiring contracts.
Q: Would calling up Robin Lehner be on your radar here?
A: That's a good question and that's a question that I asked the coaches this morning. I wished that Robin would have made another stop against the Russians and be in the final game tonight against Canada. It would have been a heck of a test for him. I thought he played well in the tournament. I thought there were a couple of situations where I'm afraid, I see why we sent Jared Cowen back. He has improved so much. His mobility for a 6'5" guy and the use of his stick and his defensibility. He wouldn't have maybe gotten that here because he wouldn't have got the opportunity and the ice-time here. This experience is terrific for him and it's like Robin: do you do it now or do you wait a little bit longer? I think what I would like to do is let him play in Binghamton over the weekend and see what I do and make a decision based off of that.
T6S: More shiny new toys! Considering that Lehner doesn't even have all that many games of professional experience under his belt, is it even worthwhile to expose him to this team's porous blueline and lack of offensive support?
Q: Pertained to Luke Richardson's attendance at practice.
A: I asked him to come back and come back and help. I know that he's a very well respected coach, man and person. To get him back and around the team in tough times. He's had a tough time but to get him back around the team, I believe that it would provide a little bit of a spark for us. I think that the players have a tremendous respect for him and I think that him being on the staff and at being at the meeting this morning alone with me... I think is going to be beneficial.
Q: What's Melnyk's reaction to this latest downturn?
A: I talk to Eugene fairly regularly. I think I've stated the attitude that none of us are happy. He's realistic. We have talked about where we're going; what we're doing. He obviously wants to win every night like all of us do but he's very much in the discussion mode about what we can and cannot do here and how we're going. Losing to Toronto in particular for him and being from Toronto and for us, we don't like it. And I know the reaction was not good based on that but other than that, he's been... on going discussions are okay. But he's not patting me on the back really hard but he's not so out of it that we have to do drastic things here. You guys can make those decisions. We just have to do what's best for us going forward.
T6S: Why am I not surprised that The Euge has some sort of insecurity complex when it comes to beating the Leafs?
Before I get into an utterly shittastic article written in the Kingston Whig, I just wanted to discuss some news regarding Bryan Murray's return from the World Juniors and to throw out a thought regarding Erik Karlsson. For those who haven't heard, Murray is on his way back from Buffalo and has announced that he will address the media on Wednesday. As Bruce Garrioch noted on Twitter (@SunGarrioch), Murray's address will not be a formal press conference... so who the fuck knows what's going to happen tomorrow. My hope is that the organization won't point to Cowen and Lehner's play at the World Juniors or Jim O'Brien's recent call up and say "Ooooh look shiny toys," in hopes that we'll be distracted by the misguided NHL level roster management that the team has been plagued by in seasons past.
Anyways, on to Karlsson...
Last night during the Canada versus United States World Junior match, I made the point that Jared Cowen's strong play at this year's championships is that he's developing properly with the added benefit that the Senators didn't burn a year off his entry level contract in this lost Senators season.
Inevitably it left me pondering about another one of Ottawa's young defencemen - Erik Karlsson. As the team's leading scoring and most entertaining player, it's almost hard to believe that he is already half-way through his entry level contract. And with the way that he has played of late, it looks like the only mentoring that Karlsson needed from Sergei Gonchar was a salary figure to shoot for in his next contract.
Alright, without further ado, let's move on to the article. As always, my comments will be in bold and you can find the original copy of the article entitled Battle of Ontario now a battle for respectabilityhere.
The battle of Ontario is alive and well, but not in the traditional sense.
Too bad it wasn't alive in the common sense. Shit's been dead for years. For the games to mean something, the teams actually have to be relevant in the standings.
In years gone by, the so-called battle of Ontario referred to the National Hockey League games played between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators.
Note: I'm keeping a running tally on the use of the words battle and Ontario. They'll appear in parantheses.
The battle started as more of a turf war between Ontario's only two NHL clubs.
It was like west side story. (3)
As the clubs both rose to prominence in the late 1990s and throughout the early part of the 2000s, the battle became a fierce one.
The Leafs and Sens engaged in four playoff series in five seasons between 1999-2000 and 2003-04, with the Leafs winning all four series.
Twice in that stretch the Leafs advanced to the conference final, but both times came up short of the elusive Stanley Cup final berth.
The Sens had the last laugh, advancing to the final in 2006- 07, eventually losing to Anaheim.
Ladies and gentlemen, the new barometer of success in the NHL: a Stanley Cup Finals appearance!
Ottawa has clearly been the better team in the post-lockout era, qualifying for the playoffs in all but one season, while the Leafs have yet to make the playoffs.
As the Sens competed for the Stanley Cup, the Leafs battled many things, including too many veteran players, no-trade clauses and a penchant for dealing prospects and draft picks in "quick fix" efforts. Those efforts failed, miserably.
At least during that same stretch of time, The Love Guru was a critically acclaimed box office success that didn't just bastardize the Leafs franchise and line the organization's pocket with money! Wait, it wasn't?
Meanwhile, the Sens be the toast of the province until the off-season following the 2008-09 season, when star goal scorer Dany Heatley demanded a trade.
Heatley was eventually dealt to San Jose for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a second- round draft pick, hardly the kind of return a perennial 40- and 50-goal scorer should fetch.
I have to give credit where it's due. Leafs fans should know what kind of return a 40 or 50 goal scorer should fetch. Their organization gave up two firsts and a second rounder for a Peter MacNichol look-a-like who has never scored more than 36 goals in a season.
In my humble opinion, the Heatley deal, combined with the decision to sign defenceman Wade Redden and let fellow D-man Zdeno Chara leave a free agent, doomed the franchise.
How simplistic. It's the equivalent of describing time travel as a Delorean with gull wing doors.
Redden is no longer in the NHL, while Chara went on to win the Norris Trophy with the Boston Bruins and has become one of the best defencemen in the game.
The Leafs, meanwhile, have muddle in mediocracy, missing the playoffs season in and season out.
Did the author just rank the Leafs below Wade Redden's AHL existence on the scale of mediocrity?
But the changes have been fast and furious in the last couple of seasons, since the club hired Stanley Cup-winning general manager Brian Burke.
Burke made a trade last season that brought star defenceman and current captain Dion Phaneuf to the Leafs. He also brought in Stanley Cup-winning goalie J.S. Giguere. Those moves came on the heels of Burke's controversial acquisition of sniper Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins for three draft picks -- two first rounders and a second rounder.
With Giguere, Kessel and Phaneuf to build around, the Leafs have reason for optimism. Toronto also has a star-in-waiting in Nazem Kadri, a rising star in defenceman Luke Schenn and solid contributors in Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski. Off-season acquisitions of Kris Versteeg and Clarke MacArthur give the Leafs some punch, but depth is clearly still an issue.
For the record, JS Giguere is 33 years old. He makes $6 million and he currently had a save percentage of .894. In the past five years, Dion Phaneuf's game has regressed faster than his hairline. And Phil Kessel? Yeah... kudos to the Leafs for bringing in the best 60-point guy that they've ever had.
With the likes of Tomas Kaberle, Tyler Bozak, Francois Beauchemin and Luca Caputi all potential trade bait, the Leafs could make a move or two to shore up the scoring punch.
In goal, Giguere should be a great mentor to Jonas Gustavsson, who has shown a hot streak not seen in the NHL since the likes of Patrick Roy and Ed Belfour, to name a couple. Gustavsson looks like he'll be a very good No. 1 goalie in time.
Since December 2nd, "The Monster" has a record of 2 wins and 6 losses. On the season, Gustavsson is 5-12-2 with a GAA of 3.04 and a save percentage of .897. Saint Patrick and Eddie the Eagle must be wondering what they did to be lumped in with such a bag of shit.
A coaching change wouldn't hurt either, as Ron Wilson and his staff clearly aren't the right fit for this crop of Leafs.
Down the 401, things are not so bright, at least in my estimation.
Toronto hasn't made the playoffs in almost seven seasons. The coaching staff is an ill fit. The laurels of a goaltender whose statistics are Raycroft'esque are being trumpeted and for the second year in a row, the organization will forfeit their second lottery pick to the divisional rival Bruins. Yeah, it's double rainbow time down in Toronto these days.
Daniel Alfredsson, by far the club's greatest player ever, is very evidently in decline. Jason Spezza, the most overrated player in Ottawa history, is still overrated, and pretty much untradeable as few teams are looking for a one-dimensional player
with a penchant for turning pucks over in dramatic and untimely fashion.
And Alex Kovalev, well, he is just plain useless 90% of the time. His best seasons were in Montreal, where, apparently, he still wishes he was playing.
There are no Phil Kessels or Dion Phaneufs in place to take over, rather decent but not spectacular players such as Nick Foligno, Peter Regin and Ryan Shannon.
First the green slime line article that ran in the Sun and now this. This may have been the best week of publicity that Ryan Shannon has ever received.
Erik Karlsson, the club's first-round pick in 2008, appears to be a star in waiting, but beyond him, there doesn't appear to be much.
Goaltending is, and always has been, the Achilles heel in Ottawa. The Senators' inability to either acquire a top goaltender, or to draft one, is becoming legendary. Arguably its best goalie was Ray Emery, who was chased out of town a couple of years ago.
Pascal Leclaire, Brian Elliott and Mike Brodeur don't look like No. 1 goalies. Any would be a great No. 2, but the absence of a No. 1 continues to defy the odds.
Having said that, Robin Lehner is a very solid youngster who may one day become that missing link.
...But beyond Karlsson and Lehner, there doesn't appear to be much. A few sentences from now, we'll learn that beyond Karlsson, Lehner, Cowen, Wiercioch and whomever the Senators will draft as a top 10 pick this season, there doesn't appear to be much.
In the meantime, GM Brian Murray has a lot of work to do.
As does GM Bryan Burke.
If the Leafs are still three or four pieces away from contending again, the Sens, if not now, very soon will be a half dozen or more pieces away.
The battle of Ontario going forward may not be for bragging rights, but to see which club can get back to respectability first.
I'm trembling with excitement. This is like the Cold War all over again. Now be a good Leafs fan, clasp your hands behind your head and crawl underneath your nearest desk. (5)