With a podcast to prep for on this Thursday afternoon, here's a consortium of links to satiate your appetite for Senators news:
Hockey Capital: After watching today's episode of Hockey Central featuring Ottawa's Assistant GM, Tim Murray, James Gordon chimed in with his thoughts on the unmitigated disaster that has been Pascal Leclaire's 2009-10 season and included this exchange between Tim Murray and Hockey Central's host Doug MacLean...(Ed. note: Thanks to Bruce Garrioch via Off the Posts, here's an audio link to the interview.
MacLean: "So, what the hell have you guys done to Pascal Leclaire?"
Murray: "It's been bad, Doug, right off the bat. I agree. I think we're all to blame...him, us, everybody. It's been terrible. It's been a terrible situation...
A terrible situation and a terrible cap hit. (Un?)Fortunately, a positive has come out of Leclaire's situation -- With more ice time, Brian Elliott's development at the NHL level has mirrored his play in the minors. He just keeps getting better with each progressive season.
Speaking of MacLean, he dropped a really weird comment in what otherwise was a very touching story on Espen Knutsen and Brittanie Cecil, the girl who passed away after being struck in the head by an errant puck.
"It was as bad as you could ever feel for someone and their family," MacLean said. "I didn't know Brittanie, but she sort of became a part of us. Nothing, including getting fired, could compare to what we went through with that."
I seriously hope that getting fired and immediately getting scooped up by a television network doesn't compare to the death of a Blue Jackets fan.
Ken Warren: In one of the Citizen's featured sports stories, Warren looks into Bryan Murray's philosophy that he needed a tougher team to compete in the playoffs and raises a lot of questions regarding how well suited this team is for playoff success. It's a good read and it should translate itself into a good interview because Warren will be our guest on the next episode of The 6th Sens Podcast.
Two wins have taken some of the pressure off, but many questions remain. Who will replace the offence lost by the knee injury to Milan Michalek? Will the weak power play ever produce? Will Alex Kovalev wake up from his post-Olympic slumber? Will Brian Elliott be able to maintain steady goaltending into the playoffs? Will a more physical Senators squad be able to compete against loaded offensive teams such as the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins?
Don Brennan: Good ol' Don takes a gander at Ottawa's recent success against the Buffalo Sabres and champions Ottawa's penalty killing units. With a 7-point lead and two games in hand against the Senators, Ottawa needs to beat Buffalo to have any chance at staking any claim in the Northeast Division crown. Imagine that Ottawa could somehow cut the difference down to 1-point by their final April 10th game against the Sabres in Ottawa. You couldn't write a better script for the end of the regular season, not only would the fans be celebrating Alfie's 1000th game, home ice advantage would be at stake. It would make for a surreal atmosphere at SBP.
Sens Chirp & Ottawa's Consensus: Both respective blogs detail the cases for Andy Sutton vs Anton Volchenkov contract negotiations this summer. Speaking of Volchenkov, Eklund threw fiscal sanity out the window and forecasted a 5 year, 28 million dollar free agent signing with the Red Wings for the Senators' blueliner.
Five For Smiting: Bloguin brethren and a personal favorite of mine, FFS has nailed it in his most recent article. Never has Get the hell off my team, you fucking floater been so eloquently used.
Black Aces: Jeremy Milks examines the new intercounty baseball team has adopted the traditional civic colours of black and red, and seemingly upstaged the Senators by using a stylized "O "logo very reminiscent of the shoulder patches the Sens currently wear. The highlight of Milks' piece came in the comment thread where one reader compares the Fat Cats cats-eye logo to a vagina and Milks responded with the very brief, .....uh... I didn't want to say it... but...
I concur with the Black Aces take on the Senators uniforms. The current uniforms are ugly, bland and failed as a modern revision to what was otherwise a respectable logo. Why the organization didn't go with the image below, I'll never know.
With all due respect to tonight's ongoing action between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Ottawa Senators, the most interesting thing to come out of tonight's game was a detail slipped by Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino during the second period intermission.
And please note that I'm paraphrasing this...
Cosentino spoke with Tim Murray about possibility that Roman Wick, a 24-year old draft pick from 2004, will partake in next fall's training camp to try and earn a spot on the Senators.
While he was drafted by Ottawa in the fifth round, 146th overall, Wick will be recognized by most hockey fans for his performance in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics where he notched 2 goals and 3 assists in 5 games for the Swiss. Besides his strong showings against the vaunted Canadian and American teams, the combination of Wick's size (6'1", 195 lbs), speed and offensive awareness raised some eyebrows. (Ed. note: In Pierre McGuire's case, it raised something else.)
Consentino's comments definitely piqued my interest. I had always assumed that as a 2004 draft pick, Wick's rights had expired and he was no longer exclusive property of the Senators. According to USA Today's NHL Free Agency Primer, Wick would qualify as a restricted free under two circumstances:
- Restricted free agents - Group IV: Players who have never signed a contract, are considered "defected" and whose club retains the right to match due to the club making a qualifying offer; or
- Restricted free agents - IPE: Players with insufficient professional experience to qualify for free agency but have received qualifying offers from their clubs, who retain their exclusive rights.
I tried rummaging through the NHL's CBA for some more clarity. Since Wick will have played three professional seasons overseas, I don't that he fits the criteria for the IPE qualification for restricted free agency. Instead, Wick must be a defected restricted free agent. As long as he's exclusive property and isn't defective, that's all that matters. (Ed. note: If you want to read up on Wick's numbers, you can click here.)
For a franchise that is completely devoid of offensive prospects who could foreseeably make the jump and have an impact within the next year or two, it's fantastic news to hear that a guy like Wick may be coming to camp to earn a job. (Ed. note: Yes, even if it means more Pierre giddiness between the benches.)
Post Game Haiku:
Wear visor? Don't instigate.
Two in a row folks.
After a battery of tests and a MRI, it's been confirmed that Milan Michalek has some structural damage to his knee that may not require surgery. He's scheduled to miss one to two weeks rehabilitating the knee and if it doesn't respond well to treatment, surgery may be nessary.
This isn't exactly what I had in mind when I suggested that Michalek and Jason Spezza be split apart on the team's top line.
Ottawa Senators (37-30-5) Vs Montreal Canadiens (36-29-7) @ 7:30pm, Bell Centre Television: Sportsnet
Including tonight's game, there are ten games left on the schedule. And depending on your perspective, it's plenty of time to turn things around or piss away a playoff position. According to Sports Club Stats, Ottawa still has an 89.6-percent chance to make the playoffs -- a number that still seems favorably high when you consider that the ninth place Thrashers are only 4 points back of the 5th place Senators.
What bodes well for Ottawa is that the Thrashers are the only team on the outside of the current Eastern Conference playoff picture who could conceivably catch the Senators and usurp them from the playoff picture. That doesn't mean Ottawa's comfortable with their recent plight.
A few days after Bryan Murray came out and indicated that the team's fortune was strictly in the hands of the players, with a 1-7-1 record in their last 9 games, it now seems as though management's looking for any kind of spark and has taken matters into its own hands.
Cue the recall of Zach Smith.
"Zack arguably could probably have been up here for a good chunk of this season. Sometimes it's been a numbers game, and right now we feel we've got ourselves in a situation where we could really use his youthful energy." — Clouston on what he hopes 21-year-old call-up Zack Smith will bring to the floundering squad.
Originally, I had assumed that Smith was recalled as a prospective replacement for the injured Milan Michalek, but that's not the case. To make room for Smith on the roster, Ryan Shannon has been scratched from tonight's game. Consequently, it begs the question, if Smith's recall can't inspire the Senators, where does the team go from here?
If the answer turns out to be Mike Brodeur, then I may consider alcohol as a viable coping mechanism.
Here's my prediction that was featured in James Gordon's Ottawa Citizen Prediction Panel...
Senators 2, Canadiens 4
This Senators team is more overrated and confusing than a season 6 episode of Lost. For a team whose confidence is as fragile as Ottawa, it will be interesting to see how they respond to the urgency of playing for sole possession of 5th place in the Eastern Conference.
Here are the lines for tonight's game:
According to Sportsnet, the leg injury that Milan Michalek suffered when he collided with a goal post in Atlanta, may be worse than originally expected. Michalek will undergo a MRI and further tests on his knee sometime this afternoon.
Leclaire Vs Elliott
Watching the Senators goaltending situation unfold reminds me a lot of the Senators 2007-08 season. Like Ray Emery, Pascal Leclaire has been given every opportunity to reclaim his job but has failed miserably to re-assert himself as the number one guy. Admittedly, Cory Clouston has said that the goaltender debate is drawing to a conclusion...
"We're going to have to have one guy, I'm not going to say carry the whole rest of the load, but one guy is definitely going to have to step up."
Melnyk Cashes His Chips In
Since November 24th, 2009, The Euge has sold his 9,635,800 shares in BioVail, the pharmaceutical company that generated his fortune. So for those keeping track at home, Melnyk can sell high on the BioVail stock, but Sens management still doesn't understand the premise of selling high on some of its players.
Not all eyes will be glued to tonight's Bruins v. Panthers game. In the nation's capital, most of the Sens Army will be watching tonight's Senators action like that guy from the Score a Honda commercial. Crying while watching the game peering through the cracks between their fingers. Right now, it seems as though every topic of discussion has polarized the fanbase and a quick glance around the Senators message boards and blogs will reveal that there actually is a sect of the populace who are dumb enough to clamour for the return of Jonathan Cheechoo and or Mike Brodeur. To be succint, fans are collectively losing their shit.
One thing that I've noticed hasn't been talked about, is the fact that for the bulk of the season, Cory Clouston has paired several forwards together: Ruutu and Kelly; Fisher and Kovalev; and Michalek and Spezza. For better or for worse, there have been times when the aforementioned first two pairs have been split apart but for whatever reason, despite the seeming lack of chemistry (or production in Michalek's case) Clouston has refused to remove Michalek from Spezza's wing.
Looking at Michalek's numbers, it's not difficult to discern that this will be his least productive season since his rookie campaign. Despite his team leading 22-goals, he has only scored 5 times since December 19th and he has an underwhelming 11 assists while registering significant minutes on the power play and alongside Alfredsson and Spezza. This situation reminds me a lot of Cito Gaston's mindnumbing unwillingness to remove Vernon Wells from the cleanup hitter spot in the Blue Jays lineup Although on paper, he's the best left-winger that this team has, his and the team's respective struggles have made me question whether or not there may be a better fit for Jason Spezza on the left-side.