Yesterday was supposed to be a good day. I woke up knowing that the Senators were looking to extend their eleven game win streak in Toronto, home of the 29th ranked team in the NHL that had just dealt away 40-percent of its offence earlier in the week. On paper, it looked like an easy win and ultimately, it's what lead to me submitting my 3-2 victory prediction for Ottawa in time for James Gordon's Friday night prediction panel deadline. Little did I know that the events leading up to the game would spiral out of control and stack the deck unfavorably against the Senators.
The first sign that things were going to wrong occurred as I was doing my morning errands and was driving behind an Aztek with novelty license plate that read SENSRULE. Whether there's some mysterious correlation between the two is completely subjective. However, this is second time that this has happened within the past season, so I'll be damned if there isn't something more to this coincidence.
When I arrived home after running my errands, the first thing that I did was to sit down with my laptop and peruse the interwebs to keep up with the latest hockey news. It didn't take very long to find out that Brian Burke's son was tragically killed in a fatal car accident on Friday night and that JS Giguere would be starting in nets for the Leafs. So not only would the Leafs have the sentimental karma working in their favour, they were starting the guy who absolutely killed us in the '07 Cup Finals. Not only is Giguere equipped like the Michelin man, he's the latest in a lineup of goalies who have killed the Senators over the years. (Ie. Tim Thomas, Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph, Martin Gerber, et al.) And to make matters worse, he was acquired earlier in the week and was stuck in that proving himself to his new team and teammates mode.
Naturally, as I surfed the 'Net, I also sifted through my email wherein I found this message in my inbox...
Morning gents...if you were wondering why your picks aren’t posted yet after I asked for them by 10 pm yesterday, it’s because my laptop is fried. Apparently I have what’s called the “Blue Screen of Death,” which sounds pretty bad.
Anyways, I’m at the office posting stuff now. ~ James Gordon
The Blue Screen of Death?! How could things get any worse?
Three words...Bob. Fucking. Cole.
As the Montreal Canadiens played earlier in the afternoon and the CBC didn't schedule the senile wonder to do the play-by-play, hockey fans quickly deduced that Bob Cole would be calling the Leafs versus Senators game later that evening. In other words, Senators fans would have to soul search for a reason not to stab themselves in the ears since Cole is notorious for his disregard in using the correct Senators player names while he calls the action.
There you have it: A novelty license plate; the sentimental aspect of the Leafs winning one for Burkie; the Blue Screen of Death; JS Giguere; and Bob.Fucking.Cole. Last night's outcome was determined before the puck was even dropped and the referees were allowed to affect the outcome of last night's game. So when I get emails from Leafs fans claiming to be Ron Wilson that say,
Good prediction. Let me guess, you're still holding Nortel stock... or worse yet ... Senators season tickets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5-0 flattered the Sens
we're getting tired of owning you...
I'm compelled to say that he's right. This Leafs fan deserves to be one smug prick. Not only did his team's chance at the postseason increase from 0.0% to 0.1% after last night's win, he's correct in asserting that I shouldn't have bet against the Leafs.
So yes, go ahead and revel in yesterday's trivial win over a team that had lost the game before it had even started. (Ed. note: Like Ian Mendes mentioned in yesterday's prediction panel, it's unbelievable how often the Leafs hold meaningless things over Senators fans. Four playoff series wins? Fantastic. Congratulations on floundering out in each of the subsequent playoff series.) Unfortunately because of emails like this, I'll have to comfort myself in the fact that the likelihood of Ottawa making a postseason appearance is now at 97.8%.
Senators 3, Leafs 2
What is it about the Toronto Maple Leafs that compels their brass to acquire goaltenders who have been a thorn in the side of the Senators? First Martin Gerber, now Jean Sebastien Giguere and his lacrosse-sized equipment. Fortunately, Giguere's game has regressed to a level that his equipment shouldn't help, and I think that's why the Senators will avenge their '07 Cup Finals loss to him. Also, what better subplot for tonight's game than finding out which story gets more airtime on the CBC -- Toronto's trades or Ottawa's 11-game winning streak?
Here are the lines for tonight's game: Michalek-Spezza-Alfredsson; Kovalev-Fisher-Shannon; Ruutu-Kelly-Neil; Cheechoo-Regin-Winchester. Brian Elliott gets the nod in nets while Alexandre Picard draws back into the lineup because of Erik Karlsson's shoulder injury.
When the Senators are on a winning streak like they currently are, it's tough to really get down when news breaks that young and productive players like Nick Foligno and Erik Karlsson would be lost to injury for a number of weeks. We all eventually say things like, ah well, at least the team is still winning. Frankly, it's tough to complain....until I find out that that Bob Cole is the likely play-by-play guy for tonight's game.
Letter to Fans from Don Waddell
After several months of negotiations toward a long-term contract with forward Ilya Kovalchuk and his agent, we were unable to reach an agreement and elected to trade Kovalchuk and defenseman Anssi Salmela to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier and a first round draft pick in 2010.
We want you, our fans, to know that throughout the negotiation process, the Thrashers organization remained committed to offering Ilya a contract that exceeded those of the league’s best and highest paid players, and was commensurate to his skill level and performance history.
To that end, we offered Kovy several lucrative packages in an effort to meet his financial objectives. One offer that we extended to Ilya would have made him the highest paid NHL player on a per year average with $10 million per year for seven years. Another offer totaled $101 million over 12 years, and it, combined with the previous contractual commitments that were made to Kovy, would have earned him more money than any other NHL player in the history of the league.
If we had met Kovy’s ultimate demand, we would have jeopardized our ability to build a competitive team around him and retain our other young players as they became eligible for new contracts in the seasons ahead. At the end of the day, we couldn’t close that gap and simply reached a point at which we couldn’t reasonably go any higher.
We’re excited about the addition of all three players and feel that Johnny and Niclas will quickly complement our team of budding young stars, highly-skilled veterans and elite players. We also look forward to having Patrice join us in the near future. Our goals for this season have not changed—to make and advance as deep as possible in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs—and we move ahead with a new sense of purpose that is energized by our continued climb in the standings as we position ourselves to compete with the best in the NHL.
We will maintain the option of bringing in more players, in addition to the ones that we have acquired in the trade, to make sure that we are fully competitive for the remainder of the season and the postseason.
We thank Ilya and Anssi for all they have done for our organization and wish them well. And we thank you, for your continued support, and look forward to your enthusiastic presence in Blueland to help drive us into the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Executive Vice President and General Manager
Editor's note: Should these bolded paragraphs scare Senators fans at all? Jay Grossman is the player representation for both Kovalchuk and Anton Volchenkov. Is it reasonable to assume that Volchenkov may want to test the open market?
When the Atlanta Thrashers dealt Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils last night, it threw the hockey community into a state of disbelief. Pundits, analysts and lauded experts will continue to dissect this trade for the next few weeks because that's what the talking heads at the sports networks are paid to do. Prepare to have your brain oversaturated with the opinions of failed GMs on the likelihood that Kovalchuk will resign in New Jersey.
And when there are opinions, there will be concerns. Was it was prudent for Atlanta to assume Lance "The Bionic Elbow" Cormier's baggage? How could the Thrashers consummate the deal without acquiring either of Jacob Josefson or Mattias Tedenby? Will Ilya Kovalchuk could have the offensive life sucked out of him by Jacques Lemaire? Did the Devils give up too much for what could wind up being an expensive rental? Having lost Oduya (trade) and Martin (injury), who will play defence for the Devils? Blah, blah, blah...
And then details of the trade negotiations will leak to the public. Like finding out that the Ottawa Senators were one of the mystery teams that kicked the tires on Kovalchuk.
According to the USA Today's Kevin Allen, that's the news that was revealed last night via Twitter. While there may be some tepid, conservatist reservations that Bryan Murray would tinker with a lineup that has now won 11 consecutive games, it's important to stress that Murray could have very well have been just doing his due diligence. Maybe all he did was ask what it would take for him to acquire Kovalchuk.
At the very least, this should refreshing news for the guys over at the Ottawa Sun that Bryan Murray is exploring every avenue in an effort to improve the roster. Brennan and Garrioch have been hammering away on the fact that Jonathan Cheechoo has team worst plus/minus while playing the least amount of minutes. (Ed. note: That statistic obviously doesn't include Donovan's average ice-time. They must be referring to regulars.)
They do raise a valid case against Cheechoo though and it really does make me wonder when management will have seen enough. Yes, is likeable and his work ethic is exemplary and yes, it might not be the classiest thing to do when the team is winning. However, hockey is ultimately a business. If management is serious about making a trade an icing the best team for the playoffs, Bryan Murray is eventually going to have to bite the bullet on Cheechoo's salary and bury it in the minors to accomodate any incoming salary.
When it was announced yesterday that the Ottawa Senators had formally written to the city’s corporate services and economic development committee to bring the annual showcase of the league’s top talent to Ottawa, I have to admit - my heart never really skipped a beat.
Part of the reason was that it wasn't really news and it was mere formality. Any buzz regarding this event was the Senators let the media know of the team's intentions in January of 2009 when then president, Roy Mlakar came out and said, "Eugene was promised an all-star game when he bought the team and there has just been a series of circumstances that have pre-empted us from getting the game." If that wasn't enough to drive the point home, Bruce Garrioch let fans know that an official application (to the NHL) would be made by the club later this year (2009) because no decision has been made.
It probably also has something to do with the fact that from an early age, my All-Star Game experience was tarnished. When I was young and in elementary school and it came time to select my first public speaking topic, I chose to talk about the 1992-93 Senators and wound up devoting a good portion of my speech explaining why Sylvain Turgeon would be a fantastic representative for the organization. In retrospect, this wasn't one of my finest moments of hockey analysis. Not only was it a poor topic for an audience that consisted of frontrunning Leafs fans, Turgeon's statistics weren't even that impressive. He finished the year with 25 goals (team high), 18 assists, 104 PIM, and a respectable minus 29. I guess I was just an easy mark for Sly's 180 degree patented shot in which he'd skate in the offensive zone with his back facing the opposition's net and pirouette while taking a slap shot. (Ed. note: If memory serves me correctly, I can recall two occasions in which this actually resulted in a goal or a shot on net.)
Even though Sly may not have been a deserving candidate, neither of the other Senators representatives were either. Instead of selecting a deserving candidate like Norm MacIver, the selection committee opted for Peter Sidorkiewicz and Brad Marsh to represent the Senators. I never really had a problem with Marsh's selection. It was his final season in the NHL and the League used the All-Star Game as an opportunity to pay homage and respect to veteran players. (Ed. note: I can't remember the NHL maintaining this policy since Dale Hunter was invited to participate. Surprise. Surprise.)
That being said, the inclusion of Peter Sidorkiewicz baffled me. I may have been young, but even I had to question whether or not the All-Star Game was supposed to mean something. Is there anything on Sidorkiewicz's stat line that warrants All-Star status -- 8 wins, 46 losses, 3 ties, a 4.46 GAA and a respectable .856 save percentage?
Absolutely not. However, his participation was not what ruined the experience for me. No. Any belief that the NHL All-Star Game actually meant something was lost the moment that Brad Marsh scored what turned out to be his only goal of the 1992-93 season. Brad Marsh did not score goals. He never scored goals. If the 2012 NHL All-Star Game is awarded to Ottawa, it should immediately be marketed as the Event Where Anything Can Happen. Even a Brad Marsh Goal.
Seriously though, like it mentioned in the Sun article, if the Senators get the All-Star Game, great. It'll be fantastic for the local economy and since Alfredsson is already on record saying that he will not participate in the 2014 Olympic Games, it could be the perfect platform for the city of Ottawa to show their appreciation for his legacy.
Ottawa Senators (31-21-4) Vs That Place Where No One Wants To Live (32-15-7) @ HSBC Arena, 7pm ET; Television: Sportsnet
A wise man once said, if God were to give the United States an enema, he'd insert it in Buffalo.
Here is my prediction that ran in James Gordon's prediction panel...
Ottawa 3 Buffalo 1
I was tempted to back up my prediction by simply writing, come on! It's Buffalo! But, I decided it was probably more prudent to write more than four words.
<Ahem> Here it goes...
After a small layoff following Saturday’s victory, I would be a little concerned that the Senators’ franchise winning streak might be due to come to a close but come on! It’s Buffalo! As if the Senators needed more motivation to keep their streak alive: Not only is the team playing their bitter rival, Cory Clouston can also use the Northeast Division title as a factor to keep his players hungry.
Here are the lines: Michalek - Spezza - Alfie; Regin - Fisher - Kovalev; Ruutu - Kelly - Neil; Shannon - Winchester - Cheechoo. Elliott gets the nod in the paint and there are no changes to the blueline.
Originally when Cowen signed his entry-level deal this afternoon, I didn't think much of it. However, Tim raised a valid point on the car ride over to the studio for tonight's podcast recording. If Spokane is eliminated from the playoffs before the AHL or NHL playoffs start, he'd be eligible for promotion and be able to play. Take that for what it's worth.