Ottawa Senators (3-1-0) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (4-1-0)
@ ScotiaBank Place, 7:30EST
Who gives two shits whether the Penguins have a better record than Ottawa, the fact of the matter is that the Sens still rank ahead of the Penguins in the Eastern Conference. That's not a cruel byproduct of the current system, it's just the League's own way of telling the Penguins that they're nowhere near as good.
While these two teams are off to good starts, this game's subplot is the battle of the basement dwellers.
Karlsson vs. Crosby.
Who would have thought that Crosby still lived at Lemieux's place?
Paz Leclaire gets the nod for tonight's game while MA Fleury is expected to get the call for the Pens.
UPDATE: 12:20PM Here are the lines according to Sens Chirp:
Kovalev - Fisher - Alfie
Michalek - Spezza - Cheechoo
Foligno - Shannon - Neil
Ruutu - Kelly - Donovan
** With Filip Kuba still on the shelf, the defence shall remain the same as it has been for the past three games.
There's a song by the band Okkervil River that has some context for Senators fans. Plus Ones makes reference to a number of popular songs that have numerical titles by adding one to them. The playfully, tongue-in-cheek message is simple -- An added instance doesn't change anything if the inherent message is the same.
It's a lesson that fans of the Ottawa Senators could afford to learn because if you haven't noticed, some Sens fans are becoming increasingly masochistic with each goal that Dany Heatley scores.
"Five goals and five assists!!! Holy shit! He leads the League in scoring!!!" (Commence banging head off of desk...now.)
Sure, it sucks that the guys -- Michalek & Cheechoo -- who've come back in return haven't produced yet. But get over it already. The man (if you want to refer to Heatley as a man) is gone. So quit torturing yourselves by keeping daily tabs on his point totals. Instead take pleasure in the fact that you probably skate better than Cheechoo and have the same number of goals that they do.
Ah well, at least these Sens fans aren't as twisted as some guy from Pennsylvania who Google'd "friends boner" and found this site. (I bet it was Crosby.)
There's a certain innate awesomeness about enjoying a beer at a local pub, only to be interrupted by a text message at 6:45pm that reads, "do u want tix for 2nites game? have 2 xtra. call me back."
Yes. Yes, I would like two tickets to a Senators home game that's:
A) Only the fourth game of the regular season
B) On a Saturday night.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Canada. The nation where people are subjected to compelling television like watching a monkey make playoff predictions or watching hockey "experts" concoct a fantasy hockey draft. With such an oversaturated market, it's almost inexcusable that a game in Ottawa isn't televised in this day and era.
I digress. Even though I arrived halfway through the first period, I was still fortunate enough to part of last night's sellout crowd that watch the Senators extend their current winning streak to three games. Here are my reflections from last night's game:
The most entertaining part of the game for me was a sequence of events that started with an Anton Volchenkov hit on Zach Bogosian. The crushing hit lit a fire under Bogosion who responded with a big hit of his own that sent him and Daniel Alfredsson to the ice. Even though it was clean, Chris Phillips and Mike Fisher went after the sophomore defenceman and it was one of the few times that I can recall seeing players responding to a hit on the captain like that. Maybe it's finally entrenched in the mindset that they're actually a team. Cory Clouston's obviously done a good job instilling this sense of camaraderie in his players and it's refreshing to see.
Volchenkov's hit marked the third time in three games that he's absolutely crushed someone. I don't want to criticize A-Train because he's stepped it up thus far in a contract year, but it's obvious the A-Train has embraced a more physical and aggressive style.
The third and fourth lines and the lesser-lights continue to carry the squad thus far. It's been the names like Carkner, Picard, Regin, Neil and Ruutu who have stood out and continue to play well.
Clouston shook up the lines last night and it seems to have worked. The Kovalev-Fisher-Alfredsson looked dominant for stretches of play last night.
Brian Elliott. Goalie. Of. The.Future. (This.Could.Change.)
First intermission, Timbits Hockey. It's a proven formula, the crowd eats up this kind of stuff. For whatever reason,
Kudos to Spezza for continuing to develop his two-way play. However, I'm not sure if Milan Michalek is the appropriate linemate to trigger some results. I think the problem with their pairing is that the bulk of Michalek's goals are generated when he's able to carry the puck with speed from the neutral zone in and conversely, Spezza's more effective when he's allowed to carry the puck into the offensive zone and use his creativity to create scoring opportunities. At some point, Clouston's going to have to pencil in Cheechoo alongside Spezza to see if number nineteen can get him going. The only problem is...
...That Cheechoo skates with the grace of a 50-year old man who was just thrown into a pool and is learning to swim for the first time. I never thought I'd say this but he makes Shaun Van Allen look like Jeremy Wotherspoon.
Next Up: Pittsburgh
Some fans may be skeptical of Ottawa's 3-1 record because they've beat teams like the Isles, Thrashers and the Leafs. I'm not too sure why people are being overly critical of their competition thus far, these were teams Ottawa used to lose to. For year's the team has had the reputation of playing down to the level of their competition, so I'll savour the points as they come in.
That being said, bring on the Flightless Birds, the 2008 2009 Stanley Cup Champs. It should be a good barometer for the team since Ottawa hasn't played a meaningful game against Pittsburgh since last year's epic battle in Sweden.
How fucking awesome is Jarkko Ruutu? By hitting and lying on Sidney Crosby for what seemed like a minute during the first period it was the most man-on-man action that Sid's had in weeks. Judging by how unusually slow Crosby was to get out of the predicament, you'd figure it's not the first time that his face has been in the vicinity of another man's groin.
Here are two pictures that a reader named Dave emailed to us after the game. I'd encourage readers to follow in Dave's footsteps and email us anything -- comments, pictures, whatever -- and we'll publish them here. (Note: The 2nd picture, Dave mentioned was torn to strips and dumped at the gate for people to walk on.)
Seventeen years ago today, the Ottawa Senators recorded their first modern NHL victory and seventeen years later, we're still waiting for our first Stanley Cup celebration. That's not to say that the Senators haven't had the opportunity to win, they have. The Senators were the sports equivalent to the television series Seinfeld. It had a strong cast that regularly made minor personnel changes, had minor plot changes, nothing got resolved and the end was nowhere in sight. Like Seinfeld, Ottawa fielded some very seasons, and like the Seinfeld finale, their postseasons have never quite lived up to the hype. Even the recent Curb Your Enthusiasm Seinfeld reunion mirrors Ottawa's situation. Some of the key players are still here, but it's just not the same.
It was late September, and John Muckler sat in his bunker-like general manager's office at the then Corel Centre, talking hockey before an Ottawa Senators pre-season game. Outside, the sounds of the National Hockey League were cranking up for the first time in a year, as the NHL clambered out of hibernation. A reporter noted that the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa's chief rival, did not appear to be set up for the post-lockout NHL.
"No," said Muckler, shaking his head. "No, they don't." ~ Arthur Bruce, The Financial Post
It was early October and Tim sat in his unfinished basement, talking about hockey before the Ottawa Senators home opener. Outside, the sound of his mother could be heard. The tone of her voiced cranked up so that it was audible enough to be heard. Quit your hibernation Tim, and get a real job. In an exchange of emails, a Senators blogger named Nichols noted that two years removed from the Muckler era, the Senators still had not fully recovered from the damage that their former GM had caused.
"No," said Tim, shaking his head. "No, they have not."
For a long time, I've argued that John Muckler was the primary reason why Ottawa struggled since making the Cup Finals in '07. Since Ottawa's playing Long Island, and I have absolutely no desire to over-hype a Karlsson versus Tavares meeting, I've decided to do some research and put my theory to the test. Was John Muckler as shitty of a GM as I remember?
There's an old adage in the NHL: GMs are like politicians, you never really see the consequences of their actions until three years after their term has expired. Perhaps it's indicative when the results of the John Muckler era were transparent after one.
I'll make no bones about this. When John Muckler was hired by the Ottawa Senators on June 12th, 2002, he was the beneficiary of a young and talented organization that had prided itself upon strong drafting and player development. Also renowned for playoff disappointment and a hamstrung budget, the hiring of Muckler was intended to the put the Senators over the top.
Actually, over the top is the perfect way to characterize the Muckler regime. In one of his first duties, Muckler was hands on in the painting the Stanley Cup on the wall of the dressing room. Word has it that it looked something like this...
"I've said many times over the past 10 years that this has been a very good, very competitive organization. Whether it was luck of the draw, bad luck on the ice or whatever, they haven't gone as far as some people thought they might. I'm glad we rewrote all that."~ John Muckler
Rewrote what? You didn't win anything! In case you're wondering that above quote was made before the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals had started. Good ol' Mucks, maybe too much Wild Turkey that night induced that comment. Truth is, the sports fans aren't like American Idol fans. Not many people always fondly remember those Stanley Cup finalists. (With the lone exception being when you want to rub the appearance in the face of Leafs fans. And may the 1990-1991 Minnesota North Stars rest in peace. Their uniforms are amongst the greatest of all time.)
The fact is, too many casual Sens fans give Muckler credit for getting the Senators to that 2007 Final. He said it himself, luck and a good draw has a lot to do with it. When a team like Ottawa has been as competitive as they have, it was only a matter of time before there's an opportunity to win a championship. (Remember, in the pre-lockout days, players were typically under contractual control until they reached the age of 31. So the ability to keep a team together was easier than it is now.)
When Muckler was handed the reigns to this team, it was like he was given a free lease on a sportscar. One that he treated like an '83 Chevette. And as the lease was passed on to Bryan Murray and the hood was finally lifted, the carmay have hada lot of the same parts. However, the machinery under the hood was corroded and in the motor had ceased. "But hey, it's still a sports car!"
When Bryan Murray took over the GM reigns from John Muckler, he not only inherited a Stanley Cup Finalist, he inherited a team that was inherently flawed.After years of poor drafting and neglecting the depth on the farm, a few bad personnel moves compounded the problem and the Senators window of opportunity had closed. Only we didn’t know it at the time.
Following the 2007 Cup Finals, fans expected a perennial contender.But without any young talent that was ready to crack the lineup, management was forced to resign its core because there were no other in-house alternatives.
Even though it’s not really problematic to sign one’s elite talent to long-term deals, it’s counter intuitive to sign replaceable veterans to inflated, long-term deals making them completely untradeable in the process. Without young, NHL-ready talent, Ottawa’s veterans could print their own tickets and bleeding heart fans applauded the moves because they’d hate to see one of their own homegrown guys go.
And that's the problem right now. Too many fans are using revisionist views of the Senators to evaluate Bryan Murray's tenure for the past two seasons. Where once stood a Cup Finalist, is now a team that whose sole aspiration is to get back into the playoffs. "Lynch Murray! Bring back Mucks! The Murray regime moves slower than the pacing of a Wayne Scanlan column!"
Using some resources, I've pieced together John Muckler's transaction history. Let's take a stroll down memory lane, shall we? (Note to readers: If you're reading this for the first time, you may want to put a bucket or pail by your side to throw up into. You've been warned.)
John was hired in June of 2002, and with his hire, he brought in this bravado that he'd help put this team over the hump. Six months later, he made his mark by trading Josef Boumedienne to the Washington Capitals for Dean Melanson. After a few more months of watching the Senators get pushed around by their opponents, Muckler established himself by acquiring shitty, gritty players who he had connections to. Vaclav Varada for Jakub Klepis. (As an aside, I was completely disappointed with how shitty Varada was as a player and agitator. For a guy who had hands of cement, he should have inflicted more damage with his fists than he did.)
In retrospect, it was a banner year in Ottawa when the organization dealt for Bob Wren and Rob Ray on February 10th. Fortunately, any err in judgment was atoned for the next day when he sent Tim Gleason to Los Angeles for Bryan Smolinski. Even though Gleason has turned into a quick defenceman who can log big minutes and who ideally would have been a great candidate to replace Chris Phillips, I don't necessarily blame Muckler for moving him. If you're not familiar, Muckler and Gleason couldn't agree to terms on an entry-level contract because Gleason wanted Volchenkov-like salary. I'll hang this one on Rod Bryden's frugal regime and on Gleason for having the nerve to ask for $900k per year. Unacceptable.
On the heels of another playoff disappointment, Muckler reacted swiftly. He finally rid the organization of Mathieu Chouinard when he failed to qualify him as a restricted free agent. And who could possibly forget the three-way deal that netted Petr Smrek and sent Chris Bala to Minnesota and Chris Murphy to Nashville?
Denis Hamel was acquired for future considerations. I've always wondered what it must feel like to be dealt for something that's likely to be nothing. I don't know what I'd do if Bloguin was listening to offers for my wares. "Hey Bloguin, I'll take The 6th Sens off your hands, but only for future considerations. Maybe you'll get lucky and get another traffic generating rumours site like Sens Chirp. Or maybe you'll wind up with a Sens site that's updated as frequently as Kevin Lee's. Them's the breaks."
Magnus Arvedsson was also allowed to leave for Vancouver as a free agent without much fanfare. I feel like if this happened last summer, there would have been an outcry of public support for him. Like he was Chris Kelly or something.
In January of 2004, Ottawa acquired Brad Tapper for Daniel Corso. The city yawned. One month later, Muckler dealt an enigmatic Russian named Alexei KovalevPetr Schastlivy to Anaheim for Todd Simpson. The next month, Mucker feels compelled to add Peter Bondra because a skilled team like Ottawa could never have enough perimeter scoring. Going the other way were Brooks Laich and a 2nd round pick (Chris Durand).
In March of 2004, Shane Hnidy is dealt for a third rounder (Peter Regin) and a package of Karl Rachunek and Alexandre Giroux fetch Greg DeVries.
After another playoff collapse to the Leafs, Jacques Martin is fired and Patrick Lalime is dealt to St. Louis for a third rounder (Vitali Aneykeyenko). To fill the goaltending void, John Muckler reaches back into the Buffalo well and pulls out Dominik Hasek from the bargain bin. The League locks out the players and nothing matters for over a year.
Fast forward to 2005. The lock out ends. Hasek still wants to play. Hossa needs a new contract. Hossa and Muckler agree on a new deal. Three hours later, Hossa is dealt with Greg DeVries to Atlanta for Dany Heatley. Heatley is labelled by all as a power forward. Four months later, Senators fans call bullshit on the power forward label but love his Brett Hull'esque goalscoring ability. Another thing that Sens fans are loving, the Filip Novak acquisition. Tits! (I'd mention how Ottawa won the draft lottery by being awarded a top 10 pick...but John Muckler blew that pick on Brian Lee and it's been discussed ad nauseum. Google it, you'll see what I mean.)
Season ends in February when Hasek tweaks muscle at Olympics. Ottawa fans learn the word abductor adductor but rely upon old favorites like "Shitty cockballs!" and "That fucking Czech! Prioritize!" when referencing this event. But it's okay, Muckler fixes the issue by relying on Emery and making two minor moves -- claiming Mike Morrison off of waivers and trading a second rounder and Brandon Bochenski to Chicago for Tyler Arnason. Arnason's acquisition hits a climax when I bump into him after Ottawa eliminated Tampa in the first round of the playoffs. An obviously intoxicated Arnason was stumbling around the parking lot outside The Centrum's Baton Rouge and for whatever reason, I yelled "Hey Arnason. You're AWESOME."
That offseason, Ottawa opts to retain Wade Redden instead of Zdeno Chara in a move that's still hotly debated. In order to replace Chara, Muckler signs Joe Corvo. Apparently, he had a great plus minus in LA. (Note to self: When a trivial stat like +/- is used as the reason why it's a great signing, don't buy the hype. Interestingly, LA figured this out when they signed Tom Preissing as a Free Agent one year later.)
Editor's Note: This was originally where I intended to mention Gerber in the piece. But I forgot. I know, an egregious oversight on my part. Maybe I was too focused on all the other positive things that Muckler had been doing at the time.
If losing Hasek, Chara wasn't enough, Muckler continued to purge the roster of Czechs by trading Martin Havlat and Bryan Smolinski to the Blackhawks in three-way deal that involved the Sharks. Ottawa received Josh Hennessey, Michal Barinka, Tom Preissing and a second rounder (Patrick Wiercioch). In retrospect, the trade actually works out to be Havlat and Gleason for that package. It's one thing to give up a talent like Havlat, it's another to give up arguably the two biggest talents in that trade. What's that old spiel that some teams give at a trade deadline? "Sometimes, it's not the moves you make. It's the moves you don't make." Well, that's a deal I wish Ottawa never made.
Thankfully, Muckler atoned for the Havlat deal by signing Dean McAmmond and Serge Payer during the free agency period. It also helped that he was able to parlay another disgruntled Russian -- Alexei Kaigorodov -- into Mike Comrie.
Matt Koalska for Tomas Malec? Yawn. Lawrence Nycholat for Andy Hedlund? Yawn. Oleg Saprykin for a second rounder (Jared Staal)? Arrrgggg!
Here's a look at Muckler's entry draft record:
Editor's Note #2: I went easy on Mucker here and didn't include that 2007 Draft because Muckler was fired and replaced Murray before the draft began. But because Murray took over at the 24th hour, Muckler's scouting department was still in place and Murray based his selections upon the work done by Muckler's guys. Did I mention that Ottawa only had four picks from that draft? Enough said.
1st round: Jakub Klepis
2nd round: Alexei Kaigorodov
3rd round: Arttu Luttinen
4th round: Scott Dobben; Johan Bjork
5th round: Brock Hooton
8th round: Josef Vavra
9th round: Vitaly Atyushov
1st round: Patrick Eaves
2nd round: Igor Mirnov
3rd round: Phillipe Seydoux
4th round: Mattias Karlsson
5th round: Tim Cook
6th round: Sergei Gimayev
7th round: Will Colbert
8th round: Ossi Louhivaara
9th round: Brian Elliott
1st round: Andrej Meszaros
2nd round: Kirill Lyamin
3rd round: Shawn Weller; Peter Regin; Jeff Glass
4th round: Alexander Nikulin
5th round: Jim McKenzie; Roman Wick
7th round: Joe Cooper
8th: Matt McIllvane
9th: John Wikner
1st round: Anze Kopitar; MarcStaal; Brian Lee
3rd round: Vitali Anikeyenko
4th round: Cody Bass; Ilya Zubov; Janne Kolehmainen;
All it took was one win to quiet that sect of the Sens Army population who maintain that Erik Karlsson is too small to play in the NHL.
According to Cory Clouston, Brian Elliott's scheduled to make a start in the next two to three games. I have actually have no idea who this Brian Elliott is. I was too busy looking at the new goaltender of the future's OHL stats.
Some Leafs fan is irked by Bruce Garrioch for blowing off Jonas Gustavsson's hype after last night's game. He raises a valid point by attributing to the fact that Ottawa only scored twice on the Monster and one of the goals was the result of a controversial high-stick. (And by controversial, I mean the stick was over the crossbar.)This is all well and good, but it completely ignores the fact that Shean "Sloth" Donovan scored a goal and that should never happen.
This warrants another look:
"John Tavares plays his first game on Canadian soil at Scotiabank Place tomorrow. Wayne Gretky played his last game on Canadian soil. How is that for building up the rookie?" ~ Bruce Garrioch, OTP. Umm, Bruce, that's not build up. That's coincidence.
Jason Spezza missed today's practice with some bumps and bruises but will play tomorrow night against the Isles. Hopefully he doesn't draw some causation between these and his noticeably better defensive play.
I was watching some video of Ottawa's first regular season game in modern history and Ron MacLean dropped an awesome line in reference to the number of fans who wore togas to the game. "The sheets have hit the fans." Here's the video:
Also, tomorrow (October 8th) marks the day when Ottawa got their first win in modern history. Celebrate by making fun of your Habs fan co-workers.
This isn't related to hockey but I thought it was funny. I was walking down Bank St. yesterday afternoon and passed bya woman at one of the intersections. Anyways,she was engaged in a conversation with a friend when they were interrupted by her terrier that started yapping at another dog across the street. In an effort to quiet the dog, she gave one quick pull of the leash and a dropped a "Shut up you retard!" Ah,the irony in hearing a disabled person use a termused to negatively describe another form of disability. Classy.
Wait, so the Senators are playing the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight?
Who would have known? I almost feel badly for the local mainstream media here who still try to play up the rivalry. Aside from the Leafs having some dick-headed fans, the rivalry has been dead for years. There's no longer a buzz when these teams meet, regardless of how much often your Maple Leaf work colleagues allude to their imaginary trophy case that holds up their four Ontario Cups. Besides, don't the Leafs playoff victories ring a little hollow when they’re unable to handle an opponent like Philadelphia, a team that Ottawa’s had success against? It’s like championing how awesome Rock is over Scissors only to face Paper in the next round of the playoffs.
I consider myself to be a pretty avid hockey fan in Ottawa. So naturally, one would assume that I’m tormented by the fact that the Ottawa Senators have never beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in a playoff series. But I’ll let you readers in on a little secret, I’m not. If it’s any indication of how much I don’t care, I actually had to Wikipedia the last time the Senators were beaten by the Leafs in the playoffs. And this is coming from a guy who was at SBP (then the Corel Centre) watching the game from the 300 level and booing every time Lalime’s face was shown on the scoreboard. (At the time, I did think there was a silver lining to the game, Lalime was dealt and Jacques Martin was fired. See, I do have the ability to see the positive in everything.)
Apparently it’s been 5 years since Nieuwendyk traumatized Patrick Lalime in that infamous game seven. I say apparently, because despite what some Leafs fans might think, it honestly feels like it’s been longer than that.
Part of this can be attributed to the 2005 lockout that cost the NHL one season and took away the League’s competitive imbalance. When the lockout ended and the League announced that it was to going to implement a salary cap, it also took away part of the Leafs mystique. At the time the cap was introduced, the Leafs were projected to have a $59M payroll for the 2004-2005 campaign. Comparatively speaking, Rod Bryden was losing money faster than Eddie Belfour’s bribery account after a night of heavy drinking. With an equitable market system, there was no longer a reason to be jealous of the Leafs. They became just another team.
For an organization whose philosophy on player development was to let another organization do it for them, Toronto’s struggled to adjust under the current system and have failed to make the postseason in the post-lockout era. But almost more importantly, with the organization spending millions less on payroll and fans still willing to eat up a mediocre product, MLSE realized that they had a license to print money. How else can Leafs fans explain the fact that MLSE allowed Mike Myers to bastardize the organization with the production of The Love Guru.
I have a serious queston though: Why hasn’t Mike Myers been banned from the ACC?
Is it because the suits at the game would enjoy his celebrity presence if they weren’t too busy enjoying drinks on the concourse? I almost feel sorry for the blue collar Leafs fans who yell expletives from home every time they see Myers’ dopey grin on television.
Speaking of television, the mainstream media got what they wanted from having the Leafs and Senators play each other in four times. But it’s ridiculous that the Battle of Ontario has been reduced to a Panthers versus Thrashers level, and they’re still treating it like it’s a prominent rivalry.
I could understand it for awhile, Ottawa was an easy market to target.
For years, the City of Ottawa and Senators fans have been stigmatized because of this obsession with the Leafs. We were insufferable because of the mounting expectations and playoff disappointments. Even when the team wasn’t playing the Leafs, fans would chant “Leafs Suck” whenever the out of town scores were announced. To make matters worse, the new owner, The Euge, was (and still is) a Toronto media whore who helped perpetuate this perception. And it didn’t help matters that he fired John Muckler over his inability to trade for THE Gary Roberts.
A weird thing has happened since the lockout. The combination of the Leafs inability to reach the playoffs and Ottawa’s Cup Run in ’07 has lead Sens fans to the realization that there are bigger fish to fry. It’s also helped that Sportsnet televises the bulk of the Senators schedule and CBC has regionalized coverage of the Saturday night games. Oh, and Bob Cole and Harry Neale have fucked right off. Remember to raise your glass to that when watching the game tonight.
Looking back, I can understand why Leafs fans hated us. We were like the younger brother who always kept trying to measure up to the older sibling. After experiencing lengthy playoff runs and recognizing massive roster turnover, we’ve matured as a fan base and have moved on. It’s no longer necessary to idolize a big brother who’s content to make $7.50 an hour shooting bears in a dump, when we can pursue loftier goals.
And that’s why it’s sad to see some of the local Leafs fans about. Even though the Battle of Ontario is dead, Leafs fans are trying to fan the flames. Wearing a Leafs jersey to a Senators skills competition or a 2007 first round Sens versus Pens game isn’t avant garde. Nor is it funny. It’s sad and serves as a reminder of how far this rivalry has fallen.
Maybe I’m one of the few, but I’m really hoping Brian Burke and Bryan Murray can sort out their respective messes and both teams return to the playoffs picture in the near future. Hockey’s more fun when both teams are competitive.
Ottawa's a weird city when it involves the constructive criticism of the Ottawa Senators, especially when the discussion of a balanced lineup has been approached. For the past two seasons, coaches have come under intense scrutiny whenever the Big Three of Spezza, Heatley and Alfie were split apart to spread the scoring. Because of the pressures on the coaching staff to win now, the prevailing thought has been to keep the three together because this line was guaranteed to put up points and this was assumed to give "Ottawa the best chance to win". The simplistic reasoning was that Ottawa rode these three to success during their run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
So when Heatley was traded, it was like a veil had been lifted off this franchise. That top-loaded first line was now a burden. By adding Michalek and Cheechoo, fans were trumpeting the fact that the team was better for it because they now had forward depth and three lines that could score.
With the scoring concerns being temporarily quelled, the recent fan focus has centered upon a defence that can be characterized as average. With Erik Karlsson in the top four and Bryan Murray having admitted that he gave considerable thought to including Jared Cowen on the roster, our concerns are completely justified. Which brings me to the point: Isn't it time to split up Volchenkov and Phillips?
Some may dismiss it because these two have had a reputation for being a shutdown defensive pairing that can be paired against an opponent's top line. But, for anyone who's watched Phillips lately, the man is trying to do too much and is completely out of his element. Why not pair him with an offensively gifted partner, like Karlsson, and let him focus strictly upon his strengths?
Considering the biggest knock on the blueline is that they're not physical enough, why does the organization insist upon putting all their eggs in one basket? The team can get away with pairing the two together on home ice, when Clouston has the luxury of having the last change. But when this team is playing away games like they did on Saturday night, this team doesn't have the defensive balance to help offset some significant matchup problems. My solution, put the three reliable guys -- Kuba, Phillips, A-Train -- on different pairings if the team continues their slow start.
Are you disenchanted with the Senators blueline? Do you need a break from watching the NFL this afternoon? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you'll enjoy this video. No wonder Bryan Murray was tempted to keep Jared Cowen around.
“As long as we figure out what we did wrong and take some positives out of it, we’ll be all right. There’s no sense of panic.” ~ Pascal Leclaire
(Mental note to self: Don't panic. Check.)
“We played pretty good through parts of game, but we just had breakdowns and gave them odd-man rushes. That was the game. We had turnovers that killed us. We’ve just got to simplify a bit and not get running around in own end.” ~ Mike Fisher
(Mental note to self: Simplify things. Check.)
Even though these comments were made by Senators players regarding the team, some fans could do themselves a favour and heed the advice of their favorite players. It's actually kind of disturbing to see how many pessimistic fans are gloating in the wake of last night's defeat. Kudos for feeling the need to publicly stroke your cocks anonymously on the various messageboards. I'm sure it's cathartic for your sad and miserable existence to shit on a hockey team that's featuring four new players on their first three lines and had not played in a game for a week.
Although, I guess it's also kind of sad that I kept drinking booze last night in hopes that I could induce a blackout. Unfortunately, I woke up this morning and still remembered that egregious shift by Chris Campoli. (You know, that one with the turnover at his own blueline, followed up by skating past the goal line as Dubinsky's shot rang off the crossbar and Marian Gaborik tapped it by a defenseless Leclaire.)
Quit being so shallow Ottawa. Writing this team off now is like writing off a relationship with a girl that you just had a one-night stand with. At least wait awhile for the beer goggles to wear off before passing judgment.