Friday, September 28, 2007

Final Predictions for 2007-2008

Seeing as this is the final day of the off-season, I figured it was time to get off the fence and lay my Kreskin skills down. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments section. The above picture has nothing to do with anything but, damn, that sweater rules.


1. Buffalo
2. Pittsburgh
3. Tampa Bay
4. Ottawa
5. New Jersey
6. Florida
7. NY Rangers
8. NY Islanders

9. Carolina
10. Boston
11. Atlanta
12. Philadelphia
13. Montreal
14. Washington
15. Toronto


1. San Jose
2. Detroit
3. Calgary
4. Anaheim
5. Minnesota
6. Vancouver
7. Colorado
8. Nashville

9. Dallas
10. St. Louis
11. Chicago
12. Los Angeles
13. Edmonton
14. Columbus
15. Phoenix

Using The Score yearbook template, here's my picks:

Stanley Cup Champion: Ottawa Senators

Stanley Cup Finalist: Calgary Flames

President’s Trophy: San Jose Sharks

Art Ross Trophy: Sidney Crosby - Pittsburgh

Calder Trophy: Nicklas Backstrom – Washington

Vezina Trophy: Miikka Kiprusoff – Calgary

Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh

James Norris Trophy: Zdeno Chara – Boston

Jack Adams Trophy: Mike Keenan

Most Exciting Team: Pittsburgh Penguins

Best Offensive Team: Pittsburgh Penguins

Best Defensive Team: Vancouver Canucks

Breakthrough: Patrick Eaves – Ottawa, Milan Michalek – San Jose, Ryan Suter – Nashville

Risky Pick: Tim Connolly – Buffalo

Most Underrated: Brian Rolston – Minnesota

Don’t Overrate: Joni Pitkanen – Edmonton

Sleeper: Forward – Valtteri Filppula – Detroit, Defenseman – Andrej Meszaros - Ottawa

First Coach to be Fired: John Stevens - Philadelphia

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Local Fishwrap Sept. 27

(Tony Caldwell/Sun)

In reality, there's not much more to be said about the Steve Downey hit on old Deano that hasn't already been said. There is total consensus that it was a dangerous hit with a clear intent to injure. But we must be careful not to let some goon like Downey to change the way the game is played just through his sheer stupidity alone.

Wayne Scanlan jumps in with the expected "ban all hits to the head" article. I still think that some contact with the head is acceptable as long as the hit is clean and there is no intent to injure. If you heavily penalize all incidental contact to the head, then players will be way too hesitant to hit anyone for fear of getting a penalty. It would be similar to the Instigator Rule where nobody wants to fight anymore lest they hurt their team. Instead of clean hits, we'll see more knees getting taken out instead.

To me the answer is simple. Don't change the rules on hitting. Just come down hard on the obviously dangerous hits that show no respect. That way you can separate the Scott Stevens from the Steve Downey's and keep the exciting aspect of open ice hitting in the game. In essence, "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater".

So what does Colin Campbell do? Does he go lenient like he always does or does he bring the hammer down and put every skull hunter on notice? My bet is he goes lenient (3-5 games) because that's what history tells us is going to happen.

Remember, this is a league where a player can legitimately beat the snot out of a fan and not get suspended. Remember Tie Domi and that fan who fell into the penalty box? Domi was caught on camera openly feeding some drunk dude fist after fist and the league blamed it on the fan for "falling" into the penalty box. That is the very definition of backwards.

Hugh Adami gives us a revealing history lesson on some of Downey's antics of the past. One thing I never thought of before is Downey's similarity to the ex-GM who drafted him - Bobby Clarke. Both were considered "rats" who stirred up chaos and never backed it up with fists.

Allan Maki does the same in the Globe but gets an interesting perspective from Downey's former coach in junior, Moe Mantha, who ultimately lost his job because of the famed "hotbox" hazing incident that happened under his watch.

Now getting away from the already aggravating Downey story is Bruce Garrioch who lets us know that there are other issues that will have to be taken care of once everyone calms down a little bit. While Garrioch gets a little dramatic when he says that, "Dany Heatley's future with the Senators could be all but decided today", you have to think that the meeting between Sens owner Eugene Melnyk and Dany Heatley's agents will go a long way to seeing if the two sides can come together. Fact is, the Sens will give Heatley whatever he wants. If they have to say goodbye to Wade Redden, they'll do it but we must remember that Martin Gerber and Joe Corvo and their big contracts are suddenly tradeable due to their inspired play. While Corvo will probably stay, they might decide to move him next summer if it means being able to keep Redden.

Around the league:

Vesa Toskala is already getting booed in Hogtown. Seriously, the Leafs look absolutely brutal right now.

Roberto Luongo threatens to retire if the NHL makes the nets bigger. Adam Proteau of the Hockey News sounds so pissed off about Luongo's whining that he hopes it happens just to shove it in Luongo's grill. Now we just need a forward to come out and say they'll retire if Luongo's pads get any bigger. Actually that's impossible. His pads are so big already that he'd disappear with a few more inches in those shoulder pads.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Truth Is Truth"

I wanted to comment on the passing of Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz, but I couldn't find a way to do it and still be sensitive to the situation. Instead, I found an article by Steve Rosenbloom over at Chicago Sports. com that is so right on the money that it's a must read for anyone who wants to understand the current problems in Chicago.

"I know it sounds insensitive, but if we are going to pass ourselves off as being in the truth business, then the truth is that the greatest impediment to the Hawks success was the Hawks owner, one of the worst in sports history from a fan's standpoint and the man who almost singlehandedly killed hockey interest in this city. Rich, stubborn and backward, Wirtz's business practices were rooted in another century, protecting the laughable concept of "season reservation holders." In fact, you will probably see more of the man's funeral on home television than you saw of his team. Truth is truth."

Ottawa 4 Philly 2. Thugs 1 Deano 0.

(Tony Caldwell SUN)

While it was sickening to see Dean McAmmond get exploded by a headhunting punk like Steve Downie, what was almost as bad was Flyers tryout goon of the month Jesse Boulerice jumping into the fray and right on top of an unconscious Deano. If you watch the video, Boulerice’s skate lands on top of Deano’s head and grinds his face into the ice. Then on top of all this, Boulerice starts sucker punching Brain McGrattan who is busy trying to feed Downie. Literally, a gong show of outrageous proportions.

People are saying that Steve Downie was laughing as he left the ice, while paramedics were strapping Deano to the corpse board. There’s absolutely no way Downie would be getting away with crap like that if Keith Primeau was still the captain. Hopefully, Derian Hatcher has the foresight to sit down with the young punk and teach him about player to player respect before Downie’s career completely goes down in flames.

In case you aren’t familiar with Boulerice or Downie, here’s a quick primer on how to be a classless hockey player:

Steve Downie: In 2005-2006, Downie led the hazing ritual for his team, the Windsor Spitfires, which included locking all the rookies in the bathroom on the bus while they were naked. Rookie Akim Aliu (now a Chicago prospect), 16, refused to go in the bathroom and later on found himself the victim of a Downie crosscheck to the face at practice, knocking out three of his teeth. Downie was suspended 5 games and later traded to the Peterborough Petes. He was also ordered to see a shrink. Looks like it really helped.

Jesse Boulerice: Was charged with assault after levelling Guelph Storm player Andrew Long in the face with his stick back in 1998 while with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. In 165 NHL games, Boulerice has 10 points. Enough said.

Now that the bloodshed is out of the way, let’s retread the game a little.

Ray Emery got beaten twice on his glove side but looked comfortable handling the puck. Martin Gerber came in to relieve him in the third and continued to impress by looking solid. As long as he doesn’t completely fall apart in the next month or two, Gerber is positioning himself as the best goalie available on the trade market. In fact, if this keeps up, Bryan Murray might actually get something useful back in exchange, instead of just dumping his contract as the case would have been over the summer. A couple of draft picks and a decent backup goalie is not out of the question.

Jason Spezza looked like The Man again last night, despite playing on the back-to-back. Dany Heatley was feisty, giving Derian Hatcher a spirited shove after Spezza’s goal and rookie Alex Nikulin played another fine game, this time on a line with Alfie.

But to me, the two stars of the game were undoubtedly Joe Corvo and Patty Eaves. Corvo was unleashing bomb after bomb from the blueline and he looked like a cheetah when he was skating the puck through the neutral zone. Dean Brown of the Team 1200 said that Corvo’s fitness testing was through the roof at camp this year and he also mentioned Corvo being a guest bouncer on the Jerry Springer show, the episode of which aired yesterday. I missed it but I hope that he got to slam around a little white trash while he had the chance. Perhaps it was training for dealing with sociopathic hicks like Boulerice and Downey.

Anyways, the Sens look to be on track, despite only having to play against an unmanned Philly squad.

I still can’t believe that John Stevens is the head coach of the Flyers. This dude looks like an insurance salesman who got lost in the arena and found himself behind the players bench holding a greasy plastic tray of nachos. I’ll put my money on Stevens being the first head coach fired this year, if not because of his inexperience, then because of the major pressure that this revamped Flyers squad will be under to win. It might take them some time to get the losing attitude out but Stevens may not be around to see the bright side.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sens vs Flyers Pre-Game Notes

(Alex Urosevic SUN)

The Sens today made six cuts, including Cody Bass and Danny Bois, the latter after incurring a barrage of knuckles from a hopped up Nathan Perrot last night in Toronto. The team also let goalies Brian Elliott and Jeff Glass go to Bingo which means Ray Emery is ready to play.

Also in the lineup tonight is Lawrence Nycholat who will only be playing in his second game of the pre-season. You can bet that he will be watched closely as the team tries to decide who the hell is going to fill out that sixth spot. Christoph Schubert will get another chance on the backend tonight after throwing two ropes into the net against the Buds.

Remember that the game is being shown locally on Rogers 22 if you can't make it out to the Bank.

Soaked To The Bone

Randy Sportak really brings the hammer down on the new "sweaters", and not because of the way they look. Reports are starting to "flood" in from around the league about the new jersey's trapping all the sweat inside the uniform, resulting in soaked gloves, skates and undershirts. Players are pissed.

"My undershirt is just soaked," said forward Owen Nolan. "I find I'm changing them in between periods and a lot more frequently than before. I feel like I'm working out in a sauna."

"With the other ones, you had holes and got more of a breeze in there -- maybe that's why you got that drying out effect," said blueliner Cory Sarich. "These seem to heat you up more because there's not that two-way air flow.

"Besides, the jerseys don't feel much different than the old ones. I don't know if they've accomplished what they want. From talking to guys, I don't feel they're making a difference on the ice."

Local Fishwrap Sept. 25

(Frank Gunn CP)

It’s amazing what a better skating stride can do for a player. Jason Spezza wheeled around the entire Toronto team not once, but twice and slid an absolutely perfect pass to Patrick Eaves for the goal. There were three Maple Leaf groins hanging from the rafters after Spezza’s snake-run which clearly indicates that his back is finally ironed out. That, in conjunction with some track training this summer, has him skating like Bobby O… well not quite, but pretty damn good nonetheless.

So the Sens are 4-0 in the pre-season and Pierre McGuire goes on the Team 1200 this morning and tells the local audience to start saving their money because the Sens are going on a long playoff run. A bit premature perhaps, but already the bar owners on Elgin Street are starting to buy themselves brand new BMW SUV’s…errr…. that was Mike “Boy Toy” Comrie buying one for already mega-rich girlfriend Hilary Duff. Nothing says I love you like a planet destroying SUV gas guzzler.

Well, onto the local rags…

Bruce Garrioch lets it slip that Dany Heatley’s agents are meeting not only with GM Bryan Murray but owner Eugene Melnyk himself to try and get a contract done. Garrioch says that Heater wants somewhere between 7.5 and 9 mill. If they get him done for 7.5 then Murray is a bigger genius than I already thought.

One thing you can take to the bank: getting Heater done basically gets Spezza done as well because there’s no way Spezza will turn down good coin to play with Heatley for the next four years. If Heater doesn’t sign, then all bets with Spezza are off. You can just imagine the Maple Leafs brass watching Spezza absolutely dissect and cauterize their team in a ten second span last night and hoping to god that he’s still a restricted free agent next summer. The offer sheet will fly off the fax machine faster than they can give themselves a raise every summer.

On the injury front, Mike Fisher is still holding a bag of ice to his marbles and Ray Emery thinks he might be able to play against the Flyers tonight, but that seems unlikely. Alfie’s got the flu. Joe Corvo still has a bad haircut. Especially for a guy in his thirties. I guess it’s true that playing hockey can extend your adolescence for an indefinite period. News flash: Joe Corvo turns 16 this year.

Allen Panzeri deservedly focuses more on Christoph Schubert in his game wrap-up. Schube played on the back end last night and potted two beauty goals. I still like him better as a hard skating forward but he definitely showed that he can play either position and will be a big factor for the team this season. You have to love the expression on his face after scoring his second goal – he looked almost apologetic and confused. Did I really rifle that one in? Man, maybe I’m good at this after all.

Around the League:

The Vancouver Canucks may be heading into a tough season simply because these dudes can’t score to save their lives. Alain Vigneault might win you some games with his extremely boring trap style, but he can’t get his players to score. This team is going nowhere unless they loosen the reins and let more than one guy chase the puck. How long will Vancouver fans be content to just pay to watch a good goalie?
Why is Chris Simon allowed to play pre-season games even though he's still under suspension? This is just another example of the NHL completely blowing something that seems so simple, like going to Versus instead of ESPN. Because Simon was in the lineup last night, all hell breaks loose... and it's only pre-season!
I don't know if it's just me but this pre-season has been extremely intense across the league. Guys used to just go out there and try to break a sweat. Now they're risking their bodies by driving to the net in middle of nowhere arena's in front of 2000 people. Crazy.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Defensive Hockey Is Back - Cox

Damien Cox weighs in with what I think is a very strong article concerning the old ways of suffocating defense creeping back into the game.

And in what will probably be the strangest injury for the rest of this season, Dan Boyle of the Lightning is out four to six weeks after a skate fell from a hook in the dressing room and severed one of his tendons. Brutal.

Local Fishwrap Sept. 24

(Ian Barrett CP)

The big story of the day is the injuries that are piling up on the Senators as the season opener looms in the near future.

Ray Emery says he's not ready to play yet (with a surgically repaired wrist) but coach John Paddock and goalie coach Eli Wilson are hinting that it might just be a mental roadblock rather than a physical one. Paddock tells Ken Warren that:

"It's just about feeling comfortable facing shooters, not wanting to embarrass yourself that's as much to do with it as anything, I believe."

Now Wade Redden's back is hurting and he had to leave practice on Sunday to get it "stretched out". Mike Fisher is still out with a groin pull and no one knows when he can play again.

What's interesting with Emery's injury is that Martin Gerber is now getting almost all the pre-season minutes. So far he's played well and may be showing other teams that he's a good goalie to trade for. But what if Emery misses more time than he's supposed to? There are rampant rumours about the L.A. Kings being interested in Gerber after giving Dan Cloutier the long awaited boot down the AHL. In what may be the best opportunity to rid themselves of Gerber's contract, the Sens find themselves desperately in need of his services.

According to Ken Warrren, Jason Spezza has never been in better physical condition and is gunning for a big season with restricted free agency looming.

There's also a story about Kyle Wellwood of the Leafs and how his injury may be the result of some lackadaisical summer workouts. Wellwood is slated to be the number two centre and he comes to camp with a body chiseled out of marshmallows. Good job dude. Way to take your career seriously.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Local Fishwrap Sept. 21

(Tony Caldwell/Sun)

I'm not sure what to think about head coach John Paddock repeatedly going after a 19 year old kid like Nick Foligno in the media. Here's an excerpt from Ken Warren's wrap up of last nights game against the Caps (for full coverage of the game, go down one blog entry).

Yesterday morning, Paddock again said it was important for Foligno to stick to basics, reminding everyone within earshot that the 19-year-old winger had to stop playing "a cute game because we have enough guys who play a cute game."

Not only is it strange to put so much pressure on a 19 year old prospect, but it also reveals Paddock's main view of the team he inherited from Bryan Murray. He obviously feels this team isn't gritty enough and he went out of his way say that he enjoys fighting in the game, even after Chris Neil and Jeremy Yablonski went toe to toe during an inter-squad game.

I have no problem with Paddock trying to toughen up the team but I'm already getting a little leery of his penchant for using the media to get his message across. If Paddock turns out to be a John Tortorella clone (well, more like Tortorella on Somonex) then we could be looking at some major flare ups this season between Paddock and the players. Maybe that's just what this team needs but I'm not so sure. Daniel Alfredsson might have had a point when he expressed that he wished Bryan Murray had stayed on as coach this year. We'll wait and see about this one.

Ken Warren also provides some details about the Sens cutting 13 players yesterday and talks to assistant general manager Tim Murray about how the Bingo Sens plan to be tougher this year.

"I want to have the identity of being a hard team to play against," said Murray. "I don't mean goon hockey or anything like that, but when we were at the rookie tournament and playing against Wilkes-Barre (the Pittsburgh Penguins' affiliate), the Pittsburgh guys were kind of chirping at me that they took eight of eight games last year. Very easily, with very little resistance. I don't like the Wilkes-Barres and the Hersheys (the Washington Capitals' top farm club) to think that we're a pushover."

Chris Stevenson tackles Brian McGrattan's complaints that the new jersey's are making it hard for fighters to ply their trade. But McGrattan's more worried about how the sweaters tend to rip easily and not about being able to grab a hold of the tight sweaters.

"I don't like holding on anyways," he said.

Post Script:
I'm so thankful that the Coyotes are done playing the Leafs. If I have to read another "Wayne Gretzky Has His Hands Full" story, I might put my head through my monitor.
Jason Spezza hurt his foot in last nights game. Apparently, it's not serious.

Ottawa 5 Washington 4

(Tony Caldwell/Sun)

In a fairly entertaining pre-season tilt, the Sens emerged with the comeback win over a revamped Caps squad at the Palladium…errr… Corel ….. Scotia Bank Place last night.

Some thoughts:

Nick Foligno is changing my mind fairly quickly. I was skeptical about this kid precisely because he was … a kid. The local fishwraps were squealing with anticipation about a kid who was barely a first round pick and it seemed evident that there was only one spot open on the squad. Why would a 19 year old from the OHL get it?

I’m starting to drink the kool-aid.

While I don’t think Foligno was as noticeable as he was against the Flyers on Tuesday, he did score one hell of a backhand goal against Olaf Kolzig and topped it off with some very adept passing in the offensive zone throughout the game. He seems to make things happen whenever he has the puck but is getting the shit kicked out of him through the press by none other than head coach John Paddock, who claims that Foligno is getting too “fancy”. We’ll talk about that later today in the Local Fishwrap entry, but needless to say, Foligno fed that backhander not so much past Kolzig but right up Paddocks southern hole.

We also got to see goalie Brian Elliott for the first time after he relieved a very ordinary looking Martin Gerber (back to earth after all!), and Elliott looked really strong in the time he received, making some stunning saves where he was forced to move from side to side. The organization can’t believe they snagged this guy in the 9th bloody round in 2003! At 6”2 and 202 pounds, he’s almost the exact same size as Ray Emery and exhibits similar athletic skills.

Now about Martin Gerber. He definitely had a poorer game than he did against Philly and he let out so many rebounds that it looked like someone had dumped a sack of marbles in front of him. He was also doing that thing where he gets behind the play and slides himself way out of position on his recovery. I’m still not convinced that Gerber is ever going to recover his form.

Alexander Nikulin played on a line with Alfredsson and Vermette and looked very comfortable in the process, moving the puck confidently and getting in the right places to receive dishes from Alfie. Bruce Garrioch was on the Team 1200 pre-game show last night and hinted that Nikulin might stay in North America after all, even if he is sent to Bingo. Nikulin, unlike fellow countryman Ilya Zubov, has a deal back in Russia if he doesn’t make the Sens but as his much talked about blog shows, he is hellbent on playing in the NHL and seems to be have a good head on his shoulders despite his youth. At this point, both he and Zubov look like sure NHLer’s at least by next year. If these guys work out, John Muckler should receive some credit for taking the Russians during the no-transfer agreement era.

I was really looking forward to seeing Cody Bass play but he didn’t really show much except some good hustle and a hardcore shot-block in the third period. I was convinced he might be a darkhorse candidate to make the team but I’m wavering on that bet now. He looks like he needs more seasoning on the farm.

Other standouts for Sens were in the veteran category as Alfie dominated at points and Christoph Schubert played a great game on the back end, throwing around his body, making good outlet passes and even rushing the puck a few times early in the game. At one point I thought he was back on forward for a shift as he ragged the puck all the way behind the net in the first period. I’m still not sure he should be sacrificed as a forward but he did look good playing with Wade Redden. Wade started the game paired with Nycholat but Schubert seemed to take over that spot after Nycholat spent time in the box for a scrap. Nycholat looked fairly good in the game, showing some toughness and hard-hitting but he is still on the bubble.

Wade Redden played another pedestrian game, picking up where he left off in the Cup final. Let’s hope it’s just a case of the pre-season legs not being where they should be yet. He made a really bad decision early on when he pinched on a puck that he had no chance to retain. That caused a 2-on-1 that Gerber stopped.

On the Cap’s side, I was most impressed with prospect Thomas Fleischman who showed an awesome skill level and definitely outplayed promising rookie Nicklas Backstrom. Alex Ovechkin showed bursts of inspired play but there’s something different about this guy from his first year in the league. Some of the spark seems to have worn off. Maybe it’s the losing. Maybe it’s the other teams using all their strength to shut him down. Who knows. I just hope that Ovechkin doesn’t turn into another Ilya Kovalchuk, where he comes into the league on fire and then just sort of settles into average stardom. Ovechkin is way too good for that.

Post Script: The Leafs looked terrible last night against Phoenix. The highlight of that game had to be Phoenix middle-weight tough guy Daniel Carcillo absolutely crushing Matt Stajan at the blueline. He also potted two goals in the game. He’s exactly the type of player that can help Phoenix. They already have a lot of young skill coming up through the ranks but Carcillo can add that toughness and leadership which can hold it all together. Having Carcillo and Keith Ballard (one of my favourite young players) is a bonus for a soft Coyotes squad.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Free NHL Center Ice Online Pre-Season Games

If you go to this link, you can watch most of the pre-season games live for free. It's a little troublesome sometimes but if you can figure it out...

Anyways, there you go.

Local Fishwrap Sept. 20

(CP PHOTO/Dave Chidley)

It was inevitable. Once Martin Gerber posted a shutout in the first pre-season game, we have ourselves a mini goaltending controversy in the capital city. Any rational person would suggest that it's just one game and we're crazy to be even suggesting it but that's what the main beat writers are doing in the Sun and the Citizen. Wayne Scanlan weighs in here, as does Bruce Garrioch here.

There are a lot of people in this region who really want to see Ray Emery fail. You can see it wherever fans congregate, either on the forums or in the bars. He has become a polarizing presence in town after a few minor incidents off the ice. The truth is that some people just aren't comfortable with an athlete who doesn't conform to the stereotypical low key hockey player that a lot of us have gotten used to. Why this is, I have no idea. People in this town should be on their knees thanking their deities that we have someone as interesting and brash as Rayzor (not to mention great on the ice as well).

We should also not forget how badly Martin Gerber fell last season and the fact that he has only played as a number one goalie for one season. One! I for one am not getting on the Gerber bandwagon just yet.

Ken Warren does a piece on Patrick Eaves where John Paddock says that Eaves was the best player on the ice Tuesday night against the Flyers. He'll get an audition on the top line with Heatley and Spezza tonight against the Capitals. At least Warren got Eaves name right after an article a couple of days ago that referred to Patrick as "Mike Eaves". Mike is Patrick's old man and played in the NHL for the Minnesota North Stars and the Calgary Flames.

Matt Carkner broke his hand in a scrap on Tuesday which effectively ends his training camp here in Ottawa. He'll go down to Bingo and hope for a call-up later in the season.

Tonight's game against the Caps also allows us a chance to catch Cody Bass, who will be playing on the fourth line with Josh Hennessy and Brian McGrattan. With all the talk about Nick Foligno, I was more looking forward to seeing what Bass can do. Not long ago, Bass was being favourably compared to Mike Fisher, much like Foligno is now. Over at Hockeys Future, they have this to say about him:

"He’s not a sharp shooter and you really have to watch him to appreciate him. No NHL coach will be upset that you drafted Cody Bass; he can skate, he can fight, he’s a great faceoff man, he can kill penalties and even though he might only score ten goals a year, they might be game winners. He’s a character kid but if you’re looking for offensive upside, he’s not your guy."

Bass had an up and down season last year in the OHL with both Mississauga and Saginaw due to some injuries but also played 5 games with Bingo where he picked up 2 assists. He could be a real dark horse to make this team. If Hennessy doesn't get his act together, then Bass could fly by him on the depth chart. It also looks as though Paddock is still unconvinced about Foligno which also improves Bass's chances.

Post Script:

I like a good scrap as much as the next guy but I have to cringe when I see that Andrew Archer of the Habs has a fractured orbital bone and the most gruesome black eye since Andreas Dackell was almost killed by Eric Lindros, due to a scrap with undisputed heavyweight champion Georges Laraque of the Penguins.

Some are saying that the new tighter jerseys are responsible for Cam Janssen blowing out his shoulder because his sweater was easily ripped in a scrap with the Flyer's Jesse Boulerice. Arron Asham of the Devils even claims that the new sweaters are designed to kill of fighting completely.

Also: Got to love that Simon Gamache kid. This guy has scored a ton of points in every league but still hasn't gotten a solid chance in the NHL. Now with the Leafs, he absolutely pegged the Coyotes Daniel Carcillo with a vicious open ice illegal hit at the blueline last night in Winnipeg. Sure it was illegal, but if scoring doesn't get you a job then you have to make them notice you some other way. I'm really pulling for this guy to make it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Local Fishwrap Sept. 19

(CP PHOTO/Dave Chidley)

Hugh Adami seems convinced that Wade Redden is on his way out of town, either during this season or definitely after. The Mike Fisher deal seems to have cemented Redden's fate with both Heatley and Spezza needing rich new contracts next summer. My only quibble is that teams rarely win the Stanley Cup without an experienced elite defenseman. Like him or not, Redden is as close to an experienced elite defenseman that the Sens have. Be careful what you wish for.

Allen Panzeri talks to Bryan Murray and get's his take on Fisher's signing as well as how he plans to get Heatley and Spezza signed. This is already becoming a distraction.

Wayne Scanlan does a piece on John Paddock and the coach's willingness to speak his mind. Paddock is even compared to the fiesty Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella. Already his public criticism of prospect Nick Foligno has paid dividends if last night's pre-season game was any indication. Bryan Murray was equally forthright in his comments to the media but he often disguised it in humour. Paddock is more like a sledgehammer. The man doesn't smile. This will be interesting to watch over the upcoming season.

Chris Stevenson adds another few column inches to the mounting Nick Foligno story. I don't think any rookie has had so much scrutiny in the capital since Alex Daigle. Seriously. The expectations for this kid are way out of whack, especially for a team that just went to the final and have only one forward spot open. Where did this come from?

Sens 4 Flyers 0

The Ottawa Senators skated to a 4-0 win last night in their first pre-season game, with a great performance from, of all people, Martin Gerber and youngsters Nick Foligno and Ilya Zubov.

Some quick thoughts:

Nick Foligno played a smart, aggressive game by going to the net and forechecking hard. He’s looks like he really might have a chance to stick with the big squad. But that’s also partly due to the virtually invisible game that prospect forward Josh Hennessy played. I’m not sure what’s the deal with this guy but he has to show more than he did last night. He displayed a major lack of intensity and played on the perimeter. To me, he had the best chance of grabbing that one fourth line spot that’s been left open but he was badly outplayed by Foligno.

Another bright spot was Ilya Zubov. Not only did he look comfortable on and off the ice (he was chirping and laughing on the bench with the boys), but he displayed a great hockey sense and always seemed to be around the puck. He scored a nice goal and looks like he’ll see some NHL time this season. He does look small though.

Much heralded prospect Brian Lee played a seesaw game where he made some perfect tape-to-tape outlet passes but had some lapses in the defensive zone. The encouraging aspect is that he is highly skilled but I don’t see him on the big team at any point this season. Still looks like a baby.

Luke Richardson played a solid game and didn’t have a bad shift. He showed how strong he was down low and proved to be a better skater than you’d think. I just don’t see the Sens sending him down, even if it means keeping an extra body on the roster. He was already wearing an “A” last night and will be a pivotal figure in the locker room. Plus, he can still play.

In the veteran category, Chris Kelly, Patrick Eaves, Andrej Meszaros, Chris Neil and Joe Corvo all played good games. Kelly, I thought, looked like the leader on the ice and Meszaros overcame a few opening bad shifts to look strong on the blueline. Meszaros has still has to learn to take a hard hit and not give up the puck.

Denis Hamel was invisible all night. I don’t think I’ve honestly ever seen Hamel play a really good game in a Sens uniform. I don’t get it. He’s way too slow for the NHL and he doesn’t bother to hit anyone. He’s purely an AHL player at this point.

On the Flyers side of the ledger, I thought Joffrey Lupul played a terrible game. For a guy with that kind of skill, Lupul looks like he couldn’t care less. The Flyers could have a big time bust on their hands with this guy unless he finds some intensity. You can even see it when he talks to the media. He seems glazed over and uninterested. The Flyers fans will kill this guy if he doesn’t shape up.

Brian Boucher played well in goal for the Flyers as he attempts to get his career back on the tracks. Steve Downie still doesn’t look like he’s ready for the NHL which surprises me. He has a chance to be the next Sean Avery but he looks timid for some reason.

And of course, we have to hand it to Martin Gerber who got his season off to a strong start by making some brilliant point-blank saves. It’s only one game but it looks encouraging. But what’s with the blank helmet? He said there was nothing to it and that he was just trying a new model out in training camp. But there he was last night with the Sens-less helmet. My bet is it stays that way until someone gets the courage to trade for him.

Uni Note: The new Sens uniforms looked better than I expected but the road jerseys are so white that you actually have trouble picking out the players on the ice. Hopefully that’s not the case for the players themselves or we could see a miserable road record for the Sens and nobody will realize why.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More Alex Nikulin Blog

This kid's blog just keeps getting better and better. Not only is he offering good insight into how the Sens training camp is progressing but we also get hilarious anecdotes from a dude who is obviously having some culture shock.

Here's the latest entry translated from Russian.


"September 18: "Shoot more," Heatley told me in Russian.

The most important period in my life has begun, the training camp with the big club. After the prospects tournament, which we finished with a 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh, they announced that eight people have been cut and the rest are moving on. There was no discussion of the previous game, I guess the result didn’t much interest anyone.

Prior to the start of training camp everyone was called in for an individual interview with Bryan Murray’s assistant. I went with my buddy Kaspars Daugavins so he could translate. But it was short. I was told that I will remain with Ottawa and train with the big club. Keep doing what you did in the prospects tournament, and so on.

Right now we have about 40-45 guys skating. We’re split into two teams. I’m the only Russian on mine, since Anton Volchenkov, Ilja Zubov, and Kaspar are all on the other one. But this split is obviously arbitrary. If only because Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza are on my team.

We do have the first exhibition game at Philadelphia. I won’t be playing, and won’t be making the trip. But Ilja’s going. I’m not worried about this. Nothing wrong that I didn’t make that team. The head coach has to see everybody.

Pre-season training in Ottawa is very different from what I’ve experienced in Russia. The schedule is compact. At 10 AM we hit the ice, then it’s the gym, 45 minutes at max, and that’s it. Then you’re as free as a bird, do what you want.

On-ice activities also differ. Everything’s on a fast pace, there’s virtually no time to rest between exercises. We practice two-on-one and one-on-none breakaways, but not like in Russia. The speeds are really fast. Much faster than during the prospects tournament, but I already wrote how surprised I was by how quickly the guys race up and down. The easy part is that there’s just one practice a day. But still we skate an awful lot. You can tell that the best have been selected here. Each can make passes and receive them, and all at high speeds. No one’s an odd one out, which is also surprising. It’s a whole different level.

We haven’t had any cross-country. We haven’t been on the ground at all yet, actually. I think since the exhibition games have started, then we won’t be running anyway. Another curious moment is working out at the gym. In Russia we use the weights to set records. Lift some kinds of kilograms. In the NHL there are totally different exercises. I’ve discovered so many new things! How to perform balance exercises and work on your mid-section. I never did that. It wasn’t easy at first, but I’m used to it now.

I’m on a line with these two guys. One of them is Jim McKenzie, who was also at the prospects camp with me. The other one I don’t know. Haven’t really gotten to know my partners yet, and there are problems with English. It’s obvious that neither is a tough guy and both are playmakers. By the way, a guy came to camp for the “policeman” role. He used to be in cage fighting. Square kind of guy, huge.

During the intra-squad game he fought a local colleague. Had a good battle. A few punches were landed.During the intra-squad game I couldn’t really distinguish myself, although our team won. I took a penalty shot unsuccessfully, the goalie got it. Couldn’t say who he was, but definitely not Emery. He doesn’t skate with us at all. During the game I tried to take some plays upon myself, but it’s rather tough so far. I’m not as fast as most, but I’m working on that. I’ve got to keep trying. Especially since Ottawa has too many centers as it is, six or seven, I think. And roster spots on the main lineup are limited.

During the first practice I met Heatley and Spezza. Turns out Dany speaks a bit of Russian. He knows three phrases: “How are you?”, “Good evening,” and, what’s remarkable, he hinted, “Shoot more.” Probably learned from Ilya Kovalchuk. Spezza skated up to me and began talking about my stick blade. He really likes it, and plays with the same kind, only right-handed. Jason started explaining something, but I said I don’t understand English. He said “Okay” and skated away.

Too bad I don’t chat with anyone in the locker room. I can ask how it’s going, and reply that everything’s fine. But I also understand more and more now. Speaking is really hard. That will come with time.All in all, things are relatively good. I decided not to think about my chances of making the big team. Must concentrate on the training - then come what may."

When Going Retro Goes Horribly Wrong

Bloody horrific. There's nothing more to say about the new San Jose uniforms. Now easily the worst in the entire NHL.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Local Fishwrap Sept. 15

There is an unbelievably candid article by Chris Stevenson where he gets a real sense of what John Paddock is thinking concerning his lines.

"Heater and Spezz love playing with Chris Kelly and there's certain reasons for that, but it probably lacks a little bit of offensive pizzazz.

"Patty Eaves, is he going to be a top-six player for the rest of his career? I'm not sure he can score. Does he make things happen quick enough? Could (Antoine) Vermette be responsible enough defensively and not get too caught up in the offence?

"Unless you're an elite player like Alfie, it's a certain kind of player that can play there. We only have one Alfredsson.

"I think it's clear what Bryan means by we need another top six forward. Whoever it is to play with, it doesn't matter. We need another one."

I'm liking the way Paddock thinks. He seems like a real straight shooter and that can only be a plus as long as guys can take criticism well. It sounds to me like he's daring Patrick Eaves to perform like a top-line player. Great article.

Chris Stevenson remains on a hot streak with a piece about Jeremy Yablonski, a six time Golden Glove boxing champ and a "mixed-martial art" fighter trying to win the enforcers job with Bingo this season. Yablonski has played one NHL game with the St. Louis Blues a couple years ago and apparently dusted Todd Fedoruk in his one fight (although who doesn't put Fedoruk down nowadays?)

Not to get too off topic, but I hate the way people are starting to treat "mixed-martial arts" or Ultimate Fighting with some kind of respect. This is not a sport. It is pure blood lust and savagery and it's only fans are the kind of demented adolescents who defend Michael Vick for fighting dogs. It's bloody sickening that it's starting to get traction in the respectability department. If you wouldn't let your kids watch it, then it's not a sport.

Anyhoo, in the same article, Stevenson quotes Paddock as saying this about Ray Emery.

"I don't think Ray has done anything in the NHL at all, confrontation-wise. Teams have tried to goad him into situations and he's, to me, sometimes, he's been too content. He's too quiet in there. I have no issues about Ray's temperament on the ice and his composure. I think it's been outstanding."

Will we get to see more situations where Emery throws down the gloves this season? Looks like Paddock encourages it. Man, this Paddock dude gets better and better with every interview.

Over at the Citizen, Wayne Scanlan does an in-depth look at Antoine Vermette who has put on some serious muscle over the summer while getting rusty on his English skills. Scanlan does point out that Vermette has been the lone Francophone on the team since Patrick Lalime left. It would be nice to have a few more guys who can speak French, considering the bilingual nature of the capital city. Who's got Daigle's number?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Local Fishwrap Sept. 14

(photo: Errol McGihon, Ottawa Sun)

The Citizen does a sitdown with Jason Spezza that falls somewhat flat. Now that's hard to do considering Spezz is a very talkative guy.

Wayne Scanlan gets off a good line in a Day 1 training camp review.

"But what about the finalist jinx -- the letdown that seems to dog Cup finalists in the year after the long run?

What about the Cup "hangover?"

(Question: How can there be a hangover when the champagne was in the other dressing room, the one down the hall in Anaheim?)"

Again, the Citizen is being mighty stingy with Sens coverage so far. Two pint sized articles? Brutal. Is this Miami?

The Sun does a little better with articles on Redden, Heatley and a general overview of camp.

The Redden article also indicates that Paddock might not play Christoph Schubert on defense after all. Every one seemed to agree that's where he was headed but I always liked Schube better as a hard forechecking forward. He can absolutely paste people on the end boards when he gets the train engine going. He doesn't have that same impact on the back end.

P. S. Has anyone ever seen John Paddock smile yet? This is one serious dude.

The Maurice Prediction

A lot of people are laughing at Paul Maurice today after he called his shot and proclaimed the Leafs would definitely make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup. The laughter and controversy only highlights the weakness of the Leafs roster, with a woeful defense core and a thin crop of scoring forwards, not to mention major uncertainty in nets.

But I think it was a good move on the part of Maurice. In such a pressure packed media market like Toronto, it’s always better to come out with a bat and hit them over the head with it. Maurice already knows that if the Leafs miss the playoffs, a lot of people’s jobs will be in jeopardy, including his own. So you might as well go for it right now and try to kick start the team with a bit of bravado. It’s not like you’re adding too much pressure to a team that is used to having a colossal horde of media and fans screaming at them after every game. If this was Wayne Gretzky calling his shot in Phoenix then you’d have a major problem but Maurice has nothing to lose by coming out strong and believing in his team. But he shouldn’t expect an easy ride.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

EA NHL 08 Gallery - All New Uni's Revealed!

Thanks to NHL Tournament Of Logos we have all the screen captures of the new uniforms as first discussed one entry below. I actually like the new Oilers uni simply because it looks like the original orange is back, if only on the arm stripes.
The new Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks are some of the worst uniforms in NHL history! Bloody awful. The Chicago and New Jersey sweaters stayed the same. That's the good news.

EA Sports Releases Uniforms?

Over at NHL Tournament of Logos, they've discovered that EA Sports has released its code to allow players of NHL 08 to see all the new uniforms, thereby pre-releasing the St.Louis, Atlanta, Chicago and all the other teams sweaters before their official unveiling. It doesn't look good if the screen captures are any evidence. The Sharks especially look brutal despite being somewhat traditional (can you ever call teal original?).

Local Fishwrap Roundup Sept. 13

(Photo: Tony Caldwell - Ottawa Sun)

Martin Gerber is claiming that there's no controversy concerning his all black mask, shorn of all Senators emblems. He doesn't deny wanting a trade either.

Chris Stevenson weighs in on the long odds of a team losing in the final to make it back the next year. Last team to do it? The Edmonton Oilers. They lost to the dynasty Isles in 83 but bounced back to win the Cup in 84.

Ken Warren does a very general piece in the Citizen but also mentions that Dany Heatley is gunning to be the first guy since John Leclair to score 50 goals for three straight seasons.

Now if you think the Ottawa press is over-hyping teen Nick Foligno, you should see what they're doing to poor Carey Price in Montreal. In the hundredth Price article in the last month, Jack Todd lets it be known that if Price fails, the Habs are doomed to another ten years of mediocrity. Harsh stuff, but that's hockey life in Montreal.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Spezza Makes The Cover

The cover for NHL 2K8 makes the new Sens sweater look pretty good in action. I freaking love those stripes on the pants and the shoulder patch. Everything else....

Too bad Spezz only got the 2K8 gig. Not that I'm a huge gamer but me and my brother Ben get these hockey games every year and EA Sports continually beats the snot out of the 2K games. It's not even close, although last years EA was terrible.

The hard part is convincing my wife that it's okay for a 31 year old to play video games.

New 'Lanche Sweaters

(photo:JOHN LEYBA)

First impression? They should have went to a NY Rangers style jersey with the Colorado lettering across the front like their recent third jerseys. I've never liked the Avalanche logo but these are a slight improvement over their normal uni's with the awful zig-zag at the bottom. It looks like the blue is more bright which is always a good sign in a league where black and navy blues seem to dominate the landscape.
Too bad about falling victim to the piping curse.

Don't Panic If Rayzer Knocks On Your Door Today

The Sens are taking a page out of the Pens playbook by personally delivering suite tickets to rich people's homes.

The players on the prowl today from noon to 2 are Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, Joe Corvo, Shean Donovan, Ray Emery, Andrej Meszaros, Dean McAmmond and Christoph Schubert.

Just be careful not to get too excited and grab Ray Emery's bad wrist. You could bring the whole ship down before it's left the harbour. Plus you might get a few choice F-bombs dropped on you.

More Alex Nikulin Blog

As you can find here, we've been posting a translation of Sens prospect Alexander Nikulin's blog. This guy seems to have a good head on his shoulders and genuinely wants to make the team coming off a strong rookie camp. If he doesn't he'll go back to play in Russia another year.

Here's his latest entry:

September 12: It'd be nice to see Ottawa.

"As expected, a team representative met me at the airport. Started saying something in English very rapidly. Obviously, I didn't understand anything and shied away a bit. My girlfriend helped: I phoned her and she translated. Turned out it was nothing serious. We had to wait for somebody else.What that means is that I need to work on my English as soon as possible.

The first day I had a physical. Ottawa's defenseman Anton Volchenkov helped there. Thanks to him for that. By the way, Anton is training on his own for now. The training camp for the big club hasn't started yet.We're staying at this five-star hotel, a very nice one. I'm sharing a room with Ilja Zubov, who arrived in Canada earlier and has become accustomed to the local way of life. So he's helping me.

Ilja describes his first impressions of being in Canada and they're similar to my own. He too was in shock from the practices and games, but then got used to that.Certainly, to better learn the language, it'd be best to room with a Canadian, but, truthfully, I don't think I could do it. We wouldn't understand one another and just not talk, basically. That would be tough.

Haven't been out to the city yet. Absolutely no time because of the prospects tournament. And our rink is located in the suburbs, and the hotel is nearby. I hope there will be time to see the city, though. Right after the prospects tournament.Visitors to the blog are asking if there is interest here in the Super Series between Russian and Canadian junior teams. To be honest, I haven't noticed any excitement. And no one's asked me anything.

We don't have practices as such. Prior to a game we skate a bit, and not even every time. Before the Pittsburgh game they let us sleep. And before that the practice was a simple one: we worked on shooting the puck and entering the zone. Nothing supernatural.

Haven't made friends with any of the locals as yet. Spend all the time with Kasper from Latvia (Kaspars Daugavins), my linemate, and Ilja Zubov. By the way, Kasper speaks Russian and English well. He helps whenever any problems arise. And another curious detail. We've played three games, but I haven't met any other Russian players. In Ottawa it's just us two, and that's it for now.

I saw that the visitors to the blog were asking about my chances with Ottawa. Said I couldn't count on the first two lines of the roster. Let's wait until the main training camp starts. Undoubtedly, it will be extremely hard but I'll try to make the team. Even on the third line. That's still not bad.

Want to say to Denis Parshin that I haven't gotten the jumpsuit for him yet. Let him cope on his own, there's no problem in Russia with it. I'll buy it only in case I'll have to go back. And I wouldn't want to go back - I'd really like to cement my place in the NHL. "

Local Fishwrap Roundup

The Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Sun have virtually the same articles concerning Ray Emery's wrist except the Citizen claims that Emery visited a specialist in Cleveland while the Sun says he didn't. Scintillating....

The Sun also does another piece on Nick Foligno, who is being set up to fail big time by the local media. They are pumping this kid up so much that everyone is forgetting he's only 19. Let's face it - Foligno is not going to be the difference maker this season.
In fact, the local wraps have been really lazy giving us any sort of coverage even though a multitude of players have been in the capital skating for weeks now. One or two small articles a day doesn't cut it for a hockey crazed city.

New Bingo, Sabres Sweaters

The Sens American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Senators revealed their new sweaters recently. To catch a broad glimpse of all the new AHL sweaters, go here.

The lucky fans in Sabreland have to shell out for a new souvenir just one year after the last new sweater. Here's a link to a good article on Hockey Blog In Canada about the questionable pricing for these new jerseys.
Also, the Leafs whip their new ones out today. More later.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thanks Reebok.

The game looks so much better due to your participation. We are all so grateful. Enjoy our money.

Fisher Hurt … Again … And Other Sens Notes. Plus - A Hockey Writer Loses His Marbles In Hogtown

Fish Goes Down

The Ottawa Sun's Chris Stevenson has a story on Mike Fisher having problems with his groin going into training camp. So what else is new? This guy just has no luck when it comes to staying healthy and we all know how groin problems never really seem to go away(ie. Dominik Hasek). Look for this to be an issue all season long.

Rookie Card On The Way

The Ottawa Citizen's Allen Panzeri has a story on Brian Lee and the strides he’s made towards becoming a pro. The scary news is that the Sens only have two bonafide prospects on defense – Lee and Tomas Kudelka. Could this be a sign that the Sens will try to convert their most recent first rounder Jim O’Brien back into his original position as a defenseman?

First Chink In The Armor

The Sens lose the final game in the rookie tournament but Ilya Zubov gets another goal to lead the team with three. By the way, is it Ilya or Ilja? He’s listed both ways by various outlets.

Camp opens Thursday with physicals and then grinds to a halt on Friday with a golf tourney. The Sens hit the ice officially for the first time on Saturday.

The Long Wade

Wade Redden is back in town and told TSN he’s making no guarantees he’ll be a Sen come playoff time. But he also noted he holds no grudge against the team or Bryan Murray for trying to deal him to Edmonton back at the draft. Yet he’s also the guy who only a few weeks ago said that “there’s a lot going on in Ottawa”. Meaning – I’ll play a few months and see where the team is going before I decide on waiving my no trade clause. Redds is also engaged and building a house in B.C. Don’t be surprised to see him plying his trade on the West Coast either this year or next. It's unfortunate because I always saw Redden, Chris Phillips and Daniel Alfredsson as the "Three Amigos" of the team. They've been through the most with the Sens and it would have been satisfying to see them each play their 1000th game in the red and black.

Drinking The Blue Kool-Aid

Lance Hornsby of the Toronto Sun penned a bizarre article claiming the Maple Leafs are running out of time to win the Stanley Cup with their current roster. What!? To write such an article, one would have to make the assumption that the Leafs have been Cup contenders for some time now. Now that's what I call wearing blinders. Here's a reason the Leafs haven't been contenders for some time now.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Alexander Nikulin's Blog!

Someone over at the Sportsnet forums found Senator prospect Alex Nikulin's blog and translated it for us. There's some interesting thoughts about coming to Ottawa as well as his idea that Oleg Saprykin left Ottawa because he wasn't getting along with "someone".

Here's the full translation:

"September 4: Why I'm going there, and some are coming back.

Since childhood I've dreamed of playing in the NHL. Why? It can be explained with a trite but true phrase: it's the best league in the world. For me it's a real challenge.Yes, I know that many guys are returning now to the Russian league. Some due to age and injuries. I'm talking about Alexei Yashin. Oleg Saprykin just returned to CSKA, and from Ottawa, where I'm headed. What was his reason, I don't know. Perhaps he didn't get along with someone. But I looked over his stats, they're good. He was playing and scoring.At any rate, I'm sure Oleg will be back. If not now, then in a year. He'll play here and get a decent invitation. I think he had problems with someone there.

I also don't know why Alexander Perezhogin returned. Looks like he spent too much time in the farm club. Perhaps they didn't trust him enough. But when I think about the fates of my countrymen in North America, I see Nashville's Alexander Radulov as an example. Because he left long ago and went through all the stages and is playing on the big team. And it wasn't smooth for him. But he went through it with clenched teeth and hard work. He set a goal for himself and reached it. Others did not endure as long, but I don't blame them, of course.

Who else came back? Alexei Kaigorodov. I heard he's got back problems. Maybe that was the reason, but as far as I know they were happy with him. Enver Lisin shouldn't have even returned. They were letting him play there, but somehow he ended up in the farm club. And he didn't like that. I believe Enver made a mistake. At any rate, he's gone back to the NHL now.

Certainly they pay a lot of money now in Russia. And to be honest I was offered a contract that was higher than that of the Senators. But for now money's the last thing on my mind. I'll get that later, probably, but my chance now is the trip to the NHL.I haven't even mentioned contractual bonuses to the team. I've got a two-way contract. I fully allow that I may get sent down, and I'm ready for such a challenge. Only I have to know that I'm playing for the farm team with the prospect of making the big club. Otherwise I'll return to CSKA where they're waiting for me.

Many people are asking me whether I'm scared. I'd have to say no. The main thing is to get there. The flight is a really tough one, with two stopovers, in Frankfurt and Toronto. In Ottawa, though, I'm sure everything will be fine. They'll meet me, lodge me at a hotel. And it should get easier from there.

By the way, Ilja Zubov and Anton Volchenkov are already in Ottawa. I hope they'll help me out, especially since my English is not so good. I know some things, tried working with a tutor, but to study a foreign language during the season is very difficult, as you can imagine. Hopefully I'll quickly catch on during training camp.I only know the plans going forward in very broad terms. I think it's practicing until September 13, and then all the prospects are gathered. There will even be three games. Oleg Saprykin says they show the fastest hockey in the world during these games. Everyone's flying, showing themselves off. Twice as interesting. "

"September 5: Jumpsuit for Parshin.

I kept thinking here about what sets the National Hockey League apart from others. Probably it's that if you've made the team, it's because of you. Doesn't matter who your agent is or who your father is. They don't pull strings over there. You get your spot in the lineup yourself, without anyone's help.

I didn't take a lot of things with me to North America. Some clothes, my laptop, some equipment. Not everything, of course, but it's better to have your own skates and shin guards. Took a couple of sticks, but obviously also ordered some in Ottawa. But what if they won't be there right away? You still have to skate.

Don't know how I'll cope with acclimatization. First time in Canada, I can't imagine what awaits me. And there's a practice on the day I get there. Maybe they'll let me just skate around and not ride me too hard right away.

My CSKA teammates for the most part were really good about my leaving. They joked, of course. Denis Parshin and Sergei Shirokov, my linemates, ordered a bunch of things and said to come back quickly. Not that they wished I'd fail, but we've really gotten used to one another. Finish each others' sentences. Too bad our line's breaking up.

By the way, Denis ordered a jumpsuit. Gave me his size. If I come back, I'll definitely bring him a present. I want to stress that I'll return only to the CSKA. It was very important for me to leave the team on good terms with everybody. And we settled everything with the team president and the head coach. When will I be back? We'll see how it goes. Maybe in time for the New Year, but I'll reiterate that my goal is to secure a place in the Ottawa organization.

I feel confident, however the only thing I lack is the physical part. But everyone who went through the North American system says I'll pick up on that in no time. The physical conditioning will improve, the shot will become more powerful, endurance will rise. The rest is pretty much in order.

Also it's curious just to live in another country. Everyone says Western people have a different mentality. Not that many NHLers played for the CSKA. Peter Skudra, David Nemirovsky, but they're almost Russians. As far as actual Westerners, only this year Dragan Umichevich, a Swede, arrived. I didn't have a problem communicating with him. We attempted conversation. I was using my mixture of English and Russian. Yes, English is a weak point for now. But I'll try learning it. Perhaps in October my girlfriend will arrive, she's fluent in English. She'll help.

I'll be staying at a hotel for the time being. If everything goes well, then certainly it's possible to start thinking about real estate. But that's really far off. "

Anyways, here's Nikulin's page over at Hockeys Future if you want to get a better view of his skills.

Anson to Ottawa?

Over at HockeyBuzz, resident rumour lord Eklund has dropped a hint that he's heard the Sens are contemplating Anson "Suitcase" Carter for the roster. Eklund misses more than he hits but he's failry upfront with that fact and he sometimes seems to know more than the beat reporters around the league. Combine this with the fact that the Ottawa Sun ran a story on Sunday about Bryan Murray wanting to pick up another veteran forward and this might have some legs.

But I just don't see it. There will be better opportunities in the trade market once the season heads into November.