Friday, November 30, 2007

Gerber Gets The Start Saturday!?!? Emery and McGrattan Long Forgotten.

Martin Gerber melted down against the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, giving up 6 goals in total and let in at least one shot in the last five minutes of every period with the backbreaker being the Preds last goal just seconds after Daniel Alfredsson had heroically tied it up with a highlight reel effort.

You would think that Ray Emery would get the nod against the Rangers, especially with Rayzor showing some improvement every start. Nope.

Coach John Paddock is putting in Gerber. And if that's not a signal that Paddock doesn't care for Emery, I don't know what is.

Only in Ottawa can a goalie help his team to the Stanley Cup final one year, and not get a sniff the next, even when his successor falters badly.

But who knows. Maybe Gerber goes in and stones the Rangers. It doesn't seem to matter because it looks like Emery will be headed out of town in the future, either by his own trade request or by Bryan Murray bowing to his coach's preference. Stay tuned.


You gotta think that with Anton Volchenkov out for a month and Christoph Schubert back on the blueline that Brian McGrattan might get into the lineup?

With Paddock, who knows? Even if he does dress the popular teammate, he'll nail his ass to the bench.
It's funny that fans of the Senators were pining for two things all those years they lost to the Leafs in the playoffs: a goalie capable of winning when it mattered the most and some toughness to go along with it.
Well, the fans finally got them. But this year, they're both sitting on their asses collecting paychecks for doing nothing.
Welcome back to 2001 Sens fans.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bigger Ice An Option

"Decades ago, there were three buildings - the Boston Garden, Buffalo Auditorium and Chicago Stadium - that were all slightly smaller than the norm. Not many saw it as a problem. On the contrary, there was a certain charm, even for a visiting team, to playing in a building that was a little different. And the home clubs often built teams to take advantage of their home rinks. The Blackhawks deployed forwards who played a determined fore-checking style during the Mike Keenan reign because they could get on the opposing team's defencemen so quickly in the confined space of the old Stadium.

"Maybe there is room for some flex in there, for a defined minimum and a defined maximum," Keenan said. "It certainly provided for some dynamics and interest in the past. "

Sens Gameday: Nashville

Martin Gerber gets the start in net tonight after a so-so outing from Ray Emery in a loss to the Isles on Wednesday.

Paddock is a strange cat. He seems to be wary and mistrustful of the media while his predecessor Bryan Murray was the exact opposite. Murray would almost always be forthcoming with the press and enjoyed a good relationship with them. Paddock uses the media to throw players under the bus but generally likes to stay cryptic.
Like what kind of answer is "Only I know"? How clever John.

Radek Bonk is enjoying a resurgent season in Nashville and the Tennesseann is all over the story.

Players to watch tonight are Shea Weber and Martin Erat for Nashville. Weber just recently returned from a knee injury and is every bit as good as Dion Phaneuf but sneaks in under the radar due to playing in Music City. Erat is stealing playing time from Alexander Radulov.

Will Brian McGrattan play tonight? If Paddock disregards Ottawa's toughest player again, look for Jordin Tootoo to go after Ottawa's star players (and probably get away with it).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sens Lose Fourth Straight

In a shootout to the resilient Islanders.

The Senators could have used a little more emotion this game as the Isles trapped them to death through 2 and a half periods. Chris Neil finally showed something at the end of the second period by getting a roughing penalty in front of the net but otherwise, the Senators were placid at the wrong moments.

It would have been nice to have seen Brian McGrattan in the game instead of Nick Foligno, but it looks more and more like John Paddock has turned into a pacifist and forgotten about Ottawa's toughest player. Because of this, Chris Simon got in three good punches to Chris Neil's head while the Ottawa forward was tied up in a scrum and Brendan Witt roughed up Jason Spezza at the end of overtime.

Ottawa fans can expect way more of this type of tactic against Spezza and Ottawa's other skilled players as McGrattan continues to collect dust.

Ray Emery played a decent game but he still looks skittish out there at times and gave no indication that he's about to overtake Martin Gerber for the lead spot. His weakness on his blocker side remains a problem but he did have flashes of his old self playing out on top of the crease and making a nice pokecheck on a shootout attempt. He'll only get better with more starts but Paddock seems loyal to Gerber so we should expect more of the same for the foreseeable future.

Daniel Alfredsson still looks like he's missing a gear but he got better as the game went on. Randy Robitaille again looked invisible except on a goal that was called back but Antoine Vermette played a heck of a game and looks to be more focused than in previous weeks.

Regardless, the Senators have put enormous pressure on themselves with their fourth straight loss and will have to face a renewed Nashville squad back in Ottawa Thursday night. Meanwhile, the Islanders quietly roll on under the radar of most people in the NHL.

Ted Nolan will be coach of the year. Bet the house on it.

Senators Gameday

Nick Foligno is back with the big team and you can be sure he appreciates the chance he was given earlier in the season a little more now, as Ken Warren notes.

"Well, the bus is definitely different .... I was spoiled when I was up here before."

Look for Foligno to be a little better during this stint. He'll be thinking of those long bus rides and hustling his butt off for GM Bryan Murray and coach John Paddock.

Mike Fisher is starting to receive a little criticism for his play and hasn't scored a goal in 10 games, as Chris Stevenson points out.

There's also a few other players who need to react strongly for the Sens to break out of their first slump of the season. Antoine Vermette has gone cold and Randy Robitaille has almost completely disappeared. Unfortunately, Robitaille is starting to live up to his reputation as a player who tiptoes through the tulips when the games get physical. He is now competing against Nick Foligno for a roster spot when the team gets healthy again.

Perhaps Murray might want to replace Robitaille with the likes of a Mark Recchi, who seems to be on his way out of Pittsburgh after being a scratch 4 of the last 5 games. He'd be a better fit than Robitaille and would add some much needed experience to the top lines.

Around the League:

Toronto loses a tough game against the Habs after Jason Blake claimed before the puck dropped that the contest would "define us as a team." Blake must be cursing the day he left the confines of the Island for the circus in Canada.

The New York Rangers still can't score goals and it's almost December. Scott Gomez is getting some of the blame.


One of the more interesting sights last night was Darren McCarty at the Red Wings-Flames tilt in Detroit. According to Rob Parker of the Detroit News, McCarty wants to make a comeback and he'd love to do it with the Wings after surviving bankruptcy, a divorce, and a goalless season in Calgary.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Who's Grumpy Now?

There was a lot of the talk in the early going about Ray Emery not being a team player because he missed an optional skate and there were rumours abound on Ottawa message boards and blogs that Emery was unhappy about losing the starting job to Martin Gerber and thus the conclusion was made that Emery was/is a distraction in the dressing room.

But has anyone seen anything from Ray Emery except a wide smile, either sitting on the bench or answering questions from reporters?

On the other hand, Martin Gerber has been in a pout since Saturday because he was yanked after giving up at least two bad goals. He's not hiding his feelings from reporters and, according to Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun, coach John Paddock even had to take Gerber aside and explain the whole thing to him, to massage his hurt feelings.

Am I the only one who sees the inherent irony in all of this? If Emery complained to the media and needed a heart to heart with the coach, the fans and the press would be all over the guy, saying he was a bad teammate.

Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Gerber being upset. He should be. That shows a competitive spirit.

But if Gerber is going to make this all about himself, then the fans and the press should exhibit the same scrutiny they routinely apply to the minutiae of Ray Emery's moods and actions.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Leafs About To Be Dismantled

Wow. A bad weekend for the Leafs has set off a chain of events that could lead to both John Ferguson Jr. and coach Paul Maurice getting canned. According to Steve Simmons, JFJR already tried to fire Maurice last week but was overruled. Now it looks like JFJR is headed out the door.

He also draws up a list of replacements for the Leafs, including names like Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier and Don Meehan.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Sens Start To Show Cracks From Unbalanced Ice Times

A very entertaining game last night with the Senators losing 6-5 in a shootout agains the Pens.

The coaching decisions of one John Paddock continue to confuse me though. Brian McGrattan only played 1:36 while his counterpart on the Pens, Georges Laraque played over 8 minutes. Some of this is due to McGrattan slightly injuring his arm in an abbreviated tussle with Laraque in the first but once he came back, he was relegated to the bench.

Now no one is saying that McGrattan should be getting over ten minutes a game, but he is a better player than many give him credit for (especially demagogic blogger Kevin Lee who constantly demands Bryan Murray trade McGrattan and Emery) and he always seems to bring some energy and a few good hits on every shift he plays.

Shean Donovan was playing the game of his life until Paddock benched him in the third, presumably because he took some penalties. But in my view, Donovan's penalties came from him hustling and playing aggressive hockey. Paddock is basically sending him the message to calm down which is not a good thing in my opinion.

Paddock should realize that four lines make a team. He's playing for broke in November and the team is starting to show signs of wear and tear with Daniel Alfredsson getting a groin injury. Maybe it has something to do with him playing over 25 minutes on back to back nights and three times in four nights.

If things keep going this way, the Senators will be dragging their asses come playoff time.
Alex Nikulin took a puck to the grill during the warmup and seemingly never recovered. One of his stated idols, Evgeni Malkin, blew past him at centre ice and scored a nice breakaway goal. Can't wait to read Nikulin's next blog entry.
Is it just me, or does it seem like Chris Neil is reluctant to drop the gloves nowadays. He's still effective but a dimension is definitely gone.
Christoph Schubert has been horrible for weeks now and Joe Corvo hasn't been much better.
Even though he's under the radar a bit with Sidney Crosby as a teammate, Evgeni Malkin is a freaking stud. With his size and skill, he reminds me of Mario Lemieux more and more every time I watch him.
And did anyone notice that the Senators are still using their old sideways profile logo during their pre-game light show? I thought that logo was retired. Maybe they're thinking of bringing it back next year as part of a 3rd jersey.
One can only hope that when the Senators retire their next number (Alfredsson), they go with the same barberpole style banner that number 8 Frank Finnigan has. It looks sharp up there in the rafters.
And lastly, why can't the organization get anything right when it comes to their pay-per view games? Last years broadcasts were troubled with major technical interruptions, screens freezing and the lack of an HD feed. They offered the HD feed last night but the signal went out at the start of the third period and they used the Penguins affiliate broadcast instead. So for those who paid over 12 bucks for the HD feed, I hope you get your money back.
Just get a dude in there who knows what the hell is going on with all those wires and satellites and buttons and knobs. Please. It's getting embarrassing and ridiculously expensive.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Emery Needs Playing Time

Even though he’d be going against all logic and popular public opinion, Senators coach John Paddock needs to put Ray Emery in the net for at least the next five games if he’s at all concerned about the future.

A coach’s mandate is to win now and that’s why you see Paddock playing Daniel Alfredsson over 25 minutes a night and riding the hot streak of Martin Gerber.

But he has to remember that the goal is to win in June, not December. Real leaders take risks and aren't afraid to go against prevalent wisdom (which is almost always wrong once everybody starts believing in it).

It’s obvious that Ray Emery is the type of goalie who has trouble coming off the bench. Once he gets in a groove, everything is fine. On the other hand, Martin Gerber showed last season that he is more than capable of sitting for an extended period and then playing well.

If now is not the right time to take a chance and get Emery back into playing shape, when is?
The Sens are firmly in control of the Eastern Conference after a torrid start and have given themselves some wide room for error. Why not put Emery back in the net and let him get the kinks out after off-season surgery? Are the Sens about to fall off the face of the earth if they have a few rough games while Emery works off the rust?

The Senators and their fans are playing a fools game if they think that Martin Gerber is the solution over Ray Emery. Gerber has virtually no playoff experience while Emery has already played in a Stanley Cup final. Gerber is signed for only one more year while Emery is here for four. Gerber is closer to retirement while Emery hasn’t even entered his prime. In virtually every pressure situation in Gerber’s career, he’s come out flat and lost his job. Emery has always risen to the occasion. It’s like he’s hotwired for pressure.

It’s time to stop being so concerned with the short term and start thinking about the real battles that lie ahead.

Kevin Lowe Headed For Hall Of Shame

Way to go Kevin.

Yes, Kevin Lowe was playing by the official rules when he made two offer sheets this past summer. He managed to snag Dustin Penner but in the process gave up three first round draft picks which looks like it might cost the Oilers a chance at Steve Stamkos this year and John Tavares the next.

That’s a disaster for Edmonton fans.

But there’s also a nice little time bomb that Lowe planted for the rest of the league’s fans.

GM’s are so freaked out by Lowe’s nutcase offer sheets that they are starting to throw insane amounts of money towards their restricted free agents. The Sharks just signed defenseman Matt Carle for four years at an annual cost of 3.5 bills. As Allen Panzeri notes in todays Ottawa Citizen, this means that Bryan Murray just lost all leverage with pending restricted free agent D-man Andrej Meszaros who compares favourably to Carle.

In short, Kevin Lowe’s shortsighted panic gave all the NHL’s restricted free agents total control and leverage over their general managers.

You can debate whether that’s a good thing or not, but essentially Kevin Lowe unwittingly changed the way the NHL works until the next CBA is negotiated.

Now imagine if Edmonton crashes out for the next two years and has to watch Brian Burke and the Ducks snag Steve Stamkos and John Tavares. That doesn’t even need to be elaborated on. It will go down in NHL history as the all time botch job.

Again. Way to go Kevin.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Why Does Everyone Hate Buffalo?

Not only are Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek in a major slump for the once mighty Sabres, but the city itself constantly has to take jabs from the Canadian press, in particular from Ottawa and Toronto dailies, about the city being boring and an "armpit".

Don Brennan from the Sun is the latest to jump on. This strikes me as just lazy journalism. What do Ottawa and Toronto, two cities I've lived in, have to crow so loudly about anyways? Toronto might be the most boring "big city" in the world and Ottawa is not exactly renowned for its night life, though it is a much more livable city than Toronto is.

I've never been to Buffalo, but I can conjecture that the city can't be so bad and boring that it deserves to be trashed by every sportswriter across the continent. Although they did give us the Goo Goo Dolls, the biggest bunch of preeners and poseurs ever seen outside of Nickelback.

They deserve a slap for that.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Ilya Bryzgalov shuts out L.A. only hours after being picked up off waivers.

On the other hand, Ottawa puts up a desultory performance against the Leafs and Jason Spezza is pointless in his first two games back in the lineup after a groin injury. Bryan McCabe plays the game of his life...

That's why betting on the NHL is for the maniacs and the cretins. God bless 'em.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Here's two quick hits to take you into tonight's games:

Bob McKenzie tells a very funny story about what happened in the studio last night at TSN.

And Jim Kelley takes apart a Ron Maclean argument about obstruction and raises two issues that I think are extremely important - the game is getting too defensive again and the goalie's pads are still huge.

Should be some good games tonight: of particular note - Buffalo at Ottawa and the Rangers at Philly.

Ottawa Fans and Media Sell-Out Ray Emery

Blogger Ben writes a post on the Sens Army blog that I wholeheartedly agree with.

"Why is everyone in Ottawa so short-sighted? If the Senators wanted to win in the regular season, they would re-sign Patrick Lalime! It takes a certain type of goaltender to win in the playoffs. Qualities such as intensity, determination, a little bit of insanity, and a certain amount of cockiness — Ray Emery possesses all of these...."

In total seriousness, it is a rare moment when you find anyone, either in the mainstream press or in the blogosphere, who is not openly cheering for the Sens to trade Ray Emery. This cheering is led by none other than Hockey Buzz blogger Kevin Lee, who sees a Ray Emery trade around every corner.

Only in Ottawa can a goalie help lead his team to the Stanley Cup final (with an injured wrist!) after bailing out not one (Martin Gerber), but two (Dominik Hasek) starting Ottawa goalies in as many years and still be the one everyone is pushing to see traded.

Martin Gerber has played well this season, but it is only November. The goal for the Ottawa Senators franchise is success this season and the seasons after. They have a young number one goalie under contract for years to come who is not only a top athlete but a character player with conviction and bravado out the yazoo.

It is astounding to me that Ottawa Senators fans aren't behind this guy all the way. It's the biggest sell-out since Wilco sold their songs to Volkswagon.

Proof Is On Avery's Side This Time

More and more, it's beginning to look like the report that Sean Avery made comments concerning Jason Blake's cancer during a mini-brawl on the weekend is completely false. If this is true, then Avery has definitely been slandered unfairly and there should be consequences.

Not one Toronto Maple Leaf has confirmed Avery made the comments and Jason Blake himself claims that he never heard it. Here are some of the relevant quotes:

"I was standing there the whole time," Hollweg said. "I saw everything happen. I made sure I was nearby just in case anything happened.

"We all know who and what Sean is. But the accusations that were made are untrue. I don't even know why Blake was there to begin with because it had nothing to do with him - it was between Tucker and Avery. I saw Blake swing his stick first and then it all happened from there.

"So, if anybody is to blame, I'd say it would be Jason Blake."

"That's not true. That's absolutely not true and the Toronto players confirmed it," Shanahan told reporters yesterday. "The players who would have every reason in the world to accuse Sean of that, they've already confirmed to an outside source that that was never heard?I would sue the guy if I were him."

"That's not the worse thing that's been said and I don't know if he even said it," said Blake, who praised Avery's antagonistic playing style."

Alex Nikulin's Latest Blog

The Sens Russian prospect keeps on blogging about his life down in Bingo. Sounds like Oleg Saprykin is one bitter player from his experience in Bytown. Here's the latest translation from a poster named ThirtyFive over at the popular HF Boards :


" November 13: Without shots or pills.

A few games ago I was injured. I was about to pull off a wrist shot at the net, raised the stick, and was hit in the back. To be honest, I barely finished that game.

For the next game it seemed like the pain dulled, and I was on the ice again. But during the game I unfortunately collided with an opposing player and fell awkwardly on that very spot where I was hit.

Sharp pain; I couldn’t breathe. Turned out to be damaged ligaments. I couldn’t finish that second game, and went to the locker room.

I only missed two games and then was back on the ice. Through the pain, through the uncomfortable feelings, but I went for it. Interestingly, they don’t give you anesthetic shots here like they usually do in Russia. How do they treat you? With massage. No pills, nothing. When I decided to resume playing, they wrapped the damaged area and off I went onto the ice.

Nobody rushed me into coming back. But they asked, of course, if I could play. Once I declined, because I couldn’t even make one good stride. Let alone shooting or physical play. Inhuman pain. I was even taken for an x-ray. They thought it could be a broken rib. But, thankfully that didn’t prove true. Only the damaged ligaments. Still, I didn’t miss practice. I skated individually.
Now I’m fine. Obviously, some discomfort remains, but I want to play so badly and not sit in the stands. Especially since Ottawa’s general manager Bryan Murray came to watch us. Not like there was anything to see. We haven’t scored a goal in the last three games.

But I can’t say we’ve been playing worse. We just can’t score, that’s all. Plenty of good moments in each game. I hit a post in the last game against Philadelphia. Just bad luck.

During the time off with the injury I was watching the games from the stands with the other players who weren’t dressed. I have to say our team is looking good, which means that these bad breaks are temporary. Without me Binghamton won two games, once coming back to win after being down by two goals. It was interesting to watch, too. Very dynamic hockey in the AHL.

But it’s a wholly different thing to watch a game from the stands. You want to take part. Another reason I sped up my return to the ice was the realization that it would be tough for me to get back into the rhythm. Even after two games it felt difficult, but if I were to take it easy I’d spend more time later getting back into the lineup.

The injury didn’t change my place on the team. I’m on the first line. I’m playing the same minutes as before. But the partners sometimes change. On the one wing it’s always Denis Hamel, but on the other it was Greg Mauldin the last game. Now, if we could only score.

Though I haven’t noticed any nervousness due to the losing. The coach is calm, and the guys also realize we need to fix things. We had a players meeting where the veterans spoke out. We talked, analyzed mistakes. We weren’t spared the slogans, but I think even without them everyone realizes that it can’t go on like this. Mainly it was Amadio and Dimitrakos who spoke. And others over 25 years old.

Now that I’m completely used to the team, I’ll say that our group is fine. Oleg Saprykin was talking as if everyone’s by themselves in Ottawa, nobody to talk to. But I don’t have these problems. And when you have a good group of players, then the wins will come.


See additional Nikulin blog postings by clicking on his label below this post.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Can It Get Any Worse?

The answer is yes.
After the Leafs lost in overtime to the Habs last night thanks to a glaring Bryan McCabe giveaway, it was revealed that Leaf prospect Jiri Tlusty was all over the internet, and not in a good way.
Here's a few views on the subject:

I tend to agree with Shoalts. He's just a kid who made a mistake and now he's going to have to face that in the ultra-macho world of the NHL. The Toronto Sun, which is a classless and rabid right-wing nutjob of a paper, probably just ruined this kid's career by printing that photo of him on the front page today.

FSN West Experimental Game F-Bombs

Did anyone happen to catch the L.A./Anaheim tilt last night on FSN West (available on Center Ice)?

They decided to broadcast the game without play-by-play and using cameras that were stationed along the boards and behind the benches, to give you that "feel" of the game. It was not bad, except for the fact that they also decided to nix the replays.

Even fans at the game at least get to watch the replays on the jumbotrons hanging above centre ice. Us viewers at home instead got treated to a couple of schmaltzy hosts taking us into the press box and the kitchens to give us an "insider" view between plays. Frankly, I would have rather seen the replay of the Ryan Getzlaf goal because I missed it the first time getting a cold soda from the fridge. That's what replays are for. Instead the puck was dropped and nothing was said.

They also might want to rethink those microphones picking up the players yelling at each other. Let's just say the boys weren't stingy with the F-bombs.

So I guess it was just like being at the game, except the jumbotron was out of order.

What an "experience".

Did Jim Gregory Induct Himself Into HHOF?

This is the question that David Pratt of the Vancouver Province asks and it's worth pondering.
Nobody wants to cast aspersions on Gregory's achievements or character - well maybe David Pratt - but ever since Gil Stein "inducted" himself into the Hall of Fame in the early 90's, an issue like this shouldn't be swept under the carpet.

Can't Say Enough About The Moose

The legendary Red Fisher pens a nice tribute to number 11.

"He was always a very emotional guy," Sather said. "I remember once, I was coaching a Canada Cup game and he hit some Russian guy ... and nearly tore the guy's face off. It was a great Gordie Howe elbow, but I don't think Gordie ever hit anybody that hard!"
I once met Messier when the whole New York Ranger team came in to a restaurant I was working at in Ottawa around 2003. They all had dinner, including Glen Sather and even all the trainers and equipment staff. In fact, that's the table that Messier sat at - with the trainers.
What awed me was after dinner when everyone was busy talking and laughing, Messier stood up to address the team. I've never seen a room fall so silent like that. And all he was doing was giving instructions on where to grab some muffins and desert back at the hotel! He said it was okay for everybody to stay and relax but the fact that they had a big game the next day against Ottawa, he suggested that everyone get a good night's sleep. Immediately, every player stood up and filed out.
The respect for this guy in the room was palpable. When he talked, people listened. At even the slightest suggestion, people acted.
I've never really been around an NHL dressing room, but this one brief encounter with "the leader" is something I'll never forget.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hockey Night In Canada Sputtering At The Moment

If you are not a regular reader of Damien Cox's blog or columns, then you're missing out. For some reason, the normally mild-mannered Cox is really cranky this year and is bashing out columns on his keyboard like a bear with a thorn in his paw.

His recent take on HNIC rings true:

"Much of hockey-loving Canada was left with the same question after Hockey Night in Canada's 10-hour marathon on Saturday. Who the hell is P.J. Stock, and has anyone ever absorbed so much air time and said so very little? "

I concur.

Like William Houston of the Globe says, the Hotstove segment (in between the third and second periods) hasn't been relevant since Al "The Beauty" Strachan was unceremoniously booted, apparently due to complaints from various NHL club executives.

It's now even harder putting up with Ron Maclean's weekly rants about the good old days of the NHL when you could clutch and grab with impunity without some valid entertainment like Strach enraging Gary Bettman or ripping into the Toronto Maple Leaf ownership.

Hockey Night In Canada has basically devolved into the shrine for the fourth line player. Players like Sidney Crosby and Ilya Kovalchuk get short shrift from Maclean and Don Cherry. But good old pluggers like Gary Roberts and Darcy Tucker are celebrated beyond all conventions of good taste.
The dinosaur mentality is cleary in charge at HNIC, no matter how many cosmetic changes are made.

Dallas Ties The Can To GM Doug Armstrong

If any organization could use a shakeup, it's the Dallas Stars. They've been treading water for years now and are a truly boring team to watch under coach Dave Tippett (who's not long for his job).
Does this open up an opportunity for Neil Smith?

Sean Avery To Sue Toronto Reporter Howard Berger

Over comments that Berger made, accusing Avery of making fun of Leaf Jason Blake and his battle with cancer. Avery is denying this and Berger claims he got his information from a Ranger player. Avery believes he was libeled by Berger and is preparing to take legal action.

The circus around this guy goes on and on. As Sheryl Crow once said, "Lay back, enjoy the show".

Question: Worst Team In The Last 10 Games?

Answer: The Pittsburgh Penguins at 2-7-1. Every other team in the league has at least one more victory in their last ten games.

Overall, only the Atlanta Thrashers, the Washington Capitals, the Vancouver Canucks and the Phoenix Coyotes have less wins at home than the Penguins measly 3-5-1 at the Igloo.

Coach Michel Therrien called goalie Marc Andre Fleury "fragile" over the weekend and has given the bulk of playing time lately to Dany Sabourin. The coach also split Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby up to spread out the offense because those are the only two players scoring consistently. Ryan Malone remains on the top line with Crosby where he's been for weeks now but has very little to show for it, with only 8 points on the season.

So what does GM Ray "Son of the Fog" Shero do? Be patient?

There have been whispers that the players don't see eye to eye with Therrien so that situation bears watching. It would be considered a disaster if the Penguins were to fall back and miss the post-season this year. Don't expect them to sit on their hands until after Christmas.

On another note:

Former Senator and current L.A. King Tom Preissing, who bolted town after claiming he was treated unfairly by being benched in the third period of game 5 of the Cup finals against the Ducks, was a healthy scratch against Dallas on Sunday. Preissing has 3 assists and is a minus 3 for the season so far.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Murray Hints That Foligno Could Be On His Way To Bingo

Once Jason Spezza returns from his groin injury, probably this Thursday against Buffalo, Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray indicated to the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin (what kind of a name for a paper is that anyways) that the big team would be cutting its roster to 21 players.

That guarantees that Nick Foligno will be hitting the buses. Some have speculated that Brian McGrattan could be the odd man out but McGrattan would have to clear waivers to go down to Bingo and Ottawa certainly can't afford to lose his muscle, especially against Buffalo who might still be fuming about last years Chris Neil hit on Chris Drury.

Truth be told, Foligno is a bit player on this team as it stands now and he'd be a better fit in Bingo playing big minutes and the power play.

Everyone Waiting For Keenan To Unleash Chaos

When will Iron Mike Keenan finally start breaking hockey sticks over trainers tables and skating his players until they're barfing in the corners?

The Flames have now lost 5 game in a row and capped it off with a 4-2 loss to the lowly Oilers on Saturday.
I watched that game on Saturday night and I thought the Flames played well, as they have most times I've seen them. But something is just slightly off. Miikka Kiprusoff seems like he's letting in one back-breaking goal a game and currently sports a .884 save percentage and a 3.19 GAA.

Glen Healy Next Toronto GM?

If anyone caught Saturday's Hot Stove segment on Hockey Night In Canada, you would have heard Al Strachan comment that TSN colour-man Glen Healy would be a good candidate to replace the seemingly doomed and hapless John Ferguson Jr.

Howard Berger over at Hockey Buzz gives this notion some further credence with todays column.

It would be easy to imagine Healy as a GM. He's already got the attitude: surly, mean and holier than thou.

If there's anything more unpleasant than having to sit through Healy snarl his way through a telecast with the otherwise excellent Chris Cuthbert, then I haven't experienced it yet.

Leafs Belak Claims Someone Is Going To "Kill" Avery

Gotta hand it to Sean Avery of the New York Rangers. He is building himself up to be one of the most hated players in NHL history, right up there with Claude Lemieux, Esa Tikkanen, Ken "The Rat" Linseman and Darcy "Mother" Tucker.

Proof is in the headlines. The Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger quotes Leaf enforcer Wade Belak:

"He's pissing guys off," Belak said yesterday. "He'll bring harm to himself and not too many guys around the league are going to be sad to see it.

"If he keeps this up, someone is going to kill him. One day he's going to say something the wrong way and he'll be clubbed. "

Clubbed? Hilarious.

Avery is the most entertaining player in the league on most nights. Scoring is going down again and the trap is back in vogue so sometimes we have to turn to guys like Avery to get any kind of excitement.

And for Belak to be complaining about Avery is a little strange considering that his own teammate, Darcy Tucker, is just as bad. Tucker consistently yaps and dives to the ice in mock agony anytime someone touches him. Avery is essentially just a more effective version of Tucker.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Streak Is Over... McAmmond Keeps The Bench Warm

The Sens finally lost tonight to a very determined Capitals team that rode the great play of Olaf Kolzig and Victor Kozlov to victory.

It probably didn't help Ottawa that Wade Redden played the worst game of his season, looking like someone waiting for the number #97 Kanata bus on two of the Caps goals.

Christoph Schubert filled in for a hurt Anton Volchenkov on the blueline and turned in an odorous game, looking lost on the powerplay and completely hamstrung in his own zone.

Ray Emery played a great game until Tomas Fleischmann beat him clean on the stick side and that was all she wrote. Coach John Paddock again went with a short bench with both Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley racking up over 25 minutes and Dean McAmmond a measly 8 minutes.

There's no way that Deano should be playing less than 10 minutes a game because his speed and versatility is too valuable. If things keep going the way they are, expect Alfie and Heatley to be completely wiped out by Christmas, just in time for the busy part of the schedule.

Oilers Dive Into Pool But Brian Burke Already Drained The Water

As Eric Duhatschek pointed out in his blog last night, the Oilers may further pay for their short-sighted idea to snag Dustin Penner from the Ducks with that ridiculous offer sheet.

Not many remember that the Oilers had to give up their first three picks in the upcoming draft as compensation to the Ducks for ripping Penner from them as a restricted free agent. Now that the Oilers are (as Pierre McGuire would say) sucking dirty pond water at the bottom of the league standings, the Ducks may now get the number one overall pick thanks to Kevin Lowe.

Projected to be number one overall (in a strong pool) at this years draft in Ottawa? Steve Stamkos of the Sarnia Sting.

Jason Blake Pines For The Isles And Admires The Sens. The Leafs? - No Comment

Steve Simmons has the article of the day when he talks about the awkward fit that Jason Blake has been on the Toronto Maple Leafs. With Blake and the team struggling, Simmons gets some interesting quotes out of the previous 40 goal-scorer.

On Ottawa:

"We are nowhere near where Ottawa is and I think everybody realizes that. In order to beat a team like that, you have to compete harder than them.

"They do everything so well. They move the puck. When you move the puck, fast, quick, that's what happens."

On the New York Islanders:

"No. 1, they have an unbelievable coach," Blake said. "Ted Nolan's the best. No. 2, we played like the Senators, that way. We weren't as talented, we weren't as big, we weren't as strong but we moved the puck. We tried to hit the open guy. No. 3, we had Brendan Witt, one of the most underrated defenceman in the league."

On his own team, the Leafs:

"It has nothing to with adjusting to a new team. I've adjusted ... It's certain things ... I'm not going to say what it is....Where would I start?... I can't say what ... I'm not going to ... It is what it is."


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hall Gets A Hell Of A Leader In Messier.

Mark Messier, my favourite player of all time, is going into the Hall Of Fame this coming Monday. The Associated Press gets his thoughts, among them his memories of winning the Cup in 1990 for Edmonton without best friend Wayne Gretzky.

"I never felt vindicated that we won without Wayne," Messier said. "If anything, I felt sad he wasn't there to share it with us after what we went through winning the first four. "

Unfortunately his son Lyon Messier is having a tough go of it in the OHL.

Gerber Great, But Don't Forget Emery

The buzz here in the capital city is growing with every victory the seemingly dominant Senators rack up against their weaker Eastern Conference brethren (Carolina excluded) and much of it centers on the almost unconscious play of the once maligned rebound disher Martin Gerber.

It's hard to formulate any sane argument for taking him out of the blue paint but there are other things to consider.

Short Memories

We all seem to forget how Ray Emery put this team on his back last year when things were going south quicker than Jerry Fallwell's soul went to hell. He also happened to take the team to the Stanley Cup final, a feat no other goalie in franchise history can claim. Almost every person involved in hockey will tell you that Emery is a better goalie in form and athleticism. He also has a mean competitive streak which has served other elite goalies well, including Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek and Billy Smith.

While this hayride has been fun for every Senators fan, perhaps the team should be keeping an eye on the big prize down the road: the Stanley Cup.

Emery has already proven he can perform at an elite level in the playoffs. Gerber hasn't.

Everyone should be happy that Gerber finally turned his career around but the fans shouldn't jump to conclusions in the first week of November. Besides, when so many people mindlessly jump on a bandwagon, there's something to be said about being wary to jump on yourself.

Before the vocal majority get ready to run Emery out of town for the sin of being injured (in October!!!), they should remember who brought them to the dance in the first place.

It says here that Ray Emery should be given a few starts now to help him get back on track. Better now when they are miles ahead in the standings than waiting for Gerber to go cold when the standings tighten up a little.

In the long run, Emery is a much better goalie for this franchise for this season and the years ahead.

Bruins Bergeron Still In Really Bad Shape From Dangerous Hit

According to Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, who went on a vicious tirade against the Canadian media last week, injured winger Patrice Bergeron is still battling the effects from being hit from behind by Flyer Randy Jones.
"He still hasn't been able to have his nose set," noted general manager Peter Chiarelli, "because they have to wait for his other injuries to settle and stabilize first. He's still really out of it. "

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ron Maclean - The Dinosaur

Remember when CBC Hockey Night In Canada host Ron Maclean seemed like the urban and intelligent antidote to partner Don Cherry's small town bombast? Anyone who has been watching the iconic program since the new rules against obstruction came into play after the lockout, already knows that Maclean is, if not the biggest, then the most vociferous opponent of the new standards.

Finally, finally.... someone takes him to task for this ridiculous attitude.

William Houston of the Globe does a good job picking apart Macleans foolish and ill-conceived notions that the game was better when players were allowed to hook and hold. Does Maclean even remember the game circa 1999? It was unwatchable for everyone except the hardcore. Even Cherry seems to be more progressive nowadays.

"MacLean's argument was this: Because the 1987 tournament was the best ever (according to Kelley), and because players were allowed to hook and hold, hooking and holding should stay in the game.

"Everybody loved this hockey," MacLean told Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior vice-president and director of hockey operations.

Needless to say, MacLean has consistently applied wonky logic to arguments that range from silly to hardly plausible. For example, he says that, because goal scoring has not increased, zero tolerance hasn't worked. But changing the game was not about goal scoring. It was about improving the quality of play."

Dustin Penner Is Fat And Brutal - National Post

Somewhere, Brian Burke is laughing his ass off. The National Post does a story on how Dustin Penner is way overweight and struggling with the pressures of the rabid Edmonton market. Who could have predicted?

I thought Kevin Lowe's offer sheet steal of Penner this summer was, even though perfectly legal, destructive in the long run to the league as a whole. The dude is a sophomore making 4 and a half bills a year on potential alone and is now a juicy comparable to other players looking for similar contracts. Add in the debacle of Ryan Smyth leaving the team because K Lowe couldn't figure out if he wanted the teams heart and soul or not and it's easy to see that Edmonton is witnessing the rise of another "Mad" Mike Milbury.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hockey News Ken Campbell Officially Enters Nuthouse - Shares Room With Steve Simmons.

Ken Campbell just wrote an article saying that the Senators would be wise to trade for Mats Sundin.

And that they should trade Mike Fisher for him.

I'm not making this up.

"And the great thing about Fisher from a Leafs perspective is that he's just 27 years old and is under contract for the next five seasons at a cap hit of $4.2 million. He's a Selke Trophy candidate with the Senators, but with a lot of other teams, including the Leafs, he'd be good enough to be the first-line center."

Friday, November 2, 2007

Pavel Bure Should Be In Hall Of Fame

I hate getting into arguments about who should be in the hall but this one is cut and dried for me. Pavel Bure was one of the most dominant players of his generation, not to mention one of the most exciting players of all time. As for pure entertainment value, Bure is right up there with Guy Lafleur and Wayne Gretzky. When he was in his prime in Vancouver, there were many nights when he was an ustoppable scoring force. He was also one of three Russians who made the biggest initial impact on the NHL along with Sergei Fedorov and Alex Mogilny. Bure may not be popular with the fans in Vancouver but that shouldn't play into his Hall worthy credentials.

If Cam Neely is in the Hall of Fame, why not Bure?

Here's the relevant stats:

Games Played

Bure: 702
Neely: 726


Bure: 437
Neely: 395


Bure: 779
Neely: 694

Playoff Games

Bure: 64
Neely: 93

Playoff Points

Bure: 70
Neely: 89

Stanley Cups

Bure: 0
Neely: 0

In case you've forgotten how good Bure really was, here's a few videos to remind you.

And now, "The Mother Of All Elbows". Bure had a nasty streak that people tend to forget. If this happened nowadays, Bure would have gotten 20 games.

Spezza Re-Signs: 7 Years - 49 Bills

As per TSN.

Things are looking very solid long term in Ottawa.

Sweater-Gate Boils Over Big Time

All hell is breaking loose on the Reebok Edge front. As mentioned before, the individual Senators who requested them were the first team to receive the new "old" uniforms last night with the bead-away system taken away and replaced with the traditional mesh because players were complaining of water being trapped in the sweaters and dripping into their gloves and skates.

Now comes word that the entire Boston team has requested the change.

Then Edmonton Oilers president Cal Nichols complained to the media that the new Oilers jersey's are too "plain" and that the team will be changing their uniform design in 2009 -2010 when the league allows them to.

The great bloggers over at On Frozen Blog also tell us that Alexander Ovechkin has been going through two pairs of gloves a period! They also say that trainers are really concerned because wet gloves and skates means more infections for the players and some that could potentially be life-threatening.

This looks like a mind blowing crisis that only the NHL could concoct. As Frozen Blog already muses, imagine the next board meeting at Reebok where it's revealed that the company had to completely replace every sweater at their own cost and that the bead-away system is dead in the water. Heads will roll like a flotilla of barrels crashing over Niagara Falls.

Stay tuned folks. This could reach Nixonian levels.

The Game That Had Everything. Ottawa 6 Atlanta 4

Got to start off with Chris Neil fighting Eric Boulton. Neil got in a few good bombs and then seemed to ignore Boulton all together and tried to pump up the crowd by waving his hands – all the while taking three major shots to the back of the head!

I’ve never seen that before. If guys showboat during fights, it’s usually after the fight itself is done. Tie Domi used to do the “heavyweight belt” thing with his hands and other fighters routinely try to pump up the fans by waving their arms. But Neiler did it during a scrap.


Some are saying that was the moment when Atlanta finally galvanized themselves and made a hard run at Ottawa by pumping four straight goals past a struggling Ray Emery. Not so, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In between the second and third periods, assistant coach Brad McCrimmon, nicknamed "The Beast" by the players, tore a strip off the team and challenged them to show some pride. Many are saying that McCrimmon will be named Atlanta's new head coach after all and this is a clear sign that the players respect him. Plus he'll be cheap.

You have to think that Emery’s positioning may have been a factor more so than Neil’s showboating because Rayzer was beaten by four straight, unscreened, clean shots. Add in the fact that all teams up 5-0 in a game tend to start thinking about where they’re going to drink their beers that night and you get the proverbial “perfect storm”. It didn’t matter in the end because Daniel Alfredsson pumped his 300th career goal into an empty net to cap a four point night.

The fat lady sang. Elvis left the building. The eagle landed. The Thrashers kicked the bucket and bought the farm. However you add it up, it’s racked up as a Senators victory.


Poor Randy Robitaille got smeared by Garnet Exelby after filling in for the groinally challenged Jason Spezza and scoring two goals. Robitaille had his head down when Exelby came across and bulldozed him. Face meet ice.

It reminded me of the time when I was young and saw my father fall flat on his face because he had his hands in his pockets and couldn’t get them out in time because his jeans were too tight. Seriously. Just like Robitaille, my old man lay there on his face for awhile and then headed up to the bedroom and didn’t return. My mother said he had “facial contusions”.

Robitaille will be back but with questions lingering over him that have haunted him his whole career: Can Robitaille withstand the physical punishment that it takes to play in the NHL on a regular basis? A lot of people have wondered that over the years. The way he went to the front of the net with his head down was like a play you could get away with in Russia (where he played earlier this year) but not against a vicious wolverine like Garnett Exelby. That dude eats pieces of shit like Robitaille for breakfast.

To paraphrase Happy Gilmour: Garnett Exelby eats pieces of shit for breakfast?


Brian McGrattan was scratched again last night. I’m still not a fan of sitting your nuclear weapon. When the Sens got up 5-0, the game could have easily gotten out of hand. Luke Richardson and Chris Neil fought but really, McGrattan should have been the go to guy in that situation. In fact, the Sens look like they could blow a lot of teams out this year which will inevitably lead to some bad blood in those games. With McGrattan piling hot dogs into his hole in the press box, star players like Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza are going out there with a little less protection than they should. Guaranteed that all the players except the one McGrattan would replace would say that they preferred him in the lineup than out. Just a thought.

Time To Allow Kicking Motion

Here’s a question:

Why is kicking the puck in the net illegal anyways? For safety?

Here’s a proposal that may eliminate those extremely tiresome 5 minute goal reviews when a puck goes in off a skate:

Always allow goals that go in off a players skate regardless if there’s a kicking motion as long as the puck is on the ice. If a player kicks an airborne puck in the net, it’s disallowed. That will ensure that no one decides to drop kick a puck into the net endangering the goalie and the players around him with a flying skate. The game should be doing all it can to raise goal scoring and dismissing a goal just because it was kicked in seems regressive to me.

Players only kick a puck in the net by accident or out of desperation because their stick is tied up. The sheer difficulty of aiming and kicking a puck in the net with a skate will ensure that it’s only used as a last resort and won’t change the fabric of the game.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sens First Team To Get New Sweaters

After withstanding the shit-storm of controversy about the negative effects of their new uniform system, Reebok has quietly begun to ship its more player friendly version and the Senators will wear theirs tonight against Atlanta.

The initial sweaters handed out this year didn't allow sweat to escape the jersey, resulting in soaked gloves and skates. It took Sidney Crosby, who is a spokesman for Reebok, to complain to the corporate masters for them to get off their wallets and fix the problem. Reebok claims that fans won't notice the difference but it says here that they already noticed at the cash register.

At the NHL's online clothing shop, the Senators authentic home jersey, featuring a large and intrusive Reebok logo, retails for $249.00. It still astounds me that people will pay companies money for the privilege of being a walking billboard.