Friday, January 18, 2008

Alfie Finally Run Ragged And More Trade Speculation

Perhaps last nights game was a revelation for Ottawa Senators coach John Paddock in a variety of ways.

With MVP candidate Daniel Alfredsson going down with a hip flexor injury, and with perennial 50 goal scorer Dany Heatley out of the lineup, Paddock was forced to use the rest of his lineup in meaningful minutes and , surprise, surprise, it paid off for him.

Antoine Vermette excelled with the extra ice time and everybody else chipped in with a solid effort thus proving that Paddock can win without playing his top line into the ground. Ooops! Too late.

No one can really say that the recent injuries to Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley were because of over-use and fatigue but you can make the point that tired players don’t protect themselves as good as rested ones. Whether or not that applies to the Spezza and Heatley injuries is up for debate but you can be certain that the hip injury to Alfredsson is simply a product of mid-season burnout and last night’s flareup should come as a warning to Paddock that Alfie isn’t 28 years old anymore. Perhaps he might want to save Alfredsson for the playoffs instead of throwing him over the bench, sometimes for over 30 minutes a game, in Paddock’s bizarre quest to win the President’s Trophy.

Now Paddock might be forced to use the rest of the lineup that GM Bryan Murray has so graciously provided him. This group of players are largely the same group that wound its way to the Cup finals last year and Paddock should have counted himself lucky to inherit them. Yet Paddock has seemingly taken a lethal lineup and reduced it to a fragmented mess in less than a calendar year.

The team’s goaltenders have no defined role and neither knows when they will start next. In recent months, both Ray Emery and Martin Gerber lurch from one tepid game to the next with neither getting any run of games in a row to get established.

Solid role players who thrived under Murray like Chris Kelly and Dean McAmmond look lost this year. When a coveted spot opens on the top line, Paddock chooses to call up Ilya Zubov from Bingo instead of using someone already in his lineup to fill the role.

Yet the Senators are still rolling along on top of the Eastern Conference. So what’s the big worry?
It’s the middle of January and perilously close to the stretch drive after the All-Star game and there is no clear cut number one goalie. The top line is starting to wear down. The only solid defense pairing is the one of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov while Wade Redden struggles defensively with both Andre Meszaros at the start of the year and now with Joe Corvo. There is also a distinct lack of secondary scoring despite last night’s game against Carolina.

Not many people figured Ottawa would be heading into the first round of the playoffs with this many problems but if things aren't corrected soon, that will be the case. Not exactly encouraging for a team expected to make another big run at the Cup.

So what’s the solution?

I don’t know. I’m not the coach. I'm a freaking blogger. But Paddock better figure one out or he'll be wearing the dunce cap when all is said and done. He was handed a Cup ready team on a platter and so far his hands have been shaky at best.


Over at Sens Army they speculated about Ottawa trying to trade for Eric Cole and it’s not really that far fetched for Bryan Murray to pull off such a deal.

Here’s a suggestion :
Like Sens Army said, send Joe Corvo and Antoine Vermette to Carolina for Eric Cole but the Canes should also throw in Mike Commodore. That would be two big bodies entering Ottawa’s lineup while only losing two players of the likes that Ottawa has a plethora of. Corvo’s minutes can easily be replaced by Meszaros while Commodore would fulfill the need for a big tough defenseman. Vermette is never going to be the breakout player that many fans had predicted. Sure he’s a great penalty killer but Ottawa has a plethora of those players in Mike Fisher, Kelly, Shean Donovan, McAmmond and Alfie. Having Eric Cole on one of the top two lines would look good come playoff time when the hitting gets harder and big defenseman gain an advantage over smaller forwards who suddenly have less room.

Would Carolina go for that deal? The salaries are basically an even swap over the long run when you consider Vermette needing a new contract. It would add speed to Carolina’s lineup but also rob them of some physical guys. It may not be realistic but players like Commodore and Cole are what Ottawa needs.

Size still matters.


Anonymous said...

Keep up the excellent blogging. I think you're bang on with your criticisms on the team's coaching, perhaps even with your support of Emery. Always good reading, however.

Jeremy Milks said...

Thanks for the comments.

I do think Ray Emery is the obvious choice for the Senators but if Martin Gerber plays well enough to earn the spot, then God bless.

But Paddock needs to start grooming one of the two for the playoffs and stop the rotation. I don't think Emery or Gerber are the types of goalies who can live with a rotation type system. Emery is too aggresive and competitive and Gerber seems to need more coddling and support from the coaches. It's just two distinct personalities who seem to need a solid role in order to suceed.

Having said that, yah, I'd choose Emery. No question.