Friday, February 29, 2008

Finally, Someone Throws A Punch

The Ottawa Senators lost the game last night against the Philadelphia Flyers, but they went a long ways in getting back their fighting spirit.

Coach Bryan Murray was standing up and screaming at the referees from the bench on numerous occasions, nearly having an embolism when Jason Spezza was tossed for butt-ending a Flyer with his stick. Mike Fisher filled in Steve Downie late in the game and the rest of the team was in a surly mood - certainly a nice change of pace from the comatose Paddock era.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

"I thought they worked real hard," Murray said. "I wanted them to play with real energy, and for the most part they did.

"We have some things to clean up, no question, but, from an effort and attitude point of view, it was very good. It's just disappointing we can't score more than one goal in the game."

Ray Emery was strong in the nets, and most surprising of all, the Senators rolled four lines and got feisty games from players like Dean McAmmond, Christoph Schubert, Shean Donovan and Chris Kelly.

McAmmond and Donovan in particular looked like new men and Schubert was running Flyers through the boards when he wasn't ripping slapshots on Martin Biron. Schubert ended the game with a team high 5 shots. Donovan had 3 shots which is most likely close to a season high for him.

It's interesting to note that Murray immediately addressed the major problems of the Senators in only one game: emotion from the bench (which led to emotion on the ice), physical play, a role for a fourth line and a better distribution of minutes.

Donovan played 10:53 and McAmmond racked up 12:20 of time on the ice. Granted, that might be a little high for McAmmond because Spezza was kicked out of the game early, but it certainly looks like Murray wants to spread the ice time around.

Another move Murray made was re-pairing Wade Redden with Andre Meszaros. It didn't seem to pay off as Redden was -2 and Meszaros was -3. But logically, it makes sense to have Meszaros playing more minutes than Mike Commodore. It's all about roles and Commodore might be miscast as a second unit defender. He might succeed more as the 5th guy. Meszaros and Redden have had moments in the past where that pairing has worked so expect Murray to be patient.

It pains everyone to see it, but it's become obvious that Luke Richardson is having trouble in his own zone right now. It might be a good move to call up Lawrence Nycholat from Bingo and let Richardson get some more rest so that when he does get in games, he's more effective. Alternating Nycholat and Richardson every other game may be an option that works.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bigger Bluelines - Less Offsides

What’s the most annoying facet of an NHL game today? My first thought would be the never-ending offside calls that halt all momentum for fans and players. The league will never get rid of the offside rule, but maybe there are ways to make them less common.

Here’s the idea:

Double the width of the bluelines, making them 24 inches instead of the current 12 inches (that’s what she said…).

The extra 12 inches of blue paint should be in the offensive zone, thereby giving skaters an extra foot when going into the offensive zone, either carrying the puck or accepting a pass. Most offside calls nowadays are made in those 12 inches that this extra width would cover, so in theory, this should cut them down a fair bit. Remember, I said in theory. The dimensions of the offensive zones would stay exactly the same as well but simply have an extra foot of blue paint in them that would mean nothing when coming out of the zone.

The only drawbacks to this might be that, in theory (and total ice surface) this will increase the size of the neutral zone by two feet (24 inches). It’s deceptive because the neutral zone will look exactly the same, and in fact be the same 50 feet between the bluelines. But, of course the extra width of the bluelines would expand it nonetheless.

The first season back from the lockout, the league reduced the neutral zone from 54 feet to 50 feet to offset the neutral zone trap that many teams were using. By making the bluelines bigger they might be helping one problem (too many offsides) but adding to another (more space to implement trap).

The other argument against this is that offsides won't be reduced because players will still cheat to the edge of the line as much as possible, making this change useless.

I’d like to know what you think.


More Paddock Fallout

The firing of Ottawa Senators coach John Paddock has seemingly woken the local reporters out of their year long slumber.

In today’s Ottawa Citizen (which has much better coverage of the firing than the Ottawa Sun), Ken Warren has written his best piece all year, detailing the slow unraveling of Paddock as head coach. Warren is the first local reporter to deeply analyze how the team has played this season through its systems, its allotment of ice times and its emotional character. Great reading and hats off to Warren who has always been a good columnist.

I’m not sure why Warren didn’t write any of this stuff earlier in the year, as it is evident by reading that he knew of the malaise long before it reached epidemic level, but hey, better late than never. Even his analysis of the Ray Emery situation is reasoned and probing instead of overly emotional and sensationalistic which is something Warren’s “professional” colleagues could take a cue from.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

“The early victories led to increased expectations, and Paddock continued to lean heavily on his top players, particularly Alfredsson, defencemen Volchenkov and fellow defenseman Chris Phillips. It wasn't uncommon for Alfredsson to receive 24 or 25 minutes of ice time in November and December. That ice time came at the expense of third- and fourth line players, who often played little or not at all in the third period of games. At that time, complaints from those on the bottom end of the roster were pushed aside because of the team's success.

Then came the burnout. The dominating speed of the top line has disappeared. In fairness, Alfredsson had a hip injury and Heatley missed a month with a separated shoulder, but it's simply not the same dominating line that it was when the season began. Fatigue has unquestionably become a concern, raising questions about whether on-ice breakdowns are resulting from mental mistakes. …

The lack of success resulted in constant line juggling by Paddock, searching for answers. However, with players moving around so often, little chemistry has developed. …

If players continue to make mistakes and continue to play, jealousies and animosities develop. Through all this, the Senators have created no fourth-line presence whatsoever. "

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Paddock Fired

It became official sometime around 3:45 this afternoon.

There's no reason to further bury John Paddock in this space as I've written all season long why he should be fired. The commentary will be coming thick and fast from the local press who completely ignored this story all year until it came up and bit them in their fat arses. Just read the posts below for my perspective.

It's unfortunate that things didn't work out for Paddock in Ottawa but Bryan Murray made the right decision at a crucial time for the Senators.

He will indeed be the head coach as was expected.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is assistant coach Ron Low getting fired as well. I had actually speculated not too long ago that Low might get a chance at the head coach role when/if Paddock was let go. Not to be.

No word yet if Murray is planning to bring on an assistant. He already has two "Reggie Dunlops" on the team now in Luke Richardson and Martin Lapointe so a further hire may not be necessary.

Fallout and further commentary to follow...

The Fans Knew Long Before The Press Even Woke Up

They might be feeling queasy about it, but the Ottawa press is now being forced to do their homework on a rapidly declining John Paddock. Must be tough doing all that investigative journalism stuff, eh boys?

The Ottawa Sun's Chris Stevenson wrote his first article all year where he actually questioned the tactics of Paddock and made a mention of something that fans and bloggers have been harping on all year - first line burnout.

Stevenson even brought the goods with an anonymous quote from a Senators player.

"Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, upon whom Paddock leaned so heavily earlier this season, have been playing like they are burned out lately. Alfredsson topped 26 minutes in five games as the calendar turned to December and played more than 24 minutes in 10 of the first 17 games.

"I could have told you this was going to happen back in October," said one player the other day. "

Not to bury the local beat writers, but they have been woefully inadequate in their analysis all season long and for some reason have largely went for the soft touch. It actually took TSN's Brent Wallace to break the story that the coach had "lost the room", even though guys like Stevenson, Bruce Garrioch, Wayne Scanlan and Allen Panzeri have been as close to this team as anyone over the past decade. (Don Brennan might be the only writer to have addressed any of these issues all season long.)

The fact that Stevenson is now reporting dissension in the room feels at least a month too late. Even then, Stevenson felt it more important to go after the easy scapegoat in Ray Emery. Quote:

"This next point benefits from hindsight, but Paddock also has to take his share of responsibility for allowing Ray Emery to get away with his lack of work ethic earlier this season, which now seems to have buried the goaltender in a hole from which he appears incapable of escaping. In the process of coddling Emery and looking the other way for his transgressions, the Senators have likely alienated Martin Gerber. "

It seems way too convenient to blame a team's woes on an immature 24 year old who can't find his game. If Stevenson really believes that this is what brought Paddock down then he's just being intellectually lazy. It might be easier to write yet another Emery bashing piece but even just a casual investigation would reveal that the coaching tactics of Paddock are the real culprit and have been all season long.

This year, the local writers were living on an island, ignoring growing fan unrest and content to write pieces straight from the template where it is gospel that if the team is playing badly, it must be that they're not working hard enough, or it's a Stanley Cup hangover, or it's one players fault etc. etc. Perhaps it was the reporters who were hungover.

It seems evident now that players were complaining to the writers but they didn't report on it.

For guys who work in an industry that is being threatened by other, more immediate forms of media, they certainly have a lackadaisical approach.

I also fail to see any mention of how Martin Gerber dressed down his defenseman Anton Volchenkov in front of the bench and on the ice for daring an attempt to block a puck for him. Volchenkov has been sacrificing his body all season long for Gerber yet no one raises an eyebrow when the goalie has a meltdown and castigates Volchenkov in front of his teammates.

Instead, we are supposed to feel sorry for how Paddock has "alienated" Martin Gerber.

Someone get me a barf bag.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Murray Refuses To Commit To Paddock

Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray was just on the local Team 1200 afternoon show and was asked if he would consider a move behind the bench if things don't improve.

It was interesting to note that Murray didn't come out with a solid vote of confidence for John Paddock, but instead vowed he "won't commit myself" to an either/or proposition.

Murray also echoed the sentiments of many fans (and this blogger, among others) that Paddock has burnt out his top line, saying that they had played "probably too many minutes" earlier in the season and were hitting a ceiling in energy.

All eyes will be on Paddock and the Senators tonight where they play a tough game against Zdeno Chara and Boston.
For the Senators deadline coverage and the growing Paddock controversy (as per TSN), see the posts below.

Senators Stand Pat, False Emery Rumours, Paddock In Trouble

Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray obviously blanched at the kind of deal it would have taken to get Marian Hossa out of Atlanta and instead opted to add a touch of grit to the fourth line in Martin Lapointe.

Perhaps Murray feels that the best move he can make is slot himself back behind the bench in place of John Paddock.
TSN reported today that a player told reporter Brent Wallace that Paddock had already "lost the room" and Wallace went on to say that his firing was a "foregone conclusion". Pierre McGuire also related a story that Murray met with Paddock recently and expressed his displeasure that the team was "flatlining" and that it was a reflection of Paddock's coaching style.

In lieu of a big trade, you can be sure that Murray will be asked persistently about Paddock's status at the traditional post-deadline press conference and it will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

On another note, Senators blogger (and rabid Ray Emery hater) Kevin Lee over at Hockeybuzz claimed that Emery was not on the ice this morning for the skate in Boston. The Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan had this to say about Lee's rumour:

"Contrary to the buzz, Ray Emery did participate in this morning's OPTIONAL team skate at TD Banknorth Garden. In fact, he was one of 10 players out there in a group that also included Martin Gerber. Are you people just waiting for Ray to mess up again or what?"

I'm not sure how Kevin Lee's credibility is going to hold up after this, especially when he wasn't even in Boston personally to see for himself. I wonder what he's going to fill his insipid blog up with now that his personal Satan is still on the team.

Senators Add Martin Lapointe

For a 6th round pick in 2008.

A solid move by Bryan Murray to add two Stanley Cup rings to the lineup.

In 104 playoff games Lapointe has 19 goals, 24 assists and 198 penalty minutes with two championships with Detroit in 97 and 98.

Lapointe might be best known for getting a huge free agent contract from the Boston Bruins in 2001 where he went on to underwhelm everybody after scoring 27 goals in his last year in Detroit.

At this point in his career, Lapointe will play on the fourth line, which under John Paddock probably means very little. If Bryan Murray indeed does take over behind the bench (or assistant Ron Low) as TSN indicated this morning, then Lapointe might play a larger role.

In reality, Lapointe is probably the consolation prize for losing out on Tuomo Ruutu who was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes for Andrew Ladd.

Lapointe has been a healthy scratch lately for the Hawks.

Lapointe Trivia:

Has a rink named after him in Lachine, Quebec.

Probably the biggest wine collector in the NHL next to Mario Lemieux.

TSN Confirms Through Player Source That Paddock Has “Lost The Room”

On TSN’s trade deadline coverage show, Brent Wallace confirmed in an interview over the air from a Boston hotel that the firing of John Paddock seems like “a foregone conclusion” and that one unnamed player told him that Paddock had long ago “lost the room.”

Pierre McGuire also stated that GM Bryan Murray sat down with Paddock recently and told him to ramp up his style to get the team going. McGuire said that Murray was concerned that Paddock was not emotional enough and that the team was “flatlining” because of it.

By no means does this imply that Paddock is as good as gone but it should be noted that Bryan Murray once fired his brother, Terry, so letting go of Paddock might not be that far fetched.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Paddock Is The Problem

The time has come for Ottawa Senators General Manager Bryan Murray to swallow his pride and fire the coach he groomed and ultimately hired to take over the 2007 Stanley Cup finalists.

The team Paddock inherited has become a shambolic mess, culminating in an embarrassing 5-0 loss to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs.

Paddock stood behind the bench and remained as frigid as a corpse as the goals piled up. Barely a shake of the head, barely a whisper, barely an emotion.

They say that teams take on the personality of their coach and if this is true, the Senators can book vacations for the end of April.

Over at SensArmy, they sum it up better than I can right now.

"...the coach has proceeded to build complacency and fatigue with top-line players who are overplayed and improperly utilized, frustration with third- and fourth-line players who are drastically underplayed and put in destructive situations, and disenfranchise both goaltenders to the point that neither is in the mental state to lead this team. When players fail to do what Paddock thinks they should do, he calls them out publicly instead of examining whether or not his tactics are appropriate."

That pretty much nails it on the head and is a much more honest assessment of this team than you'll find from any of the local beat writers who continue to simply point the finger at goaltending instead of realizing that poor play in the nets is simply a side-effect of a team falling apart in all aspects of their play.

For some reason, no one thought it wise to scrap Wade Belak, who got close to 5 minutes of playing time (about 5 more minutes than Brian McGrattan gets on any given night), or Darcy Tucker, who was a human wrecking ball. You'd think the Senators could at least let their fans go home with one shred of dignity intact.
The beat writers will no doubt soft peddle the Paddock criticism in the next few days, bringing up the fact that the team didn't panic last season when fans were calling for Bryan Murray's head. This is a different situation. For one, the playoffs are less than 20 games away. And two, at least Murray had a track record as an NHL coach.

Paddock has never gotten past the first round with an NHL team.

Don't hold your breath waiting for that record to change.

Khabibulin a No-Go For Senators

For those of you who got excited about the Ray Emery/Martin Gerber to Chicago for Nikolai Khabibulin trade rumours over the weekend, you might be disappointed to hear that Khabby is having some back issues right now and it might be serious.

"He's not doing better," Savard said. "There may be something going on in there. Hopefully not, but we'll get an MRI to see."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ryan Smyth Loses His Mullet - Family Of Squirrels Now Homeless

That mullet was so legendary that this actually deserves a post on its own.

From the Edmonton Sun:

"I just thought it was time," Smyth said yesterday. "It was getting a little long and I just took care of business."

Senators Chasing Lapointe?

According to the Daily Herald, the Senators are trying to pry veteran forward Martin Lapointe out of Chicago with the Detroit Red Wings being their main competition. What might tip this deal Ottawa's way is that the Wings have already made an offer to Darren McCarty to add some toughness to their lineup.

Lapointe would add two more Stanley Cup rings to the Ottawa lineup but there's no guarantee that coach John Paddock would even use him. Ottawa has a similar player in Shean Donovan who regularly plays less than 5 minutes a game, along with fellow veteran Dean McAmmond.
If Ottawa is worried about their team toughness, they only have to let Brian McGrattan play more than the 44 seconds (!) that Paddock played him on Saturday. Even the much slower Georges Laraque got 6 minutes of ice time for the Penguins in the same game.

Bryan Murray might just be wasting his time adding any sort of foot soldier type to a Paddock coached team.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pizza Line Officially Cooked and a Sensquatch Sighting

Are we now finally seeing the effects of John Paddock riding his top line into the ground during the early days of the season?

It seems that way to me when for at least four or five games, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley look listless and tired.

Perhaps the biggest clue might be the quote that Spezza laid on the media last week about the team maybe having to “rest our way out” of the current funk they find themselves in.

The facts are that Paddock rode this line hard in some kind of attempt to obliterate the rest of the league early on and now that the Senators are struggling, these guys don’t seem to be physically able to pull them out.

Alfredsson hasn’t looked the same since his hip injury and is obviously having trouble with his skating. If Paddock rushed him back into the lineup because the team was losing games, that probably won’t look very good on him if Alfie struggles into the playoffs.

But then again, Paddock hasn’t exactly excelled at decision making all year long.

Stillman and Commodore Starting To Look Good

Last night's game was probably the first time since they've been acquired that Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore have looked really comfortable. Stillman was part of the best line on the ice with Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly and he even threw his body around a few times in the offensive zone. What's really evident is his hockey sense. He looked good on the powerplay and should help improve those ghastly numbers.

Speaking of throwing the body around, Commodore has been delivering huge hits from the moment he stepped on the ice as a Senator and has now been in two fights, one dandy last night with the Jackets Jared Boll, after he took a run at Wade Redden in the Senators end. This guy is an absolute beast and is the first time the Senators have had a real physical threat on the D since Zdeno Chara left.

How long will it be before Commodore's nickname is Sensquatch?

Keep Emery In The Nets

It would be a mistake to take Ray Emery out of the nets for Saturday’s matinee against the Penguins. Paddock should follow through on what he started this week. Keep playing him until his game is back in gear. Taking him out now will only slow that process and further confuse the situation. This team is crying out for a consistency in approach and Paddock would be wise to stick with Emery to see how he responds to a tough loss.

In the playoffs, it’s important for goalies to bounce back after losses. Paddock should let them practice it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sharks Going Nowhere Fast and More Dan Boyle Rumours (to Ottawa)

Do you think that San Jose GM Doug Wilson might be regretting giving coach Ron Wilson that contract extension last summer? Especially when there was no real good reason to do so other than to stick it to the pundits who simply assumed that Ron Wilson was as good as gone.

It would be hard to pick a team that has underachieved more the past few seasons than the Sharks. Blessed with a franchise player in Joe Thornton and a great goalie in Evgeni Nabokov, the Sharks just keep falling apart like they did in the playoffs last season. Now they are winless in 5 games and are just four points out of 9th place with seemingly nothing going for them.

Yet Ron Wilson somehow remains in charge of a team that he lost over a calendar year ago. His captain, Patrick Marleau is playing like he desperately wants out of town and now the Sharks are in a position where they are contemplating giving up on young stalwart Matt Carle in order to snag two unrestricted free agents, Marian Hossa and Bobby Holik, (according to Larry Brooks) just to spark the team.

Things shouldn't be this way for a team as talented and deep as the Sharks. Maybe all they need is a fresh voice behind the bench.
Larry Brooks also mentions that the rumoured contract extension for Tampa defenseman Dan Boyle may not transpire and that the Rangers are first in line for his services, trailed slightly by the Flyers, the Sharks, the Senators and the Penguins.
Should be a fun week for trade junkies.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

If Assholes Could Fly, This Place Would Be An Airport

Unfortunately, the greedheads are running amok in fat city once again, but this time it's not the NHL owners who are willing to sell the soul of the game but a group of renegade goalies. Haven't goalies ruined this game enough?

Led by player agent Rich Winter and a group of players that include Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek and Marty Turco, among others, this group is proposing to sell advertising space on every team's goalie jersey as depicted in the official mockup picture above.

According to the Toronto Star, this sell-out would generate an extra $30 million in revenue for the league and thus increase the slice of the pie that the players are guaranteed (54% of league revenues). When broken down, this amounts to only $1 million in extra revenue for each team and just over $500,000 extra, by team, to members of the NHLPA.

That's right. The players are willing to throw over a hundred years of history out the window for just over $500,000 per team, which in today's payroll scenario is like a fart in the wind.

From the Toronto Star:

As to the prospect of hockey traditionalists bristling over ads on uniforms nowadays, veteran Anaheim Ducks defenceman Mathieu Schneider, who's worked on marketing issues on behalf of the NHL Players' Association, says: "We've changed the uniforms so much already over the years. It's not that far a stretch."

Roloson echoes that sentiment. "I think it's a great way to grow (hockey-related revenue). They have (uniform ads) in Europe and it doesn't take away from the true jersey look."

The Oilers goalie shrugs off the prospect of criticism from traditionalists, who, he says, will "freak out" even more if the NHL makes the goalie nets bigger, something Roloson expects to happen. "And we have advertising on the boards, don't we?"

"This is the wave of the future," says Winter, the Edmonton player agent. "The NHL isn't as profitable as other leagues, and we have very little choice but to pursue new ways to create revenue so we can reinvest in our sport. It's just a way to pay the bills."


As of right now, the plan is only for the goalie's sweaters to have the ads but you just know that it's only a matter of dollars before the experiment is applied to the rest of the players as well.

Hopefully the exposure of this plan will generate enough skepticism and anger from the fans to get these geniuses to back off and stop screwing with the game in such a disrespectful manner. Just because the NHL is not a high revenue sport at the moment doesn't mean a bunch of spoiled goalies should be able to sell a half-baked idea to the always money hungry owners at the direct expense of our retinas and our traditions.

Can you imagine the Yankees or the New England Patriots sporting McDonalds logos on their sweaters?

Now just imagine the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens logo's being displaced by a Molson or a Budweiser symbol.

That's the reality of this proposal and it should be exposed and rejected for the piece of garbage that it is.

Could Gerber Be In Tampa Bay's Plans?

With John Paddock finally coming to his senses and giving Ray Emery some consecutive starts (Emery will play Thursday against Columbus as announced today), perhaps Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray can now concentrate on getting Martin Gerber's contract off the books for next season and alleviate the tension that inevitably comes with having two number one goalies.

Why would Tampa want a guy like Gerber?

Just listen to Lightning GM Jay Feaster as quoted by Erik Erlendsson.

From the Tampa Tribune:

"It's a bridge," Feaster said. "We are not looking for a 10-year thing. We need a two-to-three year bridge to Ramo, who we believe can be a legit No. 1 goaltender."

To me that sounds exactly like a role Martin Gerber can fill. All he'll need is a small contract extension and perhaps a vote of confidence, something that is not coming anytime soon in Bytown. The Senators would only ask for a token pick in return or might even get their hands on goalie Johan Holmqvist to back up Emery. Or perhaps a guy like Jason Labarbera could be snagged out of L.A. to replace Gerber.

Speculation, speculation.....

It's that time of year.

Hull Tees Off On Goalies

It now seems like some consensus is building to finally shrink the goalie’s equipment, perhaps even this year, and certainly for next, after all 30 GM’s unanimously agreed to go ahead with consultations on rule changes for the 60 or so Michelin men around the league.

Brett Hull, speaking from the GM’s meetings in Naples Florida, wasn’t holding anything back when asked to comment.

From The NaplesNews:

"Something needs to be done, and we need to put together something to get it done," Hull said. "It goes back to Rule 21: Goalkeeper equpiment is to protect the goalie, not block the net."

One longstanding problem with reducing goaltender equipment size has been a lack of cooperation from the NHL Players Association.

"That's a huge problem. Are we here for the game? That's why we're here," Hull said. "They have to look at themselves and their leadership and why they're here, too."

So will something happen this year to change the size of the equipment?

"I'm not telling you that it will," said Colin Campbell, NHL vice president and director hockey operations. "It needs a buy-in by our GMs and our players, particularly the goaltenders."
"We're tired of hearing about it ... we understand it all comes down to wanting to win, but we have to do something when you're illegal."
Does this mean that Roberto Luongo will retire as he threatened to earlier this year?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

League Finally Nails Luongo For Cheater Pads

The NHL has finally forced Roberto Luongo to cut off those "cheater flaps" that stick out from his leg pads and Luongo is, predictably, not happy about it. Boo hoo.

From the Vancouver Province:

"Just two months after Marty Turco and Mike Smith created the so-called "pad flap," the NHL seems to have reversed its opinion. In response to Turco's mock protest in December, Kay Whitmore, one of the NHL "goalie police," said there was nothing wrong with Luongo's knee flaps, two pieces of equipment that jet out from his leg pads.
Before the Feb. 5 game in Dallas, Luongo was asked by Whitmore to cut them off and he did.

"It wasn't because they were illegal, it was just because," said an obviously miffed Luongo. "There's a bunch of other goalies who still have the same thing. But that's fine. I have more important things to worry about, you know what I mean. I'm the only one that I've seen that has had to do this. You should ask Whitmore why."


Hopefully this is just the start of a league wide crackdown on the Michelin men masquerading as NHL goalies. They might want to take a hacksaw to Luongo's shoulder pads while they're at it. How they even got those canyons into the arena is a mystery for the ages.

Flyers Pivotal In Ottawa's Struggles

On January 20, 2008, the Ottawa Senators went into Philadelphia having won 5 of their last 8 games and were firmly entrenched in the number one position in the Eastern Conference.

That game was hyped even more by the fact that the Senators, for the first time this season, had a chance to say something to Steve Downie who was back in the lineup after nearly decapitating Dean McAmmond in the pre-season with a flying elbow the likes of which are usually reserved for the WWE and the Japanese parliament.

Strangely, the Senators didn’t even put a mitt on Downie in a 6-1 loss and the only fight of the game was a lopsided decision in Riley Cote’s favour against the Senators Brian McGrattan. Some people questioned the Senators heart after such a poor showing of toughness and John Paddock was on the record lauding praise upon Steve Downie while Dean McAmmond languished on the fourth line getting little to no ice time. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Since that notorious match, the Ottawa Senators have only won 4 times in 12 games and the lead they once held in the Eastern Conference has dwindled to zero heading into tonight’s re-match with the Flyers. The goaltending has collapsed under Paddock’s ridiculous “win and your in” rotation system and the whole team looks uninspired and directionless under Paddock’s tutelage. Even the local media who enjoyed a lengthy honeymoon with the new coach are starting to ask questions in this week’s papers.

Some might say that Philly game was a turning point in the season for the Senators. Perhaps they would like to reverse that downward trend tonight against the team that might have put them in the death spiral to start with.

According to reports, there will be no Steve Downie tonight so the Senators will be able to concentrate solely on hockey. But those poor showings of character and grit don’t wash away easily.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Holik Might Be Good Fit For Senators

Chris Gratton's name has come up in rumours linking him to the Ottawa Senators and it's no secret that GM Bryan Murray would like to add some more size to the lineup after beefing up the blueline with Mike Commodore.

Over in Atlanta, 6"4, 230 pound Bobby Holik just might become available at the trade deadline and the impending unrestricted free agent comes with two things that Chris Gratton simply doesn't have - 2 Stanley Cup rings.

The only snag for the Senators is that Atlanta GM Don Waddell is in a bind. His team is only two points out of eighth place in the East and two points behind Carolina for tops in the South East division. On the surface, that doesn't sound like a team who will be selling come the trade deadline but Atlanta is in a strange position with Marian Hossa who has basically let it be known that he won't re-sign in Atlanta this summer.

That probably means that Waddell will have to move him this month and that might spark a bit of a sell-off, especially if Atlanta falters in the next week. Chances are the Thrashers will hold on to players like Holik and Mark Recchi and try to get an impact roster player for Hossa to stay in the playoff picture.

But Bobby Holik would certainly be a better acquisition than the journeyman Gratton or a smallish (but feisty) centre like Mike Comrie.

This should get interesting.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Paddock Watch Begins

After tonight's loss to the New Jersey Devils, we can probably say that a "Paddock Watch" is now officially under way.

And not just for losing his job.

The watch is now on to see who will be the first Ottawa columnist to say anything negative about John Paddock instead of hauling out the usual "players have to do better" template that we've seen all year.

In fact, the Senators might make NHL history by firing a coach before he even gets a bad word said about him in the papers.

The Senators came out flat against a New Jersey team that played an overtime game the night before and arrived late in the night in Ottawa. With a two game losing streak of their own, the Senators showed no urgency until the last five minutes of the second period. The effort was stellar after that but it amounted to another notch in the loss column all the same.

You have to question the motivational skills of the monotone Paddock when you couple the flat start with his trademark black-hole of emotion behind the bench. When the Senators were getting nailed with multiple penalties in the first half of the game, the CBC cameras were quick to try and catch Paddock's reaction.

He barely mustered the energy to shake his head. Not even Jacques Martin was that catatonic on the bench.

But don't expect any articles questioning his tactics in tomorrow's paper. You'll read how neither one of Martin Gerber or Ray Emery is grabbing the number one role and how the players just have to work harder.

Maybe the players aren't working hard because they're tuning Paddock out. It at least warrants a look by somebody who can officially ask questions.

By The Way:

Shean Donovan only got 4 minutes and 13 seconds of ice time despite playing well in recent games. He still managed 2 shots on goal in those 4 minutes. Compare that with Randy Robitaille who got over 13 minutes, had one shot and was minus 2.

Dean McAmmond got just over 5 minutes of ice time and Brian McGrattan was a healthy scratch once again.

It's clear that Paddock has no use for the "foot soldier" type.

Strangely, it's those types of players who often are very important in the playoffs.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Cut The Crap Paddock

Ray Emery is a better goaltender than Martin Gerber.

This much should be clear to anyone who follows the Ottawa Senators on a regular basis.

He’s proven in the playoffs. He’s a better athlete. He’s not prone to confidence issues. He doesn’t give up the backbreaking goals that Gerber does. He’s younger and thus a better fit going forward.

John Paddock should just put this team on the right track by playing Emery for at least 5 games in a row to get him into a groove.

Emery has always played best when he gets consecutive starts while Gerber is just plain streaky and mentally fragile. Gerber has never won anything of signifigance and has almost zero playoff experience or success.

Everyone knows Emery is the better goalie, including management, but there’s a sense that Emery doesn’t deserve the role because of his attitude and demeanor.

Yes, Emery has had some issues with discipline but at some point the team (and especially the fans) have to put that behind them and move forward.

Senators fans should ask themselves this question. Do you want to win or do you want a lovable loser?
Ottawa has had plenty of those with the likes of Patrick Lalime and Ron Tugnutt. Not every player can be a fan favourite like Mike Fisher whether you like it or not. At least Ray Emery has proven that he can play in big games. So why not put your season on his shoulders?

Then again, if management has decided that Gerber is the guy, at least go with him and put up with his gaffes.

To me it’s that simple.

Paddock is not setting this team up for success by jerking around with a half-assed goalie rotation that everyone can plainly see isn’t working. If Paddock doesn’t stop this charade then Bryan Murray should force him to step down and get on with business.

This is a team that is crying out for a consistent approach, whether it’s in nets or in line combinations. Paddock has come in and done nothing but create pure chaos in a lineup that should be cruising to the first round with confidence.
Just cut the amateur crap.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Strange Rumblings And Bad Paranoia In Vancouver

You have to feel for poor Michael Russo, a reporter who covers the Wild for the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis.

Every time he has to go to Vancouver, something insane happens.

"What is it with Vancouver? Last time I was in town, there was what was believed to be a mob hit.

Yesterday morning at 2:30, a Starbucks was blown up! That is one of the most disgraceful things I’ve ever heard of.

I’ve been depressed about it all day......"

Let's hope he doesn't decide to take a walk down Hastings Street. If a demolished Starbucks gets him depressed, the East side would probably shatter his mind.

Russo also notes that there are some questioning the character of injured Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell who returns to action tonight. Apparently, head coach Alain Vigneault has questioned his ability to play through pain. Russo tries to get Wild coach Jacques Lemaire's opinion (he coached Mitchell for a few seasons) and Mitchell defends himself from the accusations.

From the Star-Tribune:

"Speaking of Lemaire, funny moment came when a reporter tried to get Lemaire to comment on Willie Mitchell’s ability –or inability? — to play through injury in Minnesota. Lemaire looked at him like, “You think I was born yesterday?” before denying comment.

If you’ve paid attention to the coverage here the last few weeks, Vigneault has made subtle shots about Mitchell’s willingness to play through a back injury, with Mitchell replying yesterday, “He’s a coach. He doesn’t know how I feel, he doesn’t feel my pain, he doesn’t feel those things.”

Prospal Versus The Fonz

News out of Tampa this morning is that Vaclav Prospal and head coach John 'Fonzie' Tortorella are not getting along.

In fact, according to Adam Proteau's Hockey News blog, Prospal dedicated his two goals in Tuesday's win over the Habs to Torts, but not in the way you might expect.

From The Hockey News:

"Prospal – never exactly a favorite of head coach/grumpus-in-chief John Tortorella to begin with – followed up his two-goal performance in the Bolts’ 3-2 win over Montreal Tuesday with a post-game TV interview in which he called the evening one of the most rewarding of his career.

The 32-year-old Czech, who was dropped from the Lightning’s top line recently and subsequently had his ice time cut severely, also said in the interview that he felt his performance Tuesday shoved it up “somebody’s” behind.

Prospal refused to name the behind in question, but immediately after, and I’m sure by some strange and random coincidence, he was called into Tortorella’s office for a 25-minute meeting with the coach and GM Jay Feaster – while still wearing his equipment.

After that, Tortorella all but identified himself as the object of Prospal’s ire.

“I'm not here to be the happy man and make everybody happy,” the coach said. “I'm here to make calls as far as the game is concerned.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

If John Paddock Falters .....

It's no secret the Ottawa Senators are suffering through a very uneven season after storming to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007. There is lots of blame to go around, whether you attribute it to the legendary Stanley Cup hangover, the lack of secondary scoring, poor goaltending, poor defensive play or the coaching of John Paddock.

But what happens if things don't get better?

The Senators just suffered their second straight loss after the big trade and in whole, it's hard to argue that they look like an inspired group of hockey players.

At some point, if the Senators don't ramp it up, the fingers are going to be pointed at Paddock and it will only be fair because Paddock largely inherited the same team that Bryan Murray was able to push to great success.

Now, don't go putting any money on Paddock to be fired. It's almost certain that the guy Murray hired will at least get one chance at the playoffs.

But what if? What if the floor fell out between now and April?

Many people would automatically assume that Murray himself would step behind the bench.

But what about assistant coach Ron Low?

Here's a guy with plenty of NHL head coaching experience, totalling 505 games with the New York Rangers and the Edmonton Oilers (208 wins, 248 losses, 49 OT losses). He has no signifigant playoff resume running the low-payroll Oilers of the late 90's but he did manage to upset far superior teams like the Dallas Stars in 97 and Colorado in 98.

It seems an unlikely move but Low would certainly be an option if Murray wanted to change things up from in-house.

Paddock's playoff record is like a rollercoaster ride, mirroring the Senators 07-08 season.

He has been a great minor league coach, winning two AHL championships with Hershey in 88 and with Hartford in 2000.

His NHL playoff record is far more suspect. The elephant in the room is the fact that Paddock has never won an NHL playoff round as a head coach. He ran the Winnipeg Jets bench for parts of four seasons, losing in the first round twice and missing the playoffs once.

To be fair, Bryan Murray didn't have a stellar playoff record until last season's run and Paddock may certainly prove his critics wrong. But if he loses the team, and there are some indications that this might be the case, the Ottawa Senators organization may be missing out on a golden opportunity to capitalize on a weak Eastern Conference. The Pittsburgh Penguins are only a year away from being an all-out powerhouse.

These questions need to be asked about a team that seems to lack cohesiveness and a commitment to winning every time it takes the ice.

Alfie On The Point?

For the first time this year, Daniel Alfredsson had a bad game. Even in saying that, he was still the best forward on the ice for the Ottawa Senators during Tuesday night's loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

But what's to be made of Alfredsson being used on the point during the power-play? Past coaches have had some success using him there but last night he looked frustrated and mostly ineffective. Perhaps John Paddock's decision shouldn't be judged on just one game but Sportsnet colour commentator Gary Galley made a good point when he said Alfreddson's game is better suited down low on the power play where he can control the puck in tight.

It would be interesting to see Paddock switch Mike Fisher with Alfie and see how Fisher and his 105 MPH hour slapshot does lobbing bombs from the point.

But then again, don't put it past Alfredsson to adapt to anything and make it look good.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bye Bye Beer Belly - Tyler Arnason Finally Playing Inspired Hockey

Probably the fattest and most out of shape player to ever don a Senators uniform (not including the entire 92-93 edition, God bless 'em), Tyler Arnason is slowly turning his career around in Colorado thanks to some minutes opened up by the Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny injuries.

As The Score reports on their website, Arnason has 11 points in his last six games and looks like a lock to maintain a larger role even when Sakic and Stastny return.

For a guy who's most famous for getting slammed to the wall in a bar by his pissed off head coach Brian Sutter, this is a nice turn of events.

Corvo Blasts Media On Way Out The Door ------ Heatley Tells Reporters To Leave Emery Alone

According to the Raleigh’s News and Observer, Joe Corvo took some time to get in a few digs at the Ottawa media.

From the News and Observer:

"Corvo acknowledged that his family didn’t like living in Ottawa and being away from home, but said it had more to do the small-town attitude that surrounded the team and the nature of the criticism.

“It’s hard to understand if you haven’t played in Canada,” Corvo said. “The media here at times can be completely ridiculous, the way they can take some of the stories that are nothing and make something out of them.”

It’s hard to say for sure but you’ve got to think that Corvo was talking almost specifically about the rabid anti-Ray Emery crusades that have maligned the local press and the talk radio shows in recent months.

There seems to be a bit of a backlash against the press from the Ottawa players lately, including the Wade Redden and Brian McGrattan incident where the two threatened to shove a couple of cameras up a few arses and expose their junk in respective order.

Now even mild-mannered Dany Heatley had this to say in today’s Ottawa Citizen about Emery:

"I just think people should lay off him right now," Dany Heatley said yesterday.

"He has gone through enough this year. I think he's focused on hockey. He just wants to play well and help this team win down the stretch, in the playoffs, and I think the rest of it should just go away."

To me, it sounds like the only relationships that are threatened lately are not necessarily in the locker room, but between the players and press.

Corvo Asked To Be Traded

As General Manager Bryan Murray said on the Team 1200 afternoon show on Monday, Joe Corvo had asked, through his agent, to be moved to an American team.

Murray told the show that Corvo was never comfortable in a Senators uniform because of the pressure that comes with playing in a hockey town. He certainly hit the jackpot in Carolina in that regard.

Murray also mentioned that he only wanted players who can thrive under the intense media and fan pressure, pointing out that both Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore were excited to be playing in a Canadian city.

It probably was a culture shock for Corvo, coming from care-free Hollywood but you couldn't help but get the feeling that Murray was more than happy to compy with Corvo's trade request. He didn't outright question his character but it was somewhat easy to read between the lines.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Senators Acquire Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman

As TSN reports, the Senators traded defenceman Joe Corvo and left winger Patrick Eaves to the Carolina Hurricanes for rugged defenceman Mike Commodore and scoring winger Cory Stillman.

I think this is a really good trade for both teams as Carolina gets their much needed puck moving defenseman and a good young player in Eaves.

As for Ottawa, they acquired the best player in the transaction in Stillman, a two-time Cup winner with Tampa Bay and Carolina who is a consistent 20+ goal scorer and can play on their top two lines.

What may be even more beneficial to the Senators is Commodore, a 6'5, 230 pound rearguard who has been to two Cup finals, winning one with Carolina in 2006. He might end up playing with Wade Redden which would provide some much needed muscle to that pairing.

Not to mention the glorious red afro that Commodore traditionally sports in the playoffs ... that thing is awe inspiring.
The presence of Stillman should push Randy Robitaille back to the third and fourth lines, perhaps even to the bench and I'm not sure too many fans will be shedding tears over this turn of events.
What will be the lasting memories of Corvo and Eaves?

Certainly mixed in the case of Joe "Uh Oh" Corvo who could skate and shoot but often seemed jittery in his own zone. Mike Commodore is perhaps Corvo's opposite in that sense while Patty Eaves is a strong young player who never seemed to find a niche, either due to injury or inexperience.

Both Commodore and Stillman are unrestricted free agents this summer and this should leave Ottawa some much needed salary cap room to make further improvements. If Martin Gerber is moved, this may open up some salary in the summer for the likes of Brian Campbell, Dan Boyle or even ex-pat Marian Hossa.

Who knows. Perhaps even Redden will still be in the mix, especially if he has a strong playoff showing.

It will be interesting to see once the smoke clears if Murray settled on Stillman because Carolina GM Jim Rutherford didn't want to part ways with power forward Eric Cole.

Canucks Shannon Pulls Off Savardian Spinerama

Against the coach of the Hawks, Denis Savard, the namesake of the move. Savard and Khabibulin didn't like it. You've got to love Shannon making a point of celebrating in Khabibulin's face after the Hawks netminder freaked out and shoved him.

From the Chicago Tribune:

"To me that's interference," Hawks coach Denis Savard said. "A goalie shouldn't be able to get bumped. What's the difference if a guy goes right at the goalie and runs him right out? I don't think there's any difference there."

Said Khabibulin, who responded with a punch to Shannon's helmet:

"I guess there's no such rule against it. If there's no rule, I guess he can do that. But he's going to pay the price for that.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pedneault On Redden

Over at Hockey Buzz, Hall Of Fame journalist Yvon Pedneault weighed in on the aborted Wade Redden trade this weekend.

"There are many people out there that are blaming Wade Redden for not allowing the Ottawa Senators to trade him this past week. I say, "good on him." ............................

Wade wants to stay in Ottawa. That is clear to everyone now and it is also clear that this summer Wade will try to stay in Ottawa even though it means he will take less money to do so. He is likely to give a discount to remain a Senator. Fans who are getting on him should probably be looking at the glass as half full and realize that in this day and age of players going for the almighty dollar, Wade has instead chosen to stay and play for an organization. As a fan that loyalty should be encouraged with some positive re-enforcement. "

Malkin And The Popcorn

With his parents in town from Russia this weekend, Evgeni Malkin put up 7 points in two games and is now in a position to challenge Alex Ovechkin, Vincent Lecavalier and Daniel Alfredsson for the Art Ross Trophy. Malkin has been just as dominant for his team as Ovechkin has been for the Capitals in the last month.

But Malkin let it slip that he doesn't like playing the Flyers.

"When we play against them, we have problems like people throwing popcorn on our bench," Malkin said. "I don't really like to play against them. ... I don't like that team. It's something that's a little bit extra."

It's interesting that Sidney Crosby is the new face of the franchise (and rightfully so), taking over from Mario Lemieux when in style of play and even physical stature, Malkin more resembles the French superstar. If a guy like Kris Letang fully develops, the Penguins are going to be impossible to stop starting next season.

Teams like Ottawa, Detroit, San Jose and Calgary better hope they win it this year because the Pens are going to take over in a big way.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Redden Treated Shabbily

Why is Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray revealing details of his trade talks with other GM's?

He's obviously trying to publicly shame Wade Redden into waiving his no-trade clause which is a surprising tactic from the usually classy Murray. By trying to turn the fans against Redden, Murray is simply adding to the chaos that has already engulfed this team. What's the goal here? Hope the fans boo Redden out of the building for being perceived as selfish?

Roy Mlakar needs to sit down with Murray and resident arsonist John Paddock and explain to them again the meaning of public relations. The Ray Emery situation was handled poorly and now there's another fire that must be put out.

What an absolute joke.

Redden hasn't played well this season but he deserves more respect for what he has done for the organization over the years. Why would players want to sign in Ottawa when they know that the organization will treat them like garbage if they're struggling?

Editors Note:

It comes out today that Bryan Murray claims he did not leak the story and is somewhat upset that it did. The fact is that the story somehow got from Murray's office to the press in a matter of an hour and Murray bears some responsibility for this latest fiasco.

Just take look at today's Ottawa Sun poll.

The question is "What should the Senators do with Redden? Waive him? Bench him? Keep him in the lineup?"

Waive him? Intelligent hockey discussion has come to this in a supposedly knowledgeable and passionate hockey town?

Now that's great marketing for a small market franchise. Turn the fans against the players. Works every time.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Sens Stop The Bleeding

It was sloppy, but the Ottawa Senators managed to snap out of a disturbing funk to beat the middling Florida Panthers 5-4 last night in Kanata.

Everyone is celebrating the fact that Dany Heatley roared back from a separated shoulder and got 3 points but the win had as much to do with the Senators finally getting some clutch saves late in a game from Ray Emery.

The beleaguered goalie had a strong first period (after getting booed by the fans when he was announced as the starter prior to the puck drop), a shabby second but finished strong with a game saving stop in the last minute. For once, Emery looked confident and concentrated, clearing rebounds and staying in position. He let in four goals but, as Don Brennan noted in today’s Ottawa Sun, don’t let that fool you. “Emery was solid.”

Unfortunately, the defence again looked porous and soft, especially Wade Redden and Andre Meszaros. Redden coughed up the puck at the start of the first period right into the slot but Emery made the save. Senators colour commentator Gord Wilson was raving about Redden’s game but I’m not sure what kind of Kool-Aid Gordie was drinking. At least twice Redden bobbled pucks at the Panthers blueline forcing the team to skate back onside and looked like he has zero confidence. He can still contribute on offense but at this point, even Joe Corvo looks better in his own end.

Jason Spezza looked like his old self now that he has Heatley to pass to and played a hell of a game.

As big a relief as this game was to Senators fans, the team is nowhere near the juggernaut that they should be.

One theory might be that because John Paddock depended on his first line so much through the first half of the season, the rest of the forwards didn’t have as much responsibility as last year and found it hard to crank up their games when they were finally given a chance to play important minutes. I’m talking about the likes of Chris Kelly and Dean McAmmond who still haven’t regained their form. These are important players who must be better for the Senators to contend and so far, Paddock hasn’t managed to light a fire under them.

Brian McGrattan is finally getting some minutes from Paddock and is probably playing the best hockey of his life right now. He is a tenacious forechecker and surprisingly nimble and defensively aware (if you can call a freight train nimble). He might have made the defensive play of the game when he raced back and lifted the stick and stole the puck from a Florida player who was breaking into the Ottawa zone. Here’s hoping Paddock can realize that McGrattan can serve a role on the fourth line. You don’t see the Anaheim Ducks sitting George Parros for ten games in a row and they manage to win here and there. They even win Stanley Cups.

Who knew?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Avery Scraps With Malik At Rangers Practice

These kind of scraps are spreading like a flu this season.

Sean Avery and Marek Malik had a go at a Ranger practice yesterday. According to the New York Post, after a drill in which Avery and Malik were competing, Avery was heard to tell Malik to "Play the game like a man."

The gloves dropped and as usual, everybody is waving it off.

Interestingly, Malik was sat out a game a few weeks ago after refusing to shake coach Tom Renney's hand.

But we have now seen a handful of fights at practices this year.

In Ottawa, Ray Emery and Brian McGrattan went at it and then went to dinner together afterwards. Just recently Chris Neil and Emery almost came to blows before teammates intervened.

Back in December, the Philadelphia Flyers two resident lightweights, Daniel Briere and Sami Kapanen exchanged blows during a scrimmage.

Here's a question. How come nobody has fought each other over in Toronto yet?

Bonkie Struggling With Preds

Ex-Ottawa Senator Radek Bonk is having a tough time in Nashville this year, where coach Barry Trotz calls him "Mr. Overtime" because he only seems to score in the extra period.

"Bonkie" has only one goal in 27 games and none in his past 19. He also has three assists in his last 14 games.

Bonk's career high in points came when he was a Senator in 2001-2002, scoring 25 goals and adding 45 assists for 70 points. Those were the good old days when Bonk played with a young Marian Hossa on Ottawa's first line.

The closest he ever got to his career high was 60 points in 99-00 and since 2002, Bonks numbers have absolutely plummeted.

02-03 Senators: 70 GP - 54 points.

03-04 Senators: 66 GP - 44 points.

05-06 Montreal: 61 GP - 21 points.

06-07 Montreal: 74 GP - 23 points.

Bonk has 21 points in 51 games so far this year so his numbers should go up into the 30 point range.

Not that impressive for a 3rd overall pick.

Trivia: Bonk used to slam multiple cans of Coke as a ritual before every game when he was in his early days with the Senators. It didn't help much. He netted 3 goals in his rookie year.

Same Old Pacifist Jacques

With the Panthers rolling in to town tonight, don't expect many fisticuffs. That's because Jacques Martin has made it clear to his players that he doesn't like it.

Panthers coach Jacques Martin pulled Tanner Glass aside during Wednesday's practice at Scotiabank Place, letting him know he doesn't mind his players fighting -- but not when it is meaningless scrapping.

Glass got roped into fighting Toronto's Ben Ondrus in the closing minutes of Tuesday's 8-0 Panthers victory.

''You don't want to put yourself in those situations. There's no need for it,'' Martin said. ``He's done a great job all year for us. The game was won. There was nothing to prove, nothing to win.

``You have to turn those away. You don't want to get injured for the next game.''

Not saying that Jacques isn't a good coach, but his teams have always lacked toughness and character. There's a reason for that - pure stubborness on his part to change. It doesn't matter what the facts are, what the score is or what the players want. You play the system until the bitter end, and for Martin's teams, that usually means either missing the playoffs or going out in the early rounds.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Islanders Holding Firesale?

Many people are looking to teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Los Angeles Kings and the Edmonton Oilers to start unloading players before the trade deadline but they might want to start watching the New York Islanders. Last nights 3-0 loss against the Ducks dropped the Isles to 13th in the East, just 3 points ahead of Toronto. They also lost Miro Satan to injury after finding out that Mike Sillinger will be gone for the foreseeable future.

Ted Nolan’s a good coach but he’s not that good.

Here’s a list of the Islanders who will be unrestricted free agents in July.

Miroslav Satan
Mike Comrie
Ruslan Fedotenko
Trent Hunter
Josef Vasicek
Chris Simon
Bryan Berard
Freddy Meyer
Wade Dublielewicz

That’s pretty much the core of the team and Sillinger and Bill Guerin only have one more year on their contracts. GM Garth Snow absolutely has to get some assets in return for these guys or the Islanders will be in a lot of trouble this summer.

I’m positive that teams will be making a pitch for Comrie, Hunter and feisty defenseman Meyer. Ruslan Fedotenko has gone into the tank this year but many will remember how he contributed to Tampa Bay’s Cup win in 2004. Comrie could very well end back up with the Senators where he played some good hockey last year.

Wouldn’t a healthy Satan be perfect on the Devils?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Eating Crow

I took some time tonight to go over my predictions for this season and I figure it's time to eat some crow and give some credit, especially to two teams in particular - Montreal and Phoenix.

I predicted Montreal to finish 13th in the East while I pegged Phoenix at 15th in the West. As Rod Stewart once sang, "look how wrong you can be".

It's astonishing to me how good Montreal is this year. After a quiet summer where they lost Sheldon Souray and replaced him with the likes of Bryan Smolinski and Roman Hamrlik, I figured Montreal was headed for another lost year. Wrong. If anything, they look like a team that doesn't have too many holes and even Alex Kovalev is resurrecting his career. It must be a fun time to be a Habs fan right now.

As for Phoenix, I'll just take a mulligan on that one. Who could have predicted their turnaround? Guys like Radim Vrbata and rookie Peter Mueller have exceeded expectations and waiver wire pick up Ilya Bryzgalov has just been lights out.

Here's how I predicted the final standings to shake out. I've had better moments.


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