Thursday, July 31, 2008

"It Moved" - George Castanza

It was one of those days.

The hockey world has been frozen like Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, mouth agape and stored in some back room when ...

All hell broke loose.

Kevin Lowe is out as Edmonton GM (shuffled to the nice, clean and Brian Burke-less President of Hockey Operations role) while ex-Canuck backroom wonder boy Steve Tambellini is hired to run the first season of the Daryl Katz era.

It's strange because this move seemed to come out of nowhere even though changes in ownership often means upheaval in all areas of the team (see Tampa Bay). In fact, K-Lowe was just starting to recoup his once stellar reputation with some positive commentary from the media after taking some major hits after last summer's Thomas Vanek and Dustin Penner fiasco's.

Now Tambellini finally has a prime job after being rumoured for every open position out there for the last 5 years ... who'd have thought it would be in Edmonton?

The next mindblow is Scotty Bowman leaving the Red Wings to join division rival Chicago ... after stating all summer long that he had no intention of leaving the Mike Illitch fold. Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski has some great analysis on that move.

"For Detroit Red Wings fans, there's a sense of anger on display over on Abel To Yzerman that's reminiscent of Eric Mangini's departure to the New York Jets: The notion that a championship team just lost a key member of its staff to a division rival, and that he took his institutional knowledge of his former franchise with him.
(Let's just hope Mike Babcock doesn't go out and buy a camcorder to complete the Pats/Jets comparison.)

No one's saying that adding Scotty Bowman to the front office puts the Blackhawks on the level of the Red Wings. But adding that level of insider insight will certainly add a bit of intrigue when the two teams meet. It's a great day for Chicago hockey."

- Puck Daddy

He also points out that reporter Andy Strickland reported this story in June but only got grief for it from everybody.

The stories keep rolling in...

Eric Lindros and Kate Hudson an item? What? Does anyone give a shit? The answer is probably yes.

Patrick Roy's 19 year old kid was charged today for delivering an out of control ass-kicking to Chicoutimi goalie Bobby Nadeau this past season and then serenading the stunned crowd with a few middle-finger salutes while his coach/father Patrick watched proudly from the bench.

The dude is also a "musician". The assault charge can only help his cred right? He kind of reminds me of J-Rock from the Trailer Park Boys but with less talent.

Of more concern to Ottawa hockey fans, Antoine Vermette finally signed a contract that he probably could have gotten two months ago. At two years and just over 5 million, it's a good deal for both sides.

If Vermie can finally break out and score some important goals for a change, he can snag a bigger paycheque in only two years. For the Senators, the kind of money they are shelling out will be worth it even if Antoine stays at the same mediocre level he's at now. He's a valuable penalty killer with some potential to light the lamp starting this season. If he can't blossom this year, his draft year reputation as a poor man's Simon Gagne will have been a little over amplified in retrospect.

Maybe Vermette pushed the Senators to the brink of arbitration as payback for that joke that Bryan Murray played on him a few years ago on trade deadline day when he was pulled aside at practice and made to believe he'd been moved. Now that was a classic.

Here's a few Vermie "classics" to remind everyone of his skill and potential.

The Vermette signing leaves the Senators at approximately 6.5 million short of the cap limit. They still have to sign reticent defenseman Andre Meszaros who will need at least the same cash as Vermette to return. If not, he can hold out until December (after that he is ineligible to play in the NHL for the remainder of the season according to the CBA) or go play in the KHL in Russia where it is rumoured that he has a standing offer.

Regardless, Murray will have some available cash to play with during the season to bring in some talent on the blueline and hopefully in goal as well. As it stands, the Senators payroll is nicely balanced with six NHL forwards making less than 1 million.

That's two lines for less than 6 million.

Not bad at all.


One of the best reads so far this summer - Mark Moore's Hockey News article on the struggle between speed and size in the minds of NHL general managers.

"In my opinion, the most valuable player in the Ducks’ defeat of Ottawa to capture the Cup was Samuel Pahlsson, a small speedy defensive center from Sweden who most fans probably wouldn’t recognize if he showed up at their front door.

When Ottawa’s top line, featuring Daniel Alfredsson, was matched against him, they found a defender they couldn’t escape. Everywhere they turned, with his speed and agility, Pahlsson was there. Soon the Sens’ stars got frustrated, started gambling and turning the puck over, generating counterattacks and beating themselves."

- The Hockey News


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Doing Lines .... Will Sweden Set Back The Senators?

Assuming the Senators re-sign Antoine Vermette, either through arbitration (hearing on Thursday morning) or through mutual negotiation ...

Assuming that whatever financial resources the Senators have left after that will be directed towards their good but somewhat shallow defensive depth ...

Assuming that there are no blockbuster deals between now and opening night in Sweden....

Here is what the Senators actual forward lines may look like in October ...

(Centre in bold)

Combo #1

Spezza – Heatley - Ruutu

Kelly – Vermette – Alfredsson

Fisher – Neil – Foligno

McAmmond – Bass – Donovan

Combo #2

Spezza – Alfredsson – Vermette

Kelly – Heatley – Foligno

Fisher – Ruutu – Donovan

McAmmond – Neil – Bass

Combo #3

Spezza – Heatley – Kelly

Fisher – Alfredsson – Vermette

McAmmond – Foligno – Ruutu

Bass – Donovan – Neil

Combo #4

Spezza – Heatley – Alfredsson

Fisher – Vermette – Foligno

Kelly – Neil – Ruutu

McAmmond – Bass - Donovan

You may notice that only one of those combo's has the "Pizza Line" together but nobody truly knows what new coach Craig Hartsburg has in mind until training camp rolls around. Without many resources to add more scoring up front, you have to think that the big three will be split up in the early stages of the season.

As someone asked me today, "what if the Senators lose their first 5 games of the season?", those plans might be scrapped in any sort of panic that ensues.

It's a great thing for the NHL to have the Penguins and the Senators opening the year in Sweden but it's not inconceivable that the long travel and out of the ordinary routine may effect the Senators in a negative way.

The Anaheim Ducks lost 4 of 5 after returning from England where they opened the season in a two game series against the L.A. Kings and only won 3 games in all of October.

The Kings lost 5 of 6 after the England romp before rattling of 4 straight wins to turn themselves around temporarily.

Nobody should be shocked if the same thing happens to Ottawa and Pittsburgh this October.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Havlat Deal Still Kicking

The Senators kept alive a remnant from one of the worst trades in franchise history when they signed Josh Hennessy to a two-year, two way deal today.

Hennessy of course came over from San Jose via Chicago along with one year wonder Tom Preissing and the now departed Michal (who?) Barinka for Martin Havlat a couple of years ago.

For me, Hennessy was the most disappointing player in last year's training camp where he looked slow and uninterested but he managed to have a decent year in Bingo with just over 50 points. Going into last season I was convinced Hennessy was going to earn a spot on the big club way before the likes of Nick Foligno and Cody Bass.

Couldn't have been more wrong on that one.

Perhaps the saving grace for the Senators will be the pick they got in the Havlat deal. They used that to grab Patrick Wiercioch in the second round this summer and earlier this month I wrote a posting on the young lad which you can check out here. This guy is getting some high praise from the people who have seen him play.

Yet, it's still hard to believe that John Muckler let Havlat go for so little.

Anyone remember 2006? The Senators had Havlat, Zdeno Chara, Dominik Hasek, Wade Redden and the same core they had last year.

Strangely, that seems like a decade ago. How did they not win it all with that freaking lineup?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sens Third Jersey News

After a year where NHL teams were mandated to only have a home and away pair of sweaters, the marketing floodgates have opened once again with the introduction of "third jerseys" for the upcoming season.

None have been officially revealed but Toronto writer and author Howard Berger wrote an article describing many of the new sweaters from around the league, including an intriguing little piece on the expected Senators new design:

"OTTAWA: A dramatic change in the Senators’ third jersey will see a predominantly black uniform with the word “SENS” angled upward on the front. A fashionable red stripe will run from the arm pits, down the side of the jersey, to its base, where the stripe turns inward. A pair of narrow red and white stripes will adorn each arm, and the very bottom of the jersey. It’s quite a sharp design. "

- Howard Berger

That description is good news for those who were dreading the rumoured "gold jersey" that was making the rounds as a possible new design. The red and white stripes on the arm sound great but unfortunately there seems to be no hint of a return to the classic 2-D logo that the team sported for so many years.

To be honest though, the sweater I'm most looking forward to is the new "retro" Oiler jersey that Berger describes:

"EDMONTON: The Oilers are going back to their glory days with the predominantly blue jersey Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier et al wore on the road while winning five Stanley Cup titles between 1984 and 1990. Orange shoulder piping will re-appear, along with a broad orange stripe at the tip of each arm. Two white stripes flanking an orange stripe are on the arms and near the bottom of the jersey. The original round Oilers logo, with the orange oil drip and blue team name, is on the front."

- Howard Berger

It's hard to fathom a more boring jersey than the ones the Oilers wore last year. With a classic color scheme and a design worn by the greatest player the NHL has ever seen, how does that team not go back to their classic sweaters full time?

Another site worth checking out is the almost fanatical Icethetics blog (formerly NHL Tournament Of Logos) which has up to the date new third jersey news as well as a bunch of fan created designs which are good to while away the summer hours.
Of course, the best uniform site remains Paul Lukas' site Uni Watch. Essential reading.
Of note: The Senators signed goalie Jeff Glass to a one year deal that swings both ways. Despite having a decent year (.913 save percentage) he is still behind Brian Elliott on the goalie depth chart.
Jay Bouwmeester re-signed for one year in Florida, perhaps disappointing some Ottawa fans who believed he might be headed here in some imagined trade scenario. While it's highly doubtful that Jacques Martin would hand the Senators such a gift, Bouwmeester is going to be an unrestricted free agent next summer at just 25 years old and will likely be traded at some point this season if a longer deal can't be worked out.
If anything, this paltry one year deal will only crank those rumours through the roof.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nothing Doing

Things are a little slow in Ottawa these days and it's a good time to take a break from the rumours (and the facts). Here's a Top Ten courtesy of TSN which features classic slurs like "go have another donut you fat pig", "take your f**king paycheque and go home" and the all-time favourite, "F**k off!"

TSN's Top Ten Playoff Soundbites

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Looking To Bingo For Scrappers

With the trade of Brian McGrattan to the Phoenix Coyotes, the Senators lost a big time heavyweight and an AHL record holder for penalty minutes.

Alas, they still have some muscle in the organization with Jeremy Yablonski freshly signed to a two year deal in Bingo and Matt Carkner coming on for similar terms.

Most people know what Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu can do as they've been in the league as regular players but Yablonski and Carkner are a mystery to those who don't regularly watch AHL hockey (or Mixed Martial Arts in the case of Yablonski).

Carkner probably won't make the top-six rotation on defence but he might stick around in a role similar to McGrattan's last season.

Sportsnet's scouting report on Carkner :

"Is a willing combatant who takes on all comers, and an excellent teammate. Can play a sound defensive role from the back end at lower levels. ...

Doesn't own enough skating speed to keep up with NHL forwards. May have to permanently switch to forward in order to earn a regular big-league paycheck. "

- Sportsnet

Here Carkner cleans out Drew Fata:

The 28 year old Yablonski seems like one scary dude and he is the most obvious candidate to take on the Donald Brashear's and the George Laraque's of the Eastern Conference should the Senators need that type of help. Somewhere along the long grind of the regular season which includes an 8 game road trip over Christmas (to make way for Ottawa hosting the World Junior's), Yablonski will probably get a chance to drag his knuckles on the NHL's pristine white ice.

If this scrap doesn't make you wince, you're taking too much Somonex:

He wins a clean one over Todd Fedoruk (who hasn't?) in his first NHL game with St. Louis:

Sather Puts Dent In NHL's Plans

With the relationship already strained between the New York Rangers and the NHL head office over a silly lawsuit that is ballooning out of proportion, Gary Bettman must be feeling extra pissed at MSG lately.

The NHL released their schedule today and confirmed that the New York Rangers would be taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Prague, Czech Republic opening day. The only problem is, Glen Sather let Jaromir Jagr sign in Russia instead of Manhattan.

There can be no doubt that Bettman chose the Rangers to play in Prague because Jaromir Jagr, the best player in Czech history, would create a buzz in his home country. It also helped that the locally popular Martin Straka was riding shotgun beside him. Now they're both gone and the only Czech's the Rangers currently employ are Petr Prucha and Michal Rozsival.

Not exactly must-see players.

With foresight, the NHL would have booked the Rangers to play the Senators in Sweden instead of the Penguins because the Rangers have two Swedish superstars in Henrik Lundqvist and Markus Naslund who would have rivalled the impact of Daniel Alfredsson in Stockholm on opening day.

The Prague fans may want to cheer for the marginally more Czech-like Tampa Bay Lightning who only got that way by accident because they signed half of the available free-agents this summer. The Bolts sport Filip Kuba, Radim Vrbata and Vaclav Prospal.

Jaromir Jagr they are not.

Maybe Sather and the suits at MSG like James L. Dolan didn't want to miss an opportunity to stick it to Bettman, even if it cost them the best player in the league over the past 15 years.

If this is even remotely true, that's dedication to screwing somebody over that even George Costanza could admire.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's A Long Way From Regina

Nobody gets excited over the hiring of an assistant coach but Ottawa Senators fans might want to play close attention to Curtis Hunt. He's the guy being put in charge of the Senators defence core and he has a tough, almost herculean task ahead of him.

With rumours flying, Andre Meszaros still unsigned and players like Wade Redden, Mike Commodore and Luke Richardson out the door, no one knows for sure how the Senators defense will look on opening night in Sweden this October.

The only certainty is that they have to improve over last year's debacle.

Welcome to the circus ...errrr....Senators Mr. Hunt.

The Leader-Post out of Regina has a good story on Hunt who, as it turns out, seems to be an emotional and sentimental kinda guy:

"It was a little over four years ago when Curtis Hunt entered the VIP room at the Brandt Centre with a concealed hand nervously gripping one of his most-treasured childhood mementos.

Standing under the glare of the media spotlight, the newly introduced head coach of the WHL's Regina Pats eventually dug into his jacket pocket and revealed the mysterious keepsake -- an errant puck he had caught while attending a Pats game at old Exhibition Stadium way back in 1976.

"I still have that puck in my desk," Hunt said Friday after confirming he had signed a three-year contract to become an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators.

... "He's going to work for an ex-Pat, which can never hurt," noted general manager Brent Parker, referring to Senators counterpart Bryan Murray, a former Pats' head coach. "We're extremely happy for Curtis, but on the other side of the coin we know we're losing a very good coach, a quality person and, for myself personally, a good friend. We didn't always agree on everything but we were always able to have good discussions and see each other's side of things. "

- Leader-Post


Has anyone noticed that in recent years, Ottawa's assistant coaches are almost never interviewed on team broadcasts or quoted in the beat writer's articles?

Remember the days of the Perry Pearn's, the Andre Savard's and the Craig Ramsey's? Those guys almost always had more to say than head coach Jacques Martin.

Before John Paddock became head coach, I don't think I can remember him ever being in front of a microphone talking to Dean Brown or Gord Wilson. Same with Greg Carvel and Ron Low.

Is it coincidence or a new organizational rule?

Hopefully it's a coincidence because Hunt sounds like a guy who can actually string together an interesting sentence or two.

Toth On Ray Ray

Doing my best to ignore the latest round of rumours until something concrete happens (Havlat, Havlat, Havlat...). In lieu of that, let me be the lone wolf to point out something of substance that was written today.

In case anyone missed it, Mike Toth over at Sportsnet came out swinging in defense of Ray Emery. Everyone is sick of talking about it but at least Toth says something new on the subject (and something I agree with .... surprise, surprise)

"So, besides unsubstantiated rumours, what grave sins has Emery committed?

He showed up late for some practices, was upset about not playing enough and had a few minor traffic mishaps. ...

The fact is, a lot of goalies hate practice and will do almost anything to avoid serving as a human target for a bunch of head-hunters armed with a bucket of pucks. Gerry Cheevers, for instance, was notorious for his creative excuses and tried everything short of delivering a "The dog ate my mask" note to the coach.

Regarding Emery pouting on the bench, coaches are always delivering that well-worn cliché about how they'd rather have a guy upset about not playing as opposed to someone who's happy about it.

And as far as adventures in driving are concerned, Emery isn't even in the same league as yours truly. Heck, a few days before getting hitched I ran a red light and totalled my car because of a nervous mind that was focused on walking down the aisle.

So, why are the rules different for Ray? ...

... there are lots of NHL'ers guilty of errors in judgement that had much more dire outcomes. Mark Bell, Todd Bertuzzi and Dany Heatley are just some of the players who have found themselves in various forms of hot water. However, they were all afforded a second chance in the blink of an eye and the last time I checked, none of them were receiving their mail in Moscow."

- Sportsnet

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Other Guy The Sens Drafted

Dog days of summer are here. That's a good time to catch up on a new Senators prospect who didn't get the local headlines that the charismatic first rounder Erik Karlsson did.

Patrick Wiercioch, an offensive defenseman picked in the second round by the Sens was once thought to be headed to Dany Heatley's alma mater in Wisconsin with the Badgers (who are coached by ex-Sen Patrick Eaves father) but is now going to play for the Denver Pioneers in the WCHA according to the Hockey News:

"The B.C. native was also happy to be selected by a Canadian franchise, especially one he sees himself playing for in the future.

“I think Ottawa is a good fit,” he said. “I’m an offensive defenseman, much like the first pick (Erik Karlsson).”

While Wiercioch had planned to spend the next few years in Wisconsin, the timeline likely doesn’t change for Denver, where he expects to grow his game at the proper pace and go pro when the time is right.

“Making the NHL is the No. 1 goal,” he noted. “If I feel I’m ready to make the jump, then I’ll be confident in that decision.”

-The Hockey News

The Wiercioch "signing" (letter of intent) was fairly big news in the college hockey world. Mike Chambers of the Denver Post followed the story closely:

"Wiercioch had a terrific second half of the season for the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League, obviously impressing the Ottawa Senators, who selected him with the 42nd overall pick in June.

“We were well aware of his dramatic contribution to his team and their playoff season,” Gwozdecky said. “He really developed in the second half of the season. Sometimes it’s hard to project when a guy is going to be ready, but we think he’s ready and he’s bound and determined to play college hockey in the fall, and he’s going to be with the Pioneers. So that’s great.”

The commentary is this: Very nice late pick-up by the Pios. A kid of this caliber is so hard to find this time of year, and DU was fortunate to present the ideal opportunity for Wiercioch. Secondly, let’s just hope he turns out better than former NHL second-round D-men T.J. Fast and Keith Seabrook, who both bolted Denver for major-junior long before reaching their potential."

- Denver Post

Needless to say, this kid sounds pretty good.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sugar Ray Leaves On A High Note

As most Sens fans already know, Ray Emery was on TSN's Off The Record tonight and answered the tough questions posed to him by Michael Landsberg.

Emery took responsibility for his difficulties this past season and refused to take shots at the organization or any former teammates. He even praised Daniel Alfredsson's leadership and revealed that Alfie had taken him aside on numerous occasions throughout the year to see what was wrong.

As Emery admits, he felt he shouldn't have lost his job as number one goalie because of his wrist surgery and didn't handle the disappointment well.

The media took it from there and made him out to be a rabid beast who roamed the Kanata wilderness hunting Ottawa's finest sons and daughters.

The truth is, Emery was one of the most interesting and dynamic athletes to ever to play in Ottawa and his presence will be missed by some (myself included).

He's off to Russia but he's too talented to remain out of the NHL for long.

The Senators might rue the day they let this guy get away, especially once the reality of a Martin Gerber and Alex Auld pairing sinks in during the dog days of the season.

As a sendoff, here's a quick video of Ray when he was still the darling of the fans and the media here in Bytown.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bad Teammates - Introducing Ian White

There has been a lot of talk about "problem teammates" in Ottawa over the past year but that's a phenomenon that's as old as the game itself.

Guys like Tom Barrasso, Patrick Roy, Sean Avery, Dominik Hasek and Shayne Corson have all been vilified for various reasons by teammates over their careers but they all managed to have solid careers and in some cases, Hall of Fame careers.

But what really entails bad behaviour on a hockey team?

Gare Joyce might have the best example I've ever read.

In his excellent new book which I just finished, "Future Greats And Heartbreaks - A Year Undercover In The World Of NHL Scouts", Joyce talks to a Swift Current Bronco player named Brady Leavold who has some head turning tales about past teammate and current Toronto Maple Leaf, Ian White.

Here's an excerpt from Gare Joyce's book (which you can buy here):


"The way Leavold describes it, a team is divided along the lines of those who are drafted and those who aren't and aren't likely to be. The players at the top of this caste system are those who are back in junior after having signed NHL contracts. Those players are the ones with chronic cases of entitlement.

"Ian White was the big player when I came here," he says. "He'd been drafted by the Leafs and he had gone to the world juniors. He was just going to do things his way. In training camp we were supposed to show up for fitness testing in the weight room at the rink, and we were all there in our gym stuff. He shows up in jeans and a cowboy hat. He didn't even take it off when he had to do the bench [press]. He did one rep and put the bar back on the rack and said, "That's all I feel like today.' He coulda done dozens of reps. And he gave it to the rookies, too. I was scared shitless. On the bus, I was afraid to even look around my first season. I sat near the front - all the veterans were in the back - and one time when I turned around White saw me and said, "What the f__ are you lookin' at?" After that I didn't look back the rest of the season. I'm a veteran now, I don't want to be like White was to the younger players. It doesn't mean anything to me."

White has since made it to the Toronto Maple Leafs' lineup but also into the headlines recently, first for a drunken-driving charge, then for driving with his license under suspension. The people least surprised by that news were the Broncos. White had asked [Dean] Chynoweth [head coach] if he could skate with the team before the Leafs' training camp, then proceeded to carouse around a town where news of that sort would get back to the Broncos' dressing room before he would. His farewell from the Broncos wasn't marked by a pre-game tribute but by Chynoweth tossing his equipment out the back door of the arena when White didn't show up for a practice and breached the coach's rules. The equipment lay unclaimed for several hours."

- Gare Joyce


Redden's 8 Team Clause

Here's an interesting part of Wade Redden's new seven year contract with the New York Rangers as illuminated by the irascible Larry Brooks:

"It also seems Wade Redden needed a sweetener to take his $39M, seven-year deal. So the GM gave the defenseman the annual right to give management a list of eight teams to which he cannot be traded, and it will just be unfortunate if Atlanta should want him in a deal for Ilya Kovalchuk, won't it?


New York Post

So Redden will have a list of 8 teams he cannot be traded to?

That's a very unique clause in an NHL contract, but more interestingly, who do you think those 8 teams are?

Is Ottawa one of them? Was the separation that painful for Redden and his clan?


A new rule here on Black Aces is that whenever I quote Larry Brooks, I get to post one of my favourite videos of all time - the confrontation between Brooks and John "The Fonz" Tortorella. Listen closely for "Brooksie" telling Torts to "fuck off".

Expect a lot of Brooks quotes over the long, boring summer.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Keeping Tabs

For the sake of interest (and the fact that I like to make lists), here's an unofficial compendium of active ex-Senators (played at least one game with Ottawa) and where they are under contract to play in the 2008-2009 NHL season.

Let me know if I missed anyone.




Todd White (Senator: 2000-2004)


Peter Schaefer (Senator: 2002-2007)
Zdeno Chara (Senator: 2001-2006)
Shane Hnidy (Senator: 2000-2004)


Patrick Lalime (Senator: 1999-2004)


Patrick Eaves (Senator: 2005-2008)
Joe Corvo (Senator: 2006-2008)




Martin Havlat (Senator: 2000-2006)


Mike Commodore (Senator: 2008)


Tyler Arnason (Senator: 2006)




Marian Hossa ( Senator: 1997-2004)




Cory Stillman (Senator: 2008)

Los Angeles

Derek Armstrong (Senator: 1997-1998)
Tom Preissing (Senator: 2006-2007)






Radek Bonk (Senator: 1994-2004)
Greg De Vries (Senator: 2004)

New Jersey


New York Islanders

Mike Comrie (Senator: 2007)
Mike Sillinger (Senator: 2001)

New York Rangers

Wade Redden (Senator: 1996-2008)




Brian McGrattan (Senator: 2005-2008)



San Jose


St. Louis


Tampa Bay

Vaclav Prospal (Senator: 1998-2001)
Brandon Bochenksi (Senator: 2005-2006)


thankfully none


Pavol Demitra (Senator: 1993-1996)
Sami Salo (Senator: 1998-2002)


Brooks Laich (Senator: 2003-2004)
Brian Pothier (Senator: 2002-2006)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Strange Rumblings In Ottawa And Tampa

Someone is yelling about Jason Williams being signed but no credible media source has backed up that claim as of yet. The usual Chris Neil rumours. Perhaps it's more of the same bullshit that you hear everyday. We won't dwell on it until somebody reputable reports it.

What we do know is that the Senators signed former Ottawa 67 Brendan Bell. Some might get excited by this but Bell played all of two games last year in the big leagues and has been discarded by two teams already in his young career. Some have mentioned that Bell might be the Senators solution in the puck-moving blueliner department but replacing Wade Redden with Bell is not what Murray is doing here. The Binghamton farm team is in a huge heap of shit with roster holes everywhere and Bell is most likely slated for the AHL this year (two-way contract). It would be a nice story if Bell made the big team but that seems like a stretch for now.

The Sens also snagged an assistant coach in Curtis Hunt (after striking out on Calgary assistant Wayne Fleming) and a local minor league goalie in Almonte's Mitchell O'Keefe.

But the best thing about today is that the Tampa Lightning signed another forward!!!

This is simply mind blowing. They now have 17 NHL caliber forwards on their team!! And that's not including Steve Stamkos.

They are literally careening out of control right now. This is much better than Mike Milbury running the Islanders. I bet they make six trades before November is out.

At least they finally put Jay Feaster out of his misery. And you thought Larry Pleau in St. Louis had been emasculated to the point of irrelevance?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Senators New "Reggie Dunlop"

There hasn't been this much praise for an Ottawa Senator since Brad Marsh scored a goal and an assist in the 1993 All-Star game (unfortunately he wasn't entered into the fastest skater competition... we'd still be waiting for him to turn the first corner).

Mike Brophy of the Hockey News is the latest pundit to give the Jason Smith signing his seal of approval:

"Personally, I think Alfredsson is a fine leader who tries to set a good example by being a consistent foot soldier game in and game out. And he has never been afraid to state his opinion to the media.
But let’s be honest, the Senators were a team in disarray this season and it is abundantly clear Alfredsson needs some help in the leadership department.
Enter Jason Smith. ...
Mike Richards, who in all likelihood will replace Smith as the Flyers’ captain next season (or at least he should!), told The Hockey News during the season Smith was the best leader he has ever played with.
Smith won’t (and shouldn’t) usurp Alfredsson as the Senators’ captain, but will become one of the most influential alternate captains in the league."

- The Hockey News

I was convinced the Senators were going to go all out to sign Gary Roberts (until the rabid new ownership in Tampa signed every available forward on the market in a week) but Bryan Murray has made everyone forget about the legendary Sens killer with the Smith signing.

Much like Luke Richardson last season, Smith is the Senators latest "Reggie Dunlop" signing.
Past "Dunlop's" in Senators history: Grant Ledyard and Randy Cunneyworth.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Flyers Wave Goodbye To Jason Smith

Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren gave a fond farewell to his former captain yesterday to the Philly press.

Holmgren on Jason Smith:

"I think his best asset was his ability to defend, right up there with his leadership," added Holmgren, noting that replacing Smith as captain, "is something for another day. All he wanted to do was play hockey. He was at the rink at 7 in the morning for a 10:30 practice and he was there early for games. He looked after the young guys. He made sure that they knew what they needed to do. His leadership skills are hard to find and the fact that at the end he played so banged up is something I'll never forget, for sure."


That description of Smith is bound to get Senators fans excited to see what he can bring to the "dysfunctional" dressing room.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Senators Add Proven Leader In Smith

With the signing of Jason Smith, the Ottawa Senators now have two out of three of the best shot-blockers in the game today.

According to TSN, Smith and Anton Volchenkov join Niclas Havelid as the only three NHL players to block more than 600 shots in the past three seasons.

For those of you keeping track, Ottawa now has 3 premier shut-down defenseman in their lineup for the coming season. The problem is now on the other half of that equation where there is not much firepower coming from the blueline with the departure of Wade Redden.

Regardless, this is another smart signing by Bryan Murray. The high-end players were much too expensive in the free-agent market and Murray chose the only remaining path by beefing up depth and character with Jarkko Ruutu and now Smith.

There will be periods during the regular season when Murray will be able to upgrade his roster through trades and the prices won't be nearly as high. If Murray can manage to get Antoine Vermette and Andre Meszaros under contract, the fans will be looking at another strong lineup with only goaltending as a major concern.
Players like Brian Lee will be able to show what they can do and if the job isn't being done, Murray will have better options than overpaying for the likes of Dan Boyle and Brian Campbell.

As for Smith, the Senators are getting a guy who is a little past his prime and whatever little offensive ability he once had has now all but vaporized. But he has been a captain in two organizations for six years straight and will be a big presence in that locker room.

No one should draw the conclusion that Smith wasn't wanted in Philadelphia anymore. The main reason for Smith leaving was that Mike Richards is ready to take on the captaincy there and his progress couldn't be held up any longer.

In fact, Smith was being pursued by a multitude of teams and the reason he chose Ottawa will probably come out in the next couple of days after a phone or press conference has been held. Getting $5.2 million for two seasons probably had something to do with it.

The Senators may not have a heavyweight anymore, but they will be a tough team to play against. With Smith, Ruutu, Cody Bass and Chris Neil, there is no longer a shortage of grit in Bytown.

McGrattan's Parting Shot

It's no secret that Brian McGrattan was unhappy with his reduced role in Ottawa last season under both John Paddock and Bryan Murray but he finally put his frustrations into words last week to the Arizona Republic:

"It's harder in the East for me to basically fight," he said. "Nobody will fight me, and I didn't play that much, two minutes (2:52) a game, a few shifts. If I'd take a tripping or hooking penalty, I'm done, and they'd probably sit me for that game and the next one.
"I was kind of playing on egg shells. It's hard to get into a flow, and I was more nervous about making mistakes than going out and playing like I want to play, to be a factor in the game."

-Arizona Republic

McGrattan now joins a very tough team in Phoenix who already have the underrated Daniel Carcillo and now Todd Fedoruk to battle the likes of Derek Boogard, Aaron Downey and Jody Shelley in the wild Western Conference.

The East is not as tough but the Habs picked up Georges Laraque, the Caps still have Donald Brashear and the Flyers have the league's best kept secret in the brutally efficient heavyweight Riley Cote.

To be sure the Senators have guys who can fight in Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu but this will be the first time in ages that the Sens don't have a heavyweight. That could cause some problems down the line.

Some will be glad to see McGrattan go but remember he provided perhaps one of the most satisfying moments in Senators history when he one-punched Tie Domi en route to a KO. That fight alone changed the atmosphere and tilted the balance in the bitter Ontario rivalry that saw the Leafs humiliate the Sens year after year in the playoffs.

If anything, Senators fans should thank the much maligned winger for that one moment.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Gin And Juice

Snoop hit town last night at the Bluesfest wearing a Sens sweater and hitting a joint passed up to him by a fan.

"Throughout the performance, the Grammy award-nominated American rapper professed his love for Mary Jane and even accepted a large spliff from one of the about 30,000 heavily fumigated, bong-waving fans.

"Ooooh s--t, goddamn Canada," Snoop Dogg said, choking back smoke. "

-Ottawa Sun


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Does Gerber Deserve More Respect?

For what it's worth (and most Sens fans will probably say "not much"), Brian Costello over at the very well respected Hockey News wrote an article claiming that Cristobal Huet of the Chicago Blackhawks is not in the top ten or even top 15 goalies in the league.

He went on to list a myriad of goalies he'd pick over Huet and many who were on par with Huet. In fact, Costello went through almost every goalie in the league and noticeably absent from his list is any mention of Senators "number one" goalie Martin Gerber, not to mention newly signed backup Alex Auld.

"Here are 10 goalies I wouldn’t hesitate picking before Huet: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Miikka Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, Henrik Lundqvist, J-S Giguere, Ryan Miller, Ilya Bryzgalov, Tomas Vokoun and Marty Turco.
I’d probably even pick some of this next tier of goalies before Huet: Niklas Backstrom, Vesa Toskala, Marc-Andre Fleury, Rick DiPietro, Tim Thomas, Chris Osgood, Carey Price, Cam Ward, Martin Biron and Kari Lehtonen. That’s why Huet may not be among my top 15.
There are other good goalies out there as well: Jose Theodore, Pascal Leclaire, Manny Legace, Nikolai Khabibulin, Manny Fernandez, Mathieu Garon, Jaroslav Halak, Josh Harding, Chris Mason, Dwayne Roloson, Mike Smith, Dan Ellis. It’s a very deep field."

- The Hockey News

So, did Costello just absent-mindedly forget about the Sens duo or is this a dose of reality for Senators fans who have fallen head over heels for their Swiss hero who perhaps only looked so good in comparison to the fallen Ray Emery?

Does anyone really disagree with Costello's sentiment? I don't think you'll be seeing too many publications or pundits picking the Senators to be real contenders this season and it will largely centre on the fact that the goaltending is simply sub-par compared to the rest of the league.

Perhaps only Edmonton has a weaker goalie tandem than Ottawa.

Or am I being too hard on Gerber here?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Murray Wise In Not Adding Boyle

Now that Senators GM Bryan Murray has informed Tampa Bay that he is not interested in trading for defenseman Dan Boyle, there's a bit of a backlash going on among Senators fans already worried about Murray not being able to lure any big name unrestricted free-agents to town.

Instead of griping about Murray's perceived tentativeness, they should be applauding him for not allowing the team to be burdened by huge no-trade contracts like their Ontario cousins down Highway 7.

Boyle might be a tempting presence on the power-play but the Senators would be stuck with his no-trade clause that will follow him from Tampa Bay. Six years of a no-trade clause is nothing but a disaster waiting to happen, especially for an athlete who is already 30 years old and has had only two really good seasons in the league.

The optics look bad right now because athletes like Brian Campbell and Dan Boyle tend to be over hyped when they suddenly become available. You might give a player like Nicklas Lidstrom or Chris Pronger a six-year no-trade contract.

But Dan Boyle?

Murray is doing the right thing by being patient.

Right now, a player like Mathieu Schneider with one year left on his contract is a much more suitable replacement for Wade Redden.

.If people were so angry with Redden for refusing to waive his no-trade clause, why would the fans be angry with Murray for not wanting to bring another player with a similar problem into the organization?

It makes no sense on any level.
EDIT: Dan Boyle has been traded to the San Jose Sharks (TSN, Kukla's Korner)
The reported price is steep - Matt Carle, 1st Round Pick, a prospect and a fourth rounder.
Way too steep a price for Murray to pay, both on the players and picks going out and the heavy no-trade contract coming in.
Murray deserves kudos for passing on this deal.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bettman's CBA Still Working Just Fine, Thank You

Yes, salaries are escalating and people everywhere are saying the sky is falling and why did we have a lockout only to see this?... etc. etc.

Except they're forgetting the key thing in all of this:

The players are guaranteed 56 percent of the leagues hockey revenues. No more. No less.

A certain amount of every player's salary goes into an escrow account and if the players as a whole make more than that 56 percent this season, they pay it back to the league at the end of the year.

That money then goes into revenue sharing for the league's 30 clubs (dependent on certain factors).

It's a fail-safe for the owners across the league. They are legally entitled to 44 percent of total revenues and can take back money from the players to attain that figure.

That's why Gary Bettman is still the NHL Commissioner and that's why owners can dish out these contracts in the first place.

They can't lose.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

More Ruutu, Ruutu

The new Senator already comes with his own theme song. Check it out:

He also beat the tar out of Darcy Tucker last year. What more can a Sens fan want?

He also has no problems fighting Steve Downie which was not the case with some of the Senators last year. Rink staff are still looking for Dean McAmmond's melon.

The Senators lost a couple of colourful characters in Mike Commodore, Ray Emery and Brian McGrattan but Ruutu should quickly become a fan favourite.

Excellent signing by Bryan Murray.

Murray Adds 2nd Most Hated Player In The NHL - Jarkko Ruutu

Now all Ottawa GM Bryan Murray needs to do is sign Georges Laraque to finish off the fights that Jarkko Ruutu inevitably starts.

This is a great signing by Ottawa because Ruutu is almost as hated as Sean Avery but without the off-ice distraction. I've always been a fan of Ruutu's game and players like him are extroardinarly rare. Avery, Steve Ott, Mathew Barnaby, Esa Tikkanen, Ken Linseman ... Ruutu is right up there with those guys and has a shit-eating grin that is unparalleled in the NHL.

It seems that the top-6 forward and puck moving defenseman that Murray has been looking for are turning out to be too expensive in this inflated market. It should not reflect badly on Murray that he refuses to dish out ridiculous contracts when he already has an expensive core of players signed for years to come.

The one thing he can concentrate on is the cheaper role players such as Ruutu and Shean Donovan (who re-signed today as well) and try to fill his holes through trades during the season. Hopefully Murray considers going after a bonafide heavyweight such as Laraque, who can offer more than the recently departed Brian McGrattan.

Perhaps Murray can swing a deal with Anaheim to bring in a player like Mathieu Schneider who only has one year left on his current deal but can run a power-play in a similar way to Wade Redden. That type of deal could buy players like Brian Lee and Andre Meszaros time to further develop without bogging down the salary structure for years to come.

The fans won't be happy with these minor signings but a player like Ruutu will make his presence felt almost immediately and should be an integral player going forward.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Another Player Run Out Of Town ... Senators Lose Redden To New York

I use the word "lose" because I believe the Senators lost one of their core players today, and one that gave his heart and soul to this franchise over the years.

Despite the jubilation that is sure to come from some of the more boneheaded fans who choose to believe rumour and innuendo and brush away over ten years of achievement with an anonymous message board comment, the loss of Wade Redden should be considered a sad day for this franchise.

The Senators have made the playoffs every year since Redden began playing and he was the first player in Senators history to buy his own box (Wade's World) and donate the seats to charity on a permanent basis.

.How soon the fans forget great moments like Redden pointing to his family in the stands after a 2006 Senators playoff victory and the tragic death of his mother, Pat.

.Going to New York, he'll be leaving behind his best friend in Chris Phillips but more importantly, he'll be leaving a fanbase who practically booed him out of town for refusing to waive his no-trade clause (twice!) because he wanted to win in Ottawa.

Hopefully there are still a few fans in Bytown with enough class to cheer Redden the next time he comes to town in Rangers colours.

.He deserves a better send off than the raspberry he got from the rumour mongers posing as hockey fans who are more obsessed with players personal lives dissected on message boards and blogs than they are with the game itself.
Jason Spezza... you're the next pinata. Good luck.
My advice: Don't be seen anywhere in Ottawa having fun or you're just asking for trouble.

Sens Add One More Playoff Victory To Goalie Ranks

With the signing of Alex Auld to be the "backup" to Martin Gerber, the Senators now have a total of 2 playoff victories spread between their goalies.

That's 2.

Deux en francais.

Dos for those of you who hablo Espanol.

With 4 playoff games in his career, Auld makes Gerber look like a grizzled playoff veteran with his 12 games (one victory).

Regardless, this is a solid signing by Bryan Murray but it does nothing to address the need for a true number one goalie. With Chicago signing Cristobal Huet, does that open the door for a Nikolai Khabibulin sighting in Ottawa?

Well, I'm not Eklund so I won't pursue that false path but here's a prediction:

Auld supplants Gerber as the number one goalie by January.

Senators Lose Stillman To Jacques

Florida GM and ex-Ottawa institution Jacques Martin has stuck it to his former team by snapping up Cory Stillman with a 3 year, $10.6 million contract that Bryan Murray had no chance of matching.

That leaves a conspicuous hole on Ottawa's second line that Murray will have to replace through another free-agent but also makes his trade of Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves for Stillman and Mike Commodore look like a bust player-wise

If Murray can't get Commodore to sign on the dotted line, that trade was essentially a cap-saver deal only. But if Murray can't re-invest those savings into an offensive player, it's looking like just another disaster decision that plagued the 2007-2008 season.
Barring a miracle move, the Senators are looking like a much weaker team than their nemesis an hour and a half down the highway, the Montreal Canadiens.
EDIT: Commodore signs with Columbus for a whopping 5 years, $18.75 million. Murray was right to stay away from money and term like that for a fifth or sixth defenseman.
Unfortunately, the Senators are now sorely lacking size and toughness on the blueline. What else is new?