Monday, September 29, 2008

Avery Not Making Friends In Dallas

The city of Dallas already has Terrell Owens making headlines for all the wrong reasons, but now Sean Avery is starting to bring it from the hockey side.

In case you missed this Andy Strickland-penned article from Friday:

"Word is Avery showed up to the Stars plane the other night in sweatpants and a T-shirt. Players are pretty much required to wear suits on team flights. I’m also told Avery was on the cell phone prior to the game when Stars Head Coach Dave Tippett told him it was time for a team meeting. Avery’s response to his Head Coach was, just a minute. ...

(Brett) Hull is one of the few people in the NHL that really respects this guy and gave him a four year contract worth $15.5 million this past July. It’s been said throughout NHL circles that long time Dallas superstar Mike Modano was very upset with the signing. "

Hartsburg Scraps Training Camp Plans

Maybe it will work.

I’m not talking about coach Craig Hartsburg putting the big line back together because that’s going to work every time.

It’s the fact that Hartsburg, without knowing it, has gone back to the same old, same old by trying to force Mike Fisher to again be this team’s second line center.

According to an Ottawa Citizen report from Goteborg, Sweden by Allen Panzeri, the Senators lines to open the season will look like this:

Heatley – Spezza – Alfredsson

Vermette – Fisher – Winchester

Foligno – Kelly – Neil

Ruutu – Bass - Donovan

Dean McAmmond is designated as the sitting forward.

After spending much of the summer and training camp claiming he wanted to spread the offense around, Hartsburg has given in to the temptation to put all his aces on one line.

Not only that, he has split up the short-lived but highly effective Fisher – Ruutu – Neil line and spread them throughout the lineup.

He’s went against conventional thinking here (that’s not a bad thing, really) and split up some effective combos that have worked well together in the past, namely Fisher – Neil and Kelly – Vermette.

Personally, I thought that the pre-Monday lines would have gotten at least a game or two during the regular season to gel but Hartsburg obviously saw something during training camp that he didn’t like.

A line of Kelly, Vermette and Alfredsson would have been a hell of a second line and the Fisher, Neil, Ruutu trio would have been a holy terror on skates.

What may even be more puzzling is Hartsburg’s quotes from the Citizen article:

"We need that line to be dominant every night," said Hartsburg. "It has to be good every night."

Everyone knows that being dominant every night is just not going to happen, especially when opposing teams can unleash their best defensive players against just one line when they play the Senators.

Not to say that these lines won’t work. But the thinking in the organization has taken a 180 degree turn since the start of training camp. The mantra was - spread the offense, take the pressure off the big line.

Now Hartsburg is doing the opposite.



Christoph Schubert’s insistence that he should play as a defenseman and not a forward may have come back to bite him in the ass. He’s currently out of the top-6 rotation along with vet Luke Richardson, meaning that Brian Lee and Alex Picard have claimed the last two spots.

If Schubert eased his wishes to be a D-man, would he even make the cut at forward on opening night? Who would you take out to fit Schubert in? Shean Donovan? Cody Bass?

A trade is in the air.


Speaking of trades, the Blackhawks have put Nik Khabibulin on waivers, which may indicate a trade is coming, assuming he clears. I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that it might be worth packaging Martin Gerber and one of those extra forwards or defenseman for this proven Cup winner. He's not exactly elite anymore, but Khabby is a big step up from Gerber and he'd fit under the Senators cap with a minor tweak or two and the loss of Gerber's 3.7 million salary.

That being said, I don't expect anyone to bite on Khabibulin until at least the middle of November, barring a catastrophic injury to a number one goalie around the league. Gerber will probably be given a chance to turn around his reputation, but Damocles Sword is dangling precariously over his head.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekend Notes

Has there ever been a more brutal and ridiculous pre-season schedule than the one the New York Rangers are being forced to go through right now? As Larry Brooks says:

"The fact is that whoever it is in the hierarchy who decided that it was more important for the team to jam in three home dates - three home gates that is - than spend time on the practice rink developing cohesion before this journey, did the Rangers no favor.

Because after five games in the past six days and six games in eight days beginning last Saturday - two goals in each one of them - the Rangers are nowhere. No line has developed chemistry. No defense pairing has looked good. And none of the players still competing for spots on the third or fourth lines deserves a uniform more than Petr Nedved, who was dismissed from the squad on Friday. "

-New York Post

I think many people, except team owners, agree that the amount of pre-season games being played have been excessive for a long time now but the reality is that it probably won't change.

Under the CBA, the players are guaranteed 54% of league revenues and they put between 10 and 15 percent of every paycheque into escrow. If league revenues attain a certain level, they get the money back. If league revenues plunge and players end up making more than 54 percent, the players lose that money. Hence it's in the best interests of the players pocketbooks to cram as many pre-season games in as possible to plump up the coffers of the league and thereby save their escrow money.

It's sort of a no-win situation for players risking injury in meaningless games but don't look for any changes until a new CBA is negotiated.


- Wade Redden hasn't exactly made a fan out of Larry Brooks either. Brooks brings the hammer down on Wade pretty hard in this excerpt:

"How then to categorize Renney's straight-faced assertion that he has, "liked [Wade Redden's] game?" Maybe it's simply Redden, a veteran, attempting to prepare for the season on his own timetable, but no Rangers played more poorly in the exhibition matches than Redden. "

- New York Post

I've only seen Redden play in one exhibition game and he looked good to me. Obviously he's fallen off and his many critics in Ottawa will probably have a field day with that. I'm still predicting a great season from Redds, but ... sheesh!


- Still massively annoyed that I didn't get to see the Habs-Senators game last night despite having full digital cable as well as NHL Centre Ice. Is it me or do these types of things always seem to happen to the Senators and not any other team in Canada?


Brendan Bell has been sent down but I still can't figure out who is going to play on that last defense pairing. Now that Luke Richardson has signed, the Senators are bringing 8 defenseman to Sweden. They are also bringing 13 forwards and 3 goalies.

But what happens when they get back from Sweden and don't need the extra bodies around in case of injury?

The numbers just don't add up and I think that a trade is almost a certainty at this point. The likely candidate is still Dean McAmmond, simply because the Senators have younger and cheaper options to fill his role. I don't see the team sending Richardson to Binghamton and so that leaves a defenseman vulnerable as well. Is Christoph Schubert's time with this team coming to an end?

Something's got to give.


Sad to see Paul Newman pass away. Slapshot is a great movie but really, in the big scheme of things, it's a minor note in his legendary career. If you haven't yet, check out films like Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hud, and best of all, The Sting and The Hustler. Not only did Newman make the best hockey movie ever, he made the best pool movie ever. Strange thing was, his passion was car racing.


From Uni Watch... At Shea Stadium, they have seats directly behind the foul pole. An even better view here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ottawa Beat Writers Return To Form

It might be only pre-season but some of Ottawa's beat writers are already in prime form.

The mainstream media writers take a lot of flak from new-media writers (aka bloggers), partly because the newspaper format is somewhat rigid, and by nature, has to appeal to a wide swath of readers whereas bloggers can basically pick and choose their niche audience by obsessing over details, whether it be uniform styles, certain players, or, as some have had success at, criticising established beat writers.

Blogging can be more fluid and inventive but nothing can really beat a good writer with real access to the team. They are held accountable for their facts and must live up to a higher standard in all areas than any wannabe, such as myself, has to.

Last season it seemed that the vast majority of the Ottawa beat writers were on an extended vacation. They wallowed on the oily surface of a franchise that had just been to the Stanley Cup final and didn't feel the need to investigate closely the actual systems being instituted by the new coach John Paddock.

In fact, the team was already past their expiration date when the writers began questioning the practice of playing the big line over 25 minutes some nights and decided to simply point fingers at players like Wade Redden and Andre Meszaros instead of offering true analysis of the Senators defensive scheme under Paddock.

When Paddock was fired by GM Bryan Murray, many writers actually seemed surprised because they had spent all their time watching to see when Ray Emery left the practice ice. Did he leave before the other goalie? Did his body language indicate he was being lazy? Did he have bloodshot eyes?

It was an easy article to write, a total gimme, but no one wanted to write the article that questioned Paddock's hockey philosophies and systems, perhaps because they all liked him so much personally.

The post-mortem articles all focused on how nice of a guy he was and how his players had let him down, especially Ray Emery.

Bryan Murray was the one who said flat-out that Paddock burnt out his top line and didn't give roles to anybody else on the team. Yes, Emery was a distraction and needed to be purged, but Paddock only had himself to blame for his mistakes. Murray said it before any writer floated the idea.

Now the journalistic machine seems to be lurching back to at least medium power. In today's Ottawa Citizen there are two insightful articles on the systems of coach Craig Hartsburg, detailing his philosophies and systems in a way that even the most casual hockey fan could understand.

Ken Warren's article breaks down how the players have to expect their roles to change from game to game and Wayne Scanlan goes into some detail about the new defensive outlook on a team that seems to be crying out for structure:

"Changes in personnel dictate a more conservative style, though Murray insists he and new coach Craig Hartsburg are not turning the team into the New Jersey Devils. Murray believes fans will appreciate the blue-collar approach to the game.

"I don't think we're going to be a sit-back team at all," Murray says. "It's just when the other team has the puck, defensively we're not going to gamble as much, and I hope the structure will allow us to have more forward support in the defensive zone than we've had, at times.

"They're not going to get the long pass off because that's not the kind of game we'll play, and we don't have the defencemen that will be looking for the breakaway pass or taking off with the puck, whatever the case may be."

-Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa has some of the best hockey writers in the newspaper business. I think if you give the criticism, you also have to hand out the plaudits when they deserve it.

As a fan, a well functioning and questioning hockey press is essential to understanding your team and its character. They are the people with access to the players and hockey executives across the league.

So far this season, the Ottawa writers are ahead of the game.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chris Neil Punishes Flyers

You can only write so much about pre-season games before demanding psychotherapy, but a solid win by the Senators over the Flyers gave us a few more hints on the way to the opening night in Sweden not too far from now...

Chris Neil had a helluva game, scoring two goals by standing in front of the net and adding a scrap for good measure. A lot of people were erroneously predicting that Neil was headed out of town this summer but tonight he showed why he's a core player for this team and probably will be for years to come.

Jesse Winchester is battling the perception that he's the next Brandon Bochenski but he's a complete player involved in all facets of the game and looks like a natural on the big line with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.

On the blueline, Brian Lee finally had an effective game after a couple of duds against the Rangers and seemed comfortable on the much improved power-play.

So far, Brendan Bell hasn't made his case to beat out Brian Lee for a spot on the last defense pairing but he had some moments tonight where he looked good offensively. Unfortunately, he looks somewhat lost in his own end and doesn't seem like he has a chance of unseating Lee, Alex Picard or Christoph Schubert due to some gaffes that will be hard to forget for the coaching staff.

The real moment of the night had to be Matt Carkner annihilating fellow tough guy Darryl Powe in a one-sided scrap to state his credentials as a capable heavyweight for this team.

The sheer number of quality forwards precludes Carkner from making this team outright but he will probably get into at least a few games as a call-up against some of the more tougher North Eastern opponents.

Remember that Georges Laraque is now in Montreal while Milan Lucic is gaining popularity in Boston. It's all about matchups and Carkner is the only player in the organization able to nullify those nuclear weapons.

The line of Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly and Daniel Alfredsson was a natural fit which will probably allow Mike Fisher to stay with Neil and Jarkko Ruutu on an intimidating third line.

If Winchester pans out on the top unit, the Senators are heading into this season with three lines capable of dictating games all on their own.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Penguin Cooke Lashes Out At Sens Ruutu

Over at the Post-Gazette, Dave Molinari did a story today on newly acquired Matt Cooke and asked the agitator how he compares to departed fan favourite Jarkko Ruutu, now in Ottawa:

"I don't go out and stick [opponents] after the whistle and yap and do all those types of things," he said. "I try to play in between the whistles.

"It's a completely different approach [than Ruutu's]. I'm going to try to get guys off their game and get guys to worry about me, but not by sticking them in the back of the legs or punching after the whistle, that kind of stuff."


If you had any doubts about Ruutu being one of the most hated players in the league, take it from Cooke in a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Ottawa fans got a good view of that on Monday night when Ruutu ran New York Ranger Nikolai Zherdev from behind seconds after the final whistle.

It's usually an Ottawa player on the receiving end of something like that.

So this is how the other half lives...

Muckler Hired By Coyotes ... Spezza Meets The Neighbours

Wayne Gretzky welcomes another ex-Edmonton Oiler to the Coyotes organization in John Muckler.

This is Muckler's first hockey job since being let go by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk at the end of the 2007 season - he was also involved in rumours that he would end up with the Maple Leafs last season.

I still think it was the right decision to let Muckler go in Ottawa but his brief era looks better now than it did only last year. For all of Bryan Murray's expertise and charisma, the undeniable fact is that the team has taken a fall since Muckler left.

Currently, the Senators don't have a real second line centre (to be fair, Muckler had the same problem though he did trade for Mike Comrie), they don't have a proper puck moving defenseman and they don't have a legitimate number one goalie.

A lot of that has to do with the salary cap and Muckler may have done a worse job navigating that same terrain if he had stayed on, but that era may very well turn out to be a nostalgic one for Senators fans.

Bryan Murray has done a great job getting the core players locked up for years to come, but he is still living in the shadow of Muckler until this team turns it around again.


In case anyone missed this "aw-shucks" story about Jason Spezza in today's Ottawa Citizen, it's worth a look.

"According to the local grapevine, children have beaten a path to his front door hoping to catch a glimpse of one of their hockey idols, or, even better, to nab an autograph. And, apparently, Mr. Spezza has charmingly complied in many cases, handing out autographed hockey cards to awe-struck neighbours.

Moved by the sense of excitement about a hockey star in the 'hood, my daughter and her friends spent an afternoon baking and decorating a cake with "Go, Sens, Go" spelled out in red icing. They carefully wrapped the cake and headed to his house with Senators' jerseys slung over their shoulders, hoping for their own brush with fame, not to mention autographs.

Unfortunately, no one answered the door and, unsure what else to do, they left the plastic-wrapped cake with a note on his front step. And then the rain came."

-Ottawa Citizen

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tough Night On Broadway

In a role reversal from Sunday night, the Senators brought a young and inexperienced squad to New York and got badly outplayed, managing only 5 shots in the first period and 7 in the second before bouncing back with 10 in a more spirited third. .

The one salvation for Ottawa was the play of Alex Auld who turned aside 28 shots in the first two periods behind a defense that couldn't get the puck out of the zone if their paycheques depended on it. At times Auld was unbelievable and only looked ordinary once on Petr Nedved's breakaway goal that went through his legs.

Auld is going to put more pressure on Martin Gerber than people realize. It should be a good battle between the two for the first couple of months.

There's not much to report individually on the players vying for a spot on the team because no one really stepped up and made themselves noticed.

Brad Isbister, who's kind of a forgotten entity right now, made a great play in the third, chipping the puck past a Ranger defenseman and showing a nice burst of speed to set up Dean McAmmond for Ottawa's only goal. Isbister's size would be a great addition if he could use that speed and skill more often. No one's holding their breath on that one.

Brian Lee got stronger as the game went on after another shaky start and looked pretty good manning the point on the powerplay, especially in the third period where he and Christoph Schubert controlled the puck nicely. Lee had 3 shots to lead all defenseman with Schubert just behind him at 2.

Ilya Zubov had a poor game and looked uninterested in any sort of puck pursuit where bodily contact would be involved. Matt Carkner was fun to watch at moments as he played left wing instead of defense. He actually has some decent speed but I'm not sure if he knows how to stop. Along with Lee and Schubert, Carkner was the only plus player on the Senators side.

Wade Redden had a solid game for the Rangers, tying for the lead in shots on goal with 6 and making some nice crisp passes, including a couple of long bomb attempts that not many current Senators defenseman would try.

Redden is going to be missed way more than Bryan Murray accounted for. Look for him to have a big bounceback season on the scoresheet.

And he's got a lot to work with. Brandon Dubinsky was again the best Ranger player while Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev looked intermittently dangerous as well.

The surprise of the night had to be Petr Nedved who is on a tryout basis with the Rangers in camp. He was skating and controlling the puck like it was 1996 all over again. The Rangers announcers had lots to say about Nedved showing up in great physical shape but they still don't see him making the team.

Would the cap-challenged Senators entertain the notion as a solution to their second line centre blues?

Not likely, but some team will come calling if Nedved continues to impress.

Regardless, that's two sloppy efforts in a row by the Senators. It's still just training camp but coach Craigh Hartsburg will have to expect better efforts sooner rather than later.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Would You Like Fries With That?

I think these new sweaters look really sharp and you can get some better views here. The only drawback is that the logo has a McDonalds thing going on with the Gateway Arch combining with the Blues yellow.

Actually the promotional tie-ins could really take off for St. Louis centre Andy McDonald this year.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ottawa 3 New York 2

A few quick notes about tonight's game:

There are some fierce battles for roster spots on this team and there were some clear winners and losers in tonight for the Ottawa Senators.

Impressive were Jesse Winchester and Nick Foligno while Christoph Schubert, Alex Picard and Brian Lee didn't fare as well.

Winchester really surprised me with how fast he was and made a strong case to stay with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley (who both looked fantastic as well, not surprisingly).

Foligno did a little bit of everything, including kill penalties and seemed like a veteran out there.

Schubert looked like he was nervous as hell and was often out of position but he still has a presence on the ice and stood up a few Rangers at the blueline with some solid hits. Coach Hartsburg played Schubert a ton and is obviously looking for him to step up and fend off the likes of Lee and Picard.

Picard also looked nervous and unsure of himself while I thought Lee started out strong but gave away the puck a few times in the second period. The poise of Lee still impresses me. He actually reminds me a lot of a young Wade Redden and despite this minor setback, look for him to get more comfortable as camp progresses. After all, these guys just started skating on Wednesday. There was bound to be a few mulligans handed out tonight. (0 for 10 on the power-play is still tough to swallow at any time of the year)

Everyone wanted to see new acquisitions like Jason Smith and Filip Kuba play but the results were mixed here as well. Smith played exactly as advertised but Kuba seemed lethargic out there and was slow at moving the puck both out of the zone and on the point during the power play. For a guy who is supposed to replace Andre Meszaros, he doesn't seem like he wants to shoot from the point, something that Meszaros was great at. Kuba did seem strong defensively but the Senators will be in a lot of trouble if he can't score. In fact, the lack of a puck-moving defenseman was already evident as the transition game was poor at best for the Senators.

The goaltending for the Senators was really strong from both Martin Gerber and Brian Elliot. Both got beat once on nearly identical blocker side shots that any goalie would have trouble stopping. Gerber twice had issues with strange bobbled rebounds but that's nothing new. The Senators look to be better in front of the net this year and that should help Gerber out quite a bit.

And is it just me or does Elliot remind anyone of Eddie Belfour? Not skill-wise of course, but just the way he plays in net and the way he looks. He's even got the unshaved face going on. I tell you, it's eerie.

How about that first shift from the Mike Fisher, Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu line? It literally looked like Slapshot for a few seconds there.

On the Rangers side, there have been reports of griping from some of the players at the number of exhibition games they have to play in such a short time and it showed in a largely B-list roster that made the trip up from Manhattan.

Brandon Dubinsky was probably the best player on either team tonight and that has to be a great relief for the Rangers because many wondered how Dubinsky would react after losing Jaromir Jagr as a linemate from last season. Obviously, the kid can play with or without Jagr.

And who the hell let Dane Byers out of his cage at the zoo? He reminds me of that character Chongo from Detroit Rock City. He plowed Danny Bois from behind with a dangerous hit and probably ate some raw meat between periods.

I kind of like him, to be honest.


Here We Go

During tonight's pre-season tilt against the Rangers, coach Craig Hartsburg has made his first decisions on line combinations.

The second guessing starts now...

Welcome to Ottawa Mr. Hartsburg.

While Jesse Winchester has been deposited on the big line as expected, the out-of-left-field decision has been to place Nick Foligno as a centre between Antoine Vermette and Daniel Alfredsson. Allen Panzeri's article in today's Ottawa Conservative ....errrrr.... Citizen explains this by saying that Hartsburg was used to seeing Foligno as a centre in junior hockey so he's giving him a shot there tonight.

So much for the speculation by Gord Wilson and myself that Vermette would be given that shot at centre, his natural position.

But it's an interesting experiment and just the type of thinking that's needed to breathe some new life into this team. I personally don't see Foligno being the proper centre for Alfredsson but stranger things have worked in the past. It's at least worth a look and seeing that it's pre-season, perhaps Vermette will get an opportunity there as well before it's all over.

Line to watch: Mike Fisher centering Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Neil. That will be total mayhem on ice and probably the feistiest line the Senators have ever put together in their history, or at least since their first season when half the team was a bunch of blood thirsty ankle skaters wielding roughly hewn Sherwood axe handles.

My only dissent stems from the fact that the organization has already proclaimed Martin Gerber to be the number one goalie before anyone has even hit the ice.

It seems to me it would have been better to hold a competition for that spot in training camp, giving Alex Auld and Brian Elliot some hope as well.

But I guess there's talk of having to give Gerber that "shot of confidence" he so desperately needs not to breakdown.

After all, he's earned his status hasn't he...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Forward Roles Need A Shakeup

With a new coach in town, are we about to see a truly fresh outlook for the organization when it comes to their forward lines? Because let’s face it – the team has been stale in its thinking for too long now, similar to the way it was in Jacques Martin’s final year as a coach in 2004.

Core players on this team such as Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Antoine Vermette and Chris Neil have been pigeonholed, or even typecast by the fans and coaches into roles that either don’t suit them or limits their contributions.

For what seems like years, the team has been trying to force Fisher to be a second line center for Daniel Alfredsson, despite the two of them having little to no chemistry together.

Their failure to click has forced past coaches Bryan Murray and John Paddock to put Alfredsson back with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, leaving Fisher in a sort of no-mans land – is he supposed to score or is he supposed to shut down the other team’s scorers?

Gord Wilson on the Team 1200 this morning made the point that Fisher may be able to excel in a role similar to Anaheim’s Samuel Pahlsson – a top-notch shutdown guy. With Fisher’s size and speed, he could be as effective as Bobby Holik was in his prime winning Stanley Cups for Lou Lamoriello and the Devils.

Wilson also threw in Vermette’s name as a possibility to be the second line center and it struck me that nobody has talked about Vermette as a center for years, even though it’s his natural position.

Why not give Chris Kelly more of a chance to play offense? He already has chemistry with Vermette and a 2nd line of those two with Alfredsson would be formidable at both ends of the rink. (Note: Alfredsson played on a line with Kelly and Nick Foligno today during the morning skate)

Why not throw a gritty forward next to Spezza and Heatley instead of the talented but inexperienced rookie Jesse Winchester? Those two don’t need more talent on that line. What they need is more room to move out there. Either Chris Neil, Jarkko Ruutu or even Shean Donovan could make an impact on that line, even if their statistics don’t merit the promotion.

Sometimes chemistry happens in the strangest circumstances. Maybe Fisher would be better as winger on the top line or maybe Neil scores 20 goals in that slot while driving to the net as a physical distraction.

That sort of scenario would allow a skill player like Winchester to add a little flair to the third line, creating more balance throughout the lineup. Of course, if Winchester proves he belongs on the top unit, all the better.

We all like to classify players as either first, second, or fourth liners, but on the ice, sometimes the right experiment based on out-of-the-paradigm thinking can produce much better results.

It’s too early to tell whether Craig Hartsburg will stick with the status quo or really try to shake things up. Let’s hope he opts for the latter.


For those of you wondering what Alex Auld's newly painted Senators themed mask will look like, you can take a peek here, here, and here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Alfie Rips A Page Out Of The Corvo Playbook

It's always refreshing to hear an NHL player stray from the scripted cliche's in an interview and Daniel Alfredsson did just that to TSN today, revealing he thought he was on the path to extinction as an elite player during the Jacques Martin era:

"If I go back four or five years ago, or before the lockout, I had a couple of seasons where I was very disappointed in my own play," said Alfredsson at the Senators' golf tournament Monday. "I was frustrated. I didn't foresee a long future in this league for me."


We all know what happened after that. At the rate he's going, he'll probably peak with an Art Ross at 40 (and Chris Chelios will still be playing, no doubt).

While he's no Joe Corvo (who nearly broke down in tears during an interview two years ago saying how awful he was playing and then bashed "small-town" Ottawa on his way out last season), Alfie seems to be pretty good at "telling it like it is".

But then he dropped this clanger in the same interview:

"I think we underachieved last year," said Alfredsson.

You think?


People thought Jason Spezza was being extravagant for buying a mini-castle in town ...

Ex-Senator Cory Stillman dropped $3 million on a house in South Florida recently. It sounds like he's sleeping fine after bolting Bytown.

Don't be jealous because, hey, "they make a lot of money, but they spend a lot of money" too.

This is the time of year when the dreaded "bag-skate" is trotted out by the coaches to see who stayed in shape over the summer and who stayed drunk and barbecue addicted.

Except Washington coach Bruce Boudreau has some kind of conditiong drill he calls "Herbies". Over at On Frozen Blog they give a pretty good description of these spleen rupturing workouts that are taking place during the Caps rookie camp:

"Head Coach Bruce Boudreau concluded the skate with a solid 10-plus minutes of Herbies, a session torturous even for spectators to watch. The ill effects of the conditioning drill were most noticeable on European prospects Gustafsson and Dmitry Kugryshev. Both fell to their knees at one end of the Kettler sheet, gasping for breath. After 10 minutes of Herbies, Anton was crumpled in a corner, annihilated with fatigue. Mathieu Perreault, Boudreau admitted afterward, became light-headed and nearly feinted from the duress."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

SNES Sweater Flap

There is a minor uproar in the Sens blogging community and on message boards about the Senators upcoming third jersey which has yet to be released. The stakes were upped considerably by the Ottawa Sun's Chris Stevenson who based a story on an image that was created by a non-NHL affiliated website called

The only problem is that image was based on speculation stemming from a now infamous article by Howard Berger who claims to have seen the images of all the upcoming NHL third-jersey designs.

Got that?

Over at Icethetics, they are taking Stevenson to task for his article for, of all things, infringing upon the domain of the bloggers:

"Since when do legitimate news-gathering organizations quote blind sources on something this ineffectual? That's usually left to the likes of blogs — like Icethetics. I quote blind sources like it's my job, here."

- Icethetics

It does seem a little strange for a mainstream hockey reporter (and a very good one at that) to base an article on an image that is self-admittedly fan-made.

If this design actually looked cool, you'd probably see a more positive reaction but now the fans are up in arms because many of them believe the sweater is a letdown, especially compared to another fan-based design that has become popular in recent months (in fact there is a petition online).

One fan commented on the Icethetics site:

"That might be one of the worst jerseys ever.


Super Nintendo Entertainment System?"

Of course this minor controversy will be swept away once the Senators organization officially unveils their jerseys.

Because they can't look this bad in real life.

Could they?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pens Sens Rivalry To Go Up A Notch

Pittsburgh's loss is Ottawa's gain.

Over in Western Pennsylvania, Pens fans are still bemoaning the loss of Jarkko Ruutu to the Senators (along with players like Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts and Georges Laraque to the Tampa "Cowboys" and the Habs) but the folks over at the highly recommended blog Confluence of Three Rivers are trying to soothe the nerves of fans by extolling the virtues of replacement pest Matt Cooke, who like Ruutu, comes to the Penguins by way of Vancouver (and briefly the Caps).

One of the moments I'm really looking forward to this season is the first matchup between the Senators and Penguins, where Cooke and Ruutu will certainly be at their shit-eating grin best.

"Ruutu quickly became a fan favorite in Pittsburgh. The chants of “Ruuuuuuuuuuuu” boomed throughout the Igloo over the last couple of seasons. He plays the agitator role better than nearly any of his peers in the NHL, being a major pest all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. But for as well as Ruutu performed in his agitator, he did not contribute very much in the category of secondary scoring. In Ruutu’s two seasons with the Pens, he scored seven and six goals, respectively.

Moreover, Ruutu has only scored in double digits once is his NHL career. Cooke, on the other hand, has scored in double digits in both goals and assists every year in each of his last seven NHL seasons. In addition, while Cooke may not have been as well known as agitators such as Ruutu or Sean Avery, he is well qualified to be given that moniker."

- The Confluence Of Three Rivers

Now that the Sens and Pens have played each other two years in a row during the playoffs (splitting the results), they are in the midst of a pretty good rivalry and that can only be good news for fans in the capital region. While it's no Edmonton-Calgary rivalry from the 80's, it's always better to be involved in a hate-fest with an interesting team, and the Penguins boast two of the three best players in the world right now (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin).

That's a touch more invigorating than having a rivalry with, say, the Buffalo Sabres or the Florida Panthers.

Here's the million dollar question: Will Ruutu take a run at Crosby when the opportunity provides itself?

This will probably answer your question...


After the rookies are done scuffling around in Kitchener-Waterloo this weekend, the real Senators training camp basically gets underway on Monday, when the team holds its annual Charity golf tournament and then reports for physicals on Tuesday, about a week earlier than 26 other NHL teams who will start up later on in the week or the following Monday. The Senators, Penguins, Lightning and the Rangers are starting early so they can open the season in Europe.

The full training camp sked can be viewed here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Redden Settling Into NYC

Strange coincidence:

Wade Redden's locker stall at the MSG training rink is next to Martin Straka, one of the players he was traded for (along with Bryan Berard) back in 1996 when he became a member of the Senators.

Though Redden was unceremoniously booed out of town by the often fickle and long-term memory afflicted Ottawa fans, Glen Sather still thinks Redden can be a top echelon defenseman in the NHL.

"In our opinion, he's the best first-passer in the game today," Sather said, envisioning Redden on the left point of the Rangers' power play.


I'm inclined to agree with Sather on this one.

It's hard to believe how quickly the fans turned on their franchise defenseman after the years of service he gave to the team. It might be true that it was best for both sides to part ways, but since when did Redden deserve all the negativity?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Kuba Leaves Tampa With Mixed Feelings

The Tampa Tribune ran a short piece on new Ottawa Senator defenseman Filip Kuba today, revealing that he never tried to invoke his no-trade clause, not out of a desire to play for Ottawa, but because he thought it was hopeless to do so.

"The way it was presented to me at the time, I knew even if I said no to the trade I wasn't going to stay here on the team," he said. "So it didn't make any sense to say no I'm going to stay and then know I'm going somewhere else anyway. ...

"I was talking to my agent most of the time, I didn't really talk to the owners much - after it happened I did - but they said right away that if did not go there, I would end up going somewhere else."

Tampa Tribune

Kuba, more than anything, sounds disappointed that he won't be able to play in front of family in the Czech Republic where his former team was slated to open the season against the Rangers.

The article also reports that he is busy practising with his former Lightning teammates before making the trip up to Ottawa this weekend.

Another new acquisition, Jarkko Ruutu, made his way to Ottawa yesterday. Of all the new players the Senators acquired, this guy may be the one the fans are most anticipating.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Canes Sweater A Preview Of Sens To Come

The Carolina Hurricanes unveiled their new 3rd jersey today and, if accounts are correct, it looks similar to what the Senators will be wearing this season as well.

Note the angular stripes on the socks, a reversal of sorts of what the Senators and Flames currently have, with the Canes' slashing up instead of down. No matter, it's downright ugly and already dated. Soooo 2007 ....

Let's hope the Senators at least go with a lace-up collar like some teams already have.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Brad, Bingo And Beer

They already grabbed the smallest Vancouver Canuck from last season in Ryan Shannon. Now in Brad Isbister, they signed one of the biggest.

Isbister is only 31 but it seems like he's been around the league since 1984 and might be ready to challenge Mike Sillinger for the suitcase award. While it seems that adding another forward to an already busting at the seams lineup is a touch overkill, the fans in Binghamton are in an angry mood these days and just might torch that old barn they call an arena if things don't improve. Whoever doesn't make the big squad or get traded will help out Bingo for the year and try to save head coach Cory Clouston's job.

Since the NHL lockout, the B-Sens have missed the playoffs three straight years and haven't won a series since 2003.

That dismal record is no good for morale within the organization and it looks like GM Bryan Murray is trying to address it.


I'm off to the cottage for the weekend. If some kind of mind-shattering trade takes place, I'll be here to piss all over it on Monday morning.

Have a nice weekend.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Senators Trade Nycholat To Canucks For Shannon

The Senators did make another deal as was bandied about in my last post, but it didn't exactly clear up any confusion on the forward ranks.

Lawrence Nycholat was dealt to the Canucks for diminutive forward Ryan Shannon, who had a tough time staying a regular in Vancouver last season, scoring 13 points in 27 games.

With Nycholat out of the picture, that improves Christoph Schubert's chances of playing on the blueline and opens up a little more room for Brendan Bell and newly acquired Alex Picard to possibly make the team as that elusive offensive defenseman.

As it stands now, assuming that Brian Lee will make the team, there is a three way race to fill that 6th spot on the blueline while others like Matt Carkner, Ben Blood and the unsigned but hopeful Luke Richardson are now almost completely out of the picture.

As for Shannon, he played 11 games with the Ducks during their successful Stanley Cup run in 2007 and is only 25 years old.

The Score Sports Forecaster describes Shannon:

"The fleet-footed, yet diminutive forward is an intelligent player who always needs to be one step ahead of bigger players or suffer the physical consequences. Good defensively, he buys himself ice time through hard work. That said, he's a depth player in Vancouver."

Sportsnet has this scouting report:

"Skates extremely well and owns excellent shiftiness. Has defensive polish and offensive upside. Can play either center or wing.

Is smallish even for the 'new' NHL. Must continue to work on his play without the puck in order to receive quality ice time at the highest level. "


This move does seem a little strange at the moment but it may just be setting up the departure of another forward or two. With Shannon in the fold, the forward depth chart is something like this (Keep in mind the Senators will only dress 12 forwards max.):

1. Alfredsson
2. Spezza
3. Heatley
4. Fisher
5. Vermette
6. Kelly
7. Neil
8. Ruutu
9. Donovan
10. McAmmond
11. Foligno
12. Bass
13. Shannon
15. Nikulin
16. Zubov
17. Regin
18. Hennessy

And that list doesn't include Schubert who may still be shifted to forward if one of Brendan Bell or Alex Picard has a great training camp. That makes this another 3-way race for one spot on forward behind Foligno at 11th. The two Russians and Peter Regin might as well skip training camp because there is no way they'll be able to find a spot, even with injuries.

That is depth and it bodes well for the Senators. But something tells me there is another forward headed out of town soon.


With the Chicago Blackhawks currently over the salary cap, is this finally the time that GM Bryan Murray takes a serious run at acquiring Nikolai Khabibulin?

Assuming Gerber went the other way (to cheapen the Hawks goaltending cap hit and to safely swap two soon to be unrestricted free agents), could Chicago use one of Ottawa's plethora of cheap forwards they now have under contract and in the same way keep both teams under the salary cap?

Hey, I'm no Eklund, but that move seems like a no-brainer to me.