Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Notes

If (or as some believe, when) the Senators don't make the playoffs this year, they might look at their record against the Islanders and realize that's where those important points slipped away.

Coming into this campaign, the Senators had only lost 11 times in their whole existence to the Islanders but now they've lost their last three and 4 out of 5 going back to last season.

And this is an Islander team currently without Rick DiPietro and Mike Comrie. Something is still not right here.

I'm not sure that there is any sort of scoring slump to break out of. Outside of the Big 3, nobody on this team seems capable of pitching in consistently.

And you can't blame the loss on the Big 3 here either. They did their part. They were responsible for both of the Senators goals. But who's helping them out?

Antoine Vermette is a lost cause and now possibly untradeable. Mike Fisher is playing great and is probably the hardest working guy out there. But he's not a natural goal-scorer. He contributes in other ways although Bryan Murray has put him in a position (second-line centre) to fail even if he plays his best.

Then you go to....

Wait. There's no one else on this team who is even expected to reach 40 to 50 points.

Maybe that's the problem.


I am already sick of the Brian Burke story. I have nothing against the guy but today's Sun has two articles on the guy who (as Al Strachan likes to point out) "invented hockey". That matches the amount of stories they have on the Ottawa Senators.

Hey, in a town that allows its own captain to be booed by Leaf fans in their own rink, I guess that's just the way she goes.


The latest media tirade against Jason Spezza came from Bobby Clarke. He complained that players don't fear playing against Spezza because he can only make you look bad by "making plays" but won't lay a hand on anyone.

What, you mean like Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, Mike Modano, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Pat Lafontaine, Ron Francis, Joe Sakic, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Elias and Jaromir Jagr?

If it was good enough for them, why not Spezza?

Bobby Clarke is full of shit and always has been.

This is the same guy who said about his head coach Roger Neilson, who was stricken with cancer in 2000:

"The Neilson situation - Roger got cancer - that wasn't our fault. We didn't tell him to go get cancer. It's too bad that he did. We feel sorry for him, but then he went goofy on us."

How is anyone supposed to take him seriously after that?

And where is Bryan Murray? This guy should be dropping a few F-Bombs on Clarke to the media in defense of his star player.

Could you imagine guys like Pat Quinn, Glen Sather or Brian Burke allowing Clarke to get away unscathed after having their star players ripped like that?

Murray loves to be blunt with the media only when he's ripping his own team. He doesn't seem prepared to defend them in the same manner.

And that's pretty soft, don't you think?


Brian Lee still doesn't look right out there. And I don't think he'd fare too well in a moustache growing competition......... Contrary to public opinion, Nick Foligno is having a bad year. He's got great character but is he really an NHL forward on a majority of other NHL rosters? I doubt it. He needs more playing time and that can only come in the AHL. But what other options do the Senators have right now?..... Mike Fisher really impressed me the last two games with his forechecking and gutsy effort. Whatever rumours are out there about trading this guy should go away. Fast.......... A lot of people are upset about another Senator game not being shown on Hockey Night In Canada but can you blame them? The games this year are as boring as any New Jersey or Columbus sludge-fest....... Islander rookie Josh Bailey seemed afraid to make eye contact with Jarkko Ruutu after getting a stick in the back as the two were coming off the ice at the same time. His expression was priceless, as if to say "Who the hell is this guy and why is he smiling at me like that?"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday Notes

Now that Alex Picard is out of the lineup with a jammed wrist, call-up Brian Lee has a chance to show that he belongs in the Senators organization and to make management think twice about including him in a package for an established NHL power-play quarterback.

There is no doubt that the Senators have been disappointed in Lee this year after a poor training camp and an even worse stretch of games in the regular season that saw him get booted back to Bingo to get his game - and head - in shape.

After looking solid during his late season call-up last year, Lee seemed afraid of the puck and afraid of taking a hit in the new campaign and did nothing to stop the criticisms that Ottawa blew their 2005 draft where they chose Lee over the likes of Anze Kopitar, Marc Staal, the late Luc Bourdon, Ryan Parent and even Steve Downie.

Bryan Murray has since revamped his scouting staff after taking over from John Muckler and Brian Lee doesn't seem to fit the Murray mould. Not helping Lee is the fact that he only has 1 goal and 5 assists in 16 games with Bingo since being demoted. That's simply average and that's not going to get Lee a permanent spot in Ottawa.

I think that the team is already looking to the arrival of Erik Karlsson rather than waiting for Lee to suddenly transform into a saviour on the blueline. Lee is a player that the Senators might regret trading but he has some value right now.

It's up to Murray to decide if he wants to cash in on Lee now for some immediate help or be patient and play the waiting game.

I'm not saying it's a make or break game for Lee, but if he doesn't play well, he might not get a chance to do so in a Senators uniform again.


Also called up was Zack Smith, who has exceeded expectations and might be the most NHL-ready Senators prospect in Bingo if you listen to management. He leads the B-Sens with 9 goals and is 6th amongst AHL rookies in points. But the word is that Smith will only play if Shean Donovan is out with one of those ridiculous undisclosed upper-body injuries. If teams are allowed to get away without telling anyone what the injuries are, why do they even have to disclose if it's an upper or lower body injury?

Why can't they call an ankle sprain a concussion? If they are allowed to half-lie to the media and thus the fans, you might as well let them go all the way.

It's a joke.


I'm not sure if Luke Richardson is planning to shave off his team-bonding moustache now that he's been forced into retirement but is there anything more symbolic (and genuinely sad) than the idea of Richardson standing in front of a mirror shaving it off and knowing that he's crossed over to the other side?

He's had a great career and it would be especially nice if the Senators organization honoured him with a video presentation similar to what they did for Wade Redden at their next home game.

I know he was only with Ottawa for a year and bit but he's a homegrown player and it would be a classy move by the Senators.

To be honest, I'm getting the chills just thinking about it. But then again, I'm the guy who cried like a little boy when the Rangers retired Mark Messier's number. And when they brought him back from Vancouver. And when he started crying at Gretzky's Ranger retirement. Basically every time he has to try and get through a press conference.

Did I ever tell you that Mess is my favourite player of all-time?


Richardson was involved in a nasty confrontation while with the Leafs when Minnesota North Star Dino Ciccarelli was criminally charged after hitting Luke over the head with his stick in 1988.

One of my favourite quotes of all-time came from Dino describing his brief two hour stint in jail after being found guilty.

"The first thing I saw was a big fat cop eating a jelly donut. Then I stood around signing autographs for the other poor guys in there."

Check out a series I ran last year of Classic NHL Quotes over the years right here.


Sergei Samsonov scored the overtime winner for Carolina against Philadelphia last night but it was only his second goal of the season.

It's been a long time since Samsonov and Joe Thornton came into the league together with Boston after being taken only 7 picks apart in the 1997 draft. After Samsonov won the Calder trophy as best rookie while Thornton struggled to a 3 goal, 7 point performance, some were saying that Samsonov would turn out to be the real superstar.

Boston cashed in on Samsonov's potential at just the right time. As part of the package from Edmonton, they got the Oilers 2nd round choice who they used to pick Milan Lucic.

That might be one of the reasons (along with the Dustin Penner mistake) that Kevin Lowe was pushed out of hockey operations into the President' s role earlier this year.


Speaking of the Flyers, their throwback 3rd jersey's are the nicest in the league next to the Oilers and the Islanders vintage sweaters.

I really love the vintage all-white nameplates too.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Even The Political Junkies Are Coming Down On The Senators

You could look long and hard but you will not find a more frank or critical piece written on the Ottawa Senators and their recent history than the sledgehammer that Jeffrey Simpson brought down today in the Globe and Mail.

Perhaps it takes the perspective of the outsider which might be the reason that no local beat writer has taken on the task of penning such a thought out and all-encompassing take on the Senators precipitous drop of the last two seasons.

Jeffrey Simpson is not usually a hockey writer, in fact he's a "national affairs columnist", but you wouldn't know it by the depth of his knowledge on the Senators and their recent travails. Some might be tempted to tell Simpson to "stick to his knitting", but when a writer of his stature drops an atomic bomb on a team from out of nowhere, it’s something that should be taken notice of.

I agree with a lot of what Simpson says here and I have written about many of these issues in the past but I also think he went too far in some cases and I’ll point them out as we go.

There is so much to wade through here that I thought I’d go through some of the main points of the story, line by line. You might not have the patience for this sort of thing but during a slow week, I think that this type of story merits attention.


Jeffrey Simpson: “They have burned through two coaches — John Paddock and Bryan Murray — and are not responding for the third, Craig Hartsburg. He whips them like a mule, but a mule is a mule. It can speed up a little under the whipping, but it remains a mule.

The Senators won Saturday 4-1 against the New York Rangers, offering a spirited effort. They won the only way they can, given a limited amount of talent, playing a chip-and-chase game and outworking their opponents.

The days of a fast, skilled Senators team are over. Apart from the trio of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, they have nothing but pluggers up

Black Aces: I think Simpson might be exaggerating for effect when he says “a mule is a mule” in the case of the Senators, but in essence, he’s right. Hard work can take you far but you need skill to win in the NHL, especially when most teams play very similar systems. The Senators can probably scrape into the playoffs if they play extremely hard-nosed every night but that very fact makes them just one of many teams in the same position. The last team to win a Cup without an elite defenseman was Carolina but they made up for that with a team deep in forwards who could score.

Lumping Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette in with the “pluggers” is probably unfair but they have to take the criticism because they haven’t produced this season.

As for Simpson’s suggestion that the players aren’t responding to Hartsburg, I think he’s dead wrong. Not since Jacques Martin has this team played in such a structured way (in stretches, mind you). If anything, Bryan Murray just took off the reins when he came in and was able to win games on pure skill alone. John Paddock was a complete disaster in his short time as head coach and it would take someone more knowledgeable than me to figure out what kind of system he wanted to implement, other than to play the Big 3 to death.

Hartsburg’s challenge is much bigger than his predecessors and he deserves more time to mould this team in his image.

Simpson: “Senators fans are smart. They can see the team for what it is, a shadow of yesteryear's dynamic units, crippled by a long series of management errors under general managers John Muckler and Murray that have finally caught up to the franchise.

It's a team with only three bona fide scorers, two backup goalies, four sixth defencemen, no speed on the back end, little secondary scoring, not much size and, chillingly, little help on the farm.”

Black Aces: Senators fans are smart? If they were so smart, why are they so outraged at the play of the team thus far? Smart fans would recognize that losing Andrej Meszaros and Wade Redden without proper replacements would mean trouble. Instead, these fans cheered those moves and were dumbfounded when the team couldn’t move the puck efficiently through the neutral zone with solid passes that were once taken for granted. These are the same fans who want to trade Jason Spezza every time the team loses. They once wanted to trade Daniel Alfredsson too.

Smart fans? Please. (I’m mostly talking about the vocal minority of insane callers to the Over The Edge show on the Team 1200. I realize most real fans don’t bother writing blogs or calling radio programs.)

Simpson says that the team has “four sixth defenseman”. I’m not sure out of the three who he’s describing as a sixth defenseman – Chris Phillips, Filip Kuba or Anton Volchenkov but he’s wrong on any one of them. I would call them all third or fourth defenseman and that’s no disrespect. It’s just that they’re not elite offensive players although Kuba has surprised everyone with his point production.

Simpson: “The start-again strategy would require a new general manager. One intriguing choice would be Steve Yzerman, who played some hockey before turning professional in Ottawa and is popular in the city.”

Black Aces: Wow. That name, Steve Yzerman, just sort of jumps out at you and until Simpson said it, I haven’t heard his name linked to Ottawa in even the wildest of rumours. Obviously it’s just speculation on Simpson’s part, but if ever Melnyk decided to change GM’s, wouldn’t Yzerman be a perfect fit in this town?

To be clear, I don’t think that Bryan Murray deserves to be fired and one of the positives is that he’s managed to lock up the core of the team to long contracts. Some might see that as a negative but it will probably pay off down the road, especially when Alfredsson departs in four years. Spezza and Heatley are still young and will be playing in their prime for the Senators for years to come. That alone will give them a chance to win every year.

Simpson: “Muckler had inherited a brilliant team and proceeded to erode its foundations. Sami Salo, still a top-four defenceman for Vancouver, was traded for Peter Schaefer, who is no longer in the league. He blew the draft after the lockout, in which the Senators got a huge break by picking ninth. He selected Brian Lee, who remains in the minor leagues, while passing on other players such as Marc Staal and Anze Kopitar, now young stars. …

Chara, Redden, Havlat, Corvo, Eaves. For these players, the Senators have nothing to show today. No team so mismanaged can remain competitive. Coming up empty for these five, coupled with indifferent draft picks, plus those end-of-season Muckler trades, meant that past mistakes suddenly caught up with the Senators.”

Black Aces: It’s easy for Simpson to look back at the Salo trade now and say it was a bad move but Schaefer was a good pickup who was effective for a number of years in a defensive role and occasionally on offense. Salo was injury prone when he was traded and the Senators didn’t suffer on the backend as they had the likes of Chara and Redden in the mix with a young Volchenkov and Meszaros soon on the way. If no one had ever heard of a salary cap, then yes, the trade looks bad now. But they got good mileage out of Schaefer and they still have Shean Donovan so it hasn’t been a complete wash like the brutal Havlat deal or the Chara free-agency loss.

I do agree with Simpson on Muckler though. The seeds of the fall were planted in that brief era when he let Chara go for nothing. If Muckler had kept Chara, maybe Bryan Murray, his successor, would have been forced to play hardball with Mike Fisher or even trade him to stay under the cap, but this team would be in much better shape regardless.

Simpson: “So did the demise of Ray Emery, the goalie who showed promise of evolving perhaps into a solid No. 1, only to play himself out of the league through what are euphemistically called "off-ice" distractions. He is now playing in Russia.”

Black Aces: Simpson only devotes one line to Ray Emery. And that’s probably about all it deserved. Emery might have been the biggest scapegoat in recent NHL memory and the overblown fuss about his “antics” last year were mind-boggling. Emery didn’t help himself but the local media went out of their way to destroy this guy. Now it’s on to Spezza I guess.

Simpson: “Gerber had played for Anaheim when Murray ran that organization. Apparently, he liked Gerber and argued for signing him to the albatross contract.”

Black Aces: I’m not sure if Simpson has some insider information on this one but it seems strange to blame Murray for Muckler’s mistake just because Gerber and Murray once worked together. Murray has enough on his plate and can’t be blamed for this contract. He also brought in Alex Auld who is playing great right now so it sort of makes the Gerber problem moot at this point.

Simpson: “The team will not make the playoffs with the current mess, so existing or new management either has to make short-term trades to try for rapid, if ephemeral, improvement; or clean house, fall further to the bottom, and try to put together in three-to-five years the kind of team that not so long ago was the envy of the league.”

Black Aces: “Cleaning house” doesn’t seem to be a logical option at this point. The Senators have a trio of forwards in Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson that are at an elite level. You could never get full value in a trade for either of those players. The way forward is to build around them.

The Senators are still a valid team to make the playoffs in their current form if they scratch and bite for the rest of the season and keep to Hartsburg’s defensive game plan. But they need a few vital upgrades to turn into a challenger. You’d be surprised the difference a real puck-mover would make on the back end for this team - on the power-play and in 5 on 5 situations.

If Auld can keep playing well, they could do some damage in a playoff series. In a way, the Senators are a bit like the Toronto teams who used to knock them off in the earlier part of the decade – a couple of high end skill guys surrounded by a lunch-pail crew with tons of character and a few irritating pests for good measure.

There are worse places to be.

Like Tampa.

At least the Senators don't have their nickname on the front of their...errr.. nevermind.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lemaire Rips Goalies ... and Liam Macguire Calls Hossa a Prostitute

Here's one I didn't see coming:

Ultra-defensive Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire has come out swinging against the goaltenders of the NHL and their (still) gargantuan equipment:

"Now you look at the goalie, they look like they are going to war,” Lemaire said. "The game has changed because of the goaltender equipment. It's not because the guy is tall. Ken Dryden was 6-foot-3. He was a big guy. But when you looked at him, he looked like that lamp stand over there -- thin. That's how he looked (to opponents)." ...

"It's not for protection," Lemaire said. "It's to stop the puck. If it's for protection, they can get a lot smaller. Ever hear of Kevlar? Stops bullets. Let's go to the police station and get them vests. They'll all be OK."

- NHL.Com

Go to the police station and get them vests? Amazing.

Every blogger or fan sort of has their own personal pet peeve that they keep on about incessantly and mine has always been the ridiculous goalie equipment and the snails pace that the league is going at to change it.

According to Kay Whitmore, the league's goalie supervisor, it now looks like the NHL is about to make a bigger step next year in that they will judge the legality of equipment based on the individual goalie's size and not league-wide maximums.

"There will be more changes next year with more proportional fittings for protection only. We have to get back to the beginning of what equipment was for in the first place."


Not sure how many heard it in Ottawa but "trivia expert" Liam MacGuire was on the afternoon call-in show and called Marian Hossa a "hockey prostitute" for signing with Detroit instead of Pittsburgh.

If Hossa was a "prostitute", why would he have only accepted a one-year deal in Detroit instead of the other major offers that were on the table? I guess you could call it a one-night stand but...come on Liam.

That was brutal.

Macguire also managed to call Andrei Kostitsyn something that sounded like "Kozeenittsen" (obviously on purpose), belittled Zdeno Chara for not fighting Georges Laraque the other night (after Milan Lucic turned him down) and said that he doesn't like the Red Wings.

Anti-Euro bias perhaps?

Anyone who has had the distinction of listening to the trivia whiz when he makes his infrequent visits to the booth knows that he's more of a Euro-baiter than Don Cherry. Yet Cherry somehow manages to entertain while MacGuire just sounds like a redneck with an ugly disposition.

It's too bad because he's great at telling stories about old-time hockey. But I guess they didn't have many Euro's then.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Notes

He had only one assist in the game but is there any doubt that Jarkko Ruutu was the real star of the Senators win over the Rangers yesterday afternoon?

That shark-like grin never left his face all day as he drove players like Paul Mara and Colton Orr to outright attack him and take ill-advised penalties, the first of which directly resulted in Jason Spezza's game opening goal to put the Rangers on their backs right away.

Even the linesman got in their physical shots at Ruutu after he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for hitting Mara near the end of the first period. Right after the hit, one of the linesman freaked out and threw Ruutu to the ice and gave him a few spirited shoves once he had him pinned. Now that's called being an "agitator".


As for the new sweaters, I'm probably with the majority of "Senators" fans in that I find the word "Sens" on the front to be the weakest part of the jersey. I can understand that the organization didn't want to put an "O" on the front to avoid people calling it a "zero", as in "zero Stanley Cups", "zero character", "zero fun" or whatever the current criticism will be.

But the "Sens" script is somewhat weak and they could have went for the often used but still sharp Ranger design which spells out the whole team name on a sharp angle down the front.

I do like the stripes on the elbows - it's almost barberpole style if you look real quick - and they finally fixed their damn socks by dumping the grotesque "Tron" style angles they use for their regular outfits. This time, the stripes go all the way around and look like real NHL uniforms instead of gimmicky minor league fashion statements

It's not a disaster by any means but it's not a home run either. Black seems to look good on the Senators and unlike the other teams who switch to black for their third jersey's (dulling the league's look in the process), the Senators can lay claim to it being one of their original colours.


I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Wade Redden got a modest standing ovation to congratulate him on 11 great years with the team. If you were listening to call-in radio shows, reading blogs or scouring Senators message boards, you'd think fans were ready to throw batteries at the guy from the stands but it's a good reminder that the vast majority of Senators followers don't feel the need to write blogs or call the radio shows. They watch the games, go to work the next day and get on with their lives.

Something we might all need to do huh?


Ilya Zubov got sent down to Bingo and it wasn't because he played badly or because one of Chris Neil or Mike Fisher made a miraculous recovery. The Senators don't play again until next Thursday and they get to save a little cash with Zubov off the payroll.

The conspiracy theorists might say that the Senators could be interested in Wade Belak who was put on waivers by the Florida Panthers yesterday. Belak, known as a really good locker room guy, could provide that missing muscle on the fourth line and (now we're really stretching) be a familiar face for Mats Sundin when he decides to pick the Senators.

Far fetched? Definitely. But not impossible. The Senators would get one of the first dibs on Belak because of their lowly position in the standings.


You think the Big 3 have it tough being the only real scoring option on the Senators this year? Imagine being Rick Nash in Columbus or Ilya Kovalchuk in Atlanta over the past few years.

The strange thing is that neither of those players are actually leading their team in scoring. In Columbus, youngster Derrick Brassard has one more point than Nash and in Atlanta, Kovalchuk is tied for the team lead with the ancient Slava Kozlov and the 21 year old Bryan Little.

How long until both Nash and Kovalchuk get worn down by all the losing? Maybe we're already seeing the signs.


The biggest moment so far in the season has to be Milan Lucic of the Bruins beating the tar out of Mike Komisarek on November 13.

Since then, the Bruins are running the board and the Canadiens are falling apart. Georges Laraque tried to goad Lucic into a fight last night but the young Cam Neely clone wisely declined and ended up scoring a big goal later in the game. It was revealed afterwards that coach Claude Julien told Lucic not to fight anybody.

“Do you think we’re going to send him against probably the toughest guy in the league?” said Julien, who told Lucic before the game not to fight. “I know Georges Laraque was doing that because he was told to. Georges is not that type of guy. He respects the young kids, he knows what it’s all about. There was no way it was going to happen.”

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Real Deal To Be Unveiled Today

While it's no big secret, this is probably the best picture so far which shows what the Senators jersey's will look like when they unveil them this afternoon against the NY Rangers (photo from Icethetics).

I'll reserve my thoughts until I see them in action.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kids Say The Darndest Things

So that's two spirited games in a row by the Senators with the exact same result and now many will be wondering what happens next.

Is it time for Bryan Murray to make a move to bring in help?

What does he focus on? A second line forward who can score or a powerplay quarterback? Are those types of players even available? Why would anyone want to do Ottawa a favour and take their problems on?

It's got to be a miserable time for Murray with his back up against the wall here. He doesn't have many guys he can trade without opening up another hole on the team but there are a few tradeable assets like Antoine Vermette and Christoph Schubert who could realistically bring in help without hurting the long-term future of the team.

Vermette had another one of those maddening games where he just couldn't score despite having chances that many players would kill for. Twice he completely missed the net when he was in alone on Carey Price, once during the game and once during the shootout. And growing a moustache is not going to magically teach him to be clutch. It's too bad because he's a really good defensive player and a popular teammate, but Murray might need to give both Vermette and the team a new look and Vermie may still be popular with other GM's.

As for the game tonight (which was basically a Montreal home date in everything but name due to the massive contingent of Habs fans booing the Senators all night long), there were a couple of real strange calls (both involving Anton Volchenkov) that must have been totally frustrating for Craig Hartsburg. First they disallow Volchenkov's go-ahead goal on a delayed Montreal penalty-call because they thought the Montreal defenseman touched the puck. But as Gary Galley emphatically pointed out on the Sportsnet broadcast, the play is only supposed to whistled dead when the offending team gets possession of the puck and not if they simply make contact with it.

Then Volchie gets high-sticked which causes blood to stream from his nose but the penalty is two minutes instead of four. I'm not sure how the NHL can explain that one but it doesn't matter in the end.

It was a commendable effort by Ottawa but until they can get some more natural goal scorer's on this team, there are going to be many nights like this.

So this is how the other half lived while Ottawa was cruising along the past decade, huh?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Missed Opportunities ... And Other Notes

Okay, so maybe, just maybe I was a little rough on Craig Hartsburg for his shootout strategy.

I haven’t said a bad word about him yet this year so I figured I might as well start with the nuclear option.

But the main point of what I said remains true: He didn’t go to his best players when the game was on the line.

Jarkko Ruutu might have a great shootout percentage but Hartsburg still should have went with Dany Heatley.

Heatley has expressed his desire to be more of a leader and this was a chance to let him go in and prove it with the game on the line. Hartsburg went for statistics but he should have went the “intangible” route.

It would have been a huge moment if Dany Heatley went in and scored. Who knows what that could have led to heading into Thursday’s match against the Canadiens. Even if he didn’t score, at least he’d have been put in the position to help this team and he’d be judged on the outcome. Now it’s not black and white. It’s a murky grey.

Even Henrik Lundqvist was surprised to see Vermette and Ruutu, but he wasn't complaining:

"I like the challenge of facing their best players" in the shootout, said Lundqvist, who agreed that he didn't really get that chance Monday night. Asked if he was surprised to see Ruutu lining up, the goaltender replied: "Heatley, Alfredsson - yeah, surprised. Not disappointed."

- New York Daily News

I don’t think that leaving Daniel Alfredsson on the bench was a very inspired move either and to me, this ranks right up there with Ron Wilson’s decision to pull Vesa Toskala and insert Curtis Joseph, because of Joseph’s better statistics in the shootout. Toronto didn’t have much to lose at the time but Ottawa had plenty to lose against the Rangers and in this way, it’s somewhat more damaging.

Now the winless streak is at 5 and the end may be nowhere in sight. I’ll continue to support Craig Hartsburg because I think his system is good for this team but his decision making has been too “by the book”. Trying to force some secondary scoring backfired on him badly. The theory was sound but it never felt right.

It was the same as last night. He looked at the stats and made his decision – something that could only look good on paper.

It still doesn’t feel right.


Bruce Garrioch has been speculating about Mattias Ohlund being available and it's pretty easy to see why it makes a lot of sense.

While the Canucks only have 4 defenseman under contract for next year (Bieksa, Salo, Mitchell and Edler), they all will make over 3.25 million each . That's a heavy cap hit for your top 4 and Ohlund won't likely take a paycut to stay in town as a free agent.

Ottawa on the other hand have 5 defenseman under contract (if you count Brian Lee) but only 2 make over 3 million (Phillips and Volchenkov). Ohlund would be a good fit on the ice and on the accounting sheet.

If Vermette is one of the guys going the other way, as has been speculated (and wished for by many), his 3 million salary would make him the second highest paid forward on the Canucks of players under contract for next year.

Of course, the Sedins are unrestricted this summer and will probably get a signifigant raise from their 3.75 million salaries. There's also a lot of whispers that Marian Gaborik might make his way to Vancouver if he gets to free agency.

You have to wonder if a team that already has a few similar players would really want to take on Vermette's contract. If he's not going to break out like everyone has been waiting on for years, 3 million is pretty expensive for a penalty killer.


I got a chance to watch most of the Sharks-Predators game last night and the fights that broke out were unbelievable. While the game wasn't as out of control and entertaining as the Boston-Dallas tilt from a few week's back, it was still filled with some big time nastiness.

Jordin Tootoo, who we'll hear from a bit later, starts this melee by sucker punching Brad Staubitz, and then Jody Shelley and former Senator Greg DeVries get it going. DeVries does okay here but he ends up in big trouble during the rematch.

Now things get out of hand. The next three fights are all within ten seconds of each other if you go by the score clock. This is Joe Thornton taking on tiny Scott Nichol. Nichol doesn't care about the size difference and just wails away.

Now Staubitz and Tootoo finally get together. Tootoo gets hammered a little but watch how he throws with both fists. Crazy.

Now this one ends it all. DeVries gets destroyed in the rematch with Shelley and probably has his nose broken. Not pleasant to watch.


Ruutu was at his agitating best last night and probably crossed a line by shooting a puck at Lundqvist after he blew his shootout chance. Brandon Dubinsky didn't hold back:

"Just let him run his mouth and be ineffective," Dubinsky said. "That's just the way he is. He's pretty careless on the ice. I don't know, he's an idiot."

-New York Daily News

EDIT: Bob Mackenzie wrote a piece today about the "late" Ruutu shot and explained in detail how, if the puck had happened to find a way in the net, it would actually have counted.

"If Ruutu had scored on that bad-angle and seemingly late shootout shot, it would have counted.

According to NHL rule 25.2 on penalty shots, or shootouts if you will, that was still a live puck and Ruutu was within his rights to shoot it at Lundqvist.

"The original loss of the puck was not on a shot,” NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkon told TSN. "Therefore, the puck is live until it comes to a complete stop or the puck completely crosses the goal line."


Speaking of trade possibilities, Jay Bouwmeester is off to a bad start for the Panthers:

"Of greater concern is that he has zero goals and five assists through 16 games and has a team-worst minus-6 rating. Bouwmeester, who continues to lead the NHL
in average ice time (28:45), started slow last season, too, but finished with a career-high 15 goals and 22 assists."

-Sun Sentinel

What are the chances of Jacques Martin helping out the Senators by dealing Bouwmeester to them? Probably nil.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hartsburg Blows It

There can be no sane reason for Craig Hartsburg deciding to put Jarkko Ruutu and Antoine Vermette in the shootout ahead of Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson.

He already made the decision to reunite the Big 3 and, in a sense, put the team in their hands once again.

So why does he try to get cute with the game on the line?

Ruutu on the shootout? Ahead of the Captain who scored the only goal of the game?

Vermette? The guy has already proven over the years to be a master at choking, twice failing to convert prime scoring chances earlier in the period, once on a breakaway and once off a nice setup by Spezza by the side of the net.

It was a horseshit move by Hartsburg and it absolutely ruined what could have been a character building game by a team that was fighting tooth and nail all night to break out of their hellish slump.

Think of it.

With the game on the line and with the chance to end the losing streak (that is threatening his and his GM's job) he decides to sit the team's two best natural goal scorers.

It defies description. Actually, no it doesn't.

It was pure fucking garbage.

Some positives:

Alex Auld was great again. Brendan Bell showed that he deserves another game or two and made nice, easy plays all night. Ilya Zubov played another solid game and he looks like a much better option than the struggling Nick Foligno at this point but injuries to Chris Neil and now Mike Fisher probably means that there's plenty of spots to go around.

In my humble opinion, the Senators worked their asses off tonight and it still wasn't good enough. The fact that they managed to get a point should not dissuade Bryan Murray from making a big move here and Antoine Vermette should be the main chip they cash in.

I suspect the fans reaction to Hartsburg's minor league bullshit may get ugly between now and Thursday when the Senators give it another try.

But for now I need some Thorazine...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Starving For Skill, Not Work Ethic

Since I last had the time to sit down and post something, all hell has broken loose in Ottawa after two straight losses to the New York Islanders, a team that most prognosticators had as fresh meat for the Senators dine on.

Now is probably a good a time as any to panic so I might as well add to the frenzy.

This is not just a good team on a modest losing streak. It's much more complicated than that.

It's not just a matter of the players working harder. From what I've seen, this team has worked harder this year under Craig Hartsburg than they ever did under John Paddock or Bryan Murray. To just blame the work ethic only ignores the obvious structural problems of the team.

I've said it so many times that I'm probably boring you all to death, but this team is just not skilled enough and they're just not fast enough.

It's that simple.

They've got loads of character (allegedly...) and a trio of star players who want to win more than anyone. But this team is just not elite anymore and the sooner that Bryan Murray realizes he's made some grievous mistakes and makes a move to get some flash and dash, especially on the blueline, the better this team will be.

They need to revamp that blueline with at least two guys who can execute simple transition plays. The only player who can reasonably be expected to move the puck with some skill on the blueline is Filip Kuba and it's not like anyone can compare him to Scott Niedermayer, or even Wade Redden, despite his surprising point total. When the forwards can't get the puck in the neutral zone to start their break out, they expend twice as much energy fighting for the puck all over the ice. You think they look worn out now? Wait until January.

Alex Picard is regressing at a shocking rate and Christoph Schubert only has a wildly erratic but hard shot to rest his laurels on. Both of these players wouldn't be missed, in the short term or the long term.

As for the forwards, it's been a depressing run for the Big 3 and they have to be better one way or the other.

In the short-term, Hartsburg should just swallow his pride and reunite the big line, just to try and end this miserable streak. I understand the idea of trying to spread the offense around but if having the big line together improves your chances of winning, Hartsburg has to do what's best for the team here.

He's tried to go one way and he failed. Good coaches know when to admit they're wrong and change things. The Senators only spark against the Islanders came when he re-united the line in the 3rd period.

Chances are he'll remain stubborn and split them up for the Rangers on Monday night.

If that's so, I don't like their chances against a confident and superior New York team who have no trouble creating plays from their backend with skilled rushers like Redden and Daniel Girardi.
Ottawa doesn't have an answer for these types of players and unless Murray fixes his mistakes, the Senators won't have an answer for any of the upper level teams in the Eastern Conference.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Picking The Bones Clean

Craig Hartsburg is new in town and can't really be expected to know the history (and undeserved baggage) of Jason Spezza in Ottawa like the rest of us.

But when the coach publicly criticised his star player in an honest effort to light a fire under the team, he unwittingly set off a firestorm that was laying dormant, ready to be ignited.

Since his former coach, Jacques Martin, called him a "boy" playing a men's game, Spezza has been one of the main punching bags for irate fans and snarky radio hosts. Now that fellow targets like Wade Redden, Ray Emery and Andrej Meszaros have been shipped out of town, Spezza has the spotlight all to himself and everyone is taking turns getting their cheap shots in.

The criticisms were always never far from anyone's lips but when Hartsburg went public with his tried and true motivating tactic, he seemed to legitimize those ideas and now it's a free-for-all.

Take the radio show "Over The Edge" on the Team 1200.

You get to listen to ex-WWF wrestler Glen Kulka rage and ramble about how Hartsburg should be benching Spezza (?!!?) (despite the fact that Hartsburg singled out Spezza for praise after the Montreal game) and that Ottawa's star players don't work hard enough for his liking.

His cohort Lee Versage does nothing to raise the level of conversation and laughs out loud when Kulka hangs up on callers who disagree with him. When the Senators lose, it's always because they aren't "working hard enough". When they win, they talk about the CFL for three hours.

The resentment towards many of the players on the team has reached epic proportions, flamed by the cliched ramblings of media types like Kulka and Versage who appeal only to the lowest common denominator of fan.

Nobody knows where the PR control is on behalf of the Senators. Roy Mlakar is often on the radio but he doesn't lift a finger to defend any of his players against these types of unfounded attacks. Bryan Murray doesn't defend anyone except Martin Gerber. Yes, these are big boys and they can take the heat, but what kind of atmosphere are we creating in this city for hockey? Is it even fun anymore for people?

Someone who is respected by the fans and media, like Daniel Alfredsson or Mike Fisher, needs to step up and defend their teammates before this ugly and negative atmosphere totally engulfs the franchise like it did last season and starts turning off the casual fans from buying tickets.

And don't tell me it's the same in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal when their teams are losing. I've lived in all three of those cities and it never gets as personal and vindictive as it does in Ottawa. Those cities appreciate skilled players and tend to stay loyal, even during the hard times.

In Ottawa, it's just a continual exercise in character assasination. It must be tiresome for all these "experts" to be so angry all the time.

It's just a game after all, isn't it?


It's seems to be half and half.

Some are repulsed by Jarkko Ruutu's waving to the Montreal crowd routine and some are amused.

I'm definitely in the latter. Some people take this game way too seriously.

It was funny.

The same way it was funny when Alfredsson pretended to throw his stick into the stands in Toronto.

If Ruutu really upset you by doing that, your pants are on way too tight.


Speaking of being uptight, some people are actually complaining that this amazing goal by Mike Ribiero on Tuesday night could be illegal (because of the non-forward momentum of the puck). What? I'm not sure what he was doing with that "shush" thing towards the L.A. bench afterwards though. Ribeiro has always been a bit of a hot dog, and not in a good way. Still a beauty goal though.


The crusade continues:

I wrote about how the NHL should honor some of it's more modern greats by renaming some of it's major trophies back in May and now Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night In Canada has written a really good piece on the same subject.

I only suggested 3 changes - the Hart to the (Gordie) Howe, the Art Ross to the (Wayne) Gretzky and the Norris to the (Bobby) Orr. Friedman ended up making the same choices (no-brainers) but he goes much further and wants to rename virtually every trophy except the Masterton.

I would be a little more careful than that but it's still a good idea whose time has come.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


It was a brutal game to watch if you're an Ottawa Senators fan.

Outclassed in every category, the Senators were simply unable to answer the far superior speed and skill of the Canadiens.

And it's not like they didn't "work hard" as everyone will be questioning. They simply don't have the proper personnel to compete at an elite level.

Take Chris Higgins - Ottawa doesn't have a guy like Higgins anywhere in their lineup. Antoine Vermette is supposed to be that guy but Vermette was blessed with hands of stone despite being able to blow by people with speed.

Take Mike Komisarek - He dominated the game tonight and handled big players like Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley with ease. Ottawa has no answer for a player like that.

Take Georges Laraque - Ottawa has some middle-weight agitators who can scrap but no nuclear weapon like Laraque to enforce the peace.

Sadly, Ottawa used to have these answers but they were either let go or dealt away.

But that's in the past. What does Ottawa need to change to have success now?

For one, Alex Picard showed tonight that he is not the answer on the power play. He played his worst game of the season but it was eerily similar to the rest of matches he's played in. Hesitant with the puck and hesitant with the body. He's like Andrej Meszaros on a bad night, minus the size and physical play.

If Bryan Murray could work some trade magic, he'd definitely like to bump Picard from any sort of major responsibility with a bona-fide confident offensive defenseman.

It was surprising to see Craig Hartsburg sticking with his lines even when it was obvious no one had anything going tonight. Should he have united the Big 3 for the third period? Should he do it starting next game?

He won't but he probably should.

At this point, the team needs goals. They've shown that they can play defense and stick to Hartsburg's system. But now they need an injection of skill and the only way that's going to happen is if Hartsburg swallows his pride and re-unites the big line while he waits for Murray to do his job and get some skill back on this team before it's too late.

This squad could do some damage down the line if they had some real secondary scoring and a proper power-play quarterback. Hartsburg's system is effective but without the goals, it doesn't really matter. Alex Auld played one of his best games of the year but still got blown out of the rink. That's gotta be disheartening.

Even if it means players like Jesse Winchester and Nick Foligno have to take a back seat or sit out, the Senators need players who can score goals and that's going to have to come from outside the organization.


One small pleasure derived from tonight's loss - Jarkko Ruutu waving goodbye to the Montreal fans with a big smile after getting ejected in the third period. I nearly choked on my beverage when I saw that.


I'm at the edge of sanity with my hockey pool goalies. First Marty Turco's career goes into the dumper. Now Chris Osgood trumps all his crappy performances this year by letting in 7 goals against the Pens tonight after leading big throughout the game.

Have you ever seen a grown man cry?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reaction All Too Predictable

It's not that I have a problem with Craig Hartsburg challenging Jason Spezza to be a better player, it's just that it gives the whackjobs a reason to come out of the woodwork with their predictable "Trade Spezza" rants that clog up the sports radio airwaves.

Spezza is now in a position with the fans where he has to be perfect in order to avoid being thrown under the bus night after night.

Hartsburg is simply trying to antagonize that top line to play better with so many "4 point" games coming up against the Habs and the Rangers. It's a tactic to get Dany Heatley and Antoine Vermette going just as much as it is about Spezza.

People forget that it wasn't that long ago when Hartsburg was heaping praise on Spezza for being the hardest working player on the team at a time when he needed a confidence boost after the fans were after him for a bad giveaway at the start of the season.

But now Hartsburg's ploy opens the door for "commentators" like Glen Kulka to call him "soft" and not his "type of player" live on the air to his similarly reactive audience.

It's simply a stereotype of Spezza and one that is not based in reality. But in lieu of a more sophisticated knowledge of the game, the overplayed cliches will have to do for lazy fans and media personalities.


Someone else is taking up the worthy cause of getting Pavel Bure into the Hall Of Fame. It's a crime that Bure was not inducted today alongside Igor Larionov and Glen Anderson, especially when there were two player slots still open.

I wrote a couple of times about the Bure snub which you can read here if you like.


How long until the shit hits the fan in Florida? As Panther beat writer George Richards puts it, the team is miserable and defeated from years and years of losing and this season is no better.

"This team, for lack of a better term, is a mess. You can see it in their faces when they come into the rink. They are a beaten bunch. You can't help but feel bad for their rookie coach, a guy who has to deal with this and try and figure a way out. This team almost has to play perfect hockey for 60 minutes -- and even then they may not win."

If Jacques Martin can't convince franchise player Jay Bouwmeester to re-sign in Miami, how long until his job is in jeopardy?


Marian Hossa is still taking some heat for leaving Pittsburgh and it's one of his ex-teammates, Max Talbot, who can't seem to drop the issue.

"Oh, yeah," Talbot said. "There's [anger]. You can't forget about something like that because everybody in the organization and [the players], we expected him to come back. We thought he was comfortable here, and he was really good with [Sidney Crosby as his center], and stuff.

"The way he left was kind of, [a blow] to the heart, but you have to live with that. ... You have to respect his decision, but, for us, it's not the best thing that could have happened."

For the record, almost everyone else quoted in the article thought Hossa was a great teammate.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saturday Notes

A lot of people will be calling Bryan Muray a few unspeakable names this morning after the player he traded to Carolina, Joe Corvo, scored the game-winning goal last night.

But don't forget - Corvo asked for (some say demanded) the trade and denigrated Ottawa on the way out the door, essentially calling the city a backwater that was too small for him and his family and that the media was too intense (he may have a point there). He also specifically instructed his agent to tell Murray to trade him to an American city.

Is that a guy you really want on your team, Sens fans?

It's strange that fans seem to miss Corvo, a guy who hated this city, but not Wade Redden, who wanted to stay in Ottawa for the rest of his career but was booed out of town by the new generation of hockey fans who think that "Loyalty" is a small hamlet in Southern France.

Also in Murray's defense, Patrick Eaves is not exactly blossoming into a top six hockey player like many thought he would. He has 0 goals and only 2 points in 13 games this year.

What is certain is that you can add Corvo to the long list of Senators killers, the likes of which have included:

Gary Roberts
Mats Sundin
Joe Nieuwendyck
Mario Lemieux
Jaromir Jagr
Steve Thomas
Wendel Clark
Aaron Asham
Martin Gerber


Is it time to start using the suffix "-gate" when referring to the growing controversy over the ice at Scotiabank Place?

Should we be calling it "Slushgate", or "Icegate" or even "Shitgate". Because that's what the ice has become according to a few players and coaches from opposing teams - pure shit.

Don Brennan is the only one writing about the issue in Ottawa thus far:

"Make that two games at Scotiabank Place this week that had the visitors complaining. After Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau called it the worst ice he had ever seen, Flyers D Steve Eminger fell down twice Thursday to give Dean McAmmond and Christoph Schubert breakaways. "Both times it felt like I was skating on cement," Eminger told the Philadelphia Inquirer."

Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren seems to think that it was Eminger's hands, and not the ice, that was made of cement because he traded the young journeyman defenseman to the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday in what can only be described as "Grand Theft" on the part of the Flyers.

They dumped problem child and current AHLer Steve "Scalp Hunter" Downie and the ineffective Eminger for Matt Carle, the guy that the geniuses in Tampa got for franchise defenseman Dan Boyle.

The Lightning even threw in their third round pick to the Flyers. Holmgren is an early candidate for GM of the year starting today. Carle is a highly regarded player (with some question marks) and now the Lightning essentially have two AHLer's to show for Boyle.

If I'm an NHL GM, I'd be constantly making trade proposals to the Bolts because their inexperience is going to lead to further mind blowing mistakes down the road. Maybe the dream of getting Gary Roberts in the red and black is not dead after all.

The gong show continues ...


Peter over at Sens Army is right to question the ice-times given to the fourth line last night in Carolina.

While Craig Hartsburg is no John Paddock, he's been prone to bouts of Paddockitis recently by essentially benching his highly effective fourth liners, Shean Donovan, Dean McAmmond and Nick Foligno.

Donovan has been great nearly every time his skates touch the ice, yet he's floating around the 6 minute mark in average ice time per game and got just over 3 minutes last night in a game that could have used his relentless hustle and knack for scoring. SheanDon is 5th in team scoring and is a +5, yet he's averaging only 7.5 shifts per game. No one else on the team averages less than 10 shifts and McAmmond is next lowest with just over 11 shifts.

Now maybe Hartsburg is using Donovan in this way because the winger is more effective with less ice time and it tends to focus him when he does get on the ice. I don't know.

The good news is that Hartsburg is keeping the Big 3 around the 2o minute mark per game and that should eliminate any fears of burn out around March and April.


One of the best stories I've read all year: James Duthie's feature on Boston goalie Tim Thomas.

"He wore the same beaten up pads for years, repairing them over and over until they ... well ... disintegrated.

"I was playing for the Lakeland Jets and (former NHLer) Joe Murphy was skating with us while he was holding out with the Oilers," Thomas says. "He took a shot and it literally went right through my pad and out the backside."


We never really need a reason to show a clip from Slapshot. Here is perhaps the funniest 2 minutes in sports movie history. Enjoy your Saturday.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

No More Second Line Blues

Same old story tonight. It's almost getting boring... but not quite.

The Senators just keep rolling along playing smart defensive hockey after a win against the Flyers tonight.

Have you ever seen anyone so surprised to score a goal than rookie Jesse Winchester after he potted the first of his career? He stood there staring in disbelief for at least two steamboats before his arms shot up involuntarily. Not as stunning a moment as Nick Foligno getting his first (combined with the now legendary jump) but it was memorable all the same.

Mike Fisher was again the best player on the ice and is proving me wrong by showing great chemistry with Daniel Alfredsson. It's no surprise that Fisher and Winchester broke out of their lengthy slumps once they were placed on a line with the captain. Bryan Murray and Craig Hartsburg must feel like the smartest guys in hockey after somehow fashioning a bonafide second line when everyone said it couldn't be done without outside help. As good as Winchester has been, you can't help but think that the line would look a little better with an established scorer there. Regardless, Winchester is keeping the spot warm quite nicely.

Has Alex Auld won over the die hard Martin Gerber fans yet? You still see the odd fan holding out hope that the Darth one will rise from the ashes and grab the reigns of this team but those same fans still believe in Santa Claus too.

Gerbs might get the start tomorrow against Carolina and should benefit from the newfound commitment to defense by his teammates. If any guy needs a good night, it's certainly him.


Sportsnet announcer Gary Galley was sure that Christoph Schubert hurt himself after being rammed backwards into the crossbar by a Philly defenseman. I think he lay there more out of embarrassment and disappointment after completely bungling a breakaway opportunity. I'm not sure what kind of move he was trying to execute but it was probably too complicated for the ice conditions at the Kanata rink.

Jason Spezza commented on the ice to the Sun's Don Brennan:

"It was bad," said Jason Spezza. "The weather change (Tuesday) probably didn't help. But they've had a little bit of problem with the ice here.

"I don't know what's going on. Maybe the building is getting a little older. We used to have great ice here a couple of years ago, but something has changed."

Never mind theme song controversies ... the organization better fix this problem right away. It's embarrassing.


It was nice to hear Jason York go on a bit of a rant about oversized goalie equipment today on the Team 1200. One of the issues I've always thought went under the radar was the size of the goalie's catching gloves. The talk is always about the leg pads and the shoulder armour but the massive gloves these guys wear are rarely criticised. You can't even make an argument about those garbage can lids being there for protection. They could be cut in half and still serve the same purpose.

It's one of the great failures of the NHL that the Board Of Governors and the Commissioner let the situation get so out of control that it's now almost impossible to scale equipment size back to what it was in the 80's and early 90's. They put Kay Whitmore (an ex-goalie) in charge of policing the league's bloated netminders but what they need is a guy to come in with a hammer and change things in a dramatic fashion.

I've said it before - the NHL should quit consulting these spoiled brats and just make the changes with one hard and fast rule. More goals will lead to more excitement and more excitement will lead to more ratings and more tickets sold. More revenue means more money for the players. It's win-win for the NHLPA and the NHL.

I want to see goals scored off the wing again and I'm betting most hockey fans do as well.


What's with Scott Hartnell's hair?

That squirrel nest flowing out the back of his helmet is way too similar to the Euro-fro that Michael Handzus inflicted on Flyers fans when he was a member of the team.


Those socks the Senators wear are still brutal (see picture above). Who designed those anyways? In five years, we will look back and laugh and wonder what they were thinking, kinda like Handzus does when he thinks about the hair he used to have.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

If You Want Blood...You've Got It

Just in the mood I guess...

Vintage Senators scraps. (With a nod to

Chris Neil vs Aaron Downey Oct. 2006
This is an absolutely monstrous bout with Neil taking a really hard shot to the face about halfway in. It just makes him smile.

Brian McGrattan vs Cam Janssen Nov. 2006
Ridiculous. Janssen should have went down at least five times but he landed the punch of the fight once McGrattan got a little tired.

Zdeno Chara vs Vincent Lecavalier (with a sidebout of Dany Heatley vs Nolan Pratt)
An absolute classic. Chara doesn't want to fight until Lecavalier gets in an early shot. The big man wakes up and unleashes hell. Watch for the cocked fist from Chara right before Kerry Fraser jumps in and saves Lecavaliers life.

Dennis Vial vs Rob Ray 1995
Not many remember Vial anymore but he was a tough dude and this is a brutal old-school slugfest.

Shane Hnidy vs P.J. Stock from way back.

"You wanna get nuts? Let's get nuts!!" - Bruce Wayne

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Just when the heat couldn't get any hotter on Mike Fisher, he buries one in overtime.

Are you kidding dude?

Who wrote this fucking script? George Lucas? Does Fish get the girl in the end too?

Fisher was easily the best player on the ice for both teams and could have had 4 or 5 goals with all the chances he had.

Craig Hartsburg even put him on the first power-play unit with Daniel Alfredsson on the point to try and get him going but it took a 4 on 4 situation to break him loose.

What's becoming quickly apparent is that the Senators of old - the flashy high scoring bunch who fed pizza to everyone nightly - is no more.

It's a cliche but the team is now a lunchbucket crew under Hartsburg and while it might be less exciting, it's a welcome relief to see this kind of systemic structure in Bytown, unseen since the days of Jacques "Mr. Personality" Martin.

Keeping the big line apart has paid off for Hartsburg as Antoine Vermette is starting to look good with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley and Alfredsson is obviously playing a role in getting Fisher back on his game.

It also doesn't hurt to have the solid goaltending they're getting nightly from Alex Auld. Getting key saves late (and early) in the game seems so foreign for some reason but it's exactly what the team is getting. If Auld can even play at 80% of what he's doing now, he'll be one of the best free-agent signings in the NHL and it might even let Martin Gerber overachieve a little in a backup role.

To be honest, I'm completely shocked that Alex Ovechkin and company didn't come in and run over the Senators tonight. They were bag skated by their coach and A.O. was back in the lineup to face a team that was playing the dreaded "first game at home after a road trip". They even lost all 4 games to the Caps last year.

It didn't matter. The Sens played like they were on the road anyways, chipping pucks in, crashing the net and making safe plays.

Colour me impressed.


Caps coach Bruce Boudreau called the condition of the ice in Ottawa as "embarrassing", saying it's the worst ice his team has played on this season. I've heard rumblings of something similar before but I think this might be the first time it's been mentioned in such a way.

It's a story to keep an eye on...


I wasn't at the game tonight but I'd appreciate anyone who was there dropping a comment on whether or not the Senators theme song made an unexpected appearance when the players took to the ice.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why Modano Wants An Office Job ...

For those of you who missed Saturday night's Dallas-Boston game (and I'd bet that 95% of you did...who would watch that on a Saturday night?), these two lengthy clips distill the best moments of what turned into an absolute gong-show of epic proportions.

Steve Ott and Sean Avery were running around like nutjobs and the Boston Bruins not only stood up to the Stars, they embarrassed them with some old time Boston hockey. I don't care what team you root for, you can't help but cheer the Big Bad Bruins as these clips unfold.

You probably don't have the 20 minutes to watch these but if you do, it is worth it.

Ott, who was much worse than Avery if you can believe it, probably was the main inspiration for Mike Modano's now already famous two day quote when he said, “It was one of the most embarrassing things I’ve seen. If that’s what we’re going for, then they need to find me an office job.'’

Even Marty Turco got in on the act, elbowing a Boston forward in the jaw right behind his net.

I've just made a decision to watch both of these teams a lot more this season on Centre Ice. The Bruins are really coming into their own and the Stars are just too entertaining to pass up.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Notes

Who knew? When I drafted Marty Turco in my hockey pool this year, I was supremely confident that I had at least snagged one of the top 5 goalies in the NHL. Dallas was supposed to finally put it all together this year and challenge Detroit in the West.

Now my fantasy team lies in absolute ruins. So do the Dallas Stars. As it stands Sunday morning (and after he let in another 5 goals against Boston last night) Turco ranks 38th out of 38 goaltenders in save percentage with a brutal .837 stat. (I also drafted Chris Osgood and he's barely above Turco in 33rd place with a .879 SP).

Turks is also dead last in goals against average by a wide margin. He's the only NHL goalie above four goals a game with a 4.34 GAA. The next worse guy is Marty Biron with a 3.58 GAA. That's almost a goal-a-game less than the superstar Dallas netminder.

I did the once unthinkable and dropped Turco for nothing but Dallas has a lot more to be concerned with than my personal fantasy pool hell.

Mike Modano was quoted after the Boston game saying this:

"Tonight, it was idiotic and stupid. It was one of the most embarrassing things I've seen. If that's what we're going for, then they need to find me an office job.''

- Dallas News

Geez, Mike, take it easy bro.

There was talk this week about Alfie getting an office job in the Senators organization after his playing days but that's hopefully four years from now and not Monday morning like Modano is sarcastically implying.

With all that being said, the Stars are still tied with Ottawa in the overall standings with 10 points. Strange how the atmosphere around both teams couldn't be more different. Ottawa's star players are saying positive things about a road trip that saw them get 5 out of 8 possible points and emerge with a new number one goaltender out of it all.


Speaking of the Senators, a once reviled pay-per-view game would have been welcomed with open arms last night because the game in Tampa wasn't on TV anywhere in the world, including Centre Ice. The Senators dropped the glitch-ridden PPV's this year but it's hard to please everybody because a lot of folks are griping about getting the blackout on a traditional Saturday night. Hockey Night In Canada opted for the Leafs-Rangers game (hardly a shocker) and Don Cherry used the majority of his Coach's Corner segment talking about the Leafs (in particular his strange yet entertaining feud with Leafs coach Ron Wilson.) Business as usual.

It probably didn't help that the two previous games on the road trip were only on the NHL Network, a digital channel that some people still don't have access to. The rabbit-ear holdouts were out of luck.

I'd be interested to hear what fans think of the NHL Network itself. The nightly highlight show is really comprehensive and shows much more footage than TSN and Sportsnet but the hosts are a little on the bland side. No offense to Gary Green, Larry Murphy and Dave Reid but it's not exactly scintillating television when compared to the big hitters at TSN. Once they show the highlight package of a particular game, they spend an eternity dissecting it in the studio without really saying much of interest. It's strictly non-controversial and makes for boring TV. You can only take Green saying how hard a team works for so long without losing consciousness.


Just saying: The Islanders are nuts for not wearing these uniforms all season long. If these throwbacks were permanent, they'd be among the nicest sweaters in the league. Let's hope that by next year, the Islanders, the Oilers and the Sabres make the switch to their classic colours and uniforms.


Is it just me or is NHL.Com impossibly slow all the time? I have high-speed like the next guy but I can only wait so long for a page that's 95 percent flash advertising to load. The one good thing the web site did this year is install a "Career" statistics section which is searchable by team. This means that you can get daily updated stats on all-time Senators scoring and find out things like:

- Alex Auld is one win away from tying Darrin Madely for 12th in franchise wins with 4.

- Simon Lajeunesse is the only Senator (out of 23 goalies in total) to have a perfect 1.000 save percentage. He played a total of 23 minutes and 30 seconds of shutout hockey.

- Dany Heatley is one point away from tying Shawn McEachern for 7th all-time in points with 304.

- Wade Redden has the best Plus/Minus in Senators history +159. The worst? Alexandre Daigle at -137.