Saturday, June 13, 2009

Congratulations To Pittsburgh

The Penguins deserved to win.

They were hungrier and overall a better team than the vaunted but tired looking Detroit Red Wings. While many will be focusing on the juicy Marian Hossa storyline, the real story is a guy like Sidney Crosby being shut out of all the major awards this season but willing his team towards the most important piece of hardware.

That picture with his father above says it all. For all the grief Crosby takes by fans who call him a "whiner" etc., this is why he's the best all-around player in the NHL and will continue to be for a long, long time.

Overall, it was a great post-season for the NHL despite the annoying distraction of back-door "owner" Jim Ballsilly and locally, the bizarre trade request by Dany Heatley.

There's nothing better for a league when its biggest star wins a championship.

We'll be back when there is more Senators news to report on.

Enjoy your summer, hosers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More Heatley Fallout

In the post below I described the scenario of Dany Heatley not getting along with coach Cory Clouston as "bizarre", but Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun was correct and got the scoop before anyone else as far as I can tell.

According to TSN, who have filled in some of the details, Heatley was particularly upset with his minutes being reduced and being demoted to the 2nd power-play unit:

"The veteran forward became unhappy with his role in Ottawa last season, especially after the Senators made a coaching change. Heatley discussed his concerns about what he felt was the limiting of his ice time, and his shift from the first power-play unit to the second unit with head coach Cory Clouston in the Senators end of season meetings.

Both sides agreed some time away would help remedy the situation. So, the issues were left to settle while Heatley represented Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.

Heatley returned and continued to consider his future before finally approaching Senators management with his trade request."

Many in the media are going to accuse Heatley as putting himself before the team, but this type of conflict happens all the time in the NHL - usually behind closed doors.

Star players don't like to see their minutes drop, I don't care who they are. But it often doesn't escalate to the point where a trade is demanded.

So I'm going out on a limb and guessing that there is a little more to this than just ice time.

Heatley has taken significant heat from the local media (particularly from the Team 1200 radio station which has been nearly rabid in their attack) and his attitude seemed to sour quite quickly. He was often defensive, if not outright surly during his infrequent relations with the media and you could really sense that this young man was somewhat unhappy.

It's unfortunate because Heatley is an elite talent and the Senators are going to be worse off without him.

But if he wants to leave, Murray has to deal him. He risks poisoning the already negative and chaotic atmosphere around this suddenly flailing organization even further.

With Stanley Cup hopes getting dimmer (which is probably not making Daniel Alfredsson very happy) the Senators find themselves in full continental drift at this point in their history.

With loyalty and tradition being casually tossed to wither in Kanata farm fields (uniforms, logos, theme songs, coaches and players), the Senators aren't too far away from a permanent state of mediocrity (although they are lucky to have passionate and caring fans, even if emotion tends to make them over reactive at times).

Bryan Murray is a respected hockey man who deserves some further rope, but even he might be starting to wonder what the hell is going on with this once stable and proud franchise.

Heatley Headed Out?

More bad news for Ottawa (though many will be cheering that another star player is going to leave town).

Dany Heatley, as reported, wants out of Ottawa and the reasons are not exactly clear, although Bruce Garrioch says that it is because Heatley does not get along with new coach Cory Clouston. That sounds bizarre to me but we don't yet know the truth.

Perhaps he simply wants to win a championship, which Ottawa is now seemingly farther from than ever.

Yet Bryan Murray has an opportunity here to at least re-stock his depth and possibly pick up a promising prospect.

But make no mistake. Losing Heatley and his dependable, and often spectacular, goal scoring is going to hurt this team. You are simply not going to be able to replace his 40 – 50 goals in a trade.

It's not going to happen.

Trades like the Heatley for Marian Hossa deal are extremely rare. Yet Murray might (ironically) be able to persuade a top talent such as Hossa to return to Ottawa with the cap space he clears out in any move.

If Heatley is moved for an even higher draft pick (like Colorado's 3rd so Ottawa would be in a position to draft Matt Duchene), then players like Hossa, Martin Havlat, Mike Cammalleri, Marian Gaborik and Jay Bouwmeester would become affordable, but with no guarantees any of those would want to come to town.

Murray might look to San Jose where GM Doug Wilson has already said he is not averse to shaking up his playoff weak team, which could make players such as Patrick Marleau, Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo available.

Can you imagine Heatley playing with Joe Thornton?

Sickening huh?

That combination could be what San Jose needs to get over the top. Heatley has proven to be an excellent playoff performer after tying for the scoring lead in the 2007 post-season.

While we wait to see what Murray does, things look completely chaotic (as usual) in Bytown.

No one knows if Chris Neil, one of the heart and soul players, will sign (or if his heart is even in Ottawa anymore). Reports about Mike Comrie returning are conflicting. Jason Smith may or may not retire. Even President Roy Mlakar may be out the door.

And finally, the Big Three will be officially split up without an elite sniper for Jason Spezza to feed pucks to. Kind of makes the lack of a true number one defensman a minor problem compared to this.

So what is really going on with this team anyways?

My only concern is that Ottawa is slowly turning into Edmonton East, an organization in constant upheaval where nobody really wants to play anymore despite past glories.

To be honest, it's not surprising that Heatley wants out after everyone calling him a bum and a lazy player for the past two seasons.

Stay tuned for more when we hear more....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pre-Draft and July 1st Notes

The hockey world is buzzing with the story that Ray Emery is about to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers and Bryan Murray made some very interesting quotes to writer Tim Panaccio:

“He didn’t have many problems on the ice other than there was a little stretch when he didn’t play as well as he had been playing for us,” Murray said. “He’s a good goaltender. He’s a good athlete. He had issues where he tried to do more off the ice than he should have done.”

Would Emery be a sound investment for the Flyers? Murray was very direct on the matter.

“Well, he wasn’t in Ottawa because he was scrutinized so much,” Murray replied. “He missed a plane in Ottawa and every media person knew about it and wrote about it. When you are late for practice, we have 30 press guys in the stands with TV cameras going. They see that happen."

Another anonymous GM had this to say:

“Every person deserves a second chance and this guy has cleaned up his act,” the GM said. “Tell me you haven’t done something bad when you were younger and got a second chance? Why should Emery be any different?”

For those of you who have followed this blog over the past two years knows that I've always been a big Ray supporter - and that hasn't changed a bit.

This is a great move by Philly and I suspect Emery will continue to play great, carrying over from his All-Star season in the KHL.

Senators Notes

Bryan Murray has made some good moves since admitting defeat and firing Craig Hartsburg.

Among them was hiring a great coach in Cory Clouston who believes in a modern puck-possession game, getting a franchise goalie in Pascal Leclaire and signing 1st round pick Erik Karlsson in hopes of getting the slick young blue-liner into the lineup next season.

But some pitfalls remain ahead.

On paper, the defense still isn’t good enough.

To be considered a contender, you need a clear cut number one guy back there and Ottawa doesn’t have one, no matter how highly you rate Filip Kuba.

For the Senators, it should be Jay Bouwmeester or a similar player through trade - or bust.

Without an upgrade on the blueline, this team should still be good enough to make the playoffs but there is no way they can be considered an elite team anymore. Maybe they get lucky like Carolina and go on a sort of Cinderella run but that's all anyone can hope for at this point.

Yet Murray seems content with his defense core:

"I think our defence is more than adequate now. It's very different than it was at the beginning of last year. We've made our commitments to four or five of them and if we can sign another we will, but my focus is to get a good forward."

He's right. It is more than adequate. But it's not that great either. Murray is in a tough spot due to the cap but if there is even a glimmer of hope to get someone like Bouwmeester, even at a Brian Campbell-esque contract, he should go for it with all the resources he has.


According to the Ottawa Sun, Chris Neil is a lot closer to re-signing in Ottawa than he was when the season ended and that's positive news, if only to avoid Neil donning the Maple Leafs sweater this coming year.

With Brad May teetering on retirement and some money to play with under the cap, getting Neil in the blue and white would be a no-brainer for Burke. The signing would significantly weaken the toughness of their divisional rivals and add a player with a ton of playoff experience to their roster.

With Burke in the same cozy division, this is not the time for Murray to be taking chances with the Senators toughness. Already, Ottawa is the softest team in the NHL outside of Buffalo.

Nobody is going to be afraid to come into Ottawa’s building if Murray doesn't sign Neil or replace him with a suitable player. It’s hard to believe that not long ago, the Senators were probably the toughest team in the NHL with the likes of Zdeno Chara, Brian McGrattan, Neil and Mike Fisher getting in opponents faces. Now only an injury prone Fisher remains. If Jason Smith can't return from his knee injury, this team will get run over every single night.

And if someone mentions Cody Bass as the answer to everything, I might lose my freaking mind. He's got heart, but he's not the same type of player that Neil is. Not by a longshot.

NHL Notes

The arrogance of Canadian hockey fans is astounding. We feel it is our divine right to demand that Gary Bettman bow to the wishes of Jim Ballsillie and let him move the Coyotes out of Phoenix and into Hamilton.

Yet these same fans cry and moan that the NHL didn’t do enough to keep the teams in Quebec and Winnipeg. Moving a franchise, no matter where, is heartbreaking for the fans. People in Canada should recognize that and feel some sympathy for loyal Coyotes fans who are going through an uncertain time right now.

If Ballsillie succeeds in his precedent setting back-door style bid, that will lead to all sorts of problems, such as a billionaire deciding that the Senators or the Oilers might look better playing in Las Vegas or Houston.

Letting outsiders decide where the NHL can locate its franchises is sheer lunacy and a terrible omen for Canadian hockey fans. Love him or hate him, Gary Bettman is on the side of stability and reason in this battle.

Hamilton may be a great market for a team, but they should get in line like everyone else.