Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Senators Hit New Low Against Lowly Leafs

If there was ever a night for Bryan Murray to storm down from his box at the end of a game and flip a table in the dressing room, it was after losing to the Leafs for the fourth straight time on Tuesday.

I'm thinking of a Larry Robinson type tirade, delivered to his New Jersey Devils after falling behind to the Flyers three games to one in a 2000 playoff series. The Devils stormed back to win the series and then beat the Stars in the Stanley Cup final.

Or in lieu of that, how about a Mark Messier special, relating to the time he allegedly grabbed Oiler teammate Reijo Ruotsalainen by the throat and threatened to send him back to Finland "in a pine box" if he didn't start working harder.

Maybe just a "death skate" as Mike Keenan used to employ during his heyday when he was known as Iron Mike.

Chances are, none of the above is what's needed.

It's hard to put your finger on what's gone wrong with these Ottawa Senators since the Olympic break. You watch the games and they're working hard. They're just not getting any breaks and as a result, their confidence has crashed through the ice and hit the concrete underneath it.

Yet they have no one to blame but themselves. Perhaps it was simply a case of the team thinking they were going to coast into the playoffs on their press clippings alone but once they racked up a few losses and had to turn up the intensity, they found that whatever spark they had before the break was no longer there.

But that's just conjecture. Who really knows except the coach and they guys in the dressing room, and they're probably as dumbfounded as all of us who have to watch this mess unfold.

There is no way the Senators should be sitting here having just lost four in a row to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs, listening as their home arena is taken over by people who actually boo their own captain every time he touches the puck.

The players were bad. The fans were even worse. Maybe the hot dogs were good, but are hot dogs ever really good?

If you're looking for positives, maybe this was the latest rock bottom for a season long yo-yo team. Maybe this was the game where they close the doors of the locker room and have it out with each other and emerge with a united purpose going forward.

Maybe. Maybe we haven't seen how south this can all really go. Stay tuned.


Strange things you see on the bench in between plays: 1. Erik Karlsson talking to himself for nearly a full 30 seconds after giving the puck away twice on one shift. I'm not a lip reader, but I detected a few F-bombs in there. 2. Pascal Leclaire literally attracting flies while he sits for yet another game. One of them landed on his face as soon as the camera's focused on him in the third. Unlike his other injuries, he was able to just shake it off..... It could have been the rallying point of the season. Brian Elliott gets cranked in the head with the puck and has to change masks. The all-white anti-Gerber mask makes its first appearance and the Sens almost score on the following play. If they had managed to come back and win, maybe Elliott would have had to stick with the new white mask for the rest of the year. It could have been the modern day equivalent of Tom Chorske's little Buddha figurine or Bruce Gardiner's "toilet dipped stick". Unfortunately, it was just an ugly white helmet, nothing more, nothing less ..... You wonder if Matt Cullen and Andy Sutton are thinking "what the hell kind of team did I get traded to anyways?"...... No way Alex Kovalev should be playing less than 15 minutes and on the third line. This guy needs to be on your top line to be of real use. He's going to get killed on the blogs and sports radio over the next couple of days, but I'm telling you, he doesn't deserve it. He needs to play with Jason Spezza or Mike Fisher (when he returns) at comparable minutes. Clouston isn't using him right......

The "pansification" of the NHL continues. The roughing penalty on Andy Sutton in the 3rd period was a joke. He hit the Leaf player from the front with a clean check to the chest. The Leaf snapped his head back and the ref called it an elbow before changing his mind and calling it roughing. Basically, it was a penalty for hitting. In the NHL. What a freaking joke....

I don't care what side of the debate you're on. Surely, you must have had your fill of the never ending debate about violence in the current NHL. Host Steve Lloyd and guest Bob McKenzie spent the majority of their pre-game show segment on the local Team 1200 talking about the latest injustice (as they do seemingly every game), until there was virtually no time to talk about anything else that could possibly interest their listening audience. I have a lot of respect for both McKenzie and Lloyd for their NHL knowledge and their ability to break down hockey issues into a mildly entertaining, if not informative piece of radio. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has been lacking all season long. Surely there are a few other issues to which they could apply their knowledge and sophistication to? Here's an idea - talk about the Ottawa Senators. It would be refreshing, boys.....

I have to come clean with my family and my reading audience. I can't stand Tim Hortons. I know, I know. Sacrilege. Why we hold up a junk food restaurant as a symbol of our patriotism and way of life is beyond my comprehension. But back to the Senators...... I don't think too many Sens fans are shedding a tear after Brian Lee was sent back to Binghamton. In fact, an avid Sens watcher I know claims that Lee is the worst defenseman the Senators have ever employed. That being said, it was still a wise move for Bryan Murray to sign the youngster. The terms are great for the team and he still has some upside as an asset, either on the ice or as part of a trade.......

The annual Rogers House telethon is as good an excuse as any to re-tell another great Roger Neilson story, this one culled from Brian McFarlane's great book "The Best of... It Happened In Hockey":

"Neilson was equally inventive when he coached baseball teams in Peterborough. One day he substituted a peeled apple for a game ball in the middle of an important game. With the bases loaded and two men out, Roger went to the mound to talk to his battery. Unobtrusively, he slipped the apple into the pitcher's glove. Then he secretly gave the ball to his catcher.

When the opposing runner took a lead off third, the pitcher threw a wild pitch over third base. Peterborough fans groaned for it looked like a failed pickoff play. Smirking, the runner on third trotted home, only to be tagged out by the catcher, who'd been hiding the game ball in his glove."


Anonymous said...

Great post. One of the best in a while. I disagree with lots of it, but lots of funny tidbits, or timbits. You get it ... I know, that's not funny.

You wonder if Matt Cullen and Andy Sutton are thinking "what the hell kind of team did I get traded to anyways?"

I think that it's more likely that the guys are thinking what the hell have you two done to our team. The losing ways started as soon as Cullen arrived and Cheechoo left. In the nine games without Cheech, the Sens are 2-6-1. The stats don't lie. The team was clicking, why mess with that.

The additions of Cullen and Sutton may look good on paper, but time and time again, in any sport, things don't work like that. Chemistry matters. The roles that players are comfortable with, matter. The way players feel about their teammates, matter.

Have you ever been part of a workforce where a well-liked colleague gets laid-off. If it's not handled properly, the workplace can turn into a morgue. People can start to feel a little de-spirited.

When the team's not performing well, you expect changes. But, when it's clicking, and you make changes, you're playing with fire.

The other thing at play, is just the law of averages. If you look at the last 23 games, rather than the last 9, the Sens are 15-7-1. Not bad. They were bound to come down to earth a bit.

Kinda agree with you about Tim Horton's. Although, those peanut butter cookies are killer.

They've done a masterful job of tying their brand to the Canadian identity. The funny thing is that until September 2009, they were an American company. In fact, from 1995 to 2006 they were American owned.

Think about it, American owners were basically saying, buy coffee from us, and you'll feel Canadian. As we drank, they collected the profits and made more commercials to tell us how Canadian we would feel if we kept on drinking the coffee that they were selling.

In any case, it's a Canadian company now. More importantly, there's no doubting that it's a social connector.

Lastly, I gotta say that Steve Lloyd does a great job. I like the pre-game show.

Jeremy Milks said...

Anon. I agree. Steve Lloyd is a great host. But I need more than one issue to stay interested.

The Tim Hortons thing... I've been telling people that Tim Hortons was American owned for years and nobody would believe me. But I can't bring it up now.... dang.

Anonymous said...

BS comment - none of us have ever worked for a job where the minimum wage was $500,000 and the top earner was close to $10 mill. These guys are professional athletes and if someone gets elt, though titty says the kitty.

A great blog, and we haven't seen anything this good out of you in a while - since the new addition. Keep it up, thats what I started coming here in the first place.

PS - i'm with ya, TH is way over rated.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 2:02pm

Point taken. But, Cheechoo wasn't dealt, he was demoted to riding buses. I think that makes the circumstances considerably different, even if he's still making his dough.

I'm sure that doesn't sit well with some players. He was part of the group that went 13 for 14. If the team's tight, they still feel for one another.

Anonymous said...

If Cheechoo did his job better he wouldn't be riding buses. He's right where he outta be and should be embarrased about taking that whomping salary. How does he sleep with himself at night?

Anyways, who cares about Cheec - he's dead to us. These players better step it up or they'll be riding the pine in bingo as well.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 10:50am

You got a nice and simple way to look at it. I don't think things work like that in today's game.

Anonymous said...

anon @ 10:50am

You got a nice and simple way to look at it. I don't think things work like that in today's game.