Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Beat Goes On

As the Ottawa Senators reel from nightmare to nightmare - the latest a blown third period lead against the Washington Capitals on Sunday -,  the fans (and likely the players) continue to sit and wait for the other shoe to drop. Maybe it got hung up on a power line on it's way down.

Eugene Melnyk is strangely silent. Bryan Murray has shed no more light on his cryptic comments from two weeks ago when he couldn't vouch for the longevity of the coaching staff.

Basically, everyone is in no-mans land, and with the trade deadline still far off, and the finish line to the season even farther, the silence could linger for a lot longer than anyone could have imagined after the wheels really fell off this team just after Christmas.

At this point, it looks like coach Cory Clouston is not going to get fired. It's clearly not his coaching abilities keeping him alive but likely a combination of internal politics and a state of shock at the upper level that is prolonging his stay behind the bench.

One wonders at his strange decisions, such as sitting Matt Carkner against the Capitals. Here's a guy who not only provides the only toughness in sight on that back end, but also plays his heart out every game, sticks up for his teammates and has his plus/minus near surface level. Those factors didn't stop Clouston from sitting Jarkko Ruutu earlier this month, so presumably those characteristics aren't held in high regard amongst his coaching staff.

Some will make the argument that Clouston is trying to showcase the likes of Brian Lee and Filip Kuba on behalf of upper management who are looking to move their contracts.

If so, it's still a lousy way to do it. That is exactly how you create a losing atmosphere in the dressing room that could live on long past Clouston's expiry date. Bowing to politics and not rewarding your hardest working players.

I'm sure that sets a great example to all the young guys on this team.


Michael said...

Unless, you know, they want that fucking pick and are going to try to trade to move up.

Peter Raaymakers said...

You're right, it's not the right way to set an example for the young guys and make winning the goal of the team. But I'd be surprised if it was Clouston's decision to keep Carkner out in favour of showcasing Kuba and Lee.

Although really, Lee's not the problem here. As much as the business of marketing him for trade is a factor, Lee's play has also made his presence in the games totally understandable.

Scratching Kuba would be the most sensible decision to be made here. But the team likely wants to move him, and don't think for a second that's what Clouston wants; it's probably Murray's wish to get some productive assets for Kuba, and it's definitely in Melnyk's best interest to a) shed his salary (for this year and next) and b) bring in some draft picks or prospects. Putting the blame for this decision squarely on Clouston's shoulders just isn't right.

And if not for the politics of it, I wouldn't be surprised if Gonchar was the one sitting in the press box. It would be a bad decision in devaluing him and pissing off a respected veteran in the first year of a three-year deal, but on many nights, including Friday's loss to Calgary, Gonchar was one of the weakest defenders on the team. But that's not going to get him scratched, and in a lost season such as this one, I don't think there's anything to be gained in scratching him.

So Clouston wanted to bring Campoli back in, but wasn't likely given clearance to scratch Lee, Kuba, or Gonchar. So it was one of Phillips, Karlsson, or Carkner; a pretty easy decision, even if it is unfair to Carkner.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you about the Carkner decision. I think they should ice the team that gives them the best chance to win against any given opponent.

Against a team like Washington, or Pitt, or Chicago, or that sort of team, today's lineup was good.

Against a team like the Bruins, you got to get Carks in there. It's about playing to every player's strengths.

I doubt politics is at work here. I don't know that for sure, but I get the sense that everyone's on the hot seat, so winning each game is all they are focussed on.

At least that should be the focus. But, I guess anything is possible.

The Dutch Treat said...

I'm with Peter and Anonymous regarding your ill-conceived notion that Clouston is wrong for sitting Carkner.

Firstly, as Peter pointed out, Brian Lee has probably been our most reliable defenceman over this horrendous stretch and the decision to play Campoli seemed like a smart move as he came out a man possessed after being scratched himself. Carkner's speed is a liability against teams like Washington, or do you not recall the difficulty Carkner had last game against Washington when their forwards were blowing right past him and he was taking bad penalties like holding to keep up?

As for Ruutu, he has been nothing short of useless this year and his scratching (and continual scratching) is completely warranted. He looks completely disinterested at times and at others, he's taking dumb penalties to set the team back. Gone is the player that antagonized opponents and actually drew penalties. If he can't do that, then he's not an effective and useful player. He looks more like a player who wants out.

Sens said...

The constant attacks on coach Clouston are baffling, to say the least.

Is this not the same coach that was lauded as a potential coach of the year candidate last season when he took the team into the playoffs and restored accountability when he took Hartsburg's place?

The problem is twofold:

i)General manager without a cap vision and still having memories of the clutch & grab Panthers, trading skilled and young players for "Good guys, Character guys, Great guys" or signing said same like Jason Smith (useless and slow), Shean Donovan (useless, local media has a mancrush on him) Randy Robitaille (useless and slow), Andy Sutton (useless and slow), seeing a trend here?

ii)Players vastly overevaluated because of a Cup finals run that had less to do with them than it did with an Eastern Conference in transition, where Pittsburgh was re-entering the fray, Washington wasn't a powerhouse, Philly was in severe transition, Montreal was going through its own changes, Boston was take a turn on the old phrase: "It's not me, it's you". When the Buffalo Sabres are in a Conference Finals, you know there should be alarm bells going on all around you.

The magnifying glass should be placed squarely on the team's core. Fisher is average and is getting paid 4.2. Phillips was only ever a "shutdown" when paired with Volchenkov, who did the shutting down stuff. Alfie is old. Spezza doesn't have a scoring winger. Neil never fights until the game is out of reach. Kelly is a very respectable 3rd liner but overpaid. Leclaire is a dud, with inflated stats behing an airtight Columbus defense.

On top of all that, we traded our good young players. Schubert was big, had a good shot, played well defensively but was sat for Luke Richardson, who's a friend of Murray's. Emery was let run wild instead of reigned in as he would have been in another team or under different management. Corvo was...bizarrely cornered by Lee Versage and Murray sat in his office, reading "Fly Fishing Weekly" instead of defusing that situation. We lost a good puck mover and got Mike Commodore.

So yeah...don't blame Clouston because he can't make chicken soup out of chicken shit. That's what Murray gave him.

Cue the "The cupboard was bare" and "Muckler killed the team" from the Murray apologists...

Sens said...

Enough with the Clouston bashing.

Clouston wasn't the one who eroded the youth and skill on this team, mismanaged egos and talent and made the team into a bunch of pluggers and "good guys, character guys", that was Murray.

Clouston was heralded as a Jack Adams candidate not long ago...what changed? Well, the team lost its heart and soul "D" in VOlchenkov. The team lost a prime scorer in Heatley. Murray never replaced those skillsets.

This is all on Murray. His bizarre obsession with "GOOD GUYS, CHARACTER GUYS" and aged Russians, while completely failing to add youth, skill and speed to the line-up has caught up with him.

Check out Team 1200's survey. 200 people responded (not a great sample size). Half blame Murray and half blame the players.

Seems about right to me...the players are millionaires and can't get it done. Murray is past his prime (that would have been oh...around 1995) and can't get it done.

CLean house, but don't can COrey.

Knucklehead said...

The Wonderful Drafts of John Muckler (2002-2007)
This is why the Senators suck right now. It will take Murray a few more years to fix this mess. How many good players do the Senators have who were born in the years 84-89? Now check Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, etc. Sure, Muckler wasn’t at the draft in 2007 but Murray was stuck with the Muckler team’s draft decisions that year having been hired just a short time before the draft.

2002 draft picks
Round # Player Nationality
1 16 Jakub Klepis
2 47 Alexei Kaigorodov
3 75 Arttu Luttinen
4 113 Scott Dobben
4 125 Johan Bjork
5 150 Brock Hooton
8 246 Josef Vavra
9 276 Vitaly Atyushov
2003 draft picks
Round # Player
1 29 Patrick Eaves United States Boston College (NCAA)
2 67 Igor Mirnov
3 100 Philippe Seydoux
4 135 Mattias Karlsson
5 142 Tim Cook
5 166 Sergei Gimayev
7 228 Will Colbert
8 269 Ossi Louhivaara
9 291 Brian Elliott
2004 draft picks
Round # Player
1 23 Andrej Meszaros
2 58 Kirill Lyamin
3 77 Shawn Weller
3 87 Peter Regin
3 89 Jeff Glass
4 122 Alexander Nikulin
5 141 Jim McKenzie
5 156 Roman Wick
7 219 Joe Cooper
8 251 Matt McIlvane
9 284 John Wikner
2005 draft picks
Round # Player
1 9 Brian Lee
3 70 Vitali Anikienko
4 95 Cody Bass
4 98 Ilya Zubov
4 115 Janne Kolehmainen
5 136 Tomas Kudelka
6 186 Dmitry Megalinsky
7 204 Colin Greening
2006 draft picks
Round # Player
1 28 Nick Foligno
3 68 Eric Gryba
3 91 Kaspars Daugavins
4 121 Pierre-Luc Lessard
5 151 Ryan Daniels
6 181 Kevin Koopman
7 211 Erik Condra
2007 draft picks
Round # Player
1 29 Jim O'Brien
2 60 Ruslan Bashkirov
3 90 Louis Caporusso
4 120 Ben Blood