Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sens Show No Mercy In Steeltown .... Keep Kuba Revisited .... And A Set Of Cut-Rate Game Notes

Ottawa 5 Pittsburgh 1

You had to feel for the Pittsburgh Penguins going into this one. Minus Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang and Paul Martin, they didn't seem to have much of a chance, even with Sens whiz kid Erik Karlsson being a late scratch with an "upper body" injury.

The whole scenario reminded me of this dramatic scene from Norm Macdonald's 1998 masterpiece of cinema, "Dirty Work".

There's not much to learn from this game other than Ottawa went into another rink and got the two points from a team they couldn't afford to give mercy to. The Senators now (shockingly) sit 6 points up on the Pens in the East.

They just got 5 of a possible 6 points against the Flyers and Pens in the past four days and now they are closing the gap on the Bruins for first in the Northeast.

And it's not even cold this winter in Ottawa.

What the in the good name of hell is going on?

Black Aces Senators 3 Stars

1. Nick Foligno
2. Milan Michalek
3. Craig Anderson

Honourable Mentions: Jason Spezza, Colin Greening, Kyle Turris, Chris Neil and Filip Kuba.

Here's where everybody sits in the year long 3 Star contest:

Black Aces 3 Star Season Scorecard

1. Karlsson – 33
2. Anderson – 31
3. Spezza – 29
4. Alfredsson – 27
5. Michalek – 25
6. Neil – 16
7. Foligno – 15
8. Cowen – 13
9. Smith – 10
10. Greening – 7
11. Gonchar – 5
12. Kuba - 5
13. Da Costa – 4
14. Butler – 2
15. Phillips – 1
16. Winchester – 1
17. Condra – 1
18. Carkner – 1
19. Turris - 1


Keep Kuba Take Two

We’ve been over this terrain so many times now that we’ll have to re-pave it soon, but as long as the Senators remain in the playoff picture (and right now there’s no reason to think they won’t be unless the rest of January turns into the road trip from Hell), I don’t see any reason why they would trade Filip Kuba (a pending UFA), let alone Sergei Gonchar (as I already wrote about here). What they would get in return for Kuba is not even close to what they can gain by making the playoffs and possibly even winning a surprise round. Every playoff game is a cool million dollar profit for Eugene Melnyk and just dumping a defenseman like Kuba, who has taken on an important role alongside wonder kid Erik Karlsson, for a measly second rounder (but more likely a third) would be pointless. Both Ian Mendes and Graeme Nichols recently covered this story and it’s not going to go away until the trade deadline comes and goes. Like I said before, this isn’t the same situation as Ottawa letting Zdeno Chara and Anton Volchenkov walk for nothing. Those were two players in their prime getting their first crack at free agency who were foundation players on the Senators. Kuba is an older defenseman who is more of a component than a key cog, but a component who is working wonders for the team right now. Why mess with that? If he walks in the summer for nothing, the Senators save cap money, clear a roster space for Mark Borowiecki and possibly have a tidy little profit from a playoff run in their pocket. Not to mention the experience and intangible benefits that come from being a playoff team. The CBA rules flood the market with mid-tier UFA players even if the elite get locked up in multi-year contracts and never make it to July as free men. The Senators will have plenty of options in the summer. To me, it’s a no-brainer. Keep rolling. Keep Kuba.


It’s not just Erik Karlsson chasing down Norm Maciver for a Senators milestone. Filip Kuba is only one point behind both MacIver and the late Karel Rachunek for 28th in all-time Senators scoring with 96 points. When Kuba breaks the 100 point mark this season, he’ll be the 7th defenseman to do so in a Senators uniform, on the list behind Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, Zdeno Chara, Jason York, Erik Karlsson and Andrej Meszaros….. Okay, time to re-do the math on Chris Phillips’ possible 1000th game. He was originally going to hit the magic number at home against the Leafs on Feb. 7 but since he missed a few with a concussion, that game is now scheduled for Feb. 9 at home against Nashville as long as he can stay healthy. Maybe they’ll have an appropriately themed Country Music night at the rink for the big Alberta boy. Maybe Big Rig will do the warm-ups wearing a Stetson. People would freak if he did that. Freak. Get your tickets folks….Good to see that Matt Carkner didn't let Matt Cooke out of the game without at least one punch in the face after the big hit on Sergei Gonchar. Carkner got his shot in as the whistle blew. Just doing his job, as was Cooke.....I bet Gonchar is okay with getting booed heartily in Steeltown as long as he's not getting booed in Kanata anymore.....A lot of Pens fans on Twitter getting upset that Gonchar was being booed in the building, including @Evil_Jagr who tweets "Please stop booing Gonchar. Breaking my heart. Genos not hurt and I'm sure he's still buddies with him. Why can't our fans leave him be"......

….After all these years it’s still mind-blowing to me that if you took away all of Wayne Gretzky’s 894 goals, he’d still be the NHL’s all-time points leader with just his assists. He has 1,963 helpers to Mark Messier’s 1,887 total points. And yet Gretzky is the NHL’s invisible man right now, nowhere to be seen except when his daughter is in the news. The first thing Gary Bettman needs to do when the Coyotes get sold is give Gretzky his damn money, re-name the Lady Byng trophy after him and put 99 on television with an NHL logo behind him whenever possible. There’s so much negativity around the league in the past couple of years and Gretzky is one of the only personalities who can make people forget about that for a few minutes when he’s talking. But right now, the silence is deafening…..Hey, it’s sort of the same deal with Chris Neil. Take away 1,000 of his PIM’s and he’d still be the all-time PIM guy on the Senators. Neiler has 1,763 going into tonight while the next guy on the list is Chris Phillips with 667. Come on Phillips, let’s get the misconducts going here…..Alfredsson‘s 459 career PIM’s are only 3 back of Andre Roy’s 462 for 8th on the Sens all-time list. Only on Black Aces will this impending milestone be celebrated…….

.... Hey, it's old-school hockey card time, featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins: Current CBC hockey personality Craig Simpson broke into the NHL with the Penguins before being packaged off to Edmonton (where he won two Stanley Cups) for Paul Coffey (who won his fourth Cup in Pittsburgh in 91 before rejoining Wayne Gretzky in L.A.). Recently fired Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle had a good run with the Penguins in the early 80's before becoming a fixture in Winnipeg (where he may one day return as coach). Senators fans might remember Phil Bourque who was a character guy in red and black for a couple of seasons in the mid-90's. But before that, he was rocking a classic Kentucky Waterfall in Pittsburgh while winning two Stanley Cups. Bob Errey shared those same two Stanley Cups and is now doing good work on Penguins television broadcasts. Some other old names from Penguins past: Jean PronovostZarley Zalapski, Pierre Larouche,  German Titov, Syl AppsUlf Samuelsson, and Les Binkley. (Most of these images courtesy of Penguins-hockey-cards.com.).....

…. I just can’t seem to get too upset that the NHLPA grew a set of balls for the first time in years and rejected the NHL’s re-alignment plans that would see four uneven conferences and hopelessly skewed playoff races. The setup didn’t look right, like it was drawn up on a napkin after a couple of quarts down at the Dominion Tavern in the Market. For starters, it seems plain weird that Eastern teams in the other conference like Philly, NYR, Pitts etc will only play in Ottawa once a year under the new scenario. Sure, you get to see every team from the rest of the league at least once in your own building but for Ottawa to lose dates with Crosby, Ovechkin doesn’t seem worth a guaranteed Blue Jacket and Wild game in the middle of the winter. It’s the same for every team, East or West. For every star player guaranteed to come into your building, you lose a date with another. I agree with the players in that it’s unfair and harder to make the playoffs in the West than it is in the East. And let’s not forget that one of the reasons it changed to the current format is that fans were sick to death of seeing the same teams play against each other in the playoffs every single season in the 80’s. And the proposed set-up would also mean the end of the 8th place team upsetting the top seed, not to mention the wide open race to make the top eight that is one of the most exciting part of any NHL season. The first April after this goes into effect, fans will be the first to complain that a team made it to the playoffs in one conference with fewer points than their own team in another. And if you ask me, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the playoffs as they are right now. The first round is the best in all of sports. You’ve seen it since the lockout. Tell me when it’s ever been better? A couple of teams complaining about travel shouldn’t be enough to scrap a playoff format that’s working so well ......

……It's kind of uncomfortable for me but I completely agree with Brian Burke. He's right. This is the age of the rat in the NHL. There’s no fear anymore when you run another team’s star players. Nobody can touch you and neither can the league as long as you don’t hit them in the head. The only “tough guys” left are the players who don’t fake being hurt anytime they get hit along the boards. But it seems that’s what the fans want. So you’re going to get a steady diet of it until the pendulum swings back to where it should be. But hey, that’s just Old Man Milks yapping again. Take no heed….In case you missed it, Chris Stevenson reported on Saturday that hitting is significantly down in the NHL this season. Take from that what you will....

Okay, one last clip. I didn't want to, but you forced me.


Anonymous said...

When did Foligno start channelling Mario Lemieux? Unbelievable goal. Gotta see more of that.

As for Kuba, I think it's too early to decide and it's also a little uncomfortable to talk about because I think most people are cheering for the guy. He's playing well and everybody wants that to continue.

To me, the decision is not only about Kuba in isolation. It's about if the other guys can pick up the slack with Kuba gone. Specifically, can Lee fill the role.

If the sum of all the parts gives you pretty much the same defence, then you make the move. Also, who says the return for Kuba is only a second or a third?

Dustin Penner netted a first, a prospect, and a conditional pick. Tomas Kaberle netted the same. You can never underestimate what a desperate team will give up to make a deal, especially if they think they are close to challenging for the Cup.

The great thing is that all the interests are aligned. If the Sens do really well, and Kuba does really well, then they probably don't move him. But that's also the scenario where someone may give us a great offer for him. A good problem to have, in my books.

I'm a big Gretzky fan. I don't know all the facts about his situation with the NHL, so I may be way off base. But, my understanding of the situation is that he was part of the Coyotes ownership group. If that business deal went sour, why does the NHL have to bail him out.

I think Gretzky, the hockey player, is royalty, and should be treated as such. But, Gretzky the business man should be responsible for his own investments, not the NHL.

Gretzky, the hockey player, did so much for the NHL. The NHL should make him feel special. They should give him a role that attempts to show appreciation for what he did for the NHL. Pay him a good salary or help him get a franchise, if he wants one, or whatever else.

But, this idea that they should backstop his business losses, I don't buy it. If Gretzky bought into the Blue Jackets tomorrow, and then they declare bankruptcy next year, should the NHL bail him out there also. I think Gretzky should be responsible for his own investment decisions.

That said, I don't know the all the facts in his dealings with the NHL. So maybe he does have a legitimate beef.

My read on the re-alignment thing is that it's posturing from the NHLPA. It's just being used as a bargaining chip for the CBA negotiations. It'll happen.

I have a comment about hitting, but I'll post it in the next comment.

Anonymous said...

Is hitting really down significantly? The numbers in Stevenson's piece worked out to a 4% decline. To me, that's not significant. I'd bet that on a year-to-year basis that hitting varies, up and down, by at least as much.

I went to NHL.com and looked up some stats. The following is a list of teams that led the league in hitting since 03-04.

03-04 Ott 1889 (shocking!!! who said we were soft)
05-06 Tor 1805
06-07 Car 1949
07-08 Nyr 2137
08-09 Nyr 2312
09-10 Dal 2338
10-11 Nyr 2333
11-12 LA 1171 (projects to about 2300)

So among the top hitting teams, hitting has been steadily increasing over the last few years, and has declined very slightly this year.

Now this is just the top teams, not league wide. But in the context of increasing every year, who cares if it slightly dips this year.

A lot of chatter has been about the direction of hitting in the game. Well the direction since the lockout is clearly up.

Let's look at the team's that hit the least since 03-04.

03-04 Min 700
05-06 Min 846
06-07 Colorado 964
07-08 Edm 1130
08-09 Van 1315
09-10 Buf 1388
10-11 Buf 1505
11-12 SJ 684 (projects to about 1400)

So even at the bottom end, teams are hitting more when you look at the stats over an eight year period. Again, Stevenson's right in that there is a decline from last year. In my opinion, it's pretty minor when you compare it to other years.

I didn't run the numbers for the whole league, but I'd bet that it's the same story. Maybe that's why concussions are up. There is significantly more hitting than ever before.

Incidentally, you know how Ottawa has carried the soft label for a while. The stats show that perception is not reality. Except for last year, Ottawa has consistently been near the top of the league in hitting.

03-04 1st 1889
05-06 2nd 1765
06-07 3rd 1843
07-08 3rd 1802
08-09 7th 1923
09-10 9th 1939
10-11 25th 1658
11-12 7th 1001 (projects to about 1850)

3#Kevin said...


I agree with your assessment re: Kuba. However, it isn't if Brian Lee can fill his role, the question is if Jared Cowen can fill his role. It will be Cowen that gets Kuba's minutes. I think he showed quite admirably that he will be able to fill that role earlier in the season when Kuba was out injured. That leaves Lee and Carkner slotting into the 5/6 spots on D. I think in this scenario, you'd also see Borowiecki, Wiercioch & Gryba play a couple of experience games down the stretch.

My opinion is that the team has set a goal of long term, consistent competition for the Stanley Cup. Not a short term goal of playing a few games at home in the playoffs this year. Despite the surprising success of the team this season, I think the team needs to remember those goals. What serves the team better in light of its long term goal is to get the 2nd round pick (or more) that Kuba is worth and give NHL experience to its developing defenseman. Despite the valuable experience that can be gained from a playoff run, I think the NHL experience gained from the playing time of youngsters will serve the team just as well. Also, just because you trade Kuba in no way means that you're throwing in the towel on the playoffs. If the kids can step up and get it done in his place, and you're adding future assets; what's the hold up?

As for Gretzky, my understanding is that he is actually owed money in salary from when he was coaching the team, not from an ownership loss of investment. I do agree with you that it is a shame he isn't involved with the league in any regard. I wonder if their is some friction between himself and the NHL front office that is keeping him from being involved in the game. If that is the case, here's hoping the CBA is a big win for the NHLPA & the owners decide to clean house of Bettmen & Daly. Gretzky is the game's greatest ambassador. He should be involved.