Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The Backhander: Karlsson vs. Subban... Gryba vs. Wiercioch... Twitter vs. Bob Cole... Me vs. Predictions
Some reputations outlast reality. Glenn Healy calling Erik Karlsson a “one-trick pony” only tells us that Healy doesn’t watch Ottawa enough to know how much better Karlsson is in his own zone since his rookie season. It’s a snide remark from a legendary Sens baiter. Still, the guy is paid to have strong opinions and that’s what he gives us. I have no problem with that. It’s just that his tone is always so condescending that viewers immediately get their backs up. He could be talking about saving kittens from a flood and he’d still piss half the audience off. But you do have to give Hockey Night In Canada some credit. They go out of their way to provide a whole cast of characters that run the gamut from pleasantly wholesome (Elliotte Friedman) to stiff and exacting (Scott Oake) to grouchy (Healy) to analytical (Craig Simpson) to bratty (P.J. Stock) to Don Cherry, who is his own adjective. HNIC is still the best hockey show on the planet and remains vital, despite being everyone’s go-to punching bag. Holding it all together, often barely, is Ron MacLean who just gets better every year....
.... Speaking of HNIC, I understand why some people don’t appreciate Bob Cole calling Senators hockey games. I lived through the Battle Of Ontario years where it seemed like there was a Toronto bias on HNIC and I don’t claim Cole to be perfect every night. But there’s something truly sickening about seeing the man being defamed on Twitter in so many nasty, cowardly ways. For one, the man is a Hall Of Fame broadcaster and devoted his entire life to the game these clowns claim to love. Two, you wouldn’t say that to his face so why is it okay to say it publicly on Twitter? It’s gutless. It’s one thing to complain about Cole and his call of the game, but it’s another to attack him personally. You have to wonder about people who say things like that in a public forum. Unfortunately we’ll be seeing a lot of people wading in the gutter with Cole set to call the Sens-Habs first-round series.....
.... It will be interesting to see who coach Paul MacLean plays as his 6th defensman - Eric Gryba or Patrick Wiercioch. I like both rookies quite a bit but would probably lean towards Gryba myself in a playoff situation. Montreal seems to have a lot of those small, aggravating forwards that could be leaned on by a big guy like Gryba, but then you’re giving up a little offensive potential by sitting Wiercioch who had a pretty good first season. If Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar stay healthy, I’d like to see Gryba in there to give more of a balance but I wouldn’t be surprised either way..... If there’s one player who’s happier to play the Habs than the Bruins, it’s Kyle Turris. He’s taken a beating all year from big defensemen and has had trouble carrying the burden of Jason Spezza as the playmaker for this team. Not that the Habs defense is soft, but there’s a big difference going up against Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid and Dougie Hamilton than it is facing Andrei Markov, Raphael Diaz and Josh Gorges. Although Jarred Tinordi, all 6’6 205 pounds of him, was brought up from the AHL recently and could be a factor. That being said, there still won’t be any room out there. This is the playoffs after all, where real estate is more expensive than downtown Manhattan....
..... A scary thought for Ottawa must be the fact they’ve made a lot of average goalies look like world-beaters this season. Now they have to go up against Carey Price who really is a world-beater when he’s running hot, which is often. He had some major struggles down the stretch but I don’t buy that he’ll be a weakness..... I have no doubt P.K. Subban will be enemy #1 in Ottawa before this playoff round is through. Some say Brendan Gallagher will claim that crown, but Subban just has that air of cockiness about him that both endears him to Montreal fans and drives everyone else crazy. He’s having an incredible year after that contract mess to start off and he’s a natural rival to Erik Karlsson, and will be for years to come in the competition for the Norris Trophy. This could turn into one of the best rivalries in the league, especially with the new divisional playoff format coming next season. These two teams, with Karlsson and Subban not going anywhere for a while, could conceivably meet up, by hook or by crook, somewhere along the way to the Eastern crown for the next five or six years. Get ready for a memorable first meeting.
Random Ottawa Playoff Stats
Of Ottawa’s Top 10 all-time playoff scoring leaders, the first 7 of them are still playing in the NHL this season, and 6 of them are currently in the playoffs with their various teams (although Dany Heatley is out with shoulder surgery for Minnesota). The only player in the top 7 whose team missed the post-season is Nashville’s Mike Fisher.... Wade Redden is still third all-time in both games played and points for Ottawa.... Anton Volchenkov wasn’t much of a goal-scorer but he’s tied with Jason Spezza, Alexei Yashin and Todd White for 7th all-time in game winning goals with 2. Not bad company there. And there’s Redden again in 3rd place with 4 game-winners.
Pittsburgh vs. NY Islanders
Pittsburgh in 5
Montreal vs. Ottawa
Ottawa in 7
Washington vs. NY Rangers
Washington in 6
Boston vs. Toronto
Boston in 7
Chicago vs. Minnesota
Chicago in 5
Anaheim vs. Detroit
Anaheim in 7
Vancouver vs. San Jose
San Jose in 6
Los Angeles vs. St. Louis
Los Angeles in 4
Eastern Champs: Pittsburgh
Western Champs: Anaheim
Stanley Cup Champs: Pittsburgh
Conn Smythe: Evgeni Malkin
Playoff Leading Scorer: Evgeni Malkin
Posted by Jeremy Milks at 12:31 PM 5 comments:
Labels: Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators
Monday, April 29, 2013
Once Again, Underrate Anderson At Your Own Peril
It was a strange feeling waking up today and immediately hearing that Senators fans were somehow talking about a goaltending controversy heading into the Montreal series.
And when I say “strange feeling”, I mean that feeling where everyone around you has gone backwoods crazy and that sane people would be smart to stay off social media like Twitter to avoid permanent brain damage in the next few days.
All of this after a game where Robin Lehner steps in to relieve clear-cut first-string goalie Craig Anderson in a back-to-back situation, plays fairly well, allows two goals - one of which was soft - and suddenly he’s the guy to beat Carey Price.
It was the same thing going into the season. Everyone was doubting Anderson because he hadn’t played hockey overseas during the lockout. Mainstream columnists were openly calling for Lehner to start in net. I felt the same way then as I do right now – Underrate Anderson At Your Own Peril.
It’s the shiny new toy syndrome. Lehner is popular with fans because there’s no blemishes. He hasn’t been around long enough to write a postcard home, let alone supplant one of the best goaltenders in the entire league this season.
I just don’t get the logic or even the emotion behind it. Anderson almost singlehandedly carried this team to the playoffs when he was healthy but all Lehner had to do was finally beat the Boston Bruins after 5 tries and suddenly he’s a groundswell candidate to lead this team past the Habs.
Now, I realize I’m exaggerating to make a point here. Most Senators fans (I assume) are still counting on Anderson, a possible Vezina candidate in the prime of his career, to start the series and hopefully they’ll be cheering him on out there.
Yet the fact that the argument is even out there tells me this goes beyond just a few radio hosts trying to drum up content for the next three days, waiting for this first-round series to start. It tells me that this city hasn’t fully embraced Anderson as a fan favourite, and that astounds me.
Sure, Anderson isn’t exactly a bubbly personality or cozy with the local media, but neither is Lehner. I’m not sure there’s been a more stonefaced interview with the media than Lehner since Dany Heatley (no comparison to Heatley otherwise - relax). He’s a serious dude with little time for pleasantries. And that’s fine. But it doesn’t explain his popularity with fans as opposed to Anderson.
Rather, it’s the unfortunate trap of falling in love with prospects because they’re new while the veterans – the guys who will actually win you a playoff series and the Stanley Cup – are old news and don’t appeal to the new breed of hockey fan who watches hockey games through their Twitter feed instead of their own eyes.
Lehner is going to be a good, if not great goalie one day. Anderson is a great goalie TODAY. How is there even a debate about this? Because of one game where Lehner only let in two goals?
It’s amazing what you can come up with when you overthink the game to the point where up is down, and elite goaltenders can become bums overnight. It’s just amazing.
Posted by Jeremy Milks at 9:09 AM 8 comments:
Labels: Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Sens Fans Suffer More Indignities Than Your Average Stooge
Worst case scenario happened last night for the Senators.
They lose another big game where they desperately needed two points and in the process managed to let Matt Cooke go untouched, allowing him to have a strong game and assist on the goal that buried them in the third period.
And the topper is the Winnipeg Jets beat the Sabres to move within one point of the Senators and Rangers.
Basically it couldn’t have gone any worse for Ottawa.
Fans were worried that the Senators would be too distracted by Cooke to focus on winning the hockey game, but that wasn’t the case at all. It all boiled down to Cooke’s first shift of the game where he declined a challenge from Chris Neil and took a mild but penalized hit from Eric Gryba, resulting in a power-play that the Senators killed off. That was pretty much it for dealing with Cooke. They lost the game because Craig Anderson was human and they can’t score goals to save their lives, especially on a power-play that’s one of the worst we’ve seen in Ottawa for many years.
Yet there’s still that lingering narrative out there today that somehow Ottawa blew this game because they were focused on Matt Cooke. I didn’t see that last night, but I did see a Senators team that gets tight when faced with an important game, much like they looked against the Leafs last Saturday and a few Saturday’s before that.
It just FEELS like this organization can’t win the games that are most important to the fans. For sure they’ve won huge games before... many of them. But the ones that hurt the most linger in the memory. And it’s usually against the Toronto Maple Leafs or against a team that has somehow done them physical harm (before the Penguins it was the Rangers).
It’s tough for fans to endure that kind of humiliation time after time. I’m sure it’s tough on the players too but they live in a bubble far removed from anything the fans can experience. We don’t truly know what it does to the players so let’s not even pretend. But we do know how the average fan feels.
They have to endure that co-worker who comes in the next day wearing a Leafs jersey with a shit-eating grin on his face. They have to walk to the parking lots out of SBP with Habs fans chanting “Ole, Ole” like marauding gangs of drunken idiots. They have to watch a guy like Cooke, protected by the instigator rule, wipe his dirty, muddy sneakers on the Senators living room carpet and walk away unharmed.
Oh, I realize every team’s fanbase goes through this from time to time, but it’s only in Ottawa that their beloved captain gets booed in his own rink. It’s only in Ottawa that a head coach openly jokes about scoring a goal early to “take the fans out of the game”.
And just when it seems there’s an opportunity to reclaim lost pride, to gain more respect from their fanbase, we see a game like we did on March 30 when the Senators don’t show up to play the Leafs in their own rink on a nationally televised game on Hockey Night In Canada. We see a game like last night where they can’t beat a Penguins team that has almost all their best players on the sidelines and more motivation than they’ll ever need in Matt Cooke and a playoff spot waiting to be clinched.
That’s a bit of a mean-spirited thing to say because the Senators did show up to play last night against Pittsburgh and were once again beaten by a better goalie. And they’ve proven themselves all season long by winning hockey games when injuries said they shouldn’t.
Yet, like I said, it’s those painful losses that leave the biggest impression, and Senators fans are as familiar with those as anyone.
A playoff spot awaits this team with games left against Washington, Philadelphia and Boston. Chances are the Senators will still pull this off. But it all loses a bit of luster when you enter the party through the back door. A big win against the Pens and a big hit on Matt Cooke would have been going through the front door, making an impression around the league. Instead we get hand-wringing and excuses.
As some would say, as long as you get to the party, anything can happen. So let’s see what happens this week.
You can argue both ways on that Eric Gryba interference penalty on Matt Cooke. You can say it was a battle for the puck and it shouldn’t have been called or you can say Cooke didn’t get a chance to battle for it and the right call was made. I don’t think it was either. To me, that was the refs telling the Senators that Cooke was off-limits. It was sending a message that the Senators weren’t about to turn this into a rodeo with Cooke as the clown. If this was a Columbus-Florida game, that call doesn’t get made. But the refs read the paper like everyone else and no doubt discussed the Cooke situation in their pre-game huddle. They were going to call the first contact with Cooke if it even looked slightly sideways and that’s what they did. Like it or not, the rules protect the weasels better than a tough guy can protect his star players in today’s NHL.... I totally get the Pens point of view that what Cooke did to Karlsson was an accident, so why should he have to fight? I don’t think Marian Hossa should have had to fight for accidentally swinging his stick into Bryan Berard’s eye many years ago. But everyone knows Hossa is a clean player who wouldn’t be able to defend himself in a scrap. Not so for Cooke. He’s known as a weasel (albeit a reformed weasel) who has the ability to fight but often won’t. When you take out a Norris Trophy winner, someone like Cooke has to expect to answer for it. He’s twice turned down Chris Neil for a fight. That’s just a complete lack of character on Cooke’s part. No sense in beating a dead horse here so let’s move on....
.... Despite the gloom on Tuesday, the Senators can look forward to having Erik Karlsson back in the lineup as early as Thursday against the Caps. If this team truly needs a breath of fresh air to blow away the stink of the last two games and the off-ice crap that came with it, Karlsson is the guy to do that. He’s only been in Ottawa a few years but already he has a sort of myth building around him. He’s always smiling and happy, but that smile has an air of cockiness that someone like Jarome Iginla doesn’t possess, the only other guy I can think of who can light up a room day after day. He’s got healing powers beyond even Alfie levels and he has the franchise on his shoulders right now.
Bring on the sunshine.
Posted by Jeremy Milks at 9:38 AM 1 comment:
Labels: Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins
Monday, April 22, 2013
It’s Not One Or The Other - Sens Can Win AND Say Hello To Matt Cooke
A lot of leery Senators fans today, worried not only that coach Paul Maclean will dress the big bad Matt Kassian, but that Sens players will be so bent on revenge against Matt Cooke that they would gladly lose the game if it meant they could deliver a scalp to Erik Karlsson’s empty locker stall.
Many think the two concepts are mutually exclusive. Not so.
The Senators can challenge Matt Cooke to fight and still win the hockey game. There are fights every night in the NHL, many of them for much lesser transgressions than what Cooke did to Karlsson. It would even be weird for someone not to challenge Cooke.
I seem to remember that the last time someone stood up for Karlsson in a big way was Matt Carkner making an example of Brian Boyle in last year’s playoffs. That energized the Senators in a big way and they won that game, with most players citing Carkner’s efforts as a turning point.
Best case scenario for Ottawa fans tonight against Pittsburgh would be Chris Neil scrapping with Cooke at centre ice in front of 20,000 screaming fans and then Alfie scoring a couple of goals to put the Penguins away.
That’s what I’d call “entertainment”. Not sure why everyone thinks only one of these things can happen, to the exclusion of the other.
Of course it would be stupid for Ottawa to take countless penalties trying to get at Cooke. But they can hit him hard every shift and challenge him to go in the traditional hockey way without getting an instigator. If Cooke declines, that just looks bad on him and will further cloud his reputation. If he obliges, then we’ll see what happens.
Clearly, Ottawa needs to come out of this game with two points and if it means watching Cooke decline to defend himself, then the Sens just need to let it go for now. But to not challenge this guy would be a woefully inadequate, almost embarrassing response from the Senators players.
Posted by Jeremy Milks at 1:38 PM 1 comment:
Labels: Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The Backhander: Cowen’s Return A Painful Affair For Carolina, A Game-Changer For The Sens
Jared Cowen’s first few shifts against the Hurricanes weren’t a complete disaster, but they weren’t out of the pages of Lloyd Percival’s Hockey Handbook either. His surgically repaired hip apparently wasn’t bothering him, but it seemed like his skates were untied and his hands were swollen. A tough giveaway, a fall into the boards and a few botched breakouts indicated a ragged first game back was about to unfold. Nothing unusual for a guy who’s missed the last 5 months.
Enter Jeff Skinner.
Cowen caught Skinner accepting a suicide pass and skated right through him. While the nerds immediately spent the next hour analyzing the hit frame by frame to see if it was “legal” or not, the rest of the home crowd stood on their feet appreciating the sight. Cowen was back.
He didn’t waste time looking at the refs while Skinner lay on the ice. He shook his gloves free almost instantly knowing that someone would be coming for him. It turned out to be the 180-pound Chad LaRose who bravely took on the 230-pound Cowen and got fed multiple times for his effort.
After sitting for 5 minutes, Cowen looked strong and confident the rest of the way and even took on tough guy Kevin Westgarth in the next period. In a perfect world the Senators would rather not have Cowen getting in too many fights – that’s why they got Matt Kassian – but Cowen’s a big boy and can take care of himself if he needs to. It’s almost better that he got all of that stuff taken care of right away. There’s no bigger test for your body than getting into a scrap, let alone two, and Cowen came out of it fine.
Outside of Chris Neil and Marc Methot, the Senators didn’t seem to have the capacity to deliver those sometimes game-changing hits that can intimidate the other team. But with the return of Cowen, the acquisition of “little ball of hate” Cory Conacher and knuckleballer Kassian, this Senators team seems a little meaner, a little edgier and a lot more exciting to watch.
Even without Erik Karlsson back – whom GM Bryan Murray indicated was “close” on Sportsnet last night – the Senators defense is already transformed with just the addition of Cowen. Suddenly size is an asset, especially with rookie Eric Gryba getting a little pressure taken off by Cowen’s return. Spreading around those minutes (and size) will help Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar going into a possible playoff berth and Cowen will be a strong presence to put up against Alex Ovechkin for example, or Milan Lucic, depending on who Ottawa ends up facing in the first or subsequent rounds.
If you somehow add Karlsson into that group, you got a hockey team.
And to think only a short while ago this team was in a place where Mike Lundin returning to action was seen as good news.
IF they clinch a playoff spot, and IF the team is healthy enough to do it, I would think that a few guys won’t be making that last trip to Boston on April 28 to play the postponed game. Namely Daniel Alfredsson and Gonchar. Those are two vets who have largely contributed to keeping this team alive through all those injuries this season, and will be even more valuable in the playoffs. A Sunday at home with their families, resting for a first-round series sounds pretty logical. Yet there’s going to be significance to that game regardless if it will mean anything in the standings. It’s the only one on the schedule and will no doubt be emotional for all those attending in the wake of the Boston attacks. It would not surprise me if those two vets would want to be there anyways....
... With the Sens in a position to be real Cup contenders as soon as next year, it would make sense to re-sign Gonchar this summer. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time but he’s really made me appreciate his game this season. He’s just so consistent every night and largely goes underappreciated outside of his lengthy scoring streak earlier this year. He’s never been fully embraced by Senators fans but Gonchar would be missed more than people realize. Even if the demand is two more years on a deal, that’s a contract Murray should be comfortable with taking on. Gonchar doesn’t look old to me and the same goes for Alfredsson. These guys could even have off-years and still help you in the playoffs with all the experience they’ve earned. Gonchar coming back would eat into Gryba’s games total but injuries will always give that seventh defenseman an opportunity. And the balance will be there with Gonchar – three offensive minded D-men and three defensive types. Sounds like a good fit to me.....
.... No league’s fans complain more about their own sport than NHL fans, and so it was no surprise that all we heard was shrill whining about the imminent announcement of 6 outdoor games next season. Yes, endless complaining about games that will instantly sell-out, that will bring in record revenues to the league and will sell a years’ worth of sweaters and memorabilia in every host city. What a disaster. Fire Gary Bettman for having the audacity of making everyone unfathomable amounts of money and raising the profile of the league. Clearly he’s an idiot and everyone tweeting from their couches with Dorito stained fingers knows more about the “integrity of the concept” than he does. And if we ever get a game in Ottawa at Lansdowne Park, I’m sure Sens fans will stay home because the novelty has worn off.
Posted by Jeremy Milks at 10:35 AM 4 comments:
Labels: Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Karlsson’s Zapruder Film Moment Comes At The Perfect Time
The video was strange, almost as if it was taken clandestinely by a reporter crawling along behind the boards at the Sensplex, squeezing by metal barriers and catching a shaky image of Erik Karlsson with skates on, just moments before security guards got a hold of him by the collar, fed him a few rabbit punches to the spleen and tossed him outside into the Zamboni ice-shavings.
That reporter was Dan Séguin of the CBC, shooting vérité style with his phone on Monday morning, capturing the images that warmed the blood of every Senators fan around the city. Even though it looked like found footage from The Blair Witch Project, it’s already stoked the “what if” scenarios around town as the playoffs approach with Ottawa still in the running for a first-round appearance.
What if Karlsson had the same mystical, almost unspeakable healing powers of Daniel Alfredsson?
What if Jared Cowen, who’s been skating confidently for a while now, comes back around the same time. What if Jason Spezza’s back rebounds back into shape like a slinky all of a sudden? What if Milan Michalek just needed that one last surgery to fix his Bobby Orr knees forever?
What if the whole damn puzzle fell into place at the exact right time about two weeks from now?
If you think about it long enough you can almost convince yourself it’s about to happen and suddenly you’re high-fiving people in your office who you haven’t talked to in three weeks. Spring madness reigns for a moment and you almost forget this Senators team is on a four game losing streak and just four points up on the 9th place New Jersey Devils. And there’s still half of this hellish road-trip to endure, not to mention a return date in Boston Garden waiting at the end like a bully named Chongo standing by your locker in high-school with a shit-eating grin on his face.
This thing isn’t going to be easy to pull off.
The odds are still in the Senators favour to make the playoffs but having all of these guys ready to play is another thing altogether. I’m an eternal optimist, much to the eternal annoyance of my wife, but even I’m wondering if this is going to end up creating expectations that can’t be met.
All of this wishful thinking can’t help but remind you why everyone is so wishful in the first place. And that’s because this Ottawa team stinks lately.
That’s not to say they stink generally. Just lately.
And that’s fine. They almost deserve the right to stink after the amazing, determined season they’ve treated us to so far. Most fans would have been happy with a lottery pick and few memorable games from the rookies after half the team got rolled out of the rink in stretchers. Now they have a chance to see a few playoff games, or at the minimum, a battle to the end of the regular season that should be fun to watch regardless of the outcome.
But still, right now they stink.
Kyle Turris can’t score and can’t eat enough hamburgers to keep from wasting away. The power-play is tough to watch. Most games it feels like you’re watching the 1996 Florida Panthers play the 1995 New Jersey Devils. There’s a fight here and there but nothing that seems heated enough to be exciting. The Toronto Maple Leafs are doing well, thanks in part to many shellacking’s of the Senators along the way.
Kaspars Daugavins plays for another team now and the only barking you hear is coach Paul Maclean ordering players off the ice so they can’t have fun with their “stupid pet tricks” anymore. It’s business time.
The Senators have hit a dry spell both inspirationally and physically. They just seem tired out there and it’s tiring to watch.
But there’s always that “what if” floating out there, skating cautiously at an Ottawa practice rink while CBC reporters crawl along ceiling girders trying to capture a glimpse.
And there’s always tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Until there isn’t another game to play, there’s always another game to play.
Posted by Jeremy Milks at 2:43 PM 1 comment:
Labels: Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Murray-Yzerman Friendship May Have Paved The Way For Bishop-Conacher Deal
Interesting move by the Senators today, trading big Ben Bishop to Tampa Bay for small rookie-of-the-year candidate Cory Conacher and a 4th round pick.
You might remember that Conacher was the subject of pre-game segment on Hockey Night In Canada a few weeks back detailing his battle with Type 1 diabetes and going undrafted before catching on with the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk last season and winning the Calder Cup. It’s a surprise that Lightning GM Steve Yzerman would trade a Calder Trophy candidate but clearly he’s desperate for any kind of goaltending. He’s got a good one now in Bishop.
So what does Ottawa have in Conacher?
He had 39 goals and 80 points in the AHL last season and 9 goals so far this year in the NHL. Clearly, Bryan Murray thinks he might have a goal-scorer in Conacher, and a young guy who the Senators coaching staff can mould for the next couple of seasons. At only 23, Conacher fits right in with guys like Zibanejad, Silfverberg, Karlsson and Cowen. He also has one more year left on his entry level contract and will be a restricted free-agent after that.
In essence, instead of grabbing a first or a second rounder for Bishop (as rumoured), Murray got a player who can step in right away and possibly score some goals, Ottawa’s biggest weakness right now. Even if Conacher doesn’t light it up the rest of this season, the potential exists for him to develop into a 20 or 30 goal scorer next season or soon after.
You can’t underestimate how important that is to Ottawa considering that Milan Michalek might be slowing down with recurring knee injuries and Daniel Alfredsson retiring in the next year or two.
In the short term, Conacher is likely to take away minutes from a forward already in the top 6. Identifying who currently plays in the top 6 is not exactly clear due to Paul Maclean switching his lines so often, but Latendresse might see less time. It is strange that Ottawa would choose to go for such a small player after not matching up very well against the big Boston Bruins, but goal scoring is so important that you can look beyond size, especially when Conacher has already proven he can battle and defy the odds. Everything I've seen and read about Conacher is that he goes hard to the net, takes hits to move the puck and doesn’t ever seem intimidated on the ice.
One image that keeps popping back into my head is Steve Yzerman and Bryan Murray talking in the stands on March 23 during the game day skate of the Ottawa-Tampa game. That’s the same day HNIC showed the Conacher piece and the day before Yzerman fired coach Guy Boucher. Yzerman used to play for Murray in Detroit and you can speculate that the Lightning GM may have been asking for advice on what to do with his struggling coach. Murray might have related his experience with having to fire Cory Clouston once the team gave up on him, which seemed to be happening to Boucher in Tampa Bay. Yzerman has been known to seek advice from more experienced people he respects, such as Wayne Gretzky when putting together the Canadian Olympic team a few years ago.
It might have been that Yzerman’s prior relationship with Bryan Murray led the way to this deal we saw today. You have to remember that both Ottawa and Tampa will be playing in the same division next season so this deal could end up haunting one GM or the other. Inter-divisional deals are much more common than they used to be, but I’ll speculate that a mutual trust and respect between the two GM’s made this deal a lot easier than it would have been for other teams.
One thing we do know is Ottawa is going forward with both Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, and it hardly seems like they've weakened themselves at that position despite parting ways with Bishop.
Sens fans will keep their fingers crossed that we'll finally see some more goals to help the two goalies they have left. Conacher is going to help and could end up being a big part of this Senators team in the years ahead.
Posted by Jeremy Milks at 3:18 PM 3 comments:
Labels: Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning
Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)