Archive for September, 2007

Little of This; Some of That

September 30, 2007

ottsunsport200.jpgSenator  Lines:

To start the season, I think there is very good reason to expect the top two lines to be Heatley, Spezza, Eaves and Vermette, Fisher, Alfredsson.   You should downgrade Ilya Zubov to your watch list.  Actually, that’s where he probably should have been all along.  If he’s not on one of the top two lines, he’s most likely headed to Binghamton. 

 The points on the power play are somewhat more grey.  Redden has played sparingly and still has a sore back, but I have to believe he has one of the positions when healthy.  Corvo and Schubert have both made arguments for themselves on the other side.  I’d bet on Corvo, but not very much.  I have Schubert on my watch list.

The Heatley Contract

The sides met to discuss terms and ideas.  At this point, there is no deal as both sides retreat to reflect on the various arguments.  Reports say that Heatley wants $8mm/year for six years with the Senators offering $7mm/year with no word on the term.  I think this really comes down to Dany deciding where he wants to play and with whom he wants to share the ice.  $7mm/year is a nice salary.  No, it’s not what he would get on the open market, but if he wants to win a Cup, the teams likely to be able/willing to pony up that kind of cash are not likely to get him to a Cup final.  Not to mention that no other team has Jason Spezza as a centerman with whom he can play.  I am happy to go on record saying that any team with a player making $8mm will not be able to sustain Stanley Cup ambitions over the term of that contract.  To be sure, there will be years that those types of teams can compete provided that they have some young talent that can contribute.  But, eventually, that young talent gets older and wants more money.  Teams like the Rangers are also likely to be in that same boat having over spent for 2nd tier stars like Gomez and Drury.  They’re good players; they’re just overpaid and soaking up too much of the cap.  It’s funny; many people talk about the $20mm the Lightning have wrapped up in Richards, Lecavlier and St. Louis, but you rarely hear anyone talk about the $21mm the Rangers have wrapped up in their big 3 and how that hurts them.  I’d much rather be in Tampa’s position with their players at their respective ages. 

Downie Follow-up

I’ve seen some Flyers fans make the following argument:

“You Senators fans were just fine with the Neil hit on Drury last year and this [the Downie hit on McAmmond] is no different; a headhunter out to hurt someone.”  Some have even suggested that there was “nothing wrong” with the hit.  I would say that the reaction from players around the league speaks volumes about the play.  Downie has been roundly criticized by all players I’ve heard speak on the subject.  No one knows better than the players what is a good hit and what is dirty. 

It’s much harder to determine Neil’s intent on the hit to Drury.  I have that game on my Tiva (mine’s female) and watched it after seeing those comparisons.  First of all, Downie makes his charge from the red line in and launches himself at McAmmond.  Neil doesn’t leave his feet and his hit is with the shoulder.  There’s no question that Drury is defenseless and has no idea the hit is coming.  It’s very difficult to judge a player for a hit on a defenseless opponent.  Part of being a hockey player is being aware of your surroundings and protecting yourself.  I won’t blame Downie for looking for a hit.  I will blame him for leaving his feet to deliver a blow to the head.  I thought that a 20 game suspension was in order and that is the verdict. The Flyers have said they will call up Downie from the Phantoms on game days to get the suspension over with quickly.  This suggests that he will be on the Flyer roster when it’s over.  Circle November 24th on your calendars and watch Chris Neil make an example of the young “man”. 

 As far as McAmmond goes….he’s not likely to return to the Sens’ lineup any time soon.  He has full use of his extremities, but this is his second concussion in the last 4 months.  From the lips of Dean McAmmond (I love this quote):

“Everybody’s saying I have concussion problems … I don’t feel I have a concussion problem at all. I have a problem with people giving me traumatic blows to the head, that’s what I have a problem with.”

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Downie Not So Fresh

September 26, 2007

mex-grocer_1966_21733623.jpgIf any of you are familiar with Steve Downie (or even if you’re not, I guess), he has quite a reputation in Juniors as a hot head and a cheap shot artist.  In the last WJC tournament, he played it mostly clean and was a very effective player for Canada. 

 Fast forward to tonight:  Downie is trying to make the Flyers squad out of camp and was in the lineup tonight.  Early in the second period, he charged Dean McAmmond and left his feet to clean him out against the boards.  McAmmond left the ice on a stretcher with blood flowing from his nose and mouth and unable to move his arms. 

All my best thoughts to Dean McAmmond and to Mr. Downie…..well, you’ve probably heard of “The Code”. 

Senators Fight Washington (it’s an old story)

September 21, 2007

207530218.jpgLines for tonights Caps game:

If you’re looking at the box score, you’ll see that Alfie scored while on the ice, five on five, with Spezza and Heatley.  Paddock threw him out there for 2 or 3 shifts and that’s all it took to get on the tally sheet.

Top Line:  Heatley, Spezza, Eaves….Alfie came on as a forward on the number 1 power play unit along with Redden and Schubert on the points.  In the third period, Eaves stayed out for the number 1 unit and Alfie moved to the point.   No solid information gained, except to say that they’re considering all options which boosts Alfie’s value, I would say. 

Second Line:  This was all over the place.  Let’s call it Alfie, Vermette, Kelly.

Early second unit power play:  Lee & Nycholat on the points, Eaves, Vermette & Cody Bass up front.

Gerber gives up 3 goals and is replaced by Brian Elliott which was the plan all along; the replacement, not the 3 goals.  I mentioned Elliott in an earlier post; it’s interesting to note that he was the 291st pick in the 2003 draft.  He may very well turn out to be the steal of that draft.  I really don’t think he has a chance in Hades to crack the lineup this year unless there is a trade, but you keeper leaguers may want to keep an eye on his AHL stats this year.   Elliott gave up 1 goal in half a game and got the win as the Sens storm back from 3-1 down

Is Nick Foglino making a spot for himself on the roster with his 2nd goal and 5th point in two games?  Gosh, I have to think so; wake-up call answered.  In the postgame interview, Paddock was slow to praise him, but I have to believe that was to keep the youngsters head from swelling.

I’m Feeling a Draft in Here

September 20, 2007

2309788059.jpgAs fantasy drafts are now taking place, let’s get right to the meat of it:

The Sens are loaded with fantasy worthy players, but figuring out who all of them are is the real trick.  The are some no-brainers, so let’s start with them:

Dany Heatley: Heater will be the 2nd player off many draft boards after God…er….Crosby [removes tongue from cheek].  Heatley is the only player with two straight years of 50 goals and 100 points, so he’s a pretty safe bet.    Add to that that he’s in a contract year and will be looking to cash in.  Multiply that by the fact that he has stated that he intends to increase his shot totals this year; something he’s done in every season save “the accident” season. Heatley’s only health problems have been the result of “the accident”, so there’s no reason to think he’ll get injured.  Count on another 50-55 goals and 110 points.

 Spezza: Depending upon your stomach for injury risk, Spezza will go late in the first or sometime in the 2nd round.  On a point per game basis, Spezza is 2nd in the league only to Crosby over the past 2 seasons.  The disconcerting part is that a kid this young has had problems with a wonky back.  There has been no talk of it so far this preseason, so factor that in as you will.  He did a better job with shooting the puck last year, so he could tally 35-40 goals with 110 points, if he gets in 75 games.

Alfredsson: As has been the case the past 2 seasons, the Sens have been looking for more balanced scoring, which means moving Alfie to the 2nd line.  Murray was pretty stubborn about keeping lines in tact for the power play, so Alfie’s numbered suffered when he was moved from the point.  Still, he managed 87 points playing sparingly with Heatley and Spezza.  I’m putting him down at the 80 point level (30G, 50A) with some upside potential if he gets tossed back in on the top line for any length of time.

Emery: Here’s one of your riskier picks.  Emery is just coming off wrist surgery and has just started practicing with the team.  He’ll probably go in the 2nd round in many leagues, but be warned; he’s had a rocky offseason and there are reasons (that I won’t go into) to think he may be on the outs with the team.  Paddock has come out and said that the number 1 job is his, but I’m not going to look at him as my number 1 goalie.  If he’s there in the 4th or 5th round, I’ll grab him but then make sure I have Gerber as a handcuff. 

Redden: He slumped last year so may be sliding down draft lists.  I saw him go in the 9th round (right before I was going to grab him).  This is a contract year for him, so he has that motivation.  He has also been challenged by the coach to be more productive so he has that motivation.  Something to consider, however….Redds is building a 6500 square foot house in Kelowna (which is nowhere near Ottawa) that is due to be completed about the time he hits free agency.  This doesn’t bode well for his long term relationship with the Sens.  If he makes it to the trade deadline with the Senators, I would say he’ll be in the 55 point range.

Fisher: Armed with a new 5 year contract, there will be pressure on Fish to improve on his 48 points in 68 games.  Playing with Alfie would certainly help, but he has to stay healthy and he’s had trouble doing that with his “caution to the wind” style of playing.  While this makes him a fan favourite, it also tends to mean time on the shelf.   I think I predicted he would get 65 last year if he stayed on the 2nd line which wasn’t the case.  I’m going back to the “65 point well” and predict he will play with Alfie for most of the season. 

Corvo: He spent some time in the doghouse and ended the year on the 3rd pairing.  In looking at the roster, it’s difficult to see who would bump him from the top power play unit unless they pull Alfie back there.  Tonight’s preseason game should give a good indication of who will occupy the spot opposite Redden on the PP, so I’ll give an update at that time.  Corvo on the top PP unit probably gets 40-45 points.  If he’s on the 2nd unit, bump him down 10.  I still see him on the third pairing playing with Schubert or Nycholat or Richardson.

Here’s where it gets quite a bit dicier.  At this point, Patrick Eaves is the odds on favorite to get the top line spot.  His tenure there last year was spotty at best.  He’ll have to impress in camp to start the season there and if he doesn’t, he’ll likely play on the 4th line which makes him waiver material.  Vermette is another with top line possibility, but there is some concern that he may not be defensively responsible enough and there’s also a reticence to split him off from Kelly with whom he kills penalties, so third line is as likely for him with Neil and Kelly.  Which is what makes Zubov so intriguing in this equation.  He’s been lighting it up in early preseason and it’s not inconceivable that he would make the team.  If he does, he’s not going to be a 3rd or 4th liner and I would put him in with Fish and Alfie if he makes it.  McAmmond is so very versatile that I could see him getting a shot at the top line.  He certainly has the speed to keep up with the big boys and is very responsible.  I wish I could be more specific about these players, but I have a reputation (as a fence sitter) to consider.  Eaves is worth a late draft pick and deeper league owners may look at the others with hope and prayer until this all shakes out.  Certainly keep you eye on the situation and if your league drafts late in the preseason, there may be better information available. 

As for the rest of the defense, I’m going to say Meszaros and Schubert get the point duties on the 2nd power play unit.  Again, a lot depends on what they do with Alfie.  Phillips and Volchenkov aren’t really draftable unless you really just want a kick in the +- (I mean that in a positive way).  Phillips put up some points last year, but don’t expect 25 points from him this year.  He was playing for the contract he got.  Expect him to go back to his 20 points levels of yore. 

Neil: 30 points and 200 PIMs.  There is talk that McGratton might be a casualty of the new rules and instigator penalty, which would improve Neiler’s value.  If that’s the case,Neil will still get 3rd line time and be expected to handle the rough stuff.  If Neil is on your waiver wire when the Buffalo games roll around, grab him for the 5-25 PIMs he’s likely to get in those games.

Gerber: He is the last Senator I will project as a draftable player.  Certainly those who already have Emery should grab him as a handcuff and those in deeper leagues can take a shot at him to mess with the owner who waited too long to do so.  Even if he never gets out of the backup role, he’s still going to get 25-30 starts and win 15-20 games.

Zubov Flying High

September 19, 2007

phi.gifThe Senators first preseason game against the Flyers is being played as I write this.  It’s fairly difficult to get a decent read on how certain players are faring as one is listening to the radio; I prefer to rely on my eyes, but this is where pre-season hockey is at in the whole realm of sports in the US:  That is to say, it’s non-existent. 

The Senators are not dressing Alfredsson, Redden, Heatley, Spezza, Phillips or Volchenkov.  That’s ok; I’m more interested in hearing what Nick Foglino, Ilya Zubov and Brian Lee can do.  Mike Fisher is out with an injury; let’s hope that’s not a recurring theme for him and his new $21MM contract.

Ilya Zubov continues his hot goal scoring.  The 19 year old Russian sparkled in the rookie tournaments, had a decent showing in the team scrimmage yesterday and scored the first goal in tonight’s game.   Nick Foglino has a goal and an assist on a power play marker by Andrej Meszaros.

 In the second period, Gerber has had to make a number of saves and it sounds as though he’s sharp.  That’s good since the Sens will likely start the season with Gerber in goal whilst Emery continues his rehab from wrist surgery.  Jeff Glass is backing up tonight.  Glass had a pretty shaky season at Binghamton last year, so it could be bad if the Senators had to rely on him for any length of time. 

Brian Elliott is likely to get every shot at goal in Bingo this year. He was a fantastic college goalie for the University of Wisconsin. He had Ryan Miller type numbers for his college career. He’s not nearly as flashy as Miller and played for a very defensive minded Badger team, so it remains to be seen how his game will translate to the pros, but I’m very optimistic about him.  Full disclosure: I’m a Badger fan. 

The Sens escape the 2nd period with their 3 goal lead in tact, but the Flyers had some good pressure.  They’ve now outshot the Senators 37-24 for the game and 23-8 in the second period. 

 I have to remember to ignore the ringing phone when I’m listening to the Sens; stupid crappy in-laws (just kidding Rich & Toni).  A half hour later, I’ve missed 15 minutes of game time and a Patrick Eaves goal; 4-0 Senators. 

 Interesting that the players under the biggest microscope in the preseason have all *sounded* good.  Eaves is basically, on a tryout to play with Spezza and Heatley.  Foglino, Lee and Zubov are trying to earn a roster spot.  I give Foglino the best shot at it, for the time being but keep an eye on Zubov.  If he continues to score every game he plays, it’s going to create some interesting dynamics.  His game is probably not mature enough (read: defensively responsible enough) to earn a spot next to Spezza this year; not to mention that he’s a center, but he could maybe be the third member of a Fisher/Alfie line if Fish would move to a wing and they are both very responsible players.  I don’t want to get ahead of the game with this, so don’t go out and spend a 15th round pick on the hopes that Zubov will stick.

Just heard from the mouth of Dean Brown, “….[he looks like] some sort of body double for the Exorcist.  Not sure to whom he was referring as I was busy thinking about Zubov. 

 Sens close out the shutout for Gerber.  He stops ALL 52 SHOTS HE FACED.  Next game is in Ottawa on Thursday against the Capitals.  Hope to hear the Sens challenging Ovechkin in that one and expect to see all the afore-mentioned scratches, save Fisher in that one.

Welcome to Hockeyschlock!!

September 18, 2007

corner.gifWithin these pages, I will be talking hockey, hockey players, hockey writers, hockey pucks and hockey schlockey with an Ottawa Senators bent.  I’m new to the world of blog creation, so at least to begin, these pages will be crude and simple….but then so am I. 

The Senators get underway with their first preseason game tonight.  (more on that later)

 I wouldn’t exactly say that the Senators have been busy this offseason, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.  Here are a list of transactions and my thoughts on each:

 The Senators replaced GM, John Muckler with Head Coach, Bryan Murray.  I guess building a Stanley Cup winner in Anaheim and then getting beat by them in the finals earns you a promotion.  Before he was shown the door, former GM, John Muckler re-signed free agent to be, Dean McAmmond for two years at $875M per.  McAmmond fits well with the Sens as he is fast and versatile.  He is typically a third or fourth line player with the Senators, but can fill in on the top lines if necessary.  He also kills penalties.  Good signing, Mucks! 

Muckler also signed Oleg Saprykin, who was promptly persuaded by new GM, Bryan Murray to sign in Russia by telling him that he wouldn’t see time above the fourth line.  Reversal!  Two points for Murray.  Murray continued his tinkering of the roster by trading Peter Schaefer, who has a knack with board work and some talent, but earned the ire of Murray by not shooting enough.  Out goes 40 to 50 points and $2MM in salary.  Coming back from Boston was Shean Donovan, who had his best year with 42 points for Calgary the year before the lockout, but had more recently been relegated to 4th line duty.  The Sens save better than $1MM in salary with the move.  Next, Murray avoided arbitration with goalie Ray Emery, by signing him for 3 years at $3.1MM per.  Emery comes to camp with a bum wrist that required surgery and some off ice troubles including a couple of car accidents, some anger issues and a number of rumours.  Also resigned were Christoph Schubert, who played mostly as a 4th line winger, but is a natural defenseman, and fellow defensemen Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov for 3 years each; they form the shut down defensive pairing.  Walking via free agency was last year’s top scoring defenseman, Tom Preissing who returned to sunny California.  He will be missed, but is not irreplaceable.

Notable moves that were not made include Joe Corvo and Martin Gerber for whom Murray could not find a reasonable trading partner.  There was a deal worked out that would have moved Wade Redden and his $6.5MM paycheck but Redds nixed that with his no-trade clause.   

 The Senators will be looking at a couple of rookies to possibly take 1 or 2 roster spots and they are rumoured to be in the market for a top 6 forward. 

That’s the majority of the roster news.  I will address further roster possibilities at a later time, but now I’m off to give a listen to the game against the Flyers.