Archive for November, 2007

Spezza’s Back

November 15, 2007

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Spezza will be back making Pizza tonight.  Nick Foglino will be playing Bingo.  I will be incommunicado for the next 9 days.  Enjoy Thanksgiving if you’re into that sort of thing.

Oh, and if any of you are planning to be at the Canes game in Raleigh tomorrow night, look me up.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be the only person in the arena wearing a Senators sweatshirt.

Habtastic!

November 13, 2007

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The Emery crap just keeps getting better (or worse, depending upon your perspective).  Even small children will start turning their backs on him.   From TSN:

 While the team began doing some hard skating drills 50 minutes into practice, Ray Emery left the ice due to back spasms, he did it [hurt himself] while playing baseball on Sunday.

Keep up the good work, Ray.

On to the game….The Saturday match against the Habs was the best hockey game I’ve ever seen in November.  The atmosphere, attitude and affort (I’m a sucker for alliteration) were outstanding.  Anyone who thinks a 1-1 game (which this was for 55 minutes) can’t be exciting is just plain nuts.  Highlights were:

Kelly stepping into the middle of a Heatley after-whistle scrap to stick up for his superstar teammate (Heatley, 220 pounds, Kelly 200 pounds).

And, I got a huge kick out of Eaves and Koivu getting 4 minute double minors for their “fight”.  I guess if your punch can’t break a pretzel, you’re spared the fighting major.  Hilarious!

Spezza

Jason Spezza skated with the team today and is expected to be in the  lineup on Thursday.  Given the effort of Fisher in Spezza’s absence, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fisher remained with Alfreddson, while the Spezza and Heatley duo remains in tact.  Most likely subjects to play third wheel on the top two lines in this scenario would be Eaves, Neil, Robitaille and McAmmond, which would be important fantasy-wise if some chemistry develops.  Of course, Paddock can always throw the Pizza line back together and it’s all moot.  I’ll be keeping a close eye on this.

Conspiracy Theorists Unite

November 9, 2007

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I would like to say a few words about Ray Emery, but let’s get some boring fantasy stuff out of the way first.

Mike Fisher has been playing with Alfredsson and Heatley both 5 on 5 and on the power play.  Corvo and Redden continue to man the power play points.  The 2nd unit has been Schubert, Meszaros, Vermette, Eaves and Robitaille.   Spezza still out and they’re hoping for his return on Thursday.

That’s enough of that. 

There have been some interesting quotes in Ottawa papers lately.

Senators coach John Paddock decided to give Emery the start against the Caps because, “it’s his turn to play.” But Paddock didn’t give Emery a ringing endorsement when it came to discussing his work ethic in practice.

“I don’t think (his work habits are) any different than last year,” said Paddock. “That doesn’t mean it’s exactly where you want it. But each player has a right to prepare the way they want to prepare. It might not be what we want and it might not be the best, but, over time if you think there’s a tweaking needed, you make (an adjustment).

You can expect Gerber to start against the Montreal Canadiens Saturday which would be a pretty strong indication of where Emery stands.

“(Gerber) has been unbelievable,” said centre Mike Fisher. “The way (Gerber) practises, competes, his character and the way he works out in the room, I’m not really surprised.”

The above was from an article yesterday.  In terms of players and coaches talking about teammates, this is pretty strong stuff.  Clearly, no one is really impressed with Emery’s work habits and that puts into question his committment to “team”.  Fisher wasn’t directly addressing Emery, but read between the lines and there is a clear implication that he feels Gerber does have that committment to team.

Add to all of this that Emery wasn’t very good in the third period, giving up 4 to the Thrashers and then he gives up another 4 to the Capitals last night and has THIS to say: 

“I’ve got to make a couple of saves, but at the same time no one had their best effort,” said Emery.

I’m going to stop short of saying that Emery may not be popular in the Senators’ room, but if he’s not, this kind of shot at his teammates is not going to help, even if it may be the truth.   I will also stop short of saying that the Senators’ players are selling Emery out in games; that’s just unprofessional, but they certainly haven’t brought their best efforts in the last 4 periods Emery has been in net.  I will say this; a dressing room divided is not what the Sens need at this point, or any point in this season (not that I’m saying it is). 

Ok, on to happier items; let’s talk about Patrice Bergeron.

The debate about the hit Randy Jones laid on Patrice Bergeron has been lively and fraught with illogic.  Here’s an example:

“…..yes that suspension IS indeed a joke. Any player who injures another player should be kept from the game as long as the other player is out”

Fighting through the unclarity of phrasing, this person (and many others) have suggested that Jones should be suspended as long as Bergeron cannot play.  Let’s examine this a bit.  The hit on Bergeron was a penalty.  It was called a penalty.  Jones is responsible for his play and this was clearly an illegal hit.  There are penalties called every night on players who check from behind and probably not enough of them if the league treated checking from behind with the zero tolerance that they reserve for hooking.  (whether or not they should, is another debate and I’ll get to that below)

Here is where the argument that a player should be suspended as long as the injured player is out, falls apart.  A scenario for you:

Marian Gaborik trips Brad May and with his built up head of steam, May goes head first into the boards and separates his shoulder.  He’s out two months and Gaborik gets suspended until May comes back.  

Anyone knows that Gaborik wasn’t trying to hurt May.  May happened to get hurt on the play and now we are suspending Gaborik because his penalized play resulted in an injury.  This is the same situation as the Jones hit.  They were both plays that happen regularly in the NHL.  Neither play is intended to injure another player.

The intent of Jones has to be taken into consideration.  The general consensus on the Jones hit was that he was not attempting to injure Bergeron.   There are a few out there who disagree with this, but most people who watch a lot of hockey tend to agree on this point (and so does Colin Campbell, apparently).  Further penalizing a player based on the resulting injury when there is no intent to injure, is the most illogical argument I’ve ever heard.

I am going to say this loudly and clearly:  I DO NOT BLAME PATRICE BERGERON FOR THE HIT HE TOOK FROM JONES.  But, this does not mean that Bergeron does not have some responsibility for his own safety.  I am not even going to address whether Bergeron turns to make himself more vulnerable.  That’s not what this is about.  I am referring to how players coming into the league these days are conditioned to feel safe and do not always act in the best interest of their own safety.  Bergeron was raised in a hockey environment where children wear Stop signs on their backs to remind each other not to check from behind.  In this environment, it goes without saying that children will stop worrying about getting hit from behind. 

If you look at the play on which Bergeron was injured, as he skating into the corner, he does not even take a peek over his shoulder to see if there was anyone bearing down on him.  He’s been conditioned over his lifetime not to worry about such things.  Ten years ago, you would be hard pressed to find a similar play where the player going after the puck did NOT take a peek to see where pressure may be coming from. 

Another consideration is that without the red line in play for 2 line pass offsides, there seems to be more propensity for teams to play dump and chase which leads to more heavy forechecks which leads to more hits from behind in an attempt to separate the puck from the defensemen.  It also seems that most of these checks from behind do not lead to penalty calls unless someone gets hurt. 

I don’t know what the answer is.  I don’t want to see Stop signs on the back of my favorite NHL players.  I also don’t want to see every single check being scrutinized for a possible penalty call, but the combination of factors; players conditioned to play without fear because of Stop signs and equipment that makes them feel invincible, and with the speed of today’s players, I feel fairly certain that more Bergeron type injuries are in our future unless the league figures this out.

Spezza and Other Stuff

November 3, 2007

429248987.jpg  This is a man who can afford an expensive cup of coffee and a new suit.  More on that in a bit.

Reports on Spezza’s groin are that he could not have played today if there was a game.  I’m guessing that he won’t be ready this weekend, and let’s face it; the Sens are in a position where they can wait. 

Robitaille’s face is fine after last night’s belly flop so I expect him back on the Pizza line for the weekend.  He could have played in the third period last night, but the Sens were up 5-0, so they told him to get into his street clothes for the night.  Unfortunately, the rest of the Senators thought the training staff was talking to them. 

Here’s something interesting:  Jason Blake, of the Toronto Maple Leafs no less, said that the Senators are the most difficult team to play against.  And, those of you who know hockey, know that when a player says something like that, they’re not only talking about the talent level of the team.  They’re referring to the grit and hustle as well.  I’m sure Darcy Tucker got in Blake’s ear to discuss this with him.  Something along the lines of “you can respect the Senators, but don’t ever tell anyone that you do”.  I’m sure the last thing the Leafs (and their fans) want the Senators to know is that the Sens are in the heads of the Leafs players.  That role had been reversed, at least in the playoffs.  Jason Blake, bless his soul, just gave away some of the Leafs’ Mystique.  I see they didn’t bench him for tonight.  Maybe that mystique was already gone.  I know it has been for me.

Today, Jason Spezza received a 7 year, $49 million contract extension from the Senators.  On the face of it, that’s good news for the Senators.  He’s a very talented hockey player and his chemistry with Dany Heatley is well documented.  I know Leafs Nation was hoping they could get their hooks into him when his contract was up, given that he’s from the Toronto area.  Again, I repeat….NOT EVERYONE ON THE PLANET HAS A BURNING DESIRE TO PLAY FOR THE LEAFS.

[as an aside, I’m watching the Leafs right now and they look like they’re still tired from their bag skate two days ago.]

Anyway, back to Spezza….When the Senators signed Heatley for $7.5 million/season, this is the number I had pegged for Spezza to keep him in a Senator’s uniform (and I believe I predicted they would sign him in a post just a few days ago).  The ramifications of this signing are many.  First of all, let’s talk about Daniel Alfredsson and his $4.3 million paycheck.  That’s what he’s getting paid this year and through 2012, according to The Hockey News.  I have to admit, I thought his contract expired after next season.  The Hockey Talking Heads were talking about either a club or player option; perhaps that’s where the other 3 years come from.  Of course, it’s pretty important which side has the option, if that’s indeed the case.  In any case, people from the outside might be looking at this, and the way Alfie has played the last two seasons, and wonder if some professional jealously might creep in.  Heatley and Spezza are both very skilled hockey players, but Alfredsson is not a huge leap behind them in that department and he is the glue that holds it all together.  While I personally feel for Alfredsson in this scenario (sure, he still makes a little more money than I do), my guess is that even if this does bother Alfie, no one will ever know it and you’ll never notice it on the ice.  That’s just the kind of person he seems to be.   When Muckler was GM, he had a policy that no player would make more than Alfredsson.  It might have been ego stroke, but it’s more likely that Mucks just used it as a bargaining chip, “Who do you think you are?  You wanna make more than Daniel Alfredsson?”  My sense is that Alfredsson is just very happy playing and living in Ottawa and my guess is that you will see him in a front office role for the Senators when he hangs up the blades. 

Well, there’s much more to it than just Alfredsson, unfortunately.  The Senators now have $42 million in salaries committed for next season.  They have 9 roster spots that don’t have contracts for next year.  The cap this year is $50 million.  I could see it going to $53 million for next season given the new jersey sales and the 17% increase in my Wild season ticket price.  So, if my arithmetic is correct, that’s $11 million for 9 roster spots, barring trades and they probably want to keep $2 million or so in the bank for call-ups and deadline deals, so $1 million for each roster spot. 

The Senators have Redden, Vermette, Kelly and Meszaros (among others) up for new contracts and none of the 4 are going to be willing to play for $1 million given the current market rates for players of their caliber.  I could see a player making $6.5 million foregoing $500,000 to play somewhere he likes, but it’s a completely different story for someone making $1 million.

Redden: Bryan Murray is saying all the right things, “We’re going to talk to Redden and see where they’re at.  We’d like to keep him in the mix.” (or something like that)  But, the reality is, even if they were to move a goalie and Joe Corvo, that is not likely to free up the space they would need to pay Redden his market value and for some reason, I don’t see him accepting a $3 to 4 million/year contract to stay.  (remember the 6500 square foot house he’s building in Kelowna?)  I would say the biggest question with Redden is whether or not they trade him at the deadline (or before) or whether they just take their shot at the Cup with him and let him walk when the season is done.  In my opinion, messing with chemistry at the deadline is just too dangerous for this team.  If Redden is still with the club much past Christmas, I’m thinking that he’s staying for the run.  That’s the long of it.  The short of it is that Sens fans should just get comfy with the fact that Redden won’t be with the team next season.  I think many of us are. 

The more interesting situations lie with Kelly, Vermette and Meszaros; all important role players for the team.  Kelly and Vermette make up one of the best penalty killing tandems in the league.  Meszaros is a good, young defenseman and if you’re paying attention to the league at all, you know that they don’t just grow on trees; or even very large bushes. 

Given that Volchenkov signed with the team for $2.5 million/season, Murray might be able to convince Meszaros that $2 million is the right number for him.  It’s likely that his actual market value is closer to $2.5 – 3 million.  The question becomes, is someone willing to float an offer sheet his way and can Murray convince him to sign for less before it becomes an issue? 

Kelly is getting more and more press, both in Ottawa and around the league.  His market value, even with his stoney hands, is probably $2 – 2.5 million.  Much like Fisher, he gladly does all the work that most hockey players do grudgingly or not at all.   He’s making $1.2 million this year.  If they can get him for $1.8 million, they’ve done well. 

Vermette can probably get $3 million elsewhere and he is probably the least likely to stay.  Murray didn’t show him much respect last year.  I’m not going to get into a I’m smarter than you war with Bryan Murray (mostly because he doesn’t know I exist, but more because I’m probably not), but I think Vermette has deserved a shot on one of the top two lines.  He’s fast and has nice hands.  Maybe his board work isn’t exemplary, but he back checks and that’s half the battle with most offensive forwards. 

That’s all I know (or can remember) for now.

 P.S.  Perhaps the saddest thing I’ve seen this year is fans in Edmonton doing “The Wave”.

Mail It In

November 2, 2007

122251423.jpgThe Senators played two good periods of hockey against the Thrashers, but the Sens’ faithful were quite nervous for the third.

Ray Emery faced a total of 6 shots through two period; none of them really testers.  The Thrashers missed the net on their three best chances and the Sens built a 5-0 lead.  It’s a good thing because the Rayzor looked as if he spent the last week shaving legs.  The Thrashers came back to 5-4 on the strength of a Kovalchuk hat trick and even had a power play for the last minute, but Alfie buried an empty netter with 18 seconds left for the 300th goal of his career.

Randy Robitaille started off on the top line with Alfredsson and Heatley and got 2 goals for his efforts.  He then left the game at the tail end of the 2nd period when he landed on his face.  With Spezza out for an undetermined length of time, you might want to give Robitaille a look if you have a weak forward spot.  It probably won’t be for more than 3 weeks or so, but you can pile up some stats in the mean time. 

[from the Ottawa Sun]  Jason Spezza (groin) didn’t play against the Thrashers last night. While there’s no timetable for his return, if the centre doesn’t skate with the Senators today it’s doubtful he’ll be ready tomorrow night’s visit by the Bruins. “It’s bad enough for me not to play (against Atlanta). I don’t really know about the weekend, we’re just going to have to see how it feels the next couple of days,” said Spezza. “It’s gotten a little bit better, but it’s still only happened a couple of days ago (Tuesday).” Spezza said he will try to skate today. “We’ll see how it feels,” said Spezza. “It doesn’t (feel good), we’re not going to push it. Maybe just try to go for a light skate. Right now, we’re just in wait and see mode. It’s tough to tell the severity and what kind of pain you’re going to get and not get, especially when you’re not able to skate. It feels like it’s getting better. If I do quicker stuff it still hurts. We’ll have a better idea once I’m able to get on the ice.”

I have to believe Gerber will get the call in the next game against the Bruins.  My guess is that Paddock will make the decision on who gets the start on the Sunday back-side of the back to back based on Gerber’s performance on Saturday.