Back On The Blog

December 27, 2008

hartsburg1

[Hello to you Hammers coming over from Iain Dale’s blog.  Just thought I’d let you know I’m a Spurs supporter.  We don’t need Bellamy because Keane is on his way back to White Hart Lane]

Some of you might have thought I was just being lazy with my one sentence review of the Flyers game and it would not be a huge stretch to assume such a thing about me, but it really isn’t accurate this time.   I’m just a little angry about my team and when I see such a lack luster effort (I’m not one of those fans who mistakes scoring goals with putting in effort) and I’ve been watching that same effort for the better part of the season, it just leads me to one conclusion.  It’s a conclusion that I can hardly bare to write; one that Bryan Murray cannot pull off with a straight face; one that King Biovail won’t be very happy about. 

The Senators have to fire Craig Hartsburg.  They have to do it now.

Exhibit A
On a snowy, icy, rainy night in Newark, the Senators looked very much under the weather. So much so, when I asked one Devils player about the opposition after the game, he responded by saying, “No heart.” Then he backtracked a bit, saying: “They looked disinterested; you could see it in their faces.”

Exhibit B
I watched the 2nd and 3rd periods of the Flyers game.  I didn’t see one; not even ONE meaningful hit from the Senators.

and Exhibit C
“Certainly I thought we went out and did something about it,” said Hartsburg, who also was confused as to why Lehtinen wasn’t thrown in the box.

“In a hockey game like that, you need to respond with constant physical play. Guys like (Chris) Neil, (Jarkko) Ruutu and (Cody) Bass did that. That was as physical a game as we’ve played, and a lot of it happened after that point. It was a strong response by our team.”

And lastly, Exhibit D

Let’s see if I can pull this all together:  The opposition knows you’re not playing hard.  Your fans know you’re not playing hard.  Your coach thinks that playing a physical game is a good response instead of a way of life and you’re in 12th place in the conference.  If that’s not enough, the coach also thinks that putting Jason Spezza with Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Neil is a recipe for success.

Hartsburg said if Spezza doesn’t have success playing with rugged wingers Jarkko Ruutu and Chris Neil, the next stop could be the press box for one of the club’s highest-paid players.

It’s pretty clear to me that Hartsburg does not have the attention of this team.  I don’t know exactly why that would be; whether it’s that they don’t respect his systems, his decisions or his methods, but whatever it is they’re not playing for Hartsburg and they’re apparently, not playing for each other either.  Here’s a comment I posted on The Sixth Sens (he sees Daigle people) website in regards to sticking up for Alfie when Jere Lehtinen squashed him into the boards.

free willig said…
Here’s the reason sticking up for Alfie is worth more than 2 points. Because if we’re not willing to stand up for Alfie, (or anyone else for that matter) then other teams can just run our guys without fear and pretty soon we’re playing our entire Bingo team (literally or literally). And, I would also argue that a team that is not willing to stick up for each other is not a team that has any chance in the playoffs. If you’re not playing for each other, you’re going nowhere. Lastly, your suggestion of Kelly (or someone of his ilk) challenging Lehtinen is EXACTLY what should have happened. It’s not about sending a heavyweight (if we had one) out to beat Jere to a pulp; the code is about making him accountable in a fair fight. That’s all I would ask. Lastly, (really this time) There is nothing to say that this would be mutually exclusive with gaining two points and it usually charges up your team.In finishing (no really), it bothers me when people who lay a clean check are made to drop the gloves. That’s just ridiculous, but Lehtinen’s hit was not clean. Not penalized, but not clean.        

To be sure, there are other issues with this team.   There’s not one defenseman on the team who is a threat to carry the puck up ice and make a play and honestly, I’m convinced that if we had just one such defenseman, you would see some of our forwards come out of their scoring slumps as offensive pressure from the backend opens up space for the forwards.  But, one thing you can always control and the one thing you absolutely have to bring to the rink every night ESPECIALLY if you’re challenged a bit offensively, is a physical game.  And that, my friends is coaching or lack thereof. 

In closing, is anyone else getting tired of the same quotes from the coach “we’re not putting in a 60 minute effort” and players “we’ve got to be better” after every loss.  Please find something new.

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You Decide

December 24, 2008

I watched the 2nd and 3rd periods of the Flyers game.  I didn’t see one; not even ONE meaningful hit from the Senators.

A Farce United!

December 22, 2008

a-farce-united

We tried it their way and they ended up doing it our way instead.  So, the Ottawa Bloggers Collective decided to make a campaign out of it.  Check out the other ads in the campaign.   There’s the Cynical;  there’s the Heart Wrencher; the Heart Wrencher and Serious; and the I Don’t Know What.  No, really….I have no idea what he’s doing.  I call mine, Man Contemplates  Turnaround.

If you would like to join the campaign, email your photos and a brief description to anyone in the Ottawa Bloggers Collective.  Bring your funny stick!

Take Another Sip From The Bowl Of Fetid Putrescence

December 21, 2008

toilet-22

And that from a game the Senators won.  It was abundantly clear that this was a game between two struggling teams.   The best part was really the end; partly because it was mercifully over and partly because Jason Smith got the game winner in overtime; his first point as a Senator.  Yes, his FIRST POINT.  You’d think in 30 games, he would have lucked into a second assist or something, but no.  The way the Sens celebrated, you would have thought they’d just won a playoff series.  Oy!

Gerber has a stinky five hole.
This was easily the worst game I’ve seen Martin Gerber play.  Anyone who has followed the Senators at all knows just what a powerful statement that is.  The Dallas announcers were even making fun of him.  One of the niceties of having Centre Ice, is that every now and then, you get a telecast that doesn’t take you to commercial but you continue to get the announcer’s conversation at commercial breaks.  These guys were really making shit out of Gerber and then they toned it down a bit but kept it going during the telecast.  “This thing looks like it’s headed to a three point game here again tonight….barring another shot on goal at Gerber’s end….”.  Hilarious!!

We use words like honor, code, loyalty….
The Senators use them as a punchline.  Alfie gets cleaned out and sent to the lockerroom on an illegal hit from Jere Lehtinen.  I do not care that it wasn’t penalized.  No one watching that game would argue it was a clean hit.  Even the Dallas announcers thought it deserved a penalty and I would say it deserved 5 minutes.  There was no answer by any Senator.  The fact that it wasn’t penalized should further dictate that retribution is exacted.  This is your CAPTAIN, you jackasses!  The one player on the team this team that absolutely deserves better than this putrescent season and you can’t even stand up and be counted when he’s cleaned out?  

And I thought I was embarrassed by this team up until now.

This win means nothing.  Sure, Vermette got off the schneid with his first goal in forever.  (how does someone get ON the schneid?)  Sure Spezza looked like he gave a shit (Heatley still doesn’t).  Sure Cody Bass would have hit his mother if she was on the ice.   This was still a win against a bottom feeder.   Win the next two and then we’ll talk.

The Lonely End Of The Rink

December 20, 2008

If I had money in a gambling account, I’d bet against the Senators tonight.  Oh, lookie there; I do.  First time I’ve ever laid a wager against the Senators.  It feels funny; like I have headcheese in my shoes.  

I don’t expect a thing from the Senators tonight.  The Devils are hot and the Senators are playing with 4 revamped lines, so chemistry will be an issue at best; comedic at worst. 

I am immediately rewarded for my insolence with a Devils goal a mere 40 seconds into the contest.   Wheee!  Luckily, this torture is going to be broken up as I must leave shortly to take my wife to dinner.

[cue the elevator music]

I’m back; that was some good mahi mahi.  The Senators gave up a power play goal just as I was turning on the car to listen on XM.  I promptly shut it off and went with music.   

Laugh It Up
Doc Emrick, play by play man for the Devils; known in hockey circles as one of the best at what he does, has been referring to Alex Picard as Alexandra Picard (presumably because it’s spelled, Alexandre) and Christoph Schubert as Christian Schubert.  He has a block with Schubert’s name as I’ve heard him make that mistake in the past. 

Other funny stuff includes the afore mentioned Christoph Schubert falling down a lot and the Senators trying to enter the offensive zone when no one has a clue where their linemates are going.   It’s a regular 3 car pile up. It’s also hilarious watching the Sens try to exit the defensive zone.  Oh, and all these goals they’re giving up are gut busters too.   Remember when at least our penalty kill was good?  Senators lose 5-1.  What laughs!! 

My 42 inch plasma for a number 1 defenseman.
The answers are not going to come from within.  The Senators will likely roll up 3 more losses before the Christmas roster freeze is over.  They have a chance against Dallas, but it’s not a good chance after traveling tonight while Dallas sits in Ottawa and watches them play the Devils.  Road games at Philly and Calgary you can pretty well write off.  If this happens, the Senators will likely be 12 points out of a playoff spot.  The only question is whether they retool a touch or trade a piece of the core.  I guess they could just continue to suck and take a shot at the first pick in the draft, but after Melnyk came out and said they’d be in the top 4 teams in the conference, I doubt that’s the course they’re looking for. 

An Ottawa scout was in Minnesota this week; discuss.

That Thud You Heard?

December 17, 2008

Was the sound of my crest falling so hard it was felt in Ottawa.  I’m not going to say I don’t care about the Senators.  I will always care.  What changed for me last night?  I was no longer surprised, hurt or angry about losing to yet another team we should beat.  I will also no longer be able to summon joy when we win.  The wins won’t matter because this team is going nowhere unless there are changes in personnel.  I’m not interested in a trade for trades sake.   It has to be a good hockey move.  There are too many possibilities out there to speculate on what that might look like.  We’ll know a good hockey trade when we see it. 

No Longer Dejectedly Yours,

Free Willig
Hockey Schlock

Ants On Ice In Red Shirts, 2. Ants On Ice In White Shirts, 0.

December 16, 2008

At which game, one Freewillig was heard to have said, “My gawd, we’re even worse in person”. 

The Worst Thanksmas Ever
I happened to be in Milwaukee for Thanksmas last week, so I grabbed the wife, bro-in-law and his wife and made the trip down the Chi-town for the good ‘ol hockey match at the United Center; that souless, hollow, life-sucking cavern of a basketball court hockey rink.  Our seats were at center ice, 13th row of the upper deck.  In most hockey arenas, those wouldn’t be half bad, but here…..well….let’s just say that I was able to identify most of the players on the ice by their skating style and nothing else. 

I have more than enough Senators’ sweaters for everyone so we were some of the few decked out in Sens gear.  I was wearing my Havlat sweater for it’s ironic qualities and I would later come to regret that particular move.  We had planned to get to the arena by 6:30 for a 7:30 game, but if you’re at all familiar with Chicago traffic, you won’t be surprised to hear that we pulled in to the parking lot with just enough time to get a beer and get to the seats for the anthems.  (I don’t ever want to hear the operatic version of O Canada “sung” by the guy at the United Center again.  Yick!)   My wife has a friend (he played guitar at our wedding, actually) who is a manager of the food service at the United Center so he had promised to get us into the bowels of the building.  I had a quest; one which will not be fully revealed in this space just yet but more on that later.   The friend (we’ll just call him “Steve”….that’s his name) said he’d just catch up with us after the game and show us around then.

The Peroni Report
Most of the game, I spent with my head in my hands; alternately disgusted with the Senators’ play or with the complete stoning by Huet on the few great chances we had.  I’m sure this game was not as bad as it looked from the haze of the upper deck; it’s a torturously slow game from that far away.  Luckily, I was sitting next to some very nice Hawks fans, so I had some decent hockey conversation AND they have Italian beef sandwiches and Peroni at the United Center so not all was lost. 

Postgame and I Fear I’ve Jinxed Our Boy
Steve showed up at our seats with 30 seconds left in the game.  I thought we were just headed for a tour, but instead, he leads us to the autograph pen.  I had brought along a t-shirt to deliver to Cody Bass and that was my main goal for the evening; getting the shirt to Cody any way possible.  That seemed like it would be no problem at all now that I was behind the scenes. 

This is where having 4 sweaters along paid off.  I took off my Havlat sweater and was wearing my Cody Bass t-shirt.  Marty Havlat passed within 2 feet of me and I gave some thought to asking him to sign my sweater, but it just seemed weird.  Wife thought it would have been flattering, but I don’t know.  Some of the guys filed past and I gave a few words of encouragement; some of which were acknowledged and some just blown off.  I even gave the Manatee a “nice game”.  Heater had a group of kids from Madison, Wisconsin in attendance.  I guess he still does some charity work there, so he was occupied.  I didn’t have my Heater sweater along anyway.   The guys were remarkably good about signing stuff for the few Sens fans in the pen, given just how crappily they had played.   Alfie came by and signed the sweater my sister-in-law was wearing.  My wife has always like Neiler because he’s always really good to the kids along the tunnel at the Xcel when they play there, so he signed the sweater she was wearing.  Fish then came out and I flag him down to sign the sweater my bro-in-law was wearing.  I had Cody’s shirt in my hand, so I asked Fish “Is Cody still in the room?  I have to get this t-shirt to him”.  He looked at me and I pointed out the shirt I was wearing.  He laughed and said “I can give it to him”.  I guess there’s no one I’d trust more to pass something along.  I told him I really appreciated it. 
 
We had already been there an hour and with a two hour drive, we decided not to wait anymore.  Our friend walked us around in the underworld and I passed within two feet of Scotty Bowman, so that was a treat.  I was struck by just how freakin short the guy is. 
 
I think it would have been a helluva lot better experience had they not played like such shit in the game; I would have been much more chatty with the guys but all in all, I guess I’m just happy to be able to ‘mail the package’.  I will freely admit that it was quite weird being a 40 something guy, asking guys 10 years my junior for autographs.  It’s the first time I’ve gotten autographs in person.  Not sure how I feel about it. 
As you probably know by now, Cody Bass has been sent to Binghamton.  The unveiling of the T-shirt will just have to wait.  I hope he liked it. 

Me Sees Feces

December 9, 2008

A game-ish
That was an experience I don’t want to repeat.  Due to injuries, the two most dangerous players on the ice for Florida were Bouwmeester and McCabe and the Senators pissed the first two periods down their collective leg.  When is this bunch going to get it into their heads that they’re not good enough to take any team in this league, lightly.  And that’s what it was folks; plain and simple.   If I’m Jay Bouwmeester, I’m thinking “why in hell would I want to play here?”  If we play like this on Wednesday, we’re going to get Coyote’d

The highlight of the night for me was Garry Galley saying, ” Better be aware of Florida’s backside”

I’m out
I’m on vacation through Monday, which includes taking in the game in Chicago on Wednesday.   I look forward to writing that report for a great many reasons. 

Asshat
Let’s talk about other stuff.  Erin had an interesting post about the Avery ordeal.  I’ll admit that I’m one of those guys who was embarrassed for manhood by what Avery said.  I never engaged in “locker room talk” even when I was regularly in locker rooms, so to hear it out loud and caught on camera offends my sensibilities.  So, tonight when my wife got home, I asked her the question.  She had heard about the Avery thing (and she pays zero attention to hockey; when she goes to a game, she spends 60 minutes talking to her friend), but didn’t know specifically what he’d said.   I laid out the entire scenario for her.  Her response?  “That’s not so bad.  That seems like a really long suspension for THAT” 

What it boils down to really, is that the NHL and the Dallas Stars are tired of Avery’s act.  The punishment doesn’t fit the particular crime, but Avery is being punished for years of just being a huge dick (even guys use terms to slag their own gender).  He broke a different Code; he didn’t leave it on the ice and everyone is more than happy to pounce on this opportunity to rid themselves of a menace.  Amazingly, Avery had never been suspended before and it’s because he had made his comments to guys while inside the boards.  And that’s where the hypocrisy of the NHL is so evident.  As long as the general public doesn’t get wind of it; so what!  I’m sure he’s said things that would make most of us want to rip out his knee caps.  Rumours of racial slurs abound and he made a cancer “joke” to Jason Blake.  

I will not be the least bit saddened if I never see Sean Avery in the NHL again, but I think the Stars are just happy to have a “reason” to rid themselves of this guy.  And honestly, I’d like to cut the guy a *little* slack and think that his request to get counseling is NOT just a ploy to “look like I’m doing the right thing”, but I just don’t buy it.  I think he saw the reaction of the Stars organization and thought “I really stepped in it this time…I better think of something quick”.

Have a nice career in the KHL, Sean.  Watch out for staph infections.

Brian Burke
Will be a colossal failure in Toronto.  And by that, I mean he will never get the team any farther than Pat Quinn did.  He’s got a few years grace period and 3 years from now when the Leafs finally make the playoffs again, everyone will say what a great job he’s done getting there, but three year’s after that, the Leafs will be no closer to a Cup.  Vancouver was a perennial playoff team while he was there, but no more.  The Ducks won a cup mostly because Bryan Murray drafted well.  Burke was smart enough to know that he was staring at a losing proposition in Anaheim.  The team has no where to go but down.  They’ll be losing some key components in the next couple years.  Neidermayer and Selanne will be gone to retirement.   Pronger will be a free agent.  The prospect cupboard is pretty bare for the Ducks.   (this sounds all too familiar).  Burke simply got out at an opportune time.   And now he’s on to the Leafs.  His personality is big enough to deal with Toronto, but his acumen is not enough to fix what’s ails them.

Oh, For The Love Of Pete!!

December 8, 2008

This is the last time I’m even going to acknowledge it……..

They HAVE to stop with this weekly four car pile up;  STOP IT!  JUST STOP IT.

I Think I’ve Seen These Guys Somewheres Before

December 7, 2008

This holiday season, I’m thankful for the love of a good woman, a warm fire on a cold night, the singing of birds, and the Centre Ice Package.  I love having the Centre Ice Package, but I have two complaints:  1; For the majority of games, Centre Ice will show the feeds from both the home and away telecasts (to the extent that there are two telecasts of the games), but in the case where the game is coming from Canada, we in the US do not get the game in high definition even if it’s broadcast that way (and they all are).  2;  If the second telecast is a game being broadcast nationally in Canada on TSN or CBC, we don’t get their feed at all and are relegated to the local schluff.   Given the choice, I generally will watch a Canadian telecast because the quality of announcing is such a step up, that is worth giving up high definition.  There are a few exceptions (hi Doc Emrick; Billy Jaffe how ya doin’) but I don’t watch a lot of their games to begin with. 

The Senators have seen a LOT of the Penguins over the past two years.   This is the third of four meetings this season and we’ve have a couple of playoff matchups each of the last two years as well.  Familiarity breeds contempt in the NHL so I’m looking forward to this one.  The last game I thought the Senators really gave a full effort was against the Penguins last March. 

Pregame
Steigerwald and Errey start off with “you gotta love Lyndon Slewidge”.  Alright, that’s a nice bit of love.  I’ll take it.

First Period
Ruutu, Bass and Neil start the game.  I’m liking the message that sends: “Get’s yer asses puckered boys, it’s gonna be a rough one”.   Fisher’s line with Vermette  and Donovan also look like they want to hit and it takes a bit to get a hit out of either Vermette or Donovan; for the love of Christ, why don’t we do this every game.  I guess the Penguins bring out the best in the Senators. 

Steigerwag says Neil isn’t a heavyweight; that he won’t fight Godard?  Bullshit he won’t!  Chris Neil is valuable simply because he’s not an embarrassment on a regular shift AND he’s willing to drop ’em with the heavyweights.  He’s not going to win a lot of those bouts but he has my respect for stepping up.  Here’s a guy who wrestles with guys 40 pounds his better and gets in, and takes decent shots. 

The Pizza line is dominating early, but Sabourin looks sharp…how does that happen?  I guess the same way it happens for Mount Bauldinator; some guys just take longer to find themselves in the NHL and it generally happens this way with goalies, defensemen and Markus Naslund. 

Look at me; I’m not bored
Very entertaining first 10 minutes for a 0-0 game.  The Senators are all over the Pens.  Shots are 8-2 and the Sens have hit the post on a gaping (I love that word) net.  Still, the Penguins have missed on some passes to wide open skaters in shooting position so it seems they’re not really clicking today.

Steigerwad waxes “Shean Don with blinding speed.”  Oh please…the man skates well; above average.  Keep the hyperbole to yourself.

And that’s the best hit I’ve seen this year
Alex Picard got completely cleaned out by Brooks Orpik when trying to hold the puck in the zone.  Good on Picard for trying, but WOW, what a jolt!  The physical play really picked up for the last 2 minutes of the first period.  Both teams got in some good licks.   

Period two
Alfie blocked a shot on our end and then left the ice for the dressing room, after which, Spezza scores on a wrap around and the Sens finally get off the schneide.  It’s probably not that long ago, but it seems forever since the Sens had a lead in the first period.

We’re halfway through the game and there hasn’t been a penalty from either side.   This is probably a very good thing since the Penguins power play is some Lon Chaney- hairy ass-scary shit. 

Welcome back, Kotter
Alfie back on  the ice with 11:15 left in the 2nd and lookie what we have here…another goal by Jason Spezza.   2-0.

I’m gonna pound you, sucka….or something…..
As I said, bullshit that Neiler won’t go with Godard and he did ok too.   He gets inside and unleashes a few upper cuts, but takes some bombs to the side of the head.  Stick tap for you, Neiler!

Oh, my fargin’ head
Brooks Orpik has had quite a game; first he lays out Picard and then he runs the Spezz Dispenser into the turn buckle.  I’m impressed Spezza got up off the ice after his head was rammed into the glass; not only that, but he got up Giggling.  There are going to be tough times ahead, challenges to be faced, blind passes to the other team, but I’m willing to take my chances with Giggles.   

You feel shame
The Sens take a couple penalties in the middle of the stanza and the second one burns them.  It was really one of the headiest play I’ve seen by Crosby; he makes a slap pass from the wall to Staal in the slot.  Staal needed only to angle his stick to put it past Auld from 15 feet away.  The brilliance was the pass; Crosby with the deception first, and putting it right where it needed to be second.  Awesome! 

Say hello to my little…uh…. hat (hee hee)
Giggles bounces one off Letang from behind the net for the hattrick.   One manifestation of all the criticism Spezz has taken is that he’s shooting the puck much more.  Dare I say he’ll be over 3 shots/game this year? 

Third period
Anton Volchenkov clearly likes a challenge.  He has been absolutely stellar defending Crosby all day.  The fact that he doesn’t get a lot of mention in this space should just make you feel good about him.  And it was a mere 4 years ago that people were questioning whether or not he had it in him.  Here endeth the question.

Pittsburgh is really forechecking hard now.  Senators are going to have to figure out a new route out of the zone because the Penguins are sitting on the “around the boards” move.  It seems a great many teams have figured out that the Senators go around the boards too often to clear the zone and the forecheck sits on it. 

Last call for bus service to Morrisburg, Watertown, Syracuse and Binghamton
Brendan Bell shows why he’s spent 5 years in the minors.  On a Senators power play, he whiffs on a pass and then half asses it back while Malkin walks in for a shorty. 3-2  How Bell didn’t recognize the danger of Malkin is beyond me.  He seemed paralyzed by the failure of the pass.  I’m sensing that the ‘boy’ has a 10 cent head. 

I’m not convinced
The Senators withstood the final flurry by the Penguins and held on for a win; a good win at that.  But, I really don’t believe this cast of characters will be good enough to get it done.   When you’re relying on Shean Donovan to be an answer to your secondary scoring issue…well….that’s just a recipe that leaves you with burnt toast.  With that type of effort, they will win their share of games and maybe even make the playoffs….if they bring that effort.  But, that’s not really enough, now is it.