Sunday, December 23, 2007

Nycholat Recalled to Play in New York

Lawrence Nycholat was recalled to the Sens today, to face the New York Rangers, one of his former teams. Nycholat has done well for the baby Sens, racking up 23 points in 31 games, good for second place on the team scoring charts.

The question remains though: who will Nycholat be replacing? Most likely bet would be Luke Richardson. Last night against the Hawks, Luke's age showed, as he was often outraced and outbattled for the puck. Bringing in the much more energetic Nycholat should help to keep the Rangers large scoring depth at bay, and hopefully we might get some additional scoring chances from him.

The only other possibilities would be that he is replacing Shubert, whose stick seemed to constantly repel the puck last night, or Mezaros, should his hurting foot finally put an end to his Ironman streak, so close to 200 games as it is.

Update 4:12pm - It turns out that he will be replacing Joe Corvo, who has a possibly strained groin.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sens Age Shows Against Young Hawks

Tonight, the Sens lost 4-3 in overtime in their one and only meeting this season against the Chicago Blackhawks. The game was exciting from end to end, even from the highest row in the arena, with the standing room crowd behind yelling loudly. For all the smooth moves at both ends of the ice, countless chances hit crossbars and posts, or trickled just wide of the net (including another Chris Neil from behind the net wraparound, nearly identical to the one he missed against Atlanta.)

The best work of the game, once again, came from the top line. Heatley scored two very nice goals, and Spezza and Alfie helping to set up good chances and keep the Hawks at bay. McAmmond's lovely outwait-the-goalie shorthanded goal and assist on Heatley's second goal make him the best surprise of the game.

The Hawks, however, outworked the Sens on countless occasions. For long stretches, the Sens looked like they did around this time last year, slow and clumsy. The young Jonathan Toews would score the OT winner with help from Patrick Sharp, who took the puck from Chris Phillips right in front of Emery. Many of the Young Bloods gave plenty in this outing, and the win was certainly fully earned.

The disappointments from the Sens were many. Chris Neil took two very bad and unnecessary penalties, and the second one lead to the game-tying goal at the start of the third. Meszaros once again showed us all why pinching is a bad idea nine times out of ten. By far the worst performance came from Emery. Some would say that he did well, making key saves, but all of those came from very easy to handle shots. At least two of the four goals were successful because of Emery's lack of lateral speed. His quick glove and stick hands have shown us many great saves, and the quick-twitch muscles, typical of boxers (of which he is a huge fan) help to make his upper-body a tough nut to crack. However, boxing rarely focuses at all on any legwork or speed, and it always shows in his side-to-side movement. Hopefully Emery can begin to understand this vital weakness and fix it, before he is completely usurped by the Darth Gerber. Hopefully though, our defensive end work can tighten up, and we will see the Sens bounce back tomorrow against the low-scoring Rangers.

At least there was the satisfaction that we were beat by Khabibulin, who has a Stanley Cup ring, and not ex-Sen Lalime. We can also be proud that we kept Havlat off the scoresheet. He rewarded us by reminding us why we traded him, leaving the game in the second period with a sore groin.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Mounting Snore Threat

First off, for anyone who ever came here to read my little blog, sorry for no posts in 2 months. University is harder than a Volchenkov hip-check, and I've only now found time to think about taking a side pause.

When I do pause to think of the NHL, I look at the headlines and statements from high-ranking officials and hear that growth is the name of the game. We want to reach more homes in the US, so we should be on ESPN. We want to generate excitement abroad, so we should start more seasons with more games and teams playing overseas, and play for the IIHF's Victoria Cup.

But when I look behind them at the game we're peddling, I see it slowly being eroded. Hockey is by far the fastest paced sport in North America, and one of the top major sports worldwide. This is starting to change though. Fans in Toronto cheered earlier in the season, when their Leafs were finally able to beat the Sens, 3-0, in their fourth matchup this season. Despite the win, though, one would have to wonder what there was to cheer about, or even to show up and watch.

The game was highlighted by a tight trap by Toronto, leading to most of the game being puck, sometimes with player, enters Leaf territory, puck gets sent back out. On the other end would be puck goes into Sens territory, occasionally followed by a single Leaf, and eventually maybe a second. While it worked, it was about the dullest hockey around. Leafs management knows that fans want wins, and they are rabid and carefree enough to not care how they come.

Is that so wise though? The Isles beat the Sens later on in their losing stretch using a similarly tight and dull trap game. Looking into the stands, the announced 9,000 or so for attendance was all but an admitted farce. Even the Devils - who have captured the Cup and contended very well for many years, and who feature great veterans, exciting youngsters, and one of the game's greatest goaltenders - could not manage to fill their new arena just one game into its hockey lifetime, getting just over 13,000 fans for a 6-1 win in October over the Lightning.

The sportswriters are quick to suggest that lower scoring is what's taking the game down. However most would agree that 3-0 for the Leafs should have been exciting... only it was a snore. The most exciting game I've seen this season, and perhaps ever, was a 3-1 Sens victory over Montreal. Countless scoring chances, hard hits, end-to-end rushes, it was an edge of your seat thriller. All that excitement despite the fact that it only featured one goal in the first 55 minutes (interestingly coming at 11:11 of the first on the day before Remembrance Day), and the last goal being an empty-netter.

This goes to show you that exciting hockey is about just that - exciting hockey. The trap is not that, nor are the now ever-expanding teams who allow scant few shots on goal per game because of blocking, shooting lane sabotage, and crafty sticks. Not all bad things, but when it means that you only see just north of 20 shots in a game, and most of them being poor chances affected by the brick wall defensive play, it just destroys the game. The surprising Isles pay for it with their poor support. New Jersey is only now paying penance for their style, despite their success with it. Sadly, should Toronto push it even further, it will destroy the league even more.

Should Toronto take up the game of bore and trap hockey, it will sadly go unpunished. Their legions of fans clamor only for victory. That may suit Toronto well now, but what of the rest of the League? When a less-than-rabid fan tunes in for or attends a game featuring the Leafs 'playing' this kind of hockey - or worse, attempts to turn others onto the game by treating them to a game against the 'pinnacle of popularity in the league' - you will never win a fan over, and instead just turn them away. It would be the same in UFC or football. Nobody would be turned onto the sports if fighters only used a single-blow to end the match, and it became a trial of luck to see who would land it first. Nobody would tune into the Superbowl either, if the teams mounted a strategy that merely pushed the line forward 10 yards each down, holding back their opponents, and then on the last down attempted a field goal.

That is the problem facing us today, the real threat of boring hockey. Toronto may think that winning at any cost is what is best, but even they will feel it eventually. Boring hockey could cause league shrinkage, which would likely lead to fewer games for them to make money off of, or seasons of 10 visits from the Sens, which fans are saying even now is not what they want.

This is no easy problem though. Most fixes suggested so far don't tackle the heart of the issue. Decreasing goalie equipment or increasing net size only makes more of those badly blocked poor shots go in, and the latter would upset countless dedicated to the purity of the game. Tackling the boring play requires more than that, and simple rule changes would have difficulty in tackling the snore-fest slowly inching across the league. Real answers are needed, or else we may lose our game forever, Leafs fans be damned.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sens Open the Season Right

Before today's game began, the Ottawa Senators took some time to celebrate how far they had come in their past 14 seasons. Ten straight playoff appearances, capped by last year's run up to the Stanley Cup Final. At Scotiabank Place, proudly they raised the Sens' first Eastern Conference banner. If you talk to many of the New Jersey Devils, they'll tell you that it was unbelievable that it didn't come a few years back, when they narrowly knocked us off in game seven of the third round, easily going on to win the Cup.

Now the Sens look primed to take it all the way this season. While not looking like the team that mastered Crosby, Brodeur, and the stacked Sabres in the last playoffs, the Sens have now pulled out two straight wins against the Leafs. Wednesday night in Toronto there was plenty of drama, with Redden getting into two fights, and the Sens trailing in the third. After signing his new deal, Heatley proved Murray's wisdom by scoring the tying goal late in the third, and blitzing in another goal to seal a 4-3 come from behind victory.

In tonight's game, there were a few more scuffles, although Redden didn't wind up in another pair of fights like at the ACC. There was far more nail-biting moments in goal. Steen had a goal waved off when review showed that Blake tore in on Gerber, and in the goal-cam, you can clearly see that the body he layed on Gerber altered the key butterfly stop, lifting up his right leg completely, and providing a perfect view of Steen poking in the puck under it. Later on, review during a commercial break showed that what looked like an amazing pad save by Toskala on Heatley's powerplay shot in fact only kicked the puck out after clearly and fully crossing into the net, finally stopping the Sens' powerplay drought. It was a penalty filled night, with Toronto racking up 26 PIM and Ottawa 20.

While not a flawless game, Ottawa did a great job of stopping many Toronto entries into their zone, quickly clearing the puck out. They were also flawless on the PK, which would have otherwise been their downfall. While the Sens took their victories, fitting of their Eastern Conference banner from last season, they were not entirely cruel to the Leafs. Toronto was allowed to move on with a single point from Wednesday's OT loss, and as a gift to Sundin, he was able to score his 389th goal as a Leaf, tying him for first for career goals by a Leaf player. My favourite moments of the game often involved watching Toskala drift out of the net, only to make it back just in time for some great saves. I believe Toronto fans might borrow from Detroit fans in cheering "STAY IN THE F#%$ING NET!!!" at Tosky.

Tonight's victory was also fitting, in that Ottawa's top paid talent all racked up a pair of points: Alfie scored two goals, including the game-winner, Heatley scored a goal and an assist, and both Spezza and Redden tallied a pair of assists, with Eaves adding the final assist. Maybe there is hope for Redden after all, although his fights from Wednesday and his penalties from tonight, including one for unsportsmanlike conduct, leave a bit more to be desired. Hopefully the hard work from tonight leads to a great game Saturday against the Rangers, who crushed Florida tonight, 5-2, and hopefully there will be fewer giveaways as well.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sens Lock Up Heatley

The Sens announced the re-signing of Dany Heatley today, ensuring that the Heater will keep the scoreboard scorching for many seasons to come. With the unofficial deadline of signing before the new season starts, tonight against the Leafs, Heatley and the Sens closed the deal, signing a new 6-year extension. The cap average is be 7.5 million, putting Heatley in line with the Flames' Iginla and the Sharks' Thornton, who signed for 7 and 7.2 million extensions, over five and three years, respectively, and in the form of a 10-8-8-8-6-5 million front loaded contract, similar to that of Philadelphia's Daniel Briere.

The new deal now puts Heatley in place as the Senator signed for the longest, one year past recently re-signed Mike Fisher, keeping him in the capital until the end of the 2013-14 season. Heatley has produced a whopping 100 goals and 108 assists for 208 points, while playing in each of the past two season's 164 games. Heater's also tallied 10-24--34, playing in all 30 playoff games over the past two seasons.

The new contract leaves roughly 15 million dollars worth of space under next year's cap, with 11 out of 21 players under contract for that season. While it has been disputed whether Heatley or Spezza should be re-signed first, I agree with the decision made by Muckler and Melnyk to lock up Heater.

To compare, Heatley's totals have increased over his two years with the team, he's played in all 164 games, he's been given penalty kill responsibilities, and before being paired with Spezza he scored 80 goals and 180 points in 190 games over three seasons with the Thrashers. Spezza's totals have dipped over his two years with Heater, he's averaged only 67.5 games over those years, he's not able to be used in any situation with much success outside of offense, and before Heatley, he only scored 29 goals and 76 points in 111 games over two seasons with the Sens. Heatley has more than proved himself to be a champion and thrive in any situation, and rightfully he is the one that has been signed first.

With only 15 million (plus any cap increase) to spend, Spezza may very well leave the nation's capital. But at least if he does, unlike with Heatley, we will likely get fine RFA compensation in return. Hopefully though, we can drop some extra goaltending salary, gain some more cap room, and lock down the last piece of our top line.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Sens Finalize their Roster

Murray put away the knife today after making the final trims to this lovely cut Senators roster, and we're now set to begin. In sending down Brian Lee, Lawrence Nycholat, Ilja Zubov and Alexander Nikulin, and keeping Luke Richardson and Nick Foligno, Murray sends a strong message about what he wants out of this year's team. Despite the youthful exuberance of those sent to Bingo, and some very impressive work during the preseason, Murray has gone with experience and grit in his decisions. Richardson signed to help his hometown team win the cup, and won't be around much longer to wait for another season, and Foligno proved the brightest forward, meshing with different lines, providing a scoring touch, and most importantly a hard nosed game.

With McAmmond out nursing his concussion back to health, and Emery getting his wrist and game back into gear, expect that Brian Elliott will serve very well as Gerber's backup, and that Richardson, McGrattan and Foligno will be iced on different nights, with Schubert moving forward and back to fill in the missing spot on our tight roster.

With cap space sitting at a tight 3.8 million, the boys needed to be sent down to preserve every cent for the time when we might be able to trade away a bit more salary in order to sign a top-flight forward to give us two powerful scoring lines (if Gerber is moved, as expected, that's over 7 million with which to barter). With any luck and compassion from fate, Dean will heal quickly, and the Sens will shoot out of the gate this season as one of, if not the top contender for the cup. We're all hungry for it, and ready to go.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

NHL's Poor US Presentation Utterly Shocking

I've always wondered why it is that hockey's never caught on in the states. Could it be the complexity of such a fast paced game? Or maybe because most Americans never had a chance to enjoy a backyard skating rink, much less a snowball fight, during the winter months. Now, I think I might have an inkling as to why the league gets such little respect.

It may be just preseason games, but I decided to catch some Sens hockey with the NHL Center Ice Online free preview. Sunday I sat down with my laptop and projector to watch them take on the Capitals, and was treated to the most shocking display of hockey presentation. Growing up on HNIC and more recently being treated to Sens PPV, I've grown accustomed to quality broadcasting, and that might just be the problem.

When the broadcast from the 'official Capitals network' was picked up by NHL CIO, I was treated to the most bizarre of sounds. I got to hear a midly John Goodman-y voice telling the fans in Washington to beware of flying pucks and to check out great deals behind section 101 of the rink, hardly what I or anyone else on this side of the broadcast could give a care about. As the action finally picked up, it took several minutes before commentary begun. Before it begun, I was treated to what I can only say sounded something like a man asleep in the control room being woken up over a walkie talkie and sleepily starting to flip the switches and bring the show together.

Now it was time for some real hockey, right? Only five minutes in and the Caps score. This of course lead to many replays from their official network. Unfortunately for real hockey fans, the replays of this goal and other shots continued, even as play went on. Only when they finished was I treated to a faceoff, suddenly noticing that the score was tied, 1-1. Their replays had blocked out a fine Patrick Eaves goal. It takes a real rookie, in my opinion, to boldly play replays over the real action. Unless perhaps they were trained to do this while covering baseball, where few care if they miss the pitcher digging his rut in the mound and sizing up the batter.

Banter sounds like batter, and once again nothing but disappointment was served up to me. I can admit I'm not 100% confident how to perfectly pronounce anyone's name unless they've said it to me. So maybe when they refered to Nick-you-lynn, that could have been the proper intonation and inflection. Then again, when they called out plays involving Anton Vermette, and couldn't decide whether it was Foh-lee-no or Foh-lig-no, then I start to doubt them. Then when they start telling me how many goals Alfie scored, 2, and how low that is, I recall the hat trick he scored last night, and wonder how little research these people actually do.

During the intermission, we begin hearing the announcer saying Foligno's name over and over again, talking about which goals he's ordering replayed, how long he should run the intermission show for, and telling his partner that his IM isn't working. Eventually he starts talking hockey, and I relax a bit. However, I notice I'm not watching replays, or announcers discussing things and displaying stats.
I'm watching the broadcast of the tv screen in the middle of the Verizon Center, telling me when opening night is and behind what section I can buy Caps branded items. Not only that, but my broadcast has included, during the game, items such as falshing messages I've seen on my camcorder telling me that a video timer is about to begin, a blue screen explaining video recording setup, and the visual displayed on Windows Media Player when sound without video is playing. Even the scoreboard I see on the tv isn't cut properly; the scoreboard is cut on an angle, so I can see the word 'player' above the Ottawa penalties (where you see the player number, but no name since it's cut too short).

Virtually all this happened within the first half of the first period, with only a few other elements coming out during the rest of the game. This is not broadcasting. This is unprofessional Youtube on crack, and apparently the megaphone from which all things Capitals gets broadcasted. This is, without a doubt, a huge reason why I doubt I could ever respect the way American NHL franchises are handled, and why I now give a new respect to Americans who don't support the NHL, if only because they have to put up with crap like this, when all I've really felt cheated by is Bob Cole's tardy play by play. Stand tall and proud Americans, for not putting up with this. Or better yet, become a Sens fan, and get treated right.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fisher Signs 5-year Extension with Sens

With a full dozen players finishing their contracts this season, Brian Murray is wasting no time in taking care of business. The Ottawa Senators announced today that they have signed peerless two-way forward Mike Fisher to a whopping five year extension, worth 21 million dollars, or 4.2 million a year against the cap. This extension makes Fisher the Senator under contract furthest into the future, one year longer than the end of the last year of Alfie's option years, to the end of the 2012-13 season. Fisher and Murray are both happy to see him stay in the capital, not to mention legions of Senators fans.

While not possessing the scoring touch of Dany Heatley, Mike's got as much heart and grit as anyone else in our Nation's capital. Depending on Redden's future with the team at the end of the season, it's very likely that Fisher could take on the "A" full time alongside Phillips, although it's likely that Murray wants Redden to stick around, albeit for a much reduced price. Saving the Selke Trophy nominee from hitting the market next year undoubtedly saves the Sens some bankroll, despite how lofty 4.2 million a season seems. Comparable players this season went for similar amounts, ones without the complete grit, leadership, and two-way package Fisher offers.

Signing Fisher also sends some interesting messages. The first and most important message is this: in choosing to sign Fisher first, ahead of scoreboard babies Heatley and Spezza and the rest of the squad, Murray is showing that players who give their heart and soul to the team every night will always reap the rewards, without having to try to extort or bargain their way there. Now look at the flip side, back to the part where we want to have a 23 man roster next season. Including Fisher, the Sens have now locked up 10 players for 27 million dollars, averaging 2.7 million dollars each. To lock up the remaining 13 we'd like to have, we have less than 2 million to spend on each of them. If we sign Heatley to an extension, worst case cost of 8.5 million, that would give us just over 1.2 million to offer the other dozen. If we were to sign Spezza on top of that, we'd be the Tampa Bay lightning, filling out the rest of our roster with league-minimum players.

So what's going to happen? My guess is that Heatley will get the nod over Spezza. While Spezza's no slouch, comparing their numbers prior to pairing up, it's Heatley who's proven his mettle on his own. Heatley also differs from Spezza in that he can play a full season, can take and can dish out a hit, can kill penalties, and can deal with the hardest of demons. My guess is that this will be Spezza's last season with the Sens, barring some kind of gift discount to the Sens offered by the dynamic duo in order to stay together. Most likely, we will see ourselves the proud new owners of four first-round draft picks. If we're lucky, maybe one of those might just be able to nab us John Tavares.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sens Prospects Choke After Successful Rookie Tournament

Yesterday marked the culmination of the four-day rookie round robin tournament, hosted by the Florida Panthers in Kitchener, Ontario, and featuring our roster of rookie Sens prospects, along with those from the Leafs and Penguins. After a 2-1 loss to the hosts on Friday, the Sens Trounced the Leafs Saturday 4-2, and blanked the Penguins on Sunday 3-0, giving them the best record heading into the finals on Monday against the rookie Pens.

Alas, as I can tell you from first-hand experience, the Pens filled themselves up thoroughly with bloodlust, and gave the Sens a thorough drubbing. The first period started with a fight immediately after the opening faceoff, between the Pens' Aaron Boogaard and the Sens' Brett Gallant, spilling off some of the tension from the frustrations of games past. Before the period was even 2 minutes old, the Pens' Dustin Jeffrey scored on Brian Elliott, who had been the centerpiece of our only two victories. Sens prospects have been reportedly gritty, with hopes of stocking our dressing room properly to avoid another Stanley Cup Final like this one just past. Despite this, it was the Penguins who layed down all the board-battering and mind-numbing hits throughout the game. It wasn't until the first period was nearly half over that the Sens managed to get some spurts of offense past the Pens blueline, but they were few at best, and ended the period down 1 - 0.

Enter the second frame. Once again, this time within the opening 3 minutes, the Pens scored, this tally coming from Joe Jensen, putting the Sens in a 0 - 2 hole, which Matt Caria widened to 0 - 3 at the end of the second period. Into the final period, and Alex Grant and Jensen's second goal gave the Pens the ultimate payback for Sunday. Only thanks to a late tally by Ilja Zubov saved the Sens from being completely shutout. At least we beat the Leafs, right?

Leaving the Arena, I pondered why it was that our boys failed after having done so well beforehand. Some things were obvious. There were the many dumps that worked so well back in June for the big boys, only a tight Pens line blocked any Sens from rallying around to catch the puck on the other side, along with some stellar efforts by Penguins rookie goaltender John Curry to keep the puck from sliding around behind his net. Often the Sens seemed a tad unaware of where their teammates were, evident in the third when calls of 'Zube!, Zube!" failed to egg highly touted Ilja Zubov into passing the puck to open teammates in ideal scoring positions. I say once again that the absence of Sens hits was brutal, and the ability of the speedy Pens to plant them flawlessly even more brutal on top of that. Add the constant coughing up of the puck to poke-checks and more giveaways than at a new car dealership, and its no wonder than Murray and Paddock never flinched or blinked after the goals, just observing steadily and patiently.

Despite their falling apart in the final, the prospects did give Murray and Paddock a good show. Brian Lee steadily improved day by day, while Alexander Nikulin and Ilya Zubov put forth a great show most times. Cody Bass certainly earned his 'C' in my opinion, staying calm and working hard at all times. There will be some challengers for the remaining spot on the Sens roster.

The way I see it, one prospect shined brighter than the rest, and stands a good chance of impressing during exhibition games and maybe even cracking the roster this season. An odd thing I noticed during the game. After the second period, I paid attention to the teams leaving the ice. There were a few boys leaning over the hallway where the players exited the rink, hoping for a brush with future NHLers. As the Sens passed under the seats and by the boys, only a couple gave the boys a punch. The Pens? Fully 14 gave the youngsters props. Same story heading out for and returning from the third, with a couple more Sens props, and so many Pens props that I couldn't keep count. But one Sen did catch my eye. During the game he gave it full bore over and over again. Always he pushed to get in position. Always he raced to get back on defense when the Pens held the puck. He even had a good breakaway late in the game, chased closely by a lone Pen, and getting a good shot on goal before being felled and crashing into the boards. That man walked onto the ice, fiddling with his helmet strap with his free hand. Yet, having no free hand, he still gave props to the boys, hand, helmet, head and all. Hockey, like all great sports, doesn't just build character, but also works very well to reveal it, and in that moment, as many others during the game, it revealed very well the strong and highly prized character that lies within Sens prospect Nick Foligno.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Very Own Rumour

I'm not sure how much credibility a sports blogger can have without making at least one dubious rumour without any sources or media backing, and so I will now take my plunge, and hope there's a lifeguard on duty.

Trevor Linden, the most popular player the Canucks have seen, is having trouble staying in Vancouver. They're not quite sure whether he has a place on the team. The 6'4, 220lbs center from Medicine Hat, AB, averaged just 12 minutes last season in 80 games, but put up 12-13--25, not to mention being tied for the team lead in scoring this postseason with 2-5--7 in 12 games. In 03-04, he played a full season and scored 14-22--36, but didn't show up in 7 playoff games. After the lockout, he earned 1.5 million and went 7-9--16 in his full season, earning him a 600,000 contract with 200,000 in bonuses, which he earned. After this season, with his stellar performance, he could be in line for a raise, but the 37-year old forward can't last forever.

Why do I bring up his case, you ask? Well, the article mentions that there have been quiet talks with other teams while Linden's future in Vancouver is in doubt. I wouldn't place a bet that Vigneault will let Linden go. However, if we look at our cap situation, and our efforts to get a veteran forward, I wouldn't be too surprised if Murray's been talking to Linden, trying to kick the tires on the two-way forward respected around the league.

UPDATE - 8:44AM, August 17, 2007: I suppose it comes with the territory, but both the Forsberg and Linden rumours appear to be a bit diffused today. The Ottawa Citizen reports that Linden appears poised to return to the Canucks roster after meetings that went "really, really well". Not only that, but Canucks captain Markus Naslund said he's been working the phones - much as Sakic did to bring Smyth into the Avalanche fold this summer - to convince Forsberg to come to the club, where a chance at the Stanley Cup, and many fellow countrymen, would love to make him a part of the upcoming season.

UPDATE - 9:17AM, August 21, 2007: The Canucks have now re-signed Linden to a 1-year deal for 600,000, with 300,000 in games-played bonuses.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rumours Still Swirling for Sens

Despite the much dryer and shallower NHL UFA pool at this stage of the game, rumours are still swirling about the final destinations of the many vets still without a home in the NHL.

The biggest one I've seen so far is that Peter Forsberg has been talking to Murray. While a home in Detroit, Colorado, and Philadelphia is much more expected, Murray certainly has been trying hard to land vets to take his team to the top. So far, they've mostly been of the cheaper variety. Forsberg, who's 06-07 totals of 13-42--55 in 57 games marks the 34-year old's first sub point-per-game season. With four impact players in the lineup, Paddock would open up far more interesting line combinations, able to ice two scoring threat lines, with the third forward on each of those lines more than likely to raise his totals as well.

Also, the Sun reported that Jason York still has a chance to end his career a Sen. While our defense is looking quite full at the moment, there is still a chance that Schubert could see many games on the left wing, and if York was signed, he, Nycholat and Richardson could split their time between Binghamton and Ottawa this season.

Not much work is left to finalize our roster for this season, but the last few moves could be the most exciting ones yet.

UPDATE - 8:33AM, August 15, 2007: It seems as though it might have all been for show in the end anyways, the Ottawa Citizen reports, and reports quite well.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Senators Sign Jim O'Brien

The Ottawa Senators have signed Jim O'Brien to an entry level contract today. Jim was the Sens first round pick during this year's draft, 29th overall.

After only one year playing for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, Jim and Murray felt that he could move on from their fourth line to pick up more responsibility and experience, likely playing with the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds, after attending the Senators' training camp.

The 6'2 Center of Maplewood, Minnesota, will need to add to his 184lbs frame to make a real impact in today's physical NHL. While not breathtaking like the early first round picks, the 18-year old gives his best efforts when it really counts. Being the youngest player in Division I college hockey, O'Brien took his right shot and tallied 7-8--15 and 51 PIM in 43 games. Yet his past two World Junior Championships U-18 he's gone 3-4--7 and 12 PIM in 7 games this year and 3-1--4 and 6 PIM in 6 games the time before that. Still young, he will spend several years developing his skills. While he is listed as a center, with the Golden Gophers he was set to try playing defense next season. If this continues in the WHL, O'Brien could become the reverse of Schubert, and provide an offensive punch from the blueline.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Start Placing Bets on the Vets

There is now a grand total of 35 days until the Sens play their first (exhibition) game of the 07-08 season, in London, ON, against the completely revamped Philadelphia Flyers. I have my tickets, how about you? However, with just those 35 days left until their first game, and just under two months now until their season opener October 3rd in Toronto, we're still a ways from having a clear roster.

It takes 20 men on a sheet for Paddock to hand over a roster for a game, and up to 23 men can be on the team roster for the season, the extras of course being scratched (such as McGrattan so often was last season). To look at the online Sens roster, a little simple math and the naive would think we've got our full 23 players ready (and hopefully rarin') to go. But take a closer look. There are three goaltenders there, and in a game you will only ever ice two. Seeing as we've tied up almost 7 million in two of them, Jeff Glass is only there for show, at least for another two seasons or major trade have passed. Move on up the list and you'll count eight defensemen, two more than you'd ever tend to ice in a game (unless one of them is Schubert). At the top of the list, you'll find the bare minimum: only twelve forwards listed. However, due to some very lazy or incompetent or unwilling-to-face-the-truth types in control of the website, Saprykin is still listed on the roster, despite his long-since-reported return to the motherland. This leaves us with only 11 forwards. Coupled with Schubert's 51 games last season on left wing likely to be reprised, we've got the bare minimum.

What can we expect come the beginning of the season though? Glass will drop from the list since using one of those 23 slots on a third goalie makes absolutely no sense. Saprykin will also drop, once someone comes to his or her senses. Finally, depending on how the rest of the off-season and training camp goes, we might find that Schubert will actually get to play his position, which would see one of Nycholat or Richardson slide backwards into Binghamton, not that they aren't used to performing in the AHL.

So what does that leave as far as filling out the rest of the roster? It's not likely we'll be trading anyone else, since the big salaries can't easily be moved, or refuse to be moved, and the rest are all productive and ones we would like to keep. So either a promotion from the B-Sens will be needed, or else a new free agent face will need to be brought into the fold.

With all due respect to those itching to see a promotion from within, I implore you to realize the value in properly seasoning the green. The more time they have to prepare, the better they will be on arrival, and all the more anxious to strike out in the big leagues. Not to mention that we've got a ton of players to re-sign this season, so the fewer contracts we have to commit to for the 07-08 season, the better. Yes, we could sign a promoted player to a one-year deal, but it's far from fun to see a player reach their first full NHL season, explode onto the scene, and then have their contract die and get caught in the cap trying to keep him.

This is why I propose that, like Richardson just now, we sign ourselves another veteran or two. With the cap crunching and crutching teams, it's no easy feat to get signed in the NHL today, even as a grizzled veteran with experience. Some are heading to Europe and Russia to score a bigger payday, like Saprykin. Others are still milling about, waiting for a deal here at home. Under the many big name resume's, I think we can find some true bargains.

Take Richardson. He signed for a mere half a mil, the league minimum, and as a two-way deal that will likely see him in Binghamton. I'm sure that a huge, experienced, healthy defenseman like him wasn't someone Tampa, with only six signed defenders so far, would have wanted to wave goodbye to. It's far more likely that Richardson wanted to end his career with a team that could win the best known sports trophy in the world, and in his hometown no less.

That's the same reason that Jason York, another large, grizzled, and former Sens alum of five seasons has been practically begging Murray for a job. But after signing Richardson as the 8th potential NHL D-man, and before that Nycholat as the 7th, and with Schubert possibly moving back to defense, it's sadly unlikely that York will get a call back, despite the thrill it would be to take another run for the Cup with grizzled veterans and our energetic youth, not to mention finally with as many players from Ottawa as from Toronto on our roster.

But there's still hope. Maybe some still for York, but more still for other vets to join the team, rather than face unemployment or the need to move to the other side of the world. Maybe it won't happen for the pre-season games, when it's likely that Paddock will want to try all the different line combinations he can, and also give some of the B-Sens a chance to show some skill. Maybe not even for the season opener. But watch out, because as time wears on, and possibly with more injuries, we may yet get to sign the vets, in my hopes the Canadian ones, and what an exciting season that would truly be. 36 more days, people, just 36 more days until the puck drops on what should be the most exciting season in Senators hockey for the modern-day franchise.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Senators Sign Justin Mapletoft

The Ottawa Senators signed forward Justin Mapletoft to a one-year deal that will likely see him as a part of the Binghamton Senators roster, with perhaps a few appearances with the Ottawa Senators. Mapletoft, 27, has played his last couple years in Europe. In the 02-03 and 03-04 seasons with the Islanders, he played in 38 games going 3-6--9.

Once again Murray has signed a player with obvious bonuses to the team. He has experience throughout various hockey leagues, including the NHL, and even a couple NHL playoff games in the past. The 6'1, 200lbs center shoots left, and could be slotted as a left wing, where the Sens are most deficient. He is a native of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, like Redden, and continues the Sens quest to add more Canadian talent to the team.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Senators Reported to be Naming Ron Low as Assistant Coach

UPDATE - 8:33AM, August 15, 2007: The Sens have named Ron Low and Eli Wilson to the coaching staff. Ron Low will, as reported, be the new assistant coach to John Paddock. Not too surprisingly, as Low will be vacating the goaltending coach position, Eli Wilson, Emery's former personal goaltending coach, will now be the team's goaltending coach. Maybe he can work the same miracles with Gerber as he has been working with Razor. Also, Mike Busniuk will work alongside Binghamton's new head coach Cory Clouston as his assistant coach.

The Ottawa Sun is reporting that Ron Low, the Sens goaltending coach, will be named assistant coach to John Paddock. Will update when this becomes official.

Fear not a decline from Emery though, as his personal goaltending coach, Eli Wilson, will ensure that Emery continues to mature and improve, much as he did after Hasek's injury, and after trumping Gerber for the starter job last season.

Senators sign Ilja Zubov

The Sens have signed Ilja Zubov to an entry level contract today. The 6'0, 176 lbs center of Chelyabinsk, Russia was Ottawa's 4th round choice, 98th overall, in the 2005 draft. Zubov, 20, has been playing in Russia so far, and has twice represented them at the world junior championships, this year scoring three goals and a single assist in six games.

Signing him to an entry level contract will help to allay any fears some fans have of signing russians, only to see them blow off, such as Alexei Kaigorodov, who was traded for Mike Comrie during our stretch of injuries last year, as he went back to Russia following his assignment to Binghamton, and wouldn't come back to fill the holes in the roster.

While he has much time left in his development, when he makes an appearance he will likely play left wing, where the Sens are most lacking. He was considered a steal in the fourth round, as teams avoided drafting Russians that year (the same as lately), and has the potential to put up good numbers at the NHL level in his future.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Senators Sign Luke Richardson

UPDATE - 10:04PM, August 8, 2007: It is now official.

While not yet official, it has been reported that the Ottawa Senators have signed veteran defenseman Luke Richardson to a 1-year, $500,000 deal that would likely see him split his time between Ottawa and Binghamton.

This will be Richardson's 20th NHL season. The Ottawa native is 38 years old and will add some size (6'4" and 215 lbs.) and veteran grit to the team. As the Sens' 8th defenseman, this move will make it more likely that Schubert will spend his season on left wing, and Richardson will come into play during injuries, and jockey for the 6th slot on the blueline with Nycholat. Richardson had a career high 4 goals in 89-90 with the Leafs, and a career high 19 assists and 21 points with the Oilers in 91-92.

Certainly not an offensive powerhouse, I expect to see Richardson hitting hard and putting up modest positive +/- numbers next season when playing in Ottawa. I will update when more becomes available, but this move would once again show that Murray is trying to bulk and toughen up his team, and also add more Canadian (finally, an Ottawa native!) players to the team, which will allow the Sens to continue from last season's success with even more heart.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Oleg Saprykin Signs in Russia

Oleg Saprykin has signed a three year deal in the Russian league. I did mention this before, but I've translated both the Russian news article I sourced, and an interview Saprykin gave about his decision to leave the NHL, among other things. This is a long entry, with the short news article and the long interview, and using free Russian translation software doesn't work perfectly, so bear with me.

UPDATE - 8:59AM, August 8, 2007: Coverage of the story can be found in today's Ottawa Citizen in Wayne Scanlan's column (the link may break in time since we're not paid subscribers), although at the moment the team still refuses to accept the truth, still listing him on their roster.

UPDATE - 10:43PM, August 26, 2007: Finally, the roster has been adjusted, and Oleg Saprykin is no longer in it.

This is the article from Russian newspaper found
here, translated.

Last night the attacking Oleg Saprykin, in the last season acted in NHL for "Phoenix" and "Ottawa", has signed the three-year contract from TsSKA, the general manager of soldiers Cyril Fastovsky has informed the correspondent "СЭ" to Vladimir ЮРИНУ. For four previous seasons Сапрыкин played Stanley's cup-finals twice: in 2004 it and "Calgary" have lost "Tampa", and this spring in structure of "Ottawa" - to "Anaheim". According to "СЭ", in Russia interest to this player except for TsSKA showed "Dynamo" and " Salavat Yulaev ".

Below is the translation of an interview that Saprykin and his father had with Soviet Sport. A brief summary of the interesting points:

  • Saprykin was approached by the Sens, the Rangers, the Panthers and another club, with offers of 1 million and up.
  • Saprykin chose to return to russia because the taxes here took over half his money, and because the teams here wouldn't trust him to play, giving him only 10 minutes a game or so. Despite having experience with the Western Conference Champion Calgary Flames when they lost the Cup to the Lightning, Saprykin didn't get much time playing in Ottawa's Cup run, and was bounced out for Eaves' return, despite working hard and scoring a momentum goal in a game.
  • Saprykin doesn't like the lack of support for the sport in North America, citing games in Phoenix with only eight or nine thousand fans attending, whereas Russia has more fans with greater passion.
  • Saprykin thinks animosity exists in Ottawa towards Russians, both because of the lack of a transfer agreement with them, and because of Yashin's holdout year and poor performance, although he cites Volchenkov as an exception to this.
  • Blames his poor performance, 1-1--2 in 12 games, on his meager 4-5 minutes on the ice per game, and on Murray doubting his abilities, telling him to keep training without giving him real time and on-ice opportunities to show his skill.
  • Despite the salary cap going up, that money is used for stars only, in deals averaging 7-8 million per player. 40% of Tampa's budget is tied up in 3 skaters. So for a man like Saprykin, he gets no ice time, never gets depended on, and earns little money. In Russia he will get more time, respect and money (and with lower taxes on that money).
  • Finally, playing in Russia gives him the true honour and thrill of Russian fans, and of playing for Russia in the upcoming summit series rematch. Players such as Saprykin feel more tied to their country than their employer. This is seen, imho, in other players too. Take Lehtonen: against the Rangers in the first playoff round (who lost the next round), he was 0-2 with .849 save percentage and 5.59 goals against average, a drop from his 34-24-9 with .912 sv-% and 2.79 GAA in the regular season. Then he went to the IIHF World Championship, leading his team to silver with a 4-2 record and .913 sv-% and 1.93 GAA, just weeks after being dismal and getting pulled two games in. Players like that are ones the NHL should avoid. Nothing wrong with national pride, but when you don't care about your job to THAT extent, it really says something. (Makes me wonder if he did it on purpose, so that they could be out of the playoffs in time for him to get into the IIHF WC)

Anyways, the translated interview:

Yesterday the attacking Oleg Saprykin twice acted in cup-finals of Stanley, has signed the three-year contract from CSKA. Before this event with Oleg and his father Dmitry Saprykin, in the past the known goalkeeper of the Moscow soldiers and «Спартака», has met the correspondent of " the Soviet sports »


— You had offers from NHL?

Oleg: — Yes, and not the most bad. At me the annual contract on $1,1 million has ended And to me suggested to raise the salary more than twice. In total there would be $2-2,5 million a year. Four clubs of NHL applied for me. Called to "Florida", in «Рейнджерс», "Ottawa" wished to keep me, having made … But I have decided to pass the qualifying offer in TsSKA. Because it is tired that behind ocean trust me a little. I wish to act in a command where in me trust – in practice, instead of in words.

Dmitry: — I Recollect, how the son played "Seattle". It there used on a platform in all game situations, often let out in unequal structures that is very important for the forward. Well and now … I am am spoken by familiar experts: it is not understood, why Oleg hold on a bench. It достоин places in a basis! Probably, it occurs because of all this передряги …

— What mean?

Dmitry: — That Russia has refused to join the contract between NHL and ИИХФ. And now on a draft of ours it is much less and to skilled players not always trust.

Oleg: — in the Goal you hammer in the beginning of a match and then up to the middle of the third period you do not leave on an ice. Why? To understand difficultly. But in NHL it is accepted to look not at how the forward and what the contract at it plays. If it earns $4 million will act in the first part. And at whom the contract on $1 million, – in the third or in a stock will sit.

Dmitry: — By the way, therefore people in Phoenix not so willingly goes on hockey – only 8-9 thousand spectators for a match gather. Fans do not like injustice in relation to some hockey players, and they publicly speak about it. Esteem forums on the Internet. How it is possible to infect people with hockey if for last five years the command was replaced almost completely? Only Шейн Доан has remained. Exchanges in "Phoenix" go constantly. And the command seven years cannot already get in плей-офф.

Oleg: — the Same Даниель Брир fine played for «Койотов». But it have exposed on the market of agents. And then it became the captain in "Buffalo", one of these days has signed the huge contract with "Philadelphia" ($52 million for 8 years).


—Surprisingly, in fact Oleg has come to "Phoenix" with reputation of the player which acted in Stanley's cup-final! It would Seem, to it should trust.

Dmitry: — But have staked on "old men" — Реника, Джовановски, Нолана and others with whom have signed greater contracts. And to the son on the average gave for 12 minutes for a match. And thus it has managed to type 34 (14 20) spots, to break personal records, to become the third in club on productivity, to have the best parameter of utility (8). And to enter into the six in league on a parity of glasses by game time.

Oleg: — I tried to talk to the trainer of "Phoenix" Wayne Grettski why to me so concern. Wayne only clapped me on a shoulder: « All о’кей, the guy ». But a little that varied.

— It is fair, what "Phoenix" name command Гретцки and its friends? In this organization the rate do only on those who is approached to Wayne?

Dmitry: — the situation Now varies. For example, in April in resignation the general manager «Койотов» Mike Barnett who worked as agent Grettski earlier has been sent, – it was replaced by Don Мэлони.

Oleg: — Friends – all right if only the command played. But it did not occur. Also it was not clear, what for Гретцки it was necessary so often to let out on an ice of people which simply do not wish to work. Or here "Phoenix" has won seven matches successively. Victorious structure do not change are a law in NHL. In my three played Ларак and Зигоманис, we liked fans who named us Wizards. But we leave on the eighth match, and at all of us parts are reshuffled. Where logic?

— Perhaps, Гретцки simply slight couch? Not always in fact from a star-player the star instructor turns out.

Oleg: — it seems to Me, on Wayne pressed from above and impeded it to reveal as the instructor.

— Who? It seemed to me, that Гретцки – the most important authority on "Phoenix": both the couch, and the co-owner of club.

Oleg: — But the command belongs not only to it to one. There are people, to whose opinion Гретцки is compelled to listen.

Dmitry: — to Me liked Рик Токкет which worked as the trainer of "Phoenix" (after the big scandal connected with a underground tote assistant Grettski has left the post. — a comment ред.). Rigid, but the fair instructor. Without it «Койоты» have started to lose much. Probably, it still will return to club if the league will give OK.

Oleg: — the Important role at «Койотов» assistant Grettski – played Barry Smith. Actually it operated a command, and Wayne was its person. Smith worked in "Detroit", in "Phoenix" … But it is very arrogant person. I think, it has accepted offer СКА because it is excellent chance to work on the first roles, independently. By the way, Barry called to me recently, invited in the club. But I have already asked a to speak to the Moscow soldiers.


— You were the unique Russian whom have exchanged on the eve of дэдлайна – last day a season when in league transitions are resolved. Recollect that situation.

Oleg: – I guessed, that me will exchange. For two-rub weeks up to дедлайна at me conversation with Барнеттом took place. It has told, that "Phoenix" wishes to prolong with me the contract for three years. Also has suggested to raise to me the salary on … 10 percent (that is, $1,21 million is that in arbitration court Saprykinu for certain there would be присуждена a salary from $1,7 up to $2,5 million – the Comment ред.). I went the third in a command on glasses. And certainly, has told, that I shall not play for such money. Exchange me in other club is better.
For me applied four commands. It is interesting, that one of them has won Stanley's Cup – I speak about "Anaheim". And another played the ending – "Ottawa". In it I also have appeared. Could not choose, it did not depend on me. Next morning, when "Phoenix" has flown to Edmonton, to me has approached Гретцки. Has thanked for work and Wayne – the normal muzhik has informed on an exchange … In general. Has humanly said goodbye. Has told at last: « Who knows, can, still we shall meet » and has wished good luck in "Ottawa".

— And you have departed to Phoenix behind things?

Oleg: — Is not present, at once has gone to Ottawa on a match. Things to me have then brought. There was at me with itself only a hockey form and 12 sticks.

— Here so from club-outsider you send to favorites …

Oleg: — Generally "Ottawa" has given out the dreadful start, the first 15 matches losing all successively. There in general all staff to dismiss wanted. But then "Senators" were tightened, and to my arrival went already the fourth in East conference.
For what role me took to "Ottawa"? For secure if someone from forwards of a basis will get out of order. On an ice I left at all for 4—5 minutes. From here such low statistics – 2 (1 1) spots in 12 matches регулярки … Once hardly has not scored a goal, and me have there and then set in a deep stock. The rights to a mistake at me were not. It is indicative, that when I only have come to a command, main couch Bryan Mjurrej at all with me did not speak. Only: « Give, go on training », here and all installation.

Dmitry: — But Мюррей has answered a question of the journalist when it have asked as "Ottawa" could reach the ending плей-офф: « It means, that I am able to train! ». Compare to the answer of the trainer of "Anaheim" Рэнди of the Carlisle which has told in a similar situation: « It because we – one command ». A trifle like, but after it judge unity of collective. I already then have understood, that it will be very complex to "Ottawa" to win Stanley's Cup.

— A notorious phrase – the person with cup experience. In what it is expressed?

Oleg: — In moral qualities. It means, that you will not twitch in плей-офф when on all the mad responsibility lays. You already passed all this and should make the work correctly and precisely. Without nerves.

— I before interview have once again seen your goal in a gate "Buffalo" — a victorious washer of "Ottawa" in the first match of a semifinal. But and has not understood, how you have managed to change goalkeeper Miller.

Oleg: — All has turned out very quickly. There was a lumbago, I have gone on a gate. Behind there was a player "Buffalo", in front – other plus the goalkeeper. I have extended a stick and one contact have forwarded a washer to a gate.

— And then?

Oleg: — it has again appeared on a bench. And even has passed last match of a semifinal. When all command was pleased to the Cup of East conference, I have left on a platform in a suit. Instead of me Patrick Eaves who only has recovered from a brain concussion acted, and it was not clear at all as it will play.


— Why all so occured?

Oleg: — the Main reason was covered that between the general manager of "Ottawa" John Muckler and Bryan Murray there was a hostility about which knew all in club. I was invited in a command by the Broker. And Мюррей concerned to me so as if wished to show the managing director: « You type those players who is not necessary to me ». I think, they before an exchange at all did not have a general conversation on me. So I have appeared between two fires. Was very malicious because of this foolish situation. Even has quarrelled with the third couch of "Ottawa". Has promised, that if me and will stock further, I shall leave on the world championship for Moscow.

Oleg: — I discussed this version. But, alas, has learned, that me up to the world championship simply would not admit ИИХФ which is connected by the contract with NHL.
In general I had an impression, that in "Ottawa" do not love Russian. Probably, bias has arisen after « Yashin's business » (the forward has passed the whole season because of contract strike. — a comment ред.). Here Alexey Kaigorodov whom invited to a role центрфорварда the second part, – it was normally looked in a command, but to play to it did not give, and it has returned in "Metallurgist". There were problems even at Anton Volchenkova (The defender declared in interview to " the Soviet sports », that for it prepared for an exchange. — a comment ред.). But then it has started to play so fine, that if it has appeared in a stock, in Ottawa revolution of fans, probably, would begin.

Dmitry: — the Interesting history was in Stanley's cup-final. As the adviser of operating "Anaheim" works Эл Коутс – it eight years ago served in "Calgary" and chose Oleg on a draft. They are well familiar. And разговорились before the first match of the ending in which the son did not play. Мюррей it увидал also has then flown up to Oleg: « That it to you has told?! ». Has shown vigilance. After "Ottawa" has reached the ending, the Broker … have sent in resignation. In Canada there was a big scandal. To John have offered a post in club, but it has been offended and has refused.

Oleg: — it is curious, that one day prior to the resignation the Broker offered me the new contract with "Senators". But it has not arranged me. I in general have told, that for any money in "Ottawa" any more I shall not remain.

Dmitry: — Then instead of the Broker the general manager had been appointed Bryan Murray. Agent Oleg has told to it, that Сапрыкин all the same will leave. And they have agreed, that the son becomes beyond all bounds the free agent. However, Мюррей has put a condition, that officially it happens on July, 15th.

Oleg: — Yes, in two weeks after the market has opened and commands have begun a complete set. If have given vent earlier, to me would act much more offers. But the main thing that I any more did not have a confidence that the same history again will not repeat – I shall get in a new command in NHL, and to me again will not trust. And I wish to play!

Dmitry: — it is important to find the trainer. For example, it is pleasant to me, as Mike Bebkok from "Detroit" works. Or in "Calgary" of times of a campaign behind Stanley's Cup to play to Oleg it was good. So all is far not commands in NHL bad. Here as will carry – where you will get …

Oleg: — I have signed the contract from TsSKA under the scheme «1 1 1». That is through one season it can be will terminate one of the parties, and can be prolonged. Yes, me very much wished to detain in NHL, solidly having raised the salary. Thanks all managing directors of clubs who has shown to me interest. But I have decided to play TsSKA.


— It is considered to be, that NHL – the best hockey league in the world. But at it you see what minuses?

Oleg: — I do not like confusion which now occurs in trade union of players. After hockey players have lost in dispute because of which there was a lock-out, chairman of trade union for Bean Гуденау has left the post. At it our organization was strong, and now – is not present.

Dmitry: — I see a problem in what personnel selection is conducted by clubs. In each command there are stars, but under them in the third-fourth parts have started to drag бездарщину. And if earlier NHL had an income now staginess of hockey falls, so, earnings decrease.

— But in fact the league has raised a ceiling of salaries up to $50,3 million It means, that incomes of clubs grow.

Oleg: — And hockey players lose money … Under the new collective agreement players should give on 10 % from the salaries to safety fund. If the league will incur losses, this money will take away. As I know, for the last season at us will subtract 3 %. Still consider taxes – in Canada from me took away 51 % from the salary. So virtually you receive $1,1 million a year, and is real – 46 % from this sum.
No, now the superleague makes a real competition of NHL. Therefore to Russia come back Frosts, Твердовский, now here Yashin – here it is possible to play the hockey for normal money.
And at me the purpose is – to act in modular Russia in the world championship in Canada. Business not that I or the same Yashin need for something to prove to Canadians. Absolutely is not present. But to win gold on the native land of hockey, our first gold for 15 years – here it will be healthy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Trade Hopes Now All But Gone

One month after the start of free agency, and the Sens roster is looking almost full. If we can assume that McGrattan and Lawrence Nycholat have now earned permanent roster spots, and that Christoph Schubert will forever play left wing, we have the full 20 players we need to ice for a game. That still leaves us three short of the 23 players we are allowed to keep each season, something I'm very doubtful Murray will let slide.

But with just under 5 million left in cap space, it's hard to imagine that we could get much for our team without bringing up some B-Sens. There's been plenty of talk about trading Redden and Gerber, but after a month of moves in the NHL, there's little hope left that we can shop them. Taking into account that a team needs to be missing a solid goaltender to take Gerbs, a solid leader defenseman to take Redden, and needs to have the cap space and trade potential to tempt us, there are few options for Murray.

Redden has virtually eliminated any possibility of his trade. Murray admitted to having a deal worked out on draft day for Redden, likely with the Oilers prior to their Pitkanen and Souray moves, but Redden nixed the deal. If he wouldn't accept going close to home to play for a Canadian team as loved as the Oilers, there's almost no way he'd go anywhere else. Be mindful though: he's only 30, a bit young to retire (even with Niedermayer considering it at 34, although he's won it all). This season, after earning his 6.5 million, he is looking at a greatly reduced salary if he plays as he did last one. As long as Redden hindered himself, rather than being hindered by his age, an injury, or something outside his control, he will likely step up so that he can keep earning good money in the future, with the Sens or elsewhere.

Gerber would undoubtedly love to play more than the 29 games he played in this season. I'm going to stray from the common thought that he's a loser and needs to be gone faster than the Nashville franchise, and actually suggest that he's worthy of a shot. Look at his numbers from the last two seasons, as the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Hurricane's starter, and as the Sens backup to Emery. His save percentage was unchanged at .906, so it would appear he didn't get any worse. His Goals Against average was also the same, at 2.78 in both years, certainly not a shining mark. Both years he faced an average of 29 shots for every hour in the net. So how can you explain the difference between his record of 38-14-6 and 68.3% of possible points earned as a Cane and 15-9-3 with only 56.9% of possible points earned as a Sen? Since his stats show the same goalie, other factors might come into play.

It's not the sole responsibility of the goalie to secure a win for his team, so some blame could rest with the Senators. The Hurricanes finished the 05-06 season 4th in the league in points, one win back from second place, with 294 goals for, whereas the Sens finished the 06-07 season 9th in points, three wins back of third place, and with 288 goals for, showing a weaker team in front of Gerber this season. Take a look at his last twelve games: 10-0-2 with 91.7% of possible points earned. He had a .942 save percentage and a 2.08 GAA. Maybe not facing the toughest opponents, but nonetheless.

I believe that some of his failings may be, as we hope Reddens also were, due to self inflicted psychological pain. He lost his way against the Canadiens in last year's playoffs, losing his job to rookie Cam Ward, who played the rest of the way and helped the Canes win the Cup. Then his team decides to take the rookie and cast him off, just as the Ducks had let him go the year before. While not playing yet like a true starter, I believe he has the potential to be one, and surely has the potential to be part of a truly successful goaltending tandem. But it looks doubtful that anyone would want him. Boston took Manny. Toronto took Toskala. Florida took Vokoun. Phoenix took Aebischer. Bryzgalov's still on the market for less than 1.4 million. It would take a desperate team to go for Gerber now.

With both Gerber and Redden having not astounded anyone this past season, and with both looking to improve, the likeliest case will be that neither moves before the season begins. With games, they might both return to form, and interest teams. A newly tantalizing Gerber could tempt teams having goaltending misfortunes. Redden will not likely move though. Even if he plays up to his old form, his no-trade clause won't likely be waived. He would certainly not choose to waive it to leave the Sens if they looked ready to make a run for the cup. So, for the moment, it would appear that we will be in a long wait to see how things play out, and will have to hope for the best.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Senators Off Season Needs, Part 2

A whole month now passed, and barely a trickle of excitement has come for us loyal Sens fans, the most die-hard of us who unlike our sport don't take a vacation from our passion. A whole month, and apart from the relief we feel at the re-signing of Christoph Schubert, Ray Emery and Chris Kelly, and a few other signings, the only significant move was the trading of Peter Schaefer to the Boston Bruins for Shean Donovan.

This leaves us wanting more, and with the team needing more. This off-season, we've lost Mike Comrie to the New York Islanders, Tom Preissing to the Los Angeles Kings, and Oleg Saprykin has signed with CSKA Moscow. That leaves three holes in the roster. If one trusts the Sens web roster, it would seem that Donovan will likely replace Schaefer's spot on the bench, and perhaps Lawrence Nycholat will play more regularly with the loss of Preissing. However, as the roster still lists Oleg Saprykin, we can't be sure how trustworthy it is, keeping in mind how often the Sens website is slow to update, although they were quick to put Kelly back on after their announcement this morning.

That still leaves two holes at forward, and with only 4.97 million in cap space, finding more replacements is the daunting task facing Brian Murray. To guard against potential long-term injuries, Murray would like to keep some cap space free, so that he could make a move similar to the one that brought Comrie to us when our ranks were depleted with injuries last winter. As well, while he did not pursue any playoff rentals this past season, keeping additional cap space open to pursue that option this upcoming season might tighten Murray's pursestrings even more.

With Paddock and Murray's similarities, we might expect that Schubert will again see a majority of his games played on the wing, filling one of the two holes up front, and leaving Nycholat to take permanent hold of the last spot on the third defensive pairing. As for the front end, it will take Murray some creativity to pull out an additional forward or two. His current roster and cap troubles mean that Brian McGrattan might see a significant increase in ice time over last season. This would also fit with Murray's trade for Donovan, with both he and Grats able to toughen up the Sens, who seemed completely battered throughout their series with Anaheim.

At the moment the Sens have six right wings, four centres, and one left wing. If Schubert were to move up to left wing again, Paddock would just be able to ice the needed twelve forwards and six defensemen. With only 6 million, this would be an ideal time to look to the Binghamton Senators for a few extra players. While few blinding stars appear on their roster, previously called up players like Danny Bois and Joshua Hennessy, Bingo Sens with NHL experience such as Michal Barinka and Nicholas Dimitrakos, or other prospects on the roster might be called up and given a chance to prove themselves.

As the Ducks proved to us in the finals, it helps to have many youngsters who provide a big punch while only taking a nibble at the salary cap, like Ryan Getzlaf (25-33--58), Dustin Penner (29-16--45) and Corey Perry (17-27--44), each less than a 0.75 million dollar cap hit. Only time will tell if we can find the same kind of diamonds in our Binghamton Senators rough proving ground.

Senators Re-Sign Chris Kelly to One-Year Deal

This morning, Brian Murray announced that the Senators have avoided their final arbitration by re-signing Chris Kelly to a one-year deal worth 1.2625 million.

Kelly had a career season in 06-07, his second full season with the Sens. He collected career highs in goals (15), assists (23), and points (38), while amassing only 40 penalty minutes, playing in all 82 games. In the playoffs, he greatly improved on his pointless 05-06 run by collecting 3 goals and 4 assists for 7 points in 20 games this postseason.

With this signing, all the Sens are now locked up, and only new signings or trades will alter the roster for the 07-08 season.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Senators Re-Sign Ray Emery and Christoph Schubert

The Senators have avoided two arbitration hearings in re-signing restricted free agents Ray Emery and Christoph Schubert to three year deals.

Ray Emery's new cap number will be 3.167 million over the three years, after going 33-16-6 (12th) in the regular season, with five shutouts (tied for 6th), a .918 save percentage (tied for 7th), and a 2.47 Goals Against Average (tied for 13th). In the playoffs, Emery went 13-7 (tied for 1st) with three shutouts (tied for 1st), .907 save percentage (13th), and a 2.26 Goals Against Average (10th) to help the Senators fall three wins short of the Stanley Cup.

His price of 3.167 million is both expected and reasonable. It's not that he is as great a goaltender as Ryan Miller, or that he led his team to a Stanley Cup as rookie Cam Ward did, but their deals for 2.667 million are out of date compared to the high bidding of today. While the Sens got much further than the New York Rangers in the playoffs this year, Henrik Lundqvist is a better goalie, and so Emery should not have received the 4.25 million that he did. Emery isn't able to play 70+ games a season, and standing behind one of the best pure defensive pairings in the NHL and some fantastic defensive forwards surely helped Emery this season.

Christoph Schubert's new three year cap number will be 0.883 million, and this is indeed a steal for the Sens, at a time when their cap space is precious. While his 25 points won't impress many, his versatility should. He played in 80 games this season, over 50 of them as a left wing, and the rest in his natural position on the blue line. He also managed a plus/minus rating of +30. Not the best, but usually when it's that high, it's because you are or are a linemate of a top-scoring forward, or part of a top defensive pairing behind a top line. When you're playing on the third and fourth line, out of position, and often in front of the second and third defensive pairings, it's a true accomplishment.

I look forward to the next three seasons, to see Emery mature and earn his keep, and to see Schubert continue to surpass all expectations as one of our best value players.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Senators Sign Defenseman Matt Kinch to 1-year Contract

In their second move of the day, the Ottawa Senators have signed defenseman Matt Kinch to a 1-year contract.

Matt Kinch leaves the German Hockey League to add further depth on the Senators blue line. He will likely play for the Binghamton Senators, unless he can show Murray and Paddock that he is ready for his NHL debut.

Along with Lawrence Nycholat of Calgary, AB, and Shean Donovan of Timmins, ON, Matt Kinch of Red Deer, AB, marks a trio of Canadians being signed by the Senators. Perhaps Murray is addressing the excuse many Canadians had for cheering for the Ducks in June, the fact that they had a couple more Canadian players on their roster (nevermind the fact that twice as many of our regular roster Canadians were drafted by the Sens, eight, compared to only four for the Ducks, or that our Canadians average four years with the team, as opposed to the Ducks' two years). Regardless, it seems as though Murray is doing everything he can to give Canadian fans more reason to be red next season, and perhaps is also trying to find the passion Canadian players have in more abundance than, say, the Havlats, Hossas, Yashins and Charas of the NHL, who are content to earn a big juicy contract, only to lose their killer instinct when the ink dries.

Senators Trade Peter Schaefer to Bruins for Shean Donovan.

The Senators have traded Peter Schaefer, with three years at a cap hit of 2.1 million left on his contract, to the Bruins for right wing Shean Donovan, with one year at a cap hit of 925 thousand left on his contract, freeing up 1.2 million in cap space this year and getting the Sens off the hook for 2.1 million in each of the following two years.

The 32 year old Donovan has 214 points in 774 NHL games with the Sharks, Avalanche, Thrashers, Penguins, Flames and Bruins, with a career high 42 points in 82 games with the Flames the year before the lockout, and played with the Flames during their run to the Stanley Cup Final. He will bring a veteran presence to the team, and while this certainly isn't Gary Roberts we're talking about, expect that this steady hand will help keep the team on track after their best season ever.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Senators Re-Sign Defenseman Lawrence Nycholat, Sign Right Wing Niko Dimitrakos

We can all wake up from the sleepy off-season we Sens fans have witnessed so far, because there's been some action. While the re-signing of green defenseman Lawrence Nycholat and signing of right wing Niko Dimitrakos is but a drop compared to the splashes of other teams, it is a good sign.

Nycholat only has 28 NHL games to his name, and at 27 he probably won't be filling the void left by Preissing. However, playing for the Rangers pre-lockout and the Capitals this season didn't give Nycholat as many defensive leaders to learn from as the Sens can offer. As Phillips and Redden have helped guide the younger set, Mezaros and Volchenkov, so too can they help to improve Nycholat. While his -3 rating over 18 games with the capitals last season was nothing to be proud of, he did manage 8 points, which if continued could help to offset the points we lost with Preissing.

As for Niko Dimitrakos, he could help to provide some more depth, perhaps in preparation for freeing up cap space by moving a forward, such as Schaefer.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Senators Off Season Needs: Defense

I can't say it's surprising that almost a full two weeks into free agency and in the buzz and big-signings of the new NHL, the Sens have accounted for precisely.... 0% of total action. To break it down, that's 0 signings, 0 trades, and 0 dollars of change. Unless of course you count losing Mike Comrie to the depleted Islanders. But Comrie's probably not worth 3.375 for a mere 45 points (unless he can play a full season and keep pacing up closer to 60). And of course there's Tom Preissing returning home to sunny Cali to play with the Kings, and the price for Preissing was likely also too high, but that's the way it goes in the new NHL.

While no new deals have come for the sens beyond signing a few of their prospects, there's plenty that the fans have been clamoring for Murray to do to liven up the shortened off-season. Maybe no big moves will happen, or maybe it's just taking time to find the right mix, taking into account the fact that we've had 2 months less time to really prepare for free agency compared to the Leafs, Flyers, Avalanche and 11 other teams in the league, and that Murray certainly had no time or thought to what he wanted to do as he coached our Sens further than anyone has in recent history, and only just recently being appointed GM. Right now we'll see how the blue line is looking, and in a while we'll move on to check out our forwards and our men in the crease.

The only change thus far on our defense has been, as mentioned, the loss of Tom Preissing. There has been some concern over the loss of his numbers, but the Sens should be fine. While Preissing led our defense in points with 38, Mezaros, 35, Redden, 36, and Corvo, 37, have the ability to pick up the slack. Of our top 6 defensemen last season, only Volchenkov didn't score 7 or 8 goals. While he did have one of our top +/-, we will likely either obtain a free agent defenseman to slot into the lineup, although no names stand out to me at this time as being candidates for Murray to pursue, and he would likely invest the extra cap in replacing Comrie or saving for the trade deadline, or perhaps bring up Brian Lee or Matt Carkner, as both have matured and developped well.

Most people's concern, however, is that we are very close to the cap. Just over 9 million away seems like a lot, until you realize that we need to sign two more forwards, another defenseman, and a second goalie. That averages out to just over two million apiece. With Schubert, Kelly, and Emery headed to arbitration, and Emery unlikely to be as affordable as that 2 million average, it's a hard crunch to put our team together, let alone to give us some room to breathe and potentially make some mid-season moves, like how we brought in Comrie during our injury days last season to help.

So the common thought is that we need to shift some payrolls, and on the blue line there's only one name that comes up: Redden. As our assistant captain, Wade's put up some powerful numbers. He had seasons as one of the best tape-to-tape passers and powerplay quarterbacks, but he has slid of late. Corvo and Preissing took up the first powerplay unit, while Phillips and Volchenkov were our number 1 defensive pairing. He's grown sluggish and seems to have lost his passion for the game, despite the love most Sens fans still give him. His 6.5 million next year is the biggest of any Sen, and it might be time for him to go. But all does not bode well.

Redden's no-trade clause makes it unlikely that he would want to move from his longtime home in Ottawa, where he also has a chance next year to capture the Cup, especially not to a less hockey-passionate franchise, as befits most teams that have the cap space for him. The lone chance we really stood of finding a team in need of defensive bolstering, with the same hockey passion as us, and for whom he would waive his no-trade clause is now gone. Edmonton, much closer to Lloydminster, SK, than Ottawa, Redden's hometown, has been looking for good blue-liners ever since they traded Pronger. They also had the cap space. Now they've traded for Joni Pitkanen and signed Sheldon Souray, and Redden no longer seems to be wanted or needed, and we look to be stuck with him, for better or for worse.

There are still a few teams that might want Redden though. Tampa has only signed four defensemen, and has been looking to improve on the 3.16 GAA they posted last season, but they only have 10 million left to play with. Chicago would look to be a bit more needy with the same four on defense, but only two earning over 1 million (at 1.4 apiece), and with the team having almost 12 million to play with. While they have six D men signed and are working on Paul Martin, with 13 million left and their annual tradition of hemorrhaging their top blue liners still intact, New Jersey might have some faint interest, but most of that cap will likely be used to keep Zach Parise put. Washington and Atlanta, with roughly 10 and 20 million left to spend respectively, and not-so-impressive defensive units, represent another route which we could follow. Lastly, the rebuilding Islanders have the highest chance of being an avenue, as they have a full front lineup, 16 million to spare, and need themselves a bona fide lead defenseman. However, despite all these teams that might shop for Redden, in the end that no-trade clause will likely be the nail in the coffin on any plans to move him.