Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Sens Keep Growing - Updated

The craziest idea, evaluating Jesse Winchester's potential, new head coach Craig Hartsburg's vision for the team, and Jason Spezza ready to grow.

Updated - A few stories from the Sens website.

The Ottawa Sun reports that several sources have confirmed that Brian Murray has been making pitches to Sundin to join the Ottawa Senators. With about $5 million in cap space, and more than enough forwards eager to play, the Sens would have to move a forward or two in order to make room for Sundin and his salary. Only Vermette or Kelly on their own could be moved to get the roughly $7 million we'd need, but on good two- and four- year deals, it would be a foolish move. More likely might be to move someone like Neil, whom I keep hearing has some value to other teams and with Ruutu and Bass potentially less value to us, and then we could see another small forward salary tagged on, hopefully gaining us a good prospect and/or pick, since we don't want to recrowd the forward ranks.

Wait, did I just suggest that this might even be possible? Clearly I am as sick as I have been the past couple days. Sundin will not be in a Sens jersey. As much as I love hearing from the Sun that League Execs think Melnyk would love the signing as a knife to the heart of Leafs Nation, and I too would love it, it's just not in the cards. Wait until he decides he even wants to play, and until some of the other teams in the running have dropped out, and then there's enough room for you on the crazy train. Yes, I realize that $5 million is enough to sign him later on in the season, which is how long his decision is rumoured to take, but you should know how I feel about that.

Today the Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren wants to remind us that we shouldn't forget about Jesse Winchester's potential. The NHL rookie (well, ok, he does have one game with the Sens under his belt) was passed over in the OHL and NHL drafts, but the Sens signed him among interest from many other teams late last season, arguably due to the fact that he finished his three years in college with 38 goals and 72 assists.

Indeed I will look for that potential as well, when I hope to take in two or three of the rookie squad's games this weekend. I do wonder how easily the winger might adjust, as Warren sugests, to being a winger alongside Fisher or Spezza. No, not because he's a rookie, but because even as much as we see Spezza as a passing machine, Winchester's assists make up a greater total of his point production than even Spezza. Going 8-29--37 in his last season should highlight this quite effectively. Nonetheless, I do believe he can and will contribute to our scoring, I'm just curious to see how long it will take for him to find his chemistry and his place.

The Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren also writes today about Craig Hartsburg's vision for this drastically different Ottawa Senators team. He sees the potential of both our star players, and the effectiveness of our role players. While he's eager to leave the party image of last year's team behind, he doesn't want to baby the team; Hartsburg wants to treat the team like men, and have them approach the game as men. Hartsburg observes that while all Cup winning teams have plenty of skill, they don't make the leap until the team finds the proper chemistry, trust, and character becomes a part of themselves, and the team as a whole. It would indeed explain the drastic turnaround between the last two playoff series between the Pens and the Sens, as the Pens had a very similarly talented roster in both, only they were able to find greater strength and draw on it the second time around. If Hartsburg can practice what he preaches, this will indeed be a season and team worth watching and cheering for.

From TSN, we hear that Jason Spezza is ready to be the all-around player the Ottawa Senators so desperately want to see in him. He talks about the stigma you face between being an offensive powerhouse, and the point where you break through as an all-around star player, and indeed the fans and media have made him feel it throughout his short tenure with the team. Hartsburg says he wants to put Spezza in new situations, draw out new areas of his game, and says that Spezza is excited at the challenge. While it will take a while to see what happens with Spezza this year, I'm sure the change in attitude towards Ray Emery between the last two seasons and his maturity's non-development might have hit home with him, and at the moment he's saying all the right things. If you watch the video clip by Brent Wallace of this same story, you'll learn that he's even finally switching to composite sticks, while keeping his wooden ones on hand, just in case. I'm sure we're all eager to see what this combination of attitude, pressure, and equipment change can draw out of our star center, and this season has waited long enough to start already.

The Ottawa Senators website has a trio of stories today, dealing with Hartsburg's readiness to start the season, a look at the rookies who want to challenge for roster spots, and Richardson's goal to play another NHL season. Very similar stories to the previous ones, stressing Hartsburg's desire for accountability (hopefully fewer stupid penalties and no look passes), the odds that Foligno, Lee, Bass, and Winchester all have a good shot at making the team (which means what for guys like Zubov and Nikulin, who have a ton of desire but temptations to play in the KHL?), and mention of Richardson's desire to play another NHL season. He has been invited to training camp, but with only two potentially open spots, and Lee, Picard, Bell, Schubert, and Richardson all challenging for them, it will be anything but easy for Luke to make the cut. He appears to have been offered some sort of coaching position, but you have to wonder if he might not go somewhere else where there's room. Or, whether there's some chance that there might be room for him, but that's a long, long shot.

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