James Day Preview: The Ottawa Senators Host the Nash Bridges

pred 2 JDP

Hi. What of it? Who cares.

Let’s get right straight into today’s Hype Jam presented by Crystal Lite:

You exercisers out there, you are the true champeens. KEEP FIT AND HAVE FUN MOTHERFUCKERRRRRRRRS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So here’s the good news. The margin of error is huge here. Thanks to the Toronto Mapleaves basically anything north of allowing 9 goals will seem reasonable if Ottawa loses. If they take this baby to overtime? That’s basically like 3.4 spiritual victories right there! United in expectations! Cap Floor Makes Us!
K, here’s the bad news. The team we’re playing scored nine fucking goals in their last game. 8 different scorers too. E’rrybody feelin that fresh biscotti confidence right now. Which is nice? …for them?

Needless to say, the Sens are in for quite a challenging stretch of games playing the Preddss, the Winged Wheel and the Bluesmen twice over the next week or so. Daunting? Yes. Also a chance to make a statement or two? I JUST JINXED IT AND YOU’RE ALL WELCOME.
Let us be the seriousness for a moment. You wouldn’t know it by hanging around on twitter but the Senators have actually won more games than they have lost this season and are holding down a bubble spot in the ToiletEast.
Looking back at the team’s wins thus far, they have pretty much exclusively been beating hurtin’ ass teams (Columbus, Edmonton) and aight teams (Detroit, Minnesota). That alone is basically a better performance than last year but I cant help but notice the only very good team they’ve defeated so far was Tampa Bay in just their second game. When it comes to the high qual lot of opponents the Sens appear to be in the “Good for them for keeping it close and making a game of that loss” (like when they played Chicago) or “Hey came out with a point!” (like when they played Chicago) phase of things. Am I suggesting that they are due to beat a very good team like Nashville? Nah, nothing’s handed to nobody in this league (writing!) but I am hoping for them to surprise in a couple of these upcoming games as I cant help but look compulsively at the standings these days. Sure, it’s still so early in the season that less than 10 points separates Ottawa from the conference crown (not that I remotely expect that) but what I’m fixated on is that currently a mere 4 points could bounce Ottawa out of Wild Card territory and into what hockey historians call “the actual mix.” (Citation not needed as citations are a form of snitching).
Given the parity in the league these days, tiny point differentials in the standings tend to stick around all season, but still I feel like the longer the Sens can keep themselves above 8th place, the more they can get away with their average ways. *eyebrow wiggle, wink, tear*
With games in hand on a lukewarm Detroit, a lumbering Boston and a Toronto team that is currently a Diarrhea Factory that’s on fire and the only thing to put it out are high powered diarrhea hoses, the door is open for Ottawa to maybe move up a spot or two in the standings.
But again, HEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY they are about to play a team that scored 9 fucking goals in their last game BUT AT LEAST THEY ARE ONLY IN FIRST PLACE IN THE CENTRAL DIVISION.

Your Starting Goalies: A Tradition of Respect…Continues.
Robinne Lehner gets the start in net. He is still searching for his first win since
1. The birth of his son Sycamore Aloysius Lehner
2. The creation of this assholish thing I came up with. What was I saying? Oh yeah,
3. Lehnny, c’mon, win the fucking game.
That’s simply a tremendous and helpful list right there.

Really though, I wish Lehner got a start on that road trip. I can’t be certain it would have resulted in more W’s and of course Andy has been playing out of his mind but therein lies a bit of an issue for me. You keep playing the hot hand in Anderson like MacLean did one has to assume that he’s eventually going to have a weak game like he did against Calgary. I tend to think that after a while you’re kind of playing Russian roulette with his sharpness. Whatever, I don’t fucking know (THANKS FOR READING) but I was really on board with the true tandem thing and now Lehner has to come in to a pretty huge game after not having played in about 2 weeks and is coming off of a loss himself. Hopefully he doesn’t look it because we really, really really need him at his best tonight (aaaaaaaaadoi).
Something called Carter Hutton starts for the Predators. In playing a goalie I have never heard of and at age 28 has fewer than 50 NHL starts, Nashville is carrying on a tradition of respect given to the Sens for a few years now.  Nashville is playing great and have some serious MFs on defense but I would love for Ottawa’s snipers to take advantage of facing so many backups. I would imagine that part of being the lowest paying team in the league that’s somehow in a playoff spot is capitalizing on teams underestimating you like this. Let’s stress out the Jason LaBarbaras of the world with high clappers and low blocker shots, huh?

Legs Will Be Wands.
Well, a big story going into the game is no doubt Coach Yod’s Psychedelic Rock Lines (available on gatefold special edition tie dye vinyl). The most controversial of all being the Greening – Legwand – Ryan line. A combo that I honestly can’t even picture those players’ friends and relatives even being stoked on.
David Legwand has not been well received so far and with fair reason. Having watched him in 17 games it’s pretty crazy to believe this guy put up 51 points last year.  What’s interesting for me is that he was brought on to insulate the center position and I was wondering how long it would be before MacLean needed to bump down a struggling Zibanejad and promote Leggz (assuming that has to be his nickname) so the 21 year old could regroup. Assuming the lines remain comme ca:
What positives can be taken out of it?
Hmmmmm. *25 minutes later* …..Okay I got a couple of things!
The bizarre feeling second line of Michalek – Zibanejad – Ryan did precious little to warrant MacLean keeping them together, so I suppose were not “losing out” on it’s demise to the shuffle. I do in one sense get that if there’s a player who could spark a second line that as shitty as this one, it’s Ryan rather than Chiasson. In fact, Chiasson has actually demonstrated a pretty impressive affinity for deflections at the goal mouth or at the very least, posing a threatening distraction that goalies must deal with while MacArthur takes a glamorous shot (Of Note: Faces Magazine voted MacArthur’s shot Ottawa’s Sexiest Shot to pose a threatening distraction to on a first date). I don’t mind him staying up with 7 and 16.
*Completely skips over Michalek – Smith – Neil line* 
Listen lady, we’re all sensitive people with so much to give and we have to YOLO every minute of our stupid lives whether it’s in the form of helping your dad move his office over the course of an entire Sunday, buying a new shower curtain or enjoying a hockey game on a Thursday following a week of no hockeys.
To this end, before the season started, if you showed me a piece of paper with “Hoffman – Zibanejad – Stone” on it, I’d probably say, “That’s a pretty exciting piece of paper you have there. Some dynamic things written on it as well. Care for one of these Rolos? Bet you havent had one of these in ages! When I was a kid I used to like putting them in the freezer and– ” And it goes on like this. Anyway, that could be a pretty fun line to watch. I think Zibenejad has the potential to create a lot of space for Stone and Hoff. Hopefully this trio clicks to the point that they get more ice time than 9 -15- 25. A GIRL CAN DREAM AFTER ALL.

I’m not even going to talk about defense. Fuck it. Thanks 4 reading.

Enjoy the game and remember: A win is a win is a anything better than a 9-2 loss.

Is next year a signpost for Ottawa’s financial health?

Yep, we spent all off season talking about a billionaire’s cash flow, and now hockey is finally here and we have something fun to talk about and I’ve decided to write a post about…a billionaire’s cash flow. Give me a break, I’m 63 years old. Nothing excites me like sound fiscal policy.

We talked about this a little bit on our latest podcast, which I know you’ve all listened to already so when you listen to it again now it will be like travelling back in time and watching yourself enjoy it, sort of like how everyone who watches the Dave Chapelle show basically likes to watch someone who’s never seen the Prince sketch watch it for the first time more than they like the sketch itself. What was I talking about?

Right. Ottawa recently attained the ignominious achievement of Lowest Payroll in the League. And by a good couple of million bucks to boot. Look at the teams directly above Ottawa in that list: Calgary and Buffalo, who are both in various stages of rebuilding; Arizona and Nashville, who are in non-traditional markets and have struggled financially for years; Winnipeg, who has the smallest building in the league and even then, the Jets are spending $5MM more in salary than Ottawa is. The average cap space in this league is $3MM, and the median is $2.3MM. Ottawa has $13MM in cap space.

So, yes, we ain’t flush. But what happens next year? With the cap reportedly staying about the same, Ottawa’s has new deals kicking in for Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur, and Craig Anderson. (And Mark Borowiecki, though that’s not too pricey.) That’s just over $5MM in raises right there.

Then there are the RFAs: Mike Hoffman (8 points, 7 goals in 13 games) and Mark Stone (9 points in 15 games), who are currently make up one of Ottawa’s most productive lines. Mika Zibanejad, who’s struggling but is penciled in as Ottawa’s second line center until further notice. And Alex Chiasson, who’s looked great (9 points in 13 games). Fair to say that their deals will be all over the place given their different positions in the lineup, relative ages, leverage, Ottawa’s strategy of giving out years in exchange for lower pay, and how the rest of this season plays out. But if we very conservatively estimate that each player doubles his salary on a “prove it” bridge deal of $2MM per, then that’s another $4MM towards the cap.

Then there are the pending UFAs. I’m sure Ottawa would love to keep Methot in the mix. Eric Condra has been a healthy scratch lately and could be on his way out. Assuming Ottawa lets Condra go and re-signs Methot at $4.5MM-$5MM per, that brings Ottawa’s spending to about $10MM above current levels. Or, about league average in terms of spending.

With the cap staying about the same, Ottawa could catapult itself from last in league spending to the middle of the pack without doing anything overly aggressive. No trades. Not getting into the free agent market. Just standing pat with the team it has now.

Which is why next year will be so interesting. The glass half-full perspective here is that this is why Ottawa has been so prudent these last few years. They knew they’d have to spend on all of this young talent eventually. The glass half-empty perspective supposes that we’re about to see an exodus of talent via salary-dumping moves.

Surely it would be no surprise if Ottawa jettisoned Colin Greening and Patrick Wiercioch, players they’ve seemingly been trying to trade since they day they signed them. Zack Smith has also been in rumours, and with Ottawa’s surplus of third line centers would seem like an obvious trade target. Here at WTYKY we continue to pray that Chris Neil finds his way into a San Jose Sharks uniform when that team finally has its full-blown identity crisis and decides that ‘grit wins Cups.’

If those kinds of moves take place, it might be another indication of Ottawa’s financial health, or lack thereof. The TSN television deal will have started to pay at that point. If Ottawa has a strong season and makes the playoffs, ticket sales will be strong. If Ottawa doesn’t spend to at least league average, what does that say about Melnyk’s ability to support this team as its window of contention starts to creak open again?

Kudos to TSN for its classy piece on Bryan Murray

I’m sure many of you have already seen this short piece on Bryan Murray’s battle with stage 4 colon cancer, but if you haven’t, it’s poignant, authentic, and well worth your time.

Nicely done, TSN – especially having the interview conducted by Michael Farber, a cancer survivor, and then throwing to the panel to talk about how they’re all going to get colonoscopies. It makes a difference, especially in bullheaded, traditional cultures like hockey’s, to de-stigmatize these preventative measures.

Finally, you can really tell how well-respected Murray is in hockey circles. Anytime you see someone who’s dedicated half of their life to an endeavor, it deserves a moment’s recognition.

All the best to Bryan Murray from the WTYKY fam.

Scotchcast Episode 8: Emotional Times

BLESS UP! Join Cyber Badboys Varada, Steve and James as they make the tremendous life decision of drinking hard liquor on a Monday night and share their emotions, shitty ideas and MUSINGS about everyone’s favourite team the Ottawa Senators. Topics include their EMOTIONS 20% of the way into the spiritual journey that is their season, betting several trillion dollars on who’s getting the boot from the roster when Marc Methot is released from his underwater prison and other frustratingly delightful tangents along the way. They, as always, take on hardball questions from you the beloved listener. Enjoy!

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Ottawa That 1st Period Against Detro Tho Vs. Minnesota City Wildernesses

First off, Lest We Forget…Tha Pass 

The most Swaggerless team in the West, the Minneapolis Wilds, snooze into town tonight. GET HYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYPED.
This team is so boring that not even Matt Cooke, a player who gruesomely sidelined our Captain for nearly a year, will be in the lineup to make things interesting.
Mild Rant: Take this moment as a pleasant reminder that you gotta hear both sides. Matt Cooke is a changed man. Oh, that Achilles laceration? Why he was just trying to neutralize the back of Karlsson’s ankle with the blade of his skate LIKE YOU DO in the game of ice hockey. It’s called Old Tyme Hockey. A throw back to the good old days, like the time that Bobby Clarke used the classic “use your stick to break the other team’s best player’s ankle” defense technique.  Good clean fun. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, WHATEVER FUCK!

Just Nudge Me if I Fall Asleep Writing About These Guys (or don’t, plz).
An item of “interest” for tonight is the Wild’s banged up roster. Zack Parise will not be in the lineup for tonight’s tilt after suffering a concussion. He is their best forward. He…is not playing. Matt Cooke is probably serving time in piece of shit jail and is also unavailable. So are some their other defensemen/who cares.
The Wild are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Penguins and are beginning a 3 game road trip. Can Ottawa take advantage of these things? I don’t know. They only seemed to do so against the Syracuse Crunch feat. Curtis McElhinny so far this season…but they also kind of just beat Detroit’s ass so should be interesting. If they can come out of the gate like they did last game I feel good but defenseman Ryan Suter is apparently amazing despite never getting written about and is no one’s favourite player. Oh, and Tomas “Gamblor” Vanek has one goal on the year which is hilarious. The sniper has one goal on the year so far. Let’s not be the #AccomodatingSens and keep him on the perimeter and …uhh…ON the schnide? Is that how you use that? *looks up Wickedpedia.org/schnide* Speaking of having trouble in the biscuit department…

Kyle Turris Please Stay Chain Fliffin’ and Don’t Get Snakebitten

Gunna be the flyest at the grade 7/8 dance with that chain! Still needs a turtleneck but I still see you shinin’ my T.

Gotta feel for Turris after that Detroit game. He had what must have been quite a frustrating outing against a particularly sharp Jiminy Howard. First, he had a goal waved off for some reason (WTYKY is sad to report that Mr. Howard has since passed away from his injuries on the play. Please donate to his memorial fund here). Then after, that he springs free on a shorthanded breakaway and all the way from the Intensive Care Unit at the General Hospital, Howard manages to flash the leather and rob him…k..THEN AFTER THAT Turris is closing in on a two on one break (did I mention how awesome the Sens played against Detroit?) and who else but old Selke Trophy McGee, Pavel Datsyuk is the one backchecking on the play and makes an impossible takeaway on a goalmouth tap in. He even had other great chances on top of these! With 2 goals on the year and only one that counts, I really hope he can put one in tonight otherwise it could start getting in his head and no one wants that. He’s playing pretty well (though some more face off wins would be grrrrreaaaaat) and I would hate to see this slump go on. Considering he once went a month without one he’s capable of some Schnide Time but you know what? He’s a Platinum Angel who plays with Perfect Hockey Player Clarke MacArthur and Robby Bryan, I think he can get it done. This game will likely be decided by offense because as Sir Mix A Lot would say, things are lookin’ paltry on the back end.

And they said we were FOOLS for carrying 37 defensemen!
So on a D corps already so fragile that we had to turn to 36 year old Chris Phillips who was on the 3rd pairing last year to play with Erik Karlsson, we are now short one Big Rig. As a result we are going to see Karl play with a rotating cast of every left handed defender on the team. I am reaaaaaaaaally hoping that coming off a good game Wiercioch can actually run with the ball and kind of calm the shuffling down. Why? Oh just because Mark Borowiecki who has only played 29 career games is slated to start with Karlsson and this makes me … how you say…uneasy. Actually you know what? I bet Karlsson plays both left and right tonight and ends up paired with everyone at some point. Play along with Karlsson Pairing Bingo at home or on your Newton™ mobile device! The outcome of this game relies heavily on otherworldly play from Karlsson. So, business as usual, I guess.

Marc Methot Health Status Update: Still need to confirm but hearing from a couple of sources that Methot was seen gingerly doing the Shmoney Dance. Progress!

Craig Anderson gets a well deserved second consecutive start after one of his best performances of the year on Tuesday. Despite being a fan of his I can give him a pretty hard time for his inability to stop the first 10 shots of the game but he rose up to meet an big challenge that night. After facing only 2 shots in the first period (one real and one of the ‘trying to get one on net to pump the stats up in hopes the coach will be less mad at us at intermission’ variety) he stood tall and looked absolutely incredible as the Wings mounted quite the charge for the next two periods. Crazy hard to be thinking about Madagascar for a whole period then suddenly having to face like 30 shots in the next two.
Musings: I think this set goaltending tandem thing has really made Anderson up his game to prove that ain’t nobody gonna hold him down from being no.1. I hope he can stay hot but he’s going to need a lot of help from the forwards as…you know…dat D. Speaking of stepping up…

Finally, I don’t know how long our boy is for this team (thanks untradeable Colin Greening Contract!) but I wanted to give some due to E. Hondra. This is a guy who is coming out of stays in the press box and playing consistently very well. That’s gotta be a pretty tough task. If I were him and I was only getting the odd game after being an steady roster regular for the past couple of seasons I’d be so distracted trying not to fuck up that I’d be playing like…Colin Greening. With Marc Methot’s impending return in mid-2015 (don’t hold me to that bold prediction!)  I worry that Condra’s useful skill set and reasonable contract will make him the odd man out when the Senators are forced to make a move. In the meantime, couldn’t ask for a better guy to insert into the lineup in a pinch. Shouts to you Conrdra.

Anyway, let’s go smoke behind the Quickie before the game.

The Cautionary Tale of Jared Cowen and how we view Curtis Lazar


The year was 2010, and Jared Cowen had just been sent back to junior.

The prospect’s prestige was undeniable. A first overall selection in the WHL draft, his team, the Chiefs, would win the league championship in his first full season with the club and Cowen would receive the team’s rookie-of-the-year award. He was ranked the fourth best skater heading in the NHL draft despite a terrible-looking knee injury, and was eventually selected by Ottawa ninth overall. The feeling at the time was that Ottawa might have snagged itself a top-five pick. The club began pouring echinacea directly into his kneecap and prayed.

At the time it seemed the burnish on Cowen was blinding. His ceiling wasn’t just as a serviceable NHL defender, but as a stud shutdown player, capable of playing half the game on the top pairing. He was to be the perfect defensive yin to Erik Karlsson’s offensive yang.

More than that, Cowen was the corrective to the wrong that was allowing Zdeno Chara, who would become a generationally great player and perennial Norris contender, to walk for nothing. Cowen and Karlsson would be the foundation on which the team would complete its rebuild-on-the-fly, and return the team to the high-flying years when Chara and Wade Redden formed one of the best tandems in the league.

I can’t really overstate this: coming out of the modern franchise’s first finals appearance and having lived through the devastating Heatley affair, dismissing multiple coaches, and missing the playoffs for the first time in ages, the Ottawa Senators were all about hope. They’d jump-started their rebuild by taking Erik Karlsson in the middle of the first round. Cowen was just another piece in the narrative puzzle, a stepping stone on the road back to glory.

In 2010-2011, with Cowen already having played an NHL game and expected to challenge for a roster spot, Ottawa opted to send him back to junior for the year. He was a dominant player there, the captain of his team, and capped his year by joining the Binghamton Senators on a run that would result in an AHL Calder Cup. Everything was falling into place.

It’s sort of a fairy-tale when told this way. We, the fans, want so badly for the narrative to be true: a blue chip prospect, succeeding at every level, all but destined to join the team and take it over the top.

And at times it’s seemed as if the management has wanted to believe this as much as the fans do. They’ve played him in top four minutes, often on a pairing with Erik Karlsson despite less-than-stellar results. There was the rumoured eight-year deal Ottawa had on the table, which you could argue was just an attempt to get good value out of a prospect with a lot of potential but still represented a massive gamble on a player who’d yet to really establish himself as a regular NHLer.

During what sometimes seemed like a contentious negotiation on his RFA deal it seemed like even Cowen had bought into the narrative, looking for salary in excess of $4MM a year. The team eventually settled on a deal that would pay him just a shade over $3MM for four years. It wasn’t the richest deal in the league, but keep in mind that Cowen had missed close to a whole season with a hip injury, and had played about a season’s worth of games at that point.

While there have been highlights–he had a good series against Montreal that one year, though most of the team did–we’ve come associate Cowen with mind-boggling brain farts. Despite (perhaps because of) his size, he loses his assignments in transition. Far from the perfect complement to Karlsson, he seems baffled by his linemate’s speed and mobility. He was supposed to be the safety net that would allow Karlsson to follow his riskier instincts; too often we see the gaffes inherent to Karlsson’s free-wheeling tendencies exacerbated rather than remedied by a confused Cowen. And then there are the penalties, which came early and often.

So, here we are: 11 games into the season and Cowen has already been a healthy scratch in consecutive games. It’s the nadir of his early NHL career, and the narrative is looking a little bit like a fairy tale after all. None of which is to imply that he’s a bust, or should be traded. Cowen still has potential, and Ottawa needs all of the young, potentially good defensemen it can get. It’s just that the narrative and the expectations associated with Cowen, before he was ever really a regular part of the lineup, don’t match.

Which brings us to Curtis Lazar. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

Lazar was a second overall selection in the WHL draft. The Edmonton Oil Kings won the WHL championship in his first year on the team. The next year they lost in the finals, and then, the season following, won the championship again and the Memorial Cup to boot. He played on Team Canada’s Junior Team, was drafted 17th overall in the NHL draft, and the feeling was both that Lazar was a steal at that spot and almost a complete player at the tender age of 18.

But, more than that and also like Cowen, Lazar’s particular set of intangibles were thought a perfect complement to the perceived gaps in the NHL club. Lazar was gritty, determined, and a natural winner. Ottawa, and particularly its ultra-skilled captain Jason Spezza, had failed to establish an identity, were being pushed around by other clubs, didn’t work hard enough, and on and on. (I don’t believe any of that, but it was the narrative.) Once again a promising young prospect was expected to address the historical injustices of a club that’s never been able to win the whole enchilada.

So here we find ourselves, at the nine game cusp of Curtis Lazar’s tryout before his deal kicks in, and it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll remain with the big club as opposed to being sent back to junior. After all, he’s won everywhere already; what more is there to be gained from him returning to Edmonton? It’s a solid argument, but there’s a lesson here.

Cowen wasn’t able to live up to expectations, and he had the advantage of a buffer year in the juniors. I worry that Lazar sticking with the big club means even bigger expectations. By sending Lazar back to juniors you have the protection of a kid from the unreasonable, pretty much mythical expectations attendant all sports franchises. The club needs to actively manage those expectations for Lazar, and not just for this season, but for the next couple, maybe even the next few seasons. Because those expectations are ridiculous.

We have plenty of evidence that 18 year old players rarely contribute at the NHL level unless they’re a first overall pick and being used in all situations. And so far it seems like Ottawa is doing the right thing; Lazar is playing sheltered minutes on the third or fourth line, getting offensive zone starts and some limited power-play time. Nobody expects him to set the world on fire right away.

But what about next season? We’re in a fickle, Canadian market, remember? How long do you think it will be before analysts start saying that Curtis Lazar needs to “step up his game”? How long is it before Lazar finds himself in the position Mika Zibanejad is in now, under the uncomfortably hot spotlight of armchair analysts and fans?

There’s a part of me that wonders if Lazar would benefit from another year in junior, not because he needs more seasoning, or because being in the NHL isn’t better for his skill development, but because it allows us to keep the narrative just that–a narrative–for a little while longer. Sure, it holds off having to pay Lazar for another year. But it also keeps expectations abstract and distant for the moment. Lazar the savior, with the leadership and intangibles to fill the void. Lazar, representing everything and nothing at the same time.

And there’s another part of me that thinks it’s up to us, the fans, to keep our heads screwed on right. This is a teenager we’re talking about. Cowen couldn’t fill our expectations because, really, how could he? There are only 60 top-two NHL defensemen in the world on any given game night. It’s a pretty exclusive club. But he’s whipping boy number one at the moment, and perhaps rightly so. We, the fans, can avoid doing this same thing to Lazar when his time comes.

It starts now, with us busting up these narrative when we encounter them. Lazar is a promising young player. But first and foremost he’s a kid trying to make his way into the best hockey league in the world. If the club isn’t going to insulate him by sending him back to junior, then let’s let him be that for as long as he needs to be.