Scotchcast Episode 7: Shout Out to Pretty Much Everything

Scotchcast

Your favourite Cyber Badboys are back in the latest, greates—uhh MOST RECENT episode of the Scotchcast.
Join them as they go on a spiritual journey and discuss edgy Senators-related topics of the day. In what has been described as their STEAMIEST (citation needed) episode yet, these legendary (citation needed) bloggers take on:
– Expectations for the team this season in the garbage dump East
– Their player picks for potential breakout seasons, flameout seasons or BOTH (Controversy, She Wrote!)
– Thoughts on the new Supporters Section at the Tires.com Arena
and of course they answer YOUR questions in the Talk To The Audience Segment (Special SexXxy Edition)

Oh, and a special mystery houseguest (It’s Uncle Euge)

Great Mikspectations: Do We Want Too Much From This Delightful Young Scamp in 2014-15?

B-I-G , Z-I, B-B-A /no info for the NHL-PA/ Coach MacLean is mad cuz I'm flagrant/ Calls my cell, says "Youre demoted to the A, kid"

B-I-G , Z-I, B-B-A /no info, for the, NHLPA/ Coach MacLean is, mad cuz I’m flagrant/ Calls my cell, says “Youre demoted to the A, kid”

Missing the 2014 post season and then losing Jason Spezza to a pretty smart business decision trade has left many an Ottawa Senators fan, like this one, with no choice but to look toward the future. Like an army of miniature Alicia Keyeses we sing to the heavens, “Where do we go from here?” Who fills the void in Spezza’s absence this coming season?
Well, for one, Bryan Murray helped provide a bit of an answer by signing free agent centre David Legwand to a juicy very reasonable 2 year contract. Legwand will be the perfect insulation for the up and coming Mika Zibanejad as he at long last slots into that vacant second line centre spot and – whoa, whoa whoa Salade Du Chef, 2nd line centre?
Hey, I’ve been seeing peoples ’round the internet penciling him in that way on their opening night rosters. That’s more or less how I had it too because, well, DJ JazZiba Jeff is the new hotness and David Legwand is boring old Uncle “Mugger #2 From Season 1 of New York Undercover.” The more I think about it though, the more likely it seems that Mika will find himself centering line 3 at least at the start of the season.

David Legwand has Nearly 1000 NHL Games Under His Belt.
I cannot imagine a coach coming off his first season missing the playoffs, a season in which he was roundly and deservedly criticized, telling a 21 years young boy to “Shoot his hopes and dreams” on opening night. Especially over a guy like Legwand who’s been known for his combination of speed and reliability for a decade and a half now. I think MacLean plays it safe. Plain and — Plain and … I forget how that saying goes. Plain and Sisqo! There it is.
At 34, Leggz (a nickname is born) is a dependable veteran type but not so old that he’s relegated to bottom six role player duty. This is a guy that was brought on board to lead an injury riddled Detroit Red Wings into the playoffs just mere months ago. He’s spent a career building up a name for himself as a guy who can handle being assigned the West’s toughest competition; think Toews, think Getzlaf, think outside the BUN. It could prove beneficial to Zibanejad’s growth that Legwand can take the pressure off the youngster and go in there and handle the powerhouse Atlantic Division’s superstar centres like, Nick Bjugstad who led the Florida Panthers last year with 38 points. You read that right. Milan Michalek TOPPED the entire Florida Panthers in points last season. K, then there’s this…

Mika Didn’t Even Make the Opening Night Line Up Last Season
*Dodges most of the terrible looking Kyle Turris bobbleheads pelted from all angles*
Hey, listen, I didn’t like the move that ushered in the brief and frightening reign of Evil Paul MacLean either BUT you gotta hear both sides (you don’t): Obviously the coaching staff felt Ziba still had some elements of his game that needed rounding out or something-something entitlement issues just a calendar year ago. Full “Hi haters” marks go to Mika as he pulled the ol’ Karlsson Special of “Oh, a demotion? Let me just go ahead and put up a point per game in Bingo while you guys lose some games without me.” I can’t decide if the credit goes to the coach or Zibanejad for making the 6 games in the AHL look pretty ridiculous, both I guess…so…we ALL win there?
The point I’m trying to make here is that despite the rocky start last season, it was overall a very positive one for Mika’s development. At an impressive 16 goals and respectable 33 points we are beginning to see what the young Swede can do. If Mika can stay healthy and get some C.O.N.S.I.S.T.E.N.T. shifts with quality line mates (I am glaring at you, Ghost of Evil Paul MacLean) it’s not unreasonable to expect 20 goals from him in 2014-15. His 33 point effort was a high of his very young career and something that I am confident he can surpass. Mika’s current career high in points, however, is one that Legwand has pretty much consistently bested from the time Mika was about 7 years old. What’s more is that Legumi is coming off a particularly productive season by his standards. Between Nashville and Detroit he cracked the 50 point mark for just the third time, notching a career high 6 power play goals in the process. Do I think Mika will reach Legwand’s Mike Fisheresque heights? I do. When that is I’m not sure, but a bump of 20 points is a lot to ask a guy entering just his 3rd NHL season.
Again, given the pressure on MacLean to right the ship, I think he goes with the safer bet of Legwand and continues to shelter Zibanejad another season to let him grow.

Or, You Know, Maybe I’m Being More Conservative Than Shane Prince’s Tweets About This Whole Thing
That’s kind of the beautiful thing about sports. Wacky stuff happens. Sure, being safe in your predictions allows you to save the most face when the dust settles. It’s easy to look like an expert by playing the percentages like, “Karlsson’s a Garbage Pick” or Predicting the Sens to win the Stanley Cup in 2013 (thanks for cursing the season, The Sports Forecaster). But seriously, some unpredictable shit always seems to happen along the way and that’s the stuff that keeps us tuning in. Yes, so and so’s shooting percentage is unsustainable and due to regress back down to Earth and blah blah blah but didn’t we have fun while their shooting % was unsustainably awesome?
My dude(tte), sometimes life comes at you fast and a undersized garbage pick becomes one the best players in the world. Sometimes Milan Michalek scores 35 goals. Sometimes a “reclamation project” in Kyle Turris comes here in a risky trade and within a couple of seasons takes the job Jason Spezza’s held for a decade. Sometimes Craig Anderson basically becomes the best goalie in the league and gets a battered team into the playoffs. Sometimes an 5 foot 8 kid who’s played less than 10 NHL games scores a hat trick in said playoffs. Sometimes Cody Ceci makes the big club in his first year of eligibility and forces Joe Corvo to re-join Crazytown, fedora in hand. What I’m saying is, regardless of how you feel going into a season, there tends to be a couple of pleasant surprises no one was counting on along the way. With the off-season addition of David Legwand, it allows for the possibility of Zibanejad establishing himself as 2nd line centre to be a pleasant surprise, not a requirement.

The return of #peskysens?

image

The pre-season predictions are starting to trickle in, and if these things amount to anything more than throwing chicken guts against the wall and reading the future in the resulting patterns, then the Sens are screwed.

The Hockey News picked Ottawa to finish seventh in the Atlantic, lower than Toronto, whom they finished four points better than last season, and Florida, over whom they finished a whopping 22 points higher.

Toronto: ok, fine. They’re a bubble team just like Ottawa, and they added some useful depth players in the off-season; I can live with the prediction. But Florida? Winner of the draft lottery Florida? Either The Hockey News thinks Florida is going to be much, much better, or that Ottawa is going to be much, much worse. I get that some players have moved in and some out, but whenever you see an analyst pick a team to see a 20-point swing in their fortune, in either direction, you know it’s unlikely to come about.

What we’re seeing is more of what we get every year, which is indicative of the shortcomings with which all of us observers on the wrong side of the dressing room door must contend. We don’t know what sort of changes in tactics any team has planned, and so we resort to a simple game of resource management. If a team gains a player or two, they’re better. If not, they aren’t. It’s not too much more sophisticated to the approach I employ when playing NHL 2011 and I replace a player with one rating for a player with a higher one.

It’s dull, simplistic math, and sometimes results in a glowing prediction (Senators without Karlsson and Spezza made playoffs two seasons ago, so with them they must be great), and sometimes, as in this year, a less-than-enthusiastic response (no Spezza and Hemsky? They’re cooked). Forget that the logic employed to guess that the Senators would be a contender last year is here employed again to predict the exact opposite. It’s befuddling.

The more I think about it, the more I think that any prediction other than the unsatisfying “depends on tactics” seems even more unsatisfying. Ottawa has to cut down on the number of shots against and still produce a net positive shot differential. Can they do it? I don’t know, but the answer sure isn’t “+1 Legwand -1 Spezza = last place in the Atlantic.”

But if we do know anything, it’s that the team responded well to being the underdog a couple of seasons ago. #peskysens was one of the only team slogans to develop organically in a long history of contrived marketing campaigns and misguided attempts at authenticity. You didn’t see players with “United in Red” (or whatever) emblazoned on their chest. And that’s something that we fans, at the very least, can root for. I don’t think much about our first round win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2006, in a season when Ottawa led the Eastern conference with 113 points. I sure as hell still think about that 2013 first round win over the better, or at least more skilled, Habs.

So as each new prediction hits the wire, I personally am rooting for the naysayers and the gloom. Bring on the negativity. It’s the season for harmless predictions, and only good can come of every professional prognosticator underestimating this team yet again.

Exploiting the Big Spenders and Trolling for Deals

Patrice+Bergeron+Victor+Hedman+Boston+Bruins+suFAaCJuJ7kl

Ottawa has handed out a few extensions and raises lately, and is still trying to sign Marc Methot and Bobby Ryan. If they can get those two under contract, and with new deals due to Mika Zibanejad, Eric Condra, Alex Chiasson, Mark Stone, and Mark Hoffman next season, you might actually see Ottawa crawl out of the bottom five salaries in the NHL. Barely.

But even with this bump in expenditures, Ottawa’s biggest advantage remains its extra cap room and what one presumes to be additional revenues due to the massive regional television deal recently signed with TSN.

A look at Capgeek shows a few teams over the cap. Can Ottawa exploit their unenviable situation and try to pry a useful player away from them in a salary dump? Let’s take a look at the menu.

Philadelphia Flyers

They’re currently about $5MM over the cap, though most of that will disappear once Chris Pronger’s long-term injured relief kicks in. That hasn’t stopped new GM Ron Hextall from doing the typical Philly thing and retooling his roster in a fundamental way. The appetite is always there in Philly to clear cap space for the next season-defining move. Who might be the next Flyer on a long-term deal to find themselves shipped to a small-town market?

Matt Read – $3.625MM per for four more years – Read seemed poised to become a core player for Philly in his rookie season, but a couple of underwhelming follow-up seasons show him rounding out into a 20-goal, 50 point player. He’s also already 28. But his salary is reasonable, especially when you’re seeing 50 point guys commanding $4MM+ on the open market and the cap is only going up.

Sean Couturier – $1.750MM per for two more years – This is more like it. Couturier has the pedigree, the possession stats, and is only 21. His best years are ahead of him, and he’s due a raise on his modest deal. The fact that he doesn’t have a high ceiling in terms of point production might make him expendable in Philly, where they always seem to be swinging for the fences.

Luke Schenn – $3.6MM for two more years – sure, he’s underperformed, but Luke Schenn has only ever played in big markets with intense pressure. Maybe playing in a smaller market as a second-pairing player with modest expectations would provide the conditions to help him become an effective, reliable defenseman.

Chicago Blackhawks

This team is in real trouble next season. They’re already $2.2MM over the cap, and the huge extensions to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews haven’t even kicked in. Even if they let useful depth defenseman Johnny Oduya walk, the extension to even more valuable Nick Leddy and blossoming power forward Brandon Saad will probably eat up the savings. They probably need to move at least one fairly big ticket forward.

Patrick Sharp – $5.9MM per for three more years – there was a rumour out there months back that Ottawa could move a package of Lazar, a depth roster player like Greening, and Gryba to Chicago in exchange for Sharp. While losing a prospect like Lazar would be a challenge, Sharp has scored over 30 goals four times, and would provide an elite scoring complement to the lineup, relieving some of the pressure on Bobby Ryan. They’d have to give up a lot to get him, and his limited NTC might nix the deal, but it’s a tantalizing thought.

Andrew Shaw – $2MM per for two more years – Shaw is only 23 and already has a 20 goal season under his belt. He’d complement Ottawa’s young team, though we already have our share of undersized, bottom six centers. Would Shaw be redundant, or an upgrade?

Tampa Bay Lightning

Can we talk about how overrated Steve Yzerman is as a GM? Sure, he’s transformed his roster, but only because he’s spent enormous, ridiculous amounts of his owner’s money doing it. This isn’t smart, nuanced decision making; it’s rebuilding a team with a jackhammer and a shotgun. He’s handed out big term and big dollars to everyone from Ryan Callahan to Valteri Filppula, from Matt Carle to Anton Stralman. This team is going to be absolutely screwed in a season or two when they need to extend Brett Connolly and Steve Stamkos, and a year after that when they need a new contract for Jonathan Drouin and Victor Hedman. They have so many middle-of-the-pack players signed to $4M+ deals, and they’re already $2MM over the cap.

Victor Hedman – $4MM per for three more years – doubtful that they’d move this cornerstone defenseman, but Stralman, Carle, and newly acquired Jason Garrison are all making big money and have no trade clauses (because of course they do). It would be an absolute coup to see Hedman playing on the same line as Karlsson.

Ondrej Palat – $3.333MM per for three more years – he’s only 23 and scored 23 goals last year. A promising winger with respectable possession stats to boot. He’s cheap for his production and potential, but an obstacle if you’re a GM like Yzerman who’s hooked on handing out five year deals at $4MM-$5MM per.

Boston Bruins

They’re only a million or so over the cap, and about four of that is going to come off the cap when Marc Savard goes on long term injured reserve, but they’re heading into renegotiation hell next season with David Krejci and pretty much their entire defensive corps needing new contracts. In fact, Boston is only a couple of seasons away from heading into real decline, all starting with the fact that Zdeno Chara is already 37.

Brad Marchand – $4.5MM per for three more years – hard to imagine Marchand playing for anyone other than the Bruins. (Maybe the Flyers?) But he’s exactly the kind of player you move in situations like this. He’s making big money and is about to exit his prime, but he can still be an effective complementary player on any team’s roster.

Johnny Boychuk – $3.366MM per for one more season – already mentioned in a pie-in-the-sky article suggesting a trade of Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov for Boychuk, but he’s a solid shutdown defender who’s due a raise on a team who doesn’t really have the space to give it to him. If Boston has to choose between Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton, who’s younger and has a higher ceiling, Boychuk might be expendable.

I’m Okaig With Craig or Defending Big C: Y Craig Anderson’s New Extension Am a Good Thing.

File Photo of Greg Anderton Bobblehead

File Photo of Greg Anderton Bobblehead

Hi,

I’m here to talk to you. About a human goaltender who signed a contract. His name is Greg Anderton. A few days ago when the Senators announced they had extended him, I have to admit I was pretty shocked (shocked!) by the amount of hand wringing and frustration that the announcement seemed to be met with.

In review, this [long] off season has seen a cornucopia of signings. (Ed note: Is a cornucopia even a real life thing? Comment if you’ve ever seen one. Pffft, more like Unicornucopia)

Great, smart signings: Clarke MacArthur, David Legwand, Clarke MacArthur, Clarke MacArthur

Weird signings: Milan Michalek for knee years, knee million dollars per knee.

A full on psychedelic rock ride signing: Mark Borowiecki being made part of the Sens exciting new generation because he…passed…his…2 year, 21 game audition? Heyyy, currently second longest contract for a Sens defender, behind only Erik Karlsson.
Interesting fact: Karlsson himself, coincidentally, was also signed after just 21 games in NHL. Wait…was that signed after 21 games or re-ASSIGNED to Binghamton after 9 games? I don’t remember. I wish there was a microfiche thing I could that up on.  

Goalie signing(s): Robin Lehner was locked up until 2017 solidifying his rightful seat on the Thrown of the Skulls of Heretics as the goalie future and — oh and what’s this right here? Craig Anderson was also re-upped a few days later, for twice as much money until 2018…solidifying him…on the Corvette of Good Tidings?…huh…Confusing move but you know what? Good.

Now, before I am pelted with folding chairs, let me grovel explain why I think his signing is a good one for the Ottawa Senators in my patented Thirty Several Thoughts column.

Goaltenders are just people. Regular Joan Lunchpails like you and me who, you know, get injured.

As much as any fan wants their team to have a undisputed, dominant starting goaltender, a couple of recent examples of how that all eggs in one basket strategy can actually be a pretty big risk come to mind: 

Ottawa – Montreal 2013 Playoff Series: Carey Price is a good, consistent starting goaltender. In my opinion, he helps float Montreal into a strata of success that they wouldn’t otherwise enjoy without him. Case in point: He was pretty shaky against Ottawa in that series but was I the only one who thought “Oh wow, these guys are
 fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked” when Price went down and Budaj had to start all of a sudden? Sure, price only played particularly well in one game that series but it was only when Budaj got the call that it felt like the Sens were going to win.  

Tampa Bay – Montreal 2014 Playoff Series: This one may hit close to home for Sens fans as we saw Ben Bishop get traded to Tampa for Cory Conacher (The OTHER Ryan Shannon) and watched him go on to almost single headedly turn Tampa Bay from toilet trolls to contenders in a heartbreakingly impressive, Vezina nominated performance. Contenders they were, of course, until Bishop was injured toward the end of the season. The question became ‘Can Anders Lindback hold the fort dow-‘ aaaaaand Swept in 4 games in the first round. See you in the car, Milhouse.

You knew I was going here: I needn’t remind Sens fans about Dominek Hasek getting hurt heading into the post season back in “Our Year” of 05-06. No pressure, up from the AHL rookie, Ray Emery. Lead us to the promised land.

Lehner might indeed be the starting goaltender of the future but today ain’t the future.

I’ll start this off by saying this: Lehner is my guy. I want him to be the best goaltender that Ottawa’s ever developed in-house. But the pragmatist in me (read: snivelling coward) can’t ignore that he has only 61 regular season games and two playoff starts under his belt at this point. To illustrate how little experience that is, Anderson played 63 games in his first full season in Ottawa. Just because Lehner got his first Big Kid contract doesn’t mean he’s officially a starter. These things take time. 
Yes, you have to start getting those starts at some point and I do hope that Paul MacLean gives Lehner fair shake this season but at just 23 years of age (a toddler in Goalie Years) its relieving to have Lehner insulated by one the best goalies the franchise has ever had.

I’ve heard some concern from other fans that judging by Anderson’s comments at the end of his [disappointing] season that he has no interest in playing second fiddle which is just asking for a goaltending controversy.

Ummm good? After having such a series of mediocre goaltenders for years, where the true controversy was over who was less bad, the last thing I want to see is a guy in full Marty Biron “Lady, Lundqvist’s puttin’ my kids through college!” career backup mode. Drive is something I, and I think many others, have always loved about Lehner. I definitely want some caliente fuego in the goalie tandem. Comfort is for the now retired in Florida Roberto Luongos of the world.
Oh and here’s the other thing…
If Lehner emerges as the undisputed starter, he’s going to take that job whether it’s Craig Anderson backing him up or Craig David.      

Here’s the most interesting counter argument. Let’s act it out. You be the bold letters and I’ll be Police Chief Wiggum: 

Why tie up 6 million in cap space on our budget team when it can be spent on locking up another player who fills a team need? I hear Zenon Konopka and Joe Corvo are available.
First off, I don’t think in today’s NHL that $6M dollars is a lot of money for two goalies that we know are good over rolling the dice on Lehner as starter and having Andrew Hammond (1 career NHL game) or Nathan Lawson (11 NHL games since being signed undrafted in 2008) to step in if he struggles. Keep in mind, former unproven Bingo goalie Mike Brodeur is currently an ECHL free agent. Also, there are no goaltending prospects in the system beyond those guys who appear even close to the pro level.  

So, just find a cheaper proven goaltender through free agency or a trade you smart ass son of a bitch.
K, a bit harsh with the name calling but feel me dawg: Looking for a goalie through free agency or a trade means competing with other teams to get a player sign and to or convince a GM to deal. That might not prove well for the team’s budget either or worse could cost us from our now dwindling prospect pool. On top of this you’re introducing a new player to a new system.
Instead we get our up and coming guy in Lehner as well as our vet Andy who’s been a very respectable 81 – 52 -17 since coming here btw. And hey, if Lehner blows Anderson out of the water and Andy wants out? I wouldn’t imagine it would be too tough to move Andy in a league where year after year come trade deadline without fail a team or two seems desperate for goaltending help. I’m hoping with the Sens current tandem that we wont have to be one of them.

Tactic Talk, or a talk show in text format that is neither interactive nor anything like a talk show

Funny-Talk-Show-Is-he-cheating

In which James and Varada exchange emails about what changes Paul MacLean needs to make to Ottawa’s tactics to help them to be a successful, which is to say different, team of hockey players. Varada just kind of sets up the question and lets it hang there like a fart, but then James explores the studio space.

Varada:

The point at which analytics guys have to sort of try to imagine what it’s like to play hockey

It’s been quite the summer for analytics. I’m not going to run through all of the events, because it’s August, and every post on every hockey blog is hashing and re-hashing these events and extrapolating on the seismic shifts they imply. Suffice to say that the summer of 2014 marks the pre- and post- point in the hockey timeline, the point at which teams started systematically referring to evidence and trends in data to inform their decision making. (And, as a result, the fan community no longer has access to great sites like MC79 or Extra Skater. The price you pay, I suppose.)

There are a couple of interesting things here for the statistically inclined to consider. First was that while the blogging community got to be a part of something genuinely culture-changing, we are now in the post-implementation phase. How do we define ourselves now? It’s a little like the baby boomers growing up and bringing their anti-authority perspective to the corporate boardroom. Maybe it shook up the way people did business, but it also made dissent a little less meaningful. You can say fuck the system right up until they sell you a fuck the system t-shirt, y’know? We already have our share of people with proprietary metrics, trying to sell NHL teams on their turnkey solution. It doesn’t really feel like us against the world anymore.

It’s also a challenge because we have to think about the next phase of our discussion about analytics. It’s no longer just about looking at outcomes and saying “player x and clearly better than player y, so they should use him more.” I once read with Taylor Hall where he said he understood the concept of possession metrics, but hadn’t encountered a person who could explain how he should play differently to improve on those metrics. I don’t envy Tyler Dellow here. He might be able to identify trends in data that will help management make a decision on one player over another, but it’s a real challenge to understand how to translate trends into tactics. (Let alone explain it to a superstar player who went first overall and makes $6MM a year.) It’ll happen – video technology and zone entries are a step in that direction.

This is important for Sens fans to think about because we have a team that needs to shift tactics to win, and we don’t necessarily have the literacy to say how.

Flash back to two years ago – the lockout shortened season. Ottawa has positive possession metrics, and the second best goals against average, despite allowing more shots on goal than most teams. They enjoyed a series of improbable comebacks that generated the moniker ‘pesky’ (when I guess it could have been ‘lucky’). People start describing them as the second best defensive team in the league. They make the playoffs (as a 7th seed – still a bubble team in my books), beat the Canadiens (who they match up well against) and are summarily executed by the Penguins. Good stuff.

Everyone taps them as a team on the up and up, even a team that will win the Presidents’ Trophy, and we’re all psyched.

The next year the team is essentially the same. They allow even more shots on goal, but manage to stay a positive possession team because they also take a lot of shots. People start to talk about them as an ‘event’ team, one that creates a lot of on-ice events, both for and against. The goaltending regresses to league average, and boom: we’re on the wrong side of the bubble. Now people are writing knowing articles about how the season before Ottawa wasn’t in fact defensively sound, they just rode unsustainably hot goaltending through a small sample size of a shortened season.

So here we are, in 2014-2015, and Ottawa has lost their best offensive player. Their defense remains largely the same. There are many young players peppering the lineup who can trend up or down – they’re unknown factors. As a blogger out in the world, feeling his way around, I wonder if this team can survive playing the same brand of event hockey.

To their credit, they’ve talked about needed to cut down on the shots against, being harder to play against in their own zone, etc. This team simply can’t replace Spezza’s production with what it has, especially when having Spezza’s production last year wasn’t enough to get them into the show.

But here’s where it gets tough, because I don’t play professional hockey: how? What, tactically, can the Senators do to cut down on the shots against, but maintain the shots for? And do they even have the personnel to make the sort of tactical changes they need to make? They’ve spoken at length about needing to ‘try harder’ and be ‘harder to play against,’ but you know every other team in the league is also doing those things.

This, to me, is the first real test of Paul MacLean’s coaching. He needs to either change something fundamental about the system or double-down on what the team has done to date, emphasize hard work (even more), and root for lucky comebacks and great goaltending. I don’t mean that sarcastically – it’s probably easier to do, and doesn’t risk alienating the dressing room. But if at the end of this season Ottawa is bottom five in shots against and on the outside looking in, it’s going to take a draft lottery win for people to overlook the tactical gaps in Ottawa’s approach.

James, what does Ottawa need to do to improve? What possible changes can they make to tactics?

James:

Send Paul MacLean’s Evil Twin (creatively known on this site as Evil Paul MacLean) to a Dungeon in Grostenquin, France.

By reinstating Jack Adams winner Good Paul MacLean, he’d have the benefit of learning lessons from Evil Paul MacLean’s shortcomings such as:

Don’t put Neil and Phillips on the goddamn Power Play like, ever…fucking again. Even if the team is decimated by injury. Plz. & Thx. TTYL (not on the power play).

Look, I suppose to a degree I get what Evil Paul MacLean was trying to do there. It was early in the season, the team was really struggling to put it together and the coach got all, “If you’re not going to stand in front of the net like I asked, I’m going to put a guy out there who will [and I’m taking you all to hell with me].” If there’s one thing I appreciate about Chris Neil it’s that he WILL stand in front of the net. It’s a terrible but important job. Remember when Shea Weber injured two of our players in one shift with those deathclappers of his (one Cody Ceci sent off bleeding from the head despite wearing a helmet and the other Craig Anderson WHO’S A FUCKING GOALIE)? Celebrate the moments of our lives.

Anyway, I get that there might not be a list of volunteers snaking around the block to get in front of Erik Karlsson point bombs – though you could make a hell of a living doing it! But even still, just by merit of being on the ice, by reputation alone Neil is likely to be the first guy to take you OFF that power play than to score on it.

The use of Phillips is even more perplexing. He actually has an okay shot but it’s no secret that Big Rig haaaaates having the puck in his possession and as such has an underrated first pass due to making his exit passes lightning quick so the puck doesn’t have to be on his stick anymore. Hot potato hands is not exactly a fetching quality to have in your point man.

*Looks at post it note* Oh cool, Patrick Wiercioch scored more power play goals in his 53 games than Phillips did in the last two seasons…but that’s just me, boring old fashioned “I like goals on the power play James” (That’s what they call me).

Probably too late to mention this but I’m not even trying to turn this into a throw Phillips and Neil under the bus session. If MacLean’s going to tap them on the shoulder during the power play, it’s their job to hop over the boards and play. My problem is that our entertainment value suffers in order to “punish” the high skill players. In the end I felt our eyes were the ones truly punished.

Heyyyyyy the top line of Turris, Ryan and MacArthur has great chemistry!

Cool, cool…very cool…now if you can just go ahead and give the other players a chance to develop some chemistry by…I don’t know, how about letting them have more than a couple of periods to gel with each other. Yeah, that would be really great.

No one bore the brunt of musical chairs more than Jason Spezza did last year. I mean, look no further than the year he played the whole season with Greening and Michalek. Michalek is a good if inconsistent winger and Greening is…a human being.

Result of a season together: Milo a career high 35 goals (I know right? 35. That would be a career high for Bobby Ryan!) and Greening got a stupid contract earning 17 goals. Where was I going with this? Good luck in future endeavours Jason Spezza…I mean oops wait…Call me a crazy but allowing the players a chance to adjust to each other could posit results on the score sheet.

That goes for defensive pairings too. I feel like the only set defensive pairing the team had last season was Phillips-Ceci which, hey, makes perfect sense. Keep the rookie with the 36 year old with 1100 games under his belt. But despite carrying 8 defensemen, it seemed like pairings should have been sorted out by the end of the season but it still felt psychedelic. Of course the shuffling had something to do with players like, and I’m not going to name names here: Jared Cowen playing nowhere near where you’d expect a guy who held out for a new contract despite being offered 8 years (Bullet of committing a near decade status: Dodged).

Methot went from playing pretty much exclusively with Karlsson one year to what I like to imagine is Paul MacLean taking a huge hit from a bong and exhaling through his nose and saying, “You know what would be so trippy? Gryba-Methot…think about it man…it’s sounds like “Grabbin my thoughts” which is like, what the NSA is trying to right now, man. See, check it out, I was reading this article on Prison Planet…” And it goes on like this till the pizza guy gets there. Methot is speedy, left handed and defensively minded. PLZ play him with speedy right handed and offensively minded Karlsson. Crow all you will about EK’s defensive shoddiness, Cowen was the worst defensive player on the team last year…punish him, don’t promote him to the top pairing with a guy who takes a lot of risks. If it was up to me, I’d have swapped Cowen in and out of the lineup with Wiercioch depending on who was playing better. Then again, the goings on of Patrick Wiercioch’s love life are none of my business.

Don’t Have Last Year’s Schedule This Year.

Funny, because as rough as it was to start the season on a road trip and facing a host of powerhouse Western teams, the Sens did come back home with a .500 record. If that same road trip took place in say January, I’d think that a .500 finish was pretty acceptable. For the team, however, that’s got to be a pretty lukewarm way to start the season off morale-wise. What was worse was soon after they were back they had to play a bunch of those powerhouse West Coast teams again…and heyyyy, they lost to all of them. On top of that they blew a Saturday afternoon home game to the Oilers sparking a season long tradition of not showing up to very, VERY winnable HOME games because something something afternoon?

Phun Phakt: Ottawa didn’t win any of their weekend games in October. Period. The result? 4 wins on the month…CAUSED BY BAD BABYSITTING. As a big believer that the points you bank in October push you into May, Ottawa’s slow start may indeed have cost them a Wild Card spot. They ended the season only 5 points back of Columbus and Detroit. Who knows how it would have shaken in out in this alternate universe but had Senators managed 3 W’s in their 5 weekend games in October, things would no doubt have been a hell of a lot more interesting come April.

Analytics Are So Hot Right Now But the Sens Can Also Be Trailblazers By Being One of the First Teams in the NHL to Practice the Shootout.

Maybe it’s just a smoke screen in order to keep Don Cherry from publicly making fun of them for being a “BUNCHA SEXY FANCYBOYS” (his words) but that the Sens and a host of other teams claim to not practice shootouts regularly is a mystery to me and frankly kind of pisses me off as a fan. The shootout is new (not really) and controversial but like it or not it is AN ACTUAL PART OF THE GAME THAT LITERALLY DECIDES WINS AND LOSSES.

No stats available (sorry but it’s summer and I’ve got BBQing to get to. Thanks for reading tho!) but safe to say we got dummied in the shootout last season and lost out on a lot of points as a result. I pray to Jah that at least goaltenders get a pre-game rundown of their opponent’s top players’ shootout tendencies. If not, to me, that would be like a pitcher not studying batters’ swing tendencies pre-game.

On the bright side, Ottawa being one of the youngest teams in the league could bode well for them in this respect going forward. I tend to think that most forwards born in the 1990s or who hail from the Continent of Europe are at least half decent at the shootout (Proof: Jarrko Ruutu was pretty good at shootouts so…). The Sens have a few youngsters, Euros and even Euroyoungsters on hand who have some moves, so I don’t get why the coach wouldn’t devote some time for his shooters to sharpen their skills. Or for their goalies to sharpen up at stopping them (RobinLehnerRobinLehnerRobinLehner).

Summed up: Fancyboys = W’s

Actually Beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Yes, yes, yes, this one sounds petty and I can own that but you cannot lose every game of the year to a division rival that is actually worse than you and expect to be successful as a team. Especially when Ottawa already seems to have a tough time beating Boston, Tampa and Detroit. BTW for those of you currently hitting the Comment button (j/k, Spam only), no, I do not count Ottawa beating Toronto 1-0 in the 2nd last game of the season when both teams have been mathematically eliminated from the post-season as a win. I’m a tyrant like that. Beating this very mediocre crew at least half or more than half of the time (Dare 2 Dream) would do wonders for not only the Sens place in the standings but also my ears listening to dickheads in Phil Kessel jerseys* down at the rink who are forever talking a gang of shit like the team they like isn’t a complete embarrassment.

Idea: Have coach force Sens players take the bus from Scotiabank Place all the way back downtown after losing to Leafs to illustrate the shit they are putting their adoring fans through until they can start getting the job done.

*Note to Kessel jersey fellas: Hi, I know we like different teams and all but when we’re out there playing on the same side, try your best to remember that even though his name is proudly displayed across my shoulders, I’m not actually Erik Karlsson and it’s okay to pass to me when I get open in the slot instead of passing back to the constantly out of breath dude at the point because he is wearing a Van Reimsdyk jersey. You do it every time and it’s getting very weird. Have a great summer and see you in hell, James.

How about you, dear reader? What tactics can Ottawa employ? Feel free to hit the comments with, you know, actual hockey stuff about zone entries and player tendencies and such.

Sens extend notable, established NHL forward Clarke MacArthur…does that sound sarcastic? I’m being serious

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Pictured here with Chris Neil

Hot on the heels of locking up essential 11th defenceman Mark Borowiecki, the Senators announced (and by Senators I mean Eugene Melnyk on a conference call talking about something else) that they’ve signed Clarke MacArthur to a five year deal paying him less than $5MM a year.

I don’t think there’s much in the way of analysis needed here: it’s just an awesome signing all around. When you look at what NHL salaries are doing, and what they’re likely to do in the next few seasons, this is great value for a top six forward with great possession numbers who you know can play in your lineup. With Kyle Turris’ high value contract they’ve got 2/3rds of a top line locked down for about $8MM. So let’s take a moment and applaud management for a well negotiated deal.

MacArthur was heading to UFA status in a market where someone like Mikhail Grabovski – also an effective possession forward – gets $5MM a year. So he might have left money on the table here. But keep in mind that this is a player who wanted to stay in the area (I think that’s how Ottawa signed him to that first high value deal in the first place), and a player who, inexplicably, hasn’t really stuck anywhere. I don’t think MacArthur was treated like a core player in Buffalo, Atlanta, or Toronto. In Ottawa he played a career high in ice time (17:38 a game; his career average is 15:24), was trusted to play on the top line, and now he’s got the term to go along with it. He rewarded the team’s trust in him by signing for less.

So THIS is what they mean when they say “the deal has got to work for both sides.”

I’ve seen a couple of blogs talk about how players decline as they hit their 30s, and I think that’s fair. MacArthur also had a 15.1% shooting percentage last year, so I don’t think you’re going to see him light it up this season, or any season soon. (Or, as Melnyk put it, “tear up the ice” which…what?) But MacArthur is in that sweet spot of being a core player on a reasonable deal and yet not being considered a star. The expectations will always be just right for him. Put up 40-50 points; be defensively responsible; and don’t make too much money. The fans will never turn on you this way.

Judging by the fan poll over on Silverseven, you guys like the deal a whole lot. As of today a whopping 95% of the almost 600 people who’ve voted like the deal.

One wonders who’s next. I think when you have a whole host of pending UFAs, one contract can be a sign of others soon to come. It’s a signal that the team will spend to keep its core together. I’m going to guess the team finds a way to get Methot under contract, Anderson looks at the ridiculous goalie market and opts to sign cheaply to back up Lehner, and the Ryan contract goes quite a bit longer. I hope I’m wrong about that last one.

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