Actually: Wanting to move Chris Phillips has nothing to do with respecting him and his career

I think as Senators fans we tend to suffer from our nascent history as a franchise. Put simply, tonight we celebrate the legacy of a player, currently on the roster who was drafted in just the 4th year of the team’s modern existence.The reaction to this milestone has been clouded by talk of fans and potentially management’s desire to trade him away.
I would imagine Phillips standing in Ottawa is simialar to that of David Legwand’s in Nashville. A good soldier and solid player whom you can’t fault for being drafted so high and, hell, has accomplished a respectable career and earned, I stress the word earned, a spot on a roster for a very long time. I just don’t necessarily equate the respect for the person and their career with what’s best for the team and its future.

I suppose that’s where some of the perceived ambivalence toward this milestone comes from. Area man keeps job. The story of Chis Phillips has always been one where he has been overshadowed and with good reason. He simply doesn’t play the type of game that excites fans. It’s part of what makes building a successful hockey team so hard. It has to have a Chris Phillips to bolster the stars. That’s not to say he never had a hay day. He did for sure but even during his peak the spotlight on the blue line belonged to hard hitting fan favourite Anton Volchenkov. He whom I witnessed countless times skate to the bench doubled over in pain to thunderous applause after blocking another point blank shot. Was Volchenkov a better player than Phillips? I don’t know but the theatre definitely was and in the show business of professional sport that’s a huge factor in popularity and, yes, legacy. There’s a reason why Phillips been passed over 3 times for the captaincy and it’s not because he’s a bad player, leader, or person. He may be a strong voice in the room but in this day in age, the C tends to get slapped on the player who can lead on the ice, on the score sheet and further, lead kids with their parents in tow to the stadium to watch them play live.
Again, this is not an indictment of Philly’s body of work. Not even all that long ago, I used to argue that Phillips was the most underrated player on the team. That he had to be watched live, playing against the opposition’s top forwards [at the time] to be truly appreciated. It’s been long held that when Phillips is invisible it means he’s having a good night. Taking his expert care of the subtle defensive nuances that help win you games. You can’t expect that kind of billing to capture the imagination of sports fans. Regardless of his past, Father Time has caught up with no. 4 and unfortunately, he’s become quite visible on most nights. Are we wrong to be critical of a player who’s gone from backbone to one of the weaker links in an already pretty porous D corps? I don’t think so. Are we being completely fair? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure of that either. One thing I am confident about is that it doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t like the guy or wish him anything other than success if we as fans would prefer to see him move on. He’s been a solid member of our team, a key component of past success and a tremendous member of the community for a long time now. The popularity of his business here is a reflection of that appreciation, I believe. If you want proof, try getting a table at Big Rig on a Friday night. It’s crazy to think a place located in an Ikea parking lot could be so popular. It wouldn’t be if people didn’t want to be at “Chris Phillips’ bar”. I think that’s cool. I’m proud that regardless of what happens in the near future that he will remain part of our city and its community beyond his playing career.

Outside the business side of hockey (dollars and winning) I think it’s clear, we’re all buddies. Inside of that world, however, no currently we aren’t.
To get back to what I was saying about suffering from our nascent history, the “glory days” that we associate Chris Phillips (and Chris Neil) with 1. Peaked going on 8 years ago and 2. Aren’t all that glorious to be quite frank.
It hurts for me to say it, but making the Stanley Cup Final is only a big deal to those of us who witnessed it. In the grand scheme of things it isn’t special. Does anyone care that Philadelphia or New Jersey recently lost the Stanley Cup? The Vancouver Canucks have been to the Cup Final three times in their 44 seasons as an NHL franchise. As an outsider, do I look at their recent run of strong seasons as glory days? Not at all, I see them as perhaps an even more frustrating version of the early-mid 2000s powerhouse Senators teams. Back to back Presidents’ Trophies, Hall of Fame calibre players who’ve come, gone or declined in ability and no Cup to show. I, to a mercifully lesser degree, know the feeling.

In 2011, we were promised a turning of the page, a new chapter in Sens history. Admittedly, the subsequent sell off that occurred to mark its beginning scared the crap out of me as a fan. Until then, I would have argued all day that you simply cannot spare players like Chris Kelly, or Mike Fisher, that they are too valuable. The truth, I learned, was that they were too valuable to give up when Ottawa was going deep in the playoffs year after year. When the team was no longer a contender, that’s exactly where Fisher and Kelly were sent to: Teams that were current contenders or at least poised to take that step.
Kelly now has a ring and Fisher has a real chance at one. That’s where I and I think many people now see Phillips and Neil as well. We’ve been promised change, we’ve had some, we’re seen the promise and now we’re thirsting for more of it. Frustrating as the growth can be at times, we are experiencing shades of what is to be and we want management to speed the transition up. To their credit, it’s a consequence of the strength of their partial rebuild.

The unavoidable subject I will now acknowledge is, of course, Daniel Alfredsson. I can speak only for myself but I think it’s safe to say that following Alfie’s departure [the season after finally making it out of the first round of the playoffs since 2007 no less!], much, if not all, sentimentality toward the old guard died when he left.
Sure, wounds were thankfully healed with no.11 in late 2014. All is forgiven between us but fresh off the trade request of Jason Spezza after one mere season of captaincy, I cannot blame a large swath of fans for simply being exhausted with the legacies of the old guard at this point. Especially when you consider the greatest player in franchise history had already jumped ship for 5.5 million dollars and five playoff games with a division rival.

Tonight, there’s no valid course of action when they commemorate Chris Phillips’ service and devotion to the team and the community other than a wholehearted standing ovation. If you’re going to be in attendance, I urge you to scream your voice hoarse. He deserves it. He’s earned it. I was at the ceremony for his 1000th game and found myself surprised at how emotional watching the spectacle was. Tonight will be no different.
I just cannot fault many of our fans desire to move closer toward the future by making moves that are currently in play. Nor do I necessarily equate that desire with distain toward a career as respected as Phillips.The desire for change has simply become larger than this one night, this one event. If the beloved, heart on sleeve Mike Fisher had played here all 916 games of his NHL career and the same deal offered for him in 2011 was in play today, I would want Bryan Murray to make it. If Phillips wants to exercise his right to stay, that’s his prerogative as is it fans’ urge to inch closer toward the future by moving him. What’s most important is that it changes nothing of his legacy in Ottawa.

James Day Preview: Chiasson Spezza Returns

Jaden Spezza chats with his new line mate Jared Cowen. Thanks for reading.

Jaden Spezza chats with his new line mate Jared Cowen. Thanks for reading.

You know, it’s an IMPORTANT night. Of course all sportz nights are important ones but this one especially so. As if a game against the mediocre Dallas $tars couldn’t get more exciting, Ales Hemsky is back in town!
I kid, I kid, y’all know I’m a rascal. No one cares about him. No, the big noise is that tonight is the night when two become one marks the return of Jason Spezza to the Tires.com Arena.
Always a polarizing figure during his 11 seasons in the Capital, there has been a lot of interesting discussion leading up to the game over the decision of whether to boo or cheer Spezza. I’ve decided this is what I will be chanting tonight: CAN I HAZ WIN?
Honestly, true fans of -Norwegian Black Metal- the Sens know the cheer or boo Spezza debate has been raging since I DON’T KNOW the day he started playing here over a decade ago. But hey, Ima let our fanbase’s tradition of self-consciousness cook.

Story behind the story behind the riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in “In Flames” themed padding:
K, the real story for me tonight is how goalie of the future, Robin Aloysius Lehner performs.
Shorty has been tore DOWN for a minute. It is clear that Dave Cameron who is getting his first crack at NHL coaching, is not on team tank. Part of his controversial strategy of “trying to keep his job” is to win as many games as possible and not start Lehner, who of late has been, as the British say, “Shit, mate”.

Harsh? We’ll in his last 5 games his best performance has been an overtime loss TO THE BUFFALO SABRES where he surrendered 4 goals in 33 shots and posted an .879 save percentage.
Hi, my name’s James and I’d like to, again, point out that THAT WAS HIS BEST PERFORMANCE IN HIS LAST 5 GAMES.  

His worst of those last 5 you ask? Computer says that would be giving up 5 goals on 29 shots(!) good for an .838 save percentage…including a 4 goal 2nd period meltdown in a regulation loss against who? Oh, NBD, just against THESE SAME MEDIOCRE ASS DALLAS STARS.

 YOU GUYS I’M STARTING TO WORRY ABOUT ROBIN LEHNER.

Update: Oh GOOD Lehner’s starting because Craig Anderson’s hurt. Andrew Hammond has been recalled from Binghamton. *Looks at his AHL stat line for this year* 

As per me: 

Holy shit Hammond has been AWWWWWFUL in Binghamton. Homie has 7 wins in 25 starts this year and sports an only acceptable in the QMJHL goals against average of 3.51. fuh-kinnnng YIKES.

For a team that basically needs goaltenders to steal games for them on a near nightly basis I can only send this up toward Craig Anderson’s hospital room in heaven:

What else? HAHAHAHA…Who cares!

Life comes at one fast: David Legwand led the Detroit Red Wings in points less than a calendar year ago. He is a healthy scratch tonight…playing for the Sens…At least he has a career ahead of him playing henchmen/street toughs on various iterations of the CSI shows for the foreseeable future. Lookin’ more and more like a walking police sketch every day, Dave!

Alex Chiasson who was looking like the odd man out until recently gets a crack at his old club [again] tonight. G has to get on the board. I mean, after having had to endure an Ales Hemsky goal the last time these teams met, it’s the least he can do. C’mon accomodating Stars, do the kid a solid, we can’t bear all the weight of getting opposing players off the schneid(?). Chiasson’s line with Hoffman and Pageau looks pretty cool actually.
“Pageau dishes to Hoffman, Hoffman SHOOTS, Chiasson tries to get in the way but not TOO much in the way, [Ed. note: probably] SCORES!” – Hockey

HEY! Speaking of getting off the schneid (why do i keep using this phrase?) common law linemates Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur are “on a break” after nearly two years of happiness together. A lot’s been made of it but I think it’s the right move. They’re two of my favorite players and I haven’t even been mad at how they’ve been playing but they’ve been undeniably cold of late. If it doesn’t work, put them back together, they certainly haven’t been hurting the team. I’m not mad at this top 6 combo slated to start the game:

Michalek – Turris – Stone
MacArthur – Zibanejad – Ryan

Michalek has been pretty great lately as has Stone. Really, so have Zibanejad and especially Ryan who’s really becoming a force on this team…so…We’ll see how it goes.

Corporate slogan idea: Your Ottawa Senators: We’ll See How It Goes 

Defensive pairings look to shape up like this:
Methot – Karlsson
Who gives a damn – Ceci 
Who gives a damn – Who gives a damn 

Extra: Patrick Wiercioch has a thing with sleeping with coaches wives [Legal: ALLEGEDLY]. Mark Borowiecki is now available on Netflix.

Puck drop is at 7:30pm, cheering Spezza is scheduled for the first period and booing him will follow in the 2nd and 3rd or as soon as he scores a fucking goal.  Coverage is available on HAM radio or by Fax Machine.

Enjoy the game! OR WHATEVER, it’s your business!

Scotchcast Episode 9: Hello, Is It Scotch You’re Looking For?

Go behind the glitz(?) and glamour of the high stakes world of small market hockey blogging with your increasingly less popular hosts Varada, Steve and James. In this episode they take on the topics that are currently plaguing the Sensphere. Should Ottawa transition from “Goalie Graveyard” to “Team That Finally Has a Good Goalie After Years of Searching So Let’s Trade Him”? What’s to be done with the Ted and Judy’s Methot’s son? If he’s shipped out will Erik Karlsson develop similar chemistry with the pile of Hungry Man Dinners that replaces him? ONLY TIME WILL TELL. Speaking of time, you hosts courageously attempt to predict what will happen to the Senators in the latter half of the season. We apologize that it will render your viewing experience pointless as the outcome of the 2014-15 will be accurately explained in full. As always, we answer your question in the beloved Talk To The Audience segment.

Enjoy!

Actually: The Illusion of the Senators Lack of Prospects

Hey Girl,

Look, these are hard times *Looks at bottom of standings* k, these are hardish times to be a Sens fan. Through these months of struggle, we can focus on the holes in the line up. Perhaps the holes in the line up are the result of a top pairing defenseman missing half the year with Rubella or maybe it’s not knowing what you’ve got in your career point per game first line centerman till he’s gone. We see these problems and we look for solutions. Simply put…

We need a hero. We’re holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night. And he’s got to be 3 things:

  1. Strong
  2. Fast
  3. Fresh from the fight (?)

When things are looking grim for Les Boys, one might find themselves on old, neglected www.binghamtonsenators.biz trying to see who’s in the holding pen for their shot at the bigs and Bobby Butler us into that sacred Wildcard spot worse draft position. We’ve all done it. I think a lot of people are doing it right now and are a bit pissed at what they’re seeing. Lately on the Sensphere, I’ve come across more than a few of my fellow fans complaining that there are few to no young colts in the stable (weird, sorry).

Now, I’ve seen some soft Actuallys from other fans in rebuttal, pointing out that goalscorer Shane Prince is ripe for a long-deserved call up and that Chris Wideman is 2nd in points by defenseman in the AHL (and only back of the top spot by 1 point at the time of this writing, I might add). Others are quick to mention that Freddy Claesson’s steady play could earn him a promotion (Sens are currently carrying 38 defensemen but Ima let Freddy cook). 

Anyway, these are all good points. There are a couple of promising looking players in the AHL but hearing both sides I can see why the cupboards appear bare in terms of players who are really blowing your skirt up (again, sorry)…But here’s where I gotta hit you with the mad ACTUALLY: The cupboards might appear bare but it’s an illuuuuusion, Michael.

It’s not so much that the team doesn’t have any exciting young players ready to break out of the minors. It’s that they had a bunch and the majority have either already broken out and graduated to the big league or have been swapped for better players who make up the team’s core…

Exhibit A: First Rounders Working Out
Plain and simple, a major cause of Binghamton looking a little paltry talent-wise is that the past two 1st round picks the Senators drafted, defenseperson Cobi C.C. at 15th in 2012 and centre Courteous Lazar at 17th in 2013, respectively made the big club in their first year of eligibility. For mid round picks you can’t really ask for better than that. I can only speak for myself (blech), but I don’t think Ceci or Lazar have been rushed into the league either.
After just 30 regular season games in the AHL, Ceci was selected to fill in for Jared Cowen who was serving a suspension for copyright infringement of the TV character Jerry Seinfeld (he was later acquitted claiming he was merely a parody of the character under the stipulation that Seinfeld is “Haha funny” while Cowen’s portrayal is “Crying on the inside funny.” The judge agreed and threw out the case). What was I talking about again? Oh yes, my 2nd divorce: Ceci has not looked out of place developing as a  guy who carries Chris Phillips bottom pairing guy and has stuck with the club since his call up. He’s even looked comfortable getting some time on the second pairing with human moose Erik Gryba. As a right hand shot Ceci will (hopefully!) never usurp Erik Karlsson on the top pairing but I believe within the next couple of seasons he will only get better and establish himself a solid player with the capacity for offensive flash in the important 2nd pairing role.
As far as Lazar goes, we’re only halfway through his 1st season so it’s a bit early to tell. Having a teenager learn the ropes in the NHL seems a bit risky but with a game as refined as his is, I think his development has been handled correctly so far. Keep him in the bigs, ease him in with bottom six assignments and let him play at the WJC. While he’s be been a little cold in point production (tough to get mostly playing on the 4th line), I think captaining Team Canada to their first gold medal in five years on home ice, and playing alongside Edmonton Oilers’ first overall pick Connor McDavid might have been okay for his confidence. With nothing left to prove in Junior, he’s where he should be.

Courtesy, Confidence, Value.

Courtesy, Confidence, Value.

Sure, he would likely play a more prominent role in Binghamton (had he been eligible to even play there, which he wasn’t) but if one of the main purposes of the farm team is to help rookies round out their game, I am lost as to what the main area of improvement for Lazar would be. Smile less? He was touted as a prospect who’d be most likely be able to jump straight into the NHL and he’s lived up to that billing since day one.

Exhibit B: Dat Top 6 Tho
If you look at the most consistent top 2 lines that have been deployed this season I would say they look at little something…like…this:

MacArthur – Turris – Stone

Hoffman Zibanejad – Ryan

K, so, 50% of the top six forwards are products of in-house drafting and development. One a mature rookie, one a sophomore, and one a grizzled 21 year old vet in his 3rd season. They look remarkably comfortable in difficult roles despite having fewer than 300 NHL games combined. Perspective: Bobby Ryan is only 27 and has 488 games played. All three of them did some time in the AHL and have made the leap to the show. Let’s examine a touch closer:

Mark Stone, 2010, 6th round pick, 178th overall. Taken at a Datsyukian 178th overall, it was a long shot that Stone would even make the NHL let alone play on a top line so early in his career. He’s still finding his way at age 22(!!) but after an injury plagued first season, he’s really starting to show that he’s the real deal.

Mike Hoffman, 2009 5th round pick, 130th overall. A late bloomer through every phase of his development, and nearly getting waived last season, Hoffy is proving that the NHL level is no exception to this tendency. After hardbodying the American Hockey League last year, Hoffman finally got a proper shot at the end of last season.
Personally, I saw potential with his speed and shot but found him a non-presence in most games. This year he has blown me away as often as he’s blown past defenders. Going into this season, I thought too much stock was being placed in a player with 6 NHL points to his name but like so many doubters along the way, I judged him too quickly. Hoffman has emerged as the highlight of the Senators season. He not only leads the Sens in goals (and we have Bobby Ryan!) but is currently tied for most among all NHL rookies to boot.
The catch with Hoffman’s tendency to be a late bloomer is that his rookie season is a mature one at age 25. He might not have as much prime road ahead as say, 20 year old Nashville phenom Filip Forsberg but…if you can’t be happy because the guy leading the team in goals in his first year in the NHL is 25? As Nelly once sang, “Hmmmmmm shorty I can’t heeeeeelp ya.”

Mitchell Zibanejazz, 2011 1st round pick, 6th overall. From an ill advised development year with a to-be-relegated Djurgardens, to a shocking demotion to the AHL last year and a slow start to this year, Ziba’s growth as a player has had ups and downs. Then one foggy Christmas eve, my G got to play his natural position of centre on a steady line with Bobby Ryan and Micheal J. Hoffman. He has been an improved player pretty much since that trio was allowed to stay together for more than 2 periods.
Barring a Scott Gomez level dry spell, Zibanjad looks poised to trump his point totals from last season. I’m not quite sure he’s the top line centre Bryan Murray has said he envisions him to become, but he’s looking better and better as a second line pivot each game. At age TWENTY ONE (by the fucking way), I think he will end up sticking there and become a key contributor to the team’s offense.

Exhibit C: Trading Potential Away For Proven Top 6 Players
Again, looking at the top six above, two of the best players on the team were acquired by making tough decisions with developing talent.

Kyle Turris was acquired by selling high on slobbered over Abercrombie model David Rundblad and a 2nd Rounder. In the nearly four seasons since the trade went down, Rundbleezy has yet to play 82 career games and has put up 17 points in total. Not tremendous for “the next Erik Karlsson.”
Sure, he’ll probably win a Stanley Cup with Chicago because hockey but hey, Mike friggin’ Commodore has a Cup ring, Marcel Dionne doesn’t so whatever fuck.
Say what you will about whether he’s a true top line centre or not, but the Turris trade and his subsequent contract, might go down as Bryan Murray’s finest move as Sens GM. He may not have the numbers of Spezza but he’s easily one of Ottawa’s best forwards and looks like a favourite to wear an “A” when Chris Phillips retires after his next 3 year extension is up in 2019. HAHAHAHA….ha…that’s…probably going to happen.   

Bobby Ryan got gotted with an absolute swing for the fence trade giving up much of the Sens stockpile of prospects in fan favourite Jakobi Silvermountain, 1st round pick and 2nd Amendment defender Stefan Noesen and Ottawa’s 2013 1st round pick. That’s a punch to the prospect pool for sure but with a little luck Bryan acquired arugably top 3 forward for the long term.
Looking at Silfverberg’s numbers with the Ducks, on a team that talented, they essentially got an Alex Chiasson. He’s a top 6 forward in the East, role player in the West. He might also win a Stanley cup tho.
Stefan Noesen’s been a bit more of a tragic case. He’s suffered two consecutive season ending injuries including serious tears to his ACL and MCL. Yikes. He is only 21 years old  and can hopefully bounce back but having only played 6 AHL games in two seasons he’s got a long road ahead. I will take Matt Puempel’s “disappointing” 24 points in 36 games over that any day.
Nick Richie who was taken by Anaheim with the 10th overall pick continues to have a solid OHL career…also tho, we’d be proper fucked without Bobby Ryan. He’s quickly become a leader, a contributor to the community and most importantly, he leads the team in points. Thank God Almighty that they got that extension done or that would have been a goddamn disaster Excellent asset management if you ask me. 

Exhibit D: …K, I’ll admit things are getting mad sketchy on defense.
Your honour, I’ll admit  this is where things got kind of fucked up. I believe that the forwards aren’t really the problem on this team. It’s the defense. I’m going to come off as an apologist here but as far as this whole prospects graduating thing goes I’ll boldly say this: It’s been quite a dog show but it hasn’t been for lack of trying.
Scary Part: Basically, all of Ottawa’s best defensive prospects of the past few years ARE ON THE TEAM NOW. For better or worse…mostly worse! Marc Methot is the only defenseman currently in the line up who wasn’t drafted by Ottawa. You can argue that the Sens have been drafting a number of NHL calibre defensemen…It’s just that some of them are Erik Karlsson and others are Mark Borowiecki.

You know i have to address this up front: You gotta hear both sides on Jared Cowen. He was supposed to be an absolute beast. He appeared to be coming along nicely until he missed a season with a torn hip barfarum. Guy has not looked the same since to a frustrating degree. Maybe in hindsight the Sens should have waited to see if he fell in the draft but I think we all had visions of Chara 2 dancing in our heads when he was taken. Also, it was no shock he was taken top 10 at the time. He’d been projected even higher than 9th leading up to that draft. Bottom line: You can’t predict people and further you can’t predict injuries. It’s a risk every GM has to take. If Karlsson never played the same after his injury, that’s not something the organization could have helped. It seems to me that’s what happened to Jared. He’s getting steadier of late but as to what his ceiling is at this point? I’d say with those wheels, it’s looking like middle pairing at best. At least he hasn’t played his way out of league and retired before age 30 like other certain defensemen Ottawa’s taken at 9th overall? There’s still time! Time to get good or time to retire pre-age 30? …LET’S MOVE ON!
For me, it’s Weircioch who’s really been a disappointment to the club. I’ve waited and waited for a breakout but now I am just super concerned. I’m not sure what it is about him but this guy is just unable to get a steady assignment for going on his second coach now. That’s pretty nuts considering how much more he offers in size, talent and experience compared to say Mark Borowiecki who has just been named Director of Player Personnel because compete level. I think Wiercioch was a big part of Ottawa’s re-build plan and has just been unable to take the opportunity that was in front of him. How Boro and Phillips got to fill in for Methot over him for months…I can only scratch my head.
Cody Ceci I’ve already spoken about and Gryba? Maybe he could be upgraded on but to me its been Wiercioch and Cowen not hitting their projected ceilings that’s done the Senators defense in. Not a lack of trying to develop talent.

Funclusion: We’ve had lots and lots and lots and lots of fun not reading all the way to the end of this deathmarch of a post. Heyyyyyyyy, I didn’t even talk about Lehner, or any bottom 6 players, or that nightmarish Bishop for Conacher trade (LOOK, CONACHER WAS THE MIKE HOFFMAN OF HIS GENERATION)…maybe next time?
Anyway, maybe I’m too forgiving, maybe those prospects are only succeeding because of the crazy opportunity they’re afforded on a low paying team like the Senators (Now featuring only 3 FA signings on current roster!). The point I’ve hopefully made is that it’s not so much that Binghamton appears bare of exciting players to call up because the Sens have done a poor job drafting them, but rather that it’s a bit of a down cycle because nearly all the best prospects have either made the team and are now developing their game at the top level or they’ve been dealt to solidify the core going forward with vets who are still in their prime.
The biggest thing holding the team back has been the disappointments that Wiercioch and Cowen have been. The organization needs to focus on either drafting more defensemen or packaging up more potential in exchange for a proven guy to correct this. I suppose taking Andreas Englund is a start. Locking up Marc Methot would also be huge.
The other major thing is that the team is an a frustrating stage of mid-torch pass. It just feels like players like Chris Neil and Chris Phillips will be around forever taking up roster spots where young guys with more potential could hone their craft.
“But at least Michalek and Greening are signed for the next 27 years. So we have that going for us!” – Matt Puempel and Shane Prince, in unison.
The team has some very tough decisions to make going forward. Some vets who can no longer effectively pull their weight have to be shipped for a “shot at the cup (lol)”, the defense has to be addressed at some point, and yes, the cupboard does need to be restocked now to keep the team growing (and cheap) so plz stop giving up picks for Hemsky cokedreams. I’m not even going to pretend anyone’s going to be bought out. The team’s drafted quite well for years despite only having one lotto pick in past decade plus. The in-house talent has been there but can Murray and co. patch the holes in the line up with no money for quality free agents? To me that’s the problem that could keep this team in purgatory.

James Day Preview: Ottawa West hosts Dallas East

Photo Courtesy of Spezza Family Collection

Photo Courtesy of Spezza Family Library and Archives

More like…Ales……*sigh* I don’t fuckin’ know……..Whatevsky. No wait I have a better one: Thanksforreadingsky
Super bummed out that Alex Hemsky recently broke out of the Jared Cowen scoring race…and has entered…the Ales Chiasson (no points in 100 games!) strata of production. Sure, it’s still pretty funny but it’s not Chris Neil/Jared Cowen funny. It is with a heavy heart that I hereby retire this joke (until further notice, Chris Neil gunna be back soon and will bribe his way back on that power play and come for the crown, babyfella).
On the real tho, it’s crazy to think about watching a guy who could not have looked more perfect playing with Jason Spezza, skip town to play for the same team as him, get bumped out of being on a line with him, and end up a healthy scratch for putting up Shutdown Defenseman-like numbers. LIfe comes at you fast. He has enjoyed a recent slight uptick. It should be noted that “recent slight uptick” took place nearly halfway through the season.
Hemsky has throughout his career been one of those players whose talent no one denies but doesn’t carry that same respect fellow high flying finesse players seem to enjoy. The criticism of Hemsky is in some cases unfair, “Gets hurt a lot” but others jabs are starting to make sense to me like, “talented but not really a difference maker.” This was the impression I got when I talked to a friend of mine who’s from Edmonton and a big Oilers fan (I am happy to report that as of the time of this writing he still has the strength to get out of bed in the morning!) when the trade happened. He wasn’t thrilled about it but seemed comfortable that if the Oilers were going to deal one of their more talented forwards, that Hemsky would have been his pick as well.
Now that the dust has settled on the off season, I must admit, I feel the same way. I was as salty as anyone when the Sens kept Milan Michalek for the exact same deal Hemsky got to play in Dallas alongside Spezza. But that was when I was having nightmares about Hemsky putting like 30+ goals, 70+ points in Texa$. To see him have a comparable season to Milo almost feels like an accidental little victory by the organization. I guess we got 1 Hemsky instead of 2? And our Hemsky has a respectable 2 way game and can kill penalties? Like I said, LITTLE victory. He’ll be playing on a line with Spezza tonight…which is kind of hilarious to think of as a special event not even a calendar year after they tore it up together here. Lost a Hemsky Retained a Michalek
Rating: Shrugging Emoticon Guy Made of Faberge Egg.

Matt Spezza & Associate
I wont spend too long on this because it’s been done to death but tonight we see the much anticipated(?) first clash with Matt Spezza’s brother. You know, I was not thrilled that Spezza was dealt but I was at peace with it by the time it went down. His trade was perhaps the centrepiece of a particularly rough off season. He’s one of the best players the Sens have ever had but it made sense to move him out. He was just never going to win over his detractors and be loved here. He wanted a change of scenery (y u accept captaincy then?) and was due for a new contract and we had just watched him miss an entire year due to an injury he has publicly admitted he will have for the rest of his playing career. I was okay with our penny pinching team not paying him big bux to stick around into his late 30s. Yes, I know that Dallas has resigned him to his mid-30s, but I think Spezza’s going to be a player who ages quickly. Also, that 4 year contract is something I strongly doubt a sentimental, career club in Ottawa could have pulled off. Especially with him serving as a newly minted captain. Without him on the payroll I think it left Bryan Murray with some rare money laying around to give Bobby Ryan his raise with some left over to use to keep our glut of pending RFA’s around. I’m still all in on the Sens passing the torch. Dealing Spezza was the cost of getting there. The rise of prospect Nick Paul who also came over as part of the trade helps ease the blow. Onward and……….you know, very much onward.

Basically, in the end, I’m feeling a touch #blessed with this whole mess because it’s afforded me the perfect hater-ass situation. We lose Spezza who didn’t want to be here and as such weren’t  pressured to re-sign him saving our broke ass team money. On top of this I get to be Mr. Cool Calm and Collected Guy Who Toooooooooootally has a healthy relationship to Professional Sports and be all, “I’m glad he’s doing well in Dallas!” then on some silky shit under my breath mumble “…but he’s not doing that good.” Plus he plays on a team that is basically Ottawa West. Grass remains yellow on both sides. Adequate luck in future endeavors, Jason.
“No jealousy required” – Phil Collins.

HEYYYYYYYY Sens are playing in another time zone so I have virtually no information about tonight’s lineup!
Sens are coming off a big win but you’d never know by the vibe among fans right now.
Hey, maybe it’s the -24 weather talking but it’s the halfway point and when you sit 8 points out of even a wild card birth it’s tough to watch a team that’s been .500ish all season long and be super hopeful.
On the converse, it’s just my opinion and you can take it or leave it but as Edmonton shoots for an all-time franchise worst 13th straight road loss tonight against the Blues and meanwhile the Hurricanes are becoming the street cred Sabres, I for one am doubtful for a lotto pick. Sorry, but Ottawa’s goaltending is just too good for a fall that far down the standings. Plus I don’t see the Sens getting worse with Marc Methot back in the lineup. Besides we all know the fix is in and the Las Vegas Panthers will get the no.1 ball in the lottery. For the balance of the season I recommend you take a page from our very own beloved Varada with his guide to the 2015 portion of things.

Update: Oy, story of my friggin’ life. I was just about to wrap things up and practice lines get released. Ugh, via TSM’s Bort Wallace:

MacArthur – Turris – Chiasson

Hoffman – Zibanejad – Ryan

Condra – Pageau – Lazar

Michaelek – Legwand – Stone

Warm Take:
Well, pretty cool of Cameron to give Chiasson a chance to get off the schnide against his former club. He’s our li’l Hemsky! Hopefully he can capitalize on Lehtonen’s weaknesses he’s learned from shooting on him in all those practices…uh…more than Spezza does on Lehner.

If you’re looking for a nickname for this Condra – Pageau – Lazar line I think the “Responsibility Trio” is still available. Could be interesting. These three look like they’d be equipped to cause a turnover or two and take advantage of it with their speed. I could see this combo sticking. Looking forward to seeing them play together.

And the rest! Seriously, shout out to Mark Stone. Good team player giving up his top line digs to slum it with these dudes. Stone might actually be the fastest dude on his line for once. So he’s got that going for him!

I don’t have time to wait around for the Defensive pairings.
Here’s all you need to know: Methot’s back, Borowiecki’s eating solid foods again, Phillips is playing like a shaky call up despite having over 1000 games experience, I’ve given up on waiting for Wiercioch to impress me, Gryba and Ceci are quietly decent and Karlsson is king.

Matt Spezza will start in goal for both teams.

Remember it’s a 2:45AM start tonight. Enjoy the game my little night owls!

James Day Preview: Ottawa Vs. Team Could Be Worse

So Who Even Plays for Philly These Days? *looks up roster* …OH, Everyone!
You know you’ve got an Island of Misfit Toys lookin ass roster when you start your season with Carlo Colaiacovo in the line up. Now there’s a player you could tell me was a periodic healthy scratch in the Italian League or a first pairing defender on the *yawwwn* Carolina Hurricanes and I’d believe you either way. Waat, they also have RJ Umberger? Wow, this team is chock full of guys who I’ve definitely heard of but could give 0.00 fucks about.

This Team Seems Oddly Phamillyar…
They have a well respected gamer of a captain who’s seemingly keeping this thing from becoming a complete shit show (Giroux), a washed up but once great 1000 point(ish) player getting way too much money on a bad contract (Lecavalier), sub-par goaltending tandem capable of frustratingly few flashes of greatness (Mason/Emery), an underappreciated dude racking up a ton of points (mostly assists) largely in losing efforts (Voracek), a solid, heart and soul assistant captain who’d be worth a ton in a trade (Simmonds), an aged veteran defensemen who despite nearing the end of his career is expected to be a linchpin and as a result can do no right in the fans eyes (Streit), and a talented but flawed young player that fans and management are just praying can take his development to the next level and help be a key to turn this thing around (Couturier (probably)). They also have a fairly inexperienced coach who after having a first full season behind the bench that saw a playoff birth, now seems a bit in over his head.  This year they boast a losing record and all the while under the watchful eye of a scrutinous media!

So what I’m saying is the Philadelphia Flyers are the 2010-11 Ottawa Senators *danger flutes*Good LUCK with that!

No seriously peep these understudies…OH and be sure to click the suggested background music as you read the list. Feel free to add your own players in the comment section!

Starring… As…
Claude Giroux Daniel Alfredsson
Vincent Lecavalier Alex Kovalev
Mason/Emery/Frozen Dinner LeClaire/Elliot/Frozen Dinner(s)
Jakub Voracek Jakub Spezza
Wayne Simmonds Mike Fisher
Mark Streit Sergei Gonchar
Sean Couturier I guess Erik Karlsson…whatver thx 4 reading
Jason Akeson Peter Regin (seriously one decent playoff round and ninja: VANISH for both these guys)
Brayden Schenn Nick Foligno
Michael Del Zotto Chris Campoli
And the rest! (remember Ryan Shannon and Marek Svatos?) Whew…look at the Flyers’ roster…this group is mostly “the rest.” Goddamn. Be thankful we only have one Colin Greening.

Like the Senators of 2010-11, here we have a team with a recentish enough Stanley Cup Final appearance and enough good pieces kicking around that management might still believe in them and fans are maybe still thirsty enough to get behind them. But be warned they appear to be on a decline of frightening proportions that could prove lengthy.

It’s not all bad Flyers fans who aren’t reading this, in fact, I have good news! I seened this movie before and I know how it ends: You’re off to the draft lottery! Which you’re going to lose to the fucking New Jersey Devils!
Being quite familiar with the 2010-11 Senators I can confidently say that tonight our beloved boys are facing an extremely beatable team that has the potential to surprise.

Bobby 4 Flyers Schmurda’er
I wonder if this is starting to become an obsessive thing with me but I’m going to write about it again and you’re going to float there and liste—WAIT WAIT WAIT DON’T CLOSE THE BROWSER I’LL BE QUICK, I PROMISE!

K, I am enamoured with the idea of players on our team becoming “[Insert team] Killers.”
It’s nice to have a bit of that swagger sauce going into another team’s building with the knowledge that one of your guys has a habit of tearing them up. You know, like how Johan Franzen must feel when having his pregame meal at Mucho Burrito at the Kanata Centrum (Voted Kanata’s worst designed Centrum every years running!). I suppose with the nail in the coffin goal in his last two games against Boston, that Bobby Ryan might be emerging as a bit of a Bruins killer…but having grown up a Flyers fan I’d love to see hi—

*Hologram version of me snatches microphone away, “Yo, me/you, Ima let me/you finish, I’m happy for me/you, Ima let me/you finish but Bobby Ryan emerging as an extremely effective player against a division rival that Ottawa’s struggled mightily against over the years like the Bruins is FAR more valuable to their playoff position of ALL TIME. OF ALL TIME.”*

As I was saying, considering that Bobby Ryan was a boyhood fan of the Flyers, it would be great to see him torch them in this season of weakness. No, seriously, they are worse than us. This is their first game on home ice in 19 days too. Hack the bone in front of friends and family, Bobby. HACK. THE. BONE.
Before I move on, while we’re still on this subject, all yall GTA born and raised ass guys on the Sens roster can become Leafs killers at ANY TIME NOW THANK YOU…which I guess…is just Mike Hoffman. Huh, well, I’m also counting you Clarke MacArthur*!

*You’re the best regardless tho, never leave us.

[Insert Weak Pageau-based Play On Words Here]
No secret around here but I’m a Pageau booster. Since a well earned call up Pager has been quiet but solid. In Sunday’s loss to the “Bolts” JGP was very, very good. He won 60% of his draws, took a team high 4 shots had 2 blocks and laid 5 hits, also a team high. Quiet about criticizing that hit stat before I rip up all your good Magic (tha gathering) cards and leave you with NOTHING but your mana pool. Nothing…but your stupid mana pool.
I for one don’t mind bottom 6 players who kill penalties taking the body. Most interesting of those numbers is that he led the team in shots. *tasteful pause for reflection* Yes, he had more shots than Erik Karlsson. Which I can’t tell if I’m happy about…because EK, who has 4, 564 shots in 38 games was outshot by an AHL call up who’s killing penalties.

Anyway, it’s tough to criticise Pageau in his 8 games so far. It can be hard to stand out in the bottom 6 where your job is being disciplined and structured. I think he’s exactly the kind of guy you want to call up in a jam. Such an upgrade from the Cody Bass days of yore. With a whole season sandwiched between his amazing playoff performance and now I suppose I am getting a bit worried that he might be falling into that Peter Regin (God bless the dead) place of making too strong a first impression and never being able to measure up as a result.
As a natural centre, he’s got time to make an impression as Zack Smith has just posted up on the top bunk of Marc Methot’s custom made hospital bed. Looking at last game’s numbers Pageau’s looking like he’s quietly trending in the right direction.

Giroux’s The Boss…and…he’s…not playing tonight. *pun: landed*
Something else I’ve harped on the past two season’s is how the Sens have a bit of a tough time taking advantage of fortunate circumstance. I think it’s great to watch them defeat a relatively healthy St. Louis Blues or Anaheim Ducks but don’t be afraid to throw in the odd win against a Claude Giroux-less Flyers. Sure, it’s on the road but hey, gotta win some of those road games too. Hahaha…ha…. seriously though, win the fucking game.

Anderson, who has a winning record (#blessed) gets his 25th start of the season (a season high for him!). He will square off against Frozen Dinner.

Enjoy the game. We have a 7pm start tonight so order your Bath Salts early!

James Day Preview: Cruddy Area Team Takes On Somehow Worse Team.

Showin off my new ink!

Showin off my new ink!

Hey there, hi there, ho there,

How’s everyone do- – *skips formalities b/c life’s 2 $hort and I ain’t got much thyme*

McCokedreams
K, so first off…I must address something here. Something I have coined “Connor Coke Dreams.”

Look, I’m not saying the Sens are just playing rope-a-dope and are poised to break out and suddenly be amazing but my G’s out there who are prepped to get hubristic 97s stitched onto their knockoff jerseys (IT HAPPENS) chill for minute.
A quick look at the standings shows there are currently NINE teams below Ottawa. Many by a small margin but still NINE. Les boys are coming off an extremely rough stretch of games where they played some of the league’s best teams and many of them on the road. Bad as they’ve been of late, they’ve still managed to collect 5 of  8 points in their last 4 games. Their 6 overtime losses also shows that even though they stink, they still manage to collect those Penske points that keep them in the mix in the toilet East. They’re down but I don’t know if they’re quite bottom 5 out just yet.
At times like this, you also have to show some respect the Shittiness GAWDS. You know where this is going…You think Ottawa’s got suck game? Edmonton has dropped 16 of their last 17 baby fella. Ima let that sink in. 16…of their last 17. They have almost half as many wins as Ottawa, almost twice as many losses and they play in the West where motherfuckers play for KEEPS. Context: The Sens next game is against the Devils…the Oilers get to play the Sharks IN San Jose tomorrow. God bless the dead.
Now, I’ve gotten some counter arguments about the Draft Lottery making McDavid pick a possiblity, but is that really what you want to pin your cokedreams to? The current 21st overall team hitting Draft Lottery and it’s not even the 2015 portion of the season yet? Plus draft lotteries are a form of snitching. Also, you know that shit’s rigged and Lord Bettman is going to make sure the Penguins or Blackhawks get the no. 1 pick so #staywoke!

HEYYYY Sens could definitely go in the turlet from here but that’s completely dismissing the possibility that they could play slightly better and string together a few wins and play themselves out of that top 10 between December 17th 2014 and draft day 2015.
You think I DON’T want Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel? I do, I do, 1000 times I do…but I’ma wait a few months before I start digging into the draft rankings (zzz) and I suggest you do too if you’re tempted to. It’s supposed to be a deep draft and if there’s one thing the Sens organization is good at (and it might actually only be one thing at the present moment) it’s drafting. Trust in our scouts and go easy on your soul. The Oilers have more than proven that they rule supreme at securing the no.1 draft spot. If you aim for the king, you best not miss. So until the Sens get on their dropping 16 of 17 grind, you gotta give up to the masters. Oh also, the Hurricaines are really, really, really fucking terrible as well.

Praise B 2 Jah Gabriel Pageau
A lot of Sens lineup fahntasies are coming true tonight. With the injuries to the lethargic Zack Smith and whatever Chris Neil is at this point…tonight we get to see some interesting changes to the lineup. I don’t know about you Eddy, and I don’t WISH injuries on anyone, but Zack Smith has not been himself this season and Neil I’ve just been watching for the past 25 years and just want to see him “bring grit to a contender” at this point in his career. I recognize he must have some INTENSE photos of someone on his phone and is unscratchable for it so I will take this as a great time to someone fill his fortress of a roster spot. I’m super excited for the chance to see some line up options we might not otherwise if both were healthy. Oh also, Greening is back in the pressbox, #blessed. He hasn’t been awful I guess but we already have Michalek who gets paid the big buxxx to fill the role “he hasn’t been awful I guess” thank you very much.

Coming off strong games from Stone, Chiasson and Courteous Lazar,  who btw showed that is even his Ned Flandesesque patience has its limits and he could no longer wait for Greening to score a goal before taking is turn and bagged his career first. Congrats to the Iron Toddler. Bless up.
We get to see more youth and, thankfully, speed injected into the lineup tonight with the debut of JG Pageau. After a blazing entry into the NHL, Pageau was quiet in his 28 game audition last season. I am literally first and only person who’s talked about this storyline thanks for reading. Seriously though, he’s one of my favourite prospects and I’m so pumped to get to see the little guy back, long overdue.  fldfksdfl;ksdjf

On the Real
I have been a proponent of the passing of the torch in Ottawa for more than a minute now. Seeing Turris and Ryan wearing letters has me thirsting for the futuristic year two thousand and please don’t give Neil and Phillips another contract but I’m so scared you will. Ryan especially has just been oozing leadership of late scoring opening goals, nailin’ ‘er shut (bud) in the shootout, flashing highlight reel biscuits and just generally being all over the ice; all the while playing with a busted finger. Good times, bad times, dude’s been such a gamer for the Sens and I commend the guy for it. Hope he can keep it going.

Getting’ Jiggy Unreasonable With It!
Lastly, tonight needs to be a big night for goaltending. Lehner and Anderson have been heaped with praise so far this season and rightly so. They were essentially mostly responsible for keeping Ottawa above .500 for the first couple months of the season. It was almost a situation where the more they were pelted with shots, they better they performed.
Toward the end of Paul MacLean’s tenure and so far under Dave Cam’Ron the team in front of them has managed to cut the shots down to a more reasonable amount but the wins just haven’t been there. Lights out goaltending’s got to put them over the edge if we want to see some W’s.
It almost seems unreasonable to ask more of the goaltenders but I’m an unreasonable person so let me cook. Anderson needs to go in there and straight up steal this one. We knew from game 1 it was going to have to be that kind of season and with Marc Methot now in officially in chryostasis, it remains so…more than ever. So, pretty please, with Splenda on top, steal his one, Andy.

Enjoy the game despite it starting at 7:00pm and being on the road against the Devils!