2014-2015 Retort Cards: Defense

Defenseperson Letter Grade Teacher says…every take a blog brings, an a-hole gets his wings.
Mark Borowiecki C+ If we’re gunna call Mark Stone a rookie, I guess it’s a rookie season for Boro too and that should be taken into account. He gets hated on a lot but sometimes I think that as a bottom pairing defenseman, part of your job is generally being disliked by fans. By sheer logic it follows that you’re the worst defenseman on the team. Who really is going to get behind that? Shouts to Christoph Schubert wherever you are. Anyway, for a 6th round pick rookie who makes very money little by NHL standards, he did okay. And by ‘did okay’ I mean he wasn’t great and it’s frustrating as hell at times to watch a player do his job when his job is basically taking a lot of penalties. I found I saw more good decision making and solid play when watching him in person. On TV, most of his camera time is him sitting in the box, spitting Gatorade through where his teeth should be.
Interesting that he managed to finish two points back of puck mover Patrick Wiercioch in only 7 more games played.
Room for improvement next season: Don’t take 2 penalties in one period in the playoffs, plz.
I am pretty confident his game can grow to the point that he’s not very noticeable outside of his physical game (a good thing). He sounds high AF when he laughs in interviews.
Jared Cowen A+ Just trying to build up my G’s trade value. Peter Chiarelli, if you’re reading this, Jared Cowen is like Erik Karlsson only faster, more skilled and better looking. He is like two Erik Karlssons.
Eric Gryba C I don’t know, fuck. Eric was a pleasant student to teach. Have a great summer shooting things.
Patrick Wiercioch C++ *gets pelted with scientific calculators* Listen nerds, I know this is your boy but I still ain’t going to pretend that I love every thing about his game yet. Does he carry the puck well? Yes. Does he have a deceptively good shot? Most def. Is he soft as a chinchilla to play against? Well, I haven’t seen a huge dude get strong armed that easily since Tom Jones was in court over a paternity suit. *bass guitar slide, audience howls at excellent 2015-friendly joke*
I believe in Wiercioch’s upside but you gotta here both sides on this season. I felt like it was clear why 2 different coaches had a hard time trusting him. Especially if you watch him in person. He drives possession fine but routinely does not effectively get in the way of attackers. I can’t ignore that after a promising first two seasons in the league this  overall was a down year for PW. As much as he was healthy scratched, he still played 3 more games than he did in ’13-14 and put up 10 fewer points. He was also dead last in blocked shots and hits for all defensemen, including Chris Phillips who played only 36 games. I don’t expect Wiercioch to be Chris Pronger but if he’s going to be the middle pairing defender we want him to be, he’ll need to do more than just “drive possession.”
He certainly turned it around in a noticeable way once he finally got a solid chance and finished strong with a great playoff round. If he can start playing that way he did in April from October on, his contract will be an absolute bargain next year at just 200K more than…
Chris Phillips D- At this point it’s hard to talk about Chris Phillips without feeling kind of mean. If you go back to the beginning of the season you can catch me shootin’ dice, praising Phillips for playing decently on the first pairing with Karlsson. Good times? Great times. All things must pass…to the point that I would take one solid or unnoticeable game from him as a gift. I guess it’s obvious now that at some point he suffered a chronic back injury but damn girl, his play fell off a cliff to the point that any discussion of him just immediately revolved around ways to trade him (LoLk, where/how?) or convince him to retire (Seat on the board of the Iris Street B.I.A?). So, you know, that…ain’t good. He broke Alfie’s record for games played as a Sen (#blessed?) and curiously sat the rest of the season after. As a fan, thanks 4 ur yrz of service and all but it is impossible for me to picture him helping the team should he return next season. To me, at this point, on the ice, there’s nothing he brings that Gryba or Borowiecki doesn’t (and for cheaper). Few people in the NHL are better prepared for retirement than the Big Rig. Huge question this off season is will he do it?
Cody Ceci A- Young Ceezy. Seemed like a bit of a quiet season I guess but I wonder if he came in too hot last season with his first NHL goal being an OT winner vs. -regular season only- powerhouse St. Louis .Maybe he got us all too expectant for moments like that. I try to keep in mind that he is only 21 years old *spit take* and has already earned a consistent assignment on the middle pairing. For a defender with offensive upside, 21 points may seem a little low but I try to remember that even Karlsson had 26 points in his first season.
Again if the points seem low it should be remembered that Ceci still finished 2nd among defenders in goals, assists, shots and handsomeness (you’ll never believe who came first). He was also first in blocked shots and just to melt your mind he  took only 6 minutes in penalties the whole season (zero in the post-season!). He had some shaky moments sure but, for a guy who hasn’t been 21 for 5 full months, he is progressing perfectly.
Marc Methot A Yo. Not since the Erik Karlsson incident of which we shall not speak has a player proved his worth to a team by being injured. Ima let the gawd Bryan Murray cook as the only person who doesn’t see the defense as the team’s biggest issue (who comes out of the current top 6 for that new guy tho, BM?) When Methot started the season on the IR and we were treated to a cavalcade of stars, Phillips/Cowen/Borowiecki getting paired with Golden Child Erik Karlsson, was it more evident how thin the left side is. As important as it was to sign Methot I have to admit my Memoires de Pascale Leclaire had me a bit shook at the idea of signing a player who was on the long term injured reserve. Luckily, once Methot jumped back into the line up full time, he was his old self: steady, hulking and very quick for his size. A bummer to hear he also finished the season hurt but kudos for it not showing in the slightest. Thrilled to have the guy signed. He took a bit of a discount to continue to play with one of the world’s best. I hear arguments that he’s a top 4 d man but to me, if you help Erik Karlsson to play better you’re a top guy. Seems to be emerging into a bit of a leader which is helpful should Phillips retire to focus on raising Curtis Lazar.
Erik Karlsson π Not. Known. For. His. Defensive. Game. Tho. Am. I. Right. ? I mean, maybe carrying/moving the puck out of the defensive zone more than anyone else on the team by a country mile counts as defensive play…I don’t know, who’s to say? Maybe you’re like me and watch pretty much every single game and find it clear he is easily the Sens best defensive player. Maybe criticizing a guy who plays half an hour a game and has the puck more than anyone turning it over or getting caught pinching a couple times a game is like blaming a goaltender for letting in two goals. Some reaching shit. Just a CONTROVERSIAL opinion of mine. ONLY TIME/NORRISESES WILL ABSOLVE MY JAZZY WAYS. It was good to see hockey experts panelists finally start acknowledging his play on both sides of the puck this year. Well, except for Steve Simmons who’s a fucking idiot. No seriously, he…does not seem like a very smart man. EK led all NHL defensemen in points and is up for the Norris again. Think of who he had to play with for half the season. Sink into that thought like it’s a nice hot bath. I feel lucky that I get to watch this guy play hockey.

Roundtable of Death: The Sens are Dead, Long Live The Sens

In which Luke, Varada, Chet, Steph, and James discuss how it’s better to have won and lost than never to have won at all.

Luke:

Part of me just wants to let Mick, Keef, and The Boys take this one.

I’m having a hard time coming up with anything to say about this series other than “So it goes.” Having watched nearly every bounce go Ottawa’s way for two months, I’m not inclined to summon my equine dental hygiene specialist to closely examine this horse we’d been given.

That said, as someone who publicly stated “Montreal’s bottom 6 is terrible”, the first three games of the series were still deeply troubling to me. By the time Dale Weise scored in overtime to give Montreal a 3-0 series lead, I was reduced to a hollow husk of a man who could do nothing but mutter to himself “Well on the bright side, at least no one could have possibly predicted this!” My feeling is that if you play the first three games of that series over again, there’s no way Montreal goes up 3-0 a second time. I say this because they DID play three more games in the series, Bryan Flynn, Torey Mitchell, and Dale Weise were nowhere to be seen (just as God intended), and Ottawa won 2 out of the 3 games. If you lose because the other team does stuff that’s so unlikely there’s no way you’d ever expect it to happen again, should that make you feel better or worse? Let’s ask Bruins fans. I bet they have thoughts on the matter.

Going into Game 4, I was filled with something approaching dread. Making the greatest run to the playoffs in NHL history only to get swept in the first round would have raised philosophical questions I would have been ill-equipped to answer. Luckily we were spared these questions as Mike Hoffman did a thing, Ottawa blew out Montreal once in Montreal (as is now playoff tradition), and only the referees were able to stop the series from going to a Game 7. We had some moments, people, and that’s all you can really ask for as a 7 seed. *Hands out t-shirts reading “2015 Playoffs: They Didn’t Totally Suck!”*

Speaking of the Refs Tho

I’ve been trying for the past 18 hours to work myself into a moderate froth regarding the heinous refereeing that led to Ottawa’s untimely departure aaaaaaaannnnnd……………..I just can’t do it. Every team loses due to human error, and as annoying as it is that the errant humans weren’t the ones who play the game, the lesson to be learned is that if you don’t want to risk losing in an utterly soul crushing way, you shouldn’t go down three games to zero against Carey Price to begin with.

I feel like this was a fitting way for this Sens team to go out, to be honest. Yes Montreal won, but did Ottawa really lose? This year’s team will forever be remembered as the team that only the refs could kill. Not a bad legacy for a team that gave us one of the most enjoyable 12 weeks in Sens history.

So it goes.

Varada:

I just finished watching a bootlegged copy of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it’s just like, what, so the Hulk is invincible now? That’s his power? He can do anything and nobody can stop him? The movie ends when the Hulk just does the thing everybody said they needed to do? At least it’s not as bad as that show Daredevil. Hoo boy! What a torture-thon! Literally! He’s constantly torturing people! I don’t understand how that’s supposed to be an enjoyable watch. What’s that? There was a hockey game last night? Oh, yeah, that broke my heart.

But I think you’re right, Luke: it’s hard to be particularly bitter when the team put themselves in a position where a miracle run was required just to sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the season, then they lose a tightly contested first round which they just as likely could have won.

This isn’t a Toronto team that doesn’t know what stage of rebuild it’s in, or a Sabres team that’s definitely, definitely in stage one, or a Carolina team spending oodles of money to be terrible with no end in sight. This team played entertaining hockey, got into the dance, anything could, and did, happen, and we’re all better for it.

Was the announcing annoying? Considering Price was outplayed by Anderson, and debatably even Hammond (who I thought was really good! No idea where people get this “played himself out of a job” thing), and was talked about as if he was the best player in the world throughout: yes. Only one goalie in this series allowed five goals in one game.

Was the officiating atrocious? Maybe. It was certainly weird, as quick whistles and face-off violation penalties can attest. The series occasionally felt as if the refs would randomly drop a power-up onto the ice and the team would hope for a red shell. It was weird, but it’s an even weirder tradition in the sport itself. Powerplays change the whole dynamic of the game, and always have, in ways that forever distort the purity of the contest itself.

Are the Canadiens full of pests who really got under my skin? Absolutely. Prust and Gallagher had jobs, and did them, and I hate them for it. I guess it’s interesting to see Montreal learn from what we did to them a couple of years ago.

But all in all, the Senators won the respect of the league and its many armchair experts, all of whom couldn’t give a crap about a small market team with the lowest payroll in the league. They did so with Vezina quality goaltending, Norris quality defenseman, a Calder quality rookie, and only room and financial space to grow. The future’s bright.

Now bring back the damned heritage jersey and let’s build some memories.

Chet:

Winning is great, but you know what’s sometimes more memorable than winning? Heroic failure. We’re all moved by heroic failure, right? Gallipoli? Cervantes? Kristers Gudlevskis?

The Senators went out on their shields last night, and as much as I love the 0% ROI complaining about blown calls, I’m with Luke in that I can only get so frissoned about last night. They would have needed another goal anyway, and just like those Iranian hostages, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place, trying to win four straight off Carey Price. Besides, losing a game like that is all of a piece with a series in which the Sens had already lost two overtime games, which are already basically coin flips. It was clear from the very beginning that the only thing separating the Sens and Habs were a few bounces one way or the other, and it was almost immediately as clear that luck, or fate, or that Mufasa-like cloudbank over the casino that looked just like Julia Robillard, was not going to give the Sens those bounces.

But they scratched and clawed anyway, didn’t they? To make sure Montreal knew, in a deep, uncomfortable place, that Ottawa was better? That their own lucky bounces would run out soon enough? And when they do, maybe in the next round, maybe in the conference finals against the Rangers, when Carey Price simply can’t keep his so-so team afloat forever, they too will fail. Except at that point, there won’t be anything heroic about it. It’ll just be Julia Robillard evening things out.

The Senators played like beautiful, star-crossed, tragic heroes last night, and I’m proud of them. Senators history is full of more talented teams that choked, or gave up, or won, but in a predictable, suffocating fashion. These guys refused to do any of those things, which is why we’ll remember them. As failures, and as heroes.

Steph:

You know what sucks about being constantly convinced that your team is going to do the thing – come back in the third period to win the game, come back from a 14 point deficit to make the playoffs, force game 6 against a team with probably the best goalie in the league, etc. – is that when they don’t do the thing for once, you’re extra disappointed. I couldn’t be team tank in January and I still think this run was worth not getting a high draft pick, but it still doesn’t feel good for the season to end like this. We all went through the stages of hockey grief together.

Denial: Nah, nah, this was a shitty dream and I’ll wake up to the Sens in the conference final and also Jared Cowen never existed and Alfie is back on the team.
Anger: The Habs are a shitty team with maybe 3 good players, they’re dirty, Gallagher is a piece of shit, the refs were against us, it was a garbage end to a Cinderella season, fuck hockey, I’m done with sports.
Bargaining: If only the ref hadn’t whistled early on the Pageau attempt they would have evened the score, forced overtime and probably won, since the Sens work best in high pressure situations, right?
Depression: Get the tequila. No, not the good stuff.
Acceptance: I guess I’m cheering for the Flames. Habs are still garbage fucks though.

I don’t know, I’m still mad about the officiating, but I don’t want to be thinking about it 20 years later like Leafs fans about Kerry Fraser. The last months of the season were incredible to watch, and I want those crazy goals, improbable wins, and Hamburger themed revolutions to be what’s remembered about this season. In the end, the Sens did the thing – they kept trying to win no matter how many shitty bounces or shitty calls went against them, and that’s what should be remembered about this season and give us all hope for next season (when it will be revealed that Jared Cowen never existed). ​

James:

Hahahaha You slay me Chet…those things you’re referring to that I totally know about…CLASSIC examples of heroic failure things. I would add some but I’m…uh…in a—

HEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY what a way to go out. And by “what a way to go out’ I mean “I’m still trying to figure out what all the feels mean.”

Corny as it sounds, I think today we are all Dave Cameron showing a stiff upper lip to that blown call. There’s nothing we can do other than move forward and let that dickbag in the office cook and act like he actually won that series. BTW I think it’s going to be a big year for “his” Yankees AND “his” Patriots/Cowboys…I guess he doesn’t root for the Heat at this point.

To build on Chet’s point, hey, to the victor go the spoils and everything but if I take one major thing out of this series it’s this: If that’s the class of our division I’m extremely excited about the future because that simply is not a very good hockey team overall. Sure Ottawa lost this time but have you ever seen a team go down 3-0 and seem less intimidated about that? Especially a Sens squad. If that’s what losing to Montreal looks like, where the biggest margin in the series was a 5-1 win? I’d take them as a playoff dance partner again in a heartbeat. That was not like Sisyphean task of facing the Pittsburgh Killbots year after year in the past. The Senators still have a lot to work on (Could have made Price work way, way harder) but they have a ton to build on as well. I’ll take a 1-1* rivalry with these assholes.

To me, the story of that series was Craig Anderson. Just a few weeks ago, I was confidently saying the wise move going forward was to give Robin Lehner his long awaited shot as starter, install Hammond as backup (he’s not going to keep going undefeated but SURELY he’s as good as Curtis McElhinney) and deal Anderson while the dealing’s good. 3 games of Andy and I am totally rethinking it. To come in after basically not playing for months in relief of a goalie who couldn’t have been on a hotter run just to go toe to toe with Carey Price and to hold it down like that? That was damn impressive. Not to get too ahead of myself here but I think a big move is going to be made this summer and I’m glad I’m not the one who has to decide what that move is.

Moaning Korner: Dat fucking broadcast tho. Much as I talk about shit about commentary, don’t get it twisted, I looooove cheering for the “bad guys.” Ask yourself this: Would you really want Glenn Healy endlessly waxing on about if he were but a glove upon the hand touching the cheek of Craig Anderson? Blech, no thanks.

We live in a world of hockey media where the most talked about team is a garbage pile of perpetual failure. The Canadian hockey press basically covers the Chicago Cubs as if they were the Yankees. It’s funny and consistently shines a spotlight on the ongoing embarrassment of our hated rival. With years of training I’ve come to embrace that bias to a large degree. If you ever want to know the extra satisfaction that is your team beating the opposition AND the announcers just look up JG Pageau’s hat trick on Price two seasons ago. Bob Cole’s call on that third goal is worth more than all the Saturday night losses to the Leafs on HNIC combined. As I’ve said in the past, I am more or less used to the bias at this point. I have no doubt that if Toronto went on the same epic march to the playoffs that Ottawa just did, they would put them on a postage stamp. Whatever. I don’t want Ottawa to be Canada’s team. I want to see them grow and succeed on some hater shit. There is no bandwagon here (well, save for the gawd Ann Murray). This thing is ours for better or worse and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Anyway, all this in mind, the coverage of those six games was just unbearably shitty. I’ve sat through countless Saturday night cringefests on CBC but that was just a new level all together. From the gotta hear both sides on Subban’s slash on Stone it was slanted to the point that I think went beyond being annoying as a Sens fan to just a sports fan in general. Hearing any series called that way would be frustrating. I can handle bias of that stripe from a bunch of failed football commentators on an ESPN Nashville feed or whatever, all of those local broadcasts have an obvious slant, including ours. But there’s a reason a clownshoes guy like Jack Edwards is on Boston public access and not NBC. For national coverage of TWO Canadian teams that was just embarrassing. The Habs already had Gallagher, Prust and Subban trying to get under everyone’s skin, they don’t need your help from ice level there, Glenn Healy. You know the game’s fucked up when former Leaf AND Hab Mike Johnson feels like the only voice of reason in the whole mess. For the first time I thought even Elliot Freidman’s approach was clumsy. Felt like HNIC jumped the shark and pandered out of desperation or something. Either way, what an all around shit show that was. “You think that shit is poppin’ man but it’s not poppin’ man” – Ghostface Killa, Re: HNIC Panel.

I have more to say (WHAT!?) but I’ll leave it at this, after a season and a half of almost inexplicable lethargy came a coaching change and an historical run by a below average career minor league goalie we were treated to something truly special. Hammond was the spark, the inspiration, but the whole team turned the season around under immense pressure. The team as a whole, especially many of the young guys, can’t unlearn what they went through these past few months. How to win games. I think as fans all we wanted were honest efforts and we got those to the very end. We got a team who figured out how to compete with anyone. I’ve been yammering on about the need for a passing of the torch for a minute. All you need to do is look at the lineup Dave Cameron iced these past few months to see that the time has come.

James Day Preview: James 4, Judgement Night™

Game 3

Hi,

So…welcome to this website.

First a song:

We’ve had lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of fun /
but now the time has come …to wiiiiiiiiin /
If this old clown is found dead in his bed tomorrow /
I’ll be in heaven… STILL WRITING THIS BLOOOOG.

It rhymes and everything!

Now a quote:

“This has been such an amazing ride to the playoffs, that no matter what happens I will be happy.” – Me, person, a couple of weeks ago.

Ah, I was so young and idealistic back then. Maybe it was the lost year away from post season play but I have been reminded how crushing post-season losses are. Uncle, you guys, uncle. I get it! I remember now. A li’l dose of vitamin W would be great…I don’t know…how about..sayyyyy 2NITE?

We’re getting Pageau’ed out there!

So that’s what it feels like to have some nobody coming out of the woodwork and lighting your team up. Worse when the MF looks like Terry from FUBAR.

Ugh.

We need to get some beauties on the score sheet and by beauties I mean beautiful young ladies comme ca:

Speaking of the Score Sheet, That last game tho: 

I’ma come CLEAN that last game is all on the forwards. Say what you will about Terry’s OT winner on Andy but a team that finished the season with five 20 goal scorers needs to put more than one biscuit on the board.
Sure, Carey Price is playing very well but he was not the difference that game. The difference was the Habs defenders keeping Ottawa’s attackers to the outside forcing them to the corner where they kept looking for the pass in front that simply was not there. Again and again. I don’t know about you, Eddie, but It was driving me bananas.

This rant brought to you by Uncle Clarkey’s Li’l Garbage Snipes. Li’l Garbage Snipes Official Goal of Game 3 and hopefully game 4, available at fine outlets like a foot in front of the net!:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2014030113-262-h&site=senators

Ottawa has everything to lose tonight. In the words of on again-off again WTYKY contributor Babycakes, “Be aggressive.”

Deathworld shit.

Speaking of being aggressive: The biggest piece of news for tonight is that Zack Smith will draw into the lineup in place of David Legwand. It’s hard to have much to say about this other than that I hope he can use his physicality to create some room for 27 goal scorer and fellow 4th liner Mike Hoffman to do his thing. After watching Ottawa lose 2-1 in overtime, I am among those puzzled as to why a player with as much scoring touch as The Hoff is not getting a few more looks on the line he excelled on with Ryan and Ziba. Good as he’s been, Michalek seems like he would be great in the bottom six considering how awesome he is defensively. Maybe a goal tonight could get Hoffman a promotion…………….?…………….I have no idea……………………………?????????????????????…thx 4 reading…………?

It’s just been confirmed, Andy is getting the start in net. Magical as Hammond’s run was, I think this is the right call. Anderson was unreal in Game 3 and the 2-1 score is very flattering when you take into account that 49 shots were surrendered … wow, does that sound like the beginning of the season or what?
Side Note: Time is a flat circle.

There’s so little info up for grabs during the playoffs that it makes writing game previews fun and easy.

Smooth Jimmy’s Lock of the Week: Feels like a Lazar goal night.

Please get this W boys, you deserve it.
Go Sens Go!

“Let’s go get a defenceman! Has anyone thought of that? Oh, literally everyone?”

Looking at how close this series has been against the Habs – every game won by one goal, two in OT, Sens holding the lead for longer than Montreal – I can’t help but think of how the results might have bent ever-so-slightly in Ottawa’s favor if they’d been able to rely on a bottom pairing of defencemen other than Gryba or Borowiekci.

I’m not trying to jump up and down on anyone after the fact – they’ve been dependable warriors for this team throughout the miracle run to the playoffs – but the fact remains that after two straight months of playoff-like hockey, it looks like some of the younger, less skilled d-corps are wilting.

Add to that a lack of size and experience, and it’s only natural to wonder “what if?” Chris Phillips’ decline has been well documented. Jared Cowen has faded out of existence, going all the way from franchise darling to distant memory. Patrick Wiercioch, possession mustang though he is, is soft as hell. Cody Ceci is still very young, and it’s shown at times. And Erik Karlsson is playing every single important moment of the game. That’s a lot of risk tied up in basically Karlsson and Methot. Having at least one other NHL caliber vet to rely on might have made all the different heading into tonight’s “what the hell (shrugging emoticon)” fourth game.

The free agent market, unfortunately, doesn’t offer up much. But there are a couple of dependable, workhorse guys who log 20+ minutes on their teams now. If Ottawa signed, and then insulated, a Zybnek Michalek or Francois Beauchemin, I could see them spreading out some of the risk in the lineup. I’m not saying these guys are the answer – older and increasingly injured as they are – but just that they could turn in a solid 17+ minutes, providing opportunity for favorable zone starts for the puck movers.

If Murray, or his follower, really wanted to swing for the fences, they could get into the running for Johnny Oduya, which, to me, would seem somewhat similar to Tampa going out and spending for Anton Stralman to be a second-pairing guy. Or they could break the bank on a do-everything, Christian Ehrhoff type. Then there’s Andrej Meszaros, who was overshadowed this year because he played on a terrible Buffalo team, but he’s been known to play big minutes and put up points if the stars align.

If Ottawa is swept tonight there will be a lot of questions, some of which will have nothing to do with the defence. Where have Bobby Ryan and Mike Hoffman been, for example? But the fact remains that outside of Erik Karlsson and Methot’s reliable unspectacular play, the defence has had its challenges. It won’t take much to improve, but it’s becoming clear that it will take something.