Satellite Hot Takes – Erik Karlsson’s Draft Day

Tim Murray, on the happiest day of his life.

Tim Murray, on the happiest day of his life.

Luke Peristy and I had a conversation about something that happened over seven years ago.

CHET: I don’t want to talk about the Senators’ defense today.

LUKE: We’re Sens fans. We have to. It’s our duty.

CHET: No, you’re thinking of writing out line combinations until your nose gradually starts bleeding. You look for something to wipe it up but all you have is a Jason Spezza shirsey. Somewhere a dog will not stop barking. That’s being a Sens fan.

Let’s talk about a happier moment. Specifically, this video.

CHET: This clip starts with Gord Miller saying, “You’ve still gotta figure out Wade Redden.” Tell us something we don’t know, Gord.

LUKE: The first thing I notice about this video is that somebody filmed it by pointing their Nokia flip phone at their television and pressing record.

CHET: The shaky cellphone quality is the best part. Like it’s being filmed from a drone, hovering above the front line of history as it happens. You can’t worry about copyright law in those situations. At 0:39 the phone starts buzzing and whoever owns it says, “I can’t take this call, I’m bootlegging TSN.” I respect that.

LUKE: The second thing I notice is Eugene Melnyk approaching the stage with Daniel Alfredsson as thousands of Sens fans cheer. Is this what Ottawa winning the Stanley Cup in 2007 would have looked like?

CHET: They’re cheering for Melnyk, right? The 45-second ovation Melnyk gets here probably hasn’t been matched, cumulatively, in the seven years since this happened.

LUKE: I’d like to think that we as a fan base have reached a kind of uneasy peace with the Euge at this point. He seems genuinely happy to be alive and to be able to spend time with his daughters. Could Eugene Melnyk’s realization that there are more important things in life than hockey set a good example for the rest of us? I’ll get back to you on that just as soon as I’m finished typing out these line combinations.

Also, I would like to point out the guy in the Leafs jersey 24 seconds in. THERE’S ALWAYS ONE! “Wow, I can’t believe I was here to watch the Leafs draft Luke Schenn!” he’s probably thinking. “I’m never going to forget this moment. Luke Schenn’s easily the best defenseman in this draft, and now the Leafs have him. What a day!”

CHET: “This is a big day. Top 5 defenseman Luke Schenn, AND Mom’s making tuna-potato chip casserole later. If only selfies had been invented yet.”

Shaved-head Daniel Alfredsson was a good time, wasn’t it? He looks like Megamind.

LUKE: Alfie’s hairstyle is clearly foreshadowing the LEGENDARY moment when he would win the Mark Messier Leadership Award For Being Most Like Mark Messier a few years later.

CHET: Shaved heads were the style at the time. It wasn’t until Mats Sundin retired that the Swedish guys felt safe growing their hair back. Before that he was like, “if I’m going bald, so are you, spädbarn.” And they had to do it. He was the national captain.

LUKE: How about Tim Murray in this clip? He’s positively chatty! “We’ve had a great time in Ottawa,” he says, correctly feeling the temperature of the room. In terms of All Time Great Draft Traditions, where does thanking the city that’s hosting the draft rank? I’d say below booing Bettman, but above Philly fans booing whatever disappointment they end up drafting in the 1st round. Is the booing the only reason to attend a draft in person?

CHET: This is the most Tim Murray has ever said at a podium. He hasn’t completely turned heel yet. No D&G frames, strong Shawville accent. He says the word “fans” like someone who’s been thrown out of a Legion more than once.

LUKE: If you’re ever in Shawville, ask a local to tell you about The Tim Murray Pancake Tuesday Legion Dinner Incident. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Okay, so Daniel Alfredsson announces the pick of Erik Karlsson from Frolunda, and Pierre McGuire immediately launches into a monologue in which he describes Yung Karl as “the Swedish version of Brian Rafalski”. Knowing what we know now, is this a bit like describing Bjork as the Icelandic Yoko Ono? Sure they’re both weirdo avant-garde artists, but only one of them can sell out the big arenas.

CHET: The arena isn’t even sold out! They show Alfredsson and then a bunch of empty seats. STRONG troll game. This was when TSN had rights to other teams.

But yeah, Swedish Brian Rafalski. Keeps trying to turn Scott Stevens on to Cardigans deep cuts. Stevens will have none of it.

Then we see him for the first time – it’s Erik Karlsson.

LUKE: Huge shoutout to the Sens’ scouting for this pick.

CHET: The silence after this pick is deafening. These people wanted Joe Colborne.

LUKE: But look at this kid. He’s 18 going on 10 with hair that looks like he was trying to have a mullet but started to grow it out three weeks too late.

CHET: Check out Jos. A. Banksson in a charcoal suit. This was the last time Karlsson was seen wearing plain neutrals. It’s not that success has changed him; he’s wishing desperately he was in a crocodile-print three-piece here, but doesn’t want a primadonna rep on day one. He knows the Sun is watching and as far as they’re concerned Sweden is practically Russia.

LUKE: Hey, you can go in on EK’s decidedly un-zesty wardrobe choices if you want, but if there’s one thing last year’s Ottawa Senators taught me, it’s that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. I don’t see the point of starting the day in a purple velour dinner jacket made from one of Hugh Hefner’s couches when you’re going to be spending the evening in your brand new Ottawa Senators jersey.

CHET: Also, shoutout to TSN’s “Worth Their Weight In Goal” tag line as they shade Karlsson for being the draft’s lightest player. That might be the lamest TSN pun ever, and I say that as someone who lived through “Comme ci, Konopka.”

LUKE: The Sens took one look at this undersized boy and said, “On this rock we shall build our defense.” Or at least they said, “This kid will be the next Brian Rafalski. Meh, we’ll take it.” Also let’s give it up for this head shot of EK.

CHET: That headshot could literally be anyone. It looks like bad CGI. It looks like you took one of the generic heads from NHL ’08 Create-a-Player mode and then put a blurry picture of it on the side of a milk carton. Have you seen this completely featureless boy? He was last seen being an expressionless canvas onto which you can project your wildest expectations. If found please call his parents, Henrik and Ilsa Rafalskiberg.

LUKE: Karlsson was the first part of a rebuild we didn’t even know was happening yet. Another way he was ahead of his time.

CHET: Reminder that the Sens traded up from 18 to 15 to get this pick. The Predators took goalie Chet Pickard at 18, also referred to in the context of this article as “the second worst Chet ever”. But the Sens have the Karlsson jersey ready, so you know he was their guy all along. It’s neat how with the exception of Tim Murray, who got a promotion, the Senators front office is still pretty much all the guys on this stage. One first-round playoff win since, by the way.

“They’re gonna need some patience with this guy,” McGuire says. Don Brennan watches from the press box like, “Nah, B.”

What’s crazy is how casual Karlsson is with Alfredsson, like, “Oh yeah, Frolunda, me too. Those showers in the locker room though, am I right?” Just not grasping the symbolism at all, even after Alfredsson hands him the hat while saying, “So also, you live with me.” Then Karlsson sidles up to Melnyk and does this huge, OVER THE TOP, arm out move, slapping him on the back. That is like a ’91 Jordan dunk, that move. That is a man who has hugged a billionaire before.

LUKE: Hugging a billionaire is one thing, but then he goes for the arm around on Tim Freaking Murray?! This guy’s confidence is out of control. He just got drafted, doesn’t even have a contract yet, but he’s still putting the moves on his bosses like they’re a couple of girls he invited over for Netflix and Sauna. Let’s see Kimmo Timonen do THAT!

CHET: “He’s good, don’t worry! He’s very good!” This is like the shortest player assessment from Pierre McGuire ever, like he’s wishing he knew who Erik Karlsson’s billet family in Gothenburg was. “The Rafalskibergs, good people. Ilsa pickles herring like you wouldn’t believe. Henrik’s slowed down a bit since diabetes took his foot.”

LUKE: For my money, the best scouting report Pierre could have given was, “Erik Karlsson won a car from his dad in a game of poker at the age of 12.” You don’t need to know how good he is at moving the puck once you find out he was fleecing his old man at cards before he was even a teenager.

CHET: Then James Duthie asks, “Can you play in the NHL?” Setting up Karlsson’s first “obviously” on a goddamned tee. But he’s only 18 so it’s understandable if he can’t pick up every play right away.

Cute kid, though. His skull is, what, 75% bigger now?

LUKE: It’s incredibly weird listening to this guy talk about putting on some muscle when seven years later, his own coach says he doesn’t even need to go to the gym, but does it anyway because he’s a good leader and also happens to have arms as thick as his neck.

Then he’s asked which player he’s most like and his answer is Niklas Kronwall, who is the hardest Swede outside of a maximum security prison. James Duthie does a great job of dealing with Karlsson’s utter lack of chill, saying, “That’s a darn good answer,” instead of saying what I would say, which is “LOL, K, Niklas Kronwall could eat you, tiny man.” I can’t get over this kid.

CHET: “I get that you don’t want to say Lidstrom, because that’s blasphemy for your small, no-daylight race, but comparing yourself to Kronwall is like trying to fight the biggest guy on your first day in. You do you, kid.”

Then Bryan Murray shows up to clarify that a) future senior hockey advisor Daniel Alfredsson had nothing to do with this pick, and b) in today’s NHL, you need skill on the blue line. Both GREAT looks for Bryan in 2015.

LUKE: Look at that wise hockey executive espousing the importance of skill on the blue line. Whatever happened to him? I wish he could run my hockey team.

CHET: “We don’t need a big guy,” Murray says. “We need somebody good.” This is like an alternate universe where Jared Cowen was never born.

LUKE: You want to talk alternate universe? James Duthie just said, “Darren Dreger just reported that you extended Chris Kelly for four years.” The 2008 Ottawa Senators: crafting for skill and signing the Corsi Gawds long term. What happened to this team? How did they ever lose?

Wait, Duthie just asked, “Will Jason Spezza be a member of the Ottawa Senators on July 1st?” That’s totally from this universe. I recognize that.

CHET: Bryan Murray with one of the all-time #actuallys here – “his no-trade doesn’t kick in until next year, James.” In other words, we’ll trade him whenever we damn well please – this year, 2014… we’re really going to explore the space with Jason Spezza’s job security. Maybe we’ll make him the captain and THEN trade him, just to really screw with the guy. We have Erik Karlsson! We can do anything we want now.

Famous Last Words (About Jared Cowen)

As someone who spends some time on the internet and social media, I’m supremely aware of its ability to turn into an echo chamber. Get enough like-minded individuals all talking at once in the same place and you inevitably end up with a high degree of group-think and shared opinions. My thoughts of late have consequently been something along the lines of, “Has anyone considered that maybe the Senators should scratch Jared Cowen? Oh, what’s that? Literally everyone? Alright, never mind then.” Basically I am doubtful of my ability to have an opinion on Jared Cowen that will be in any way new or interesting.

And yet here I am with a blog post about Jared Cowen. This is mainly because Jared Cowen consumes my every waking thought. I am in a state of constant fascination with the seemingly endless ways in which he conspires against his own team. Last night I dreamed that Jared Cowen’s hair flowed out of his helmet and engulfed the world in darkness. I can no longer listen to songs by Leonard Cohen because Cohen sounds a little too much like Cowen. I am Captain Ahab and Jared Cowen is my White Whale. Welcome to Your Ishmael Years dot com.

So yes, while the ways in which Jared Cowen has been a disappointment throughout this year and beyond have been well-documented elsewhere, I am not writing this for you; I am writing this for me. I’m writing down all my thoughts and #feelings once and for all (something my therapist has recommended). I hope that this blog post will be the instrument of my cleansing catharsis and I shall wallow no longer in the Valley of the Damned. Come, join me in my descent into the underworld that I may walk in The Light from this moment forward.

The Story So Far

For as long as I can remember, there has never been a shortage of excuses for whatever happened to Jared Cowen. Projected to go very early in the 2009 Entry Draft, Cowen fell to 9th after suffering a torn ACL. Expected to be a major part of the Binghamton Senators during the 2012 lockout, Cowen played three games before suffering a season ending torn hip labrum. Expected to be on his entry level contract for one more year, Cowen became an RFA one year earlier than expected due to some vagaries of ELC contract slide that the Senators were not aware of. That rich 4-year contract an unproven Cowen got in 2013? Tim Murray did that. Last season’s gong show? Hip injury again. Couldn’t crack the playoff roster? Eric Gryba was in the way. It is very easy to spin a narrative that says to date The Path of The Righteous Cowen has been beset on all sides by Evil. I wouldn’t even say that narrative is necessarily inaccurate.

Now in his 6th year with the Ottawa Senators organization, this was supposed to be the year that Cowen finally had everything break his way. In the greatest of all struggling player traditions, Cowen arrived at camp healthy and In The Best Shape of His Life™. His main competition for Big Mean Beardy Bastard, Eric Gryba, had been traded away leaving him with minimal competition for a roster spot. And yet Cowen’s season so far has arguably been his worst to date. For me, his season in a nutshell was a play a few weeks ago where he was out defending a lead late in the 3rd period, gained possession of the puck, and only had to chip it out of the zone to seal the game. Typically, he fired the puck directly into the Senators bench. To be fair this could have happened to anyone, but it didn’t. It happened to Cowen.

So Jared Cowen is finally out of excuses and 15 games into his season, and there is already a chorus of fans calling for his removal. Are there any alternatives to cutting bait with extreme prejudice? Well, I’ve got some options I will now outline for you.

How I Would Try To Fix Jared Cowen

0. Invent a time machine, go back in time, buyout Cowen, and put the savings into giving Cody Franson a contract.

Ok, this one isn’t happening due to a lack of research funding. Moving on…

1. Lock Jared Cowen in a room filled with game tape of Marc Methot and force him to watch all of it a la A Clockwork Orange. After Cowen has watched all the tape, make him watch it again.

So much of what I see Jared Cowen get wrong seems to stem from a misunderstanding of what good defense actually is. Marc Methot, on the other hand, is my platonic ideal of what a defensive defenseman looks like in today’s NHL. Were I coaching Jared Cowen, I would say “Watch Marc Methot. You see how his physical play is a function of his excellent positioning? You see how excellent he is at defending the crease and the slot? Marc Methot gets big hits because he’s in the right place to make them, not because he chases guys all over the ice. You should strive to play like this.”

Cowen plays in such a way that it makes me think that Being Big and Hitting Guys is what’s expected of him, when really he should be focusing on Preventing Shots and Separating Guys from the Puck. If he does this by Being Big and Hitting Guys, so much the better, but Cowen’s game currently looks like someone who is doing stuff without any idea of why he’s doing it. Is it too much to ask that we try to get a struggling player to the point that he’s at least fundamentally sound? Maybe! What are some other options? Glad you asked!

2. Get Jared Cowen the hell away from Mark Borowiecki.

I have made my peace with Mark Borowiecki. He is a marginal NHL defenseman who is being paid as such (for the next 3 years). However, as a defensive partner for Jared Cowen, I believe he is one of the worst options possible. Borowiecki and Cowen do not compliment each other well. They both play the same style, they both shoot on the same side, and they both have the same weaknesses which are only exacerbated when they play together.

While last year Cowen was a negative possession player regardless of who he was playing with, at least this year he has shown some improvement when paired with Erik Karlsson or Chris Wideman. Please observe the figure below.

The 74 inside the blue box represents Jared Cowen’s possession numbers when not playing with Mark Borowiecki.

So far this season, Jared Cowen has not been as much as a tire fire when not paired with Mark Borowiecki. I realize I’m grasping at small sample size straws here, but it’s pretty much the only bit of positive data we’ve got, and I think if you can give Borowiecki and Cowen 15 games together, you can also afford to give Wideman and Cowen at least five. In addition, if you’re the sort of person who cares about optics, I’d say it’s easier to bench a guy making $1.3MM a year instead of one who’s making $3.7MM this year. As an added bonus, playing Cowen with Wideman would also satisfy my craving to have a defensive pairing that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito from the movie Twins.

Is this ever going to happen? Well, I’m not so sure…

What’s Going To Happen Instead

The biggest advantage I have is that when you change coaches your team is in turmoil and we were a chasing a playoff spot right from when I took over. When you’re chasing or trying to come from behind all the time, a lot of times you’re not as patient with players. You can’t let a guy figure it out on the power play. You can’t let a guy figure it out in the top six forwards because you just think there is too much at stake. I think the biggest advantage is to have the camp, get it going … You still want to get off to your best start possible but not every game is do or die. You’ll probably let some players play through some situations that I didn’t let them last year when you’re under the gun. – Dave Cameron, September 12 2015

Well, part of the reason why I traded Eric Gryba was to give Jared Cowen a chance to play. I felt that, like you mentioned, that for the last 19 or so games last year, he didn’t play. Partly because of injury, but partly because he couldn’t get a spot. I want to get him a chance to play… – Bryan Murray, September 24, 2015

I believe we are at Peak Cowen. Based on the above quotes from management, I think it’s clear that Dave Cameron is going to play Jared Cowen for 20 or 40 or 60 or 80 games this season regardless of how much he struggles. I don’t know how many games it will take, but at some point Cameron’s going to have seen enough. Once that happens and Cowen comes out of the lineup, I believe he will be coming out of the lineup for good. If you want to see less of Jared Cowen, I’m sure all you have to do is wait. With that said, I think that Dave Cameron does Jared Cowen and the Ottawa Senators at large a great disservice if his plan for the 3rd pairing is to simply fire Borowiecki and Cowen at the brick wall an infinite number of times until they break through. I am often loathe to criticize coaching decisions because I believe coaches are both more qualified than me and in possession of more information than I have, but we are now approaching the one-fifth mark of the season, and at a certain point a coach’s patience begins to look like the absence of a Plan B. It’s a coach’s job to put his players in a position where they can succeed, and I think it’s become clear that Jared Cowen cannot succeed next to Mark Borowiecki (or vice versa). Maybe Cowen can’t succeed next to anyone, but if management is so keen to “see what they’ve got” before burying him in the press box or AHL, why not confirm that with some hard, honest-to-God data points?

We got a single game of a Cowen-Ceci pairing in last night’s gong show, but all indications are that Cameron will be going back to Cowen-Borowiecki starting tomorrow night. This makes a bit a sense, as it contains the hilariously poor defensive zone coverage to the 3rd pairing instead of allowing it to metastasize to multiple pairings, but it also looks like merely playing out the string until Bryan Murray decides Cowen’s had enough of a chance.

Fixing Jared Cowen might be a problem without any solution, but Dave Cameron owes it to everyone involved to look for one. Scratch Boro, free Wideman. Either do what’s best for the team, or do what’s best for Cowen. Don’t maintain the status quo which is neither. Anything less is a waste of everyone’s time and money.

James Day Preview: Ottawa Vs. I’m So Glad I Don’t Cheer for a Team Called The Predators (Yuck!)

Forgive me, I'm....working some stuff out today.

Forgive me, I’m….working some stuff out today.

Sens Gotta Get the Bats Goin’

What better time to see the Hoffman – Turris – Stone re-united than following a game where the team tried to rely on a cushion of 2 goals to 1 for most of a game against a team they just cannot beat in the Carolina (not the exact name of place where team is based) Hurricanes (Do they get hurricanes in the Carolinas often? I can’t be bothered to research that, WHO HAS TIME?…also why would you name your sports team after something that could potentially destroy the homes of or take the lives of its fans? Wow, this is truly the most I’ve ever sat and thought about this team and they won a Cup – I think, I cant be bothered to confirm. WHO HAS TIME?) WOW, what was I talking about? OH, right, skoaring golez!

Remember back in the goode olde days of less than a month ago when there were complaints of the Sens forward corps being too “Top Heavy” with that 68-7-61 first line? Man, it was such a pain in the ass seeing those guys putting up multi-point games night in and night out. Glad we got a break from that. Today it’s time to put the work boots on and deal with it again.

Bobby Ryan has gradually emerged in hot from his LEGENDARY struggle of a handful of games at the beginning of the year and has settled ‘er down with 7 points in his last 7 games (HALF THE GAMES SO FAR BTW). His middle man Mika Zibanejad could be better but I suppose I’d rather a guy putting up points (2 in his last 2 games, 10 overall) while finding his game than doing sweet, succulent fuck all during that process. Shane Prince is expected to start the game on the line with 6 and 93. Though blessed is the prospect who does not look out of place doing spot duty on both the first and second line, I’m sure I’m not the only fan hoping the Prince of Tides gets a goal tonight. Not to be too tough on a guy who only has a total 12 NHL games to his career so far but a player like Prince has always been a scorer and even though he’s looked great so far you’d hate to see his play deteriorate because he’s feeling snake bitten. Remember Shane, just go out there and have FUN hahahahahaa…ha seriously score a goal tonight or I will eat your pet turtle.

With Zack Smith looking like the odd man of the lineup tonight, a Puempel – Lazar – Neil fourth line is something I can get behind.  While I am not necessarily against rookies being patiently integrated into an NHL roster (AKA EARNIN’ IT AND EVERYTHINK LIKE THAT (Thumbs Up) I really feel for Puempel having to play with Smith and Neil. I thought it was particularly rough to watch them in the game against Winnipeg. Smith and Neil are true fourth line players and Puempel seems destined for a higher slot in the line up eventually.Whatever gotta start somwhere but man it’s gotta be tough for him to any make noise paired with those two. Smith and Neil work hard as hell out there but goddamn neither of them can hang on to the puck for a New York minute. This really hurts a pure sniper like Puempel to be saddled with two guys who have next to no chance of setting him up to do what he’s best at, score goals. It was actually the more versatile Prince, a player with experience as a centre, who could make that line work for him by setting up his linemates, which he did a couple of times.
Long story short, I think Puempel will get a better look with Lazar while Neil waits in the car. Great to see the potential for some fire power on the 4th line because the Sens gotta get the bats goin’ because our defense fucking sucks.

Do I Have to Talk About Defence? GREAT!

Notes from practice: Jared Cowen has strangled to death and eaten a baby dolphin. He has been named Assistant Captain as a result. Turris will be stripped of his letter as the coaching staff sites “inability to set and example and demonstrate Baby Dolphin Murder and Eatfullness to the younger players.” FAIR IS FAIR!
But you know what? You have to respect the kind of power that Jared Cowen wields. Not even a rookie making an impact in a rare shot at playing can unseat him.
Also, whatever pictures of Dave Cameron Borowiecki possesses must be scandalous as HELL. I know we’re all ragging on these guys but goddamn what do either of these dudes have to do to get benched for ONE game? They have been just awful. Tonight they get yet another chance to turn it around.

Look, for all you Nerdlingers out there, despite the offensive boost he provided (#blessed)  Wideman didn’t exactly have strongest game possession-wise against one of the shittiest teams in the league :

Take it from KING of the Nerds

Take it from KING of the Nerds

BUT YOU KNOW WHAT?! If he was bad in that respect I think we’re all ready for at least a different KIND OF BAD. Goal scoring and defensively bad? I will take that over “When he makes one solid play it seems like a big deal” bad. We fans are “United in being ready for a new type of bad™” *Timpani, Danger Flutes*   

Silverish linings: The return of Cody Ceci to the lineup means the end of our municipal daymare of Mark Borowiecki as a top 4 defender…and the return of him as bottom pairing defender…playing on his wrong side. LETS MOVE ON.

Do Unto Andy
Greg Anderton starts in net tonight. He’s been his excellent self this season and is looking to string together his 3rd straight win. Andy has had a sub 2.00GAA in those last two starts against the habs and the jorts and was first star of both of those games. You can’t expect your goalie to carry you to that degree every night. Tonight would be a great time to start helpin’ a baldie out. Putting some points on the board against the defensively excellent (read: boring AF) Predators (again, eww) is absolutely crucial to taking this road game.

Notes on Nashville
I don’t know they are a stupid boring team that I don’t care about and I don’t feel like writing about so I won’t because this ain’t my real job, lady.

Thx 4 reading enjoy the game


The Hater’s Guide to Week 6

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

Me, on my grown man (not pictured: you, borrowing your mom's debit card)

Me, on my grown man (not pictured: you, borrowing your mom’s debit card)

Tuesday, November 10 – Senators @ Predators

I’ll tell you this for free – before you decide to start writing a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents, check the schedule to make sure that you won’t have to come up with two separate hot takes on the Predators in the space of a month. Can’t be done. And while that probably speaks to how uninteresting the Predators are, or how little of a rivalry they have with Ottawa, it’s also a poor way to begin Week 6 of our Hater’s Guide. But everything I said four weeks ago still stands, right? Mike Ribeiro is still a creep?

Tuesday’s game marks the end of this season’s home-and-home series with the Predators, and you might think they have a significant home-ice advantage in this one, what with the Senators having two days beforehand to hit Nashville’s Broadway strip for cowboy tapas and pickle-based whiskey cocktails until they get all bloated and groggy. But believe it or not, most professional athletes know better than that – okay, okay, not you, Patrick – and it’s only the media that go out and get completely destroyed in Nashville at this point. And lord, will they tell you about it. Come on, media. Act like you’ve been there before. After all, you have – last year, remember? No?

PREDICTION: The Predators are muddling along in a tough Central Division, having lost four of their last six, while the Senators are still smarting from Saturday’s improbable, impossible last-second collapse to the Hurricanes. Look for Chris Neil and Mike Fisher to share a quiet and respectful pre-game prayer, and then for the Senators to recreate all the good parts of the Old Testament. Senators 5, Predators 0.

Thursday, November 12 – Senators vs. Canucks

Ah, here we go. For the last few years this piece would have written itself. The Canucks – those whining, diving losers, those kids who’d taunt and taunt you until you hit them and they ran crying to a teacher, those employers of Ryan Kesler – were pretty unanimously the most hated team in the NHL. In a way, they were even more fun to hate than the Leafs, in that while neither had won anything since 1967, at least you got to watch the Canucks fail bitterly at the highest level and then see their own city burn down. We just need to make a couple riot jokes, a few digs at Alex Burrows, and we’re done – who’s thirsty?

But oh, how times have changed in Vancouver. The Canucks have more or less tread water since their Cup final loss to Boston – swapping out parts here and there, burning through goaltenders, and wondering when age will finally catch up to their Swedish captain – without ever making it out of the first round of the playoffs. In other words, they are now the 2010 Senators, which is arguably a fate worse than losing. Rather, they’re trapped in a hell of their own making between contending and rebuilding, making increasingly bizarre decisions like bringing in Brandon Sutter as a “second-line centre”, Brandon Prust as a “tough guy”, and 72-year-old Ryan Miller as a “big-game” goalie. We say this every year, but this is going to be the year the Canucks crash, hard, and it will be glorious. Okay, now who’s thirsty?

PREDICTION: This game marks the beginning of a five-game homestand for the Senators; that initial period when you’re home after a long time on the road is the best, isn’t it? Back in your own bed, familiar television, no reaching into your pocket for weird, crumpled paper money when you’re buying jerky – for a couple days you’re on a real high, before you remember being at home also means buying groceries, and caring about municipal politics, and that familiar malaise you’d been running from starts to set in again. But look for the Senators to capitalize on that initial positive energy in this game, and for the Canucks to continue to be a complete embarrassment to their city, their country, and the concept of organized hockey. Senators 5, Canucks 0.

Saturday, November 14 – Senators vs. Rangers

Ah, the New York Rangers, the only “Original Six” franchise that’s managed to win a Stanley Cup since the Canadiens last did, other than Boston, Chicago (three times), and Detroit (four). Am I missing anybody? Doesn’t matter, let’s move on. The Rangers are a good team, but really, truly hating them seems to be one of those things you need to live in New Jersey or Philadelphia to understand, like pork roll, or Bon Jovi. The rest of us? Eh. It’s only been three years since the Rangers mugged Erik Karlsson en route to a seven-game playoff win over the Senators, and most of you probably don’t even remember it.

This is the first of three Senators games against the Rangers this season, so if we’re going to learn to hate the Rangers, let’s start at square one, with Henrik Lundqvist, that beautiful, rich, famous, popular, world-class goaltender you’ve heard so much about. You know those kids in high school who were good at everything? They probably work for Lundqvist now, developing his new signature fragrance.  You may think you have it all, but then you look at Lundqvist – cool friends, cool clothes, electric guitar constantly at the ready in case a celebrity jam breaks out and needs a ham-fisted Sweet Child o’ Mine solo – and you realize how far from the 1% you really are. And this is the man that wants to beat your hockey team, after you broke your back all week shovelling meat? Do not stand for it.

PREDICTION: This is a Saturday afternoon game, which historically has been anathema for the Senators, although expect this year to be different. Why, you ask? Thanks for asking. Senators 5, Rangers 0.

Season prediction record: 7-4-3

Next week: Michigan! Ohio! Pennsylvania! They don’t just have meth; they’ve also got hockey teams! Get to know ’em!

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Your Father and I Would Like to Speak to You About Francis Perron

Salut, mes hateurz!

Salut, mes hateurz!

Now listen, this may not occur to you but your dad and I work very hard to put food on your back and clothes on the table. So if you want any of this delicious homemade hotdog stuffed crust pizza that your dear Nona gave me the family recipe for on her deathlay-z-boy, you’re going to sit there and hear what we have to tell you about your baby cousin Francis:

[Spotlight, please]
Hi, the other day I found myself checkin in on some of YOUR Ottawa Senators prospects for no reason other than having an extremely healthy relationship to the sport of hockey. Admittedly, I was sniffing around the cyberweb to see how the 3rd round pick who caught the attention of our very own Lunch Peristy at the rookie tournament, Gabriel Gagne was faring so far this season in the QMJHL.

To my surprise there was absolutely no statistical information for Gab Gagne for the 2015-16 season on both of the websites I looked on (IM NOT MADE OF wEb.SiTeS). Maybe he’s hurt, maybe he’s taken his talents to the Kontinental Hokki Leeg where due to a recent financial downturn for the major Russian crime syndicates, statistics and other record keeping (such as paystubs) have been postponed for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know. Frankly, I’m just a guy on the Internet™. If the prospect nerds don’t know what’s up I sure as hell aint going to find out *Thunderous applause, some heroes DO wear capes (me)*

My journey into the choppy waters of the weird world of dudes at computers talking about what teenage boy is going to dominate the other boys and grow into the body of a big strong man one fine day (See what I’m sayin: Imagine what a report for an OHL scout reads like? NSFW) was not without some interesting news. Since I was looking at a QMJHL player’s profile [with no stats], posted on the side of the screen was the Quebec League scoring race. Who should I see at the top of the table [AT THE TIME OF THIS WRITING PLEASE HOLD BACK ANY APPLICABLE ACTUALLYS, thank you] but one Francis Aloysius Perron of YOUR Rouyn-Noranda (???) Huskiiiies. I was blown away by the stats that were posted as I thought he was a defenseman…as I thought he was fellow 2014 3rd round pick, Miles Gendron:

Hi, I'm singer songwriter Miles Gendron and I like to keep it super duper casual.

Hi, I’m singer songwriter Miles Gendron and I like to keep it super duper casual.

What can I say, Fran P is just Miles G with way, WAY weirder hair…

(attends une minute avec le blowdryer, Franco-stein’s monster)

OH…and the eyes of a hatchet murderer.

(It places the biscuit into the basket…it places the biscuit into the basket)

Wow, weird tangent…sorry

K, turns out Perron is a left winger but don’t get it Twiztid, that doesn’t make the numbers he’s posting any less impressive. Perron has put up 15 goals and 19 assists for 34 total points in …wait for it *timpani* 16 games. Yeah, G is currently operating at an over two point per game pace, not to mention just shy of sitting at a goal per game. He was also named the league’s first star last week (which is nice).
NOW, let’s be clear, the Q is a league notorious for an offense first, Patrick Roy’s dollar store Justin Timberlake of a son was a starting goaltender because his dad was a good goalie reputation. Seriously, name me a star NHL defenseman who cut his teeth in the Quebec league? *Gets bored of thinking* …………………………

Uhh, let’s hope Thomas Chabot is the first of his kind (yipes!)…LETS MOVE ON…

In the spirit of keeping it 100 for you, dear reader, I urge caution as when one examines the top 5 in the QMJHL scoring race [AT THE TIME OF THIS WRITING] the other four skaters, a bunch of French dudes I’ve never heard of, are sitting respectively at 33, 32, 31 and 30 points. So I would hazard that 4 other teams are probably thinking they have their own Francis Perron on the creep. After all, this is the same league that brought you a 98 points in 57 games rookie season from 1st round pick and current Italian ELITE league gawdbody Angelo Esposito (BTW Espo gunna put Cortina SG on his back this year and take his paesans all the way to Lord Boyardee’s Cup).

That said, it’s one thing to do well in an offense-first junior league but another to lead an offense first junior league in production overall. You gotta respect that people put up mad points in this league and for the time being he’s putting up the most.

As a seventh round pick, 190th overall, this guy has all the making of a classic Bryan Murray late round SLEEEPAH. But unlike other recent late round gems, Mark Stone (lack of skatefullness), Mike Hoffman (overagedness) and *sigh* I guess Brian Elliot (Swaggarlessness?) it’s a bit tougher to find a ton of info as to why Franny P was left on the board with only 20 selections remaining in the entire draft. All I can come up with “he doesn’t weigh much.” K.

Again, maybe a guy who went all the way to halfway down the 7th round of the draft wasn’t the most heavily scouted player to begin with but like Stone and Hoffman before him, putting up the numbers he’s putting up, I invite you to join me in keeping an eye on him this season. After all, it was after being drafted that Mark Stone dominated the WHL and became Canada’s Sweetheart at the World Juniors. Ditto Mike Hoffman winning the Antoine Vermette Memorial Trophy for QMJHL MVP as well as Q League Sportsman of the Year (also called the Antoine Vermette Memorial Trophy). I suppose Quebec league players are the easiest to doubt due to the leagues one dimensional reputation but that’s not fair considering the Q has produced a ton of quality NHL players forwards including our very own Michael Hoffman.
After making quite a strong showing at development camp as well as the rookie tournament, as a SEVENTH round pick, Perron’s development is like playing with free money. Think of him as a regular Emil Sanden but with actual goal scoring stuff going on. A 19 year old in his final Junior season, if  he can best his already impressive 76 points in 54 games from last year, he should at the very least be an intriguing addition to the Binghamton Senators forward corps going into 2016-17 season.

Bonne chance, Francis!

The Hater’s Guide to Week 5

This is a weekly feature that takes an uncharitable look at the Senators’ upcoming opponents.

Me, putting the game in a frenzy (not pictured: you, borrowing your mom's debit card)

Me, putting the game in a frenzy (not pictured: you, pushing a weak mixtape)

Tuesday, November 3 – Senators @ Canadiens

You probably saw more than a few annoying articles in your Facebook feed last month from your Habs fan uncle – not the one in prison, the one who just got out of prison – about how strong Montreal’s start has been this season. Sure, fine, the 2007-08 Senators say hello. Go back and check how often the team with the best record in October wins the Stanley Cup, I’ll wait. I’ll just sit here and watch these Habs fans practice throwing trash cans through storefront windows, because it’s never too early to start getting ready for a first-round playoff exit.

You can ask most NHL experts and all my high school girlfriends – there is such a thing as “peaking early”. If the Canadiens were a Behind the Music episode, this would be the part where a portly British man in a cheetah-print blouse says, “Looking back, we thought the good times would last forever,” as a comically-large pile of cocaine is pushed across a mixing console in slow motion. Even now, you can see the seams starting to show for the Habs – Carey Price is already out for a week with a lower-body injury, which is Price’s code for “hip flexor” in November and for “shame” in May. Last week they blew a 3-0 lead to the Oilers. They’re now paying Tomas Plekanec $6M a year and they’ve never even seen his Adam’s apple. That purchase alone is more ridiculous than any money I’ve ever seen wasted on Behind the Music, and I watched both parts of the KISS episode.

PREDICTION: This will be the Senators’ first trip to the Bell Centre this year, where they typically play well; if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to score a goal there as a visitor, just recall Obi Wan’s speech from Star Wars about the destruction of Alderaan and how “millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.” That’s right, that quote uses the word “suddenly” twice in the same sentence, because Star Wars sucks. But not as much as the Habs! Look for whoever is playing goal for Montreal to eventually burst into flames. Senators 5, Canadiens 0.

Thursday, November 5 – Senators vs. Jets

On the one hand, it seems reasonable to have a soft spot for the Jets as a bizarro-version of the Senators playing in a smaller, more racist city but with an actual billionaire for an owner. On the other hand, no matter how often you celebrate Peggers as “die-hard hockey fans” (which typically just means “willing to pay through the nose for two more years of mediocrity at most”), it still seems like there’s something ersatz about their team, like the Jets are one of those fancy English gentlemen in a 19th century novel that mysteriously comes to town and wins a lady’s hand only to be unmasked by a jealous rival as a poor country peasant, or in this case the Atlanta Thrashers.

It’s not that the Jets are necessarily bad. They have some good players, some good prospects, and took a step forward to make the playoffs for the first time last year. They also still have Ondrej Pavelec in net, which is a bit like spending a few painstaking years building a custom sports car only to give it a four-stroke engine salvaged from a 1985 Honda Prelude. And it’s that’s kind of decision that contributes to general feeling of something being “off” about the Jets, like their logo being close enough to the RCAF’s that they had to negotiate a usage contract, or their best player not really having a position, or their fans arguing about whether their franchise scoring leader is Dale Hawerchuk or Ilya Kovalchuk. It’s like something’s been lost in translation somewhere, as if these new Jets are a redubbed anime, or maybe a Chinese tattoo that actually means “ham boat”. They’re still an NHL team, sure, but there’s something weird about them that you can’t quite put your finger on. Tyler Myers, maybe?

PREDICTION: Jets fans always seem to show up in bunches at the Canadian Tire Centre, either because they travel well or, more likely, because of how many proud Winnipeggers eventually make the decision to get the hell out of Winnipeg. Look for Mike Hoffman to have a big night, and for a mid-level Environment Canada analyst in a Jets sweater to scream at you in frustration as he sits in the parking lot after the game. Senators 5, Jets 0.

Saturday, November 7 – Senators @ Hurricanes

This spring will be the ninth anniversary of the Senators’ Stanley Cup Final loss, also known as “The Most Exciting Thing To Ever Happen to Ottawa”, and the tenth anniversary of the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup Final win, also known as “Oh Yeah, We Forgot About That” in the Raleigh-Durham metro area, or maybe “The 487th Most Exciting Thing to Ever Happen in North Carolina After Every College Basketball Game Ever, And Most NASCAR Races, and AAA Baseball, and Probably a Few Panthers Games”. These people don’t need it the way you do. They live far enough south to get real barbecue but far enough north to get decent bagels, AND it’s mild year round. Have you ever been to the Outer Banks? They’re delightful. Screw these people.

It’s no secret that the Hurricanes are bad, functioning partly as a Staal family work-release program and partly as a clearinghouse for generic dudes with names like “Brock McGinn” and “Riley Nash” and “Brad Malone”, names you’d find in a particular type of film called, oh, let’s say Crease Crashers 7. But when you don’t have the pressure of carrying your local sports market, or even being cared about at all, you can basically just go with first ideas without worrying if they’re any good or not. Sure enough, everything about this team is so tossed-off it’s kind of amazing. Their uniforms are just generic enough to avoid a lawsuit from the Red Wings. The old joke is that their logo looks like a flushing toilet, but to me it looks like a graphic designer given $80 and an hour. Their team hashtag is #Redvolution, which is actually, miraculously, so bad that even the Senators haven’t used it. What are you revolting against, effort?

PREDICTION: What’s deadlier than Mark Stone? Mark Stone having just finished a bid for a crime he didn’t commit. Look for this to be less of a game than a Steven Seagal movie. Senators 5, Hurricanes 0.

Season prediction record: 5-4-2

Next week: the only team that even God hates more than you do, the Vancouver Canucks.

30 Thoughts of Dubious Quality, Questionable Importance, and Debatable Insight

1. Big news today is Mark Stone’s suspension. I was ok with the phone hearing and ok with the two games. Am I happy about losing Stone for two? Nope, he’s leading the Sens in scoring, is terrific to watch, and one of my favourite players. Ottawa’s better with him in the lineup. Do I think it was an attempt to go for the puck that was awkward more than anything else? Sure. Do I think the hit was intentionally targeting the head? No, but I also don’t really think that matters. Sometimes intent seems clear, but often it’s hard to judge what a player’s thinking, so remove that from the equation. What it comes down to for me is Landon Ferraro got hit in the head, Stone was responsible, admitted as much publicly, and there are consequences. The NHL’s frightening lack of consistency on matters of discipline is irritating but consistency has to start somewhere and Stone’s hit is as good a place as any to start.
2. Stone’s a clean player and doesn’t have a history of these hits and some argued that a fine should have sufficed. But I’m ok with suspending players for first offenses and for harsher penalties in general when it comes to NHL discipline. In real life, I appreciate more nuance and think things like mandatory minimums are crap. But the NHL isn’t real life. Fines don’t get the job done. Maybe we should spend less time worrying about whether a player or individual play is clean or dirty. It seems a bit counterproductive.
3. What about Henrik Zetterberg’s leaping elbow to the face of Jean-Gabriel Pageau? Well, yeah, I would have given him like 10 games for that (I would have given Stone more too; I’m draconian when it comes to safety), but I’m not Director of Player Safety (I could sure use the money though). Player Safety was wrong about Zetterberg and their explanation was inadequate. I suspect there are a variety of factors that contributed to this: Zetterberg’s star power, Pageau’s less than star power (how can they not know about the Pageau chant?!) and probably most significantly, Pageau wasn’t injured (thankfully). The NHL responds to the severity of the injury and while I think that’s not the most impactful way to eliminate dangerous play, it’s what they do. The Zetterberg case is unfortunate, but doesn’t change things for Stone. If you’re being honest about your desire for consistency, than you want that Stone hit punished even with the knowledge Zetterberg got away with something more flagrantly against NHL rules. Ultimately, that’s how you get to a league that would actually suspend for both infractions (also, hire less former players to do these decision-making jobs, but that’s not going to change anytime soon).
4. Two reactions from two fanbases on hearing the Stone suspension news were disappointing: Ottawa fans upset that Stone was suspended only because he’s a Senator and Montreal fans suggesting this is karmic justice for P.K. Subban getting suspended for breaking Stone’s wrist. Worst.
5. I would like to see more follow-up when teams and players break concussion protocol. Ferraro went down hard (rightly so) and was slow to get off the ice. He went to the dressing room as per concussion protocols to be evaluated (so far, so good). But he was back on the bench and playing in a few minutes. I’m not suggesting Ferraro was trying to trick the refs into punishing Stone (he wasn’t) and I don’t think he’s guilty of anything more than being an eager young player trying to do everything to secure his place in an NHL lineup. I just hope he really is ok, because if he’s not, it’s another instance of players, and more so the medical staff charged with caring for them, failing to protect their patients.
6. Detroit isn’t especially duplicitous in this either. Every team fails in this department. For an Ottawa example, look no further than Clarke MacArthur. He’s currently on the sidelines recovering from his third concussion in 8 months. I’m not a medical doctor nor am I privy to all the details of each incident and his recovery process, but it’s concerning. I don’t know if he was fully recovered when he returned to the Sens lineup late in the season for Ottawa’s playoff push and first round series against Montreal in the spring. I don’t know if his training camp concussion was handled properly in September and if it’s just an awful coincidence he was out with the same type of injury a few weeks later, but it’s certainly possible. I hope the Sens and MacArthur are taking the long view this time and are concerned more with his wellbeing for the rest of his career and post-playing days.
7. Andrew Hammond has only played two games and is coming off injury so I don’t really have any opinions on his play so far. He looked bad in his debut, he looked good in his follow-up. I don’t love his new mask. Intermission panels can stop asking if he can live up to a mark literally no other goalie achieved anytime though, that would be nice.
8. Craig Anderson has had the bulk of the starts. That’s good, that’s the way it should be and it’s nice to not have a goalie controversy. We have a clear starter and I’m comfortable with Anderson in that role.
9. He’s looked terrific in a few games and has been lit up in a couple others. In the games he’s let in 4+ he hasn’t exactly been supported by his porous and mystifying blueline. Still, there’s room for improvement with Andy.
10. I cannot get worked up about line combos in practice and before games anymore. I get it, things aren’t optimal, but this doesn’t seem like the best use of my rage.
11. Absolutely tired of discussing Jared Cowen and Mark Borowiecki. I get that this is the main topic of conversation for Sens fans right now, and whatever, have at it, I guess, but I’m out. It’s boring and tedious and no matter how many words I write about it, it isn’t likely to change Bryan Murray’s or Dave Cameron’s mind. So, I haven’t written about either player in a while and it’s likely to stay that way. I might get frustrated about their play during a game, I just can’t be bothered to debate it endlessly each day of the week. The topic is so tired, it’s almost a matter of consensus: they’re bad, we’d be better with other internal options, we should have made a trade. For me, it’s simply not interesting to talk about this anymore
12. I will say that I think each of Ottawa’s regular defensemen can be better.
13. Cody Ceci’s game is a bit different so far this season. He’s definitely more willing to not only join the rush, but lead it with speed through the neutral zone and into the other team’s end. This led to a Ceci goal against Arizona on a rush with Bobby Ryan. It might be the sign of a young player more comfortable in the NHL or with his role on the team, but it will be interesting to see if his game continues to grow in this area given his offensive flare with the 67’s and B-Sens.
14. Erik Karlsson hasn’t scored. He will.
15. Digging a bit further, Ottawa’s powerplay is struggling and EK hasn’t managed a PP goal yet. I have no doubt that he’ll pot a half dozen goals on the powerplay by time the season’s finished, but as it stands currently, he hasn’t. The Sens have been fairly good (especially the first unit) at building pressure but don’t have much to show for it yet. If you’ve been watching at home, you’ve no doubt seen a few clip sequences of EK not being able to get his shot through all the bodies in front of the net, EK having a shot blocked, and EK not being able to find a lane. Here’s the thing: one of Karlsson’s most underrated skills is his ability to get his slapshot and his wrist shot through traffic. The shots and goals will come.
16. That said, maybe a change on the powerplay isn’t the worst idea. Karlsson regularly can and does play the full two minutes with the advantage. There’s a few reasons for this (Cameron wanting to roll four forwards, no other overly offensive defensemen, EK is amazing etc.) and while it might be the best option for the powerplay, I’m not sure it’s the best option for even-strength play. Given the team’s depth issues, I’d rather have EK play more at even strength.
17. I also think, despite his struggles so far this season, that Patrick Wiercioch is capable of running the second unit. It’s not a move designed to break him out of his funk or whatever, but his strength is his passing ability/distribution and that’s what you need from your PP quarterback. Wouldn’t mind seeing Ceci here too. What’s the harm in keeping the pairing together on the PP?
18. Part of this is I’ve always hated the forward playing the point (or playing along the point/along the boards) on the PP. It’s not that defenders don’t get burned or make poor decisions that lead to odd-man rushes, they do, it just feels like this is something defending teams try to exploit when there’s a forward back there. The Sens might be ok if it’s Turris as the forward back there, but the first unit tends to oscillate between Turris and Ryan, with Karlsson as the fulcrum. When Turris is in an advanced position, it means Ryan is on the point. I’m less confident in Ryan’s defensive play and speed. The shorthanded team is more willing to challenge that forward. It’s entirely possible this is confirmation bias on my part. Still, not having a forward back there gives Cameron a chance to add some more skill to the second unit.
19. I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by Milan Michalek of late. He seems to have his legs back and has found a home on the third line. He’s chipping in offensively and is spending a lot of time near the opposition net. He’s picking up penalty killing duties too. With all the Ottawa penalty issues the last few games he’s logged a lot of minutes recently and I do have questions about whether he can sustain it, but basically, he’s been a good third liner so far. But what about his contract? Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s bad and not what you want to pay a third liner. But right now he’s not going anywhere and I’d rather him find a niche and contribute.
20. A lot of people felt like this would be Mika Zibanejad’s breakout year. There’s still plenty of time for that, but right now Kyle Turris and Pageau are doing more to get noticed. Turris’ hot start seems to be ending the silly “Is he really a number one centre, tho?” conversations. He’s getting noticed as a really good two-way centre on his own merits by more people around the league. Before the season started I had a chat with a fellow WTYKY member about whether Turris could hit 75+ this season. He was of the opinion it was too much of a jump, I thought it would be a lot, but doable, especially if he played with Stone all year (to be fair, I hedged a little too). I don’t think either of us expected a start like this (7G, 5A, 12P in 11G). When they’re all in the lineup, Turris-Hoffman-Stone look like one of the most dangerous lines in the league. Now, I don’t expect him to keep up this goal scoring pace all season; his shooting percentage is currently over 23% well above his career average of 10.7%. However, I do think Mark Stone will start scoring more and Turris will factor into that.
21. Pageau keeps getting better and better. We wondered how much Erik Condra stirred the drink on Ottawa’s excellent third line of Pageau, Condra and Curtis Lazar and while Condra’s departure hurts, Pageau seems like he’s taking another step forward this season. Ottawa’s had some great third line centres over the years and guys like Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly really defined the role in Ottawa. Pageau’s taken a page from their books combining speed, enthusiastic forechecking, and strong defensive play to be a threat at both ends of the ice and on the penalty kill as well. He’s already got three goals, including one shorthanded and it would be great if he can keep building on that. A third line Dave Cameron can feel comfortable rolling out there is essential if this team is going to make the playoffs.
22. So what’s up with Mika Zibanejad anyway? There’s still plenty of time for his season to get rolling, but through the ten game mark things have looked a little shaky. The point totals are fine (2G, 6A, 8P, 11GP) but the advanced stats aren’t kind to him right now. Some of this is due to who’s on his wing and he’s really missed the speed of Mike Hoffman. He also seems hesitant (for some reason) to drive through the middle of the ice using his speed and size (both the neutral zone and his centre lane). I’d like to see him have at least one speedy winger (Hoffman most obviously, but maybe Shane Prince?) to work with in addition Bobby Ryan. I think Mika and Ryan can work as linemates, but if Cameron is going to do that, he needs to give Zibanejad some help stirring the drink.
23. Chris Neil looks better than he has in a few years. Like Michalek, I have questions about whether he can keep up this play all season and with everyone fit I’d still rather see someone else in his spot. That said, it’s a marked improvement from last year and the season before. It’s also helpful for him to have some jump if there’s any possibility he’ll be moved at the deadline (I’m holding out hope).
24. However, penalties remain an issue with him. He’s got 37 minutes already and while there’s misconducts and a fight mixed in, he’s taken 6 minor penalties so far and that’s too many in 11 games. It’s a liability and it’s hurting the team because the Sens only have one reliable PK defensive unit. Adding to the problem is linemate Zack Smith, who also has 6 minors (including 2 costly penalties against Detroit). This needs to change.
25. It’s not just fourth liners spending too much time in the box. Erik Karlsson has 6 minors so far (perhaps the best example that he’s not yet at midseason form, aside from the fact that it’s the start of November), Patrick Wiercioch, Alex Chiasson, and Mark Stone all have 5 minors. Ottawa needs some discipline. It’s not just as simple as discipline issues. Ottawa’s porous blueline means the team spends too much time defending and getting trapped in its own end. The result is an increase in minors.
26. Shane Prince. Like what I’ve seen so far from him. He’s chipped in despite the limited role (playing primarily with the fourth line). We got a chance to see him in the top-6 the last couple of games and I think we’ll see more out of him if he stays there. Given that Mac and Stone are both out of the lineup currently, seems like that’ll be the case.
27. Alex Chiasson is playing like someone who listened to his coach’s concerns, but it’s just not paying off so far. He’s trying to use his speed and size more and while he’s had some jump on a line with Milan Michalek and Jean-Gabriel Pageau and is a better option in front of the net than Chris Neil on the PP (not that this is saying much), the results haven’t come so far. He has just one goal and one assist in 11 games and the penalty minutes are accumulating (10 PIM). If I had to guess, he’s the most likely candidate to come out of the lineup if Dave Cameron changes things up.
28. The news that Mike Hoffman and Curtis Lazar are ready to return doesn’t exactly mean Matt Puempel and Max McCormick are headed back to Bingo (especially with the Stone suspension). Correct me if I’m wrong (I’m probably wrong, I don’t pay as that much attention to roster moves), but the Senators started the season with 22 players. Add to that the fact that Clarke MacArthur is still dealing with a concussion and both players might stay up since there’s room. There’s probably a procedure since both were emergency call-ups (I think?) but the point is, there’s room for an extra body once everyone’s in the lineup.
29. Given a choice between McCormick and Puempel, it seems Puempel is the clear choice. He’s chipped in a goal in his three games this season, had an extended look with the team last year, and Cameron has shown a willingness to move him up and down the lineup, sometimes pencilling him in on the second line, sometimes third, with some penalty killing duties. McCormick had a goal correctly called off against Detroit and hasn’t been bad or anything, just less noticeable. Part of that is playing on the fourth line but that’s also a result of not being as trusted as Puempel.
30. Daniel Alfredsson. When former players return to take front office jobs, their responsibilities are often nebulous or poorly defined (to the public anyway). Alfie’s back in the fold and while I’m still not clear exactly what his job entails, he’s not shying away from the hands on stuff. He was on the ice with the injured Curtis Lazar last week, talking and instructing. On a team that still has a lot of young players, it’s nice to have that kind of experience available. Hoping Chris Phillips can find a similar role with the Sens when he officially hangs them up.