James Day Preview: Ottawa Karlssons vs. Trashville Predadirts

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Please to be clicking on this before you start reading:

*waits less than patiently for 5 seconds of Toyota Venza ad to pass* 

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Let me be the first to formally say iBienvenidos a sus años del Carlosson! 

After one of the most exhilarating and optimistic off seasons in team herstory, we emerge from under a pile of melted plastic lawn furniture to cheer OUR Ottawa Senators and their actual playing of games! Now we’ll have some filler to enjoy betwixt arguing about the use or non-use of advanced stats, why we’re upset over Patrick Wiercioch’s lack of playing time or Marc Methot’s contract negotiations (Ed note: Hey dickhead, sign that goddamn contract, you’re being offered years of riding shotgun with one of the world’s best players who’ll probably help you get your next contract too…so, pretty please, STFU and go make millions of dollars already) and get down to some NHL Hockey: The Most SENSUAL Game On Earth’s Ice™. I really like the new slogan the league is going with.

Tonight we officially(?) enter a new era of the team. With Spezza having split, Karlsson at the kontrols, and a cornucopia of kidz on the roster, only one thing is certain going forward: That I remain committed to terrible and insufferable game previews.
COME AWAY WITH ME:

The Kids Are …on the team Alright.
I for one have been waiting for the torch to be passed to a new generation for quite some time now. I’d say since about the trade deadline in 2011 to be exact. It has been a less than smooth ride so far but here we are.
With greenhorns Courteous Lazar, Mark Stone, Alex Chiasson, Mika Zibanejad, Mike Hoffman, Cody Ceci and Mark Borowiecki making up about 40% of the starting lineup I am really getting what I wished for…and more (Borowiecki)
As exciting as new blood is, I am practicing the ancient art of managed expectations. Why? A few reasons:
– Despite making a serious bid for team captain, Lazar has never played an NHL game. There could be a few nerves under that steel.
– For all of our top 6 wishes and coke caviar dreams, Mark Stone will be playing only his 24th career regular season match tonight.
–  Mike Hoffman is a dynamic young player…who has 6 career NHL points btw.
WAIT WAIT COME BACK! I’M NOT TRYING TO BUM YOU OUT I’M TRYING TO LIGHT A FIRE UNDER YOU!
I actually love how the coach is handling this.
Lazar and Hoffman will start the game under the responsible and disciplined eye of Chris Neil on the fourth line. Meanwhile, Stone will play under the nurturing bosom (sorry, weird of me) of veterinarian center David Legwand (who I sincerely hope scores a goal tonight) and workhorse/clotheshorse Zachariah Smith.
Lazar and Hoffman get the chance to be a little creative while Neil creates penalties space and Stone gets to play shotmaker with a couple of hard working, rugged guys. If Smith and Legwand can crash and bang and get some pucks loose around the front of the net, hopefully Stone can do some of the precise garbage collecting that he’s made a name for himself with.

Gabbin About Tha Gawdz: Top Six Talk
The Platinum Angel express line of MacArthur – Turris – Ryan needs no introduction. Is anyone still adjusting to Clarke MacArthur being one of their favorite players? Me neither. Let’s move on.

The second line of Michalek – Zibanejad – Chiasson is the most intriguing to me. Zibanejad goes into this season with perhaps the most pressure on his Swedish shoulders of Persian-Finnish decent. Coach MacLean has spoken many times of the need to remove the adjective “young” when talking about certain players and he feels at just 120 games and 21 years of age that Zibanejad falls into that Boyz II Men crowd.
As a second line centre he’ll have to put up around 20 more points than he did last season to be considered a success. It’s a steep increase but if he gets the steady ice time that a 2nd line centre should and can play very consistently in that time, it’s possible. However if MacLean gets into his “Everyday I’m shufflin'” business, well, let’s try to keep in mind that he’s 21 and not be too mad at him. Patience. That’s what Legwands R 4.
Milan Michalek is a speedy, defensively sound top 6 winger who puts up around 20 goals or better per season. Lots of fans hate him because something-something injuries. I honestly can’t hate this guy. He’s not the flashiest player in the world but he’s certainly not a liability and has great potential if he can stay healthy. And before you pelt me for sticking up for him, let she/he/they/zhe who is without complaint that Ales Hemsky did not re-sign here cast the first rotten tomato.
Lastly, Alex Chiasson makes his debut to refreshingly little fanfare. I am not going to fan the hype flames either. I want to just let him rock and see what he can do. He is known for coming in…I forget how that goes, but he tends to start the season scoring goals which is exciting because we need those. Apparently Alex had a disappointing season last year by finishing with 33 points. That’s as many points as Zibanejad had to earn him a top 6 spot to start the season so…Either Dallas’ standards are high, the Sens are low or THIS.
I hope these guys can gel quickly because that is a fast, big line to have coming at you.

Cowen is on the first pairing. 
Lets pretend this isn’t happening! *takes 10 Zoloft* Ahhh. If there’s one player on the team who can possibly carry this guy it’s Erik Karlsson. God speed to BOTH OF YOU.

Phillips – Ceci…Over the hill old man balances out inexperienced rookie to make one awesome middle pairing defenseman? *freebases crack cocaine until further notice* 

Gryba – Borowiecki … Go out there, have fun, and don’t get suspended. Seriously, don’t get fucking suspended.

I have little to say about the defense tonight other than this will be a goddamn psychedelic rock ride. Good luck to each and every last one of us.

Greg Anderton gets the start in net, naturally. He currently sports a 1000 save percentage and 0.00 goals against average. Let’s hope he can maintain those numbers (past the first 10 shots of the game, which will likely come in the first 4 mins b/c see above). What else? His new mask is a different version of his old mask. Oh and his cat’s breath carries a hint of cat food smell.

Oh right about Nashville…lots of new faces here. Human jack-o-lantern Oli Jokinen, the NHL’s first half man – half Chihuahua Mike Ribeiro, Ottawa’s own Derek Roy, and the rest (James Neal, Anton Volchenkov). Damn these guys got up to some stuff in the off season. I’m basically hoping that they need a bit of time to adjust to each other and that our boys can take advantage of that. Olive Garden menu stalwart Pekka Rinne gets the start in net.

ENJOY THE GAME AND GO SENS GO!!!

GAME ON

In celebration of the hockey season kicking off tomorrow, we offer a breakdown of the Ottawa Senators theme song.

[EDIT: user does not allow embedded video, because why would you do that if you're a person uploading the Ottawa Senators theme song to Youtube? Never compromise your vision.]

0:01 – Let’s start with the obvious: if you’re going to use a horn for fanfare (as opposed to for improvisational jazz lines), then your clear choice is to use the keyboard’s “trumpet” setting instead of a real trumpet. Why? The trumpet is a subtle and nuanced instrument. Keyboard trumpets, much like pro sports, are neither subtle nor nuanced. Keyboard trumpets are unrelenting. Listening to the initial swell of faux-trumpets that kicks off this song is like French kissing a vacuum cleaner – it goes from a fun idea to intense very quickly. Also, people who can actually play the trumpet are expensive and do not enjoy playing your stupid fanfare.

0:06 – We come quickly to the absolute best part about the Ottawa Senators theme song, which is the bass playing. Can we all stand up for a second? Are you standing? Place your hand over your heart and just listen to that bass playing. That bass playing is tremendous. First of all: it’s clearly a real bass. Second, its tone is DIRTY. Not Fieldy from Korn dirty (which is to say, disgusting). But it’s got some attitude, some grit. This bass player has seen some shit. Here, he or she takes you for a walk. The bass is the backbone of this whole song, its soul. This bass line reaffirms our faith in the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the human spirit.

0:18 – Nice key change. Whoever wrote this has written some songs. This isn’t the CD Warehouse theme song. It also more than makes up for the fact that the drums are keyboard drums, which is sort of lazy. Unlike trumpet players, drummers are plentiful and cheap. You can literally find them playing upside-down plastic buckets in the Byward Market.

0:26 – Oh shit…it’s not just trumpet. There’s a whole brass section there with little percussive accents. They’re warm as a bubble bath. I take back the snarky “trumpet is expensive” thing – if this songwriter had real instruments throughout, it would have cost a half-billion dollars to achieve this vision. It’s difficult being ahead of your time.

0:39 – Okay, that was a nice little drum fill. Is it possible that’s a real drummer? If it isn’t, was that fill just played with two fingers on a keyboard? There’s only winning situations here.

0:40 – This is where things get saucy. The rhythm starts a back-and-forth sway and the drummer / keyboard drum setting (hereafter referred to as Roland) introduces some cheeky hi-hat. The horns start a background loop, the kind of thing a Motown backing band plays while the bandleader is introducing Sharon Jones or Charles Bradley.

Not only is this perfect for a song meant to be used as players come out on the ice – and thus establishes whoever wrote this song as someone who can not only play music but also understands music history – but is also known in the music business as “the best thing in the world.” It’s just fun to listen to. Music doesn’t get better than the introduction-sway.

0:45 – DANGER FLUTES

0:50 – This guitar solo is the most Ottawa thing ever. For those of you who haven’t grown up in Ottawa, let me set the scene: for the last three decades, only one radio station has been able to buy itself lunch in this city, and that’s the classic rock station. Everyone else goes in and out of business, re-brands, and picks up the scraps if they’re lucky. The classic rock station guy, on the other hand, wakes up, leans over, hits play on the same CD-R playlist of Zeppelin and AC/DC songs and goes back to sleep.

This one time I heard “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on the radio and I remember thinking to myself, “Is there anyone in the city who actually needs to hear this song again?” and then I walked outside and could hear a band rehearsing and they were playing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” It was then that I knew I would never be mayor of Ottawa.

Anyway, the guitar lick here is searing, in the way that your dad BBQing on a hot day or a movie on VHS about jet fighters is searing.

1:00 – You know what? That last paragraph seemed a little dismissive, but the guitar playing leads us to a surprisingly dark place. Not only does it become rhythmically complex, but it breaks down the mood, takes us on an excursion, provides variation on a theme.

Let’s be clear: this is a pro-sports team’s theme song we’re talking about. It has no obligation to vary. They could have provided some hand-claps and it would have been fine. But they go the extra mile here. That it’s only for a few seconds only reinforces the notion: “I write one bar for the fans, and one bar for me,” the guitar player, possibly Joe Satriani, says to precisely no one.

1:15 – Danger flutes return, though they kind of stab randomly at the air before offering a little trill that takes us back to the refrain.

1:25 – This might be the best part of the whole damn song: the guitar and horns-by-Roland do a three second call-and-response during the rhythmic transition. The guitarist even lays on the whammy bar a bit, and the horns come right back, like a robot returning a high-five. Again, it’s only for a second. You might even miss it if someone wasn’t writing 1000 words about the Ottawa Senators theme song on a Wednesday morning.

1:28 – Here I’m conflicted. The sway returns, which we’ve established is the best thing in the world, and there’s something interesting happening with the percussion—a swishy sound effect which comes totally out of left-field [EDIT: Twitter notifies me these are skate sounds. There's also a puck hitting the goalpost in there, which introduces a found-sound element that would have made Pierre Schaeffer proud]—but all of this occurs under a crunchy, palm-muted guitar thing and men chanting “Go Sens Go” testosteronically. It’s a bit on the nose.

But that it took the song a minute-and-a-half to get here is a pleasant surprise. I feel like most sports team theme songs usually start with “Go [Team] Go.” I know it’s a low bar, but it’s one we’ve had no trouble clearing to this point. The guys only stick around for two chants worth of chant, which is roughly how long chants last at the Canadian Tire Center.

I’m going to give Roland and Co. a pass here…BARELY.

1:59 – Again, the team goes above and beyond, takes the epic refrain and re-frames it in the form of a rhythmic breakdown that is totally respectable.

2:05 – Timpani. I’ll say it again…

Timpani.

——-

When considering a rating for the Ottawa Senators theme song, one must also consider this horseshit:

Did you make it all the way through that? Excruciating. I feel like maybe, charitably, I can concede that I get what they were going for. And the opening few seconds makes you think the song is going to be as cerebral and experimental as the Wild logo. But all hope is dashed by one long string of cliches in what is essentially a beer commercial that goes on forever.

In conclusion: OTTAWA SENATORS THEME SONG OVERALL RATING A++

OTHER OPTION: did you know that the theme song for the original franchise drive was Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Small suggestion: we should use that?

Most overrated and underrated teams of the 2014-2015 season

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Go Winterhawks! Go Timbers!

Hockey season is almost here, which means that every homeless woodsman and indie music aficionado has had an opportunity to weigh in with predictions and analysis. By the by: I just got back from Oregon, and give Portland an NHL team already. The Winterhawks are awesome, and it would be worth it for the playoff beards alone.

Anyway, for the most part, predictions are pretty straightforward and non-contentious. After all, every season produces only a few truly elite and truly terrible teams. Most teams fall somewhere in the creamy middle – say, about a 10-15 point differential straddling the sensitive spot known as “the bubble,” which is located between one’s anus and genitals. Where one falls on this spectrum is largely determined by puck-luck (PDO), injuries, and the presence of STIs.

Still, there are always a few teams that seem to benefit from the assumption that adding in the offseason automatically makes you better. I find a fair share of analysts weight additions to the lineup far more than changes in tactics or what’s going on in the rest of the team’s division.

With that in mind, here are my three most overrated and most underrated teams in the NHL based on what I’ve seen in the preseason predictions. If I’m wrong about any of these, I’ll move back to Portland permanently and become a Trail Blazers fan.

OVERRATED

Tampa Bay

Perfect, because Steve Yzerman has got to be the most overrated GM in the league. He inherited one of the best players in the world in Stamkos and a stud defenseman in Hedman. The team went to the Conference Finals in his first year, but missed the playoffs twice in the next three seasons, with one of those a third-last overall finish. They made the playoffs once and were swept in the first round. And he accomplish that by spending money like no other. Perhaps only the Philadelphia Flyers have been as addicted to burning cash. No coincidence they picked up Lecavalier after Yzerman paid him millions to go away so he could throw millions at boy band synchronized back-up dancer Valterri Filpulla.

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Look, there’s a lot of talent on that roster, and I’m as excited as anyone to see what it can do. (And would be even more excited if they weren’t in Ottawa’s division.) But people are picking this team to be a Cup contender and win the East. That’s quite a jump. There are scenarios where the planets align and all that, but that’s true of almost any team.

As a fan of a team who used to get picked to be a Cup contender every year, let me throw some cold water on this whole thing. The team hasn’t been particularly good for the last couple of years, even with a lot of talent on the roster. They’ve lost St. Louis, Bishop may not be a starter (though it didn’t stop Yzerman from paying him $6MM a year starting next year), the young kids are still young, and the constant overhaul of the roster has got to have some residual effects on strategy and coherence. They’re probably good, but they might also be the perfect example of the way analysts pick favorites. They traded for other people’s salary dumps and handed out contracts like pez. Did this ever work for the Rangers? Why would it work for Tampa?

Dallas

Another sexy pick. When Lindy Ruff unleashed his fully armed and operational battle station on the power-play last week everyone lost their minds. Forget that it was a preseason game against the Panthers.

Dallas has all the tools to do well, and I’m rooting for Spezz. I like this island of misfit toys—players like Hemsky, Seguin and Spezza, too often maligned by the local media for their former teams, come together with a cassette tape of Appetite for Destruction and a fist full of pizza money. But c’mon, we can admit that Spezza, Hemsky and Lehtonen are going to be hurt for most of the season and that’s the ballgame for Dallas, right? It’s totally gonna happen.

New York Islanders

Not that people are setting the expectations for the Islanders especially high—most of what I’ve seen is something along the lines of “If everything goes right, they might push for a playoff spot.” But they had 79 points last year, good for fifth last in the league. In fact, the last time they didn’t have a top five pick, not counting the 2012-2013 lockout-shortened season when everything was wacky, was 2006-2007.

Read that again. That last time the Islanders didn’t have a top five pick, Peter Schaefer was still an Ottawa Senator.

The year Ottawa finished fifth last overall we were all traumatized, and that’s been life as an Islanders fan for almost a decade. Do we really expect the addition of Halak, Leddy, Boychuk, Grabovski and Kulemin to reverse that kind of tradition? I mean, they’re probably better than usual…but 15 points in the standings-better? C’mon.

UNDERRATED

Nashville

I feel like Nashville gets slotted in somewhere in the lower half of the mediocre teams every year because people don’t watch them that closely and there won’t be the kind of outcry you get when you predict Montreal is due for some mild regression. And they’re definitely in tough in the central—I’m not calling them to make the playoffs or anything. But they have one of the best net minders in the league, probably the best all-around defenseman, the best prospect, decent-to-good scorers and some intriguing prospects throughout the lineup. They’re not world-beaters or anything, but I think they can beat any team in the league on any given night, and expect them to take more than a few teams by surprise.

Colorado

They’re everyone’s pick to stink this year because of their unsustainable PDO, and some regression is probably in order. But regression from a 112 point season is regression from unbelievable to…still pretty damned good. They finished a full 12 points higher than possession darlings and consensus best-team Los Angeles. And they did it all in the toughest division in hockey.

It’s funny how Tampa having young players and good prospects and betting on progression results in everyone picking them to be sudden contenders, but Colorado having Duchene, Landeskog, O’Reilly, and friggin’ MacKinnon doesn’t result in same. Put it this way—given Dallas clinched last year’s final wild card spot with 91 points, Colorado has 21 points worth of wiggle room from their total last year to do the same. That’s insane. They’re a playoff team, and given the right match-ups can do some damage.

Phoenix

Sure, they lost Vrbata, who was the only one who scores goals for them. But Mike Smith spent much of the season hurt and they finished only two points out of a playoff spot. If Gagner turns out to be a legit second line center, Erat sets out to prove everyone wrong after his disastrous campaign in Washington, and everyone else chips in with the ugliest goals you’ve ever seen, it won’t be a surprise if that defense can get it done.

By the way, Arizona is spending almost $3MM more on salary this season than Ottawa.

HAVE A GOOD SEASON EVERYONE

30 Thoughts™ on Bobby Ryan’s 7 Year Extension

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Ric Flair and it’s fuckin’ WOO!!! B. Ryan’s number 1 and his deal’s the number 2.

Guess who just rolled up to the spot? Oh, it’s us. We return with our LEGENDARY 30 Thoughts™ on Bobby Ryan’s contract extension. Forgive Varada for his brevity he is currently on vacation in beautiful Portland, Oregon and did his share on his phone like damn champion. I am my regular insufferable self so apologies in advance.

1) They get him for less than $8MM

Varada:
The way the market is headed, is anyone else surprised they could sign a 27 year old elite scorer headed to UFA status in a smallish town for less than what is considered elite money? Carolina has to give a guy like Eric Staal more than $8MM, and they drafted the guy. Truly elite guys like Toews and Kane are getting more than $10MM. Ottawa just signed a core player for what top six forwards are going to cost in a few years. In years 5-7 of this deal, Ryan will be an absolute steal.

James:
Oh, HELL YEAH, I brought up on our podcast that no one listens to that as a fan, I’d be okay with Ryan getting a straight up bad contract to keep him here. Anything to prevent another quality player for bolting. Aside from drafting them, elite players in their prime have to be traded heavily for or overpaid. Seeing as Murray did the former I figured might as well do the latter to make it worthwhile long term. And, hey sometimes a team needs to give their best player(s) a bad contract. Is PK Subban’s contract a good one? Nah, not really but it’s a pretty smart one considering the Habs rocky relationship with him up to there. To lose him over the price that he drove up his value to and some bad decisions (bridge contract) would be inexcusable for the Habs management. They ponied up and kept him the fold. Ditto Nashvillie matching the Philly offer sheet and paying Shea Weber an international airport per year. He’s their best player. Keep that guy.
Being cap smart in today’s leagues is essential but hey sometimes you just gotta be all:

Funny you mention how good this contract will look in 5 years but if he keeps producing like we know he can I think it could be a lot sooner than that. How about how good Karlsson’s deal looks just 2 seasons in. Great to see a team with limited money like Sens  being bullish with contract negotiations and getting in there quick before the price gets past the point they can afford. Sure that strategy didn’t work out with Greening. It sucks, but it’s worked well with Turris, Karlsson, hell, even Zack Smith. Smith’s deal is not as sexy but less than 2 million for a guy who can kill penalties, take faceoffs and put up nearly 15 goals in a year? Take a look at Benioit Pouliot’s deal to show it’s not just the Kane and Toews guys whose salaries are skyrocketing. What I’m getting at here is that with the chemistry he’s shown  with Turris and MacArthur and the ice time he’s likely going to get, I could see a 40 goal season as not out of the question. If they were to negotiate through the season and he were to put up a career high in goals, hey awesome short term for the Sens but I doubt we can afford him at that point and we lose him to the market.

2) They actually managed a limited NTC

Varada:
It’s hard for me to imagine the negotiations between Ryan and Ottawa being anything other than “we’ll give you everything to stay,” so it’s surprising to see Ryan conceding both money and total trade protection. We don’t know the details yet, but it’s probably something along the lines of “pick some teams we can’t trade you to.” Ottawa retains some leverage. Huge kudos to the negotiating team on that one.

James: 
This one I’m slightly ambivalent on…I mean…OH HELL YEAH! I’m not too concerned here. *puts on “I survived the Jason Spezza trade” shirt over “I survived the Danny Heatley drama” shirt which is over two “I survived all kinds of Alexei Yashin bologna” shirts* It’s, of course, ideal to have options but I think with a player of this caliber you can always get something nice back. It’s the Colin Greenings and Chris Neils of the world having NTCs that scares the shit out of me.

3) All of the negative shit from last week was way off

Varada:
I read my fair share of reputable hockey people saying all of the messages coming out of Ryan’s camp were bad signs for Ottawa and there was no way he was going to re-sign. You’ve got to love a deal then coming pretty much out of left field and proving everyone wrong. It turns out that when you ask random hockey executives about their competition they may have skewed perceptions and an interest in sewing discontent ;)

James:
OH HELL YEAH.  Any kind of contract situation…or frankly any sports situation is talked about to an insane degree. Worst of all in the off-season when there’s no actual hockey being played to break things up. Gone are the days of just opening the Sports section and seeing “Player signs new contract” or “Player made team captain.” Say there’s a 2 sentence sound bite about contract negotiations from a player or team management, then 8 days of silence passes before the next. For those next 8 fucking days there is an endless diarrhea stream of hottakes to fill the space between. It’s hard to know what’s credible and what’s a hottake after a while. Seeing as there’s been some ugly recent history, it’s easier to assume the worst. If I was a professional hockey pundit or whatever, I’d probably err on the side that might make me look the least dumb in the end too. I mean, Karlsson’s a garbage pick right? For the record, Dreger did indicate that he thought Ryan would re-sign.
Personally, I never really found Bobby’s remarks too troubling. When he said something along the lines of, “A long term deal is a big commitment and it might not happen overnight” I had to agree. It was just realistic. The guy was potentially signing into his mid-30s. The thing that gave me a bit of  a scare was the part about “Waiting and seeing what his role on the team will be.” I am not one of those who are ready to throw in the towel on Paul MacLean buuuuuuuuuuuuuut he kiiiiiiind of had a tendency to give 0.00 fux about giving his most skilled players the important ice time ice time last season. So that was scary but I more worried about MacLean’s actions ruining it than Ryan’s. If we went into the season with Ryan unsigned and I saw Chris Neil get just just one shift on one power play (Ed Note: THING THAT FUCKING HAPPENED MORE THAN ONCE LAST SEASON!!!) over Bobby I would have thrown up my hands like, “Welp, that’s the end of that chapter.” I thought the lead up to the signing was being a bit overdone but all’s well that … I forget how the rest of that goes.

4) It’s an endorsement of Ottawa 

Varada:
Narrative is a powerful thing, and people were starting to write their own stories about Ottawa. Alfredsson and Spezza leave and there’s almost nothing you can do to dissuade assumptions of a franchise in decline. Ryan could have gone anywhere and he chose Ottawa. He wants to raise a family here. Makes perfect sense to those of us who live here. Maybe it will send a similar message to the rest of the league.

James:
Heyyyyyyyyyyy, you don’t cheer for a team in a city divided in three with fans of your two biggest rivals who could not hate the Sens more without feeling kind of constantly uneasy about pretty much anything that happens. Some fanbases have a self depreciating culture and others have a prideful one. I think it’s clear what side of the coin we’re on by and large.
We talk about this all the time, in the NHL narrative is all relative. Marty St. Louis leaves the team he’s been with his entire career and one that’s considered a contender mid-season, not a big deal. Ownership changes hands in Nashville, they have owners? Good for them! We’re a sketchy franchise these days for sure but the team fails to re-sign the most beloved player in franchise history and some fans stay home out of protest and boom we’re going bankrupt. K. I remember the first Sens-Wings game in Detroit last season and the building looked three quarters full. But hey, HOCKEYTOWN right you’z guys. Have you ever heard anything about attendance issues in Detroit? I haven’t. Considering we’re in a city where a bunch of the people actually out and out HATE the team, it’s a pretty stable franchise as far as the every day business goes. Season ticket sales are up, we have one of the world’s best players, Ryan’s staying, Clarke MacArthur is a perfect hockey player, Lehner’s going to start more, Turris is going to wear a turtleneck with his chain this year (I can feel it!), and I will continue to drink tall cans on the long ass bus ride to the stadium. October 2nd 2014 was an awesome day to be a Sens fan. Here’s to hoping for more ahead and not freaking out too much on the bad days.

Thoughts 5 through 30 coming soon*! 

Bonus:
P.S. Karlsson is captain

Once again proving that our decision to name this blog after Karlsson instead of Bobby Butler was the right one.
KarlKarl

*Probably not.

Is Matt Puempel’s 30 Goal AHL Rookie Season Worth Getting Excited About?

"Guess who just got his second WTYKY post in a week? ....Oh, it's me." - M. Puempel

“Guess who just got his second WTYKY post in a week? ….Oh, it’s me.” – M. Puempel

Yeh, it is. THANK$ 4 READING! *Frazier ending theme song starts fading in*

I suppose I should back that up. After all, this is the Internet Age where accountability and sound arguments have never been more respected.

Part 2 of my 128 part series on Matt Puempel apparently.

2011 24th overall pick Matt Puempel got his first taste of professional hockey at the end of the 2011-12 season when he suited up for the Binghamton Senators’ last 9 games. He managed a goal. His next shot was late the following season when he was brought over from the OHL to bolster the Bingo lineup in time for their brief playoff run. He put up a noteworthy 2 goals in the 3 post season games he appeared in. It certainly got my attention that in the very limited action he’d seen at the pro level that Puempel had made a bit of noise. It’s never easy to be parachuted into new surroundings and make an impact in such a short period of time. Puempel seemed able to do that.  What’s an even greater challenge to a player, however, is to be able to sustain production over the long term. Could he make shit real and produce consistently in his first full season?

Not really. At first at least. In the first half of the season Puempel managed just 7 goals. Not unacceptable output for a rookie finding his way in the pros but considering he’d put up almost half that in the 14 combined AHL games he’d previously played, it seemed a bit tepid. Especially for a player who’d up to then been described as a natural goal scorer.

WELP, turns out it was just a slow start. I don’t know if it’s the “comes ze shooting, comes ze goals” talking or what but in the second half Puempel (TBH I’m getting tired of typing this name…ah, could be worse, could be zDzizuzrzyznzszkziz) and positively a’sploded scoring-wise. PumpittyPumpPump (new nickname!) more than tripled his scoring output and ended up finishing his 74 games with a smoove 30 goals. He even tied the team lead in goals with the King of Bingo, Micheal Seymour Hoffman. It should be noted that Hoffman got his 30 in just 51 games and had 19 more overall points. But you gotta hear both sides and It should also be noted that Hoffman is an AHL All Star who was in his fourth season with the club.
Point being, 30 goals in a season is not quite elite but breaches that nice-nice threshold that get’s you noticed as a standout player. The question on this piece of human garbage blogger’s mind is: Is it special to score 30 with Ottawa’s American Hockey League affiliate?
To investigate (Ed note: *Hand wanking motion*) I had a look back in time and discovered it is pretty special and more rare than I would have thought. Enter the lower fourth dimension with me as we embark on a spiritual journey and I share my findings and thoughts on Binghamton’s past few 30 goal scorers…

2007-08 Denis Hamel (32)
Aloysius (my imaginary grandson): Grandpa?
Me (fantasy grandpa): Yes, little Aloysius?
Aloysius: Why do only start your journey at 2007-08?
Me: Well, that’s because that’s the exact year we Senators fans started caring about our farm system.
Aloysius: Grandpa can we have Hungry Man frozen dinners for breakfast again?
Me: Quiet, grandpa’s trying to get drunk here.  

Denis Hamel, the long serving captain of the Bingo Sens, may be a familiar name to some of you. By 2007 he had already had played 7 successful seasons in the American Hockey League including a 56 goal 91 point year with Bingo back in 05-06 or as some of you may call that season, “Back when the Ottawa Senators were really good”. So now that I think about it, maybe he might not be a familiar name to you…
Why all that production from a guy who’s NHL career can be summed up in one youtube video? Well after a positively dominant junior career in the QMJHL and then building up his name in the AHL to make the bigs, Hamel suffered a terrible knee injury that hampered his speed significantly. He still had the hands to get on the score sheet but the wheels just weren’t there anymore for poor Denis. What you see here in 07-08 are the numbers of an AHL star and veteran in the midst of a long career.

2009-10 Ryan Keller (34) and Josh Hennessy (30)
Ahhhhh, 2009-10. Remember them days? Heatley had jumped ship, made it hurt on the way out and Ottawa was truly in the midst of a downward spiral from powerhouse of the East to eventual draft lottery participant. It was an awkward in between phase where after Erik Karlsson, who spent an hilarious in retrospect 12 games in the AHL before returning to the big club for good, the team did not exactly have many exciting young players developing in Bingo to reverse the suck. They did have a bunch of talented AHL lifers at the time…which is nice…for the fans in Binghamton.

Ryan Keller went undrafted by the NHL and bounced around the AHL eventually managing to carve out a solid career in the Finnish league. The scoring touch he had in Finland carried over to the American League where he led Bingo in goals in 09-10 with 34.
Just behind him in scoring with an even 30 that season was 2003 San Jose 2nd round pick, Josh Hennessy. One year younger than Keller, Henny seemed at that point to be on that same career trajectory of Junior star turned productive Minor-Pro who just can’t stick with an NHL club. 24 years old at the time, Hennessy wasn’t exactly ancient but had been given about 4 call ups to the big club at that point. 1 point in 20 games and scoring forwards like him typically find out it’s a cold, cold world. Hennessy has since moved on to the KHL.

2010-11 Ryan Keller (32)
Again with this Keller guy! Fully established as a veteran leader, Keller led the Binghamton Sens to a Calder Cup victory serving as captain. He also became the first Bingo player since the aforementioned AHL great Denis Hamel to put up 30 or more goals in back to back seasons. I feel it worth mentioning that he put up 25 points in 23 playoff games that year. Respect. He showed a lot of the younger players who are currently with the big club what it takes to win. R-Keller has since taken his talents to the Swiss League.

2013-14 Mike Hoffman (30)
It’s kind of surprising to me that a guy as hyped as Hoffman has only hit the 30 goal mark once in Bingo. Not even a dis really so much as it’s just a bit of a shock. I think it’s again worth mentioning that The Hoff hit the 30 goals in a remarkable 53 games. He had a team high 67 points at season’s end despite some of his teammates, including Puempel, getting to play in 20 or more games than him. Amazing stuff. His explosive season earned him an extended stay in Ottawa to finish the year and likely a roster spot on October 9th.
The down side to this is that Mike Hoffman turns 25 in a little over a month and if he doesn’t significantly improve on his 3 goals and 3 assists at the NHL level right quick, it could be curtains for his chances. Hoffman is an exciting player. A brilliant skater who can put the puck in the net. I’ll take that any day of the week over a guy who’s really tall or can punch really hard, but history shows Hoffy is hitting that age where a goal scorer like him is getting into that top 6 or bust territory.
He’ll have to go through waivers if he’s sent back to down but if he can’t make a strong impression in the first quarter of the season or so, something tells me that the Senators brass wont be too bothered by that.

FUNCLUSION
We’ve had lots and lots and lots of fun skimming through this thing, haven’t we? Well, I did at least. K, so what do we take out of this examination? I think the most obvious thing is that despite having some pretty good players in the system the past few seasons, many who’ve made the jump to the NHL, the only guys who seem able to put up 30 or more goals in Binghamton are established minor-league professionals who are in their mid 20s or older. The only slight exception is Hoffman who will likely get a longer look in the bigs than Keller or Hennessey ever did. As for Hamel, well, a severe injury basically ruined his shot so he’s a bit of a different case.
What makes Puempel’s 30 goal year special, is that despite struggling out of the gate offensively he still managed to reach this milestone in just his first full season with the club and at age 21 no less. I think acknowledging the words “full season” is important too. I’ve already mentioned that Hoffman did it 22 fewer games but had Jean Gabriel Pageau played more than 46 games for Bingo he’d have likely improved on his 20 goals. Ditto Mark Stone who had 15 in just 37 games.
Threatening 30 next year are Shane Prince and Cole Schneider who had 21 and 20 respectively last season. Scheneider is entering his mid 20s but Prince is probably Puempel’s closest rival so that should be interesting.

N-E-WAY, what’s exciting about this is that the majority of the guys I just mentioned are the players you want to see leading your farm team in points. It’s always great to have veteran leaders around the kids to show them the way but as a fan you want to see the guys with the highest pedigree and best shot at the big club heading the charge scoring-wise. To see a young, first round pick like Pumper(?) do it in his rookie year is worth getting…………..wait for it………………………………PUMPED about.

Sorry.

Here’s a song about Matt Puempel:

Five Hot Media Tips for Eugene Melnyk and Sens Management

Apropos of nothing in particular and while sitting for five hours at Dulles airport

Stop describing Sens fans as “fickle”

Try to imagine for a moment that sports are treated less like a religion and more like any other product or service. Say, like a restaurant. Now imagine that the restaurant was difficult to reach, and the quality of its cooking was pretty good, but variable. You never know if you’re going to get a real bummer of a meal, and management, in an attempt to save money, has cut back on talent in the kitchen. Now imagine that the restaurant owner gets on some widely listened-to cooking show and says that the variable quality has less to do with anything that exists in reality and more to do with the perception of the customers and their fickle palate. Would you, as a possible patron at this restaurant, imagine it your community-minded duty to support this business? How about if the business owner kept calling you variations on picky and entitled?

Yes, Ottawa fans don’t mindlessly and automatically purchase the maximum number of tickets possible regardless of the performance of the team, especially considering how inaccessible the arena is. Does that suck as a business owner? Sure. Are we less awesome than fans who lose their shit for a team and shell out no matter what? I guess so. Is there any reason why you have to keep going on the radio (usually Toronto radio, at that) and describe your core customers as fickle? Nope. Knock it off.Your franchise’s value has increased fourfold in the last ten years, you have the kind of stability that only two lockouts in that decade can provide, and we ain’t the Florida Panthers. It never plays well when a billionaire calls normal people cheap.

Stop presenting that you bought UFA years on Gryba and Borowiecki as evidence that you’re not a budget team

As far as I understand it Ottawa has been trying to include Gryba in trade packages for like a year and Borowiecki is a replacement level defenceman who’s played few NHL games and put up poor possession numbers when he did. It’s early in both player’s careers and all that, but my point is that neither player should feel particularly secure that they will play in the NHL for years to come, or so secure that they would want to hold on to their UFA years and negotiate for a higher salary a year or two from now. For management to repeatedly point to their decision to lock both of these players up – at a very low amount of money – while playing hard ball with much better defenceman Marc Methot is just weird. It’s also transparently an effort to lock up the only kinds of players that Ottawa can afford, which is to say, not terribly good / expensive ones.

It’s ok to say that Ottawa plans to spend money later. It’s also ok to say that Ottawa doesn’t have the money and doesn’t know when it will. We can take it. Melnyk can’t generate money from thin air and it’s not like he’s going to sell the franchise with all the money to be made over the next decade. There’s a new television deal, both local and national, expansion fees and a league that keeps expanding in value. We can handle business truths. But contorting budget moves as evidence that the team is doing just fine looks pretty bad.

Spend a little less time with the traditional media

Look, nothing against the talented and connected journalists at the Citizen and the Sun, and also the nationals who spill occasional ink on the Sens. They do their job, but that’s exactly what it is: a job. They have to cover every little in and out of the team, turn every minor drama into a major one, push and push the players so that they know nothing is ever good enough. It happens in every Canadian city, and it might be one small reason why no Canadian team can consolidate the kind of talent required to win a Cup. The Sun has two – two! – full time writers who are expected to cover every single little story with microscopic attention. It’s suffocating to read – I can’t imagine what it’s like to live it.

So screw it. Give them the access you’re obligated to give them, but insulate the players from it. Let Pappa MacLean give his post-game press conference. He doesn’t seem too bothered. But spend less time feeding that particular beast, because it’s never full. All it does is alienate players and develop unrealistic expectations among fans.

Trust Us

We promise: we like hockey. We like the Sens. If we’re not there in person, we’re most definitely watching at home, or at a local bar, and buying up jerseys and shirts and building the kind of loyalty to the team with our families that the two nearby original six teams enjoy. We appreciate that you’re doing all of these things to try to enhance the arena experience and get more butts in the seats. The stuff with Red Scarf Union looks cool, as does this multimedia thing you’re trying, whatever that is. We’re up for an experiment or two. But these things are always secondary to the fact that this is a Canadian city that is coming into its own. Anyone who lives here can feel it. It used to be that you turned 20 and moved somewhere else. But we’re only going to keep growing. So stay the course here. It’s only going to get better.

KEEP MELNYK OFF THE RADIO

Pretty self explanatory. If you don’t know what I mean, listen to literally any Melnyk interview from the last three years or so, or as I like to call this period, “one man’s descent into madness.” I’ve given up on him even having a coherent message, let alone agreeing with him. So, absent a PR director, maybe just lead him into a room with a mic that isn’t plugged into anything and let him go. We can keep a secret.