Ottawa Senators Off-Ice Power Rankings – February 2015

One of the things I’ve come to look forward to during the doldrums of winter and the despondency of another unsuccessful season is the reprieve afforded by events like All-Star Weekend and the Winter Olympics. There’s nothing like a week-long break from watching your favorite NHL team lose more games than it wins, especially when its replacement is superstars palling around and playing world-class hockey. And for the guys who had to stay home? Surely they got up to all kinds of crazy things during their time off, right? Let’s find out!

1) Erik Condra (last month: 1)
condraAre you just doing this interview so you won’t get fined?

2) Erik Karlsson (last month: 4)
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If you’re like me, you felt a warm, nostalgic glow swell within you when you saw this picture of a 12-year-old Erik Karlsson, only to have it dissipate gradually into a subtle but unshakeable feeling of familiar, quiet dread. Because ultimately, this picture reminds us that, like you, like me, like our loved ones, like the Ford Focus we’re still paying off, Erik Karlsson is getting older. Less time elapsed between the day this picture was taken and Erik Karlsson’s draft day than between his draft day and today.

This picture reminds us that having a plan is important. We look at this picture of a 12-year-old Erik Karlsson the way, soon, we’ll look at a picture of the 24-year-old Erik Karlsson, as a snapshot in time, a brilliant moment gone forever. When we remember that, how should we spend our time together? As a series of stops and starts, not-quites and good-enoughs, until all that’s left is pictures? Or in a considered, respectful way, a way that recognizes we’re on an all-too-brief journey with the only 24-year-old Erik Karlsson that will ever exist? This picture reminds us that Erik Karlsson, the hockey player, isn’t a tangible asset; he’s a palm full of sand we can only hold for so long.

A Senators fan has two reactions to this picture. The first is “Awwwwww.” And the second, whispered, is “Hang on, Karl. We’ll get you some help.”

3) Kyle Turris (last month: NR)

Just what the world needs, another smartass 25-year-old Hill staffer.

4) Bobby Ryan (last month: 7)


All-Star Weekend is a good reminder that, if you’re an NHL superstar, it really doesn’t matter where you live. We all move to take a job somewhere, start a family, travel for work too much, and have a little neighborhood Italian restaurant we think is our secret, and that experience is largely similar in any number of cities, whether that’s Pittsburgh, Tampa, Raleigh, or Ottawa. The Senators are offering seven years and $50 million? Let’s do it – we’re already here, and I love the chicken parm at that place around the corner.

If you’re an NHL superstar it doesn’t matter what city you choose to make your home in, because the real party, the get-together with your colleagues with whom you share so much in common, only happens once a year, always in a different city. We’re doing it in Columbus this year? Sure, why not – Foligno keeps telling me about the osso buco at this hole-in-the-wall red sauce joint he likes.

All-Star Weekend reminds us that we can be comfortable living almost anywhere, as long as we make plans to get together with old friends every now and then. Where you go almost doesn’t matter; pick a city, pick a weekend, and it’ll be just as fun as it was last year. It’s a worthwhile break from work, and when you go home, wherever that is, you’ll always have the pictures, and you’ll still have that great local pizza margherita waiting for you.

5) Chris Phillips (last month: 8)
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Chris Phillips had his bobblehead night at the Canadian Tire Centre last month, and I’m just going to let James take the mic for this one:


6) Mark Stone (last month: NR)

Welcome to the power rankings, Mark Stone! Everybody talks about how Mark looks like Quentin Tarantino, but for some reason no one’s asking why he looks nothing like his brother. Anyway, here’s Mark reviewing the point totals of Ottawa’s pending RFA forwards:

RFA

@mstone16 lookin really cool this morning in his shades 😎☀️ #TomFord

A photo posted by Cody Ceci (@codyceci) on


Lookin’ good, Mark!

7) Curtis Lazar (last month: 5)

See, this is how Spezza and Heatley fell out.

If you hadn’t already heard, Curtis Lazar went and won himself a gold medal as the captain of Canada’s world junior team, putting him in the esteemed company of teammates Mika Zibanejad, Kyle Turris, Clarke MacArthur, and Chris Phillips (twice!). For a guy who’s still only got one goal in 34 NHL games, things are pretty good for Curtis Lazar at the moment, huh? He just turned 20, his GM thinks highly enough of him not to trade him for three months of Antoine Vermette, and gas prices are so low right now he can literally just drive around all day. It’s almost enough to make you forget how young Lazar really is, until you see him looking like he’s a ward of the Big Brothers program on his way to the All-Star game or dressed like Tintin as he rides cheerfully on the back of a flatbed cart.

So what’s the next phase for Lazar? When does he have to start answering the tough questions about expectations, about performance, about finding his own condo? Next year, right?

Okay, probably never.

8) Mika Zibanejad (last month: NR)

We can compare and contrast the profile Lazar enjoys with that of fellow gold medallist and first-rounder Mika Zibanejad. Whereas Lazar is already universally beloved, we see here that after three years in the NHL, Zibanejad, though popular, still hasn’t risen above being co-billed with war criminals Florida Georgia Line, although he does manage to grab headlines over Rob Schneider. But hey, even Alfredsson needed ten years to win this city over, right?

9) AR-15 Rifles

Shooting range #AR-15 #🎯

A photo posted by JG Pageau (@pagertrain) on

Lighting up the gun range in Phoenix. #ShootingWorld #AR-15 🔫🔫 This thing can really do damage.

A photo posted by Cody Ceci (@codyceci) on


Here we see J-G Pageau and Cody Ceci at the range, each having chosen a rifle Wikipedia describes as “popular among civilian shooters and law enforcement forces around the world due to [its] accuracy and modularity.” Wikipedia goes on to note that the AR-15 features a “butt stock that [does] not swell or splinter,” suggesting it may also be a good choice for Marc Methot. Thanks for reading.

10) Proving you’re close, personal friends with Jake Gyllenhaal

Sure, what the hell. See you next month!

NOT RANKED: Eugene Melnyk; missed connections; setting your filter to “Spanish-Language Romance Novel Cover”; when keeping it 100 goes wrong.

The Senators’ Long and Short Season

I had a thought the other day: is there another team in the bottom 10 of the NHL better positioned to add a top prospect and transition from mediocre to good than the Ottawa Senators?Untitled

Buffalo is in the first year of a multi-year rebuild. They’re legitimately horrible.

Edmonton has added aggressively, drafted superstars, and is still a mess. At this point they’re talking about rebuilding the club’s culture from the ground up.

Carolina is full of unwieldy contracts, from the Staal brothers to Cam Ward to Alex Semin to the tiny and oft-injured Jeff Skinner. They’re 10 games under .500 even with all of those expensive veterans.

Arizona is talking full rebuild and is buried under their expensive goalie contract. Who knows in which direction they’ll jump.

Columbus probably shouldn’t even be in the bottom ten. They’ve just had terrible luck with injuries this year.

New Jersey has the oldest lineup in the league.

Toronto has terrible contracts we read about in every paper all the time and don’t need to see listed again here.

Philadelphia’s defense is a mess, and they’ve handed long-term contracts to the like of Andy MacDonald and Mark Streit.

Minnesota could fix their goaltending and be better; they won a playoff round last year.

And then Florida, who could also be better, and at times have looked playoff-bound.

So, the Sens, Minnie, and Florida. I’d say those are the three who could add a prospect and then do some damage.

What sets Ottawa apart from the other two? Consider the following:

  • Ottawa has the lowest payroll in the league, and thus the most room to spend. You can see how restorative it’s been for the Islanders to add take advantage of teams near the cap to snag Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk. A few key signings in Grabovski, Kulemin and Halak, and they’re one of the best teams in the East. That could be Ottawa, if they play their cards right.
  • Ottawa has the youngest lineup of those three. They’re the third youngest team in the league, compared to Minnie’s 13th and Florida’s 26th. They already have young players in key roles, and they’re producing. Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone have been revelations this season. Mika Zibanejad has quietly turned his season around. Cody Ceci and Curtis Lazar are both very early on in their careers, and are only growing. Alex Chiasson is a human male who can skate.
  • Ottawa has a core to build around. Kyle Turris is on a high value contract, as is Erik Karlsson. Bobby Ryan re-signed, causing the city to emit a giant sigh of relief, and he seems to be thriving in a leading role. Robin Lehner is holding a knife to my throat as I type this.
  • Ottawa has goaltending. Craig Anderson has been one of the best in the league this year, and Robin Lehner, though struggling at the moment, has finally been given the opportunity to work without a safety net.
  • Ottawa doesn’t really have any bad contracts. Sure, Colin Greening…with his $2.5M cap hit. Not exactly a crippling mistake. David Clarkson that signing was not. Milan Michalek hasn’t been great, nor has he been disastrous. Maybe Zack Smith? None of those signings is the sort of thing that will prevent Ottawa from being aggressive if and when they get the opportunity.

All of which makes it confusing to hear and read fans and bloggers describe this iteration of the team as ‘disastrous’ and ‘disappointing.’ What exactly were the expectations to begin with? A low playoff seed, maybe, at best?

One advantage of all of this parity is that there are only thin slivers of truly bad and truly good teams. Most teams are in the milky middle of the league. And so a team like Ottawa, who aren’t truly bad, can snag a top ten prospect and not have it mean that they’re years away from contending.

Ottawa’s playing good hockey at the moment. Their shots on goal are being cut down. They can hang with any team in the league on any given night. And there’s nowhere to go but up. Add a good player in this year’s draft and Ottawa could be next year’s dangerous, dark horse pick.

James Day Preview: Chiasson Spezza Returns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As per me: 

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

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

What else? HAHAHAHA…Who cares!

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

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

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

Michalek – Turris – Stone
MacArthur – Zibanejad – Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ottawa Senators Jersey Buyer’s Decision-Making Flowchart

I would say the most common question people ask me – or the most common after “Chet, does this look like eczema?” – is about which Ottawa Senators jersey they should buy. And I get it, it’s a big purchase. You don’t want to drop a week’s salary at the cannery on a shirt with a guy’s name on it only to have that guy be traded to Columbus a week later, or worse, continue being Alex Kovalev. At the same time, the player you choose sends a message to your fellow fans – are you looking for a superstar whose jersey you can pop every time he scores a goal? Do you want to demonstrate your extensive knowledge of the team with an off-the-radar choice? Was there something about Zenon Konopka that resonated deeply with you?

These are all important questions, but you can only answer the same question so many times before you become frustrated and get thrown out of a baptism, as I was last week. So I thought the best way to help you make the right choice would be to diagram the appropriate decision-making process in a flowchart. This is that flowchart.

(click to enlarge)

sens

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A systematic, game-by-game prediction of how the rest of the season goes

Here’s what we know:

Ottawa needs to go 23-11-4 to have a roughly 50% chance of making the playoffs. How close will they come? At this point in the post, I don’t know. I mean, we’re right at the top. I think you’re being unreasonable. But let’s go, game-by-game, and find out. It’s what I like to call “math,” and what my math teacher called “cheating.”

Jan 20 – Rangers – Away

They come off of a pretty solid performance against Carolina, even though they lost, and were ultra-convincing against the Habs before that. I’m going to start on a positive note and call this a win.

WIN – 1-0-0

Jan 21 – Toronto – Home

Normally I would call this an automatic loss because it’s against Toronto, but Toronto seems to be mired in a nihilistic whirlpool from which all hope escapes. It is the second of a back-to-back though, and they have to travel. And Toronto could, I guess, get a win someday. You know what…?

OT LOSS – 1-0-1

Jan 29 – Dallas – Home

It’s after a week off. It’s at home. It’s Spezza’s first time back. This one will mean something to the boys. BUT…Dallas has been unreal these past 15 games or so. This one is tough. I’m going to go conservative here and say…

OT LOSS – 1-0-2

Jan 31 – Arizona – Home

Yotes stink, Sens win.

WIN – 2-0-2

Feb 3 – New Jersey – Road

I know it’s really not very creative at all to say, “Hmm, the Sens are playing bad teams, so they should win,” but I think there’s some course correction due here. Ottawa’s shot ratio is much better under Cameron than it was under MacLean, and their record against the East hasn’t been nearly commensurate to their record against the West, which is wacky. So I’m going to call another win here. They should be able to beat New Jersey in the back half of their lost season.

WIN – 3-0-2

Feb 5 – Washington – Home

Ottawa plays Washington pretty tight, actually, and in this imaginary world I’m creating they haven’t lost in regulation in 5 games. Still, who am I to jinx the shit out of everything? I’ll say they get some bad bounces in this one, but still take it the distance and lose in OT or the shootout.

OT LOSS – 3-0-3

Feb 7 – Columbus – Home

Here’s another one the Sens should be able to take, especially with playing so many games at home and the imaginary momentum I’ve provided them. This is a soft-ass schedule. Roll them dice, keep gambling till you shit your pants, I always say.

WIN – 4-0-3

Feb 10 – Buffalo – Away

So, to review, so far I’ve said the Sens won’t lose in regulation for 7 straight games. That’s pretty great. But no one is bigger than the game. Especially when the game is as capricious and weird as hockey. Here, Ottawa not only plays the worst team in the league, but one of the historically bad teams of all time.

BLOWOUT LOSS – 4-1-3

Feb 12 – Pittsburgh – Home

Ottawa loses their second in a row; everyone writes the same article they’ve already written about Milan Michalek for the 14th time.

LOSS – 4-2-3

Feb 14 – Edmonton – Home

Afternoon game. Against Edmonton. At home. Should be an easy win.

LOSS – 4-3-3

Feb 16 – Carolina – Home

Jesus Christ, do they ever play on the road again? At this point Carolina should be all but eliminated. Maybe they’ll have started trading people. If anything, this should be a corrective to that weird bouncy shitshow goal in their last game against the Louisiana Turlets.

WIN – 5-3-3

Feb 18 – Montreal – Home

Fuuuuuuuuuuuck yooooouuuuuuuuu.

WIN – 6-3-3

Feb 21 – Florida – Home

At home??? Again??? Are the guys going to be 300 pounds from all of the at-home lounging? Florida’s played Ottawa pretty well here, I dunno. But I’m never comfortable calling games against them. We could either dominate or lose 2-0. Nothing in between. And I hate it when people call them “The Cats.” I’ll go conservative again,

OT LOSS – 6-3-4

WEST COAST ROAD TRIP SEGMENT

Feb 25 – Anaheim – Away

Oh shit. Party’s over. West Coast trips are always a thing. This is Mordor. I know I’m calling a lot of OT losses here, but it’s kind of our thing, isn’t it?

OT LOSS – 6-3-5

Feb 26 – Los Angeles – Away

Damn it. I want to call this a win, I really do. But this process is just too scientific.

LOSS – 6-4-5

Feb 28 – San Jose – Away

Who fucking knows? San Jose is the most mysterious team in the entire league.

WIN – 7-4-5

March 3 – Minnesota – Away

Damn, there are a lot of games left in the season. I didn’t think this through before I started this post. I’m going to get some pita chips, I’ll be right back.

WIN – 8-4-5

March 4 – Winnipeg – Away

Winnipeg is the only city in Canada I’ve been to where I’ve actually been pretty scared and people of many different ages have told me not to go out walking by myself. Good music and restaurant scene, though.

LOSS – 8-5-5

March 6 – Buffalo – Home

YOU BETTER FUCKING WIN – 9-5-5

March 8 – Calgary – Home

Hmmmm…. a Sunday against an unsuspecting and pretty poor team. This one is tough. Usually the Sens shit the bed on these ones.

OT LOSS – 9-5-6

March 10 – Boston – Home

LEHNER SHUT OUT. But Sens also don’t score.

OT LOSS – 9-5-7

March 12 – Montreal – Away

Fuuuuuuuuuccckkkkk ooooooooofffff

WIN – 10-5-7

March 13 – Islanders – Away

LOSS – 10-6-7

March 15 – Philadelphia – Home

WIN – 11-6-7

March 17 – Carolina – Away

That’s right, I’m calling this many OT losses. I don’t know man, the heart wants what it wants. I just don’t think the Sens solidly beat the Canes this season. Remember when JOE CORVO scored a hattie against the Sens that one time? And then we signed him AGAIN? Jesus. I don’t even really know why I watch hockey, to be honest with you.

OT LOSS – 11-6-8

March 19 – Boston – Home

LEHNER SHUT OUT. This time we score a goal. One goal.

WIN – 12-6-8

March 21 – Toronto – Home

Saturday night game. On Hockey Night in Canada. Automatic embarrassing loss.

LOSS – 12-7-8

March 23 – San Jose – Home

The rare San Jose in Ottawa game!!! It’s like a mirage!!!

LOSS – 12-8-8

March 26 – Rangers – Home

Like I said, we play these guys pretty tight. I don’t think we like them very much.

WIN – 13-8-8

March 28 – Toronto – Away

See above. Saturday night, etc.

LOSS – 13-9-8

March 29 – Florida – Home

Hmmmm. An afternoon game? On a Sunday? Against the Panthers? This one is like an exotic spice.

WIN – 14-9-8

March 31 – Detroit – Away

I’d like to think Ottawa tries to make it competitive against a division rival. There isn’t much juice left in this rivalry post-Alfie, but I think it’s close.

OT LOSS – 14-9-9

April 2 – Tampa Bay – Home

There’s hockey in April? That seems unreasonable. The season is probably too long. Oh, also at this point Tampa starts resting their stars for the playoffs.

WIN – 15-9-9

April 4 – Washington – Home

I really don’t know. This is like three months from now. What a dumb idea for a blog post.

OT LOSS – 15-9-10

April 5 – Toronto – Away

EPIC, NHL RECORD SETTING WIN AS A REWARD TO THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE READ THIS FAR. CHRIS NEIL WITH THE RARE FIVE GOAL GAME.

WIN – 16-9-10

April 7 – Pittsburgh – Home

I don’t know, I’m tired.

LOSS – 16-10-10

April 9 – Rangers – Away

LOSS – 16-11-10

April 11 – Philadelphia – Away

WIN – 17-11-10

…So there you have it. A soft schedule with a lot of home games in the back half of the season (the front half of the back half?) and a whimpering finish that actually saw me abandon my own blog post results in some momentum and more wins than losses. But we get so many OT losses it’s enough for every blog, including this one, to sort of shrug and be like “If we can win a few more of those next year we’ll be golden!”

Unfortunately, this rigorous and unimpeachable process predicts a 17-11-10 record which, according to SportsClubStats (at least before the guy who runs it gets hired by someone and we can’t access his website anymore) is….not a possibility? I don’t know.

But that’s 88 points on the season, which would be just shy of a playoff spot. If you need around 92 points (maybe 90 in the East), that puts the Sens at like….11th in the East. You know where they finished last year? 11th in the East. With 88 points.

Anyway, I’ve just now, just this second, taken up boating. Bye, hockey. It’s been fun.