Good news, everyone: this outdoor NHL game is an opportunity to appreciate the subtle pleasures of incremental policy development

As a person who has worked in health care policy for a few years, I’m a lover of the technocratic and the incremental. While policy can be dry, and seem arbitrary to those who locate themselves some distance from its construction, for those steeped in its norms there can be a subtle, democratic beauty to its underlying principles: each policy is a snapshot of the compromises required at a given time in order to move the needle on something that actually affects people.

Vision is important. Describing bold and beautiful things causes people to rally together and inspires civic engagement. But those of us in the policy world understand that most of the decisions that affect day-to-day lives are made in the cultureless voids of hotel meeting rooms and committee hearings, where people with a deep knowledge of maybe two or three things wordsmith far from the peeping eyes of the public.

This tends to create two groups: one large one, of frustrated people who don’t understand why something can’t simply be done, and another, much smaller, who kind of stink at communicating the hows and whys of policy and tend to stick to their niche as a result.

Which is why the latest imbroglio surrounding the Ottawa Senators not being able to play their outdoor game on Parliament Hill, and Senators owner Eugene Melnyk’s frustrated letter to the Ottawa Citizen about the situation, is interesting to me, and feels very much of our time.

I think we can all agree that the visual of an NHL game being played in front of the Parliament Buildings is a cool one. That’s not really that heavily debated. But anybody who spent longer than a minute thinking about what it would take to hold a heavily commercialized for-profit event on the front lawn of the seat of the federal government would not be surprised to discover that it’s not possible.

From the question of security, to construction, to parking (I’m starting to think that all of pro sports is a proxy war for a much larger conflict about parking), to the simple debate over who is going to pay for all of it when most of the money goes back to the league, it’s not hard to see why this would be a legal non-starter.

For example: would the increased security provided by the RCMP be paid for by taxpayers, and what laws might be in place that would limit the sharing of profits generated, in some small part, from these revenues with U.S.-based owners? This might be an exceedingly small issue, but the law is the law, and it exists in the dangerous world of precedent.

 

Melnyk’s letter mentions that he “fought hard” for an outdoor game. This I do not doubt. I’m sure that he really, really, really wanted it, and said so many times. What his letter does not allude to is whether the team engaged in the nitty-gritty of teasing out these abstruse policy questions. What safeguards would the league put in place to ensure that the Canadian taxpayer wasn’t on the hook for ancillary expenses associated with the event? What legal measures, if any actually exist, could be put in place so that next year a country and western music festival doesn’t say, “We can meet all the same criteria as the NHL – we’d like to rent Parliament Hill please”?

Policy, for those who don’t work in it, seems capricious. After all, the levels of government and division of assets between public and private spheres are social constructions, so why can’t we simply suspend those constructs when it suits our needs? Can’t we simply have a game on Parliament Hill because it would look cool and then go back to how things were as soon as the stands are torn down?

The answer is no, of course not, and you’re being ridiculous. We live in a world where the actions approved by our governments have the force and effect of precedent. Boldly conflating private profit with public space would take years to achieve, and have complex side effects we couldn’t possibly predict. It’s a fucking hockey game. Just have it in a fucking hockey arena, you know?

Which, of course, anyone who really works on the problem would allow as reasonable. But Melnyk is the kind of stubborn strongman we are unfortunately too familiar with these days. He thinks that through sheer will he can make this happen, and that by manipulating public sentiment in the newspapers he can turn popular opinion to his side. Even if he’s successful, these structures are in place precisely because they do not bend easily under public pressure. It’s for that reason the Conservatives can’t privatize the front lawn of the Parliament Buildings and turn it into a Tar Sands-themed amusement park.

The outcome, unfortunately for a fan base who seem pretty sick of Melnyk, is that he’s gone and made himself and the team look like a doof again.

What’s particularly frustrating is that this market, with its history of negotiating with the federal government for land rights to build an arena, should be acutely aware of the challenges of business in the federal capital. Melnyk won’t be able to play at brinksmanship to produce the outcomes he wants any more than being upset produced a downtown arena on NCC lands back in 1992. And yet here we are, mere months from when the damned thing is supposed to happen, and the owner is stamping his feet saying, “If this doesn’t happen, don’t blame me.”

What Melnyk needs to understand is that this is a conversation he will largely be having with himself. There is nobody to actually lobby in this situation: the government is insulated from the business interests of a local businessman, which is how we’ve thankfully designed these things. As I type this it occurs to me that maybe Melnyk is only so interested in Parliament because, as a governmental entity, it might be illegal for the government to charge the team to use the space, which means Parliament would be cooler, but, more importantly, cheaper.

So the question is no longer, “What can we do to make Parliament happen?” This was never a real question anyway. Policy nerds could have told you that a long time ago. The question is, “Does it make financial sense for this owner with this team to have an outdoor game at TD Place?” And if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t make sense to have an outdoor game at all.

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I’ve Got Something To Say: It’s Been Emotional.

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I feel compelled to write something about what happened last night because I hardly know how to talk about it. It’s rare that such truly important circumstances factor into something as inconsequential as sport. Most of what we experience as a collective of fans is emotional. Last night’s game really highlighted that. All we can do is sit there, watch and hope. I decided to tune in for the late game last night, in an odd way to “be there” for Craig Anderson. It’s of course a bit of a silly sentiment as I was just passively watching a hockey game on a screen over 3000 kilometers away. But as a fan of his I, for lack of a better way of explaining it, wanted to see if he was okay. Of course we all know, deep down, he’s not okay. We can only hope for a couple of hours, within the focus that his job requires of him, Craig Anderson found some respite from the difficulty of the situation that he, his wife Nicholle and their children are experiencing.

Part of what had me anxiously bouncing my legs and wincing at every Edmonton shot like it was a game 7 of a playoff series was this: Sports is not a movie. The drama is not scripted. As Sens fans we unfortunately know this all too well. So many times we’ve wanted things to come together for those who are hurting. For the success of our team to in some small way honour the legacy of those our community has lost. Those like Pat Redden, Roger Neilson, Daron Richardson and Mark Reeds. Since he revealed the severity of his illness, I assume we’ve all at some point imagined the glory of Bryan Murray raising a well deserved Cup over his head. These are only small honors but they carry big meaning for our community. A complete stranger donated a piece of his body to the team’s owner Eugene Melnyk and saved his life. He withheld his identity but left only the message that Melnyk help bring home a championship with his new lease on life. As much as I try to brush it off at times I must admit, this stuff is in its own way important. If a Senators win puts some wind in kids like Jonathan Pitre’s sails, that is important. If what her husband did under immense pressure put a smile on Nicholle Anderson’s face during the hardest time of her life, that is important. That importance is why you had Edmonton fans on their feet applauding the goaltender whom they just spent time and money watching shut their home team out.

Again, this is a sport, a game. We as fans play the role of customer much of the time. We all in our own way believe the customer is always right and feel it our duty to criticize when we are dissatisfied. I am definitely no stranger the world of calculating salaries, referring to players as “assets” or “pieces” arguing who should not play or be demoted to the minor leagues or bought out of their contract completely. The game we watch together is so often referred to as a product and when facing the most challenging times in their careers, the players who play, echo the reality that, “It’s a business.”

What made last night so special is that the business stuff all went away for a few fleeting moments. What we saw was a truly human display. In a game that is more reliant than ever on intricate strategy, mathematic analysis, speed and skill I believe we did witness the power of the often admonished element of will. Craig Anderson and his teammates “wanted it more” in a way that I don’t think you can get away with every night. The Senators won’t pull out every game on that extra incentive to win and Andy will not pitch a shutout every night to seek temporary relief from the hard time he’s going through. But last night they did and they did it as a team. If you follow the Sens closely you saw, especially as the game wore on, that battles for lose pucks were fought more tenaciously than usual, shots were blocked with no hesitation, sticks deflected incoming pucks away from danger with noticeable precision, the puck was repeatedly carried out of the defensive zone with fierce speed. Hell, this team that often struggles defsensively managed to contain the best offensive team in the league featuring a kid who looks like a first ballot hall of famer at age 19 for a full 60 minutes. Chris Kelly looked 10 years younger killing penalties, Karlsson looked 20 pounds heavier and 2 inches taller muscling larger opponents off pucks, Borowiecki looked nothing like the guy we regularly put on the seat of the proverbial dunk tank week after week and Andy, well, he was perfect. Maybe it’s just me and they were the same guys they always are and played a great road game as the did in Vancouver last week. Looking at the clip of the players hugging Anderson at the end of the game with Chris Neil fighting back tears in the background tells me otherwise.

The truth is many people get out of bed and go to work while facing similar challenges at home every single day. There’s no spectacle for them. No fanfare. But Craig Anderson has a pressure filled job that is broadcast on national television. An off day at the office, a few false moves can mean failure for he and all of his coworkers. Last night under the bright lights of the arena there was nowhere for him to hide. To see a fellow human being who is dealing with such a tough time literally win, literally be cheered for his efforts for one night was truly rare, truly special.

Thank you to Nicholle for her bravery and unfathomable generosity in urging Craig to rejoin his team. We do not deserve it. We are with you and we wish you all the best.

https://www.nhl.com/community/hockey-fights-cancer/donate

James Day Preview: Ottawa Vs. The Ned Flanders of Hockey

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“…hey y’all”

Yo. There must be a lot of new Sens fans out there.

Hold on a sec, everyone. Take a knee there, new fish. I got something I gotta explain to you:

The first two home games of the season coming against the leafs and habs is Gary HUSSEIN Bettman trying to break our collective spirit. With the unprecedented amount of old dudes who like these old man teams, general dumbasses and young guys with suuuper aggressive dad issues out there, it is basically impossible to have a respectable showing at these games (HAVE U HEARD?). Further, given how distant and withholding so many people’s fathers apparently are, these fans really come out to try to impress them with intensity. Spoiler 2 them: It will never work. Your dad hates you and your new, more realistic real doll. Your dad AND the doll wish you were never born but, anyway, congratulations for hating the city you live in with ferocity.
Anyway, fish, the point I’m trying to get through to you is this: The more of these games are played, the more you will come to understand that winning despite a FOUR goal performance from a player that has received hype for the last four months leading up to this game and followed by a game where Ottawa blew a two goal lead only to come back in exciting fashion are NOT regular things. Try. To. Enjoy. Them. For. A. Minute. Trust me, it’s a long season and there will be successful embarrassments from crazy individual efforts of unlikable players on shit teams and blown leads followed by shootout losses to come.
Where I’m at: Those wins are enough for me to accept a few L’s in a row tbh. If you don’t think the Sens are good enough to compete or whatever I suggest you cherish the little victories along the way then. I mean, do your thing but I will live longer than you. Be safe, beloved.

On to the game!

The Detroit Red Wings: Whose Mans Are These?
Yo when did the Red Wings turn into the New York Knicks assembling the wild 2008 All Star team?

Did this team just quietly fall in the organizational power rankings from “Smartest team in the NHL” to “This year’s team with those ‘Thomas Vanek gooooooot thiiiiiis thoooo’” cokedreams? Honestly, the guy couldn’t hang with the Minnesota Wild.
Serious Q: Is Vanek the first player to ever be bought out by the Wild? This is the team that drafted Matt Kassian in the second round. Also, not for nothing, Minnesota replaced Vanek with the swaggarlessness gawd, Eric Staal. Haven’t the Twin Cities suffered enough with the passing of Prince?

Let’s see who else is on Detroit’s 2008 All Star squad. Ah, Mike Green (35 pts last year) is their answer to Erik Karlsson…so…wow. Let’s just move forward.

There are some bright spots for the perennially haven’t done shit in the playoffs since Lidstrom retired dangerous Wings.

Dylan Larkin for one. He had a very successful season for a rookie. No shade, but if Ottawa was pinning its future to a kid for having a 45 point rookie season people would be making fun of us. But look I’m classier than that and I will make fun of them for more legit reasons: STEVE OTT IS ON THIS TEAM.

K, there’s also star goaltender, former Ottawa 67 (gang gang) Petr (sic) Mrazek in net (0-2). He’s looking to bounce back from that wild early season 4.06 GAA. I’m sure Hoffman, Stone, Ryan, Brassard, Turris and Karlsson will go easy on him. Especially Hoffman who I’m sure is feeling super chill about not having a goal yet.

Alright we’ve had lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of fun making fun Flanders. What, we don’t have no flies on us? Well, with a 2-0 record not yet really. Just kidding. Listen, this is the year I officially lose it on this issue:

The ‘Be Safe Tho’ Heard ‘Round the World
Borowiecki in, Chabot (still) out. I meaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan…LOOK, it’s only been two games (2-0-0) and Boucher has been pretty up front about Chabot getting his first action against either Detroit or Phoenix but it’s more stuff like this that frightens me:

K, is that the real competition?  Why does it have to be Chabot Vs. Guy who is way better than Borowiecki again? Seriously, we’ve got this apparent X’s and O’s detail based, strategic mastermind in Boucher, a former head coach with a Cup and 15 seasons experience in Crawford and some big timey eye in the sky video coach now. I’m hoping at some point they at least N O T I C E that Borowiecki is a hot mess. I’m sure deciding when a first round pick’s first game comes is a tricky decision (right Ozton Mayhews?) and perhaps Boucher feels his game would be best suited against the hung and youngry™ Coytoes on Tuesday. I  just thought I would be angry about that for a minute…let’s see anything else? Oh, Matt Puempel is in and Phil Varone is out. I have very little to say about this. I’m not saying I’m ready to throw in the towel on Puempel but it’s gonna be tough for a player like him on the 4th line. I suppose Kelly makes for a bit more of a chance for Pumps to do something on the bottom line than last year but I don’t expect much. Life is about lowered sexpectations for late first round picks.

And the Rest:
The Sens top six has been doing top sixie thangz in the first two games of this yung c-son but in the last game we got a treat: A beautiful trying goal from the third line. Great to see new guy Tom Pyatt bury one after a nice give and go between perfect hockey player JG Pageau and Ryan Dzingel to enter the zone. I’ve liked Pyatt so far. Something tells me a “Guy Boucher player” is of a more useful ilk than a “Dave Cameron player” or “infinity other coaches we’ve had the past near-decade type player.”

Andrew “The Handmurderer” Hammond gets the start in net. The OTHER Andy™ had a bit of an up and down season last year (read: bad) but the worst of it came after coming back from a concussion he suffered off the rip. Hopefully his dome is clear and he can go back to his winning like 20 games in a row self. R E A S O N A B L E.

BOLD Predictions:

  • Justin Abdelkader will score because that name is REALLY annoying and he always finds a way for me to hear it. You know, I actually kind of respect that brand of hater shit.
  • Sens power play starts clicking. Have you seen that thing? It’s only a matter of time. Speaking of which, Hoffman def gets one tonight.

Enjoy the game, drink your Steelback Beer responsibly.

4 Pithy Observations of Questionable Importance from the Season Opener

Hey, there was a hockey game last night. Did anything interesting happen? Anything historic? Oh, a 19 year old consigned to many years of indentured servitude in the most vicious market in the NHL due to the vicissitudes of some ping pong balls had an outstanding individual game in his team’s OT loss.

On Auston Matthews:

I can’t really work up much of a froth about Auston Matthews himself. Any player scoring four goals is an incredible feat. That Auston Matthews scored four goals in his first NHL game ever is remarkable. The Auston Matthews chants that went up around the CTC were well deserved. I have no comeback to any of that.

I still gotta get on my Hater Grind though, and let’s face it, that is also why you are here. Let’s throw up that picture of Goldstein on the screen and get to…

THE TWO MINUTES HATE

It’s gotta be said that the Sens did lots to help Matthews look good. No one could clear the garbage on the first goal. Matthews’ second goal was a great showcase of his doggedness on the puck and the highlight that brought peace to the Middle East, but all I see when I watch that highlight is Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman failing to control pucks, Erik Karlsson being too soft on his own stick, and Craig Anderson getting beat by a really bad angle shot. If just one of those Sens does their job, Steve Dangle’s gotta find a new tombstone. Moving on, why are the Sens so soft on Morgan Reilly’s zone entry here? What is Dion Phaneuf covering, other than his own house in deep shame? What position does Cody Ceci think he’s playing in the buildup to Matthews fourth goal? The Sens had horrific breakdowns on all their goals against last night, and a single player benefited considerably from each of them.

Auston Matthews is gonna have a great individual career, but Toronto’s seen great individuals that still couldn’t drag the entire team to wins. This has also been the norm in Edmonton. Personally, I’d be wild tight if my team’s best player scored four goals in a losing effort. That’s the most Oilers-ass thing I’ve ever heard of.

Good game from Matthews though. Good for him. He’s good, a very good player. Good good good.

Good.

On the crowd at Canadian Tire Centre:

I saw a lot of rending of garments and gazing of navels on Twitter in the leadup to the home opener apropos of the (large) number of tickets still available. Ordinarily, a team’s first game of the season should be one of the better attended games of the year. It’s an Event! Hockey’s been gone for so long and it’s back! You get to see new players for the first time! Erik Karlsson is there! If you can’t bring out a big crowd to the home opener, you might as well pack it in, right?

Counterpoint: I can totally understand why Average Sens Fan wouldn’t want to pay Premium Ticket Prices to go out to a game mostly populated by Leafs fans on a Wednesday. Those Leafs/Habs tickets are ~3 times as expensive as a game against Minnesota or New Jersey. I know I wouldn’t pay that. If I didn’t know a guy who gave me a deal, I wouldn’t have gone either.

Leafs-Sens games in Ottawa make me believe in segregating supporters like they do in European soccer. It’s not a good vibe at the CTC for these things. It just isn’t. It’s always got tons of weirdly aggressive Leafs fans who just come out of the woodwork. I don’t mind that people cheer for the Leafs, but why do they have to be so in-your-face about it? Cheer for whoever you want, but I don’t want to have to see it.

So yeah, Loudmouth Bro in the Matthews Jersey negatively affected my experience. I’m not about to judge any Sens fan who stayed home because they wanted to watch the game on their television or mobile device sans pants and fans of the other team. Who did or did not show up to the game on Wednesday is not a commentary on the fanbase; it’s just a commentary on socioeconomic factors over which most of us have very little control.

On the Sens being bad:

The Senators were not good for long stretches of the game last night, and they were not good in many interesting ways. For all of Guy Boucher’s talk of systems and defensive structure, I didn’t see any last night. On an individual basis, the Sens were also sloppy. Between the failed zone exits, missed passes, pucks fired blindly up the middle, and lack of puck control, the Sens put on a masterclass of Bad Hockey. For all the fans who spent the off-season bemoaning the team’s mediocrity, this must have been very satisfying. You did it, my Boos. You were right all along. The team was bad. (A BAD TEAM THAT WON, THAT IS.)

The good news for the rest of us is that sloppiness is often transient. Anyone will tell you that the only way to get game reps is in games. Maybe we can send the whole team to Binghamton for a conditioning stint before the next game on Saturday so they can all play through whatever malaise is gripping everyone’s normally silky mitts.

As for the defensive zone coverage, we’re working on it. Still……working on it. *places shirt collar on Elon Musk’s shuttle and has it tugged it to Mars*

KOACHING KORNER
1. Cody Ceci needs to watch this game tape until he’s internalized the message.

2. Thank you for that demonstration of Mark Borowiecki. I am now ready to see Thomas Chabot for comparative purposes.

On the Sens being good:

Erik Karlsson’s going to have 400 shots and 100 points this year. Dude is playing Sweet Georgia Brown in the offensive zone at Petersonian speeds.

I think Dave Cameron encouraged EK to be more of a distributor instead of a shooter last year, and early signs are that Guy Boucher has instructed Karlsson to bomb the net like he’s Bruce Willis and it’s the only way to save the Earth from an asteroid strike.

Derick Brassard is good, extremely good. I think he might be better than Mika Zibanejad. His goal on a great individual effort was soul soothing and restored my waning spirit.

While Ottawa didn’t score on the powerplay, they should have as Mike Hoffman was robbed by Andersen off a beautifully worked shot late in the 1st period.

Finally, I would like to express my great appreciation for that piece of performance art that was Ottawa’s overtime shift. Everything about those 37 seconds was perfect. Karlsson’s patience to enter the zone, and then leave it again after he didn’t like what he saw was consummate professionalism. The tic-tac-toe setup to finish the game was the greatest existing argument for giving Michelin stars to hockey plays.

Some people might give Matthews a hard time for losing Turris on the play, but I don’t really think it’s right to do so. He’s only 19 years old. He’s got time to learn. Plus, Matthews had already scored 4 goals! Toronto isn’t even in the position to lose that game in overtime if not for Matthews. One defensive lapse does not wipe out all the good Matthews did in that game. In short, I will not stand for the Spezzification of Auston Matthews. I know a lot of people will want to hang the blame for this loss on Auston Matthews, but it’s wrong and anyone doing such things should be ashamed of themselves. If you’re someone who is perpetuating the idea that it’s Auston Matthews’ fault that the Leafs lost, you should ask yourself if you’d still want him on your team. I think we all want Auston Matthews on our team, we just don’t want him on the ice in overtime when one defensive mistake can cost you the game. That said, he’s just one man; he can’t be expected to do it all himself against all-world talent like Erik Karlsson, Mark Stone, and Kyle Turris. Even if Auston Matthews could have done better on that play in particular, it’s not good form to point it out. Let’s just celebrate what an amazing night this young man had, instead of dwelling on the single fly in the ointment which is the blown defensive zone coverage on Turris’ overtime winner. I will not send The Soup of Matthews back to the kitchen simply because The Cockroach of Kyle Turris resides within. Such bad defending during a critical moment of the game could have happened to anyone, but it didn’t; it happened to Auston Matthews and that’s not his fault, except for the ways in which it is entirely his fault, which is most of the ways. Ok, even if it is his fault, there’s a kind of cosmic justice in the fact that he got to ruin his own debut. Sure, Kyle Turris’ glorious snipe over the listless glove of Frederik Andersen was like Sidney Crosby’s mustache painted over the Mona Lisa, but at least Da Vinci himself i.e. Auston Matthews was the one who painted it. As Thelonious Monk once said, “If you make a mistake, play it loud. Then people will think you did it on purpose.”, and by that standard, there can be no question that Auston Matthews made this mistake loudly, and on purpose. Let us all just move on from this mistake that Auston Matthews made.

James Day Preview: Sens-leafs. Catch the Taste or Whatever

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See me at the spot with that vanity tag featuring the 2016-17 motto.

 

It’s time. I’m pulling up to the 2016-17 Ottawa Senators season. Hair lookin DEEC(ish), smellin’ more or less right, hands moisturized and packing an extremely healthy relationship with the sport of hockey. Look, as an adult person who’s definitely not a virgin (check out sex tape and past), I absolutely didn’t change my computer password today because it’s always the name of a Sens player and I have never believed in the past that my password choice may have played a part in bringing the player bad luck. As such, NO I didn’t feel compelled to switch it from a roster player to a retired player for cosmic alignment purposes and things of that nature. I just did regular normal things. I should also mention that I did not decide to watch the game from my mobile command centre beneath the Earth’s crust instead of a bar or the CTC because when Ottawa plays Toronto I get too mean if the Sens are winning and I drink too heavily and get too aggressive if Toronto is winning. Just a day filled with a bunch of healthy things about a thing I believe I enjoy over here. Good. Now that we’ve clarified that:

 

Hi.

 

So, listen, maybe I spend far too much on the ol’ Sensphere (RIP the word ‘maybe’) but things seem almost stunningly grim out there going into this season. It’s pretty much been a rough ride since beating Montreal in the playoffs a few years back. The team never seemed to round that corner that many of us thought they’d reached. In the piss stream media, I read over and over that the Sens have done nothing to improve. I’ve seen many predictions for bottom 5 finishes. That last year’s poor result is this year’s poor result. Thanks, why even watch! While there is still a Clarke MacArthur shaped hole in our hearts, I have to say the Sens are still not world beaters but are better than last year’s and will be better. I’ma break this hater shit down one time:

– Kyle Turris bent his leg at an angle not in accordance with God’s Plan and kept playing for some reason and went from being on pace for a career best year to finishing with a career low in points. He was basically the Montreal canadiens of players last year.
CONTROVERSIAL TAKE: I believe, a healthy Kyle Turris is better than a very much injured Kyle Turris. I’m sorry I just do. A top line centre that improves on better than career worst numbers and doesn’t make you feel sympathy pangs when you watch him skate? This MAY have an effect.

– Like it or not I need to write this message in the sky in gossamer teardrops: Dion Phaneuf IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSSSSS a better option than Jared Cowen [currently fighting contract buy out] and Patrick Wiercioch (52 GP: 0G, 5A). Also speaking of God’s Plan, in Phaneuf, the team also finally has an option better than Mark Borowiecki to play with Karlsson if when Marc Methot goes down with an injury. Do not @ me.

– I do drink the Kool Aid that Derick Brassard will be a more consistent player than Mika Zibanejad. After a summer of projecting the future and blah blah blah I’m talking now. I think we’re going to love this guy.  If you are really in your feelings about losing Ziba still, I understand but hopefully you can eventually find solace in that Brassard will easily be as good as Zibanejad and might be a better fit for the line up (read: A centre who’s good at making plays).

– Dave Cameron is gone. You know, former British Prime Minister who played Mark Borowiecki as a forward? Yeah. More than once. More than once. More than once. More. Than. Once. He has been replaced by Guy Boucher. A coach with NHL experience who claims that he plans to play to the players’ respective strengths. I think if he just follows through on some of what he’s said in the off season, that will be an improvement over the shit like: Borowecki as a winger over ANY other forward, Boro-Karlsson instead of Anyone Else-Karlsson, Benching Hoffman, Hoffman NOT playing regularly on the power play, Hoffman on the 4th line, Hoffman on the bench, line juggling cokedreams, etc. Just don’t do those things and that’s an improvement. I should mention the biggest potential boost of all…

Hey, Come Here and Check this out:

I don’t know if Mike Babcock’s stratagem involves his dumb, shitty team never taking a penalty at any point during the game but should that not work out I would advise everyone to be safe. In a post-Dave Cameron paradigm, the thing I am most looking forward to seeing is the power play unit that that Guy Boucher has assembled:

Ryan – Brassard – Stone

Hoffman – Karlsson

See…it’s not that haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard.

Yo, that crew is so obvious and good that if there even is a second unit I don’t care if it’s this:

Neil – Miniature Schnauzer – Konopka

Borowiecki – Frozen Dinner

3 forwards who can both score and set up goals and the team’s two best shooters up top? Just keep them out there the full two minutes. Honestly, all I  ask as a fan is if that formation doesn’t score the first WEEK of the season just keep them To-Geth-Er. They eventually will score a lot, I promise. If that power play can’t do better than 26th in the league well…I will continue to not know anything about the sport of iced hockey.

 

Oh Right the Fucking Game:

The rebuilding leafs are looking a lot like another exciting, up and coming franchise to the West, the Edmonton Oilers. Some exciting young forwards, a group slightly melted troll dolls dressed up in knockoff NHL uniforms on defense and this year’s model of starting goalie <insert name> who is either playing hurt or will look like they are playing hurt.

Seriously, that defense is a sight. Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner are deec but Roman Polak? Matt…Hunwick? Who the hell are these dudes? Martin Marincin? Did Toronto do a blockbuster swap with the Orlando Solar Bears that I didn’t know about? Wow, Morgan Reilly was second in leafs scoring with 36 points. SECOND. Mmm, cool, he managed 27 assists. That just edges Erik Karlsson’s 25 POWER PLAY assists. Did I mention that was on one of the worst power plays in the league? It’s almost like they are the reigning worst team in the entire league.
Anyway, I’m sure he, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone will go easy on them out there.

Freddie Andersson (?) gets a rare start in net. Yet another product from the goaltending factory of Denmark. Note to the young netminder: If Hoffman or Karlsson looks like they might take a shot in your direction probably best to just get out of the way. Goalie equipment has come a long way but can only do so much. Be safe tho.

Anyway, whatever. Nothing gets Sens fans in their feelings more than a leafs game on home ice. Regardless of your overall outlook on this year’s model of the Senators, they are way fucking better than the leafs and need to win games like this.

 

Now go out there boys and HAVE FUN.

 

 

 

 

……..no, seriously, win the fucking game. Show a little respect for the community.

 

 

The Jail Phone: Training Camp Battles

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“How you never gonna be slow? Never be late?” – Avon Barksdale worries about the Bobby Ryan contract

Once a month, James and Luke sit down separated only by a piece of plexiglas and talk shit for a few hours. The Jail Phone is a recurring segment containing the transcripts of those conversations. Today’s discussions are about theft…theft of roster spots.

Mike Costco vs. Mark Borowiecki vs. Thomas Chabot vs. Freddie Claesson vs. Patrick Sielof vs. Infinity

James: Ahh, nothing like starting off with the high stakes drama that is The Battle of the Bottom Pairing.

Playing 63 games with the big club in 2015-16 (SPLITTING TIME BETWEEN DEFENSE AND FORWARD BECAUSE NEVER FORGET) one would think that Mark Borowiecki was a lock for the bottom pairing job to start this season. A few things have changed over the past few months however. As we all know, Mark has a reputation as the Senators’ Extremely Local Boy and that he gets the more ice time than he deserves because of his local work ethic more than his local abilities. Fair. This year could be a bit different. First of all, along with a new General Manager under a lot of pressure in his first season on the job, there’s also an entirely new coaching staff with a ton to prove. This staff features a head coach who is billed as an offensive/power play mastermind who has embraced analytics as a tool for decision making. Offense and advanced stats; that cannot bode well for Borowiecki can it? The other thing no one seems to be talking about is that Boro missed the last stretch of the season with a knee injury. Do you think Boro could see a lot of scratches this year and be used sparingly for regional face punching in games against Boston or teams of that nature? As much as it’s pumped up that he can do no wrong with the organization I think it could get quiet for Borocop and that this door is wide open. For a broke team, they sure didn’t seem to have a problem burying former Golden Child Colin Greening in Binghamton at nearly two and a half times the price. He’s got the heart and all but can Boucher and co. afford to roll with the least talent player on the team game in and game out? If not, who do you see making that electric slide into his spot?

Luke: I think Mark Borowiecki is my 6th or 7th favourite defenseman on the Ottawa Senators, but I can’t honestly say that I dislike him with the Nerudian passion of others. I’m never going to sit at a bar and tell you about all the ways Boro is good, but I also find the ways in which he is bad pretty inoffensive. He couldn’t move the puck if you rented him a U-Haul and offered free pizza, but he’s generally in the right spot on the ice and he doesn’t shy away from the physical aspects of the game. As a honest, hard-working man, I can appreciate some meat and potatoes in my blue-collar lunchpail as much as the next unionized steelworker.

THAT SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAID…Mark Borowiecki was feeling good about himself to a degree that was, frankly, inappropriate last year. Here’s what he had to say about Erik Karlsson, his captain and the greatest defenseman of his generation:

“Karl, offensively, skill-wise, he’s a generational talent,” Borowiecki says. “You’ve got to let him do his thing. But it definitely is the coach’s job to kind of keep him reined in a little bit.”

Counterpoint: Your single goal last season was scored into an empty net so maybe you want to shut the fuck up until you start producing some offense that needs reining in, my G?

No doubt Boro is gonna go out there and give it 100% in camp, but for me the best case scenario is that his good example leads to Thomas Chabot also giving it 100% in camp and subsequently winning a permanent spot on the 3rd pairing, because I honestly don’t think Kostko or Claesson are any stronger in the areas where Boro is weak.

STAT TO WATCH: Can Patrick Sielof keep his goal-per-game pace at the NHL level?

CONCLUSION: Even if Chabot doesn’t win a full-time spot on the team, Boro should be the same as he always is. Expect Chabot to get his full 9 game tryout at the NHL level regardless.

James: So what you’re saying is Thomas Chabot AND Mark Borowiecki could both be working out their lacking defensive games at the NHL level. Moving on…

Francis Perron vs. Nick Paul vs. Ryan Dzingel vs. Matt Puempel

James: With Zibanejad, Prince, Noesen and 2014 first round pick all playing elsewhere now can we agree that Matt Puempel is pretty much playing for his NHL career with the team that drafted him…5 years ago. For a first round pick, this egg is going to have to step up to if not Faberge status at least omelette usefulness levels(???) if they are going to keep him around (or make him captain of the Binghamton Sens). There are many different paths to the big leagues, ask Mike Hoffman or Andrew Hammond but some stats are creeping up on Puempel. I wont take the low hanging fruit of how stridently he’s been surpassed by fellow 2011 draftee and National Treasure JG Pageau. But how about this? 2011 seventh round pick Ryan Dzingel now has more points at the NHL level than Puempel and in 9 fewer games. No question that Matt’s ceiling is higher but when you consider that the Dorion likely identifies Dzingel as “Erik Condra who can put the puck in the net occasionally” the chances of him finding a spot on the roster are likely better than Puempel’s of “Probably a good goal scorer who was outscored by several of his less skilled contemporaries who’d played fewer games” A lot is made of player usage and again, that’s fair but you gotta outshine future 4th line meat bag Max MacCormick. Not like he’s spent any time on a line with Bobby Ryan like Puempel has. Most damning is that Buddy Robinson got within one point of him in THREE games. I acknowledge that these numbers are all very close and of small sample sizes but you’d think Puempel should be pulling away from the pack at some point soon.

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I know I’m coming off like a Negative Nedra (?) but there’s more to this than simply giving it to you straight like a pear cider made of 100% pears. I think because all of the questions and concerns I’ve outlined, barring a very unlikely poor showing at camp, Puempel gets a full time slot on the team. They know what they have in Dzingel and he’s a great injury call up. Paul is only 21 and could still stand some AHL time, Perron looks fantastic but weighs 160 pounds despite being 6 feet tall and needs to spend time riding the bus hitting all the Broome County Denny’s locations to bulk up. I see Puempel getting a last chance to show his worth.

Luke: Ah yes, The Battle of the Left Wing Prospects of Dubious Ceiling.

My infatuation with “Pope” Francis Perron has not been a secret. The Sens took a flyer on him in the 7th round in 2014, let him develop in the Q for two more years and he responded by putting up 141 points in 80 total games last year. Yes, I understand that he was an over-age player in the Q, but wouldn’t you rather have a guy like that totally dunking on fools instead of being *ok* in their Draft+2 Year? Pope Francis was dunking last year. He’s barely signed his first pro contract and he’s already drawing comparisons to Mike Hoffman. Mike Hoffman is…*googles “is mike hoffman good?”*…quite good, so that’s an encouraging sign. So yeah, he’s young, he hasn’t done anything in a pro league yet, he’s probably too small to make the NHL out of camp, but he’s got a shot like a sci-fi weapon and he’s full of hope and promise, and I refuse to be anything but a shameless homer about his chances to develop into a great NHL-er. When was the last time the Senators had a prospect who just dominated a junior league? This guy is our Mitch Marner and I’m going to act like it, dammit.

Where there is optimistic Yin, there must also be cynical Yang, and it is at this point that I must ask Matt Puempel to step forward. Matty P had 30 goals a few seasons ago in Binghamton, a fact about which we were all very excited. He’s followed up on this by scoring an underwhelming 6 points in 39 NHL games, and things have not been amazing in Binghamton either. Since that 2013-14 30 goal season, Matt Puempel hasn’t scored 30 AHL goals total, soooooooooo………I think that’s a wrap. It happens. Sometimes your late 1st rounders aren’t as good as you’d like. Maybe Puempel comes out and has a great camp and pre-season and eventually finds a home on the 3rd line, but at 23 years old, I’d say this is definitely his last chance to make that happen and I wouldn’t bet on it.

Nick Paul and Ryan Dzingel are similar players in that they both looked decent in their limited NHL time last season despite their crippling handicap of playing on the same line as Chris Neil and Scott Gomez respectively. Based purely on some arbitrary eye test shit, I’d say I like Dzingel’s game more than Paul’s, although Paul is three years younger and probably has the higher ceiling. Basically I expect Paul and Dzingel to be the main combatants for the bottom 6 left wing spots and I don’t have a problem with either or both of them earning it.

James: I wouldn’t say it’s cynical to doubt that a first round pick will become something. In that post you linked to that a guy who’s extremely not a virgin wrote, you’ll note that two previous Bingo 30 goal scorers included Mike Hoffman (definitely an NHL player) and Ryan Keller (help Wiccanpedia by expanding this stub). Just because Puempel is a first round pick don’t mean homeboy has a leg up on his competition. He might just get a little more of a look as clubs hate to flop on first rounders. I’ve done a couple posts over the years examining the pedigree of various Sens lineups and my findings are that full time players tend to be from both poles of the draft. Take last year’s top six:

MacArthur (3rd rounder) – Turris (3rd overall) – Ryan (2nd overall)
Hoffman (5th rounder) – Zibanejad (6th overall) – Stone (6th rounder)

That’s the most fun thing about the draft and watching prospects develop. The high end guys obviously get every chance to make it but no one can predict that a sixth rounder will rocket up the depth chart and put up a Calder worthy rookie season. The first round is weird. You can be just on the cusp of the 2nd rounder but still have those first rounder expectations. “I’m not playin wit u” – Jim O’Brien, person. Zibanejad developed much better than Puempel has…which is likely part of why he was selected 18 spots ahead of him. Anyway, when you have a season like Francis Perron just did your lack of pedigree no longer matters. He’s made himself one of the team’s top prospects like how Stone did a few years ago. Speaking of NHL players lacking pedigree…

Max McCormick vs. Chris Neil

James: I will say, Max McCormick is not the type of player who will ever set the advanced stats crowd aflame. We’re not even allowed to get excited about Zack Smith scoring 25 goals. Not even for a minute. His goals are bad. Whatever don’t @ me, I digress. Max is the type of player who has that “Hardest Worker at Rookie Camp” stank on him that will never wash off with some fans and yet makes him a legit award winner to others and I say all that to say this: Regardless of how you feel about him, you have to admit McCormick did not really look out of place at the NHL level. He knows what his assignment is and looked pretty capable of it. He is the heir apparent to Chris Neil’s…uh…throne? Chair? Chair as a GOOD BEAUTIFUL RURAL WISCONSIN BOY KEEPIN EM HONEST OUT THERE AND EVERYTHINK LIKE THAT. That said, there are a couple of factors that I think will have Max Keeping (‘Em Honest) in the Southern Tier region of New York State another year. The first is, despite getting up there in years, Neil upped his game from “Bullshit” to “Deec” last season. He did nothing to make me think that will be healthy scratched going forward. Especially given the organization’s emphasis on the need for veteran leadership. Second, he’s 24 games from hitting 1000 as a Senator. Regardless of your feels toward the B U S I N E S S of sport (aka why we all got into this stuff as kids) I think Neil hitting 1000 games is important to both him and the organization. I believe that this will likely be Neil’s final year with the team and possibly in the NHL. They’re going to play him a lot. Hopefully he can cut down on his 165 penalty minutes (down 46 minutes or a full episode of the hit TV melodrama Nashville from his last full season). I have no reason to think Neiler won’t show up to camp slim with the tilted brim as he impressively did last year. The only thing keeping him out of the starting line up is injury.

Luke: I hope Max McCormick turns into Chris Neil 2.0 i.e. a pesky spark plug who’ll chip in 20 points, won’t be a defensive liability, and will occasionally punch someone in the face if his coach thinks that’s important. (Ed. Note: I don’t think punching people in the face is important, and I hope that one day no hockey player will have to punch another hockey player in the face, but changing the hockey culture that is responsible for facepunching is beyond the scope of this Jail Phone.) Until that time, as you say, I guess we will deal with Chris Neil Classic.

I have no idea how to feel about Chris Neil. You’ve got to respect the hustle of a 6th round pick (who once had 354 PIMs in a single IHL season) who manages to have what will likely be a 1000+ game NHL career. I’ve been to many an Ottawa game where Neiler would wake up an otherwise sedentary winter weeknight crowd with a big hit or a fight. (Remember that time Neil nailed Dany Heatley? Who didn’t love that?) Also, as physical as the guy plays, I don’t think I’d characterize him as a dirty player. Like Chris Phillips, he’s been a fixture at various Ottawa area charity events for years. He had a big playoff goal. He’s been in commercials that aired only on Ottawa Public Access Television. He’s been on Ottawa teams that won a bunch. He’s been on Ottawa teams that were terrible. I guess the takeaway is that as good as Chris Neil was at his role, it wasn’t a role that had much effect on the fortunes of the Ottawa Senators. Like your family’s ancient cat, Chris Neil’s been around forever, but it’s not difficult to imagine a past without them as your life would be largely unchanged, except you’d have cleaned puke off the carpet much less. (P.S. RIP My Family’s Ancient Cat. 1998-2016)

How best to commemorate an such a veteran in what is likely to be their last season? Probably with a hashtag. I would like to submit #RE25ECT for consideration.

James: Sorry 2 hear about your Ancient Cat’s Passing. Speaking of an Ancient Cat and little pukes…

Curtis Lazar vs. Logan Brown vs. Chris Kelly

James: *Thinking emoji* This is weird. I didn’t even consider something like this. You’d think Kelly is a lock but I’m not about to talk smack about Borowiecki coming off a rough injury without acknowledging Kells coming off a far worse one at almost 10 years his senior Luke, can you tell us how we feel about this?

Do you really think Brown has a shot?

Luke: Chris Kelly was brought in to provide some more options on the 4th line, but I think it would be foolish to write him into the lineup using permanent marker when Curtis Lazar’s been working on his shot all summer. Just as a little X-factor, we’ve got The New Hotness Logan Brown coming in with his first ever pro contract looking to turn some heads. No doubt Curtis Lazar and Chris Kelly have more NHL experience than Logan Brown, but Brown does have the advantage in one critical area: being 6’6″.

Also, I’ve been watching Logan Brown on tape, and that dude dishes the puck so well, he could make passing a kidney stone look easy. I think there’s a non-zero chance Brown shows enough in camp that Boucher pretty much has to keep the kid around. You wouldn’t normally expect your 18 year old 1st round pick to make an NHL team unless they were Connor McEichel or Sidney Hall, but again: Six Feet Six Inches Tall.

This spot is Kelly’s to lose, but Lazar and Brown will push him.

Craig Anderson vs. The Passage of Time

James: Thing I’ve been avoiding thinking about: Craig Anderson is getting up there in years. At a freshly turned 35, he’s in the top 5 of the Golden Goalie Oldies but I suppose it is comforting that there are other capable starters close to him in age. Luberto Rolongo and Ryan FUHHCKIIIN MILLAH are both older than him. Hunk Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne and Mike Smith are just a year younger. Some of those guys might be considered a little past their prime years but I think you could easily see another good year out of any of those dudes. Ah, on the topic of another good year, I think we probably have another good year max left out of Andy. This is curious as he has two years left on his deal but I suppose that’s another post about the Las Vegas Harlem Knights altogether. Anyway, if the legends are true that Boucher can improve defensive zone structure and that Dion Phaneuf is better than Wiercioch and Cowen than I think Anderson can get away with being solid instead of the usual outstanding that he has to be to keep games from being 8-2 by the second intermission. I guess you can say I think the bigger factor than Andy’s age is the team’s defensive play.

Luke: Craig Anderson is second all time in games played and wins by a Senators goalie, and there’s a pretty decent chance he passes Patrick Lalime in both categories this season. Should that happen, I think anyone would have to say Craig Anderson’s the best Senators goalie ever.

To your point about old goalies, I see what you are saying. Sure he’s 35, but he’s got as many minutes played as Carey Price and Pekka Rinne. Roberto Luongo is 37, and he’s still stoning youngsters like he’s Willie Nelson hotboxing his tour bus.

However, Price, Rinne, and Luongo have all dealt with extremely serious lower body injuries in the last two years. Rinne hasn’t been the same since, and while we’re going to have to see about Price and Luongo, it’s possible they won’t be the same either. (Interesting to note: Luongo’s team went and picked up a VERY competent backup this off-season, whereas Price’s team traded their best defenseman. Which one of these teams is more likely to be run by Smart People? HMMMMMM…mmmm…) Hey, does Craig Anderson have a history of injuries? Can anyone remind me?

I’m not yet entirely filled with predictions of Doom about Anderson’s level of performance, but he is getting into his “This guy could drop off a cliff for any number of reasons” years. Three years ago if Anderson had a bad season, it was because he was a goalie and these things happen. If Anderson has a bad season this year, it’s going to be because he’s old.

James: So what you’re saying is, be safe tho?

Zack Smith vs. Shooting Percentage Regression

James: Look, my Ayatollah Bromeini, I’m not out here saying Zachariah Smith is the new Mike Hoffman or some shit but it’s not like he was tapping in pretty Spezza dishes like Greening did when he put up 17. Smith had a really good season and I am really happy he’s coming in to camp thinking “I can score 25 goals.” Many refuse to admit it but Zack Smith is a very useful mid-6 player. As such, it’s not his job to score 25 goals again so I’m not expecting it. One thing I have said time and again over the years is Smith seems to either score 14 goals or 4. I am hoping he breaks his one again off again pattern and has one of those 14 years.

zmith

Luke: Not sure if you heard about this, but P.R. Hussein Dorion said on the radio that he thinks he has nine (9) twenty goal scorers on the team this year. I would guess he means Clarke MacArthur, Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Bobby Ryan, Derick (sic) Brassard, Mike Hoffman, Erik Karlsson, Zack Smith, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Here’s the thing about that: with the exception of Pageau (who had 19 goals last year) all those players are only 20 goal scorers in the sense that they have literally scored 20 goals in past seasons. Why is Dorion out here defining his players based on what they’ve achieved in the past? This dude lives in a fantasy world.

Anyway, Zack Smith isn’t going to score 25 goals again this year unless he takes a lot more shots, and that’s FINE. He’s not supposed to be the 25 goal scoring dude, but he stepped into a 25 goal scoring dude’s role and filled it anyway because he’s a goddamn professional. Having a bottom 6 guy who can also produce in the top 6 if he has to is aka “The Dream” by the way. Given that The Smit_Treat (???) nearly didn’t have a spot on the team following a fairly horrific wrist injury two seasons ago, I think it’s great that he had himself a career year if only to prove to himself and others that the game hasn’t passed him by.

Hell, maybe Zack Smith is the hockey version of Rookie of the Year and his injury was directly responsible for his improved scoring prowess. Keep your eye on that storyline.

Bobby Ryan vs. Expectations

James: We’re sorry, Bobby Ryan cannot meet expectations in this area code at this or any time. Please hang up and try your call to the Gabriel Pizza Hotline again. Seriously. As if the price of that trade wasn’t enough hanging over his head, that contract of his really sealed the deal. He will never be able to meet the expectations of many fans. Case in point, he’s increased his point total every year since coming here, including his best in 5 years last season. Yet he is seen as a massive disappointment. Getting paid more than Erik Karlsson will do that. I know, of course, it’s mainly because of his failure to meet the expectation of hitting 30 goals. At this point though, I believe the guy could put up 35 and be met with “Took you long enough” or “It’s not real unless you do it again.” With the addition of the play making Brassard I think he will be able to focus on his role as a goal scorer again. That’s something he’s barely been able to do since coming here from Anaheim. A lot is riding on he and Brass having good chemistry for sure. I hope at the very least it can allow Ryan to be a bit more consistent in his production throughout the season. I find his cold streaks as frustrating as the next fan I just wish he’d get some credit for the times he’s absolutely carried the team’s offense. Regardless, I think the minds of many are made up on the guy. It’s kind of a bummer that our fan base seems to have a tough time embracing such a likable player. I do understand it to a degree. How’s by you, @Perist_Treat?

Luke: From the fanbase that brought you “Jason Spezza turns the puck over too much” comes “Bobby Ryan gets paid too much”. You don’t go top 60 in NHL scoring without making a few enemies I guess. Here are some players Bobby Ryan outscored last year: Tomas Plekanec, Ryan Kesler, Gabriel Landeskog, Patrick Hornqvist, Nathan MacKinnon, T.J. Oshie, Henrik Zetterberg, Scott Hartnell, Patrick Marleau, Jarome Iginla, Dylan Larkin, Tomas Hertl, and Nazem Kadri. Hell, he was only two points back of Jonathan Toews. Maybe it’s time to *adjust* the expectations of what constitutes a good season. Top 60 scoring used to be 64 points in 2007 and now it’s 56 points. Put another way, what was Top 100 scoring in 2007 is now Top 60 scoring. It happens.

CONCLUSION: Bobby Ryan’s got a kid now, which means he’s gonna have Dad Strength, which means he’s gonna have a great year. Also Super-Genius Guy Boucher is gonna work magic with Ryan and Brassard on the powerplay. The Haters may now advance upon my position.

Derick Brassard vs. Kyle Turris

James: This battle is the one that I find the most interesting but no one is talking about it…UNTIL NOW! *Awkward pause*

Turris and Brassard will be a solid 1A and 1B combo. Well I think that just about wraps it u—. I don’t dispute the 1A/1B thing but there is still the matter of who(m) is the 1A and who(mb) is the 1B. When it was Zibanejad here, Turris was clearly the better of the two and as such was the top line guy. The much more comparable Brassard spices things up. I’ve heard Brassard referred to as the Sens new number 1 centre in a couple of articles. You can definitely argue that but these are competitive beings and the worrrrld is a competitive fuhhckin place. Kyle Turris will be entering his sixth season(!) here in the capital. Coming off an injury plagued year he started off hot but never got a real chance to follow up on his 64 point career season of 2014-15 . If he’s fully healthy, I’d imagine he’s coming into camp at least slightly picanté and isn’t about to give up the job he’s earned over the years. A lot is made of the left handed Brassard being a boost for Bobby Ryan but one wonders if a sub-competition emerges twixt Turris and Brassard of who gets to play with the more productive Mark Stone who seems to give zero fucks about the handedness of his centre nor if the other team has the puck for that matter. I really like the idea of these pretty similar players competing for top line duty. We all win if Brassard blows Turris out of the water as no.7 would make a pretty dynamite 2nd line pivot. Well, in a more accurate way, everyone but Turris wins there. Ultimately it’s up to Guy Boucher but I can’t imagine Turris won’t be trying to outshine Brassard and hang on to the 1A job.

Luke: If I were going to describe Kyle Turris as a hockey player, I’d use the phrase “relentlessly competent”. What can’t that guy do at an extremely high level? I hope we get a whole year of Pre-Injury 2015 Kyle Turris this season because he was on pace for 70 points before his leg was bent in a way not in accordance with God’s plan. Even if we don’t get Next Level Fuego Turris, I’m not worried about Kyle Turris Classic: The Relentlessly Competent Centre.

Before I continue, I must make the confession that I don’t know a goddamn thing about Derick Brassard. (Thx 4 reading? Thx 4 reading.) However, I did pop over to (Friend of the Blog) Micah Blake McCurdy’s website to check out how Brassard was being used in New York and the answer is…like a number one centre, so yeah, this is a legitimate battle. In terms of stats and usage, there’s very little to choose between Turris and Brassard, which is I’m perfectly ok with because if you’ve got a good player, why not have two? Brassard didn’t get as defensively important assignments as Derek Stepan in New York, but is that because Stepan is the better defensive centre or because Alain Vigneault is weird? It’s hard to say.

Ultimately, as you point out, the question of “Who is the number one centre?” might not be answered by ice time but by who is playing with Mark Stone, and there I’d have to say Kyle Turris has the inside track.

Remembering you like hockey

It’s that time of year, when NHL previews start to creep into our feeds like reminders of our father’s disappointment that we didn’t go to med school.

“I know you miss hockey, and can’t wait to cheer on the home team. Just remember… *whispers* Ottawa will finish bottom five.”

We’re about a month out from this appearing in magazines. Twitter, as always, is way ahead of the game.

Let’s forget for a moment what an unbelievable wet shit in the pants this is from a narrative standpoint, an example of a writer literally ignoring their audience, privileging their need for hot takes over the need for the reader to interact with something interesting and/or joyous. It’s asshole behavior, a phalanx of Actuallys carpet bombing what’s left of your childlike wonder . But I want to concentrate on the wrongness of the prediction itself.

Indulge me: I want to get excited about hockey.

Ottawa finished last season with 85 points, good for 19th in the league. Outside of Clarke MacArthur, they didn’t have much in the way of injuries. They need about 95-96 to compete for a wild card spot. So you can say, with some accuracy, that the team was not great. They weren’t close to sneaking into the playoffs, let alone contending.

They were also about 10 points up on the worst teams in the league.

So here’s the crux, which also happens to be a thing you can’t really sell a lot of magazines or generate a lot of blog hits writing about: 10 points in the standings, in either direction, is a big shift. Something has to go either really right or really wrong to experience a 10 point change.

Let’s look at some assumptions about the 2016-2017 Ottawa Senators, and at what kind of impact those assumptions might have on their place in the standings:

Everything goes as planned

  • Injuries can happen to anyone, and are totally unpredictable, so let’s look at the ecosystem of players as static, assuming every team gets to keep their lineup as is. Karlsson, in this universe, is invincible.
  • There’s a new coach. I think good players have a much bigger influence on performance than good coaching, but let’s assume Boucher’s system is appropriate for these players, and having NHL experience imbues some intangible whatevers. Let’s say that’s good for an extra 3 points in the standings.
  • Derick Brassard does turn out to be a better player than Zibanejad at this point in their careers, and pairs well with Bobby Ryan, bumping up his production. Let’s say, together, this accounts for another 2 points in the standings.
  • A full season of Phaneuf in place of Wiercioch might be a wash, but let’s say it provides an extra .5-1 point.
  • Clarke MacArthur plays a full season. Maybe another point.
  • Boro doesn’t play at forward. Or anywhere else. Maybe another point.
  • The team’s powerplay and penalty kill improve. They win 1-2 more shootouts than they did last year. Another 2-3 points.
  • Chris Kelly is a serviceable depth player. The youngins keep developing. This is a wash for weird and nice things that happened last year, like Zack Smith scoring 25 goals. (Which, btw: remember that?)

So that’s an extra 10 points in the standings. An unsustainable run of great goaltending, some high shooting percentage, some random puck luck and you’ve got better than a wild card team. It’s not likely, but if you squint and look sideways you can see a scenario in which Ottawa improves that much.

Nothing goes as planned

As simplistic as this math is, let’s just reverse all of the above, with the correlative subtraction of the same point totals. You end up with the team scoring about 8 points less in the standings (because in this scenario their PP and PK don’t get worse, they just stay bad), and with bad luck you can stretch that to 10-12. Only then do you have your situation where Ottawa is competing for 30th in the league.

My point here being that a lot of things have to line up just so for this to happen. It’s equally unlikely that Ottawa would be truly awful as it would be for Ottawa to suddenly be a scary playoff team. It’s almost as if what I said at the beginning of this article was something I intended to swing back to right here: 10 point swings in the standings are exceedingly rare, especially in a league with parity and shootout points.

Which brings me back to the same point I make every year around this time: what exactly is the utility of a person who writes season previews predicting a 10 point swing for any team? And why does it seem so much more fun for them to predict a negative swing for Ottawa than a positive one?

When they do this, it’s usually in the form of “popular team X has added popular free agent Y, so now they’re a legit contender,” which almost never happens. Or “less popular team X has made fewer moves and weren’t great last season, so they’ll be terrible” which reeks of having to fill out the bottom halves of their brackets to account for the wild optimism of predicting success for larger markets.

To a degree, I understand selling this crap for magazines. They’re trying to sell paper to as many people as possible, and are hanging on by their fingernails doing it. I don’t fault them putting Crosby on the cover, or covering the Leafs and Habs to death, or skewing their predictions to make hockey exciting for the greatest number of people. They’re selling the narrative, not the science, and that’s OK. I didn’t read No Country for Old Men to learn about our aging demographics.

But when it comes to the online community, including Sens fans, I’m not sure if I’ll ever understand the doom-and-gloom predictions that start to poke up every fall – their intensity or their perpetuity. There’s a robust community of fans, local and otherwise, who truly look at this team and see something that is 10 points worse than last year. How is that possible? Who is their audience? Where does this come from? And why isn’t there an equally large community looking at the equally unlikely scenario of the Sens being 10 points better?

I write a post like this every year, but maybe there’s more utility in talking about what we’re excited about, how things can go right, than there is in acknowledging that things might go wrong.

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