2010.11.01: In which yet another Saturday night loss prompts a group therapy session

Conrad to Peter, James

So, we’ve mentioned off and on how much Ottawa stinks on Hockey Night in Canada, and a superior blog went and quantified the stank. Over on Black Aces, Jeremy outlines how the Sens have lost 11 of their last 12 Saturday night games. And many of the games were outright ugly losses, too: they were outscored 48 to 17 over that stretch.

What with being so streaky, Leclaire getting hit on the bench with a flying toilet seat, our newest starting goaltender being an opened patio umbrella, and Jason Spezza, the Sens are essentially a collection of superstitions gone bad. Not terribly weird for pro athletes, except when our superstitions tend to involve playing hockey while being broadcast on television. This team needs some luck.

So, the season is just over a tenth through, and it’s still early enough that even with them being below .500 they’re only a couple points out of the playoffs. If they continue to play at this pace, at what point, if at all, do you make a move? Should this team pull off a trade to try and right the ship?

I’m on record as saying that this team could use a rebuild, so I think that if the team is below .500 come the halfway mark it needs to start preparing for the trade deadline in a big way. What I think is more likely, however, is that this team trades a young player with some upside – Foligno, Regin, maybe a prospect – and a pick for a forward like Cullen (but not Cullen) who won’t single-handedly solve the scoring problems but is expected to push the rest of the room. This strategy will only stall the inevitable. Though I hate to think what attendance will look like if the Sens miss the playoffs for 3-4 seasons.

Love song to another team: I know Nashville is just about the least sexy team in the league to follow, but it really is pretty incredible how they’re always in the thick of the conference with so little to work with. They lost Arnott and Hamhuis – a core leader and a valuable shut-down defenceman – and didn’t miss a step. This is the story every year. Think about what the loss of Volchenkov and Sutton did to us. One of these days the fans in Nashville will be rewarded with a long playoff run.

Peter to Conrad, James

The only upshot of a terrible Saturday night sens performance is a mildly drunk Conrad spewing epithets directed at HNIC support staff.

Yes, the Sens could use a rebuild, but how? There is no real template for a quick rebuild. We’re all in agreement that a 4-5 year plan of reaganomics would pretty much bring out the “meh” in most Ottawa fans. So how do we pull this off? The models for Pittsburgh and Washington and even Chicago all involve extended periods of cellar dwelling. San Jose went the blockbuster trade route (twice!).

I’m not entirely sure we need a complete tear down. One thing I will say is we need to pull off a trade of a major asset for an impact player and pics with bona fide potential. If I were Brian Murray I’d wait about a month then get my flying monkey scouts to every contending team’s AHL games. We have young talent (which we don’t play, so this plan might get gangrene before we even get a chance to amputate) but there is a serious lack of offensive dynamism.

Ideally I’d like to see Murray target a team new to contending for a playoff with questionable management (hello, Islanders!) to try and steal a young, talented finisher and a pick. I think it might be time to trade Jason Spezza, if only he’d play better so we can showcase him to potential suitors.

Then there’s always the trade Alfie to a genuine contender route, though I don’t think I could take him in a Habs jersey. Gah, the goggles, they do nothing!

Conrad to Peter, James

I agree that the 5 year rebuild is hard to swallow, but I’m also a strong believer that there are two ways that a team rebuilds – 1) when they have expiring or reasonable contracts for high-priced veterens that could yield a return, or 2) when the wheels come off the wagon, like in Edmonton last year, and the team is forced. The Oilers aren’t rebuilding…they’re just terrible. They’re spending to the cap, and aren’t able to trade assets, so they’re not maximizing their return like Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Los Angeles or Washington did. (They’re also burning a year on all their young kids’ ELCs, which is an awful idea, but that’s another story…)

Ottawa will be forced into a rebuild sooner or later. The worst case scenario isn’t going for it now, but signing some high-priced UFAs in the offseason and then having to do it later anyway. You could be right, Pete, in that maybe the team only really needs one or two high-ish end prospects, but I’m not so sure.

I would start by trading Phillips at the deadline. It would be sad to see Big Rig go, but with an expiring and extremely affordable contract ($3.5M/year) and tons of experience, Ottawa might be able to get a pick and / or a prospect at the deadline.

Kovalev is a given, though what Murray could get is a mystery. It seemed last year like all mid-level players yielded a 2nd round pick. Is Kovelev even mid-level anymore?

A Spezza trade might also be good, though with that contract Ottawa would have to take bad salary back – the only teams at least $7M under the cap don’t have $7M in cash to spend for the next few seasons. I think the Sens are stuck building around Spezz for the time being. Also keep in mind that there’s nothing resembling a 1st line center in the Sens’ prospect pool, so that’s a lot of years of watching Mike “Not a legit 2nd line center” Fisher as our primary playmaker.

Speaking of Fish, I hear he and Nashville are sweet on each other. Nashville is flush with blue-chip defensive prospects and, as we all know, Murray has a boner for those types of players. Can’t help but feel that Murray would go for a straight-up Fisher for Roussel or Franson (Blum is probably ungettable given this team will probably lose Suter, like, next season or something).

Ruutu is on an expiring contract, though no one thinks of him as a game-changer. I’d also like to see him re-signed, given he’s affordable and plays on the kill. There has apparently also been an interest in Kelly.

Finally, if Alfie will waive his no trade clause he could garner the biggest return. His cap hit is less than $5M, and his salary dips from $7M to $4.5M next year (and $1M after that). He’s still playing at a point-per-game pace. This is risky, though, as trading the franchise’s most beloved player could result in more than disinterest from the fans. The Sens could have wholesale mutiny on their hands.

James to Conrad, Peter

I had to meet up with some friends from out of town on Saturday night. They aren’t hockey fans so I made sure to select a place that provided a great atmosphere but was also a place where I would still be able to “keep an eye on the game.” Now, typically I full out watch a game rather have it on in the background. But on top of wanting to be a good host I just knew the Senators taking Saturday night’s tilt would be more of a pleasant surprise than anything *cue sad Charlie Brown music*. When it comes to hockey or sports in general I definitely give trends the time of day. I also don’t recognize them as absolutes. I see a home game vs. Buffalo as a hot ticket (meaning likely a Sens win) but was not livid when they dropped the season opener to them. They were due, as they say. The last game against Thomas a season ago, all the media talked about was how Thomas blah di blah never loses to the Sens…then he got chased in the first period en route to an Alfie hat trick.

Nevertheless, I was already hip to this trend pointed out by Jeremy, as I often try to incorporate a Saturday night Sens HNIC (with the sound off) into my plans…As you could imagine I have a lot of sad memories. Further, the only time the Sens don’t get absolutely blown out by Toronto lately is on a Monday morning when the game is broadcast on W⋍ϧϥ̆ϤΏ Ràdio Konstantinople. So what the hell is it? Can the boys just not perform on the big stage? Are the Sens “due” already, frig?

At any rate, still don’t feel you on the rebuild. It’s too extreme. I think you can’t go from a playoff miss by a couple of points, then MAKE the playoffs with a seriously depleted line up, and then call for a complete overhaul. Does anyone want to go see the Atlanta game on Tuesday? I’ll go if you guys want but I don’t think a lot of people in the city will. So if our fans wont make it out to ANOTHER city’s rebuilding team…I am not comfortable counting on us making it out game after game to see our own homegrown shit pile. To build on what Peter was saying, the requisite cellar dwelling for 4-5 years also comes with the whole teetering on the brink of folding, in most cases. Sorry, memories of already nearly losing the team are still too fresh. We basically had to give Melnyk SBP tax free to get him to buy.

Our depth is crazy good, our prospects are looking great too. There are admittedly some big flaws in the fundamentals. A top 4 shutdown D man, a better than average goaltender (I know, sky-high expectations over here), someone who can fill in as a finishing RWer in a post-Alfie world (shudder). Three players. It could cost us some of our depth, but I just think this is doable considering the sea change in contracts approaching next season.
Like I have said many times in this still very young season, with eleventy squillion dollars soon coming off the books, I’d like to see what we can get in the off season.

I still can’t get behind this trade Spezza talk. First line centres are too rare. Getting rid of Joe Thornton didn’t do the Bruins any favours. We are too emotional with Spezza. I get, get, get the frustration. I get it. But nobody is going to trade us their better centre for him and we don’t have a sure-thing pivot on the farm. I just think everyone would be 10 times as pissed to see Spezza go with nothing on the horizon and sit through Ian White putting up what will always be disappointing numbers for the team. Want to talk rebuild? Look how dumb Milbury looked for giving us Spezza in the first place…a point per game 1st line pivot for a quick fix “impact” guy. I think Murray would look just as stupid letting him walk for a lesser scapegoat. He was a point per game coming off a groin injury last night. I think we are already too impatient with a half-decent team, let alone half a decade of a dog and pony show

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7 thoughts on “2010.11.01: In which yet another Saturday night loss prompts a group therapy session

  1. “Our depth is crazy good our prospects are looking great too.”

    Uh oh, James has figured out a way to fax acid. We pay Matt Carkner money to play hockey and Bingo is a .500 team. These are facts.

  2. well I was going to point out that part of our current flawed line up is that we rely too heavily on boarderline NHLers like Carkner and Elliot but the internet ran out of bandwidth on my post…i thought i covered this by saying we need a better goaltender and a top 4 shutdown d. Anyway, I still feel the Kelly, Neil, Ruutu line is a great depth line. Ten games in Im not suddenly going to think Foligno and Regin are terrible

    Prospects: Hoffman, Weircoch, Butler, Lehner, Gryba, Cowan…sorry I feel pretty good about those prospects.

  3. To my eyes the Sens never seem able to change up their game plan when things go south. EX. The Bruins keep one forechecker and collapse down in front of the net and at the same time are winning all the defensive battles, so…. the sens either:

    A) turn the puck over/carry the puck up the middle into the waiting arms of Chara(wouldn’t he be helpful in a Sens jersey still)
    or
    B) dump and chase… only, they half chase… and lose possession, again.

    I don’t know the answers to this problem… I’m no coach…from my hockey days it would’ve been “Skate harder, skate at the net, shoot from everywhere and make sure you hit the net.”

    I would argue our team is in a re-build now. We’ve enjoyed a lot of success (if you see success as making the playoffs and securing at minimum 2 more home games each year… which I do). I would strap in boys and enjoy the ride… Murray’s contract is up within the year… and my sneaking suspicion is that no major team altering will occur without our fearless owner sticking his nose in. Murray may very well have wanted to trade Spezza at the end of last season, we’ll never know. and I admit I could be very wrong about how much influence Melnyk has in the day to day. But whatever needs to be done I think they should get a move on.

    It’s seems hard to make a strong case to trade a struggling player who (when healthy) averages a point a game. But I would argue that any NHL caliber forward with the wherewithal to keep his stick on the ice, cruise to the slot and possess that wonderful quality to hit the net would be a welcome change and with the player(s) that could come from a Spezza move I think that average point per game would still be on the ice.

    Unfortunately, if Spezza is moved (hopefully to the West somewhere), (Iginla for Spezza… yes please) he would light it up and be unstoppable, it’s just the way things go. Hopefully whoever we may get in return would do the same.

    Hopefully I’m wrong and Spezza gets better… scores a bushel full of goals/points, takes this team by the gonads and makes it his. Then this marginal start of the season will be a small hurdle that was overcome when we’re looking back in March well poised for another long playoff run.

    -great job on the blog les boys! I’m loving the photoshop work!!

  4. I think we tend to look at our prospects and get excited because we’re close to the team, but there’s no way when you look at our three or four pretty decent defensemen and compare them to a team that went through a rebuild – Washington or St.Louis I’m thinking of, in particular – does it come close. I look at the wealth of resources a team like St. Louis has, and yeah they aren’t blowing anyone away right now, but I’m still jealous. I don’t think that QJMHL forward we picked up in the third round whose ceiling is as a fourth liner is going to be cracking the lineup anytime soon.

    I know as a fan that I could last through 3-4 seasons of no playoffs and get excited about having a few top ten picks, and I’m idealistic in that I think if the city had it put to them in just that way – i.e. “look, this is how you win a Cup” – that they’d understand. I also think that if the arena wasn’t hell to get to and they had more deals and ticket giveaways you’d get through it. A packed building, even with a couple thousand tickets being free, breeds the kind of environment that will sell tickets. I also think that if you had three or four nights out of every month where beer was half price you’d pack the place, but that’s just Ottawa being cheap.

    Chris, I was just talking with a coworker about the inability to change mid-game. It seems to me that almost every team in the league is able, at a BARE FUCKING MINIMUM, to resort to the trap when up or down by a goal. That every player knows how to do it. But Clouson never, ever does, and you’d think it would be worth a try when the defense stinks. Also frustrating is how mistakes seem to happen over and over again, i.e. not just one breakaway given up, but TWO ON THE SAME SHIFT. After that happens, how do you not just line up five guys on the blue line? See also: Ottawa leading the league in Too Many Men penalties. What the fuck?

  5. @Conrad Jeez Louise I said we have some great prospects…..Im talking more about how I like the probability someone in the Wiercoch, Hoffman, Gryba, Cowan, Rundblad mix becoming an NHLer maybe two would be awesome. And thats coming from me who didnt think Karlsson would even make the NHL. And what we’re not liking Bobby B and Robin Lehner’s chances no mores?

    @Chris – Spezza for Iginla would be awesome until we discover there is no 1st line centre to set him up for the remainder of his Carlsberg years (his long standing problem in Calgary).

    @both of you – I completely agree about how frustrating it is when the Sens are winning and we dont trap up like mad just out of instinct. PROTECT THE NEST!!

    • I shouldn’t have taken the confrontational angle about the prospects. I like them too, problem is they don’t get any burn with the big club. It makes me think just how enamored are the Sens coaching staff with these guys? Hale was up, didn’t embarass himself but now that Kuba’s back we won’t see him again till after Christmas barring unforseen injuries.

      Also, when your 3rd and 4th line guys are carrying the play then there’s no room for the Butler’s and Locke’s of the world. There just isn’t a top 6 forward riding the bus between Bingo and Hershey.

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