Risk Assessment: Matt Puempel, the Senators, Drafting, and the Worst Blog Post Title

pumpel

With the closing ceremonies of the rookie tournament long in the rear view, Newfoundland sleepaway training camp done and now main camp well underway, I’ve been thinking about Madagascar a lot lately. I’ve also been thinking about all of those li’l rookies who are camping.
Who’s the new hotness? Who are the “past their prime” 23 year old senior citizens, who are the DARKEST horsies? I’ve been thinking about a you and one camper in particular. His name is Max Math Puempel.

Ever since his draft day I’ve been very interested in Matt Puempel as a prospect. Call me a changed man since Garbage Pick™ Erik Karlsson™ was selected in the first round back in 20 ought-8. Seemed like a crazy choice at the time to (seemingly) gamble on an undersized player let alone defenseman that high in the draft but that event pretty much single handedly changed my view of player selection to this:
Get good players, yes, for the love of Jah get only good players, but don’t be afraid to think outside the bun in the pursuit of acquiring those good players, player.
God, I am so poetic. That would look really nice on a throw cushion.

The 2011 draft was the perfect storm for taking the Karlssonian type high risk high reward action I’m talking about. With the three picks in the first round alone, Bryan Murray took power forward in the mould of Corey Perry, Mika Zibanejad at 6th overall and power forward in the mould of Corey Perry, Stefan Noesen at 21 with his first two selections. He grabbed a couple of guys who fit the bill of hard charging goal scorer with a mean streak that Bryan Murray makes no secret is his ideal type of player. Good, do your thing baby, after all, it should be noted that Murray drafted the real Corey Perry in 2003 at a Jim O’Brienesque 28th overall (Ed note: good value!).
Having more or less played it safe up to that point and with one pick remaining in round 1, the record seems to indicate that B. Murray and Co. felt it was time to take a wee gamble. That gamble was their selection of Matt Puempel (I need to find out what the origin of last name that is btw. He’s like this century’s Todd Gak) at 24th.
As Sens fans well know, the 2011 draft was a special one. Ottawa had an awful season finishing 25th in the league (hi haters!) and sold off many long time players including some fan favorites for picks. As a result of the team’s poor play and the copious amount of selections they’d get in that draft, one plucky young go-getter (me) paid particular attention to that year’s draft class.
I remember an adorable young chipmunk named Matt Puempel being described as one of the best pure goal scorers available. Oh, but he came with a catch. On top of nagging back problems, he had suffered a bone chip in his hip (Ed note: Gross!) that required risky surgery to repair and caused the CHL Rookie of the Year’s value to drop significantly on draft day. Advantage: Team with nothing to lose and a whole world to gain (That’s us btw. I know that was a totally insane way to describe the Ottawa Senators but my backspace key is broken so here we are).
Since making a full recovery from his surgery, Pumper(?) continued his torrid scoring pace in the OHL and made the jump to AHL where he tied Mike Hoffman for the team lead in goals with an impressive 30 in his debut campaign.
Now, its still very early but it seems the Sens made a good move taking a chance on the talented young man. He arrived at training camp this year as one of the team’s best prospects and so far has not disappointed. Let’s see how some of the riskier picks over the past few seasons have fared for the team:

2008
I’ve already noted that Erik Karlsson was a bit of a risk at least as far as Bryan Murray’s draft tendencies go. B-Murr is pretty averse to selecting a forward under 6 feet tall let alone a defenseman. Admittedly I thought it was pretty wild to take him so high with productive forwards like Tyler Ennis or Jordon Eberle still on the board but hey, that’s why I get paid the big bucks to blog (in Doni Brennan’s mumma’s basement).

Risk Vs. Reward: Spending a First Round Pick on an undersized defenseman was a pretty big statement especially when the draft was in Ottawa. But contrary to early scepticism, Erik Karlsson is slowly but surely shaping up to be a competent bottom pairing NHL regular.

2009
Jerry Cowen. Now, a hulking shutdown defenseman from a Saskatchewanese town of less than 700 people seems, at first glance, to be the least risky player you could ever draft. Consider though that he had reconstructive knee surgery just months before being selected. That’s a pretty damn big gamble to take him with a top with a top 10 pick. Despite everyone currently hating his guts, it should be kept in mind that he was coming off another significant injury last season *tugs collar clean off shirt* and should be given a bit more time to see the real Jared Cowen stand up (and hopefully not be severely hurt in the process).

Risk Vs. Reward: Still too early to tell, in my opinion. Come see me at the end of the season and we can talk about our emotions. In the meantime I offer young Jared this olive branch:  

2010
Uhh…Mark Stone couldn’t skate fast?…So they took him way deep in the 6th round…then… heeeee improved his production by scoring 78 more points (!!!)  in the season after he was drafted and THEN he finished his final junior year with 123 points in 66 games on some production of a level that got Alex Daigle hyped as the next Mario Lemieux. Not bad for a guy who played in a tough junior league and was taken at 178th.
What was I talking about? Oh yeah, risk stuff.
K. So, in 2010 I suppose the biggest risk Ottawa took was trading away their 1st, 2nd and 5th round picks. The 2010-11 Sens team was terrible and after going on record saying that “Anyone who thinks we should blow the team up, should blow themselves” (slight paraphrase) owner Eugene Melnyk flip flopped and gave Bryan Murray the green light to ship out high priced veterans (a strategy Melnyk has since become addicted to) which lead to both a draft lotto finish and 2011’s big crop of picks.

Risk Vs. Reward: Ignoring the trading of 16th overall pick for David Rundblad for a second, 2010 was overall a fucking terrible draft. Murray n’ friendz couldn’t have played it safer by pretty much only taking big bodied wingers with the few picks Ottawa did have.
If Rundblad ended up the Joe Corvo level healthy scratch in Ottawa that he’s become since being traded (twice), this could have been one of the worst drafts in modern Sens history! Think grumbling over how Kopitar could have been taken instead of Brian Lee but change the names to Tarasenko and Rundbleezy.
Anyway, that whole Rundblad for Turris murky revisionist history aside, Murray and co. goddamn lucky all that chatter about Mark Stone’s lack of adequate foot speed was overdone and they ended up getting an NHL capable player out of him. None of the other guys who were taken in 2010 are even in the conversation as far as call up is concerned. 2010 had the potential to be their worst draft since the 2005 where they were lucky to end up with Colin Greening in round 7. Yeah you just read that shit right. That’s how poorly they drafted that year. LUCKY to get Colin Greening…in round SEVEN.

2011
As alluded to earlier, 2011 is the draft where Ottawa got to play with house money the most (Ed note to Casinos: Can I haz some of this House Money? Only got to gamble with own real money so far, thx). They got the luxury to take some risky picks along with some of your safer bets. Something-something Matt Puempel’s hip drama. Oh but there was a second in that class. Jean Gabriel Pageau.

You know you can’t trust Wikipedia (#staywoke) when they list JG at a generous 5 foot 9. He’s short. AKA The equivalent of the Bubonic plague to most pro-scouts. He’s not just undersized for an NHL player he’s undersized compared to most adult males. I’ve never actually seen dude in person but I have a feeling when I do I’ma step to him and it’s going to look a little something like this…

Still an amazing hockey player tho and it’s pretty foolish to discount that.

Risk Vs. Reward: Look, if there’s one thing GMs continuously front on it’s skilled players under 6 feet tall. There’s just boatloads of them out there up for grabs. Pageau has made it impossible for the big club to ignore him as anyone who’s watched him can see he is a speedy, surprisingly tough two way player with a great head for the game who can both set up and finish plays AND kill penalties. Sounds ideal…except for one thing…this:

But I ask this: Has his size ever really hindered Pageau on the ice? Not that I’ve seen.

With the exception of Karlsson, Bryan Murray rarely drafts players under 6 feet tall let alone a guy of Marty St. Louis-like stature. If Jean Gabriel never suits up for another game again it could be argued that rolling the dice on him has already paid off for that one playoff game alone. The fact that I don’t need to specify what game I’m talking about speaks for itself. I seriously hope JGP serves as a lesson to Murray and his staff that though they are still pretty rare, there are a number of smaller guys doing quite well in the league now and you could potentially buy pretty low on a very good player who other GMs were too conservative to take a chance on. Even if he can’t squeeze into the lineup full time he remains one of the best players in Binghamton and an extremely competent call up. I’ll take a guy with his potential upside over a safer Cody Bass in round 4 any day of the week. Gold star!

2012
Here we go, Jarrod Maidens! Now THIS kid is like the street cred Matt Puempel. Rumored to have the potential of a top five to ten pick before suffering a severe concussion, the Senators scooped J-Maids (?) up in the 3rd round at 82nd overall. If this kid works out we could have a horse SO DARK on our hands that — *Puts on reading glasses to check incoming Jarrod Maidens Ask Jeeves News Alert, starts reading under breath* “mumblemumble Senators prospect Jarrod Maidens mumble mumble suffers set back in recovery mumble mumble mumble hockey career likely over Senators release his rights…”
WELP you know how that go.

Risk Vs. Reward: Def lost out this one. Sincerely,  best wishes to Jarrod. Really feel for the guy.

2013
Uhh, I don’t know. P-solid draft, tbh. Thanks for reading!

2014
Uhh, I’ve got nothin’ so i’m just going to take this opportunity to type in the words Curtis Lazar to drive up hits. #CurtisLazar

The Hidden #TRUTH Behind Bobby Ryan’s Contract Negotiations

#STAYWOKE

#STAYWOKE

    Benghazi
mOon landing was faked by Stanley Kubrick (name contains letters R.Y.A.N.)
oBama birth certificate
    Bilderberg Group met in Ottawa once
    Y r u covering up the chemtrails?

      Rituals of the Illuminati take place in Bohemian Grove. Ryan used to  play in California
      Y is the Federal Reserve Bank controlling Sens new TV revenue?
      Alluminati
moNsanto foods is putting genetically modified no trade clauses in our chicken nuggets

30 Thoughts™ From Sens Dev. Camp (or “That 2 Period Scrimmage I Watched”)

Fred
I recently attended a two period long, clock running the whole time ass scrimmage where the Senators development camp prospects squared off in a battle where my personal entertainment was on the line. No beer or cell phone reception at the Kanata Rec. Centre means I can actually recall what I saw.
Please note that I was sat up on some gully ass bleachers and could only really catch team black attacking and team white defending. What’s that? That statement mean’s little to nothing? Good, you’ve prepared well for this post! Fuck around and get baptized as I share my 30 Thoughts™ on the affair.

1. Mark Stone was hilariously, hilariously better than all of the other forwards. Maybe it’s the confidence that comes with suiting up for a couple dozen NHL games but Stoner/Stoney/Stones (def. one of those 3 is his nickname) seemed to get 2 extra seconds to decide what to do with the puck. He played with urgency but was noticeably patient as well. Really dictated the pace in the attacking zone. His smarts resulted in him scoring a super nice turn around, top shelf goal from the slot when everyone else seemed kind of gassed on the play.
Best part: Despite a dominant performance he actually looked like it was taking it easy on the kids.

2. I know it’s in style to be very unexcited about any of our prospects right now but you come here to read the garbage musings of a Cyber Badboy like myself so here it is: I’m buying in on this Curtis Lazar hype. I can see why the book on him on his draft day is that he is an extremely safe bet to help your NHL club (or around the house!). Considering that this was a scrimmage my dude had an impressively complete game. I was pretty blown away by how he could consistently be part of the rush, if not leading it, and manage to be first back to his own end. In industry terms, we call this type of play “A Coach’s Wet Dream.” Incredibly fast backchecking. Very hard to tell what role he eventually projects to  but certainly left me with the impression that he will be part of the big team sooner than later. I can’t imagine he has many aspects to round out at the AHL level from what I saw.

3. Time to talk about Anders Englund AKA Li’l Ivan Drago AKA Yung Big Grill. Looked raw like sushi out there at times but made a couple of pretty nice defensive plays. Pancaked a couple of youngins along the boards and made some safe exit passes. Anything fancy seemed to throw him for a loop which is a bit surprising for a Euro WHO PLAY LIKE A BUNCHA GRRLS ON FIGURE SKATING ICE! LETS GOOOO (thumbs up). Given that he was paired with slickster Mikael Wikstrand, Englund would got pretty hot potato when passed the puck with speed. It should probably be noted that Anders Englund is an 18 years young human boy who was drafted in the 2nd round like a week ago and is probably still dealing with 5 hours of jetlag.

4. Didn’t really get to see the much talked about Freddy Claesson as he and Cody Ceci were quite far away from where I was sitting. I did get to see him take a pretty dynamite shot from the point which was a nice takeaway considering all your hear about him is his +/-. Hope to see him get a game or two this season. Sounds like he’s really earning his praise in Bingo. Dmen take time to develop (RIGHT JARED COWEN?!) but sounds like Freddy is on a steep curve.

5. Newly acquired Nick Paul and Alex Guptill each had a pretty solid showing. Guptil even potted a goal. How’s it feel to already be grouped together boys? Anyway I have a feeling at least one of these fellas will go on to score 687 points in 686 games for the Senators. Dare 2 Dream.

6. A surprise standout for me was Tobias Lindberg. My dude was one of the few players that I would describe as flashy in the game. He created a number of chances with his Toilet Mitts™ and blinding speed. Pretty cool to see him stand out as he’s only 18 and was just drafted last year. There’s not a ton about him on the ‘net (internet) but with speed and skill coupled with a 6’2″, 187lbs frame, he doesn’t have a ton working against him. Also not working against him: Not much organizational depth at right wing. Wasn’t really a guy on my radar screen before (What? I’m not MADE of radar screen space, okay? Your mother and I work like dogs to put a radar screen over your head and food on your radar screen, so show a little respect.) but I’ll be keeping tabs on him going forward.

7. Shane Prince (who’s back in the Twitter game on some Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in” shit) missed the scrimmage with a mild injury. He was sitting down the bench from me in the bleachers. I am happy to report he still has the mightiest hairline in the Ottawa Senators organization. Thing is like a fortress.

8. The guys with AHL experience like Buddy Robinson and Ryan Dzingle (whom I found particularly impressive) really showed that extra poise. They were both calm with the puck and always in the right spot positionally. Good to see your farm club guys playing the system effectively.

9. Miles Gendron is just a tremendous, tremendous skater. So smooth he makes 1999  D’Angelo seem like dusted 2010 D’Angelo. The one thing I would say is that despite being listed as tall as 6’2″ and as heavy as 186 on certain prospect sites, he looked very slight out there. I could be wrong but I’m talkin’ getting crossed out and dunked on by Jean Gabriel Pageau slight. He’ll be starting his freshman campaign at University of Connecticut next year so that Residence Cafeteria slop should fatten him up considerably over the season. Expect him to put on an additional…oh I don’t know…15™ pounds.

10. Matt Puempel was fairly quiet all “game” long. Even went so far as to hear someone in all seriousness call the first round pick a bust. I mean, you know what they say, you don’t come second in AHL rookie scoring without making a few enemies. In fairness, I suppose I was hoping for a  bit more flash from one of our more promising hopefuls but I’ll take his performance in his first year as an AHL pro over one scrimmage.

11. They played a recording of Lyndon Slewidge singing “O Canada” over the tinniest PA system at the beginning of the game which…you can’t write this shit.

12. Speaking of quiet performances, one guy I really had my eye on that I didn’t have much to say about afterward was Swedish defenseman Mikael Wikstrand. Wikstrand garnered a lot of attention from Sens fans after putting up 20 points in 27 games for Mora’s tier 2 team.  Fam, you see my dilemma. 20 points in 27 games is a pretty exceptional output for a dman but I don’t know if the tier 2 Swedish league is the Euro QMJHL scoring-wise. I was looking forward to seeing him play in person. He’s earned a graduation to the top level Swedish Hockey League where he seems to be continuing to produce. What was I saying? Oh yeah, couldn’t get a read on him in a 40 minute game where they didn’t even stop the clock between plays. If I knew how to do that shrugging guy emoticon thing…BELIEVE I would be using it right here.

13. Did I talk about the Lyndon Slewidge thing? I did, eh. What a world tho…when you sit and think about it for a second.

14. There was some shootout thing at the end I don’t remember very well. I think Mark Stone scored a nice goal. Mark Stone is really good. Especially at development camp scrimmage shootouts.

15. Thanks for reading!!

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24. Stay woke: New episode of the Scotchcast coming soon.

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The Kinds of Senators Fans in the Missed 2014 Playoffs In…Writing Form?

What’s this? A PuckPossessed post that ISN’T crude stick figure drawings and swear words? What to heck? Okay, just go with me on this-also, there will still be a lot of swear words. Since the Senators were eliminated from playoff contention, I’ve noticed a few trends in the reactions of Sens fans with a few themes throughout (one being alcohol, another being sadness-write what you know right?). In this post I’ll be going over the positions I’ve seen Sens fans take in the playoffs.

The #TeamAlfie fans:
Relevant to your interests:
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Now if I were some sort of human with good timing and responsibility who wrote this at the BEGINNING of round 1, this would make a lot more sense to include. Well TOO BAD, MY FRIENDS. The #TeamAlfie crowd obviously supported the Detroit Red Wings because they wanted to see our former sort-of-fearless leader get the cup (also the extra money but haha let’s not talk about that shit anymore please) for which he left us. *a small amount of sobbing ensues at WTYKY headquarters* Ahem. Shut up. These kinds of fans seemed to find it easy to cheer for Detroit (despite the team being a rival) not only because of Alfie, but also because of the MASSIVE FUCKING AMOUNT OF SWEDES on the team. Hey, Kronwall is sort of a combination of Methot and Karlsson, and Henrik Zetterberg has got a really huge beard so that’s something, right? Sens fans seemed to be divided on the Alfie playoff problem with half wanting something good to come of him leaving the Sens and the other half not wanting him to be rewarded for it. Plus, Sens fans seem to hate the Bruins…like a lot. Which is a good segue to-

Bruins bandwagoners:
A small group during the first round which has grown for the start of the second round, Bruins bandwagoners seem to made up of: those who have always favoured the Bruins after the Sens (like me), those who really hate the Habs (also me), and those who just hate the Bruins less than the rest of the options left in the East. If I may quote myself:
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Cheering for the Bruins after the mess that was the Sens 2013-2014 season is refreshing because come on…the Sens were a diddly darn fucking mess and the Bruins are just so…damn…good. Having a few former Sens on the Bruins also makes for a nice easy transition to cheering for the villains of the East.

“The Only Canadian Team Left” bandwagoners:
Habs fans…excuse me *takes six shots of Jack Daniels to steel self to talk about the Habs*. Ahem. Habs bandwagon Sens fans are made up of those weirdos fans who like both the Sens and Habs, but also those who think it’s their duty as Canadians to support the only Canadian team left. The fact that the Avalanche and Sharks both have more Canadian players than the Habs notwithstanding, I sort of understand the desire to bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada for the first time since 1993 when the Habs defeated the L.A. Kings for the title. Sort of. Then again, it’s the motherfucking Habs and I feel the same way about them as other Sens fans feel about the Bruins-I just CAN’T MAKE MYSELF LIKE THEM.

The “Ottawa of the West” fans (San Jose Sharks Bandwagoners):
Step 1: Find team that plays a very similar game to the Senators
Step 2: Feel a little bit like you’re cheating on the Sens with their twin brother
Step 3: Don’t really care that much though because you’re still brokenhearted about the Senators
Step 4: Drink a lot. Do this step anyway, but especially if you’re a Sharks bandwagoner.

Columbus Blue Jackets Bandwagoners:
Again, if I had been prompt this would have made a lot more sense. It seems like a lot of Sens fans, and fans of other teams that didn’t make the playoffs, picked Columbus because they were the least offensive option. Their twitter banter makes them easy to like, and who doesn’t love an underdog (well, Pittsburgh didn’t but LET’S NOT DISCUSS THAT). Cheering for the Blue Jackets was easy with little to no feelings of self-loathing because come on, it’s the Blue Jackets, let them have their second playoff run in history, god, you ruin everything.

The “Pick a Player You Really Like and Cheer for Whatever Team He’s On” Bandwagoners:
This seems to be the case with a lot of people with soft spots for guys like Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, Teemu Selanne, Jakob Silfverberg, and Sidney Crosby [Ed note: Sorry about the strikethrough, Cosby’s just not believable like the other options]. It’s a bandwagon, friends, I’m not going to judge you for just picking a player you like and cheering half-heartedly for his team to win. Hey, you could even learn the names of some of the other players on that team, you know, if you felt like it. But you’re a smart, strong, sensual [insert gender here], so u do u.

The “Fuck it All” fans:
The subtitle of this category being the “Fuck This, Fuck That, Fuck You” Sens fans in playoffs. This category is made up of people who don’t want to bother picking a playoff team to support, who just don’t care about anyone other than the Senators, and who are just waiting for the playoffs to be over at this point. There’s a lot of alcohol associated with this category, a lot of tears, and a lot of not wearing your Sens stuff to the grocery store because you don’t want to get chirped by the Penguins fan cashier who wears a Pittsburgh pin on her shirt even though it’s not ALLOWED IN THE DRESS CODE, DOROTHY, YOU JERK, SHUT UP ABOUT SIDNEY CROSBY [Ed note: (sic) Cosby], JUST BAG MY GREEN BEANS AND LEAVE ME ALONE.

No matter your method of coping with the lack of the Senators in the playoffs, I won’t judge you (unless you’re cheering for the Habs, in which case I’ll judge you a little). Healing from the trauma that was this Senators season will be a lengthy process (just buy a 40 of tequila now and save yourself trips to the LCBO in the next few weeks, trust me). Whether you’re cheering for a team or not, these playoffs are exciting as heck, and I hope you’re enjoying them as much as you can. Just don’t think about the Sens. Don’t do it.

Area Man Assholishly Issues Letter Grade to Pro Athletes’ Performance: Defence & Goaltending

wiggum

Blech, this oughta be fun.
If there was a consensus criticism among Sens fans this season, it was probably that the main issue with the team was a porous defence which contributed to shaky goaltending. Well, I agree hypothetical summation of fan attitude! ALL IN ALL A GREAT YEAR! Thanks for reading and see ya in October! …oh you’re still here. Umm, well, might as well relive the memories of the year that was on defence and in net. Join me in the pits of helllllllllllllllllllllll or this blooooog (same thing).

Playah Grade Emotions
Erik Karlsson A Are there things to improve upon a bit? Sure, only really in that same way that any 23 year old (!) top pairing pro should be looking to improve their game. Was his D game up to where it was two seasons ago? No, but maybe the fact that he came back from having his Achilles slashed less than a year ago and came 4 points within his Norris season production overshadows that. Me, I’m still in ‘Thankful he can still play like Erik Karlsson’ mode. I’m going to put a dime on EK being a plus player next season. He led a team with one of the most productive forward lines in the NHL in points. Still hands down the best player on the team. Long live the king.
Marc Methot C+ Methot had a strong arrival in Ottawa anchoring the back end of a depleted line up and quickly won the favour of many with his fast skating and penchant for hip checking particularly disagreeable players (Kadri, Cosby, yes, Cosby).
On the heels of an Olympic camp invite this past summer, it seemed all but certain he was a lock for the top pairing with EK but in the end he had a bit of a down season. He got shuffled around and even scratched (which I didn’t really understand).
A down season on a team having a down season…oh gentle reader, what’s a girl to do..with his/her OPINIONS?
I sincerely hope for a return to his swift and steady ways in the futuristic year 2014-15 I almost don’t know what to outright call him out on. Hot take: Have a better season next season, you big galoot!
I think it would be unfair to say Methot in particular submarined a weak performance by the defence corps. He logged an average of nearly 22 mins per game (second only to Karlsson’s 89 mins per period) put up 23 points, scored some timely goals, took 117 shots (which were more than many forwards on the team could muster) and finished even in +/-. I’m not saying Methot was the linchpin he was expected to be but his was not the worst season by a Sens defenceman I’ve ever seen (See: Chris Phillips 2010-11 – 82GP, 9PTS, +/-: -35). I think he can turn it around. It could help him to be paired with Erik Karlsson regularly in place of Jared Cowen. Though I guess Cowen earned those top minutes what with his terrible, terrible season and all. Ugh.
Patrick Wiercioch Did not attend Performed reasonably well when given a rare shot at actually playing the game of hockey on the team that just signed him to a three year, one-way contract.
Biggest complaint: Needs to stop having sex with Paul MacLean’s wife if he’s going to see more ice time. Could get more time on the power play if he devotes his summer to not having sex with Paul MacLean’s wife.
Chris Phillips D+ Must…not…let…hatred…for…contract…influence…grade.
Yes, he used to be very good but, honestly, one of the worst defencemen on the team this year. If people are going to talk about Spezza setting a bad example as captain, can we talk about how there’s a very real possibility that the guy who leads the team in “shaking his head at himself while staring at the ice after getting a goal scored against” might be captain next year?
According to the numbers Phillips has a history of bouncing back after bad seasons. Sound Logic: Expect a pretty big bounce back then…at age 37? *jazz hands*
His 15 points are okay for his standard. Also led the team in high fives given after wins, though I’d love to see those numbers improve. He was actually producing a little bit when he was put on the power play because Paul MacLean hates my viewing experience. Something-something mentoring-schmentoring Cody Ceci. Ugh, this isn’t really the place to get into this but I can’t believe he was rewarded with a multi-year deal for his season. For a team that has to be careful with its dollars, I can’t fathom why the organization would think devoting a total of 4 million dollars for the next TWO seasons to Phillips is good value. What’s worse is his assistant captaincy, billion games of experience, community involvement, politics, infinity make him virtually impossible to scratch going forward. *Sens horn song* SENS ARMY PLEASE WELCOME YOUR 2015-2016 38 year oooooooold Chriiiiiiis Phiiiiiiilliiiiiiips *Cheers for some reason*
Jared Cowen F You held out for that? For THAT? That’s what you give us to look at after holding out? BAD GIANT SEINFELD. You and your novelty sized mouth guard are going to your giant bed without your stupid mega supper. If you’re an NHL player who’s over 6 foot 4 and 220lbs you get hella (ew, sorry) chances to redeem yourself. As a fan, I am pinning my hopes on how Cowen was pretty good, then got injured badly and was suddenly awful AND SO LOGIC DICTATES HE WILL HEAL AND SOMEHOW BECOME GOOD AGAIN (right?). This season wasn’t a “down” one like others experienced. No, with Cowen it was a setback in his development. We did it, Boo.
Eric Gryba B+ Turns out Eric Gryba is pretty alright. Nothing was more awesome than seeing good ol’ Grybes become a bit of an advanced stats darling for the Sens defence for a stretch this season. Curious to see if his good performance this season will actually end up making him the cherry on top of a big trade package. Never thought Gryba would even make the team back in the day. Always thought he would top out as “competent injury call up” Good on ya, Lasagna. I call Eric Gryba ‘Lasagna,’ it’s our thing…I don’t know, it’s silly. Let’s move on to the next thing…
Joe Corvo Drop D No truth to the rumors that Corvo is reforming his band Crazytown for Ozzfest 2014 but keep checking www.welcometoyourkarlssonyears.com in the coming weeks for any updates!
Cody Ceci A- Ehh, k, so I know he’s a first round pick and all but I thought Cecer Augustus was going to spend the next two years in Binghamton. As an Ottawa 67s fan, I spent years watching him dominate the barber pole blueline through good times and bad eventually becoming team captain. I was thrilled when Ottawa scooped him up in the draft at 15th.
The fact that he is not a very physical player for his large size made me assume Old Man Murray would make him spend a couple of seasons at Sir Luke Richardson’s Grit Academy. Turns out his talent and an endorsement from the BSens coach citing him as “one of the best players in the AHL” allowed him to fast track his graduation. Truth be told I’d have been happy to see him get one call up this season let alone 49 games. Expectations? Thoroughly surpassed.
Next year is a whole new situation for Ceci as defence is a damn tough job and now that he’s a lock to make the team, expectations will be different. Hopefully he doesn’t allow Chris Phillips’ uh….leadership to handcuff him too much. He was a little quiet production-wise given his average of over 17 mins of ice time but that might be me setting an unrealistic standard from his high flying OHL years. Still, I’d rather him play it safe while he continues to gain experience and branch out from there. Get’s an A just for saving the organization the prospect (and likely more) that they were just about to trade in exchange for what would have probably been very average D help before his call up.
Mark Borowiecki C+ It’s no secret by now that Mark Borowiecki looks like a ninja turtle. Was decent in his call up. Glad he made up for that own goal as that shit happens but it would have been be a really bad impression to leave on the season. By tying Matt Kassian in goals, Boro will get the benefit of starting off his one-way deal (tugs collar) fresh. Really wanted him to finish the year with more points than Kassian…but there are dreams that cannot be.
Craig Anderson C+ Andy, Andy, Andy. I didn’t expect you to be the monster that you were last year but damn boy you had some mo-ments of being a shadow of yourself. I’ve gone over this ad nauseum this season but one last time, as our man Steve texted me during a particularly rough game, “Why the hell can’t Anderson stop the first 10 shots of the game?”
Steve and I started paying attention to this and oooo boy I kind of wish we didn’t. He went a serious stretch without keeping pucks out before the magic number 10. Even in wins. As a Sens fan, I feel I have a sad fondness for the notion that teams play better when they trust their goalie. I don’t think Anderson instilled that confidence this year. Was he hung out to dry a lot? Often! Is goaltender the most difficult job in hockey? Ahhhhh yeah. What irks me though is that Andy’s whole strength since he arrived here was that he was the first Sens goalie in ages who allowed the team to play bravely in front of him. He could compensate for their mistakes a little. It’s not a particularly attainable model but I think he lost some of that infectious confidence this season. He showed flashes of the brilliant Andy we know and love. He’ll always able to show those flashes because he’s a really good goalie. We’ve seen his capacity to be a great, consistent goalie though. He has to get back somewhere near that place if the team as a whole is going to go anywhere. It’s telling that he turned around his season toward back half and still only salvaged his GAA to an even 3.00. Maintained reputation as “a more hyped up interview than Robin Williams” for 3rd consecutive season which is worth something.
Robin Lehner C+ This season had to be a humbling one for the “Lehner would have stopped that” crowd. He was always lurking in the background, one blood sacrifice away from stealing Anderson’s job but good. His three game winning streak after an unsuccessful road trip only solidified this pro-Lehner line of thinking. Why can’t Andy win three in a row? Then Anderson got hurt (again) and it was Lehner time, full time! 😉 Aaand turns out he’s 22 years old. Basically a zygote as far as goalies go. What’s encouraging is that his struggles are pretty normal. That so many of us believed in Lehner’s inevitable usurping of the starter job is just a testament to how ahead of the development curve he was. Robin’s attitude appears to have really improved and it seems he has embraced the role of student over heir apparent. This will only help him.
Robin put up some noble losing efforts this year particularly early on routinely facing 40 to a completely unacceptable 50 shots a game. He also had some simply god awful performances (I don’t even think I need to point out which games…pick your own favorite!). Either way, he finished the season with a losing record. Something no goalie would be proud of.
Like with Anderson, it must be considered that he played behind a porous defence and spent too much time behind a short handed team to succeed. On the other hand, hey, it’s a harsh world and if Ryan Miller can put up a 2.72GAA and .923 save percentage behind the Buffalo Sabres…you gotta do better than that on a middling squad like the Senators. Still love / am terrified of him. Have a super duper off-season and may many goats perish in the name of your player development. I still believe the hour of purification is at hand.

 

Area Man Assholishly Issues Letter Grade to Pro Athletes’ Performance: Forwards

Hi! Where have I been? Uhh…ummm where have YOU been? Yeah *ultimate comeback diffuses line of questioning* . So, the year is mercifully over (well for Ottawa) and now comes that completely dickish time of year when jerks like me flippantly stamp a letter grade on some of the world’s greatest hockey players like it’s some kind of ga– hold on… *puts hand over rotary phone receiver* “what? …it IS just a game? …fact that league minimum salary is…WHAT $550,000.00 eases pain? Like, as in, over half a million bananas? Damn, why didn’t you tell me all this stuff…no it’s just I’m in the middle of a post…I’ll…whatever.

So i did a report card thing….then it got long because I do what I want when I want (am longwinded/the worst). So I am going to split it up. Here is the Forwards edition!

Playah Grade Emotions
Jason Spezza B+ This one’s tricky. Spezza’s first year as captain was as polarizing as one would expect. Starting the season with a wonky groin certainly didn’t help his debut campaign as leader. Put me in the camp that thinks he was a fine choice and handled himself well. He was accountable in the media, put his game together especially in the latter half of the year, did well on the power play and straight up stole a few shootout wins. That said, if you made a scale of captains with Best Forward (Ex. Alex Ovechkin) on one end and Stay At Home Dad (Ex. Jonathan Toews) on the other, obviously we know what end he falls closer to. A game I went to against Calgary comes to mind where Spezz just made a handful of Flames players his step-nephews and fed Michelek a pass so accurate that the goal was more or less a rebound off of #9’s blade than an assist. Heeeeee also had A FEW blind giveaways that even taking into consideration that he’s a creative player who needs room for his art, if Mark Stone or Mike Hoffman made the same blunder just once there’d be a running car waiting outside CTC to take them back to Bingo during the 2nd intermission. Sometimes Spezza is the man and “puts contery on his back” and other times he doesn’t exactly set a great example for the young guys. So basically, he was Jason Spezza with a C on his jersey. The question of his future here is no longer merely the denizen of angry post-game callers or worse, Ottawa Sun columnists. His impending UFA status puts his future in Ottawa very much in doubt. Too valuable to ever let walk for nothing, this summer truly is the time to fish or cut bait with him. I think a Spezza trade is either going to be the mark of a new era for the Sens or a huge mistake. Oh! Also, pretty good season. Have a great summer!
Kyle Turris A+ The Platinum Angel (I copyright this extremely weird and unpopular nickname). Last year, due to a severe Spezza injury – yikes – he was forced into the 1st line centre role and held down the fort as best he could in the shortened season. In Spezza’s absence he was decent but inconsistent production-wise. This season he straight up stole the job from the captain. His instant chemistry with MacArthur and Bobby Ryan earned him a shot at pivot on the first line but it was his consistency that kept him there. Turry’s progression since arriving in the capital has made his contract one of the best in the league in terms of value. Some questions remain over whether he faced the toughest competition but if he keeps developing like he is I think he can step up. I bought a Turris jersey this year.
Clarke MacArthur A+ The way I describe Grizz is thusly, “He is a perfect hockey player.” What would you change about Clarke’s game? He’s fast, has good hands and a great shot, knows when to pass, plays both ways and is physical. All I could possibly say is he went on a couple of dry spells and spends a fair amount of time in the box. This is to me doesn’t even touch how he put up 55 points on the top line for Jared Cowen money. Came into the season as a top 6 fill-in and left as a top 3 stud. Speaking of Cowen…can he and MacArthur please trade contracts? Only shitty part of his season that is they didn’t sign him for longer.
Bobby Ryan A Came here with the expectation of a 30 goal season. The guy nearly did it injured. Shows a lot about the player he is to try to ride it out hurt knowing the criticism he’d face if he dropped out of his debut season halfway through. What I take away from this season is that Bobby Ryan is even better than I expected. I thought he’d primarily be a dangler from the highlight reel on YouTube. He’s that for sure but he’s also a one of the few players with a shot so deadly they can beat an NHL goaltender from above the circle. He’s more of a playmaker than I expected and is decent along the boards too. Criticisms about his weight and skating ended up being a bunch of inconsequential bologna to me. If 23 goals in 70 games is a down season I say commit to the guy long term.
Ales Hemsky A Short sample but damn what a year to miss the playoffs. I loved what I saw. Crazy to see him gel instantly with both Spezza and Zibanejad and the Ottawa Senators as a whole for that matter. Blinding speed and magic hands, Hemsky gave flashes of the Marian Hossa swag of old. Scary that he got banged up even in his brief stint here but I’d take a chance. I’m crossing my fingers that he might like that he just parachuted onto a new team and put up 17 points in 20 games after some tough years in Edmonton. Still though, the New York Rangers almost have like 20 billion dollars in cap space for some goddamn reason. Regardless, couldn’t have asked for more from a deadline signing.
Milan Michalek B- You know you’ve had injury woes when part of the reason for making a B grade is that you played the whole season. I like Milo. He, like his defensive game, gets little credit for contribution to the club. Not since Hossa has there been a Sens player who’s put up 35 goals in a season for the team that will be given little to no fanfare on their way out of town. In fairness to the fan indifference toward 9MM, he’s been more of a Foligno than a Hossa during his time here. In fairness to Milo’s output the word “knee” appears on the injury section of his TSN page 12 times (research!). Even gutting his pay by half still seems risky to me. Good luck in future endeavours and thanks for being a bright spot in that Heatley deal.
Mika Zibanejad B Remember how Ziba “didn’t make the team” out of training camp? Good times? Great times. It’s worth nothing (thanks for reading!) but his 7 points in 6 games down in Bingo reminded me a little of the oft forgotten “Brief Karlsson Reassignment of ‘09” (“I survived” t shirt / mug available at out online store!) where EK was sent down and put up 11 points in 12 games and then the team realized the could probably use his help. What was I saying again? Oh yeah, I think that demotion probably helped Karlsson go point per game in the playoffs that year.
No, I love what Ziba brings to the table. Speed, a great shot, vision and impressive strength. What’s perhaps most intriguing about Mika’s year is how he was probably the most victimized by the coach’s tiresome line shuffling. Top 6, bottom 6, centre, wing, backup goaltender, deputy food and beverage coordinator. The kid made it work. Never the less, his numbers are promising but were still in the strata that would disappoint many if it was Nick Foligno putting them up. DJ Z-Bad still has a “new in town” vibe giving him a bit of wiggle room. Even if he becomes a steady second line player and his production continues to increase it should be interesting how he will be viewed. It’s a tough gig. Foligno put up 47 one season here and could barely win fans favour but Mike Fisher put up numbers like that in a good season here and was Admiral Supreme Space Jesus of the Fantastic Year 3000. With handsomeness on his side I am optimistic.
Offseason regimen: Less time on the wheels of steel more time booking appointments with whatever concussion doctor fixed Sidney Crosby.
Zack Smith C+ I like Zack Smith but my boy’s gotta chill hard on the penalties. The art of drawing penalties seemed a lost one on the team this season with Z Smith and his fellow expert penaltiesman Chris Neil having far, far more infractions called against them than they drew. I respect that with the type of game that players like Smith are expected to play that PIMs are just part of the job but the way it went down this year put our weak defence on the PK more often than was fair and put way, way too much pressure on the goaltending. He’s still a good penalty killer and face off man, also possesses an underrated shot that he can credit his impressive 13 goals to. He had his second most productive season this year. To me Z is a decent 3rd line centre but what I’d love to see is someone emerge and bump Zack down in the line up. I think he would be a killer 4th line pivot.
Colin Greening D You can always tell a Millford man. Bad year, worse contract. Dat contract tho. Prove me wrong Colin Greening…Prooove meeee wrong.
Erik Condra A Erik Condra scored on a fucking breakaway this season.
Chris Neil D+ Zack Smith takes a lot of penalties. Chris Neil took 100 FUCKING MORE MINUTES IN PENALTIES THAN HIM! 100! Get the fuck outta here. I know this guy is a fan favorite and I actually do agree with the argument that he is a lot better at his role than many others who perform it but I think Neil’s got to adjust his game at this point. It was clear as day to me that if he had any cred with the refs to begin with, it’s gone. If he’s supposed to be such a leader could he not clean it up when the team is down? My biggest complaint is his focus. So many offsides. He’s a pretty quick skater but he ain’t that goddamn quick. Willing to stand in front and screen the goaltender. Something I’ll always respect but if he’s going to wear an A, I have to say he often hurt the team more than he helped. Often got absolutely shredded defending, a part of his game that’s he’s rarely criticized for, for some reason. Brass tacks, his job is “walking the line” and he did not do that effectively this season.
Mark Stone B+ Despite getting hurt more than Evel Knievel, Stone managed to make another jump in his development. He was pretty quiet during his first call up and, yes, got injured, had a tear of a season in Binghamton and earned his way back up where he did quite well filling in for Bobby Ryan. With the amount of snipers on the Senators, I really like that Stone seems adept at burying rebounds in close (Greening take note!). 8 points in 19 games is pretty good especially considering he got zero last year.
Though he could potentially find a niche as a garbage goal king (always welcome in the playoffs) the fact that he put up 190 assists in 222 games in junior and another 49 in his 91 games in Bingo, tells me there’s a whole other dimension to his game yet to be fully revealed. After all, his first impression with the team was a beautiful feed to Spezza and he showed a lot of playmaking smarts during his pretty limited call up this season. He seems to get more and more confident the more time he gets to adjust to the NHL. His performance toward the end of the season and the club’s weakness on the right side, I think, gives him a real chance of making the big club outright next season. I hope he does.
Mike Hoffman B First off, shout out to how Brometheus here played over a 1/4 of an NHL season and still led the Bingo Sens, a team that can put the puck in the net btw, by 9 points. The more I see of the Hoff the more I like him. He certainly has a lot of great tools. His skating is out of this world…I mean, Bubby, the skating on this boychik, oy, you should know from this speed. All I would like to see before I’m ready to give him the Mark Stone treatment is a little more offense. For a guy who can manage to register a ton of shots it’s not an unreasonable expectation. The way he’s being used out there shows that he’s not exactly being groomed to kill penalties. Nor should he be, as Bingo’s offensive leader. He still has a fair amount of work ahead to prove that he can bring that kind of game he’s displayed in the AHL to the NHL level but all in all a very promising season. Look for him to destroy in the preseason.
Stephane DaCosta B What I like about DaCosta is that he straight up refuses to go away. He doesn’t have that fan favourite swag of Pageau, he doesn’t have the pedigree of other prospects like Lazar and Puempel but he just keeps making it interesting. They tell him to get bigger in the off season, he does. They send him back down to the AHL and tell him to be productive; he does and earns his way back up. He made the team over Zibanejad to start the season but that kind of felt like it was more about Zibanejad than DaCosta. What’s most interesting to me is that he seemed to pretty thoroughly outshine his closest competitor in Jean Gabriel Pageau. I admit, after JGP’s end of season call up and astonishing playoff performance I thought “well, that’s the end of DaCosta.” But this season DaCosta managed to put up more points in less than half the games and in similar ice time to Pager; Including a multi-goal game and a huge shootout tally against the Blues. Of course, JGP’s defensive abilities and different usage skews the numbers game but still I appreciate a nice little “Hateurs a la gauche” season from Stephane.
Matt Kassian KO’ed Without opening up the fighting debate, I think we can agree Kassian was awful. His job is fighting and deterring something something right? K.
1. Don’t particularly feel like he deterred shit from happening. 2. I don’t think he decisively won many fights.
Also, if you’re going to take a spot on the roster uhhh be remotely good at something else other than fighting AND NO TWITTER DOESN’T COUNT. Kassian made me really miss Konopka. Remember how Zenon would take a faceoff, win it and skate right to the bench? That was pretty badass. Turns out being good at more than one thing is extremely useful to a professional hockey club. At that same game I went to against the Flames that I spoke of earlier (8 million words ago) in Spezza’s bit, with the Sens down by 1, Kassian sought to spark his team by challenging Kevin Westgarth to a scintillating draw of a bout at centre ice. Problem? Erik Karlsson had just gained the Calgary zone at full speed. You’re fired. Let the meal ticket do his work, meat hands. Best news of the off season so far was hearing from Murray that he wouldn’t be back. At least Matt Carkner could take a the odd shift.
Derek Grant B- Derek was a pleasant student to teach. Have a great summer!
Jean Gabriel Pageau B- Okay, so sports ain’t no storybook, this much is clear. After his amazing playoff performance I was poised to pull on a Pageau jersey. Local underdog silences asshole-heavy Habs mob, elicits mocking chant? Now that’s a player I can get behind.
Unfortunately, Pager had a bit of a lacklustre season in the bigs. I mean, I don’t think anyone’s ever said, “What a horrible effort by Pageau.” He was fine. Derek Grant fine. Not what I was expecting exactly but it’s not entirely his fault. I find his defensive prowess is a blessing and a curse as it gets him a lot of bottom line duty. He doesn’t quite get the “top 6 or bust” looks that some of his contemporaries get. If Spezza is indeed dealt this summer I cannot wait to see the competition between him, DaCosta and possibly even Lazar at camp. Don’t expect to JGP to stick around Bingo. Every time he gets sent down to the AHL he has a “graduated past play at this level” vibe to him. Definitely a good thing.

Christopher, Christopher and Associates.

Christopher, Christopher and Associates.

GREAT! You woke up Old Man Phillips.

Hey Lover,

As a creep [See: above line], I’ve been going about my business creeping on message boards and twitter and in my travels I keep coming across something I’d like to discuss with you up in that tree fort over there.

Recent injuries to veteran Christophers Neil and Phillips have seen their newly minted Associate Assistant Captain duties assigned to other deserving players in the line up. We’ve seen the “A” affixed to the uniforms of Marc Methot, Kyle Turris and delightful wood sprite Erik Karlsson over the course of the season. You know what? The letter has looked good on each of them.

Since these fine young lads have taken so well to the letter, I have encountered a number of fans speculating who will take over the role of assistant captain next year. Particularly with regard to Phillips whom many think is on his way out. Your father and I have become very concerned that you’re going to be hurt by this.

I’m afraid you’re setting yourself up to be among the many people who will be disappointed when Chris Phillips is re-signed for maybe two more years after this season. Make no mistake here, I’m definitely not saying that I want that, I wish the team would get real-real with him and say, “Thanks for your years of dedication but the organization has decided to move on.”
I am personally of the opinion that Eric Gryba, who is the lowest paid player on the team by the way…YES he makes less than Matt Kassian, could handily take over Big Rig’s role on the team. It’s not going to happen though. Gryba wouldn’t be included in proposed trades if he was a lock for a future spot on the team.
Let’s look at the cold hard facts: Phillips has 1100+ games / 100+ playoff appearances in an Ottawa uniform, wears an A and owns a goddamn RESTOBAR in town. That’s not even touching the PR mess that was the organization letting their beloved captain walk a little over 6 months ago.
Murray is desperate to buy und Phillips is desperate to sell. They’re the original odd couple! Phillips is so entrenched here, I think he’d even take like $900K to stick around if he has to. HE EVEN HAS A SUPPLEMENTAL INCOME! I’ll be interested to see how that plays out as both sides appear to have leverage.

The other misconception with #4 is that because he LOOKS old that there’s an assumption that he is retiring soon. A lot of people seem to be under the impression that it will be at the end of this season. I’m going to knock your socks off here, dude is but 35 years of age. Perspective: Rap-rocker Joe Corvo is 36! My feeling is that despite Philly’s advancing age and declining play, he is not yet old enough or bad enough that the he wont be kept on in his current mentor role and for a minute.

“But what of the trade deadline,” ye might ask, “on an expiring deal wouldn’t he be the perfect veteran pick up for a contender?”
No! That ship has totally sailed. If Ottawa were going to get a return on Phillips it would have had to have been during Yon Great Fire Sale of 2011. Instead they inked him to an EVEN AT THAT TIME overly long, overly generous 3 year/$3.5MM per year deal.
As for suitors, I can’t really think of a team that would consider themselves a contender who would be looking for a bottom pairing D man who’s been so-so this season for their playoff run. Sure he’s been to a Final but that was 7 years ago now…also on a team that didn’t win. Remember how Murray could barely give away Alex Kovalev? That guy had over 1000 points, numerous all star appearances, 2 Olympic medals and a cup ring! I simply cannot see the team giving away one of their associate assistant captains for a conditional seventh round pick.
Anyway, as Gryba shows, those bottom pairing type players are guys teams tend to already have kicking around. A buying team would have to be one with serious injury concerns looking to pick Phillips up as depth. Plus I generally think they straight up wont shop him Oh, PLUS+PLUS Phillips has a limited no trade clause. Murray gave him a pretty nutso deal last time around (3rd highest paid D man!) I can totally see him getting TWO more years. It would be a one year deal that would be the surprise for me.

As for Neil, the conversation is a much shorter one: Bro is a fourth liner who makes nearly $2MM until 2016. The Sharks apparently wanted him in 2011, instead Ottawa locked him up until he turns 37. Don’t see Neiler as movable now or at least until the 2016 trade deadline and who knows what his game will look like then.

Anyway, maybe you’re fine with all this. I’ve made peace with it and if you haven’t, well, I’m not trying to bum you out or whatever just trying to brace you for what I think is to come. If it were up to me, this is an area where I wish the organization would pass the torch a little bit. They made a good step with the Spezza captaincy and, yes, my picks would be Karlsson and Turris for the A’s. Maybe one day we will see them in that role but I think we’re going to have to wait a while to see it.